A Year with the Saints/April
1. The Cross is the true gate through which to enter into the temple of holiness; and by any other way it is not possible to come into it. Therefore, we ought more than once to immolate our hearts to the love of Jesus, upon that same altar of the Cross on which He sacrificed His love for us.
Father Alvarez made this resolution: "I will consider all aridity, disquiet, and every trial which shall come to me in prayer as a martyrdom, and as such I will bear them with constancy." He pursued this course faithfully for sixteen years, after which he had so many consolations and celestial lights as were an abundant recompense for all the sufferings he had previously endured.
St. Teresa bore the greatest aridity for eighteen years, and then to what heights was she not exalted!
St. Bernard said of himself: "All those things that the world loves, such as pleasure, honors, praise, and riches, are to me crosses; and all things which the world counts as crosses, I seek and embrace with the greatest affection."
2. If you see that you have not yet suffered tribulations, consider it certain that you have not begun to be a true servant of God; for the Apostle says plainly that all who choose to live piously in Christ, shall suffer persecutions.----St. Augustine
St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, and St. Cyril were all charged with a thousand crimes, and in that way were greatly afflicted.
St. Romualdo was slanderously accused by one of his monks of the commission of a shameful crime, was condemned in a public assembly to be burnt at the stake as a punishment, and in the meantime was suspended from his function as a priest. But, though he was then a centenarian, he bore all with the greatest tranquillity.
St. Francis Xavier was grieved when he saw everything going on successfully with him in Lisbon; and if such favorable circumstances had continued to exist, he would have thought that he was not serving God well.
3. By working out our salvation through sufferings, the Son of God has wished to teach us that there is nothing in us so fitted to glorify God and to sanctify our souls as suffering. Yes, yes, to suffer for love of the Lord is the way of truth! Therefore, the more one can suffer, the more let him suffer, for he will be the most fortunate of all; and whoever does not resolve upon this, will never make much progress.----St. Teresa
St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi was so much enamored of suffering that she said: "I do not desire to die soon, because in Heaven there is nothing to suffer; but I desire to live a long time, because I wish to suffer long for love of my Spouse. Nor would I have a brief martyrdom only, but an accumulation of pains, calumnies, misfortunes, and all adversities that can possibly happen to me." And when she went through a long and painful illness this not only failed to extinguish in her this great thirst for suffering, but after tasting it in such a way, she longed for it the more, so that while the Superior endeavored to lessen her hardships for the preservation of her health, she was at the same time seeking in every way to invent new kinds of sufferings that no one would perceive. It happened one day, in the course of her last illness, that having received a marked affront, she not only bore it patiently, but showed signs of particular friendship for the offender. When one of the Sisters manifested astonishment, she told her that she was glad she had not died before it occurred, that she might not lose such an excellent opportunity for suffering.
4. The way is narrow. Whoever expects to walk in it with ease must go detached from all things, leaning on the staff of the Cross; that is firmly resolving to be willing to suffer in all things for love of God.----St. John of the Cross
Taulerus relates that he knew a great servant of God who had many visions and revelations, and was aquainted with the interpretations of Scripture and the secrets of hearts. But becoming afraid that gifts of one sort might prove a hindrance to favors of another kind, and so prevent him from being loved by God, he earnestly besought the Lord to be pleased to take away from him every consolation; and he was heard. For five years in succession, he never had the slightest spiritual joy nor any celestial inspiration or illumination, but always led a life full of afflictions, temptations and spiritual aridity. Finally, the Lord was moved with pity at so much suffering, and one day sent two angels to console him a little. But he, contented in his sorrows, refused this consolation, and turning his heart to God said: "O Lord, I do not desire any pleasure in this world, nor do I wish that anyone should enter my heart save Thyself, O my Beloved! for it is enough consolation for me if Thy holy will be done in me." This beautiful act of detachment pleased God so much that the Eternal Father proclaimed him His beloved child, in these words: Tu es filius Meus in quo Mihi bene complacui----Thou art My son, in whom I am well pleased.
5. If anyone, O Lord does Thee a service, Thou repayest him by some trial. Oh, what an inestimable reward is this for those who truly love Thee, if it might be given them to know its value!----St. Teresa
When the venerable Marco di Palfox saw that after he had done a good work, some tribulation, reproach, or calumny came upon him, he considered this as a special favor from the Lord; "For," he said, as I receive no reward in this world, it is a sign that God means to reward me fully in Heaven."
The Lord once appeared to the blessed Clara di Montefalco and offered her for a gift a cross which hung from His neck. The Saint received the present with the greatest consolation; and there was then impressed upon her heart an image of the crucifix, of the size of a finger. She preserved this so well that, in her last agony, when one of the nuns was looking for a cross upon the bed, she said to her, "Take my heart, for you will find the crucifix there." In fact, it was found there after her death.
6. O ye souls who wish to go on with so much safety and consolation, if you knew how pleasing to God is suffering, and how much it helps in acquiring other good things, you would never seek consolation in anything; but you would rather look upon it as a great happiness to bear the Cross after the Lord.----St. John of the Cross
Blessed William the Abbot saw, one night in a dream, some Angels who were weaving a crown of marvellous richness and beauty; and when he asked them for whom they were making it, they said that it was for him, and would be finished when he had suffered enough.
St. Gertrude once prayed the Lord, at the time of the Carnival, to show her some special service pleasing to Him that she might perform on those three days, on which He had to suffer so many insults from the world. The Lord made her this reply: "My daughter, you will never be able to do Me a greater service at any time than bearing patiently, in honor of My Passion, whatever tribulation may come to you, whether it be interior or exterior, always forcing yourself to do all those things that are most contrary to your desires."
