A Year with the Saints – 23 November

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Let us beware of complaints, resentments and evil-speaking against those who are ill-disposed to us, discontented with us, or hostile to our plans and arrangements, or who even persecute us with injuries, insults, and calumnies. Rather let us go on treating them as cordially as at first, or more so, as far as possible showing them esteem, always speaking well of them, doing them good, serving them on occasion, even to the point of taking shame and disgrace upon ourselves, if necessary to save their honor. All this ought to be done, first, to overcome evil with good, according to the teaching of the Apostles; and secondly, because they are our allies rather than our adversaries, as they aid us to destroy self-love, which is our greatest foe; and since it is they who give us an opportunity to gain merit, they ought to be considered our dearest friends. – Saint Vincent de Paul

It was thus that he himself treated those who offended him. He not only pardoned them willingly, and obtained pardon from the government for them when required, but compassionated them, excused them, showed for them the same esteem, affection and respect as if nothing had happened, and did them all the good that was in his power. Still more, as he was very sensitive regarding fraternal charity, he took care to extirpate from their hearts the root of rancor and to gain their affection by exonerating them, humbling himself, and bending to them so much that they were obliged to yield to his humility and charity. He was never heard to complain of anyone, whatever offense he had given, and still less to blame or accuse any, so long as his own interests were the only ones involved. One day a missionary of his Congregation told him that some people, moved, as he thought, by envy, were putting obstacles in the way of the ordination of some new priests. “Yes,” he answered, “this function frequently excites emulation and envy. But those who are now in opposition, may have a good and upright motive. So, we ought to preserve all our esteem and respect for them, and believe with them that we are unworthy of such a charge, and that others would execute it better than we. Let us profit by this sentiment, and give ourselves to God in truth, to serve Him faithfully.”

Saint Francis de Sales was once talking with an intimate friend, who said that, in his opinion, one of the most difficult precepts of Christianity was that of love towards enemies. “For my part,” said Saint Francis, “I do not know what my heart is made of, or whether God has been graciously pleased to give me one quite peculiar. For I do not find the fulfillment of this precept in the least difficult; on the contrary, I experience so much pleasure in it, that if God had forbidden me to love my neighbors, I should have the greatest difficulty in obeying Him.” The following incident shows how truly he spoke.

A lawyer of Annecy hated the holy prelate for no visible cause and was constantly speaking ill of him, injuring and persecuting him, so that he even tore down one of his notices which was fastened upon the church door and scrawled a thousand disgraceful figures on his confessional. The Saint, who knew all this, met him one day and made him a friendly bow; then taking him by the hand with great politeness, he said whatever he thought most likely to make him change his course; but seeing that his words produced no effect, he added: “I clearly perceive that you hate me, though I do not know why. But assure yourself that if you were to put out one of my eyes, I would look at you with the other as amicably as if you were my best friend.” His heart, however, was not softened by this, nor by the efforts of his friends to lead him to reconsider his actions. On the contrary, after firing pistol shots at his windows, he one day fired at the Bishop himself in the street, but by mistake wounded his vicar. For this act he was imprisoned by the senate, and not withstanding the interposition of the Saint, he was condemned to death. But the holy Bishop, having obtained a reprieve, used his influence with the king so successfully as to obtain his pardon. He went himself to the prison to bring the good news, and to entreat him to abandon a hostility for which he had no just cause. Finding him hardened as ever and ready with calumnies and insults, he knelt and asked his pardon. Finally, perceiving that nothing would move him, he left by his side the pardon he had obtained for him and took leave, saying: “I have rescued you from the hands of man’s justice, and you are not converted. You will fall under the justice of God, from which you cannot escape.” This soon happened; for a little while after, his life came to an unhappy end.

In the Lives of the Fathers we read of a monk who, when he knew that another was speaking ill of him, was much pleased, and often visited him when such a one was in the neighborhood, and sent him presents when at a distance.

There was also another, who always showed the greatest love to any who insulted him, saying to those who were astonished at it: “Those who insult us give us the means of perfecting ourselves; and those who praise and honor us put stumbling blocks before our feet, and give us subjects of pride.”

An old monk, too, is mentioned, whose cell was often entered secretly by another monk, who robbed him of anything good that he had, particularly in the way of food. This the good old man noticed in silence, and worked harder than before, and ate less, saying to himself, “This poor brother must be in want.” When the holy old man lay on his deathbed, surrounded by the monks, he saw among them the robber, and begging him to approach, he clasped his hands and kissed them, saying: “Dear hands! how much am I obliged to you! I thank you with all possible earnestness, for by your means I am now going to Paradise!”

Saint Teresa was accustomed to redouble her charity towards those who offended her. Saint Francis Borgia used to call those who brought upon him any mortification or trial his assistants and friends. A certain good nun, whenever she received an injury from anyone, always hastened to the Most Holy Sacrament and made an offering of it, saying: “O Lord, for love of Thee I pardon her who has done me this wrong! Mayest Thou pardon her for love of me!”

One of her nuns once told Saint Jane Frances de Chantal that another Sister had revealed some of her faults, but she had resolved, for the love of God, not to do the same to her in return. The good Mother embraced her tenderly, saying: “May it please my God that this resolution shall never pass away from your mind! I should consider myself most happy if I could find it in the hearts of all our Sisters.”

MLA Citation