FLORENCE AND SAVONAROLA.
FLORENCE boasts a library such as few cities possess; a
museum in some respects of unrivalled treasures; galleries, the Pitti and
Uffizi, which, besides the far-famed Venus de Medici, contain many splendid
works of art; churches where the beauty of the pictures corresponds with the
richness of the marbles: palaces and tombs associated with some of the greatest
names and most stirring events in history; a position, with the picturesque
heights around its walls and the Arno flowing through its streets, such as few
cities possess, and but two or three surpass. Yet, as associated with the
piety, the unrivalled oratory, the singular purity of life and remarkable
sound. ness of doctrine, the seraphic zeal, the apostolic labours, the perils,
the persecutions, and the death of Savonarola, to me the most interesting place
there was the old monastery of San Marco.
This convent, which belonged to the order of the Dominicans, and was erected by Cosmo Medici, the father of Lorenzo the Magnificent, still stands; nor has suffered much either from the hands of violence, or the wear of time. Its cells are empty, but the doors still hang on their hinges, and - proof of the fine climate of Italy - the walls retain in almost their original freshness the famous frescoes of Fra Angelico. These are beautiful; one of the most celebrated that where the monk has represented with loving and skilful hand the Annunciation. Mary is humbly seated on a low chair with her arms crossed over her bosom, and an azure mantle, with red tunic below, falling over her knees. Her countenance wears an expression of calm and heavenly beauty; her hair flows over her shoulders; and she seems so full of humility and devotion that, as one says, we feel inclined to repeat the angel's salutation,"Hail, Mary, full of Grace." This monastery is in fact so entire, that though no monk now sleeps in its empty cells, or walks the deserted corridors, we almost fancied ourselves carried back to the days of Savonarola, and that we might at the next turn come face to face with him, or with Fra Dominico, or with Fra Silvestro, his companions in the faith and at the burning stake. Girolamo Savonarola was the prior of this monastery. His own cell is still there; its open door inviting us to enter and meditate in a place this great and good man consecrated to close and holy communion with his God. This cell is somewhat larger and more commodious than the rest, consisting of an outer and also an inner chamber, and having these words written, and that not long after his martyrdom, above the door:
V. P. HIERONYMUS SAVONAROLA
There, as among her most precious relics, Florence now
shows memorials of the man whom, by help of infidels, licentious artists,
unprincipled politicians, and "lewd fellows of the baser sort" - tools of the
Pope and Church of Rome - she first hanged and thereafter burned to ashes. The
cell, which we entered reverently, contains his chair, his couch, and the robes
of which they stripped him when he stood face to face with death in the great
square of Florence. On that occasion Silvestro, a fellow-martyr, suddenly
relieved of all fear, turned to Savonarola, and to his great joy said, "Now is
the time to be firm, and to meet death with a joyful countenance !" and the
sight of these vestments recalled the calm intrepidity of the martyr and his
memorable reply to the bishop who despoiled him of them, and said, as he
despoiled him, "I deprive you of the Church militant and triumphant." "Of the
Church militant, yes," replied God's servant; "but of the Church which is
triumphant, no - that does not belong to you." Besides these relics we saw
something more interesting, and more identified with Savonarola, than these
faded robes. There, carefully preserved under glass, were two thick MS.
volumes, written with his own hand. The ink is still wonderfully good; the
handwriting is small, and the manuscripts bear on the face of them evidence of
the care with which he studied the Holy Scriptures, and prepared those famous
sermons which stirred the whole city, and shook to its foundations the power of
Rome. More, perhaps, than any uninspired preacher ever did before, or has done
since, Whitefield or Chalmers or Hall, Savonarola took possession of his
hearers and moved their feelings - the multitude, the vast crowds with whom he
now tenderly pleaded, and over whom anon he thundered, yielding to his
influence as water, whether they come in gentle breezes or roaring hurricanes,
to the winds of heaven.
