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Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi
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CHAPTER XV


OF HOLY PERSEVERANCE


What will it profit a man to fast much, and pray, to give alms, to afflict his body, and to have his soul filled with heavenly thoughts, if, after all, he come short of the desired and blessed haven of salvation, that is, of holy and steadfast perseverance? We may sometimes behold a fair and tall ship upon the waters, strong and newly built, and laden with a rich and regal freight; yet suddenly, by the rising of a tempest, or by lack of skill in the helmsman, that proud vessel sinks and perishes miserably, never reaching the desired haven. What avail then all its riches and strength and beauty, now woefully lost in the depths of the sea?

Again, we may sometimes see a small and battered vessel, carrying but little wealth on board, but steered by a good and wary pilot, pass safely through all the perils of the waves, and anchor safely in the longed-for harbour; and so it is with voyagers on the world’s tempestuous sea. “And therefore,” said Brother Giles, “a man should always fear; and though he be in great prosperity, or in high dignity, or in a state of great perfection, or of great perfection in his state, yet if he have not a good pilot, to wit, holy discretion, he may perish miserably in the deep abyss of sin: wherefore we see plainly that perseverance is of all things the most needful for us; for, as the Apostle says: ‘Not he who beginneth is crowned, but he who persevereth unto the end.’ When a tree has been planted, it does not grow immediately; and after it is grown, it does not immediately bear fruit; and when it has borne fruit, not all its fruit is tasted by its master, but some falls to the ground and is spoiled, some is eaten by worms; yet if it abide until the due season, the greater part will be gathered by the owner of the tree. And what would it profit me,” continued Brother Giles, “though I had enjoyed the delights of the kingdom of heaven for a hundred years, if thereafter I should not persevere and make a good end?” He said also: “I account these to be the two greatest gifts and graces which God can bestow on us in this life, to wit, lovingly to persevere in his service, and ever to preserve ourselves from falling into sin.”


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