|Devotion to Our Lady||
There are few works on the operations of the Holy Ghost; there are fewer still on the Twelve Fruits. Hopefully this will go a little way to supplying the need—even if we are blind to the need.
The Fruits of the Holy Ghost are displayed in everyone who is in the state of grace. But the degree of fruition corresponds to the degree of grace arrived at by the soul. There are innumerable degrees, ranging from the newly‑formed fruit to mature perfection, and even further to supreme excellence. So that in a discussion of the Twelve Fruits we shall expect to find something for everyone; while the advancing soul will perhaps profit most from it, the beginner is not forgotten.
By the Christian, in the world, the Fruits are manifested in his daily activities. It is true that devotion to the Holy Ghost is an interior one. But its object is to make the Christian Christ‑like. And just as Christ went about doing good, so does the Christian, who is attentive to the Holy Ghost Who dwells within him. The Twelve Fruits are not just aspects of the Christian life which are interesting to speculate on. They have a practical application, which it is the purpose of these articles to show.
Some spiritual writers use the term “Fruits of the Holy Ghost” to cover and include all the supernatural virtues, or more precisely to the acts of all these virtues, inasmuch as they are the results of the mysterious workings of the Holy Ghost in our souls by means of His grace. But, with St. Thomas, (Summa Theologica, Ia-IIae q. 70. art. 2), the term is restricted to mean only those supernatural works that are done joyfully and with peace of soul.
This is the sense in which most authors apply the term to the list mentioned by St. Paul (Galatians 5:22-23): “But the fruit of the Spirit is, Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Benignity, Goodness, Longanimity, Mildness, Faith, Modesty, Continency, Chastity.”
There is no doubt that this list of twelve—three of the twelve are omitted in several Greek and Latin versions of the Bible—is not to be taken in a strictly limited sense, but as capable of being extended to include all virtuous acts of a similar character. That is why the St. Thomas says: “Every virtuous act which man performs with pleasure is a fruit.”
The fruits of the Holy Ghost are not permanent qualities always residing in the soul, but they are isolated and separate acts. They cannot, therefore, be confused with the Theological and Cardinal Virtues and the Gifts of the Holy Ghost. The Fruits could be said to be the effects of the Virtues and Gifts, like a child of two parents, or as streams flowing out of their source, the mountain lake.
The charity, patience, mildness, etc., of which the Apostle speaks in the above passage (Galatians 5:22-23), are not therefore the virtues themselves, but rather the acts or operations or fruits of those virtues. Furthermore, in order that these acts may fully justify their metaphorical name of “fruits”, they must belong to that class which are performed with ease and pleasure; in other words, the difficulty involved in performing them must disappear, giving way to a presence of the delight and satisfaction resulting from good that it performed.
1. THE FRUIT OF CHARITY
Charity, the first fruit f the Holy Ghost, is, as it were, an overflowing of the theological virtue of Charity. It is by the theological virtue that the soul is united to God. To possess it is to be in the state of grace. It is the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the soul, and by it we are united to the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity in a bond of love. A man may have Faith, and yet be without Charity; he does not love God. He may have Faith and Hope, and yet be without Charity. He believes in God, and knows that He rewards the good, and punishes evil. He may hope even that, if he does what God requires of him, he will go to Heaven. But it is only Charity which is the passport to eternal life; and not until he turns away from his sin to God, can the love of God, which is Charity, invade his soul.
The operations of the Holy Ghost in the sou,l and personal cooperation therewith, produce an increase of Charity. Love diffuses itself, and mutual love between God and the soul issues in an ever-increasing measure of union. The flame of love burns ever brighter, and its warmth becomes ever more intense. We know how the love of two people, who truly love each other, increases as time goes on. Especially is this true of husband and wife. Nevertheless, it is possible for their love to diminish, and eventually to grow cold. This will only happen through their own fault. People do not fall "out of love" casually, and without reason—an idea popularized to some extent by a parody of romance in fiction and on the screen. True love for another is lost only by an act of the will.
Human love, however great it is, however noble and pure, can only be a pale image of the love between God and the soul. God's love cannot change, but the soul's can. By his own fault, a man can refuse the graces offered; he can become less energetic in loving God. He may even turn his will away from God altogether, and forfeit the state of grace by mortal sin. God does not force His love on the soul; He could not, for free will in man requires his willing acceptance and reciprocation.
Effect of Charity on the Soul
But when God is welcomed in the soul, then there takes place a wonderful surrendering on its part to God's action within it. There is a new access of Charity, which has the effect of conforming the soul to God and uniting it to Him more closely. The Holy Ghost acts on the powers of the soul, which is led to know, love and serve God with greater ardor. The will, cooperating with His grace, conforms more exactly with the will of God; it seeks to do only what God prompts it to do, and every action thus draws the soul to God still more. The union between God and the soul is progressive in those who seek always to please Him.
When a person is not far advanced in virtue, then his conformity to the will of God will not be consistent. He may do much that is unpleasmig to God, not from malice but from weakness. As he progresses—and he will progress as long as he is trying, and makes use of the means of grace—he will gradually allow himself more readily to be led by the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost acts within the soul; finding it more in conformity with Himself, He can act more freely. In those who want nothing else but His will, there is no hindrance; the will of God is done with the soul's acceptance, by which it cooperates.
This conformity with the will of God issues in works of Charity. The union between God and the soul is like the union of husband and wife. It is a union of love, more or less perfect according to the degree of grace arrived at by the soul. just as the union of husband and wife issues in progeny, so does the union of God and the soul. But it is a spiritual progeny; it is a host of good works which are the joint production of God and the soul.
Those who begin to love God, are inclined to think that they will henceforth show their love solely by praying much and attending to their spiritual progress. They will need to do that, but progress in the grace of God is never secured by self‑contained spirituality. Just as God has gone out of Himself, as it were, to give Himself to the soul, so must the soul go out of itself to give itself to others. Or rather, this giving of oneself will be the joint work of God and the soul, in the fruit of the Holy Ghost which is Charity.
So it is that those advancing in the love of God find joy in doing things for others. And they will learn that they can be doing works of charity all day long, and every day. People often ask: "What work can I take up? What is there for me to do?" But those in whom the Holy Ghost is operating to their progressive sanctification will have no need to ask. They will find that there is plenty for them to do for God in the service of their neighbor from the first thing in the morning to the last thing at night.
Charity Expressed in Little Acts
They will be little things mostly: helping someone across the road, who is too old, or lame, to cope with the traffic; giving a hand to a blind man in the crowded street; directing someone on his way, or making the tramp feel there is someone who does not despise him. A hundred and one opportunities occur during the day for good acts of all kinds, of help to our neighbor: doing the shopping for someone who is ill in bed; delivering an urgent message, or taking children to school, who would otherwise run risks in the traffic. And if we have to go out and earn our living, there will be numerous kindly offices we can perform in the course of our duties and between whiles.
Let no one think lightly of all these little acts, merely because anyone can do them. The Corporal Works of Mercy are held up to us as Christian works of Charity, but, sad to say, they are much neglected nowadays. In a large town, a blind man may be seen tapping his stick on the pavement for help to cross the road, for as long as five minutes together. Meanwhile, people stream by heedless of his helplessness, intent only on their own affairs. Children will stand on the edge of the pavement, eager to cross the road, but afraid, while the traffic rushes by without a break, and regardless of any rights but its own.
The general want of kindly considerateness, and realization of duty to others, is eloquent testimony that the love of God is absent. There may, it is true, be acts of kindness from natural motives, so that we are not entitled to say that, whenever Charity seems to be present, it is the fruit of the Holy Ghost. But such kindly acts are frequently casual; if they arise from a mere habit of mind, their motive is not an exalted one. On the other hand, we may be certain that the neglect by so many of the ordinary and everyday works of mercy is a sign that few are attentive to the Holy Ghost—few allow themselves to be guided by Him.
Spiritual Works of Mercy
Of a higher order are the Spiritual Works of Mercy, and, although the soul which progresses, will at no time neglect the lesser Corporal Works of Mercy, it will mingle more and more of the directly Spiritual Works with them as time goes on. To visit the sick for God's sake, and because the sick person represents the suffering Christ, is an eminent work. But it will be greater still‑‑‑far greater—if its object is to do good to the sick person's soul. It may be someone already advanced in virtue, and then our duty will be done by cheering him, and giving him fresh intentions for his prayers. In that way, we shall be God's instruments in securing for him greater merit still.
Or it may be someone who has lapsed from his religious duties, and whom we can help to bring back. It may be some aged invalid; the simple task of reading to him must not be despised. And if it be from some book that has a higher purpose than to be merely entertaining—even though it be not spiritual reading as usually understood—it may have an enormous influence for good on his mind.
In visiting the sick, we may be able to tackle members of that large section who profess no religious beliefs at all, or who are groping for some anchor in divine truths. But at all times we should make it our business to bring souls now outside the Fold to a knowledge of the one true Faith. Love of such work is a sure sign of the operation of the Holy Ghost within the soul. For the same Holy Ghost who inspires it is He who lives in the Church. It is the Spirit of Jesus Christ, her Founder. He ever works within her, keeping her from error, and through her bringing to mankind the fruits of the Redemption. It is He who stimulates her growth, offering to souls the world over the means of grace to be secured through membership in the Church. Through the Holy Ghost is finally realized the petition, "Thy Kingdom Come."
Zeal for the Cause of Christ
Charity is manifested in nothing so much as zeal for the cause of Christ. And His cause is the salvation of souls. But how are we to reconcile this large view with the obvious truth that Charity begins at home? We have all heard of, and perhaps known, the man or woman who gives much time to public duties, and complains that he or she has little time to spare for the home. The family may not be altogether neglected, but it misses something which it ought to have. The energy and zeal which is expended outside might have been used with enormous profit for the benefit of the home. That it ought to have been so used follows from the duty of ministering first to those for whom we are responsible and who are entitled to our care. Children may be old enough to fend for themselves to some extent, but the home remains the chief educative influence, and if the father or mother, elder sisters and brothers are continually absent for the purpose of pursuing less humdrum works of charity than the home gives opportunity for, then the children are losing guidance they ought to have, and solid sustenance the deprivation of which will certainly retard their mental and moral growth.
The Right Order of Charity
There is a right order in Charity; and the fact that duties may even have to be confined to the home circle, at least for a time, is entirely consistent with the possession of the larger view of Charity which embraces the whole Church and the world. We may look on circles of influence as ever‑widening ones. There is first the home, then the larger unit of the parish, and in secular affairs the whole sphere of professional, business, or occupational life. We may even include recreational activities, as long as they do not encroach on home duties. Sweeping outward, there are diocesan, national, and ultimately world interests.
In concentrating on works of Charity nearest to hand‑for most people those to be found in the home and family and in their work—we are not necessarily neglecting the others. The pebble thrown into the pool stays where it pitches. But its influence on the pool at large is demonstrated by the ever‑widening circles which radiate from it. So in the work of charity nearest to hand, we may and should have the intention of profiting larger interests and the Church throughout the world. We may at times be privileged to assist directly in the larger spheres; as long as such assistance does not conflict with our immediate duty, that will be all to the good. But the right order of charity is founded on the fact that we cannot do everything, nor can we be everywhere at once.
What we cannot do, the Holy Ghost of God can. While He prompts us to do the work at hand, and helps us to carry it through, He is operating in countless other souls, and in the larger spheres we cannot reach. Because the same Holy Ghost is operating within us, and in other souls at the same time, and because His grace is potent to initiate and direct every good work in the world, we have within us the means by which we ourselves can influence good works far afield.
Every Act Can Be a Prayer
It is thus that our work for God—and the performance of every duty can come in that category—becomes prayer. But that must not be understood to mean that we may neglect prayer for other works of Charity because they take its place. Prayer is of the essence of the spiritual life. The Holy Ghost inspires prayerful activity. Set times of prayer are given their place in every life lived for God. After a time, prayer becomes more informal, and prayer‑time tends to extend itself throughout the day; ejaculatory prayer becomes the rule at all times, and conversations take place with Our Lord as with our best Friend, who, by His presence within the soul through the Holy Ghost, is with us all the time.
Those larger works of Charity in which our duties prevent us from taking part may be the subject of our prayers. By constantly remembering them, we perform better the duties near at hand. We take part in them from the very fact that we take part in the work performed throughout the Church and the world by the Holy Ghost of God. That is a consolation to those who feel that their contribution is inconsequential.
Works of Charity are the test of progress in the spiritual life. It is a sham sanctity which spends itself in self‑regard to the neglect of the needs of neighbors. But there are some who can do no more than pray: invalids, for instance, either bedridden, or confined to the house, or a restricted area. These, by their prayers and the offering of their sufferings, may do far more for God and His Church than those who are active.
It is to be noted that, when we speak of working for "the Church," we include every good work in the world. The reason is that it is the Church's mission to save souls; and since the salvation of his soul is the ultimate good of every person in the world, all our prayers must tend to secure that end, even though we have not that in mind specifically when we pray. In praying for the world, and everybody in it, we pray for the salvation of souls, which is precisely the Church's work.
Invalids perform their works of Charity largely by prayer, which is their contribution towards the vast work of the Church. And it is no light contribution, for it is inspired by the Holy Ghost, and so becomes His work. As St. Paul tells us: "We know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings" (Romans 8:26).
Special Merit of Suffering
With this goes the offering of sufferings. Suffering itself is prayer when offered to God. And it is prayer of particular potency, for it was through suffering and death that Christ redeemed the world. When a soul is inspired by the Holy Ghost to offer its sufferings for the salvation of the world, it does so in union with the sufferings of Christ on the Cross. Thus does charity overflow in a true imitation of Christ, and a continuation of His work in the world is assured. To be privileged to offer a life of suffering to Almighty God is to be drawn by His Holy Ghost very close to Him.
The cumulative sufferings of the world have led to a greater realization by the devout of the usefulness of suffering as a means of obtaining graces for souls from Almighty God. The idea of this work as a true apostolate has given the name of the Apostolate of Suffering to the joint contributions of all those who are willing to offer their pains and inconveniences. But such an apostolate need by no means be confined to the permanent invalid. All have something to suffer, and all may join in this grand work for God's Church. It is another manifestation, and very often the highest, of the operation of the Holy Ghost in the soul. It is a preeminent work of that Charity which is the first fruit of the Holy Ghost.
2. THE FRUIT OF JOY
In his book, "All for Jesus," Father Faber says: "Of all the fruits of the Holy Ghost none seems more desirable, because none is less earthly or more heavenly, than joy; and it is just this fruit which Our Blessed Lord bestows on such as devote themselves to intercession. This is very observable. There is a certain sunniness and lightheartedness about them for which there seems no ordinary cause, except that it is like the sweet lightening of the spirit which comes after a kind and unselfish action. This may partly be the reason. But there is another also. We see not the fruit of our intercession; the spirit of prayer escapes out upon the earth, and is everywhere like the hidden omnipresence of God. It is out of our sight. Nay, it is not like a series of distinguishable works. We hardly remember how much intercession we have made. Who can count the sighs he has sent up to God, or the wishes without words which the tongue of his heart has told into the ear of Jesus? So, from the fruit being hidden, vain‑glory attaches to it less than to almost any other devotion. However this may be, sweetness and consolation, submissively desired, are beyond all doubt great helps to holiness; and whosoever desires to joy in God, and to abound in all joy and consolation in the Lord, to be gay and prompt in serving Jesus, to be patient with life because of the desire of death, and to be equable in all things which is not far from being holy in all things, let him throw away himself and his own ends, and, wedding the dear interests of Jesus and of souls, betake himself to intercession, as if it were his trade, or he had as much to do with it as his Guardian Angel has to do with him. Joy is the especial recompense of intercession. It is part of His joy, who rejoices in the harvest of His Passion. What stirs in our hearts has come to us from His. It was first in His, before it was in ours, and an Angel's presence would be less desirable than is that little taste of the Redeemer's Joy."
This characteristic passage states in many words what might have been said in a few‑only, however, at the risk of losing the richness of Faber's thought. It impresses on us that joy springs from the doing of works of charity, especially when they are prayerful works. Or we might conclude, both from our own consideration of the matter and from Faber's teaching, that works of charity can only be properly so when they are prayerful. Faber, too, links up joy with the Passion of Our Blessed Lord, thus demonstrating what great joy is in the offering of sufferings in union with Christ.
Joy in Unselfishness
Faber remarks that there is joy in the unselfishness that sees not the result of its intercession. But, in another sense, the soul has a deeper insight into the results, and that is the cause of its joy as it advances in the love of God. For the result will not be in this or that petition granted; or in seeing this person converted as a result of its prayers, or that one restored to health. Indeed, we can never know exactly how far we ourselves have contributed to the result. We may, for instance, have been praying for a long time for someone to be cured. To our delight, he makes gradual progress, and in the end makes a complete recovery. Our prayers have been heard, but we must not take credit for the cure.
We shall hear of other people who have been praying just as we have; each of them is inclined to think that he or she is responsible for having secured the patient's recovery. They may each be surprised that anyone else has had this particular intention so much at heart; they thought they had made it their own.
