Curiosity, ambition, disquiet, the not adverting to, or not considering, the end for which we are in this world, are the causes why we have a thousand times more hindrance than business, more worries than work, more occupation than profit: and these are the embarrassments, Theotimus, that is, the silly, vain and superfluous undertakings with which we charge ourselves, that turn us from the love of God, and not the true and lawful exercises of our vocations. David, and, after him, S. Louis, in the press of the perils, toils and travails which they endured, as well in peace as in war, did not cease to sing in truth: What have I in heaven, and besides thee what do I desire upon earth? S. Bernard lost none of the progress which he desired to make in this holy love, though he were in the courts and armies of great princes, where he laboured to bring matters of state to the service of God's glory; he changed his habitation, but he changed not his heart, nor did his heart change its love, nor his love its object; and, to speak his own language, these changes were made in him but not of him, since although his employments were very different, yet he was indifferent to all employment, and different from them all, not receiving the colour of his affairs and conversations, as the chameleon does that of the places where it is, but remaining ever wholly united to God, ever white in purity, ever red with charity, and ever full of humility. I am not ignorant, Theotimus, what the wise man's counsel is:
He ever flies the court and legal strife
Who seeks to sow the seeds of holy life
Rarely do camps effect the soul's increase,
Virtue and faith are daughters unto peace.
And the Israelites had good reason to excuse themselves to the Babylonians, who urged them to sing the sacred canticles of Sion: How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land? But do you not also mark that those poor people were not only among the Babylonians but were also their captives. Whoever is a slave to courtly favours, the prizes of the law, the honours of war, -- Alas! all is over with him, he cannot sing the hymn of heavenly love. But he who is only at court, in war, at the tribunals, by duty -- God helps him, and heavenly sweetness is as an epithem on his heart, to preserve him from the plague which reigns in those places.
While the plague afflicted the Milanese, S. Charles never made any difficulty in frequenting the houses and touching the persons that were infected. Yet, Theotimus, he only frequented and touched them, so far forth as the necessity of God's work required, nor would he for the world have thrust himself into danger without true necessity, lest he should commit the sin of tempting God. So that he was never touched with any infection, God's Providence preserving him who had so pure a confidence in it, that it had no mixture either of fear or rashness. In like manner God takes care of those who go not to the court, to the bar, to war, except by the necessity of their duty; and in that case a man is neither to be so scrupulous as to abandon good and lawful affairs by not going, nor so overweening and presumptuous as to go thither or stay there without the express necessity of duty and affairs.