PRIESTS WHO ARE PERSECUTED
THE DIGNITY AND
DUTIES OF THE PRIEST BY ST.
THE LOVE OF GOD.
Obligation for the Priest
to belong Entirely to God.
to be Employed for Belonging Entirely to God.
Obligation for the Priest
to belong Entirely to God.
PETER DE BLOIS
that a priest without Divine love "may be called a priest but is not a
priest." From the day of his ordination a priest is no longer his own,
but belongs to God. St. Ambrose has said: "A true minister of the altar
is in the world for God and not for himself." And before him God
Himself said: They offer the
burnt-offering of the Lord, and the bread of their God, and therefore
they shall be holy. [Lev. xxi. 6.] Origen has called a priest "a
being consecrated to God." From his very entrance into the
ecclesiastical state the priest declared that he wished for no other
portion than God. If, then, adds St. Ambrose, God is the portion of the
priest, he should live only for God. Hence the Apostle has said, that
he who is devoted to the service of the Divine majesty should not
engage in worldly affairs, but should seek only to please Him to Whom
he has given himself: No man being a soldier to God, entangleth himself
with secular business; that he may please Him to Whom he hath engaged
himself. [2 Tim. ii. 4.] Jesus Christ forbade the young man who wished
to become one of his disciples to return home for the purpose of
burying his father: Follow Me, and
let the dead bury the dead. [Matth. viii. 22.] This lesson was,
as the same St. Ambrose writes, directed to all ecclesiastics, to teach
them that it is their duty to prefer the concerns of the Divine glory
to all human affairs, which may be an obstacle to their belonging
entirely to God.
Even in the Old Law, God declared to the priests that He had chosen
them from among the people that they might be His without reserve.
Hence He told them that they should have no possession, no portion
among seculars, because He Himself wished to be their portion and
inheritance: You shall possess
nothing in their land, neither shall you have a portion among them: I
am thy portion and inheritance in the midst of the children of Israel.
[Num. xviii. 20.] On this passage Oleaster writes: "O priest!
understand what great happiness God has conferred upon thee by wishing
to have thee as His inheritance. And what can be wanting to thee if
thou possessest God?" The priest, then, should say with St. Augustine:
"Let others choose for their portion temporal things; God is my
portion." And, says St. Anselm, if we love not God, what shall we love?
The Emperor Diocletian placed before St. Clement gold, silver, and
precious stones, in order to induce him to deny the faith: seeing his
God put in comparison with a little dust, the Saint heaved a sigh of
sorrow: But one thing is necessary.
He who possesses all things without God, has nothing; but he who
possesses God without anything else, has all things. Hence, St. Francis
had reason to say, and to repeat, as he did for an entire night, My God, and my all. Happy, then, is
he who can say with David: For what
have I in Heaven? and besides Thee that do I desire upon earth? . . .
God is my portion forever. [Ps. lxxii. 25.] My God, neither in
Heaven nor on earth do I wish for anything but Thee. Thou art, and
shall be always, the Lord of my heart, and my only riches.
God deserves to be loved for His Own sake, because He is an object
worthy of infinite love: but we should love Him, at least, through
gratitude for the infinite love He has shown in the benefit of
redemption. What more could God do for us, than become man and die for
us? Greater love than this no man
hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends. [John xv.
13.] Before redemption, men could doubt if God loved them with a tender
love; but how can they doubt it after having seen Him dead on a Cross
for the love of them. This has been, as it was called by Moses and
Elias on Mount Thabor, an excess of love: And they spoke of His decease [excess]
that He should accomplish in Jerusalem. [Luke ix. 31.] An
excess that all the Angels shall not be able to comprehend for all
eternity. Who among men, says St. Anselm, could deserve that a God
should die for him? But it is certain that this Son of God has died for
each of us: Christ died for all,
[2 Cor. v. 15.] The Apostle writes, that when the death of our Saviour
was preached to the Gentiles it appeared to them foolishness: We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews
indeed a stumbling-block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness. [1
Cor. i. 23.] It was neither foolishness nor a lie,
but a truth of faith,----a truth which, as St. Laurence Justinian says,
makes God appear to us foolish through love for man. O God, if Jesus
Christ wished to show His love for His eternal Father, could He give
him a more convincing proof than by dying on a Cross, as He has died,
for each of us? I say more: If a servant had died for us, could we but
love him? But where is our love and gratitude towards Jesus Christ?
