The art of conversation; guarding and directing one’s tongue

‘It often fills me with shame here to see how readily men demean themselves just for a bit of gossip, how they prate incessantly about their own private affairs to people who don’t deserve it, and who hardly even listen. And the strangest thing about it is that they have no regard whatever for truth; all they want to do is to talk about themselves, whether what they say is true or not. The desire for a good conversation is a very different matter; there is something genuinely intellectual about that. Unfortunately there are few people here who are capable of carrying on a conversation beyond the range of immediate personal concern.’

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison, Letters to a Friend, February 13th 1944

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Mastering desire for the sake of others

‘There is a wholeness about the fully grown man which makes him concentrate on the present moment. He may have unsatisfied desires, but he always keeps them out of sight and manages to master them some way or other. And the more need he has of self-mastery, the more confidence he will inspire among his comrades, especially the younger ones, who are still on the road he has already travelled. Clinging too much to our desires easily prevents us from being what we ought to be and can be. Desires repeatedly mastered for the sake of present duty make us, conversely, all the richer. To be without desire is a mark of poverty. At the moment I am surrounded by people who cling to their desires, so much so that they haven’t any interest for others: they give up listening, and are incapable of loving their neighbour.’

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison, Letters to a Friend, March 19th 1944

Grace-filled monasticism

‘The monastic tradition we have been looking at more or less took it for granted that it is only gradually that we make progress in our christian lives, and that we may never get any further than oscillating between falling and getting up again. As likely as not, our whole life will be one long battle and, when all else fails, we may end up simply saying to God, ‘Lord, save me, whether I like it or not; dust and ashes that I am, I love sin.’

Simon Tugwell O.P., ‘Ways of Imperfection’ p. 37

Suffering and rejoicing

‘It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws forth even from sin a great flowering of good. All human suffering, all pain, all infirmity contains within it a promise of salvation: a promise of joy. “I am now rejoicing in my suffering for your sake,” writes Saint Paul (Col 1:24).’

John Paul II, Memory and Identity

The cycle of a Christian Life

“The Christian life is a continuous cycle of prayer, meditation on God’s Word, and temptation. Luther often said he knew he was a Christian because the devil taunted him. The devil wouldn’t waste his time with anyone far from the faith. The irony of the devil’s taunts is that it drives us back to the Word for refuge.”

Paraphrasing Dr John Kleinig

Sharing twice

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” – Romans 8:17

“For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” – 2 Corinthians 1:5

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” – Philippians 3:10

“But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” – 1 Peter 4:13