Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

was nothing of affectation, or pedantry, or pretension, in their manner of religion, which would have shocked and disgusted men. Father Rodriguez relates, that a certain bishop of Spain meeting St. Ignatius at Paris, who spoke on prayer, the bishop asked him in what disposition he generally found himself during prayer.

As for that,” replied the saint, “I shall say nothing; it is enough that I inform you of what concerns you.” It was in their lives that they shewed forth their religion. Cassien relates, that a holy man in Alexandria was surrounded by infidels, wbo loaded him with insults and even with blows, which he bore in silence, till one of them asking him in scorn what miracles Jesus Christ had wrought, " The miracles which he has wrought,” replied he, "are, that whatever injuries you inflict on me, I am not angry with you, nor am troubled.” An anecdote related by St. Cæsarius shews, that in the sixth century, this sweet, even, resigned temper was thought the highest privilege of the holy. The conclusion of the history of Orderic Vitalis might be quoted as an example, evincing in its sublime thoughts and affectingly simple style, the calm, peaceful, resigned, and holy spirit of the monk.

It is curious to read the following testimony from a modern. “ In England, I could almost say, we are too little acquainted with contemplative religion. The monk presented by Sterne may give us a more favourable idea of it than our prejudices generally suggest. I once travelled with a Recolet, and conversed with a Minim at his convent; and they both had that kind of character which Sterne gives to his monk: that refinement of body and mind; that pure glow of meliorated passion, that polished piety and humanity.” The monks thought it worth while to relate the tenderness of certain men for poor brutes : to be compassionate to men and to all animals was their maxim.4 Their wisdom too, joined with a noble and gracious manner, made their presence eagerly sought after in the halls and courts of chivalry. I have seen extracts from a famous Spanish book, Las Quatrocientas, by Fray Luys d'Escobar, a Franciscan

i Collat. 12, 13.
2 Vide lib. i. dial. vi.
3 Hey's Lectures on Divinity, vol. i. p. 364.
4 Vita S. Wilhelmi Abbatis Hirsangiensis, 16,

friar, who relates the questions of the illustrious Senior Don Fadrique Enriquez, admiral of Castile, and his own answers, which are so honest and devout that even the English translator is unable to find fault with them : he remarks that “ the Admiral and his circle of friends at Valladolid conceived the Friar to be a sort of living oracle, capable of resolving all questions, and every thing which came into their heads was propounded to him. The first and second parts consist wholly of theological questions, in which the Friar took such delight that he wished every body would come to him with similar questions ; for day and night, he said, would be well employed upon them.” He observes, that the main amusement of the Admiral's old age seems to have been in inventing questions for the Friar. One was, What will become of the world after the last judgment? “Then we shall all be gathered together, men, angels, and devils; and then, if you have served God better than I have done, you will be better off than I shall be ; and a pretty thing it would be, if you, with

your

rank and fortune, were to go to heaven, and the friar to go to hell.” Another question was, “ Is bull-fighting sinful ?” “Yes.” “Is it sinful to treat the people with a bull-fight, if you do not fight yourself?” “Certainly it is.” “But why is it sinful ?” pursues the Admiral, sticking with the keenness of a sportsman to his favourite amusement ; "why is it sinful, when the practice is so customary, and is a thing allowed ?” “Sir,” says the honest Friar, “if you will persist in these things at your age, I must tell you that you have one foot in the grave, and another in hell.” How long will a soul remain in purgatory for every particular sin ?". "I cannot tell: you will know when you get there, and you will neither suffer the less nor get out the sooner for having been an admiral.” The Friar very honestly reproves the Admiral for his rigorous execution of the game-laws, and complains to him of the grievous oppressions which his vassals endured in consequence.

“Certainly," continues the translator, “he was no fawner.The Admiral sends one day to consult him upon a case of conscience, whether he may lawfully keep any thing which he has found ? “ Ah-ha!”

says Friar Luys, "you found a hawk yesterday, and you want to keep her, though you know by her jesses and her bells that she belongs to another per