The prior of San Marco, the subject of our sketch, stands out as one of the grandest, if not the greatest, character of the fifteenth century. In him Italy gave birth to a reformer before the era of the Reformation - one whose motives and work, whose life as a reformer, and whose death as a martyr, we shall be better able to appreciate by taking a rapid glance at the state of the Church when he appeared.
We should err were we to suppose that no remonstrances had been made till his day against the crimes of Churchmen and the corruptions of the Church. In their beautiful valleys, from the days almost of the Apostles, the Waldenses had kept the faith; and, amid all but universal apostasy, had held "a banner for the truth" flying on their native mountains. Then, as early as the eighth century, a reformer appeared in him who left the mountains of Isauria to reign over the East, under the name of Leo III. Gibbon says of him, "Ignorant of sacred and profane letters, this martial peasant was inspired with a hatred of images. He demolished the images of Christ, the Virgin, and the saints." The successor of Leo III. was no less advanced in his views, and zealous in the same good cause; a general assembly which was convoked in his reign, in the year of our Lord 754, having ordained the destruction of all representations of saints, and declared all visible symbols of Christ, except the bread and wine of the communion, to be blasphemous or heretical. These attempts at reformation, which the Pope of that day, Gregory II., denounced as sacrilegious outrages, were, indeed, one of the principal causes of the separation of the Western from the Eastern parts of the Empire. After this event the darkness deepened over that section of the Church which received the Pope as its head, and regarded Rome as its centre. At length, to use the words of Bertrand Vacher, a Carmelite Friar, bravely outspoken by him at the Council of Constance, in 1415 - " insatiable avarice, indomitable ambition, gross ignorance, scandalous indolence, and execrable worldliness" were the characteristics of the clergy. Bossuet himself acknowledges that a great prelate, charged by the Pope with the preparation of the matters to be treated of by the Council of Vienna, laid it down as the basis of the work of that assembly, "that it was essential to reform the Church in its chief and in its members." He goes still further. In referring to the efforts which the Cardinal Julien made at the Council of Basle to remedy the disorders of the clergy and Church, and also to his prediction that if these were not reformed there would arise a heresy worse and more dangerous than that of Huss and his followers, Bossuet says, " Thus in the fifteenth century, the greatest man of his age deplored the evils, and foresaw the sad consequences of them, and seemed to predict those which Luther was about to bring on the Christian world, commencing with Germany; and he was not deceived when he imagined that reform being contemned, and the hatred against the clergy redoubled, an enemy was about to be produced, more formidable to the Church than the Bohemian one."
In these circumstances Savonarola appeared - rose, I may say, at least in Italy, as the day-star of the Reformation. The office he aspired to fill, less like Jonah's - a prophet of doom - to announce the destruction of the Church, than like John Baptist's, calling her ministers and members to repentance, because the day of the Lord was at hand. Smitten with judicial blindness - for Rome, as revealed in prophecy, and made, indeed, inevitable by her claims to infallibility, is not to be reformed, but destroyed - she refused to repent; and, as Ahab did Elijah, regarding her wisest friends as her enemies, she put them to silence by putting them to death; and, had she the power, would do the same now, I am persuaded, to such men as Foulkes in England, and Father Hyacinthe in France. It was the old story of the Sibyl's leaves. When Savonarola was in Italy, calling, but in vain calling, her to reform, there was a little boy, a miner's son, learning his letters in a small town of Saxony, who was to break what the other could not bend; working, not a reform, but a revolution in the Church. What the monk of St. Dominick began, the monk of St. Augustine entered on and completed, and it was not without reason, therefore, that Luther claimed Savonarola as on his side, and, indeed, regarded him as a pioneer in the work of the Reformation.
