devotions then to the Sacred Infancy and to the Blessed Sacrament
have one and the same spirit. The question follows, What is that
spirit, or in other words, what are the peculiar flowers and fruits by
which these devotions make themselves known in the spiritual life, and
what are the particular graces which they have an especial gift to
convey? All the mysteries of our Lord bring forth in us certain fruits,
and different mysteries differ in the greater or the less degree in
which they bear them.
Thus we cannot fix our eyes and hearts upon any part of the Incarnation without the royal spirit of mortification and self-sacrifice passing into us. Jesus, in every shape and under every view, is the doctor of penance and mortification. Whatever else He teaches, that goes along with every lesson. Every lesson presupposes it, and reacts back upon it. Except a man take up his cross daily and so follow Jesus, he cannot follow Him at all. Neither is it enough that the mortifications should come upon him from without. There must be mortifications also of his own seeking. Neither is it enough that they should be interior mortifications only, such as those of the will and feelings; but the flesh must suffer also. There must be bodily mortifications, if the virtue of the Incarnation is to pass into our mortifications at all. And although interior mortifications are in themselves far more valuable, yet at the present time, because of the softness of our ways and the manifold inventions of our effeminacy, it seems more needful to dwell upon outward austerities, inasmuch as without them the practice of interior mortifications is rife with many plausible delusions. But mortification, humility, and meekness, are the flowers of all devotions to the mysteries of our Lord. Those which seem to belong, not exclusively, but very specially, to the Sacred Infancy and the Blessed Sacrament, are these five: joy, adoration, gratitude, simplicity, and the hidden life.
1. It was a wise thought of Father Lombez, especially when he had fathomed the subject of "Interior Peace," to add his supplemental treatise on Christian joy: neither was it without the guidance of the unerring Spirit that St. Paul enumerates joy among the first of the fruits of the Holy Ghost. It is doing no injury to the mortified character of high sanctity, to say, that joy is one of the most important elements in the spiritual life, and nothing is more common than cases in which persons are kept back from great attainments, or from persevering in their vocations, by the want of joy. They say there was an epoch on this planet of ours when, from the quantity of carbonic acid in the atmosphere, the growth of vegetation was magnificently prolific, rapid, and gigantic. Just so is it in the spiritual life when everything breathes of holy and supernatural joy. It is the atmosphere of heroic virtues. Perhaps we ourselves may have had seasons of such gladness, and now it may be forfeited because we did not correspond to the grace, and on looking back on what we did and what we were then, we almost think we were "giants in those days." Indeed it seems from the constitution of our nature, and more particularly under the law of grace, which is a law of sonship, not of servitude, that joy is almost an indispensable condition of generous or long-sustained action. It is very hard to keep up and continue any practice, however easy in itself, when such practice is based only on a natural motive. It is a constant effort, because of the incurable weakness and besetting languor of our nature in matters spiritual; and hence it is that the Sacraments, which tell upon this weakness and languor, are all of them in a very intimate sense fountains of joy and sweetness to the human heart. Take, for example, the case of prayer, and ask the experience of any number of spiritual persons; and they will tell you that so great and almost unconquerable are the difficulties of the privilege of prayer, and so manifold the repugnances which beset it, that nothing but a spirit of joy enables a man to triumph, to persevere, and to break his way into higher and higher degrees of its perfection. Even interior trials are, for the most part-----certain special temporary phenomena of the Saints excepted-----accompanied by joy, though it is often very hidden, and as little sensible as it can be consistently with its performing its functions rightly. And it is quite a characteristic of those spiritual writers, who are the most distinguished for a supernatural discretion and an abundant measure of the gift of counsel, that they are very cautious in speaking lightly of sensible devotion and sweetness in prayer, and very slow to admit that the subtraction of it is, in this or that case, a mystical operation of God, and not rather a punishment for infidelities in the spiritual life. Consolation is so much easier than correction, that it is no wonder directors should so much delight in it, especially finding, as they do, the astonishing rarity of disinterested souls who really seek God alone. And many a soul, to its huge loss, is dismissed from the confessional almost proud of a subtraction of sensible devotion which, they are told, implies some special operations of the Holy Spirit in their souls, when they needed salt and vinegar in wounds which over-talking, or a love of pleasure, or a thirst of praise, or a facility to omit their spiritual exercises, or a trifling acidity in their domestic circle, have really caused. It cannot be too often repeated that it is no honour to holy mortification to think or speak lightly of the sweetness, and the balm, and the fragrance of spiritual joy.