The Lord appeared one day to St. Teresa and addressed her thus: "Know that those souls are most pleasing to My Heavenly Father, that are tried by the very greatest afflictions and sufferings!" From that time, the Saint conceived such a love for suffering that she found no consolation but in bearing it; and when she was without any trouble, she was disquieted, and even said that she would not have exchanged her trials for all the treasures in the world; and she often had upon her lips those beautiful words, "To suffer, or to die." After her death, she appeared to one of the Sisters, and revealed to her that she was rewarded in Heaven for nothing so much as for the contradiction she had suffered in life, and that if she could wish to return to earth for any reason, the only one would be that she might suffer something.
7. One ounce of the Cross is worth more than a million pounds of prayer. One day of crucifIXion is worth more than a hundred years of all other exercises. It is worth more to remain a moment upon the Cross, than to taste the delights of Paradise.----Ven. Sister Maria Vittoria Angelini
St. Bridget once received and bore patiently a succession of trials from various persons. One of them made an insulting remark to her; another praised her in her presence, but complained of her in her absence; another calumniated her; another spoke ill of a servant of God, in her presence, to her great displeasure; one did her a grievous wrong, and she blessed her; one caused her a loss, and she prayed for her; and a seventh gave her false information of the death of her son, which she received with tranquillity and resignation. After all this, St. Agnes the Martyr appeared to her, bringing in her hand a most beautiful crown adorned with seven precious stones, telling her that they had been placed there by these seven persons. Then she put it upon her head and disappeared. How could so much have been gained by any other exercise?
The Blessed Angela di Foligno, when asked how she was able to receive and endure sufferings with so much cheerfulness, replied: "Believe me, the grandeur and value of sufferings are not known to us. For, if we knew the worth of our trials, they would become for us objects of plunder, and we should go about trying to snatch from one another opportunities to suffer."
8. One "Thanks be to God," or one "Blessed be God," in adversity, is worth more than a thousand thanksgivings in prosperity.----Father M. d' Avila
When St. Francis was suffering much bodily pain in illness, one of his monks told him that he would pray to God to grant him some relief. The Saint reproved him, and bowing his head to the ground, said: "O Lord, I give Thee thanks for this pain which I am suffering, and I pray Thee to be pleased to increase it. What can or should be more acceptable to me than this, that Thou shouldst afflict me without mercy, for this is the very thing that I desire above all."
9. If the Lord should give you power to raise the dead, He would give much less than He does when He bestows suffering. By miracles you would make yourself debtor to Him, while by suffering He may become debtor to you. And even if sufferings had no other. reward than being able to bear something for that God who loves you, is not this a great reward and a sufficient remuneration? Whoever loves, understands what I say.----St. John Chrysostom
This Saint set so high a value on suffering, that he even said: "I venerate St. Paul not so much for having been raised to the third heaven, as for the imprisonment he suffered. And so, if I were asked whether I would be placed in Heaven among the Angels, or in prison with Paul, I would prefer the latter. And if it were left to my choice whether I should be Peter in chains, or the Angels that released him, I would certainly rather be the first than the second."
St. Louis the King, when conversing with the King of England about the slavery he endured in Turkey, in which he suffered many trials, expressed himself in this manner: "I thank God for the ill success of that war, and I rejoice more at the patience which the Lord granted me at that time, than if I had subjugated the country."
The Lord once appeared to the Blessed Baptista Verrani, and said to her: "Believe, My daughter, that I have shown you greater love in sending you afflictions, than in lavishing upon you every mark of tenderness. In what could I show My love more than in seeking for you what I chose for Myself? Know that to keep from sin is a great good, to perform good works a greater, but the greatest of all is to suffer."
10. It ought to be considered a great misfortune, not only for individuals, but also for Houses and Congregations, to have everything in conformity with their wishes; to go on quietly, and to suffer nothing for the love of God. Yes, consider it certain that a person or a Congregation that does not suffer and is applauded by all the world is near a fall.----St. Vincent de Paul
How fully St. Vincent was persuaded of this truth, he showed by the manner in which he informed his disciples of a considerable loss which had befallen the house. "As I had been considering," he said, "for a long time how happily the affairs of the Congregation were going on, and how well everything succeeded, I began to be much afraid of this calm, for I knew that God is accustomed to try His servants. But blessed be the Divine Goodness, which has designed to visit us with a very considerable loss."
A holy old man who was very often sick was much grieved at passing a whole year without an illness, saying that God must have abandoned him, as He had ceased to visit him.
Sts. Francis and Andrew Avellino entertained the same sentiments. They thought on any day when they suffered nothing for the love of God, that He had forgotten and abandoned them. One night when Father Avila was sick, his pain increased excessively after the candle went out and the attendants had gone to sleep. He was unwilling to awake them, but after a while, overcome by the sharpness of the pain, he prayed the Lord to be pleased to deliver him from such agony. He then fell asleep, and on awaking, found himself free from pain. Whereupon, he said to one of his disciples, "What a severe blow the Lord has dealt me this night!" By this he meant that in hearing his prayer, God had taken from him the occasion of suffering and of meriting.
11. We have never so much cause for consolation, as when we find ourselves oppressed by sufferings and trials; for these make us like Christ our Lord, and this resemblance is the true mark of our predestination.----St. Vincent de Paul
No one has understood this great truth so well as St. Andrew the Apostle. At first sight of the cross on which he was to be crucified, he was filled with joy, and broke forth into this exclamation: "O cross so much desired, so much loved, and so much sought by me! behold how I come to thee full of security and joy! Do thou separate me from men, and restore me to my Master, so that by thy means He may receive me, who by thy means redeemed me."
