The Following of Christ, Book I, Chapter XVIII

cover of the ebook 'The Following of Christ'Of the example of the holy fathers

1. Look upon the lively examples of the holy fathers, in whom true perfection and religion was most shining, and thou wilt see how little, and almost nothing, that is which we do.

Alas! what is our life if compared to theirs?

The saints and friends of Christ served the Lord in hunger and thirst; in cold and nakedness; in labour and weariness; in watchings and fastings; in prayers and holy meditations; in persecutions and many reproaches.

2. Ah! how many and how grievous tribulations have the apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and all the rest, gone through, who have been willing to follow Christ’s footsteps: for they hated their lives in this world, that they might possess them for eternity.

O! how strict and mortified a life did the holy fathers lead in the desert! How long and grievous temptations did they endure! how often were they molested by the enemy! What frequent and fervent prayers did they offer to God! What rigorous abstinence did they go through! What great zeal and fervour had they for their spiritual progress! How strong a war did they wage for overcoming vice! How pure and upright was their intention to God!

They laboured all the day, and in the nights, they gave themselves to long prayers: though even whilst they were at work, they ceased not from mental prayer.

3. They spent all their time profitably: every hour seemed short which they spent with God: and through the great sweetness of divine contemplation, they forgot even the necessity of their bodily refreshment.

They renounced all riches, dignities, honours, friends, and kindred; they desired to have nothing of this world; they scarce allowed themselves the necessaries of life: the serving the body even in necessity, was irksome to them.

They were poor, therefore, as to earthly things: but very rich in grace and virtues.

Outwardly they wanted, but inwardly they were refreshed with divine graces and consolations.

4. They were strangers to the world: but near and familiar friends to God.

They seemed to themselves as nothing, and were despised by this world: but in the eyes of God they were very valuable and beloved.

They stood in true humility, they lived in simple obedience, they walked in charity and patience: and therefore they daily advanced in spirit, and obtained great favour with God.

They were given as an example for all religious: and ought more to excite us to make good progress, than the number of the lukewarm to grow slack.

5. O! how great was the fervour of all religious in the beginning of their holy institution!

O! how great was their devotion in prayer! how great their zeal for virtue!

How great discipline was in force amongst them! How great reverence and obedience in all, flourished under the rule of a superior!

The footsteps remaining still bear witness that they were truly perfect and holy men: who waging war so stoutly, trod the world under their feet.

Now he is thought great who is not a transgressor: and who can with patience endure what he hath undertaken.

6. Ah! the lukewarmness and negligence of our state, that we so quickly fall away from our former fervour, and are now even weary of living through sloth and tepidity!

Would to God that advancement in virtues were not wholly asleep in thee, who hast often seen many examples of the devout!