Great, very great indeed, is the number of those who feel desolate and sorrowful. Some are desolate on account of the loss of temporal goods; others, on account of the loss of a dear parent, husband, wife, a darling child; a true, faithful friend, others, are desolate on account of
scrupulosity; others, on account of spiritual dryness and so on.
It happened not long ago, that the parents, husband, and several children of a good mother died in the time of an epidemic. The good woman felt quite desolate, and, as it were, forsaken by God and man. Her means were all exhausted, and she saw no way of supporting herself and two little children. She could neither eat nor sleep. She wept day and night, and was reduced
to a mere skeleton. One day she went to see an old friend, who, some years previous, had suffered in the same way. To her she poured out her heart. After she had communicated all her afflictions of body and soul, her friend, a true servant of God, spoke to her in the following manner : "I sympathize with you more than I can tell you. I feel your crosses as if they were my
own. I have suffered in the same way some years ago. At first, I found it very difficult to be resigned to the holy will of God. I went to see my confessor, who is a true, faithful father of the sorrowful and afflicted. I have never forgotten his consoling words, and I have often repeated them for the consolation of those who, in their affliction, came to see me. They are as follows: "My dear child, said he, the Lord treats you as one of his best children. He has deprived you of what was most near and dear to you, now you are poor and desolate. But now it is that you can say in truth : Our Father, who art in heaven." As long as you are poor, you feel more dependent on God. You become thereby more closely united to God. It is, then, really a clear mark of his love when God takes away from you the goods of this world. He loves you. He is a jealous God. He wishes to take entire possession of your heart, of all your affections, and, therefore, he weans you from all things in this world, lest you should love them too much. God foresees that, if you were rich, and could enjoy the pleasures of this world, you would perhaps soon forget him, you would fall into grievous sins and be lost. He, therefore, deprives you of the dangerous gift of riches, just as you take away a sharp knife from the hands of your child. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of divine Love and He is called "The Father of the Poor, He is the Father of the Poor, precisely because He is infinite Love. How consoling is this thought ! Be not solicitous, therefore, saying : What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, wherewith shall we be clothed ? . . . For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things." (Matt, vi., 31-32.)
"You say that you have to suffer. That is true ; but who is there, in this world that does not suffer? There is not one. There is no man on earth without some trouble, whether he be beggar, Pope or king. You envy, perhaps, that rich man who steps so grandly out of his carriage, who is bowed into his splendid residence by a retinue of servants; but could you only look into his heart, you would, perhaps, see there a load of care and misery, compared to which, all your troubles are as nothing. Believe me, the gorgeous palaces of the rich, are too often but the gilded prisons of weary hearts. Remember that you cannot cure a sick man by clothing him in a costly robe of silk and diamonds, and neither can you cure a sick, weary heart with all the wealth in the universe. But you will ask perhaps why has God given one kind of suffering to you, and another kind to another man ? If you wish to know this, then look up to heaven. Remember, your loving Father in heaven knows what is best for you. He will explain it all to you on the last day. And if you think you have to suffer more than others, then remember that suffering is a sign of God's love. "God loveth those whom He chastiseth. He chastiseth every child that He adopteth."; (Prov., iii., 12.) God is also now your friend and protector. Holy Scripture assures us that "God is the refuge of the Poor." (Ps. ix.; 10.) "The poor man cries to God," says the Holy Ghost, "and God hears and delivers him." (Ps. xxxiii., 7.) In this world, even your best friends grow tired, if you appeal to their charity too often; but God acts far otherwise. He never grows tired. He is never annoyed, no no matter how often you ask Him for help. His ear is ever open to your prayers. He is ever ready to assist you in your necessities. But you will say : "How can I consider God as my friend ? He has treated me rather like an enemy. I was once well off. I was happy. Now I am poor ; sometimes I scarcely know where to find bread for my poor hungry children." Ah ! why do you not understand the ways of God? Were you then richer than Job was ? Certainly not ; and yet God took away from him, all that he had. God took away his health, his property, his children. God afflicted him with a very powerful and loathsome disease. Job was thrown out of house and home ; he was cast upon a dunghill. His friends, the very wife of his bosom, turned against him, accused him unjustly, and loaded him with insult. Now why did God afflict Job in this manner? Precisely be cause God loved him. God wished to draw him more closely to himself and to make him perfect. Job knew this well, and, therefore, in the midst of his afflictions, he said: "If we have received good things from the hand of God, why not receive evil also." (Job, ii., 10.) "Even though the Lord should kill me, I will trust in him." (Job, xiii., 15.) "St. Lidwine, the daughter of very poor parents, was a great sufferer for many years. She was covered from head to foot, with most painful ulcers. In some of these ulcers, as many as two hundred little worms could be counted. Her flesh came off in pieces. She was lying, not on a soft bed, but on a rough board, and stretched out there for thirty eight years. She could move only her head and left arm. She suffered from, dropsy, acute head-ache, tooth-ache, and most violent fevers. For want of sufficient clothes, she was, in winter, quite benumbed with cold. Her tears froze on her cheeks. In the last year of her life she had to endure one of the most painful sufferings that can affect the human frame. It caused her such violent pains that she was forced to gnash her teeth, and often fainted away.
