IV. SUBJUGATION OF THE CARNAL MAN.
Our first duty in the practice of mortification is the subjugation of the carnal man. This we accomplish by assuming an attitude towards our environment which will be favorable for the development of virtue, and by acquiring those habits that, according to the teaching and example of our divine Model, must serve as the basis of the interior life.
1. Spirit of Retirement.
"Go forth out of thy comfort, and from thy kindred, and out of thy father's house, and come into the land which I will show thee. And I will make thee great and bless thee and magnify thy name'' (Gen. xii. 1).
These words the Almighty addressed to Abraham of old. He repeats them to every soul of good will. To be His devoted children we must withdraw at least in spirit from that world which is at enmity with God. We hearken to this invitation of the Lord by cultivating a spirit of retirement. This spirit consists (1) in being indifferent to the follies of the world; (2) in shunning notoriety; (3) in appearing in public only when actuated by some good reason. ''God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified unto me" (Gal. vi, 14).
2. Plain Dwelling.
''I have chosen to be an abject in the house of God, rather than dwell in the tabernacles of sinners" (Ps. Ixxxiii. 11). To cultivate a spirit of retirement we must banish the spirit of the world from our homes. The greatest slaves of the world make their dwellings places of luxury and cultivate a haughty reserve in their conduct. A true child of God, however, manifests his indifference to the follies of the world as well as his spirit of faith in the erection and furnishing of his earthly dwelling without violating the canons of taste or sacrificing his station in life. He manifests his simple, Christian taste especially in decorating his home with the images of his crucified Master, of the Virgin Mother, and of the saints, and thus he hopes, after dwelling in intimate union with them on earth, to be found worthy one day to dwell with them in the mansions of heaven.
3. Modest Dress
The Scriptures tell us that our first parents invented clothing to cover their nakedness. In our day clothing is often a necessary protection against the inclemency of the weather. But the fashions of dress are indicative of Christian modesty, or of a worldly spirit. For this reason St. Paul wrote: “Let your modesty be known to all men'' (Phil, iv. 5). For the same reasons the world makes use of clothes to gratify its desire of luxury and thereby seduces many thoughtless souls.
As children of God we must therefore (1) remember that our clothes should indicate our Christian modesty; (2) dress according to our station in life; (3) prefer utility and modesty in dress to style or fashion; (4) and guard against taking scandal from the immodest clothing of the slaves of the world — ''There is a shame that bringeth glory and grace" (Eccles. iv. 25).
4. Plain Fare
The world deifies the flesh and worships it by ministering to its cravings. According to St. Paul those are the slaves of the world, '' whose end is destruction; whose God is their belly; and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things" (Phil. iii. 19). We must indeed eat to live, but we should not live to eat. The slaves of the world gratify their vanity and pervert their taste by serving costly viands, and they degrade themselves and court sickness and death by intemperance in eating and drinking. Plain fare on the other hand is more nutritious, more easily digested, and more conducive to health, happiness, and a ripe old age.
"The simplicity of the just shall guide them" (Prov. xi. 3). Simplicity is that fidelity to truth which abhors all duplicity and deception. Truth is from God, deception from Satan. Hence the Savior says: "Let your speech be yea, yea; no, no: and that which is over and above this is of evil" (Matt. v. 37).
Simplicity in thought, word, and deed makes us (1) humble in our own estimation; (2) pleasing in the sight of God; (3) honorable among men; (4) confiding in God; (5) and generous towards our neighbor.
Cheerfulness is the disposition of looking on the bright side of life. It manifests itself in looks, words, and actions that have a soothing influence on all present. Cheerfulness results from a conscientious performance of duty, united to a strong trust in divine Providence.
Cheerfulness has a tendency to lighten our burdens, to sweeten our sorrows, and to give us a relish for labor, endurance, and prayer. It disposes us to be generous with God, indulgent with our neighbor, and forgetful of ourselves. No wonder, then, that the Scripture says: "God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. ix. 7.)
7. Habit of Industry.
A habit of industry is a disposition for work. Labor is life's first law. "If any man will not work, neither let him eat" (2 Thess. iii. 10). A habit of industry is conducive to happiness (1) by giving us an object in life; (2) by compelling us to take exercise, which is necessary for the preservation of health; (3) by supplying diversion for the mind; (4) by giving us profitable occupation for our time; (5) by imparting a relish to our recreation; (6) by insuring rest in our repose; (7) by keeping us from vice; (8) by disposing us to help a neighbor in need. A habit of industry is likewise essential to success. It (1) teaches concentration of our energies; (2) imparts method to our procedure, (3) and insures perseverance in our efforts.