Gentleness and softness, says Surin, were the graces our Lord most desired that we should copy in Himself; and certainly, whether we look at the edification of others, or the sanctification of ourselves, or of the glory our lives may give to God, we shall perceive that nothing can rank in importance before gentleness of manner and sweetness of demeanour towards others. Answer peaceable things with mildness, says the Wise Man, and let there be no acid feeling in thy soul, and thou shalt be as the obedient son of the Most High, and He will have mercy on thee more than a mother. Now it is quite notorious that joy is of all things the one which most helps us in sustaining this equable sweetness to- wards others. When we are joyful, nothing comes amiss to us. Nothing takes us by surprise or throws us off our guard. Unkindly interpretations of other men's deeds and words seem unnatural to us; and we lose our facility of judging harshly and of suspecting unreasonably. No matter what duty we are unexpectedly called upon to do, no matter what little unforeseen disappointments come upon us, no matter what sudden provocations to petulance and irritability assail us, all seems to come right. There is no shadow in our souls under which we can sit and be morose; for the grace of joy is as universal as the strong sunshine of a fine day.
If a tree's roots are fastened so tightly in the tenacious clay that the wind cannot stir them, it will not grow; it will hardly clothe itself with leaves. If its stem is nipped by injudicious ties, it cannot swell in girth. If it is crowded in a dense plantation, it cannot branch forth and make a pleasant shade, but it shoots up infirm and lank and graceless. So is it with the soul when it wants liberty of spirit. It cannot make room for itself amid its numerous duties and its various avocations. Helps become hindrances, Sacraments formalities, fervours scruples, and the order of rule and habit instead of being a facility of expansion, grows into a chain of bondage and pusillanimity. All this is from want of liberty of spirit, that holy supernatural freedom which alone can unite the seemingly incompatible qualities of the spiritual life, giving the reins to the familiarity of love while the hand is firm on the curb of fear, associating with the ready charity, which is disengaged at all hours when wanted, a scrupulous and faithful subjection to the yoke of rule and the regularity of observance. But it is joy alone which can give this liberty of spirit. There are no ways cut and dried by which we can attain it, no discernible degrees by which we can name, distinguish, and mount them one by one, no receipt which is specific for the obtaining of it. It is a spirit, an instinct, a genius, an indefinable grace. It is in fact the operation of spiritual joy, the result of joy, what joy is and produces in the ascetical life.
