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"What a sweet being is an honest mind!
Thus St. Peter of Alcantara appeased and terminated the quarrels which had so long reigned in Placentia between persons of the first quality*. Similarly, in 1454, the two brothers Frederick and William, dukes of Saxony, were reconciled to each other by John, the seventeenth abbot of Porta; for, being invited to a conference, the abbot reminding them facetiously of the verse of the psalm, "Non confundetur, cum loquetur inimicis suis in Porta," spoke with such success that they were made friends †.
An amusing instance, somewhat similar, is thus related:St. Erminold was abbot of Prufeningen, at Ratisbon; it was he who closed his gates against the Emperor Henry. The people of the abbey of St. Emmeran used frequently to trouble those of his community. On one occasion the former sent workmen to dig a trench to mark the limits of the two properties, by means of which those of St. Prufeningen would have been much curtailed to the advantage of the others. The holy abbot hearing of this work, went to the spot as if to look on, and about midday, when the labourers were fatigued, he invited them to take refreshment at his table. They complied, and so fascinated were they with his benignity and charity, that on rising from table they declared they would not continue the work, but, on the contrary, put an end to it; and thus, the rustics execrating the avarice of their employers, proceeded to fill up the trench which they had made. The result was the conversion of the monks of St. Emmeran, who never afterwards molested their holy neighbours. To the very last hour of their existence the monasteries sent forth peace-makers. Thus when the rustic inhabitants of Sachsenhausen rose up in tumult against their parish priest, John Lindemann, who began to insinuate Lutheran opinions, Peter, the abbot of Porta, made peace between them, laying down a certain number of most wise articles §. Moreover, by their example all members of the monastic family may be said to give lessons daily on the advantages of peace. Men could read them in that sweet tameness dwelling on their brows. Hence, say the rules of the Dominicans, "Gravis culpa est, si quis inhoneste in audientia secularium cum aliquo contenderit― si frater cum fratre intus vel extra lites habuerit ||." In common families, in spite of those happy tempers that would make "all serene," if they could have their way, no one need be told for what a slight cause the peace of a whole house is often trou
Marchese, i. 16.
Bavaria Sancta, i. 726.
|| Constitutiones Frat. Ord. Præd.
§ Chronic. Portensis.
bled. There are persons in the world, like the man in the old play, who would quarrel with a boy for cracking nuts because his own eyes were hazel. "I know not one house," says the Princess to Rasselas, "that is not haunted by some fury that destroys their quiet." There are even whole nations, that need not be named, in which the spirit of contradiction in trifles seems to be the prevailing passion. Few contrasts can be greater than that which a monastery presents in this respect. "No, there are throned seats unscalable but by a patient wing, a constant spell;" and here are those who have attained them. Who has not heard some trait of the patience of the monks and holy sisters, and what comfort they did find in being so calm? As Candido says,
"Patience, my lord! why, 'tis the soul of peace:
Of all the virtues, 'tis nearest kin to heaven."
This soft, meek, patient, humble, tranquil spirit reared these men aloft, made them and angels kiss, and sweetened by its influence many injuries sustained by others living in the world who only heard of it; for who could be unmoved to forgiveness when he had seen these men bear all injuries, as the ocean suffers the angry bark to plough through her bosom, and yet is presently so smooth that the eye cannot perceive where the wide wound was made? As Julio says, in the tragedy of " The Duke of Milan," "I have read strange stories of the passive fortitude of men in former ages, which I thought impossible and not to be believed; but now I look on you my wonder ceases." Oh, a soul like theirs, constant in patience! it is not danger can make this cheek grow pale, nor injury call blood into it.
From all these observations it is evident that each religious house must contribute more or less to the tranquillity and union of the world. St. Bridget declares that on receiving the rule for her order she had a divine assurance that it would conduce to peace on earth. "In omni regno seu terra aut civitate," she heard, " in quibus monasteria hujus regulæ cum vicarii mei licentia, constructa fuerint, augebitur ibi pax et concordia *." But if monasteries serve the purpose of promoting external tranquillity, what shall be said of the internal peace which reigns within them, and emanates from them, since the mere thought of what is there enjoyed is found to shed a calm happiness on others? "When we think," says St. Augustin, "of our brethren who enjoy rest and peace, we in the midst of our anxieties find refreshment, as if we ourselves were living with them +." And again, writing to Eudoxius, abbot of the monks of the island of Capraria, he says, "When we think of the quiet which you enjoy
* Regula Salvatoris, c. 31, Rev. S. Brigit. 711.
in Christ, we also, though amidst various and painful labours, find repose in your charity, for we are one body under one head; so that you are occupied in us, and we have rest in you*."
Antonio de Guevara cites Marcus Aurelius, saying, “ What does it profit a man to have studied much, read and heard much, travelled and seen much, if, after all his labours, he cannot retire to some place where he can find rest?" The best remedy for human minds, say the lovers of peace, the surest way to harmonize our moral powers, is to have recourse to the supreme peace to take refuge in God. Hence men offered themselves and their treasures to places set apart for his more especial service. St. Peter of Alcantara used to say to his monks, My children, peace and love are the arms of the soul, with which it embraces all virtues. Peace renders the soul capable of possessing God, whose place is in peace, so that all depends on our retaining peace. Charity will never suffer you to believe evil of others: you must turn away your eyes from it, and be as if you saw it not. When any one is clearly guilty, think of his good qualities and believe them of him, and never judge him. Discover good in evil, and be not like the world, which finds evil in the best things +."
