Author Topic: Proper Conduct in Illness  (Read 592 times)

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Offline Jitpring

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Proper Conduct in Illness
« on: March 16, 2012, 10:58:43 PM »
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  • Proper Conduct in Illness

    Sermon for the Thursday after the Third Sunday of Lent, March 3, 1622

    In the first part of today's Gospel [Lk. 4: 38-44], upon which I ought and indeed want to dwell, mention is made of the cure of St. Peter's mother-in-law, which was brought about by Our Lord in Capernaum. Here are the facts of the story: Our Divine Master was in that city, proclaiming the works and greatness of His heavenly Father's providence. After He had cured many people and freed a person tormented by the devil [Lk. 4:33-35], He entered the house of Simon and Andrew and cured Peter's mother-in-law, who was racked with
     a fever.

    It happened this way. The Savior entered the house just before dinner. Sts. John, James and Andrew, and his brother Peter, decided that before sitting down to dinner they would ask Him to cure this woman. After they made their request, Our Lord approached the patient's bed and, standing over her, looked at her, and grasping her hand [Mk. 1:31], commanded the fever to leave her, or as St. Luke says, rebuked the fever and it left her. Then this good woman, feeling herself healed, got up and waited on them. First I will speak of three or four points concerning the literal meaning of this text, and then we will consider the rest.

    First, the Evangelist writes that Jesus entered the house of Simon, the great Apostle St. Peter, who was the first of the Apostles to follow our dear Master, along with his brother St. Andrew. [Matt. 4:18-20; In. 1:41]. St. Matthew shows this clearly in his eighth chapter [Matt. 8:14], and St. Mark indirectly in his first chapter. [Mk. 1:29]. St. Luke does not mention this in today's Gospel -- only that Jesus, having entered the house of Simon, cured his mother-in-law who was racked with a fever. Many superficial minds have concluded from this incident that St. Peter was not celibate at that time. The Huguenots conclude that since he had a mother-in-law, he must have been married at that time. This is certainly not so, for burdened with the duties of married life, he would not have been able to follow Our Lord.

    But if they said that since he had a mother-in-law he must have had a wife at one time, and consequently a family too, that would be a different thing altogether. It would be a reasonable inference. Thus, we can conclude that although he had not always been celibate, he took on celibacy when he became a follower of the Savior. This is clear by these words he addressed to Jesus: Here we have left all things to follow You; what can we expect from it? [Matt. 19:27]. "We have left all things": He did not say "in part," but "all," without any reserve whatsoever. "And since we have left all, what reward will we receive from You?" Now, had he been married, he could not have spoken in that way.

    Since Our Lord chose St. Peter to be the head of all His priests, it was only fitting that he should be celibate since, as St. Jerome wrote, the virgin who marries cannot say that she belongs entirely to God. It is true that she may always recognize Him as her Lord; yet she has another lesser lord to whom she also belongs and whom she loves. Therefore her heart cannot belong entirely to Jesus Christ. It is shared, it is divided. [cf. 1 Cor. 7:33-34]. But priests, being completely dedicated to God, should have no other lord but Him. That is why they detach themselves from the creature by renouncing marriage, the better to unite themselves more intimately to their God. The Sacrament of Matrimony is a union of creature with creature, and that of Orders is in some manner a separation of creature from creature. Thus, we must conclude that the Prince of the Apostles was a celibate and followed our dear Savior with his whole heart.

