Today will see the reprinting of the last relevant chapter of the antique book I bought a few months ago. By now I’m sure you would have seen a pattern and a theme emerging in what the author has written. In about a week I will reveal who the author is, the actual name of the book, and I will also provide a link to a downloadable PDF of the entire book which you can read at your leisure.
In the meantime, enjoy Chapter 7 …
VII The High Vocation Neglected
It is impossible to deny a historical fact, especially when it is explained and emphasized by our Saviour’s own solemn words: “This kind (of devil) is not cast out but by prayer and fasting.”
Do not generous souls at the present time need to be reminded that in prayer and fasting are to be found the most divine self-sacrifice and the beginning of all apostolic work? The needs of the Church are boundless, and this vocation is too much neglected because it is overlooked, and its being thus overlooked is due to a want of practical belief in its apostolic efficacy. Men have lost sight of this aspect of the contemplative life and have grown accustomed to regard it as a somewhat selfish pursuit of one’s own personal salvation. What is really its dominating idea is obscured, and for this reason generous souls no longer feel attracted towards it. It is neglected and forgotten at a time when it is more needed than ever.
The general tendency of those who wish to do good is to be active, and although activity is in itself most edifying, it becomes fraught with danger when it alone occupies men’s minds. They can form an idea of self-sacrifice manifested outwardly, and they know and appreciate those who practise it; but they are no longer capable of perceiving inward self-sacrifice, the divine virtue of secret self-renunciation.
If the apostolic efficacy of this inward sacrifice were better understood, would there not be more souls eager to enter upon the life that involves it? The generous impulses of Christianity have not yet lost all force, and if noble souls are too apt to halt on the hills of action instead of ascending to the loftier heights of contemplation, it is certainly more through ignorance than through cowardice. They fancy that they will accomplish more in God’s service if, heedless of suffering, they plunge into the fray, than would be possible were they to withdraw into the desert to work out their own salvation.
Such is their line of argument, and the conclusion at which they arrive is just, but their arguments are vitiated by their narrow and mistaken conception of the contemplative life, which appears to be merely a means of securing one’s personal salvation. A generous soul cannot hesitate long when the choice is between self-sacrifice for the good of others and solitary self-concentration.
But on the other hand brave hearts, on fire with love of God, will hardly waver when they have to decide whether to devote themselves to labour for God’s glory amidst the tumult of worldly business or in the stillness of great inward self-denial. Not everyone is called to ascend these heights, but may there not be some who are called, and yet do not respond, believing that they can put their life to a better use by devoting it to outward works? Is not the world too often deprived in this way of those higher influences that can do so much to raise mankind towards God?
Amidst the religious confusion existing in our disorganized social life, may it not be a work of the greatest utility to show the apostolic value of contemplation and devotion, in order that souls eager for self-sacrifice and prayer may become more numerous and more fervent?