Skip to comments.The Sinner's Guide Ch 16. The Fifth Privilege of Virtue: The Peace of a Good Conscience
Posted on 02/16/2010 8:43:13 PM PST by GonzoII
Ven. Louis of Granada
With Imprimi Potest and Imprimatur
TAN BOOKS AND PUBLISHERS, INC.
Motives for Practising Virtue
Ch 16. The Fifth Privilege of Virtue:
The Peace of a Good Conscience
God, Who gives His creatures all that is necessary for their perfection, has planted the seed of virtue in the soul of man, and has endowed him with a natural inclination for good and an instinctive hatred of evil. This inclination may be weakened and perverted by a habit of vice, but it can never be totally destroyed.
We find a figure of this truth in Job, where we see that, in the calamities which befell the holy man, one servant always escaped to announce the misfortune which had overtaken his master. So the faithful servant, conscience, always remains with the sinner in the midst of his disorders to show him what he has lost and the state to which his sins have reduced him.
This is still another striking proof of that providence we have been considering, and of the value God attaches to virtue. He has placed in the center of our souls a guardian that never sleeps, a monitor that is never silent, a master that never ceases to guide and sustain us. Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher, was deeply impressed with this truth when he said that "as fathers are wont to entrust their children to a tutor who will prudently guard them from vice and lead them to virtue, so God, after creating man, confides him to the care of that interior guide which stimulates him to virtue and warns him against vice."
But conscience, which is such a kind master to the just, becomes a scourge to the wicked. It tortures them with the remembrance of their crimes and embitters all their pleasures. Among these torments of conscience, one of the greatest is the hideousness and deformity of sin, which is so abominable in itself that a heathen philosopher once said, "Though I knew that the gods would pardon me if I sinned, and that men would never know it, yet I would not take upon me a thing so abominable in itself."
Another rod with which conscience scourges the wicked is the sight of the evil caused by sin, which, like the blood of Abel, seems to cry to Heaven for vengeance. Thus we are told that King Antiochus, during his sickness, was so assailed by the thoughts of his past crimes that the grief they occasioned brought on his death. "I remember," he cried, "the evils that I did in Jerusalem, whence also I took away all the spoils of gold and of silver that were in it, and I sent to destroy the inhabitants of Juda without cause. I know, therefore, that for this cause these evils have found me; and behold I perish with great grief in a strange land." [Mac. 6: 12-13]
The shame and dishonor of sin form another torment for the wicked. It is natural for man to desire esteem, but who can honor the sinner? It is natural for him to wish to be loved, but who is there who does not hate iniquity? To these miseries let us add the fear of death, which never fails to haunt the wicked, unless they are utterly abandoned. What comfort can they have in reflecting on the uncertainty of life, the thought of the terrible account they must render, and the anticipation of eternal torments? Consider the sentiments which such reflections must awaken in the sinner's breast, and you will form some idea of the torments of his conscience.
Of these torments one of the friends of Job spoke when he said, "The wicked man is proud all his days, and the number of the years of his tyranny is uncertain. The sound of dread is always in his ears"–----the dread sound of an accusing conscience. "And when there is peace, he always suspecteth treason," for he cannot escape the alarms and the warning cries of conscience. "He believeth not that he may return from darkness to light." He believes it impossible to extricate himself from the terrible darkness which envelops him; he almost despairs of ever again enjoying the peace of a good conscience. "Looking round about for the sword on every side," he is in constant dread of avenging justice. "When he moveth himself to seek bread he knoweth that the day of darkness is at hand." Even at table, the place of mirth and rejoicing, the fear of judgment is upon him.
