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once was—the truest, the freest, and the bravest, the best-natured and the best-looking, the happiest and most religious race upon the surface of this globe,-and think of them now, with all their crimes and all their slavish sufferings; their soured spirits, and their stunted forms; their lives without enjoyment, and their deaths without hope, I may well feel for them, even if I were not of their blood." Or again, what country and city of any age was recalled to the life of virtue by those philosophers with whom the monks are so often contrasted, for the purpose of being defamed and vilified? You talk of Seneca-of Lucius Annæus Seneca! Out upon him! He wrote on temperance and fortitude, yet lived like a voluptuous epicure, and died like an effeminate coward." You point at Athens; but assuredly, says a great writer, "if the tree which Socrates planted and Plato watered is to be judged of by its flowers and leaves, it is the noblest of trees. But if we take the homely test of Baconif we judge of the tree by its fruits-our opinion of it may, perhaps, be less favourable. Take the Stoics again. After they had been declaiming eight hundred years, had they made the world better than when they began? Our belief is," adds this writer, "that among the philosophers themselves, instead of a progressive improvement, there was a progressive degeneracy. The truth is, that in those very matters in which alone they professed to do any good to mankind-in those very matters for the care of which they neglected all the vulgar interests of mankind, they did nothing, or worse than nothing. They promised what was impracticable; they despised what was practicable; they filled the world with long words and long beards, and they left it as wicked and as ignorant as they found it." "I thought you taught two vices for one virtue," says Flowerdew, in the Muses' Looking-Glass. "So does philosophy," is the reply.
But it is not alone by books, by lessons, and formal religious instructions that the monks and holy sisters contribute to the moral training of mankind. They produce an influence by their familiar conversations, and even while holding their peace most vocally by their example, which, though not in all respects intended as a rule for other persons, must keep the minds of those who behold or remember them conversant with images of high virtue, and produce an effect in the world like the hayawa-tree in the forests of South America, which perfumes the woods around it. Their very looks are fair examples; their common and indifferent actions, rules and strong ties of virtue. There are sublime merits," says a modern writer; " persons who are not actors, not speakers, but influences-persons too great for fame, for display; who disdain eloquence; to whom all we call art and artist seems too nearly allied to show and by-ends-to the exaggeration of the finite and selfish, and loss of the uni
versal." Unintentionally this is a very accurate picture of the monastic character. The monks of Mount Serrat lived in such retreat that the pilgrims saw them only in the church. But the spiritual profit which was derived from that glimpse, and from hearing what they did, was never questioned. "The sole presence," says Pierre Mathieu, "of a good man, who has no other views but those of religion, can often extinguish bad resolutions. His silence is sufficient to make men abandon a measure as wrong. When one sees a monk become cardinal, who has left nothing of his profession but his hood, undaunted in dangers, happy in adversity, firm in tempests, and with a soul surmounting all the grandeurs of the world as beneath it, one is constrained to confess that he is something more than a common man. Such characters, in fact, have a power to reform, not alone actions, but even thoughts-telles gens sont assez puissans pour reformer non seulement les actions mais encore les pensées *." There is nothing about them, we must repeat it, like that false asceticism which we noted on a former road; nothing like that air of irksome regularity, gloominess, and pedantry attached to the virtuous characters of Richardson, which is so apt to encourage unfortunate associations, though the tales of that author, so strictly moral, were recommended from the pulpit by Sherlock, and compared to the Bible by another learned admirer. 66 Catholics," says Hazlitt, are, upon the whole, more amiable than Protestants +." It is an amiable opponent who can entertain or utter such a thought; but it seems less difficult and meritorious to admit that monastics, at all events, seem free from the defects which often accompany piety in the world. It must strike those who observe them as if they really present and produce many contrasts to the features which this author ascribes to those whom he terms disagreeable people. They are not generally, for instance, "faultfinders, like those persons who are of so teasing and fidgety a turn of mind that they do not give you a moment's rest, every thing going wrong with them. Let you be what you may, they do not seem to speculate upon you, or regard you with a view to an experiment in corpore vili, having the principle of dissection, the determination to spare no blemishes, to cut you down to your real standard. They do not evince an utter absence of the partiality of friendship, of the enthusiasm of affection, like those well-meaning friends on whom a dull, melancholy vapour hangs, that drags them, and every one about them, to the ground; to whose monotonous intercourse even the trifling of summer friends seems preferable. They are not like persons who stop
* Hist. de Hen. IV. liv. ii.
you in an excursion of fancy, or ransack the articles of your belief obstinately and churlishly to distinguish the spurious from the genuine, having no conceptions beyond what they designate as propriety." Intercourse with the old monastic characters would probably yield" that increased kindliness of judgment towards the common world of men who do not show any religious development" that a modern writer speaks of, acknowledging how pleasant it was to him to look on an ordinary face, and see it light up into a smile, and to think with himself, "There is one heart that will judge of me by what I am, and not by a Procrustean dogma."
