Blessed are They that Suffer Persecution for Justice’ Sake for Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven, by Father Basil William Maturin

detail of a stained glass window depicting the martyrdom of a Christian; by the Binsfeld-Dornoff Company, Trier, Germany c.1920; in the church of Saint Clements in Trittenheim an der Mosel, Germany; photographed on 30 June 2006 by Norbert Schnitzler; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsThis is the last of the Beatitudes, Its blessing can only be gained by those who have lived under the laws and attained somewhat of the Blessings of those which have gone before. It does not come at the beginning of the spiritual life, but only when that life has attained its full maturity. There is nothing unreal or bearing the slightest taint of unreality in the spiritual life, There are no demands upon the soul that are unreasonable, or that would endanger its assuming a pose either inwardly or outwardly. Its growth is like all healthy growths, a gradual development from very small beginnings, “first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear”. It would be absurd for a child to affect the manners and methods of a man in the natural order, and it would be worse than absurd in the spiritual order. We are not therefore expected in our spiritual childhood to manifest the graces and virtues that can only be gained by years of effort and prayer.

And it needs a long training in self-control, a deep insight into the true meaning and proportion of things around us, a charity towards man that never faileth, and a paramount love for God to be able to attain the blessing that is here offered to the persecuted.

Therefore for those who have gone but a little way on the road to Heaven, and in whom there are still apparent many faults of character and who have as yet but a very superficial knowledge of themselves, to pretend to anything like rejoicing in persecution, whether the persecution comes from friend or foe, from their co-religionist or those of different creeds, from suffering body or tortured mind, would be nothing short of unreality and self-deception, If they can gain the grace to bear such things with some degree of patience and to strive to keep their hearts from bitterness, they are doing all that can be expected of them, and give the best evidence of the possibility of attaining the blessing of the Beatitude in years to come. We must know God before we can rejoice in His Will, and we must have caught some dim vision of the Kingdom of Heaven before we are ready to surrender all that this world has to give us and to rejoice in its antagonism.

For there are those strange beings who without a doubt take pleasure in the thought of being persecuted. Who make their religion and their religious practices a source of such disquiet wherever they go that they arouse impatient comment and criticism from even the most patient, and this they take a secret joy in, regarding it as persecution. They will not allow their friends to leave them alone, they lash them into controversy and antagonism. They like to think that they are hated of all men for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake, whereas, as a matter of fact, if they are hated at all it is for their inhuman tactlessness, and the last thing imaginable that has to do with it is the Kingdom of Heaven. Men must be very sure indeed that they hate no one before they can expect any blessing from being hated of all men, and that they speak no evil of man or of his religious convictions, falsely, before they experience any blessing or can rejoice and be exceeding glad with any hope that such joy comes from a heavenly source, when men speak evil of them. It is so easy to transfer in our hearts the cause of antagonism from our own faults and blunders and bad taste to our religion, and to assume the pose of martyrs, when that of penitents would be more becoming. It is to be feared that there are not a few who make both themselves and the Kingdom of Heaven hateful, and secretly wonder that their hearts are not suffused with the Divine sweetness of the Beatitude of the persecuted.

Personal religion is not a matter to be talked of and gossiped about, or to be dragged before the public, nor its practices to be flaunted in the eyes of those who do not understand it; it should rather burn in the heart as a secret fire that shines in and radiates forth from the life. It is like the wind which bloweth where it listeth, but men cannot tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth. It encircles its true votaries in a Heavenly atmosphere that is felt to come from an unknown source. The hatred it engenders is not the hatred that is caused by the patent faults and obtrusiveness of so-called religious people, but the hatred that springs from the world’s-fear of the supernatural. From the sight of lives and virtues that it cannot understand and cannot bring down to its level.

