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In every monastery there are two classes of men–the religious, the sincere, the earnest, the austere; and the fat, lazy, profligate and licentious.

And the proportion of the first class to the second changes just in proportion as the monastery is successful–to succeed in Nature is to die. The fruit much loved by the sun rots first. The early monasteries were mendicant institutions, and for mendicancy to grow rich is an anomaly that carries a penalty. A successful beggar is apt to be haughty, arrogant, dictatorial–from a humble request for alms to a demand for your purse is but a step. In either case the man wants something that is not his–there are three ways to get it: earn it, beg it, seize it. The first method is absurd–to dig I am ashamed–the second, easy; the last is best of all, provided objection is not too strenuous. Beggars a-horseback are knights of the road.

That which comes easy, goes easy, and so it is the most natural thing in the world for a monk to become a connoisseur of wines, an expert gourmet, a sensualist who plays the limit. The monastic impulse begins in the beautiful desire for solitude–to be alone with God–and ere it runs its gamut dips deep into license and wallows in folly.

The austere monk leaves woman out, the other kind enslaves her: both are wrong, for man can never advance and leave woman behind. God never intended that man, made in His image, should be either a beast or a fool.

And here we are wiser than Savonarola–noble, honest and splendid man that he was. He saw the wickedness of the world and sought to shun it by fleeing to a monastery. There he saw the wickedness of the monastery, and there being no place to flee he sought to purify it. And at the same time he sought to purify and better the world by standing outside of the world.

The history of the Church is a history of endeavor to keep it from drifting into the thing it professes not to be–concrete selfishness. The Church began in humility and simplicity, and when it became successful, behold it became a thing of pomp, pride, processional, crowns, jewels, rich robes and a power that used itself to subjugate and subdue, instead of to uplift and lead by love and pity.

Oh, the shame of it!

And Savonarola saw these things–saw them to the exclusion of everything else–and his cry continually was for a return to the religion of Jesus the Carpenter, the Man who gave his life that others might live.

The Christ spirit filled the heart of Savonarola. His soul was wrung with pity for the poor, the unfortunate, the oppressed; and he had sufficient insight into economics to know that where greed, gluttony and idleness abound, there too stalk oppression, suffering and death. The palaces of the rich are built on the bones of the poor.

Others, high in Church authority, saw these things, too, and knew, no less than Savonarola, the need of reform–they gloried in his ringing words of warning, and they admired no less his example of austerity.

They could not do the needed work–perhaps he could do a little, at least.

And so he was transferred to Saint Mark’s Monastery at Florence–the place that needed him most.

Florence was the acknowledged seat of art and polite learning of all Italy, and Saint Mark’s was the chief glory of the Church in Florence.

Florence was prosperous and so was Saint Mark’s, and have we not said that there is something in pure prosperity that taints the soul?

Savonarola was sent to Saint Mark’s merely as a teacher and lecturer. Bologna was full of gloom and grime–the bestiality there was untamed. Here everything was gilded, gracious and good to look upon. The cloister-walks were embowered in climbing roses, the walls decorated fresh from the brush of Fra Angelico, and the fountains in the gardens, adorned by naked cupids, sent their sparkling beads aloft to greet the sunlight.