Among other remarkable signs of our own times, it is, I may observe, an ominous circumstance - one boding no good to the Church of Rome - that the world is recalling the memory of Savonarola; his principles, his noble daring, his doings, and his death. The good brave martyr of Florence is now coming to the front, and a name, once little known to many, and long forgotten by most, is much in men's mouths now, and takes a prominent place in the literature of our age. Nor is that true only of Protestant, but also of Roman Catholic countries. Florence herself proud of him who fell a sacrifice to truth and liberty in her streets, reveres his name; guards and shows his relics; and inspired, we hope, somewhat with his principles, has paid him public honours, and is, at this very time, engaged in raising a monument to his memory. A sketch of the man whose name is by so many sacred ties associated with this fair city may not only be interesting, but profitable to my readers; preparing them to play a worthy part among those great and eventful changes which, though neither a prophet nor a prophet's son, I can see to be at hand. Any way it may stir up his people to more fervent prayer, that God in his own time would hasten this impending doom.
"Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shalt that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; and the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy mercbants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that wese slain upon the earth."
THE EARLY LIFE OF SAVONAROLA.
Only a few hours by rail from Bologna, which lies on the
line between Florence and Venice, stands Ferrara. This city, long the seat of a
bishop, and afterwards of an archbishop, formerly belonged to the Papal States,
but is now embraced by the kingdom of Italy. It is a town of great age, its
origin being traced back to the middle of the fifth century. To our great
regret, we were not able to visit it. For, notwithstanding that it is now a
small and decayed place, where the grass grows green on streets once the scenes
of courtly splendour, and trodden by the feet of eighty thousand inhabitants,
Ferrara, rich in memories of the past, offers many attractions to the
traveller. To us the chiefest among these was not that it was the seat of a
famous university, or that there Tasso had his prison and Ariosto has his tomb,
but this, that in the early part of the sixteenth century, when the Papacy was
raging and the skirts of Rome were growing more and more red with the blood of
saints, God's people fled to its gates, and found an asylum within its walls.
There, for example, John Calvin, the great Reformer, whom it is the fashion now
to traduce - though those who founded and died at the stake for the Church of
England sought his counsel - and at whose feet John Knox was trained for his
enduring work in Scotland, found a refuge from the storm. In Renée, its
celebrated duchess, he had a warm patron and a powerful protector; and there,
also, the last but not least of its attractions, Girolamo Savonarola first saw
the light of day, being born in Ferrara on the 21st December, 1452.
God is no respecter of persons, as the Bible says and all history teaches; yet it has been often observed, that those whom He raises up to be patriots, to reform the Churches, to maintain his truth and the liberties of mankind even to suffering and to death, have sprung in many cases from no mean families. To refer to the Reformers of my own country, Patrick Hamilton, who had the honour to be the Stephen, as the proto-martyr of Scotland to lead the van of a noble company of confessors, was a cadet of the ancient, ducal, and in a sense royal house of Hamilton. Wishart who, so to speak, plucked the banner from that dead soldier's hands, and taking his place in the field of battle, took it also at the stake, was the son of a country gentleman - as well, if not better born than Beaton, his murderer, the bloody Cardinal. Then when Charles II. was restored, and a persecution began in Scotland worse than she had suffered at the hand of Papists, many who stood foremost, and fell bravely fighting in the breach, could claim an equally honourable descent. James Guthrie belonged to the ancient house of that name; and the title of his fellow-martyr, the Marquis of Argyll, speaks for itself. There are many reasons why the upper classes of society should look with respect as well as kindness on the lower; and in the subject of my sketch we have another example of what should teach the lower classes to turn a deaf ear to the voice of demagogues - of all who, instead of trying to narrow, try to widen what is already too broad - the gulf that, to the loss of both, yawns between those that, did they know each other better, would respect each other more. Savonarola's family, one of honour and repute, originally belonged to Padua, a city famous as the birthplace of Livy, and the seat of a celebrated University. His grandfather was a distinguished physician, and also a distinguished Professor of Natural Science there. He was the first of his family who settled in Ferrara, having left Padua at the solicitation of the Marquis Nicolo d'Este. Savonarola's mother was a lady of Mantua, the birthplace of Virgil. We know little more of her than her name, Anna Helena Buonacorsa; and that she belonged to a distinguished house, whose deeds, not lost to fame, are recorded in the history of the country.
