Slackness snaps the soul

Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus

Quotes of the Day

From Saint Ignatius’ letter on Perfection
to the fathers and brothers studying at Coimbra, May 7, 1547 

The Advantages of Fervor

Therefore, give serious thought to your vocation so that you can give much thanks to God for so great a favor and ask Him for the special help needed to correspond to it with courage and diligence. Both of these you must have in large measure if you are to attain the end you have in view. Sloth, tepidity, weariness in study and in the other exercises which you have undertaken for the love of our Lord you must recognize as the sworn enemies of your vocation.

For his encouragement each one should keep before his eyes, not those who he thinks will accomplish less, but rather those who are active and energetic. Never permit the children of this world to show greater care and interest in the things of time than you show for those of eternity. It should bring a blush to your cheek to see them run to death more enthusiastically than you to life. Hold yourselves as worth little if a courtier serves with greater dedication to gain the favor of an earthly prince than you do for the favor of the King of Heaven, or if a soldier battles with greater courage for the glory of victory and hope of spoils, than you fight for victory and triumph over the world, the devil, and yourselves, all for a heavenly kingdom and eternal glory.

For the love of God, therefore, be neither careless nor tepid. For if tautness snaps the bow, slackness snaps the soul; while on the contrary, according to Solomon, the soul of them that work shall be richly supplied [Prov. 13:4]. Try to maintain a holy and discreet fervor in your work and in the pursuit of learning as well as virtue. With both alike, one energetic act is worth a thousand that are listless, and what a lazy man cannot accomplish in many years an energetic man can usually achieve quickly.

In the matter of learning, the difference between the earnest and the careless student stands out clearly. The same holds true in the mastering of passion and the weaknesses to which our nature is subject, as in the acquiring of virtue. It is certain that, because the negligent do not struggle against self, they never achieve peace of soul or do so tardily, and never possess any virtue in its fullness, while the energetic and industrious make notable advances on both fronts.

Experience proves that in this life peace and satisfaction are had, not by the listless but by those who are fervent in God’s service. And rightly so. For in their effort to overcome themselves and to rid themselves of self-love, they rid themselves of the roots of all passion and unrest. And by acquiring habits of virtue, they naturally succeed in acting with ease and cheerfulness in accordance with these same virtues.

By this means they dispose themselves to receive the holy consolation of God our faithful consoler, for to him who conquers I will give the hidden manna [Rev. 2:17]. On the other hand, tepidity is the cause of a lifetime of uneasiness, for we never uproot its cause, self-love, nor do we ever deserve God’s help. Therefore you should rouse yourselves to work earnestly at your praiseworthy tasks, since even in this life you will perceive the advantages of holy fervor, not only in the growth of perfection in your souls but even in the peace of mind it grants you in this present life.

But if you look to the eternal reward, as you often should, Saint Paul will easily convince you that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us [Rom. 8:18], because this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal measure of glory beyond all comparison [2 Cor. 4:17].

From Saint Ignatius’ letter on maturing spiritually
to the scholastics at Alcala, 1543 

  1. We should be careful to preserve great purity of heart in the love of God, loving nothing but Him, and desiring to converse with Him alone, and with the neighbor for love of Him and not for our own pleasure and delight.
  2. We should speak only with necessity, and for the edification of ourselves or others, and leave aside those things which do not profit the soul, such as the desire for news and worldly affairs. We should try always to treat of matters connected with humility and mortification of the will, and not of things that give occasion for laughter or murmuring.
  3. Let no one seek to be considered a wit, or to affect elegance or prudence or eloquence, but look upon Christ, who made nothing at all of these things and chose to be humbled and despised by men for our sake rather than to be honored and respected.
  4. We should not wish to see or do anything which could not be done in the presence of God and His creatures, and we shall thus imagine that we are always in His presence.
  5. We should not dispute stubbornly with anyone; rather we should patiently give our reasons with the purpose of declaring the truth lest our neighbor remain in error, and not that we should have the upper hand.
  6. One of the things which we must be very firm about, if we are to please our Lord, is to cast far from us everything that could remove us from the love of our brethren. We should make every effort to love them with a tender charity, for Supreme Truth has said: This is how all will know you are my disciples, etc. [John 13:35].
  7. Should anyone do anything that is disedifying, and it seems that as a result he should be held in less esteem than he was held before, let him not be so discouraged as to wish to give up, but let him humble himself and ask forgiveness of those who might have been scandalized by his bad example and a penance from his superior. He should thank God, who has permitted him to be humbled, so that he can be known by all for what he is. He should not wish to appear better in the eyes of men than he is in the eyes of God. The brethren who behold him should think that they could fall into even greater weakness, and should ask God to strengthen them.
  8. In our superiors we should always behold the person of Christ, whom they represent, and have recourse to them in our doubts and hold it as certain that our Lord will direct us through them.
  9. We should not conceal our temptations, nor even our good thoughts, but make them known to our confessor or superior, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light [2 Cor. 11:14]. We should always act according to the judgment and counsel of our spiritual father rather than our own, which we should always regard rather with suspicion.
  10. In dealing with others we should bear ourselves modestly, and try not to appear sad or too serious, nor, on the other hand, overcheerful and gay, but as the Apostle says: Everyone should see how modest you are [Phil. 4:5].
  11. We should never postpone a good work, no matter how small it may be, with the thought of later doing something greater. It is a very common temptation of the enemy to be always placing before us the perfection of things to come and bring us to make little of the present.
  12. Let us all persevere in the vocation to which God calls us, and not make our first loyalty an empty word. For the enemy is wont to tempt those in the desert with thoughts of dealing with the neighbor and improving him, and to those who are helping the neighbor he will propose the great perfection of the desert and solitary life. Thus he lays hold of what is far off to prevent us from taking advantage of what is at hand.
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