THE PRACTICE OF THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST
“Charity endureth all things”
HE THAT LOVES JESUS CHRIST WITH A STRONG LOVE DOES NOT CEASE TO LOVE HIM IN THE MIDST OF TEMPTATIONS AND DESOLATIONS
Let these souls so dear to God, and who are resolutely determined to belong entirely to Him, take comfort, although at the same time they see themselves deprived of every consolation. Their desolation is a sign of their being very acceptable to God, and that He has for them a place prepared in His heavenly kingdom, which overflows with consolations as full as they are lasting. And let them hold for certain that the more they are afflicted in the present life, so much the more shall they be consoled in eternity: According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, thy comforts have given joy to my soul (Ps. xciii. 19). For the encouragement of souls in desolation, I will here mention what is related in the Life of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, who for the space of forty years was tormented by the most fearful interior trials, by temptations, by fears of being at enmity with God, and of being even quite forsaken by Him. Her afflictions were so excruciating and unremitting that she declared her sole ray of comfort came from the thought of death. Moreover she said: “I am so furiously assaulted that I know not where to hide my poor soul. I seem at times on the point of losing all patience, and of giving up all as entirely lost.” “The tyrant of temptation is so relentless,” she says, “that any hour of the day I would gladly barter it with the loss of my life; and sometimes it happens that I can neither eat nor sleep.”
During the last eight or nine years of her life her temptations became still more violent. Mother de Scatel said that her saintly Mother de Chantal suffered a continual interior martyrdom night and day, at prayer, at work, and even during sleep; so that she felt the deepest compassion for her. The Saint endured assaults against every virtue (except chastity), and had likewise to contend with doubts, darkness, and disgust. Sometimes God would withdraw all lights from her, and seem indignant with her, and just on the point of expelling her from Him, so that terror drove her to look in some other direction for relief: but failing to find any, she was obliged to return to look on God, and to abandon herself to His mercy. She seemed each moment ready to yield to the violence of her temptations. The Divine assistance did not, indeed, forsake her; but it seemed to her to have done so, since, instead of finding satisfaction in anything she found only weariness and anguish in prayer, in reading spiritual books, in Communion, and in all other exercises of piety. Her sole resource in this state of dereliction was to look upon God, and to let Him do His will.
The Saint said: “In all my abandonment my very life is daily a new cross to me, and my incapability of action adds considerably to its heaviness.” And it was for this reason she compared herself to a sick person overwhelmed with sufferings, unable to turn from one side to the other, speechless, so as not to be able to tell of his ills, and blind, so as not to discern whether the attendants are administering to him medicine or poison. And then, weeping bitterly, she added: “I seem to be without Faith, without Hope, and without love for my God.” Nevertheless the Saint maintained throughout her serenity of countenance and affability in conversation, and kept her mind fixedly bent on God, in the bosom of Whose blessed will she constantly reposed. Wherefore, St. Francis de Sales, who was her director, and knew well what an object of predilection her beautiful soul was to Almighty God, wrote thus of her: “Her heart resembled a deaf musician, who, though he may sing most exquisitely, can derive no pleasure from it himself.” And to herself he wrote as follows: “You must endeavour to serve your Saviour solely through love of His blessed will, utterly deprived of consolations, and overwhelmed by a deluge of fears and sadness.” It is thus that the Saints are formed:
“Long did the chisels ring around,
Long did the mallet’s blows rebound,
Long worked the head and toiled the hand,
Ere stood thy stones as now they stand.”
The Saints are precisely these choice stones, of whom the Church sings, which are reduced to shapeliness and beauty by the strokes of the chisel, that is, by temptations, by fears, by darkness, and other torments, internal and external, till at length they are made worthy to be enthroned in the blessed kingdom of Paradise.
I wish to belong wholly to Thee, O my God; and I give Thee my body, my soul, my will, and my liberty. I will no longer live for myself, but for Thee alone, my Creator, my Redeemer, my Love, and my All: Deus meus et Omnia! My God and my All! I desire to become a Saint, and I hope it of Thee. Afflict me as Thou wilt, deprive me of all; only deprive me not of Thy grace and of Thy love. O Mary, the hope of sinners, great is thy power with God; I confide fully in thy intercession: I entreat thee by thy love of Jesus Christ, help me, and make me a saint!