Chapter 7 – Avoid Vain Hope


Avoid Vain Hope

VII Avoid Vain Hope (click to download pdf)

A little boy, once, just for fun, wanted to build himself a play house.  His father had bought several hundred bricks to erect a chimney, and they were piled up out in the yard.  The boy set the bricks one against the other; and then another row on top of the first, and so on, until he thought his house was about high enough.  He also divided it off into several rooms, by putting the bricks in between, for partitions.  For the roof, he set up the bricks on ends, and made them lean over from both sides, until they came together, and rested against each other at the top.  With that he had his house finished.  What happened?  Fox comes running up—Fox is the name of their dog—and he brushes against the house and knocks it down.  Just imagine how angry the little boy got.  “You old, nasty dog!” he exclaimed.  “You must just come along and knock down my house.  Go away and let me alone!”

You are yet only a child, a little boy or girl; but, perhaps, your parents are already making great plans about you.  They intend you to become this or that; and they will educate you so, and give you such a schooling, that you may once make a fair show in the world.

You are too young yet to make any, or very many, plans yourself.  You leave everything to your parents, and to those who are older than you.  It is something very beautiful, very touching, to see how simple and artless children are.  They know nothing about themselves; and they can do almost nothing, they are so little; and therefore they trust their parents, and those who are older and grown up, in everything; they believe what they hear them say, and try to imitate what they see them do.  Such a little child is like the ivy that clings to the thick, stout oak-tree.

But when you get older, you will begin to make plans for yourself.  You will make yourself a great name in the world.  You will try to become rich; you will strive to become a great statesman, or a poet, or a philosopher, or gain renown in some other of the many ways.  To make your way thus in the world, you will rely greatly on your own genius and ability.  You will also ask advice of other smart men; and you will use those who are not so smart as you are as instruments to help you forward.  All these things may come, or, at least, you may be tempted that way many a time, and, if you do not take care, easily misled.  This is the way of the world; it pretends to be your friend, but it is a treacherous enemy.  It gets you to build a house; and you think it is fine work, and you think you have finished it, and you are safe, and now you can enjoy yourself at ease in your fine house, the world will shake it, let it fall down over your head, and all your vain and empty plans will go to nothing.   Think of the boy I told you of, building his brick play-house.

What I want you not to forget is this: There is some one else who has better and quite different plans for you, and who intends to make something great and glorious of you.  It is He whom you have undertaken to follow—Jesus, your Saviour.  What He wants to make of you, you cannot yet tell; neither can I nor anybody else.  Just give yourself over entirely and willingly to Jesus, and let Him guide you; He will lead you right; and you will be great on earth and in heaven.

In Paris there was a certain young man, called Francis Xavier.  He also had great plans, how he would become a wonder of learning, and make himself a great name in the world.  There was another young man, some years older than Francis Xavier, called Ignatius, and he had the spirit of Jesus, and had just entered on the right way to holiness.  One day Ignatius whispered into the ear of Francis Xavier these words:

“What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but lose his precious soul?”

And day after day, as often as he met him, he repeated to him these same words, until Francis began to think them over himself, and they worked in his soul, by the grace of God.  Thy brought about a great change.  The young man left the way of the world, and turned his back on it, to follow Jesus.  Our Saviour had his plans for him, too; and you know what the young man became: a great saint in the Catholic Church—St. Francis Xavier, apostle of India.

Do you see now, and understand?  Jesus has His plans and intentions for you, too, most certainly!  What must you do, on your side, that they may be carried out?

First, give up all vain hopes.  Make your resolution even now never to strive after honor and glory in the world, or to gain for yourself a great name.  Learning is good, and riches may be good, and honors, but only as far as Jesus wants to let you have them.  You must not seek them for the world’s sake.

Secondly, do not put too much trust in yourself.  Do not rely on your own knowledge and ability.  Do not rely on your own knowledge and ability.  Do not despise others, nor think yourself better than everybody else.  Be humble! Give yourself into the hands of Jesus, and let Him do you according to His holy will.  “The foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that He may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that He may confound the strong,” St. Paul says.

Here is a word for you from The Following of Christ: “It will do thee no harm to put thyself below everybody, but it will hurt thee very much to put thyself before any one.”


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