Finally, a habit of industry disposes us for a Christian life (1) by teaching us self -discipline; (2) by giving us the mastery over ourselves; (3) and by grounding us in natural virtue.
8. Patient Endurance.
It is impossible to escape all suffering in this valley of tears. Our only choice in the matter is between the patient endurance of the sufferings Providence sends us, or the enforced endurance of the greater sufferings of our own choice.
Patient endurance of the sufferings of life (1) gives stability of character; (2) grounds us in self-knowledge; (3) dispels delusions; (4) detaches us from things of earth; (5) broadens our sympathies for struggling mankind; (6) disposes us for the grace of God; (7) and leads to solid virtue and true spiritual progress.
Patient endurance in the trials of life is facilitated (1) by not wasting our energies about the past; (2) by not worrying about the future; (3) by not magnifying our present trials; (4) by recalling the sufferings of Christ and His saints; (5) by cultivating conformity to the holy will of God.
9. Avoidance of Singularity.
Singularity is affectation in practical life. As humility produces simplicity, so pride be- gets singularity. Singularity is primarily a vice of the interior, but manifests itself exteriorly in various ways. According to its particular tendency it poses (1) in the seriousness of the magistrate; (2) in the science of the learned; (3) in the independence of the rich; (4) and even in the humility and devotion of a Christian soul. Singularity (1) gives a false view of the minor affairs of life; (2) pursues fancies instead of acquiring solid virtue; (3) multiplies one's cares; (4) and imparts the impression that those who practise it are not quite sound of mind.
The remedy for singularity is "to put off the old man, and put on the new man, who is created in justice, holiness, and truth'' (Eph. iv. 22).
10. Home Life
Home life consists of our conduct in the family circle. The qualities that contribute to its happiness are sincerity, charity, cheerfulness, cordiality, patience, and a spirit of sacrifice.
There is a profound attachment in every heart for that sacred spot we call Home. It is en- shrined in the fondest memories of our earlier days. Though the lapse of time may have changed our abode, our home is always the place where those dwell whom we love and trust, our safe retreat from an unsympathetic world, the reward of our labor and sacrifice, and the natural source of our energy and strength.
In the struggle and conflict of daily life we may be forced to put on an exterior reserve and retire into our inner selves to preserve peace of mind and heart. But at home, if our interior be unselfish, we may safely lay aside all reserve and enjoy the peace of security and familiar intercourse with our own.
Recreation is relaxation after the strain and strife of duty. It is necessary to relax and renew our energies from time to time, if we are to bear the burdens that await us. Three things may be remarked in regard to our recreations.
(1) Recreation should be an innocent relaxation, suited to our age and station in life. For some it may take the form of physical exercise, for others a social visit with friends may be more profitable, while a third class may find sufficient recreation in a change of occupation.
(2) To balance the mind recreation should be taken with moderation. Over-indulgence will dissipate instead of recreating our energies, while a want of recreation will make us dull and mechanical.
(3) Congenial surroundings contribute very much to our recreation. Under normal circumstances the home is the best place for our recreations, though on special occasions we may take our recreation away from home without injuring home life.
12. Care of Health.
Life and health are gifts of God. In bestowing them upon us He also imposed the obligation of caring for our health and thereby prolonging life. Both extremes should be avoided in fulfilling this obligation. "Be not solicitous therefore,” warns the Savior, "saying, What shall we eat: or, what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed?” (Matt. vi. 31).
On the other hand St. Paul says: "Know you not that you are the temples of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? But if any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy'' (1 Cor. iii. 16). We would manifest an inordinate care of health (1) by unnecessarily thinking, talking, and worrying about it; (2) by developing fads and eccentricities in caring for it; (3) by neglecting our duty on account of it ; (4) by being more solicitous about the body than about the soul.
We would be wanting in the proper care of our health (1) if we did something positively to injure it; (2) if we did not use the ordinary means of preserving it; (3) if we wantonly exposed it to danger; (4) if we refused medical aid when sick.
Friends are persons who cherish a mutual attachment and have one another's welfare at heart. Affability, cheerfulness, and integrity give our intercourse with acquaintances that flavor which enables us to make friends. Thinking of them with affection, trusting them cordially, and doing them a favor whenever the opportunity presents itself, enables us to cement the bonds of friendship.