The blessing and the joy therefore which our Lord promises to those who are persecuted for justice’ sake is not one that draws its consolations from any human source. There must be no taint of secret pleasure in the fact of being in opposition, or of being misunderstood. No true man likes to differ from those around him, or finds the least enjoyment in accentuating his difference, on the contrary he rejoices in being at one with his fellow-creatures. Any such pleasure in eccentricity, or in what is sometimes dignified by the name of independence, has no relation whatever to the joy of the Beatitude. On the contrary the Beatitude springs out of human sorrow and distress: “There springs up a light in the darkness and joyful gladness for those that are true of heart”. It is for those who under the compulsion of conscience and driven by the force of overwhelming conviction, for the love of God and Truth are ready, though with sadness and anguish of heart, to bear misunderstanding and reproach from those who are nearest and dearest to them. And to such, in their solitude and distress, and growing as it were out of the darkness that envelops them, there dawns upon them the Heavenly vision flooding the soul with peace and the heart with Divine consolation.

It is such persecution, endured for the sake of Christ alone, a persecution of whatever kind brought upon us not by our imperfections or want of tact and common sense, but by our fidelity to conscience and to God, that brings with it the consolation and the joy of the Beatitude. It is supernatural in its cause and in its effects.

Be it therefore remembered again that this Beatitude is the last, the result of all the training and discipline and prayer involved in gaining the blessings of those that went before. It is for a soul that has already learned to conquer self, to endure suffering and sorrow with calmness, to find in God a present help in trouble, and to be gentle and loving in a world that is often cruel and selfish, He who has not passed through this school and learned its lessons will not be able to gain the final and crowning reward, the reward of the martyr in will if not in deed. The man who has grown hard and cynical under opposition, or who, however much he has suffered in the cause of truth and right, is sceptical of the good faith of those who differ from him, and loud and harsh in his criticism, and stern to himself has become stern to others, also stirs up an antagonism that is only natural and merits no supernatural blessing. The Beatitude of the persecuted is the Beatitude of the Saints, or of those who are very near to sanctity.

Now it may be noticed that there is a close connection between this and the first Beatitude. The reward in both cases is the same, “theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”. And the subject-matter of both is the same, the external circumstances and surroundings in which we live.

The first is the blessing promised to those who allow no external things to master them, but keep them in their place as servants and use them as means of approach to God. Under the law of this Beatitude we see men struggling against the attraction of outward things, feeling the need of them and at the same time the danger; how they are forced by the necessities of Nature to use them, and yet in their use they run the risk of falling under their power.

But the last Beatitude contemplates a very different state of things. It is not against the attraction of the creatures that the battle has here to be fought, but the reverse. These things that once were loved so much, perhaps too much, have as it were risen up against the man who strove against their magnetic charm, and assaulted him and sought to drive him into revolt against God, If they cannot win him they will wound him. The servant of God endures the last great onslaught from the creatures he sought to make his servants; they will master him by fear if not by love. All things are arrayed against him. The smile of the world that wooed and almost won him has turned into an angry frown and its caress into a brutal assault. “If thou wilt fall down and worship me all shall be Thine,” so said the Prince of this world of old to our Lord; “but if not, I will raise all in revolt and crush the life out of Thee.”

How different are these trials – the trial of seduction and of hatred. Yet he who would receive the full measure of the blessings offered by our Lord in the Beatitudes must endure both. They are the tests of untried youth full of the visions of beauty and hope and idealism, and of mature years or of one who stands upon the threshold of old age. The evening and the morning make the little day of each man’s experience, and some who have borne well and bravely the testing of youth and kept their hearts for God, amidst all the attraction of the world, have failed in the evening under the crushing blows of the world’s hatred. Yet we must endure the testing that comes with both the morning and evening ere we can pass on to the rest of the Sabbath of a cloudless eternity.

It is one thing to struggle with the body, alive and astir with the warm pulses of youth, lest it should subdue the soul to its servitude, but it is a very different thing to find that body no longer a seducer but an enemy that shows its claws and fangs. A refined instrument of exquisite torture, the brain on fire with thoughts that it seems impossible to control, the heart faint with weakness, every nerve athrob. The pleasures of the senses have failed to seduce, now the body tries what pain will do.

