12. Which are the spiritual works of mercy ?
1. To convert the sinner;
2. to instruct the ignorant ;
3. to counsel the doubtful ;
4. to comfort the sorrowful ;
5. to bear wrongs patiently ;
6. to forgive injuries ;
7. to pray for the living and the dead.
1. To convert the sinner.
It is an article of our holy faith that the Son of God descended from heaven, became man, and died on the infamous gibbet of the cross, for no other purpose than to save mankind from perpetual destruction. His whole life was devoted to this end. For this purpose alone he established his Church on earth. Every Christian, therefore, ought to be inflamed with zeal for the salvation of souls.
Now, what is the meaning of zeal for the salvation of souls? It is a desire to see God truly loved, and honored, and served by all men. Those who are inflamed with this beautiful fire endeavor to communicate it to the whole world. If they perceive that God is offended, they weep and lament: they feel interiorly devoured and consumed by the fervor of their zeal. "Who should be looked upon as a man consumed with the zeal for the house of God ?" asked St. Augustine. "He who ardently desires to prevent offences against God, and endeavors to induce those who have sinned to weep, and weeps and groans himself when he sees God dishonored." With such a zeal the saints of the Old Law were inflamed. "I found my heart and my bones," says Jeremiah (Xx., 9, 10.),
"secretly inflamed as with a fire that even devoured me ; and I fainted away, not being able to resist it; because I heard the blasphemies of many people." "I was in flamed with zeal for the God of armies," says Elias, "because the children of Israel have broken their covenant." (III. Kings xix., 10.) "A fainting has taken hold of me," says the Royal Prophet, "because sinners have forsaken thy law and my zeal hath made me pine away, because my enemies forgot thy commandments."(Psalm cxviii., 53.) These holy men were thus afflicted at the sight of the license with which the wicked violated the law of God. The sorrow of their minds passed into the humors of their body, and even into their very blood, as it were. "I beheld the wicked," says David "I pined away ; because they kept not thy commandments." (Ps. cxviii.158.) "Mine eyes became fountains of water; because they observed not thy law." (Ibid., 136.) It was the violence of his zeal that made David melt into tears when he beheld the infinite majesty of God offended. This zeal made St. Paul write to the Romans : "I speak the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great sadness and continual sorrow in my heart ; for I wished myself to be an anathema from Christ, for my brethren, who are my kinsmen according to the flesh." (Rom. ix., 1-3.)
How much have the saints not done for the salvation of their neighbors ? Let us hear what the great Apostle of the Gentiles says of his own labors, troubles and sufferings for the salvation of men. In his epistles to the Corinthians he writes as follows : "Even unto this hourwe both hunger and thirst; and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no fixed abode ; and we labor with our own hands ; we are reviled and we bless; we are persecuted and we suffer it; we are blasphemed and we entreat; we are made as the refuse of this world, the off scouring of all even until now." (I. Cor. iv., 11, 13.)
"Our flesh had no rest, but we suffered all tribulation : combats without, fears within." (II. Cor. vii, 5.) "In many more labors, in prisons more frequently, in stripes above measure, in deaths often. Of the Jews five times did I receive forty stripes, save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods; once I was stoned; thrice I suffered shipwreck ; a night and a day was I in the depth of the sea. In journeying often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils from my own nation, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils from false brethren. In labor and painfulness, in much watchings, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness." (II. Cor. xi. 23-27.)
Were a St. Francis Xavier to appear among us he could tell us how, for the sake of the barbarians, he climbed mountains and exposed himself to innumerable dangers to find those wretched beings in the caverns, where they dwelt like wild beasts, and lead them to God.
A St. Francis de Sales could tell us how, in order to convert the heretics of the province of Chablais, he risked his life by crossing a river every day for a year, on his hands and knees, upon a frozen beam, that he might preach the truth to those stubborn men.
A St. Fidelis could tell us how, in order to bring back the heretics of a certain place, he risked his life by going to preach to them. But here one may say : "I am not a priest, and, therefore, I cannot preach to sinners and convert them." To convert sinners, it is not necessary that you should be a priest. Your neighbor, for instance, has given up the practice of his religion for many years. He is sick and expected to die soon. Cannot you pay him a visit, speak kindly to him, and induce him to send for the priest and be reconciled to God? His salvation may depend on your visit, on a few kind words of exhortation and encouragement.
