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Posted December 20, 2005

Book: A Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation
Author: Saint Thomas More
Scepter Publishers, England, 2005, pp. 318

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Awaiting execution in 1535 for refusing to betray his faith, Thomas More opens the door on his own interior life by creating a fictional dialogue. It takes place in 16th century Hungary between a young man, Vincent, and his dying but wise old uncle, Anthony.

“Vincent is paralyzed by fear of an impending Turkish invasion which could force him to betray his faith or die a martyr. As he pours out his fears, Anthony responds as only the calm and clear-headed More could do: on the comfort of God in difficulties, the benefits of suffering, atonement for evil acts, faintheartedness and the temptation to suicide, and scrupulosity. Anthony thus summarizes his purpose: “I will supply you ahead of time with a store of comfort, of spiritual strengthening and consolation, that you can have ready at hand, that you can resort to and lay up in your heart as an antidote against the poison of despairing dread. . .”

Put into modern English and edited by Mary Gottschalk, Dialogue. . .is introduced by Gerard B. Wegemer, author of the spiritual biography, Thomas More: A Portrait of Courage, (Scepter, 1995) and editor of another of More’s spiritual works, “The Sadness of Christ, (Scepter, 1993).

An Excerpt from the Book:

For by those words of the psalmist, “the arrow that flies by day,” I understand the arrow of pride. This is something with which the devil tempts a person not during the nighttime of tribulation and adversity, for that time is too disheartening and too fearful for pride, but in the daytime of prosperity, for that time is full of lighthearted vigor and confidence. But surely this worldly prosperity in which one so rejoices, and of which the devil makes one so proud, is very short even for a winter’s day. For we begin, many of us poor and cold as can be, and then up we fly like arrows shot straight up into the air. Suddenly we are shot up into the highest, sunniest realms. But before we can get good and warm there, down we come again to the cold ground, and there we get stuck. And yet for the short while that we’re up on high, Lord, how exhilarated and proud we are! We busily buzz up there like the bumblebee that flies around in the summer with no idea she will die in the winter. So fare many of us, God help us. For in the short winter’s day of worldly wealth and prosperity, this flying arrow from the devil — this high-flying spirit of pride, shot out of the devil’s bow and piercing the heart all the way through — lifts us up, in our estimation, into the clouds. Thinking we sit on the rainbow, we look down on the world beneath us. Those other poor souls who used to be, perhaps, our friends, we now regard as pitiful little bugs and ants in comparison to our own glorious selves.

But no matter how high in the clouds this arrow of pride may fly, and no matter how exuberant we may feel while being carried up so high, let us remember that the lightest of these arrows still has a heavy iron head. High as it may fly, therefore, it inevitably has to come down and hit the ground. And sometimes it lands in a not very clean place. The pride turns into shame and disgrace, and then gone is all that glory.

The arrow is spoken of in the fifth chapter of the Book of Wisdom, where the sage, in the person of those facing condemnation for having spent their lives in pride and vanity, cries out: “What has our arrogance profited us? And what good has our boasted wealth brought us? All those things have vanished like a shadow, . . .or as, when an arrow is shot at a target, the air, thus divided, comes together at once, so that no one knows its pathway. So we also, as soon as we were born, ceased to be, and we had no sign of virtue to show, but were consumed in our wickedness.” (Wis 5:8-9, 12-13).; Those, mind you, who have lived here in sin will be speaking such words when they lie in hell.

Table of Contents

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III