It is one thing to strive lest the absorbing interest of work should give no time for higher thoughts, it is a very different thing to find the work become a burden and distress, refusing to get done, hanging like lead around the neck – no longer an interest but a weary strain.

Once you fought hard to keep possession of your heart, lest friendship and affections should take too strong a hold upon you and lead you as they willed. It was a noble and a healthy warfare. But now old friends have died or gone their way, you have been compelled to take a line in life that is not understood, and have been pursued by criticism, misunderstanding, and opposition; there is no longer the danger of loving men too much, but of the heart, hungry and disappointed, turning away in bitterness and solitude.

Even the inanimate things around you seem to have gained a life of their own for the purpose of tormenting you. The things that gave pleasure give pain, the flavour of life is gone. You stand no longer in a world that you are trying not to love too much, but in a world that has become violently and aggressively antagonistic. There is no further danger of its courting, the danger is lest you should be crushed under its persecution.

Now it seems strange – it has always been a puzzle to devout minds – why such things should be allowed. After all, God is the Lord and Ruler of all. It is easy to imagine that God’s creation should turn upon the man who violates the laws and commands of its Creator. But it seems bewildering to one’s moral sense that such things should be allowed to happen to a person whose only desire is to serve God and to useall to His Glory. It is always a puzzle, always a fresh source of trial to every soul who experiences it or witnesses it.

But it is well to bear in mind that while such difficulties are great indeed, we must not exaggerate them. There are many trials and failures that fall to the lot of good people which ought not to trouble us as being in any way connected with the mystery of God’s dealings with man – the fact is, there is really no mystery about them at all. The explanation lies in the relation of cause to effect. If we see a certain effect we seek at once for the cause. And the cause of what is called success, worldly prosperity, etc. is not a life of prayer or the constant frequenting of the sacraments, but industry, hard work, and certain natural gifts, If religion were warranted to produce wealth or success, many would become religious to gain these things, The fruits of Religion are union with our Lord, victory over sin, the vision of God, and the things of the Spirit. But there is no necessary connection whatever between frequent communion and success on the Stock Exchange, or daily attendance at Mass and a flourishing business. It cannot with any reason be said: “Here is a man who goes to Holy Communion every day of his life, and yet he fails in every business enterprise – isn’t it strange?” No, certainly not, his failure is assuredly not because he goes to Holy Communion every day, but because he is lacking in the gifts that ensure success in such matters, or because he does not go about his business in the way that warrants success, It would be a perilous thing for human life if God were to supply through religion the qualifications which are ordinarily acquired in the affairs of this life by hard work and strenuous effort. “He that soweth to the spirit shall of the spirit reap everlasting life,” but not necessarily the best fruits of life on earth. Such fruits are for those who lay themselves out to win them by every means in their power, sometimes by means that religion forbids and condemns, The Holy Ghost bestows many gifts upon those who are the faithful servants of God, but they are spiritual gifts, and they do not include amongst their number those which fit a man to make a fortune; they are supernatural, these others are either natural endowments, or acquired by sharp wits and the severe training of the market-place.

Therefore if a man is very devout and very religious and utterly unbusiness-like, there is no mystery in the fact that in worldly affairs he may eventually fall amongst the submerged tenth. We must not look in the effect for results that are not in the cause. One might indeed just as well, and with equal reason, express surprise that a man who devoted his life to the acquisition of wealth did not thereby gain great gifts of prayer and an intimate knowledge of God. Asa man sows, so shall he reap. And he who sows and labours for a spiritual harvest will as surely – more surely – gain its legitimate results, as he who sows and labours for worldly prosperity – more surely, for the one never fails, the other often does.

