Friday, February 01, 2008

Advice from St. Francis de Sales, on Suffering

My friend who is reading the letters of St. Francis de Sales, to persons in the world, sent this excerpt today. I thought of the victim souls of the Sacred Heart. There is one person who I wished was still reading these, as this might mean very much to the person who has suffered and yet seems unable to absorb the suffering in the meaningful aspects of victim soulhood. However, what SFDS writes is quite meaningful to me, and even in suffering a sinus infection and cold, it is worth heeding the saint's advice.

After all, Christianity is about suffering, and love, and love, and suffering. Christ lived this out for us to learn from Him.

To a woman suffering great physical pain
"You are being crowned with His crown of thorns."

"...To love God in sugar--little children would do as much.
But to love Him in wormwood, that is the test of our
amorous fidelity. To say VIVE JESUS on the mountain of
Tabor, St. Peter, while still carnal, has courage enough;
but to say VIVE JESUS on Mount Calvary--this belongs only
to the Mother, and to the beloved disciple who was left to
her as her son.

So then, my daughter, behold I commend you to God, to
obtain for you that sacred patience...

...But you will say, you can hardly keep your thoughts on
the pains our Lord has suffered for you, while your own
pangs oppress you. Well, my dearest child, you are not
obliged to do so, provided that you quite simply offer up
your heart as frequently as you are able to this Savior,
and make the following acts:

First, accept the pain from His hand, as if you see Him
Himself putting and pressing it on your head.

Second, offer yourself to suffer more.

Third, beg our Savior by the merit of His torments to
accept these little distresses in union with the pains He
suffered on the Cross.

Next, protest that you wish not only to suffer, but to love
and cherish these sufferings since they are sent from so
good and so sweet a hand.

Lastly, invoke the martyrs and the many servants of God,
who enjoy Heaven as a result of their having been afflicted
in this world.

It is not dangerous to desire a cure. Indeed you must
carefully seek one; for God, who has given you the evil, is
also author of its cure..."
I find the step-by-step recommendations to be very good. It is as well to simply try to do as St. Francis de Sales recommends, in that order. Why not? Suffering works. And the suffering can be as slight as a head cold or as slight as a personal "slight" from a friend, or even from one who has decided to make one into his or her enemy! It is of benefit to ponder just why God has sent certain sufferings, and to note when He sends them, and to detect even a kind of "theme" of the sufferings--for there always seems to be a theme of lessons He is teaching us in these sufferings (besides the on-going them of love!).

Sometimes He wants us to slow down so we have time to ponder. Sometimes He seems to want us to consider someone we need to forgive, or to forgive ourselves, or to understand a theological and Scriptural truth. Sometimes He wants us to rest in Him.


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