In the third or fourth centuries it took nothing less than the desert to construct the edifice of perfection. Later on, when religious decided to live in the heart of cities or in their neighborhood, they surrounded themselves by high walls, protected themselves by grills; they could not imagine the fervent practice of asceticism without the cloister. St. Francis de Sales failed in his attempt to organize religious life without enclosure.
It would not be true to say that sanctity runs the streets, if by that we mean that the street is its most frequent habitat; it is correct to say, however, that it runs the streets if by that we understand that sanctity is not the exclusive privilege of deserts and cloisters. There are saints in families; in the factories; in drawing rooms. As someone has wittily said, "A Madame Leseur serves a cup of tea amiably; a Leon Harmel speaks to us of the latest stock quotation on cotton; a Guy de Fontgalland hurls himself heedlessly against our legs while running too fast."
But if it is true that one finds saints in the world, it would be a great misfortune if one did not find any at all in the religious life, where one would expect to find more, since that state provides so many more helps, and a program of life in which everything leads to God.
Do I profit by my vocation as I ought; of all that my vocation offers to sanctify me? What is the value of my prayer, of my devotion, of my obedience, of my zeal at work, of my charity, of my fidelity to the rule? I am not asked to strike my breast, as did St. Jerome, with a piece of rock, nor to pass my life on a pillar like a Stylites, or in a wall like a recluse; all that exterior show is not sanctity.
How far am I really convinced of this?
Adapted from Meditations for Religious
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. (© 1939, Frederick Pustet Co.)