    Although it is said that Jesus entered the house of Simon, we must not think that this glorious saint had reserved a house for himself or that he still had a family. Oh no, for he had left all to follow his Master-his house, his family, his trade, and all the care and ambition that a man can have. He had had a family and a house in which his mother-in-law lived. Having left all things, he had given her the use of the house and the care of his family. Thus when it says that Our Lord entered the house of St. Peter, we must not conclude that this Apostle had one at the time, but only that it had at one time been his.
    When it is written that the Apostles Peter, Andrew, John and James gathered together to ask for the cure of Simon's mother-in-law, this is a very important matter. For this request represents the Communion of Saints, by which the body of the Church is so united that all its members share in the good of one another. From this it follows that all Christians share in all the prayers and good works which are offered in Holy Mother Church. This communion exists not only here below on earth, but in Heaven as well. That position is foolish and stupid, then, which, though willing to believe in the Communion of Saints on earth, will not believe that it extends to Heaven. Certainly, people who hold that view do not believe in that article of the Apostles' Creed. It is most certain that, as we share here below in the prayers of one another, so these same prayers and good works profit the souls in Purgatory, who can be helped by them. Moreover, they and we share in the prayers of the blessed, who are in Paradise. It is in this that this Communion of the Saints consists. This article of faith is symbolized by the cure of our sick woman, who was not relieved by her own prayers, but by those of the Apostles, who interceded for her. {1}

    When Our Lord commanded the fever to leave her He showed His omnipotence, letting it be seen that He was the Master of sickness as well as of health, and that all things obey Him. Angered by the evil of the fever, He rebuked it and drove it out of her, as if He wanted to say: "How dare it remain where the Physician and the Medicine of life is? Why does it not flee My presence without waiting for Me to command it?" It is written that God was angry with the Red Sea because it had not dried up. [Ps. 105 (106):9]. That seems to mean that since God's will was that the Red Sea should be dry, He rebuked it for not being so, implying thereby that it should have dried up even before He commanded it to do so. So much for the literal meaning.

    Let us now say something of the spiritual aspect of sickness. There are so many spiritual maladies that if I were to begin speaking of them I would never finish. For they are at work all year long. Although religious are exempt from some of them, they are not exempt from all of them. But I thought I would not treat of them today, but of bodily maladies, from which religious are no more exempt than are others. These bodily maladies are found as much in religious houses as in the world. And since today's Gospel deals with them, it is very important to know how to profit from them. We learn how to profit from them from our fever patient, who practiced so many admirable virtues in her sickness that I think her story ought to be written for all monastic infirmaries, to serve as an example for all those who suffer illness and to teach them how to profit spiritually from them. This woman practiced many virtues, but I will single out only three for comment.
    But before discussing bodily illnesses, I must cure -- or at least give the remedy proper to cure -- a spiritual illness which is found in many persons. This concerns one's approach to subjects for meditation. This will serve as a preface to my discourse. I will use St. Paul's words on the subject of Melchisedech. I will use them as an "armed preface" according to St. Jerome's expression-that is, a preface which has its

    I arms and which carries a helmet on its head. The great Apostle calls Melchisedech "king of peace" and "king of justice." [Heb. 7:1-3]. Then he adds that he was without father, mother or genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life. Now, many superficial and foolish minds have created heresies based on these words. They said in their false belief that Melchisedech was not a man, that he did not have a true body like ours, and they go so far as to attribute divinity to him,  as if he were God-something which is manifestly false. According to St. Paul, he was a just and peaceable man, and there is no difficulty in believing that he was like all other men. In our attempt to draw different meanings from Scripture, we must never go beyond legitimate bounds in proposing our interpretations. Let us say something, then, on the correct way of meditating on Scripture.

    We can consider the holy Bible, that is, the mysteries contained therein, and principally the Gospels, in two ways. The first is to use the pious considerations arranged by many of those who have had the guidance of souls. They have had beautiful insights both into the life and death of Our Lord, as well as into the other mysteries of our faith, insights which can be useful in meditation. There are still many spiritual guides today, {2} and others as well, to whom the Holy Spirit inspires holy and devout thoughts. These they arrange for our use. After all, the same God who was yesterday is still today [Heb. 13:8], granting as many graces and favors to us in this present time as He did to our fathers before us.
    In this manner of meditating we must make good use of our imagination and reason, seeing the different thoughts or scenes from the Gospel or from the mystery upon which we are meditating, as some have done for our pious belief. For example, we' can imagine the many tears shed during the Passion at the meeting of the Son and the Mother, as the Savior carried His Cross to Mount Calvary-as well as the many tears shed at the scourging and at the foot of the Cross. In order to represent the convulsions and sorrows of the most holy Virgin, Our Lady, some have imagined her quite shocked, swooning and weakened with sorrow at the death of her Son. Our artists have depicted her thus at the foot of the Cross, as if she had been overcome by weakness or fainting. But this never happened to her, either in the life or in the death of Our Lord, for the Evangelist says that she remained firm and stood at the foot of the Cross. [In. 19:25]. Our artists have followed their imagination, which has no more truth in it than that which paints the good thief attached to the cross with nails and the bad thief with none, as if he did not deserve them. Such suppositions on Holy Scripture are really poetic license, and dangerous. We must use them soberly, as well as those regarding the three Marys.

