I love spending time going through my various “Quotations” books. I have Bartlett’s,of course, and many others, some from the popular culture, some from politics, some from business and so forth. I have always wished to be better-educated than I am, and I find the “quote” books to be an expeditious way of familiarizing myself with the thoughts of writers, philosophers, thinkers; often reading a provocative quote from a writer will be the springboard for a brief obsession – a flirtatious and giddy mental love affair that sends me skipping down a new neighborhood, on my way to Worship, which is “home”.
I recall finding this from Voltaire: “It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong,” and thinking, “ah…a kindred spirit!” only to find myself at odds with him about a great many things, and yet I did love romping through his fields and playing in the shady arbor of his prolific writings.
The best part about breaking open a book of quotations is that sometimes you find precisely the trough at which you were meant to feed on a particular day. Today, I opened a slim volume called The Essential Wisdom of the Saints and found my chew for the day, from St. John Vianney:
“A humble person, if his opinion is asked, gives it in all simplicity and then leaves others to give theirs. Whether they are right or wrong, he says no more.”
Oh, Lizzie, Lizzie, Lizzie, do learn to shut up, finally. Do learn to curb that instinct to verbal pugilism! Do try to keep a civil tongue in your head and trust that a point made may float on its own!
Anyhow, over Lent I have been collecting a few quotes here and there. I thought I’d share them and perhaps you’d find something you were meant to chew on, for today. Enjoy!
“The truth is, of course, that the curtness of the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted: precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden.”
— G.K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News, 1-3-20
“The Lord measures out perfection neither by the multitude nor the magnitude of our deeds, by by the manner in which we perform them.”
— St. John of the Cross
“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting it, not by giving in. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.
That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it.”
–C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
“I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment, it takes place every day. ”
— Albert Camus
“The gate of heaven is very low; only the humble can enter it.”
— St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
“When we give God our will fully, little by little he takes the rest, all our faculties, the whole man. The conquest no longer rests with us, but with God; it becomes his affair. As he wishes and when he wishes, eh will take our memory, our senses, our passions, our imagination, intellect, and heart, and he does this by the various states through which we have to pass, and by the trials he sends us. We must co-operate with him with our will in each of his loving assaults, by letting him take these things, one by one.
Where God is at work, the devil is not idle. When you try over a period to correct yourself on a particular point, do not be surprised if you have to submit to violent temptations on that very point, even to repeated falls. The important thing is never to admit that you are beaten. Fight and never give in, like a good general. The effort, which is part of the battle, even when there is nothing to show for it, plays and enormous part in the formation of the will. We always emerge from the battle stronger.
— Dom Augustin Guillerand, O. Cart (Source)
“Cast yourself into the arms of God and be very sure that if he wants anything of you, he will fit you for the work and give you strength.”
— St. Philip Neri
“It is absolutely pointless to ask God for something which we ourselves are not prepared to do. If we say “O God, make me free from this or that temptation” while at the same time seeking every possible way of falling to just such a temptation, hoping now that God is in control, that He will get us out of it, then we do not stand much chance. God gives us strength but we must use it. When, in our prayers, we ask God to give us strength to do something in His Name, we are not asking Him to do it instead of us because we are too feeble to be willing to do it for ourselves.
The lives of the saints are enlightening in this respect, and in the life of St. Philip Neri just such an occasion is described. He was an irascible man who quarreled easily and had violent outbursts of anger and of course endured violent outbursts from his brothers. One day he felt that it could not go on. Whether it was virtue or whether he could no longer endure his brothers his Vita does not tell us. The fact is that he ran to the chapel, fell down before a statue of Christ and begged Him to free him of his anger. He then walked out full of hope. The first person he met was one of the brothers who had never aroused the slightest anger in him, but for the first time in his life this brother was offensive and unpleasant to him. So Philip burst out with anger and went on, full of rage, to meet another of his brothers, who had always been a source of consolation and happiness to him. Yet even this man answered him gruffly. So Philip ran back to the chapel, cast himself before the statue of Christ and said “O Lord have I not asked you to free me from this anger?” And the Lord answered “Yes, Philip, and for this reason I am multiplying the occasions for you to learn.”
I think it is very important for us to realize that God will act in this way. He is not going to be crucified for you every day. There is a moment when you must take up your own cross. We must each take up our own cross, and when we ask something in our prayers, we undertake by implication to do it with all our strength, all our intelligence and all the enthusiasm we can put into our actions, and with all the courage and energy we have. In addition, we do it with all the power which God will give us. If we do not do this, we are wasting our time praying.”
— Anthony Bloom, Beginning to Pray
“Humble yourselves . . . We cannot pass through the low door with our head held high unless we want to crack it. And the door we have to pass through is Christ crucified, who humbled himself down to the level of us witless fools.”
— St. Catherine of Siena
“Strive yourself to practice with great perfection the virtue opposite the faults [that annoy you in others.]”
— St. Teresa of Avila
“[Lucifer is] himself seduced by the fullness of his native gifts, he is the first of those who, until the end of time, will choose the finite present rather than the infinite to come. He preferred, and still prefers, hell to the alms of grace. Author of despair! Prince forever of illusory independence!”
— Raïssa Maritain, Source
“Love is not a feeling. It is a decision. Jesus cannot command that you have a feeling. He can only command us to make a decision, and love is the greatest decision we will ever make.”
— Mother Angelica, Mother Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality
“God is not proud … He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything to Him.”
— C.S. Lewis
“My God, if you are everywhere, how come I so often am elsewhere?”
— Madeleine Delbrêl
UPDATE: Something wonderful
Chesterton & Lewis Warn Against Tyranny
Plenty of Good Lenten Reading
Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything