The Principle of Self-Discipline

Whatever we may be able to learn from the study of Nature, whether of art or science, all that we know of good and evil, and of the great moral struggle, we know apart from Revelation through our own nature alone. So imbued are our minds with moral ideas that we seem to see them reflected in the world of Nature, but it is only that extraordinary responsiveness with which she always meets man. It is a strange thing when we come to analyse it, that so much light and shade, so many lines and curves, so much inanimate matter, should be able in such an extraordinary way to reflect the mind of man, that we even transfer to it our own moral ideas and struggles. Who has not felt that not only can the skies and the earth and the winds rejoice with us in our joys and sorrow with our sorrows, but that they echo our stormy passions, and reflect our wrath and rebellion and cruelty, and melt with us into tears of penitence and sing with us our Te Deums.

And yet all that we know of the moral life we know through our own nature alone, all else is but the reflection of what passes in the soul of man, the central and ruling figure upon earth.

We only know of sin as human sin, and we only know of goodness and virtue as seen through our own nature. When we think of the goodness and love of God we think of these attributes as seen in and shown through the Sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ. When we think of diabolical wickedness, it is only human wickedness enlarged and intensified that we can imagine. Man stands midway between the seen and unseen, acted upon by the powers of good and evil, influenced and swayed by them, and the sensitive instrument through which they are revealed. But here upon this earth no knowledge of any moral kind apart from that of Revelation can come to us save through our own nature. If it is to come here to man it must enter through man's nature, it can come through no other door, it is only as uttered and expressed in terms of human nature that human beings can understand it. There may be forms of wickedness that the evil spirits commit which human nature is incapable of and consequently knows nothing about; if man cannot commit these sins, how are they to become known here amongst men? I know the human struggle, the human failure and victory; I can enter without difficulty into sympathy with the man whose temptations are very different from my own; any evil or any good that has ever been done or is capable of being done by man I can understand, its highest reaches, its lowest depths. I am moved to self-condemnation and to effort by the deeds of men infinitely above me, and I can feel the horrible fascination of the wickedness of men far worse than I; but with human nature my knowledge ends. The whole moral world is to me the world of men. As I look within I know indeed full well that I stand amongst Powers and Beings that are not human, but I only know them as they act upon my heart and my mind, and interpret themselves in terms of my own nature.

And who can doubt that this nature of ours is as capable of revealing evil as good. Indeed there are those who assure us that we know more about evil than good. Certainly the great heights of the spiritual life are known to but a few, but I think that the utmost depths of wickedness are known perhaps to fewer. At any rate we cannot deny that alongside of the wonderful revelations of goodness and virtue which have been made known through men and women, there has always been the dark shadow of sin. Our nature has shown us what sin is, and has manifested a hideous power of adapting itself as the instrument of evil. It can reveal to us the perfection of virtue or of vice, as it seems, with equal facility. I can think of people through whom I have seen shine the virtue of spotless purity, of perfect self-sacrifice, of unclouded sincerity and truthfulness, and I have seen in them the radiant beauty of which our nature is capable. But I know people also who have shown me to what depths of degradation human nature can sink.

If then man's nature is equally capable of good and evil, if the same human nature which shines with holiness in our Lord can become the prey of every evil desire and be possessed by a legion of evil spirits, if it can take delight in all that is holy and pure and of good report and be transported by the love of God and kindled with the desire for all that is noblest and best, and if it is equally capable of turning away from God and revelling in all that is worst and basest, if it is capable of being indwelt by the Holy Spirit or of being possessed by the devil, the question arises what is this evil which men commit so easily? Is there in our nature some evil thing whose fermentations produce evil desires and evil actions? Could we, if we took man to pieces, find within him that which is the source of evil? If men are to become holy are they to be instructed to destroy something in themselves which, when they have destroyed, they will be able to become good? Or, if this seems too material a view of evil, are there in man certain powers or forces which make for evil and certain others which make for good; and shall we say that a bad man is one who has developed the forces of evil within himself, and a good man is one who has destroyed all these and developed the forces and powers which make for good? Does a man feel as he grows in holiness that he has gradually killed out certain powers that were apparently an integral part of himself, and that he has developed certain others; that the inner conflict has been one in which one part of himself was arrayed against the other, and that the victory of good over evil has been the victory of the higher powers by the killing out of the lower, and that consequently the triumph of good over evil has been purchased by a certain loss, as the victory of one army over another is won by the death of many a soldier?

