Quadrupani on Spiritual Reading

Padre Quadrupani gives the following practical advice on the matter of spiritual reading:

“Spiritual reading is to the soul what food is to the body. Be careful, therefore, to select such books as will furnish your soul with the best nourishment. I would recommend you to become familiar especially with the works of Saint Francis de Sales. When the choice of reading matter is made by the advice of a spiritual director the teaching it contains should be looked upon as coming from the mouth of God.”

He then cautions the reader to avoid two potential pitfalls:

“Do not affect those lives of the Saints in which the supernatural and marvellous predominate. The devout imagination becomes inflamed by such reading and is imbued with vain and useless desires: it leads some to aspire to the revelations of Saint Bridget or the raptures of Saint Joseph of Cupertino, others to imitate the mortifications of the Stylites; and thus by losing time in desiring extraordinary graces, they neglect, to their great detriment, ordinary duties and real obligations. Take great care, then, not to allow yourself to be absorbed in those wonderful characteristics of the saints which we should be content to admire; give preference rather to their simple and interior virtues, for these alone are imitable for us.”

“Use still greater precautions in regard to ascetical works. Many of these are carelessly written, confound precepts with counsels, badly define the virtues by not showing the limits beyond which they become extravagances, and entertain the reader with trifling and purely exterior practices that are more apt to flatter self-love than to reform the heart. . . . Exercise great care, therefore, in the selection of this kind of reading or you may injure your soul instead of sanctifying it.”

Quotations from Carlo Giuseppe Quadrupani, Light and Peace: Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts and Allay Their Fears (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1898).

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Holy Days With Padre Quadrupani

Padre Quadrupani was an Italian priest and member of the Clerics Regular of St. Paul, also known as the “Barnabites,” from their association with St. Barnabas Catholic Church in Milan, Italy. Quadrupani’s spirituality is based on that of the illustrious Doctor of the Church, St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622). Like St. Francis, the Padre offers spiritual advice that is practical and balanced. Perhaps it is owing to this that Quadrupani’s treatise Light and Peace has been so well received by Catholic laypersons and has been recommended by numerous bishops over the years. In the following excerpts from Light and Peace, the Padre shares his wisdom on the observance of Sundays and other holy days:

“Every day of our life should be employed in glorifying God, but there are certain days He has particularly appointed whereon to receive from us a more special exterior worship. These are Sundays and holydays. It is therefore obligatory upon us to sanctify such days. The ordinary means of fulfilling this duty are, principally, works of charity, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacraments, sermons, religious instructions, and spiritual reading.”

“Nevertheless, we should avoid over-fatiguing the mind and wearying the body by too many exercises of devotion. Excess even in holy things is wrong, as virtue ends where excess begins. It is well to know that a friendly visit, a walk, a lawful diversion, all of which can be referred to God, serve also for the sanctification of Sundays and holydays, when undertaken with a view to please Him. The same may be said of such daily occupations as are required of man by his bodily needs.”

“These things are said for the instruction of those who are eager and anxious on Sundays and holydays of obligation to heap devotion upon devotion and who make a crime of everything that is not an exterior act of piety. They apply themselves, it seems, to the material observance of the sabbath, . . . instead of peacefully sanctifying the Lord’s day with that sweet and holy liberty of spirit which our divine Saviour teaches in the Gospel. Too much dissipation and over long prayers are two extremes each of which it is equally necessary to avoid.”

And finally, Padre Quadrupani consoles those who suffer illness, assuring them that “by their sufferings they can sanctify every day and make each one equal to the greatest festival.”

Quotations from Carlo Giuseppe Quadrupani, Light and Peace: Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts and Allay Their Fears (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1898).

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Christ in the Sufferer

Father Benson concludes his consideration of the problem of suffering by quoting the Apostle: “‘I fill up,’ says St. Paul, ‘those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ’ (Col 1:24). ‘I work out, that is,’ the sufferer may say, ‘under terms of my own humanity, that atonement which He offered in His own.'”

“It does not greatly affect the situation whether or no the sufferer may be fully or indeed at all conscious of his work, for it is in virtue of the humanity common to himself and Christ that his pain avails; the priest at the altar may be an infidel, or violently distracted, yet he consecrates the Body of the Lord; the fever-patient may be rebellious and break out into furious complaint, yet it is nevertheless the patient Christ who suffers in him.”

