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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

On cold England, onions and self-will

On vineyards, onions and the necessity for personal holiness.

The self is the soul.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, in his sermons on The Song of Songs, notes in the one entitled, “On the Mystical Vineyards” that there are two dangers for which the great author Solomon warns us.

The first is for those who are in charge of other souls, the priests, bishops, abbots, mother superiors, parents.

Bernard writes, “I am amazed my brethren, at the audacity of some, who are we see, can gather nothing in their own vineyards but ‘thorns and briers’, and who yet have the daring to intrude themselves into the vineyards of the Lord. No keepers, no husbandmen they, but ‘thieves and robbers…”

Bernard continues, “…because, having to watch over many, I am compelled to be less diligent and less solicitous with regard to my own. I am not permitted to ‘make a hedge round about it’,  nor to ‘dig in it a press.’”  He notes that the hedge is “exposed to sadness; it is open to anger and impatience.  The busy ‘little foxes’ of  ‘present necessities’ lay it waste. Anxieties, suspicions, and solicitudes rush in upon it from every side.”

Now, he is referring to the authority given to him as abbot and the care he must take for the souls of his men.  But, the danger is for one to become sterile in one’s own soul, while taking care of others.

Here, he defines the vineyard as the soul.

So, too for parents, this is a warning. Doing all the things which seem to be “present necessities” impinge upon the prayer lives of the family and the parents themselves.

It is no good taking your children to all the extra-curricular activities or school, or going to many social activities, or watching television, or even doing good works, is the parents are not tending to their own souls.

We cannot give what we do not have.

As a parent, I see how easy it is to lie to one’s self and say one is doing something for the kids, when in reality it is merely building up my own status in society or my own self-worth.

Parents, the most important duty you have is not merely to pass on the Faith to your children, but to nurture a prayer life in each one.

Bernard notes that St. Peter was made the First Pope because he became fearless, he became one who had Faith in Christ.

Bernard also states this truism for today: “Yet, how many have rated of more worth than their won salvation a little of that vile thing we call money! St. Paul would not give such a preference even to his life. “Neither”, and here Bernard quotes Paul, “do I count myy life more precious than myself”.

The self is the soul.

If we do not tend to our own soul assiduously, we cannot lead others to Christ.

We become open to falseshoods and even, God forbid, heresies. We look for spiritual guides over than Christ and His Church.

Here is Bernard extrapolating on St. Paul:

“’When I speak of myself’, he seems to say, ‘think of that which is most excellent in me, and in which I stand by the grace of God, namely, my mind and reason. But when I talk of my life, I mean the inferior part of my soul which is employed in animating the body, and constitutes with it the principle of concupiscence. That, I confess, I once made myself to be, but now I do so no longer. For I do not now walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit. “I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me.”’”

Give up your wills, dear parents and leaders and allow all the attractions of the flesh to be crucified, is the advice of Bernard.

I see it in myself, if I do not have custody of the eyes. There are so many temptations. Just walk through Duty Free!

If we lose our souls, we cannot govern ourselves and if we cannot govern ourselves, we cannot govern others.

Why do parents give in to all the whims of their children, who want things and activities, but ignore the deep formation of their souls?

Bernard states that luxury does not lead to wisdom of the soul.

In fact, spurning luxury leads to wisdom of the soul.

He has a sense of humour.

“’Pulse’, thou complainest, ‘produces flatulency, cheese cause indigestion, milk gives me headaches, my chest will not suffer me to drink cold water, cabbage makes me melancholy, I  always feel choleric after onions, fish from the lake or from muddy water does not agree with my constitution.’ What! In all rivers, fields, gardens, cellars, thou canst find scarcely anything fit to be they food!”

Readers, if you are around people who talk only of material things, like vacations, diamonds, food, activities, choose other friends.

Surround yourself with people who, like Bernard, see the need for the eyes of a spiritual soul.

Do not think that these things do not affect your spiritual life.

Bernard concludes this sermon with these words. He exhorts all to die to self, and the visions of self, and the ideas of self, and when one has given one’s soul to Christ, given one’s free will and soul to Him, He will tend the vineyard.

I am distressed at so many parents missing the point of family life by immersing themselves in business.

Holiness demands prayer, silence, an atmosphere of belief and peace in the home.

God bless you all.

And, as I am back now in England, hello to cold and damp.