But we may go farther. There is no necessary antithesis between religion and success in the affairs of life. On the contrary, religion trains and develops the whole character, bestowing many gifts which we have not by nature, and compelling us, so far as we are obedient to its commands, to do with all our will and all our power whatever our duty calls us to do. So far therefore as the effects of religion are concerned they should make a man at his very best all round. It will not allow him to be slip-shod or half-hearted in what he undertakes. If he is unbusiness-like in the affairs of life, it is not because he is religious, but because he is not true to the commands of religion His religion bids him do it with all his might, do all to the glory of God, and God is not glorified by a man who brings aspersions upon his faith as making him incapable of work.

It has been often said that one of the causes of the lack of prosperity in Ireland is, that the minds of the people are so fixed upon the things of the other world that they do not think it worth while to do the work of this world, I believe such an apology to be the greatest and most subtle condemnation of the religion of the people of Ireland, It implies that the Catholic Faith unfits a man to take his proper place in life, and do his duty where God has put him, Or it means, still worse, that this world with its manifold calls and claims to work, is no fitting place of discipline and preparation for the next. It is in direct opposition to the whole teaching of our Lord and His Apostles, And it implies that if a man desires to save his soul and be faithful to our Lord he must give up the world and enter a convent.

According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, on the contrary, life in the world is the ordinary condition of life. The religious life is not an escape from duty nor the result of a man’s personal tastes or wishes, but the outcome of a Divine vocation. Our Lord legislated for the married state, and sanctified matrimony by making it a Sacrament, the Church speaks of it as the holy state of matrimony. Saint Paul speaks of the union of the married couple as the type of the union of Christ with His Church, and Holy Scripture constantly speaks of the Church as the Bride of Christ. We are told again of one who having been healed by our Lord desired to join that band of followers.who left all to follow Him, and our Lord’s answer was: “Go back home and tell those at home what great things the Lord hath done for thee”.

All this involves a life in the world, not the cloister. In the Parable of the talents our Lord teaches the very practical lesson that the gifts of God are to be developed in the strain and pressure of life’s struggle and competition, and the man who was punished was he who wrapped his talent in a napkin and hid it in the earth – the shirker, the incompetent, the sluggard. These talents may be taken no doubt as spiritual gifts, but they certainly do not exclude natural gifts, and in the imagery of the Parable it was in the market-place that they were to be developed.

So far therefore from attributing failure in such cases as we have been considering to the effect of religion, it is the reverse. The man who is unbusinesslike and neglects or scamps the work that duty calls him to do, even if he does so to gain more time for the practices of religion, suffers not because of his religion, but because of some unfaithfulness to it. In proportion as a man is really religious he ought to be the best man all round, best developed, best fitted for the struggle of life, best in whatever position God has placed him. One cannot imagine our Lord in the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth doing the menial work He had undertaken in any but the most perfect way possible, or that the exaltation of His mind on Heavenly things interfered with the lowly work of earth.

Let us therefore not exaggerate the difficulties that good people have to suffer upon earth. It is a deep mystery that they should have to suffer as they do. But let us keep clearly before us the distinction between the sufferings that are a mystery, and those that men bring upon themselves by their own incompetence.

And it may be well in this connection to remember that the Grace of God, and prayer, however earnest, do not remedy the evil effects of the violation of Nature’s laws, and that a foolish thing done in the service of God will ordinarily have just the same bad results as a foolish thing done for the most worldly of motives, A man who overstrains his mind by too much prayer will suffer just as much and in the same way as one who overstrains it in business. The motive does not set one free from the natural law. Yet there are not a few who lay aside all prudence and common sense in the name of religion, and wonder that God who sees the motive does not protect them from the disastrous results. But God would have us reasonable beings as well as spiritual beings, and teaches us, or, if we will not learn it, teaches others through us, that the natural law and the spiritual law go hand in hand.

Many therefore who wonder at the mystery of suffering would do better if they wondered at their own unreasonableness in the practice of their religion, and took their sufferings as the lash with which Nature seeks to drive them back into the pathway of reason.

