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Step 02

ON DETACHMENT FROM ALL THINGS THAT ARE EARTHLY.

1. He who is animated by a true love of God, who seeks with a sincere affection a future and eternal kingdom, who weeps for his sins with the tears of heartfelt compunction, who cherishes a lively remembrance of the great Day of Judgment, and of the everlasting torments of hell, who has a profound and continual dread of death, who has no attachment to mislead him, nor care to trouble him, nor anxiety about riches, honours, friends, relations, or any other terrestrial object, but free from every bias, every tie to creatures, every solicitude, follows Jesus Christ with this entire spoliation of all that is self, with this disengagement from every other business, and with a spirit ever fervent, may constantly look up to heaven and wait with confidence like holy David, the aid of the Most High. “My soul,” may he exclaim, “hath stuck close to thee.”1 And with the Prophet Jeremiah: “I am not troubled, following Thee for my pastor, and I have not desired the day of man, thou knowest....Thou are my hope in the day of affliction.”2

2. It would be a burning shame on our part, if, after the complete renunciation we have mentioned, in order to follow not man, but God, who has called us to His service, we should allow ourselves to be harassed with cares and disquietudes about temporal things, which cannot afford us the slightest consolation in the day of our greatest need, the day of our death, on which depends an eternity of happiness or an eternity of misery. To act thus, would as Jesus Christ terms it, be looking back, when we had put our hand to the plough, and consequently rendering ourselves unfit for the kingdom of heaven.3 Our Blessed Lord, knowing the liability of our weak nature to fall after we have entered His service, and with what facility our hearts are again attracted by the world, if we hold conversation and communion with worldly-minded people, said to him who asked permission to go and bury his father, “Let the dead bury the dead.”4

3. When we have renounced the world, the wicked spirits tempt us to imagine those very happy who can exercise alms-deed and other acts of charity, and to believe ourselves very miserable in being deprived of this privilege. Now the object of the devil in suggesting this feeling of false and spurious humility, is to induce us to return to the world, or if we still tarry in our solitude to plunge us into despair. But as there are solitaries who disparage persons in the world merely to extol themselves, so are there others who express their contempt for the state and condition of seculars in their absence, merely to drive away the thoughts of despair to which they are tempted, and to arm themselves with renewed hope and confidence in God.

4. If we desire to run with energy and speed in the career of a religious life, let us attentively consider, that they who dwell in the world and live according to the world, have been numbered by Jesus Christ among the dead, when He said, “Leave the dead,” that is worldlings, “to bury their dead.”

5. Let us listen to that which our Blessed Redeemer said to the young man, who had kept the commandments from his youth: “One thing is wanting to thee: go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor,”5 that thou mayest receive alms from another. We do not learn from the Gospel that the young man’s riches were an impediment to his reception of baptism. Hence the deception of those who assert, that this proposal of Jesus Christ to the young man to dispose of all he had, was that he might prepare himself for the above mentioned sacrament. Since, then, our Divine Saviour by this example has proved, that He required more from this excellent youth, in order to place him in that state of perfection to which He was anxious he should aspire, than what was merely necessary for baptism, we have need of no testimony greater than his own to be convinced of the excellency of our profession.

6. Some persons who, whilst they lived in the world, macerated their bodies by long watchings, fasts, and all kinds of mortifications, practised these austerities, which were merely fictitious and apparent virtues, no more after they had quitted the society of men to embrace the religious state, and had withdrawn into the monastery as into the school of penance, and the theatre of their spiritual combat. I have seen individuals perform many virtuous actions, whilst they were resident in the world; but these virtues were plants watered by the muddy streams of vainglory. They were cultivated and taken care of by ostentation and the love of popularity; they were manured and fostered in their growth by the applause of men. But immediately they were transplanted into the desert--a land impassable to worldlings--immediately they were deprived of their accustomed humidity and irrigation from the polluted waters of vanity, they withered and drooped to the earth. For such exotics, reared in the rank and moist soil of self-esteem, could not take root in the sands of the wilderness, when nourished by no human praise or flattery.

7. If any one has conceived a real hatred of the world, he is emancipated by this very hatred from all sadness. But if he still cherish an attachment to things that are visible, he carries about with him a source of sadness and melancholy. for how can he be otherwise than sad, when he sees himself liable to be deprived of that which he loves? We have, indeed, need of much circumspection and much vigilance; but we ought to be more circumspect and more vigilant upon this one point, than upon any others. For I have seen many persons in the world, who, through the cares with which their minds were agitated, the multiplicity of their occupations, and the long hours they were obliged to devote to secular employments, were left entirely free from the assaults of concupiscence. But when they had retired from the world, and enjoyed the calm repose of a solitary life, they fell into many shameful sins against chastity.

8. Let us take care lest, whilst fancying ourselves walking in the narrow and rugged path of the Gospel, we should be treading the broad and easy way of perdition. We will here note some of the signs by which our steps may be known to be in the right direction for heaven; mortification of our sensual appetite, long vigils, the limitation of our drink to measure, in having bread alone for our food, the love of humiliation, the patient endurance of ridicule and insult, the suppression of all murmuring when ill-treated and despised, forbearance under injustice, hatred of detraction, and meekness under censure, contumely, and vituperation. Happy are they who walk in this narrow path, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!

9. No one can be crowned in the nuptial chamber of Paradise, who does not make three solemn renunciations: 1st, the renunciation of every thing and person, even our relatives; 2nd, the renunciation of our own will; 3rd, the renunciation of that self-complacency which sometimes follows our obedience, when we take satisfaction in our good performances, and assume some little credit for our submission and fidelity. “Depart, “says the Lord, by His prophet, “depart, go ye out from thence; touch no unclean thing; go out of the midst of her; be ye clean, you that carry the vessels of the Lord.”6 Who amongst worldlings has ever wrought miracles? Who raised the dead? or chased away demons? Such wonders are reserved by God for solitaries, in regard for their virtue, and not for the votaries of the world. If it were not thus, it would be superfluous to embrace a religious life, and retire into solitude.

10. When, after our retreat from the busy world, the devil attempts to soften our hearts by calling to our remembrance our parents, our father, or mother, or to her relatives, let us have recourse to prayer, as our best defence against such suggestions of tenderness and affection. Let us brace up our courage by the consideration of the eternal flames of hell, that the mental representation of these flames may extinguish the fire of indiscretion, which the enemy endeavours to enkindle in our heart.

11. If any one imagines that he is not attached to any thing, yet feels an inward sadness, when he is deprived of it, that individual is labouring under a grievous delusion.

12. Young people who are prone to concupiscence and to carnal pleasures, and who form the resolution of embracing a solitary life, should practice with great vigour constant sobriety and prayer, and rigorously abstain from all delicacies, and avoid every willful offence, lest their last state should become worse than the first. For the religious life may be termed a port, in which may be found either perfect safety, or a dismal shipwreck. This is a truth well known to all who have navigated this spiritual sea. What a lamentable spectacle to behold those who sailed in security upon the wide ocean, wrecked and lost in the very harbour!

When you have mounted this second step of the Holy Ladder of Perfection, do not imitate Lot’s wife, but Lot himself.


  1. Ps. lxii. 9.

  2. xvii. 16,17.

  3. Luke ix. 62.

  4. Luke ix. 60.

  5. Mark x. 21.

  6. Isaiah lii. 11.



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Archbishop Gregory
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