In turning to the early years of great men, we do not always find the dawn giving promise of the day. Clive, for instance, the founder of our Indian empire, was actually sent abroad as a ne'er-do-well - to be out of the way, that he might not involve his family in the disgrace which he was sure to bring upon himself. And what better fortune for a while could any expect for the reckless lad? He wasted all his money in Rio Janeiro; he landed on the shores of India as destitute of character as of cash; and twice he snapped a loaded pistol at his head, nor was restrained from pulling the trigger when for the third time the muzzle was at his brow but by the thought, Surely God intends me to do some great thing when this pistol has twice missed fire! Nor, to pass from statesmen into the region of religion, when John Bunyan, a tinker-lad, was the loudest swearer, and the foremost in mischief, of all the roughs that played pitch-and-toss on the village-green,did his early life afford any promise of the grace that sanctified, and the glory that shone on his future career.
On the other hand, there are cases where, in the rosy beauty of a cloudless sky, the dawn corresponds with the brilliant character of the day; cases where the proverb, generally true of nature, fails to apply, "that a grey morning is the sign of a bright day;" cases better described by another adage, this, namely, "The boy is father of the man." It was eminently so with Savonarola. Not less distinguished by early piety than by early talents, he was one of those children for whom people often, though foolishly, anticipate an early grave; saying, They are too good to live. As if like John Baptist and the Prophet Jeremiah, he had been sanctified from his mother's womb, a strange gravity, a spirit of contemplation and piety, marked his early years; and long afterwards it was remembered how in his very childhood, the boy found his delight in building little altars, and performing various acts of devotion.
In his youth, though not morose, he was of a retiring disposition; silent in company; fond of seclusion; and taking little interest or part in the sports common to his times and years. He had actually reached manhood, it is said, before he ever set foot on the promenade to which the gay and fashionable society of Ferrara daily resorted. Not that he was insensible to the charms of beauty, or, as Sir Isaac Newton is reported to have been, unsusceptible of the ordinary feelings of humanity. On the contrary, it is said, that he was once, at least, entangled in the toils of love, having formed a strong attachment to a young lady of his native town. Nor, as sometimes happens, did his indifference to the ordinary pleasures and pursuits of youth arise from any apathy of temperament, or want of energy of character. On the contrary, he was an enthusiastic and ardent student; applying himself to his studies with such indefatigable industry as to outstrip all his rivals, and carry off the highest honours of the schools. Yet his character had not changed since those tender years when it was the boy's delight to make little altars, and perform in his nursery the functions of a priest. His springs of action were as much higher than those of his fellows as was the place he won. It was not earthly distinctions, but truth he loved and sought; and divine truth especially. This he pursued with such a single eye and devout spirit, that, ere long, all other studies, if not quite abandoned, lost their charms for him, and by-and-by, though he had achieved in them many splendid triumphs, he altogether abandoned the paths of ordinary literature; yielding himself up to the mysteries of redemption, and giving his whole heart and soul to the study of theology.
Thus Savonarola spent his youth, passing through that dangerous period with an unblemished reputation; for whatever differences there be among those who have sat in judgment on his character and career, all, his foes not less than his friends, as well those who hated as those who revered his memory, are agreed in this, that while he gave early promise of extraordinary abilities, he was not more conspicuous for his endowments than for his virtues in the days of his youth. Mirabeau was a bold fortune-teller when, hearing Robespierre speak for the first time in the French Convention, he said, That man will do great things! His ground for such a wonderful forecasting of the future this, as he himself said, that Robespierre believed - the true secret of effective oratory - believed every word he spake. It would not have required the genius and intellect of Mirabeau to predict the probable future of Savonarola. He presented in his very youth that rare combination of great mental and moral properties with which, to go to Scripture for examples, as in the case of Moses, of Samuel, of David, of St. Paul, God usually endows those who are to be leaders of mankind - achieving some great work in their lifetime, and leaving their mark on the world they leave.
THE LOT SAVONAROLA CHOSE.
Dominick, of the house of Guzman, commonly called St.
