by Clive Johnson | The Spiritual Athlete

It is both inspiring and refreshing to confront in religious writings a simple, unaffected faith in God. All too often our tendency is to weigh down religion with a cloak of learning,forgetting that saints are rarely doctors of theology. If, indeed, the ultimate nature of Truth is unity, then complexity and diversity are of the nature of the world, not spirit. Therefore, the seeker after God is enjoined to simplify and purify both his external and internal life.

In his own simple approach to God, Father Daniel Considine, an English Jesuit of this century, certainly reflected more of the saint than the theologian. He stressed religious life, surrender, love, and, above all, joy in the thought and service of God. “The spiritual life,” he wrote, “is the easiest, sweetest, and happiest thing in the world.” Although Father Considine was a member of a renowned teaching order, he had none of its intellectual­ ism. Instead, he possessed something of the trusting faith of a Brother Lawrence, a spiritual quality much needed now, in an age when people are pressed by doubt and fear and faith, tragically enough, has apparently become foreign to the temper of the times.

DANIEL HEFFERNAN CONSIDINE was born on January 1st, 1849, at Derk House, in Old Pallas, in the county of Limerick, Ireland. At the age of nineteen he entered the English Province of the Society of Jesus, and after spending fifty-four years as a Jesuit, he died on January 10th, 1922, having just completed his seventy-third year.

Being a normal, healthy-minded boy, Daniel kept his thoughts about God to himself. No one could know what spiritual development was taking place in his soul, but his attraction towards God and the things of God must have begun early. In his old age he confided to a friend that in his thirteenth year he had made a sort of vow of perfection, something more than a mere resolution, a promise to God always to do the more perfect thing. This promise, he said, had been a source of considerable worry and scruple to him for some time. The idea of a vocation to the Society of Jesus seems to have been suggested to him in a perfectly natural but rather curious manner.

During a journey home to Ireland for the holidays, one of his schoolfellows entertained the party by fore­ casting their future careers. “Of course, Dan,” he said, “you will be a Jesuit.” The remark was a joke and might have produced no effect had it not been overheard by a distant relative of the Considines, who took the earliest opportunity of calling Dan aside and warning him, if he had a vocation, not to fight against it. This warning, given by one whose own life was apparently devoted wholly to horse-racing and other forms of sport, made a deep impression on the boy’s mind.

“I used to think of what he had said when I was back at school at Stonyhurst, and I would get out of bed in the night to pray,” he told someone a few months before his death. But his prayer was not for a vocation. He did not want to be a Jesuit, and when he crept back into his bed it was, as often as not, to cry himself to sleep. Not only was the prospect distasteful to him personally, but he knew that the choice of such a career would be a grievous disappointment to his father. He kept his trouble to himself, not seeking counsel from any priest, or sympathy from any friend, determined to do God’s will, and hoping against hope that he might be mistaken.

As the months passed conviction grew, and, however reluctantly, he had to admit that God was calling him from father and mother, and all ambition, and all other interest, to service difficult and obscure in the Society of Jesus.

At the end of his Stonyhurst course he successfully passed the London University matriculation, and then for the first time told his father of his vocation, and asked permission to offer himself to the English Provincial. His father, surprised and disconcerted, begged him to wait before coming to so momentous a decision until he had taken his degree at Oxford. But the boy, now that his mind was made up, dreaded delay, and was anxious to put his project into execution at once. Eventually a compromise was effected: he was to go to Oxford for one year, at the end of which period, if his determination still held, he was to be free to apply for admission into the Society of Jesus.

At Lincoln College, as previously at Stonyhurst, Daniel led a quiet, reserved life, in marked contrast to that of his elder brother, whose social and sporting qualities endeared him to so many friends. Catholic undergraduates in those days were few in number. They used to meet together for lunch on Fridays at the Mitre Hotel, but even on that small group the younger brother left no impression. His time for influencing others had not yet come. The year’s delay not only served to confirm him in the certainty of his vocation, it also witnessed the change in his mind from reluctance to desire. He did not return to the University, but after a few months at home, entered the English novitiate at Manresa House, Roehampton, on February 14, 1868.

Never, from that day till the day of his death, was he troubled with the least doubt concerning the reality of his vocation, and in the grace of that vocation he found, throughout his life, an unfailing source of joyful gratitude.

