HOME CHAT NAB PRAYERS FORUMS COMMUNITY RCIA MAGAZINE CATECHISM LINKS CONTACT
 CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC SAINTS INDEX  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC DICTIONARY  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Home
 
Bible
 
Catechism
 
Chat
 
Catholic Encyclopedia
 
Church Fathers
 
Classics Library
 
Church Documents
 
Discussion
 
Mysticism
 
Prayer
 
Prayer Requests
 
RCIA
 
Vocations
 
Ray of Hope
 
Saints
 
Social Doctrine
 
Links
 
Contact
 







TRUE COMPUNCTION
OF HEART

THOMAS À KEMPIS

THE GROANS AND SIGHS OF A PENITENT SOUL OR, TRUE COMPUNCTION OF HEART.

PUBLISHED 1867.


<



THE GROANS AND SIGHS OF A PENITENT SOUL OR, TRUE COMPUNCTION OF HEART

Weep with me, all ye my friends, and behold my grief because it is great. Attend to my inward wound because it is very deep.

For what do I weep? For this I say it is, be cause I am cast away from the face of the God of Heaven, from the light of his countenance. My abode is in darkness and in the shadow of death, and I behold not the light of Heaven.

Wherefore what joy can there be for me? I, a miserable creature, have descended from Jerusalem into Jericho, and have met with most cruel robbers, who having stripped me of the robe of immortality, and inflicted many wounds on me, departed, leaving me half dead,

The guards of the city found me, they smote and wounded me: the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me.”

Now therefore, ye daughters of Jerusalem, tell your beloved, that I am filled with grief. Send unto him saying: “Lord, behold, Lazarus, whom thou lovest, is sick: ”and again, “Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of a palsy, and is grievously tormented.”

I have laboured under an infirmity for many years; I, thy servant, am lame from the womb of my mother: because I am bound down by the heavy chain of original sin.

I am the son of Adam the prevaricator, and the child of death, conceived and born in sin. My entrance into life miserable, and my departure out of life full of terror. And whither shall I fly? Alas, I know not.

If I ascend indeed into Heaven, thou art there, who sparest not sinners. And if I descend into Hell, thou art there also to punish prevaricators.

Where shall I hide myself from the countenance of thy wrath, because I have sinned exceedingly in the course of my life? I looked up towards Heaven, and the Lord said: “Take away the wicked, that he may not see the glory of God.”

I looked back again into the abyss, and this terrible voice sounded in my ears: “Bind him hands and feet, and cast him into exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

From this time being mightily troubled, I began to fear, and to be very sad; and all my bones were changed by reason of the wrath and indignation of the Lord. “Fear and trembling came upon me, and darkness covered me.”

And I said: “Who then can be saved? If this terrible and holy name shall observe iniquities, who shall sustain it?”

But now be thou silent, my soul; for I have heard a consoling voice, speaking unto them who are in grief and sadness. Write: “Blessed are they who mourn, because they shall be comforted.” And again: “Do penance, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

It is the voice of the Lord consoling his servants; the voice of the Lord saying: “Ye sons of men, be converted and live.”

Be converted unto me, and I will be turned unto you. Come unto me, all ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.”

And the prophet, speaking to such as are in grief, says these words: The Lord is nigh unto those who are troubled in heart.” And of himself he speaks a word full of consolation: “The Lord heard and hath taken pity on me, the Lord is become my helper, because he hath not despised the petition of the poor.

Behold, as yet there is room for mercy, and the gate is not yet shut. Wherefore, by penance ye will bo able to repair all, both the evil which ye have done and the good which ye have omitted.

Now fear not: “For the Son of man is come to seek and save what had been lost.” And again: “I came not to call the just, but sinners.”

Therefore, raise thyself up, my soul, into a good confidence, because the Lord hath spoken. Thy life approached unto Hell, and thou wast delivered up unto death: but the Lord hath taken compassion on thee, and hath been merciful unto thee.

Thou hast feared exceedingly the anger of God, and thou hast thought to hide thyself from him, as thy father Adam did when he had sinned; but this thought was vain. Thou didst also meditate flight into some distant region, as Jonas did when he fled from the face of the Lord into the ship; but in this thou didst also labour to no purpose, for thou shalt not be able to escape the hand of God, either by concealment or by flight.

Return then through another way to the heavenly region, which God showeth unto thee, that thou mayest walk therein. This is the way: do penance. The best counsel and the most powerful help is given thee from Heaven. The counsel is this, that thou wouldst truly repent, and by weeping, make atonement for thy sins; and that thus, being reconciled, thou mayest have peace with God.

