Monthly Archives: February 2014

20140303 ‘Quality over quantity’ 「重質不重量」

Diligence is a virtue; there are four major hindrances to performing our actions well.
The first hindrance is that while we are doing one thing, we are thinking of something else which we have to do or which we have done, so that our occupations interfere with one another, and none is well performed. The second hindrance is haste. The third is anxiety. The fourth is a desire to do too much.

Stay focused
The way to perform our actions well is to attend solely to the one at hand without thinking of others.
Sister Maria Crucifixa, the sacristan, cook, and refectorian in her convent, sometimes also had charge of the door and of the medicine room. She did everything well and still found time for contemplation.
Her method was that when she was in the sacristy, she said to herself, “Now be nothing but a sacristan”; and when she came out of the sacristy, she would say, “Now do not be a sacristan any longer.” She did the same with the rest of her charges.

Go slowly
St. Francis de Sales, St. Philip Neri, and St. Vincent de Paul accomplished so much in their lives, and yet they did nothing in haste. St. Francis de Sales said, “Let us go slowly, for if we do but keep advancing we shall thus go far.”
St. Philip Neri said, “You need not try to do everything in a day, or become a saint in a month. Prudence does not advise it.” St. Vincent de Paul said, “The works of God are performed, for the most part, little by little.”

Work peacefully
St. Francis de Sales devoted a chapter in his work Introduction to the Devout Life (Pt. 3, Ch. X) to a warning about over-anxiety in our works.
“The bumble bee makes far more noise and is more bustling than the honey bee, but it makes wax only and no honey; just so those who are restless and eager, or full of noisy solicitude, never do much or well. Flies harass us less by what they do than by reason of their multitude, and so great matters give us less disturbance than a multitude of small affairs.
“Accept the duties which come upon you quietly, and try to fulfill them methodically, one after another. If you attempt to do everything at once, or with confusion, you will only cumber yourself with your own exertions, and by dint of perplexing your mind you will probably be overwhelmed and accomplish nothing.”
The saint suggested: “When your ordinary work or business is not specially engrossing, let your heart be fixed more on God than on it; and if the work be such as to require your undivided attention, then pause from time to time and look to God, even as navigators make for the haven they would attain by looking up at the heavens rather than down upon the deeps on which they sail.
“So doing, God will work with you, in you, and for you, and your work will be blessed.”

Little, but well
St. Francis de Sales opposed the desire to do too much. According to Bishop Jean Pierre Camus, the saint taught: spiritual progress depends less on doing much than upon the spirit of love which prompts what is done; one good work done out of love is more worthy in God’s eye than many done out of indifference; the worth of any good work depends largely upon the purity of intention with which it is done.
St. Francis de Sales always encouraged people to undertake less, but to perform what they did undertake so as to attain the greatest possible perfection.






















20140224 ‘Meek and humble of heart’ 「良善心謙」

Our Lord said, “Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). St. Francis de Sales pointed out that humility makes our lives acceptable to God, and meekness makes us acceptable to our neighbour. St. Bernard said, “As without faith it is impossible to please God, so without mildness it is impossible to please men and to govern them well.”
We should strive to be truly meek and humble, and do not content with the external signs of these virtues. St. Bernard said, “There are some characters which appear very gentle as long as everything goes well with them; but at the touch of any adversity or contradiction, they are immediately enkindled, and begin to throw forth smoke like a volcano.
“Such as these may be called burning coals hidden under ashes. This is not the meekness which Our Lord aimed to teach, that He might make us like Himself. We ought to be like lilies among thorns, which, though they come from amid such sharp points, do not cease to be smooth and pliable.”

Gentleness towards others
St. Francis de Sales said, “When you have to make arrangements, settle quarrels, or win others to your views, take care to be as mild as possible. You will accomplish more, and conquer more readily, by yielding and humbling yourself than by harshness and disputation. Who does not know that more flies are caught with an ounce of honey than with a hundred barrels of vinegar?”
The saint was fond of repeating: “Blessed are the hearts which can bend; they shall never be broken.”
St. Jane Frances de Chantal shared her experience: “I have turned forward and backward and on every side, and what conclusion have I reached? I have considered all methods of governing, and even tried them, and I have finally seen that the best is that which is amiable, sincere, humble, and patient.”
Meekness and gentleness help to soften hearts to receive the grace of conversion. St. Francis de Sales said, “If you wish to labour with fruit in the conversion of souls, you must pour the balsam of sweetness upon the wine of your zeal, that it may not be too fiery, but mild, soothing, patient, and full of compassion.
“For the human soul is so constituted that by rigour it becomes harder, but mildness completely softens it. Besides, we ought to remember that Jesus Christ came to bless good intentions, and if we leave them to His control, little by little He will make them fruitful.”

