With Jesus, the interior soul hears the voice of the world’s crime rising up to heaven and calling down chastisement upon the guilty; and this soul delays the sentence by the omnipotence of suppliant prayer, which is able to stay the hand of God, just when He is about to let loose His thunderbolt. “Those who pray,” said the eminent statesman Donoso Cortes, after his conversion, “do more for the world than those who fight, and if the world is going from bad to worse, it is because there are more battles than prayers.” “Hands uplifted,” said Bossuet, “rout more battalions than hands that strike.” And in the midst of their desert, the solitaries of the Thebaid often had burning in their hearts the fire that animated St. Francis Xavier. “They seemed to some,” said St. Augustine, “to have abandoned the world more than they should have.” Videntur nonnullis res humanas plus quam oportet deseruisse. But, he adds, people forget that their prayers, purified by this complete separation from the world, were all the more powerful and more NECESSARY for a depraved society.
And yet now, after fifty years of freedom of education in France, after this half century
that has beheld the birth of works without number, and during which we have
had, in our hands, the youth of the land, and have enjoyed the almost complete support of
the various governments, how is it that, in spite of results that appear, outwardly, to be
quite striking, we have been unable to form, in our nation, a majority with enough real
Christianity in it to fight against the coalition of the followers of Satan?
No doubt, the abandonment of the liturgical life and the cessation of its influence
upon the faithful have contributed to this impotence. Our spirituality has become narrow,
dry, superficial, external, or altogether sentimental; it does not have the penetration and
soul-stirring power that only the Liturgy, that great source of Christian vitality, can give.
But is there not another cause to be traced to the fact that we priests and educators,
because we lack an intense inner life, are unable to beget in souls anything more than a
surface piety, without any powerful ideals or strong convictions? Those of us who are
professors: have we not, perhaps, been more ambitious for the distinction of degrees and
for the reputation of our colleges than to impart a solid religious instruction to souls?
Have we not worn ourselves out on less important things than forming of wills, and
imprinting on well-tried characters the stamp of Jesus Christ?
And has not the most
frequent cause of this mediocrity been the common banality of our inner life?
If the priest is a saint (the saying goes), the people will be fervent; if the priest is
fervent, the people will be pious; if the priest is pious, the people will at least be decent.
But if the priest is only decent, the people will be godless. The spiritual generation is
always one degree less intense in its life than those who beget it in Christ.
Soul of The Apostolate