watching the kine, working in their great dairy, and all with never a word to beguile the long and weary hours.
It seems a hard life, indeed, this of the Trappists of Oka. They rise at two in the morning, and spend a long time before the dawn kneeling at their uncomfortable stalls, chanting holy psalmody, or bending in silent prayer. Then, when the morning comes, after Mass and Office are over, they go into the fields or the barns to take up their monotonous round of toil.
Some of them follow the herds to pasture, some break the stony ground, some go to the great dairies, some bestir themselves to sweep the long corridors of the monastery, but all in silence and prayer. In silence they take their frugal meal, late in the day; in silence they file into the chapel again to end their day as they began, in chanting the holy Office. So at the hour of eight they go to rest, after what would seem to most men an intolerable round of prayer and work and prayer.
What keeps them steadfast in their austere vocation? What thought do you suppose cheers and carries them on through all the slow and toilsome hours? You may easily guess whence some of their steadiness and courage comes, if you will read the motto that is written large over their "Order of the Day" which hangs beside the door. It is a brief and pithy saying, simple
and stern as their own lives. In their French language it reads, ''Bientot l' Eternite'-- "A Little While and it will be Eternity!" A little while! That is the secret of their cheerfulness, their calm, their steadfast perseverance. They are saying, each one in his heart: "It will be only a little while. A little while and the weary days will all be over; a little while and the tired limbs will be at rest. Soon the longest task will be accomplished, the weariest labor ended. Soon, very soon, it will be eternity."
No wonder that they labor well, these monks of Oka. No wonder. that they love their bare cells, their empty corridors, their long night-watches and their days of heat and toil. They are thinking hour after hour: "A little while and it will be eternity." The brightness of eternal splendor falls from afar upon their faces. Their souls are filled with the calm and sweetness of the great joys to come.
Would not any one rejoice, in whatever toilsome or dreary hour, if he realized and knew that in a little while he would be plunged into unending and unfathomable joy and peace? Can any cloud make them gloomy, when the calm, white glory of Heaven bursts through its shadow, shining so very near'? A moment—a few brief days—some fleeting years, and it will all be over; the stiffening toil, the wearing penance, the tears of contrition, and the weariness of hope deferred. In a little while it will be eternity.
The body of this death will fall from their yearning spirit. The dull heaviness of life, its cares and fears, will be changed as in a twinkling into the lightness and springing joy of life eternal. The face of God, kind, merciful and loving, will shine out from the shadows. They will see Him face to face and know Him even as they are known. And these joys, this peace, this glory, all the brightness and delight will know no ending. As long as God is God, as truth is truth, as love is love, so long shall their joys go on unceasing, for it will be eternity.
This is, then, a full and pithy saying, is it not, which some wise hand has written by the doorway of the house of Oka? And we, too, have much to learn from the inspiring legend. Is it not as true for us as it is for them"? "A little while and it will be eternity." The dawn of that everlasting day is not very far beyond any man's horizon. It lies but just before the portals of our life. A little while, for us all, and it will be eternity! Say so to your weary soul, when it begins to flag and falter on the narrow path of well doing, when you are disposed to grow tired
of trying to be good and charitable and pure and faithful to your neighbor and your God, when you are sorely tempted, as all of us are at times, to turn from the narrow path on to the broad and easy highway of the world.
A little while, O my soul, and it will be eternity. The world will fade away, your flesh and its weariness will fall from you forever. Do not weary, nor fret, nor turn like a coward from the struggle. Bear up; fight on; be of good heart; it is not for long. What a motive, what an encouragement to do more and more for God! A little while! The time is short, the work momentous, the days are fleeting, the hour of a man's death is always near. A little while, and in that little while we must gather whatever store of merit, grace, or glory is to be ours for all the ages of the life to come. We must live forever on the heavenly gold which we may only gather now. After that little while, the fountains of merit and glory are sealed up forever. An act of love, of mercy, of purity, of alms-giving, of penance—one Mass well heard, one fervent Holy Communion, may lift us now to an unspeakably higher glory for all the ages. But the time is short, the days hasten, the hours steal away and do not return forever. A little while and lo, it is eternity.
See, too, how this very saying is a sovereign answer for all the snares and allurements of the world, the devil and the flesh. Their wares grow dim as dross under the sunlight of that same keen thought: "Soon it will be eternity." When the cunning tempter whispers of goods and fame and pleasures and the world's delights, say to him scornfully: "Away, fallen spirit, get thee away I A little while and it will be eternity I I can spare no time to spend in perishable delights. The day grows on apace. The brief hours fade away before me. The night cometh in which no man can work. What profit to pluck the fleeting pleasure that withers and is gone, to gain a little brief applause, to gather money, to set my heart on houses or lands, or cattle, or silks, or stones, when all these things serve for such a few and passing years. My heart is set upon eternity!"
And even more, much more, when evil desires—of forbidden pleasure or wicked gain, or sinful idleness, or unkind malice, or revengeful spite—come to plague us and lead us into evil, then these words should be like salt to our lips and like wine to our hearts. "Not so! I will not do this evil deed—a little while and it will be eternity!" How vain, how senseless and foolish a thing, to dare the anger of God and to wound His love, when, as it were, tomorrow it will be eternity! Who would smear his soul with sin when he remembers that he is on the threshold of God's judgment room? Who would drink and be drunk with crime and luxury, upon the very brink of the world to come? Who would barter his soul for a trifle of sinful gain, or a mess of poisonous delight, when the boundless riches of Heaven and the pure ecstasies of God wait so very near before him'? For in such a little while it will be eternity!
Source: "Your Neighbor and You" by Father Garesche, Imprimatur 1918