Gentleness towards ourselves
St. Francis de Sales pointed out that as the remonstrations of a father will have much greater effect upon his child if they are offered kindly and gently than if they are hot and angry, so when we have done wrong, we should reprove our heart gently and calmly.
The saint said, “You should never be displeased at the sight of your own imperfections, except with a displeasure humble, tranquil, and peaceful, not excited and angry; for this latter kind does more harm than good.”
The saint gives us the following remedies against anger:
— To forestall its movements, if possible, or at least to cast them aside quickly, by turning the thoughts to something else.
— In imitation of the apostles when they saw the sea raging, to have recourse to God, Whose office it is to give peace to the heart.
— In the heat of passion, not to speak, nor to take any action about the matter in question.
— To strive to perform acts of kindness and humility towards the person against whom one is incensed, especially in reparation for any of a contrary nature.



















20140217 Soul ascends by descending 謙卑者備受舉揚

St. Augustine said, “Humility is the foundation of all the virtues; therefore, in a soul where it does not exist there can be no true virtue, but the mere appearance only.
“In like manner, it is the most proper disposition for all celestial gifts. And, finally, it is so necessary to perfection, that of all the ways to reach it, the first is humility; the second, humility; the third, humility. And if the question were repeated 100 times, I should always give the same answer.”

Humility and truth
St. Vincent de Paul said, “Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying.”
A humble person does not fancy he knows what he does not know. He would neither boast of what he knew, nor pretend to be more ignorant than he was. A truly humble person wants to be humble, not just appear humble.
St. Vincent said, “The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility, for as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it.”
Knowledge of God and of self helps us to grow in humility. Distrust of self is a real virtue if it is accompanied by trust in God.
St. Francis de Sales wrote, “Assuredly, nothing so tends to humble us before the compassion of God as the multitude of His gifts to us; just as nothing so tends to humble us before His justice as the multitude of our misdeeds. Let us consider what He has done for us, and what we have done contrary to His will, and as we review our sins in detail, so let us review His grace in the same.”
Humility and trust in God are inseparable. The saint pointed out that “distrustful humility is always a false humility.” Self-distrust and confidence in God are the two mystic wings of the soul ascending to God.

Humility and virtues
St. Francis de Sales used to say, “Humility is a descending charity, and charity is an ascending humility.”
He wrote, “When charity requires it, you should readily and kindly impart to your neighbour not only that which is necessary for his instruction, but also what is profitable for his consolation. The same humility which conceals graces with a view to their preservation is ready to bring them forth at the bidding of charity, with a view to their increase and perfection.”
St. Thomas of Villanova pointed out that “humility is the mother of many virtues.”
St. Francis de Sales wrote, “You may test real worth as we test balm, which is tried by being distilled in water, and if it is precipitated to the bottom, it is known to be pure and precious.
“So if you want to know whether a man is really wise, learned, generous, or noble, observe whether his gifts make him humble, modest, and submissive. If so, his gifts are genuine; but if they are only surface and showy, you may be sure that in proportion as they make a show, so are they less worthy.”
St. Josemaria Escriva wrote, “It was because of pride. You thought you were already capable of everything, all by yourself. But then He left you for a moment and you fell, headlong. Be humble, and His extraordinary aid will not fail you.”
The saint also wrote, “Get rid of those proud thoughts! You are but the brush in the hand of the artist, and nothing more. Tell me, what is a brush good for if it doesn’t let the artist do his work?”
















20140210 ‘Take up your cross’ 「背負十字架」

St. Francis de Sales said, “Kiss frequently the crosses which the Lord sends you, and with all your heart, without regarding of what sort they may be; for the more vile and mean they are, the more they deserve their name. The merit of crosses does not consist in their weight, but in the manner in which they are borne.
“It may show much greater virtue to bear a cross of straw than a very hard and heavy one, because the light ones are also the most hidden and contemned, and therefore least comfortable to our inclination, which always seeks what is showy.”
The saint urges us not to limit our patience to this or that kind of injury or trouble, but to let our patience embrace every sort of trial that God sends, or permits to come upon us.
St. Teresa of Avila said, “Observe that we gain more in a single day by trials which come to us from God and our neighbour than we would in 10 years by penances and other exercises which we take up of ourselves.”

Won by patience
As a young priest, St. Francis de Sales started an expedition to Thonon-les-Bains, France, to convert non-Catholic Christians back to Catholicism.
After three difficult years there was not even one convert, but St. Francis was an unusually patient man. He wrote out his leaflets, copied them by hand, and slipped them under the doors of the people who would not listen to him. These leaflets were later published in one volume called The Catholic Controversy.
St. Francis won the hearts of the people gradually with his patience and kindness. The parents would not come to St. Francis, so he came to their children and played with them. When the parents saw how kind he was as he played with their children, they started to talk to him.
Eventually more and more people came to St. Francis to listen to his sermons, and conversions became increasingly frequent. By the time he left Thonon-les-Bains, St. Francis had brought 40,000 people back to Catholicism.

