A Year with the Saints – 14 April


There is no better test to distinguish the chaff from the grain, in the Church of God, than the manner in which sufferings, contradiction, and contempt are borne. Whoever remains unmoved under these, is grain. Whoever rises against them is chaff; and the lighter and more worthless he is, the higher he rises – that is, the more he is agitated, and the more proudly he replies. – Saint Augustine of Hippo

A person of high rank presented himself to Saint Francis de Sales to ask a benefice for an ecclesiastic who enjoyed his patronage. The Saint replied that as to conferring benefices he had tied his own hands, for he had decided that they should be given only after a competitive examination; but that he would not forget his recommendation, if this priest would offer himself to be examined with the others. The gentleman, who was quick-tempered, believing this to be only a pretext for refusal, accused him of duplicity and hypocrisy, and even threatened him. When the Saint perceived that gentle words did no good, he entreated him not to object at least to a private examination; and, as he was still dissatisfied, “Then,” said Saint Francis, “you wish that I should entrust to him a portion of my charge with my eyes closed? Consider whether that is just!” At this, the gentleman began to raise his voice angrily, and to make all kinds of insulting remarks to the holy bishop, who bore all in unbroken silence.

An acquaintance of his, who was present, asked him after the scene was over how he had been able to endure such insults without showing the least resentment. “Do not be astonished at this,” said the Saint, “for it was not he that spoke, but his anger. Outside of this he is one of my dearest friends, and you will see after a while that my silence will increase his attachment for me.” “But did you not feel any resentment at all?” pursued the other. “I turned my thoughts in another direction,” was the answer, “setting myself to consider the good qualities of this person, whose friendship I had previously so much enjoyed.” The gentleman afterwards came and asked pardon, even with tears, and they became firmer friends than ever before. One day, as Saint Felix the Capuchin was going through the street in Rome with a flask of wine on his back, he met a gentleman on a spirited horse, which he spurred so furiously that it trampled upon one foot of the servant of God, who fell to the ground. The flask was broken, and the wine ran out upon the pavement, mingled with the blood which flowed freely from the wound. All the bystanders, affrighted at the accident, expressed their pity for the Saint. He alone retained his usual serenity of countenance, and looking at the gentleman with a mild glance, asked his pardon for his imprudence and rudeness in obstructing his path. The rider, however, instead of appreciating so much virtue, was angry, and with a haughty look and without a word of answer, spurred his horse and rode proudly away. Brother Felix, being assisted to rise by those who had gathered around, went back to his monastery as best he might. As he was not able to walk quickly for some time, on account of the injury to his foot, he used to say to himself: “Get on, you beast of an ass! what are you loitering for? You are so slow and spiritless that you will deserve the stick!” Then turning his heart to God, he would break forth into devout thanksgivings for His infinite goodness. But after the gentleman had recollected himself a little and reflected upon the wrong he had done by his scornful treatment of an innocent and holy religious, he went the next day to the monastery and falling on his knees before the Saint, begged pardon for the proud and cruel treatment he had given him. The servant of God forgave him with so much cordiality and courtesy, that he resolved to change his habits and his whole life.

This beautiful truth was known even to pagan philosophers. Saint Basil relates of Socrates, that when he was one day struck in the face, in the public square, by one of the rabble, he not only showed no anger at such an insult but, with tranquil mind and serene countenance, stood quite still until his face was livid with blows. Still more remarkable is this anecdote of Epictetus. One day his master, who had a violent temper, gave him a blow on one leg. He said to him coolly, that he had better take care not to break it; and when, by repeated blows, his master actually broke the bone, Epictetus added, without any emotion: “Did I not tell you that you were running a risk of breaking it?”

MLA Citation