"Tribulation shall terrify him, and distress shall surround him, as a king that is prepared for the battle. For he hath stretched out his hand against God, and hath strengthened himself against the Almighty." [Job 15: 22-26]
Thus does Holy Scripture portray the torments of which the heart of the sinner is both the theater and the victim. A philosopher has wisely said that by an eternal law of God it is ordained that fear should be the inseparable companion of evil; and this is confirmed by Solomon, who tells us, "The wicked man fleeth when no man pursueth, but the just, bold as a lion, shall be without dread." [Prov. 28: 1] This thought is also expressed by St. Augustine, who says, "Thou hast ordained, O Lord, that every soul in which disorder reigns should be a torment to herself; and truly it is so." [Conf. 1, 12]
Nature teaches us the same. Does not every creature suffer for infringing the law of its being? Consider the pain which follows the displacement of a bone in the body. What violence a creature endures when out of its element! How quickly does sickness follow when the different parts of the body are not in harmony! Since, then, it belongs to a rational creature to lead a regular life, how can he escape suffering, how can he fail to become his own torment, when he disregards the laws of reason and the order of Divine Providence? "Who hath resisted God and hath had peace?" [Job 9: 4] Hence we see that creatures who submit to the order of God enjoy a peace and security which abandon them the moment they resist this Divine law. Man, in his innocence, was absolute master of himself; but after his disobedience he lost his peaceful empire and began to experience remorse and an interior warfare against himself.
"Is there any greater torment in this world," asks St. Ambrose, "than remorse of conscience? Is it not a misery more to be feared than sickness, than exile, than loss of life or liberty?" [De Officiis, L. 3, 4]
"There is nothing," says St. Isidore, "from which man cannot fly, save from himself. Let him go where he will, he cannot escape the pursuit of an accusing conscience." The same Father adds elsewhere, "There is no torment which exceeds that of a guilty conscience. If, then, you desire to live in peace, live in the practice of virtue."
This truth is so manifest that even pagan philosophers acknowledged it. "What doth it avail thee," says Seneca, "to fly from the conversation of men? For as a good conscience may call all the world to witness its truth, so a bad conscience will be tormented by a thousand fears, a thousand anxieties, even in a desert. If thy action be good all the world may witness it; if it be evil what will it avail thee to hide it from others, since thou canst not hide it from thyself? Alas for thee if thou makest no account of such a witness, for its testimony is worth that of a thousand others." [Epist. 97]
"Great," says Cicero, "is the power of conscience; nothing can more effectually condemn or acquit a man. It raises the innocent above all fear and keeps the guilty in perpetual alarm." This is one of the eternal torments of the wicked, for it begins even in this life and will continue forever in the life to come. It is the undying worm mentioned by Isaias. [Cf. Is. 66: 24]
Having thus seen the sad effects of an evil conscience, we will be enabled to realize more fully the blessed peace which the just enjoy.
Virtue shelters them from the remorse and sufferings which have been described as the lot of the wicked. The consolations and sweet fruits of the Holy Ghost fill them with joy and transform the soul into a terrestrial paradise, where He is pleased to take up His abode. "The joy of a good conscience," says St. Augustine, "makes the soul a true paradise." [De Gen. ad Lit., L. 12, c. 34] And elsewhere he says, "Be assured, ye who seek that true peace promised to a future life, that you may here enjoy it by anticipation, if you will but love and keep the Commandments of Him Who promises this reward; for you will soon find by experience that the fruits of justice are sweeter than those of iniquity. You will learn that the joys of virtue, even in the midst of trials and misfortunes, far exceed all the delights of pleasure and prosperity accompanied by the remorse of a bad conscience." [Lib. de Cat. 2, 9]
Sin, as we have said, finds in its baseness and enormity its own punishment; so virtue finds in its beauty and worth its own reward. David teaches us this truth: "The judgments of the Lord–----that is, His holy commandments–----are true, justified in themselves. More to be desired than gold and precious stones, and sweeter than honey and the honeycomb." [Ps. 18: 10-11] This was his own experience, for he says, "I have been delighted in the way of thy testimonies, as in all riches." [Ps. 118: 14] The chief cause of this joy is the dignity and beauty of virtue, which as Plato declares, is incomparably fair and lovely. Finally, so great are the advantages of a good conscience that, according to St. Ambrose, they constitute in this life the happiness of the just.
The ancient philosophers, as we have seen, though deprived of the light of faith, knew the torments of a guilty conscience. Nor were they ignorant of the joy of a good conscience, as we learn from Cicero, who, in his Tusculan Questions, says, "A life spent in noble and honorable deeds ' brings such consolations with it that just men are either insensible to the trials of life or feel them very little." The same author adds elsewhere that virtue has no more brilliant, no more honorable theater than that in which the applause of conscience is heard. Socrates, being asked who could live free from passion, answered, "He who lives virtuously." And Bias, another celebrated philosopher, gave almost the same reply to a similar question. "Who," he was asked, "can live without fear?" "He who has the testimony of a good conscience," he replied. Seneca, in one of his epistles, wrote, "A wise man is always cheerful and his cheerfulness comes from a good conscience."
