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ON THE ADVANTAGE OF TRIBULATIONS.
AGAIN, the holy Gertrude knew by divine inspiration that our Lord (whose delights are to be with the children of men) (Prov. viii. 31) finding nothing pleasing in man, that would make it fitting that He should deign to consort with him, sends him tribulations and afflictions, both bodily and spiritual, which may give Him the opportunity of remaining with man; for the Scripture of truth saith: “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart ” (Psal. xxxiii. 19). And again, the Lord Himself saith: “I am with him in tribulation” (Psal. xc. 15).
A certain person, occupied in manual labour, was suddenly grievously hurt, and suffered great pain. St. Gertrude, taking compassion on her, besought our Lord that He would not permit a member of the community to be in danger who was hurt in the course of her righteous labour. Our Lord benignantly answered her: “That member will be nowise in danger; 261but will receive an incomparable reward for the pain she endures. All the other members also, who exert themselves to serve the injured one, and who alleviate and heal her pains, will in like manner obtain for this an eternal reward. Then she said, “And how can the members thus serving each other merit so much, since they do it, not in order that the injured member may bear her pain more patiently for Thy sake, but that the pain may be diminished or removed?” To which our Lord answered, in words of inestimable consolation, saying, “When a man. after the remedy has been applied, boars patiently, for love of Me, the pain which h” cannot by his own endeavours alleviate, he gains an incomparable reward and merit, since I have most truly sanctified such sufferings by those words in which I prayed to My Father at the moment of My extreme necessity, saying, My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me” (Matth. xxvi. 30). And she replied. “Is it not more acceptable to Thee, Lord my God, that a man should bear with resignation whatever may happen to him, than that he should be patient when he cannot in any way escape from it?” Our Lord answered, “This is hidden in the secrecy of My Divinity, and surpasses all human understanding. But, as far as human judgment can discern, those two are like two colours, of such elegance and beauty that men can hardly decide which of them is to be preferred to the other.”
Our Lord said again to St. Gertrude: “When My elect rightly desire any good, My loving-kindness 262with which I delight in the salvation of men, compels Me to deem that they have desired Me, Wherefore, if those who are weighed down by sickness of body or desolation of mind, piously desire health or deliverance, I account them to have desired Me, that I may be able the more copiously to reward them according to the burning love of My Heart, provided they do not wish for health in order to do evil.”
St. Gertrude also divinely learnt that, as a ring is the sign of espousals, so adversity, whether bodily or spiritual, humbly borne for God’s sake, is a true sign of the divine election, and, as it were, the espousal of the soul with God, in so far that the afflicted may confidently say these words, “My Lord Jesus Christ hath betrothed me with His ring.” For if, in the midst of adversity, he can by the gift of God praise God, and from his heart give thanks to Him, he already obtains, like a beloved spouse, a crown from the Lord; since gratitude in adversity is the most beautiful and precious crown of the soul.
St. Gertrude once heard the Lord Jesus gently saying to her; “Behold, I exhibit to thee the abundance of the sweetness of My divine Heart, that thou mayest draw from it, and give liberally as much and to whomsoever thou wilt.” She, therefore, praying with special affection for a certain person, infused into that person’s heart a good measure of sweetness, drawn from the Heart of our Lord, which was immediately changed into bitterness. And, as Gertrude wondered greatly at this, the Lord said to her, “When I give grace to any one, it produces the effect in him which 263is most conducive to his salvation. For to some it is more useful to be tried in the present life by divers afflictions, than to receive great sweetness and consolation. Therefore in them, My grace is converted into the bitterness of tribulations and sorrows, by which their salvation is more and more promoted, and their souls are adorned according to the good pleasure of My Heart. And, although this be hidden from them in this exile, yet they will the more sweetly experience it in eternity, in proportion as they have more faithfully laboured here, patiently en during all adversities and troubles for the love of My Name.”
The Lord said also to St. Gertrude: “When a man fears to lose, or has lost any beloved friend, if he offers to Me, with his whole will, the grief which he feels, so that even if he could retain that friend he would yet be willing to part with him to My praise, that so My Will rather than his might he done, he is indeed most acceptable to Me. And after the moment when he so bent the wishes of his heart to My Will, My loving-kindness will preserve his offering in the same nobleness and perfection as when he first made it in his heart; and all the thoughts that afterwards from human frailty oppress his heart (as, for example, if he thinks thus: Thou mightest now have this or that consolation or help from thy friend, if he were here), will co-operate for his eternal salvation, and prepare a place in his soul for divine consolation.”