The Lord once said to St. Gertrude: "The more you are tried, and the more your way of life is disapproved without any fault of your own, the dearer you will be to Me, on account of the increased resemblance to Me which you will thus attain; for anyone who greatly resembles a king, is usually very dear to him; and I lived in constant suffering, and was opposed in all I did." When St. Matilda was suffering from a severe illness, Jesus Christ came to her and told her that when He beheld persons grievously afflicted and tormented, He embraced them with His left arm, to draw them very near His heart.
12. There is no more evident sign that anyone is a Saint and of the number of the elect, than to see him leading a good life and at the same time a prey to desolation, suffering, and trials.----St. Aloysius Gonzaga
Because St. Ignatius Loyola was perfect and dear to God, persecutions came upon him to such an extent that it would often happen that while he was at a distance, his companions lived in great tranquillity, and immediately upon his return, some trial would fall upon the house.
St. Teresa once received some money from a merchant who recommended himself to her prayers. A little while after, she said to him: "I have prayed for you, and it has been revealed to me that your name is written in the Book of Life; and as a token of this, nothing in future will go on prosperously with you." And this came to pass exactly; for, within a short time, all his ships were lost, and he became bankrupt. When his friends heard of these disasters, they provided him with another ship, which was also soon wrecked. Then, of his own accord, he entered the debtors' prison. But his creditors, knowing how good he was, would not harm him, and set him free. Having thus become poor, he ended his life like a Saint, content with God alone.
13. If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a Saint. And if you wish to become a great Saint, entreat Him yourself to give you much opportunity for suffering; for there is no wood better to kindle the fire of holy love than the wood of the cross, which Christ used for His own great sacrifice of boundless charity.----St. Ignatius Loyola
Joseph suffered great afflictions and trials from his brethren, and these formed precisely the way by which the Lord led him to his great exaltation.
St. Teresa, who was formed for so lofty a destiny, suffered incredible trials from all sorts of people, even from the good and spiritual. Many considered her deluded by the devil. Many ridiculed her prayers and revelations. Some wished to exorcise her as possessed. Others accused her to the Holy Office; and she suffered, besides, much opposition and trouble from her Superiors, in regard to the monasteries which she founded.
14. There is no better test to distinguish the chaff from the grain, in the Church of God, than the manner in which sufferings, contradiction, and contempt are borne. Whoever remains unmoved under these, is grain. Whoever rises against them is chaff; and the lighter and more worthless he is, the higher he rises----that is, the more he is agitated, and the more proudly he replies.----St. Augustine
A person of high rank presented himself to St. Francis de Sales to ask a benefice for an ecclesiastic who enjoyed his patronage. The Saint replied that as to conferring benefices he had tied his own hands, for he had decided that they should be given only after a competitive examination; but that he would not forget his recommendation, if this priest would offer himself to be examined with the others. The gentleman, who was quick-tempered, believing this to be only a pretext for refusal, accused him of duplicity and hypocrisy, and even threatened him. When the Saint perceived that gentle words did no good, he entreated him not to object at least to a private examination; and, as he was still dissatisfied, "Then," said St. Francis, "you wish that I should entrust to him a portion of my charge with my eyes closed? Consider whether that is just!" At this, the gentleman began to raise his voice angrily, and to make all kinds of insulting remarks to the holy bishop, who bore all in unbroken silence.
An acquaintance of his, who was present, asked him after the scene was over how he had been able to endure such insults without showing the least resentment. "Do not be astonished at this," said the Saint, "for it was not he that spoke, but his anger. Outside of this he is one of my dearest friends, and you will see after a while that my silence will increase his attachment for me." "But did you not feel any resentment at all?" pursued the other. "I turned my thoughts in another direction," was the answer, "setting myself to consider the good qualities of this person, whose friendship I had previously so much enjoyed." The gentleman afterwards came and asked pardon, even with tears, and they became firmer friends than ever before. One day, as St. Felix the Capuchin was going through the street in Rome with a flask of wine on his back, he met a gentleman on a spirited horse, which he spurred so furiously that it trampled upon one foot of the servant of God, who fell to the ground. The flask was broken, and the wine ran out upon the pavement, mingled with the blood which flowed freely from the wound. All the bystanders, affrighted at the accident, expressed their pity for the Saint. He alone retained his usual serenity of countenance, and looking at the gentleman with a mild glance, asked his pardon for his imprudence and rudeness in obstructing his path. The rider, however, instead of appreciating so much virtue, was angry, and with a haughty look and without a word of answer, spurred his horse and rode proudly away. Brother Felix, being assisted to rise by those who had gathered around, went back to his monastery as best he might. As he was not able to walk quickly for some time, on account of the injury to his foot, he used to say to himself: "Get on, you beast of an ass! what are you loitering for? You are so slow and spiritless that you will deserve the stick!" Then turning his heart to God, he would break forth into devout thanksgivings for His infinite goodness. But after the gentleman had recollected himself a little and reflected upon the wrong he had done by his scornful treatment of an innocent and holy religious, he went the next day to the monastery and falling on his knees before the Saint, begged pardon for the proud and cruel treatment he had given him. The servant of God forgave him with so much cordiality and courtesy, that he resolved to change his habits and his whole life.
This beautiful truth was known even to pagan philosophers. St. Basil relates of Socrates, that when he was one day struck in the face, in the public square, by one of the rabble, he not only showed no anger at such an insult but, with tranquil mind and serene countenance, stood quite still until his face was livid with blows. Still more remarkable is this anecdote of Epictetus. One day his master, who had a violent temper, gave him a blow on one leg. He said to him coolly, that he had better take care not to break it; and when, by repeated blows, his master actually broke the bone, Epictetus added, without any emotion: "Did I not tell you that you were running a risk of breaking it?"
