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Of a grievous suffering which befell him while thus occupied.
SUCH was the way in which the Servitor aided many persons who were in suffering. But the good work cost him dear, owing to the martyrdom of sufferings which fell upon him in consequence. And God showed him these afflictions when they were still future, in the following vision. Once when he was travelling he arrived one evening at an inn; and just before daybreak it seemed to him in a vision that he was taken to a place where Mass was going to be sung, and that he had to sing it, for the lot had fallen upon him. The singers began the Mass of martyrs, “Multae tribulationes justorum;” that is, Many are the sufferings of God’s friends. He was not pleased at hearing this, and would have been very glad to change it, saying:—How strange! Why are you deafening 192us with the martyrs? Why do you sing to day the Mass of martyrs? We are not keeping any martyr’s feast to-day. They looked at him, and pointing at him with their fingers, said:—God has His martyrs now at this time, as He has ever had. Get ready, then, and sing for thyself.
He turned over the pages of the Missal which, lay before him, and would much rather have sung the Mass of confessors, or any other one except that of the suffering martyrs; but though he turned the book over and over again, it was all full of Masses of martyrs. When he saw that it could not be otherwise, he sang with them, and his singing rang forth exceeding mournfully. After a little while he began again, and said to them:—This is very singular. One would much rather sing Gaudeamus (Let us rejoice) about joyful things, than sing as we are doing about sorrowful things. They answered:—Good friend, thou dost not understand it vet. This song about the martyrs goes first, and then when the proper time has come the joyous song Gaudeamus follows after it.
When he came to himself again his heart trembled within him because of the vision, and he said:—Alas, O God! must I once more suffer martyrdom? In consequence of this his 193demeanour became so sorrowful as he journeyed onwards, that his companion asked him, saying:—Ah! father, what is the matter with you, that you look so exceeding sorrowful? He answered:—Alas! dear companion, I have to sing here the Mass of martyrs. Meaning, that God had made known to him that he had a martyrdom to suffer. But his companion understood him not; so he remained silent, and kept it all within himself.
On his arrival at the town, which took place in the dark days before Christmas, he was, as usual, so sorely visited with bitter sufferings that it seemed to him, as the saying is, that his heart within his body must break, if such a thing has ever happened to those in sorrow. For these sufferings hedged him round on all sides, and it was his sad lot to have every thing taken from him which had been a support to him in the way of service, consolation, or honour, and which was of a nature calculated to comfort a man here below. This bitter suffering was of the following kind:—Among those persons whom he had tried to lead to God there came to him a deceitful crafty woman, who under an outwardly good life concealed a wolfish heart, which she hid so well that the brother for a 194very long time did not perceive it. She had before this fallen into great sin with a man, and had added to her crime by attributing the off spring to a different person from the guilty man, who protested his own innocence in the matter.
The Servitor did not reject the woman on account of her misdeeds; but he heard her confession, and helped her in all needful and proper ways, more than it was the custom of the other religious of the country, who are called Terminerer (mendicants), to do. After this had gone on for a long time, it came to the knowledge of the Servitor, and of other reliable persons, that she was still secretly continuing the same evil practices as before. He said nothing about it, and would have gladly avoided making it known; at the same time he gave up his relations with her and ceased to help her. When the woman became aware of this, she sent him word not to act thus; and threatened him that, if he left off giving her the same assistance as heretofore, he should suffer for it; for that she would father upon him a child, which she had had by a secular man, and he would thus be put to shame by means of the child and be covered with infamy every where.
The Servitor was filled with consternation 195at these words, and stood motionless; then, sighing inwardly, he spoke thus within himself:—Anguish and distress surround me on all sides, and I know not which way to turn; for if I act in this way, woe is me, and if I do not act thus, still woe is me; and I am so girt round on all sides by distress and woe that I am like to sink under it. And thus, with terror in his heart, he waited for whatever God might allow the devil to bring upon him. At last, after taking counsel with God and himself, he came to the conclusion, that of these two miserable alternatives it was better for him in soul and body to abandon the wicked woman altogether, let the consequences to his good name be what they might; and so he did.
