Sunday, June 30, 2024

Thomas A Kempis 1.19 (Part I) - Spiritual exercises

The life of someone religious should be filled with all virtues, so that inwardly he is the same as he outwardly seems to others. There should be much more inside than is seen outside because God is the one who sees our hearts. He is the one we should respect and revere above all, no matter where we are, and like the angels in his sight we should walk in this world. Every day we should renew our purpose, and kindle our hearts to warmth and devotion, as if each day were the first day of our conversion, and say, “Help me, God, in good purpose, and in your holy love, and grant me now today to begin perfectly, because there is nothing I have yet done.”

As goes our purpose, so goes our progress. If we desire good progress, it takes diligence. If someone who resolves strongly still falls short often, what about someone who rarely resolves, and not so strongly? There are so many ways where things depend on circumstances.  A small lapse from our intentions still brings us some loss. The purpose of the upright depends more on the grace of God rather than their own patient endurance; for in Him they always trust, regardless of what they take in hand. For man proposes, but God disposes; and it is not in a man's power to direct his own steps. 

If a spiritual exercise is sometimes skipped for the sake of some act of good, some fellowship or useful work, it can easily be recovered afterwards. But if a weary mind or neglect causes us to skip then it is a fault, and the omission will be felt. If we try to the best of our abilities, we will still see small shortcomings in many things. Always we should have a firm purpose, and focus especially on the things that give us the most trouble. Both outwardly and inwardly we should reflect on ourselves, and keep ourselves in order, because both will affect our progress. 

If you aren't continually reflecting on yourself, set aside certain times, that is in the morning or evening. In the morning set your purpose, and in the evening reflect on what was done, how you have been that day in word, action, and thought. Review if in these things you may have offended God and those around you. If you are facing something wicked or diabolical then prepare yourself for a serious struggle, and show up as a warrior. Curb any appetite that is out of control starting with food and drink, and from there it will become easier to curb any physical appetite. Never be completely without something to do; you could be reading, or writing, or praying, or meditating, or doing something that is useful for the common good. Bodily exercises, however, are to be done with discretion, and are not to be used equally by all.

Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis, 1.19 (first part, it's a long chapter to translate in one sitting). 

Translation focused on contemporary English and preservation of rhetorical force and art

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Thomas A Kempis 1.18 - The example of the holy fathers, and their legacy

Consider the Holy Fathers as vivid examples, where we see real perfection and religion shining. Compared to them, everything we do is so little that it amounts to nothing. Now, what is our life when compared to theirs? Those saints and friends of Christ served the Lord in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, in labor and weariness, in vigils and fasts, in prayer and holy meditations, in persecutions and many insults.

And oh how many troubles -- serious ones -- they suffered. Those Apostles, Martyrs and Confessors, Virgins, and all the others who willingly followed the footsteps of Christ. When it came to their souls they hated them in this world so that they might keep them in eternal life. And what about the hardships of the holy fathers in the desert, who renounced their lives -- what long and serious temptations they suffered! Think how often were they assailed by the enemy, what serious and passionate prayers they offered to God, what strict fasts they undertook, what great enthusiasm and eagerness for spiritual growth. Think how strongly they waged war to tame their vices, how pure and upright was their intention toward God. Throughout the day they worked, and the night they filled with prayer -- though even when they were working they scarcely stopped praying in their minds. 

They spent all their time usefully. Every hour seemed short to devote to God. And through the great sweetness of contemplation, they even forgot the need of bodily refreshment. All riches, reputation, honors, friends, relatives -- they renounced them; they desired nothing from the world. They took the bare necessaries of life; they would rather not be servants of their bodies even in necessity. So they were poor in earthly things, but so rich in grace and virtue. On the outside they were needy, on the inside they were filled with grace and heavenly comforts.

They were strangers to the world, but close to God as kinsmen and friends. To themselves they seemed nothing, to the world they seemed contemptible; but in the sight of God they were precious and chosen. They stood fast in true humility, they lived in simple obedience, they walked in love and patience; and so every day they prospered and lived in great favor before God. The saints are given as an example to all religious people to challenge us to accomplish well, rather than how the many lukewarm tempt us to lack of effort.

How great was the enthusiasm of all the oath-taking religious when they first joined the holy institution! They were so devoted to prayer! There was rivalry for holiness! They had such great self-discipline! Their reverence and obedience flourished in all things under the rule of the spiritual master! The traces of them that remain until now testify that they were truly holy and perfect, supplying the world with those who strove so energetically. Now a man is counted great if he is not a transgressor, and if he is able to endure with patience. 