Thy help is from the Lord, who made Heaven and Earth;” who, though he had no need of thee, vouchsafed to pay every debt for thee; for he delivered himself up unto death, and obtained for sinners, that they should not perish; and thus by his death hath snatched thee from eternal death, and succoured thee by his cross and passion.

St. Paul, speaking to the faithful, says: “He hath borne our sins, nailing them to the cross, for giving us all our transgressions, that we may live with him.”

Hence, in another place the same apostle speaks: “A faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinner.” Behold what consolation, and how great a hope God has left to sinners; but that is only to such as are penitent, and forsake sin. Remember, my soul, the words of this saint, in which he hath given such hope to thee.

And now, Lord, I prostrate myself in prayer before thee, and I cry out to thee with my whole heart: Lord God, holy Father, “I have sinned against Heaven, and before thee, and am not worthy to be called thy son. But, my Father, make me as one of thy hired servants.”

If thou hadst cast me away from thy face, thou wouldst have acted justly, but thou dost act mercifully in receiving me, who am unworthy of the least of thy blessings.

Relying on this thy mercy, I fall down at thy feet, I pour forth tears, I adore and devoutly kiss thy sacred footsteps, beseeching thee with an humble and contrite heart, to pardon all my sins.

O merciful God, look down upon me, a poor and insignificant worm; and be propitious to me, as thou hast been to the blessed Mary Magdalen, for merely a great sinner, and who suddenly obtained pardon when she cast herself at thy sacred feet.

Extend thy mercy to them that know thee; stretch forth thy right hand to thy banished servant; and let thy divine eyes behold the contrition of my heart. Let not my lord be angry for ever, on account of the wickedness of his sinful servant; but let him remember the multitude of his mercies from the beginning, and let him be this day reconciled to me, a wretched and miserable sinner.

O Lord hearken to this one petition, which thy servant pours out before thee, bending his knees before thy omnipotence, adoring upon earth the countenance of thy glory; because I have acted foolishly and very unwisely, frequently offending thy clemency, not fearing thy judgements. O Lord.

Acquit, I beseech thee, thy servant of every sin, and blot not out my name from the book of life; but graciously vouchsafe to write it down in the number of thy elect, that it may be there found for the praise and glory of thy most holy name. Amen.

O how great is thy mercy, Lord, who, that thou mightest the more abundantly show thy goodness, hast been pleased to free from death, fallen man, who was deserving of death, and moreover to invite with thy most benign voice the fugitives and the banished, sending thy faithful servants and friends at the hour of supper to tell those who were invited, “that all things are ready, come ye to the wedding.”

Thou mightest, according to the rule of justice, have sent the ministers of thy vengeance after thine enemies, who were unwilling that thou shouldst reign over them, to destroy these homicides, because they deserved either to “be cast into prison, until they should pay the last farthing,” or to be cut off with those who are in Hell.

But thou hast not exercised this thy almighty power, but hast showed thy mercy, in patiently bearing all for a time, that thy beloved might be freed, and flee from before the bow; that is, that they would pre vent a horrible judgement by a sincere conversion.

For if thou, Lord, hadst not been pleased to extend thy hand to the wicked, and to all that have sinned. many would have been lost, who care now become thy friends, and are in the greatest favour with thee.

Thou wouldst not now have Peter, who sinned by thrice denying thee: nor Paul who persecuted thee; nor Matthew, the publican, who panted after worldly gain; nor indeed many of thy great apostles, whom thou hast appointed judges over all the earth. But now, indeed, they are become very dear to thee, and thou hast made them acquainted with all things, which thou hast heard from the Father; and thou art glorified in them, and they have proclaimed thy name upon earth.

These marvellous things have been wrought by thy omnipotent hand, by thy mercy, and by thy right hand replete with all sweetness; for suppressing all thy anger against us, it has pleased thee to make us children of grace, partakers of thy divine nature, and co-heirs of thy heavenly kingdom.

O fountain of pity and infinite mercy, which dost never cease to overflow, but dost always remain easy of access to those approaching to thee, grant that all may have recourse to thee, and may taste of the delights of thy table, because they are sweet, and be cause in them is neither bitterness nor death.

But alas! many turn themselves backward, loving this world more than the heavenly society of thy children, the saints; giving themselves up to despair, and obeying uncleanness and iniquity, and who, being far from thee in their hearts, place all their happiness in the deceitful pleasures of this world. But thy beloved children and faithful servants, hating evil, love thee with their whole hearts, and meditate on thy commandments both by day and by night, and thou dost shelter them under thy wings, lest they should be ensnared by the allurements of the world.

These, thy servants, always glowing with a longing desire of eternal life, wish to be speedily dis solved, that they may live much more happily with thee. And when they are not heard according to their desire, it happens for the better, in order to promote their own salvation, and to fulfil thy will that they are still exercised in divers trials.