The fact is that the good we have helped to do for any soul is in reality Christ's. It is He who has effected the cure, and it is He who has inspired the prayers through and by the Holy Ghost. It is the same Holy Ghost who prompts the prayer of each and every one of us. The prayer of each is part of one great work, which is really His. No one person can lay claim to having obtained the result, for any power that our prayer has with God is itself from Him.
A keener realization of this leads us to see that all our prayer goes into a pool, from which Almighty God can draw to apply it where He sees fit. As we progress in prayer and in the love of the Holy Ghost who is within us, we remark to a greater extent that many of the things we pray for come to pass. They are often things we prayed for long ago; answers to prayer are frequently delayed. But as time goes on, we become less concerned to notice exactly which of our petitions are granted. Often the answers are in different terms from what we expected; but they are answers, just the same. We get to understand that all graces showered down upon the world are in answer to the continual prayer that goes up, and to which we contribute. We rejoice in all the good that is done in the world, and in the overcoming of evil, and we become aware that we share in the fight against evil things in hidden ways as well as more openly. We constantly experience that those nearest to us, as well as we ourselves and others far afield, are receiving spiritual and temporal benefits, and we know that we have been privileged to take our part in obtaining these.
Joy in the Holy Ghost
Our joy will be in the recognition that the work of the Holy Ghost is succeeding. Bound up with this is the realization that we are being used by Him to further His work. But that involves no selfish congratulation; it is joy in the Holy Ghost, to whom we attribute the success.
Joy, the fruit of the Holy Ghost, is a spiritual and supernatural thing. We must not confuse it with a happy "feeling"‑‑‑a delight in the good things of life, and the pleasure of enjoyment. This latter, nevertheless, may be perfectly pure. It may even be linked up with holy joy. It may be an overflowing of the joy of soul which is from the Holy Ghost, so as to embrace all the gifts of God in a perpetual song of thanksgiving.
It is thus that the Saints have enjoyed the good things of life. They come to enjoy what is meant to be enjoyed, not from the motive of pleasureseeking, but because they are so full of the Holy Ghost of God that they are able to receive His gifts in the proper proportion. Their pleasure in things is rooted in their love of God. Thus, the joyous St. Francis in his "Canticle of the Sun" praises God for all His various gifts, and as we read this marvellous poem we detect that his delight in God's creation exceeds anything that the worldly can imagine. Whereas those whose thoughts and aims are kept on earthly things seek a "good time" in pleasure alone, the Saint finds exquisite enjoyment in the things that God provides, because, through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost and progress in the spiritual life, he has become thoroughly attuned to the Spirit of Christ. His enjoyment of things partakes of the perfection with which the God‑Man enjoyed them. There is no longer any selfseeking, and so selfish pleasure is excluded.
So, we find St. Francis rejoicing in every one of God's creatures. He singles out for mention Brother Sun: all created things are his brothers and sisters, because he, like them, is from the hand of God, and he has been created a man only by the good pleasure of God, and has nothing in his own right to boast of that is superior to them. Then there is Sister Moon, Brother Wind and Air; clouds, and weather‑‑‑"be it dark or fair." He praises Sister Water, Brother Fire, Mother Earth:
Who governs and sustains us; who gives birth
To all the many fruits and herbs that be;
And colored flowers in rich variety.
Then he praises God for persons "who pardon wrong for love of Thee," and for those who endure sorrow for a long time, "bearing their woes in peace." He ends with the praise of Sister Death "from whom no living soul escapes." He rejoices for those who die in the grace of God.
True and Spurious Joy
A man could enjoy life as St. Francis did only because he rejoiced in God and not in self. Such enjoyment is the fruit of the Holy Ghost, and is far removed from what the world falsely thinks is enjoyment. The worldly do not know that their pleasures are merely on the surface; that they never get beyond the sugar coating, and know nothing of the substance underneath. Were they to know of the deep joys of the Holy Ghost, they would want to cast aside the spurious imitation which they themselves are only too aware never satisfies them, and take measures to secure what the Saints valued, even though this would mean great sacrifice and a long period of preparation. They would be like the man in the Biblical parable who sold all he had in order to buy the field in which was buried the hidden treasure.
If the joy which is the fruit of the Holy Ghost must not be confused with surface delights, it must also not be confused with surface feelings which good people often enjoy. These again may be perfectly good when they overflow from the interior joy which the Holy Ghost bestows. But they are not joy in themselves. They are certainly from God, and therefore a grace, and are often given to beginners as an encouragement to devotion. After Holy Communion the soul may experience an access of what it thinks to be fervor, but true fervor is in the will, and the joyful feeling is intended as a spur to the love of God. The soul will be misled if it becomes attached to the feeling of devotion so as to aim at experiencing it again. That is very like pleasure‑seeking. Almighty God has a way of withdrawing such feelings in order to test whether the soul is sincere. If it is merely the pleasures of devotion that a person wants, then he will slacken in his efforts to advance in the love of God as soon as he enjoys them no longer. But if it is God Himself who is the object of his love and desires, then he will continue in devotion and service, however hard that may become.
Joy of God's Presence
Superficial feelings of devotion may be withdrawn sooner than they otherwise would have been, if the soul makes them too much the object of its desire. But again we must not confuse these with the deeper joy of God's presence, which is desirable in itself. The soul advancing in the love of God suffers many deprivations, but all the time the Holy Ghost who dwells within it is producing a closer and closer union of the soul with the Three Divine Persons.
God's presence in the soul is something that may be experienced, or it may not. It makes itself felt in differing degrees, and there are all kinds of distractions in life which keep us from paying due attention to it. When a person is troubled about many things, or unduly busy through no fault of his own, there is not the same keenness of perception of the divine presence that there may be in quieter seasons. Nevertheless, the most advanced souls can remain in the presence of God even when engaged in a multitude of duties. It is said of St. Francis de Sales that, in spite of the busy life which he was bound to live, he never lost the realization of the presence of God in his soul. That is no doubt true also of other Saints who have led busy lives in the world, except when for a time God has seen fit to withdraw it for their good, and their further advancement in grace.
The soul, having once experienced the joy of God's presence, earnestly desires to possess it again when it has been withdrawn. It is right that the soul should desire it, because it is a wonderful help towards zeal in His service. It is of a different order from those surface feelings allowed to beginners. They are apt to be sought for their own sake, whereas the joy of the spiritually mature is bound up with the desire to be active in God's service. Moreover, the desire for the joy of God's presence is not a vain sighing for the pleasurable. It prompts the soul to remove the obstacles which might keep the Holy Ghost from revealing Himself more. The soul which has this desire will examine the cause of its distractions, and make every effort to ensure that their occasion is avoided. The devout are accustomed to place themselves in the presence of God before they pray or meditate. For those who would advance it will be the aim to be so habitually in the presence of God that prayer finds its proper atmosphere at all times.
Joy in Its Fullest Fruition
The joy which is the fruit of the Holy Ghost ultimately becomes so deep that nothing in the world can disturb it. That is joy in its full fruition, the joy of the Saints. It exists even in times of suffering. That sounds foolishness to the world, and is an enigma to many good people. But since we know that it was through suffering that Christ redeemed the world, and that the sufferings of men in union with His serve to make reparation for sin, we cannot escape the conclusion that suffering is powerful to advance the cause of Christ.
But the Saint is aware that his sufferings are his share in the Passion of Christ. He knows that, whatever he himself may suffer, the work for God that results from the offering of his suffering is in reality Christ's work. It is a work, moreover, that is effected in and through the Holy Ghost. The Saint rejoices that his suffering can do good, and the joy that is his is highest in suffering because suffering itself goes so much against the grain. For that reason, too, the greatest graces are earned for souls through suffering.
The Saint, even though he may have much to bear, does not attribute to himself the resultant graces that are bestowed upon the world. He knows the work to be Christ's, effected through the Holy Ghost who dwells within him. The Saint's joy in suffering is joy in the Holy Ghost. He comes to long for suffering because thereby God's work in the world is advanced enormously. He has long ago ceased to regard self, but his enjoyment is none the less because of that. He may indeed be said to be the only man who has the joy of living, and that is because his joy is wholly from the Holy Ghost, and has no inferior taint whatsoever.
3. THE FRUIT OF PEACE
There is nothing the world misunderstands so much as Christian peace. It is the complaint of the Church's critics that, although she has been in existence for nearly two thousand years, she has not yet persuaded nations to live at peace with one another. The trend, they point out, is all the other way. War is perpetually threatened as the solution for international disputes; and as the years go on, wars, when they come, are more violent and widespread than ever before in history.
The critics regard the Church as a kind of society for the prevention of war, when actually she professes to be nothing of the kind. She lays down no injunction against further wars, though she condemns modem barbaric methods of warfare. The critics overlook that her Divine Founder proclaimed that He came not to give peace but a sword. And yet He was the Prince of Peace. How do we explain that?
Conditions for a Just War
The answer is that peace is secured through fighting evil things. It may be the duty of a nation to make a stand against injustice. She may secure a spurious peace by refusing to do so, but it will prove to be an uneasy peace, which is in reality no peace at all. Doubtless, a nation ill‑equipped to fight will find peace by giving way to greater force, for she will be doing injustice to her subjects if she involves them in a hopeless fight. But, even for her, peace will not be obtained by ready acquiescence. Her duty lies, and her hope for peace, only by issuing the strongest protest against the evil will of her enemy, for silence means acceptance.
The appearance of peace is no guarantee of peace in fact. We have become used to that long preparation for war which is in reality all part of war itself. When the spirit of hatred inspires dealings between nations, then there is a kind of war even in peacetime. This warlike spirit makes itself felt within nations as well as between them. The constant injustice that prevails in internal affairs, whether they be political, commercial, or private, is a form of warfare; it is peaceful only because it does not use the acknowledged instruments of war.
Peace and Toleration of Injustice
People who fail to fight injustice, through cowardice or because they are on the side of the unjust, can never be at peace. A man may accept an unjust bargain, he may acquiesce in being victimized, or calmly suffer persecution, if he only is concerned. In this he has the example for all time of Our Blessed Lord Himself. But he may not acquiesce in injustice in the sense that he approves of it. It is his duty, moreover, positively to fight it, or to protest against it if the perpetrators are too strong to be opposed, whenever the injustice is directed against others, and he is in a position to defend them. This principle provides the sanction for nations in war. Rulers have a duty to their subjects; they must protect them against aggression and any attack on their rights.
Often a man will do well to oppose injustice directed against himself, or to fight it, even when there is no apparent positive duty of protecting the rights of others. We often hear people say that they are not so much concerned to defend their own rights when acting in this way, but do so "on principle." When sincere, this is a very laudable motive, for in standing up for himself against tyranny a man is standing up for all who may have to suffer the same things. He is not only giving others who may have cloudy notions on principles of right and wrong an insight into the truth, but by his opposition he is putting the brake on the activities of the unjust. By thwarting the unjust in this instance, he may incapacitate them for further activities of the kind.
True peace is not secured by giving way through mere spinelessness. A superficial peace may result from taking the line of least resistance, but peace which is the fruit of the Holy Ghost is a peace of soul which comes about only through having made all just causes one's own. The whole Christian life is a warfare, a battle against the devil and his angels. Without the spirit of opposition to all that God opposes, the Christian cannot claim to be serving the cause of Christ. Peace is only obtained at the cost of warfare. Seen thus, a new light is thrown on the words of Our Lord: "I came not to give peace, but a sword."
Peace is truly in the soul. A man may be involved deeply in affairs which are litigious or warlike, and yet be at peace. The peace of God is wholly interior. "I am a man of peace, therefore I am relishing a fight," said a devout man. That was not contradictory, because his fight was in a just cause, and he was aware that he would never have peace of mind if he refused the challenge. The false peace engendered by the devil is ever an unquiet one, for, if he accepts it, a man in greater or less degree assents to the false maxims of the devil. These can only make for disturbance of soul, since it is only by pursuing the path of virtue that the mind is at ease.
Peace the Fruit of a Good Conscience
Peace is, therefore, fundamentally the fruit of a good conscience. It will be greater or less, in proportion to the degree of advancement of the soul in the love of God. All in the state of grace will have it, but it can only be perfect in those who have conformed their will to the will of God to such an extent that they have no longer any affection for what is sinful or imperfect. In the truly peaceful soul there is perfect balance, so that no happenings, however adverse, can really disturb it.
It is possible perhaps to lose peace of mind for a time, without losing the peace of a good conscience. It is then that the sense of peace is somewhat obscured. This happens to scrupulous souls, and those who have given way too much to anxiety. It may be a particular trial sent by Almighty God in order to lead the soul to greater heights of virtue. It is usually an indication that the soul is not yet so far advanced that it can keep a quiet mind at all times and in all circumstances. But if the soul persists in fostering scruples or anxiety, it may well be that its advance will be hindered. Peace is secured only by resignation to God's will and a firm trust in the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Peace comes from the Gift of Understanding, which enables the soul to see what a tremendous thing it is to possess God and His sanctifying grace in the soul.
Conflict Usually Precedes True Peace
In considering loss of peace of mind, we have another example of the truth that true peace is only secured by strife. It is the devil's object to distract us as much as he can from attention to the Holy Ghost who dwells within us. If he can do that successfully, he is well on the way to tempting us to sin. Our protection against sin is remembrance of God. And if we become accustomed to treating with Him as the Guest within our souls, we shall find little attraction in unlawful pleasures. If, then, the devil can produce a distraction within the soul, as he does when he introduces disturbing trains of thought, he has already set up a rivalry in our minds between the thought of God and other things.
To take every suitable measure to counteract the things which make for loss of peace of mind is, therefore, part of the general campaign for securing that peace which is the fruit of the Holy Ghost. It is still a fight against evil things, and the guidance of our spiritual director will be invaluable for showing us the proper means to take. With progress in the spiritual life, a deep peace will underlie even the agitation which often we are unable to control because of our sensitiveness to outward troubles. But we shall learn that this is only on the surface, like the ripples which seem to disturb the pool, while underneath all is calm.
The mind which is truly at peace is disturbed by nothing. The indwelling of the Holy Ghost ensures a calm that cannot be taken away except by mortal sin, for only that can drive Him out. His presence indicates that peace is a positive reality; it is not just a negative thing, such as is secured by an unwillingness to be in the fray, or inability to take up arms, or even being placed in circumstances which keep one out of the conflict. Peace is not just absence of war; it is itself a virile and vigorous thing. It does not inspire a person to hide himself away in a corner, so as to avoid any trouble that he may meet in the crowded thoroughfare. The contemplative monk or nun who seeks solitude does not do so because he or she wants to escape the combat. Their fight, as ours, is against evil things; theirs is fought 'in the spiritual realm and is for that reason harder, because in those regions there are not the tangible supports which give us at least something to lean upon and handle.
Action in God's Cause Leads to Peace
Peace impels to action in God's cause: for the contemplative it will be spiritual action; for others it is both spiritual and the more direct activity in the busy world. At first it may seem strange that peace, which is secured by struggle, should again prompt to still further action. We might have thought that peace would imply a settled state of the soul, as if it were now at rest. In a sense it is; it is no longer troubled by the things that formerly made for loss of peace. The indwelling of the Holy Ghost has a stabilizing effect, so that it can now gather its powers for far greater efforts in God's service than ever before. Peace of soul, the fruit of the Holy Ghost, is a source of strength.
Good works done by the man of peace have a distinguishing character. There is about them none of that uncertainty and experimental taint, which vitiates much of the work of men who have not the glory of God in view. There is a certain directness, an unwavering aim, in the good works of the peaceful man. That is because he has himself in hand, or rather is in the hands of God. The Holy Ghost can make better use of one who has conquered himself, than one who, in attempting the main battle against God's enemies, is distracted by private quarrels. To have arrived at perfect peace is to have won the fight against self, and he, who has done that, is now ready for carrying on the larger warfare in Christ's interests.
Discord Sometimes Invades Good Works
How often do we find that an unquiet spirit invades work done for God in private or parish life! That is because the enemy of souls has been allowed to intrude his poison into minds. It is he who inspires folk to mix selfish motives with work genuinely intended at first to be done for God's sake. Personal ambition becomes too strong, and the desire to win credit for personal efforts, comes to outweigh the wish to serve God.
That does not mean that those, who introduce discord, are necessarily devoid of sanctifying grace. Sometimes they may be, and then the work is unfortunate for having their help, in so far as the right motive may be lacking in them. But generally, motives will be mixed in proportion to the degree of the love of God to which each has attained. The man who wholly loves God, without any admixture of self‑love, will be so powerful an instrument in God's hands, that any work he takes up for God will be wholly God's. The Holy Ghost, who dwells within him, will meet with no obstacle when He inspires the soul to good works, and His inspiration will be continuous also because of that.