A certain Catholic once went to see a dying sinner. The unhappy man had led a long life of sin, and was now obstinate. He did not wish to hear of God or the priest. The good, zealous Catholic tried every means tears promises, threats, prayers, but all in vain. The dying wretch was hardened. At last the zealous Catholic fell on his knees and begged God to give him this soul, and offered, for his sake, to endure any pain that he would inflict on him. An interior voice then said to him : "Your request shall be granted, but only on condition that you are willing to fall back into your former illness." He had formerly been subject to violent fits of colic. The good Catholic offered himself generously. He then once more spoke to the dying man, and found him quite changed in the very best dispositions. He made his confession with every sign of true sorrow, and offered uphis life in atonement of his sins. He received all the sacraments, and died in the arms of his true Catholic friend. The prayers of the good Catholic were heard ; but no sooner had he returned home than he was seized with the most violent pains, which continued to increase until at last he died, the victim of his Christian zeal for the salvation of a soul.
To relieve the wants of the body is undoubtedly an act of great charity ; but to heal the wounds of the soul is an act of far greater charity. Now it is by admonition and counsel that we contribute towards the healing of the spiritual wounds of our neighbor. It is even a formal precept of the Gospel to do what is in our power to heal the wounds of our neighbor's soul, that is, to admonish him when he is in mortal sin or in danger of falling into it. "If thy brother transgress in thy presence," says our Lord, "reprimand and correct him." (Matt, xviii., 15.)
If you neglect to correct the sinner, says St. Agustine, you become thereby worse than himself. So all who have christian charity, whether superiors or inferiors, are bound to admonish and correct those who follow evil ways, if they have sufficient influence and authority over them, and have good reason to hope that the correction will be useful. Should the first admonition be fruitless, we are bound to repeat it several times, when we have good reason to hope that it will finally prove useful.
We are obliged to perform this act of charity :
1. when the sin of our neighbor is certain, but not when it is doubtful;
2. when there is no other person capable of giving the admonition, and when it is not expected that any one else will give it;
3. when there is no reason for a prudent fear that, by correcting our neighbor, we shall suffer a grievous loss or inconvenience. For, if we have a good reason to fear that the correction will be attended with a considerable loss or inconvenience to ourselves, we are excused from the obligation of making it, because it is only an act of charity which is not obligatory under those circumstances. Parents, however, are obliged to correct their children, even when the correction is attended with great inconvenience.Has an inferior a right to correct his superior. Every act extends to all that is within the sphere of its power, as the sight, for instance, embraces all that is visible.
Now as charity comprises all men without exception, it orders us to exercise fraternal correction without distinction of persons. The inferior, therefore, has a right to correct his superior when he sees him in fault or in error. But this must be done in a mild, prudent, respectful manner, for those who are above us in age or authority, merit respect and veneration. " An ancient man rebuke
not, but entreat him as a father." (1 Tim. v., 1.)
Has one, who himself is in fault or sin, a right to correct another ? To exercise this right, no more than the use of reason is needed. Now, sin does not destroy the natural gift of man. But he who attempts to direct others in the path of virtue and justice, must, first of all, begin to correct himself, otherwise he cannot be supposed to act with a charitable motive. If he, therefore, shows signs of repentance and amendment, and acts with a spirit of humility, he can exercise fraternal correction.
What is to be done if the correction does not avail anything, but might, on the contrary, irritate the culprit and make him more obstinate ?
If his conduct is an annoyance or a scandal to the public, his superior ought to rebuke him and even take severe measures against him if necessary. A judge feels no reluctance to condemn a culprit in spite of his recriminations and the affliction of his family. However, in all such cases, the means must always be proportioned to the end.
Ought a private admonition precede a public denunciation ? If the crime is public, there is no necessity of making any mystery of the correction to be given to the criminal, "Them that sin reprove before all, that the rest also may fear." (1 Tim. v., 20.) If the crime or transgression is private, no public denunciation or revelation should be made, unless in case of something detrimental to the public or of a conspiracy against the state. In similar cases, we ought to imitate the skilful physician, who first strives to heal the wound if possible ; but if he cannot succeed, he has recourse to amputation, in order to save the life of his patient. A superior, therefore, should not have recourse to extreme measures, when there is hope that a private admonition will reclaim the sinner. Unless things transpire before the eyes of the public, justice and charity require the superior to keep all secret and leave all rest in the hands of God.
In what manner should correction be made?
To correct one is an act of charity. Therefore, correction should be made in the spirit of charity. A reproof is a kind of food which is always difficult to digest. Fraternal charity should, then, so sweeten it as to destroy its bitterness, or else it will be like those fruits which cause pain in the stomach. Charity does not seek its own advantage, but the honor of God. Bitterness and severity proceed only from passion, vanity and pride. A good remedy used at an improper time often becomes a deadly poison.Now, it is easy to know when the correction we make proceeds from charity. Truth proceeds from charity when we speak it only from the love of God and for the good
of him whom we reprove. It is better to be silent than to speak a truth ungraciously ; for this is to present a good dish badly cooked, or to give medicine unseasonably. But is this not to keep back the truth unjustly ? By no means ; to act otherwise is to bring it forth unjustly, because the real justice of truth and the truth of justice reside in charity. That truth which is not charitable proceeds from a charity which is not true. A judicious silence is always preferable to an uncharitable truth. Hence, in correcting others, we should remember the following advice given by the saints upon this subject :
1. Good example must precede the correction, otherwise it may justly be said: "Physician, cure thyself."
2. Patience must defer it, because, reproof being a bitter remedy, it should be applied, generally speaking, only when every other means has proved useless.
