Trees of Life

St Joseph With Christ – Childhood of Christ by Gerard van Honthorst

Concerning our destiny, our ultimate end, Archbishop Ullathorne writes in his book Endowments of Man: “If man were made for himself, he must be sufficient for himself, which is contradicted by all the facts of his nature.” Rather: “Man is a subject made for an object, and nothing can satisfy him but the object for which he is made. It is, therefore, impossible to know what he is as a subject until we know for what object he is made.”

And what is this object? In Christian Patience, he elaborates on the biblical metaphor of the just man as a fruitful tree: “The just man is compared in the psalm to a tree planted by the waters, whose fruits do not fail. If you plant a tree within a circle of fertile earth, the earth will nourish the tree and make it fruitful. But if you take it up from the circle in which it is planted, it will die and produce nothing. The soul is a tree made to be fruitful in love: it can only live in charity. The roots of that tree are the affections of the soul, which should be planted within the circle of self-knowledge, of that self-knowledge which is united to God by humility. But God is likened to the circle in this, that He has neither beginning nor ending. And the soul that is planted in the earth of humility, and is united with God, finds herself within that divine circle, within which she obtains the knowledge of God and of herself. . . . The pith and marrow of the tree is patience, and this patience is the demonstrative proof that God is in the soul, and that the soul is united with God. Thus sweetly planted, the tree will put forth the virtues as its flowers, and will produce such fruits as will be profitable to our neighbours, such, at least, as are willing to accept them from the servants of God. The soul herself will praise God, who is the Creator of the tree and its fruits, and will come to her final end in the everlasting God, from whom, without her consent, she never can be removed.”

In his Letters in Oscotian, Ullathorne gives this advice: “All strength of mind is in the truth of God, and all strength of heart in the charity of God. Think of Him and love Him, and you will be strong with a double strength.”

Quotations from Michael F. Glancey, Characteristics From the Writings of Archbishop Ullathorne (London: Burns & Oates, 1889).

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