Of the Need We Have of This Christian Charity and Union, and of Some Means to Preserve Us in the Same

by admin on September 26, 2010

Above all things have charity, which is the bond of perfection (Col. iii. 14). The Apostle St. Paul teaches and recommends to us many virtues, but above all, he says, I recommend charity, which is the tie and security of the life of all. The same does the Apostle St. Peter say: Before all things I recommend to you charity and unbroken union one with another (I Pet. iv. 8). Hence we can gather of how much importance this virtue is since these holy apos­tles and princes of the Church recommend it so much as to say that it is to be above all and before all, so that of this we should always make greater account than of all other things.

In the first place it is easy to see the general necessity of this charity, for what religious order could exist with­out union and conformity? And to say nothing of a reli­gious order, no gathering or community of men could con­tinue without some sort of union and order. Take away from a multitude any vestige of association and order, and what will be left but a Babylon, a City of Confusion, a pandemonium ? The proverb says: “Where there is a multi­tude, there is confusion.” Understand this if the multitude be without order and union, because when well ordered and united, it is nothing short of a hierarchy. So all gather­ings of men and commonwealths, however barbarous they be, always contrive to get some union and order, depending all on one head or on a number who stand for one govern­ment. We see this even in animals, not only in bees—for in them wonderful is the instinct which nature has given them in this respect—but even in wolves and lions and other wild beasts, for by the very instinct of self-preserva­tion they contrive some union, since by division they would come to an end and perish. Even of the devils themselves, though they are spirits of division and sowers of tares, Christ Himself says that we must not believe that they are divided among themselves for the very reason that if Satan be divided against himself,, how shall his kingdom stand f (Luke xi. 18). And to this same purpose He alleges there that principle so certain and so proved by experience: Ever kingdom divided against itself shall be laid waste, and house upon house shall fall (Luke xi. 17). A kingdom divided against itself needs no enemies to destroy and lay it waste; the inhabitants themselves will go about destroy­ing and leveling down one another, and things will go tum­bling over one another. So Plato comes to say that there is nothing in a commonwealth more pernicious than discord and disunion, nor anything more useful and profitable than peace and mutual union. St. Jerome says this of reli­gious life, and says it more forcibly. It is this unity and charity, he says, which makes religious be religious; with­out it, a monastery is a hell and its inmates, devils. For what greater hell can there be than for people who must be always in bodily conjunction with one another and deal with one another daily, to hold different wills and opin­ions ? But if there be union and charity, religion will be a paradise on earth and they who live therein will be angels, beginning here on earth to enjoy the peace and quiet which angels enjoy. And St. Basil confirms this statement. Men living in religion, he says, are in that peace and charity and union which makes them like angels, among whom there are no lawsuits nor contentions nor dissensions. St. Law­rence Justinian says that there is not here on earth any so lively presentiment of the society of heaven and the heavenly Jerusalem as the society of religious united in love and charity. It is a life of angels, a life of heaven. Truly God is in this place; this is none other than the house of God and gate of heaven (Gen. xxviii. 16-17).

But to leave generalities and come to the particular need that we have of this union and fraternal charity, our Father, treating of the means whereby the Society will be preserved and augmented in its spiritual good, says that one of the principal means that will aid much thereto will be this union and mutual charity. And besides general rea­sons, which show the necessity of this union in any order and community, there are particular reasons making it more necessary for us. The first is because the Society is a squadron of soldiers whom God has newly sent to support His Church, aid her in the war that she wages against the world and the devil, and gain souls for heaven. It is this that the patent of our Institute sets forth; this is the proc­lamation made in the bull of erection of our Society: “Who­ever desires to enlist under the standard of the cross and give in his name for this service, and so forth.” And this it is that is meant by the name of “Company” which we have taken. We are a company of soldiers; we beat our drums, we show our colors, we gather recruits to fight against the enemies of the cross. If the squadron be compact and in good order, all acting with one accord, they will break through rocks and none will put them to the rout. A very strong thing that! So the Holy Ghost likens the Church to fin army terrible in battle array (Cant. vi. 3), a squad­ron well drawn up in camp. When a squadron is well drawn up and linked together man with man, it leaves no opening for anyone to break through, since all support one another. But, disunited and disordered, it is a very weak thing, eas­ily broken up, readily put to rout. In the Second Book of Kings, David by way of saying that he has overcome his enemies says: The Lord hath divided mine enemies before me, even as waters are divided (II Kings v. 20). And the mountain where this happened was called Baalpharasim; that is, the place of division, which shows that to divide and to vanquish is one and the same thing, and the place of division is taken for the place of victory. Writers on war say that an army in confusion and disorder marches to a butchery rather than to a battle; and there is nothing more inculcated in military discipline than not to break or disorder the squadron, but make sure that it shall always be well united and in order, unit in touch with unit and every man at his post. Not only the common good, but the particular good of each individual soldier, depends on this order’s being kept, since with the loss of the squadron the individual will be lost also.

