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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER X. Of scrupulosities about external duties, as the Office, fastingà

Holy Wisdom Or Directions For The Prayer Of Contemplation by Ven. F. Augustine Baker

CHAPTER X. Of scrupulosities about external duties, as the Office, fastingà

§ 1. Of scrupulosities about external duties, as the Office, fasting, &c.

§ 2. Tender souls ought to seek full information touching such obligations, which is not out of politic ends to be denied them.

§§ 3, 4, 5, 6. Several cases of indulgence about the Office.

§§ 7, 8, 9, 10. Some learned doctors do free particular religious persons (not in holy orders) from a necessary obligation of saying the Office in private.

§ 11. An advice touching the same.

1. In the next place, the special external duties about which tender souls are apt to admit scrupulosities are many; yea, some are so inordinately timorous that they can give way to unsatisfaction in almost everything that they do or say. But the principal and most common, especially in religion, are these: 1. the obligation of religious persons to poverty, obedience, regular fasting, saying of the Office in public or private, &c.; 2. the duty of examination of the conscience in order to confession, and confession itself, with communicating afterward.

2. The general proper remedy against scrupulosity arising upon occasion of any of these matters is a true information of the extent of the said obligations. And surely spiritual directors are obliged to allow as much latitude to well-minded timorous souls in all these things as reason will possibly admit, considering that such are apt to make a good use of the greatest condescendency. Therefore it would be a fault inexcusable before God, if confessors, out of a vain policy and to the end to keep tender souls in a continual dependence and captivity under them, should conceal from them any relaxations allowed by doctors or just reason. And timorous souls, when they have received information from persons capable of knowing, and unlikely to deceive them, ought to believe and rest upon them, and to account all risings of fear or suspicion to the contrary to be unlawful.

3. More particularly forasmuch as concerns the Divine Office, since all that understand Latin may acquaint themselves with all the dispensations and largest allowances afforded by doctors, I conceive it most requisite that such ignorant tender souls (especially women) as may come to see or read these instructions, should not be left in an ignorance or uncertainty hereabout; for why should any additional burdens of a religious life lie more heavy on those that are least able to bear them, and such as will be far from being less careful in obliging observances, less submissive to authority, and less assiduous in the service of God?

4. Therefore, forasmuch as concerns the public conventual reciting of the Office, they may take notice that the obligation thereto does not at all lie upon particular religious under sin, except when they have been pro tempore expressly commanded by superiors to frequent the choir at such or such a determinate time; at other times they may be penanced for negligence, and ought to submit willingly thereto. But the obligation under sin to see that duty discharged lies only upon superiors.

5. Again, when they are in the choir, in case that when others are repeating the Office they are employed about anything that concerns the church, as lighting of candles, fetching or turning of books, music, &c., they are not obliged to repeat such parts of the Office as have passed during such their employments. Neither is it necessary, in case of any considerable feebleness, that they should strain their voices to the tone of the convent, unless by reason of the paucity of the religious the Office through their silence cannot be solemnly discharged. Moreover, if any reasonable occasion concerning the Office require their going out of the choir, they are not bound to repeat afterwards what shall have been said in the mean time, but at their return they may content themselves to join with the community, &c.

6. But as touching the saying of the Office in private, it is the general vote of learned men: 1. that a very ordinary indisposition will suffice to dispense; 2. that the mistake of one office for another is not considerable, since it is only a day's office is enjoined, and not such a determinate office; 3. that if a few verses now and then were omitted, that being but a very small part of the whole, is not valuable; 4. that none are obliged to repetition for want of attention, or for not exact pronunciation, &c.; 5. that scrupulous souls being in an uncertainty whether they have said such a particular hour, or other considerable part of the Office, are not obliged to say it; 6. as for the times of saying each part, the liberty allowed is fully large enough. Other indulgences there are generally permitted, of which they may do well to inform themselves. These will suffice to show that the burden is not so great as many good tender souls do apprehend.

7. But the root of all these and all other scrupulous difficulties in this matter is taken away by the positive assertion of certain learned doctors, not censured or condemned by any, viz. that no religious persons, except they be in holy orders, are bound to the reciting of the Divine Office in private under mortal sin (and if it were any sin at all to omit it, it would be a mortal sin, being evidently in materia gravi).

8. The principal authors of this assertion are Lessius -- a very learned Jesuit -- and Marchantius -- a most prudent, learned, and conscientious Provincial of the holy Order of St. Francis, who, being taught by long experience in treating with tender souls, professes that he thought himself obliged in conscience, in duty to God, and charity to timorous souls, to publish this assertion. And the reasons given for it seem to be very pressing and concluding, because the simple not reciting of the Office being not in itself evil -- for then all seculars not reciting it should sin (mortally) -- there can be named no title under which it can be made obligatory.

9. For, 1. all those that would maintain the contrary opinion do profess that there is no law for it; for although our holy Rule advises that in case any considerable number of religious by means of any employment should be hindered from the choir, they should in the place of such their employment recite the Office in common, yet it gives no order at all to single religious persons in that case; 2. the foundation and sustentation of religious communities is not as that of cures or canonries, to which there is correspondent by a debt of justice and virtual contracts the reciting of the canonical Office, so that restitution is due in case of omission. But to foundations of monasteries and pious oblations are correspondent only the performances and observances of religious vows, fasts, austerities, conventual prayer, aspiring to contemplation, &c., with respect to which only oblations were made to convents, not under a title of justice, but charity.

10. There remains, therefore, no other pretence for an obligation of particular religious not in sacris to a private reciting of the Office, but only custom that has the virtue of a law. Now Cajetan doubts whether de facto there be any custom of it at all; for certain it is that it is not universally received, neither is it by privilege that some do not receive it. However, if there be a custom, yet that it has not the force of a law may appear: 1. because if it had been introduced by authority of superiors it would have been established by constitutions, which yet hath never been done, neither hath any inquisition been made at visits of the breach of such a custom as a fault; 2. because those doctors that most urge the obligation thereto, yet never pretend the omitting to be a mortal sin: and surely if it be not a mortal sin it is none at all; 3. because several learned men have publicly, without censure, protested against any obligation flowing from such a custom, which would never have been permitted if prelates and superiors had an intention that their subjects should esteem such a custom obligatory; 4. because there are certain orders, as the Franciscans, the nuns of the Annunciata, &c., which by their Rule and an express vow are obliged to the reciting of the Office in particular, in case of absence from the choir, which would he ridiculous if the general custom was presumed to be sufficiently obliging; 5. the same is proved by a parity; for whereas a custom had been generally introduced among the Cistercians by the ancients of the Order of reciting the Office of our Blessed Lady and of the Dead, yet in General Chapter, A.D.1618, it was declared that this custom, though introduced by the ancients and superiors, yet had not the force of a law.

11. All this notwithstanding, according to the opinion of the said authors we may conceive this to be a custom very laudably practised by devout souls, and has been indeed received under title of piety and a convenient holy exercise, which if it should be causelessly neglected, contemned, or transgressed, a person so transgressing, if he did it out of indevotion and want of fervour in matters of piety, might justly be condemned, or at least esteemed a person indevout and negligent; the which fault yet may be remedied some other more commodious way than by laying a snare upon tender souls, or misinforming them.

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