One who was a novice with him has written: “His fellow-novices noticed, that though in outward demeanor he differed in nothing from others, yet, in a certain sense, he was hardly a novice at all; he seemed already to have reasoned out with himself the whole conception of religious life and pious practices, and so to have attained to a greater maturity in his pursuit of holiness than was to be found in their first experimental essays.

“Already, too, in those early days, we noticed beneath his calm exterior manner a common-sense way of speaking of religious subjects. More than once those kneeling beside him in the chapel noticed that his tears were flowing plentifully as he prayed, dropping on the bench in front of him, while he remained absorbed and motionless.”

Until his arrival at St. Beuno’s, where he was sent to pursue his theological studies in 1881 at the age of 32, he had never really come out of his shell. Whatever he had done had been well done, but in so quiet and un­ ostentatious a way as to attract little attention from any except his superiors. In the community he had never been in any sense a leading spirit, nor had he exercised over the boys at Beaumont, or the young Jesuit scholastics at Manresa, where he had taught, any marked influence. At St. Beuno’s, on the contrary, he began almost at once to make his presence felt and to be appreciated at his true value by his fellow-theologians, as well as by his professors and superiors.

Almost immediately after ordination, Father Considine was placed in authority. As a Superior he won from all his subjects an instant respect, and, as they came to know him better, an increasing admiration. No one could come in contact with him without realizing that he was a man of prayer and mortification, and no one could fail to appreciate the sincerity of his complete unselfishness. But those knew him best who needed him and had the courage to confide in him.

“Courage” may seem an unnecessarily strong word, but- and especially in the case of his novices- no little courage was needed to break through the barrier of his precise, correct, but always courteous, manner. Father Considine was a man who never seemed to be “off duty.” He could never be caught in an unconventional, easy attitude. His private conversation was as formal as his public. He did not seem to invite confidences. A timid novice was inclined to think he was being spoken to as a complete stranger by one who was always polite to strangers. The result was that the relations between the Master and his novices were too often distant, cold, restrained.

Many who were novices under him have regretted this. They would have wished for less formality, more intimacy, more encouragement, more individual instruction, perhaps even more private admonition. Such, however, was not his way. If there was to be any advance towards intimacy, that advance must be made by others, not by himself. But, once the advance was made, his reception of it left nothing to be desired: he was kind, he was understanding, he was strong; above all, he was patient to a degree that could not fail of final success even with the most difficult of his subjects or penitents.

As Novice-master he was recognized by all his novices to be a man of extraordinary holiness. His regularity, his self-control, his zeal for the glory of God, the fervor of his public exhortations, the spiritual insight revealed in his points for meditation, and his instructions on religious life, all witnessed to his close union with God; and though his severe corporal austerities were surmised rather than known, these, and the many hours he spent in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, confirmed the common opinion. And in this intense personal holiness lay the secret of his power. His influence over others was gained less by what he said or did than by what he was. From his example the novices were really able to derive that inspiration which so many of them sought in vain from words of encouragement, or consolation, or remonstrance, that he could not or would not utter.

This method of teaching has undeniable drawbacks, but it avoids the danger of “spoon-feeding,” makes for independence and virility in the spiritual life, and, most important of all, does not tend to interfere unduly with the working of the Holy Ghost in the soul. If Father Considine did not exercise as much direct personal influence as some might have wished, at least he did not impose his own personality on anyone.

Father Considine came into contact with many priests at Manresa at the monthly meetings of the Apostolic Union. His humble, unworldly manner, and anxious care for their comfort, encouraged them to seek for a closer acquaintance with him, and then to ask for spiritual advice and help. Several lifelong friendships were thus begun, and of course, besides these, he had priest friends whom he had met on other occasions, especially when giving clergy retreats.

