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CHAPTER XXII.

How painful it is to die interiorly.

NOW that the Servitor had been released by God from exterior penances of the kind described above, by which his life had been imperilled, his worn-out frame was so rejoiced at this, that he used to weep for joy whenever he called to mind his penitential bonds, and all the cruel sufferings 85and combats which he had passed through. And he said within himself:—Henceforth, dear Lord, I will lead a quiet life and enjoy myself. I will quench my thirst fully with wine and water, and I will sleep unbound on my straw bed. Oh! how often and how earnestly I have longed that this comfort might be mine before I died! I have been long enough wearing myself away. Henceforth the time is come for me to rest. Such were the presumptuous thoughts and fancies which then floated before his mind. Alas! he knew not yet what God had decreed concerning him.

When he had spent several weeks very pleasantly in these agreeable thoughts, it happened one day that, as he was sitting according to custom on the bench which was his bed, he began to contemplate that true saying of the suffering Job, “Militia est vita hominis super terram” (Job vii. 1),—The life of man in this world is nothing else but a knight’s life of warfare. As he meditated on these words, his senses became abstracted, and it seemed to him that there came in a comely youth, of very manly form, who brought him a pair of knight’s shoes, of excellent quality, with other clothing such as knights are wont to wear. The 86youth went up to the Servitor, and vested him in the knight’s attire, saying:—Hearken, Sir Knight. Hitherto thou hast been a squire: God wills thee now to be a knight. The Servitor looked at himself in the knight’s shoes, and marvelling greatly in his heart, exclaimed:—Wonderful, O God! What has happened to me? What have I become? Must I be a knight? I had much rather lead a comfortable life than this. Then he said to the youth:—Well, since God wills me to be a knight, if only I had been made one gloriously in a battle, I should have preferred it. The youth turned half aside, and, with a laugh, answered:—Be not anxious. You shall have fighting enough. He who resolves to bear himself undauntedly as God’s knight in this spiritual warfare will meet with much harder conflicts than ever fell to the lot of the famed heroes of olden time, whose knightly prowess the world loves to recount in song and tale. Thou fanciest that God has taken thy yoke off thee, and that He has cast away thy bonds, so that thou canst now attend to thy comfort. But it is not so, as yet. It is not God’s will to take thy bonds from off thee. He will only change them, and make them far heavier than they ever were before. The Servitor 87was struck with terror at this, and said:—Alas, my God! what art Thou about to do with me? I fancied that all was at an end, just as it is going to begin. My straits are only now commencing, as it seems to me. Ah, Lord of Heaven! what mean Thy dealings with me? Am I alone a sinner, and are all other men just, that Thou dost in this wise use Thy rod on me, poor wretch, and sparest many others? Thou hast acted thus with me since my child hood’s days, when Thou didst crucify my youthful frame with heavy and weary sicknesses. I fancied that I had had enough by this time; He answered:—No! it is not yet enough. Thou must be tried and proved to the very bottom in all things, if it is to go well with thee. The Servitor said:—Lord! show me how much suffering I have still before me. He answered:—Look upwards at the heavens above thee, and if thou canst count the countless multitude of the stars, thou canst count also the sufferings which still await thee; and as the stars seem small, and yet are great, even so thy sufferings are small in seeming to the eyes of unexercised men; while, judged of by thy own feelings, they will prove great for thee to bear. The Servitor said:—Ah, Lord! show me the sufferings beforehand, 88that I may know them. He answered:—No! it is Letter for thee not to know them, lest thou shouldst lose heart beforehand. Nevertheless, among the countless sufferings which await thee, I will tell thee three.

The first is this. Hitherto thou hast struck thyself with thy own hands, and left off striking when thou wouldst, and hast had pity upon thyself. But now I will myself take hold of thee, and give thee over quite defenceless into the hands of strangers, and thou shalt suffer publicly the loss of thy good name, through the means of certain blinded men. This will press upon thee more painfully than the sharp cross on thy wounded back did; for in thy former exercises thou wast held in high repute among men, whereas now thou shalt be beaten down and brought to naught in the sight of all.