15. It is certain that the true spirit is inclined rather to afflictions, aridity, disgust, and trials, than to sweet and pleasing communications; for it knows that the former is that following of Christ and that denial of self so much inculcated by the Lord.----St. John of the Cross
The Lord appeared to St. Catherine with two crowns in His hand, one of gold, the other of thorns, and told her to choose whichever she preferred. She chose the second. From that time she conceived so great a love for afflictions and trials, that she said: "There is nothing that consoles me so much, and gives me so much comfort, as afflictions and crosses, and it seems to me that if I had not this support from time to time I should live the most wretched life in the world; and if God should give me my choice whether to go now into Paradise or to remain a little longer here to suffer, I should choose the latter rather than the former, for I know how much glory is increased by sufferings."
The blessed Maria d'Ognes used to sleep with the ground for her bed, a stone for her pillow, and hair-cloth for a blanket. Being one day tried beyond measure by the pains of paralysis, she uttered such mournful sighs that a holy man prayed to God for her, and she was relieved from her illness. But when she was sensible of the cure, she sent to ask the saint not to pray for her any more, saying that she valued sickness much more than health.
16. Those who have arrived at perfection, and especially true contemplatives, do not ask the Lord to free them from trials and temptations. They rather desire and value them as worldlings value gold and jewels, for they know that these are to make them rich.----St. Teresa
St. Catherine of Genoa once said in the midst of extreme pain and severe torture: "O Lord! it is thirty-six years since Thou first gavest me spiritual light, and ever since, I have desired nothing but sufferings, interior and exterior."
The Venerable Anna Maria of St. Joseph, a Discalced Carmelite and a person of no ordinary piety, exercised her- self continually in the sharpest penances and austerities. When the others tried to turn her away from these practices, she replied: "No, I will never cease until the Lord satiates me with His griefs and reproaches:' She often said, too, that she wished for neither relics, nor rosary, nor a cell, nor anything but a cross upon which to crucify herself. St. Francis Xavier, when he had a cross, used to make this prayer: "O Lord, do not take it away from me, unless to give me a greater."
17. Kiss frequently the crosses which the Lord sends you, and with all your heart, without regarding of what sort they may be; for the more vile and mean they are, the more they deserve their name. The merit of crosses does not consist in their weight, but in the manner in which they are borne. It may show much greater virtue to bear a cross of straw than a very hard and heavy one, because the light ones are also the most hidden and contemned, and therefore least comfortable to our inclination, which always seeks what is showy.----St. Francis de Sales
In the many long and painful journeys made by this Saint, he was never heard to complain of cold, or wind, or the heat of the sun or the quality of his food; but he took all things peacefully from the hand of God, and was particularly pleased with the worst and most inconvenient articles----and when he could, he always chose them for himself.
Mention is made in the Chronicles of St. Dominic of a novice of that Order who died in the monastery of Argentina and who opened his eyes unexpectedly, while the religious were saying the last prayers for his soul, and said: "Listen, dearest Brothers: I am like one who goes to a fair, and buys a great deal for a little money. Behold, I am receiving the Kingdom of Heaven for a few trials, and I do not see how I deserve it." Having spoken thus, he reposed in the Lord.
St. John Climacus says that he found in a monastery a young monk who received little penances from the Superior for trifling faults, and haughty and discourteous treatment from almost all the rest. The Saint showed sympathy for him, and wished to console him; but the good youth said: "Father, do not give yourself any trouble. They treat me in this way, not because they have bad dispositions and little charity, but the Lord permits it to exercise me in patience, which is necessary to show whether I am serving God truly. Certainly I have no cause to complain, for even gold is not made perfect without being tried." Two years after, added the holy Abbot, this youth passed to a better life, saying to his Brothers before he expired: "I render thanks to Jesus Christ and to you, Fathers, and I testify that through having been tried by you to my profit and advancement, I have lived free from the snares of the devil, and now depart in peace."
In the Lives of the Fathers, a story is told of a holy monk who every night gave his disciple an instruction, and afterwards sent him to rest. Now, one evening while giving it, the old man fell asleep, and the good novice, while waiting for him to awake, was much tempted to impatience and to go away to sleep. He conquered himself, however, seven times, with great earnestness and fervor. At midnight, the old man awoke and dismissed him. While saying his final prayers, the old Father had a vision of an Angel, who showed him a most beautiful throne with seven crowns above it. In answer to his questions, the Angel said that they were for his disciple, who had gained them that night by his victory over seven temptations. When his disciples told him all in the morning, he was struck with wonder to see how bountifully God recompenses all our good actions.
18. If we could but know what a precious treasure lies concealed in infirmities, we would receive them with as much joy as we would the greatest benefits, and we would bear them without complaint or any sign of annoyance.----St. Vincent de Paul
This Saint was tried by many long and most painful infirmities, which often deprived him of the use of his limbs, and left him no rest by day or night. He bore them all with unalterable tranquillity, and conversed with the same affability and serenity of countenance that he had when he was well. A word of complaint never escaped from his lips, but he praised and thanked God constantly for sending to him these sufferings, and looked on them as special favors. The most he did when the pain was at its worst, was to turn to the crucifix and animate himself to patience by devout interior aspirations. If he ever happened to speak of his sufferings, he mentioned them as a thing of no account, saying that he suffered little in comparison with what he deserved, or with what Christ suffered for love of us. One of his household was one day applying a dressing to his limbs, which were diseased for forty years, when moved with compassion at seeing them so swollen and ulcerated, he exclaimed, "Alas, how grievous are your sufferings!" But the Saint quickly replied: "How can you apply the word grievous to the work of God, and His Divine arrangement in causing a miserable sinner to suffer? May God pardon you for what you have just said! This is not the way to speak in the school of Christ! Is it not right that the guilty should suffer and be chastised? And cannot the Lord do with us whatever pleases Him?"
