"God looks neither at long nor beautiful prayers, but at those that come from the heart."

The Cure D'Ars

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"It is not God's will that we should abound in spiritual delights, but that in all things we should submit to his holy will."

Blessed Henry Suso

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"Those who love God are always happy, because their whole happiness is to fulfill, even in adversity, the will of God."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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Venerable Louis of Granada, OP  (1504-1588)

 
 

THE SINNER'S GUIDE

   

By Venerable Louis of Granada, OP

 

Motives for Practising Virtue

 

Ch 21. The Tenth Privilege of Virtue: The Consolation and Assistance with which God sustains the Just in their Afflictions


As we have already remarked, there is no sea more treacherous or more inconstant than this life. No man's happiness is secure from the danger of innumerable accidents and misfortunes. It is, therefore, important to observe how differently the just and the wicked act under tribulation. The just, knowing that God is their Father and the Physician of their souls, submissively and generously accept as the cure for their infirmities the bitter chalice of suffering. They look on tribulation as a file in the hands of their Maker to remove the rust of. sin from their souls, and to restore them to their original purity and brightness. They have learned in the school of the Divine Master that affliction renders a man more humble, increases the fervor of his prayers, and purifies his conscience.

Now, no physician more carefully proportions his remedies to the strength of his patient than this Heavenly Physician tempers trials according to the necessities of souls. Should their burdens be increased, He redoubles the measure of their consolations. Seeing from this the riches they acquire by sufferings, the just no longer fly from them, but eagerly desire them, and meet them with patience and even with joy. They regard not the labor, but the crown; not the bitter medicine, but the health to be restored to them; not the pain of their wounds, but the goodness of Him who has said that He loves those whom He chastises. (Cf. Heb. 12:6).

Grace, which is never wanting to the just in the hour of tribulation, is the first source of the fortitude which they display. Though He seems to have withdrawn from them, God is never nearer to His children than at such a time. Search the Scriptures and you will see that there is no truth more frequently repeated than this. "Call upon me in the day of trouble," says the Lord; "I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me." (Ps. 49:15). "When I called upon the Lord," David sings, "the God of my justice heard me; when I was in distress, thou hast enlarged me." (Ps. 4:2).

Hence the calmness and fortitude of the just under suffering. They are strong in the protection of a powerful Friend who constantly watches over them. Witness the three young men who were cast into the burning furnace. God sent His angel to accompany them, and "He drove the flame of the fire out of the furnace, and made the midst of the furnace like the blowing of a wind bringing dew, and the fire touched them not, nor troubled them, nor did them any harm Then Nabuchodonosor was astonished, and rose up in haste, and said to his nobles: Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered the king and said: True, O king. He answered and said: Behold I see four men loose, and walking in the midst of the fire, and there is no hurt in them, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." (Dan. 3:49-50 and 91-92). Does this not teach us that God's protection never fails the just in the hour of trial?

A no less striking example is that of Joseph, with whom God's protection "descended into the pit, and left him not till he was brought to the scepter of the kingdom, and power against those that had oppressed him, and showed them to be liars that had accused him, and gave him everlasting glory." (Wis. 10:13-14). Such examples prove more powerfully than words the truth of God's promise, "I am with him in tribulation; I will deliver him and I will glorify him." (Ps. 90:15). Oh! Happy affliction which merits for us the companionship of God! Let our prayers, then, be with St. Bernard: "Give me, O Lord, tribulations through life, that I may never be separated from Thee!" (Serm. 17 in Ps. 90).

To the direct action of grace we must add that of the virtues, each of which, in its own way, strengthens the afflicted soul. When the heart is oppressed, the blood rushes to it to facilitate its movement, to strengthen its action. So, .when the soul is oppressed by suffering, the virtues hasten to assist and strengthen it.

First comes faith, with her absolute assurance of the eternal happiness of Heaven and the eternal misery of Hell. She tells us, in the words of the Apostle, that "the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us." (Rom. 8:18). Next comes hope, softening our troubles and lightening our burdens with her glorious promises of future rewards. Then charity, the most powerful help of the soul, so inflames our will that we even desire to suffer for love of Him who has endured so much for love of us.

Gratitude reminds us that as we have received good things from God, we should also be willing to receive evil. (Cf. Job 2:10). Resignation helps us recognize and cheerfully accept God's will or permission in all things. Humility bows the heart before the wind of adversity, like a young tree swept by the storm. Patience gives us strength above nature to enable us to bear the heaviest burden. Obedience tells us that there is no holocaust more pleasing to God than that which we make of our will by our perfect submission to Him. Penance urges that it is but just that one who has so often resisted God's will should have his own will denied in many things. Fidelity pleads that we should rejoice to be able to prove our devotion to Him who unceasingly showers His benefits upon us.