It will be less fruitful in those who are less advanced. Fundamentally, because they possess God, they will wish to please Him. But self still has a place in their esteem, their aim is divided, and, consequently, much of their effort is misplaced. Works for God often suffer from the fact that God is not the entire object of them. God is a jealous God, and His service demands that the whole man be engaged in it. What should we think of the sculptor who, in undertaking to produce a sculpture of someone, should allow his attention to be diverted by making the work an advertisement of himself, so that, although it was still in some degree a likeness of the sitter, it introduced for all to see features that belonged to the artist?
That is only a weak metaphor of what happens when people seek self in their work for God. For where there is not singleness of purpose in good works, disharmony is bound to enter. That arises from the fact that the spirit of God is one of peace; introduce into your intention anything other than the purpose of pleasing God, and you introduce a discordant element. We may also liken the perfect work to a pure song of praise. The imperfect has an ugly sound, from which it is difficult to disentangle the right sequence. Work done for God is orderly, and perfect in rhythm; it is the overflow from a peaceful soul. When done by many in combination, it is like the prayer of praise that goes up from minds perfectly attuned to each other. And they are attuned to each other because each is at tuned to the spirit of God which inspires the whole work.
Disharmony Mars Peace of World
The lack of peace in the world is the sign that the Holy Ghost of God is not allowed to inspire the world's work. He is absent too often from men's souls, and so there is disharmony in what they do—disharmony first in their own souls, and then between them and their fellow‑men. There can be no peace where God is left out of account. If He be not in men to direct them, all they do will be marred by the continual conflict which must be taking place within them: not the rightful conflict which issues in peace, but that in which the devil conquers either way—a conflict which is never resolved, so that the soul is always tormented by disquiet. Make no mistake, our public men, who make today so great a show of confidence, and who pretend to have the solution of world problems discovered by their own powers, are profoundly unhappy men. They are never at peace, for they ignore, in their lives and activities, the only Source of peace, the Holy Ghost of God, who alone can inspire the things that are to the peace of the world.
Spirit of Christ the Spirit of Peace
How necessary it is for men to have peace in their own hearts is shown from the fact that Our Lord was always instilling it. "Peace be to you," was His salutation, and the Church takes up the cry of her Master. "The peace of the Lord be always with you," the priest says at every Mass. "Peace be to you" has been the salutation of the Franciscan Friars the world over, and through the centuries; it is the greeting also, full of consolation, and bringing a grace of its own, of many other priests. "Pax" (peace) is the motto of the Benedictine Order.
The spirit of peace is the breath of Christ. "Peace I leave with you," He said, "My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you." There He explains how this true peace differs from that which the world pretends to give. The world's so‑called peace is spurious. "Do this; do that," it says, "and we will leave you in peace." "Cast a grain of incense into the incense-bowl to the worship of a false god, and we will leave you in peace to worship your God." "Deny one very small article of your Faith, and we will leave you free to practise your religion for the rest of your life." Peace indeed! For the sake of this pretended peace, the soul is to suffer the tortures of a conscience defied. Better to suffer death, and ensure "the peace of God which surpasseth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7).
Peace is only from God; the world cannot give it. For peace is an interior thing, which even the martyrs roasted over a slow fire, or the victims in the arena, can possess. It is they, perhaps, who know more fully than any what true peace is, because all their thoughts and energies are caught up in the energizing and peaceful Spirit of God, who is within them. Though they may be afflicted outwardly, the affliction is too outward to disturb the deep‑seated peace, that has resulted from the soul's victory in the conflict, which has decided who shall reign within it. The peace of such souls, the fruit of the Holy Ghost, is a promise of the eternal peace that shall be theirs in Heaven.
4. THE FRUIT OF PATIENCE
If we observe any representative section of the community (for instance, the passengers in a bus), we might conclude from their demeanor that the average citizen is a model of patience. There is a kind of calm that speaks of contentment and good nature. But bring into the gathering a disturbing influence‑perhaps a conductor who fails to temper his zeal with tact in demanding obedience to some traffic ordinance, or an unreasonable passenger who expects privilege rather than strict rights, and is insulting into the bargain!
Forthwith we shall find that in the parties immediately concerned in the dispute there is generally a loss of the calm they seemed to possess. They are impatient, and unwilling to consider the other person's point of view. And this impatience tends to spread to all who takes sides in the dispute. All are unwilling to examine the other side of the question; and when there is clear evidence of fault on their side, they have not the patience to consider it.
Superficial Calm Is Not Patience
From this, when it happens, we cannot help concluding that the calm we thought was there was only on the surface. The patience that we thought was deep‑seated was easily ruffled, so that we doubt whether it was really patience at all. But in proposing a public conveyance as the scene of our survey, we mean only to give an example. What is true of the public conveyance is paralleled wherever people make social contacts. The lack of patience is displayed most in places and situations in which there is no need to keep up a pretense of civility; it is nowhere so evident as in the home.
It used to be said that there was no place like home. That was true when its ideal was Nazareth, and the home was recognized as the place where the Christian virtues were to be fostered. But the desire to acquire and inculcate these virtues has waned with the progressive disregard for religion. The home is no longer a center for the cultivation of the fruits of the Holy Ghost, for He, for the most part, has been banished. Patience, particularly appropriate in home life, is no longer deemed to be essential, when the family is not recognized as the fundamental unit of society.
Cultivation of Patience in the Home
The cultivation of patience would keep the home together; a contempt for it ministers to its disruption. And so we have, amongst other evils, the break‑up of homes by separation and divorce, a menace that continues to increase in alarming proportion. The slightest disagreement, the smallest ground for annoyance, is put forward as a pretext for dissolving the partnership. Sometimes the decision to part is so hurried that it is repented of soon afterwards. It is not unknown for divorced husband and wife to "re‑marry" after they have been released by the law of the land. Impatience is so habitual that it takes control of the situation, which is the same as saying that the devil takes control.
What we see in private life is a reflection of what is happening in world affairs. Nations will take hold of any supposed failing in another nation, and use it as the pretext of a quarrel. They will see their own interests threatened in moves which have no real hostile intent, and will scom the patient 'inquiry which might have put them in their proper light. The famous phrase, "My patience is exhausted," is used to justify what cannot be justified, for true patience is never exhausted. There may be departures from patience in those who have not fully acquired it, but, where the Spirit of God is present, it will return. The soul in which the Holy Ghost dwells has within it the Source of patience, so that it has an inexhaustible fund on which to draw.
Patience Is a Rare Virtue Today
But, sad to say, the display of patience in circumstances which try it is exceptional. Patience is a rare virtue, because the Holy Ghost of God is not allowed to reign in the souls of men. And it may be noted that even the outward show of patience is sometimes nothing more than a national trait. Southern peoples do not always appear to be so patient, because they are naturally more animated. And yet there may be more real patience underneath the surface. The display or otherwise of the virtue may be according to national temperament.
It will be affected also by personal temperament. There is a patience which is natural, and not inspired by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. But even that is desirable as a basis on which He can build.
Such patience is shown in the refusal to lose one's temper. But true patience, the kind that is the fruit of the Holy Ghost, is not just the refusal to lose one's temper. Just as peace is a positive and virile thing, so is patience. It is not something that is only brought into play when outward circumstances demand its exercise, but is a vivifying influence at all times. Its supernatural character may be gauged from the fact that it is essentially interior, and operates in processes which take place within the soul.
Patience with Self and with Others
There is a patience with oneself as well as a patience with others. We cannot imagine the man whose whole ambition is centered in worldly things being patient with himself. On the contrary, it is a feature of the really worldly that they are bent on success, and impatient of anything that may impede it; they do not admit within themselves the possibility of not being able to reach their goal. They have a confidence, often unwarranted, in their own ability, and fume and chafe at any obstacles in the way of demonstrating it.
True patience is, first of all, a patience in acquiring virtue; it must be exercised that the soul may progress. "To be patient with self," says Father Faber (in his book "'Growth in Holiness."), "is an almost incalculable blessing, and the shortest road to improvement, as well as the quickest means by which an interior spirit can be formed within us, short of that immediate touch of God which makes some souls interior all at once. It breeds considerateness and softness of manner towards others. It disinclines us to censoriousness, because of the abiding sense of our own imperfections. It quickens our perception of utterest dependence on God and grace, and produces at the same time evenness of temper and equality of spirits, because it is at once an effort, and yet a quiet sustained effort. It is a constant source of acts of the most genuine humility. In a word, by it we act upon self from without, as if we were not self, but self's master, or self's guardian angel. When this is done in the exterior life as well as the interior, what remais in order to perfection?"
What a large fund of patience is needed in our relations with others! And how well this is acquired by those who have trained themselves to be patient with self in spiritual advancement! The interior training precedes the outward exercise of the virtue. That gives the reason why good works are more perfectly performed by those advanced in the spiritual life. The demands on patience in work for souls are tremendous, and can be properly met only by those who are equipped to meet them.
Patience with Fellow‑Workers
Patience is needed with fellow‑workers. The numerous occasions of friction through disagreement on method, or failure to see problems in the same light, require patience in a high degree. There should never be opposition in matter of principle in works of charity, but sad experience shows that too often there is. Frequently, one has a greater insight into what is principle than another, and then the situation calls for a particular measure of patience. It is difficult to have to correct those who act in perfectly good faith and according to their lights, but the Holy Ghost who inspires souls to exercise patience gives also the graces which will make such exercise fruitful. He can always be relied upon to sustain the soul in the exercise of any virtue, when there is a pure intention of doing only His will and of not being diverted from duty.
We have to remember, too, that the same Holy Ghost who guides and sustains the perfect dwells also in the less perfect, provided they have not rejected Him by mortal sin. He who inspires the perfect to act inspires also the less perfect, and it will often happen that they are led to accept the advice of those of their fellow‑workers who are spiritually competent to give it. Patience is exercised by tact, and sometimes the sensitive suffer from the sense of being ignored or over‑ridden. The grace of God will smooth out ruffled feelings, and patience shown by one will have its effect in inculcating patience in others.
Patience Needed in Work for Christ
Immense patience is needed also in our dealings with those who are the object of our works of charity. How easy it is to become impatient with the poor, the improvident, the foolish, and sinful! We may at times be justly angry, as was Our Lord when He drove the money changers out of the Temple. But such anger will normally be directed against those that exploit persons whom we feel it our obligation to protect‑‑‑not against those who need our protection and help, however shiftless and irresponsible they may be. Just anger, moreover, is not a thing we should too lightly presume to have. Only those who are so far advanced in the spiritual life as to have themselves under perfect control may safely be angry in God's interests, and then only they whom He inspires to be so.
In our performance of works of charity to others, perhaps the feature that will most try our patience is their want of gratitude. Beginners in such works are apt to think they will be overwhelmed with the thanks of those to whom they do favors. But ingratitude seems to be the rule; often it is mere thoughtlessness or forgetfulness, but it is difficult to bear until the soul has learned to look to God only for thanks‑‑‑and He bestows them by greater graces.
Christ's Patience with the Ungrateful
Gratitude when shown is a beautiful thing, all the more so because it is so rare. We are at least in the highest company in suffering through lack of it. Did not Our Lord deplore that, out of ten lepers whom He cured, only one returned to thank Him? The poor and unfortunate are apt to look upon favors received by them as received by right. It is true that the better‑off have an obligation to help them, but what the recipients of charity often overlook is that those who actually do help them are often not much better‑off than themselves; that frequently those who give do so at great personal sacrifice.
But the faults of the less fortunate must be borne with as much patience as those of others with whom we live or come into contact. Some relationships demand an heroic patience, as when a particularly trying person has to be lived with. An example occurs in the Life of the Curé of Ars, who for eight long years had to bear with a conceited and overbearing curate, apparently "sent by God to try His servant's patience." Probably a similar trial was borne by St. Thomas More in his second marriage, for by all accounts his second wife was a most trying person. But both these people, the Curé of Ars' curate and St. Thomas More's second wife, were estimable folk; their fundamental goodness doubtless made the trial all the greater, for it must have often made them appear to have right on their side. To have borne with their eccentric behavior and constant complaints and criticism needed an equanimity which could only come from a continuous and courageous reliance on the support of the Holy Ghost of God.
How God Trains Us in Patience
God's ways of working exercise our patience. What long years we have to wait for answers to our prayers! In what suspense He often keeps us before our aspirations are satisfied! How, for long periods at a time, He seems to hide Himself, so that we hardly know whether we are in His favor or not! But He never tries us longer than we can bear. Just when we think we are beginning to find the trial of our patience too much, He shows us in one way or another that it has not been for nothing; He encourages us to go on serving Him.
In all this He has our spiritual advancement in view. To those who He sees will reach a high degree of virtue He sends longer and more severe trials of patience. A writer has shown how Pope Benedict XV persevered in his efforts to secure peace in the first World War, in spite of continual disappointment and frustration. He regards this as an example of heroic exercise of the virtue of hope, which inspired the continuation of patient effort in God's cause. The soul which has God's glory only in view will persevere in any work that the Holy Ghost has inspired it to do, knowing that it must eventually succeed in some way, and is all the time succeeding in a hidden if not obvious way, for the furthering of Christ's cause.
Practice of Patience in Afflictions
To persevere in effort even though the results are not visible, is a form of patience in suffering. But perhaps the hardest kind of patience is that of one who suffers intense pain, or who is prevented by sickness from following an active life. Here is missing the interest in external things which serves to distract the sufferer who plods on in spite of no tangible result. The invalid's life tends to be sheer monotony, especially when there is loss of use of limbs or faculty. The life of such a sufferer calls for patience of a high order. That it is the fruit of the Holy Ghost in those who offer their sufferings for the salvation of the world is guarantee that their offering is accepted.
Such souls, and all who exercise patience for God's sake, share in the patience of Christ in His Passion. They share also in the patience of the Holy Ghost with men. When we consider the vast number of men and women who spurn Him altogether, and again the large proportion of the others who heed Him very little, we can only marvel at the infinite patience of God with His creatures. It is that on which we must model ourselves; it is made manifest for us in the patience of Our Lord with men when He lived and suffered on earth.
We share God's patience, because we have Him dwelling within us. It is for us to reproduce it in our dealings with other people. We have to bear with the sins of the world, as He does. And that, not only for our own sanctification, but also that we may be His instruments in the world's reformation.
5. THE FRUIT OF BENIGNITY
Benignity means "kindness," and kindness is derived from kinship. That does not mean that we are to be kind only to those who are closely akin, or related, to us. The kinship on which kindness is founded is primarily that of human nature, for every man and woman is related to every other from their common descent from Adam and Eve. But they have a still closer relationship from the fact that each is made to the image and likeness of God.
There is a lower degree of kinship, which we share with all God's creatures. This extends even to the lifeless creation, as realized and expressed by St. Francis of Assisi. It is true we cannot practise kindness to lifeless matter, but we can practise kindness to animals, which is a desirable quality to, cultivate. The notion which some people have that to despise kindness to the brute creation denotes a superior state of soul is utterly false. Our Blessed Lord reminded us of the solicitude of the Eternal Father for animals, and the whole Biblical and consequently Christian tradition inculcates proper regard for them. There are numerous examples in the Lives of the Saints of kindness to animals.
True and Spurious Kindness
There is, nevertheless, a spurious kindness. That excessive care we sometimes observe some people to have for pets can hardly spring from kindness of heart when it is accompanied by a disregard for human beings. A person may boast of a love of dogs but a dislike of children. That seems to denote a selfish attitude, an indulgence of pets because they minister to personal pleasure, whereas children require a sympathy and attention which demands forgetfulness of self in their interest.
True kindness observes right order; it puts human beings first because of their eternal destiny. If it seems to discriminate between persons, that is only because in practice it must attend first to those in need, and those nearest at hand, as well as kinsfolk. In intention it is all‑embracing. True kindness is from the Holy Ghost, who is large enough to embrace all persons and all creation.
Brusqueness Often a Mask for Kindness
All those who are in the state of grace display something of the kindness to others which He inspires. This, in some persons, may be disguised under a certain brusqueness of manner. We must not judge too readily that a man or woman who has a rough exterior is necessarily unkind. Sometimes men, in particular, hide their kindly acts through a certain humility. For instance, someone may harshly refuse the request of a beggar, and yet slip an alms into his hand when he thinks no one is looking. Women also may hide a kindly nature under an appearance of unfriendliness. A good example of this type is in Dickens's character, Betsey Trotwood in "David Copperfield." Some folk prefer to do good by stealth for fear of being thought better than they are, or than they like to be thought. Then again, some will appear unsympathetic as a protection against being imposed upon.
We have to bear in mind, on the other hand, that an engaging manner, an air of kindliness, is not always a sign of kindness of heart. It may be merely superficial, and is put to the test when the person exhibiting it is called upon to make some sacrifice for someone else. Frequently, a kindly manner is cultivated because the person wants to be liked, or it may be a kind of stock‑in‑trade for business purposes. We have a way of describing people as "nice" or "not nice" from their party manners which they are careful to wear in ordinary social relations, but their degree of real kindness will be gauged by the way in which they treat their social "inferiors" (employees, the poor and unfortunate), and by their conduct in the home.