But these are not the only uses of joy in the spiritual life. The whole fabric of mortification rests upon it. We cherish our joy in order to nurture our mortified spirit, and we practice austerities in order to increase our joy. Even punishment, when it is over, brings forth joy, a joy that without the punishment would never have been; and the more ample and severe the chastisement the keener and more childlike the joy. Is not this what everyone says who uses instruments of penance? Self-love is the filth, the squalor, the confinement, the poverty, the depression, the bad air of the spiritual life, and mortification is our emancipation from it all. What wonder it should be so joyous? Did we, like the Galatians, begin well, and run bravely, and are we limping now, and weary, and galled, and out of heart in our career? The morning shone upon us starting; it was cool and fresh: the dew was on the grass, the wind was getting up among the leaves; now all is hot and dusty and disagreeable. No! it is not quite so. This is not the account of the matter. We began with sundry mortifications, and we have left them off. We are ever on the point of resuming them, and never do so. One while we determine to do so, and then lose heart. We grasp our discipline, but there is no nerve in our wrist. We fix the catenella, but either we are a little unwell, or it is hard to hide it, and after all it is such a paltry penance, and so we take it off. Another while, we think of how many years it is since we turned to God; by good rights, if spiritual books speak true, we must be beyond the downright necessity of bodily mortifications, and have entered now into the sphere of purely interior ones, where bodily mortifications are retained less from necessity than from habit, humility, and love. O spiritual books-----spiritual books! how many things you are made to answer for. As if the ascetical life were cut up and partitioned off into so many different states and stages, which all souls must pass through and at a given pace, so that we and our directors can look at our books, as a traveller looks at his itinerary and says, Now we have got so far; we are here on the map now: so many miles onwards, so many minutes: just what our calculated speed promised to effect. This makes wild work of asceticism. But we have lost our joy, and we find now that we cannot get on without it. Self-love has made head again, and the interior caustic will not bite. The remedy is simple enough. Let us go back to our bodily mortifications. Let us bruise our flesh and draw a little of our blood, and we shall be as happy as the day is long. If the saints are such gay sprites, and monks and nuns such unaccountably cheerful creatures, it is simply because their bodies, like St. Paul's, are chastised and kept under with an unflinching sharpness and a vigorous discretion. He that would be joyous, must first be mortified; and he that is mortified is already joyous, with the joy that is of pure, celestial birth.
Such are the ascetical uses and fruits of joy. How much we need it will best be seen by looking at the difficulties which beset the practice of it in our own time and place. There can be no mistake in this. Our times are against joyousness of heart. Our lives are clogged up with material interests and the gaudy triumphs of materialism. The world has got upon an inclined plane, and is spinning down it with a precipitation which affects everyone of us: even the Church must feel it, and suffer from it, and be giddy and sick at heart with the haste and hurry and passionate lawlessness of it all. There is no time to be sober, tranquil, cool, or at peace; so there can be no joy. Moreover we are impeded with accumulated business. Everyone has half a hundred vocations, and does not even seem to be discharging the relative duties of his social position if he has them not. We have all twenty times more work to do than we can do well, and ten times more work than we can do at all. How does all this tell upon prayer, upon standing still and kneeling down to prepare for sacraments, upon time spent in profitable reviews of past life, upon the frequent, and longer still and longer resting of the soul on God's Perfections? No! in these latter days the effort of life is grown quite inexorable. We are falling under the strain of it day after day, and the fountain of joy never was sunk so low. The smile of the free heart and the overflowing frank eye of the unburdened conscience, how do they comport with the grim neatness and the convulsed purpose and the rigid model-like anxiety and preoccupied concentration of the faces of a London morning pavement, when the stream of worshippers moves citywards to the shrine of the world's activity?
The character of our country is as fatal to joy as the spirit of our time. O that unholiday look of English countenances, how sad it is! All life is a forcing of one's way through a dense crowd, where everybody else is forcing his way in the same direction. The overcrowded platform of the island is like the deck of a foundering ship. There is no order and little hope, a thousand cries and a world of useless effort; one law only is acknowledged, one power alone supreme, and that is self-preservation. We are prosperous, but we do not enjoy our prosperity. It is so absorbing that it draws into its vortex those that are far off, as well as those that are near. It is felt in the seminary and feared in the convent, far as they are from Change, and hundreds of miles and millions of leagues distant in sympathy from the Standard on Cornhill. Merry England! What a mockery there is in that old historic name, which records, like some ancient monument, the joyousness of the old faith and the mother church! We have no joy now, but that dreadful joy which those who love danger feel, when they wantonly throw themselves in its way. We have joy after a sort, but it is in the excitement and the intensity of an earnestness, which is for all other conceivable ends, but which is not for God.
