“PATIENCE HATH A PERFECT WORK.”
How is it possible for him who looks at the Crucifix, and beholds a God dying in a sea of sorrows and insults –how is it possible for him, if he loves that God, not to suffer with cheerfulness? Yea, how is it even possible not to desire to suffer every pain for Jesus’ sake? Love makes all things easy.
O God, how is it possible for him who looks at the Crucifix, and beholds a God dying in a sea of sorrows and insults; how, I say, is it possible for him, if he loves that God, not to suffer with cheerfulness? Yea, how is it even possible not to desire to suffer every pain for Jesus’ sake? St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi used to say: “The sharpest pains become sweet when we behold Jesus on the Cross.” Justus Lipsius once found himself greatly afflicted with pains: a certain person endeavoured to encourage him to bear them with patience by placing before him the patience of the stoics; but turning to the Crucifix he said: “There is true patience!” He meant to say that the example of a God Who once suffered so much for the love of us is sufficient to animate us to endure all pain for the love of Him. “The ignominy of the Cross,” says St. Bernard, “is agreeable to him who is not ungrateful to a crucified God.” To him who loves his crucified Saviour pains and opprobrium are agreeable. When St. Eleazar was asked by his virgin spouse, St. Afra, how he could submit to so many insults from the rabble without seeking revenge, he said: “My spouse, think not that I am insensible to these insults; I feel them keenly; but I turn to Jesus on the Cross, and continue to look at Him until my soul becomes tranquil.” Love, says St. Augustine, makes all things easy. After being wounded with Divine love, St. Catherine of Genoa used to say that she knew not what it was to suffer. Although she endured the most grievous pains, she felt none of them, because she regarded them as sent by Him who loved her so tenderly. Thus also a good religious of the Society of Jesus, when God visited him with any pain, sickness, or persecution, used to say within himself: “Tell me, O pain, sickness, or persecution, who sends thee? Does God send thee? Welcome, welcome!” Thus he was always in peace.
Since, therefore, in this life we must suffer either cheerfully or with reluctance, let us endeavour to suffer with merit, that is, with patience. Patience is a shield that defends us against all the pains arising from persecutions, infirmities, losses, and other afflictions. He who has not this shield, has to bear all these pains. Let us, then, in the first place, ask this patience of God; without asking it we shall never obtain this great gift. When afflictions come upon us, let us be careful to do violence to ourselves, and not break out into words of impatience or complaint. The fire that burns in a vessel is soon extinguished when the vessel is closed. To him that overcometh, I will give the hidden manna (Apoc. ii. 17). When a person does violence to conquer himself in adversity, by instantly embracing the cross that God sends him, oh! what sweetness does the Lord not make him afterwards experience in the very tribulation he suffers–a sweetness wholly hidden from men of the world, but well known to souls that love God. St. Augustine used to say that to enjoy a good conscience in the midst of afflictions is sweeter than to live with a guilty conscience in the midst of delights. Speaking of herself, St. Teresa said: “I have several times experienced that when I generously resolve to do an act, God instantly makes the performance of it pleasant to me. He wishes the soul to feel these terrors in the beginning, that she may have greater merit.”