If pagan philosophers, knowing nothing of future rewards, so justly esteemed the peace of a good conscience, how dearly should a Christian prize it! This testimony of a good conscience does not, however, exclude that salutary fear with which we must work out our salvation; but such a fear, so far from discouraging us, inspires us with marvelous courage in the fulfillment of our duties. We feel, in the depth of our hearts, that our confidence is better founded when moderated by this holy fear, without which it would be only a false security and a vain presumption.
It was of this privilege that the Apostle spoke when he said, "Our glory is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity of heart and sincerity of God, and not in carnal wisdom, but in the grace of God, we have conversed in this world." [2 Cor. 1: 12]We have endeavored to explain this privilege of virtue, but, despite all that could be said, there is nothing save experience that can give us a keen realization of it.
To our well-beloved Son, Louis of Granada, of the Order of Friars Preachers
Dearly Beloved Son, Health and Apostolic Benediction:
Your arduous and incessant labors, both for the conversion of sinners and for the guidance of souls to perfection, together with the valuable assistance you render those who are earnestly engaged in the work of the ministry, have always afforded us great consolation.
Your sermons and writings, filled with sublime doctrine and practical piety, are unceasingly drawing souls to God. This is particularly gratifying to us, for all who have profited by your teaching [and their number is very great] may be considered as so many souls gained to Christ. You have thus benefited your fellow creatures more than if you had given sight to the blind and raised the dead to life. For the knowledge of the Eternal Light and the enjoyment of the heavenly life, according as they are given to man on earth to know and enjoy, are far above the knowledge and enjoyment of the transitory goods of this world.
The charity with which you have devoted yourself to your great and important labor has gained for you many crowns.
Continue, then, to devote all your energies to the prosecution of your undertakings. Finish what you have begun, for we understand that you have some works yet incomplete. Give them to the world for the health of the sick, for the strength of the weak, for the delight of God’s servants, and for the glory of the Church both militant and triumphant.
Given at Rome the 21st of July, 1582, of our pontificate.
GREGORY PP. XIII
Venerable Louis of Granada His Life and Work
The life of Venerable Louis of Granada [1504-1588] paralleled to a remarkable degree the greatest era of the Spanish Empire-----that empire known as "the evangelizer of half the world, the hammer of heretics, and the light of the Council of Trent." Louis himself is known as "the writer of the Spanish empire." He was born only shortly after the famous year 1492, when Spain had, under King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, defeated the Moors after eight centuries of Moorish occupation and oppression in Spain and financed Christopher Columbus' momentous voyage to America. These were the times of Spain's intense exploration and missionary activity in the New World, of the Council of Trent [1548-1563], and of the great Christian victory over the Turks at Lepanto .
The end of this glorious era is marked by the great defeat in 1588 of the "invincible" Spanish Armada off the coast of England, an event which signaled the beginning of the end of Spain's brief but glorious reign as a world power. This was also the very year of Louis' death. But during the early and mid-16th century, Catholic Spain gave to the world many priceless gifts; not least of these were the books of her renowned son, Ven. Louis of Granada.
