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Friday, December 1, 2023

Advice to a young person in doubt about the state of life she ought to embrace

(By St. Alphonsus de Liguori)

My Dear Sister In Jesus Christ: You are deliberating about the choice of a state of life. I see that you are agitated because the world wishes you to belong to itself, and to enter themarried state; and, on the other hand, Jesus Christ wishes you to give yourself to Him bybecoming a nun in some convent of exact observance.Remember that on the choice which you make your eternal salvation will depend. HenceI recommend you, as soon as you read this advice, to implore the Lord, every day, to give youlight and strength to embrace that state which will be most conducive to your salvation; that thusyou may not afterwards, when your error is irreparable, have to repent of the choice you havemade for your whole life, and for all eternity.Examine whether you will be more happy in having for your spouse a man of the world,or Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the King of heaven; see which of them appears to you thebetter spouse, and then make your choice. At the age of thirteen, the holy virgin St. Agnes was,on account of her extraordinary beauty, sought after by many. Among the rest, the son of theRoman Prefect asked her for his spouse; but looking at Jesus Christ, who wished her to belong toHim, she said. I have found a spouse better than you and all the monarchs of this world; thereforeI cannot exchange Him for any other. And rather than exchange him she was content to lose herlife, and cheerfully suffered martyrdom for Jesus Christ. The holy virgin Domitilla gave a similaranswer to the Count Aurelian; she, too, died a martyr, and was burned alive, because she wouldnot forsake Jesus Christ. Oh, how happy do these holy virgins now feel in heaven, how happywill they feel for all eternity, at having made so good a choice! The same happy lot awaits you,and wilt await all young persons who renounce the world in order to give themselves to JesusChrist.In the next place, examine the consequences of the state of the person who chooses theworld, and of the person who makes choice of Jesus Christ. The world offers earthly goods,riches, honors, amusements, and pleasures. On the other hand, Jesus Christ presents to youscourges, thorns, opprobrium, and crosses; for these were the goods, which He chose for Himself all the days of His mortal life. But then He offers you two immense advantages, which the worldcannot give peace of soul in this life, and paradise in the next.Moreover, before you decide on embracing any state, you must reflect that your soul isimmortal; that is, that after the present life, which will soon end, you must pass into eternity, inwhich you will receive that place of punishment or of reward which you will have merited byyour works during life. Thus you must remain for all eternity in the house either of eternal life orof eternal death, in which, after your departure from this world, it will be your lot first to dwell:you will be either forever saved and happy amid the joys of paradise, or forever lost and indespair in the torments of hell. In the mean time, consider that everything in this world mustsoon end. Happy all that are saved; miserable the soul that is damned. Keep always in mind thatgreat maxim of Jesus Christ: “What doth it profit a man if lie gain the whole world and suffer theloss of his own soul?” This maxim has sent so many from the world to shut themselves up in thecloister, or to live in the deserts; it has inspired so many young persons with courage to forsakethe world in order to give themselves to God and to die a holy death.On the other hand, consider the unhappy lot of so many ladies of fortune, so manyprincesses and queens, who in the world have been attended, praised, honored, and almostadored; but if they are damned, what do they now find in hell of so much riches, of so manypleasures, of so many honors enjoyed in this life, but pains and remorse of conscience, whichwill torment them forever, as long as God shall be God, without any hope of remedy for theireternal ruin.But let us now cast a glance at the goods which the world gives in this life to itsfollowers, and to the goods which God gives to her who loves Him and forsakes the world forHis sake. The world makes great promises; but do we not all see that the world is a traitor thatpromises what it never performs? But though it should fulfill all its promises what does it give?It gives earthly goods, but does it give the peace and the life of happiness which it promises? Allits goods delight the senses and the flesh, but do not content the heart and the soul. Our soulshave been created by God for the sole purpose of loving Him in this life, and of enjoying him inthe next. Hence all the goods of the earth, all its delights, and all its grandeurs are outside theheart; they enter not into the soul, which God only can content. Solomon has even called allworldly goods vanities and lies, which do not content but rather afflict the soul. “Vanity of vanities and affliction of spirit” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). This we know also from experience, for wesee that the more a person abounds in these goods, the greater her anguish and misery of mind. If by its goods the world gave content to the soul, great indeed should be the happiness of princesses and queens, who want neither amusements, nor comedies, nor