The circumstances also in which we, as Catholics, are placed in this vortex, tell equally against the wholesome exercise of Christian joy. The neighbourhood of heresy is darkening, chilling, and depressing: and we cannot escape from its numbing effects and consequences. Hence it comes to pass that we ourselves are often not what we ought to be, and are at all times in this country, if not our only, at least our own worst enemies. We are depressed also from our own many wants and deficiencies, which it is beyond our power to supply, and yet which seem to be crying up to Heaven as if they were so many scandals. Or we are out of heart, and must be so, from the perseverance of dislike and prejudice, from the daily new discoveries of dishonour and disingenuousness and shameless untruth, even of the better sort that war against us, or from the inexorable Egyptian task of overwork, or from the enfeebling wretchedness of isolation, or from the constant tantalizing defeat that seemed almost victory, as our wants and works increase unmanageably just as we seemed by superhuman efforts to be satisfying their hunger, taming their madness, and bringing them beneath control. We live in a continual disproportion between wants and means, and ever to have done, ever to be satisfied, ever to sit down and rest is sin, or something so like it as to make us conscience-stricken and miserable. All these things are against us, as Jacob said of old. But why have I spoken of these obstacles to joy? Because I suppose the difficulty of practising the grace may be taken as an index of its importance and our necessity. Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament will give us one thing which we greatly need the gift and grace of joy in Jesus Christ.
2. Another want is adoration: and this is the second flower of the double devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Sacred Infancy. The spirit of heresy and the spirit of the world are both alike a spirit of levity and frivolity; whereas the spirit of the Church is one of tranquil seriousness, and of profound and dignified adoration. Even the worship of God, in heretical and schismatical bodies, becomes either on the one hand formal, cold, conceited and inexpressive, or on the other, vulgar, coarse, impertinent and forward; and both of these noxious spirits kill souls in their own way. The one is more respectable in its operation, but not the less deadly; the other holds more good in solution, yet makes greater moral havoc in the souls it at once debauches and degrades. Opposed to both these is the Catholic spirit of adoration, Now look into the world, measure the times, scan their symptoms, question their developments; and is it conceivable that even the builders of stately Babel should have less adoration about them, less of the genius of worship, than the men of our day? Were God's rights ever so narrowed? Was the world ever so unleavened with godly things? Was ever the self-dependence of Satan's kingdom more arrogantly asserted or more balefully triumphant?
"But we shall see this better by examining first the spirit of adoration, and seeing wherein it consists. It may be said to comprehend seven visions of God. First of all, it is seeing Him everywhere. No corner so dark, no occupation so unlikely, no interest so thoroughly worldly, but adoration sees God manifest in it, and kneels down there to worship Him. The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof. This spirit acknowledges the dominion of evil nowhere, nowhere leaves the devil to himself or in possession, withdraws from no ground, but everywhere plants God's banner, and everywhere makes open acknowledgment of His universal sovereignty. Secondly, it sees God great everywhere. It discerns the intrinsic grandeur of all His operations and all His permissions. He consecrates everything. His presence is magnificence. Thus this spirit makes no compromises with the world. It gives up nothing, because nothing to its eye is small enough that it should dare to give it up or barter it away. God has touched it, and lo! it has swelled to dimensions of vastness and of dignity, and has outgrown all terrestrial room. On this account its seriousness can make light of nothing. Thirdly, it sees God so as to appreciate Him everywhere. God is to its eye not only great in everything, but He is Himself the greatness of everything. He is also the worth of everything, and the preciousness of all things. Hence it puts such a price on God as to depreciate all else but Him; and in this is its delight; because the worthlessness of all created things lights up with such glorious splendour, the worth, the sole worth, the exceeding worth, of God and of what is God's. Fourthly, it sees Him first everywhere. He is the first object that strikes the eye, the first wherever the eye lights; or if it is not so, from some dimness in the eye itself, it seeks Him out and has no rest, and notices nothing else, until it has found Him. Then it takes the interpretation of all it sees from Him, consults first His will, seeks first His kingdom, legislates first for His interests; and until all this is done, it has taken neither height nor measure of what else may be in that place. Fifthly, it sees Him