Let us at least frequently remember what our Redeemer has done and
suffered for us. They who frequently remember His Passion give great
pleasure to Jesus Christ. If a person submitted to insults, wounds, and
imprisonment for the sake of a friend, how great should his
gratification be at hearing that the friend frequently remembered and
thought of his sufferings. Ah! the soul that frequently thinks on the
Passion of Jesus Christ, and on the love that that enamoured God has
shown us in his pains and humiliations, cannot but feel herself chained
to His love: The charity of Christ
presseth us. [2
Cor. v. 14.] But if all
should burn with love for Jesus Christ, we priests should love him with
a special love; for Jesus Christ has died in a special manner to make
us priests: for, as has been said in Chapter I, without the death of
Jesus Christ we should not have the holy and immaculate
victim that we now offer to God. Justly, then, has
St. Ambrose said: "Although Christ has suffered for all, He has
especially suffered for us. But he that receives more, owes more. Let
us render love to Him for the Blood that He has shed for us."
Let us endeavor to understand the love that Jesus Christ has shown us
in His Passion, and we shall certainly renounce the love of creatures.
"Oh, if you knew the mystery of the Cross!'" said the Apostle St.
Andrew to the tyrant who tempted him to deny Jesus Christ. As if he
said, O tyrant! if you knew the love that your God has for you, and His
desire for your salvation, you would certainly cease to tempt me, and
through gratitude for so much love, you would devote yourself to His
Happy, then, the man who keeps constantly before his eyes the wounds of
Jesus Christ! You shall draw waters
with joy out of the Saviour's
fountains. [Isa. xii. 3.] Oh, what waters of devotion, what
lights and affections, do
the Saints draw from these fountains of salvation! Father Alvarez used
to say, that the ignorance of the riches that we have in Jesus Christ
is the cause of the ruin of Christians. The learned boast of their
science, but the Apostle gloried in nothing but in the knowledge of
Jesus Christ crucified: For I judged
not myself to know anything among
you, but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. [1
Cor. ii. 2.] Of what
advantage are all
sciences to him who knows not how to love Jesus Christ? And if . . . I
should know . . . all science, said the same Apostle, and have not
charity, I am nothing. [1
Cor. xiii. 2.] In another
place he said that to gain Jesus
Christ he esteemed all things as dung: I count all things to be but
loss, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ. [Phil.
iiii. 8.] Hence he
gloried in calling himself the prisoner of Jesus Christ: I, Paul, the
prisoner of Jesus Christ. [Eph. iii. 1.]
Oh, happy the priest who, bound by these holy chains, gives himself
entirely to Jesus Christ! God loves a soul that gives herself entirely
to Him, more than He does a hundred imperfect souls. If a prince had a
hundred servants, ninety-nine of whom served him with little affection,
always giving him some displeasure, and had one that served him through
pure love, always seeking to please him to the utmost of his power,
surely the prince would love that faithful servant more than all the
others: There are young maidens
without number. One is my dove, my
perfect one. [Cant. vi. 7.] The Lord loves the soul that serves
Him perfectly, as if He had no other to love but her. St. Bernard says:
"Learn from Christ
how to love Christ." From His birth Jesus Christ has given Himself
entirely to us: For a Child is born
to us, and a Son is given to us. [Isa. ix. 6.] And He has given
Himself through love: Christ also
hath loved us, and
hath delivered Himself for us. [Eph. v. 2.] It is just, then,
that we also though love give ourselves entirely to Jesus Christ. He,
says St. John Chrysostom, has given Himself without reserve to you,
bestowing upon you His Blood, His life, His merits. It is but just that
you, too, give yourself without reserve to Jesus Christ, says St.
