Imitation of Christ,
by Thomas á Kempis: Book 1, Chapter 18
On the examples
of the Holy Fathers.
Look upon the lively
examples of the holy Fathers in whom shone real perfection and the religious
life, and you will see how little it is, and almost nothing that we do. Alas,
what is our life when we compare it with theirs? Saints and friends of Christ,
they served our Lord in hunger and in thirst, in cold, in nakedness, in labor
and in weariness, in watching, in fasting, prayers and holy meditations,
and in frequent persecutions and reproaches. Oh, how many grievous tribulations
did the Apostles suffer and the Martyrs and Confessors and Virgins, and all
the rest who resolved to follow the steps of Christ! For they hated their
lives in this world, that they might keep them in life everlasting. Oh what
a strict and self-renouncing life the holy Fathers of the desert led! What
long and grievous temptations did they bear! How often were they harassed
by the enemy, what frequent and fervent prayers did they offer up to God,
what rigorous abstinence did they practice!
What a valiant contest waged they to subdue their imperfections! What purity
and straightforwardness of purpose kept they towards God! By day they labored,
and much of the night they spent in prayer; though while they labored, they
were far from leaving off mental prayer. They spent all their time profitably.
Every hour seemed short to spend with God; and even their necessary bodily
refreshment was forgotten in the great sweetness of contemplation. They renounced
all riches, dignities, honors and kindred; they hardly took what was necessary
for life. It grieved them to serve the body even in its necessity. Accordingly,
they were poor in earthly things, but very rich in grace and virtues.
for the 12-Day Preparatory Period