The second suffering is this. Many as have been the bitter deaths which thou hast inflicted on thyself, nevertheless this has always remained to thee by God’s providence, that thy disposition is an affectionate and love-seeking one. Now it shall befall thee, that in those very quarters where thou shalt look for special love and faith fulness thou shalt meet with great unfaithfulness, sufferings, and affliction. And this shall 89happen in such manifold ways, that those who shall continue more than ordinarily true to thee will have to suffer with thee from compassion.

The third suffering is this. Hitherto thou hast been like an unweaned sucking child, and thou hast floated in divine sweetness, as a fish in the sea. I will now withdraw this from thee, and let thee starve and wither; and thou shalt be forsaken both by God and the world, and be openly despised by friends and foes. In a word: whatever thou shalt take in hand in order to delight or comfort thee, shall come to naught.

The Servitor was struck with such consternation at these words that his whole frame trembled; and springing up impetuously, he fell down upon the ground in the form of a cross, and calling upon God with a cry of agony from his very heart, besought Him by His kind fatherly goodness to take away from him, if it were possible, this great misery; or, if this could not be, to let the heavenly will of His eternal ordinance be accomplished in him.

After he had lain a good while in this extremity of anguish, something spoke within him thus:—Be of good cheer. I Myself will be with thee, and I will aid thee graciously to 90overcome in all these unusual trials. There upon he arose, and gave himself up entirely into God’s hands. Now when it became morning, and he was sitting sorrowfully in his cell after Mass, thinking over these things, and frozen with cold, for it was winter, he heard a voice within him saying:—Open the window of the cell, and look out and learn. He opened the window, and looked out, and he beheld a dog running about in the middle of the cloister with a worn-out foot-cloth in its mouth. The dog was acting very strangely with the foot-cloth, for he kept tossing it up and down, and tearing holes in it. Thereupon the Servitor looked up to heaven, sighing deeply, and it was said to him:—Even so shalt thou be in thy brethren’s mouths. Then the thought came to him:—Since it cannot be otherwise, resign thyself to it; and, as the foot-cloth suffers itself to be maltreated in silence, even so do thou. He went down into the cloister, and, taking up the foot-cloth, preserved it for many years as a jewel most dear to him; and as often as he felt inclined to break out into impatience, he used to bring it forth, that he might recognise himself in it and keep silence in regard to all men. If it sometimes happened that he half turned away 91his face in anger from some of those who persecuted him, he was inwardly rebuked for it, and it was said to him:—Remember that I, thy Lord, turned not away My beautiful face from those who spat upon Me. Then he would bitterly repent of what he had done, and turn himself to them again very lovingly.

In the beginning, when he met with any suffering, the thought would come to his mind:—O God, that this suffering were at an end, that I might have done with it! Thereupon the Child Jesus appeared to him in a vision on our Lady’s feast of Candlemas, and rebuked him, saying:—Thou dost not yet know how to suffer; but I will teach thee: Behold! when thou art in any suffering, thou shouldst not look onwards to the end of that suffering, fancying that thou wilt then be at rest; but so long as the suffering lasts, thou shouldst be getting thyself ready to accept with patience another suffering, which is sure to follow in its train. Thou shouldst do like a maiden picking roses. When she has picked one rose from the rose-bush, this does not satisfy her, but she resolves to pick many more from it. Even so do thou. Make up thy mind for this beforehand, that, when one suffering 92comes to an end, another will forthwith meet thee.