But if this holds for all, it applies in a special manner to priests.
Hence, addressing particularly the priests of his Order, St. Francis of
Assisi, knowing the special obligation of the priest to belong entirely
to Jesus christ, said: "Keep nothing back of yourselves, so that He Who
offers Himself entirely may also receive you." The Redeemer has died
for us all, that each may live no longer to himself, but only to that
God Who has given His life for him: Christ
died for all; that they also, who live, may not now live to themselves,
but unto Him Who died for them. [2
Cor. v. 15.] Oh that each one of us would continually say to God with
St. Augustine: "May I die to myself that I may live only for Thee!" But
to belong entirely to God, we must given Him our whole, undivided love,
says St. Augustine. "Let your soul," cries out St. Bernard, "be one,
that you may serve God alone." Ah!
redeemed soul, divide not your love among creatures; keep yourself
alone for that God Who alone merits all your love. It was this that
Blessed Egidius meant by the words, una,
uni, that is, the one soul which we have, we ought not to
divide, but give entirely to that one God Whose love for us exceeds the
love of all others, and whose claims to our love surpass the claims of
Means to be Employed for Belonging Entirely
1. DESIRE FOR PERFECTION.
Let us now see what a priest must do in order to belong
entirely to God. First of all, he must have a great desire of sanctity.
For the beginning of her is the
most true desire of discipline. [Wisd. vi. 18.] Holy desires are
the wings with which souls fly to God: But the path of the just, as a shining
light, goeth forward, and increaseth even to perfect day. [Prov.
iv. 18.] The way of the just is like the light of the sun, which from
his rising increases as he advances in his course; but, on the other
hand, the light of sinners, like that of the evening, constantly grows
more dim, until it is entirely lost, so that the miserable beings no
longer see where they are going: The way of the wicked is darksome;
they know not where they fall. [Ibid.
Miserable then, the man who is content with his conduct, and seeks not
to advance. "Not to advance is to go backward," says St. Augustine. And
St. Gregory has said, he who remains in a river without making an
effort to make way against the current, shall be carried back by it.
Hence St. Bernard said to a tepid soul, "You do not wish to advance.
You will then go backward." Are you unwilling to advance? Then you wish
to go backward. You perhaps will answer: I wish to remain as I am,
neither better nor worse. But this is impossible. "This," adds the
Saint, "is what cannot be done." This cannot be, since Job has said, that man never continueth in the same
state. [Job xiv. 2.] To win the prize that is, the eternal
crown, we must run till we obtain it: So
run that you may obtain. [1 Cor. ix. 24.] He who ceases to run,
shall lose all his labor and the crown of glory.
Blessed are they that hunger
and thirst after justice. [Matth. v. 6.] For, as the Divine
mother said, God fills with His graces the souls that desire to become
Saints. He hath filled the hungry with good things. Mark the words, the hungry, those that hunger. But
to become a Saint, a simple desire is not enough: a strong desire, and
a certain hunger after sanctity, are necessary. As flame runs through
a dry reed, so they who have this blessed hunger do not walk, but
run in the way of virtue. The just
shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the reeds.
[Wisd. iii. 7.] Who, then, shall become a Saint? He who wishes to
become one: If thou Wilt be perfect,
go, etc. [Matth. xix. 21.]
But he must wish for
sanctity with true humility. The tepid Christian, as the Wise Man says,
also wills, but not with a sincere will. He desires, and always
desires, but his desires bring him to destruction; for he feeds on
them, and in the mean time goes from bad to worse: The sluggard willeth and willeth not.
kill the slothful. [Prov.
that is sanctity, is easily found by them who seek it: It is found by them that seek her.