It has seemed to some as if it were so. There are those who will tell you that there is a certain tameness about good people, a lack of fire and force and energy, which is to be found in men who are not good; that the strongest men are not the men who are over-careful about the subdual of pride and temper and ambition and passion. They insist that such virtues, for instance, as are taught in the Beatitudes and are essentially Christian - Poverty of spirit, Mourning, Meekness - are lacking in virility, and that there is an clement of weakness in the ideal Christian character as compared with that of the man of the world. And it would be said, no doubt, that the reason of this is that the victory over evil and the triumph of these virtues is purchased at too great a price, the destruction of certain powers and of certain elements of our nature which we characterise as evil. The strong man needs to develop and to use everything with which he finds himself equipped, and to use all his powers is simply to be human.

Now such a view of evil, as something positive, the fermentation of some evil substance or the possession of powers in themselves bad, is essentially unchristian. There is nothing, no substance, no power, no faculty, in man that is in itself bad. The Catholic doctrine of the Incarnation teaches that our Lord assumed our nature in its entirety, and that whatever belongs to our nature was in Him. We cannot imagine that He assumed into union with His own Divine Personality anything that was inherently evil, or that in creating man He, the Creator, created and placed in him what was evil. Analyse the soul of the greatest sinner and the greatest saint and you will not find in the sinner any single element that is not in the saint. Compare the soul of the Magdalene or of Saint Augustine before and after their conversion. There was nothing lacking in either after their conversion that was there before. As saints they were not weakened or emasculated. Who would have cared to read their history if the had not been converted? who, on reading their history, does not feel that their lives after their conversion were the lives of those who had "come to themselves," that they were then their real selves, that somehow they got the power of self-expression in the fullest and highest sense? They lost nothing, destroyed nothing, but were in full possession of all their powers. There was much in the Magdalene which she had never used, perhaps never dreamed of, till she came to our Lord; He revealed to her the secret of true self -development, which is another word for sanctity; and she found under His guidance that everything in her had henceforth to be used, and used in a fuller and richer way than she had ever imagined possible before. It was in no narrow school of self-limitation, in no morbid school of false asceticism, that this poor sinner was educated in the principles of sanctity, but in the large and merciful school of Him who has been ever since the hope of the hopeless, the friend of publicans and sinners, who knows full well that what men need is not to crush and kill their powers, but to find their true use and to use them; that holiness is not the emptying of life, but the filling; that despair has wrapped its dark cloud round many a soul because it found itself in possession of powers that it abused and could not destroy and did not know how to use, and who taught them the great and inspiring doctrine, "I am not come to destroy but to fulfill".

No, if there be a lack of strength or virility in good people, it is not because they are good, but because their goodness is imperfect, or of a spurious kind. In proportion as a man is really good he will be strong. We often forget that the Apostle of Love, who is so frequently represented in art as almost effeminate, was in fact "the Son of Thunder". The gentlest of the saints will be found to be really a stronger man than many a one not a saint who has gained a character for strength. Holy people often surprise us by showing a courage and firmness we did not give them credit for. The weakness with which they are credited arises from their view of life, that they do not care to make a stand or to fight for many things that ordinary people set a high value upon, because they do not think them worth it.

For the difference between goodness and badness does not consist in the presence or absence, the preservation or destruction, of anything within us which is evil, but in the right or wrong use of powers in themselves good Sin is the misuse of powers which God has given us, the use of them for ends for which they were never intended. It is as though a soldier took the sword which he was given to defend his country and used it in the cause of her enemies. Every power, every faculty, every gift of our nature was given us for good. They were given us for the service of God, and are capable of being used in His service. We take these God-given powers and use them for an unworthy end, and we sin. The heart with which I can rise up into the closest union with God I can use in loving what God most hates. The heart of the greatest sinner is the same faculty and is capable of the same acts as the heart of the greatest saint It is not the heart itself which is evil The most degraded and vicious of men have the same divine power of love as the holiest The difference is that one has set his affections on an object unworthy of them, the other has turned to Him who has made our hearts for Himself.

So, again, it is the same will with which I choose right which I can use in choosing wrong. The will is good whatever I use it for. I violate my whole nature and weaken the will in choosing evil I act according to my nature, and my will grows stronger and ever more reliable as I choose good. The will that has been most enslaved by the constant choice of all that is base and vile, and which seems incapable of making one good choice, even such a will is in itself good; the evil lies not in the will but in the objects upon which it exercises its choice, it is the abuse of a great and noble power. You have not to destroy it or rid it of anything inherent in it to become good, still less to lay it aside unused, but rather to use it, weakened and debased as it is, in the energetic choice of good.

