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Sorrow of Heart


The Twenty-First Chapter


The Practices of a Good Religious
THE life of a good religious ought to abound in every virtue so that he
is interiorly what to others he appears to be. With good reason there
ought to be much more within than appears on the outside, for He who
sees within is God, Whom we ought to reverence most highly wherever we
are and in Whose sight we ought to walk pure as the angels.
Each day we ought to renew our resolutions and arouse ourselves to
fervor as though it were the first day of our religious life. We ought
to say: "Help me, O Lord God, in my good resolution and in Your holy
service. Grant me now, this very day, to begin perfectly, for thus far
I have done nothing."
As our intention is, so will be our progress; and he who desires
perfection must be very diligent. If the strong-willed man fails
frequently, what of the man who makes up his mind seldom or
half-heartedly? Many are the ways of failing in our resolutions; even a
slight omission of religious practice entails a loss of some kind.
Just men depend on the grace of God rather than on their own wisdom in
keeping their resolutions. In Him they confide every undertaking, for
man, indeed, proposes but God disposes, and God's way is not man's. If
a habitual exercise is sometimes omitted out of piety or in the
interests of another, it can easily be resumed later. But if it be
abandoned carelessly, through weariness or neglect, then the fault is
great and will prove hurtful. Much as we try, we still fail too easily
in many things. Yet we must always have some fixed purpose, especially
against things which beset us the most. Our outward and inward lives
alike must be closely watched and well ordered, for both are important
to perfection.
If you cannot recollect yourself continuously, do so once a day at
least, in the morning or in the evening. In the morning make a
resolution and in the evening examine yourself on what you have said
this day, what you have done and thought, for in these things perhaps
you have often offended God and those about you.
Arm yourself like a man against the devil's assaults. Curb your
appetite and you will more easily curb every inclination of the flesh.
Never be completely unoccupied, but read or write or pray or meditate
or do something for the common good. Bodily discipline, however, must
be undertaken with discretion and is not to be practiced
indiscriminately by everyone.
Devotions not common to all are not to be displayed in public, for such
personal things are better performed in private. Furthermore, beware of
indifference to community prayer through love of your own devotions.
If, however, after doing completely and faithfully all you are bound
and commanded to do, you then have leisure, use it as personal piety
Not everyone can have the same devotion. One exactly suits this person,
another that. Different exercises, likewise, are suitable for different
times, some for feast days and some again for weekdays. In time of
temptation we need certain devotions. For days of rest and peace we
need others. Some are suitable when we are sad, others when we are
joyful in the Lord.
About the time of the principal feasts good devotions ought to be
renewed and the intercession of the saints more fervently implored.
From one feast day to the next we ought to fix our purpose as though we
were then to pass from this world and come to the eternal holyday.
During holy seasons, finally, we ought to prepare ourselves carefully,
to live holier lives, and to observe each rule more strictly, as though
we were soon to receive from God the reward of our labors. If this end
be deferred, let us believe that we are not well prepared and that we
are not yet worthy of the great glory that shall in due time be
revealed to us. Let us try, meanwhile, to prepare ourselves better for
"Blessed is the servant," says Christ, "whom his master, when he
comes, shall find watching. Amen I say to you: he shall make him ruler
over all his goods." [5]
[5] Luke 12:43, 44.


IF YOU wish to make progress in virtue, live in the fear of the Lord,

do not look for too much freedom, discipline your senses, and shun

inane silliness. Sorrow opens the door to many a blessing which

dissoluteness usually destroys.


It is a wonder that any man who considers and meditates on his exiled

state and the many dangers to his soul, can ever be perfectly happy in

this life. Lighthearted and heedless of our defects, we do not feel the

real sorrows of our souls, but often indulge in empty laughter when we

have good reason to weep. No liberty is true and no joy is genuine unless

it is founded in the fear of the Lord and a good conscience.


Happy is the man who can throw off the weight of every care and

recollect himself in holy contrition. Happy is the man who casts from

him all that can stain or burden his conscience.


Fight like a man. Habit is overcome by habit. If you leave men alone,

they will leave you alone to do what you have to do. Do not busy

yourself about the affairs of others and do not become entangled in

the business of your superiors. Keep an eye primarily on yourself and

admonish yourself instead of your friends.


If you do not enjoy the favor of men, do not let it sadden you; but

consider it a serious matter if you do not conduct yourself as well or

as carefully as is becoming for a servant of God and a devout religious.


It is often better and safer for us to have few consolations in this life,

especially comforts of the body. Yet if we do not have divine consolation

or experience it rarely, it is our own fault because we seek no sorrow of

heart and do not forsake vain outward satisfaction.


Consider yourself unworthy of divine solace and deserving rather of much

tribulation. When a man is perfectly contrite, the whole world is bitter and

wearisome to him.


A good man always finds enough over which to mourn and weep; whether

he thinks of himself or of his neighbor he knows that no one lives here

without suffering, and the closer he examines himself the more he grieves.


The sins and vices in which we are so entangled that we can rarely apply

ourselves to the contemplation of heaven are matters for just sorrow and

inner remorse.


I do not doubt that you would correct yourself more earnestly if you would

think more of an early death than of a long life. And if you pondered in your

heart the future pains of hell or of purgatory, I believe you would willingly

endure labor and trouble and would fear no hardship. But since these

thoughts never pierce the heart and since we are enamored of flattering

pleasure, we remain very cold and indifferent. Our wretched body complains

so easily because our soul is altogether too lifeless.


Pray humbly to the Lord, therefore, that He may give you the spirit of

contrition and say with the Prophet: “Feed me, Lord, with the bread of

mourning and give me to drink of tears in full measure.”6



6 Ps. 80:9.



The Imitation of Christ

by Thomas, à Kempis


Verse of the Day

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