THE PRACTICE OF THE LOVE OF JESUS CHRIST
“Charity beareth all things.”
HE THAT LOVES JESUS CHRIST BEARS ALL THINGS FOR HIM, AND ESPECIALLY ILLNESS, POVERTY, AND CONTEMPT.
Father Balthazar Alvarez said that a Christian must not imagine himself to have made any progress in perfection until he has succeeded in penetrating his heart with a lasting sense of the sorrows, poverty, and ignominies of Jesus Christ, so as to be able to support with loving patience every sorrow, privation, and contempt, for the sake of Jesus Christ.
In the first place, let us speak of bodily infirmities, which, when borne with patience, merit for us a beautiful crown.
St. Vincent de Paul said: “Did we but know how precious a treasure is contained in infirmities, we would accept them with joy as the greatest of all possible blessings.” Hence the Saint himself, though constantly afflicted with ailments that often let him no rest day or night, bore them with so much peace and serenity of countenance that no one could guess that anything ailed him at all. Oh, how edifying to see a sick person bear his illness with a peaceful countenance, as did St. Francis de Sales! When he was ill, he simply made known his complaint to the physician, obeyed him exactly by taking the prescribed medicines, however nauseous; and for the rest, he remained at peace, never uttering a single complaint in all his sufferings. What a contrast to this is the conduct of those who do nothing but complain even for the most trifling indisposition, and who would like to have around them all their relatives and friends in order to have their sympathy! Far different was the instruction of St. Teresa to her nuns: “My sisters, learn to suffer something for the love of Jesus Christ, without letting all the world know of it.” One Good Friday Jesus Christ favoured the Venerable Father Louis da Ponte with so much bodily suffering that no part of him was exempt from its particular pain; he mentioned his severe sufferings to a friend, but he was afterwards so sorry at having done so that he made a vow never again to reveal to anybody whatever he might afterwards have to suffer. I say “he was favoured”; for, to the Saints, the illnesses and pains which God sends them are real favours.
One day as St. Francis of Assisi lay on his bed in excruciating torments, a companion said to him: “Father, beg of God to ease your pains, and not to lay so heavy a hand upon you.” On hearing this the Saint instantly leaped from his bed, and going down on his knees, thanked God for his sufferings; then, turning to his companion he said: “Listen; did I not know that you so spoke from simplicity, I would refuse ever to see you again.”
Some one who is sick will say it is not so much the infirmity itself that afflicts me as that it prevents me from going to church to perform my devotions, to communicate, and to hear Holy Mass; I cannot go to choir to recite the Divine Office with my brethren; I cannot celebrate Mass; I cannot pray; for my head is aching with pain, and light almost to fainting. But tell me now, if you please, why do you wish to go to church or to choir? Why would you communicate and say or hear Holy Mass? Is it to please God? but it is not now the pleasure of God that you say Office; that you communicate, or hear Mass; but that you remain patiently on this bed, and support the pains of this infirmity. But you are not pleased with my speaking thus; then you are not seeking to do what is pleasing to God, but what is pleasing to yourself. The Blessed John of Avila wrote as follows to a priest who so complained to him: “My friend, busy not yourself with what you would do if you were well, but be content to remain ill as long as God thinks fit. If you seek the will of God, what matters it to you whether you be well or ill?”