    Now {3} I do not say that we cannot use the imagination in meditating, or the pious considerations left us by the holy Fathers and by so many other good souls. Since holy and great people have written them, who will not make use of them? Who will refuse to consider or to believe piously what they have piously believed? O certainly, we may confidently follow persons of such authority. But perhaps we may not be satisfied with what they have left, and want to make many other considerations with our imagination. This is where we must be on our guard not to use the imagination carelessly in our meditation, according to our fancy, but rather we must act soberly, according to the advice of our directors and those who guide us, or according to what is written in well-approved books which keep us free from doubt and danger. So much for this first way of meditating, which is good and of which I in no way disapprove, for many great and holy persons have practiced it and still practice it. It is excellent when it is used as they have used it.

    The second method is to make no use of the imagination, but to keep to the literal meaning; that is, to be satisfied with meditating purely and simply on the Gospels and on the mysteries of our faith. Now, this way is higher and better than the first. Yes, it is simpler and safer. To return to our example, it is in this way that St. Paul speaks of Melchisedech when he writes that he was without father, mother or genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life. When he says that Melchisedech was without father and without genealogy, he does not mean that he had no father or mother as others have. Like them, he was born, and therefore had a genealogy. He was not without beginning of days, since, as man, he was born. Nor was he without end of life, since he died the same as all others do. But because nothing is mentioned in Holy Scripture of Melchisedech's father and mother, his genealogy, birth and death, St. Paul simply states nothing about them, wanting to add nothing to the letter. He wants to say only what was written. That is why he speaks thus about this holy person.

    Keeping strictly to the literal meaning of the sacred text is the way I would like to speak of our fever patient. This woman is truly admirable in the way she bears her physical illness. {4} It is clear from today's Gospel that she practiced many virtues. But what I admire most is that great submission she made to God's providence and to the care of her superiors. How tranquil and peaceful she is! She has a severe fever which keeps her in bed, greatly tormenting her. This type of illness does that. Yet in all this she remains at peace, not bothering anybody. For the Gospel simply states that she was in bed with a fever. [Matt. 8:14-15]. Yet everyone knows how painful restlessness is. Fastidious people certainly witness to this. When they do not get their nine hours of sleep, they do nothing but complain about it. "Oh," they say, "we have been so restless." Restlessness is an evil which usually disturbs fever patients greatly. It keeps them from sleeping and makes them weary, and they find no pleasure in anything. We have to move Heaven and earth to relieve them, but even that does them no good.
    The wonderful resignation of our fever patient into the hands of her superiors is the reason why she was not disturbed or at all restless. She was solicitous neither for her health nor her cure. She placed herself in the care of those who had charge of her, and was content to remain in her bed, enduring her illness with equanimity and patience. O God, how happy was this good woman and how deserving to be cared for, as Sts. Peter and Andrew and the other two Apostles, John and James, certainly did. They procured her cure. They provided what was necessary without the patient requesting it. She did not speak to them about it. They were simply moved by charity and pity for what she was enduring. How happy the sick in the world would be if they simply let themselves be cared for by those who have charge of them! How happy religious would be if they made the great act of abandonment into the hands of their superiors that our fever patient made.