It is remarkable in the nineteenth century to hear Goethe acknowledge that even the monastic habit exercises an influence for good. On meeting a Benedictine of Monte Cassino in Naples at the house of a friend, he says, “The regular clergy have great advantage in society. Their costume is a mark of humility and renunciation of self, while at the same time it lends to its wearers a decidedly dignified appearance. They may, without degrading themselves, appear submissive, and again their self-respect sits well upon them." It is, perhaps, to the wisdom, the practical popular wisdom, which reigned in these communities, that we may partly ascribe the indulgence and charitable views respecting the faults of mankind which are characteristic of the old Catholic civilization, favouring hopes which will not deceive, and virtues which are merciful. While rigid moralists, like Touchstone, are saying of every poor offender that resembles his apprentice Quicksilver, "Appear terrible unto him on the first interview; let him behold the melancholy of a magistrate, and taste the fury of a citizen in office," the habit of calm contemplation, and of practical familiarity with the misfortunes of the miserable, whom it is their mission to console, render the monks and friars, and all persons consecrated to religion, those tolerant, kind, and charitable characters which they are represented to be by Shakspeare and all our oldest dramatists, who certainly knew them better than the journalists and travellers of the present day. “Men of deep and vehement character in Protestantism," says a remarkable writer, "are liable to be carried away by a stern detestation of what they call the baseness of mankind, till it reacts upon themselves. They think it not worth while to regard how they treat such wretches as they believe mankind to be, or in what light they appear to them. Swift thus speaks of human brutes, declares that he does not value mankind a rush, and that he will never be a philanthropus, because the animal itself is now a creature, taking a vast majority, that he hates more than a toad, a viper, a wasp, a fox, or any other that you would please to add." A man of central principles can never view mankind in such a light as this-ex
clusively in their degradation, or without remembering that it was for such persons Christ died. Catholic principles clear the judgment, and prevent men from taking exaggerated views of human depravity. Moreover, those monks and nuns whose thoughts are now in heaven, were, at some period or another, living in the world like ourselves.
"True, they are purest lipp'd, yet in the lore
Of love deep learned to the red heart's core."
They have known our feelings and sentiments, experienced our weaknesses, and participated in humanity. They are not inclined, therefore, to add a fresh frown to morals or religion. Even from the titles which some of them assume in their consecrated state, as when we hear of Sister Louisa de la Miséricorde, we might infer that their character was indulgent and benign to sinners. We read of others that they were especially attracted by the holy humanity of our Lord; of others, like Mother Magdalen of St. Joseph, that they were kind and charitable to persons of every description, and that they used to love sensibly those who had an affection for them. Holy saints are all relenting sweetness. It is not they who would teach Time to speak eternally of our disgraces, make records to keep them in brass. Madame de Longueville, speaking of the superioress of the Carmelites, says, She used always to speak of persons opposed to her with great kindness and charity, representing their fault in as favourable a point of view as possible. I used to remark, also, that whenever any one in her presence spoke unfavourably of another, whatever that other person might be, if she could not discover an excuse for her, she used to throw the blame on the fragility of nature, and not on the malice of the person; and she used to communicate this disposition to excuse to those who heard her, not merely by her exhortations, but as if imparting to them a share in her grace of charity." It is truly, then, the mind of such persons which a modern poet beautifully unfolds in an anonymous publication. It is the monk or holy sister who will always recognize, in opposition to shallow or unfeeling formalists, that "we've all our angel side." But hear the lines
of our contemporary :
"Despair not of the better part
That lies in human kind-
In e'en the darkest mind.
Despair not! oh! despair not, then,
No nature is so demon-like,
But there's an angel side.
"The huge rough stones from out the mine,
Unsightly and unfair,
Have veins of purest metal hid
Beneath the surface there';
Few rocks so bare but to their heights
"In all there is an inner depth-
Where, through dim windows of the soul,
A faithful sounding chord,
That may be struck, unknown to us,
"Despised, and low, and trodden down,
Oh! that some gentle hand of love
"Brutal, and wild, and dark enough,
But He compassionate comes near,
Our cruse of oil will not grow less,
If shared with hearty hand,
Love is the mighty conqueror
Love is the beauteous guide
Love, with her beaming eye, can see