“How august and tremendous, therefore, becomes the dignity of the suffering soul, who, seeing Christ within her, desires to unite her pain with His, or, rather, to offer her pain as the instrument of His atonement, since Christ alone can bear the sins of the world! These living crucifixes stand clear altogether of that wrangling world of controversy in which we ourselves dispute. And we, too, looking upon them and seeing in them not merely separate human souls that twist in agony, but souls in whom Christ is set forth evidently crucified, learn one more lesson of the Friendship of Christ—the last, perhaps, to be learned of all—that He who in His glorious and mystical Body demands our obedience, in His Sacramental Body our adoration, in His Priest our reverence, in His Saints our admiration, and for His dear sinners our forgiveness, asks too, in those who are conformed to Him outwardly as well as inwardly—who bear their pain solely because He bears it for them—for that which is the most sweet of all the emotions that go to make up friendship,—our tenderness and our compassion.”

“Then let us make haste to minister wine at last, instead of vinegar, to our Friend who cries for it.”

Quotations from Robert Hugh Benson, The Friendship of Christ (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912).

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Solidarity With the Suffering Christ

Continuing his reflection on the problem of suffering, Father Benson remarks: “When we turn to Christ crucified, knowing who and what He is, we see the problem set before us in its most acute form. It is not a man who hangs there, however innocent; it is Man without his guilt. And it is not merely unfallen Man who hangs there, it is Incarnate God.”

“Certainly this does not answer the problem as to how it can be just that one can suffer for the sins of another; but it does unmistakably shew to us that one can so suffer, conscious of the fact, and can acquiesce in it; and, further, that this Law of Atonement is of so vast and fundamental a sweep and effect that the Lawgiver Himself can submit to it. It gives us then, as Christians, exactly the reassurance that we need; since it is demonstrated to us that pain is not an unhappy accident of life, not a piece of heartless carelessness, not a labouring struggle upwards on the part of an embryo God; but a part of life so august and so far-reaching that, since the Creator Himself can submit to it, it must fall under that Divine standard of Justice into which our own ideas of justice must some day be expanded.”

As for innocent sufferers, such as “the crippled child, the agonized mother, the darkened melancholiac soul,” he says: “If we isolate these sufferers from the rest of the human race, if we take them out of their context and regard them one by one, again we are baffled. But if, on the other hand, we do that which we have been doing throughout these considerations—meditate, that is, upon how it may be possible to see Christ in them—light begins to glimmer at once.”

“We reflected not long ago on the claim of the Church . . . to be the body in which Christ dwells. . . . These sufferers, then, are extensions of Himself crucified, as His priests are His agents. That which He did on Calvary—that mysterious atonement in which Humanity united to God was the victim—He represents, as we have seen, in the Sacrifice of the Mass; now we see again how He offers once more that same sacrifice, though in another mode altogether, under the terms of the blood and tears of those who are united with Him.”

Quotations from Robert Hugh Benson, The Friendship of Christ (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912).

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The Problem of Suffering

Father Benson addresses human suffering, a problem that “stands in the heart of every attempt to solve the riddle of the Universe—the question as to why pain is, or seems to be, the inseparable accompaniment of life. . . . We see it, crying for a solution in every innocent child that suffers in his body, it may be, for the sins of his parents; in every anxious heart tormented by sympathy or by the result of crimes for which it is not responsible; and, above all, in every burdened and darkened soul that believes that she has mortally and irreparably offended a God whom she has always striven to serve. . . . It is when, let us say, a child who is incapable of learning a moral lesson, suffers for a sin which he cannot even understand; or when a naturally sweet character is, apparently, maddened and embittered by a pain which he cannot see that he has deserved—when sorrow is borne, over and over again, by souls who seem to have a claim on joy, while on the other hand we see ‘the wicked also highly exalted’ (Ps 37:35)—it is then that we are bewildered.”

“The chief reason why the intellect fails always to analyse satisfactorily this supreme problem, is because it was never intended to do so. It would be as foolish to attempt to put a mother’s love under a microscope, or to ‘search the universe with a telescope’ in the hope of finding God. For pain is one of those vast fundamental facts that must be scrutinized by the whole of man—his heart and his will and his experience—as well as by his head; or not at all.”