festivities, norbanquets, nor splendid palaces, nor beautiful carriages, nor costly dresses, nor precious jewels,nor servants, nor ladies of honor to attend and pay homage to them. But no; they who imaginethem to be happy are deceived. Ask them whether they enjoy perfect peace, if they are perfectlycontent, and they will answer: What peace? What content? They will tell you that they lead a lifeof misery, and that they know not what peace is. The maltreatment which they receive from theirhusbands, the displeasure caused by their children, the wants of the house, the jealousies andfears to which they are subject. make them live in the midst of continual anguish and bitterness.Married women may be called martyrs of patience if they bear all with resignation; but unlessthey are patient and resigned, they will suffer a martyrdom in this world, and a more painfulmartyrdom in the next.The remorse of conscience, though they had nothing else to suffer, keeps married personsin continual torment. Being attached to earthly goods, they reflect but little on spiritual things; they seldom approach the sacraments, and seldom recommend themselves to God; and, beingdeprived of these helps to a good life, they will scarcely be able to live without sin, and withoutcontinual remorse of conscience. Behold, then, how all the joys promised by the world becometo married persons sources of bitterness, of fears, and of damnation. How many of them will say,unhappy me, what will become of me after so many sins, after the life which I led, at a distancefrom God, always going from bad to worse? I would wish for retirement in order to spend a littletime in mental prayer, but the affairs of the family and of the house, which is always inconfusion, do not permit this. I would wish to hear sermons, to go to confession, to communicateoften; I would wish to go often to the church, but my husband does not wish it. My unceasingoccupations, the care of children, the frequent visits of friends, keep me confined to the house;and thus it is not without some difficulty that I can hear Mass at a late hour on festivals. Howgreat was my folly in entering the married state, when I could become a saint in a convent! Butall these lamentations only serve to increase their pain; because they see that it is no longer intheir power to change the unhappy choice they have made of living in the world. And if their lifeis unhappy, their death will be much more miserable. At that awful hour they will be surroundedby servants, by their husbands, and children, bathed in tears; but instead of giving them relief, allthese will be to them an occasion of greater affliction. And thus afflicted, poor in merits, and fullof fears for their eternal salvation, they must go to present themselves to Jesus Christ to beudged by Him. But, on the other hand, how great will be the happiness which a nun who has leftthe world for Jesus Christ will enjoy, living among so many spouses of God, and in a solitarycell, at a distance from the turmoils of the world, and from the continual and proximate danger of losing God, to which seculars are exposed. How much greater will be her consolation at death,after having spent her years in meditations, mortification. and in so many spiritual exercises; invisits to the Holy Sacrament, in confessions, Communions, acts of humility, of hope, and love of Jesus Christ! And though the devil should endeavor to terrify her by the faults committed in heryounger days, her Spouse, for whom she has left the world, will console her; and thus, full of confidence, she will die in the embraces of her crucified Redeemer, who will conduct her toheaven, that there she may enjoy eternal happiness.Thus, my dear sister, since you must make choice of a state of life, make the choice nowwhich you shall wish at death to have made. At death, every one who sees that for her the worldis about to end says, Oh that I had led the life of a saint! Oh that I had left the world and givenmyself to God! But what is then done, is done, and nothing remains for her but to breathe forthher soul, and to go to hear from Jesus Christ the words, Come, blessed soul, and rejoice with mefor eternity; or, Begone forever to hell, at a distance from me. You, then, must choose the worldor Jesus Christ. If you choose the world, you will probably sooner or later repent of the choice;hence you ought to reflect well upon it. In the world the number of persons who are lost is verygreat; in religion, the number of those who are damned is very small. Recommend yourself toJesus crucified, and to most holy Mary, that they may make you choose the state which is mostconducive to your eternal salvation. If you wish to become a nun, resolve to become a saint; if you intend to lead a loose and imperfect life, like some religious, it is useless for you to enter aconvent; you should then only lead an unhappy life and die an unhappy death. But if you resolvenot to become a religious. I cannot advise you to enter the married state, for St. Paul does notcounsel that state to any one, except in case of necessity, which I hope does not exist for you. Atleast remain in your own house and endeavor to become a saint. I entreat you to say thefollowing prayer for nine days: My Lord Jesus Christ, who hast died for my salvation, I imploreThee, through the merits of Thy Passion, to give me light and strength to choose that state which is best for my salvation. And do thou. O my Mother Mary! Obtain this grace for me by thypowerful intercession.