Spiritual Reading for the Fourth Monday in Advent ~ St Alphonsus Liguori

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Spiritual Reading

ENCOURAGEMENT TO NOVICES TO PERSEVERE IN THEIR VOCATION

There are two graces clearly distinct one from the other — the grace of Vocation and the grace of Perseverance in one’s Vocation. Many who have received a Vocation from God have afterwards, through their own fault, rendered themselves unworthy to receive the grace of Perseverance. He is not crowned except he strive lawfully (2 Tim. ii. 5). No one will receive the grace of Perseverance and the crown which God has prepared for him, who does not do what in him lies to fight and conquer his enemies: Hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown (Apoc. iii. 11). My dear young friend, you who, by so special a favour, have been called by Our Lord to follow Him, hear how He exhorts and encourages you: “Be careful, My son, to preserve the grace which you have received from Me, and tremble lest you should lose it and another gain the crown which is prepared for you.”

He who enters a Novitiate enters into the service of the King of Heaven, Who tries the fidelity of those whom He accepts for His own, by crosses and temptations, and permits the devil to assail them. Because thou wert acceptable to the Lord, it was necessary that temptation should prove thee (Tob. xii. 13). And the Holy Ghost says to all who leave the world to give themselves to God: My son, when thou comest to the service of God … prepare thy soul for temptation (Ecclus. ii. 1). So that the novice, on entering the House of God, ought to prepare himself, not for consolations, but for temptations, and for the war which the devil wages against those who give themselves wholly to God. And be well persuaded that the devil would rather tempt a novice to abandon his Vocation than a thousand seculars, especially if he enters an active Order. Yes, for the devil knows that if this novice perseveres and is faithful to God, hell will lose thousands of souls who will obtain salvation through his zeal. Hence, the enemy uses every means to win him and every device to beguile him.

The temptations by which the devil most frequently endeavours to induce novices to abandon their Vocation are the following.

I. TENDERNESS FOR PARENTS AND FRIENDS

First, he tempts them by tenderness for their parents. To resist this it is necessary to reflect on the declaration of Jesus Christ: He who loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me (Matt. x. 37). And He declares that He came not to send peace, but division. I came not to send peace, but the sword; for I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother (Matt. x. 34, 35). And why this great desire to separate relations from each other? Because Our Lord well knew the injury that comes from such intercourse, and that in the affairs of eternal salvation, especially where there is question of a Religious Vocation, there are no greater enemies than relations; and this Our Lord declared, saying: A man’s enemies shall be of his own household (Matt. x. 36). O how many unhappy youths, through affection for their relations, have first lost their Vocations, and then, as so easily happens, their own souls. History is full of such sad instances. I will tell you of some. Father Jerome Piatti relates of a novice who was visited by a relation who said to him: “Listen to me; I only speak because I love you, and I beg you to reflect that your constitution is not fitted to undergo the labours and studies of the Religious life; by remaining in the world you can please God better, especially by giving to the poor a large share of the riches with which He has blessed you. If you persist in your undertaking you will repent of it, for, in the end, with shame, you will be obliged to quit the Community, seeing yourself made porter or cook on account of your little talent and poor health. Therefore it is wiser to do at once that which you will be at last obliged to do.” The poor young man, thus perverted, left the monastery, but many days had not elapsed before he fell into all kinds of vices; and in a quarrel with some of his rivals, he, together with the relation who had perverted him, was so severely wounded that within a short time they both died on the same day; and, what is still worse, the unfortunate novice expired without confession, of which he must have stood in so great need. We read in the Life of St. Camillus of Lellis that a young man, who was received into his Community in Naples, was persecuted by his father. At first he resisted with courage. He had to go to Rome on business, and there, in an interview with his father, he yielded to the temptation. On dismissing him the Saint predicted that he would come to an evil end and die by the hand of justice. This was verified. The young man married, and later, in a fit of jealousy, murdered his wife and two servants. He was apprehended and brought to justice, and although his father expended his whole fortune to save the life of his unhappy son, he was beheaded in the market place of Naples, nine years after his departure from the monastery.

Be, therefore, most watchful, my dear brother, should the devil seek by this means to make you lose your Vocation. The Lord, Who, by an especial grace, has called you to quit the world, desires you not only to leave, but also to forget your country and your friends.

Hearken, O daughter, and see and incline thine ear, and forget thy people and thy father’s house (Ps. xliv. 11). Hearken then to what God says to you, and know that if you desert Him for the love of your relations, great will be your sorrow and remorse at the hour of death. You will then remember the House of God which you abandoned, and behold around your death-bed brothers and nephews in tears, who, at a time when you need spiritual help, will press you to leave them your goods, and not one will speak to you of God; they will even try to delude you, not to increase your pain by the thought of death; they will hold out vain hopes of recovery, and thus you will die without preparation. Contrast with this the joy and peace you will feel on dying in Religion, where you will have the happiness of seeing around you your brethren, whose prayers will assist you to fix your hopes in Heaven, and who, instead of deceiving you, will aid you to expire in peace and joy. Reflect also, that though it be true that your parents have loved you for many years with some tenderness, God loved you long before, and with far greater love. Your parents have loved for twenty or thirty years or more, but God has loved you from all eternity. I have loved thee with an everlasting love (Jer. xxxi. 3). Your parents have, it is true, been at some expense for your welfare and suffered on your account, but Jesus Christ shed all His Blood and gave His life for you. When, therefore, your tenderness for your parents urges you to be grateful to them and not to displease them, remember that much greater gratitude is due to God, Who has done more for you and loved you more than all others. Say, then, to yourself: “Relations, if I leave you, it is for God, Who merits my love more and loves me better than you.” And by such words as these you will vanquish this terrible temptation of your kindred, which has caused the ruin of so many in this world and in the next.

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