She slept no more than half an hour in the year. "Besides these sufferings she had to endure the ill treatment of wicked people. One day an infuriated woman entered the room of the saintly virgin, and began to abuse her in the most shameful manner. She heaped upon her the most disgraceful insults and reproaches. She spat in her face, and raised such a loud out-cry that the whole neighborhood was disturbed. Another time, four brutal soldiers entered the chamber of the afflicted maiden and began to speak to her in a most insulting manner. They struck her repeatedly with the most barbarous cruelty. "Now, in all her bodily sufferings, Lidwine was patient and resigned. In the midst of insults, she was like a tender lamb before a ravenous wolf, bearing with a calm countenance the insulting behavior of brutal men. Whence
did she derive this superhuman patience, calmness and resignation in all her sufferings and trials ? It was from the consideration that by patience she would atone for her sins, satisfy God's justice, and gain an everlasting crown in heaven. Indeed, by her heroic patience, she became one of the most extraordinary saints of the Church of God. " Lord!" she exclaimed, "it is most pleasing to me that thou dost not spare me, nor withhold thy hand in overwhelming me with suffering, for my greatest comfort is to know that thy will be done in me. "Our divine Savior says when you are invited to a feast take the lowest place, so that when the master of the house comes, he may say to thee : Friend, go up higher;" and you shall be honored in the eyes of all that are present. (Luke xiv., 10.) Here in this world, you have perhaps the lowest place. Be patient; do not murmur ; and when the Lord comes at the end of the world, he will say to you in presence of the whole universe: "Friend go up higher now, the first shall be the last; and the last shall be the first;" and you shall he glorified before the angels and saints of heaven. God assures us that he is himself the defender of the poor, and he threatens the oppressors of the poor with the severest chastisements.
"Do no violence to the poor" he says; "and do not oppress the needy, for the Lord will judge his cause and he will afflict those that afflict his soul." (Prov. xxii., 22.) "Our Lord Jesus Christ is also now more than ever your brother. Look at the life of our Lord. He is the king of heaven and earth, and yet he has become the poorest of the poor. He is born in a stable. Was there ever a poorer place to be born in ? He lived on earth as a poor carpenter s son. He had no home of his own, no place to rest his weary head. The birds of the air have their nests, he says even the foxes have their lairs, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. He suffered hunger and thirst. Sometimes he was even compelled to break off a few ears of wheat as he passed through the field in order to satisfy the cravings of hunger. Now that you are in want, do not lose confidence. Look up to Jesus, and say to him: "Jesus, remember that thou wert once as poor as I am now. Have pity on me then and help me. But if thou wishest me to follow thee yet longer on the road of poverty and suffering, then give me grace to do so cheerfully!" It is also now that you are of the number of those to whom the Gospel is preached, that is, to the poor. Our dear Saviour himself assures us of this : "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, wherefore he hath anointed me, to preach the Gospel to the poor. (Luke, iv., 18.) And it is to the poor that he still preaches, through the ministry of his holy Church. It is precisely the poor that crowd our churches, and listen eagerly to the words of God. It is especially the poor that crowd the churches during Holy Mass. It is the poor that are found praying in the church, during the long day, and in the silence of the night. It is they, who come to adore our blessed Lord in the Sacrament of his love. It is they who visit him in his little crib at Christmas ; and who weep with compassion when they hear the recital of his sufferings. It is especially the poor who press forward to the altar, hungering for the bread of life. It is they who are so proud to take part in a holy procession, whether in the church or in the street. Yes, the Catholic Church is proud of the poor ; and as our Lord Jesus Christ himself declared, "the poor are always with her." The holy martyr St. Lawrence was commanded by the tyrant to show him the treasures of the church. St. Lawrence obeyed. He led the tyrant to the church, and pointing to a large crowd of poor persons who were waiting for alms, he said : "See, here are the treasures of the Catholic Church. Yes, the poor are a mark of the true Church of Christ. When our blessed Saviour went back to heaven, he left the poor to take his place here on earth. He says to every one of us : Whatever you do to one of these poor persons, you do it to me." As you are now poor and desolate, God will also be your sure rewarder. He makes more account of the little alms of the poor than he does of the grand contributions of the rich. One day, Our Blessed Lord saw a poor widow putting a few pence into the treasury of the temple. He saw also the rich Pharisees offering their gifts. Now what did Jesus Christ say of this poor woman? Listen to his consoling words: "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow hath cast in more than all they who have cast into the treasury. (Mark, xii., 43.)