In the aftermath of the surrender of the Moors in 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella were faced with the task of making Granada a Spanish city once again. In order to hasten the influx of Spanish influence into the city and the blending of the Moorish and the Spanish people, Ferdinand and Isabella granted free entrance to the city of Granada to any Spaniard from the provinces who wished to settle there. One young couple who took advantage of this opportunity was Francis Sarria and his wife [whose name has been lost to history], a couple who in 1504 became the parents of a son named Louis, later to become famous as "Louis of Granada." Unfortunately, Francis died in 1509, and Louis and his mother were reduced to poverty, being supported by alms from the Dominican Monastery. After a few years of destitution, there occurred an event whereby Louis de Sarria's fortunes changed suddenly and dramatically. While engaged in a street fight with a boy who had insulted his mother, Louis was discovered by the Count de Tendilla, Mayor of the Alhambra, who was impressed with his courage. The Count took Louis under his patronage. Thereafter Louis spent many hours on the balconies of the Alhambra; thus, in addition to his other education, his soul was fed by the magnificent beauty of the surrounding countryside, fueling that deep love for the beauty of nature which was to be a hallmark of his thought and writing for the rest of his life. When Louis de Sarria reached young manhood, he turned his path toward the religious life. At the same Dominican Monastery where he had begged alms as an orphaned child, the Convent of the Holy Cross, he received the habit of a Friar Preacher on June 15, 1524, to the joyful tears of his beloved mother. A year later he made his religious profession. At the Convent of the Holy Cross, Friar Louis, or Fray Louis, as he was called, undertook the rigorous Dominican ratio studiorum: a review of Latin and then three years of Philosophy and three years of Theology. Among the the texts used were the works of St. Thomas Aquinas. Louis de Sarria was brilliant in scholastic disputations; he had no equal in mental capacity, application to study, and exact observance of the monastic life.
After some time, he was awarded a scholarship to the celebrated College of St. Gregory in Valladolid. Arriving there in 1529, he spent the designated eight days in preparation for taking the oath to uphold the statutes of the College; thus Louis de Sarria became formally invested in the College of St. Gregory, taking on both the honors and the obligations thereof. In the mind of the young friar, his first duty was worthily to represent Holy Cross Convent of Granada. Grateful for the confidence placed in him by his fellow religious of Holy Cross, he changed his name from Fray Louis de Sarria to Fray Louis of Granada. With such great seriousness did the Spanish ecclesiastical student of the 16th century hold his exalted position as a knight of Thomistic truth.
But there was more than learning in Louis' heart and soul. By prayer and penance, as well as study, he was preparing for a future apostolate of preaching.
In the year 1534, at the age of 30, because of his ardent longings for the apostolate, Louis stepped forward and generously offered himself as a missionary to Mexico. Although he had not yet completed his eight-year course of studies, he was willing to abandon the lecture halls. He was all prepared to leave for the Americas; but when his departure was imminent, Fray Louis' superior commanded him to cancel his trip and let another go in his place.
This was a tremendous disappointment for Fray Louis. In fact, although he obediently accepted the sacrifice, the longing for the mission field remained a thorn in his soul all his life. This event ushered in a deepening in the soul of Louis of Granada. More and more he realized that prayer, rather than study, is the way to true spiritual knowledge of Christ. He saw more clearly that his goal should be to live the life of Christ within his own soul, and then to preach Christ to others. He even began to have a distaste for study. In this regard, the writings of the famous Master John of Avila also had a great influence in j the changing of Fray Louis' attitude. At this time there also awakened in him his vocation as a spiritual writer. He desired that the riches of the spiritual treasure should be imparted to and shared by all, and the means by which he intended to diffuse them were preaching and writing. In 1539, at the age of 35, he wrote a small tract on the method of prayer for a student at St. Gregory in Valladolid who had written to him for advice: this little tract is spirituality pure and simple. It is the first lecture of Fray Louis from the chair of Spanish spirituality. This same tract was later to be transformed into a work that would make Fray Louis' name immortal:
The Book of Prayer and Meditation.
In 1544 the Dominican Order gave Louis the title of Preacher General. In 1546, he was granted the privilege of going anywhere in Spain to preach, in the company of a companion of his choosing, and no superior could prevent his preaching. During this period, Fray Louis spent much of his time traveling and preaching. He was in demand everywhere as a preacher and spiritual director-----even among the royalty. He became widely known as a holy friar, a preacher, and a man of great administrative ability.
About the year 1552, Queen Catherine of Portugal, the sister of Charles V, selected him as her confessor and advisor. Practically the rest of his life was spent in Portugal, with occasional visits to Spain. Because of his great knowledge and his practical talents, Fray Louis was frequently called upon to help settle problems arising among the royalty-----important problems upon which might hang the welfare of entire nations. But all such dealings with worldly affairs were painful to him, and appear to have constituted the greatest cross of his later life.