The temperature of our times is one of negligence, that we so quickly decline from the former love, and it is tiresome to be alive because of fatigue and lukewarmness. May the growth of virtue not become dormant in you, since you have seen so many examples of those who are devoted. 

Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis, 1.18

Translation focused on contemporary English and preservation of rhetorical force and art

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Thomas A Kempis 1.17 - The religious life

Thomas A Kempis 1.17 - The religious life

It is necessary to learn to break away from your own will in many things, if you want to remain in peace and harmony with others. It is not easy to live in a religious community or congregation, and to live there without complaint, and to remain faithful even until death. Blessed is the one who has lived a good life there, and completed it happily. If you want to stand your ground and prosper there, carry yourself as an exile and a pilgrim on this earth. You must become a fool for the sake of Christ, if you want to lead a religious life.

The clothing and the outward appearance of being religious aren't that important; it is the change of character and the willingness to kill off our passions that truly make a religious man. The one who seeks something else besides purely God and the health of his soul, will find only trouble and sorrow. It's not possible to stay peaceably without relying on being the least, and servant of all.

You have come to serve, not to rule. Know your vocation: peacemaking and labor, not relaxation and small-talk. This life tests men as gold in the furnace. No one can stand here unless with all his heart for God's sake he will become humble. 

Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis, 1.17

Translation focused on contemporary English and preservation of rhetorical force and art

Sunday, June 09, 2024

Thomas A Kempis 1.16 - Patience with others' faults

In some things, it is truly rare for a man to be able to improve himself or others, so he should endure patiently until God orders otherwise. Think how it may be better for your patience, because untested merits are unproven. You should then plead that God, who is worthy, may come to your aid in such trials so that you can endure them well and kindly. 

If someone who is warned once or twice does not listen, don't keep arguing, but let go and give it to God, that His will may be done and His honor be shown in all his servants. He knows well how to turn evil into good. Commit yourself and learn to be patient in tolerating others' faults and whatever weaknesses they may have, because you too have plenty of faults that must be tolerated by others. If you cannot make yourself into the person you want to be, how would you be able to turn someone else into what you wish? We are eager to see others made perfect, and yet we don't amend our own faults. 

We want others to be corrected strictly, but we will not be corrected ourselves or be denied what we ask. We want laws passed to restrain others, but will not tolerate being restrained ourselves in any way. It's clear enough that we rarely think of our neighbors in the same way as ourselves. If we were all perfect, then what would we have to suffer from others for God?

But now God has ordained, so let us learn, to bear one another’s burdens because none is without defect, none without a burden, none sufficient for himself, none wise enough by himself; so we bear with each other, comfort each other, as well has helping and warning each other. Adversity is an occasion to prove our strengths. For such occasions do not make a man weak, but they reveal it.

Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis, 1.16

Translation focused on contemporary English and preservation of rhetorical force and art

Sunday, June 02, 2024

Thomas A Kempis 1.13 (part 2) - Schooled by life

The beginning of temptation is instability of the soul, and a lack of confidence in God. Like a ship without a rudder is driven by the waves, so a man who is unmoored from his purpose is carried along by various temptations. As fire tests iron, so temptation tests the upright man. Often we do not know what strength we have; but temptation reveals what we are. Carefully watch the beginnings of temptation, when it's easiest to defeat the enemy, if the door of the mind is closed to him, when he is confronted as soon as he has knocked. As someone said, 

Stop the problem at the gate,
Harder to cure the longer you wait.

The first thing that comes to the mind is a simple suggestion, then the strong imagination, afterwards pleasure, evil affection, and assent. And slowly the enemy enters completely, since he was not resisted from the start. And however much a man delays resisting, every day he makes himself weaker, and the enemy against him stronger. 

Some suffer the worst temptations in the beginning of their conversion, some at the end, and some for nearly their whole life. Some are tempted lightly, according to the divine decree of wisdom and justice, who weighs the state and merit of man, and orders all things for the wellbeing of his chosen ones. 

So we should not lose hope when we are tempted, but earnestly ask God, who is worthy, to help us in all our troubles; that he will, as St. Paul says, with the temptation he provides a way that we can bear it. Let's humble ourselves then under the hand of God in all temptation and trouble, for the humble in spirit he will save and lift up. 

In temptations and troubles a man is tested as to what progress he has made, and in those temptations his greater merit shows, his strength and virtue is clearer. It is no great thing if a man is devoted and faithful when he has no deep struggles; but if he can bear patiently in times of adversity, then is there great hope. Some are guarded from great temptations, but are often defeated in everyday life so that they are humbled, never trusting themselves in great things, as they are weak in small things.

Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis, 1.13 (second part). 

Translation focused on contemporary English and preservation of rhetorical force and art