Thus we might take one after another of those powers which have been the cause of the greatest sin, and see how, though the instruments of sin, they are in themselves good, and in the use of them the saints became saints.

Augustine did not lay aside his great intellectual gifts when he gave up his Manichaean errors and became the servant of Christ, we see rather the emancipation of his intellect The Truth made him free. His intellect apparently got a new expansion when he turned it to the Truth. It was as though a great power which had been cramped and distorted and was never able to use itself to the full, was at last set free to exercise itself upon objects worthy of it.

It is necessary to be quite clear on this point, for upon it will depend our whole view of the reformation of life and character. If you are struggling to destroy the evil that you believe to be in you, it is indeed a hopeless task, and you are condemned to failure at the start. If, on the other hand, you realise that the change from a life of sin to a life of holiness is but a change in the objects upon which you exercise the powers which God has given you, you will feel that it is by no means hopeless - on the contrary, that it is pre-eminently reasonable. There is infinite inspiration in the thought that you are striving to use your powers for the very purpose for which they were created. If you know that your heart was created to love God, there may be great difficulties in training it to turn away from unworthy objects, but you cannot doubt that it can love God; only strive long enough therefore, and you must succeed.

There are not a few, I think, who, if they could realise this, would feel that it is just what they need to give a stimulus and inspiration to their whole life. To them mortification means death, not life. They are striving to kill what will not be killed. In their hearts they feel that the spiritual life is rather an empty life; many things that they used to do they feel that they must not do, but they find nothing else to fill the place of what they have given up. Their reason tells them that mere repression is not life. Yet in the past they found so much sin mixed up with most of what they did, that the only alternative seems not to do, and one thing after another has been given up. Study yourself, examine the structure of your being, and one thing will impress you - every faculty of your mind, every power, every member of your body, was made for action. The body is the instrument of the mind's action, the senses are the channels through which it is fed. The eye was made to look, to see, to gaze upon things outside. If in penitence for sins which they have committed a man closes his eyes and will not look upon the fair scenes and sights of God's creation, he should know that this is only temporary and as an act of penitence and discipline, that he may gain control, and bring them from wandering and wantonness to use them better and with true freedom in the service of the soul. The servant has assumed too much independence, nay, has begun to rule his master, and he must be taught his place. So with everything. The hand was made for action, the mind to think, the will to choose, the heart to love. The tongue was made for speech, not silence. If it has been used for evil, it must be trained and disciplined that it may be used for good. Many a time, indeed, when it fain would speak it has to be forced to keep silence. Why? not merely that it may simply become an idle and useless member of the household of the soul, but that it may become what it was intended to be, the instrument of the soul's utterance in the service of God.

Mortification, therefore, is not an end in itself, it is but a means to an end, and the end is the truest and fullest use of everything that we have. "Tis life, not death, for which we pant" - the death is a death unto sin as the means of entering into a larger life unto righteousness. Self-discipline must necessarily be in proportion to the misuse of any sense or power, but it is the true use of it that we aim at in every act of self-discipline. "For the joy that is set before us we endure the cross" - we do not endure it merely for its own sake, but for what lies beyond it. And we bear those acts of self-denial and self-restraint because we feel and know full well that through such acts alone can we regain the mastery over all our misused powers and learn to use them with a vigour and a joy such as we have never known before.

There is nothing morbid in such acts of restraint of mortification. They are full of promise. They are full of hope. There are times when, chafing perhaps under the restraint that is put upon them, for a moment our powers find their true outlet and break away with bounding joy in the channels prepared for them. Such moments are an earnest of what is to come and strengthen us in our hard task. The lips that were often sealed in penitential silence for bitter words, for unkind criticism, irreverence or unrestrained chatter, find moments when they can make amends and heal by loving words those they have wounded in the past, or speak with the burning eloquence of strong conviction for the faith they have once blasphemed. The hands that have done evil deeds and suffered under the discipline of restraint find moments when they are used in the service of kindness and charity and fill the heart with a joy that was worth waiting for. And then the penitent soul cries out: "I know now that all these gifts of God are good and were made for use, not merely for repression. I am bringing these wanderers back into the true way of life, these rebel servants to be my helpers in the service of God."

