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Friday, June 30, 2017

Trials which we must Expect to have in Religious Life

(By St. Alphonsus de Ligouri)

When, then, any one has thus entered religion, however truly he may be called, andthough he may have conquered all his passions and his earthly affections, let him not imaginethat he will be exempt from other temptations and trials, which God himself will send him, suchas tediousness, darkness, various fears, in order to establish him more firmly in his vocation. Wemust remember that even the saints, who have loved their vocation the most, have sometimessuffered great darkness with regard to it, and that it seemed to them as if they were deceived andwould not be able to save themselves in that state. So it happened with St. Teresa. St. John of theCross, St. Frances de Chantal. But by recommending themselves to God, that darkness wasdissipated, and they recovered their peace of mind. Thus the Lord tries his most belovedchildren, as it was said to Tobias: “Because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary thattemptations should prove thee” (Tobias 12:13). And in the book of Deuteronomy: “The Lordyour God trieth you, that it may appear whether you love him or not” (Deuteronomy 13:3). Leteach one therefore prepare himself to suffer in religion this obscurity. It will sometimes appear tohim that he cannot bear the observances of the Order: that he will have no more peace of mind,or will not even be able to save himself. But most of all, every one must be on his guard whenthe temptation presents specious scruples or pretexts of greater spiritual good, in order to makehim abandon his vocation. The principal remedies in such temptations are two in number.

15First remedy: To have recourse to God.The first is to have recourse to prayer: “Go ye to him and be enlightened” (Psalms 33:6).For as it will not be possible for temptation to overcome him who has recourse to prayer, so hewho does not recommend himself to God will surely be overcome by it. And let it be remarked,that sometimes it will not suffice to have recourse to God once, or for a few days, to becomevictorious. Perhaps the Lord will permit the temptation to continue, even after we have prayedfor several weeks, months, and even years; but let us be assured that he who ceases not torecommend himself to God will certainly be enlightened and victorious, and thereafter he willhave more peace and be more firm in his vocation.Until we have gone through that storm, which for the most part comes over all, let noneof us think himself secure. Let it be remarked, however, that in this time of temptation we shouldnot expect to have fervor, and a clearness of reason sufficient to tranquillize ourselves; for in themidst of this darkness we see nothing but confusion. We have nothing then to do but to say to theLord: O Lord, help me! O Lord, help me! And also to have frequently recourse to the BlessedVirgin Mary, who is the Mother of perseverance, confiding in that divine promise: “Ask, and youshall receive” (John 16:24). And it is certain that he who with the help of divine grace isvictorious in such a combat finds afterwards a double calm and peace in his vocation.Second remedy: To have recourse to the Superiors.The second remedy, and a principal and necessary one in such temptations, is tocommunicate to the Superiors, or to the spiritual Father of the Community, the temptation thatafflicts you, and this at once, before the temptation becomes strong. St. Philip Neri said thatwhen a temptation is thus manifested it is half vanquished. On the contrary, there is in such acase no greater evil than to conceal the temptation from Superiors; for then, on the one hand,God withdraws his light because of the little fidelity shown by the subject in not disclosing it,and on the other, whilst the mine is not sprung, the temptation gains strength. Hence it may beheld for certain, that he will surely lose his vocation who, when he is tempted against it, does notdisclose his temptations.Let it be understood that in religion the most dangerous temptations that hell can bringagainst a subject are those against vocation, in which, if it should succeed and conquer, by thatone stroke it will have gained many victories; for when a subject has lost his vocation and leftreligion, what good will he further be able to do in the service of God? Though the enemy maymake him believe that out of religion he will have more peace and be able to do more good,nevertheless let him hold for certain, that as soon as he is out of it he will feel such a remorse inhis heart that he will never more have peace. And God grant that such a remorse may not tormenthim afterwards through all eternity in hell, in which, as has already been said, he who through hisown fault loses his vocation falls so very easily. He will be so lukewarm and discouraged indoing good, that he will not even have the courage to raise his eyes to heaven. It will be an easything for him to give up prayer altogether, because as often as he begins it he will feel a hell of remorse, hearing his conscience reproach him, and saying: What hast thou don't thou hastabandoned God; thou hast lost thy vocation, and for what? To follow thine own caprice, to pleasethy parents. Let him be certain that he will have to hear this reproach through his whole life, andstill more shall he hear it made to him in the hour of his death, when, in sight of eternity, insteadof dying in the house of God and in the midst of good brethren in religion, he will have to die outside of the Community, perhaps in his own house, in the midst of his relatives, to pleasewhom he has displeased God. Let religious always beseech God to let them die rather than topermit that greatest of disgraces, the greatness of which they will better understand at the hour of death and to their greater torment, because then there will be no more any remedy for their error.For him, then, who is tempted against his vocation this is the best meditation that he can make atthe time of the temptation, that is, namely, to reflect what torment the remorse of having lost hisvocation, and of having to die out of religion, through his own caprice, through his own fault,will cause him at the hour of death.ConclusionFinally, let him who wishes to enter religion not forget to resolve to become a saint, andto suffer every exterior and interior pain, in order to be faithful to God, and not to lose hisvocation. And if he be not resolved to do this, I exhort him not to deceive the Superiors andhimself, and not to enter at all, for this is a sign that he is not called, or, which is a still greaterevil, that he wishes not to correspond, as he should, with the grace of his vocation. Hence, withso bad a disposition it is better to remain without, in order to acquire a better disposition, and toresolve to give himself entirely to God, and to suffer all for God. Otherwise he will do an injuryboth to himself and to the Order; for he will easily go back to the world, and then, beingdisgraced before the world, as well as before God, he will be guilty of a still further infidelity tohis vocation, and will lose the confidence in the power of taking another step in the way of God.God only knows into what other misfortunes and sins he may afterwards fall.On the other hand, a beautiful sight it is to see in religion souls wholly given to God, wholive in the world as if out of the world, without any other thought than that of pleasing God. Inreligion each one has to live only for eternal life. What happiness for us, if we spend these fewdays of our life for God! And to this he is most especially obliged who has perhaps already spentmuch of his life in the service of the world. Let us set eternity before our eyes, and then we shallsuffer all with peace and joyfulness.Let us thank God, who gives us so much light and so many means to serve Him perfectly,since He has chosen us, from among so many, to serve Him in religion, having bestowed on usthe gift of His holy love. Let us make haste to please Him in the practice of virtue, reflecting, asSt. Teresa said to her daughters, that we have already by His grace done the principal thingnecessary to become saints, by turning our backs on the world and all its goods; the least yetremains to be done, in order that we may be saints. I hold it for certain, that for those who die inreligion, Jesus Christ has prepared a prominent place in paradise. On this earth we shall be poor,despised, and treated as fools, as imprudent men, but in the other life our lot will be changed.Let us always recommend ourselves to our Redeemer hidden in the Sacrament, and toMost Holy Mary, because in religion all subjects must profess a most special love for Jesus in theBlessed Sacrament, and for the Immaculate Virgin Mary, and let us have great confidence. JesusChrist has chosen us to be princes of his court, as we may confidently conclude from theprotection that He extends to all religious Orders, and to each member of them. “The Lord is mylight and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” (Psalms 26:1) O Lord! Finish Thy work, and for Thyglory grant us to be all Thine, so that all the members of Thy Orders may until the day of udgment be pleasing to Thee, and gain over to Thee an immense number of souls. Amen. Amen.