So it will be in our company and squadron. If we are united and back one another up and all agree together, we shall break through our enemies and by none shall we be overcome or routed. Brother helped by brother is as a strong city (Prov. xviii. 19). A triple-trilled cord is hardly broken (Eccles. iv. 12). When many strings are joined together and make one, the result is very strong. In the cord of the crossbow, those threads of which it is com­posed have singly little or no strength at all; but, many together, we see that they are strong enough to bend strong steel. So shall we be, if we are united and all go together.

St. Basil, animating religious hereto, says: “Consider with what union and unanimity these Maccabees fought the battles of the Lord,” And of those large armies of more than three hundred thousand men Holy Scripture says in the Books of Kings that they marched out as though they were one man (I Kings xi. 7), since they all went with one and the same will and mind, and in this way they struck fear and terror into their enemies and gained great vic­tories. In this spirit we must fight the spiritual wars of the Lord; and so we shall gather great fruit of souls by our ministries and amaze and confound our enemies. The devil himself, says St. Basil, will be afraid and not dare to attack us, seeing us so united against him, and will lose all hope of doing us any harm.

Our Father puts this for one of the chief reasons why this union is particularly necessary for us: “Let union and mutual conformity,” he says, “be most diligently secured, and nothing to the contrary permitted, to the end that, united to one another by the bond of fraternal char­ity, they may be able better and more effectually to employ themselves in the service of God and assistance of their neighbor.” And in another place he says that without this union the Society cannot be preserved nor governed nor gain the end for which it was instituted. It is certain that, nourishing divisions, parties, or dissensions within our own body, not only shall we never attain the end of our insti­tute, which is to gain souls to God, but we shall not be able to govern or preserve our own selves. If soldiers, who ought to be united to fight against the enemy, were to turn to fighting one another, it is clear that not only they would not win the war, but they would destroy and overthrow themselves; they are lost (Osee x. 2). If ye bite and devour one another, see that ye be not eaten up by one another (Gal. v. 15). If discords, envies, and murmurings come in among you, beyond doubt you will devour and destroy one another. This is what we have to dread in religion, not enemies from without nor persecutions and contradictions that the world may raise against us—they will do us no harm, St. Bernard says very well, speaking on this point to his religious: “What thing from without can come and supervene upon you, that can possibly disturb and sadden you, if here within all goes well and you enjoy brotherly peace and charity?” And he quotes that saying of the Apostle Peter: Who shall be able to harm you, if ye are zealous for good? (I Pet. iii. 13). So long as we are what we ought to be, very united and brotherly with one another, no contradiction or persecution from without shall be able to do us any harm or prejudice; rather it will help and serve for our greater good and improvement, as we read in ecclesiastical history of the persecutions which the Church suffered from without, that they no more did her harm than the pruner harms the vine; for one twig that they cut off, there spring up others more fruitful. And therefore it was a very good thing that one of those holy martyrs said to the tyrant, that what he did in shedding the blood of the Christians was to lay out the ground for the wheat to grow and increase the more. In the Book of Maccabees Holy Scripture praises the Romans for their great union and con­formity among themselves. They entrust their magistracy every year to one man, and all obey this one, and there is no envy nor jealousy among them (I Mace. viii. 16). So long as the Romans remained united in this manner among themselves, they were lords of the world and brought their enemies under; but when they started civil wars among themselves, they were destroyed. Hence the proverb: “By concord small powers grow; by discord the greatest fall to pieces”—Concordia res parvae crescunt; discordia maximae dilabuntur.

