Imágenes de páginas

work. Each is the explicit negation and corrective of the sins of success, and together they form the energizing force that brings a new era into being.

There is no other way. As an era dies, it engenders an allembracing mortality in its members, and there is nothing essentially of itself, either in its works or its men, that retains regenerative power. When an age dies, it dies altogether, though such spiritual force as it may have generated continues beyond its own decadence and fall as a slowly dissipating impulse in art. In the end this is dispersed and art ceases for the time, but it never had a truly vital quality in the establishing and determining of spiritual values, finding its function only in an empty aestheticism that ended at last in the various historical predecessors of art nouveau and vers libre. As in all life, the dynamic inpulse towards new things comes from without, a sudden jet of the elan vital, expressing itself through a sudden intensification-exaggeration if you like of those fundamental principles of all wholesome society that have been lost out of life and must in some way be restored.

It is not necessary to maintain that the monastic life is an universal ideal: the claim is not even made. It is rather a highly special form of life, normally fitted for comparatively few men and women, but at abnormal times, such as the closing years of an epoch, it becomes not a refuge but a duty and a call to sacrifice. The army is not the normal life for all, but at critical moments when honour and justice and eternal truths are imperilled, it sends its clear call to all men for holy service in warfare. Nothing can take its place, none of the agencies of peace and order may serve, and if men do not arise, and at any cost, even of life itself, range themselves in the front of battle, nothing follows but humiliation, disaster, and the death of more than men and women and children.

The Religious Life is a life of continual sacrifice, but nothing of enduring value in the world has been attained except through sacrifice. Wealth and ease, peace and plenty, material success and serene content, never won anything, either for the individual, the community, or the state, while they lead inevitably to de

cadence and downfall. Adversity and suffering, sorrow and labour and sacrifice, are the builders of character, the foundation stones of righteous civilization. Out of these sacrifices that Monasticism demands has come for myriads of men and women, more than adequate personal compensation, as this comes to the soldier in the trenches of France, dying a clean death in a holy cause. This, however, is only a by-product, the great thing is the unique and splendid opportunity for service, for the doing of what no one else can do, and this the noblest service that man can render to man. For more than two years millions of men and boys have sacrificed all that life could give to save something from the wreck of a world, and their sacrifice will not be in vain so far as the first victory at arms is concerned. It will, in the end, have been in vain if there are not now the few thousands of their brothers to make their smaller sacrifice in order that the victory they have bought with their blood may be sealed by that spiritual regeneration which always has been, and always will be, the work of those whom God has called to the Religious life. As we look back through history we can see how terrible was the fall, how gross the enveloping darkness of the end of Antiquity, of the close of the Dark Ages, of the break-up of Mediaevalism. We cannot imagine what fearful fate must have overtaken the world if it had not been for the followers of the consecrated Religious life, from St. Benedict to St. Ignatius Loyola. Today the fall and the darkness are more profound than ever before, except possibly at the end of the Roman Empire. Therefore the old call is more insistent as the need is correspondingly greater. Everything with which and by which our modern era has lived, shatters before us, and no visible foundation remains. Protestantism and free thought, parliamentary government and democracy, natural science, industrial civilization and material efficiency, evolutionary philosophy, pragmatism, determinism, freedom of speech and freedom of the press and compulsory public education-all these and their myriad concomitants, crumble, totter, and melt away before the Frankenstein they themselves had created.

I do not mean that all these proud products of modernism now show themselves as entirely empty delusions, for the greater part of them express some element of truth or usefulness. In every case, however, they have either been exaggerated out of all reason, falsified by removal from contact with some other, opposed principle which alone could have acted as a corrective, or finally their original idea has been lost sight of under some mechanistic incubus we have invented as a means to an end, and then have accepted as the end in itself, to the utter forgetfulness of the object of our labour, which has consequently disappeared. An example of what I mean is Democracy, which is a splendid ideal in itself, and worth fighting for, but for a century we have been so ridiculously busy in inventing new engines for creating it, discovering new panaceas for correcting our interminable failures, that at last we have not the remotest idea in what Democracy consists, and actually, in the midst of an insane phantasmagoria of political devices, have seen not only the humiliating failure of these patented nostrums but the almost complete disappearance of the Democratic idea as a moving cause or even as a dim and mythical tradition.