This inflamed her fierce heart with such rage against him, that, running hither and thither to ecclesiastics and seculars, she strove with more than human wickedness to defame herself, in order to bring suffering upon the poor man, and she told every one that she had had a child, and that it was by the brother. All who believed her words were greatly scandalised at it, and the scandal was the greater the wider the reputation of his holiness had spread. All this pierced him through to his 196very inmost heart and soul, and, being thus encompassed on every side by anguish and distress, he lived absorbed in himself, and the days seemed to him long and the nights miser able, and his short sleep was mingled with panic frights. He used to look upwards sorrowfully to God, and with deep groans exclaim:—Alas, O God! my hour of woe is come. How shall I, or how can I, bear this agony of heart? Alas, O God, would that I had died before I ever saw or heard of this misery! Lord, behold, I have honoured Thy venerable Name all the days of my life, and I have taught many persons far and wide to love and honour it. And wilt Thou bring my name to such great dishonour? This is a sore thing that I complain of. Behold how the venerable Order of Preachers must now be brought to disgrace through me. I grieve for this, and shall always grieve for it. Woe is me, by reason of the straits into which my heart has come! All good persons, who before held me in great honour as a holy man—a thing which gave me courage to persevere—now, alas! regard me as a wicked deceiver of the world; and this pierces and wounds my heart through and through.
When the poor sufferer had spent much 197time in these lamentations, and his body and vital powers were wasting away, there came to him a woman, saying:—Good sir, why do you wear yourself away through this excessive grief? Be of good cheer. I will give you such counsel and assistance, that, if you will follow my advice, your good name will remain uninjured. Therefore take courage. He looked up, and said to her:—Dear lady, how will you bring this to pass? She answered:—I will take away the child by stealth under my cloak, and either bury it alive at night, or stick a needle into its brain so that it will die. Thus the vile slander will fall to the ground, and you will keep your good name. He answered in a voice of fury:—Woe is me, wicked murderess! alas for thy murderous heart! Wouldst thou thus kill the guiltless babe? What matter that its mother is a wicked woman? Wouldst thou bury it alive? No, no; God forbid that such a crime should ever be committed through me. See; the very worst that can befall me in this matter is the loss of my worldly honour; but if the worldly honour of a whole country depended on me, I would rather sacrifice it to-day to the everlasting glorious God than let this innocent blood thus perish. She replied:—And yet it is not your child. Why 198then trouble yourself about it? Upon which she drew forth a sharp-pointed knife, and said:—Let me take it away out of your sight, and I will wring its neck, or stick this knife into its little heart. It will be dead at once, and you will be at peace again. He answered:—Silence, thou unclean and wicked devil. Be it whose child it may on earth, it is still formed after God’s image, and has been full dearly purchased with the most precious and innocent Blood of Christ. Therefore I will not that its young blood be shed in this way. The woman made answer to him impatiently:—If you will not let it be killed, at least let me carry it secretly into the church some morning, that it may fare with it as with other deserted found lings; else you will be put to great expense and annoyance, until the child’s bringing up is finished. He replied:—I trust in the rich God of heaven, who has always provided for me hitherto, that He will provide henceforth for both of us. And then he added:—Go and bring me the babe very secretly, that I may see it.
When he took the babe into his bosom and looked at it, the babe smiled at him. Upon which, fetching a deep sigh, he said:—Should I then kill a pretty babe that smiles at me? 199No, in truth! I will gladly suffer whatever may befall me through it. Then turning to the babe; he said:—Alas, thou hapless, tender babe! thou art indeed a poor orphan; for thy own false father has denied thee, and thy murderous mother has sought to fling thee away, like an ugly good-for-nothing whelp. Well; since God’s providence has given thee to me, in such a way that I cannot help being thy father, I will gladly act as one towards thee, and I will receive thee from God and from no one else; and even as He is dear to me, so shalt thou too be dear to me, my own sweet babe. Ah, child of my heart! thou sittest in my sorrowful lap, and lookest up at me so lovingly, and yet canst not speak. Alas! and I too look at thee with wounded heart and tearful eyes, and mouth that kisses thee, and I bedew thy infant face with the stream of my hot tears.
When the pretty boy felt the great tears of the weeping man fall so fast upon his little eyes, he too began to weep heartily with him; and they both wept together. But when the Servitor saw the babe thus weeping, he pressed it tenderly to his heart, and said:—Be still, my darling! Alas, child of my heart! should I kill thee because thou art not my child, but 200must cost me dear? Alas, my beautiful, dear, tender child! I would not hurt thee; for thou must be my child and God’s child; and so long as God provides me with but one single mouthful, I will share it with thee, to the glory of the good God; and I will bear patiently what ever may befall me through thee, my own sweet child.