3. It must be given with charity, lest, while striving to heal one wound, we inflict several others.
4. Humility must accompany it by accusing ourselves and assuming thus a part of the disgrace of him whose weakness we have discovered.
5. We ought to be very careful to give a reproof in so mild a manner as to lessen the bitterness of this remedy to which nature is utterly averse. It thus becomes efficacious and strikes at the very root of the evil.
6. In reproving we should pay attention to the nature of the fault, its consequences, and to the degree of virtue in the delinquent.
7. It is sometimes advisable, before reproving a person, to point out to him the nature and greatness of the fault, and then request him to punish himself for it. The penance of a contrite heart is great when it sees itself kindly dealt with. We must blame the offense, but spare the offender.
8. When any one has corrected a fault, forget the past and treat him as if nothing had happened, according to what holy Scripture says : "Despise not a man that turneth away from sin, nor reproach him therewith : remember that we are all worthy of reproof." (Ecclus. viii., 6.)
It is in this way that we heal wounds without leaving a scar. We read in the life of St. Alphonsus, that his firmness towards those who persevered in their faults, was changed into mercy when he saw them contrite. He loved with an exceedingly great love those who amended their conduct after his admonitions. He pressed them to his bosom, forgot their faults, and never again alluded to the pain they had caused him. "I am informed," writes the saint in his book Preparation for Death, "that the celebrated Signore Pietro Metastasio has published a little book in prose, in which he expresses his detestation of his writings on profane love and declares that, were it in his power, he would retract them and make them disappear from the world? even at the cost of his blood. I am told, that he lives retired in his own house, leading a life of prayer. This information has given me unspeakable consolation ; because his public declaration and his most laudable example will help to undeceive many young persons who seek to acquire a great name by similar compositions on profane love. It is certain, that by his retraction, Signore Metastasio has deserved more encomiums than he would deserve by the publication of a thousand poetic works : for these he might be praised by men, but now he is praised by God. Hence, as I formerly detested his vanity in priding himself on such compositions (I do not speak of his sacred pieces, which are excellent and deserving of all praise), so now I shall never cease to praise him; and were I permitted, I would kiss his feet, seeing that he has voluntarily become the censor of his own works, and that he now desires to see them banished from the whole world at the expense, as he says, even of his own blood."
9. In reproving our neighbor great regard should be paid to his disposition. Sometimes a courteous little admonition, such as the reproving glance cast by our Lord at St. Peter, may be sufficient. In many cases it may be advisable to give the reproof in such a manner that it will appear rather as praise than blame. "If a word chastises, cast the rod away, If a look suffices, have no word to say."
10. Never reprove any one when you are excited. A physician who is suffering from delirium or any other violent disorder should be first cured himself before he at tempts to prescribe for others.
11. The faults of those who sin more from weakness and ignorance than from any other reason, should move us to pity rather than to severity. We should kindly encourage them to amend their faults and avoid relapsing into them.
12. Whether we make corrections in public or in private, we should never use opprobrious expressions, such as fool, simpleton, and the like. We should seem to advise rather than to reprove, saying, for example : "Does it not appear to you, that such and such a thing is an abuse ? That whoever acts so, and so, exposes himself to censure ?" This manner of acting is more convincing and effective than any other. Prudence, then, requires us to prefer it to a more arbitrary course.
13. We must not be astonished at seeing one troubled at a reproof, or taking it badly. If the culprit is wanting in humility, we must not, on this account, be wanting in charity by forgetting our Christian dignity, and allowing aversions and ill-feelings to take root in our heart.
14. If a correction is to be given to a person whose dignity is to be respected, we should give it so as to reprove ourselves at the same time, speaking in the first person of the plural number, saying, for instance : "How much do we all offend God. We all have our faults, but we ought to be careful to avoid such and such faults."
15. There are certain persons who easily find fault with others. They themselves are generally the most guilty. It is one of their secret artifices to turn the eyes of others upon the faults of their neighbor, in order to keep them turned away from their own. You should never pay particular attention to what these great talkers say. Much less should you ever reprove any one with out having given him a hearing. To believe what you hear without further inquiry, and reprove instantly, is to expose yourself to a thousand evils and agitations.