A religious house seems to realize the wish of the poet,—
"Pax secura locis, et desidis otia vitæ,
Et nunquam turbata quies, somnique peracti.
Nulla foro rabies, aut strictæ jurgia legis,
Morum jura viris; solum, et sine fascibus æquum‡.”
To those who view it from the troubled sea of the worldly life, it is like a lighthouse to the mariners,
Trepidis ubi dulcia nautis
Or we may say that it resembles a harbour of refuge to those who have been in danger of perishing; and each may hear on coming to it,
"Be thankful thou; for, if unholy deeds
"What a happy asylum," says the Baron de Prelle, "is furnished for some old persons in the monasteries! We have seen," he continues, "Monsieur Sublet, maistre des comptes, father of the secretary of state, becoming a widower in his sixtieth year, leave the bosom of his family and enter the Carthusian order, as Madame de Marillac and Madame Poncet, at the same
age, in their widowhood have embraced the order of Carmelites. I have often considered," he continues, " many great monasteries even of the Carthusians established for solitude in the midst of great cities, and I have found there, amidst all this turmoil of the raging world around them, solitude and peace *. Now peace is divine, and therefore a religion which, by means of its institutions, without compromising any principle of wisdom or virtue, conduces to peace, both external and interior, both in the political, social order, and in the spiritual, internal region of human hearts, cannot but be true.
THE ROAD OF RETREAT (pursued).
NOTHER avenue, through which the truth of Catholicity is visible from the road of retreat, is constituted by the character of intellectual and moral greatness which the monastic life has been found to involve. That life in general implied retreat, but not exclusion from mankind, greater security from vice, but not by retiring from the exercise of virtue; and accordingly that state is found to yield men who, as a living writer says, strong to live as well as strong to think;" who have always the resource to live; who exemplify his observation that character is higher than intellect; for whom calamity, drudgery, and want are instructors in eloquence and wisdom; whose thought is fed by experience, as satin is formed out of the mulberry-leaf; who know what labour of all kinds is; whose very vocabulary is gained by their life of action. Your medieval monk did not want to be always tied to the same question, as if there were no other in the world. As Hazlitt says of himself, he liked a mind more catholic.
"He loved to talk with mariners
He thought it well to hear what other people had to say on a number of subjects. He was not always respiring the same
* Consid. sur la Vieillesse, &c. 324.
atmosphere," shut up in mysteries, his mind wrapped like his mantle ;" but necessarily in fulfilling some of his especial duties he often varied the scene, and got relief and fresh air out of doors. Catholicism under the hood forms men in whom, as an old poet says, "the humours and elements are peaceably met, without emulation of precedency; who are neither too fantastically melancholy, too slowly phlegmatic, too lightly sanguine, nor too rashly choleric, but in all composed and ordered. Their discourse is like their behaviour, uncommon, but not unpleasing; they are prodigal of neither; they strive rather to be that which men call judicious, than to be thought so; and they are so truly learned that they affect not to show it. They will think and speak their thought both freely, but as distant from depraving another man's merit as proclaiming their own." It produces men who have a most ingenuous and sweet spirit, a sharp and seasoned wit, a straight judgment, and a strong mind. Fortune can never break them or make them less. It is a competency to them that they can be virtuous. They neither covet nor fear; they have too much reason to do either, and that commends all things to them. What other state of life has produced men more remarkable for intelligence and practical goodness combined? Let it be observed, too, that without the grossest injustice one cannot exclude from this number those who are chiefly known to our age as having been canonized, and held up on sacred dypticks examples of sanctity and of martyrdom; for what strength of character do such acts denote! Sanctity is greatness. "A great man," says the author of Coningsby, "is one who affects the mind of his generation, whether he be a monk in his cloister, or a monarch on the field or in his cabinet." Now Trithemius reckons 55,000 canonized saints of the order of St. Benedict alone, while others affirm that there are more than 200,000 saints of the order. "When a boy," says Antonio de Escobar, "I saw the solemnity of exposing, at the monastery of Cardenia, the bodies of its 200 martyrs in one day." Down to the year 1490, there had been created from the Benedictin order, as Trithemius says, 18 popes, 200 cardinals, 1600 archbishops, and 4000 bishops *. Francesco Monsignori painted in the church of the monks of Monte Oliveto, at Verona, figures of all those brethren of the order of St. Benedict who have been exalted to the pontificate, along with figures of emperors, kings, dukes, and other princes who made themselves monks of that order. Vasari remarks the extraordinary grandeur of their countenances, and he says that the artist copied them from living members. Now these pontiffs are men who seldom forgot the discipline which had formed them to greatness. They always remembered the monastic obliga
* Ant. de Escob. in Evang. Comment. tom. vii. 10.