Vigils Reading: St. Columban

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Vigils Reading: St. Columban

November 23, 2022

On Discretion. From the Rule of St. Columban for Monks.[1]

How necessary discretion is for monks is shown by the mistake of many, and indicated by the downfall of some, who beginning without discretion and passing their time without a sobering knowledge, have been unable to complete a praiseworthy life; since, just as error overtakes those who proceed without a path, so for those who live without discretion intemperance is at hand, and this is always the opposite of virtues which are placed in the mean between each extreme. Therefore we must pray God continually that He would bestow the light of true discretion to illumine this way, surrounded on every side by the world’s thickest darkness, so that His true worshippers may be able to cross this darkness without error to Himself. So discretion has got its name from discerning, for the reason that it discerns in us between good and evil, and also between the moderate and the complete. For from the beginning either class has been divided like light and darkness, that is, good and evil, after evil began through the devil’s agency to exist by the corruption of good, but through God’s agency Who first illumines and then divides.

What things then are good? Doubtless those which are untouched, and have remained in the undefiled state of their creation; which God alone created and prepared, according to the Apostle, that we should walk in them; which are the good works in which in Christ Jesus we were created, namely goodness, innocence, righteousness, justice, truth, pity, love, saving peace, spiritual joy, together with the fruit of the Spirit – all these with their fruits are good. Since this is so, the good must be firmly held by those that have God’s help, which is ever to be prayed for in prosperity and in adversity, lest either in prosperity we be lifted up to pride, or in adversity be cast down to despair. Thus we must always restrain ourselves from either danger, that is, from all excess by a splendid temperance and true discretion, which cleaves to Christian lowliness and opens the way of perfection to Christ’s true soldiers, namely by ever discerning rightly in doubtful cases.

Thus between the little and the excessive there is a reasonable measure in the midst, which ever recalls us from every superfluity on either side, and in every case provides what is universally fixed by human need, and spurns the unreasonable demand of superfluous desire. And this measure of true discretion, weighing all our actions in the scales of justice, in no way allows us to err from what is just, or to suffer a mistake, if we ever follow straight behind it as our leader. For while we must always restrain ourselves from either side, according to that saying: “Keep yourselves from the right and from the left,” we must ever proceed straight forward by discretion, that is, by the light of God, while very often we say and sing the victorious psalmist’s verse: “My God, enlighten my darkness, since in You I am rescued from temptation. For temptation is the life of humans on earth.”

     [1] Sancti Columbani Opera. edited by G.S.M. Walker. The Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. 1957. p.135.


November 23, 2022
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