But to find sanctity it is not enough to desire it; we must desire it
with a determined will to attain it: If
you seek, seek, [xxi. 12.] says Isaias. He who desires sanctity
with a resolute will of acquiring it, easily attains it. "Not with the
feet of the body," says St. Bernard, "but with the desires of the soul;
is God sought." And St. Teresa has written: "Let our thoughts be great;
from great thoughts our advancement shall come. Our desires must not be
low and grovelling, but we must trust in God; that, gradually doing
violence to ourselves, we shall, with the Divine grace, arrive at the
sanctity which the Saints have attained."
Open thy mouth wide,
says the Lord, and I will fill it.
[Ps. lxxx. 11.] A mother cannot give suck to an infant if it open not
its mouth to take the milk. Open thy mouth wide; that is, says St.
Athanasius, "Increase thy desires." By holy desires the Saints have
arrived at perfection in a short time: Being made perfect in a short time, he
fulfilled a long time. [Wisd. iv. 13.]
This was verified
particularly in St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who in a few years attained such
sublime sanctity, that to St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, who saw him in
bliss, it appeared that his glory was scarcely surpassed by that of any
of the Saints. And she was told that he attained to such glory by the
ardor with which he desired, during life, to love God as much as he
deserved to be loved.
Desires, says St. Laurence Justinian, give strength to the soul, and
render labor light. Hence the Saint adds, "that he who has an ardent
desire of victory has already conquered." St. Augustine has said: "For
him that labors, the road is narrow; for him that loves, it is wide."
To him who has but little love for sanctity, the way is narrow and
difficult to be trodden; but he who ardently loves perfection, finds
the way broad, and walks in it without labor. The broadness, then of
the way is found not in the way, but in the heart; that is, in a
determined will to please God: I
have run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou didst enlarge my heart.
[Ps. cxviii. 32.] Blosius says that the Lord is not less pleased by
holy desires than by ardent love.
He that has not the desire of becoming a Saint, let him at least ask it
of God, and God will give it to him. And let us be persuaded that to
become a Saint is not difficult to him who desires it. In the world it
is difficult for a vassal to obtain the friendship of his
sovereign, however ardently he may desire it, but, said the courtier of
the emperor mentioned by St. Augustine, to obtain the friendship of God
it is enough to wish for it: "Behold, if I wish I am instantly his
friend." And St. Bernard has written that a man cannot have a greater
proof of being the friend of God, and of enjoying His grace, than when
he desires greater grace in order to please God. And adds the Saint, it
matters not that he should have been a sinner, for "God attends not to
what a man has done, but to what he wishes to be."
INTENTION OF PLEASING GOD IN ALL THINGS.
Secondly, the priest who wishes to be a Saint, must do all his actions
for the sole purpose of pleasing God. All his words, thoughts, desires,
and actions must be an exercise of Divine love. The spouse in the
Canticles assumed at one time the character of a fowler; at another,
of a warrior; now a gardener; again, a cultivator of the vine; but in
all these occupations she presented the appearance of a lover, because
she did all for the love of her spouse. So, in like manner, all the
words, thoughts, sufferings, actions, of a priest, whether he says Mass
or hears Confessions, or preaches, or meditates, or assists the
dying, or mortifies the flesh, or whatever else he does, should all
proceed from the same love; for he ought to do all in order to please
Jesus Christ has said: If thy eye be
single, thy whole body shall be
lightsome. [Matth. vi. 22.] By the eye the holy Fathers have
understood the intention.
Then, says St. Augustine, 'The intention makes the work good." The
Lord said to Samuel: Man seeth those
things that appear, but the Lord
beholdeth the heart. [1 Kings xvi. 7.] Men are satisfied with
the works that they see,
but God, Who beholds the heart, is not content with any work unless He
sees it performed with a view to please Himself. I will
offer up to Thee holocausts full of marrow, [Ps. lxv. 15.] says
performed without the proper intention, are victims without marrow,
which God rejects. In the oblations made to Him He regards not the
value of the offering, but the affection with which it is presented.