last everywhere. It takes leave of no duty without seeing that God has had His due. It leaves no place without ascertaining how His interests are left there. When all else is consumed and exhausted, it still sees God in the empty temple. Through the veil of all other things, and after the distraction of their gay bewilderment, its pacific eye is still to the last on God, the end, the sum, the total, the result of all things, and His own infinite Self besides. Sixthly, it sees Him near everywhere. To the spirit of adoration God is always at hand. God touches it, holds it up, and lets it lean upon Him. It has always ready means of glorifying God; passing word, present work, the opened lip, the falling eye, the outstretched hand, all can glorify God instantaneously and continuously; because He is close by always. No time is spent in searching, nor labour lost in calculating. The little details of hourly privacy, they are all sacraments, all real presences; for God is in them all; and there is only one species under which adoration never sees Him, and that is as some object very far off. Seventhly, it sees Him interfering everywhere. God is no idol or image to it: no convenient, passive object of external reverence, to which it can bow or kneel, and then pass on and do its own will and follow its own way. Prayer at stated times, and incense morn and eve, these, if these only, are a mockery in the sight of adoration. To its eye God's dominion is the substance and the entity of all things that exist. Consequently its eye is purged to see Him interfering everywhere, making claims and asserting rights every hour, laying His Hand on all things and stamping His mark upon all things, and insisting all day long, that at least in heart and attitude men should do public homage to Him for the usufruct of the very air they breathe and the very blood they live by. Adoration knows nothing of an otiose Providence: in its esteem the dignity of God and the lovingness of God lie in these momentary interferences; and it is looking ever to God, as the child looks to his father where two paths diverge, and it waits for His Hand, softly, and to all but watchful love imperceptibly, to turn it into the way He would have it go. These are the seven visions of God. Blessed is the gifted seer who gazes on them uncloudedly his whole life long! His ways shall be in security, and his heart in heavenly peace!
Now let us look out into the world, and see how far it looks like a society of creatures living, and consciously living, under the eye of their Creator, His will their rule, His beauty their loadstone, His glory their reward, His praise and blame their measure of right and wrong. God's glory, it must be remembered, is in the continuity and the universality of His interference, and the worship of His creatures is the recognition of His right to interfere. What idle words these seem! What is there in the world at all answering to them? How far is the conduct of men in any way a mirror of the One Living Being in Three Divine Persons? Literature is the flower and beauty of human intellect; and what is God to literature, but an ornament at best? There is beauty in art, pathos in drama, sublimity in poetry, and admiration in history, which are not after His laws, nay, are what He expressly disallows. God's place in literature is æsthetical, scenic, theatrical, and nothing more. Philosophy allows for Him as an element of consideration and calculation in His own world, and more often as a disturbing force than otherwise. He is a difficulty which has to be dealt with, an objection which has to be answered: and alas! philosophy has felt more or less irritability in meeting both the difficulty and the objection. Science is occupied upon Him. But it ignores His personality, His life, His character. It deals with Him as a code of legislation, as an ancient manuscript, or a disinterred megatherium. It manipulates Him as a thing, a law, a cause, or a power that has strewn the subterraneans of creation with manifestations of design. Politics have their own way of looking at Him. To them He is a fellow power, to be feared for the brute force it has in it or the wily diplomacy, to be dreaded one while as barbarian and another while as insinuating and astute. He is a state far off, who has hardly a right to come into the horizon of politics or to meddle with the nicely adjusted balance of power, an oriental shah, very grand and very worshipful, but with whom it does not appear that we have any very direct concern, except an occasional interchange of gifts to our own advantage. Politics recognise of Him so much as this, that, existing and being a power, He has a right to be consulted when He has a right to be interested. But it does not appear that that is of very frequent occurrence. Society at large regards Him as a stately topic of misty consolation and convenient bounty to its friends, and as an affair of exquisite police to its enemies. He is a more or less indistinct machine of rewards and punishments, by no means adequate to the whole work of government and order, but on the whole trustworthy and perhaps indispensable. This is the world's view of God, its five divisions of its Omnipotent and Lifegiving Creator!