Dominick, was of no mean descent. By his father's side, he was the grand-nephew
of one emperor, cousin of another, and cousin-german of a third; while on his
mother's side he was sprung from those princely Normans who came down from the
north to invade the Two Sicilies, and conquer them by force of arms. This man
was the founder of the order of Dominicans. They are the heads of. the
Inquisition. As such they have been bloody and relentless persecutors of the
Gospel; have stretched the limbs of tender women on the rack; have revelled in
the cries extorted by torture; and shed rivers of the blood of God's saints.
The very mention of them stirs up all one's loathing and indignation. How much
more the sight ? - as I well remember feeling, when present in St. Peter's at
that ceremony of Holy Week where the Pope appears, and with bread, flesh, and
wine, presented to each by his own hands, feeds thirteen pilgrims!
Pio Nono, very near to whom I stood, asked a blessing and returned thanks most reverently; bore himself kindly and courteously to the pilgrims, so called; and one could not but feel a liking to the old man - he wore on his face, as he turned and looked on the crowd of spectators, an expression of such genuine and unmistakable benevolence. He came attended by a cloud of cardinals and high ecclesiastics, and among them a cardinal, who was the head of the Dominicans, and, of course, at the head of the Inquisition. The man was so fit for his place, if one might judge by the hard, low, cruel, iron-like expression of his face, that on his being pointed out to me, I could not help, in my sudden remembrance of the bloody cruelties of his order, and my entire forgetfulness of where I was, exclaiming, "He is an ill-looking fellow; I am thankful I am not in his hands?" Hush, whispered my informer, your tongue may get you into a scrape: and so, though the observation tickled the fancy of a French priest beside me, who seemed to understand English, we thought next day it was really to do - to issue in serious consequences. By way of banter, my party had threatened me with a visit of the Inquisitors, and a closer acquaintance than, though we had already visited them, I had yet made, or would wish to make, with their dungeons in the Castle of St. Angelo. We vere sitting next day in our salon in the Via Babuino, when, to the surprise of all, and, as yesterday flashed across my mind, somewhat to my consternation, our courier came to say that a priest was at the door. Well, to put the best face on a bad job, I desired the servant to introduce him; and in he came, robed in full canonicals, for anything I knew an official of the terrible Inquisition. He bowed in silence to our party, who had stood up to receive him, and we to him in return, wondering what would come next. A young man with an amiable expression of face, he certainly did not look like an Inquisitor; nor did his attendant present a formidable appearance, being a mere boy with a surplice on his back, carrying in one hand a brush, and in the other a vessel, as it turned out, of holy water. Without a word said by either party, he seized - not me by the throat - but a book in his pocket; and opening it, began at railway-speed to mumble over its pages, the boy at his elbow ever and anon putting in a loud Amen. Having continued this strange, and to us incomprehensible, service for some five or ten minutes, he closed the book, returned it to his pocket, and then seizing the brush out of the boy's hand, he dipped it into the holy water, to whisk that round about on the walls. Having given us a share, if not a shower of it, he bowed and vanished, and with him all our fears of Inquisition and Inquisitors. Odd enough, it is mentioned in the life of the celebrated Bishop Berkeley that when he was in Rome he had a visit of the very same kind; and in the first instance, for he also had been indulging in some freedom of speech, put the same alarming interpretation on it. I learned afterwards that this was a sort of parochial visitation. Once a year the priest pays such a visit to every house in his parish; to bless it, and with the holy water put to flight, not heretics, for we stood our ground, but any goblins, devils, and evil spirits that may be there, and who cannot - so they say - abide "holy water."
Now, though these Dominicans, whose visit we dreaded, are identified more than any others with the bloody cruelties and persecutions of the Inquisition, St. Dominick established the order to extirpate "heresy" - as he called the truth - by, if possible, gentler and more Christian-like means. When thirty years of age, he was travelling in the south of France about the year 1190.