When the cruel-hearted woman who had before wished to kill the babe heard him speak thus tenderly amid his tears, she was so deeply moved by it to great pity, and broke out into such loud cries and weeping, that he was obliged to quiet her, lest some one should come, and the whole thing be known. At length, when she had wept her full, he gave her back the babe, and blessed it, saying:—May the loving God bless thee, and the holy angels guard thee from all evil! And he bade her provide it with what was needful at his cost. Afterwards the wicked woman, the child’s mother, set to work again; and as she had already greatly slandered the brother, so she continued to do whenever she had an opportunity of injuring him; on which account he became an object of pity to many pure and virtuous souls, and they often wished that the 201just God would take her away out of the world.
It happened once that one of the Servitor’s kinsmen came to him, and said:—Alas, sir, for the great crime which this wicked woman has committed against you! God knows, I will avenge you on her. I will secretly station myself on the long bridge which goes over the water; and when the sacrilegious wretch passes that way, I will throw her over and drown her; and her great crime shall be avenged upon her. He answered:—No, my friend; God forbid that any living being should be put to death on my account. God, who knows all hidden things, knows that she has done me wrong about the child. Therefore I leave the matter in His hand, either to slay her or to let her live, according to His will. And I tell thee that, even if I were willing to disregard my soul, by conniving at her death, I would still honour in her the dignity of all pure women, and allow her the benefit of it. The man answered very angrily:—As for me, I would as soon kill a woman as a man, if she had behaved to me so villanously. He replied:—Nay; for that would be an act of most unreasonable and blameworthy ferocity. Think no more about it, and let all the sufferings 202fall upon me which God wills me to suffer.
As the Servitor’s afflictions were continually on the increase, it seemed to him one day? through infirmity of soul, that his distress had reached such a point that he must needs go forth in quest of something to support and cheer him in his sufferings. Accordingly he went out to seek for consolation, and he hoped to meet with it especially at the hands of two of his friends, who while he still sat on the upper side of fortune’s wheel had treated him as though they were his true friends and comrades. It was from them that he now sought consolation for his suffering heart. Alas! God showed him in them both that no dependence is to be placed in creatures; for he was more cruelly humiliated by them and those about them than he ever was by ordinary people. One of these friends received the afflicted brother very harshly, and turning away his face from him in anger, behaved to him in a very insulting manner, with cutting words. Among other offensive expressions which he used he told the Servitor to cease in future from all familiarity with him; for that he was ashamed of his company. Alas! this pierced the Servitor’s inmost heart; and he answered mournfully:—O 203 dear friend, if by God’s ordinance thou hadst fallen into the miry pool, as I have done, verily I would have sprung in after thee, and lovingly helped thee out of it. O misery! it is not enough for thee to see me lying before thee deep in the mire, but thou must needs trample on me besides. Of this I make my plaint to the sorrowful Heart of Jesus Christ. His friend bade him be silent, and said to him insultingly:—There is an end of you now. Not only your preaching, but your books too which you have written, ought to be treated with contempt. The Servitor answered him very sweetly, and looking up to heaven, said:—I put my trust in the good God of heaven that my books will be still more valued and loved than they have ever been, when the appointed time shall come. Such was the mournful consolation which he received from his best friends.
Hitherto in this town his necessities had been fully supplied by kind-hearted persons. But when these lying and slanderous tales were carried to them, those who believed the false talemongers withdrew from him their help and friendship, until at length, the truth having been manifested to them by God, they returned to him and acknowledged that he was guiltless.204
One day, when he had sat down to take a little rest, his bodily senses were stilled in ecstasy, and it seemed to him that he was carried into a land above the ken of sense. Then he heard something say in the very depths of his soul:—Hearken, hearken, to a word of consolation which I will read to thee. He did as bidden, and listened attentively. Upon which the voice began to read in Latin the following words from the chapter at none of the Vigil of Christmas, “Non vocaberis ultra derelicta, etc.” (Is. lxii. 4); that is, Thou shalt no more be called the forsaken of God, and thy land shall not be called the wasted land. Thy name shall be, God’s will is in thee, and thy land shall be cultivated; for the heavenly Father is well pleased with thee. When the voice had finished reading these words, it began again to read the same words over and over again full four times.
