George Tyrrell.

Hard sayings; a selection of meditations and studies online

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blesses the man who has consideration for the poor
and needy, and smoothes his pillow for him in his
sickness ; who calls a man a liar if he pretends to
bewail invisible and supernatural evils, and yet has
no pity for those that are visible and natural. 1 The
same reasons which forbid us to neglect the temporal
and bodily needs of the living under pain of reproba-
tion, forbid us to neglect the sufferings of the blessed
dead. Nay, because they are blessed and dearer to
God, we owe them a special care and service.
St. Paul tells us that our charity, which is due to all,,
is first due to those that are of the household of the
faith. And are not the blessed dead more truly in
God's household than the living ? If God wants us
to visit Him in the prisons of earthly justice, much

1 1 St. John iv.


more does He wait for our consolation in the
debtor's prison of heavenly justice. " Remember
the poor debtors," for they cry out to us day and
night with their endless Miseremini met/ Let us
make friends with them now, that when our time
comes they may help us, and at last welcome us into
everlasting habitations. For they will not be like
Pharao's butler, who, when released from prison,
no longer remembered Joseph his helper, but forgot

This, indeed, is the least of all motives, though
a good one. Still better, is the thought that alms-
giving, if it be the child of real charity and pitying
love of others, cleanses our soul from all sin and
wins us a heritage of mercy. Also, whatever unselfs
us, and takes us out of our narrowness, and makes
us live for others and in others, and dwell, not upon
our own wounds, but on those of Christ's Mystic
Body, is an incalculable good.

Again, charity to the dead is in some way more
beneficial to our faith than charity to the living.
For faith means a realization of the invisible world ;
and one reason why this devotion flags is because
we are more alive to pains we can see and imagine,
than to those of the mysterious spirit-world. Humani-
tarian charity, important as it is, involves no great
exercise of faith in the invisible.

But beyond all these reasons and motives there
is one which appeals to our love of God, and of
His Blessed Mother, and of the saints, His friends
and courtiers. We have often heard of miners
being buried alive in the bowels of the earth,


while their parents and friends were standing above
their living grave, broken-hearted and terrified,
listening anxiously for some sound or sign from
the depths, to sustain and quicken their languish-
ing hopes. So may we figure to ourselves, God
and His Blessed Mother and the saints, standing
on high above the abyss of Purgatory, where the
Holy Souls are buried under a vast depth of incum-
brances and debts of punishment to be worked out,
through which their faint cries for assistance scarce
penetrate : " From the depths have I cried to Thee,
O Lord. Let Thy ears be attentive to the voice of
my supplication."

God is in some sense powerless, and dependent
on our co-operation for the deliverance of His dear
children, whom He afflicts not willingly but of
necessity; His wisdom and justice tie His hands,
and bid Him wait for the payment of the last
farthing. And Mary longs to welcome them home
to her Mother's heart, with all their sufferings and
sorrows past, their tears wiped away, and their cup
of joy filled to the brim — even as she is said to have
waited with restless longing by the tomb through
the vigil of Easter to clasp to her breast the first-
fruits of the dead, the first-born of her many children.
And the saints are also athirst for the deliverance
of the blessed dead ; for every new-comer to their
festival increases the joy of all the rest — a joy that
grows and feeds on sympathy, a fire that burns
more fierce and bright for every new faggot that is
cast upon it.

And so, as usual, the instinct of the Catholic


religion is found to be true and right and faithful as
soon as we look into it carefully and devoutly. Our
faith is everywhere seen to be an exquisite harmony,
so delicate, so exact in composition, that no element
can be removed or disturbed without destruction to
the whole. The devotion to the Holy Souls might,
to a superficial thinker, seem an arbitrary accretion
to the body of Catholic teaching, something stuck
on from without, that could be removed without
hurt. But closer examination proves it a true vital
outgrowth whose veins and fibres reach down
through the whole plant to the very earth itself,
whence it draws its life. You cannot touch it or
tear it without injury to every other article of belief,
to the doctrine of sin and its consequences — which
again involves the doctrine of God as Creator and
Redeemer — to the doctrines of vicarious suffering, of
the communion of saints, of charity, of mercy, and
of all the doctrines which they depend upon and


A nt pati, aid mori — " Let me either suffer or die."