Even where the Holy Ghost of God is present in the soul, there may be occasional lapses from kindly conduct, but kindness will reassert itself if the soul is seriously intent on cooperating with God's grace. When the Spirit of God is absent, because the soul is in original or mortal sin, there may be a natural kindliness, but, lacking a religious inspiration, it will be so mixed up with love of self that it will rarely show itself consistent in good works, nor will it choose works which call for great self‑sacrifice.
While the brusque manner is not inconsistent with the operation of the Holy Ghost within the soul, yet we must admit that His presence is more fittingly exhibited by the outward demonstration of kindness. And it may be said that progress in the love of God does tend to correct rough manners. The gentleman is not necessarily a saint, as Cardinal Newman has explained, but the saint is necessarily a gentleman. The most illiterate peasant or the outwardly rough laborer under the influence of grace acquires a gentleness which is the fruit of the Holy Ghost. There is such a man as "nature's gentleman," but every saint, whatever his upbringing, is super‑nature's gentleman, which is a far higher status because on a different level altogether from that of any kind of gentleman natural culture can produce.
Grace Softens Roughness of Manner
Grace gradually smoothes away outward roughnesses, so that, in the spiritually advanced, manner testifies to the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. Courtesy, be it noted, is Christian. If in the worldly sense it has affinity to the manners of the king's court, in the Christian sense it implies that, as heirs to the kingdom of heaven, we even in this world behave as subjects of the King of Kings. The Church in all her official ceremonies requires that the utmost correctness be observed. In her sacred functions perfect politeness is displayed between the various ministers and their assistants, and this is both an example and a guide to the Christian in his daily contacts.
Everyone detests lack of courtesy. If there is one thing that folk agree upon in a Christian country, it is that bad manners are a blot upon social relations. Men may be bad‑mannered themselves, but they resent it in others. And everyone respects the man or woman who is consistently courteous. We expect, and rightly, the good Christian to be good-mannered. The courtesy which he ought to show is nothing less than the kindness to all men which is the fruit of the Spirit of God.
Our Lord as the Model of Kindness
It is interesting to observe men becoming more kind and courteous under the influence of grace. Their model must always be the Divine Person of Our Blessed Lord. His outward bearing spoke of the divinity which was the source of all kindness. His was a heart which overflowed with love for all men. He could not but show how that heart went out to everyone with whom He came into contact.
His kindness overwhelmed those who experienced it. So much did He feel for all men that He was continually working miracles in their favor. He was kind even to sinners. He forgave sin before He healed the body. He defended the woman taken in adultery, and was patient with the Samaritan woman at the well. He bore even with Judas, and forgave the penitent thief who was crucified with Him. Sinners recognized in Him a friend.
He was kind to children, and mothers brought their little ones to Him to be blessed. He rebuked His disciples for trying to keep them away. People flocked to Him wherever He went, and when the crowds allowed individuals to approach Him, they came with perfect confidence. His kindly manner was an invitation to all to come to Him with their troubles. Did He not say: "Come to me all ye who labor and are heavy‑burdened, and I will refresh you"? Never did He send anyone away with a harsh word.
There was only one class of people to whom He spoke sharply, and they were well aware that they deserved it. He was severe only on the hypocrites. Calmly He denounced them, with perfectly plain speaking. He was not afraid of offending them, because it was they who gave offense. He made no show of covering up His condemnation with soft words, as people do when they want to denounce wrongdoing, but fear to make an enemy of the wrongdoer. "Excuse me," they say; "I hope you don't mind, but..."—displaying a sensitiveness for the feelings of the offender that he never displays for his victims, and that he will despise us for having. No, Our Lord goes straight to the point: "Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites," He says; "Woe to you blind guides ... woe to you that are rich, meaning of course those who are attached to their riches, and refuse to consider the needs of the poor.
Frankness Often a Kindness
Our Lord's example tells us that straight speaking is entirely consistent with kindness; indeed, it may be the greatest kindness to our neighbor to express our disapproval of his conduct or way of life. Fraternal correction must not be exercised indiscriminately; our particular relations with the person concerned may not always allow of our speaking freely; for instance, if he were a superior, though even then we may find it possible to say something appropriate. Then there is the question as to whether our protest will do good. There is no reason to risk severing relations with someone we want to reform by speaking too soon about his faults. We may gain more by waiting, meanwhile giving good example. The Holy Ghost of God will guide us as to how we should act, provided we intend to please Him in all things.
Straight speaking, when it is our duty or when it is fitting, may well be a kindness, not only to the person addressed, but also to others who suffer through the wrongdoing we oppose. It is a kindness to act for the reformation of sinners of every type, because the salvation of souls is or should be the business of every Christian, just as it was Christ's. It is a kindness also to souls to relieve them, if possible, of unjust oppression and the consequences that flow from other people's sins, and we do that when we reprove the sinner.
Christ as the Model of Benignity
God the Son in His human nature reflects the attitude of the Eternal Father towards His children. The perfection of benignity which is His, translates to us in a language we can understand the love which the Father bears us. This love is given us in and through the Holy Ghost, who is the Eternal Spirit of the Father and the Son. The benignity which was Christ's is conveyed to us by the Holy Ghost, who also dwells in us that we may display it towards others. By the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and by cooperation with the actual graces He continually bestows, we become more and more Christlike. The kindness of Christ is both demonstrated and conveyed by the Christian whose whole aim in life is to become like Him.
Influence of Kindly Men
The man who is consistently kind, and refuses to make any compromise with the spirit of the world, will have an immense influence for God, which increases in proportion to his growth in grace. In his measure, and in his sphere, he will be doing Christ's own work. But the benignity of Christ was shown as much in His sufferings and death as in His active life. Kindness is not a thing that must be expressed in any particular mode or form of words. It is displayed on a sickbed perhaps more than in times of activity, just as it was displayed preeminently on the Cross. It is a thing which is all‑embracing in its scope, and in consequence the soul which possesses it is led to offer its prayers, work and sufferings for every other soul in the world.
Natural and Supernatural Kindness
Kindness which is the fruit of the Holy Ghost is of the sort that can convert the world to Christ. Natural kindness, though perfectly good, is a pale imitation—the mere flicker of a candle as compared with the powerful rays of the sun. It has of itself little attraction, because it has none of the warmth which the Holy Ghost infuses into supernatural kindness. The man who is kind, as Christ is kind and as the Holy Ghost inspires him to be, has an attraction for souls which will make him a focus of good works.
Such good works are of a different order altogether from the philanthropy which is the world's substitute. The gradual loss of Christian ideals in these later centuries has led to a misplaced humanitarianism, which is far removed from the spirit of Christ. It sees in human beings only bodies which are capable of suffering pain. It seeks quite rightly to remove suffering, but from a wrong motive. It aims at making people as comfortable as possible in this world, because it has little idea of the next or flatly denies that there is one. And so we find it makes little distinction between men and animals. Indeed, advanced humanitarianism would put people out of their pain when they are incurable, just as we do animals.
Object of True Kindness
Kindness that is inspired by the Holy Ghost seeks to do good to bodies just as Christ did. But its object, like His, is to benefit immortal souls. "For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?" (Mark, viii. 36). The person who progresses in the love of God realizes more and more the truth that the body is of vastly less importance than the soul. While paying all due attention to his health and giving the body the attention it needs, he is not so concerned as he was to cure every ache and pain. In defiance of the philanthropists and humanitarians, he accepts willingly from the hand of God much of the discomfort of which they think he ought to be relieved. He does so out of a spirit of kindness, which does not so much rival theirs as outpass it. For the Spirit of God has taught him how he can use discomfort. He, with all‑embracing love, can offer it for souls the world over.
Thus, the desire of the Saints for suffering is not a love of pain and discomfort for its own sake; that would be unnatural. It arises from their intense kindness of heart, which leads them to seek the salvation of souls in Christ's own way. The Saints are they who breathe the Holy Ghost into other souls, typified by the breathing of the prophet Elias into the soul of the child whom he restored to life. Sometimes, this breathing is not for the restoration of life, since the soul to whom kindness is shown may already be in the state of grace. But always it is life‑giving, and produces an increase of sanctifying grace in the soul which is ready to receive it.
It is because the Holy Ghost is everywhere present that persons do not need close contact with each other to exercise those virtues by which they have an influence on one another. The operation of the Holy Ghost is interior and touches all souls. By His indwelling, we ourselves are in touch with all other souls, and they are close to us because He is. The kindness which is the fruit of the Holy Ghost is exercised interiorly, whether its manifestation be exterior or not. And all have it in some degree who possess the grace of God.
6. THE FRUIT OF GOODNESS
The distinction between the different fruits of the Holy Ghost is not so clear‑cut as to enable us to assign manifestations of His indwelling always to one rather than another. They tend to shade off, one into the other, like the colors in the prism, so that we can never say with certainty where one begins and the other leaves off. That is so from the nature of the fruits, for to display one is to display them all in some measure. The man who is charitable is joyful in his charity, and the exercise of his charity will be a manifestation of his joy to a greater or less extent. The peaceful man will be patient in his peacefulness, and although patience is not peace, yet a patient demeanor is also a peaceful one. The distinction is perhaps less between benignity and goodness; but although both are concerned with our relations with others, benignity in the main refers to our neighbor's faults, goodness to his need of our help. That they sometimes overlap, so as not to be easily distinguishable at a particular time, is due to the fact that our neighbor's need may be bound up with his defections.
Goodness is esteemed to be the mark of the practising Christian. It has a solid strength about it which is far removed from that negative and weakly attitude which leads its possessor to boast that he never does harm to anyone. Goodness issues in positive acts; it is not merely refraining from bad ones, which may in itself be bad, for it savors of the policy of the priest and the Levite who walked on the other side when the wounded man needed help. Harmlessness is usually associated with spinelessness, but it may not always be so. The man who claims never to have done harm to anyone is likely never to have done much good. He is very likely the kind of man who puts self first, and does not notice that in his stride he is trampling on others, or that in getting the first places he is elbowing them out of his way.
It is a tribute to the goodness which is the fruit of the Holy Ghost that the world, whatever its own failings, expects the Christian to be good. Though it may hate and even persecute the Christian who follows his Master, because such a man is a perpetual rebuke to it, yet it despises the Christian who does not live up to his religion. Even among unbelievers there still prevails a hazy notion of the truth that goodness is derived from Christ, "who went about doing good" (Acts, x. 38). And there is always a measure of respect, secret and unconfessed though it may be, for the man who bears the impress of Christ in his behavior.
Goodness Marks the "Other Christ"
The man who increases in goodness through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in his soul becomes more and more like Christ. Like Him, he will go about doing good. The good which he does to his neighbor is the consequence of the life of grace which is Christ's life lived in him. Through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost he becomes another Christ, which is not just a figure of speech, but a solid truth. He does Christ's work in the world for Him, who no longer walks the earth. The goodness of Christ is displayed in the good Christian.
This doctrine of the Christian as another Christ needs to be enlarged upon. It is too stupendous a truth to be passed over lightly. It should be meditated upon, in order that its implications may be properly grasped. The Epistles of St. Paul are full of it, and they should be read with care, and the various expressions he uses to illustrate it allowed to sink into the mind. "'The Christian is another Christ,'" says Abbot Marmion (in "Christ, the Life of the Soul"). "That is the true definition of a Christian given by tradition, if not in the same words, at least equivalently. 'Another Christ,' because the Christian is first of all, by grace, a child of the Heavenly Father and brother of Christ here below in order to be His co‑heir above; 'another Christ,' because all His activity‑thoughts, desires, actions‑plunges its root in this grace, to be exercised according to the thoughts, desires, sentiments of Jesus, and in conformity with the actions of Jesus."
Abbot Marmion says further: "The Christians of the first ages understood the doctrine the great Apostle set forth to them. They understood that God has given His only Son Christ Jesus that He may be for us 'our wisdom, justice, sanctification and redemption'; they understood the divine plan: namely, that God has given to Christ the fullness of grace that we may find all in Him. They lived by this doctrine.... and that is why their spiritual life was at once so simple and bore so much fruit." The goodness which a Christian displays to all around him is the goodness of Christ shining through him, who is the living temple of the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Christ. The effect of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost is to form Christ within the soul. Goodness to others is founded on virtue, and the higher the degree of virtue, the greater will be the manifestation of goodness in good works.
External Works of Charity
In this is explained the error of those who think that moral goodness lies in external works of charity. True, the tree is known by its fruits, but purely external works are not always the fruit of the Holy Ghost. They may be an overflowing of natural energy, or produced by an unquiet or restless mind which seeks change of occupation or diversion. Or they may be inspired by a wish to be thought benevolent or bountiful, which is merely a glorification of self. They may be prompted by a natural goodness which has not the firm roots of Christian charity.
It may be difficult to test what is the inspiration of any particular good work, but over a period of time the habit of doing good will reveal whether its motive is supernatural or not. The spirit that is Christlike will show itself obedient to authority, and will not be so attached to one work rather than another that it will mind changing it when asked. This is the spirit which animates the Religious Orders, whose members go from one work to another as bidden. It animates also such lay societies as that of St. Vincent de Paul and the Legion of Mary. However much the Brothers and Sisters prefer one kind of work, or whatever their attachment to certain people to whom they are ministering, they will cheerfully transfer their attention to some other duty at the word of command. This attitude of mind is that of their Master and Elder Brother, Christ, who said: "I seek not My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 5:30).
The will of God is indicated not only in the commands of superiors, but also in outward circumstances. In coming to the help of others, those who are animated by the Spirit of Christ will be ready to do for Him whatever should come their way, provided it be within their power. It is their readiness to serve their neighbor for Him in any capacity that distinguishes those who act from Christian motives. Others may choose only those works which bring them honor, but not the Christian. It is natural, no doubt, to prefer giving help to those who are appreciative, but the Christian will not be deterred from continuing to serve those who do not show their gratitude. It is pleasanter to give assistance to the nice‑mannered, the better-educated, and those in clean surroundings, but they who are moved by the Spirit which dwells within them will not neglect, and may come to prefer, dealing with the poorest and most unfortunate.
Bond between Christ and the Poor
Love of the poor is particularly a mark of the Christlike. There is between Christ and the poor a bond, first of all because He was poor Himself. Then, in Christ there is no least particle of self, because He is God. He is full of grace, and this is a fullness which overflows into the souls of all who will receive Him. The world for the most part has created artificial barriers which keep Him out of the souls of men. The love of riches, pleasures of all kinds, and pride, all serve to make men selfish; and when they fill human hearts, they leave no room for Christ. But the poor are for the most part deprived of just those things which might have prevented Our Lord's approach. They can feel at home with Him, because their simplicity of life has a kinship with His simplicity. They may not be so spiritually advanced that they are one with Him in spirit, often the contrary; but at least their outward circumstances are such that they have less to detach themselves from than those who have surrounded themselves with the good things of life.
The Christian Must Be Poor in Spirit
The true Christian is also at home with the poor. In becoming Christlike, he has learned to be "poor in spirit," which means he is ready to sacrifice anything that may hinder his union with God. In the poor he recognizes those who have had to sacrifice nearly all that most men regard as essential. Their resignation to their state of life is equivalent to their acceptance of their condition. The bond between the Christian and the poor is a recognition that poverty touches reality; that, while it deprives men of earthly possessions, it enables the soul to soar, because it is not weighed down with them. St. Francis of Assisi and his followers throughout the years have realized this, and although it is not here suggested that the poor have always the ideals of St. Francis, yet they respond readily to the sympathy which the Christian, because of his understanding of those ideals, can give them.
The bond which the Christian has with all whom he assists for Christ's sake is none other than Christ Himself. In tending the poor, the blind, the sick, the hungry, he is tending Christ. The same Christ who dwells within him by His Holy Ghost is present also in the person assisted. "As long as you did it to one of these My least brethren, you did it to Me," said Our Lord. "For I was hungry, and you gave Me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me in: naked, and you covered Me: sick, and you visited Me: I was in prison, and you came to Me."
On Seeing Christ in the Poor
That is not to say that all to whom we do good are necessarily in the state of grace. They may not be "other Christs" in the sense that the Christian is in whom Christ is formed. But in doing good to others the true Christian has Christ in view; the other person is at least one for whom Christ died, and he shares with Him His humanity. He is capable of sharing in the fruits of the Redemption, and is therefore capable of becoming "another Christ." It is to him in that light that the Christian does good. The good he does him, moreover, is directed to the good of his soul, and may well succeed in converting him if he be not already in the grace of God.
From these considerations we see how much more a man can do for others when he is well‑advanced in the spiritual life. The nearer to Christ's that his own life approaches, the stronger will be his influence. Personal goodness is bound up with goodness to others; the second overflows from the first. But we cannot subscribe to the opinion that no one should undertake exterior works until he is well‑advanced in the spiritual life. There are some who seem to contend that spiritual progress must at first engage the whole of a person's attention; that one must not attempt work for the good of others without long spiritual preparation. This really involves a contradiction, for no one can be sufficient unto himself. He is bound to have relations of some sort with others, and in those he is bound to have the good of others in view.
