St.,Anna's,Cathedral,In,Belfast

Preserving Peace of Soul in Times of Trial

Nothing disturbs us so much as self-love and self-esteem. If our heart does not overflow with tender emotions, if our mind does not teem with sublime sentiments, if our soul is not inundated with exquisite sweetness, we are sad. If anything difficult is to be done, if any obstacle opposes our just designs, behold us in a state of precipitation to have it overcome, and we are overcome ourselves by the precipitation. 

Why is this so? Undoubtedly, because we are too much attached to our comfort, our ease, our convenience. We would wish to say our prayers in a region of eau de cologne, and practice heroic virtue eating sugar cake; but we do not consider the meek Jesus, prostrate on the earth, sweating blood, though the dreadful combat that rages in His interior, between the feelings of the inferior part of His soul and the resolutions of the superior part.

Hence it happens that when we fall into any fault or sin, we are astonished, troubled, and impatient.  We only desire consolations, and are unwilling to put a finger on our misery, our weakness, or our nothingness.

Were we to do a few things, we should find peace: let us have a pure intention to seek on all occasions the honor and glory of God; let us perform the little we can for this object, according to the advice of our spiritual father, and leave the rest to God.

Why should he who has God for the object of his intentions, and who does what he can, torment himself? Why should he trouble himself? What has he to fear? No, no, God is not so terrible to those who love Him; He is content with a little, for He knows that we have not much.

And know that Our Lord is called in Scripture the Prince of Peace, and hence, wherever He is absolute Master, He preserves peace. It is nevertheless true, that, before establishing peace in any place, He first makes war there, separating the heart and soul from their dearest and most intimate affections, such as immoderate love of oneself, confidence and complacency in oneself, and other like evils. When Our Lord separates us from these cherished and favorite passions, it seemed as if he excoriated our living heart, and we are filled with the most bitter sentiments; we can hardly prevent our whole soul from discussing its misfortune, so sensible is this separation. 

But all this disputation of mind is not inconsistent with peace, when, though almost submerged by desolation, we still keep out will resigned to that of Our Lord, nailed to His divine good pleasure, and cease not from the performance of our duties, but fulfill them courageously.  Of which Our Lord gives us an example in the Garden; for, overwhelmed with interior and exterior affliction, He resigned His heart sweetly into His Father’s will, saying: “Not my will, but Thine be done,” and ceased not, great as was His anguish, to visit and admonish His disciples. To preserve peace in the midst of war, and sweetness in the midst of bitterness, is indeed worthy of the Prince of Peace. 

From what I have just said, I desire you to draw three conclusions: first, while we often imagine peace to be lost, because we are in pain, it is not lost, as may easily be known by the fact that we will wish to renounce ourselves, to depend on the good pleasure of God, and to fulfill the duties of our state; second, that we must of necessity endure interior pain, while God tears away the last remnant of the old man, to renovate us in the new man who is created according to God, and therefore we should not be troubled, or suppose that we have fallen into disgrace with Our Lord; third, that all those thoughts which cause vexation and agitation of mind cannot proceed from God, who is the Prince of Peace, but are temptations of the enemy, and therefore to be rejected and disregarded. 

Humility enables us to view our imperfections undisturbed, remembering those of others. For why should we be more perfect than others? In like manner, it enables us to view the imperfections of others without trouble, remembering our own.  For why should we think it strange that others have imperfections, when we have them ourselves? Humility makes our heart meek towards the perfect and the imperfect, towards the former through reverence, towards the latter through compassion. Humility helps us to receive sufferings meekly, knowing that we deserve them, and favors reverently, knowing that we do not deserve them.

This article is taken from a chapter in Consoling Thoughts on Trials of An Interior Life by St. Francis de Sales which is available from TAN Books.

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