CONSIDERATIONS ON THE RELIGIOUS STATE. XIV.
Consider the zeal that Religious ought to have for the salvation of souls.
Our Redeemer did not impose on St. Peter penance, prayers, or other things, but only that he should endeavour to save His sheep. Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? … Feed my sheep (Jo. xxi. 17).
Yes, O my Lord, I will serve Thee with all my strength in this great work.
He who is called to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer will never be a true follower of Jesus Christ, and will never become a Saint, if he does not fulfil the end of his Vocation, and has not the spirit of the Institute, which is the salvation of souls, especially souls that are the most destitute of spiritual succour, such as the poor people in the country.*
*Although St. Alphonsus in this Consideration had especially in view the Congregation of Missionaries which he founded, yet what he says here is for all Religious of both sexes, and indeed for all who serve God. –EDITOR
This was truly the end for which our Redeemer came down from Heaven: The spirit of the Lord, our Divine Master says, hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor (Luke iv. 18). He sought no other proof of Peter’s love for Him but that he should procure the salvation of souls: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? … Feed my sheep (Jo. xxi. 17). He did not impose upon him, says St. John Chrysostom, penance, prayers, or anything else, He only asked that he would endeavour to save His sheep: “Christ did not say to him, give your money away, fast, weaken your body with hard work, but He said: Feed My sheep.” And He declares that He would look upon every benefit conferred on the least of our neighbours as conferred on Himself. Amen, I say to you, as often you have done it unto one of these my least brethren, you have done it unto me (Matt. xxv. 40).
Every Religious ought, therefore, with the utmost care, to nourish this zeal, and this spirit of helping souls. To this end must his studies be directed; and his constant thought and his whole attention bestowed on work for souls assigned to him by his superiors. He would be wanting in this spirit, who, through the desire of attending only to himself and of leading a retired and solitary life, would not accept wholeheartedly the work imposed on him by obedience.
O my Lord Jesus Christ, how can I thank Thee enough, in that Thou hast called me to the same work Thou didst Thyself perform on earth; namely, to help in the salvation of souls by my poor labours? In what have I deserved this honour and this reward, after having offended Thee so grievously myself, and having caused others also to offend Thee? Yes, O my Lord! Thou callest me to help Thee in this great undertaking. I will serve Thee with all my strength.
What greater glory can a man have than to be, as St. Paul says, a co-operator with God in this great work of the salvation of souls? He who loves the Lord ardently is not content to be alone in loving Him, he would draw all to His love, saying with David: O magnify the Lord with me, and let us extol his name together (Ps. xxxiii. 4). Hence St. Augustine exhorts all those who love God to “draw all men to His love.”
A good ground of hope for his own salvation has he who, with true zeal, labours for the salvation of souls. “Have you saved a soul?” says St. Augustine, “then you have predestinated your own.” The Holy Ghost promises: When thou shalt pour out thy soul to the hungry, and shalt satisfy the afflicted soul … the Lord will fill thy soul with brightness … and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a fountain of water whose waters shall not fail (Is. lviii. 10, 11). In this — namely, in procuring the salvation of others — St. Paul placed his hope of eternal salvation, when he said to his disciples of Thessalonica: For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glory? Are not you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? (1 Thess. ii. 19).
Behold, O Jesus, I offer Thee all my labours and my blood, and even my life in order to obey Thee. Nor do I in this seek to gratify my own inclination, or to gain the applause and esteem of men; I desire nothing but to see Thee loved by all as Thou deservest. I prize my happy lot, and call myself fortunate, that Thou hast chosen me for this great work, in which, I now protest that I renounce all the praise of men and all self-satisfaction, and seek only Thy glory. To Thee be all the honour and satisfaction, and to me only the discomfort, the blame, and the reproach. Accept, O Lord, this offering which I, a miserable sinner, who wish to love Thee and to see Thee loved by others, make of myself to Thee, and give me strength to do what I desire.
Most Holy Mary, my advocate, who lovest souls so much, help me.