16. Generally speaking, it is not advisable to reprove one on the spot for his faults. Medicine must not be given to a person who is in high fever, except in extraordinary cases. You should take time to consider the matter before God, and to reflect on the best and most useful manner of making the correction, especially when the fault is of a serious nature, and the offender is of a hasty temperament. Then when a favorable moment presents itself, ask with all humility and confidence, the guilty person to be kind enough to allow you, though full of faults yourself, to call his attention to something for his own benefit. In order to gain the affection and confidence of the offender, you may first praise modestly his good qualities. Then, place, with great delicacy, before him his fault, reminding him of its unhappy consequences, and propose to him the proper remedy. To this you may add, that you yourself were obliged to use this remedy in order to correct your own faults.
17. Never reveal the name of the person who reported the fault. Nay, if you have reason to fear that the guilty person may easily suspect the one that spoke of him and conceive a dislike for him, it is better to make no reproof, because peace and union with our neighbor should be preferred to every thing else.
18. Always conclude a reproof with some encouraging words, saying, for instance, that God allows such faults, in order to keep us humble and to increase our solicitude in acquiring virtue.
19. Under certain circumstances, it is advisable to give the admonition publicly without naming the guilty person. This should be done,
a. When the evil is deeply rooted; for in this case it is not prudent to admonish individuals privately ;
b. When the offender has a good heart, but is too weak in virtue to take a reproof in the proper spirit ;
c. When it is to be feared that others may commit the same fault, if the warning is not given in public.
20. Correct the aged by way of sweet entreaty ; for it is not very easy to manage them ; they are not very flexible. The sinews of their soul as well as of their body have grown stiff. Hence the way of entreaty is the best manner of admonishing them.
21. Before giving a reprimand, recommend yourself to the Lord. Humble yourself in his presence and acknowledge that you are more faulty and, consequently, more blame- worthy than your neighbor.
St. Vincent de Paul says that those who are spiritually sick, ought to be more tenderly treated than those who are corporally sick. "I beg you," he wrote to a Superior who had notified him of the desire of a lay-brother to leave the Congregation, "to assist and encourage him to resist the temptation, but do it mildly and affectionately, seeming rather to advise than to reprove him, as is our custom." He also tells us, that although during his whole life, he gave a sharp reproof three times only, yet. each time he was forced to regret it, because, notwithstanding the apparent just reason for reproving sharply, the correction proved fruitless, while on the contrary, those reproofs which he had given mildly, were always effective.
St. Juliana Veronica occupied the post of Mistress of Novices for several years. During this time she had two novices who were of a head-strong disposition. One of them received her charitable admonitions in such ill part, that they produced not the least amendment. She was therefore expelled by the Chapter. However, St. Veronica obtained for her, from the Blessed Virgin, the grace of being received into another convent, where she corrected her faults. The other novice forgot herself so far as to strike her Mistress in the face, and with such violence as to bruise her lips. The holy woman, grieved at the scandal, and at the excommunication which the novice drew upon herself by this act, implored of God so earnestly her amendment that she shed tears of blood. For a time, the rebellious Sister did better, but her amendment was not permanent. One day, when she was again kindly reproved by St. Veronica for not fulfilling her duty, she felt so terribly provoked, and pushed the saint so roughly that she would have fallen, had not those standing near her come to her assistance. The prudent Superior said nothing about the affair at the time, as she knew that a reproof would be useless, nay, even injurious, because the offender was under the influence of passion. She merely remarked to those who insisted upon the punishment of the novice, that it was necessary to have patience, and that her only grief was that God had been offended. At the next Chapter, however, she calmly reproved and punished the fault. The fruit of this moderation was, that the delinquent entered into herself, arid blushing with confusion at the sin she had committed, performed the penance imposed upon her. From that time forward, she watched so carefully over herself, that she lived and died a true religious.
A short time after Father Lallemant had been appointed Rector of the College of Bourges, the brother baker came to him, one day, and rather rudely complained of having too much to do; he told the Rector to see to the matter and put some one else in his place. The Father calmly listened to him, and promised to relieve him. He then went himself quietly into the bake-house and began kneading the dough with the greatest diligence. After the brother had become calm again, he returned to the bake-house, and found, to his great surprise, the Father Rector doing his work for him. He immediately threw himself at his feet and begged his pardon, being filled with confusion at his fault, and moved by the meekness and humility of so compassionate a Superior.
Father Lallemant acted thus on all similar occasions, so prudently using lenity that every one readily conceded to him whatsoever he desired. He used to say that experience daily taught him more and more, that discipline should be kept up in the Company with extreme mildness ; that the Superiors ought to study to make themselves obeyed rather from love than from fear; that the way to maintain regularity is not by rigor and penances, but by the paternal kindness of the Superiors and their diligence in attending to the wants of inferiors; and in preserving and increasing in them the spirit of piety and prayer.