Spiritual Element in Service of Neighbor
Nevertheless, if we say that the beginner in the spiritual life should attend chiefly to his own soul rather than the souls of others, we shall be quite right. It is often said that a priest will never reach the state of perfection if he has not already done so by the time he is ordained. Perfection here must be taken to denote detachment from willful sin as a habit, and from habitual imperfection. The life of the priest is usually so distracting that he has not the opportunity of studying his own soul's interests as much as he had before. There must always be long preparation for important work. Our Lord Himself is our example. He had no need of preparation, and yet He lived hidden for thirty years before He came out into the busy world to work and die for its salvation.
Great work always needs long preparation of soul. The overflowing goodness that comes from the indwelling of the Holy Ghost is needed for the world's salvation, even in the temporal sense. This is because goodness promotes justice. To come to the assistance of our neighbor is to give him what is due to him from us; often more. An attempt to give exact weight and measure in mutual obligations is almost bound to fail. The spirit of mercy must always temper justice; otherwise we end up by attaining less than justice, since human nature nearly always falls short of its aim. justice must be overflowing to remain just. The world needs to be sweetened by goodness in order that it may solve its problems of international and national justice.
The world's plans fail because they do not take into account the supernatural. Had the men who propounded them had a long spiritual preparation for the work they take upon themselves to do, who can doubt but that the Holy Ghost would enlighten them as to the best way of going to work? There is a bleakness in the world today, which speaks of a cold, calculating attitude in the men who rule. And their advisers cannot produce fuel which would give warmth of heart. The warmth of the Holy Ghost, which is ready to be given for the asking, is absent because men despise Him.
Absence of goodness in the world to‑day speaks of the absence of the Holy Ghost from men's hearts. Those in whom He dwells must supply for the others. God will raise up Saints who, by their holy activity for love of Him, will make such reformation in the world's affairs that the others never dreamed of because they have no idea of what Christian goodness can accomplish.
7. THE FRUIT OF LONG-SUFFERING (LONGANIMITY)
Just as goodness is closely related to benignity, so is long-suffering related to patience. Whereas patience is displayed chiefly in regard to ourselves and others, long-suffering is rather the habit of mind which endures hardship in the spiritual life. As the fruit of the Holy Ghost, it gives the strength, not only that the race may be run, but that all obstacles may be overcome. It is that which wins, for the soul, final perseverance.
In order to get a clear idea of long-suffering, it is useful to consider what the spiritual life is. The aim of the true Christian is to increase in grace. If his ambition is just to keep in the state of grace and make no progress, then he is rather like the man who hopes to keep afloat on the sea, but takes no trouble to steer the boat. Such a person has barely set off on his voyage to Heaven and is not very far from the shore, for his lack of spiritual enterprise shows that he has not advanced far. He is, therefore, likely to be the sport of the waves of temptation, especially when they become tempestuous. Unless he takes great care, and revises his false ideas about allowing the boat to look after itself, he may well find his boat (soul) flooded with water or dashed against the rocks.
Dangers of Low Spiritual Aims
Though he or she may not know it, that man or woman is in danger who says: "I take care to keep from mortal sin, but when I have done that, I trouble about nothing else." Some parents teach their children that to keep from mortal sin is all that is necessary. This is dangerous doctrine, for it is the lowest aim compatible with keeping in the grace of God. To aim low is usually to reach lower, because rarely does anyone achieve the mark he intended; and to reach lower than this minimum requirement for keeping in the friendship of God is fatal, for it means losing it.
To fall freely into venial sin is to treat God's commandments with contempt. And the man or woman, who cannot be trusted to observe lesser commandments, will quickly acquire the habit of sinning, which may soon become the habit of committing larger sins. To give way in the lesser is training oneself to give way in the greater. Human nature is such that we cannot give it too much latitude without risk of its taking advantage of the concession. And is a person who repeatedly refuses the grace of God that would help avoiding venial sins, will that person always to accept His grace for overcoming temptation to mortal sin?
A person may have a fear of God and a dread of His punishments that would be sufficient to keep himself in the grace of God. But that implies that he loves God to a minimum degree, where it avoids mortal sins, but does not avoid venial sins. It is like saying to someone—I will not kill you, but I have no problem beating you up. Is that true love? Such love, if it be genuine, will surely impel him to do his best towards keeping from offending Him altogether. The man who lives on the borderline, by doing everything he likes but stops short of sinning mortally, will not remain in that state long; he will overstep the mark, unless he take more care to study his soul's true interests.
Conversion--a Turning to God
There comes a time in the lives of many people, who have lived carelessly, when they begin to think seriously of their relations with God, and make up their minds that it shall be their chief business in life to advance in His love. This stage is called a person's "conversion," not necessarily his or her conversion to the Faith or from an evil life, but the turning of the mind to its true end. This turning-point is often mentioned in Lives of the Saints. Some Saints did not need conversion, for their life was given to God from their earliest years; others were converted in the stricter sense from a life of sin. But when the conversion took place, whichever kind it was, there was no turning back; their lives were for God, and they lived for His service. The spiritual authors speak of “three conversions of the spiritual life”—the first conversion being the state of soul where one seeks to avoid all mortal sins; the second conversion being the state of soul where one seeks to avoid all venial sins; and the third conversion where the soul seeks to root out all imperfections (which are not even sins).
Conversion implies that the soul is intent on getting rid, first of all, of attachment to sin of any kind; it strives to avoid venial as well as mortal sin. It becomes prepared to endure any kind of suffering, and to make any sacrifice rather than fall into sin. The fruit of the Holy Ghost, who dwells in the soul, is in the long-suffering, which enables it to bear with fortitude all that may hinder it from keeping its resolution, and to overcome each temptation as it arises. There will be long periods of temptation, for the devil, seeing that such a soul is determined not to be his, will make every effort to break down its resistance. But long-suffering will give the soul the strength to battle with the devil for long periods.
When the habit of venial sin has been conquered and is now a thing of the past, there will still remain various imperfections to be overcome. These are not sins in themselves; they are rather bad habits, which sin has left behind it. They must be combated, and because they are not sin, the advancing soul is inclined to indulge them. This inclination must be sternly repressed, and long-suffering will here have plenty of scope in its battle against all that hinders the soul's progress. And when imperfection is no longer deliberately committed, there are further heights to climb. The soul is led by the Holy Ghost to a life of greater perfection. It seeks in everything the greater glory of God. Its choice now will not normally be between good and evil, perfection and imperfection, but between the greater good and the less.
The Importance of Right Choices
The soul will realize that its advance depends on right choices. Having reached this point, it will be impelled to go on. Not that it will never sin, nor look back; it may even fall right back into mortal sin again, for it still has freewill. But the soul which has advanced so far will usually be so free from the habit of sin and imperfection, that its falls will be slight and its repentance prompt. The soul which seeks God's greater glory in all things is quick to respond to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
There are still greater heights to be reached, but we have said enough to show the need for the long-suffering, which is as far removed from a natural long‑suffering state of mind as Heaven is from earth. The spiritual ascent presents difficulties and hardships of which no mountaineer has any conception. The spiritual climb is one in which the obstacles to be overcome are not merely material, nor is the fight with human beings. As St. Paul says: "Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood ... but against the spirits of wickedness in the high places." It is a battle against evil forces, and so strong are they, and so knowledgeable and expert, that the Christian needs the special armor and weapons which only the Spirit of God can supply.
The struggle is both inward and outward. There are interior temptations to give up the climb to perfection, and to allow oneself to slip back. The way often seems so hard, and the soul is often moved to complain, that it makes no progress. But spiritual progress is often not felt; it is seen by the spiritual director, and sometimes by others, but improvement of soul is not like improvement of health. We feel well when we are well, and we feel better when we make progress in health. But health of soul is not apparent in the same way. There are periods in the spiritual life, often of long duration, when the soul feels sick and depressed, but they are usually periods of great graces. It is because we cannot feel spiritual health that there can never be absolute certainty that we are in the state of grace. But there can be moral certainty of health and progress, provided we have done all that is necessary to secure it.
Long-suffering and Spiritual Tedium
Long-suffering is needed to carry us through times of weariness in the spiritual life. These times, too, have their own peculiar temptations. We are inclined to rest on our oars, as if we had done enough, whereas the truth is the struggle will never cease, but will get more strenuous as we advance in the love of God. The mountain is often seen as symbol of God and Heaven, and the climb gets tougher the more we near the summit. The devil does not leave God's friends alone for long; he sees that those who aim high will do more than any others to frustrate his schemes, provided they remain humble, and so his attack is particularly against them. He will tempt them to look back, with longing on the sinful or imperfect enjoyments they have surrendered; and, although they may not go back to them, they will instead take undue prideful pleasure in the events that have helped them to progress spiritually.
They will begin to pride themselves on having advanced so far, and will regard themselves already as at the top of the tree. Yet, their better judgment assures them they are not, and there may be a conflict in their mind, which then leads them to envy those who really are more advanced than they are, and whose good works are known.
All these things are a real trial to the soul which keeps faithful. Its failings are not altogether deliberate, but are a kind of bombardment by the devil and his angels, allowed by Almighty God, in order that the soul may become more humble and dependent upon Him. The Holy Ghost is there in the soul, and is ever its protection in the battle.
Experiences of the Curé of Ars
Sometimes the attack may be more direct, as in the experiences of the Curé of Ars and other holy persons, when diabolical forces have attempted to do them personal injury. But these need not detain us for detailed discussion, for they are rare. Whatever power the devil may have to hinder God's servants and annoy them, even to frighten them, it is certain that he makes use of events and persons to put all kinds of obstacles in their way. People who are given over to an evil life, will readily become Satan's instruments, impeding the work of those who have the sole desire of serving God. But even good people, if they have some attachment to venial sin, may unknowingly do the devil's work. Their attachment to sin means that the devil has some hold on them; that alone makes them to some extent his instruments in working harm.
That explains why the Saints have nearly always had to put up with opposition from good people as well as bad. How else can we account for the persecution of saintly folk, by those who should have recognized that they were inspired only by the love of God in all they did? St. Louis‑Marie de Montfort, for instance, was forbidden by his bishop to preach.
Great Saints Met Great Obstacles
The nearer the soul is to God, the greater obstacles it will have to overcome. Long-suffering, the fruit of the Holy Ghost, will be in larger measure in the Saints. We have only to think of the sufferings of many of the martyrs, to realize the marvellous effects of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost: long years spent in prisons, usually under horrible conditions; torture; the roasting on a gridiron of St. Lawrence; the sufferings of the English martyrs in the time of Queen Elizabeth.
It is true that similar trials may be borne by others, not specifically in God's cause. But where there is resignation to the will of God, there will be corresponding grace given to bear them. There may even be conversion to God under the trial, as in that of the Good Thief, to be known thenceforward as St. Dismas. What will not be known, until the Last Day, are the numerous records of heroism displayed by all who have suffered long and painful trials. Contrasted with these good examples are the many cases of suffering which brought forth nothing but constant complaint, expressions of despair, and even blasphemy. Even those who stand up to trial will sometimes give way to complaining, for human nature is weak, but the fortitude that is from God will not allow nature to get the upper hand. Where the Spirit of God is absent, any fortitude that appears, will be the result of a natural toughness. The long-suffering, of those in whom He dwells is impressive to those who see its effects, and is itself fruitful by its example.
Overcoming Obstacles to Good Works
The obstacles, that are put in the way of the soul's progress, are also put in the way of the good works it tries to accomplish. To overcome them is the condition of its advance. Sometimes it would seem that this work for God is thwarted at every turn. Often we see some good work prosper for a time; then suddenly all seems to change, and it becomes the target for every kind of abuse. Those who had started the work so successfully are attacked, and others who had offered their services, now attempt to take it over and divert it from its original purpose. Sometimes, persons who had at first been helpful, now change their views about the work, and seek to introduce reforms, which the founder or guardian of the work knows will be disastrous to it. All this may be disheartening, but is in reality a good sign. It shows that the work has become important enough to rouse the opposition of the devil. He sees that it is doing much good, and will do still more. He inspires some to attack it from without, and others to stir up strife within. He hopes thereby to create confusion, so that the work will be discontinued, or take another direction so as positively to do the devil's work.
Opposition as a Spur to Zeal
Those who have initiated such works or share in them, purely for the love of God, will not be discouraged by the devil's attacks. Rather will they learn to read them as signs of God's approval. Invariably they will find, in personal undertakings, and in those larger works which are shared with others, that heavy obstacles are placed in their way as soon as success is in sight. Long-suffering will help them to face all such difficulties, and to proceed on the path which they know to be theirs, in spite of every hindrance. They may have to wait a long time before some particular obstacle is removed. That does not matter; the Holy Ghost will give them the grace to endure, and their endurance, in cooperation with the grace given, will earn for them greater success in the end.
Long-suffering produces a state of soul which is stopped by nothing. Whereas the weak and the beginner might give up after the first attempt, or two or three attempts, the advanced soul perseveres in any work which he is conscious God has inspired. Opposition will only make him keener to try again. We might learn a lesson from the spider which, after having laboriously spun a web, experiences its destruction. It will immediately set to and spin another. What the spider does by instinct, people sometimes do by a natural dogged perseverance. But the highest perseverance is in that long-suffering which is the fruit of the Holy Ghost. It is seen by observers for what it is, radiantly unselfish and the perpetual witness to the indwelling of Him who, when He inspires good works, gives the necessary grace and courage for them to be carried through. It is He, indeed, who sees them through.
Long-suffering produces an equable frame of mind, which enables its possessor to listen to the voice of the Holy Ghost within him. Persevering as he is in God's service, he will become attentive to His commands. And God will reward him by giving him no uncertain direction. He who cultivates the fruits of the Holy Ghost will get to know exactly what God wishes him to do, and how He wishes it to be done.
8. THE FRUIT OF MILDNESS (MEEKNESS)
For the purpose of describing the mild man, let us suppose a talk or argument being carried on between two men—perhaps in the home of one of them, in an office or public place, perhaps in the street. One has said something to offend the other; he has done the other some injury, or said something to his detriment.
One type of man, when offended, will rant and bluster. He will display all the anger of offended pride. He may even threaten retaliation. He may be acutely conscious of an injustice done to him, but that is not the real cause of his reaction. His whole attitude reveals his motive to be a selfish one. Injustice done to another he would overlook; it is the wounded self which troubles him. His mind is so full of his own "ego" that anything which depreciates it in his own eyes, and thus (as he thinks) in the eyes of others, infuriates him. We should most certainly call such a man the opposite of mild.
Silence Not Always a Sign of Mildness
Now let us consider another type. This man listens quietly to all that is said to discredit him. He accepts insults without violent resentment, though he may murmur disapproval of the attack. Such a man may surprise his opponent by his apparent mildness. But the mildness is only on the surface; it has no deep roots. The man may be temperamentally disinclined to quarrel; he may be too lazy to dispute the points at issue, or he may want time to think things out. Whatever the cause of his refusal to lose his temper, it is not mildness. For the particular type we have now in mind, still bears malice within himself. The resentment, that in another would have revealed itself in a show of anger, in this man secretly smoulders inwardly. Later he will perhaps take his revenge on the other by some devious means, and in a more effective manner than if his anger had spent itself in mere words.
There is still another type: the man who is naturally mild, or passes as such, so that he becomes recognized as "easy." He is himself so inoffensive, that he often becomes the prey, or even the butt of the unscrupulous. School-children are quick to recognize this type in a teacher, and do not hesitate to take advantage of him. Usually this kind of mildness arises from timidity, a desire to keep the peace, and a horror of confrontation. Sometimes it has, as its basis, sheer cowardice. But the timid nature at times exhibits hidden reserves of strength, as those who presume on it too much sometimes experience to their cost. This is a kind of compensation which comes into play only in moments of extreme need.
Strictly speaking, this last man displays weakness rather than mildness. Supernatural mildness, which is the fruit of the Holy Ghost, is strength, not weakness. The mild man can keep his temper because he has himself under control. The strong, overbearing man, who claims to stand up for himself at all times and to give as good as he gets, is like the driver of a high‑powered car who has let it run away. The mild man, on the contrary, is in full control, and sees that no one comes to harm from his driving. And he himself can retain control, because he is, in all things, reliant not on himself, but on the power of the Holy Ghost who dwells within him.
Strength of True Mildness
Men of the world cannot understand the strength of mildness. That is because they have no conception of the power which comes from the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in souls. They cannot get away from the idea that strength of mind finds expression in the display of strong feelings; they know nothing of the strength of soul which does not advertise itself. And yet they cannot help respecting the quiet, unassuming strength of the man of God. It is akin to the respect that Our Blessed Lord aroused in men. It is indeed Christ's mildness that the man of God reproduces, for it is His Spirit that he shows forth.
In the abstract, the world thinks of the mild man as "soft." It is only when it gains experience of him that it finds he is by no means “soft”. Did not the enemies of Christ find Him so formidable an antagonist, that they despaired of overcoming Him? That is why they resolved to crush Him, but even in that resolve they had to walk warily; He had always the protection of His Father in Heaven, and it was only by His express permission that they finally appeared to gain the victory. That it was, in reality, a victory for Christ was evident soon afterwards, and this same victory continually repeats itself for the man of God, to the dismay of his and God's enemies.