We are told in the Breviary lesson for the feast of
St. Teresa 1 that, not content with the passive,
patient, and loving endurance of the many crosses
and afflictions whereby in the ordinary course of
His providence God purified and chastened her
affections, and prepared her soul for an eternal
union with Himself, for the everlasting embrace of
the Heavenly Spouse, she was wont, in obedience
to the inspiration of Divine love, to go out of her
way in search of further sufferings, to regard them
as pearls of great price to be earnestly sought for,
and carefully hoarded when found ; that she was
restless, uneasy, fretful, if ever she were wholly free
from pain or sorrow or humiliation, from the Cross
in one form or another. For her, life without suffer-
ing was not worth living; it was death, worse than
death: Aut pati, aut mori — "Let me either suffer
or die."

Her earliest manifestation of this strange passion
was when as a mere child she fled from home, hand
in hand with her little brother, to seek martyrdom
among the Moors. That indeed was the greedy

1 This is the development of a sermon preached on her feast in
1896 in the Carmelite Church, Kensington, London


improvidence of childhood, which would have sacri-
ficed the unknown treasures of suffering, hidden in
the womb of futurity, for one short, sharp ecstasy
of present pain ; which would have driven the pierc-
ing sword home at a blow, rather than inch by
inch, with protracted lingerings and loving delays.

But God saved her from herself and from her
folly, as He always does those who love Him ;
thwarting her present good desire that He might
fulfil it a hundred-fold in due season. He had in
reserve for her a baptism, not of blood, but of sorrow,
a far deeper chalice of suffering than that which her
infant greed had thirsted for, a glorious chalice full
to the brim, overflowing, inebriating with heavenly
joy and ecstasy. Aut pati, aut mori : she was not to
die, but to suffer. Non mortar sed vivam — " You
shall not die, Teresa, but you shall live and suffer
and declare the wonderful works of God."

A strange answer, indeed, to the problem of life's
value, in these days when it is so generally assumed
as a first and self-evident principle that suffering is
the one unmitigated evil, and that to escape it
ourselves, or to lessen it for others, is the only
reasonable and worthy end we can put before us.

Here both egoist and altruist, he who lives for
himself and he who lives for others, are at one in their
estimate of good and evil. The former, indeed, by
cutting the cords which would bind him by affection
to his fellow-men and make him a sharer of their
sufferings, narrows the area in which Sorrow can
lodge the arrows she directs against him ; the latter
going out of himself by sympathy, makes, together


with the many with whom he is bound up, an easy
mark for her most casual dart. Yet what they fly
from, and what they fight against in both cases, is
one and the same thing — pain, suffering, sorrow.

None, however, are so short-sighted as not to see
that, however undesirable pain may be in itself, it is,
nevertheless, in the established order of things very
often a necessary condition of life and enjoyment ;
that it must be faced firmly and frequently by those
who wish to extract the full value from a finite and
limited existence ; so that their very horror of pain
should lead them to bear it, nay, even to seek it, in
their own interest or in that of others for whose happi-
ness they live. They recognize that all creation is
groaning and travailing, expecting its deliverance;
that pain is the inevitable condition of growth and
expansion; that life feeds upon death; that the
present must die in giving birth to the future. Aid
pati, autmori; no life but at the cost of suffering,
seems the universal law of evolution. To survive is
to struggle; to struggle is to suffer, and to cause
suffering. And this law they extend from the
physical into the moral and social world, and they
tell us that those who, shrinking: from its seeming
cruelty, would by some vain Utopian scheme end
this struggle between man and man, with its
attendant suffering, would in reality be courting
social death and decay, would be multiplying for
posterity those very evils they seek to avoid for

Thus those who hold most firmly that a pleasure-
able life, free from pain, sorrow, and affliction, is


the one thing to aim at, are willing to allow that
only through many tribulations can we enter into
such a kingdom of enjoyment. Aut pati, aut mori ;
those who flee the Cross cannot grasp even the
perishable crown of pleasure.

