I am renewing my De Montfort consecration to Mary, and so have been re-reading many tidbits from The Imitation of Christ.
Here is the reading for the sixth day of the program (with my bolding), from Imitation, Book 1, Chapter 18:
Look upon the lively examples of the holy Fathers in whom shone real perfection and the religious life, and you will see how little it is, and almost nothing that we do. Alas, what is our life when we compare it with theirs? Saints and friends of Christ, they served our Lord in hunger and in thirst, in cold, in nakedness, in labor and in weariness, in watching, in fasting, prayers and holy meditations, and in frequent persecutions and reproaches. Oh, how many grievous tribulations did the Apostles suffer and the Martyrs and Confessors and Virgins, and all the rest who resolved to follow the steps of Christ! For they hated their lives in this world, that they might keep them in life everlasting. Oh what a strict and self-renouncing life the holy Fathers of the desert led! What long and grievous temptations did they bear! How often were they harassed by the enemy, what frequent and fervent prayers did they offer up to God, what rigorous abstinence did they practice!
What a valiant contest wag I ed they to subdue their imperfections! What purity and straightforwardness of purpose kept they towards God! By day they labored, and much of the night they spent in prayer; though while they labored, they were far from leaving off mental prayer. They spent all their time profitably. Every hour seemed short to spend with God; and even their necessary bodily refreshment was forgotten in the great sweetness of contemplation. They renounced all riches, dignities, honors and kindred; they hardly took what was necessary for life. It grieved them to serve the body even in its necessity. Accordingly, they were poor in earthly things, but very rich in grace and virtues.
I remember the first time I ever started to read the Imitation. I was not even Catholic then. I did not finish the book that time. I found it of interest, but I remember saying to myself, “This is so depressing!” I suppose it seemed that way because I had no desire to really give up the pleasures of my daily life at that time!
When I read these passages the first time I followed the De Montfort consecration program, I didn’t find them so depressing, at least as far as I can remember. That first consecration was also before I became Catholic, but only a few months before I was received into the Church.
Every time I read these passages, I find more in them of interest and inspiration. I decided recently that it’s time to re-read the entire book, cover to cover. I’ve started, but “stuff” gets in the way. I shall persevere, though!