by Saint Alphonsus Liguori


Patience under Contempt.

In the third place, we must practice patience, and show our love to God, by tranquilly submitting to contempt.

As soon as a soul delivers herself up to God, He sends her from Himself, or through others, insults and persecution. One day an Angel appeared to the Blessed Henry Suso and said to him, "Henry, thou hast hitherto mortified thyself in thy own way; henceforth thou shalt be mortified after the pleasure of others." On the day following, as he was looking from a window on the street, he saw a dog shaking and tearing a rag which it held in its mouth; at the same moment a voice said to him, "So hast thou to be torn in the mouths of men." Forthwith the Blessed Henry descended into the street and secured the rag, putting it by to encourage him in his coming trials.
[Life, ch. 22.]

Affronts and injuries were the delicacies the Saints earnestly longed and sought for. St. Philip Neri, during the space of  thirty years, had to put up with much ill-treatment in the house of St. Jerome at Rome; but on this very account he refused to leave it, and resisted all the invitations of his sons to come and live with them in the new Oratory, founded by himself, till he received an express command from the Pope to do so. So St. John of the Cross was prescribed change of air for an illness which eventually carried him to the grave; now, he could have selected a more commodious convent, of which the Prior was particularly attached to him; but he chose instead a poor convent, whose Prior was his enemy, and who, in fact, for a long time, and almost up to his dying day, spoke ill of him, and abused him in many ways, and even prohibited the other monks from visiting him. Here we see how the Saints even sought to be despised. St. Teresa wrote this admirable maxim: "Whoever aspires to perfection must beware of ever saying: They had no reason to treat me so. If you will not bear any cross but one which is founded on reason, then perfection is not for you." Whilst St. Peter Martyr was complaining in prison of being confined unjustly, he received that celebrated answer from the Crucifix: our Lord said to him, "And what evil have I done, that I suffer and die on this Cross for men?" Oh, what consolation do the Saints derive in all their tribulations from the ignominies which Jesus Christ endured! St. Eleazar, on being asked by his wife how he contrived to bear with so much patience the many injuries which he had to sustain, and that even from his own servants, replied: "I turn my looks on the outraged Jesus, and I discover immediately that my affronts are a mere nothing in comparison with what He suffered for my sake; and thus God gives me strength to support all patiently."

In fine, affronts, poverty, torments, and all tribulations, serve only to estrange further from God the soul that does not love Him; whereas, when they befall a soul in love with God, they become an instrument of closer union and more ardent love of God: Many waters cannot quench charity.
[Cant. viii. 7.] However great and grievous troubles may be, so far from extinguishing the flames of charity, they only serve to enkindle them the more in a soul that loves nothing else but God.

But wherefore does Almighty God load us with so many crosses, and take pleasure in seeing us afflicted, reviled, persecuted, and ill-treated by the world? Is He, perchance, a tyrant, Whose cruel disposition makes Him rejoice in our suffering? No: God is by no means a tyrant, nor cruel; He is all compassion and love towards us; suffice it to say, that He has died for us. He indeed does rejoice at our suffering, but for our good; inasmuch as, by suffering here, we are released hereafter from the debt of torments justly due from us to His Divine justice; He rejoices in them, because they detach us from the sensual pleasures of this world: when a mother would wean her child, she puts gall on the breast, in order to create a disgust in the child; He rejoices in them, because we give Him, by our patience and resignation in bearing them, a token of our love; in fine, He rejoices in them, because they contribute to our increase of glory in Heaven. Such are the reasons for which the Almighty, in His compassion and love towards us, is pleased at our suffering.

Let us now draw this chapter to a conclusion. That we may be able to practice patience to advantage in all our tribulations, we must be fully persuaded that every trial comes from the hands of God, either directly, or indirectly through men; we must therefore render God thanks whenever we are beset with sorrows, and accept, with gladness of heart, of every event, prosperous or adverse, that proceeds from Him, knowing that all happens by His disposition for our welfare: To them that love God all things work together unto good.
[Rom. viii, 28.] In addition to this, it is well in our tribulations to glance a moment at that Hell which we have formerly deserved: for assuredly all the pains of this life are incomparably smaller than the awful pains of Hell. But above all, prayer, by which we gain the Divine assistance, is the great means to suffer patiently all affliction, scorn, and contradictions; and is that which will furnish us with the strength which we have not of ourselves. The Saints were persuaded of this; they recommended themselves to God, and so overcame every kind of torments and persecutions.

Affections and Prayers

O Lord, I am fully persuaded that without suffering, and suffering with patience, I cannot win the crown of Paradise. David said: From Him is my patience.
[Ps. lxi. 6.] And I say the same; my patience in suffering must come from Thee. I make many purposes to accept in peace of all tribulations; but no sooner are they at hand than I grow sad and alarmed; and if I suffer, I suffer without merit and without love, because I know not how to suffer them so as to please Thee. O my Jesus, through the merits of Thy patience in bearing so many afflictions for love of me, grant me the grace to bear crosses for the love of Thee! I love Thee with my whole heart, O my dear Redeemer! I love Thee, my sovereign good! I love Thee, my own love, worthy of infinite love. I am grieved at any displeasure I have ever caused Thee, more than for any evil whatever. I promise Thee to receive with patience all the trials Thou mayest send me; but look to Thee for help to be faithful to my promise, and especially to be enabled to bear in peace the throes of my last agony and death.

O Mary, my Queen, vouchsafe to obtain for me a true resignation in all the anguish and trials that await me in life and death.