Readings for matins: Extract of the letter by Bernard of Portes (Carthusian monk) to Rainold the Recluse
Remember to apply yourself to prayer with the greatest care. No preoccupation, no trouble with your health must turn you away from it. Pray not only for your own salvation, but for that of all Christians, living, to be born or deceased, for those on whose benefactions you depend, and for us too. Trusting in the help of the Holy Spirit who teaches his saints to pray with unutterable groans, you must enter the room of your heart, as our Lord says, and close the door against vain and impure thoughts by which the adversary tries to interrupt you, and pray to your Father in secret. At all times, keep the custody of your heart as much as you are able with God’s help; but at such moments most of all.
A sincere love and fervent faith in the cross of Christ wipes out all the intrigues of the enemy. And prayer with tears overcomes and chases any kind of temptation. Such are the spiritual weapons and the combats you engage in before the King whose soldier you have become. You should know that it is in order to be free for these things that you practise bodily enclosure and separation from exterior concerns. Because you bear the name of recluse, you will be considered great by men; but before God, you cannot be great unless you do these things with all care and vigilance. For men see only the outside; the Most High, however, will judge of what is interior. Whenever you see that you are not up to doing these things, accuse yourself humbly before God of your lack of piety and your imperfection; and beg very devoutly for the help of the grace of him who says: Without me, you can do nothing.
Scripture will teach you very clearly that humility is the guardian of all the virtues and that, without it, every virtue is empty and weak, or rather is not a virtue at all. When you fast, pray or chant the office, there will be no lack of invisible enemies that applaud you and say: “Well done, well done, who is there like you? Who is so pleasing to God? Ah, if men only knew your sanctity!’ Reply to them immediately in your heart with the words of the prophet: Let them be confounded with shame, those who say to me ‘well done’! And add: I am a beggar and destitute. In fact, however much you advance in virtue, you will always remain a destitute and a beggar. And you cannot obtain definitive victory over the invisible foe until you attain to him to whom you say: You will fill me with joy in your presence, and I will be satisfied when your glory appears.
If anyone praises you before you, don’t believe the words of a stranger more than your own conscience. Remember Scripture which says: Those who praise you mislead you. So as not to get puffed up at your own progress, have in mind what the apostle says: What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift? To flee the desire for the favour of men, listen to the Lord: Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Again he says about such people: Truly, I tell you, they have received their reward. However, don’t think that it is an evil thing to be praised by men when this is not done out of flattery. Scripture, on the contrary says: Woe to the man because of whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed. What is bad is to be desirous of praise or to love it.
Source: Lectionary for Matins – Sanctoral A – 13 November – Readings 9 to 12 (Saint Hugh’s Charterhouse 2021)