The most selfish and shameless of pleasure-
seekers, if he be not led blindly by his feelings from
moment to moment, if he exercise any foresight or
human prudence in the conduct of life, sees clearly
that he must suffer for pleasure's sake; that he
must deny himself and practise judicious self-
restraint ; that he must be a miser in economizing
the enjoyments of life in the present, for the sake
of greater eventual gain of enjoyment. Reflection
and experience alike tell him that the pleasures
of life stand out more brightly against a dark
background of pain. The most acute pleasure,
if continuously sustained at the same pitch, soon
ceases to affect our consciousness in any way;
i.e., ceases to be pleasure ; for pleasure springs from
the consciousness of an agreeable state, and con-
sciousness is like a drugged sleeper kept awake only
by incessant rousings and changes of position.
Without going so far as those who say (with
Schopenhauer), that pleasure is only the conscious-
ness of a cessation or mitigation of pain, every
pleasure-seeker must allow that pain is the very
tonic of the sensitive faculty, whereby the dulled
appetite for pleasure is sharpened anew. Without
suffering, life, even for such a one, were not
worth living, but would quickly exhaust itself
and become flat, stale, and unprofitable. Aut pati,



ant man; if pleasure be life, one must either suffer
or die.

If we turn to the philanthropist, i.e., to him
who, in obedience to a God-given instinct for which
most modern philosophy vainly seeks any coherent
justification, strives to communicate to others what
he himself esteems the truest happiness — we find
the same inevitable condition accepted. Positivism,
which includes in its scheme of benevolence all
sentient creation from man down to the meanest
insect, decks itself out in the blood-stained garment
of Christian asceticism. It breathes everywhere the
spirit of self-sacrifice, it speaks the language of
charity, it vaunts the Cross upon its brow. Nay, it
has rediscovered Christ ; it has raised from the dead
Him whom the Churches have slain. Ant pati, aid
mart, it says; the greatest amount of enjoyment
for the many can only be secured by the self-sacri-
fice of the few who devote their lives to a crusade
against pain, the arch-enemy, who suffer more, that
others may suffer less, and yet by sympathy with
the joy of others, find their own unselfish sorrow
turned into joy. In all this there is something so
analogous to Christian fraternal charity, that the
very elect themselves are often deceived. For here
too — so far as there is any definite positivist
morality or law — love to our neighbour is the
fulfilling of that law.

Christian and positivist alike live and suffer for
the common happiness. It is, however, in their
estimate, not only of what true happiness consists
in, but of the relation between pain and happiness,


that they are as antagonistic one to another, as light
to darkness. Too often, indeed, the kind-hearted,
good-natured philanthropist makes little profession
of any definite theory of life and happiness, but
busies himself incessantly " going about and doing
good" as his momentary instinct or feeling prompts
him. He does not delay to go minutely into the
remote or possible consequences of his benevolent
activity, or to search keenly into his motives, but
wherever he is pained by the sufferings of others
in any form, he at once seeks to relieve his own
pain by relieving theirs. And by yielding to this
kindly impulse and indulging it, it becomes more
and more tyrannical in its demand for gratifi-
cation, so that eventually he is simply dominated
altogether and indiscriminately by his abhorrence
of every form of suffering. Were suffering really
the ultimate evil, and were enjoyment the ulti-
mate good, such a tyranny of benevolence would
be simply the fulness and perfection of Divine

Yet let such a one be reduced by poverty, sick-
ness, or other causes to long years of helpless
suffering in which he can no longer minister to the
happiness of others, and let him be set face to face
with the problem as to what that happiness is which
he sought for them and which they should now
minister to him, and he will be forced to see that
he has hitherto been as a physician going about
dispensing drugs and remedies of which he knows
nothing, for the cure of diseases of which he knows
as little ; that he was healing others while he knew


not how to heal himself; that he was a blind
leader of the blind ; plucking motes from his neigh-
bour's eye, all unconscious of the beam in his own.
An indiscriminate pain-shirker himself, he dealt with
others as he himself would have wished to be dealt

Nay, in bearing the burdens of others he far
surpassed any Christian saint. For the Christian
may never, for the love of others, himself forego
one particle of that final happiness which he desires
to secure for them, nor incur the slightest taint of
that ultimate evil from which it is his supreme
endeavour to preserve them. He may never sin,
even a little, that others may sin less, or stand for
an instant in his own light that others may enjoy
a fuller view of God's face. Whereas the philan-
thropist, viewing pain as the last and unqualified
evil, will endure it himself that others may escape
it ; thus sacrificing what he deems his own highest
good as a means to the highest good of others.