But how does our own spiritual life stand the comparison with those seven visions. of Catholic adoration? I am not speaking of our unforgetfulness of God, but of our very recognition of Him. Is it not wanting in fear, in reverence, in silence, in amazement, in abjection, and because in these things, therefore in love also, and righteous intimacy, and affectionate delight? Listen to Ecclesiasticus, to that one chapter which is headed "All wisdom is from God," and see how far its hymn-like language suits our ordinary devotion. "The fear of the Lord is honour, and glory, and gladness, and a crown of joy. The fear of the Lord shall delight the heart, and shall give joy, and gladness, and length of days. With him that feareth the Lord, it shall go well in the latter end, and in the day of his death he shall be blessed. The fear of the Lord is the religiousness of knowledge, it shall give joy and gladness. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and to fear God is the fulness of wisdom, and fulness is from the fruits thereof. The fear of the Lord is a crown of wisdom, filling up peace, and the fruit of salvation. The root of wisdom is to fear the Lord, and the branches thereof are long-lived. The fear of the Lord is wisdom and discipline, and be not incredulous to the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord driveth out sin; for he that is without fear, cannot be justified; for the wrath of his high spirits is his ruin."
Such is the delight and glory of fearing God that "He might almost say that fear is the depth of love. The practical question for ourselves is to consider how far it is the characteristic of our relations with God, how far the spirit of adoration is our spirit, patient, expansive, submissive, profound, intelligent, penetrating, clear of sight, mature in judgment, eloquent in silence, dignified in humility, rejoicing in abasement. Adoration is the supernatural leaven of the creature. Nothing must escape it, nothing refuse it entrance. Not a faculty but it must be steeped in it, not a power but it must be tempered in it, not a sentiment but it must be beautified by it, not an act but it must be animated with it. There is not a recess in our complex nature which must not be visited, searched, and purified with this celestial fire. Nay, it has its proper office even to our flesh. Pierce Thou my flesh with Thy fear, says the Psalmist; for I am afraid of Thy judgments; and when the word of God in the deep night reached the ears of Eliphaz "by stealth" and he received "the veins of its whisper, fear seized upon him and trembling, and all his bones were affrighted and the hair of his flesh stood up." This spirit of adoration should be displayed in understanding, in feeling, in action, in love. The whole attitude of our mind should be full of reverence. In study, in thought, in argument, in persuasion, in reproof, when we speak and when we listen, our understanding should be as it were on the look out for God, vigilant to receive truth, jealous to defend it, quick to perceive the bearing of opinions and judgments upon His glory. For if a man handles the commonest subject, and the name of God be not so much as mentioned, still it is all full of God, tingles with God, breathes of God, shines with God, is fragrant of God. A mind, ever brooding on God, saturated with the thought of God, and to whose reasoning God is the swift conclusion of all premises, has a science of its own, and is a power on earth to which neither rank nor genius may compare. To exercise adoration in our feelings, our instincts must be so trained, so supple in the hands of grace, that they become full of ready and occult sympathies with God. They must feel Him before He comes, and prophecy of Him when He is yet unseen. They must like and dislike, unerringly, they know not why, and yet the future will show that God's glory was concerned, and that they judged as love and truth and clear light would have had them to judge. Our actions also must be so many lovely-faced kneeling statues, with their hands clasped and their eyes upturned to heaven, full of self-oblivion and beautiful adoration. Every action of a man, whose mind is prayer and his feelings worship, is itself a divine work of art, exceedingly lovely, far before frieze of temple or old Attic sculpture, a study more deeply imbued with the very essence of beauty than all the hallowed remnants of fascinating antiquity. But not mind and feeling and action only must be steeped in adoration, but love itself must be chastened in its self-rebuking fires. As humility is to zeal, so is fear to love. We must so fear that love will reach to highest Heaven, and we must so love that fear must be a necessity of our love's life. The very thrills of love must be indistinguishable from the tremblings of fear. When we are startled with love's delightful boldness, when it is hard to believe that so great a God can love so tenderly, when it is a relief to love to hide itself in the exaggerations of humility, when with a heart bursting with tearful hope that He will not hear our prayers, we cry out with Peter to his master, Depart from me, O Lord! for I am a sinful man,-----then is our love safe, then is it pure, then is it holy, then is it full of rest, and a foretaste of the eternal sabbath of the people of God.