When a certain devout and amiable virgin had 264died in the convent of St. Gertrude, whose dentil caused no small grief to the community, our Lord, speaking to St. Gertrude, said, of her, “When any one of you, recollecting the sweet manners of the departed, wishes to have her yet present; if she then offers her up to My Will, she presents to Me, by so doing, a lily of most sweet odour, and I will in My goodness repay her for it a hundredfold,
The Lord said to the blessed Mechtildis, “When any one bears any affliction, or even slight pain, with this intention, that he would willingly endure a greater pain for the love and praise of My Name, if it so pleased Me, he in that same moment revives, and becomes capable of receiving My grace, though his heart be ever so dry and covered with the rust of sin. If one who is afflicted offers his grief to Me at once in the beginning, I, partaking of it, render it sweet to him, and wonderfully ennoble it. But if he first drink of it, he pollutes it; and the more he drinks the more bitter it grows to him, so that afterwards it is not fitting for me to drink of, unless it be purified by penance and confession. Therefore, when a man suffers any injury, let him not impatiently complain to men, with many words, but let him instantly lay his grief before Me, that I may pour into him the sweetness of My consolation, and encourage, him to patience. If, however, he has neglected to do this in the beginning, let him not on that account lose confidence, but let him strive to offer it to Me purified by penance, with a humble spirit and a contrite heart.”265
One of the Fathers says: “If thou be unjustly rebuked, humble thyself, and keep thyself patient; if, indeed, thou be justly reproved, then be thou much more humble and patient, and, being ready and willing to correct thyself, remain tranquil.” “Why, I ask, art thou disturbed when this or that person accuses thee of many things of which thou hast not even thought, and .speaks evil of thee? Remember thy Lord Jesus Christ, who most patiently and gently endured evil words heaped upon Him without cause. See that the peace of thy heart depend not on the tongues or the judgment of men.
God, when He wills to purify and adorn one of His elect, often permits that he should be greatly contradicted in what he rightly does, even by those who are esteemed good, and in whose fidelity he most trusted. Whatever may happen, whatever evil may come upon thee, do thou ever flee to the Lord thy God, and hide, thyself in Him, and receive all things from His fatherly Hand. what a joyful life thou wouldst lead, if thy heart were firmly fixed on God!
St. Gertrude, moved by compassion, was praying for a person whom she had heard impatiently complaining that God had sent her trials that were not conducive to her salvation, and, our Lord answered her: “Thou shalt tell her for whom thou prayest, that since no one can obtain the kingdom of heaven without at least some tribulation or suffering, she may choose and point out what trials she thinks would be of use to her, and when these have come upon her, let her have patience.” By which words of the Lord 266Gertrude understood that it is a most dangerous kind of impatience when a man perversely and proudly wishes to choose what he can bear, saying that he cannot endure the afflictions that are sent him by God, and that they are not adapted to his salvation; for each one ought always to be sure that whatever God lays upon him or permits to happen, is most suitable and most useful to him; and if he does not endure it altogether patiently, he ought to humble himself for this.
A certain virgin of most holy life said to one who enquired how she had attained to perfection: “(1) I received all adversity with a tranquil mind from the Hand of the Lord; (2) and if any one inflicted an injury upon me, I took care to return him some special benefits, which I should not have done if I had not been injured by him; (3) I complained of my trials to no one except God, wherefore I immediately received from Him consolation and strength.”
Another virgin of exceeding holiness being asked by what practices she had arrived at perfection, humbly answered: “I was never so overwhelmed with pains and trials but that I sought to endure greater for the love of God, counting myself unworthy of those glorious gifts of God.”
Another virgin, visited by the permission of God with an intolerable pain, seemed to herself to suffer the torments of hell; and when she had long been thus afflicted, turning at length with her whole heart to God, she said: “O most sweet God, remember, I beseech Thee, and mercifully consider that I am Thy poor creature, and Thou indeed my Lord and Creator. 267Behold, I offer myself to Thy most just judgment, and entirely resign myself to Thy most sweet Will, and I am ready to endure these infernal torments so long as it may please Thee; make use of me as Thou wiliest in time, and in eternity.” When she had made this act of resignation, the Lord straightway united that virgin to Himself, and plunged her in the joyful abyss of His Divinity.
A servant of God had wonderful things revealed to him by an interior light from God; but he besought the Lord that if it pleased Him, He, would withdraw this manner of grace from him. Therefore the Lord, having deprived him of that grace, left him for five years without consolation amid great temptations, difficulties, and calamities; and once when he was weeping bitterly, and two Angels wished to console him, he said that he sought for no consolation, but that it abundantly sufficed him if the most sweet Will of God was accomplished in him, and if he could be interiorly pure before God, and pleasing to Him.
Our Lord said to St. Catherine.: “I will that thou shouldst know that all the pains which afflict men in this world consist in their will; for if the will were regulated and conformed to My Will, the pain would in a sense disappear. Although he whose will is thus sanctified and regulated, may feel labours and sorrows, yet what he suffers cheerfully for love of Me, is borne by him almost without pain, for he endures it most willingly, considering and knowing it to be My Will that he should suffer. His mind is free in every bodily pain, since his will is in all things conformed 268and united to My Will. Affliction or pain proceeds from the will, and entirely depends upon it, since man is afflicted by having what he wishes not to have, or by not having what he wishes. Therefore if his self-will be removed, the spirit of man is tranquil, and enjoys peace.”
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