The Parable of the Pelgrim
The pilgrim, full of joy at the news said, “If only I arrive at length in safety at the place I desire so much, I care not what miseries I suffer on the way; therefore, only let me know the course I am to take, and, God willing, I shall not fail carefully to observe all your directions.” – “Since you have so good a will,” said the guide, “though I myself was never so happy as to be in Jerusalem, yet be assured that if you follow the instructions I shall give, you will arrive safe at the end of your journey.”
The advice is briefly this: Before taking the first step on the highway that leads there you must be firmly grounded in the truths of the Catholic faith. Moreover, whatever sins you find sullying your conscience you must cleanse by hearty penance and absolution according to the laws of the Church. Having done so begin your journey in God’s name; but be sure to have with you two necessary instruments, Humility and Charity. These are contained in the words above mentioned, which must always be present to your mind, “I am naught, I have naught, I desire only one thing and that is our Lord Jesus, and to be with Him at peace in Jerusalem.” The meaning and power of these words you must have continually, at least in your thoughts either expressly or virtually. Humility says, “I am nothing, I have nothing.” Charity says, “I desire nothing but Jesus.” You must never lose these two companions, neither will they consent to be separated from each other, for they agree lovingly together, and the deeper you establish yourself in humility the higher you will advance in charity, for the more you see and feel yourself to be nothing the more ardently you will see and love Jesus, that by Him who is All you may become something.
This humility is to be exercised not so much in considering your own vileness and sinfulness, though in the beginning this consideration is good and beneficial, but rather in a quiet consideration of the infinite being and goodness of Jesus. You are to behold Him either through grace in sensible devotional knowledge of Him, or, at least, in a full and firm faith in Him. And such a contemplation of the infinite sanctity and goodness of Jesus will operate in your mind a much more pure, spiritual, solid and perfect humility, than the reflecting on your own nothingness, which produces a humility much more gross, boisterous and imperfect. In this mirror of sanctity you will behold yourself to be not only the most wretched, filthy creature in the world, but also, in the very substance of your soul, setting aside the foulness of sin, to be a mere nothing; for really, in comparison with Jesus who is All, you are nothing. And until you have and feel that you have the love of Jesus, although you think you have done ever so many good deeds, spiritually and worldly, you have nothing, for nothing but the love of Jesus will abide in and fill your soul. Therefore cast aside and forget all other things in order that you may have that which is the best of all. If you do this you will become a true pilgrim, who leaves behind him house, wife, children, friends, and goods, and denies himself all things in order that he may go on his journey lightly and without hindrance.
If your desire for Jesus still continues and grows stronger, so that you go on your way courageously, they will then tell you that you may become ill, and perhaps with such a disease as will bring frightful dreads into your mind; or perhaps you will become very poor and you will find no charitable person to help you. Do not heed what they say, but if you should happen to fall into sickness or poverty, still have faith in Jesus and say, “I am naught, I have naught, I care for naught in this world, and I desire naught but the love of Jesus, that I may see Him at peace in Jerusalem.”
If it should ever happen that through some of these temptations and your own weakness, you waver and perhaps fall into sin, and thus lose the way for a time, return as soon as possible to the right path by using such remedies as the Church ordains. Do not think of your past sins, for that will harm you and favour your enemies; but make haste to go on your way as if nothing happened. Think only of Jesus, and of your desire to gain His love, and nothing will harm you.
Finally, when your enemies see that you are so determined that neither sickness, fancies, poverty, life, death, nor sins discourage you, but that you will continue to seek the love of Jesus and nothing else, by continuing your prayer and other spiritual works, they will grow enraged and will not spare you the most cruel abuse. They will make their most dangerous assault by bringing before you all your good deeds and virtues, showing that all men praise, love, and honour you for your sanctity. This they will do to make you vain and proud. But if you offer your life to Jesus you will consider all this flattery and falsehood as deadly poison to your soul, and will cast it from you.
In order to shun such temptations renounce all vain thoughts and think of Jesus only, resolving to know and love Him. After you have accustomed yourself to think of Him alone, any thoughts not relating to Him will be unwelcome and painful to you.
If there is any work you are obliged to do for yourself or neighbour fail not to do it as soon and as well as you can, lest by delay it may distract your thoughts from Jesus. If it is unnecessary work do not think about it, but dismiss it from your thoughts saying, “I am naught, I can do naught, I have naught, and I desire naught but Jesus and His love.”
