Rorate Caeli

Wisdom from the Founders:
I - The dangers of excessive fervor and of preferring one's own judgment

One can always count upon the measured and deeply spiritual and fatherly words of the founders of the great families of the Church, especially in moments in which some spirits wish to create a climate of - using words dear to Saint Ignatius - desolation and agitation.

Spiritual infirmities such as tepidity are caused, not only by chills but also by fevers, that is, by excessive zeal. Saint Paul says, let your service be a reasonable service [Rom. 12:1], because he knew the truth of the words of the Psalmist, the king in his might loves justice [99:4], that is, discretion; and what was prefigured in Leviticus, whatsoever sacrifice you offer, you shall season it with salt [2:13]. In the same vein does Saint Bernard speak: the enemy has no more successful ruse for depriving the heart of real charity than to get her to act rashly and not in keeping with spiritual reasonableness. "Nothing in excess,"said the philosopher. And this principle should be our guide even in a matter pertaining to justice itself, as we read in Ecclesiastes, be not over just [7:16]. If one fails to observe this moderation, he will find that good is turned into evil and virtue into vice. He will also learn that many inconveniences follow which are quite contrary to the purpose of the one who so acts.

          The first is that God is not really served in the long run, as the horse worn out in the first days does not as a rule finish the journey, and thus it happens that someone must be found to care for it.

          Second, gains that are made through such excessive eagerness do not usually endure, as Scripture says, wealth gathered in haste will dwindle [Prov. 13:11]. Not only dwindle, but it may be the cause of a fall: and he that is hasty with his feet shall stumble [Prov. 19:2]; and if he stumbles, the further he falls, the greater the danger for he will not stop until he has reached the bottom of the ladder.

          Third, there is the danger of being careless in overloading the vessel. There is danger, of course, in sailing it empty, as it can then be tossed about on the waves of temptation; but there is also danger of so overloading it that it sinks.

          Fourth, it can happen that, in crucifying the old man, the new man is also crucified and thus made unable through weakness to practice virtue. Saint Bernard tells us that because of this excess we lose four things: "The body loses the effect of the good work, the soul its devotion, our neighbor good example, and God His honor." From this we infer that whosoever thus mistreats the living temple of God is guilty of sacrilege. Saint Bernard says that the neighbor is deprived of good example, because the fall of one and the ensuing scandal are a source of scandal to others; and he calls them, in cause at least, disturbers of unity and enemies of peace. The example of such a fall frightens many and makes them tepid in their spiritual progress. In the fallen there is danger of pride and vainglory, since they prefer their own judgment to the judgment of everyone else, usurping what is not their own by setting themselves up as judges in their own cause when the rightful judge is their superior.

          Besides these, there are also other disadvantages, such as overloading themselves with weapons which they cannot use, like David with the armor of Saul [1 Sam. 17:38-39]. They apply spurs to a spirited horse rather than the rein. Therefore there is need of discretion on this point to keep the practice of virtue between both extremes. Saint Bernard gives this advice: "Good will is not always to be trusted, but it must be bridled, regulated, especially in beginners," if one wishes to benefit others without any disadvantage to himself, for he that is evil to himself, to whom will he be good? [Sir. 14:5].
Saint Ignatius of Loyola 
Letter to the Fathers and Brothers studying in Coimbra, Portugal 
May 7, 1547


  1. Anonymous10:10 PM

    Thanks, NC, this is wonderful!

  2. P.K.T.P.10:11 PM

    The idiot who posted this cannot even spell fervour and judgement.


  3. Thank you, Mr. Perkins, your comment is very uplifting!


  4. Wise words. Thank you for helping me to keep guard.

  5. A wise post, thank you.

    On American soil, these spellings are certainly correct.

    PKTP: beware Gehenna, as should we all.

  6. Elizabeth12:13 AM

    That was a bit jarring, P.K.T.P. I'm not used to seeing that kind of a comment on Rorate Caeli.

    Great article, by the way. Very good reminders.

  7. I.M.H.O.12:36 AM

    Somebody here needs to calm down and have a nice cup of tea.

  8. Anonymous1:17 AM

    Your own post has an error as you neglect to use the required apostrophes. It should have read, "...who posted this cannot even spell 'fervour' and 'judgement'. You aren't using the words but mentioning them--the use/mention distinction, right? So charity in all things my friend since we all need it!
    Scott Woltze

  9. Am I the only one who took PTKP's comment as a joke?

    Anyway, nice excerpt. Preferring one's own judgment is what the modern world is all about. All of us may be infected more than we like to think.

  10. R. John2:49 AM

    Leave PKTP alone.

  11. Anonymous10:26 AM

    Finally Rorate helping this situation:

    Wisdom from the Founders:
    I - The dangers of excessive fervor and of preferring one's own judgment

    If could only help some of the Traditionalists to comprehend the DANGERS OF EXCESSIVE FERVOR.


  12. Anonymous1:00 PM

    "benedictus said...
    Am I the only one who took PTKP's comment as a joke?"

    Exactly. Canadian humo[u]r.

    Michael R.

  13. Dear NC, reading this article reminded me another letter recently written by a certain english bishop (you know the one I’m talking about..).
    It is curious and funny to see a saint like Saint Ignatius of Loyola, from his own epoch, criticizing that same bishop.

  14. "If could only help some of the Traditionalists to comprehend the DANGERS OF EXCESSIVE FERVOR."

    That could be great, but Cast out first the beam out of your own eye, and then shall you see to cast out the mote out of your brother's eye.

    In my own opinion, plenty of 'Conservatives' ought also to heed this advice and stop calling for the FSSPX to undertake the pilgrimage to Canossa before getting regularized.

    Neither the former Anglicans, nor any other group who have sought unity with the Holy See in the recent past, have been asked to "beg for forgiveness" as a precondition for unity. Asking the FSSPX to do so is certainly unjust and borders on the malicious.


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