The following tribute from Canon Edward Murnane, written at the time of Father Considine’s death, may be taken as typical of the regard in which he was held by many priests:

“. . . No words can express all that I owe to dear Father Considine. He was to me a father, as he was to many more: wise, patient and holy. He was my confessor for many years, and it is only in Heaven I shall know all that he did for me. What he was to me spiritually he was also as a guide in my work as a priest. I never left his presence without carrying away many useful lessons. Although always a very busy man, he never grudged the time he gave me. What he was to me he was to many souls …

Another priest who had known Father Considine under different circumstances wrote also at this time:

 • • • For some thirty years, I counted Father Considine as my best and dearest friend, from the time when I was a convert lad and he was Prefect of Studies at Beaumont till the time when I was a middle-aged priest on the mission and he was an old Father at Farm Street. It stands to reason that in all these years our relative positions varied very much, but no passage of years could alter his unfailing kindness, his sympathy, or his intuition.


“Whether as a lad with a vague wish to be a priest, or as a young man in business, or later as a clerical student, or as a priest, without hesitation I took all my real difficulties to Father Considine, and by his decision did I abide, and never once have I regretted my act.

“There was about him a sense of security, he was humble and unassuming, he was courteous and kind, his sensitiveness and almost feminine faculty of intuition made him somewhat of a prophet; but above all, he had the gift of sanctified common sense, and it was this last which gave him his power for good when dealing with ordinary souls such as mine.

“Step by step, and with infinite patience and forbearance, he guided me through many difficulties and dangers, never proposing more than he knew I could carry out, ever encouraging, practical, and uplifting.”

THE last stage of Father Considine’s apostolic life was the period of eight years spent at Farm Street. Here he devoted himself with untiring zeal to the care of souls, preaching, giving retreats, instructing converts, and acting as director and confessor to an ever­ increasing number of people of every class who sought his aid.

Throughout the weary course of World War I his services to anxious and sorrowful women were enormous. His delicate sympathy, his strong and infectious confidence in God, the generosity with which he gave his time to those who leaned on him in their hour of need, drew a host of penitents to his confessional and of visitors to the Mount Street parlors. Many of these visits he knew to be unnecessary; but though occasionally he would refuse to see a too insistent visitor in the parlour, never would he refuse a call to his confessional. As a friend in real need or distress he was indefatigable. The call of illness brought him at once to the sufferer’s house, nor could any personal inconvenience or indisposition keep him away. Throughout his life, in spite of his natural shyness (it cost him a great effort to overcome his nervousness on being summoned to the parlour to meet a stranger), he had shown marked attention to the sick and sacrificed himself in many ways for their sake.

While Father Charles Plater was at Manresa, his father, a man whose holiness allowed him to be witty and humorous about his own death, lay dying of a long and painful illness. Father Considine frequently visited him, and on one occasion the sick man fell asleep holding his visitor’s hand. Though the position in which he was sitting was very uncomfortable, Father Considine insisted on remaining motionless for the space of nearly two hours rather than risk disturbing the patient’s much­ needed sleep.

His self-sacrifice for the healthy and normal was shown in the perfection of his practice of the natural virtue of punctuality. He never kept people waiting, never forgot an appointment, answered letters promptly, and was careful to write at once if any plans had, unavoidably, to be altered.

During the last three years of his life many stories were circulated about extraordinary favors he was supposed to have received from God. The evidence for these is not sufficiently decisive to lead us to enlarge on the subject or insert here any of the incidents which have been related. There can, however, be little doubt that while saying Mass he was often the recipient of very special graces. His emotion while offering the Holy Sacrifice was most noticeable. From after the Consecration till after the Communion he was seized with violent trembling, and at the Communion he seemed to have great difficulty in forcing the chalice from his lips.

Whatever be the real explanation of these and other occurrences, his intense love for our Lord was known to all who had the least knowledge of Father Considine.

With advancing age he seemed to become more and more absorbed in the simple contemplation of the wonderful goodness of God. His presentation of God was always of One waiting to heap favors upon us if we would but let Him.

He could, even to the end, be stem, and administer sharp snubs on occasion, but for the most part his direction was marked by quaint and gentle humor, as when he likened one of his penitents to a rabbit, because “whenever you see God coming towards you, you immediately bolt.”

During the period of his last illness his mind was frequently clouded. In conversation he would pass from sheer nonsense to his old sound “sanctified common sense” with a suddenness that bewildered his visitors. He himself was conscious of this, and told the Brother who was nursing him that he felt the humiliation of not being able to talk rationally and piously of holy things.