“Strictly speaking the intellect is only adequate to the ‘exact sciences,’ which is another name for intellectual abstractions from the realm of concrete fact. I can add two and two together infallibly, because ‘two and two’ is an abstraction which my intellect makes from the world around me. But I cannot place two persons together and calculate exactly the effect upon their future lives, or, it may be, upon myself. If the Problem of Pain is to be solved at all, it must be solved by man, not by a part of him.”

Quotations from Robert Hugh Benson, The Friendship of Christ (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912).

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Christ in the Average Person

Father Benson admits: “It is not so easy . . . to recognize Christ in the average man—any more than it is easy to recognize the Divine will and guidance in humdrum circumstances.” But, here are two aids to help recognize Christ in others:

First, consider that “Christ caresses the soul, entices it and enchants it, especially in the earlier stages of the spiritual life, in order to encourage it to further efforts; and it is, therefore, a very real spiritual snare that we should mistake Christ’s gifts for Christ, religiosity for religion, and the joys possible on earth for the joys awaiting us in heaven—in a word, that we should mistake the saying of ‘Lord! Lord!’ for the ‘doing the Will of the Father who is in heaven’ (Mt 7:21). Continually and persistently, therefore, we have to test our progress by practical results. I find it easier and easier to worship Christ in the Tabernacle: do I therefore find it easier and easier to serve Christ in my neighbour? For, if not, I am making no real progress at all. I am not advancing, that is to say, along the whole line: I am pushing forward one department of my life to the expense of the rest: I am not developing my Friendship with Christ: I am developing, rather, my own conception of His Friendship (which is a totally different thing). . . . And therefore I am not finding Him as He desires to be found.”

“A second aid to this recognition of Christ lies in an increase of self-knowledge. . . . As I learn to know myself better, and learn therefore how very average I myself am, and, at the same time, discover that Christ still bears with me, tolerates me and dwells within me, it becomes easier for me to realize that Christ is also in my neighbour. . . . It becomes increasingly easy for me to understand that He can with even greater facility lie hid beneath that exterior of my neighbour whom I find so antipathetic, but of whose unworthiness I can never be so certain as I am of my own. . . . And then, having found Christ in yourself, go out and find Him in your neighbour too.”

Quotations from Robert Hugh Benson, The Friendship of Christ (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912).

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The Voice of the Eternal Word Within

Father Benson points out that “Christians know that the Second Great Commandment draws its force only from the First; yet, as a matter of fact, in spite of this, it is perfectly certain that though some men fail, for one reason or another, to feel the force of the First, no man has ever yet, without a sense of guilt, totally rejected the Second.”

“Christ is the Light that enlightens every man (Jn 1:9). It is actually the Voice of the Eternal Word, although His Name and His historical actions may be unknown, that pleads in the voice of conscience. In rejecting, therefore, the claims of his neighbour, a man is rejecting the claims of the Son of Man.”

“Pilate was not condemned for not knowing the articles of the Nicene Creed, and for not identifying the Prisoner brought before him: he was condemned because he rejected the claims of justice and of the right of an innocent man to be acquitted. He outraged Incarnate Truth because he outraged Justice.”

“The man who does not keep the Second Commandment cannot even implicitly be keeping the First: the man who rejects Christ in man cannot accept Christ in God. ‘He that loveth not his brother whom he seeth, how can he love God, whom he seeth not?’ (1 Jn 4:20).”

“How, we ask ourselves, is it possible for the Unique to disguise Himself under the Ordinary? . . . Yet, if the love of our neighbour means anything, it means exactly this.” Thus, we sing in the hymn “The Breastplate of St. Patrick”: “Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me. Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks to me. Christ in every eye that sees me. Christ in every ear that hears me.”

“In our neighbour . . . we have to find Him Who inhabits eternity; or we cannot claim to know Him as He is. To do this perfectly and consistently is Sanctity. To find Him here is to find Him everywhere. If we find Him here, how much more easily shall we find Him in the Saint, the Sinner, the Priest, the Church and the Blessed Sacrament. And there is no short cut to Sanctity.”

Quotations from Robert Hugh Benson, The Friendship of Christ (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912).

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