One day St. Vincent de Paul heard that one of his priests was too inactive during the missions, and that severity towards the people prevailed over charity in his sermons. He wrote to him as follows: "I write to you, dear Sir, to inquire your news and to communicate to you ours. How do you feel after your great fatigue ? How many missions have you given ? Do the people seem disposed to profit by your labors ? Do these labors produce the desired fruit ? It would be a great consolation for me to be informed in detail of all you have done. From other houses of the Congregation I have received good accounts, thanks be to God ! Their labors are to their great content blessed with happy results. The strength which God has given to Mr. N. is truly wonderful. For nine months he has been laboring in the country, and his missions, according to the Vicar-general, the religious of the place, and others, have done incalculable good. This result is ascribed solely, to the mildness and charity with which this gentleman seeks to win the hearts of these poor people. This induces me to recommend more earnestly than ever the practice of these virtues. If God deigned to bless our first missions, it as evidently on account of the kindness, humility arid sincerity with which we treated every one. Yes, if God deigned to make use of the most miserable among us, that is of myself, to convert sinners and heretics, it was, as they themselves unanimously admitted, in consequence of the patience and benevolence with which I constantly acted towards them. Even the galley-slaves were won in this manner. When I dealt severely with them, all my efforts were vain, whilst, on the contrary, when I pitied them, praised their resignation, kissed their chains, sympathized with them in their misfortune, or told them that their sufferings were their purgatory in this life, they listened to me and took the necessary means to save their souls. I beg you, therefore, my dear Sir, to help me to thank God earnestly for these favors and to beg of Him to bestow the grace, upon all our Missioners, to act towards every one, privately and publicly, even towards the most hardened sinners.; with meekness, charity and humility, and never to make use of wounding words, or bitter reproaches, or preach severe sermons. I doubt not, Sir, that as far as you are concerned, you will carefully avoid a manner of acting which is so exceedingly unbecoming a Physician of souls, and which instead of winning hearts and leading them to God, only estranges and embitters them. Christ, our Lord, is the eternal delight of both angels and men : we must also try to be the delight of our fellow-creatures, so as to lead them to their eternal happiness."
Thus St. Vincent knew how to draw the attention of his priests to their faults and imperfections, without wounding their feelings. He excused them as far as he could, manifested his love and esteem for them, and reproved so modestly and humbly, that none ever felt abashed or discouraged, but, on the contrary, all were edified and encouraged by his very reproofs. To the Superior of one of his houses, who greatly exaggerated the difficulties of his office, Vincent gave the following answer : "What you write to me is both true and not true. It is true in respect to those who do not like to be contradicted by any one ; who wish every thing to be conducted according to their opinion and will; who desire to be obeyed by all without opposition or delay, and who would like to see their every command approved of. What you write is not true, however, in regard to those who consider themselves as the servants of others, and who, while they perform the duties of Superior, keep constantly in mind their model, Jesus Christ, who bore with the rudeness, jealousy, want of faith, and other faults of His disciples, and who said that He had come into the world not to be served, but to serve. You used formerly to go through your duties patiently, humbly and cheerfully, and I know well that your only design now in using these exaggerated expressions, is to explain your difficulties better and to induce me to remove you from your post of Superior.It was, however, by no means the opinion of St. Vincent, that Superiors should connive at every thing in their subjects. He wished that the guilty should always be reprimanded and even punished, insisting, nevertheless upon the reproof being given in the spirit of meekness and in accordance with the above-quoted principles.
He was once told that one of his priests, a very zealous man, who at that time was the Superior of a Seminary, treated the Seminarians too harshly. In a letter to this priest, he reproves him in the following manner : "I believe all that you have written, quite as readily as if I had seen it with my own eyes, and I have too many proofs of your zeal for the good of the Seminary to doubt your words. For this very reason, I have with held my judgment in regard to the complaints which have reached me of your severe government, until I should have learned from yourself the true state of things.