Not that thou, Lord, dost then love them the less, because thou dost not presently grant their petitions and fulfil their desires; but because it is thy divine will, by deferring it, to reward more abundantly hereafter those whom thou dost permit to be longer afflicted in this life.

It is well for these, who have obtained such grace from thee, and who now glow with a desire of eternal life, and by the fruit of good works, are waiting for a copious retribution. But how can I who am a sinner, and who am borne down by the weight of my crimes, presume to lift up my eyes to these unparalleled mountains of piety, namely, thy saints and perfect men, who in this earthly habitation, which is likened unto a valley of tears, have so raised them selves up as to touch the very heavens, by the sublimity of their conversation, and intenseness of their contemplation?

Woe, woe, woe,” says St. John the Apostle, “to the inhabitants of the earth.”Woe to those of carnal mind, and to those inhabiting this world with a craving desire. Woe also unto these, who are surrounded with the stings of many passions, and who resist them not. And woe to those who wander far from the way of the just, who do not weep, but vainly laugh, and, what is worse, do evil when in the presence of God: even this they fear not to do, but in a little time they esteem it of no consequence.

What wonder then, if I now grieve, and if, as is meet, I sincerely lament? For internal grief changes the affection of man, and wishes not to rejoice, nor indeed to be consoled in earthly things. Behold the cause why we all should grieve and weep? Because the soul seldom perfectly recollects itself, and rarely enjoys even a small portion of its celestial food. Wherefore, being weighed down with a desire of earthly things, it ought justly to lament. Let him then, who has a heart within him, deplore and say: “I did eat ashes as bread, and have mingled my drink with tears.”

This is the reason, I say, for which I weep, because my grief is not on account of heavenly but of earthly things, and because I am engrossed with visible and unnecessary things, and often I am delighted with them, and what is worse, I am some times with difficulty withdrawn from them. Alas, I say, I am with difficulty withdrawn from these things, which are hurtful to me, and which I often detest and hate, and nevertheless I am again led captive by them.

O clay and mire, how long wilt thou cling to me? O darkness and miserable state of infatuation, how long shall I be involved in you? How long shall I endure you, and how long shall I dwell in you? My infirmity is so great, that I find it difficult to withstand temptations, but easy enough to yield to vice and the evil propensities of the heart. For I am but earth, formed of earth; and therefore, by natural frailty, I find myself to be moved rather by earthly than by heavenly thoughts.

I seek after eternal food with less avidity than after that which is temporal; and my strength is dried up as a potsherd, “because I forgot to eat my bread;”my bread, I say my bread, which God the Father had given me, but it is now changed into earth ly bread. And lo! I, who could have been filled with heavenly food, do now eat ashes and husks like swine.

I am miserable and very unhappy, who am come to such extreme hunger, that not knowing and neglecting things above, I should turn my thoughts to the love of things below. I was created to taste of perpetual delights, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb; but, sinning against my God, I have been struck blind, and have lost that celestial food, and am now fed with passions and vain affections of this world. And the longer my heart perceives it self excluded from interior comforts, the more licentiously it pursues every earthly consolation.

Nevertheless, sometimes on serious reflection. I find myself unhappy amidst all these earthly enjoyments. For I am encompassed and overwhelmed with many adversities, and with many griefs, and bowed down with much anguish; I am often sad, and what to choose I know not. I am straitened on all sides and indeed I scarcely discern through my own blindness which to prefer; I ask for the things that are above me, things which are not present, but to come; and in the meantime I am eager in pursuit of the things which are of this world.

How craftily do earthly desires insinuate themselves into the heart of man! They come in troops to me, and with them divers thoughts; some of the world, some of the flesh, more of the Devil; and surrounding me on every side, they say: “We are thy bone and thy flesh. Let us remain a little while with thee. Consent unto us, be a friend unto us, and even tarry here a little while with us.” Some times they craftily lay snares for me with their blandishments and great promises: and at other times they endeavour to weigh down my soul with threats, with terrors, and the various events of evil. And I, who am a frail man, and weak to resist their persuasions and importunities, do not withstand them as I ought. Notwithstanding, I am certain of being deceived, if I do as they persuade me, since they speak to me guilefully, and since that persuasion is not of God, but of malignity.

They, indeed, who are born of God resist the Devil, and fly from his suggestions; and they who hate the world and the things which are in it, have nothing to rivet their affections here below. They also, who are wise in God, believe not every spirit, but prove all, whether the spirit be of God or of the world. They hear indeed, but they do not consent, saying: “We know not whence ye are. Begone, because ye are of your father the Devil, and truth is not in you.”