In addition, in 1556 he was elected Provincial of the Dominican Province of Portugal. A year later he turned down Queen Catherine's offer of the archbishopric of Braga, which would have made him Primate of Portugal. In the midst of such preoccupations, Fray Louis never forgot his apostolate of spiritual writing.
In 1554 The Book of Prayer and Meditation was published. Its success was a complete surprise, especially to Fray Louis, but it confirmed him in his vocation of spiritual writer. From that time forward he dedicated himself with a divine impatience to writing on spiritual themes for all. He led the left of an ascetic; his cell was poor and possessions meager: a wooden bed, crude table, a few books, some paper and and instruments of penance. He received quite a lot of money for his writings, all of which went to the poor. His chief virtues of excellence were meekness, humility, and good counsel.
This affable and simple religious, entirely given to the things of God, was very active and even dynamic. He rose at four in the morning and spent two hours in prayer. At six o'clock he celebrated Mass with remarkable solemnity and devotion. In those days priests were not accustomed to celebrate Mass every day, but Fray Louis never omitted it, and stated that the best preparation for the celebration of Mass was to celebrate daily. After Mass he devoted himself to a lengthy thanksgiving and then returned to his cell to begin the labors of the day.
The 16th century was a most turbulent time in the history of the Church, a time whose terrible legacy of heresy and apostasy is still with us today. [It was also a century of many, many great Saints.] There was a crying need for true Catholic reform, but many heretics had arisen to feed the faithful with stones and scorpions instead of bread. An un-Christian humanism was spreading its contagion of rebellion against God; and in 1517, when Fray Louis was 12 years old, Martin Luther took the step that was to launch the tragic heresy of external justification, a doctrine which smothered the true supernatural life of the soul and thus led to the most man-centered form of humanism. Another error which was spreading at the time was a false form of spirituality which claimed that religion should be something completely interior. A fourth error was Quietism, which discounted the effort required for the Christian soul to grow in grace and virtue. A goodly number of spiritual writers of the time fell into one or another of these traps.
Louis of Granada, on the other hand, was a voice of true orthodox Catholic reform. Although, in the confusion, he was for a time accused of heresy, this false charge was disposed of at Trent and Rome. Louis presented life in Christ as the life proper to all Christians, and he showed the essential role which the virtues play in the growth of this life. He showed how grace is essential to life in Christ, and how the Christian must receive the Sacraments and pray in order to obtain the necessary grace of God. Thus, by reading Fray Louis' true picture of the Christian life, the 16th century Catholic-----as well as the Catholic of today-----is protected against many errors and given true and powerful spiritual food. His soul is protected against man-centered humanism, against the error of external justification without an inner transformation into holiness in the soul, the error of religion as being something entirely interior and independent of laws and ceremonies, and the error that the christian need not expand an effort to grow in grace. The teaching in his works is firmly orthodox, completely Catholic.
In his 35 years of writing, Fray Louis produced 49 works. These can be classified into five categories: spiritual theology, apologetics, hagiography, sacred oratory, and translations. Some of his books are masterpieces of spiritual theology. These are The Book of Prayer and Meditation, a book that laments the miseries of life and manifests spiritual contempt for the world-----this is the one of his books that Louis loved best, and one that has served as a manual of prayer for countless souls; The Sinner's Guide [first published in 1556], a masterwork of Aristotelian symmetry and the most scholastic work of Fray Louis, a book which covers from myriad angles the virtues of the Christian life, proving that this life is the only way to true happiness [even on earth]; Introduction to the Creed, a gigantic work written in Louis' old age, but which breathes the spirit of youth. This work shows Louis' preoccupation with the conversion of the Jews and Mohammedans; he knew the Oriental mind very well, and in this book he shows, among many other things, that only Catholicism can give God due worship. This is undoubtedly his most admirable book, and modern critics never cease to be amazed at the genius that produced it.
Louis' books have been translated into 25 different languages, including Syrian, Arabic, and Japanese, in addition to the European languages. There have been some 6 thousand editions of Fray Louis' works. In fact, it is known from tales brought back by missionaries that the Japanese version of The Sinner's Guide was one of the bulwarks that sustained the faith of the Japanese Catholics during two centuries of terrible persecution, when both in Europe and Japan, Japanese Christianity was believed dead. In 1865, when missionaries were again allowed into Japan, missionary Father Bernard Petitjean was astonished to find in the hills around Nagasaki thousands of Japanese Catholics who had kept the Faith, hidden but vital, without priests, for over 200 years! Immense was the joy of these faithful ones at once again having a Catholic priest among them. The Sinner's Guide had played a providential role in sustaining the Faith in their souls during that trying time.
