The Examples of the Holy Fathers

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In Thomas à Kempis’ Imitation of Christ, we come across some wonderful advice. “Look upon the vivid examples of the holy fathers [or, as he later terms them, “The saints and friends of Christ”], in whom true perfection and religion were most shining, and thou wilt see how little, and almost nothing, that is which we do.”

The words of St. Paul here come to mind: “Of the Jews five times did I receive forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods: once I was stoned: thrice I suffered shipwreck: a night and a day I was in the depth of the sea. In journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils from false brethren: In labour and painfulness, in much watchings, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness: Besides those things which are without: my daily instance, the solicitude for all the churches.” (Corinthians 11: 24-28)

Can any of us stake claim to even a fraction of these sufferings? Do we not complain at even the relatively minuscule inconveniences with which we are faced? These “saints and friends of Christ” bore their incredible sufferings patiently and lovingly–do we do the same?

If not, don’t lose hope. “They were given us an example for all religious, and ought more to excite us to make good progress than the number of lukewarm to grow slack.”

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