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declaim upon the indifference of the modern cynic, upon the lazy seclusion of an ignorant friar; but he who beheld the reality, can think only upon the virtues and the happiness of a religious life; the dignified wisdom, the lofty independence, the everlasting peace of the Christian and “ Their eyes,” says Fenelon,
66 disdain to cast a look upon the most admired objects; they are in the world as if not being in it; the presence of God conceals them from others and from themselves.” They are entered into that serene temple of wisdom, whence they may view and pity the wanderings and the fate of wretched mortals.
O miseras hominum mentes ! ô pectora cæca ! High upon a rock, against which the storms of this cold world may beat in vain, where,
In strains as sweet as angels use,
The Gospel whispers peace. I must endeavour still further to shew with what justice the monks and hermits were venerated by knightly men. Their aspect and their very countenance commanded respect; I appeal to the portrait of St. Francis by Cicoli, which is in the King's Gallery at Paris. Aristotle had a scornful mocking countenance, for which Plato disliked him. The disciple of Socrates would not have been repulsed by the looks of St. Antony, St. Dominique, and St. Francis, which reflected joy and inward peace, arising from the conformity of their wills with that of Jesus Christ. The holy Abbot Deicolus was asked how he was able to maintain such a continued gaiety. Quia Christum a me tollere nemo potest, was his reply. St. Bernard says, that the mere beholding some monks full of zeal and charity, or even the mere remembrance of them, would make his tears start forth. It is related of St. Francis, that on a certain day, taking one of the monks with him, he set out to preach ; and after walking through the town, he returned to the monastery. “But, my father," said his companion, "are we not, then, to preach ?” “That is already done,” replied the saint. He meant that the religious modesty with which they walked had been a good
1 Ælian. ii. 19.
sermon. O disciple of the moderns, deem not this a proud speech! Surius relates, that Pope Innocent II. having gone to visit the monastery of Clairvaux, all the monks came out to meet him with St. Bernard, and that the Pope and all the cardinals were so affected at the sight of that holy congregation, that they wept for joy and reverence. The holy zeal of monks for the salvation of men commanded respect. Boccacio led an immoral life, and the scandal of some of his writings had given displeasure even to Petrarch, who vainly endeavoured to correct him by letters of counsel. One day as Boccacio was in his house at Florence, a Carthusian monk of Sienna, whom he had never seen before, gained admittance to speak with him in private. He told him that he came on the part of the blessed Father Petroni, of his monastery, who had never seen Boccacio, but who knew him to the bottom of his heart by the permission of God. The monk, in the name of this father, represented to him the danger in which he was, if he did not reform his life and writings, and remonstrated with him on the abuse of his talents. - The blessed Father Petroni on his death-bed charged me,” said the monk, “to visit you, and to obtain your promise to change your life and renounce your profane studies, and to threaten you with divine judgment, if you refuse.” The monk then told him that Father Petroni had had a revelation of the divine will; and to confirm his statement, he proceeded to declare a secret which Boccacio thought was known only to himself. Petrarch was inclined to laugh this off: Boccacio, however, was enabled to reform his life in consequence. The holy simplicity of these men commanded respect. “The lives of many monks,” says Muratori, “became a kind of perpetual sermon. An Italian author relates, that upon occasion of Pope Sixtus V. having promised to grant whatever certain monks of St. Francis might demand, one lay brother, sixty years old, who had passed thirty in the service of the kitchen, began to weep, and said, “ Most holy father, I am a miserable lay brother, and the last of all religious men, who should not dare to expect the grace of your holiness, and the honour which I receive in beholding you, the head of the Church, after knowing you a
1 Treatise on Public Happiness.
simple monk, permits me to desire nothing farther; a wretched lay brother like me ought not to presume to demand a favour from a Pope. Nevertheless, since your holiness has desired that I should be included among those whom you deign to favour this day, I beg of you, with
profound humility, for charity, to make a cistern in our convent, which is much distressed from not having one, as you yourself know right well
, having so long felt the inconvenience.” It is added, that this discourse made the Pope weep. Knights and princes were constrained to admire their disinterestedness. When William the Conqueror proposed to the monk Guimond to raise him to a high church dignity, the latter replied, “Many motives induce me to fly from dignities and ecclesiastical power: I shall not mention them all; I shall only say, that I cannot comprehend in what way I could be worthily the religious superior of men neither whose language nor manners I understand; whose fathers and dear relations and friends you have slain with the sword, or driven into banishment, or shut up in prison, or enslaved. Search the Holy Scriptures; see if any law permits that the pastor of the flock of God should be imposed forcibly, at the choice of an enemy. What you have seized by war for the price of blood, could you without sin share with me, with those who, like me, have sworn to contemn the world, and for the love of Christ have forsaken their own wealth ? Omnium religiosorum lex est a rapina abstinere, and not to accept of booty even at the offering of the altar. When I think of the Divine precepts, I tremble with fear. Totam Angliam quasi amplissimam prædam dijudico, ipsamque, cum gazis suis, velut ignem ardentem, contingere formido." Guimond returned to Normandy' to his cloister, "et verba ejus multis displicuerunt.”