The strength of the mild man is not one which is insensitive to opposition and rebuffs. He has his natural feelings, which become proportionately more intense, as he begins. more and more, to cooperate with grace. He will be sensitive because Christ was sensitive. Who indeed was more sensitive than Christ, Whose heart was broken because of man's ingratitude? But the sensitiveness of the man of God will be, like Christ's, an unselfish one. It may be founded on natural sensitiveness, which relates to personal feelings. But, under the influence of grace, it will advance to a solicitude for Christ's cause. It will be quick to detect and to resent any affront to Christ and His Church. Opposition to religion will be taken to heart only because one's personal interests and Christ's have become identified.
Mildness a Characteristic of Christlike
The mild, sensitive man in whom the Holy Ghost dwells is the Christlike man. The thick‑skinned, aggressive type is the world's ideal strong man. But the latter is weak and flabby as compared with the former. Here, as in so many other contrasts between the natural and supernatural viewpoints, is shown the complete reversal of values. The world has yet to learn in what true manhood lies, but the lesson is being constantly taught to men when they engage in contests with the unworldly.
The mildness, which makes for strength, comes from the right relations with God the Father, possessed by those in whom His Holy Ghost dwells. To have a deep reverence for God is to treat with Him as does a loving son with a dear father. It is to trust to His Providence absolutely. Hence arises a perfect confidence in Him, an absence of anxiety, and so an acceptance of all that comes to one from His hand, including the affronts which He permits us to receive from others. Hence the equanimity with which these can be borne, not only by outward bearing, but inwardly also. The occasion may demand vigorous action on our part, if the higher interests of God, or of others, are involved, but it is the Holy Ghost who will inspire such action, not personal feelings.
Effects of True Piety
Right relations with God as our Father are the effect and expression of piety. The "pious" person is often the subject of ridicule. But that is because piety itself is so often misunderstood. It is not, as many people seem to think, just the outward expression of inward devotion, or the pretense of a devotion that is hardly there at all. Piety is a deep-rooted filial love of God which moves us to do our duty to Him, whatever it is. That it includes the practices of worship is obvious, since they are part of our duty; but they are only a part, and must not be mistaken for piety itself.
Those who have piety will have a tender devotion to their Heavenly Father in all they do for Him, and that, as they advance in the love of God, will be in every action of their lives. This tenderness for the Father will extend to all the children of the Father: all men and women, for they are our brethren. We should not regard as sincere the supposed tender love of a son for his father if he despised his brothers and sisters, children of the same father. A boasted love of God which does not allow itself to be expressed in a tender brotherly love of God's other children is false, for the others must be loved for His sake, and because He loves them.
Right Relations with Our Fellow‑Men
We see from this that right relations with God make for right relations with our fellow‑men. The Holy Ghost of God is the bond between the Father and the Son. His indwelling in the souls of men, ensures their rightful relations with all Three Persons. These relations will be reflected in our conduct towards others in the world, all of whom His love embraces.
Mildness, which restrains us from expressing feelings that would result in rupture of right relations with others, is itself an expression of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the soul. It is not just an armor which we wear to prevent bad feeling, shown by others, from affecting us. For bad feeling is a thing that multiplies; and, like a torch, it will enkindle a fire of its own kind in the hearts of others. Soon the world is raging with hate if it is not checked. The stifling of bad feeling in one person may well have cumulative results for the good of humanity by snuffing-out the fire at its very outset.
Mildness, the fruit of the Holy Ghost, is a tremendous force for world reformation. The love of fellow‑men, for God's sake, produces a radiance which warms everyone. True, the influence of the mild man will appear in his own circle, just as the influence of Christ was exercised first in His own circle. But the influence of Christ was conveyed to others, and by them to others still, and down through the ages. When we read the life of a Saint, or of any person who has exercised what appears to be a permanent influence for good on the world, we marvel at the number of people that he reached, both in his own time and through his living fame. But all who have the Spirit of Christ do not have their lives written and recorded; they may be almost unknown. Nevertheless, their radiance lights and warms the world, for it is passed on from one individual to another. And it is the one Holy Ghost whose operations ensure the radiance, and who is the Source of it.
Worldlings Forgotten by Their Own Kind
Someone has remarked that, although we know much about the Saints and holy people of the Middle Ages, we know little or nothing about the financiers and business men; not even their names have been passed on to us, unless it be incidentally, as for instance the father of St. Francis of Assisi, who would be unheard of, were it not for his saintly son. To this some may object that there were no business magnates in those times as there are in ours. Even so, there was much business done, and if there were business men outstanding for their influence for good, we should surely have heard of them. But no; it is the collectors of treasure in the next life, who have lived to be praised by the generations which came after; the collectors of worldly wealth have, for the most part, been forgotten.
It is somewhat different in our own times. The wealthy and successful have their records published for all to read who want to. But to be admired, they need to be also more than merely wealthy or successful. Many of them become worldly do-gooders (with no supernatural motive, or, worse still, with a selfish motive), and so distribute a proportion of their gains. But the world is not much interested in them after they are dead; not at all in those of the financially "great" who have little natural charity to their credit. It is those, whose inspiration to do good comes from the indwelling Spirit of Christ, who live for posterity. Notorious bad characters are, in complete contrast, also held in remembrance, their badness serving to remind men of the good ideals from which they have so far departed.
True Strength of Character and Its Parody
The lesser sinner will have little permanent notoriety. The blusterer, the bully, and the man who overrides his fellows will fail to make his mark on the world. The mild‑mannered individual, whose aim is to serve God in his neighbor, will be a tower of strength. His will be the character, formed by habits, which at every stage are supported by the divine power, that is itself forceful in restraining evil in the world. The character of the reputed forceful man of the world is largely an artificial cultivation of mannerisms, designed to impress, reinforced often by an unscrupulousness, which secures a personal advantage, because he is ready to carry out plans, which the man of real character would scorn even to consider. The man of the world may be capable of great things. God could and would use him in His work for the betterment of society. But, for that, he would need to submit to the leading of grace, which would give him something of the power of Christ.
Combat between Mildness and Arrogance
Watch a man, full of the mildness of the Spirit, in combat with the arrogant man of self‑importance. We have an example in Our Blessed Lord in the presence of Caiaphas, the high‑priest. Christ conquered by His truth and directness, which were His strength; and when He was finally condemned, it was only because His opponents were too cowardly to argue any further with Him. The mild man of God, when fighting for a principle, will always display a power which his opponents will secretly envy.
The world today needs this mildness, the fruit of love and worship. Men are cold and hardhearted, because they are devoid of that which alone can bring warmth and tenderness‑the grace of God. They are cold and hard‑hearted towards their fellow‑men, in spite of elaborate social schemes for their maintenance and assistance. Personal service, rendered for the love of, cannot be replaced by monetary or institutional aid, and not suffer through the loss of inspiration that ennobled the work. And the loss will be the recipient's as well as the donor's, because, in accepting the gift, he will miss what is far more important: the spirit of the giver.
The world's coldness is displayed in the pretensions of the many who claim to be able to solve the world's problems. The clamor of statesmen is largely a tornado of mutual recrimination and defiance. It is evident, from their loud protestations and boasts, the deluge of words and absence of constructive action, that none of them has knowledge of how to go about the task they have set themselves. The mild man works quietly and unobtrusively. When he plans, he has confidence in the ultimate success of his efforts, for he is led by the Spirit of God. Just as the salvation of the world was the work of Him Who is our exemplar in mildness, so will its social salvation come about, not through the operations of the loud‑voiced and violent, but by the quiet operations of those inspired by the Holy Ghost.
9. THE FRUIT OF FAITH
When we speak of Faith, we usually have in mind the theological virtue: the supernatural gift of God which enables us to believe without doubting what He has revealed. The Faith, that is the fruit of the Holy Ghost, has some relation to the theological virtue of Faith, and in some sense overflows from it. But it is not strictly identified with it; rather, the fruit of the Holy Ghost is the product of all three theological virtues; it is what we might call “faithfulness”.
Faithfulness is a rare virtue nowadays. Its rarity has led some to question whether they can ever hoe to find faithfulness in any man or woman. We hear cynical comparisons between the faithfulness of men and dogs. The dog‑lover will be heard to say that, in his dog, he has a far more reliable and faithful friend than he has ever found any man to be. He may even go so far as to say that the dog nature is more trustworthy than human nature.
Fidelity in Man and Animals
Though we need not deny men's defections, there is some confusion of thought in the notion of dog superiority in this virtue. In the first place, it is evident that the idea of faithfulness in the dog, is derived from the idea of faithfulness in man. The comparison, between the animal and the man, indicates the absence, in most men, of what ought to be there. The ideal of man is as a faithful friend; the idea of the dog as a faithful friend, is based on the fact that men should be faithful friends, and that very many, in the course of time, have reached the expected standard.
This leads to another consideration. The dog has become a domestic animal, and has received training in the domestic "virtues." His faithfulness only reflects what man himself is normally qualified to exhibit. The dog's faithfulness is in relation to man. In recognizing it, his master has paid tribute to its desirability in himself and in all men, by training their animals to acquire it.
Faithfulness, or Faith, is a manly acquisition, because it comes from faithfulness to God. If men break faith with God, it can hardly be wondered at if they break faith with their fellow‑men. They break Faith with God by sin; they refuse to carry out their obligation of keeping the Commandments, and so lose the state of grace. Often it is by breaking faith with men, that they break it with God, for duty towards our neighbor is included in the Commandments of God, and we serve Him in our neighbor.
Pagans and Fidelity to God
If a man fails to worship God, he is unfaithful to Him. "That is all very well," someone may say, "but there are many men who have never recognized any obligation to Him. They are pagans, perhaps, but they are not unfaithful, because they have never acknowledged the duty of being faithful. They are the breakers of no bond, for they have never entered into one with Him."
That is not quite correct, for we enter into a bond with the Creator from the fact of our creation. We are under an obligation to Him from the first moment of our existence, a duty to be rendered as soon as we become conscious of it. Everyone can attain to a certain measure of knowledge of God from mere human reason alone, and so universal is belief in God, that all men would seem to have some opportunity to learn of their dependence on a Superior Power, and the impulse to worship Him.
The duty of worshiping God follows on from the realization of dependence and duty. The bond between man and God is the bond between the creature and his Creator. God has rights over His creature, and man has duties towards his Creator. But so far they are duties prescribed by the nature of man and the natural law. They are raised to a different level altogether for the Christian. The Christian has learned about God through revelation. Not only that; he is, by Baptism, placed in a different relationship with God altogether. By sanctifying grace, he actually participates in the life of God; the Holy Ghost of God dwells within his soul, and thus He binds the soul to God.
Fidelity in Practising Christian
Man, raised to the supernatural level by grace, has, in consequence, far greater obligations to God than the man who lives without knowledge of the supernatural. We might say that, although it is possible for man to keep faith with God without possessing God by His indwelling, yet it is so unlikely from the weakness of human nature that Faith with Him is, in practice, only kept by the practising Christian, or by the person who, although he has no grasp of Christianity, is at any rate in good faith. Does not the term "good faith" suggest in fact that Faith with God of the right kind exists in the soul?
We see then that the Faith, which is the fruit of the Holy Ghost, is of a different order from faithfulness, which springs from natural motives. Only supernatural Faith is capable of producing faithfulness between men to any extent in society, for that only provides the binding force between God and men, which makes for a true bond between man and man. It is what God intends to be the normal bond for all men, but the Fall of Man involved men in the loss of it.
Fidelity as an Angelic Quality
Real faithfulness is a beautiful thing. Though it is proper to man, it also has something angelic about it. The same Holy Ghost, whose operations produce it in the human soul, produced it also in those angels who remained faithful to God, when the rebel angels fell. The loyalty of the good angels is represented by St. Michael, with uplifted sword in God's cause. Loyalty is courageous and active; it is not a passive virtue, which merely impels people to declare themselves on the right side, to make a profession of loyalty which is so far from being a Faith inspired by duty, that it degenerates into the expression of a desire to be left alone, if there is any trouble brewing, in which their loyalty may be put to the test.
Faith, or friendship between men, can only survive if it be founded on the love of God. The Holy Ghost, Who dwells in all those who love Him, is the holy bond between them. It is the same Spirit Who dwells in one as in the other. When He impels two souls, in whom He lives by grace, towards each other, the attraction is the Holy Ghost Himself. The Father loves the Son in and by the Holy Ghost, Who is the substantial love of the Father and the Son. Dwelling in the hearts of men, as He does, He distributes His love, as it were, but He is ever bringing men together in the love of one another, for all are bound up in the one eternal life of love, which is lived in the embrace of the Blessed Trinity.
Fidelity in Our Dealings with Outsiders
We have sadly to admit that not all men, by any means, possess the Holy Ghost by grace. Where, then, is the attraction, which good men should feel, even for those in whom the love of God is absent? Faith is not to be kept only between those in whom the Holy Ghost dwells; man's duty is towards every other man, whatever his failings or even crimes. The Holy Ghost may be absent from a soul, in the sense that He has no dwelling there by sanctifying grace, but His actual grace is always available for that man's conversion, provided he is ready to cooperate with it. God does not force the soul, but waits patiently for signs that the soul may profit by His actual grace. He uses those, in whom He dwells, to convey grace to others. We may be the instruments of the Holy Ghost in bringing Him to others, who have until now rejected Him. Even in souls who do not possess Him by grace, we ought to find something attractive; it will be in their capability of possessing Him, if only they will do what He requires of them. Our faithfulness to everyone, to whom we have a duty, is for His sake.
Neighborly Charity as Manifestation of Faith
There is no finer manifestation of Faith than visiting the sick. How often a man's friends fall away when he becomes ill! They may pay him regular visits for a month; some will continue for another month; the third month will find hardly anyone in attendance; while, when it comes to six months, a year or two years, then it will be a faithful friend indeed, who stays the course. And if the illness is for life, then the persevering friend, who yet refuses to desert the invalid, will be one in whom the grace of God has brought forth fruit a hundredfold.
It is so easy to make excuses: "I could not find the time.... I do not know what to talk about; we have long ago used up all subjects of conversation. It is rather depressing seeing him like that, and not really fair to me." But the invalid's life is dull enough. He has God, it is true, but God has ordained that we should manifest Him to others—a thought that may be useful, if we are tempted to break our old friendships for the sake of our own convenience.
Faith is kept in large things and small. We are apt to think the small do not matter very much, and that is the reason for many minor injustices. And what may seem to be a minor injustice may be of far larger importance to the other person. The size of an injustice should not be regarded so much; the fact of it should. The keeping of borrowed books, for instance, is an injustice which is so common that it is hardly viewed in its proper light. It is difficult to understand how people, honest in every other way, can indulge in it. The borrowed book may be of little value in itself, but to the lender it may be of enormous importance. He may have special need of it for reference, and to deprive him of it may be to involve him in loss, especially when, as so often, the book is out of print and another copy cannot be obtained.
Fulfillment of All Our Obligations
Faith demands that all such obligations should be carefully fulfilled. Small injustices pave the way for greater, and those who are careless in the small things, will have difficulty in resisting the temptation to offend in the larger, when it occurs. The Holy Ghost of God produces a delicacy of conscience in this matter. How can it be otherwise? God is infinitely good, infinitely just; He is infinite truth; and the slightest deviation from truth, justice, honesty, is abhorrent to Him. Careful attention to the Spirit of God, Who dwells within us, leads Him to give us more and more of His grace to follow in the footsteps of Our Blessed Lord, Who showed forth, in His life, every virtue men should have. To Christ, the perfect Man, no deviation from Justice and Charity was possible. The Holy Ghost of God, Who makes us Christlike, inspires us to keep perfect Faith.
In the smaller affairs of life, the faithful man keeps his promises. In the larger, there will be formal agreements and undertakings to observe. There will also be all those mutual obligations, as occurs between men in business and in day‑to‑day affairs. Honesty, nowadays, is so rare, that it is regarded as "good business" to get the better of another in a transaction. Because the other man cheats, it is considered right that the second party to the transaction should cheat also. But the man, who wishes to keep in the grace of God, can have no part in dishonest dealings. Faith, the fruit of the Holy Ghost, demands that the law of God be obeyed throughout, and in every detail. Confidence between men and mutual trust, are the signs that the Holy Ghost reigns in their hearts. The "confidence trick," and all its derivatives, are the devil's parody of the honesty which the Spirit of God inspires. It is the attempt to rob under the disguise of an honest demeanor. And who can deny that this crime is rampant in the business world of today?
Spirit of the World Opposed to Faith
The spirit of the world is opposed to the fruit of the Holy Ghost. And yet it pays tribute to the beauty and rightness of Faith, by displaying an inauthentic faith, which is only superficial. Often we find two men entering into an agreement, neither of them having the slightest intention to carry it out unless it suits him, but both hoping that the other will. There are all the outward trappings of good faith, but all is governed by mutual deceit. The sham of the whole procedure is privately recognized by the parties concerned, but so conscious are they that their real duty lies by way of the truth, that they have no option but to pretend their adherence to it. A lie would be meaningless if it did not simulate truth. As Lord Byron asks: “And after all, what is a lie? 'Tis but The truth in masquerade.” But men who live by mutual deception know all this very well. A greater evil emerges when their dupes are unsophisticated, trustful folk. It is then that their agendas are likely to be more successful, and their dishonesty more fruitful to themselves.