So it is with the other things I have named, and as they break down visibly before us, we realize that the very foundations of life are overturned, that our light has become darkness, and we have no guide for our steps. We have made our world over to suit ourselves, and at the very moment on which we look on it and see that it is good, it crumples into mere debris; hollow, unsubstantial, insincere, it can not endure the touch of real life, and breaks in pieces of its own unwieldiness.

In all this there is no ground for final discouragement. All depends on how we meet the crisis, how we bear the test, with what standards we measure the new, hard, and even appalling things that are put before us. At last Calvinism is no longer upon us, to weigh us down under a base fatalism: We know our choice is free, and we may will a new Dark Ages or a new Renaissance-better still a new Mediaevalism. All depends on how we, ourselves, meet the issue.

For this vast cataclysm is not a trying out of individuals, or of a few nations, but of all men, East, West, North and South. None may escape, for. each in its own degree, every race on earth lies under the same condemnation, from Russia which had surrendered least to Prussia which had surrendered all. A system nearly five centuries old is being tried that it may be destroyed, and destroyed that something better may take its place.

As five centuries ago, and ten, and fifteen and twenty, the saving motive will be the Catholic Faith, poured out anew upon the nations, and as five centuries ago and ten and and fifteen, the visible and divinely directed means will be the consecrated Religious Life. Not through archaic and pictorial revivals, but under the drive of a new spiritual consciousness implanted in man by God the Holy Ghost, working itself out under old Rules and under reformed Rules, but in essence what it always has been and always will be. Monasticism-I use the term generally as including all types of monks, friars, canons-regular and missionaries bound under the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience-is divine in its essence and its order, therefore an essential and indestructible portion of the visible Catholic Church, but it is manifested through human agencies, therefore fallible and destined in each form to decay and to demand reform; destined equally to adapt itself to new times and to new conditions. Within these great and closing walls of poverty, chastity, and obedience, brotherhood and work, it will transmute itself into new forms, but always there will be three great classes, the general motive of which will never change, and the demand for which, and for all, was never more insistent than today, and these three are the monk, the friar, and the canon-regular. Let me try to show why each is needed today, whether he lives under the old Rules of St. Benedict, St. Francis, or St. Augustine, or under some modification thereof.

The ideal of the true monk is furthest from the spirit of today -or rather of yesterday. There is no "today" but only an interlude of anarchy-and the monk is therefore more essential at this crisis than the friar or the canon-regular, however imperative may be the demand for both, and the demand is insistent

and clamorous.

The friar and the canon are the workers of visible things, and a world of efficiency and "the strenuous life," whose gospel is "get results," can measurably understand them. The monk, cloistered, shut away from active contact with the world, living a life of rigid abstinence, praying and praising God, and giving himself over to intercession, adoration, and worship, is to the world unthinkable, but it is at times like this that the world needs him most. Action,-feverish, insistent, universal, has built up a world that has failed, and out of that failure will come the consciousness that the real things in life are of the spirit, not of the flesh, not of man but of God. Great and glorious works have come from the labours of men whether they were Religious, or Seculars, or laymen, but the greatest things came, not from their physical action but from their spiritual energy, and though with their hands they have built up great fabrics of civilization and given them life through the energy of ordered intellects, the soul of these civilizations came as the gift of God, through His Saints, and because of the prayers and intercessions and the worship of His children. The monk who made a desert into a garden, or turned a heathen people from savagery, did well, but he did better when prostrating himself in prayer in the silence of his cell, or when he joined with his brethren in beseeching Our Lady and the Saints for their intercessions, or in worshipping the Incarnate God in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Our age is dying because it has lost spiritual energy, and therefore no longer knows the difference between the real and the false, the temporal and the eternal, between right and wrong, and this spiritual energy is to be restored, not by action, but by the Grace of God, and by prayer alone is this Grace given to men. We need the spiritual energy that emanates from the hushed cloisters and the dim chapels of brotherhoods of monks, and the invincible force of their intercessions. If only we knew that here and there, hidden in the still country-side, the Sons of St. Benedict, as they were in the VIth century and the XIth, were fighting, day and night, the spiritual battle that is more arduous even than the physical we could take heart of hope where now is opportunity for little but despair.

« AnteriorContinuar »