We should (1) be careful in the selection of our friends; (2) have but a few; (3) be faithful to them unto death; (4) gladly make their interest our own. Listen to the advice of Sacred Scripture: "Be at peace with many, but let one of a thousand be thy counselor. If thou wouldst get a friend, try him before thou takest him, and do not credit him easily. For there is a friend of his own occasion, and he will not abide in the day of trouble. And there is a friend that turneth to enmity; and there is a friend that will disclose hatred and strife and reproaches. And there is a friend a companion at thy table, and he will not abide in the day of distress. A friend if he continues steadfast, shall be to thee as thyself, and shall act with confidence in thy household. A faithful friend is a strong defense: and he that hath found him, hath found a treasure. Nothing can be compared to a faithful friend, and no weight of gold or silver is able to countervail the goodness of his fidelity. A faithful friend is the medicine of life and immortality; and they that fear the Lord shall find him. He that feareth God shall likewise have good friendship; because according to him shall also his friend be" (Eccles. vi. 6-17).
14. Catholic Spirit.
A Catholic spirit makes us loyal children of God. This spirit is made of four things: (1) Catholic views, which harmonize not only with dogmatic teaching, but also with the opinions of our ecclesiastical superiors; (2) Catholic desires, desires for the glory of God, the welfare of His Church, and for the temporal and eternal happiness of mankind; (3) a Catholic instinct which identifies us so intimately with Jesus Christ that it readily detects and abhors whatever is foreign to His spirit; (4) a Catholic life, a life actuated so completely by the teaching of the Catholic Church that it devoutly spends itself in the faithful discharge of its Christian duties.
A Catholic spirit (1) makes us living, active members of Christ's mystical body on earth by identifying us with the congregation in which we live; (2) it gives us the true liberty and peace of children of God; (3) and it enables US to exercise a most powerful influence for the good of the community.
To acquire a Catholic spirit we must cultivate humility, docility, generosity, and fervor in the service of God.
15. Intercourse with the World.
On earth the children of God must have more or less intercourse with the people of the world. To guard them against injury and scandal in these dealings with mankind the Savior gave His followers a practical rule of conduct when He said : ''Be ye wise as serpents and simple as doves" (Matt. x. 16). We must be wise or prudent without being crafty and charitable without being foolish. To exercise this prudence we must avoid all rash judgments, words, and actions on the one hand, and on the other give no one our trust or confidence till they have shown themselves worthy of it. "Separate thyself from thy enemies, and take heed of thy friends" (Eccles. vi. 13). We are simple as doves when (1) we do nothing in look, word, or deed to deceive our neighbor; (2) when we edify him by our self-possession, and by the integrity of our speech and deportment; (3) and especially by our forbearance and Christian charity.
To avoid the dissipation of the world we should therefore (1) not appear among the people of the world without a reason; (2) guard against the principles, maxims, standards, and motives of the world; (3) guard against injuring others in any way; (4) let the light of our good example shine in the darkness of the world; (5) avail ourselves of every opportunity of converting the world to Jesus Christ.
16. Christian Charity.
Christian charity is that divine virtue whereby we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. The infallible test of Christian charity is our charity towards our neighbor. The noblest acts of fraternal charity are summed up in the Seven Corporal, and the Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy.
The Corporal Works of Mercy are: (1) to feed the hungry; (2) to give drink to the thirsty; (3) to clothe the naked; (4) to ransom the captive; (5) to harbor the harborless; (6) to visit the sick; (7) to bury the dead.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy are: (1) to admonish the sinner; (2) to instruct the ignorant; (3) to counsel the doubtful; (4) to comfort the sorrowful; (5) to bear wrongs patiently; (6) to forgive all injuries; (7) to pray for the living and the dead.
St. Thomas calls mercy the greatest of the moral virtues. And our divine Savior Himself declares that at the general judgment He will pronounce sentence upon mankind according to the works of mercy they have performed.
“Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me'' (Matt xxv. 40). Hence St. Paul, so zealous in the cause of his Master, exhorted his converts: “Put ye on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, the bowels of mercy'' (Col in. 12).
Patriotism is love for one's native or adopted country. It was implanted in the human heart by God when He made man a social being.
Patriotism manifests itself (1) in an esteem of one's country; (2) in attachment to it; (3) in the observance of its just laws; (4) in furthering the general welfare by one's influence, especially by a conscientious use of the ballot; (6) in serving one's country faithfully; (7) and in dying for one's country if circumstances require it.