In the meanwhile, I beg of you to reflect seriously upon the manner in which you act, and to resolve to correct, with the help of God s grace, whatever may be displeasing to Him in your conduct. Although your intention may be good, yet the Divine Majesty is offended, and the following are a few of the evil consequences of such conduct : "First, the Seminarians leave the house dissatisfied ; virtue becomes distasteful to them ; the consequence of which is, that they may fall into sin and ruin their souls ; and this, merely because they were, by your severity, too soon forced out of the school of piety. Secondly, they talk against the Seminary and are the cause of others not going, who otherwise would have come to receive the instructions and graces necessary for their vocation. Thirdly, the bad reputation of one house easily reflects upon all the others of the Society, paralyzing the members thereof in their ministry, so much so that the good which the Lord, until now, has deigned to perform by their instrumentality, immediately commences diminishing more and more. To say that, heretofore, you have not noticed these faults in your own person, betrays, no doubt, a want of humility on your part. For were you possessed of that degree of humility which Jesus Christ requires of Missionary Priests, you would not hesitate for a moment to believe, that you were the most imperfect of all and guilty of all these things. You would attribute to a hidden blindness your not noticing in your self those defects which are so easily discovered by others, and for which you have already been reprimanded. I have learned, that you do not like correction. Should this be so, ! how much should you fear for yourself! How far does your virtue fall short of that of the Saints who annihilated themselves before the world and were rejoiced at seeing their little failings made known to others. Are we not to imitate Jesus Christ, who, notwithstanding His innocence, suffered the bitterest and most unjust reproaches, without even opening His mouth to avert the disgrace from His sacred person?
My dear Sir, let us learn from Him to be meek and humble of heart. These are virtues which you and I must continually ask of Him, and to which we must always attend, in order not to be drawn away by the opposite passions, which make us destroy with one hand what we have built up with the other. May God enlighten us with His holy Spirit to discover our blindness and to submit to those whom He has given us for guides." To the Superior of a mission-house, he wrote as follows : "God be praised that you went yourself to do what Mr. N. refused to do. It was very good that you preferred doing this, rather than insisting any longer upon obedience to your command. There are some people, who, although devout and pious, and having a great horror for sin, will still from time to time commit some faults through human frailty ; we must bear with them, and not excite them still more. As God otherwise blesses this gentleman in the confessional, I think we ought to connive a little at his caprices, so much the more as they are of no serious nature. With regard to the other priest of whom you write, I hope that this word has escaped him from want of reflection, rather than from real malice. Even the most discreet when surprised by passion, may say something of which they soon after repent. Finally, there are men who show aversion to persons as well as to offices, but who still do much good. Alas ! it cannot be otherwise, live with whom you please, you will still have something to suffer, as well as some thing to merit. I hope, that he, of whom I speak, will still be gained, if we use towards him charitable forbearance and kind corrections. Do pray for him, as I unceasingly do for your whole community."
To another Superior he wrote : "The priest of whom you make this report, is a pious man ; he practices virtue, and before he entered our Congregation, he enjoyed a great reputation in the world. If he now manifests a restless spirit, meddling with temporal affairs and those of his family, and thus becomes a subject of annoyance to his brethren in religion, he must be borne with in meekness. If he had not this fault, he would have another; and if you had nothing to suffer, you would have no occasion to practice charity. Your Superiorship would, moreover, bear little resemblance to that of our Divine Redeemer who chose, for Himself, imperfect and uneducated disciples, both to manifest His charity and patience, and to give an example to those who have to direct others. I beseech you, my dear Sir, to imitate this Divine Model. From Him you will learn not only how to bear with your brethren, but also how to treat them, in order to free them more and more from their defects. Certainly on the one hand, we must not allow, through human interest, evils to increase or to take deeper root, but on the other hand we must try to remedy them by degrees and in a charitable manner."
To a priest who was in company with another on a distant mission, he wrote thus : "I hope that the goodness of God will bless your efforts, especially if charity and patience reign between you and your assistant. I beseech you, in the name of the Lord, to see that this be your principal care, because you are the elder and consequently the Superior. Bear, therefore, in patience what ever you may have to suffer on the part of your companion. Bear all, I say, so as interiorly to renounce your authority, and to be guided only by the spirit of charity. By this means Jesus Christ gained his Apostles and corrected them of their faults. You also will gain this good Priest by this means only. Have then a little regard for his character; do not contradict him at the first moment, though you believe you have reason for so doing, but wait awhile and then give him a charitable remonstrance. Above all, take great care not to let any one perceive the least difficulty between him and you, for you are exposed to the observation of all, and one single unkind look on your part, if noticed by the people, would make so bad an impression upon them as to paralyze all your labors. I hope you will follow my advice."
If all these admonitions and reproofs were, or seemed to be, of no avail, still Vincent did not lose courage, but continued to bear patiently, to pray, and to hope that God would, in the end, show mercy to these strayed sheep. This perseverance he also recommended to others. When Superiors of the different houses requested him to send such and such a priest to another house, he recommended patience to them, reminding them of the common lot of all men to have faults. If any of his subjects acted otherwise than he had told him, he would say only : "Sir, had you followed my advice, you would have succeeded better in your under taking." Sometimes he would not say anything at all.