Distinguishing the False from the True
But those who are led by the Spirit of God, though they may be deceived at times, will gradually learn to distinguish truth and falsity in men. They will acquire a wonderful insight into character, and will learn who is to be trusted and who is not; which schemes are in accordance with right principles and which are not; what propositions are beneficial to themselves, and what are detrimental. Faith is not given to God's friends in order that they may be exploited because of their faithfulness to His commandments. They may seem to be at a disadvantage for a time, but He will assist them to triumph in the end.
There can be no more faithful friend than Our Blessed Lord. And He is the close friend and companion of all those in whom His Spirit dwells. He is ready and desirous of being the friend of all men, but few will acknowledge Him. The absence of good faith between men, and between nations, denotes that His friendship is rejected. If He were to be accepted as a friend by all men, the world would be governed on lines of strictest integrity, and men would be joyful in their confidence in one another and in their rulers.
The Good Compensate for the Ungodly
But until that happy state of affairs comes about, the friends of Jesus Christ must suffer intensely, because of the lack of Faith shown by those who have no love for Him. The sufferings of the good supply for the defections of the ungodly. That is a law of the spiritual life, consecrated by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. The life of the spirit is lived with Christ, and His sufferings are shared by all who share His life by sanctifying grace. Each has his portion of suffering allotted to him, as his share in the sufferings of Christ. In this way, each Christian bears his share of the cross, and thereby does his part towards distributing the fruits of the redemption. Not only does he share these fruits himself, but he also helps to apply them to other souls.
Faith, for every Christian, then implies a Faith in bearing sufferings. We keep Faith with Christ on the cross, when we accept our share of His pain and sorrow. It may not be welcome; we naturally shrink from pain of any kind. But what is repugnant to nature, becomes acceptable by grace. Faith, the fruit of the Holy Ghost, gradually accustoms us to think rightly about suffering, and to see it, not as something to be avoided at all costs, but as the means, in union with Christ's sufferings, of restoring men to the friendship of Christ.
Faith with Christ is kept in and by the Holy Ghost. When will that happy time come, when He so enkindles the hearts of men with His love, that all will long to possess Him in powerful measure? Those, in whom He already dwells, can hasten that day by observing strict Faith with Him, and with all men for His sake.
10. THE FRUIT OF MODESTY
"Modesty" strictly means "moderateness." It is applied in everyday speech to the outward expression of purity. It might be thought that this needs no moderateness; that there can be here no happy mean; that purity demands a forthright show of this virtue.
It is fortunate, perhaps, that this particular application of "modesty" is uppermost in our minds. We may observe, for the present, that the fruit of the Holy Ghost does not confine its sphere to purity in this technical sense. But since we are now treating of that, it is well to call to mind that the world today hardly values modesty at all. There seems an outrageous attempt from all quarters to make it of no account.
We may contrast the attitude today with that of the Victorians. They went to the other extreme, and, not content with concealing what should be concealed, concealed also what should not be concealed. They insisted that no indecent references should be made to subjects about which reticence should be observed. But their prohibition included also decent references to such subjects. The consequence was that the need for reticence was misunderstood. Children grew up to think that the subjects themselves were unclean, and their view of them became perverted. They had not learned that the precautions instilled into them by their elders, largely by means of silence, were necessary, because of the wrong bias in the mind, which was the result of Original Sin. They tended, instead, to think that the bodily functions, about which there was a conspiracy of silence, were evil in themselves.
The Error of Manicheism
All this was bad, and even heretical, for it was a manifestation of Manicheism, which labels as evil things that God has created, whereas everything God has made is pure and good; to suggest otherwise is blasphemy. It is men who misuse their free will that have perverted good things to evil purposes. But the wrong attitude to the things themselves, put the emphasis against evil in the wrong place. It also caused a dangerous reaction. Men were by no means moderate in their view of what was pure; nor consequently in their conduct. The fear of supposed evil, which they inculcated, was disguised as modesty. But it was an immoderate "modesty," which of course was not modesty at all.
Modesty, when it relates to purity, is the barrier put up against any approach to sins of impurity. The Christian cannot live in an atmosphere of freedom as between the sexes. That would be not liberty, but license. In the Garden of Eden nakedness was permissible, as the advocates of nakedness are continually reminding us. Now, if the world were today a Garden of Eden, there might be some basis for their argument. However, even climatic conditions remind us that it is not, and the agitators for nakedness give little evidence of a desire to return to a state of innocence, which is the only state in which nakedness can exist. Those who advocate it would do well to try first to root out sin, which makes a return to Garden of Eden conditions impossible.
Is Modesty Out of Date?
The barrier, that has been put up, is necessary, because of the danger. We do not remove the danger by ignoring it; we only make it greater. If those who claim that modesty is out of date, and think that its abrogation is all to the good, could point to the advantages which have ensued from the removal of barriers, they might have some cause for stressing their case. But what do we see? With the general disregard for modesty, has come a swift decline in standards of sexual morality. Promiscuity has reached alarming proportions, divorces are enormously on the increase, sins within the marriage bond are openly admitted, and the danger to women from assault is becoming a byword.
Put modesty back in its rightful place, as the protection of virtue, and you prevent people from walking over the precipice. All those safeguards in women's dress, manners, and in general reticence, are not just customs which are introduced by killjoys. They are the outward sign of the inward grace, and if they are absent, then the seducer has some reason for assuming that the virtue is not there. The insistence of the Church on caution, in viewing dangerous plays and films, in reading dangerous books, and indulging in dangerous dances, is not merely an over‑fussiness, but is designed to protect her children against being overcome by temptation. The strength of the passions justifies every precaution that may be taken. It is only the foolhardy who walk as near the edge of the cliff as possible, when the result of a fall is certain destruction. To keep a reasonable distance away is only common‑sense. Especially do those who have the less wise or knowledgeable in their care insist that their charges keep well in safety.
Changeable Standards of Morals
There are some who maintain that the barriers are changeable, according to time and place; that there is a relative safety which is subject to variation, according to custom and even the general state of morality. But those who argue thus, overlook that custom is one thing, and modesty another. If the custom is immodest, then no amount of custom will make it justifiable. The argument may be as to what is immodest or not, and that is not a thing for the immodest to decide. Modesty is not tested by the lowest standard; if it is, it loses its essential character of moderateness. The opponent of modesty may retort that it is likewise not tested by the highest standard, for then also there will not be a moderate estimate.
But they must remember that we are not aiming at a moderate purity. Though purity may allow of degrees, there is a dividing line which cannot be passed. Modesty is characterized by moderation, because it protects purity, but pays tribute to the dignity and essential purity of sexual functions. Modesty is, of its nature, of the highest standard. As the fruit of the Holy Ghost, it cannot suffer depreciation in quality. Because it is the fruit of the Holy Ghost also, its proper mode of manifestation must be assessed, not by the worldly, and those in whom the Holy Ghost has no place, but by those in whom He dwells.
Modern Concessions to Lax Standards
Amongst those who allow themselves to be led by the Spirit of God, there is no dispute as to what modesty is. There are too often concessions, and a spirit of conformity to lower standards, but where these exist, they are not prompted by Him, Who is all pure and holy. People who would seek to justify semi‑nudity on the bathing beaches, and the parade of arms and legs, would have to show that they are inspired by the highest motives, before they could legitimately claim to be in the right. Every now and then we hear of protests against these things at vacation resorts and elsewhere. Nearly always, those who protest are outvoted, and no change is attempted. But occasionally such protests have secured reform.
Those who defend the trend towards nudity, maintain that young women, who have been brought up to the modem fashions, see no harm in them, and can adopt them without any twinges of conscience. That is not so easy to prove, and the mere statement that it is so by no means disposes of the question. It could be shown, on the contrary, that many do not adopt them at all, and would be troubled in conscience if they did so. Others do not take to them without much uneasiness. If there are others, again, who are not so sensitive, that shows nothing more than that sensitivity on such matters is not universal. The fact that many are uneasy, in an age which claims to have shed "prudery", is testimony to the presence, in their minds, of a protest, which has some other origin than the outworn Victorian tradition, which was false in its exaggeration.
Women Not Best Judges of Fashions
There is a reason why women, themselves, are not the best judges in the matter of fashions. Apart from the protective sense of modesty, which may be stronger in some than in others, they are not so directly concerned with the effect of dress as men are. Unless there is a deliberate attempt on the part of the woman to be immodest, the occasion of sin that semi‑nudity creates is the man's; it is he who is aware of the chief danger, which is to himself. The defense of women, therefore, in following the fashion is beside the point. The verdict should be with men of good will, and who can deny that, if a poll were taken, the genuine vote would be against what is risky, and in favor of the safety which is only secured by a refusal to depart from the long‑standing traditions in this matter, which were respected by our forefathers?
There is, in fact, a dual standard: the one observed by those who are ready to be led by the Spirit of God, and the other accepted by those who are willing to be led by the spirit of the world. Modesty is a fruit of the Holy Ghost, and may not be judged by worldly standards. The ignoring of its sacred character is the reason for the neglect of it that prevails.
We have to remember that the discarding of modesty is progressive. The trend towards semi-nudity does not stop at semi‑nudity; it is, by reason of its own impetus, the trend towards nudity. To refuse to hear the voice of the Holy Ghost, is eventually to descend to pagan levels, because it means after a time rejecting the Holy Ghost Himself. That may be a slow process, but who, glancing back over even a generation, can deny the gradual deterioration in purity? We have to remember what happened in Rome in pagan days, when successive discarding of safeguards, led, finally, to a fashion of feminine nakedness.
Immodesty in Eating and Drinking
But modesty is by no means confined to the protection of purity, in the generally understood sense. There is a modesty in eating and drinking, because there is a moderateness in them. The glutton is not one who displays the fruit of the Holy Ghost. The indwelling of the Holy Ghost is manifested by a temperate behavior. To overeat is to take excessive pleasure in what is sensual. It is allied to impurity for that reason. Also, grossness at the table, tends to stimulate the passions, and so leads the way to sins of the flesh.
This, as well as other kinds of sensual pleasure, is totally opposed to the moderation which is the fruit of the Holy Ghost of God. The soul has the choice of being led by the Holy Ghost, or led away by its own sensual desires. Those who make of eating and drinking the business of life, or are so attached to the pleasures of the palate that they are ever craving for its satisfaction, have so earthy and materialistic a bent that, they can find no room in the soul for the Holy Ghost.
It seems, in these modern days, that Almighty God, intent on weaning men from sensual pleasures, has prescribed a compulsory fast. For a large part of the world is short of food. It would almost seem that He has chosen this method to bring home to men their own need for the Holy Ghost. This shortage has been especially felt during the World Wars and other wars, during which time food becomes scarce. While they could find ample satisfaction to their lower nature in His material gifts, they paid no heed to the promptings of grace. But an emptiness of stomach may lead to the realization that they need Him for the provision of elementary bodily needs; and so they may become conscious of their spiritual need — first and foremost, the need of His indwelling.
Christian Laws of Fast and Abstinence
Seeing the widespread lack of modesty, or moderation, as manifested in sins of gluttony and intemperance, we cannot wonder that many feel themselves called to eat and drink less than they need, in order to counterbalance the sins of so many in this direction. The fasts and abstinence prescribed by the Church are all for this end. We might say that they are ordained that men should learn to display the modesty that is the fruit of the Holy Ghost, and that they are a reminder of His indwelling. But they are also commanded so that some may supply for the neglect of others. It is as if Almighty God takes care that some shall restrain their appetites more than their spiritual state requires, as an offering to Him on behalf of the numerous delinquents.
It is to be observed that the law of the Church is relaxed in times of scarcity. That is no doubt partly because of the difficulty of obtaining the right kinds of food for abstinence. But it is also due to the fact that sufficient fasting is done. The Church in her laws of fasting and abstinence acts for God. But He can impose restrictions through circumstances and then the Church dispenses from her strict observance. Those who are led by the Spirit of God will know how to accept and use the restrictions in food and drink, due to scarcity. They will also be prompted to accept them as a substitute for the penitential fast. They will have in mind what the Church commands in normal times, and allow their enforced austerity to be permeated with the spirit of obedience in times of scarcity.
But we need not fast at all times; that indeed might weaken us. We are permitted to enjoy God's gifts, providing always that is done in moderation. Many have thought that to be total abstainers is an ordinary Christian duty. But Christ Himself drank wine, and enjoyed what was provided at the marriage feast. To oppose gluttony and intemperance by extravagance in the other direction, is to be immoderate in a different way. Such immoderateness has often arisen from that same Puritan idea, which labelled sex an evil thing. It inspires a gloomy view of life, and is insulting to God as despising His gifts.
Purpose of Total Abstinence
The Holy Ghost may, at times, inspire a total abstinence from alcoholic drinks, either for the good of the person who abstains, or as an offering in reparation for the sins of others. Then it will be a manifestation of that fruit of the Holy Ghost which is called modesty. But it can be distinguished from a false inspiration, from the fact that it values, and greatly, what it abstains from. And it does not seek to impose its own abstinence practices on others, as do those who regard God's gifts as evil. There will be care and delicacy at all times, in not intruding its own particular practices on those who are not called to them.
Modesty, in fact, shows itself always in a delicacy of conscience. That is easy to understand. For, if modesty is the barrier, which indicates the safety‑mark, it follows that the modest soul will have learned well the precise boundaries between good and evil. It will be quick to notice when there is danger, and quick to respond to the prompting of the Holy Ghost, Who guides the soul. We rightly regard the modest person as one who habitually keeps from contact with what might stain his soul, be it ever so slightly. We can be sure that such a one is attentive to the voice of the Holy Ghost within him, and that those, who deride the manifestations of modesty, are fast hardening themselves against His gentle promptings.
11. THE FRUIT OF CONTINENCY
Modesty in behavior is that which protects us from temptation. So also does continency, but in a rather different sense. We may regard modesty as the barrier which prevents us from going too near to danger— for instance, to the edge of a precipice. But continency is our masterly control of the reins, when we drive a chariot drawn by spirited horses. They are ready at any time to dash away with us, and bring us to disaster. But we hold them in check with God‑given skill.
This skill is not something we acquire all at once. It is the control which we possess over our evil inclinations, and it has to be learned by constant practice and exercise. That is done by a whole course of asceticism (spiritual exercises), by which we gradually lessen our desire to act from selfish motives.
It is sometimes said that no man or woman is bound to be an ascetic. That is no doubt true if we have in mind the extreme penances of those who aim at a high degree of virtue. No one is bound to scourge themselves, to fast and abstain more than the Church requires, nor to keep away, entirely, from legitimate pleasures and amusements. But the very fact that the Church does require from every Christian a certain minimum of fasting and abstinence, is proof that everyone must be an ascetic in some degree. The Christian way of life demands that the body be trained to deny itself of much that it would like to have. Without self‑denial, there cannot be the restraint, which the Christian must put upon himself, in order to be strong in the time of great trial.
Self‑Discipline and Ascetism
We are not here speaking of bodily strength, though even that comes only from self‑discipline. The boxer, the runner, the footballer, every athlete must keep himself in physical shape, and he does that only by strict training, in which the athlete abstains from many pleasures that are allowed to others—and this is an essential factor. But if that is true of bodily competitions, how much more essential is self‑denial in the soul's warfare! To indulge the body in everything it wishes for, is to weaken the will, for if the body is given everything it craves for, then the will is not trained to make resistance, when forbidden delights are presented to the mind.
Discipline of body, for the sake of the soul, which is what we mean by the word “asceticism”, is nothing else than the driving out of self, in order to allow a greater indwelling of the Holy Ghost. It would be senseless to aim at driving out self, if there were nothing to replace it. That is the Buddhist notion of self‑discipline. Its self‑discipline knows nothing higher than securing control of self by self. That, of course, involves only self obtaining an even closer hold than ever. The Buddhist, if he be true to his own notions of asceticism, becomes more and more, and not less, immersed in himself. It is to be feared that, if he really does drive out self, it is too often only to give place to the devil, for there cannot be a void in the soul.
Aim of Christian Ascetism
The aim of Christian asceticism is summed up in the words of St. John the Baptist: "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). Each degree of self‑mastery means that Christ enters more into the soul, by the closer indwelling of His Holy Ghost. The driving out of self is accompanied by the entering in of Christ. Or rather, the whole process is Christ's own, performed in and by the Holy Ghost. It is He who drives out from ourselves all that attachment to what pleases us against His will, and in so doing He increases His indwelling in our souls.
