A Year with the Saints – 25 February


One who wishes to become truly holy ought not, except in a few unusual cases, to excuse himself, although that for which he is blamed be not true. Jesus Christ acted thus. He heard Himself charged with evil which He had not done, but said not a word to free Himself from the disgrace. Saint Philip Neri

The Empress Leonora was treated by her mother always with harshness, and without any appearance of affection. For the smallest things that were observed by no one else, her mother reproved her sharply at every turn, and frequently struck her. The good child remained always in silence, with her eyes cast down, uttering not a word in her defense, still less complaining or weeping. Often when the tempest has passed, she would kneel and kiss her mother’s feet, asking her pardon and promising amendment.

Saint Vincent de Paul never justified himself against the complaints and calumnies brought against him and his Congregation, whatever trouble or loss they might cause. Once when he had used his influence to prevent a bishopric from being conferred on one of his subjects, whom he considered unworthy of it, the disappointed candidate invented an enormous calumny against him, which came to the ears of the Queen. One day, meeting the Saint, she told him laughingly that he had been accused of such and such a thing. He calmly replied, “Madam, I am a great sinner.” When her Majesty said that he ought to assert his innocence, he answered, “Quite as much was said against Christ our Lord, and He never justified Himself.” It happened that, one time, in a public hall, a nobleman said that the missionary zeal of Saint Vincent’s followers had greatly cooled. When the Saint heard this, he would not say a word in defense, though he could easily have proved the contrary of the assertion, for in that year and the preceding more missions had been given than ever before. To one who urged him to take notice of the affair by telling him that this gentleman, though not knowing the truth, was continuing to speak evil of the Congregation, he answered, “We will let him talk. For my part, I will never justify myself except by my works.” It chanced, one day, that a prelate, having summoned the Saint to an assembly where many persons of rank were present, reproved him publicly for a thing for which he was not at all to blame. But he, without a word of complaint or excuse, immediately knelt and asked pardon, to the great admiration of those present, to whom his innocence was known. One of them, a man of much piety and learning, after the assembly was over and the Saint was gone, said that he was a man of extraordinary virtue and of a supernatural and Divine spirit.

The venerable Mother Seraphina never excused herself, even to her confessors, though they might blame her wrongfully; nor did she explain how matters really stood, unless obliged by obedience. Once, in particular, when she was sharply reproved by her director, though the thing laid to her charge was not true, she replied only: “You are right.” Afterwards, he commanded her to tell him the truth, and on hearing it he was sorry for his wrongful accusations.

MLA Citation