A Year with the Saints – 18 January


If you truly wish to make spiritual profit, you must apply yourself closely to that counsel of the Apostle, “Take heed to thyself”. This implies two things: The first is not to become entangled in others’ affairs, or watchful as to their defects; since he has no little to do who wishes to manage his own affairs well and correct his own failures. The second is to take our own perfection to heart and attend to it incessantly, without regarding whether others attend to theirs or not. For perfection is so purely individual a matter that, though men who belong to the same order, company, family, or country are here said to make one body; yet, in the world above, it is certain that each one will be separate by himself, and carry his profits and losses to his own account. Abbot Pastor

A rare pattern of this was Saint John Berchmans. From his first entrance into religion, it had been his fixed intention to become a Saint; and from the same time, he made it his aim and his only important business to watch over himself; and to this, in fact, he gave his attention as long as he lived. He did this with such application and such unwearied earnestness that he did not even have time to think of others’ occupations or to notice their defects. And thus he never stopped to reflect why others said or did so and so, or whether they did well or ill. Nor did he ever enlist in the defense of one with the danger of offending another, but let everyone go his own way and manage his own affairs for himself. As to the faults of others, he thought of them so little that even when they were committed in his presence he did not notice them; and it was said of him that he was not able to tell what errors the others committed. All his care was to correct his own defects and to perform his own actions well; and so, the pains he took to keep his soul clear of every fault were something extraordinary. For besides carefully making the daily examens and a most rigorous retreat of one day in each month, he often and urgently entreated his superiors and companions to keep their eyes upon him, and inform him of anything they might see amiss. And when counsel of that kind was given him, he received it as a peculiar favor and offered special prayers for whoever gave it. But not content with this, as he had an ardent desire to render himself as pleasing as possible in the eyes of God, he employed every effort to this end. Therefore he devoted himself with admirable diligence to the most exact observance of his Rules; to executing promptly and faithfully whatever was imposed on him by obedience; to performing well and with particular devotion the spiritual exercises as things which immediately concern the honor of God and one’s own profit, paying most attention of all to his Communions, to which he always gave two hours; and finally, to practicing all virtues, especially charity towards the sick. Though he had great fondness for study, he never allowed it to stand in the way of his spiritual exercises, nor of charity or obedience; for his heart did not seek for what afforded most delight, but most merit. And he did all these things without noticing at all whether others did the same or failed in them, because that one precept, attende tibi, ever remained planted deeply in his heart.

What harm does it cause the other Apostles now that the unhappy Judas remains suffering in Hell? All the loss falls upon Judas alone. And if Berchmans be higher in Heaven than so many others who were his companions in religion, is not all the gain his?

MLA Citation