THE PRACTICE OF THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST
IX.-THE MEANS OF AVOIDING LUKEWARMNESS AND ATTAINING PERFECTION
It results from the practice of prayer that a person constantly thinks of God. “The true lover,” says St. Teresa, “is ever mindful of the beloved One. And hence it follows that persons of prayer are always speak¬of God, knowing, as they do, how pleasing it is to God that His lovers should delight in conversing about Him, and on the love He bears them, and that thus they should endeavour to enkindle it in others.” The same Saint wrote: “Jesus Christ is always present at the conversations of the servants of God, and He is very much gratified to be the subject of their delight.”
Prayer, again, creates that desire of retiring into solitude, in order to converse alone with God, and to maintain interior recollection in the discharge of necessary external duties; I say necessary, such as the management of one’s family, or of the performance of duties required of us by obedience; because a man of prayer must love solitude, and avoid dissipation in superfluous and useless affairs, otherwise he will lose the spirit of recollection, which is a great means of preserving union with God: My sister, my spouse, is a garden enclosed -(Cant. iv. 12).
The soul espoused to Jesus Christ must be a garden closed to all creatures, and must not admit into her heart other thoughts, nor other business, but those of God or for God. Hearts thrown open never become holy. The Saints, who have to labour in gaining souls to God, do not lose their recollection in the midst all of their labours, either of preaching, confessing, reconciling enemies, or assisting the sick. The same rule holds good with those who have to apply to study. How many from excessive study, and a desire to become learned, become neither holy nor learned, because true learning consists in the science of the Saints; that is to say, in knowing how to love, Jesus Christ; whereas, on the contrary, Divine love brings with it knowledge and every good: All good things come to me together with her-(Wis. vii. 11), that is, with holy charity. St. John Berchmans had an extraordinary love for study, but by his great virtue he never allowed study to interfere with his spiritual interests. The Apostle exhorts us: Not to be more wise than it behoveth to be wise, but to be wise in sobriety-(Rom, xii. 8), A priest especially must have knowledge; he must know things, because he has to instruct others in the Divine Law: For the lips of the priest shall keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth-(MaI. ii. 7). He must have knowledge, but unto sobriety. He that leaves prayer for study shows that in his study he seeks himself, and not God. He that seeks God leaves study (if it be not absolutely necessary) in order not to omit prayer.