ON THE ADVANTAGES OF THE RELIGIOUS STATE
IX. “REMUNERATUR COPIOSIUS”-A RELIGIOUS IS MORE ABUNDANTLY REWARDED.
Worldlings are blind to the things of God; they do not comprehend the greatness of eternal life, in comparison with which the present life is but a moment, almost nothing. If they were truly enlightened they would assuredly abandon their possessions — even kings would abdicate their crowns — and quitting the world, would retire into the cloister to attend to their eternal salvation — an exceeding difficult affair for persons living in the world. Bless, then, O Religious soul, and continually thank God, Who, by his lights and graces, has delivered you from the bondage of Egypt and brought you to His own house; prove your gratitude by fidelity to His service, and by a faithful correspondence with so great a grace. Compare the goods of this world with the eternal felicity which God has prepared for those who leave all things for His sake, and you will find that there is a greater disparity between the transitory joys of this life and the eternal beatitude of the Saints, than there is between a grain of sand and the entire creation.
Jesus Christ has promised that whosoever shall leave all things for His sake, shall receive a hundred-fold in this life, and eternal glory in the next. Who can ever doubt His words? Can you imagine that He will not be faithful to His promise? Is He not more liberal in rewarding virtue than severe in punishing vice? If they who give a cup of cold water in His Name shall not be left without reward, how great, how incomprehensible must be the reward which a Religious, who aspires to perfection, shall receive for the numberless works of piety which he performs every day! Reward for so many acts of charity, for abstinence, for so many Meditations, Offices, and Communions, for so many acts of mortification, for Spiritual Reading — all of which a Religious who tends to perfection performs every day! Do you not know that these good works performed through obedience, and the other vows of Religious, merit a far greater reward than the good works of seculars? Brother Lacci, of the Society of Jesus, appeared after death to a certain person, and said that he and King Phillip the Second were crowned with bliss, but his own glory as far surpassed that of Philip, as the exalted dignity of a sovereign on earth is raised above the lowly station of a humble Religious.
The dignity of martyrdom is sublime; but the Religious state appears to possess something still more excellent. The Martyr suffers that he may not lose his soul; the Religious suffers to render himself more acceptable to God. A Martyr dies for the Faith; a Religious, for perfection. Although the Religious state has lost much of its primitive splendour, we may still say, with truth, that the souls most dear to God, who have attained the greatest perfection, and who edify the Church by the odour of their sanctity, are, for the most part, to be found in Religion. How many shall we find in the world, even amongst the most fervent, who rise at midnight to pray and sing the praises of God? How many who spend five or six hours each day in these or similar works of piety? Who practise fasting, abstinence, and mortification? How many who observe silence, or accustom themselves to do the will of others rather than their own? And, surely, all these are performed by the Religious of every Order. Even in convents where discipline is relaxed, many are found who aspire to perfection, observe the Rule, and perform, in private, many works of supererogation. It is evident that the conduct of the generality of pious Christians in the world cannot be compared with that of a good Religious. No wonder, then, that St. Cyrian called virgins consecrated to God, the flower of the garden of the Church, and the noblest portion of the flock of Jesus Christ. St. Gregory Nazianzen says Religious “are the first fruits of the flock of the Lord, the pillars and crown of Faith, and the pearls of the Church.” I hold as certain that the greater number of the seraphic thrones, which were left vacant by the fall of the unhappy associates of Lucifer, will be filled by Religious. Out of the sixty, who, during the last Century were enrolled in the Catalogue of Saints, or honoured with the appellation of “Blessed,” all, with the exception of five or six belonged to Religious Orders. Jesus Christ once said to St. Teresa: “Woe to the world but for Religious.” Ruffinus says: “It cannot be doubted that the world is preserved from ruin by the merits of Religious.” When, therefore, the devil affrights you by representing the difficulty of observing your Rule, and practising self-denial and the austerities necessary for salvation, raise your eyes to Heaven, and the hope of eternal beatitude will give you strength and courage to suffer all things. The trials, mortifications, and the miseries of this life will end one day, and to them will succeed the ineffable delights of Paradise, which shall be enjoyed for eternity without fear of failure or of diminution.