The Servitor in astonishment said:—Dear friend, what meanest thou by repeating these words so often? The voice answered:—I do this to strengthen thy confidence in God, who will provide for the land of His friends—that is, for their mortal bodies—all things needful to them; and when what they require is withdrawn from them on one side, He will make it up to 205them on another. In this fatherly way the al mighty and everlasting God will deal with thee. And in truth this all came to pass so manifestly, that many a heart laughed for joy at it, and the almighty and everlasting God was praised by those who had before shed many tears from great compassion.
It fared with this suffering man as with some dead animal which has been knocked about and torn in pieces by wild beasts, and yet has some marrow left in it. Last of all, the hungry flies and other insects settle upon it, and strip bare the gnawed bones, and carry away with them into the air the marrow which they have sucked out. Even so the Servitor was miserably pulled to pieces, and his shame was carried far and wide into distant lands by persons of seeming piety; and they did this with good words, and under the cover of regrets, and with outward show of friendship, which was nothing but faithlessness within. In consequence of this, evil thoughts like these would sometimes dart across the Servitor’s mind:—Alas, dear God! he who only suffers at the hands of Jews, and heathen, and open sinners, may contrive to bear it; but these persons who are tormenting me so grievously have the appearance of being Thy good 206friends, and therefore it is so much more painful.
But when he came to himself, and took a reasonable view of it, he excused them from all fault, and acknowledged that it was God who had done it through them, and that it was fit ting he should suffer thus, and that Almighty God often orders things for His friends good by means of His enemies.
Once especially, when he was suffering from these thoughts, it was said to him interiorly:—Remember that Christ the Lord would not only have His beloved disciple John and His faithful St. Peter in His pure company, but He willed also to endure the wicked Judas at His side. And dost thou desire to imitate Christ, and yet will not endure thy Judas? A thought in answer flashed at once across his mind:—Alas, Lord! if a suffering friend of God had only one Judas, it would be bearable; but in these times every corner is full of Judases, and when one departs four or five spring up. To this there came the following reply within him:—A man who is what he ought to be should not look on any Judas as a Judas; but he should regard him as God’s fellow-worker, by whom he is to be trained and purified for his good. When Judas betrayed 207Christ with a kiss, Christ called him his friend, saying:—My friend, wherefore art thou come?
The sufferings of this poor man had now lasted a long time; but there was one very little ground of comfort, to which he clung, and which was all his support—namely, that the burden which weighed him down had not been brought before the judges and prelates of the Order. This little comfort was speedily withdrawn from him by God; for the Master-general of the whole Order and the Master of the German province both came together to the town in which the wicked woman had slandered the pious Servitor of God. When the poor man, who was living in another place, heard this news, his heart died within him utterly, and he said to himself:—If perchance the Masters give credence to the wicked woman against thee, thou art dead; for they will condemn thee to such a penitential prison, that it were better for thee to die. He remained under the weight of this anguish twelve days and nights continuously, and during this time he was in constant expectation of this agonising penance, as soon as they should arrive there.
One day, overcome by the state of misery in which he was, he broke out, through human 208frailty, into unseemly gestures and behaviour; and in this sad condition of his outer and inner man he went apart from every one into a place of secrecy, where none could hear or see him, and he gave way at intervals to deep and repeated groans. The tears stood in his eyes, and then streamed down his cheeks. His distress was so intense that he could not remain still, but he would sit down on a sudden, and then spring up again and run up and down the room like a man wrestling with grief and anguish. Then there shot through his heart a thought which took the form of a remonstrance, thus:—Alas! O everlasting God, what is Thy purpose with me? Meanwhile, when he was in this sad disordered state, a voice from God spoke within him, saying:—Where is now thy detachment and that evenness of soul in weal and woe which thou hast so often and so joyously counselled to others, whilst thou didst lovingly point out to them how entirely a man should abandon himself to God, and hold fast by nothing?
To this he answered with many tears:—Askest thou me where my detachment is? Rather do thou tell me where is God’s unfathomable pity for His friends? For in spite of it I am waiting here in utter desolation, like a man 209condemned to forfeit his life, property, and honour. I had fancied that God was kind. I had fancied that he was a good and gracious Lord to all who ventured to abandon themselves to Him. Woe is me! God has failed me! Alas! that vein of kindness whose compassionate streams never yet ran dry has run dry for me, poor man. Alas! the kind Heart whose kindness the whole world proclaims has deserted me, poor man, miserably. He has turned away from me His beautiful eyes and His gracious countenance. O thou Divine countenance! O thou kind Heart! I had never deemed of Thee that Thou wouldst have cast me off so utterly. O fathomless abyss, come to my aid, for I am altogether undone. Thou knowest that all my consolation and reliance is in Thee alone, and in no one else on earth. Oh, hearken to me this day for God’s sake, all ye suffering hearts! See that no one take scandal at my disordered state; for so long as detachment was in my mouth it was sweet to me to speak of it; but now my whole heart is wounded through and through, and the inmost core of all my veins and brain is trans pierced with anguish, and there is not a limb of my body which is not tortured and wounded in every part of it. How can I then be detached?210
When he had spent about half a day in this disordered state, and his brain was quite shattered, he sat still at last, and, turning from himself to God, gave himself up to God’s will in these words:—May it not be otherwise! “Fiat voluntas Tua” (Thy will be done).