    If it is reasonable for people in the world to give themselves into the hands of those who care for them because of the natural love and compassion that they have for them, it is even more reasonable for religious to do the same. After all, they live under superiors who, through a motive of charity, serve them and provide for their needs. This charity is stronger and more compelling than nature, sparing nothing. It motivates the superiors of religious to provide for the needs of those of whom they have charge. If a father of a sick child, whom he may not actually love, nevertheless would not fail to have him treated according to his need, urged on only by natural compassion, what ought not to be expected of superiors who serve us through true charity?

    St. Peter's mother-in-law knew that Our Lord was in Capernaum and that He was curing many sick people. Nevertheless, she did not anxiously send for Him to tell Him that she was suffering, nor did she beg Him to come to her house. But what is even more amazing is that even when they encountered one another in her house, she looked at Him and He looked at her, but she did not say a word about her illness so as to move Him to have pity on her; nor did she cry out, "Lord, Son of David, have pity on me" [Matt. 15:22]; or "Lord, say only the word and my soul will be healed" [Matt. 8:8; Lk. 7:7]-that is, I will regain life and health. She did not ask Him to approach the bed where she was lying and to place His hand on her. She was not even eager to touch His garment, nor the tassel of His cloak, as many others did, as we see in the Gospel. [Matt. 9:20-21; 14:36; Lk. 6:19]. Actually, the majority of the people who sought out the Savior did so to be cured of bodily diseases, not of spiritual maladies. Only the Magdalen, that great saint, came to Him that He might treat her heart and cure her spiritual infirmities. She did this in a wonderful way, while still in the flower of her age.
    O God, how many sick people in Capernaum, knowing that Our Lord, the sovereign Physician, was there, displayed very great overeagerness and anxiety to make their condition known to Him whom they knew could cure them! Certainly, the centurion was truly commendable for the care he took in sending the principal people of the city to the Savior to tell Him of his servant's illness. [Lk. 7:3]. He was also commendable for the lively faith by which he acknowledged that only a word from the Lord was necessary for this cure. But he demonstrated great overeagerness and anxiety for his sick servant's restoration to health. Did not the Canaanite woman do the same? How she cried out after our dear Master! How persistent she was in importuning Him to obtain what she desired! Did she not cry out after the Apostles so that they might pray for her, or at least, in seeing her persistence, be moved to do it? {5} [Matt. 15:22-28]. What pleadings the prince of the synagogue made in his effort to persuade Our Lord to come down to his house! [Mk. 5:22-23]. In a word, all of them showed great anxiety and desire for their cures.

    Even today, what would our sick people not do if they learned that a man of great medical skill were here? They would beg him to visit them and cure their ills. How impatiently they would await his coming! Oh, such disquietude certainly comes from a disordered self-love, and this is an illness to which not only the people in the world are subject, but also those in religion. The glorious St. Bernard, who understood this well, wrote a long letter to the Brothers of St. Anastasius, treating at length the subject of bodily illnesses. (There are monks of the same name who live today in Rome.) Now in this community, they were nearly all ill, and I can indeed believe this-for there was a great number of them, and all from different nations. Perhaps the air was not good, or the air in Rome was polluted at that time and caused many infirmities. Being informed of this, St. Bernard addressed a letter to them in which he spoke as he felt necessary, scolding them rather severely. He sent them word that the Brothers of St. Anastasius were not permitted to think of remedies proper to recover health, still less to ask for them. He said they ought not to know what medicine to take, nor whether or not they needed to be bled. He added that monks who have consecrated themselves to the service of Our Lord ought no longer to be concerned with their bodily illnesses, but only with their spiritual ones. They must abandon their bodily illnesses to God's providence, which permits them, and to the care of the superiors who have charge of them. They ought not to have recourse to either doctors or medicines. It may be suitable for people in the world to send for doctors with great overeagerness and to take remedies frequently. But for monks this was not permissible. If they were so sick that they needed something for their relief, they could take herbs, like borage. And if their illness were serious they could be given a little wine. (This shows us that the monks of that time used neither wine nor meat, in a spirit of evangelical poverty.)
    St. Bernard appears very austere indeed in this, but he is still more so in what he later wrote in the same letter: "If I seem too rigorous, let me tell you that in what I say to you, I have the Spirit of God and it is with this spirit that I speak to you." This is very remarkable. For if this holy Father had told them that he had spoken to them according to his own sentiments, he would not have been so austere. But no! He assured them: "I do not speak according to my own sentiment. But in what I tell you I think I have the Spirit of God." (J Cor. 7:40].
    Elsewhere he replies to the objection of those who could say to him that the Apostle St. Paul, although he had the Spirit of God, commanded his disciple Timothy to drink wine, writing to him in this way: My dear son and beloved brother, we order you to stop drinking water only. Use a little wine to strengthen your stomach, which has become weak from the water you have taken. (1 Tim. 5:23]. This great and worthy Bishop Timothy had contracted great infirmities because of his fasts and austerities. And now, as a relief and as medicine, St. Paul counsels him to use a little wine. We see from this that up until this time the great saint drank only water. Just as St. Paul ordered his dear disciple to use wine by way of remedy, so St. Bernard ordered his religious to take wine only in case of necessity. "If you raise the objection," said St. Bernard, "that the Apostle enjoined Timothy to use wine, I will answer that he knew well that Timothy was Timothy. Give me, then, a Timothy now, and we will permit him to take wine. Indeed, we would order him to use it, and not only wine, but also 'liquid gold,' if necessary." Of course, the religious of St. Bernard, as well as other religious, are not today as they were formerly. They are not nearly as rigorous today as they were in ancient times. Each one wishes to use wine, as well as medicines and doctors.