The sanctity of these men was so great, that no son of chivalry could fail to honour them. Timotheus was a practical man; yet when he found Plato without the walls of Athens, walking with some disciples, his countenance benign, his aspect venerable, discoursing not on moneytransactions, nor triremes, nor taxes, nor alliances, nor suchlike topics, but on the subjects on which he was accus
i Orderic. Vital. 524.
tomed to discourse, then said he, '12 toð Biov, kaì rñs övtwS ευδαιμονίας. And in these academies of Christendom was discourse which would have even drawn Socrates among the woods and mountains. Here he would have found men practised in that contemplation, by which he held that man resembled the divine nature; he would have heard St. Antony in the desert say, “I fear God no longer, but I love him.” St. John had said before him, “ There is no fear in love.” He would have heard St. Francis for a whole night repeat these words, “ Deus meus et omnia :" he would have heard St. Antony declare,
non est perfecta oratio, in qua se monachus vel hoc ipsum quod orat intelligit ;”? remembering that an angel appeared to Daniel, saying to him, Your prayers are heard, “quia vir desideriorum es ;"3 and that St. Augustine had said, “ Tota vita Christiani sanctum desiderium est."4 Above all, the heathen philosopher would not have concluded that they led an idle lazy life, because they were not pressing in the hot throng of worldly men, grasping after dignities and riches, or excitement which would enable them to forget their own misery. It remained for the sage disciples of the modern commercial sophists to identify a religious life with indolence. A monk, and a great promoter of monastic discipline, would teach the most industrious among
them to look to themselves, and to take care lest they might be standing still. “Vita præsens via est, cries St. Anselm, nam quamdiu vivit homo non facit nisi ire.
Semper enim aut ascendit aut descendit. Aut ascendit in cælum, aut descendit in infernum.”5 Then, again, men so truly humble were sure to be exalted by the generous hand of chivalry. For be it remembered that they really were humble, and not proud of being humble: “ rus humilis non vult videri humilis,” says William of Paris.. And how this great humility was able to exist along with such holiness and perfection of life above other men, is shewn by Alphonso Rodriguez. “God,” said they, "loves humility as truth: pride is a lie.” “ Sine humilitate,” said St. Bernard, “audeo dicere, nec virginitas Mariæ Deo
1 Ælian. Var. Hist. ii. 10. 2 Cassien. Coll. 6. Abb. Isaac. 31. 3 Dan. i. 23.
4 De Civit. Dei. 5 St. Anselmi Epist. lib. iii, 138. o De Moribus, 245.
7 Christian Perfection, ii. iii. 34.
They were too humble even to desire the most sublime fruits of devotion. When they had presented themselves before God, as little children, naked, unprovided, and helpless, they thought they had made their best prayer.3 St. Augustine said, “If any one should ask once, twice, or a thousand times, What is the way to arrive at true wisdom ? he would answer always, It is humility.” A novice, standing before St. Benedict, was tempted with thoughts of pride on account of his birth; the saint discovered what passed in his soul, and bid him make the sign of the cross on his breast. This humility was accompanied with a gentle and charitable spirit. The Chronicles of the order of St. Dominique relate, that a holy monk saw in a dream a vision, which told him that perfection consisted in loving God, in despising self, and in not judging others. “If on entering the cell of your
brother,” says St. Dorotheus, “ you find every thing in disorder, conclude that he is so absorbed in God, that he takes no thought about things external; if, on the contrary, you find it in admirable order, be convinced that his interior is as well conducted as his exterior.' The Abbot Anastatius, who flourished about the time of the sixth council, relates, that in the monastery of Mount Sina, of which he was abbot, there was a monk who used so often to dispense with the spiritual exercises of the house, that he passed for but an indifferent monk: he fell sick; and the abbot observing that, instead of exhibiting remorse, he evinced great joy, rebuked him, and expressed astonishment, that he who had led such a life should now be so tranquil when he was going to render his accounts. - Do not wonder, my father,” replied the monk; “the Lord has sent an angel to assure me that I shall be saved, and that he will verify his word, Nolite judicare, et non judicabimini; for though it is true, from weakness and bad health, I have not been able to fulfil all my duties in this house, yet I have always borne patiently evil treatment, and have forgiven all men from my heart; and instead of judging others, I have always well interpreted their words and actions; and that is what now brings me so much joy at the last.”5 There
| Hom, super Miss. est.
s Rodriguez, i. iv. 17.