Directly that your worldly friends perceive that you aim at
leading a devout life, they will let loose endless shafts of
mockery and misrepresentation upon you; the more malicious will
attribute your change to hypocrisy, designing, or bigotry; they
will affirm that the world having looked coldly upon you, failing
its favour you turn to God; while your friends will make a series
of what, from their point of view, are prudent and charitable
remonstrances. They will tell you that you are growing morbid;
that you will lose your worldly credit, and will make yourself
unacceptable to the world; they will prognosticate your premature
old age, the ruin of your material prosperity; they will tell you
that in the world you must live as the world does; that you can be
saved without all this fuss; and much more of the like nature.
My daughter, all this is vain and foolish talk: these people
have no real regard either for your bodily health or your material
prosperity. "If ye were of the world," the Saviour has said, "the
world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but
I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth
We have all seen men, and women too, pass the whole night, even
several in succession, playing at chess or cards; and what can be
a more dismal, unwholesome thing than that? But the world has not
a word to say against it, and their friends are nowise troubled.
But give up an hour to meditation, or get up rather earlier than
usual to prepare for Holy Communion, and they will send for the
doctor to cure you of hypochondria or jaundice!
People spend every night for a month dancing, and no one will
complain of being the worse; but if they keep the one watch of
Christmas Eve, we shall hear of endless colds and maladies the
next day! Is it not as plain as possible that the world is an
unjust judge; indulgent and kindly to its own children, harsh and
uncharitable to the children of God?
We cannot stand well with the world save by renouncing His
approval. It is not possible to satisfy the world's unreasonable
demands: "John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking
wine; and ye say he hath a devil. The Son of Man is come eating
and drinking, and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a
winebibber, the friend of publicans and sinners." (2)
Even so, my child, if we give in to the world, and laugh,
dance, and play as it does, it will affect to be scandalized; if
we refuse to do so, it will accuse us of being hypocritical or
morbid. If we adorn ourselves after its fashion, it will put some
evil construction on what we do; if we go in plain attire, it will
accuse us of meanness; our cheerfulness will be called
dissipation; our mortification dulness; and ever casting its evil
eye upon us, nothing we can do will please it.
It exaggerates our failings, and publishes them abroad as sins;
it represents our venial sins as mortal, and our sins of infirmity
as malicious. S. Paul says that charity is kind, but the world is
unkind; charity thinks no evil, but the world thinks evil of every
one, and if it cannot find fault with our actions, it is sure at
least to impute bad motives to them,--whether the sheep be black
or white, horned or no, the wolf will devour them if he can.
Do what we will, the world must wage war upon us. If we spend
any length of time in confession, it will speculate on what we
have so much to say about! if we are brief, it will suggest that
we are keeping back something! It spies out our every act, and at
the most trifling angry word, sets us down as intolerable.
Attention to business is avarice, meekness mere silliness; whereas
the wrath of worldly people is to be reckoned as generosity, their
avarice, economy, their mean deeds, honourable. There are always
spiders at hand to spoil the honey-bee's comb.
Let us leave the blind world to make as much noise as it
may,--like a bat molesting the songbirds of day; let us be firm in
our ways, unchangeable in our resolutions, and perseverance will
be the test of our self-surrender to God, and our deliberate
choice of the devout life.
The planets and a wandering comet shine with much the same
brightness, but the comet's is a passing blaze, which does not
linger long, while the planets cease not to display their
brightness. Even so hypocrisy and real goodness have much outward
resemblance; but one is easily known from the other, inasmuch as
hypocrisy is short-lived, and disperses like a mist, while real
goodness is firm and abiding.
There is no surer groundwork for the beginnings of a devout
life than the endurance of misrepresentation and calumny, since
thereby we escape the danger of vainglory and pride, which are
like the midwives of Egypt, who were bidden by Pharaoh to kill the
male children born to Israel directly after their birth.
We are crucified to the world, and the world must be as
crucified to us. It esteems us as fools, let us esteem it as mad.