The Doctrine of Truth
Every perfection in this life has some imperfection mixed with it and
no learning of ours is without some darkness. Humble knowledge of self
is a surer path to God than the ardent pursuit of learning. Not that
learning is to be considered evil, or knowledge, which is good in
itself and so ordained by God; but a clean conscience and virtuous
life ought always to be preferred. Many often err and accomplish
little or nothing because they try to become learned rather than to
If men used as much care in uprooting vices and implanting virtues as
they do in discussing problems, there would not be so much evil and
scandal in the world, or such laxity in religious organizations. On
the day of judgment, surely, we shall not be asked what we have read
but what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how well we
–Thomas à Kempis –Imitation of Christ Bk 1, Ch 3
July 18th – St. Pambo, Man of Few Words
The hermits of the Egyptian deserts, like the early followers of St.
Francis of Assisi, included many unique personalities, and many a tale
is recorded of their wise words and deeds.
One of the most notable of the “desert fathers” in the fourth century
Egypt was St. Pambo. Pambo first came to the monasteries of the
Nitrian desert seeking guidance from Egypt’s pioneer abbot, St.
Anthony. “What shall I do?” he asked Anthony. Old Anthony replied, “Be
not confident of thy own righteousness; grieve not over a thing that
is past; and be continent of thy tongue and belly.”
Pambo undertook the typical discipline of the hermits around him. He
was strong on self-denial. He wore cast-off clothing (although his
personal bearing was so majestic that nobody noticed the meanness of
his garb). He fasted. He prayed for long periods. He also engaged, of
course, in self-supporting manual labor, weaving mats and baskets out
of palm fronds.
But he took a special fancy to Anthony’s advice to control his speech
– “be continent of tongue.” In fact, when he was given his very first
reading lesson, his monk-teacher began with Psalm 39, line one: “I
said, I will watch my ways, so as not to sin with my tongue.” “That
will do for today,” said Pambo. He rose abruptly to ponder this single
verse and its implications. Thinking it through took him six months!
Then he returned to his teacher for lesson number two.
Some people speak little because they have little to say. Pambo had
much to say, but spoke with great economy. Other spiritual people
realized this, and came to him for advice that they knew would be
carefully considered, even if a bit gruffly spoken. The famous writer
Rufinus visited him for counsel. So did St. Athanasius the Archbishop
and St. Melania the Abbess. Once, when somebody gave him some money
for the poor, the donor suggested that he count it. “No,” said Abbot
Pambo, “God does not ask how much, but how.” End of conversation.
Pambo was not, however, like some hermits who held that the hermit’s
life is the only way to save one’s soul. Two monks were once disputing
which would be the better man – he who gave away all his fortune and
entered a monastery, or he who did not become a monk but expended his
all on corporal works of mercy. Pambo answered, “Before God both are
perfect. There are other roads to perfection besides being a monk.”
Two other hermits gave him a list of their many acts of self-denial
and almsgiving. “Will these save our souls?” Said Pambo: “I do the
same things, but I do not thereby become a good monk. Seek never to
offend your neighbor, and you will be saved.”
Pambo found that his formula of hard work and deliberate speech served
him well. The day he died he was plaiting a basket for one of his
disciples. He said to his gathered monks (in perhaps his longest
speech ever): “Since I came into the desert, I have eaten nothing that
I have not earned by work, and do not remember that I have ever said
anything for which I had need to be sorry afterwards. Nevertheless I
must now go to God, before I have even begun to serve Him.”
St. Melania was present at his death, took care of his funeral, and
bore off the unfinished basket as a relic to remind her of this man
who never spoke an unnecessary, (and therefore, regrettable) word.
Hermit or not, we must all be cautious about what we say. The Bible
must have had people, like Pambo, in mind when it said: “A wise man is
silent till the right time comes, but a boasting fool ignores the
proper time.” (Sir. 20:6). St. Pambo, help me to know when to shut up!
–Father Robert F. McNamara
Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to him. That is all the
doing you have to worry about.
— Saint Jeanne de Chantal
He that speaketh of himself, seeketh his own glory: but he that
seeketh the glory of him that sent him, he is true, and there is no
injustice in him. (John 7:18) DRB
I Adore Thee, O Jesus, True God and True Man
I adore Thee, O Jesus,
true God and true Man,
here present in the Holy Eucharist,
humbly kneeling before Thee
and united in spirit with all the faithful on earth
and all the blessed in heaven.
In deepest gratitude for so great a blessing,
I love Thee, my Jesus,
with my whole heart,
for Thou art all perfect and all worthy of love.
Give me grace nevermore in any way to offend Thee,
and grant that I, being refreshed by Thy Eucharistic presence here on earth,
may be found worthy to come to the enjoyment with Mary
of Thine eternal and ever-blessed presence in heaven.