Such is the conflict of the pious; and the Lord who beholdeth the universe, knoweth how great the labour is of all their temptations.

That life is full of grief and trouble, they well know who have drunk of the cup of its bitterness.

Wherefore the mind of man seeks how it may be refreshed, and finds all consolation is in vain, unless the divine consolation is present.

It is taught by daily experience, that all earthly hopes are deceitful, and that whatever he seeks out of God in the time of this pilgrimage, does only in crease his bitterness.

Woe is me, that my sojourning is prolonged, and truly there is nothing in this life in which I can safely rest. My members severally speak to me, saying: “Harass not thyself for nothing, for sooner shalt thou consume away, than be satisfied with these earthly things.”Then, says my spirit who always desires sweet, delicious, and most excellent food: “I will return to my house, whence I departed, for I fared better there than I do now; and I even loathe those things which have been offered to me abroad.”

But, my flesh, I wish you would hear this voice; and setting your own prudence apart, emulate the spirit. Doubtless you would find life, and escape eternal death. You ought to pay your temporal dues; for to refuse obedience to the spirit, brings condemnation. Therefore will you wisely act if you oppose not, but with all mildness subject yourself to the spirit, that you may not feel the second death, but enter into eternal rest, which above all things you love.

Therefore, follow me, and distress not your spirit by indulging desires against it; but rather prepare yourself better to conform to all its dictates; for I tell you, if you have shared its tribulation, you will hereafter share its consolation.

Daughter of Sion, put on sackcloth and ashe, come down and sit in the dust. Lament with me, for it is not well with me; and my pain is neither moderate nor of short duration.

My Lord and my God is angry with his servant, and has cursed his works, saying: “In the sweat of your face shall you eat your bread.” And I confess that I have justly lost that desirable land, because I have not kept God’s commandment.

Before my fall, iny food was not animal, earthly, and bodily; but heavenly, angelic, and spiritual.

The bread which God provided for me was wheat en, fine and sifted, but is now become of barley, coarse and mouldy; if I add, baked under the ashes and never turned, I speak truth. With reason then do I deplore the misery which I have endured in the exile in which I am born, and the loss which I sustain in a strange land.

All ye sons of men lament. Sons of Adam, weep for your own sakes, who eat ashes for bread, and have changed the heavenly for earthly food: blind and unhappy children, what have ye forfeited? Because ye do not know the value of what you have lost, ye do not weep, and therefore are ye the more wretched, for ye see not into what utter misery ye have fallen. Behold my fall of what delights I am deprived, and with what evils I am surrounded. I am distressed in this life, and day and night do I sigh for the eternal banquet, where no one hungers, but all delight to drink the wine that wine which affects not the understanding, but gladdens and purifies the hearts of the saints; there is no one to give me a draught of it. Scarce a drop of the water of salvation, which attends in the heavenly realms, is given to those who call for it Heaven is shut against me, the earth yields not its but thorns and thistles spring up for me, and you say: Why do you weep? Why do you not eat and drink?

Ye sons of men, to what end are you distressed in heart? To what end do you relish such things? And why do you afflict my heart by speaking thus foolishly? You endeavour to subvert the just “by the false promise, saying: Peace, peace; and there is no peace; what have you to do with peace? There is no peace for the wicked, saith the Lord. I do not weep because I am not rich; because I do not abound in wine, bread, corn, and oil, as you wish to abound; but because I am in this world, and have not yet seen him, who is true peace and supreme happiness. Reach your hands to my stripes, and feel my wounds, and if you will not weep with me, let me go a little to lament my pain, before I depart from this life never more to return.

I will in the mean time sit in grief and walk in sorrow; nor shall I go forth into the world, but die in my obscure retreat, and be buried in the grave which I have dug for me. My joy is exceedingly great that I have found a tomb, that I may sleep in it, and not see the wickedness which is committed on the earth. My soul is weary of my life, and my pain is daily renewed.

Therefore, my Lord God, I beg that you loose me from all the chains of sin, and moreover rescue me from the earth, because it is better for me to die than live. And what more can I do here? Days after days, and years after years pass away, but your servant is not much the better,

Continue not your unworthy servant, nor suffer him longer to wander after the vanity of this life, Like a lost sheep have I strayed; Lord, seek your servant, for it is time.

Not my righteousness or goodness, Lord, but your mercy and lovingkindness, are immeasurable. According to that mercy, deal with thy servant, visit jie with your salvation, to the end that I may live in the society of your elect, and rejoice in the joy of your heavenly kingdom, that you may be praised with that inheritance which you have purchased with your precious blood; who with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever remain the holy God. Amen.








Copyright ©1999-2016 e-Catholic2000.com