As he sat thus, with his senses rapt in ecstasy, it seemed to him in a vision that there came and stood before him one of his holy spiritual daughters, who when she was yet alive had often told him that he would have many sufferings, but that the everlasting God would help him out of them. She now appeared to him, and tried lovingly to comfort him; but he received her consolations angrily, and charged her with untruthfulness. She smiled at this, and drawing near, offered him her holy hand, saying:—Accept my Christian troth, in God’s stead, that He will not forsake you, but will help you to come out victorious from these and all other sufferings. He answered:—See, daughter! The weight of my afflictions is so great, that I can no longer credit thee, unless thou givest me some token that thy words are true. She replied:—God Himself will manifest your innocence to all good and pure hearts. As for wicked hearts, things look to them according to the colour of their own 211wickedness. A wise friend of God heeds them not. Moreover, the Order of Preachers which you bewail shall be the more pleasing to God and all reasonable men, on your account. And as a sign that these words are true, note this. The ever lasting God will soon avenge you, and will let fall His wrathful hand upon the wicked heart which has thus troubled you. Moreover, all those who have specially abetted her by their malicious slanderings will soon feel His vengeance. Be sure of this. The brother was much comforted by these words, and waited steadfastly in expectation of how God would bring this matter to fill end.
Very soon afterwards, it all came to pass exactly as she had said. For the monster who had thus tormented him died, and she died too by a sudden death. And many others also among those who had been the chief causes of his sufferings were snatched hence by death; some of them dying insensible, and others without confession and communion.
One of these persons, who had been a prelate, and had caused very great suffering to the Servitor, appeared to him in a vision after death, and told him that it was on this account God had cut short his life and term of office, adding, 212that he would have to waste and wither in purgatory for a long time as a penance for it.
Many persons who knew what had happened, and were favourably disposed towards the Servitor, on seeing this unusual vengeance, and the deaths which God sent so suddenly upon his adversaries, praised Almighty God, saying:—Of a truth God is with this good man; and we see well that wrong has been done him, and it is but just that he should henceforth be of more account in the eyes of reasonable men, and be looked upon as higher in holiness than if God had not visited him with these sufferings.
Moreover, the prelate of the German province exculpated him, saying that he and the Master-general of the Order had held a strict visitation about him, as was fitting, and had found nothing against him, save that a wicked woman, who was unworthy to be believed, had spoken maliciously of the honest man; a thing which might very well happen, if people would give ear to wicked tongues.
Thus the kind God succoured the Servitor, and very graciously caused this terrible storm of suffering to subside and pass away, according as the holy daughter in the vision had told him for his consolation. And he often thought within 213himself:—Ah, Lord, how true the words are which are said of Thee: He to whom God wishes well can be harmed by no one!
The friend, also, who behaved to him in such an unfriendly way was shortly afterwards taken hence by God. After his death, when all the hindrances which had delayed him from beholding God face to face had been removed, he appeared to the Servitor in golden garments radiant with light, and embracing him lovingly, pressed his face tenderly against his cheeks and besought his pardon for all the wrong he had done him, and prayed him that a true heavenly friendship might continue between them ever lastingly. The Servitor accepted this proposal with joy, and embraced him in turn very lovingly; upon which he vanished out of sight, and entered again into the bliss of God.
Afterwards, when the appointed time had come, God gladdened the sufferer in return for all his sufferings with inward peace of heart, still repose, and bright illuminations of grace; so that he praised God with all his heart for the past suffering, saying that he would not take the whole world not to have suffered it all. More over, it was given to him to see clearly that by this crushing blow he had been in a more noble 214fashion drawn out of himself and transported into God than by all the manifold sufferings which he had endured from his youth upwards until then.
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