That to Live in Modest Silence and Recollection Is Not a Sad but a Very Cheerful Life

by admin on January 23, 2012

HENCE follows a thing worthy of notice in this matter, that this manner of life, in recollection, going about with downcast eyes, without seeking to say or hear more than what is necessary, making oneself blind, deaf, and dumb for God, is not a sad and melancholy life but rather a very cheerful and joyous one—all the more so, inasmuch as the conversation and company of God, to which we are invited and raised by recollection, is sweeter than that of man. St. Jerome says: “Let others think as they please, since everyone speaks of the fair according as he gets on at it. What I have to say of myself is that the town is a prison to me, and the wilderness a paradise.” And St. Ber­nard used to say: “Never am I less alone than when I am alone”—Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus. It was then that he was most in company, and most cheerful and joyful; because what satisfied and gave true contentment to his heart was communing and conversing with God. To persons who cannot carry on this inward converse, and have no idea of spiritual life nor of prayer, nor have ever found any taste for spiritual things, such a life will be sad and melancholy, but not to a good religious.

This will throw light on another hallucination. As the robber takes all the world to be thieves, so there are some who, seeing a brother devout and recollected, going about with downcast eyes and, unlike themselves, not picking up a conversation with everyone he meets, at once put him down as suffering from some temptation, or being a sad and melancholy character, and sometimes tell him as much. For fear of this imputation there are those who do not dare to practise that modesty and silence which they would fain practice and ought to practice. This is a point greatly to be attended to, that no one should do harm in a community by his want of discretion and appreciation of the things of the spirit. Because you have no idea of finding any joy or satisfaction in silence and recollection, you fancy that neither has anyone else. Or perhaps that brother’s mod­esty offends you because it is a continual reproach to your want of modesty and recollection, and you cannot abide it. Let that other man go forward in his own way, which brings him in more joy and contentment than you have in yours; because it is a spiritual and true joy, which is what St. Paul says: Seeming sad, they are full of joy (II Cor. vi. 10). Though it seems to you sadness, it is really great contentment and inward gladness. Even the heathen Seneca gave this admonition to his friend Lucilius: “True joy is not in the outward man, but here within the heart.” As gold and fine metal is not what is found on the surface of the earth, but what is in the veins and bowels thereof, so true joy and satisfaction is not what one shows in his exterior, talking, laughing, and chatting with this party and that—for that neither fills nor satisfies the soul—but what is within, like fine gold, in the vitals and innermost recesses of the heart. In keeping a good conscience and a generous spirit, despising all things of the world and rising above them, in this does true joy and contentment lie.

Excerpt from Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues by Alphonsus Rodriguez, translated by Joseph Rickaby (Loyola University Press, 1929). Reprinted with permission.

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