Once writing of his sufferings to an intimate friend, he said: "I did not wish to let you know of my sickness, fearing it would make you sad. But God is good! How long shall we be so weak that we shall not have courage to reveal to one another the graces and favors God bestows on us in visiting us with sickness? May it please His Divine goodness to give us a little more spirit, that we may find our satisfaction in His!" Through all his illnesses he never ceased to take an interest in the affairs of the house and of the whole Congregation. He received persons of all sorts, whether belonging to his Order or not, if they came to him on business or for other reasons, and always with such a smiling face and with so much amiability and serenity that if they had not known his state of health from others, they would have considered him well. Neither did such great infirmities cause him to change his usual mode of life. Up to his death he continued to sleep on straw, and to take the common food. When the physicians and some persons of rank tried to persuade him to take delicacies, he did so once or twice to please them, but immediately returned to what he generally ate, under the pretext that his stomach would not bear other food.
When St. Felix the Capuchin was suffering severely from colic, he was asked, by the doctor, how he felt, and answered: "The wicked ass of a body would be glad to escape the stick, but it must stand and receive the blow." When he was urged to have recourse to the divine aid, by invoking the most holy name of Jesus, from whom he might expect relief----"What do you say?" cried the Saint, "to what do you advise me? Never! These are not pains, but celestial flowers which Paradise produces, and the Lord shares among His children." Then he began to praise and bless the Divine Goodness which dealt thus with him.
19. There are some sick persons who grieve and lament not so much for their own troubles, as for what they cause to those around them, and because they cannot occupy themselves in good works, and especially in prayer, as they did when they were well. In this they deceive themselves greatly, for as to the trouble given to others, whoever is truly patient wishes for all that God wishes, and in the manner and with the inconveniences that He wishes; as to works, one day of suffering borne with resignation is worth more than a month of great labors; and as to prayer, which is better: to remain upon the Cross with Christ, or to stay at the foot of it and contemplate His sufferings? Besides, to offer to the Lord His own weakness, to remember for whom it was suffered, and to conform ourselves to His holy will, is certainly a very excellent prayer.----St. Francis de Sales
This Saint bore well not only the afflictions and trials which came to him, but also their consequences, such as the inconvenience which his illnesses caused those who waited on him or lived with him. And in all other things it was the same.
Father Alvarez saw, in a trance, the great glory which God had prepared for a nun who was tried by a most grievous illness, which she bore with all possible patience. He said that she had merited more in eight months of sickness than some healthy and devout persons in many years. St. Aldegonda, having been forewarned of the day of her death, prayed the Lord to send her first some painful disease, that purified by it, she might fly the more lightly to Heaven. She was heard, for there came to her an acute fever with very sharp pain. In this state she rejoiced, considering the fever a refreshing coolness; the pain, consolation; and the sweats, a soothing bath by which she should be thoroughly purified for her flight to Heaven.
While St. Francis was suffering very acute pain in his eyes, he gave thanks constantly to God, and prayed to Him for perseverance in His service. One day the Lord said to him: "Rejoice, Francis, for the treasure of eternal life is in store for you, and these pains are a pledge of it." When St. Vincent de Paul was seriously ill, he used to practice a method of prayer which was easily and pleasant, and at the same time profitable. It was to remain quietly in the presence of God, without forcibly applying his intellect to any considerations, only exciting his soul to frequent acts of resignation to the will of God, confidence, love, or thanksgiving.
20. Observe that we gain more in a single day by trials which come to us from God and our neighbor, than we would in ten years by penances and other exercises, which we take up of ourselves.----St. Teresa
St. Lionina, after suffering for thirty-eight years from a cruel disease, longed to endure yet greater pains, and to finish her course as a martyr. While she was burning with this desire, she was uplifted in an ecstasy, and saw a most beautiful crown, still unfinished, which she was told was in preparation for her. Eager to have it completed, she prayed the Lord to increase her torments, and He sent two soldiers, who tortured her with blows and insults. After this, an Angel appeared to her with a crown in his hand, quite finished, and told her that these last trials had placed in it the jewels that were previously wanting.
An Angel appeared one day to the blessed Henry Suso, and offered him a shield, a lance, and spurs, saying: "Hitherto you have fought among the infantry, and now you will join the calvary; hitherto you have practiced mortifications of your own choice, now you shall be mortified by the scourge of evil tongues; hitherto you have enjoyed milk from the breast of Christ, now you shall be inebriated with His gall; hitherto you have been pleasing to men, now they will rise against you." The following day, as the servant of God was meditating upon this vision, he felt impelled to go to the window, and on looking out, he saw a goat in the courtyard with a rag in its mouth, which it was pulling and tearing. Then he heard a voice which' said: "Thus are you to be torn by the mouths of others." He, thereupon, went downstairs and picked up the rag, which he preserved as a precious pledge of his cross.