"God," says Salvian, "looks not so much at the value of the offering as
at the disposition with which it is offered." Of our Saviour it was
justly said: He hath done all things
well. [Mark vii. 37.] For in all His actions He sought only the
pleasure of His eternal Father: I
seek not My Own
will, but the will of Him that sent Me. [John v. 30.]
But, alas! only few of our works are perfectly pleasing to God; because
few are done without some desire of our own glory. "It is rare," says
St. Jerome, "to find a faithful soul that never acts out of
vain-glory." How many priests on the day of judgment shall say to
Jesus Christ: Lord, Lord, have we
not prophesied, and cast out devils
in Thy name, and done many miracles in Thy name? [Matth.
vii. 22.] Lord, we have
preached, we have celebrated Masses, we have heard Confessions, we have
converted souls, we have assisted the dying. The Lord shall answer: I
never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity. He shall
Begone, I have never known you as my ministers, for you have not
labored for me, but for your own glory or interest.
Hence Jesus Christ exhorts us to conceal the works which we perform:
Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth. [Matth.
vi. 3.] The Son of God
tells us to conceal our works, that, as St. Augustine remarks, what we
do for God may not be afterwards lost through vanity. God abominates
rapine in the holocaust: I the Lord .
. . hate robbery in a holocaust. [Isa. lxi. 8.]
By rapine is meant precisely the seeking of our own glory, or of
self-interest in the works of God. He who truly loves, says St.
Bernard, merits a reward, but does not seek it: the only recompense
that he demands is to please the God Whom he loves. In a word, as the
same Saint says in another place, "True love is content with itself;"
that is, with being love, and demands nothing more.
The marks by which a priest may know whether he acts with a pure
intention are the following: 1. If he loves works that are attended
with greater inconvenience and less glory. 2. If he preserves peace
when he has not attained the object that he proposed. He who works for
God has already attained his end, which is to please God; and, on the
other hand, he who is disturbed when he fails in the attainment of
his object shows that he has not labored solely for God. 3. If he
rejoices in the good done by others as if it had been done by himself,
and entertains no jealousy when others engage in the works that he
performs, but desires to see all laboring to give glory to God, and
says with Moses: Oh that all the
people might prophesy! [Num. xi. 29.]
The days of the priest who performs all his actions for God are full
days: And full days shall be found in
them. [Ps. lxxii. 10.] But of
them who act for a selfish end, it is said that they do not reach even
the half of their days: Deceitful
men shall not live out half their
liv. 24.] Hence
St. Eucherius of Lyons has written, that we ought to consider ourselves
to have lived only on the day on which we have denied
our own will.
Seneca says that he who makes us a small present through love, imposes
on us a greater obligation than another who
bestows great favors upon us through a motive of self-interest.
Certainly the Lord is more pleased by a trifling act performed in order
to do His will, than by the most splendid works done for our own
satisfaction. Of the poor widow who gave two mites in the temple, Jesus
Christ said that she gave more than all the others: This poor widow
hath cast in more than all. [Mark xii. 43.] On this passage St.
Cyprian says: "The
Lord does not regard how much is given, but with what sentiments it is
given." The Lord regarded not the sum, but the affection with which it
The Abbot Pambo, seeing a woman decked out in costly ornaments, began
to weep. Being asked the cause of his tears, he said: "O God! how much
more does this woman do to please men than I do to please God!" In the
Life of St. Louis, king of France, it is related that a Father of the
Order of St. Dominic, who was going to court, asked a woman whom he saw
with a lighted torch in one hand and a vessel of water in the other,
why she carried these things; she answered: With this torch I wish to
burn Heaven, and with this water I desire to extinguish Hell, that God
may be loved solely because he deserves all love. Oh, happy the priest
who labors only to please God! He who seeks only to please God imitates
the Souls in Heaven, who, as the angelic Doctor says, "wish that He
rather than themselves should be happy." They rejoice more in the
felicity of God than in their own happiness, because they love Him more
3. PATIENCE IN PAINS AND HUMILIATIONS.
Thirdly, the priest who wishes to be holy must be ready to suffer in
peace for God all things----poverty, dishonor, infirmity, and death.
