ONE of the advantages of the monastic life, created by vows, is that it
is wholly in keeping with human nature such as God created it. Men
differ in their spiritual complexion more widely even than they do in
mental caliber and physical make-up. All are not fitted by character
and general condition for the same 'career; we are "cut out" for our
peculiar tasks. It is the calling of one to be a soldier, of another to
be a statesman, because each is best fitted by nature for this
particular walk of life. The born poet, if set to put together a
machine, will, in the majority of cases, make a sorry mess of the job,
and a bricklayer will usually prove to be an indifferent story-writer.
So also one is called to be a good Christian, while his brother may be
destined for a more perfect life. If there are vocations in the natural
life, why should there not be in the supernatural, which is just as
truly a life? If variety of aptitudes and likes determine difference of
calling, why should this not hold good for the soul as well as for the
body and mind? If one should always follow the bent of one's
legitimately natural inclinations, no fault can reasonably be found if
another hearkens to the voice of his soul's aspirations and elect a
career in harmony with his nature.
There are two roads on which all men must travel to their destiny. One
is called the way of Precept, the other the way of Counsel. In each the
advantages and inconveniences are about equally balanced. The former is
wide and level with many joys and pleasures along the way; but there
are many pitfalls and stumbling blocks, while on one side is a high,
steep precipice over which men fall to their eternal doom. Those
destined by Providence to go over this road are spiritually shod for
the travel; if they slip and tumble, it is through their own neglect.
Some there are to whom it has been shown by experience--very little
sometimes suffices--that they have, for reasons known alone to God,
been denied the shoe that does not slip; and that if they do not wish
to go over the brink, they must get off the highway and follow a path
removed from this danger, a path not less difficult but more secure for
them. Their salvation depends on it. This inside path, while it insures
safety for these, might lead the others astray. Each in his respective
place will be saved; if they exchange places, they are lost.
Then again, if you will look at it from another standpoint, there
remains still on earth such a thing as love of God, pure love of God.
And this love can be translated into acts and life. Love, as all well
know, has its degrees of intensity and perfection. All well-born
children love their parents, but they do not all love them in the same
degree. Some are by nature more affectionate, some appreciate favors
better, some receive more and know that more is expected of them.
In like manner, we who are all children of the Great Father are not all
equally loving and generous. What therefore is more natural than that
some should choose to give themselves up heart, soul and body to the
exclusive service of God? What is there abnormal in the fact that they
renounce the world and all its joys and legitimate pleasures, fast,
pray and keep vigil, through pure love of God? There is only one thing
they fear, and that is to offend God. By their vows they put this
misfortune without the pale of possibility, as far as such a thing can
be done by a creature endowed with free will.
Of course there are those for whom all this is unmitigated twaddle and
bosh. To mention abnegation, sacrifice, etc., to such people is to
speak in a language no more intelligible than Sanskrit. Naturally one
of these will expect his children to appreciate the sacrifices he makes
for their happiness, but with God they think it must be different.
There was once a young man who was rich. He had never broken the
Commandments of God. Wondering if he had done enough to be saved, he
came to the Messiah and put the question to Him. The answer he received
was, that, if he were sinless, he had done well, but that there was a
sanctity, not negative but positive, which if he would acquire, would
betoken in him a charity becoming a follower of a Crucified God. Christ
called the young man to a life of perfection. "If thou wilt be perfect,
go, sell what thou hast, give to the poor, then come, and follow me."
It is not known whether this invitation was accepted by the young man;
but ever since then it has been the joy of men and women in the
Catholic Church to accept it, and to give up all in order to serve the
Scoffers and revilers of monasticism are a necessary evil. Being given
the course of nature that sometimes runs to freaks, they must exist.
Living, they must talk, and talking they must utter ineptitudes. People
always do when they discourse on things they do not comprehend. But let
this be our consolation: monks are immortal. They were, they are, they
ever shall be. All else is grass.
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