There he met with some who had -been inoculated with what he regarded as a heresy, with the religious sentiments of the Albigenses. He preached to them; and having succeeded, after spending a whole night in the attempt, in weaning them from their Albigensian views, he became deeply impressed with the power and importance of preaching. His meditations on that subject resulted in his instituting the order of monks who are called by his name, and whose special function was to bring back, through the instrumentality of preaching, those who, falling into heresy, had strayed from the fold of Rome.
This order of monks, to return now to my proper subject, had a house in Bologna, which, as I have already mentioned, is not far distant from Ferrara; and in April, 1475, it opened its gates to receive Savonarola - he, without the consent, or even knowledge, of his father, - having left his home during the festival of St. George to enter as a candidate for the vows into this monastery of the Dominicans. And when we look into the motives which led him to take this step, his case teaches us that though Popery is a bad thing, there may be many good Papists. Few finer instances of early piety are to be found than what his case presents; and perhaps no candidate for the ministry in our Protestant Churches ever entered it with more prayer, more zeal, more devotion, and more solemn feelings than he; with a higher sense of the awful importance of the office, and a deeper sense of his own unworthiness to fill it. Nor is his case so very uncommon in the Romish Church as might be supposed; of which I am convinced by a circumstance which happened forty years ago, when I was a student at the Sorbonne in Paris.
My principal companion and most cherished acquaintance in the pension where I lodged was a young Frenchman of the name of Fevrier. Among the many Frenchmen with whom I came in contact, he was almost the only one who was not a sceptic; more or less, at least, tainted with infidelity. He was of a religious turn of mind, and had been partly educated for the priesthood, being well up in all the stock arguments in favour of his own Church, and able to speak Latin almost as fluently as his mother tongue. One day, as we were walking in the garden of the Luxembourg, I asked him why he had abandoned his intention of becoming a priest? I shall not soon forget his answer - the expression of his face, the tones of his voice, and his action. He raised his hat, and turning round to me, as he touched his head, said, "Ah! the shaven crown is a solemn thing!" We should do those who are preparing for the priesthood wrong, if the standard by which we judged them was the general character and conduct of priests. It is after men enter on the duties of that office that they enter on a sea of temptation which, I may say, strews all the shore with melancholy wrecks. No doubt before that, by way of preparation, they have to wade through the foul and unutterable abominations of Liguori, or some such manual of instructions for discharging the duties of a confessor; but it is in the confessional box itself that the terrible fight between their principles and their passions begins. I am told that for the first twelve months, or so, the breast of the poor young priest is the scene of a fearful struggle. Certainly, the devil never invented anything so well calculated to sap the foundations of virtue as auricular confession, and those questions which the priest, doomed to celibacy, is instructed to put to the fair penitents, whose breath he feels on his cheek, as they pour their secrets into his ear. The result is just that which men of common sense would anticipate, and men of candour in the Roman Catholic Church themselves admit. In by far the greater proportion of instances, the priests become the Victims of the machine they work - of the cruel circumstances in which they are placed. Their lives are not pure; nor any wonder! Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? The best evidence of that lies in this, that in those Roman Catholic countries where the system is free to develop itself, it is not customary for respectable families to associate with priests, or allow them to set foot within their doors.