This, I think, is what Saint Paul means when he says, "As ye have yielded your members to serve uncleanness, and iniquity unto iniquity; so now yield your members to serve justice unto sanctification". And again, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, neither yield ye your members as instruments of iniquity unto sin: but present yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of justice unto God".

The picture before his mind is a vivid one. He sees the soul the servant of sin and using all its members, faculties, senses, in the service of sin, and increasing thus the sway of sin. Eye, ear, hand, heart, imagination, working for sin, in its service, and dragging the soul down. Well, he says, I do not ask you to give up the use of one of these powers, or to leave them idle, I ask you to give yourself no longer to sin, but to God, as one alive from the dead, and then use every power you have in the service of God as instruments of justice unto holiness. Use them for the very purpose for which they were given. It is in the splendid energy of positive action that the morbid power of sin is to be overthrown. Let God reign in your heart and you will find plenty of work for head and hand.

Of course, between this vigorous living in the full and free exercise of all the powers, and the life of sin, there lies that period of discipline and mortification in which the misused powers have to be restrained and checked and trained for their true work. A man who all his life has used his imagination for evil will not find it easy to use it as the handmaid of faith. There will be revolts and relapses, and the pictures of the past from which he has turned, he will find often vividly mirrored upon it There will be days of darkness when it seems to him as if he had undertaken an impossible task. But he will be sustained by two thoughts, that this misused faculty, however defiled, however much disordered, is in itself good, and that only in using it for that for which it was given can it be redeemed. These thoughts will sustain him and encourage him to bear the suffering which is the price of its redemption.

It is as though one who had a great talent for music but had no technical training, and consequently could never produce the best results of his art, were to put himself under a great master. The first lessons he will have to learn will be, for the most part, to correct his mistakes, not to do this and not to do that; it will seem to him that he has lost all his former freedom of expression, that he is held back by all sorts of technical rules, that whenever he seeks to let himself go he is checked and hampered. And it is no doubt true. But he will soon begin to realise that as he learns more and suffers in the learning, possibilities of utterance reveal themselves which he has never dreamed of. He knows, he feels, that he is on the right path, and as the channels are prepared and the barriers against the old bad methods more firmly fixed, he feels the mighty tide of his genius rise and swell, he hears the shout of the gathering waters as they sweep before them every obstacle and pour forth in a mad torrent of glorious sound. All those days of restraint and suffering are crowned with the joy of the full and perfect expression of his art. The restraint and discipline he knew full well in those seemingly unfruitful days were but the means to an end. The end is always before him, and the end is positive expression. The dying to his old untrained and bad methods is but the birth throes of a larger and richer action - verily "for the joy that was set before him he endured the Cross" of discipline.

And this is the true principle of all Christian self-discipline. Without such an inspiring motive it is meaningless, it is cruel self-torture. We need - who does not know it - to fill our life, not to empty it. Life is too strong a thing, our nature is too positive, to be content with mere restraint and repression. Many a soul who has given up one thing after another and emptied its life of interest after interest, learns to its dismay that its energies finding no means of expression turn inward and revenge themselves in morbid self-analysis and sickly scruples. They need an outlet; they need interests. You may check the flow of a stream while you are preparing to divert its channel, but you cannot stop it. If you try, it will only gather force behind the barriers that hold it back, beat them down and rush through with a strength and volume all the greater for the restraint. And the stream of life cannot be merely held back. Many a man trying thus to repress himself finds after a time that temptations have only grown stronger and passions more violent, and that he seems to have become worse rather than better through the temporary resistance. What he needed, what might have protected him from failure and despair, was to be taught that all the restraint was but temporary, and in order to turn the stream into its true channel.

But again, we all know the tendency that there is in the different powers of our nature to assume an independent life, to live and act not for the good of the person, but simply for their own gratification, often to the great injury of the person. The central power if it is not constantly on the watch loses control, and the members of the body and the powers of the mind take matters into their own hands and live for themselves. We are often scarcely conscious of this till we waken up to find that we have lost control of ourselves. That one after another of our senses and faculties (our "members," as Saint Paul calls them) refuse to obey us and are living each its own separate life. Nay, more than that, that they often make factions, and combine to dethrone conscience and place some base passion, it may be, to rule in its place. There is a well-organised revolution taking place, so quiet that conscience is scarcely alarmed till it finds its power is well-nigh gone. Many a man living an easy, self-indulgent life is startled to find all unknown to him a deadly alliance between the senses and the imagination against reason and conscience, and that a civil war has already begun, that conscience has almost lost all power of command and the will is in chains. Or again, that the heart, intent upon its own gratification, has called in imagination to its aid and seduced the reason itself from its natural alliance with conscience to help it to gain its own ends.

