Monastic: November 2009 Archives

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A Mirror for Monks

I was fortunate to obtain for our monastic library a lovely used copy of A Mirror for Monks by Ludovicus Blosius. This particular edition, translated by Sir John Duke Coleridge, was published in London in 1872. Penciled inside the front cover is this note: "Non-Catholic translator, but recommended by Dr Newman."

I first came to know of Blosius when I began reading Blessed Abbot Marmion, who often quotes him. Many years ago I also read Blosius (Louis de Blois) in a French edition that was part of the wonderful "Collection Pax" produced by Maredsous at the beginning of the last century.

The following text is drawn from Chapter One:

First and foremost, therefore, I admonish you often and seriously to consider the end of your coming into your monastery; that being dead to the world and yourself, you may live to God. Strive therefore with might and main to accomplish that for which you came; learn strongly to despise all sensible things, and manfully to break, and no less wholesomely to forsake yourself. Make haste to mortify your passions and vicious affections that are in you.

Busy yourself in repressing the unstable wanderings of your heart;
strive to overcome weariness, idleness, and the irksomeness of your
infirm mind. Spend your daily labour in these things; let this be your
glorious contention and healthful affliction. Be not remiss; but arise,
watch, look about you, and expose yourself wholly, lest you be evilly
partial to yourself. God requireth thus much of you; so doth your
state.

You are called a Monk: see that you be truly what you are called. Do
the work of a Monk. Labour earnestly in beating down and casting forth
vice.

Be always armed against the frowardness of nature, against the
haughtiness of mind, against the pleasures of your flesh, and the
enticements of sensuality. Understand well what I say. If you permit
pride, boasting, vainglory, self-complacence, to domineer over your
reason, you are no Monk.

If you frowardly follow your own sense, and dare despise every humble
office, you are not what you are called--you are no Monk.

If as much as in you lieth you repel not envy, hatred, maliciousness,
indignation; if you reject not rash suspicions, childish complaints,
and wicked murmurings, you are no Monk.

If a contentious and earnest strife being risen between you and
another, you do not presently treat of a reconciliation, and what wrong
soever hath been done, you do not presently pardon sincerely, but seek
for revenge, and retain a voluntary private grudge, and not a true and
sincere affection in your heart, or show outwardly signs of
disaffection--nay, if when occasion and necessity requireth, you defer
to help him that hath injured you, you are no Monk, you are no
Christian, you are abominable before God.

If having done amiss, you are ashamed regularly to accuse yourself and
freely to confess your fault; if being blamed, reproved, and corrected,
you be not patient and humble, you are no Monk.

If you neglect readily and faithfully to obey your ghostly Father, if
you refuse to reverence and sincerely to love him as God's vicar, you
are no Monk.

If you willingly withdraw yourself from the Divine Office and other
conventual acts, if you assist not watchfully and reverently in the
service of God, you are no Monk.

If, neglecting internal things, you take care only about the external,
and with a certain dry custom move your body but not your heart to the
works of religion, you are no Monk.

If you give not your mind to holy reading and other spiritual
exercises, if you have your mind so possessed with transitory matters
that you seldom lift yourself up to eternal, you are no Monk.

If you desire delicate and superfluous meats, and intemperately long
after the drinking of wine beyond the measure of a cup, especially if
you be in health, and have beer or other convenient drink sufficiently,
you are no Monk.

If foolishly you require precious apparel, soft beds, and other solaces
of the flesh which agree not with your state and profession; if, loving
corporal rest, you refuse to undergo labour and affliction for God's
sake, you are no Monk.

If you cannot endure solitude and silence, but are delighted with idle
speeches and inordinate laughter, you are no Monk.

If you love to be with seculars, if you desire to wander out of the
monastery through the villages and cities, you are no Monk.

If you presume to take any small matter, to send, receive, or keep any
things without the knowledge or permission of your Superior, you are no
Monk.

If you esteem not the ordinations of holy religion, though never so
little, and willingly do transgress them, you are no Monk. To conclude:
If you seek any other thing in the monastery but God, and with might
and main aspire not to perfection, you are no Monk.

As I have said, therefore, that you may truly be what you are called,
and may not wear the habit of a Monk in vain, do the work of a Monk.
Arm yourself against yourself, and as much as in you lieth overcome and
subdue yourself. If presently you find not the peace you desire; if, I
say, as yet you cannot be at rest, but are troubled and assailed by
brutish motions and turbulent passions: yea, if so be by God's
permission, for your own profit, throughout your whole life you shall
have to do with such enemies, despair not, be not effeminately
dejected, but, humbling yourself before God, stand and be steadfast in
your place, and skirmish stoutly; for even the vessel of election, St.
Paul, endured temptations all his lifetime, in which he was buffeted by
the angel of Satan. When he often beseeched our Lord to be freed from
this trouble he obtained it not, for that it was not expedient for him;
but our Lord answered his prayer, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for
strength is perfected in weakness." And so afterwards St. Paul did
gratefully endure the scourge of temptation.

Being comforted by the example of this most strong and invincible champion, faint not in temptation, but endure manfully, remaining fixed and immoveable in this holy purpose; for without doubt, this labour of yours is grateful to God, although the same seem hard and insufferable to you. Go through this spiritual martyrdom with an invincible mind. Doubt not, although you be a thousand times wounded, and as often trod under foot, if you stand to it, if you give not ground to your enemy and like a coward cast not away your weapons, you shall receive a crown.

Do according to your ability, and commend the rest to God's disposing, saying: As Thy will is in Heaven, so be it done. Let the divine will and ordination be your chief consolation. Which way soever you turn yourself, wheresoever you are, you shall find tribulations and temptations as long as this life lasteth; which, that you may patiently endure, you ought always to be prepared.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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