It will be necessary for you, as for all other pilgrims, to take, on the way, sleep and refreshments and sometimes innocent recreation; but if you use discretion in these things, although they seem to delay you, they will give you strength and courage to continue on your journey.
To conclude, remember that your principal aim, and indeed only business, is to give your thoughts to the desire of Jesus, and to strengthen this desire by daily prayer and other spiritual works. And whatever you find suitable to increase that desire, be it praying or reading, speaking or being silent, working or resting, make use of it as long as your soul finds delight in it, and as long as it increases the desire of having and enjoying nothing but the love of Jesus and the blessed sight of Jesus in true peace in Jerusalem. Be assured that this good desire, thus cherished and continually increased, will bring you safely to the end of your pilgrimage.
Observing these instructions, you are in the right path to Jerusalem. To proceed on this journey, it is necessary to do, inwardly and outwardly, such works as are suitable to your condition, and such as will help to increase in you the gracious desire that you have to love Jesus only. No matter what your works are, whether thinking, reading, preaching, labouring, etc., if you find that they draw your mind from worldly vanity and strengthen your heart and will more to the love of Jesus, it is good and profitable for you to pursue them. But if through custom, you find such works in time lose their power and virtue to increase this love, cast them aside and try some other works which you think will gain for you more grace and sanctity; for, although the inclination and desire of your heart for Jesus should never change, nevertheless the spiritual works you practice, such as prayer, reading, etc., in order to feed and strengthen this desire, may well be changed, according as you feel your spiritual welfare will be benefited by this change. Therefore, lest you hinder the freedom of your heart to love Jesus, do not think that because you have accustomed yourself to a certain form of devotion, that you cannot change it for the better.
Before you have journeyed far, you must expect enemies of all kinds, who will surround you and busily endeavour to hinder you from going forward. Indeed, if they can by any means, they will, wither by persuasions, flatteries, or violence, force you to return to your former habits of sinfulness. For there is nothing annoys them so much as to see a resolute desire to love Jesus and to labour to find him. Consequently, they will conspire to drive out of your heart that good desire and love in which all virtues are comprised. The first enemies that will assault you will be the desires of the flesh, and vain fears of your corrupt heart. Joined with these will be unclean spirits, which, with sights and temptations, will seek to entice you to them, and draw you from Jesus. But do not believe anything they say, but betake yourself to your old and only secure remedy, answering – “I am naught, I have naught, and I desire naught but only the love of Jesus.”
If they endeavour to put dreads and doubts into your mind, and try to make you believe you have not done necessary penance to atone for your sins, do not believe them. Neither believe them if they say you have not sufficiently confessed your sins, and that you should return home to do penance better, before you have the boldness to go to Jesus. You are sufficiently acquitted of your sins, and there is no need at all that you should delay in order to ransack your conscience, for this will now but harm you, and either put you entirely out of your way, or at least unprofitably delay your toil.
If they tell you that you are not worthy to have the love of Jesus, or to see Jesus, and that on that account you ought not to be so presumptuous as to desire and seek it, do not believe them, but go on, saying, “It is not because I am worthy, but because I am unworthy, that I desire to have the love of Jesus; for, once having that, I should become worthy. Therefore, I will never cease desiring it until I have obtained it. I was created for this love alone, and so, say and do what you will, I will desire it continually, and never cease to pray for it, and thus endeavour to obtain it.”
If you meet with any who seem to be your friends, and who in kindness would hinder your progress by entertaining you and seeking to draw you to sensual mirth by vain discourses and carnal pleasures, whereby you will be in danger of forgetting your pilgrimage, turn a deaf ear to them, answer them not; think only of this, that you would fain be at Jerusalem. If they offer you gifts and attractions, heed them not, but think ever of Jerusalem.
If men despise you, lay false charges against you, defraud and rob you, or even beat and use you cruelly, for your life take no notice of them, but meekly content yourself with the injury received, and proceed as if nothing had happened to hinder you. This punishment, or even more, is as nothing if you can only arrive at Jerusalem, where you shall be recompensed for all you have endured.
If your enemies see that you grow courageous, and that you will neither be seduced by flatteries nor disheartened by the pains and trials of your journey, but rather are contented with them, they will then be afraid of you. Notwithstanding all this, they will still pursue you on your way and seek every advantage against you, now and then endeavouring, either by flatteries or alarms, to stop and drive you back. Fear them not, but continue on your way thinking of nothing but Jerusalem and Jesus, whom you will find there.