    It is true that these things are more available today than they were formerly. For at that time there were very few doctors. Sometimes there would be only one to a province, and when one was needed, people had to go from place to place to find him, at great expense. His services could not be had for less than a hundred crowns. Medicines also were very expensive. That is perhaps why religious of those times made so little use of them. But this is not true in our time. Besides drugs being less expensive, doctors are not as scarce. Therefore we use them more freely, so that for the slightest ailment we use medicine and run in haste to call a doctor. Yet it is also true that people today are much more delicate and soft about themselves than they were formerly. Fewer would act this way if medicines and doctors were used only according to our superior's orders. But we are not satisfied with that. We wish to act in our own regard and according to our whims. We take too much care of self! We fret and anxiously try to find the means to be cured. We want to know everything, whether it is good for us or not. We wish to know about all the remedies in the world and to use them, claiming that everyone does so.

    Our fever patient did not act in this way at all. She was in her bed without making any fuss whatever. It was enough for her that others knew she was ill; she was content to take what was given her for her health, not fretting over whether it would benefit her or not. She believed firmly that God was not the first, nor the second, nor the third cause of her illness, for He is not the cause of sickness in any way whatever. Since He is not the cause of sin, then He is not the cause of sickness either. But just as He permits sin, He sends infirmities to correct and purify us of it. Thus, we must be submissive to His justice as well as to His mercy, keeping a humble silence. This will make us tranquilly embrace the events of His providence, as David did, who in his afflictions said: "I suffered and was silent because I knew that it was You who sent them to correct me and purge me of my guilt." [Ps. 38 (39):10-12].

    Our fever patient did the same. "You have sent me the fever, and I have accepted it. I have submitted myself both to Your justice and to Your mercy. Just as You sent it to me without my asking for it, so You can take it away without my asking you to do so. You know better than I do what is best for me. I have no need to trouble myself about it. It is sufficient for me that You look at me and that You know that I am sick in my bed." So, she did not say a word. She paid no attention to her illness. She did not enjoy talking about it. She suffered without being eager to be pitied or anxious to be cured. It was enough that God knew it, as well as her superiors who guided her. She was not like many people today. If they have a headache or colic everyone must try to cure it. The whole neighborhood must be told about it. Nothing less will satisfy them. Nor was she like those who for the least illness want to be sent to the infirmary so that everyone will pity them and pamper them in their pain; nor like those who run to the doctor for the least indisposition. These people are like little children who, being stung by a wasp or a honey bee, run in great haste to show it to their mother to have her blow on their finger. {6}

