Fr. George O'Neill, S.J.
With Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1933


WHEN any business arises in our lives that we judge to be of the utmost consequence for our temporal interests, do we not often think over it, and in fact, until it is disposed of, find it difficult to think of anything else? Do we not examine every means that may enable us to arrive at a happy conclusion, and, besides using our own brains, seek to obtain light from others and to act by the advice of the most skillful and experienced? And after we have considered and compared the various means that seem suitable to bring us to the proposed end, and have fixed our choice among them, are we ever so foolish as to prefer knowingly and deliberately the weakest means to the more efficacious, the most roundabout to the shortest, the most dangerous to the safest and surest? Surely not!

My brethren, when, after making this reflection, I cast my eyes upon the conduct maintained by the majority of Christians in the affair of their salvation, I feel amazed. "No," I say to myself;" assuredly these people have no notion of the importance of this affair; they do not even rightly know what it means." And can it be denied that there are only too many who during their whole lives have hardly given to it a serious thought? If they were engaged in a lawsuit, they would think of it at rising, at bedtime, nay, during their sleep, during their meals, their amusements, their prayers. Alas, many who are not unbelievers hardly give to the business of salvation even those idle and spare moments in which they are left with nothing else to do or to think about. They show no concern or anxiety about this business; they find no leisure to think of the affairs of their souls.

That being so, it is not strange that so little trouble is taken to seek counsel and light about those same affairs. If men will not consult even themselves, can we expect them to consult helpful books or confessors? Then again, it is true that men cannot avoid sometimes weighing and comparing the ways and means that lead to Heaven or away from it; but is this done in order to take those that are safest and surest? No! Here we see something extraordinary that is not found in any other kind of businessmen deliberating not to find the best ways, but rather how to enter upon the most uncertain and dangerous. Can one be I saved in living in the world according to the ways of the world, as well as in keeping aloof from the world? Retirement from it, renunciation of it, is a safe, straight and easy way; to live in the world is full of dangers, it is most difficult to live there as Christians; but when we see that it is not impossible, that is enough for us; we ask no more. Can one frequent all the amusements and dissipations of the world -dances, theaters and all the rest, without falling into mortal sin? If it is possible, it is only by hairbreadth escapes, such as would be those of a vessel without sails or helm left to drift amid winds and waves. But that satisfies us, and on such a chance as that, we expose ourselves as confidently as if we were quite secure against any disaster. A man who in any other kind of business would layout his life in such a fashion would be looked upon as utterly absurd and foolish.
Again, when one is engaged in an affair of some importance, one does not take up and manage other affairs of small importance without considering their possible interference with the main concern that he has at heart. A man who is aiming at fixing himself in an important and lucrative post not only has that purpose constantly in his mind, but regulates all his comings and goings, his studies, visits, amusements, his very meals and his sleep, with an eye to their influence for good or evil on that one matter that he thinks supremely important. If we really understood and had firmly fixed in our minds what the affair of our salvation is, should we not act in the same way? Would not this matter of supreme importance enter into all our deliberations; would not the interests of our souls be the prime motive of our determinations; would they not hold us back, or urge us on, in all sorts of situations? Is it so that men act, my brethren? Is it so that we act ourselves? As regards the choice of a state of life, for example, for ourselves or for young people who depend upon us, is it God's will, is it the soul's eternal interests, that are considered foremost and above all? How often have we said with St. Aloysius: "Quid hoc ad aeternitatem?" "What has this to do with eternity?"

It is clear, then, that God has bestowed on us in vain the gift of reason, if we do not use it for gaining Heaven ---- the one final end that God intended in giving it to us. [It is in vain that He has given us time
---- hours, days, weeks and years ---- if we employ none of it or too little of it in the one business that is of importance for us.] Would it be too much to ask that we should give a quarter of an hour daily to consider our spiritual condition ---- to take thought concerning the evils that hold us back, the dangers that threaten us in the future, the means that we are to take, the mistakes we are to avoid ---- asking seriously that question asked long ago of Our Lord: "What am I to do that I may have eternal life?" [And, again, would it be too much to ask that we should devote to the same investigation and the same inquiry a few days of each year?]




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