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Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi
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CHAPTER VI


OF SLOTH


The slothful man loseth both this world and the next, because he brings forth no fruit in himself, and is of no profit to others.

It is impossible for a man to acquire any virtue without diligence and great labour. When thou canst stand in a place of safety, stand not in a place of danger.

He standeth in a safe place who painfully and diligently labours and toils in God, and for the Lord his God, not for fear of punishment or hopes of reward, but for the love of God. The man who refuses to labour and suffer for the love of Christ, truly refuses to share the glory of Christ; and thus, inasmuch as diligence is useful and profitable to us, so is negligence hurtful and dangerous.

As sloth is the way to hell, so is holy diligence the way to heaven.

Most solicitous and diligent ought a man to be in acquiring and preserving virtue and the grace of God by constant faithful co-operation with the grace vouchsafed to him; for it often happens that he loses the fruit among the leaves, and the grain amid the straw. On some our good God graciously bestows fruit with but few leaves; to others He gives fruit and leaves together; others, again, there are, who have neither fruit nor leaves. It seems to me a greater thing to know well how to guard and secretly to preserve the fruits and graces vouchsafed to us by God, than to know how to obtain them; for though a man know well how to acquire and gather up wealth, yet, if he know not well how to store it up and to preserve it, he will never be rich; while another, who carefully treasures up what by little and little he has acquired, becomes a man of great wealth.

Oh, how great a quantity of water the Tiber contain, did none of it flow away in other channels!

Man asks of God an infinite gift, a gift which hath no measure and no bound, yet he will but love God by measure and within bounds. He who desires to be loved by God, and to receive from him an infinite, immense and superabundant reward, ought to love God supremely and immensely, and to serve him without limit or cessation. Blessed is he who loves God with all his heart and with all his mind, who labours and suffers with mind and body for the love of God, and yet seeks no reward under heaven, but accounts himself only to be his debtor.

If one man were exceedingly poor and needy, and another were to say to him: “I will lend thee something very precious for the space of three days; and know, that if thou turn this thing to good account within the space of these three days, thou shalt gain infinite treasure, and become rich for evermore”; certain it is that this poor man would be most diligent in turning that precious thing to the best possible account. And so I say to thee, that the thing which God hath lent to us is our body, which is his goodness he hath lent for three days; inasmuch as our whole life here below may be compared to three days.

If, then, thou wouldst be rich, and eternally enjoy the sweetness of his divine presence, strive to make the best profit thou canst of this loan from the hand of God for the space of these three days, to wit, of this thy body, which he hath lent thee for the brief space of thy mortal life; for if thou art not diligent to labour and traffic in this present life whilst yet thou hast time, thou shalt never enjoy everlasting riches, nor repose eternally in the peaceful rest of heaven.

But if all the wealth of the world were in the hands of a man who made no use of it, either for himself or others, what would it profit either him or them? Assuredly it would be of no use or benefit whatsoever.

On the other hand, a man who possesses little, by turning that little to good account, may bring forth abundant fruit, both for himself and for others.

There is a proverb of this world which says: “Never set an empty pot to boil on the fire, expecting thy neighbour to come and fill it.” And in like manner the good God will not have thee to leave any grace empty and unused; because he never gives a single grace to any man that it should remain unused, but he gives it, on the contrary, that it should be filled and used by the performance of good works; for a good will is not sufficient unless a man fulfill it, carrying it into effect by good works.

Said a begger man once to Brother Giles, “Father, I pray thee, give me some little consolation”; to whom Brother Giles made answer: “My brother, strive to stand well with God, and then shalt thou have the consolation thou needest; for unless a man prepare within his soul a fair dwelling, in which God may abide and rest, he will never find peace or home or consolation amongst creatures.”

When any man wisheth to do evil, he needeth not much counsel how to do it; but to do well he taketh much counsel, and maketh long delay. Brother Giles said once to his companions: “My brethren, it seems to me that there is no one nowadays who wishes to do those things which he sees to be most profitable to him both in soul and body. Believe me, my brethren, for I can swear it in all truth, that the more a man shuns and avoids the yoke of Christ, the more grievous he makes it to himself, and the more heavily it weighs upon him; while the more generously a man takes it up, lending himself willingly to its weight, the lighter and the sweeter will he find it to bear. Now it is the will of God that man should labour in this world for the good of the body, provided he neglect not the good of his soul; for soul and body, without any manner of doubt, shall be united together to suffer or to enjoy for all eternity; to wit, either to suffer eternally in hell inconceivable pains and torments, or to enjoy with the saints and angels in Paradise perpetual joys and unspeakable consolations, as the reward of good works. But if a man do good without humility, it shall be turned into evil; for many there are who have done works good and praiseworthy to the eye, but because they wanted humility the works have become corrupt, thus showing that they sprang from pride; for such as have their root in humility never decay.”

A friar once said to Brother Giles: “Father, it seems to me that we have not yet learned to know our true good.” And Brother Giles replied: “My brother, it is certain that every one practices the art which he had learned, for no man can do good work unless he has first learned. I would have thee to know then, my brother, that the most noble art in the world is that of well-doing; and who can know it except he first learn it?”

Blessed is the man whom no created thing can disedify; but more blessed is he who receiveth edification from everything which he sees and hears.


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