That is not to say that our personalities disappear, and that the Holy Ghost is left in such possession of our souls, that we might as well have no existence at all. The driving out of self does not mean that we ourselves are expelled. On the contrary, we become stronger, more important, more active. But whereas before, we used our energies in our interests, and to further our own designs, now we are powerful with His strength, we have a higher place in His scheme, and so have the real importance, which attaches to all who serve Him only, because of our much closer union with the Man who is God. And we become more active in good works, because we are His instruments to perform them.
Transformation into the Likeness of Christ
Thus, through the action of the Holy Ghost upon our souls, we are gradually transformed into the likeness of Christ. He does truly take possession of our souls, because we have given our wills entirely to His. "Come, take possession of our souls, And make them all Thine own," is a translation of part of the first stanza of the "Veni Creator"—rather free, but expressing, of course, the exact truth. There is, perhaps, no completely satisfying way in which the transformation of the soul can be explained, because the divine operations, being supernatural, must yet remain mysteries to us. But there is the well‑known simile of the wood burning in the flames, becoming in one sense identified with the fire, but remaining distinct from it. The wood represents the soul and the flames the fire of Divine Love, which is the Holy Ghost. But we have to remember that, though the soul remains in the fire, it is never consumed as the wood is, but burns ever more brightly, the more it advances in the love of God.
This is explained by the Father John Mary, O.F.M.Cap., in his book, Spirit of the Lord and His Holy Operations. He says: "As flames encircle and lay hold upon fuel‑‑‑coal, wood, etc.‑‑‑thereby enkindling the same, a new quality is imparted to the fuel, in virtue of which it is united and becomes one with the fire. So the Holy Ghost present in the soul imparts to it His sanctifying grace, a spark or flame of His Divine Love, which purifies the soul, consumes the rust of sin, and inflames it with the heavenly fire. Hence, the soul becomes beautiful, brilliant, supernatural, spiritual like unto God, and pleasing in His sight."
As You Sow, So Shall You Reap
The soul, moreover, becomes more united to God the more it advances in love of Him, that is to say, the greater the indwelling of the Holy Ghost will be the more the soul loves God and the less it lives for itself. And so the control of the soul over itself—which is really God's control over it, because it has submitted itself to His will—becomes greater, the higher the degree of union with God the soul has attained. That is only another way of saying that the fruit which is continency is displayed in a greater degree, the more holy a person is. The Saint is the only man who has learned complete self‑control, which is from the Holy Ghost.
We are apt to think of the continent man as one who goes tranquilly on his way, without meeting any hindrance in his living a pure life. Without doubt, the man of purity becomes more tranquil, but the exterior does not give evidence of the terrible struggle with self that is going on beneath the surface, and which has been necessary for the winning of the victory. At no time, even when he lives on the heights of sanctity, is he immune from the assaults of the Evil One, except by a special grace of God. Many Saints and holy people have warned us of this conflict, which is unending in this life. St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Padua and St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows are all examples of sanctity which has endured temptations of the flesh. They, and all who living by faith resist for God's sake, do so by the power of the Holy Ghost who dwells within them, and so display the fruit of continence.
Continence Necessary in Every State of Life
This fruit is manifested in all forms of control over the passions. It is vital in every state of life. It is appropriate not only in the unmarried, but in the married as well. Continence is not just abstinence from the pleasures of the flesh. It checks every unlawful desire, and regulates moral conduct, so as to bring it into perfect harmony with the will of God. In the continent man, God lives as Master of the soul and body.
We are not to think that continency refers only to holy purity. Though, for the purpose of analysing and treating of the spiritual life, we divide up the virtues, they are in reality bound up together. It is true that the pure man is not always an honest one, that the good‑tempered man is not always pure. But generally there is a close connection between virtues, and this is always so in those who are striving to advance in the love of God. Were anyone to say: "I will do all I can to become pure, and then when I have succeeded in that, I will try to be honest," he or she would proclaim himself or herself a fraud. For to please God, it is necessary to obey the Commandments as a whole; to break one, while keeping another, is still to offend Him. Moreover, to advance in one virtue, in order to please God, is to advance at the same time in the others. The physician who is treating a patient suffering from chest and stomach complaints, at the same time does not, if he be wise, give medicine for both. He knows that, if one improves, so usually will the other. There can be no local improvement, without some general improvement eventually.
Continency governs not only the flesh but also the temper. The continent man does not fly into a rage, even if there be provocation. He has himself well in hand. The even temper of the man of God is something that we recognize as more than natural whenever it comes to our notice. Such a man is Christlike, and we reverence him as exhibiting the Christ who shines through him. There are numerous degrees of the fruit of continency; but where it is present in its perfection, it provides almost a promise that he who has it will not lose his temper. That, of course, cannot be absolutely guaranteed, since everyone is free to reject grace. But he who is sufficiently advanced to act habitually by the promptings of the Holy Ghost will be unlikely to forget His presence so much as to give way to passion.
Some Trials of the Continent
This trait of holy people is much noticed by the less zealous in God's cause, and those who are wrapped up in themselves. It is to be feared that persons of an amiable disposition are often taken advantage of. When it is learned that such‑and‑such a person will never lose his temper, and that not from weakness but from strong principle, many kinds of liberties are taken with him, those who take them feeling secure in the fact that he will not retaliate, nor protest violently. This has been the trial of many of the Saints: it is as if those who have tried them are the instruments of the Evil One in tempting them to anger. But all this is no doubt permitted by Almighty God for the testing of His servants, and their ultimate greater holiness through constancy in self‑control.
Children especially quickly find out who are above losing their temper. They know which of their teachers they can try most. Such a teacher may be strict, but he will also be just, and punish only when he is certain punishment is deserved. The child is often artful, and can contrive to misbehave, while leaving it doubtful whether he is the culprit. He thus secures the benefit of the doubt. Of one thing he feels certain: he will not receive punishment given in a fit of passion, nor will he be kept in suspense and in a state of fright, by loss of temper and bullying on the part of the teacher. He may take many advantages of the teacher's equanimity.
The teacher, guided wholly by the Holy Ghost, will learn to cope with the situation. But there may be much suffering to be endured in the process, especially by the less advanced in the spiritual life.
There is always the temptation to take refuge in the anger of the just. But even that does not display itself in a loss of self‑control. It is a perfectly controlled anger, and is displayed only in the protests against life's larger injustices. It can never be applied to the correction of the young. The Holy Ghost, Who gives the fruit of continency, will teach how justice may be done, on the one hand, and control of self maintained, on the other.
Control of Pleasant Things
Continency also controls undue desires for the pleasant things of life, and love of pleasure generally. Nothing perhaps demonstrates more the absence of the Holy Ghost in souls, than the world's madness for pleasure. The craze for pleasure and insistence on its satisfaction is inconsistent with the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. The soul which seeks constant new pleasurable experiences, shows an almost complete lack of self‑control. There is, in such a soul, no attempt to restrain selfish desires, and, where self reigns, the Holy Ghost has no place. The philosophy of hedonism (love and seeking of pleasure). which inspires the world’s mad love of pleasure, is the philosophy of the devil. He knows that, if he can keep folk intent on enjoying every worldly delight, they will gradaully and increasingly banish God from their thoughts and desires. When they have done that, then they put up no resistance to his temptations, and fall further and further into sin.
But there are many who, while they wish to keep from offending God mortally, yet want at the same time to enjoy every pleasure short of sinful pleasure. They will delude themselves if they think they can do so innocently. For to keep in the grace of God the soul must deny itself of much that is lawful. Love of pleasure is self‑love, and self‑love grows with the exercise of it, and so eventually banishes grace, which is the love of God, from the soul. Fervent love of God increases, and damps down the love of pleasure. The soul which attends to the dwelling of the Holy Ghost within it will be marked by continency, which does not despise pleasure but regulates it.
12. THE FRUIT OF CHASTITY
We have noted before that the names given to some of the fruits of the Holy Ghost are to be understood in a somewhat different sense from that which is usually denoted by the word. The vow of chastity is taken by members of Religious Orders and Congregations, and by a few people in the world, but that is not to say the fruit of the Holy Ghost, chastity, is reserved to them. The fruits of the Holy Ghost are for all in the state of grace without exception. They follow from the blossoming within the soul of the virtues.
Chastity is as necessary for the married as for the single, and for the single, whether vowed to chastity or not. The husband and wife, faithful to God and each other, live in chastity according to their state of life. The chastity of the married is of a different kind from that of the single, and that of those vowed to chastity has the quality of complete surrender to God which is lacking in those who have taken no vow.
The Vow and Virtue of Chastity
That the Religious life is more exalted than the married state has always been the teaching of the Church. This follows from the truth that the dedicated service of God is higher than one which concerns itself more with worldly duties. The vow of chastity implies that the person making the vow makes an offering of himself or herself to God alone, and the love which might have been given to husband or wife is reserved for Him. The bodily surrender that marriage would entail is transformed into preservation of virginity for His sake. The soul vowed to God becomes the bride of Christ.
But the Catechism of the Council of Trent lays down that "the faithful . . . are especially to be admonished that, although in those who holily and religiously follow that most beautiful and truly divine purpose of virginity, the virtue of chastity shines forth with greater lustre; yet, it belongs to those also who lead a life of celibacy, or who, in the married state, preserve themselves pure and undefiled from forbidden indulgence" (Part III, Chapter 7, question 6).
Nor may we think that those vowed to chastity are necessarily able to reach higher degrees of holiness than the married. No doubt for those devoted to the service of God in the Religious life the way is made easier to advance. They have helps which the married have not; the vows themselves are such, and imply also that those making them have discarded much that might have been a hindrance to them. They have also all the aids to spiritual advancement ready to hand: daily Mass, the frequent reception of the Sacraments, times for meditation and prayer. The Religious life is by profession a life lived for God. And those outward works that may be done are directed to the service of one's neighbor for God's sake.
Duties of the Married State
The married person, on the other hand, being immersed in duties appertaining to the married state and the care of the family, has not the same facilities for securing all these benefits, the direct means of grace. The duties of his or her state of life, of course, will be indirect means of grace, if performed for God. There is greater merit in the works of the Religious life in themselves from the fact that they are done under vow, but they may in fact be marred through the introduction of some imperfect motive or other imperfection in their performance. But the lack of facility in the married state for securing the direct means of advancement has its own compensation. We may say that the difficulties to be overcome in marriage for attaining closer union with God are in themselves a great source of merit. just as it is harder in the married state to advance far in the love of God, so is the merit high if obstacles to union with Him are overcome.
We Are Called to the Mystical Life
This union, even in marriage, may reach the heights. Hieronymus Jaegen, in The Mystic Life of Graces, says: "The Lord of nature and grace calls even married persons to the mystical life, as is shown repeatedly in the history of prayer." He says also that "the soul must be distinguished by a purity that is deeply implanted and suitable to its condition."
Nor does ascent to the heights necessarily involve abstinence from the use of marriage, either by vow or mutual agreement. True, we have saintly examples of this. There were St. Elzear and Blessed Delphina, his wife, both virgins; there is St. Edward the Confessor, and many others; and our thoughts go to the supreme models for the married state, Our Lady and St. Joseph. But virginal marriage is not for imitation, except by a clear call from Almighty God. There are other saintly persons who manifested in their lives the chastity which is appropriate to ordinary married life; for instance, Blessed Anna Maria Taigi, whose husband was still alive when she died, and gave evidence at the process prior to the introduction of her cause. The fruit of the Holy Ghost, chastity, is displayed in a purity suitable to the state of life of each person.
Correct Relationship with God
Chastity comes from the fear of the Lord, that gift of the Holy Ghost which places the soul in the correct relationship with Almighty God. The soul which is chaste rightly fears to offend God. This is not a servile fear, but a loving fear which looks only to keeping the soul pure and clean in His sight. Inspired by it, the soul will detest anything that might draw it away from union with Him by grace. It fears only lest it may find forbidden delights too alluring, and so by yielding to them lose the Divine Presence.
Contrast this with the spirit of the world. The world fears, too, but not with a wholesome fear. It lives in fear lest those who control the lives of the people, ambitious rulers and overbearing employers, may rob them of what is theirs by right. It fears lest it may be deprived of material pleasures. It attempts to distract itself by indulging in vice. The unchastity of the world is notorious. It seizes on every passing pleasure, and on those pleasures in particular which are easily obtained. The line of least resistance is its rule. Prevalent impurity advertises the absence of the Holy Ghost from the hearts of men.
Chastity in Conduct and Thought
Chastity is not only in outward conduct. Springing as it does from the interior, it controls also the thoughts. But it must be understood that a soul can be chaste, and yet have great temptations to unchaste thoughts. Father Kevin, O.D.C., in his Way of Perfection for the Laity, has an excellent passage on this. He says: "In many cases even of very holy persons it is sometimes a very hard task to keep a curb on the imagination. The devil can become very active in representing the most horrible images to torture the pious soul, and in his rage he does this against the special friends of God. It is important then to understand that the presence of vile thoughts is no proof whatever against the existence of the highest chastity. Pious souls need not be in the least alarmed. Anxiety about such thoughts may but make them worse. The best remedy, and the remedy that ought to be adopted, is quietly to despise them, and while preserving the peace of our soul as well as we can, to let them pass away. It is necessary to observe also that pleasure connected with such thoughts is no proof of sin or even imperfection. Deliberate consent alone constitutes sin."
St. John of the Cross on Evil Thoughts
St. John of the Cross has shown that people well advanced along the way of mystical prayer are especially tempted in this way. The distinction between the thought in the imagination and consent to it by the will is of vital importance. It is the difference between possessing the grace of God and driving it out of the soul, the difference between the state of grace and the state of mortal sin. Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson has written also of the difference between "observing" a temptation and consenting to it. But observation of this kind is not to be done deliberately; it is rather an unconscious process, which is to be checked as soon as there is the realization of what is taking place. It is important for the soul that wishes to advance in the love of God not to be anxious about the intrusion of unwelcome images, but to dismiss them summarily.
These, when not consented to, are entirely in the imagination, and it is only there that the devil has influence. The imagination has more connection with the body than the mind, and the will cannot altogether control it. Sin is committed by the will, and as long as that is firm in its attachment to the will of God and detests sin, the mind may be at rest, however much there be unruly thoughts. The soul which is responsive to the operations of the Holy Ghost will learn how to turn the mind to good thoughts in time of temptation.
Chastity in Conversation
Chastity is manifested not only in deeds and thoughts but also in words. The prevalent lack of purity in conversation is another indication that the world is far from being led by the Holy Ghost. In many offices and factories there is a constant spate of talk which is offensive to the chaste. This applies also to certain gatherings, not always of men only, but also where the company is mixed. Even young girls are subjected to hearing disgusting conversation. It is known also that married women working in factories, when they become pregnant, are subject to insulting comments from men workers.
Chastity is displayed by the refusal to compromise. The Holy Ghost will instruct in methods of turning the conversation to inoffensive topics. It may even be possible to turn the minds of those who are evilly inclined right away from unchaste subjects to the thought of God Himself. It is certain that the man or woman who refuses to take part in questionable talk soon gets known as one who is loyal to his or her principles, and commands respect accordingly. There must be many who have had experience of that situation in which ribald talk has ceased immediately when a certain person known for his purity enters the room.
The World's Tribute to the Chaste
That implies a tribute to the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. However much the world claims to defy Almighty God, it cannot help recognizing its own dependence on Him, and its infinite distance from His sanctity. That recognition may rarely come to the surface, but it is there all the same. And those who are led by the Spirit of God attract an admiration which may be given grudgingly, but which testifies that God remains supreme and cannot altogether be banished from the consciousness of His reasoning creatures, however much they try to persuade themselves that He is of no account.
The world's estimate of chastity is shown to be at complete variance with the truth in nothing so much as its attitude towards sins of the flesh in either sex. Except when its standards become utterly degraded, even the world has a conventional morality. When that is so, it will forgive in the man what it condemns in the woman. In that view, women must be chaste, but men need not. It is held that it is not natural for men to live a chaste life, but that women are to be judged by a stricter standard.
All this is nothing else but an application of the rule that it is a sin to be found out. It is a travesty of chastity when violations of this virtue are regarded as entailing guilt only in the ultimate proof of the offenses in deed. Chastity, the fruit of the Holy Ghost, begins in the interior. It controls first the thought, extending from that to the word and the deed. The chaste man or woman is chaste all through.
Prevalence of Unchastity Today
With chastity, we come to an end of our consideration of the Twelve Fruits. It is the last in order but by no means the least. So vital is it, in fact, that there are in themselves no light offenses against the virtue; to be unchaste is to be in mortal sin. There may, it is true, be venial sins from want of full deliberation or consent, but to be deliberately impure is to drive the Holy Ghost from the soul.
The diabolical forces which are intent on corrupting souls and introducing the vice of impurity into every department of life aim thus to supplant the love of God by their own foul presence. May this little book serve to some extent to foil the Evil One by inducing a greater regard for the Person of Divine Love who dwells in souls for their sanctification! May it lead to an overflowing of charity in those who already possess Him, so that they may be powerful in bringing others to love Him who are as yet without Him! Thus may the cause of Jesus Christ be advanced, and His reign in souls and in the world be assured!