The constant deep interior happiness and peace of his soul had manifested itself during his life, not only in his speech but in his whole appearance, especially in his blue eyes, bright and clear as those of a child, and no less innocent. In death the same happiness was his, and was apparent to those who prayed by his bedside. In peace and calm he gave back his soul to God.

by Clive Johnson


Distractions and tediousness in prayer do not matter at all so long as your heart is with the Lord. You must humble yourself as much as you can. God loves humble souls and gives His graces to them.

Do not worry about recalling the thought of the presence of God at special times. He lives in your heart; keep a calm liberty of spirit. Don’t be narrow or straitlaced in any way.

God does not want our spiritual life to be a constant stress, uneasy, foggy, stormy. He loves peace and joy and spiritual gaity. We often offend other people without meaning to do so. But God knows us through and through and understands what we mean.

The more we abandon ourselves to God, the more He can make of us, and we are never so much under His government as when we trust least to ourselves. The spiritual life is the easiest, sweetest and happiest thing in the world- to love God and be loved by Him.

There are few invariable rules in the spiritual life, but this is one: Pray in the way you like best.

Try to think more of Him, and less of the human element in things. He is really behind everything that happens to you. You must try to realize this, and it will make everything easier and happier.

Just love Him, trust Him, and be happy with Him, and your faults will fall away of themselves. If you have been unfaithful, don’t have a fuss about it. Tum to Him lovingly and trustingly, and begin at once to be more faithful without further ado. Never be sad or dismal. It does not become one whom our Lord loves. Be quite simple, free, and happy in His love.

Sometimes the best prayer you can make is just to think that God reads your heart.

So many books give a wrong idea of mortification. They fix all the attention on the things that are given up instead of on God. When a mother goes to the nursery door and calls her child, do you think the child says to himself, “I will mortify myself by leaving all my toys and go to my mother”? Certainly not. In the joy of seeing her he forgets all about his toys, throws them down, and runs into her arms.

God shows such wonderful courtesy in dealing with us. Very often He asks some small sacrifice of us merely as an excuse to make it the occasion of giving us a magnificent grace.

It is a mistake to say that you would be better if some person or some circumstance in your life were removed. God arranges all these things with the greatest care, to bring out what is best in you. The fault is in you not in circumstances. When a person with weak lungs goes out in fine warm weather he often thinks that he is better. The improvement is in the weather, not in himself. The disease remains there though he does not feel it, and it will show itself again as soon as the weather is less favorable.

After all, what is a saint? Only one whose will is united to God’s in all things, not one who does extra­ ordinary things. You need not do anything more than you do now to be a saint. Ecstasies are not necessary. You have only to do His will all day long because it is His will. The first point is arranged for you by obedience; the second point lies with yourself, and is not difficult. It does not mean that you must think about God all the time. That is not possible, and He does not require it. He only wants your will to be fixed in His.

You often see on the bureau of a businessman or a doctor the photographs of his wife and children. He is not thinking of them- he could not do his work properly if he were- but his heart is with them and he is working for their sakes. That is a good illustration of the way we ought to do our work. God does not want us to be on our knees when we ought to be teaching children or cooking the dinner.

Sometimes kneel before our Lord in silence and ask Him to speak to you. That kind of prayer will transform you.

Forget whether you have been slack or not and give yourself up altogether to loving God.

God is always perfectly consistent. He is infinitely powerful, and He knows perfectly well the weaknesses and limitations of our nature. He will never ask us to do anything which He is not most ready to help us do. It is as easy for God to give us a thousand graces as it is for Him to give us one grace. Our trust is the only thing wanting.

Let your spiritual life be as simple as possible, and do away with any apparatus in it that does not help you to come easily and happily into communication with God. Say to Him quite simply whatever is in your heart. He does not wish you to stand on ceremony with Him. God himself is more simple than we can understand. He is more like a little child than a man of the world.

Fortunately, in the things of Eternity, time does not count. It is the intensity of our acts that counts, and it is possible, with God’s grace, to make extraordinary progress in a very short time.

If God is your Lover, how foolish to worry about anything!

The best way to meet temptation is to ignore it and go quietly on with what you are doing. If you are doing God’s work, your heart is in His hands. Just go on quietly and God will take care of you.