21. He has not true patience who is willing to suffer only what he pleases, and from whom he pleases. The truly patient man does not regard the length nor the kind of his sufferings, not yet the person who makes him suffer----whether he be a superior, an equal, or an inferior; whether he be a holy man or ill-disposed and dishonorable. His only aim is to suffer.----Thomas a Kempis
We are told, in the Lives of the Fathers, of a young monk who dwelt with an aged monk who went every morning to the city to sell the articles which they had both made on the preceding day, and who spent all they brought upon wine for himself, bringing home only a bit of bread for the youth. The young man bore this way of life for three years; but at last, finding himself in rags and dying of hunger, he began to consider whether it would not be well to leave such a companion and go elsewhere. Then an Angel appeared to him and said: "Have patience a little longer, for tomorrow you shall be with me in Paradise:' He told this vision to the old man, who did not believe it. But the following day, as they were discussing the matter, the holy youth peacefully expired, and the old man was converted and mourned for his previous life.
22. The Lord sends us tribulation and infirmities to give us the means of paying the immense debts we have contracted with Him. Therefore, those who have good sense receive them joyfully, for they think more of the good which they may derive from them than of the pain which they experience on account of them.----St. Vincent Ferrer
This Saint unfolded this same sentiment more fully in a sermon which contained this pleasing parable: There was a king who had in prison two men who both owed him large sums of money. Seeing that they were unable to pay because they possessed nothing, he threw down a purse full of money upon each of them with so much force that they both felt the pain. One, angry at the blow, showed his impatience without making any account of the purse; but the other, not regarding the pain, recognized the favor done him, and taking the purse, gave thanks to the king and paid his debt with the money. "Now, precisely the same thing happens with us," added the Saint. "We all owe heavy debts to God for the many benefits we have received from Him, and for the many sins we have committed against Him, nor have we anything of our own to pay them. Therefore, moved by pity for us, He sends us the gold of patience in the purse of tribulations, that we may use it to pay our debts. Whoever will not do this only increases his debts and renders himself, at the same time, more displeasing to God."
The example of the two thieves crucified with Christ confirms this truth. By his patience, one paid his debts and gained Paradise; while the other, by his impatience, made himself more than ever a debtor, and obtained for himself eternal pains.
Cesairus tells of a Cistercian monk who appeared to his Abbot in great glory the night after his death, and said to him: "Know, my Father, that the sharp pains and tortures of my illness supplied for me the place of Purgatory by anticipation; and therefore I rose directly from earth to Heaven."
23. Do not be vexed at the contradictions you meet in ordinary intercourse, for they give an opportunity to practice the most precious and amiable virtues, which Our Lord has recommended to us. Believe me that true virtue is no more reared in outward repose, than good fish in the stagnant water of a swamp. How shall we prove our love for God, who has suffered so much for us, if not among contradictions and repugnances?----St. Francis de Sales
The blessed Seraphino the Capuchin was once in company with his Superiors and a young secular, who, seeing him so simple, humble, and imperturbable, took a fancy to tyrannize over him and to go so far as to slight, insult, and even strike him. Brother Seraphino, unmoved by all these insults, only said, with perfect amiability: "Ah, my little Saint! my little Saint!" (It was by this name that he would call those who insulted him.) "Let us do good in the service of God." One of the Fathers of the Desert used to imagine Jesus Christ standing by his side in his tribulations, and saying to him: "You are My brother, and are you not ashamed to make any difficulty about suffering this, when you know how much I have suffered for you?"
24. If any house should be found where there was no monk who was troublesome and of a bad disposition, it would be well to look for one, and to pay him at a high rate for the great good that results from this evil when judiciously managed.----St. Bernard
When St. Philip Neri was living at San Girolamo, he had a great concourse of penitents. The sacristans of the church, annoyed by this, took a dislike to him, and did him all the ill-turns they could. Sometimes when he was going to say Mass, they locked the door in his face; or they would not give him the sacred vestments, or only cheap and torn ones, with many rude and insulting remarks.
Sometimes they took from his hands the missal and chalice, or hid them, or compelled him to take off his vestments when he already had them on. Again, they would make him leave one altar and go to another, or perhaps back to the sacristy----and all to irritate him and induce him to leave the place. But the holy man, without ever complaining of the bad treatment he received, or giving any sign of annoyance, went on concealing his feelings and praying for these men, treating them also with charity and respect, and doing them any services that he could. Though he was often urged by his friends to go and live elsewhere, he would not do it, "because," said he, "I do not wish to fly from the cross which God sends me." This lasted for some years. Finally, seeing that he accomplished nothing by his charity and humility and that his enemies, in- stead of being softened, rather increased in pertinacity, he had recourse to God for some relief; and one day in particular, fixing his eyes upon a crucifix, he said: "O my good Jesus! why dost Thou not hear me? For so long a time, and with so much earnestness, I have asked for patience; why hast Thou not listened to me?" Then he heard a voice in his heart, which said: "Dost thou not ask Me for patience? I will give it to thee, but it is by this means that I wish thee to gain it." Thence forward, he bore all with greater cheerfulness, and with the most perfect content, to such a degree that he no longer felt any of their injuries, but greatly desired them; and when he was ill-treated by these men or by others, he made no account of it and did not speak of it, nor allow it to be spoken of. If he ever heard any evil said of those who had offended him, he promptly excused them, praised them, and, if it was suitable, visited and protected them. On this account, he acquired such a liking for the place that for thirty years he would never leave it. He could not be induced to abandon his beloved place of suffering, even when he had built the new Oratory of the new church, and many of his sons had gone to live there. Though they tried to prove to him the suitableness and the obligation of living with them as he was their founder and head, all their entreaties and prayers were of no avail until, finally, the authority of the Pope was interposed to give them success.