And each sense, each faculty, in proportion as it lives for itself, gathers strength as it absorbs into itself the life that was meant to feed the whole nature, and thus exhausts and enfeebles the rest. There are men whose intellect seems to have dried up and absorbed the life of the affections, and there are others in whom one passion has grown to such enormous proportions that there is life and nourishment left for little else.

And this breaking up of the soul's unity and strength is the result very often not of any conscious act on the part of the individual, but merely of neglect, of leaving his nature to take its own course and follow its own inclinations. "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," and we must exercise this vigilance unceasingly over every department of our being, every sense, every faculty, every inclination, if we would keep ourselves free.

One tyrannous single thought, one fit
Of passion, can subdue the soul to it.

It is indeed a strange subversion of the order of nature that a man cannot use his powers with such uncontrolled freedom as he would like, but that they seem to use him; that he does not think of what he wishes, but that his mind seems to have broken away from his control and to have its own thoughts; that he does not love what he knows is worthy of his affections, but that his heart draws him to that which reason and conscience abhor.

And yet it is most true. Who does not know what it is to find some part of his nature acting in direct defiance of his will. At first it seems as if the disobedience was not deliberate, as if it were the lack of sufficient care on one's own part, and one only needs to be a little more firm and peremptory in command; but soon there is left no possibility of doubt - the will issues the command, and it is defiantly disobeyed. A person knows, for instance, that the dwelling upon certain memories of the past are bad for him, bad in every way, making him morbid, paralysing his powers and rendering him incapable of doing his work. He determines that he will close the door of his memory against the return of these thought. He does not wish to recall them, he deliberately wishes and decides to forget them, and he issues his command to the memory to forget them. But he finds to his dismay that this faculty, which is but a part of himself and has no existence apart from him, seems somehow to have developed a life of its own, a life which apparently has passed out of his control and which seeks its own gratification, not his good, and simply ignores his command. Where does it get this life? where does it get this will of its own? how can it act except as a faculty of his mind, an integral part of himself? It is his memory, his power of looking backward, yet there it is, living and acting as if it had an individuality of its own, a source of evil to the person by whose life it lives. Well may he ask, how can this be? Yet who does not know that it is true. Or perhaps it is not the memory but the heart The heart has begun to love what reason and conscience forbid. The reason ridicules it, the conscience issues its stem commands, but the heart with a mighty sweep of passion carries all before it, and amidst the protests of conscience and the dictates of reason has its own way.

Now it is the office of self-discipline to bring all these rebel powers back under obedience, to allow no dual authority throughout the kingdom of the soul; to see that no part of the nature develops any life of its own, but that all co-operate for its well-being; that no sense or faculty acts or lives merely for its own gratification, but for the good of the person to whom it belongs.

This is the work of self-discipline which lies before every man who through carelessness, self-indulgence or sin has lost in any degree the power of self-command. His faculties have got out of control and wandered after their own fancies; they must learn that they can only be of service in the kingdom of the soul as they obey the sovereign authority of the will, and co-operate with all the other powers for its well-being. But he must let these undisciplined faculties know that they have their place and their work, and that when they have learnt control they will do better work and have a deeper satisfaction in it and a larger freedom than they ever had in the days of their wildest licence. The vagrant off the streets who has never known what it was to check an impulse or obey a command finds at first the discipline of the drill-ground discouraging work, often well-nigh intolerable, but he sees what it has done for others, he is inspired with a belief that it will make a man of him, and he is soon conscious of the invigorating influence of solidarity, the thrill of the multitude, the power that comes through co-operation and through surrender to authority.

And even so we must collect our vagrant powers and faculties and train them to the word of command and teach them to keep step, holding the more eager and impulsive back and urging the sluggish forward, dealing patiently with each raw recruit that has been won from a life of slackness and independence to join in the service of the great army of the Patria of the soul. The discipline and strictness of the drill-ground will be felt by each, even the very lowliest member of the body or the humblest power of the soul, to be no unmeaning check to its action but a great and inspiring preparation for a better work than it ever did before, each co-operating with the rest, and all moving forward at the word of command of conscience, to do battle against the enemies of the soul. How different such results from the isolated skirmishes, when friend was often mistaken for foe, and the days of riot and pillage when these vagrant powers fought or feasted as they pleased, having no clear aim before them, recognising no authority and obeying no word of command.