Finally, the memory of Christ's Passion and the lives of the saints show us how cowardly it would be to complain of our trials. Yet among all the virtues, hope consoles us most effectually. "Rejoice in hope," says the Apostle; "be patient in tribulation" (Rom. 12:12), thus teaching us that our patience is the result of our hope. Again, he calls hope an anchor (Heb. 6:19), because it holds firm and steady the frail barque of our life in the midst of the most tempestuous storms.

Strengthened by these considerations and by God's unfailing grace, the just endure tribulation not only with invincible fortitude, but even with cheerfulness and gratitude. They know that the duty of a good Christian does not consist solely in praying, fasting, or hearing Mass, but in proving their faith under tribulation, as did Abraham, the father of the faithful, and Job, the most patient of men. Consider also the example of Tobias, who, after suffering many trials, was permitted by God to lose his sight. The Holy Ghost bears witness to his invincible patience and virtue. "Having always feared God from his infancy, and kept his commandments, he repined not against God because the evil of blindness had befallen him, but continued immovable in the fear of God, giving thanks to God all the days of his life." (Tob, 2:13-14). We could cite numerous examples of men and women who even in our time have cheerfully and lovingly borne cruel infirmities and painful labors, finding honey in gall, calm in tempest, refreshment and peace in the midst of the flames of Babylon.

But we feel that we have said sufficient to prove that God consoles the just in their sufferings, and therefore we shall next consider the unfortunate condition of the wicked when laboring under affliction. Devoid of hope, of charity, of courage, of every sustaining virtue, tribulation attacks them unarmed and defenceless. Their dead faith sheds no ray of light upon the darkness of their afflictions. Hope holds out no future reward to sustain their failing courage. Strangers to charity, they know not the loving care of their Heavenly Father. How lamentable a sight to behold them swallowed in the gulf of tribulation! Utterly defenceless, how can they breast the angry waves? How can they escape being dashed to pieces against the rocks of pride, despair, rage, and blasphemy?

Have we not seen unhappy souls lose their health, their reason, their very life in the excess of their misery? While the just, like pure gold, come out of the crucible of suffering refined and purified, the wicked, like some viler metal, are melted and dissolved. While the wicked shed bitter tears, the. just sing songs of gladness. "The voice of rejoicing and of salvation is in the tabernacles of the just" (Ps. 117:15), while the habitations of sinners resound with cries of sorrow and despair.

Observe, moreover, the extravagant grief of the wicked when those they love are taken from them by death. They storm against Heaven; they deny God's justice; they blaspheme His mercy; they accuse His providence; they rage against men; and not unfrequently they end their miserable lives by their own hands. Their curses and blasphemies bring upon them terrible calamities, for the Divine Justice cannot but punish those who rebel against the providence of God.
Unhappy souls! The afflictions which are sent for the cure of their disorders only increase their misery. May we not say that the pains of Hell begin for them even in this life? Consider, too, the loss which they suffer by their murmurings and impatience. No man can escape the trials of life, but all can lighten their burden and merit eternal reward by bearing their sorrows in patience. Not only is this precious fruit lost by the wicked, but to the load of misery which they are compelled to carry they add the still more intolerable burden of their impatience and rebellion. They are like a traveler who, after a long and weary journey through the night, finds himself in the morning further than ever from the place he wished to reach.

What a subject is this for our contemplation! "The same fire," says St. Chrysostom, "which purifies gold, consumes wood; so in the fire of tribulation the just acquire new beauty and perfection, while the wicked, like dry wood, are reduced to ashes." (Hom.14 in Matt.1). St. Cyprian expresses the same thought by another illustration: "As the wind in harvest time scatters the chaff but cleanses the wheat, so the winds of adversity scatter the wicked but purify the just." (De Unitate Eccl.).

The passage of the children of Israel through the Red Sea is still another figure of the same truth. Like protecting walls the waters rose on each side of the people, and gave them a safe passage to the dry land; but as soon as the Egyptian army with its king and chariots had entered the watery breach, the same waves closed upon them and buried them in the sea. In like manner the waters of tribulation are a preservation to the just, while to the wicked they are a tempestuous gulf which sweeps them into the abyss of rage, of blasphemy, and of despair.

Behold the admirable advantage which virtue possesses over vice. It was for this reason that philosophers so highly extolled philosophy, persuaded that its study rendered man more constant and more resolute in adversity, But this was one of their numerous errors. True constancy, like true virtue, cannot be drawn from the teaching of worldly philosophy. It must be learned in the school of the Divine Master, who from His cross consoles us by His example, and from His throne in Heaven sends us His Spirit to strengthen and encourage us by the hope of an immortal crown.