St. Francis de Sales was one evening visited by a nobleman. His servant forgot to put lights in the house and in the room of the prelate, so that the bishop was obliged to accompany the stranger to the gate, in the dark. The only reproof which the Saint made to the servant, consisted in this: "Do you know, my dear friend, that two little pieces of candle would have been of greater value to us today than ten dollars ? Once one of the servants of St. Francis de Sales returned home rather late at night, being quite intoxicated. He knocked at the door, but no one answered, all having gone to sleep. The Saint, who alone was still awake, went to open the door, and seeing that his servant was intoxicated to such a degree as not to be able to walk, he took him by the arm and conducted him to his bedroom ; there, after having undressed him and taken off his shoes and stockings, he laid him on his bed, covered him well and retired. The Saint, on meeting him alone next morning, said to him : "O, my dear friend, you were no doubt, very sick last night!" On hearing this the servant fell on his knees, and, bathed in tears, begged the prelate s pardon. The holy bishop touched by his sorrow, gave him, though a severe, yet a paternal reproof; he reminded him of the danger to which he exposed himself of losing his soul, and imposed upon him the penance of mixing a certain quantity of water with his wine at table. The culprit accepted the penance, and was, from that time, so faithful that he never again committed a similar fault. "One day," says the bishop of Belley, "I was to preach at the Church of the Visitation. Being aware that our Saint would be present, and that a large concourse of people was expected, I felt a little personal anxiety on the occasion, and I prepared in good earnest. When we had retired to his house, and were alone together, Well, he said, "you have given general satisfaction today ; people went away exclaiming, mirabilia ! at your fine and elegant panegyric. I only met with one individual who was not satisfied." "What can I have said" I replied, "to displease this person?" "Well I have no desire to know his name." "But I, for my part," said the Saint, "have a great desire to tell it to you." "Who is he then, that I may endeavor to give him satisfaction?" "If I had not great confidence in you, I should not name him ; but as I know you well, I willingly do so. Do you see him here?" I looked around, and saw no one but himself. "It is you, then," I said. "Myself" he replied. "Certainly, I rejoined "I should have valued your approbation alone, more than that of the whole congregation. Thank God, I have fallen into the hands of one who wounds only that he may heal ! What, then, did you find fault with ? For I know that your indulgence will not excuse anything in me ! I love you too much," he resumed, "to flatter you, and if you had loved our Sisters after this fashion, you would not have amused yourself in puffing up their minds, instead of edifying them in praising their state of life, instead of teaching them some humiliating arid more salutary doctrine. It is with the food of the mind as with that of the body. Flattery is windy ; and windy food, like vegetables, is not nutritious. We ought, in preaching, to provide, not empty food, the memory of which perishes with its utterance, but meat which will endure to life everlasting. We must never, indeed, ascend the pulpit, without the special object of building up some corner or other of the walls of Jerusalem, by teaching the practice of a certain virtue, or the means of avoiding a certain vice ; for the whole fruit of preaching consists in making the people do away with sin and practice virtue. "Lord!" exclaimed David, "I will teach the unjust Thy ways, and the wicked shall be converted unto Thee." "What sort of conversion," I retorted, "could I preach to souls delivered from the hands of their enemies, the devil, the flesh, and the world, and serving God in holiness of life ? You should have taught them," he said, "to take heed, since they stand, not to fall to work out their salvation according to the counsel of the Holy Spirit, with fear and trembling ; and not to be without fear, even with respect to sin forgiven. You described them to us as so many saints. You must not place pillows under elbows in this way, nor give milk to those who need bitter herbs and wormwood. "My object" I said, was to encourage and fortify them in their holy undertaking. We must encourage," he replied, "without running the risk of exciting presumption and vanity. It is always safer to humble our hearers, than to exalt them to high and admirable things above their reach. I feel persuaded, that another time you will be cautious in this respect." The next day he made me preach at a Convent of the Nuns of St. Clare. He was present, and the congregation was not less numerous than on the preceding day. I took care to avoid the pit-fall he had pointed out to me ; my discourse was very simple, both in words and ideas, aiming at nothing except edification. I proceeded with much method, and pressed home my subject. Our Saint, on our return, came to see me in my apartment, which, in fact, was his own for when I was on a visit to him, he always gave me his, room. After tenderly embracing me, he said, Truly, I loved you dearly yesterday, but much more today. You are, indeed, quite after my own heart ; and if I am not much mistaken, you are also according to God's heart, who, I believe, has been pleased with your sacrifice. I could not have believed, you would have been so yielding and condescending. It is a true saying, that the obedient man shall speak of victory. You have conquered yourself today. Do you know that most of your hearers said, Today is very unlike yesterday and they were not as much pleased this time as the last; but the individual, who was not satisfied yesterday, is wonderfully pleased today. I grant you hereupon a plenary indulgence for all your past faults. You have fulfilled all my wishes today ; and if you persevere, you will do much service for the Lord of the vineyard. Preaching must not seek its strength in the words and the notions of human wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. If you faithfully adhere to this method, God will give to your labors a full and honorable increase you will become prudent in the words of mystical wisdom, and will possess the science of the saints, the science that makes saints. What, after all, do we desire to know, save Jesus, and Jesus crucified.
