" If only the good could be clever, And if only the clever were good, The world would he better than ever We dreamed that it possibly could.
But alas for all human endeavour, Alas for the misunderstood, The .good are so harsh to the clever, And the clever so rude to the good."
THts little poem has for long been a
favourite of mine and I regret that I have never been able to discover its author. It is so flippant and so neatly turned. Succinct, I think, is the word to apply to it. And it is so true! It really does sum up what is wrong with most of us to-day.
Even those of us who are not particularly clever find ourselves, on occasion, being " so rude to the good,the honest truth of the matter being that we can't do with them in
ordinary, everyday life. They are incon
gruous. They make usrfeel uncomfortable.
And if that is so in private life, how much the more does it not apply to public affairs? Occasionally, in a mixed assemblage of people, some really holy person will try to make his voice heard, and discomfort is quickly spread abroad. "Don't be so beastly charitable," I once heard an irritated Catholic say to someone who was vainly trying to stand up for a maligned absentee. And the other person (who was only very faintheartedly striving after justice) immediately subsided. And that was that !
WE might as well admit that we find good people as a rule thoroughly boring. Their outlook is so limited. (Just consider for a moment that word " limited " and all its implications here!) We can admire them at a distance and are only too ready to pray to them when they are safely removed from this world, bin in our homes or places of
business . well, quite frankly, they arc out of place. (Would the most ardent client of the Little Flower really have liked to live with the child? Who, meeting Benedict Joseph Labre in the streets of London would not hastily cross the road or, more charitably, direct him to the public baths? And shouldn't we, most of us, feel a little shocked to see a Madame de Chantal walking over her prostrate son?
We have to live in the world, we argue, and therefore a certain amount of worldly wisdom is not only necessary but laudable, and so when, by the Grace of God, we are sometimes allowed contact, here in our daily lives, with a Saint, we accord him our tespectful admiration but are, for the most part, careful not to let him influence our daily lives or divert us from the paths we consider to be of such impottance. And then comes some private sorrow, some national disaster, or even some ordinary worldly enterprise that seems of especial urgency. We are quick, then, to fly to the Saints who arc safely removed from this wat:id . . . we pray earnestly to them ... we offer sacrifices and mortifications . . . we make the wildest
promises . they truest help us . . . surely they will intercede for us in this all-important matter . . . we must not cease our importunities . . . orate, orate pro nobis I And then, in some form or another, our prayer is answered ; our fear is relieved ; we revert to our earthly kingdom, thc place where our daily life is lived; we adapt ourselves once more to the rule, and ordinances that govern our mundane existence and which, so pathetically, seem to us so important.
"is one God," says St. Augustine, 1" Who gave the lesser precepts to a people which had need to be still bound by fear, and Who. by His Son, gave the greater ones to a people Whom it was expedient now to set free by love. When the lesser are given to the lesser and the greater to the greater, they are given by Him Who alone knows how to present to the human race the remedy stilted to the occasion."
Has He not presented to us our remedy, and is it not suited to every occasion? Arc we not one with the Communion of Saints? Do we need only to turn to those who are in Heaven? Are there not still among us those who,as the mountain tops are tinged with the glory of the hidden sun ...
" reflect for us the splendour Which they have caught from Him."