    Our fever patient is truly remarkable, for not only did she refrain from publishing her illness, she did not delight in speaking about it, nor did she bother to send for a doctor. Even more remarkable, when Our Lord is present in her house, He who as sovereign Physician is able to cure her, she says not a word to Him about her sickness. She did not want to see Him as a doctor, but only as her God to whom she belonged both in health and in sickness. In this she made it clear that she was as content with the one as with the other, and that she had no desire to be rid of the fever except when it would please her God. Oh, if she had been a contemporary lady, what artifice would she not have used to be cured! She would have explained that she asked for good health only to be able to serve Our Lord better. Or at the very least, she would say that she could bear it better at another time; but at present, while He was in her house, she could not endure it, for she could not entertain Him well while sick in bed. And she would use other such nonsense, which our fever patient in no way used.
    It is not enough to be ill because such is God's will, but we must be ill as He wills, when He wills and as long as it pleases Him, {7} entrusting our health to whatever He ordains for us, without asking for anything. It is enough that He knows it and that He sees our infirmity. We must let Him act and, without trying to foresee what is requisite for our cure, we must abandon ourselves to our superiors and leave the care of ourselves to them. We are not to concern ourselves with anything but bearing our illness as long as God pleases. This is the first point in the example of Peter's mother-in-law. The second point relates to this woman's meekness, resignation and modesty. The third point is the attention she gave to profiting from her illness. When Our Lord dispelled the fever, she got up and waited on Him. I will say a word on these two considerations.

    Great were her meekness and resignation in that she made no commotion about her illness, nor made it evident by her words. She did not say to the Savior, nor to those who had care of her, that she desired health rather than sickness. When our purpose is to serve Our Lord better, it may be good to ask health of Him as the One who can give it to us. Yet it must be done only on this condition, that it be His will. For we ought always to say: Fiat voluntas tua -- Thy will be done. [Malt. 6:10]. Nevertheless, it is much better to ask nothing of Him, and to be content that He knows our illness and the length of time that we have endured it.

    There are people who when ill would like to use everyone, if they could, to be cured. They send here and there asking for prayers that God deliver them from their infirmities. Certainly, it is good to have recourse to God, but ordinarily it is done with so much imperfection that it is pitiful. Notable faults have been committed in this regard by great personages, as happened to the King of France, Louis XI. (We do no harm to the reputation of these great people when we tell the truth.) Before going off to war, the King had many prayers offered at Paris for his physical safety. One day Mass was being offered for him in the Church of St. Germain. When the good abbot, who was celebrating the Mass, came to the prayer in which he recommended the soul and spiritual health of the King to God, this prince promptly sent one of his pages to order the recommendation of his physical health, saying that his soul could be attended to later. In doing this he committed a gross imperfection; and we are quite liable to commit similar faults on such occasions.

    But the great resignation of our fever patient kept her from falling into this fault, for she remained meek, modest and tranquil, asking for nothing. But moved by compassion, the Apostles very humbly spoke for her to Our Lord. The request was made secretly. When Our Lord heard it, He looked at the invalid who, in turn, was looking at Him. Then, approaching her bed, He grasped her hand and, angry with the fever, commanded it to leave her. She was cured immediately, and she got up at once and began to wait on Him.

    Here is my third consideration. Certainly she manifested great virtue and the profit she had gained from her sickness. For inasmuch as she had endured her illness in resignation to Our Lord's will, so as soon as it had left her, she desired to use her health only in His service. But when did she use it? At the very moment that she recovered it. She was not like those tender and delicate women who, though ill only for several days, must take weeks and months to recuperate! So that if some did not know they were ill during their short illness, they would surely know it by the time it took them to convalesce! This would give people ample time to pity them. That is why they must be placed apart in an infirmary, be given special food, and be coddled until they are restored to health. {8} Our fever patient was not at all like that. Rather, she served Our Lord as soon as she was cured.