Apostle says: You bear God in your
body. [1 Cor. vi. 20.] In his comment on this text,
Gilbert says: "Jesus Christ wishes to be carried by us in peace and
joy. He who carries Him with tediousness or complaint, carries not, but
drags Him by force."
The love that a soul bears to
God is shown in embracing not
delights, but insults and sufferings. [Emphasis added here and
below.] This we learn from the words of our Redeemer when He went to
meet the soldiers who came to capture Him, in order to put Him
to death: But that the world may
know that I love the Father .
. . Arise, let us go hence. [John xiv. 31.] Hence the Saints in
imitation of Jesus
Christ, have gone with joy to embrace torments and death. St. Joseph of
Leonessa, a Capuchin, was once obliged to undergo a painful operation.
When some persons present spoke of binding him with cords, he took the
crucifix into his hands and said: "What cords! what cords!" My Lord,
Who was nailed to the Cross for my sake, binds me sufficiently to
endure all pain for the love of Him. Thus he bore the incision without
complaint. St. Teresa said: "Who is there that can behold his Lord
covered with wounds, and persecuted by enemies, without being willing
to embrace and desirous of suffering every tribulation?" St. Bernard
writes: "To him who loves his crucified God, insults and pains are
The Apostle says that in patience particularly we priests should make
ourselves known as the ministers of Jesus Christ: Let us exhibit
ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in tribulation, in
necessities, in distresses, . . . in labors. [2
Cor. vi. 4.] Thomas à
written: "When the day of judgment cometh, it will not be asked of us
what we have read, but what we have done." Many men of learning are
acquainted with many things, but know not how to bear anything for God;
and what is worse, they are incapable of understanding the great
fault which they commit by their impatience. Who have eyes, and see
not, [Jer. v. 21.] says the Prophet Jeremias. What does learning
profit the man who
has not charity? says St. Paul. And
if . . . I should know all mysteries
and all knowledge, . . . and have not charity, I am nothing. [1
Cor. xiii. 2.] But, as the
same Apostle has observed, Charity
beareth all things. He who
to become a Saint must suffer persecution. All that live godly in
Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. [2 Tim. iii. 12.] And
before him our Saviour
said: If they have persecuted Me,
they will also persecute you. [John xv. 20.] The
life of a Saint cannot, says St. Hilary, be a life of quiet and
tranquillity: it must be often disturbed by contradictions and tried by
patience. The Lord chastises those whom He accepts for His children: For whom the Lord loveth, He
chastiseth: and He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. [Heb.
xii. 6.] Such as I love I
rebuke and chastise. [Apoc. iii. 19.] And
why? Because patience tries the love and perfect fidelity of a soul: Patience hath a perfect work.
[James i. 4.] It was this that the Archangel Raphael
meant to say to holy Tobias: Because
thou wast acceptable to God, it
was necessary that temptation should prove thee. [Tob. xii. 13.]
Sometimes we shall be reproved for a fault which we have not committed;
but "what matter?" says St. Augustine; "we ought to accept the
reproof in atonement for other sins to which we have consented."
Let us attend to the words of holy Judith, who says that in this life
chastisements come from God, not for our destruction, but that we may
amend, and thus escape eternal vengeance: They have happened for our
amendment, and not for our destruction. [viii. 27.] If, then, on
account of past
sins, we find ourselves debtors to the Divine justice, we should not
only accept with patience the tribulations that befall us, but should
also pray with St. Augustine: "Here burn, here cut, here do not spare,
that Thou mayest spare us in eternity."