This self-care is sometimes objected to Christians
as indicating a lower altruism, a less absolute un-
selfishness than obtains, at all events in theory,
among the disciples of Comte. Yet unjustly. For
though the Christian must love himself before his
neighbour, and though "charity begins at home,"
yet his self-care and self-love is subordinated as a
means to the care and love of others for God's sake,
that " he may have wherewith to give to him that is
in need." It is only in the measure that he has
found and tasted happiness himself that he will feel
the desire to impart it to others.


Flammescat igne caritas,
Accendat ardor proximos, 1

is the Catholic principle. If, then, a man must love
his own soul before his neighbour's, it is a " before-
ness" of time rather than of affection. The Christian
conception of humanity as an organism, as a many-
branched tree rooted in God and drawing life from
Him, demands that each part be animated and
moved towards the general good of the whole
organism as its all-dominating aim ; and yet it is in
perfecting and strengthening itself that it contributes
most effectively towards this universal and unselfish
end. It never could possibly be for the happiness,
that is, for the true well-being, of others that
a man should neglect his own highest life ; but
rather, the stronger, the higher he is, the more
effectively can he raise and strengthen others.
The mother must feed herself for the sake of the
child at her breast. It is, therefore, the motive from
which it springs, the end to which it is directed,
that turns what would otherwise be spiritual selfish-
ness into that truest altruism which regards God
and self and neighbour as one thing — vine and
branches — with one life, one movement, one interest.
Most of the kindness of modern humanitarians,
however well meant, is really as spurious as that of
the father who weakly yields to every wish and
whim of his children, who will never inflict the least
pain upon them that can by any possibility be
avoided, who takes it for granted that suffering is

1 Kindle the flame of good desire
Till all around be set on fire.


never a good, is never to be endured save by way
of economy as a condition of less eventual suffer-
ing. Yet even this end should make the develop-
ment of the pain-bearing faculty a far more important
feature of education than it is at the present day.

The whole aim of humanitarians is to lessen the
amount of pain in the world, but in no wise to
teach men to bear pain, much less to value it, to
court it, to be in love with it, as St. Teresa was.
They seek to raise the standard, not of happiness
(which, indeed, they lower), but of comfort; thus
implicitly making comfort, or freedom from hard-
ships and bodily sufferings, if not the essence, at
least an essential condition of happiness. They
strive to make men less accustomed to privations
and inconvenience, and therefore more impatient
and intolerant of such as are inevitable, to make the
conditions of contentment ever more manifold and
complex, and therefore more rarely realized, more
easily disturbed.

Nay, the very sympathy extended to suffering,
the tone, so to say, in which it is pitied, makes it
much harder to endure. How often do we not bear
up against trouble until we find ourselves pitied;
how often is it not pity which first suggests to us
the misery of our plight ? Suffering would be
bearable enough were it not for reflection, which
magnifies it and joins its several pangs into one
chain of woe, and brings those that are past and
even those that are future to bear upon the present,
and crushes us with pain of which nine-tenths
belong to the world of ideas. But this phantom


grows to a Brocken-spectre when we see it reflected
in the eyes of all around us. Our estimate of good
and evil is largely taken from those with whom we
dwell, and our enjoyment and suffering depend on
that estimate. Thus we marvel at what our fore-
fathers put up with in the way of discomfort ; we
admire their patient endurance of various incon-
veniences, injustices, oppressions, which to us would
be quite unbearable ; and forgetting that the con-
ditions of contentment are far more subjective than
objective, we fancy that our ancestors must have
been as miserable as we should now be in the same
circumstances. Instead of inuring men to the
rough climate of this mortal life, humanitarianism
has accustomed them to wraps and muffles, and
rendered them susceptible to every little change of
temperature — poor, frail, pain-fearing creatures.

