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the creative faculty of their being. The wild and beautiful apparitions of nature had appealed to sympathetic souls. The stars and winds, the pensive sunset and the sanguine break of morn, the sweet solemnity of night, the ancient trees and the light and evanescent flowers—all signs, and sights, and sounds of loveliness and power, fell on ready eyes and on responsive
Now recurring to what we observed on a former road, one may remark that this choice of locality for retreat, this taste for seclusion and for the natural beauties so often attending it, are significative of the truth of a religion which conferred on men by its moral discipline the power of enjoying such things, and proved in this respect conformable to the desires and sentiments of those men, in all ages, who approach nearest to perfection in wisdom and in virtue. Do you lament for the hermit like the Chorus, saying,
οικτείρω νιν έγωγ', όπως,
δύστανος, μόνος αιεί ή ? But he feels pleasure at being left to the mercy of the fields which give him roots, and of the crystal springs which do not stop their courses, and of the sun which still yields him grateful light.
“ Lo! there a dim Egerian grotto fringed
With ivy-twine, profusely from its brows
Of quiet thought." Prescott, describing Ximenes in the hermitage of Gastañar, a little cabin built with his own hands in a deep forest of chesnuts near the convent of our Lady of Castañar, where he passed his days and nights in prayer and meditation, sustaining life like the ancient anachorites on the green herbs and running waters, expresses surprise that his understanding was not permanently impaired by what he calls these distempered fancies. “It is wonderful,” he says, “ that this should not have been the result. This period of his life, however, seems to have been always regarded by him with peculiar satisfaction.” The fact is, that Catholicism enables some men to enjoy and to turn to profit the solitude of the groves; and that, under its influence, even the horrors of the most savage wilderness became both delightful and instructive ; for, as a poet says,
6 L'ombre et l'abime ont un mystère
Que nul mortel ne pénétra ;
Jusqu'au jour où tout parlera !” View it in what light you will, there is a signal to the centre in the circumstance that Catholicism makes voluntary retreat possible, and even recognizes the utility of seclusion in all ages for some minds, and especially for those men who are to be eminently witnesses to truth. Indeed nearly every one is willing to acknowledge that this index is legible. There are not wanting voices from the farthest limits of philosophy, even at the present day, to require such sacrifices for the sake of the mind. 1. The scholar,” says one of them, “must embrace solitude as a bride. He must be solitary and silent ; he must cherish his soul, expel companions, set his habits to a life of retreat, and then will the faculties rise fair and full within, like forest trees and field flowers ; he will have results, which, when he meets his fellow-men, he can communicate, and they will gladly receive. The garden, the pasture, and the rock are a sort of mechanical aids to this end, and it is for that reason they are of value. The ingenuous soul accepts the hint of spiritual emptiness and waste in society which true nature gives it, and retires and hides, locks the door, and welcomes the hermitage, digests and corrects its past experience, blends it with the new and divine life, and grows with God.” Mankind,” says another author of the same class, “ have such a deep stake in inward illumination, that there is much to be said by the hermit or solitary religious man in defence of his life of thought and prayer." St. Thomas of Villanova appeals to experience in proof that it is good, and says, “ Lo! Christ sits at the mouth of the well. You will find Him solitary. Do not seek Him amidst the multitude, but alone. How well is this known from experience to monks and lovers of solitude who apply to contemplation ! for what are all the pleasures and sweetness of the world compared to the joy which a monk finds within his cell? I speak to those who know this. I need not then delay longer here *." When our Lord knew that they were about to make Him a king, we read, " fugit iterum in montem ipse solus." It is in order to be with Him thus on the mountain that so many have retired to dwell in the wilderness. Morimond was a symbolic name signifying “la mort au monde t." It is this death which explains the whole exterior phenomenon ; and even a modern historian, hostile to Catholicism, discerns some of its advantages even in regard to the human side of life; for he says, “ There was one
* Fev. vi. post 3 Dom. Quad. + Dubois, Hist. de Mor, 21.
thing in the middle ages for which many were grateful to God; it was, that in the obscure confusion of those times men could pass unknown; it was, that many persons lived and died unperceived *.” This choice of theirs is commemorated in the hymn for the feast of St. Fructus, bishop of Segovia, in these lines :
“ Superba tecta civium
Virtutis ad fastigium +." The same renouncement is sired in a later age by one who had learned its wisdom from experience. After describing the troubled state of Rome, Leonardus Arretinus, writing to the bishop of Vicenza, says, “ Ego autem mirum in modum discru. cior, quod non absum, quod non in aliquo urbano vel suburbano, vel denique in aliqua silva inter spelea ferarum abditus hoc tempore lateo, libris studiisque intentus .” There were no doubt periods of the world when the innocent and holy must have felt utter strangers in it; and it was in allusion to such an epoch that Brother Giles used to say that holy monks are like wolves, that hardly ever appear in public places, unless for some great necessity, and that then they are off as quickly as possible g. Many men without their vocation, and even Gentiles, though from a different feeling, have said with the poet, "May the cool grove conceal me from the people.” “ Heureux anachorètes,” exclaims a great modern minister of state," heureux anachorètes, qui pour dapifer aviez un corbeau !” He deemed them happy for having half forgotten what world or worldling meant. There is indeed an humble, popular, industrious, and often suffering world, with which such philosophers are little acquainted, and which at all times may be quite as useful a school as any other for developing the virtues of the human heart ;
* Michelet, Hist. de France, vi. 75. + Arevalus, Hymnodia Hispanica. Epist. lib. iii. 1.