Job said: If we have received good
things at the hand of God, why
should we not receive evil? [ii. 10.] He said this because he
well knew that we
gain far more by patiently accepting the evils, that is, the
tribulations of this life, than we do by temporal blessings. But
whether we will or not, we must suffer the miseries of this life: he
who bears them with patience merits Heaven, but he who is impatient
under them also suffers from them, but lays up merits for Hell, says
St. Augustine. Speaking of the good and the wicked thief, the same
Saint says: "The cross united them; the manner of carrying the cross
separated them." Both suffered death, but one of them, because he
accepted it with patience, was saved; the other, because he blasphemed
in his suffering, was lost. St. John the Apostle saw that the Saints
who were in the enjoyment of the Beatific Vision came not from the
delights of the earth, but from tribulations: These are they who are
come out of great tribulation; therefore they are before the throne
of God. [Apoc. vii. 14.]
4. CONFORMITY TO THE WILL OF GOD.
Fourthly and lastly, he who wishes to be a Saint must wish only what
God wishes. All our good consists in uniting ourselves to the will of
God: And life in His good-will. [Ps.
xxix. 6.] St. Teresa says: "All that he who
practises mental prayer should seek, is to conform his will to the
Divine will; let him be assured that in this consists the highest
perfection." All that the Lord demands of us is, that we give Him
our heart; that is, our will: My
son, give Me thy heart. [Prov. xxiii. 26.] St. Anselm
says that God asks and, as it were, begs our heart; and when cast off,
He does not depart, but repeats His petitions.
The most acceptable offering, then, that we can present to God is the
oblation of our will, saying with the Apostle: Lord, what wilt Thou
have me to do? [Acts ix. 6.] Hence St. Augustine has written:
"We can do nothing
more pleasing than to say to Him, Do Thou possess us." The Lord said
that He had found in David a man according to His Own heart. And why?
Because David fulfilled all His Divine wills: I have found David, the
son of Jesse, a man according to My Own heart.
[Acts xiii. 22.] Let us endeavor to say
always with David: Teach me to do
Thy will. [Ps. cxlii. 9.] Lord, teach me to do
nothing but what Thou willest. Hence we must frequently offer ourselves
to God, saying with the same holy prophet: My heart is ready, O God! my
heart ts ready. [Ps. lvi. 8.]
But we must remember that our merit consists in embracing the Divine
will, not so much in things that are pleasing to us, as in those that
are opposed to self-love. In these we show the strength of the love we
bear to God. The Venerable John d'Avila used to say, that a single Blessed be God, in
things that are opposed to our inclination, is of
greater value than six thousand acts of thanksgiving in what is
agreeable to us. And here it is necessary to understand that all that
befalls us happens through the will of God, says St. Augustine. This
is the meaning of the words of Ecclesiasticus: Good things and evil,
life and death, poverty and riches, are from God. [xi. 14.] Thus
when a person
offends us, God wills not his sin, but He wills that we bear with the
insult. When our reputation or property is taken away, we must say with
holy Job: The Lord gave, and the
Lord hath taken away: as it hath
pleased the Lord so is it done! [i. 21.]
He who loves the will of God enjoys continual peace even in this life.
Delight in the Lord, and He will give thee the requests of thy heart,
said David. [Ps. xxxvi. 4.] Our heart, which has been created for
an infinite good,
cannot be satisfied by all creatures which are finite; and therefore,
though it should possess all goods but God, the heart is not content;
it always seeks after new enjoyments: but when it finds God, it
possesses all things----He satisfies all its demands. Hence our Lord
to the Samaritan woman: He that shall
drink of the water that I will
give him, shall not thirst forever. [John iv. 13.] And in
another place he said:
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall
have their fill. [Matth.
v. 6.] Hence he who loves God is not afflicted at anything
that happens: Whatsoever shall befall
the just man, it shall not make
him sad. [Prov. xii. 21.] For the just man knows that whatever
occurs, happens to him
by the will of God. If, says Salvian, the Saints are humbled, they
wish for the humiliation; if they are poor, they rejoice in their
poverty; in a word, they wish only what their God wishes, and
therefore they enjoy continual peace. In afflictions it is lawful to
pray to be delivered from them, as Jesus Christ did in the garden: My
Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me. [Matth. xxvi. 39.]
