A Year with the Saints – 19 May


The highest degree of meekness consists in seeing, serving, honoring, and treating amiably, on occasion, those who are not to our taste, and who show themselves unfriendly, ungrateful, and troublesome to us. – Saint Francis de Sales

This holy Bishop was at one time laboring for the conversion of a heretical woman, quite advanced in years, who for a long time came to him every day with new doubts. He listened to her with great amiability and without ever showing any weariness, though he could see that he gained nothing. But the woman did not grow tired of knocking at his door three or four times a day, so much was she attracted by his gentle demeanor. Finally, she said that she had no other difficulty except in regard to the celibacy of the clergy. The Saint replied to this that it was necessary for them in order that, being free from the care of a family, they might serve the people, and that indeed it would have been difficult for him to talk with her so often, if he had a wife and children to take care of. This reason was more convincing to her than all the arguments of theologians, and she was converted.

When Saint Jane Frances de Chantal was living in the house of her father-in-law, she endeavored by the most obliging and gentle manners to win over an insolent servant who was there, and who behaved as if she herself were the mistress of the house. She tried to please her in all she thought most to her taste, and even went so far as to wash and dress, instruct and take care of, her children like her own. She reproved the servants also if they showed any contempt for her. This went on for seven years, the servant growing all the time more haughty and presumptuous. When anyone told the Saint that she was losing her time in trying to gain over such a woman by civil and gentle methods, she answered: “That would be true, if I had not others besides her in view. Did not Our Lord say that all we do for the poor, whom He commends so specially to us, He will consider as done to Himself? With God, nothing is lost, and the less gratitude we receive from men, the more account will God make of what we do to them for His sake.” To another who said that at her father-in-law’s death this servant ought to be thrown into a ditch, she answered: “No, I would take up her defense myself. If God makes use of her that I may have a cross to bear, why should I wish her ill?”

Another tried to show her how unsuitable it was that the control of the household should be in the hands of a servant. But she replied: “God ordains it thus for my advantage, that I may have all my time for works of charity.” To the father-in-law, who permitted this, she showed every mark of deference and special respect; and when she left the world, she recommended him warmly to a priest, requesting him to be present at his death.

Father John Leonardi was also remarkable for this trait. For the space of forty years he bore persecutions and trials from all kinds of people, yet he never let slip a word of aversion, anger, resentment or ill-feeling towards them, but always tried to do them good, and to help them by word and act. He constantly prayed for them, excused them, defended them, and treated each of them as he would one of his dearest friends. Though he knew that some monks of a certain Order, to which he had been sent as inspector by commission of the Apostolic See, being impatient of the regular discipline he had restored were plotting and writing to the Sacred Congregation against him, he yet showed no resentment and took no steps to defend himself. He behaved to these abbots, on the contrary, with charity and courtesy, as if they were his intimate friends; and when some of them rudely assailed him by word and act, he passed the matter over lightly and gently, correcting them mildly, or giving them some moderate penance when it was necessary, as he said, to satisfy his own conscience. But he never mentioned what had been done against himself personally, either in writing to the Sacred Congregation, in the general chapters, nor on any other occasion that offered itself. When he was walking one day in Lucca, he met one of these monks who, after loading him with harsh and abusive epithets, without any resistance on his part struck him a heavy blow on one cheek. The servant of God, without any anger, turned the other cheek, as if to receive a second blow; but the assailant, abashed at this, turned his back and went away. Then Father John, glad to see himself reckoned worthy to suffer something for the love of his God, went home, and for many days prayed for this misguided man as a special benefactor.

MLA Citation