Such sufferings do not come under the law of the Beatitude, nor do they receive its blessing; the persecution of an overwrought brain, of a morbid melancholy induced by too much introspection, of strained nerves and a sickly body, are not always the sufferings for justice’ sake, but very often for injustice in violating the law of Nature.

But when all this has been said, and due weight has been given to the failures and sufferings that are induced by natural causes, and that cannot be dignified by the name of the Mystery of God’s dealings with man, there is enough and more than enough left to cause perplexity to the devout mind. Only those who never think at all, or those who see all things in the light of Divine Faith, can fail to be harassed and bewildered by the grave moral questions that the contemplation of God’s dealings with His faithful servants stirs in their minds.

For the Beatitude contemplates the possibility, not merely of failure, or of being worsted in the battle of life, but of direct opposition and bitter antagonism. It is not negative, but positive.

Here is a man who has placed himself under the laws of perfection, who desires nothing so much as to do God’s Will and to live at peace with and be a blessing to his fellow-creatures, and to do this has undergone a long and severe schooling in the practice of self-discipline, or as men like to put it nowadays, has placed himself in harmony with the laws of the universe. And the world rises up against him. It will not leave him alone. It refuses to take his offered blessings. It opposes, reviles, hates and persecutes him. And everything seems to go against him. God’s world somehow does not appear to approve of its Creator’s friends, and deals more kindly with His enemies or with those who ignore him. But those who love Him most and serve Him best arouse opposition, contempt and persecution.

And this mystery though so old always seems new to every new sufferer. It comes to him as a surprise and disturbs him with perplexities as though it had never happened before. That is the keenness of suffering, especially suffering through the injustice of others. We see it around us, we feel its presence in the world, we know it is here, and see its victims everywhere. Yet when it comes to me, it seems to be something new, never really known before, something surprising and intolerable. The complaints that have been wrung from the lips of countless multitudes come from mine. The words of consolation which I have spoken to others sound a mockery to myself. I stand alone. There is a sharp edge that cuts me as none has ever been wounded before.

It is good therefore to remember that he who suffers in the cause of God and of truth does not, as a matter of fact, stand alone. He is one of a great multitude that no man can number of all nations and people and kingdoms and tongues. Reaching back through the history of the world to the very gate of Eden, when Abel the first martyr suffered through the narrowness, jealousy and intolerance of his brother.

And the persecutions of today, however real, are mild compared with those that stain the records of the past. The world’s real benefactors have always been treated by it as its enemies. When Christ came down to show men the way of salvation they nailed Him to the cross. When they were offered their choice between the greatest Benefactor the world has ever known and a thief and murderer, they chose Barabas and delivered Jesus to death. And this was but the greatest and most awful instance of what the world has always done.

There is nothing more remarkable than the way in which men of every age have treated those who came to them with any new truth or higher standard of right. They have been met not merely with the dead-weight of ignorance and indifference but with violent antagonism. Every forward step in the history of our race has been at the cost of bitter suffering and misrepresentation, often of the death of those who would lead it onward. We do not realise that the commonplace truths that rule and enlarge our life today had to fight to get a hearing, and that the teachers of those truths were reviled, persecuted and hated of all men, and that we who enjoy the blessings which they have brought us, had we lived in their day would probably have taken our part in the opposition. Even in the enlightenment and boasted breadth of modern life, many oppose with all their might the teachers of those truths which are for their welfare. Their eyes are holden that they cannot see them. Whether in science, politics, art, literature or religion, it has been, and probably will be to the end of time, the same. The truths are misrepresented or misunderstood, and their teachers are treated with scorn and surrounded by an atmosphere of suspicion. Some of us live to see our mistake, and look back with shame at our misconception of and antagonism to that which has brought us light, healing and liberty.

The words of our Lord are true in their largest sense: “Your fathers slew the Prophets, and their children build their tombs”.