§ Buccius, Lib. Aureus Conform.
but, on the other hand, there is nothing irrational in believing that, even under the most favourable circumstances, there are persons for whom a retreat from the world may be useful. It is not the monk or hermit, but it is the wearied statesman, like Chateaubriand, who exaggerates its importance, saying, “ There is nothing good excepting retreat ;” but still no candid observer will deny the advantages which may accrue to some men from taking refuge in a life of solitude. A great English writer says, He who lives wisely to himself forgets himself in the interest he takes in what is passing in the busy world which he looks at through the loop-holes of retreat, not wanting to mingle in the fray. It is as if no one knew there was such a person, and he wished no one to know it. It is such a life as a pure spirit might be supposed to lead, and such an interest as it might take in the affairs of men, calm, contemplative, passive, distant, touched with pity for their sorrows, smiling at their follies without bitterness, sharing their affections, but not troubled by their passions.” The ancients themselves, for some reason or other, greatly esteemed a mode of life resembling the eremitical, insomuch that they gave examples of men choosing to live in sylvan retreat. Pliny speaks of one who lived forty years on the top of the mountain Tmolus*; and the tragic poet recognized some advantages resulting from such a life when he represented Agamemnon saying to an old servant, I envy your retreat."
ζηλώδ' ανδρών δς ακίνδυνον
τους δ' εν τιμαίς ήσσον ζηλώ. Of course the motives in these cases were not the same as when Christians retired from the world ; for if the latter fixed their dwelling in a solitude like that hermitage dedicated to Nuestra Señora de la Aurora, commanding that delicious view from an eminence in Valencia, we must remember that their retreat was entered upon with a view of benefiting others rather than of merely gratifying a selfish predilection ; but of this we must reserve proof for a future occasion. For the present it is sufficient to observe that the existence of hermitages, and of such stations for solitary men as the word monastery, from orýplov, a station, implies, proves that in the Catholic Church has been perpetuated the spirit, and even the life, of the ancient prophets; for, as Trithemius asks, “ What did Elias perform which the Carmelite brethren do not imitate I?” Antonio de Escobar observes that the chain of such men has never been
# N. H. vii. 49.
+ Iph. in Aul. 17. # Trithem, de Laudibus Ord. Carmelit.
broken. “ The Jews,” he says, “ thought that John was Elias, from the similitude of his dress ; and Gabriel predicted that he would precede the Messiah in the spirit of Elias, both inhabiting the desert. Thus the spirit of Elias, by a continued series of religious men, was transmitted through John to the monks and hermits of the middle ages. St. Chrysostom expressly styles John a monk, and exclaims, • Happy are they who imitate him, living in the wilderness, than whom, amongst the born of woman, no one was ever greater *!'”
The opponents of Catholicity, in the sixteenth century, in attempting to disprove the similarity, had recourse to singular devices. They would not even allow that St. John the Baptist wore a rough garment. It was only kamlot, said they, Anglicè camlet. It was in that country a very respectable kind of dress, kooulos, urbana ac civilis t. But the continuance and transmission of the same character was a fact not to be evaded, and certainly no one should take leave of the hermitages without remarking the signal which is furnished by the wonderful gifts possessed, age after age, by those inhabiting them. Yes, this life of consecrated solitude has produced in Christian times examples of that grace which raises human nature to a surprising elevation above itself. If we sought a forest analogy, we might say that as an oak, or any other tree which grows alone, or on the outside of a forest, is always more firin and unbending than one growing in sheltered places ; so does the hermit appear upon the page of history invested with an eminent degree of fortitude and independence. It is not a learned man that we shall find here, which accounts perhaps for Johnson qualifying the hermit who accompanied Milton from Rome to Naples as а companion from whom little could be expected."
After mature consideration,” say the constitutions of Camaldoli,“ our fathers decided that the study of letters should not be pursued in our hermitages ; for the eremitical life requires not much science, but much devotion and fervour ; since its end is to folJow the way of the spirit, and to dwell mentally in the cell with God I.” For this very reason, however, an archbishop of Toledo, in the fifth century, who had been a hermit of St. Augustin, speaks in one of his epistles with delight of the eremitical character, saying, “ Utinam mihi fide simplici, quam Catholica per universum mundum docet Ecclesia, sic donet Deus esse contentum, ut omni si fieri potest, hujus vitæ miserabili tempore orationi et jejuniis vacans plangam cum pusillis fratribus meis delicta multa !” But, not to remark that even these hermits
* In Evang. Comment. tom. vi. 82.