But we must
also add with the Redeemer: Nevertheless, not as I will, but as
It is certain that what God wills is best for us. Father John d'Avila
once wrote to a sick priest "Friend, think not of what you would do if
you were in health, but be
content to remain sick as long as it shall please God. If you seek the
will of God, is it not as profitable to you to be sick as to be in
health?" We must be resigned in all things, even in the temptations by
which we are impelled to offend God. The Apostle besought the Lord to
deliver him from the many temptations which he suffered against
chastity: There was given me a sting
of my flesh. . . . For which thing
thrice I besought the Lord, that it might depart from me. [2
Cor. xii. 7.] But in answer God
said to him: My grace is sufficient
for thee. Let us be persuaded that
God not only desires, but is also solicitous for our welfare. The Lord
is careful for me. [Ps. xxxix. 18.] Let us, then, abandon
ourselves into the hands of
God, for he has care of us: Casting
all your care upon Him, for He hath
care of you. [1 Pet. v. 7.]
Finally, how happy shall be the death of a soul perfectly conformed to
the will of God! But he who wishes to die in sentiments of perfect
conformity to the Divine will must first conform to it in all things
during life. Let us, then, in all contradictions and crosses that
befall us accustom ourselves to acts of resignation, always repeating
with the Saints that great prayer which Jesus Christ has taught us:
"Thy will be done; Thy will be done." Or let us repeat the words of
the same Saviour: Yea, Father; for
so hath it seemed good in Thy
sight. [Matth. xi. 26.] And let us continually offer ourselves
to God, saying with the Divine Mother: "Behold the handmaid of the
Lord." Lord, behold Your
servant, dispose of me, and of all that belongs to me, as You please;
I accept all from Your hands. St. Teresa used to offer herself fifty
times in the day to God. Let us also say to Him, with the Apostle: O
Lord, what wilt Thou have me do. My God, make known to me what
wish est from me, and I will do it. The Saints have done great things
in order to accomplish the will of God. Some have fled into the desert,
others have shut themselves up in the
cloister, and others have suffered torments and death. Let us also who
are priests, and are bound by stricter obligations to sanctity, unite
ourselves to the Divine will; let us become Saints; let us not be
diffident on account of past sins. "God does not attend," says St.
Bernard," to what man does, but to what he wishes to be." A
resolute will, with the Divine aid, conquers all things.
Let us pray always: he who asks, receives: For everyone that asketh,
receiveth. [Matth. vii. 8.]
Whatsoever we ask in
prayer, we shall obtain: You shall
whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you. [John xv. 7.]
And among all
prayers, let the beautiful prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola be always
dear to us; let us repeat it continually: "Grant me only Thy love with
Thy grace, O Lord! and I shall be rich enough." Lord, give me Your
love and Your grace, and I desire nothing more. But, like St.
Augustine, we must ask this gift of Divine love continually and
earnestly. The holy Doctor says: "Hear me, hear me, O my God, my King,
my Father, my honor, my salvation, my light, my life,----hear, hear me!
Thee only do I love, Thee only do I seek. Heal me, and open my eyes.
Look upon him who has fled from Thee; long enough have I served Thy
enemy. Command that I may be a pure, a perfect lover of Thy wisdom."
And in asking the Divine graces, I add, with St. Bernard, let us always
have recourse to the intercession of Mary, who obtains for her servants
whatever she asks from God.