25. In this life there is no Purgatory, but either Paradise or Hell. He who bears tribulations with patience, has Paradise; he who does not, Hell.----St. Philip Neri
A prisoner at the bar once called for a Jesuit Father, and said to him: "Father, I wish you to know that I, too, was once of your Order. For some time, I was exact in the observance of the Rules; I lived content, and did everything with ease and pleasure. Then I began, little by little, to relax, till after a time I found so much difficulty and trouble in every trifle, that it seemed best to leave the Order. Finally, you see where my sins have brought me. I have told you this that my example might be of use to others." When St. Francis de Sales was ill, it was a matter of great edification to notice how simply he told his symptoms, without exaggeration or complaint, how patiently and uncomplainingly he bore them and how he received all remedies without opposition. Though he sometimes suffered most cruel pains in his inferior nature, he always preserved an unalterable serenity of brow and eye, as if he were not suffering at all. Thus he came to enjoy Paradise even while suffering, unlike so many others, who, at every trifling pain, seem impatient and inconsolable.
26. Learn, my Sisters, to suffer something for the love of God, without letting everyone know it.----St. Teresa
On a Good Friday, the venerable Father Daponte asked Our Lord the favor of giving him a share in His sufferings. He answered by sending him fearful pains for the rest of his life, which he received with the greatest possible joy. Once being asked how he felt, he replied: "Oh, how well God chastises this sinner! I tell you that except my head, no part of my body is without its own particular pain." A little while after, he repented of having said so much, and made a vow never to reveal his sufferings to anyone, when he could conceal them without displeasing God.
St. Philip Neri, in his illnesses, which were long, severe, and frequent, was seen always with a cheerful countenance and a serene brow; he never gave any sign of pain, however great it might be, nor talked about his sickness, except to the physicians.
For twenty-eight years St. Clare suffered grievous infirmities, and in all that time was never heard to complain of her sufferings, but instead, she thanked God for them.
It is related in the Lives of the Fathers that when the Abbot Stephen was sick, his companions made for him a fried cake but used, by mistake, a kind of oil which was very bitter. The holy Abbot perceived this on tasting it, but ate a little, without saying anything. When another was made in the same way, the Abbot tasted that also, and left it without a word. This would have continued longer, if his companion, wishing to tempt him to eat by example, had not taken a piece himself. When he perceived how bitter it was, he was very much grieved; but the Abbot said: "Do not trouble yourself about it, my son, for if God had not willed that you should mistake one kind of oil for another, you would not have done it."
St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi invented a great and secret mortification, which she afterwards practiced for the rest of her life. When she noticed that her Superiors, through regard for her health, tried to give her such food as she liked best, she showed a preference for what was disagreeable and unpleasant to her taste, and made it appear that those things which she really desired were objects of aversion, and would make her ill. And so it happened that what she disliked was often given her, and what would have suited her taste was forbidden. In reward for this, she enjoyed imperturbable peace of soul and the constant presence of God.
27. Whoever aspires to perfection must beware of saying, "I was right. They did that to me without reason." If you are not willing to bear any cross which is not given you according to reason, perfection is not for you.----St. Teresa
When Brother Egidius of Tarentum, a Franciscan lay-brother, was roughly treated by his Superiors or companions or called a useless and unprofitable servant, he never excused himself, but said with a smile, "Give it to Brother Ass, for he deserves much worse!" On account of the miracles he performed in Tarentum, crowds of people gathered about him, to the no small inconvenience of the other Brothers, so that he was sent away to the monastery in Bari. But scarcely had he arrived when multitudes came to the monastery to see him and receive aid from him; and the monks there, blaming him for the disorder, were as much displeased as the others had been. The Father Guardian reproved him severely in Chapter, saying that he was a drunkard, a fool, an idle, restless man, full of hypocrisy and ambition, who sought the credit of performing miracles, that he might be regarded as a Saint. Finally, they gave him the discipline in public. He did not resent any of these things at all, but, without perturbation, said to himself: "Yes, I am just such a wicked and unworthy man; you say truly, Father Guardian, that it is not I who work the miracles, but the Blessed Virgin."
A prelate once ordered St. Vincent de Paul to receive into his house a certain Religious who was engaged in promoting some special work. He did so, and gave him useful advice. But some persons who were not in favor of the work he was advocating complained of the Saint to the same prelate. He, not remembering that it was in pursuance of his own order, called for St. Vincent, and in presence of these persons gave him a sharp reproof, which he received calmly and without a word of self-justification. God, however, brought back to the mind of the prelate the command he had given, and meeting the Saint one day, he made him a suitable apology, and formed a high opinion of him.
St. Peter Martyr was visited, one day, by three holy virgins, and from this accused of admitting women into his room, condemned in public chapter, and sent to a remote monastery; but he bore all this disgrace without a word.
28. If we should regard tribulations with the eye of a Christian, and wholly clear from our minds those mists of worldly wisdom, which oppose the rays of Faith, and do not allow them to penetrate to the depths of our souls; how fortunate should we consider ourselves in being calumniated, and regarded not only as idle and incapable, but even as bad and vicious! Is it not, indeed, a great happiness to be persecuted in doing well, when Christ has called those blessed who suffer for justice?----St. Vincent de Paul
For this reason the Apostles went away cheerful and contented when they found themselves assailed and persecuted by the chief men of the synagogues. St. Paul, too, says of himself that in such troubles, his heart was filled with consolation and joy because he knew, by the light of faith, how great were the value and advantages of tribulations and trials.
When Brother Juniper was one day insulted by some rude remarks, he took up the folds of his dress, and extending it with both hands, said: "Come now, throw them in, and without any fear fill up this lapful of joys."