Apart from this there is a particular reason why we are in greater need in the Society of aiming at this union, as our Father shows forth in the eighth book of his Constitutions. That is because in the Society there are special difficulties and obstacles in the way of securing this union, and there­fore it is necessary to prop it up more and find remedies against these obstacles. The difficulties that there are in the Society in this respect our Father reduces to three. The first is the fact that, the Society being so scattered and poured out all over the world among believers and unbe­lievers and its members being so remote and separate one from another, mutual knowledge and intercourse and union become more difficult; the more so since, embracing, as the Society does, such different nations, among many of whom there is opposition and contrariety, it is no easy thing to get rid of an aversion with which one is born and which grows as one grows, and to regard a stranger, not as a for­eigner, but as a son and brother of the Society. The second difficulty is that the men of the Society must be for the most part men of letters, and knowledge puffs up, and cre­ates in a man a high opinion of himself and small opinion of others, and engenders also hardness of heart. St. Thomas says that learned men are not usually given to devotion so much as the simple and unlettered. Hence there is reason to fear that this may cause them to be less lov­ing and brotherly with one another, each one following his own opinion and judgment and laying himself out in his own line and seeking to procure honor and reputation for himself, which is apt to be the root of great disunion and division. The third difficulty and impediment, and that not a small one, is that these same persons will be men of mark, hobnobbing with princes and lords, with city magnates and cathedral chapters; and from these intimacies there are apt to follow various party attachments, as also a disposition to seek singularities and privileges and exemptions and not live like the rest—a great prejudice to union and brother­hood.

Since for greater resistances greater preventives are necessary, our Father there lays down means to meet these difficulties. The first and most fundamental of all is not to admit and incorporate into the Society men who have made no effort to get their vices and passions well under, since unmortified folk will not endure discipline, order, or union. The learned man will be puffed up, will want privileges beyond the rest, will seek for the first place and take no account of others, will court the favor of prince and lord, will want someone to wait upon him; hence will follow at once coteries and divisions. The more learned and capable a member of the Society be, if he has no great fund of vir­tue and mortification, the more is disunion to be feared and his giving trouble in religion. They say very well that let­ters and high talents in an unmortified man are like a good sword in the hands of a madman, to the hurt and harm of himself and others. But if learned men are mortified and humble, not seeking themselves but the things of Jesus Christ, as St. Paul says (Phil. ii. 21), then much peace and union will ensue, since their example will be of great bene­fit to the rest and will draw them to follow in their path. This is the chief means of prevention against this and other evils and will of itself suffice if well observed. Beyond this, our Father goes on to propose other particular means to meet these obstacles. To supply the want of mutual inter­course and knowledge, owing to our people’s living so remote and distant from one another, he proposes frequent communication by edifying letters, such as are usual in the Society. By such letters people keep up a good acquain­tance with one another and animate one another to a com­mon method of action, so far as the diversity of nations will allow; and that is a great aid to union.

Another very main means our Father lays down to main­tain us in this union, and that is an exact observance of obedience, since obedience binds and unites religious one with another, making of many wills one and of many judg­ments one judgment. Give up self-will and private judgment, as it is given up by obedience, and there remains one will and judgment common to the superior and to all his subjects. So united with their superior, subjects are united among themselves according to the rule: “Things that are equal to a third thing are equal to one another.” And the more united subjects are with their superior, the more they will be among themselves. Obedience and religious disci­pline and observance of rules is a leveling line that smoothes down and levels all and causes great order and union. The ancients, to signify union, were wont to use the hieroglyphic of a lyre with many strings, which by rea­son of their being in tune and concord with the first make a most sweet melody. So a community with so many strings attuned to the first, which is the superior, makes a most sweet consonance and harmony. And as on a lyre, if there be a single string out of tune or strained, it goes for nothing and undoes the whole of that attunement and har­mony; so also in religion, one member out of tune and not in concert with his superior will make all the consonance and harmony of that union go for nothing. Hence some have ventured to say that the word concord comes from chord; but they say better who hold that it comes from cor (heart), since all have one heart, according to that text in the Acts of the Apostles: The multitude of believers had one heart and one soul (Acts iv. 32).

St. Bernard says that as the cause of a ship’s leaking is the fact of the timbers’ not being well joined together or well caulked, so also the ruin and destruction of a reli­gious order conies of the members’ not being well joined and united one with another by the bond of union and fra­ternal charity. And our Father General Claude Aquaviva, in the letter he wrote on this subject, says that we should make as much account of this union and charity and guard it with as much care as though the whole good of the Soci­ety depended thereon, as indeed it does. And Christ our Redeemer, in the farewell prayer that He made on the night of His Passion, asked of His eternal Father for us as a thing necessary for our preservation: Holy Father, guard them in thy name, that they may be one as I and thou are (John xvii. 11). And, by the way, let us consider in these words the comparison that He makes; as the Son is one with the Father by nature, so He would have us be one by love, and that shall be our guard and preservation.

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