PATIENCE AMIDST LOSSES AND PERSECUTION
They who possess God, though they should be in want of everything else, possess all things. They can say: My God and my All! Hence the Saints possess all things, though they have nothing. As having nothing, says St. Paul, and possessing all things (2 Cor. vi. 10).
It is necessary to practise patience when we have to suffer the inconveniences of poverty, and the want of temporal goods. “What,” says St. Augustine “can be sufficient for him for whom God is not sufficient?” They who possess God, though they should want everything else, possess all things. Hence they can say, “My God and my All!” Hence, the Apostle says, that though the Saints have nothing, they possess all things: As having nothing, and possessing all things. When, then, you want medicines in sickness, when you are in need of food, or fire in the winter, or clothes, say: My God, Thou alone art sufficient for me! and thus console yourself.
Accept with patience the loss of property, relatives and friends. Some one loses a book and she disturbs the whole house, and cannot keep herself in peace. Another is inconsolable at the death of a relative. She gives up Mental Prayer; she abstains from Communion, she is impatient with everybody; she shuts herself away; will not take food, and sends away those who come to console her. To such I would say: Is this the true love that you bear to God? Then, it is not true that God is everything to you, since it is now manifest, that because you have lost a creature, you no longer enjoy peace, and appear almost to care no more about God. Tell me what advantage do you derive from thus abandoning yourself to melancholy? Do you imagine that you please the person who has died? No; you displease God, and also the dead. How much more pleasing would it be to her, if, conforming yourself to the Divine will, you endeavoured to abstain from weeping and groaning, and sought to unite yourself more closely to God, and to pray for the soul if it be in Purgatory. To shed an occasional tear at the death of a relative is a pardonable weakness of nature; but immoderate grief proceeds from weakness of spirit and want of the love of God. Holy people also hear of the death of persons most dear to them; but reflecting that God has willed their death, they instantly resign themselves, and go in peace to pray for them. They then make more frequent Meditations and Communions, and unite themselves more to God, hoping to go one day to enjoy Him in Heaven, along with their departed friends.
It is necessary to practise patience in the midst of accusations and persecutions. You will say: But I have not failed in anything — why should I receive such an insult? This is not the will of God. But do you not know the answer that Jesus Christ gave to St. Peter, Martyr, who complained of being unjustly imprisoned, saying: O Lord, what evil have I done that I should suffer this mortification? Jesus answered from the Cross: And what evil have I done that I should be nailed to this Cross? If, then, your Redeemer has voluntarily embraced death for the love of you, it is not too much for you to embrace this mortification for the love of Him. It is true that God does not will the sin of the person who insults or persecutes you; but He certainly wishes that you bear this contradiction for His sake, and also for your own welfare. Although, says St. Augustine, we have not committed the fault that is imputed to us, we have been guilty of other sins that deserve the chastisement we now receive.
The Saints have been persecuted in this world. St. Basil was accused of heresy before St. Damasus, Pope. St. Cyril of Jerusalem was condemned as a heretic by forty bishops, and was deprived of his See. St. Athanasius was charged with the crime of sorcery, and St. John Chrysostom with sins against chastity. St. Romuald, at the age of more than a hundred years, was accused of an enormous sin, for which some said that he deserved to be burned alive. St. Francis de Sales was charged with impurity, and remained for three years under the imputation till his innocence was discovered. Of St. Lidwina it is related that one day a woman entered her chamber, and began to insult her in the most atrocious manner; and because the Saint preserved her usual tranquillity, the tigress becoming more furious began to spit in her face, and seeing the Saint still undisturbed, she screamed like a madwoman.
There is no remedy; for, says the Apostle, all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (11 Tim. iii. 12). All who wish to follow Jesus Christ will be persecuted. If, says St. Augustine, you are unwilling to suffer any persecution, tremble lest you have not as yet begun to serve Jesus Christ. Who more innocent and holy than our Saviour? And still He was persecuted by men until He died on a Cross, covered with wounds, and overwhelmed with shame. Hence, to animate us to bear persecutions with peace, the Apostle exhorts us to keep always before our mind Jesus Christ crucified. Think diligently upon him that endured such opposition from sinners against himself (Heb. xii. 3). Let us rest assured that when we suffer persecution in peace, God will take up our defence; and should He ever permit us to remain in dishonour here, He will reward our patience with greater honours hereafter.