And this opposition has always reached its keenest and bitterest form in matters of religion. The odium theologicum is proverbial. We may talk as we will of the spirit of toleration in our own day, but it is scarcely worth boasting of. Intolerance may take a less savage form, but it is there, nevertheless, and it can be aroused today as easily as when a few bigoted men, moved with envy, stirred the multitudes to demand the death of Jesus. Men of no religious convictions are often the most bitterly intolerant of those of deep conviction. Men who boast loudest of liberty of conscience heap ridicule and contempt upon those whose consciences lead them to other conclusions than their own, and would if they could stamp out all liberty. Here in England in the twentieth century in many a Christian home there are not a few whose lives are made almost intolerable by the petty persecution which they have to endure year after year for conscience’ sake.

Untruth somehow seems stronger – if but for the moment – than truth, and wrong than right. There is nothing more pathetic in history than the sight of the power – the temporary power – of evil over good. In the perspective of the ages we see, indeed, the reverse, but those who suffered for right and truth had to suffer, often die in the darkness; the reaction came later. The strength of truth and goodness lies in its inherent vitality; it can bide its time, for it is eternal. When it seems slain and trampled under the feet of men, lo! it is alive again, and with all the greater vigour because of the opposition. The strength of evil and untruth, on the other hand, is the strength of violence and passion, and false hopes and promises that are soon exposed. Wrong cannot afford to wait; it knows that it has but a short time. Truth and right can wait with the certainty that in the long run they must gain the victory. They are like the Rider in the Apocalypse, with crowns of victory on His head even before the battle has begun. The lives of great men and women have suffered at the hands of the most worthless. Saint John the Baptist is slain through the whim of a dancing-girl and the spite of an angry woman. The history of the first days of Christianity is a history of how the noblest lives were sacrificed often to the most sordid and the basest passions – jealousy, lust, anger, intrigue, personal spite.

Nothing has been too small or low to employ asa weapon against the teachers of Truth and Righteousness, nothing too weak, apparently, to destroy them. And so goodness was driven out by evil, and falsehood triumphed over Truth, and those who would bless the world with the knowledge and gifts that it needed were reviled and persecuted. But the generations have risen up and called them blessed, and have turned their hatred upon their persecutors.

Those, therefore, who have to suffer in the cause of God may take comfort in the thought, that, however lonely and isolated they feel, they belong to a vast multitude that cannot be numbered – the world’s great benefactors whom it has learnt to bless because they had the courage to withstand it; and that as a matter of fact it is those who give in to it, whom in the long run it forgets or despises. They may encourage themselves therefore with the thought that they suffer from a moment’s opposition to be followed by an age-long appreciation.

But however comforting such considerations may be, it is not for rewards like these that men will endure to the end.

The reward of the Beatitude is not the possession of the Kingdom of Earth, but of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is wholly supernatural. The soul that has already learnt much in the school of the Beatitudes is being put to the last and final test. It is being searched through and through by the fire of persecution. If it can stand this and rise through it the training has done its work. If there be a flaw it will disclose itself. It is the last Beatitude, and it teaches us that it is possible for a man to stand not only alone, but with all the world against him and to be happy. Not because he is indifferent to human appreciation and human affection, for that would be no virtue, nor because he despises the things of earth, for, on the contrary, he reverences and values all that God has created, nor yet because he is indifferent to the judgments of men, for in the school in which he has been trained his heart has become very tender towards his fellow-creatures, but because he has turned to God as his Comforter, he has learned to see the true value and proportion of thingsin Him. The light of Heaven encircles him, and his solitude is enlivened by Heavenly companionship. Through the cracking and splitting surface of earthly things the light and sounds of the Heavenly Kingdom flow in upon him and flood his soul with peace, and while the tears of earthly sorrow fill his eyes, he rejoices and is exceeding glad.

