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

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Spiritual Reading

ENCOURAGEMENT TO NOVICES

II. ANXIETY CONCERNING HEALTH

Another temptation with which the devil is wont to attack a novice, is too much anxiety about his health. The deceiver thus insinuates himself into the mind of the novice: “Do you not perceive that by leading such a life you will ruin your health, and then you will be no use either to the world or to God.” The novice must repel this temptation by confidence in Our Lord, for He Who has given him a Vocation will also give him health to follow it. If he has entered into the House of God solely to please Him, as we suppose he has, let him console himself by saying: “I concealed nothing concerning the state of my health from my Superiors, and they received me and have not yet dismissed me; it is then the will of God that I should remain here, and if it be His will that I should suffer and even die in His House what does it signify? How many anchorets have gone to suffer for Him in forests and caverns! How many Martyrs have run with joy to give their lives for Him! If, then, it be His will that I should lose my health or my life for His love, I am content; I desire nothing else, I can desire nothing better.” Thus will the fervent Religious speak who desires to become a Saint. If a novice is not fervent during his novitiate, it is certain that he will never be so in after life.

III. THE INCONVENIENCES OF COMMUNITY LIFE.

A third temptation is the fear of not being able to undergo the inconveniences of the common life, such as scanty and ill-prepared food, a hard bed, little sleep, prohibition to go out of the house, the observance of silence, and, above all, not being allowed to follow one’s own will. When the novice is assailed by this temptation, he should repeat what St. Bernard used to say to himself: “Bernard, why art thou come hither?”

He must remember that he has not come to the House of God to make himself comfortable, but to become a Saint; and how can he become a Saint? Is it by comfort and pleasure? No; but by sufferings, and by dying to his own disorderly affections and appetites. St. Teresa says, that “to expect that God will admit to His love those who are fond of their own ease, is a great mistake.” And in another place: “Souls who truly love God cannot ask for repose.” He, therefore, who is not firmly resolved to suffer and to bear everything for the love of God, will never become a Saint. No; he will never become a Saint, nor even enjoy true peace. And why? Do you, perhaps, imagine that true peace is to be found in the enjoyment of worldly goods or sensual pleasures, or perhaps you fancy that the highborn rich, who abound in these things, have arrived at it? They are most miserable, they are nourished upon gall. All is vanity and affliction of spirit (Eccles. i. 14). It was thus that Solomon described earthly goods, which he had fully enjoyed. When a man places his affections upon these things, the more he has the more he desires, and he is never at rest; but when he places all his happiness in God, in Him he finds perfect peace. Delight in the Lord, says David, and he will give thee the requests of thy heart (Ps. xxxiv. 4). Father Charles of Lorraine, brother to the Duke of Lorraine, became a Religious, and when alone in his poor cell he felt so great an interior peace that he danced for joy. Blessed Seraphim, a Capuchin, said that he would not give a foot length of his cord for all the wealth and dignities of the earth; and St. Teresa would often encourage others under difficulties by saying: “When a soul is resolved to suffer, the suffering ceases.”

IV. DISCOURAGEMENT IN ARIDITIES

But here we must take notice of an error by which the devil tempts a novice when he feels this affliction of spirit. “Do you not see,” he says to him, “that you have not found peace here? You have lost devotion, everything is wearisome — prayer, spiritual reading, Communion, even recreation. These are signs that God does not wish you to remain in Religion.” Oh, what a terrible and dangerous temptation this is for a new and inexperienced novice! In order to overcome it he must first consider the true nature of peace of soul whilst on earth, which is a place of trial, and therefore must be one of pain. This peace does not consist, as we have already seen, in the enjoyment of the good things of this world. It does not consist even in spiritual delights, for these do not increase our merit, or make us more dear to God. True peace is to be found only in conformity of our will to the will of God, and the peace we ought to desire is that of having our will perfectly united to the Divine will, even in our darkness and desolation. O, how dear to God is the soul that faithfully perseveres in Spiritual Reading, Meditation, Communions, and other pious exercises solely to please Him, without feeling any sensible consolation! O, the great merit of good works when performed purely for God’s sake, without looking for reward here below! The Venerable Father Anthony Torres wrote to a person in spiritual desolation: “When we carry the Cross of Jesus without consolation, our soul runs, nay, flies towards perfection.” When a novice is in a state of aridity he should say to God: “O Lord, if it is Thy will that I should remain in desolation and deprived of all comfort, I desire to be in that state as long as it pleases Thee; I will never leave Thee; behold me ready to endure these troubles during my whole life, and even for all eternity, if Thou willest it. For me it is enough to know that it is Thy will.” It is thus a novice who really desires to love God will speak; but let him be certain that such sufferings will not last for ever. By such insinuations the devil seeks to destroy his confidence, causing him to believe that his desolation will last for ever, that it will bring him to despair, and that at length he will be unable to endure it. These terrible storms, however, which the enemy is able to raise in the soul when it is in darkness and desolation, will not endure for ever. To him that overcometh I will give a hidden manna, says Our Lord. (Apoc. ii. 17). Yes, those who pass through such tempests of aridity and desolation with patience, and overcome such temptations, shall be consoled by the Lord Himself, Who will give them to taste a hidden manna — that interior peace which, according to St. Paul, surpasseth all understanding (Phil. iv. 7). This one thought — I am doing the will of God, I am pleasing God — gives a peace far superior to all the joys, pastimes, feastings, honours and dignities of the world. God cannot fail in the promise He has made to those who have left all things for His love. And every one that hath left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold here, and shall possess life everlasting (Matt. xix. 29). He promises them Paradise in the next world and an hundred-fold in this. And what is this hundred-fold? It is the testimony of a good conscience, which immeasurably surpasses all the pleasures of this life.

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