CONSIDERATIONS ON THE RELIGIOUS STATE. XIII.
Consider that the life of a Religious resembles mostly the life of Jesus Christ.
Jesus wished to live poor on this earth as the Son and Helpmate of a mechanic, in a poor dwelling, with poor clothing and poor food, that thereby He might give His servants to understand what ought to be the life of those who wish to be His followers. O my Lord, I will leave all and will follow Thee.
The Apostle says that the Eternal Father predestines to the kingdom of Heaven those only who live conformably to the life of the Incarnate Word. Whom he foreknew, he also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of his son (Rom. viii. 29). How happy, then, and secure of Paradise should not Religious be, seeing that God has called them to a state of life which, of all other states, is most like the life of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, on this earth, wished to live poor, the Son and Helpmate of a mechanic, in a poor dwelling, with poor clothing and poor food: Being rich he became poor for your sake, that through his poverty you might become rich (2 Cor. viii. 9). Moreover, He chose a most mortified life, far removed from the delights of the world, and ever full of pain and sorrow, beginning with His birth and ending with His death; hence by the Prophet He was called: The man of sorrows (Is. liii. 3). By this He wished to give His servants to understand what ought to be the life of those who wish to follow Him: If any man will come after me let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me (Matt. xvi. 24). Following this example, and accepting this invitation of Jesus Christ, the Saints have endeavoured to despoil themselves of all earthly goods, and to take upon themselves pains and crosses, in order to be like their beloved Lord.
Thus we see that St. Benedict, who, being the son of the lord of Norcia, a relative of the Emperor Justinian, and born amidst the riches and pleasures of the world, while yet a youth of only fourteen, went to live in a cavern at Subiaco, where he received only a piece of bread brought him every day as an alms by the hermit Romanus.
Ah! my Master and my Redeemer, Jesus, I am, then, of the number of those fortunate ones whom Thou hast called to follow Thee. O my Lord! I thank Thee for this. I leave all; would that I had more to leave, that I might draw near to Thee, my King and my God, Who, for the love of me, and to give me courage by Thy example, didst choose for Thyself a life so poor and so painful. Walk on, O Lord, I will follow Thee. Choose Thou for me what cross Thou wilt, and help me. I will always carry it with constancy and love. I regret that in the past I have abandoned Thee, to follow my lusts and the vanities of the world; but now I am resolved to leave Thee no more. Bind me to Thy Cross, and if through weakness I sometimes resist, draw me by the sweet bonds of Thy love. Suffer it not that I ever leave Thee again.
St. Francis of Assisi renounced in favour of his father the whole of his inheritance, and even his garments, and, thus poor and mortified, consecrated himself to Jesus Christ. Nor was it different with St. Francis Borgia and St. Aloysius Gonzaga, one being Duke of Gandia, the other of Castiglione. Both left all their riches, their estates, their vassals, their country, their home, their parents, and went to live a poor life in Religion.
So have done many other noblemen and princes even of royal blood. Blessed Zedmerra, daughter of the King of Ethiopia, renounced the kingdom to become a Dominican nun. Blessed Johanna of Portugal renounced the kingdom of France and England to enter Religion. In the Benedictine Order alone there are found twenty-five emperors, and seventy-five kings and queens who left the world to live poor, mortified and forgotten by the world, in a poor cloister. Ah! indeed, these and not the grandees of the world are the truly fortunate ones.
At present worldlings think these to be fools, but in the Valley of Josaphat they shall know that they themselves have been the fools; and when they see the Saints on their thrones crowned by God they shall say, lamenting and in despair: These are they whom we had sometime in derision … we fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honour. Behold, how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints! (Wis. v. 3, 4, 5).
Yes, my Jesus, I renounce all the satisfactions of the world; the only satisfaction I seek is to love Thee, and to suffer as Thou pleasest. I hope thus to come one day to be united to Thee in Thy kingdom by the bond of eternal love, there to see Thee and to love Thee without fear of ever being separated from Thee. I love Thee, O my God, my All, and will always love Thee. Thou art my hope, O Most Holy Mary, thou, the most conformed to Jesus, art now the most powerful to obtain this grace. Be thou my protectress!