son! Whoever keeps any thing which he has found in such a way, and does not have it cried, is guilty of theft.” Whoever is conversant with monastic writings will have observed that no men were more anxious to follow the spirit of the church than the monks : those of St. Blaise, in the Black Forest, say in their preface to the Vetus Disciplina Monastica, many things which would astonish the moderns. Hence the visits of these holy men were great means of instructing the different ranks of society. Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny, having visited the religious house in which a certain nun, Heloisa, served God, she sent a letter after him, thanking him for the grace she had acquired from his conversation ; to which he replied, “I am rejoiced on reading the letter of your holiness, to find that my visit to you was not transitory, to find that I have never since been absent from you. Non fuit, ut video, illud hospitium meum velut memoria hospitis unius noctis prætereuntis ; nec factus sum advena et peregrinus apud vos, sed civis sanctorum et domesticus utinam Dei. All things have adhered to your holy mind, and have been impressed on your benign spirit; so that on my fleeting visit, whatever I said or did, I do not say with care and study, but not a word negligently uttered by me has fallen to the ground.” Now this wisdom, and this desire of imparting it to others, were alone sufficient to account for the love and veneration which they inspired among young and generous men; for, as Cicero justly says, " adolescentes senum præceptis gaudent quibus ad virtutum studia ducuntur.” That gracious condescension and affability of manner, which was the general characteristic of all the clergy, did peculiarly distinguish the fathers of the monastic order. Mark the courtesy and humility with which Cervantes makes the two Benedictine monks reply to the haughty challenge of the Knight of La Mancha. In reading the Epistles of brother Anselm, before he had risen to any honours, signing himself “ vitâ peccator, habitu monachus ;" then of Anselm Abbot of Bec, and then of Anselm Archbishop of Canterbury, one observes no change of style or spirit; the same constancy in friendship, the same familiarity with the humble, the same condescen

Bib. Cluniacensis, 920.

2 De Senectute, 8.

in

true.” 1

sion to all, and abstraction from the world. I shall select a few passages to convey an idea of the spirit of a monk’s correspondence. Brother Anselm to Peter his dearest cousin : “I cannot tell you, my dearest, with what joy my heart exulted when I heard, from our beloved brother and cousin Dom. Folceraldus, that you were not only come to this age, but that you made progress good and honest studies, and improved every day : but I had an increase of this joy when he told me that you had a wish to see me. For I remember, and I cherish the great friendship which was formerly between me and your father and mother, and the immense love which I had for you when you were only a little boy, so that I rejoice to the utmost when I hear good news of you.

Inflamed therefore with the love of you in God, I pray God that he may grant that we may always converse together in this life as long as we remain here, and that in the future we may be glorified together. Therefore, I encourage, I pray, I beseech you, my beloved, believe what Truth says to be

His letter to William, a young knight, is also a most beautiful instance of affectionate and religious counsel. To one who wrote to him for advice respecting the best mode of teaching temporal men to love God, the abbot replies that he will endeavour to satisfy him, adding

quamvis hoc quod a me petitis, in latitudine sacræ Scripturæ multo melius inveniatis :” he advises him to remind them of heaven, which can be purchased for love ; to say to them, “ Da ergo amorem, et accipe regnum ; ama et habe; casting out all other love, and so loving nought but what God loves, and what other men love, provided it be pot against God." He writes to the prior and monks of Canterbury, beseeching them to forgive a poor lad who had run away from their service, deceived either by youthful levity or another's fraud, like a son of our mother Eve; “and now,” he adds, “I send him back to you, clad in my skin, quoniam salus ejus salus mea ; anima ejus anima mea est.”2 He writes to a reverend and noble lady, that she would persuade her son to dispense with the military service of Engelhard de Castro, an old veteran, who wished to pass the rest of his life in

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

provision for his soul ; and this he prays she will do for God's sake.

Hear how a lord abbot in Normandy speaks when he hears of a certain butler in a monastery of his congregation in England being addicted to drunkenness. verum est, dicere non possum quantum cor meum de tanta fratris perditione doleat. As far as an abbot and a sinner can command a monk, I command that he be restrained ; and if this cannot be done by his brethren, let my Lord Archbishop Lanfranc or Bishop Gondulf be applied to; and if still he will not amend, I had rather, despising all the utility which we derive from his being in England, that he return here to be under our discipline, than that he should remain there to be lost.”2 On being raised to the See of Canterbury he writes thus : “ Believe me, and assert confidently to others, that no cupidity (I speak before God), which ought not to be in the heart of his servant, despising the world, drew or enticed me, but fear and charity, and obedience to God and to his church.' Still he writes in the same spirit. "I exhort the boys and young men, as my sweetest sons, that they do not forget what I so often taught them, to keep a watch over their hearts and thoughts.”

I hope the good-natured. reader will pardon what follows in a letter to Henry, king of England. He concludes, “ May Almighty God enable you so to reign super Anglos, ut post hanc vitam vos regnare faciat inter Angelos. Amen." Writing to Prior Ernulf, the Archbishop says, “ I pray you to salute with the utmost kindness on my part secretly each of the young men and boys and children, beg each of them with sweetness to be mindful of my exhortations, and commend me to them with all love and familiarity, such as I formerly used to shew to them, and still do preserve.

St. Anselm was a great friend to the young, and an enemy to corporal correction. It is expressly recorded of him, that, in consequence of his benignity, he was as much beloved by the English as if he had been one of themselves. These few extracts from the letters of St. Anselm will shew what an affectionate

"3

4

"6

| Epist. lib. lxxvii. ? Epist. xi. 7.
4 Epist. iii. 82.
7 Eadmerus in Vit. S. Anselmi.

5 iii. 90.

3 Epist. iii. 9.
6 iv. 40, 58.

« PoprzedniaDalej »