Father Alvarez, being informed of a grave calumny that had been spread against him, gave signs of great gladness, and said to the one who had given him the information, and who was gazing at him in wonder: "Now I see that God wishes me well, for He is leading me by the way of those dearest to Him."
A director of the Venerable Maria Seraphina, to whom she revealed her whole life, testifies of her that in all the insults and ridicule which she had suffered, in the bad interpretation which others had put on her good works, and in all her other trials, she never gave way to impatience, nor showed any signs of vexation, but bore everything with the greatest peace and tranquillity both internal and external, always praising and blessing God for the occasion He was giving her to exercise patience. Once when she had received at the grate many reproaches and menaces, which she bore with the most perfect tranquillity of heart and serenity of countenance, one of her nuns, who had heard and seen all with great astonishment, asked her how she felt, and she replied gaily: "Blessed be God! I am all flowers and joys! blessed be God!" Her way of feeling in such cases became so well known to all in the convent that when they saw her coming back from the grate with a bright face, praising and blessing God, they used to say, "Our Mother must have caught something good today"----meaning that she received some cross; and when they inquired afterwards what had happened, they found this to be the case. The servants, too, had noticed this trait even before she left her father's house, and so, when any illness or trouble came to her, they would say, "Now your day has come----this is your jubilee!"
29. If you look at the rod of Moses lying on the ground, it is a frightful serpent; if you look at it in the hand of Moses, it is a wand of power. It is thus with tribulations. Consider them in themselves, and they are horrors; consider them in the will of God, and they are joys and delights.----St. Francis de Sales
St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi used to say she did not think there could be found in the world suffering so bitter, adversity so severe, or trials so painful, that she could not bear them cheerfully, by simply persuading herself that it was the will of God. And in fact, in the great sufferings of an illness that lasted five years, and at the time of her death, whenever anyone reminded her that it was the will of God that she should suffer those agonies, it would take away all their bitterness and quiet her at once.
It is told in the Life of St. Lupus that when he heard that the terrible Attila was coming to plunder his episcopal city of Troy, he was first much affrighted. But afterwards, nerved to courage by the spirit of God, he went out to meet him, in his pontifical vestments, in the hope of checking his audacity. When he came into Attila's presence, he asked him who he was. "The scourge of God:' was Attila's reply. At these words, the Saint exclaimed: "And I, who am the spoiler of God's kingdom, well deserve to be scourged by Him!" Then he ordered the gates to be opened without delay. But when the enemy came in, he passed directly through the city, without doing any harm, as if he had seen no one. By this, God willed to show how much He was pleased with the submission and humility of the holy man, in bowing so readily beneath the scourge He had sent him, and in believing that he deserved it.
30. When it is our lot to suffer pain, trials, or ill-treatment, let us turn our eyes upon what Our Lord suffered, which will instantly render our sufferings sweet and supportable. However sharp our griefs may be they will seem but flowers in comparison with His thorns.----St. Francis de Sales
Count Elzearius received many insults even from his own subjects, and bore them all with great tranquillity. Being asked by his wife how he was able to do this, he answered: "When I receive insults from anyone, I turn my thoughts to the great affronts which the Son of God suffered from His creatures, and say to myself, 'Even if they were to pull your beard and strike you, what would this be in comparison with what your Lord suffered with so much patience?' But I can tell you, besides, that I sometimes feel in such cases no slight emotions of anger. Then I quickly turn my mind to some similar injury suffered by Our Lord, and keep it fixed upon that, until the emotion has subsided."
A good woman being once confined to her bed and suffering from many ailments, a friend of hers put a crucifix into her hand, inviting her to pray for relief from such great trials. But she said: "Would you have me seek to descend from the cross, when I hold in my hands a crucifix? God keeps me from it! I will rather suffer for Him, who most willingly underwent for me pains incomparably greater than mine."
When St. Teresa was in great suffering, the Lord appeared to her, showing her His wounds and saying: "Behold, My daughter, the sharpness of My torments, and consider whether thine can be compared to Mine." The Saint was so greatly moved by this that she no longer felt the pain, and would often say afterwards: "When I think in how many ways the Lord suffered, and that for no fault of His own, I do not know of what I was thinking when I complained of my sufferings and tried to escape from them."
A servant of God, being much afflicted by the grievous persecutions, calumny and contempt that he experienced, turned to the Lord and said: "How long, O Lord! must I be so tried, without any fault of mine, as Thou knowest?"
Then the Lord appeared to him, showing His wounds, and answering: "And for what fault had I to be treated thus?"
At this sight he was so much moved, and filled with such great joy, that he did not feel his afflictions at all, and said that he would not have exchanged his condition for that of any monarch on earth.
For thirty-eight years St. Lidwina suffered constantly all kinds of infirmities-gout in her feet and hands, toothache, fevers, and whatever is most painful----and yet she always remained cheerful and happy, because she kept the sufferings of Christ continually in view.
Dionysius the Carthusian tells of a certain novice who became tepid in the divine service. While in the beginning all went easily with him, he afterwards found great difficulty in performing humble offices and in all the exercises of mortification, and, among other things, he felt especial disgust for a miserable habit such as novices were expected to wear. Now, one night Jesus Christ appeared to him in his sleep, with a long and heavy cross on His shoulders, which with His utmost efforts He was dragging up a staircase. Moved with compassion, he offered to help Him. But the Lord, turning upon him a severe look, said: "How do you presume to carry so heavy a cross----you, who cannot bear for love of Me a habit that weighs so little?" The novice, awakened by this reproach, was at once humiliated and aroused, so that, henceforward he wore the habit with great joy and content; and whenever any trial came in his way, at the mere thought of the great sufferings which Christ bore, everything seemed to him easy and pleasant.