O, what a consolation for the poor ! That poor widow went away, little thinking who was watching her. Her's was indeed a poor offering, a mere trifle; but it was the best she had, and she gave it with a cheerful heart. 0, how great is her reward ! Wherever the Gospel is preached through out the wide world, her praise is uttered; and her praise shall resound throughout all eternity in heaven. O, what a consoling example is this for you ! You give small sum in alms, or for some other charitable object or you make a little sacrifice, some act of kindness to your neighbor. Men do not esteem that deed of charity. Perhaps the very one to whom you have done that favor, does not notice it, or soon forgets it; but God sees that good deed, he sees the good will with which you give that alms, and he remembers it : it is written down in the book of life. He shall proclaim it before the whole world on the last day, and he shall reward you for it through out a long, endless eternity. "Amen, I declare to you" he says, that even a cup of cold water given in my name shall have its reward. And then the prayers of the poor ! how powerful are they ! how pleasing to God! The prayers of the poor pierce the clouds; they ascend like a mighty voice to the ear of God, and they do not depart until they are heard. Blessed is he for whom the poor are continually praying ; he is almost certain of his salvation.
"Now that you are poor and desolate, the gates of heaven are open to you. "Blessed are the poor, says Jesus Christ, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And the Apostle St. James says : "Hath not God chosen the poor to be heirs of the kingdom of heaven. (James, ii., 5.) Yes, if you are poor and resigned to the will of God, you can say in truth with Tobias of old: "Fear not, my children ; you lead indeed a life of poverty, but you shall have an abundance of good things, if you fear God, avoid sin and do good. The state of poverty frees you from many temptations, and makes it easy for you to gain heaven. Bear, then, courageously all your privations. When the hour of hardship comes, when you are tempted to murmur against God, when you are tempted to despair, then remember the consoling words of our Lord : "Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven." You are now in want. Remember that a throne awaits you in heaven. You live in a poor miserable hut! Remember that there are many mansions in the home of your heavenly Father, and one of these mansions is prepared for you. Poverty compels you to live in an unhealthy neighborhood, cruel death has snatched away several beloved members of your family. Even the worse has come; your heart has been crushed within you at seeing a dear father and mother, darling brothers and sisters, and children carried out in their coffin, one by one ; you are alone and desolate in this wide world. Ah, look up ; raise your eyes to heaven! See they are standing at the gates of heaven to meet you with out-stretched arms : father, mother, brother, sister, and the sweet little babies whose death rent your heart in twain. See they are all smiling upon you, they are waiting to welcome you home to heaven. Your heart is heavy and sorrow-stricken here below ; remember, in heaven you shall enter into eternal, unbounded joy. There shall be no weeping, or sighing, or sorrow any more, for God shall wipe away every tear and heal every broken heart. Gaunt hunger sits every day at your poor table ? O, have courage ! In heaven you shall sit at the eternal banquet of the Saints. You are poorly clothed ; your tattered garments call forth the heartless sneer of some unfeeling neighbor? Do not be discouraged ; in heaven you shall be crowned with a kingly diadem ; you shall be clothed with the costly robes which the angels and saints of heaven wear. Your friends have deserted you; you are a poor, homeless exile upon the face of the earth ; see, God is your friend ; a true and ever faithful friend, and a home of never-ending happiness awaits you in heaven. Here your hands have grown rough from hard labor; your whole body has been worn out by sickness and suffering! Ah! have courage! in heaven your body shall shine brighter and more glorious than the noon-day sun. Here you are ignorant and suffer much on account of it; but have patience ; in heaven you shall know every thing, you shall be filled with heavenly wisdom ; you shall behold the Eternal God face to face, and in Him you shall see all things. In all your joys or sorrows then turn your eyes constantly towards your true home; look up to heaven, to the mansion of your Father, the palace of His glory, the temple of His holiness, and
the throne of His grandeur and magnificence, the land of the living, the centre of your rest, the term of your movements, the end of your miseries, the place of the nuptials of the Lamb, the feast of God and His holy angels. O holy Sion, where all remains and nothing passes away: where all is found, and nothing is wanting; where all is sweet, and nothing bitter where all is calm, and nothing is agitated ! happy land whose roses are without thorns ; where peace reigns without combats and where health is found without sickness, and life without death ! O holy Thabor ! palace of the living God ! O heavenly Jerusalem, where the poor sing eternally the beautiful canticles of Sion ! "It is thus the good priest spoke to me, said the pious woman I have felt happy ever since. May his words also strengthen and comfort you in all your trials.
To be continued . . . . . . . . .