Among other friends of God who foretold to him the new sufferings which were hanging over him, there came to him a person of eminent sanctity, who said that, on the Angels festival, after matins she had prayed to God for him with exceeding earnestness; and that it seemed to her in a vision that she was carried to the place where he then was, and that she beheld a beautiful rose-tree grow up over him, and spread itself on all sides far and wide. It was of a ravishing form, and full of lovely red roses. On looking up to heaven it seemed to her that the sun rose all beautiful, without a cloud, and with much splendour. Now there stood in the sun’s radiance a lovely Child in the form of a cross; and she saw a ray come forth from the sun to the Servitor’s heart, and it was so mighty that it set on fire all his veins and limbs. But the rose-tree bowed itself between, and did its best with its thick boughs to shut out the sunshine from his heart. Nevertheless it could not succeed in this, for the outstreaming rays were so powerful, that they pierced through all the boughs and shone down right into his heart. Then she saw the Child come forth 93from the sun, and she said to him:—Dear Child, whither art Thou going? He answered:—I am going to My beloved Servitor. Upon which she said:—Sweet Child, what means the sun’s brightness in Thy Servitor’s heart? He replied:—I have made his loving heart thus bright and glorious, that the reflection of its radiance, streaming forth from out his heart, may draw lovingly the hearts of all men to Me. The thick rose-tree, which represents the manifold sufferings that await him, cannot hinder this, but right nobly it shall be accomplished in him.

Inasmuch as seclusion is profitable to a be ginner, the Servitor resolved to remain for more than ten years secluded in his monastery from all the world. When he went from table he used to shut himself up in his chapel and remain there. He refused to hold any long conversations at the convent-door or elsewhere with women, or even with men, nor would he look at them. He fixed a short limit for his eyes, beyond which he suffered them not to look; and the limit was five feet. He remained always at home, and would never go out either into the town or the country. His one aim was to practise solitude. All this watchfulness, however, 94served him nothing; for during these years there fell upon him exceeding grievous sufferings; and they crushed him down so heavily that he became an object of pity to himself and others.

In order that his prison-house might be more agreeable to him during the ten years which he had resolved to spend in voluntary confinement in his chapel, he directed a painter to draw for him the holy fathers of olden time with their sayings, as well as other devout pictures, calculated to encourage a sufferer to patience under afflictions. But God would not let this be according to his wish; for when the painter had sketched out the ancient fathers with charcoal on the chapel-walls, his eyes became so bad that he could no longer see to draw. He therefore begged permission to depart, saying that the work must wait until he got well again. The Servitor turned to the painter, and inquired how long it would take him to get well. The painter answered:—Twelve weeks. Upon this the Servitor told him to set up again the ladder, which he had taken down, against the outlines of the ancient fathers on the wall; and when this was done, he mounted the ladder, and, after rubbing his 95hands upon the pictures, stroked the painter’s suffering eyes, saying:—In the might of God, and through the holiness of these ancient fathers, I bid you, master, come back here to morrow morning with your eyes quite cured. Early next morning the painter came back joyous and well, and he thanked God and the Servitor for his cure. The Servitor, however, did not ascribe it to himself, but to the ancient fathers, on whose pictures he had rubbed his hands.

During this same period it seemed as if God had given leave to the evil spirits and to all men to torment him. Innumerable were the sufferings which he then endured from the evil spirits, who, in horrible assumed forms and with savage cruelty, caused him so much pain and grief, day and night, awake and asleep, that his sufferings from this source were exceeding great.

Once upon a time he was tempted with a great longing to eat meat, for he had passed many years without touching meat. Now, after he had eaten the meat, and had scarcely finished satisfying his longing, there came and stood over against him, in a vision, a monstrous hellish figure, who, after repeating the verse, “Adhuc escae eorum erant in ore ipsorum, et ira Dei descendit 96super eos” (Ps. lxxvii. 30; Numb. xi. 33),—As yet the morsel was in their mouth, and the wrath of God came down upon them,—cried out in a barking voice to those who stood by:—This monk is guilty of death, and I will execute the sentence on him. But when they would not suffer this, he drew forth a horrible auger, saying:—Since I may not do any thing else to thee, I will at least torture thy body with this auger; and I will bore it into thee through thy mouth in such a manner, that the anguish which thou shalt suffer will be as great as the pleasure thou didst take in eating the meat. And having said this, he drove the auger in cruel fashion against the Servitor’s mouth. Whereupon immediately his chin-bones and teeth swelled up, and his mouth became so swollen that he could not open it; and for three days he could not eat meat or any thing else, except only what he could suck up through his teeth.

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