And how will all this show itself in daily life? In these three simple ways. We shall do but a few things, burden ourselves with a few responsibilities, engage ourselves in but a few works, pledge ourselves to but a few spiritual exercises: so that we may not be hampered, but make life larger, and have more room for God. How often has St. Francis of Sales told us this, and why have we not listened to him? Then because the chambers of our lives are not crowded with intrinsic furniture, or we ourselves misled by spiritual attachments, we do what we do for God slowly, intensely, and composedly, just as He works Himself; so that independent of our work, our very method of working is worship of Him. And is not the method far more to Him than the work? What are our works to Him? Simply nothing. But our working hearts? Why they should be anything to Him I do not know. But they are. He yearns for them. He pleads for them. He broods over them, like a mother over the little face of her first-born. And finally what we thus do, is done in a finished way, not like Daniel's image, gold and silver, brass and clay, commingled, but all entire and of fine gold, like the actions of Jesus and Mary, and worthy of God. There will be no haste, no incompleteness, no alloy, no slovenliness, no misty matter of venial sin encompassing the bright thing and making it almost more a vehicle of evil than an offering of good. Few, slow, finished,-----these are the works of adoration.
3. I mentioned gratitude as the third flower of our devotion; and it is a want as special and as pressing now as either joy or adoration. Going with modern habits of mind to the perusal of the lives of the Saints, it seems almost strange to find gratitude, what we might nearly call the old heathen virtue of gratitude, so prominent a characteristic of the Saints. It is one of the marks peculiar to all the Saints, but more especially to the founders of religious orders and congregations. They seem to exaggerate the little benefits they have received, and to make as much of them as if they never could pay them off. St. Philip had a marvellously long memory for the most trivial kindnesses. St. Ignatius appears sometimes quite absorbed in them, and passes on the obligations as heirlooms to future generations of his order. The treatment of patrons and founders in the middle ages, and the courteous observances of the Church towards them even at solemn times and in secret places, is a manifestation of the same instinct of sanctity, and is of course closely connected with the spirit of thanksgiving. This is not our way now. A change has come over us which betokens something wrong, whatever it may be.
Perhaps we do less for each other than we used to. Earlier times and simpler forms of society may, like the beginning of colonies, have excelled in other virtues more than we. But this much is plain, that we take benefits far too much as matters of course, and that we lose with God in consequence. We are so beset with the notion of our own rights, the monomania of our times, that it actually disturbs and perplexes our relations with God, and confuses our theology. We have so many rights defined and undefined, and in this country, as an unpopular minority, we fight so disproportionately for them, that we come to look on almost everything which happens to us as a right. We see this in others, even if we are blind to it in ourselves. We complain again and again that the poor take alms, as if they were rights, not favours. Now if Catholic theology be true, alms are much nearer rights, especially to the very poor, than the favours we receive and count as due to us, and as if we were beholden to nothing for them but our own rank and worth. In these days we canonize self-help as the queen of virtues instead of charity, and this poisons the very fountains of our moral philosophy, and distorts our notions of duty. Then again, the different classes of society are so coldly divided off one from another, not so much blood from wealth, as wealth from mediocrity, and mediocrity from poverty, that it is as if civilization were resolving itself back again into an institution of castes, a state almost worse than promiscuous savagery. And, once more, we do good to each other, either through central associations from which the individual kindness is evaporated and lost, or on so small and niggardly a scale, that there is no scope for a vigorous growth of gratitude. However, from whatever cause, gratitude is not a modern virtue; and the absence of it is one of those modern vices against which we must be specially on our guard when we are trying to train our souls on the model of Catholic sanctity. To some it may appear strange that I should make so much of it and treat it as a separate flower of devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. But the lack of it is a grievous fault, and comes of a most unholy temper. If a man were shown me who had a long memory for little kindnesses, who never seemed out of debt in his affections, who exaggerated his obligations to others, kept anniversaries of them, and repaid them twenty times over, I should be more struck with the likelihood of his turning out a saint, than if I heard that he disciplined himself to blood daily, slept on the bare boards, enjoyed the prayer of quiet, had been scourged by devils, and had seen our Blessed Lady. Alas! we forgot the ten lepers, and the nine that were ungrateful: or in these days of self-praise and self-importance, we are like Ezechias, when God had given him a sign, "he did not render again according to the benefits which he had received; for his heart was lifted up."