The works of Fray Louis were included in the precious cargo brought to the New World by the Spanish missionaries; these missionaries even translated some of Granada's works into the native Indian languages. St. Rose of Lima, too, loved the books of Fray Louis; she had them always at hand. Her favorite was The Book of Prayer and Meditation. In one of her struggles with the devil, she protected herself by reading this book; the devil became furious, snatched the book from her, and threw it onto a rubbish heap. Rose remain unmoved, certain that the Lord would return it to her-----as indeed He did.
Other famous Catholics who have read and loved the works of Venerable Louis include St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louise de Marillac, St. Francis de Sales, Cardinal Berulle and Bossuet (all French); St. Charles Borromeo (Italian), Louis of Leon (Spanish), and the Jesuit and Barnabite Orders. St. Teresa read Louis' books and commanded her nuns to do the same. She credited The Sinner's Guide with having converted over a million souls. In some religious rules and constitutions the works of Louis were mentioned as almost obligatory spiritual reading for the novices. There was no bishop in Spain in the 17th and 18th centuries who did not eulogize, recommend, and even grant indulgences for the reading of the works of Fray Louis.
St. Francis de Sales urged a Bishop-elect of his acquaintance to read the works or Louis of Granada, and to treat them as a second breviary. He advised this man to read them slowly, beginning with The Sinner's Guide.
In Advent of 1588, when he was nearly 84 years old, Louis' health was unusually poor. Nevertheless he prayed more, fasted more, and took his discipline. In December he began to have attacks of nausea and vomiting which left him extremely weakened. By December 30 all hope for his recovery was abandoned. On December 31, 1588, in the bare and humble cell at Santo Domingo where monarchs of the world had visited him, it was obvious that Fray Louis' lamp of life was almost extinguished. With tears of joy he received the Last Sacraments. The novices knelt at the door to his cell for a last farewell. Fray Louis sensed the approach of death, and asked that they place him in his coffin. Then, at nine in the evening, he breathed his last and exchanged the counting of years for eternity.
Chapter 1: The First Motive which Obliges us to Practice Virtue and to Serve God: His Being in Itself, and the Excellence of His Perfections
Chapter 2: The Second Motive which Obliges us to Practice Virtue and to Serve God: Gratitude for our Creation
Chapter 3. The Third Motive which Obliges us to Serve God: Gratitude for our Preservation and for the Government of His Providence
Chapter 4. The Fourth Motive which Obliges us to Practice Virtue: Gratitude for the Inestimable Benefit of our Redemption
Chapter 5. The Fifth Motive which Obliges us to Practice Virtue: Gratitude for our Justification
Chapter 6. The Sixth Motive which Obliges us to Practice Virtue: Gratitude for the Incomprehensible Benefit of Election
Chapter 7. The Seventh Motive for Practicing Virtue: The Thought of Death, the First of the Four Last Things
Chapter 8. The Eighth Motive for Practicing Virtue: The Thought of the Last Judgment, the Second of the Four Last Things
Chapter 9. The Ninth Motive for Practicing Virtue: The Thought of Heaven, the Third of the Four Last Things
Chapter 10. The Tenth Motive for Practicing Virtue: The Thought of Hell, the Fourth of the Four Last Things
Chapter 11. The Eleventh Motive for Practicing Virtue: The Inestimable Advantages Promised It Even in this Life
Chapter 12. The First Privilege of Virtue: God's Fatherly Care of the Just
Chapter 13. The Second Privilege of Virtue: The Grace with which the Holy Spirit fills Devout Souls
Chapter 14. The Third Privilege of Virtue: The Supernatural Light and Knowledge granted to Virtuous Souls
Chapter 15. The Fourth Privilege of Virtue: The Consolations with which the Holy Spirit visits the Just
Chapter 16. The Fifth Privilege of Virtue: The Peace of a Good Conscience
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