    Now, if you wish, during this hour use your imagination to consider with what love, joy and gaiety this woman served her dear Master. Think how she kept looking at Him, how her heart was filled with His love and how many acts of love she made. How many Benedicites were in her mouth, praising Him who had been so good to her! Imagine also what the Apostles did who had witnessed this miracle, and you will learn how to conduct yourself during bodily illnesses, and the profit you ought to draw from them.

    In conclusion, we ought to observe at these times the general rule: ask for nothing and refuse nothing. {9} Let us confide ourselves into the hands of our superiors, leaving to them the care of providing doctors, remedies and everything necessary for our health and relief. Refuse nothing -- neither food, nor medicine nor any treatment that is given you -- for it is in this that evangelical poverty consists. The first degree of this poverty, says St. Bonaventure, consists in having no dwelling place or house which is our own and according to our liking. The second degree is to be uncertain about having proper clothing or food in the time of health. The third degree is that, being sick, we do not know where to go, having neither lodging nor food to sustain us in our necessity nor anything according to our liking. In a word, it is to be abandoned and forsaken by all help at the end of our life and, in the midst of this, to ask for nothing for our relief, and to refuse nothing when something is given us which does not agree with us.

    This has been practiced exactly in our time by two great saints: by the first one in effect, and by the other in desire and affection. I mean the Blessed Francis Xavier, who is about to be canonized for his great holiness of life. At the hour of his death he had neither house nor food to sustain him, for he died near China in a poor place, abandoned by all human help. In the midst of all that, the heart of this great servant of God melted with joy at seeing himself reduced to this state. Thinking about this, Blessed Marie of the Incarnation {10} considered his happiness so great that she said she would like to die as this blessed one did, deprived of all human support-indeed, even of divine support -- being content with the ordinary grace that God gives to all His creatures. Since this great saint could not die in effect in this evangelical poverty, at least she died this way in desire and affection. To these two holy souls, as well as to all those who imitate them, we can say: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. [Matt. 5:3]. Amen.


    1. St. Francis de Sales is here taking issue with a view of the Reformers that since Jesus alone is the sole mediator on behalf of humanity before God, the intercessory prayer of Christians for one another is without biblical or theological foundation. St. Francis links the efficacy of such prayer to the Communion of Saints, which he finds biblically based in this example of the Apostles interceding with the Lord on behalf of Peter's mother-in-law. Such prayer was indeed efficacious in that instance.
    2. Cf. Introduction to the Devout Life, Part II, chap. 1.
    3. Cf. Spiritual Conferences, XVIII, "The Sacraments and the Divine Office," pp. 362-363.
    4. Cf. Spiritual Conferences, XXI, "On Asking for Nothing."
    5. Cf. Sermon for Thursday of First Week of Lent, from this volume.
    6. Cf. Spiritual Conferences, V, "On Generosity," p. 85.
    7. Cf. Introduction to the Devout Life, Part III, chap. 3.
    8. One can only surmise that St. Francis de Sales is speaking here on the basis of his experience of such behavior and, no doubt, with a smile on his face and tongue in cheek!
    9. Cf. Spiritual Conferences, pp. 94, 95, 399-401, 405, 406.
    10. Blessed Marie of the Incarnation (1566-1618)-known in the world as Barbe (Barbara) Acarie-was a saintly wife and mother of six children, and later a Carmelite lay sister, who at one period of her life was spiritually directed by St. Francis de Sales. Despite an attraction to the religious life, she was married at age 17 to a man of the aristocracy. As a result of visions of St. Teresa of Avila, Barbe Acarie brought the Discalced Carmelites to France by founding five Carmelite convents there; this was before she herself had entered the convent. Throughout her life she experienced visions, ecstasies and other supernatural gifts. (Barbe Acarie is not to be confused with another saintly soul also known as Blessed Marie of the Incarnation, who lived from 1599-1672. The latter was also born in France and also became a wife at age 17 and then a mother, later entering a convent. She was sent to New France, Canada, about age 40, where she taught the Indians until the end of her life. She also experienced visions; she is sometimes called Blessed Marie of the Ursulines.)
    Age, thou art shamed.*
    O shame, where is thy blush?**

    -Shakespeare, Julius Caesar,* Hamlet**


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