But whatever be now, and ever will be of necessity, the corruptions of the Church of Rome, they had reached a height in Savonarola's days which left little, in point of morality, to choose between Paganism and Popery. From the head of the Church down to the lowest, dirtiest religious mendicant, the Church was one mass of seething corruption. There was no attempt made to hide their vices; so that, it might be said, though the words had a very different sense as applied to our first parents, "they were naked and were not ashamed." A few places, no doubt, like high grounds in a flood, stood up more clear than others out of the general corruption; and very probably of all the monkish orders that of the Dominican, specially charged with the duty of maintaining the purity of the Church, was at that time the purest. It was to that quarter, therefore, Savonarola turned his eyes. There he sought refuge from a world whose wickedness filled his soul with horror; resolving under the banner of St. Dominick to devote himself to the saving of souls, the glory of God, and the purification of his Church. This step he knew his father, proud of his distinguished son, and anticipating for him a brilliant career in other fields, would set his face against But the youth had made up his mind; he was prepared to sacrifice the most brilliant earthly prospects, and leave father, houses and lands, and all that the world counts dear, to deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Christ. When his friend Alexis, killed by a flash of lightning, lay dead at Luther's feet, amid his terror and sorrow, he seemed to hear a voice within him, crying, "To the convent - to the convent!" and so, without intimating his intention to any one, with a small bundle of clothes, and his Plautus and Virgil under his arm, Martin Luther entered the monastery of the Augustinian Friars at Erfurt. In such a path Savonarola had gone before him. A secret flight opened to him the only door of escape. He fled: and the first news of it his father received was conveyed to him in the following letter. Exquisitely beautiful, very touching in its tenderness, and glowing with the most ardent piety, it will form such a graceful termination to this chapter, as do the flowers and rich carvings of a Corinthian capital to the pillar on which it stands.
"I doubt not but that you are greatly grieved at my departure, and the more so on account of that departure being kept a secret from you; but I wish you to learn my mind and intention from this letter, that you may be comforted, and understand that I have not acted so childishly as some think The reason which induces me to dedicate myself to religion is this: in the first place, the great wretchedness of the world, the iniquity of men, the debauchery, the adultery, the theft, the pride, the idolatry, the dreadful profaneness into which this age has fallen, so that one can no longer find a righteous man. For this, many times a day, with tears, I have recited this verse : - Ah, fly those cruel regions - fly those shores of covetousness!' And this because I could not endure the great wickedness of certain parts of Italy; the more also, seeing virtue exhausted, trodden down, and vice triumphant. This was the greatest suffering I could have in this world; therefore, daily I entreated of my Lord Jesus Christ that He would raise me from the mire. Continually I made my prayer, with the greatest devotion to God, saying, Show me the path in which I should walk, for to Thee do I lift up my soul.' Now God has been pleased in his infinite mercy to show it me, and I have received it, though unworthy of such grace Oh! Jesus, rather let me die a thousand deaths, than that I should be so ungrateful as to oppose Thy will"
"Then, my dearest father, you have rather to thank our Jesus than to weep; he gave you a son, and has not only preserved him to some extent from evil to the age of twenty-two years, but has vouchsafed to choose him for his soldier. And do you not consider it a great mercy to have a son made so easily a soldier of Christ? You should rather rejoice and exult in this triumph. Nevertheless, I know it cannot be but that the flesh must grieve. Still it should be restrained by reason, especially by wise and magnanimous men like you. Do you not think it is a great affliction to me to be separated from you? Yes,' indeed, believe me, never since I was born had I greater sorrow and anguish of mind than in abandoning my own father, and going among strangers to sacrifice my body to Jesus Christ, and to give up my will into the hands of those I never knew. But afterwards reflecting on what God is, and that He does not disdain to make of us poor worms his servants, I could not have been so daring as not to yield to that kind voice, especially to my Lord Jesus, who says, Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest; take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.' Because I know you lament that I left you secretly, almost as a fugitive, let me tell you that such was my distress and the suffering of my inmost soul at having to leave you, that if I had expressed it, I verily believe before I could have departed from you my heart wbuld have broken, and I should have changed my purpose and resolution; therefore do not wonder that I did not tell you I beg you, then, my dearest father, to cease to weep, give me not more sadness and grief than I have: not of regret for what I have done, for indeed I would not revoke that, though I expected to become greater than Caesar Augustus: but because I am of flesh, as you are, and sense is repugnant to reason, and I must maintain a cruel warfare, that the devil may not seize hold of me, particularly when I think of you. Soon will these days pass, in which the recent calamity will appear as it now does, and afterwards I trust both you and I shall be consoled in this world by grace, and in the next by glory. Nothing remains but that I beseech you that you would comfort my mother, whom I beg, together with you, that you will bestow your blessing on me, and I will ever pray fervently for your souls.
"Bologna, April 25th, 1470."
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