Patience in Sickness

I find in the Gospel a perfect model of this virtue in the person of St. Peter’s mother-in-law. This good woman, attacked by a heavy fever, remained tranquil and peaceful, without any uneasiness herself, and without causing any to those around her.

She was content to suffer her malady in patience and in meekness. O God! How happy she was, and how well she deserved to be taken care of, for the Apostles obtained her cure without being solicited by her, impelled only by a motive of charity and compassion to relieve her.

This dear patient knew well that Our Lord was at Capharnaum, and that He cured the sick; nevertheless, she was not anxious to send a messenger to tell Him of what she suffered. But what is still more admirable is, that she saw Him in her house, where He looked upon her, and she also looked upon Him; and she did not say a single word to excite Him to compassion, nor did she put herself in the way of touching Him in order to be cured.

Still more, she did not appear to make any account of her malady, she was not affected in describing it, she did not complain of it, she did not ask anyone to pity her or to obtain her cure. She was content that God, and those who governed her, knew it. She regarded Our Lord not only as her sovereign physician, but also as her God, to whom she belonged equally in health and in sickness, being as content in sickness as in health.

Oh, how many persons would have had the cleverness to try to get cured by Our Lord, and would have said that they asked health only the better to serve Him, fearing lest anything should be wanting to Him! But this holy woman did not think of that, showing her resignation, and asking nothing of Our Lord, but His most holy will.

Yet I do not mean to say that we cannot make a petition to Our Lord, with this condition: “If such be His will.” It is not sufficient to be sick because God wishes it, but we must also be content to suffer it as He wishes, when He wishes, during the time He wishes, and in the manner He wishes, making no choice or refusal of any malady, however abject or humiliating it may be; for sickness without abjection often inflates the heart instead of humbling it. But when accompanied with confusion, what an opportunity of practicing patience, humility, and meekness of spirit and of heart!

Let us then have a great care, after the example of this holy woman, to keep our heart in meekness, turning our maladies to advantage as she did; for, being cured, she arose immediately and served Our Lord, using her health only for His good pleasure. In this generous forgetfulness of self, she did not imitate those persons of the world, who, having been sick for a few days, take weeks and months to recover.

As to the afflictions of your heart, you can easily discern those for which there is a remedy, from those for which there is none. Where there is a remedy, you should endeavor peacefully and sweetly to procure it; and where there is not, you should endure the affliction as a mortification which Our Lord sends upon you, in order to exercise you, and make you entirely His own.

Beware of yielding to complaints; rather oblige your heart to suffer tranquilly; and if it happens to make some sally of impatience, restore it to peace and meekness. Believe me, God loves the souls that are agitated by the waves and tempests of this world, provided they receive their tribulations from His hands, and, like valiant warriors, endeavor to maintain their fidelity amid a thousand dangers.

I should not wonder if, henceforward, age and the nature of your constitution, would often cause you to be delicate; and, therefore, I advise you to exercise yourself much in the love of the most amiable will of God, in the renunciation of exterior comforts, and in sweetness in the midst of bitterness; you cannot make a more excellent sacrifice. Hold fast to it, and practice not only a solid love, but a tender, sweet, and gentle love towards those around you: I say this from the experience I have had, that infirmities, though never depriving us of charity, take away, nevertheless, a spirit of gentleness towards the neighbor, unless we are greatly on our guard against them.

This article is taken from a chapter in Consoling Thoughts on Sickness and Death by St. Francis de Sales which is published by TAN Books



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