By Cornelius A Lapide
but woe to him that is alone when he falleth." Eccles. iv. 9, 10.
Experience teaches us that they who are associated together two by two, rarely or never are tempted to sins of impurity, but that those who are alone lay themselves open to accusations of evil, even if they have not actually fallen away. Hence S. Thomas was wont to say, A monk away from his brethren is an active evil. S. Augustine rules (Reg. cap. xii.), When ye are in a church, or wheresoever there are women, let each protect the other’s modesty. For thus God, who dwelleth in you, will protect you from yourselves. Another writer, S. Jerome, enjoins: If in the exercise of the priestly office, thou art called upon to visit a widow or a virgin, enter not the house alone; and again, Abide not alone with any woman, unless in the presence of a witness. So also S. Basil. Possidonius also tells us that if S. Augustine was asked by any women to visit them, he never entered their house or conversed with them, even on private matters, unless in the presence of some of his clergy. And so S. Charles Borromeo in our times adopted the rule of S. Augustine, for he never conversed with any of his female relations except one of his upper servants was present. (Vita. Lib. vii. cap. vi). And Seneca even (Epist. 25), says, "Solitude tempts us to every evil;" and as a corrective adds, "Without doubt, it is profitable to place a guard over thyself, so as to have someone to look to, some one to be acquainted with the very thoughts;" and adds, from Epicurus, "Do everything as if there was some one beholding thy actions;" and again (Epist. ii.), "Most sins would be avoided, if a man had a witness beside him when he was about to sin." The Emperor Justinian also (De Monachis), decrees that monks should go about in company, "to bear witness to each other’s integrity." And Pope Lucian (Epist. i. ad Episc.) decrees, "We exhort you, for reputation’s sake, that according to the rule of our holy Church ye always take with you priests and deacons as witnesses of your life and conversation; for although ye may have a conscience void of offence, yet because of evilly disposed men, it behoveth you, as the Apostle saith, to have a good report amongst them that are without. 1 Tim. iii. 7. Hence we have ordained that, as a testimony to the Church, two priests or three deacons should always and in all places accompany their Bishop."
Lastly, we have the authority of S. Thomas of Canterbury, a man of great sanctity and wisdom, who says, "I who have been for thirty years a Bishop know how true is the saying, ‘Woe to him that is alone.’ For I have frequently heard of fearful dangers, and fearful scandals having befallen those who either in public or private affect a solitary life, evils into which they would not have fallen had they not shunned the companionship of their fellow men."