Imitation of Christ - Book III Chapter 45: All Men are Not to be Believed
I try to read a chapter of the Imitation every morning. At least until something strikes me and I follow the advice I received ( when this happens stop and ponder instead of pushing onward).
This is the chapter that I found when I flipped open my Imitation this morning and as often happens, I was 'struck' by the first paragraph.
The realization that in my life, there is a recurring theme of people being not quite what I expected.
These words had the greatest impact:
I remember when an SSPX priest 'lost it' about 20 years ago and I was caught on the periphery. The district superior arrived and spent a few weeks resolving the situation. When discussing the situation I remember these words clearly:How often have I failed to find faithfulness, where I thought I possessed it. How many times I have found it where I least expected.
You'll be surprised by who stays and by who goes!I was beyond surprised, I was gobsmacked by the fall-out from one priest 'losing it'. However, it did prepare me for what would happen when a bunch of priests (ie resistance) realised that the principles followed by the SSPX (which are Catholic) were too much for them to stomach.
This was the first lesson that I learned from all this:
The second is that, in some cases, trust in men is vain.
- Seek the principles that are guiding the actions.
- Compare these to Catholic Principles, Doctrine and Dogmas.
- Assess based on this objective ground.
THAT WE MUST NOT BELIEVE EVERYONE, AND THAT WE ARE PRONE TO FALL IN OUR WORDS
- Lord, be thou my help in trouble, for vain is the help of man.(1) How often have I failed to find faithfulness, where I thought I possessed it. How many times I have found it where I least expected. Vain therefore is hope in men, but the salvation of the just, O God, is in Thee. Blessed be thou, O Lord my God, in all things which happen unto us. We are weak and unstable, we are quickly deceived and quite changed.
- Who is the man who is able to keep himself so warily and circumspectly as not sometimes to come into some snare of perplexity? But he who trusteth in Thee, O Lord, and seeketh Thee with an unfeigned heart, doth not so easily slip. And if he fall into any tribulation, howsoever he may be entangled, yet very quickly he shall be delivered through Thee, or by Thee shall be comforted, because Thou wilt not forsake him that trusteth in Thee unto the end. A friend who continueth faithful in all the distresses of his friend is rare to be found. Thou, O Lord, Thou alone art most faithful in all things, and there is none other like unto Thee.
- Oh, how truly wise was that holy soul which said, "My mind is steadfastly fixed, and it is grounded in Christ."(2) If thus it were with me, the fear of man should not so easily tempt me, nor the arrows of words move me. Who is sufficient to foresee all things, who to guard beforehand against future ills? If even things which are foreseen sometimes hurt us, what can things which are not foreseen do, but grievously injure? But wherefore have I not better provided for myself, miserable that I am? Why, too, have I given such heed to others? But we are men, nor are we other than frail men, even though by many we are reckoned and called angels. Whom shall I trust, O Lord, whom shall I trust but Thee? Thou art the Truth, and deceivest not, nor canst be deceived. And on the other hand, Every man is a liar,(3) weak, unstable and frail, especially in his words, so that one ought scarcely ever to believe what seemeth to sound right on the face of it.
- With what wisdom hast thou warned us beforehand to beware of men, and that a man's foes are they of his own household,(4) and that we must not believe if one say unto us Lo here, or Lo there.(5) I have been taught by my loss, and O that I may prove more careful and not foolish hereby. "Be cautious," saith some one: "be cautious, keep unto thyself what I tell thee." And whilst I am silent and believe that it is hid with me, he himself cannot keep silence concerning it, but straightway betrayeth me and himself, and goeth his way. Protect me, O Lord, from such mischief-making and reckless men; let me not fall into their hands, nor ever do such things myself. Put a true and steadfast word into my mouth, and remove a deceitful tongue far from me. What I would not suffer, I ought by all means to beware of doing.
- Oh, how good and peacemaking a thing it is to be silent concerning others, and not carelessly to believe all reports, nor to hand them on further; how good also to lay one's self open to few, to seek ever to have Thee as the beholder of the heart; not to be carried about with every wind of words, but to desire that all things inward and outward be done according to the good pleasure of Thy will! How safe for the preserving of heavenly grace to fly from human approval, and not to long after the things which seem to win admiration abroad, but to follow with all earnestness those things which bring amendment of life and heavenly fervour! How many have been injured by their virtue being made known and too hastily praised. How truly profitable hath been grace preserved in silence in this frail life, which, as we are told, is all temptation and warfare.
Source: Imitation of Christ 1886ed