But let us look more closely into the importance of gratitude in the spiritual life. God's mercy is the great feature of the two kingdoms of nature and of grace. Now gratitude is man's answer to God's mercy; and just as charity to our neighbour is the best test of our real love of God, so gratitude to our neighbour for his kindnesses to us is a clearer proof of a grateful disposition, than gratitude to God, which is mixed up with so many other cogent considerations. If .we realize everything as coming from God, then these benefits are from Him; and they come from Him in the most beautiful and touching way, through the mediation of our brother's human heart inspired by grace. So that every kindness we receive is a little copy of the Incarnation, a miniature of that attractive mystery. Gratitude also is grounded in humility, and, as usual, increases the grace from which it takes its rise. Heroic humility fancies that wrong is the only right which is due to it. The least kindness seems disproportionately great to a keen and delicate sense of our own unworthiness. The wonder is that anybody should be kind to us at all. If they knew us, as we know ourselves, they would have to do holy violence to themselves to show us common courtesy, as great violence as the Saints did to themselves when they licked the ulcers of the lepers. St. Francis Borgia used to walk quickly through the shambles, in unaffected fear lest the butchers should rise upon him and put him to death, as unworthy to encumber the earth of God. This last example however is taking us out of our sphere. We can as little conceive of such humility as of the manner of life an inhabitant would lead in torrid Venus or in watery Jupiter. But it illustrates the gratitude of the saints. Again, what warms the heart more to others than the exercise of gratitude? Uncharitableness to a benefactor seems almost an impossibility. Lear's daughters were monsters. Yet think how hard it is to love anyone, any single one, with real charity, without judging, without criticism, without censoriousness, extenuating the evil, believing against appearances, magnifying the good, rejoicing in his virtues. It is much if each man has one upon the earth to whom he really feels thus. It is an immense help to his sanctification, a real talent for which he will have account to give. I doubt its being common, at least in its evangelical purity. Gratitude to benefactors is on the road to it, and not far distant. Then again gratitude is so eloquent, so graceful, so persuasive a missioner. It is not only a virtue in ourselves, but it makes others good and virtuous also. It is a blessedly humbling thing to be loved, a veritable abasement to be affectionately respected by those about us. And gratitude makes our benefits look so little that we long to multiply and enlarge them, while it softens our hearts and unties from them all manner of little antipathies, mean jealousies, petty rivalries, and cold suspicions. And, lastly, it is the proper and normal state of a holy creature to perfect himself under the continual feeling of obligations which he never can repay, This is the relation between the Creator and himself, Meanwhile to all the evil and baser parts of our nature it is a real mortification to have the sense of obligation pressing upon us. It is the sign of a vulgar man, that he cannot bear to be under an obligation. And thus in both ways the sense of obligation is a great part of sanctity. A grateful man cannot be a bad man; and it were a sad thing indeed, if either in the practice or the esteem of this virtue the heathen should surpass the disciples of that grateful Master, who, to the end of time and in the busy pageant of the judgment, will remember and repay the cup of cold water given in His Name.