God means the spiritual life to be a life of great supernatural happiness, and so it is to those persons who are generous and refuse nothing to God. And, after all, what are the things that God asks you to give up? Are they not things that you are really ashamed of, that lower you even naturally in your own estimation?

No one ought to be able to offend you, because your one endeavor ought always to be to humble yourself in everything.

There is nothing small or narrow or rigid about God. Even our faults can make Him love us more tenderly, as He heals us, and the forgiveness makes another bond between us. God does not endure us. He loves us passionately-if I may use such a word- more than we can understand.

Give up schemes and regulations about the spiritual life, and abandon yourself to the guidance of God, living from moment to moment in His presence and trying each moment to give Him all He wants.

Little children are simple and direct. They say exactly what they think without pose or affectation. Do you say things exactly as they are to God? He loves straight-forwardness and simplicity.

Many books are fond of warning people about the higher graces of prayer, because [they say] there is great danger of pride. The truth is that these graces humble the soul. She understands that God is doing everything, not she herself. It is like a master guiding the hand of a little child to write. The child knows that she could not write by herself, and so she is not vain about it.

You are too jerky in spiritual life; you go by fits and starts. As you get nearer to God you will go as fast but more steadily. You have plenty of time- indeed, time does not count with God. He can give you in one moment enough graces to make you a saint. When you love a person, you don’t go by starts, loving him in the morning and disliking him in the afternoon. You must have the same confidence in God always, and be sweet and loving to Him always.

If you have done wrong, go to Him and say, “Dear Lord, I am extremely sorry for having been such a naughty child. Now we must begin again.” And then begin at once to love our Lord more than before, and don’t be upset or worried. Very often such distress is really only wounded pride seeking to find some excuse for self.

It is not good for you to go with great detail into the causes of particular faults, or to set yourself to think much about them or give accounts of them. What you need is to love our Lord more and more, and keep near Him more and more, and get closer to Him, and run to Him for everything. His love is the great motive-power. That is what you need. Go to Him for comfort and help and strength and love, and ask Him to supply all your needs, and then, just as a mother loves her little child to depend upon her for everything, so He will gladly take care of and provide for you.

When a person of mere ordinary virtue makes a mistake, it takes him some time to feel the same towards God as he did before. When a saint makes a mistake, he runs to God at once like a little boy to its mother, without excuse, like a brave, honest, confiding son.

One of the great signs of progress in the spiritual life is this quick return and peace of soul after a fault.

The saint understands mistakes better than the ordinary person, but what is far more important, he understands God better.

We please Him and win His love in the same way as we please and win an earthly friend.

God does not love you as a community, but separately and individually. Every soul is like a separate world to Him.

Keep yourself pliable in God’s hands. He will most certainly mold you in a way that you don’t expect.

One of the best proofs of advance is the facility of finding God everywhere and in everything where, indeed, as we know, He always is and is always working.

Ask our Lord to impress upon your soul the thoughts of confidence that help you, and He will do so. When in trouble or temptation, realize that God is allowing this in His love, to train and prepare your soul for greater graces.

Whatever we ask of God trustfully, He will do for us if there is good reason for it. Go especially to God the Father. Call Him your Father and ask Him to help His child. That touches His heart.

Don’t trust in your own strength or wisdom or judgement any more than a tiny child does, but say, “The Lord rules me, and I shall want for nothing.”

Depend on Him, not on yourself. There are two things needed to make a saint: absolute confidence in God, and complete distrust of yourself. The more you confide in God, the more He will do for you. God wants us to feel that we can do nothing of ourselves … Then He can come to us, and then we trust to Him for everything.

You are consecrated to God, so your body is His and your soul is His. Look upon both as entrusted to you by God, and thus by taking care of your body you will be doing a service to God. You must treat it as a sick child.

You will not progress by your own action, but by God’s action on your soul. So don’t trouble about the distractions, but confide in God. In your relations with others, remember thoughts and feelings do not matter, but only actions and words.

Don’t be guided by spiritual books in your intercourse with our Lord, if in any way they cramp your loving, reverent freedom of intercourse with Him, or tend to sow the least distrust of Him in your soul. Ask Him to teach you Himself what He is like.

The call to religious life is a call to be a saint. You cannot abandon yourself too completely to His love. If you do so, He is bound to honor to take great care of you, and you may be sure He will do so.

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