The work done under the training of all the other Beatitudes is tested, completed, and rewarded in this. So, as Stephen was stoned, his face was as the face of an angel, and he saw our Lord standing at the right hand of God. So in the arena, amidst the wild shouts of an angry multitude, and under sword and flame and rack the martyrs could sing Te Deums and pray for and pardon their persecutors, They felt not so much that the world was against them as that God was with them, and in His light they saw light.

But the Beatitude has, I think, a wider application. There is a persecution which many have to endure not from people but from things.

We know what it is to be in harmony with ourselves and with all that is around us, a mind serene and calm, a body unruffled by suffering or disturbed by passion, the apt and ready servant of the soul, and the external surroundings of our life in full accord with our tastes and wishes. The inner life and its external circumstances swing in perfect harmony and rhythm.

Such is often the case in childhood and early youth. The sun of a buoyant and vigorous life shines from within and sheds its radiance on all around us. Hope, like the warm breath of spring. stirs through the soul and calls its manifold powers to action, and the world bathed in its light bids it come forth and try them.

And then as time goes on hope becomes dimmed and clouded by disappointment. There are jars and discords between the inner life and the outer. Conscience awakens and forbids many things, and issues commands that are hard to obey. Then the harmony of the inner life is disturbed. There is strife and discord in the very sanctuary of the soul. It cannot do the things that it would. The will becomes surly and discontented. Inclination calls one way, reason and conscience another. Passion, like the first murmur of a coming storm, makes itself heard. Soon the light and budding life of spring are swept away as it breaks with all its fury. Then the body awakes like a giant, awakes and wrestles with the soul for dominion, and in the fierce conflict the strongest forces of man’s nature are arrayed one against the other. The flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other. An intense dualism is set up, and can never be allayed save by the subjection of the flesh to the spirit or the spirit to the flesh. Action in the external sphere is weakened by the inner conflict. The very appearance of outward things becomes changed and deceptive. The judgment is at fault. The light of reason dimmed. The call of the outer world is no longer to come forth and do, but to come forth to an endless struggle, with the issue uncertain. The atmosphere is charged with antagonism. The harmony that reigned between the man and his surroundings is gone for ever. He is at war with them or they with him, he can hardly tell which. Things that were a help become a hindrance. Things that were a joy to do became a burden and a sorrow. Things that crowded upon him and clamoured with the offer of their service, take flight and leave him or turn and rend him.

Under such circumstances and in the loneliness and desolation in which the soul finds itself, there are two offers of help constantly appealing to it. One to give up the struggle and find peace by surrender, This is the offer from below. The strife and suffering, it says, spring from fighting against your own nature and circumstances which are too strong for you; give up the fight and you shall have peace. The other comes from above. It comes from the Lips of our Lord. It says – you cannot fight this battle alone; you were never intended to fight alone; if you will, I will help you. Come and learn in the school in which I will teach you and give you strength, There you will find the light that never fails, the grace that imparts eternal youth and vigour.

It rests with each man to decide for himself, and by the issue of that decision he must abide. If he accepts the one, he will find peace indeed, but it will be a peace purchased at the loss of all that is worth having; he will become a poor drifting willess thing borne hither and thither by the currents around him and the stronger currents of passion and inclination within. If he accepts the other, he must place himself under the stern discipline of those laws laid down by our Lord in the Beatitudes, the laws of liberty, whereby he will become master of himself and of the world around him, But in the struggle that this involves he will gain far more. He will find the sweet companionship of One Who will be ever by his side, Who will lay open to him the secrets and the joys of a larger and a nobler life. He will rise into the supernatural, He will see, first dimly, then ever more and more clearly, the golden spires and strong battlements of the Kingdom of Heaven, whose walls are salvation, whose gates are peace, and in that Kingdom his solitude will be comforted by the Communion of Saints, his weakness strengthened by partaking of the very Life of Christ Himself, and God will wipe away all tears from his eyes. He will experience the blessing of the servant of God, the skilled combatant in the battle of life: “Blessed are the persecuted, for they shall be called the children of God”.