Value of suffering
St. Vincent de Paul said, “If we could but know what a precious treasure lies concealed in infirmities, we would receive them with as much joy as we would the greatest benefits, and we would bear them without complaint or any sign of annoyance.”
During a mystical experience, St. Rose of Lima saw a set of scales. One side of the scales had sufferings, and the other side of the scales had graces. Our Lord first distributed sufferings to all people, and then He distributed graces to them in the same proportion as the sufferings.
Our Lord said, “Affliction is always accompanied by grace; grace is proportionate to suffering. The measure of My gifts is increased with the measure of trials. The cross is the true and only road that leads souls to heaven.”
During her long illness, St. Rose prayed, “Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase Your love in my heart.”
St. Vincent Ferrer said, “The Lord sends us tribulation and infirmities to give us the means of paying the immense debts we have contracted with Him. Therefore, those who have good sense receive them joyfully, for they think more of the good which they may derive from them than of the pain which they experience on account of them.”
Our Lord told St. Gertrude: “My daughter, you will never be able to do Me a greater service at any time than bearing patiently, in honour of my Passion, whatever tribulation may come to you, whether it be interior or exterior, always forcing yourself to do all those things that are most contrary to your desires.”
























20140203 Christians practice virtues 基督徒需要修德

“The practice of virtues” is the focus of the third part of St. Francis de Sales’s An Introduction to the Devout Life.
The saint counsels each person to seek chiefly to advance in those virtues required by the particular state of life to which God has called him. Among those virtues not especially involved by our position we should cultivate the most excellent rather than the most showy. If we are hindered by some particular vice, we should cultivate the opposite virtue.

Foot of the cross
The picture of St. Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross was especially revered by St. Francis de Sales, and he sometimes called it a whole library of his thoughts. One day he saw a painting on this subject in the home of Bishop Jean Pierre Camus of Belley. He said that we should carefully cultivate the little virtues which grow beneath the foot of the cross.
Bishop Camus asked the saint what virtues he was referring to. The saint answered, “Humility, patience, gentleness, kindness, forbearance, calmness, good temper, heartiness, pity, ready forgiveness, simplicity, frankness, and so on. These virtues are like violets growing in a shady nook, fed by the dew of heaven, and, though unseen, they give forth a sweet and precious odour.”
“What, then, can be found at the top of the cross itself?” Bishop Camus inquired.
The saint replied, “Plenty. You will find there many bright and shining graces, provided they are formed in the spirit of love: virtues like prudence, justice, magnificence, liberality, almsgiving, strength, bodily mortification, obedience, contemplation, perseverance, contempt of wealth and honour, and many such as these.
“Men are more anxious for these virtues because they win praise. But to be truthful we should value them only insofar as we can please God by their means and discover new ways of proving to Him our love.”
Bishop Camus wrote that St. Francis “considered the most general virtues to be the most preferred, charity only excepted. Thus he valued prayer as the light which illuminates all our good works; devotion, which consecrates all our actions to God’s service; humility, which makes us have only lowly thoughts of ourselves and our works; gentleness, which yields to all; patience, which endures everything.
“These he valued more than magnanimity, liberality, or magnificence, because such virtues affect fewer subjects. He was always suspicious of showy virtues, because he said they tend to feed vainglory, the plague of all good works.”

‘Make haste slowly’
St. Francis de Sales was very fond of an ancient emperor’s motto, “Make haste slowly.” The saint always cautioned people against thinking that perfection is to be found in a multiplicity of religious exercises.
He urged his penitents to avoid over-eagerness. He often said: “It is far better to do a few things well than to undertake many good works and leave them half-done.” He once said, “It is not by the multiplicity of things we do that we attain perfection, but by the perfection and purity of intention with which we do them.”
He said, “What do I mean by doing a good work perfectly? Of course I mean good works performed in a state of grace, as otherwise they would not only be imperfect, but of no value as regards eternity.
“Well, such actions must be performed, first, with a great fervour; second, with a great purposefulness; and third, with great purity of intention. Is it not true, then, that one such action is far better than many done, first, coldly; second, irresolutely; and third, without the purity of intention?”


















聖方濟.沙雷很喜歡古代一位君王的銘言:「欲速則不達」。聖人恐防有人誤解,只要作多種靈修活動,便可成聖。他告誡不能過份熱切。常言道:「從小量作開始,別急進以致半途而廢… 並非多做多勞便可成聖,卻首先要有一個純正和真誠的內心。」