We must discipline, therefore, all our powers of mind and body to co-operate for the well-being of the person; we must bring them back from their lax life of idleness or isolation and teach them that only by working with all the other powers of the soul can any of them do its best work; that as the general cannot fight without his soldiers, no more can the most brilliant faculty of the mind do its work perfectly without the humblest and poorest; that as "the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee, nor the head to the feet, I have no need of you," no more can the head say to the heart, I have no need of thee, nor the reason to the emotions, I have no need of you. We must bring them back and train them that they may work in obedience, and that they may work together - teaching some to wait, forcing others to action, punishing some and encouraging others; forcing any passion or any faculty that has pushed itself into a position of undue prominence or command to take for a time the lowest place, punishing it if it be necessary, often even reducing its strength and rebellious spirit by starvation, but only that it may learn to do its work better. We must allow no voice of inclination or passion ever to issue a command or assert authority till order has been restored throughout the whole kingdom of the soul, and there is but one ruler whose lightest word is law, and that ruler receives his commands from God.

Such discipline is no unreasonable restraint upon our powers, its purpose is to restore to the soul the exercise of its full power, which lies in that order and co-operation upon which its unity depends.

1. And in the practise of self-discipline we need Patience. Impatience, too great anxiety to see quick results of our efforts, will only delay the work. We are dealing with the most delicate instruments, which can very easily be put out of gear. We must not be discouraged if the neglect or abuse of years takes years to rectify. The mind is a very delicate instrument, and if it be overstrained its elasticity is destroyed. Many an act of self-discipline that we know is good we may not be able to practise except in the course of time. A very little over-pressure may cause a reaction which makes the last state worse than the first. We must season the materials before we can bend them to our will. It is impossible to make sweeping reforms and sudden changes. Habits, whether good or bad, are only formed by constantly repeated acts; a very little done day by day and persevered in will effect more than can ever be effected by violence. It is well to remember that there is such a thing as undisciplined efforts at self-discipline - needless to say that such efforts always end in failure. We have to treat the wayward faculty or the wanton sense as we would treat a spoilt child to win it back little by little, and with unwearied patience, knowing well that any effort at compulsion will certainly end in revolt.

2. And we need Prudence. It is always well to remember that we have no right to think that the goodness of a cause can ever exempt a person from the ordinary laws of prudence in the method of carrying it out, still less that we are to expect that God will remedy the effects of our imprudence. The work of grace is always dependent upon a foundation built upon the laws of nature. If a person overstrains his mind by too much prayer, his mind will suffer just as much as if it were overstrained by too much study; the fact that the intention was good does not alter the result of a foolish action.

And so a man cannot easily forego all that he has been habituated to by years of self-indulgence. Whatever is in itself wrong of course he can and must, for wrong-doing is never either useful or necessary. But in regard to giving up what is not wrong he must hasten slowly. Prudence must ever stand by his side and speak her word of wisdom on every step of the way. The pampered body will only rebel if it is handled roughly. Under the guidance of Prudence it must be trained by degrees to do without those things that by long use have become almost necessary to it One must return to a normal life before one can hope to be able to endure an ascetic life. And the mind that has been left so long in unrestrained licence or in sluggish inaction must not be brought suddenly under restraint, but it must gradually and gently be won to accept the wise and patient discipline which it recognises as its liberator from the slavery into which it has fallen.

3. And lastly, we need to look constantly for the assistance of Divine grace. We cannot act alone in the work of restoration, nor can we be restored merely to a state of mended and repaired nature. The remedies that God supplies are supernatural, and if we are to be restored at all, we shall have to rise higher than we could by nature. He pours into our wounds the oil and wine of Divine grace, so that as the wounds are healed the medicine that heals them transforms our nature and endows it with a new vigour. The struggle to be merely natural, moral, masters of ourselves, quickly teaches us that this is impossible, the work is beyond us. We cannot merely become what we were before, we must become more. If we would restrain ourselves and recover ourselves we must call in the Great Physician, and in His Hands we shall find a New Life instilled into us and a New World open out before our kindling eyes.

- text taken from Self-Knowledge and Self-Discipline, by Father Basil William Maturin