Indeed, there are no greater enemies of human
happiness than those who substitute pleasure and
pain for good and evil. Pleasure is coy and will
not be sought directly. She is found by those who
seek her not, and flies, as does their shadow, from
those who hotly pursue her. And pain is terrible
chiefly to those who have learnt to view it as the
ultimate evil. So that in pursuing the one phantom
and flying from the other, they are not only diverted
from the quest of true and solid happiness, but
inevitably fail to secure even that which they

As far as this modern philanthropy understands
itself, it is simply " positivist ; " it is indifferent to
belief in God or in the life to come. It finds its


motive largely in a sense of pity springing from the
very decay of faith, pity for human life so short, so full
of misery, so void of hope, and thence it conceives
a desire to sweeten the bitterness of that lot, to
crowd all possible enjoyment into life's brief span,
to exclude all avoidable suffering and sorrow, and in
every other way to minister anodynes and narcotics
which will mitigate the sadness of existence, and
foster the illusion that life, without God, without
immortality, is still a prize worth having. And this
same pity for temporal pain and suffering, as the
evil of evils, is naturally extended to the whole of
sentient creation, to all our fellow-mortals, from
whom we are thought to be divided by no very
certain line ; whence the extravagances of zoophilist
fanaticism, and the growing tenderness for animal
suffering which, though beautiful in itself when
resting on a rational foundation, is altogether
reprehensible when raised to the rank of a supreme
rule of action to the prejudice of higher principles.
The Buddhist has at least an apparent religious
justification for his attitude in the matter, but the
modern positivist (unlike the Catholic Christian)
can offer no basis for his zoophilism save the
tyranny of a sentiment, good in itself, but pampered
into a mania by indiscriminate indulgence, and which
by its very extravagances hurts the cause he would
help. For there is no affection, passion, or instinct,
however natural, or useful, or admirable in due
season and measure, that may be always and every-
where indulged without reference and subjection to
the higher rule of reason whose minister it is.


It is not surprising that those who estimate the
evil of the world in terms of pain and sorrow
should descant in no measured language on the
cruelty of Nature, and should refuse to believe
that behind all there is a personal God who
could prevent all this misery and yet will not.
If He could not, say they, how is He almighty ?
If He will not, how is He all-loving? In either
case how is He infinite ; how is He God ? Nor
would the objection be without weight, were
temporal enjoyment the final good of man ; were
there no higher good with which the lower has no
common measure, being, so to say, in a different
plane or category. " If in this life only we have
hope," says St. Paul, " then are we of all men the
most miserable " — a pessimism no less applicable to
life viewed merely in the light of reason ; if the
present enjoyment of sentient creation be indeed
the ultimate good, then it is hard to see the
finger of the All-Mighty, the All- Loving God in such
a result as is evident to our limited view. And
therefore we find many pure, unselfish souls,
bewildered with this disheartening philosophy,
devoting all theii energies to a fruitless contest
with the inexorable laws of this seemingly cruel
world, if perchance they may even by a single drop
lessen the vast ocean of misery and pain, seeking no
other happiness than that of procuring the happiness
of others, though scarce knowing what happiness
means. Their instinct of benevolence, ill-instructed
though it be, is from God, the Author of all charity
and unselfish love. In living for the good of others


they are at one -with the Christian, but in their
estimate of what that good consists in, they are
diametrically opposed to a religion which regards
pain or sorrow, not merely as an inevitable and
regrettable condition of good, to be minimized as
far as possible, but as a positive means to good,
something to be sought out and willingly embraced
in due season and measure ; not merely as a
bitterness incidental to the medicine of life, but as
itself a medicinal bitterness; — a religion which says:
Blessed are the poor, blessed are the mourners,
blessed are the persecuted, blessed are the dead ;

Online LibraryGeorge TyrrellHard sayings; a selection of meditations and studies → online text (page 10 of 31)