“PATIENCE HATH A PERFECT WORK”
He who resolves to suffer for God, suffers no more pain. St. Gertrude used to say that so great was her enjoyment in suffering that no time was more painful to her than that in which she was free from pain. Ah yes, souls who understand the language of love, know well how to find all their happiness in suffering.
He who resolves to suffer for God, suffers no more pain. Let us read the Lives of the Saints, and we shall see how they were enamoured of suffering.
St. Gertrude used to say that so great was her enjoyment in suffering that no time was more painful than that in which she was free from pain. St. Teresa used to say that she did not wish to live without suffering; hence she would often exclaim: “Either to suffer or to die!” St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi went so far as to say: “To suffer and not to die!”
When the tyrant was preparing new torments for the Martyr Procopius, the Saint said to him: “Torment me as much as you please; but do you not know that to him who loves Jesus Christ there is nothing more dear than to suffer for Jesus Christ.”
St. Gordian, as St. Basil relates, being threatened with great torments if he refused to deny Jesus Christ, answered: “I am sorry that I can die but once for my Saviour Jesus Christ.”
To the tyrant who threatened to cast her into a caldron of boiling pitch, St. Potamiena, Virgin, said: “I entreat you to let me down into this caldron, not at once, but by degrees, that thus I may suffer more for my Jesus.” The tyrant complied with her request; and she was let down gradually into the caldron, till the pitch having reached her neck took away her speech and her life.
Baronius describes the Martyrdom of three holy Virgins, called Faith, Hope, and Charity, who when threatened with torments by the tyrant Antiochus courageously said: “Do you not know that to Christians nothing is more desirable than to suffer for Jesus Christ?” St. Faith was first scourged; her breasts were then cut off, she was afterwards tormented with fire, and finally beheaded. St. Hope was first beaten with the sinews of an ox; her ribs were then torn with iron combs, and she was afterwards thrown into a vessel of burning pitch. St. Charity, the youngest, was not more than nine years old, and hence the tyrant expected that she would yield through fear of torments. He said to her: “My child, be you at least wise, unless you wish to be tortured like your sisters.” The holy child answered: “You deceive yourself, O Antiochus; all your torments shall not make me forsake Jesus Christ.” The tyrant ordered her to be fastened to a rope, and to be cast several times from a height to the ground, until all her bones were dislocated. He then commanded her members to be pierced with sharp irons, so that she died exhausted of blood.
O my God, if I have not hitherto loved Thee, I now give myself entirely to Thee. I wish to renounce all things to love only Thee, my Saviour, Who art worthy of infinite love. I have sinned enough against Thee. The remainder of my life I wish to spend in loving Thy Heart, which is so enamoured of me. Tell me all Thou willest. I wish to do it. Give me strength to execute Thy will. I love Thee, O infinite Goodness, I love Thee with my whole heart; and for Thy sake I accept all the pains Thou shalt be pleased to send me.
Mary, my Mother, assist me by thy intercession; in thee I trust.
In Japan a certain married woman called Maxentia was subjected to torments for the Faith. One of the executioners wished to alleviate her pains, but she rejected the offer. Seeing her continue firm in confessing the Faith, one of her persecutors pointed a sword twice to her cheek in order to terrify her; but she said to him: “O God, how do you expect to terrify me with that death which I desire? The way to fill me with terror is to promise me life.” After these words she exposed her neck to the executioner, and suffered Martyrdom.
In Japan, also, Father John Baptist Maciado; of the Society of Jesus, was confined in a damp prison, in which he remained for forty days in such intense pain that he could not rest by night or by day. From this prison he wrote to another Religious: “My Father, notwithstanding all my pains, I would not exchange my condition for that of the first monarch of the earth.”
From a prison in which he had a great deal to suffer Father Charles Spinola wrote to his companions: “Oh! how sweet is it to suffer for Jesus Christ! I have received the news of my condemnation. I pray you to thank the Divine goodness for the great gift bestowed upon me.” In the same letter he added: “Charles Spinola condemned for Jesus Christ.” Soon after he was burnt alive on a slow fire. It is said that, in thanksgiving to God, when he was fastened to the stake he intoned the Psalm–Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes: O praise the Lord, all ye nations (Ps. cxvi.). Thus he died.
But how, some one may ask with wonder, were the holy Martyrs able to suffer with so much joy? Were they not flesh? Or did the Lord make them insensible to pain? No, says St. Bernard, their patience and jubilation under such terrible sufferings were the effect not of insensibility, but of the love they bore to Jesus Christ. They were not exempt from pain, but through love for their Lord they conquered and despised it. That great servant of God, Father Hippolitus Durazza, of the Society of Jesus, used to say: “Let God cost what He will, the price is never too great.” And St. Joseph Calasanctius said that he who knows not how to suffer for Jesus Christ knows not how to gain Jesus Christ. Ah! souls that understand the language of love, being convinced that by embracing crosses they please God, know well how to find all their happiness in suffering.
My crucified Jesus, Thou hast suffered so many sorrows and insults for my sake; Thou hast died in order to gain my love, and I have so often renounced Thy love for nothing. Have mercy on me and pardon me. Blessed be Thy mercy which has borne with me so long and with so much patience. During that time I neither loved Thee nor cared to be loved by Thee. I now love Thee with my whole soul; and the greatest of all my pains is that which arises from having offended Thee Who has loved me so tenderly. Yes, this is my greatest pain. But it is a pain that consoles me, because it gives me confidence that Thou hast already pardoned me. Oh, that I had died rather than have ever offended Thee!