One day Cardinal Cheverus learned that a parish priest was at open warfare with his parish. He went to the place with the view of re-establishing peace. The pastor in question was a man of irreproachable life and ardent zeal, but of an excitable disposition which some times hurried him beyond all bounds. It was from this defect that the dispute originated. A child had been brought to him for baptism whose godmother had neglected to make her Easter communion. Adhering rigidly to ancient regulations, he would not permit her to stand sponsor, which so exasperated the parents, that they refused to seek a substitute, preferring to leave their infant unbaptized: On his arrival, M. de Cheverus begged the pastor to withdraw his opposition ; but in vain. The Cardinal then directed one of the priests who accompanied him to perform the ceremony, in order that the poor child might no longer remain the victim of a quarrel. Irritated at this beyond all self-control, the pastor gave the most insulting language to his archbishop. The meek prelate opposed nothing but silence and calmness to the storm. He repaired to the church, where he ascended the pulpit and invited all the parishioners to peace and union with their parish-priest, on whom he pronounced an elaborate eulogium, detailing all the good qualities of which he was possessed. "You have," he
said, "but one complaint to make of him, he has, you say, a hasty and violent temper ; alas ! my friends, who is without defects ? If I were to remain twenty-four hours among you, you would perhaps discover so many faults in me that you would not be able to tolerate me : you see but one in your pastor, forgive then that single fault in consideration of so many virtues." Having finished his discourse, the Cardinal went to the sacristy, where he found the priest, abashed and ashamed, and, embracing him with the utmost kindness, he said : "My dear friend, I love you with my whole heart ; how shall we begin the service ?" Seeking by this means to do away with the recollection of the offense which had been committed, and prove his condescension in regard to every thing which was not inimical to his duty. The service over, the Cardinal called upon those of the parishioners who were the most embittered against the pastor, and, spoke to them so impressively that they declared themselves ready to do whatever he wished. The reconciliation was forthwith accomplished ; the kiss of peace was given, all sat down to the same table, and every heart was united in that of the Archbishop. Thus did he everywhere spread the dominion of charity, and illustrate by his example the words of the Apostle :
"Charity is sweet and patient, not hasty to anger, but pardoneth and suffereth much."
St. Alphonsus manner of correcting may be seen from the following letter, which he addressed to a Superior, of his Congregation : "To speak with all freedom, I remark above all, that I do not believe that your Reverence wishes me to treat you with too much consideration, in regard to obedience, and as a subject, weak in virtue, to whom nothing can be said for fear of giving offence. I have a better opinion of your Reverence, and I believe that you desire what is best and most pleasing to God. Now let me tell what I desire to see in you. Your Reverence knows how much I have always esteemed you ; I have given you proofs of this on several occasions. It would pain me very much were I to be told, as some time ago, that your Reverence is a holy man indeed, but unfit for the rectorship for the following reasons : first, because, when Superior, you would be seldom at home ; secondly, that you would at the same time busy yourself with too many affairs, write too many letters, trouble yourself about so many things that would not concern you, and introduce so many devotions to which you seem to be attached that the regular observance of the rule would soon suffer. I know of course, and every one acknowledges, that your Reverence does not go out for the sake of pleasure, or for some other similar reason, but from the motive of pleasing God in every thing ; but now that you are in the Congregation, and especially now that you have been made rector, you must be convinced, that you can do nothing more conducive to the glory of God, than to take good care of the well-being and regular observance of your community which is one of the most fervent, nay, even the most fervent of all we have. The number of your subjects being small at present, this regularity cannot be so perfect as yet ; however, you must endeavor to make it as perfect as circumstances will allow. As regards going out, your Reverence knows from your own experience, that if the head be wanting, all the rest is in disorder
Nevertheless, I do not forbid you to go out on an important affair for the good of the house or the Congregation? or when the greater glory of God is in question but should your Reverence wish to take part in all that contributes to the glory of God in your diocese, you could never be
at home. The greatest glory you can render to God is the accomplishment of his holy will. I repeat it therefore, henceforth, your Reverence must mind only the good of the house and the Church, Mater Domini; and the regular observance of the rule, that none of the things may come true which some have predicted of your Reverence. I speak with all charity, because I esteem you, and esteem you very much, and because I have a good opinion of you, trusting that you belong to the number of those who endeavor to sanctify themselves in the Congregation like Fathers Cafaro, Villani, Mazzini and others, who have renounced their own will and that you do not resemble those who wish to be treated too delicately, and whom I will treat thus, but of whom I foresee that they will never sanctify themselves, because they do not
To be continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . .