04 March 2009

How People Become Saints

By doing things the rest of us find strange and outrageous:
Never had I any money, and I never needed it, neither for travelling on horseback, nor for the stagecoach, nor for railway fare, because I always walked on foot even though my journeys were sometimes very long, as I shall afterwards relate. Neither did I need money to buy food, because I always begged for it wherever I went; nor for clothes, for God Our Lord preserved my clothes and footwear like the Hebrews in the desert. I realized clearly that it was God's will that I should not have money, nor should I accept anything except the very meal of the moment without ever taking provisions from one place to another.
When one is poor, and wishes to be poor, and practices poverty with a good will and not against the goad, then indeed does one taste the sweetness of the virtue of poverty. God, moreover, takes care of the poor in one of these two ways--either by touching the hearts of those who have plenty so that they give freely to others, or making one [enabling one to] live without eating. I have gone through both of these stages....
Words not from a medieval religious, but from a missionary priest in very civilized 19th century Europe: St. Anthony Mary Claret. (Poverty, of course, is a tricky virtue; what's appropriate in the celibate missionary priest's life may not be appropriate in the married state.)

Among the other virtues he found necessary for a fruitful apostolate were humility, modesty, and meekness:
No virtue attracts men so much as meekness. They react just like fish in a pond; if somebody throws bread to the fish, they surge without fear aruond the feet of the thrower; but if a stone is thrown instead of bread, they all veer away and hide. The same happens with human beings. If they are treated with meekness, everyone turns up for the sermons and for confessions. But if they are treated with harshness, they get angry and stay home, murmuring against the minister of God.
[E]xperience has made known to me that a zeal which is characterized by harshness is a weapon which the devil makes use of; and the priest who works without meekness serves the devil and not Jesus Christ. If such a priest preaches, he drives the people away; if he hears confessions, he terrifies the penitents, and if they do confess, it is without the requisite dispositions, because they are frightened and thus conceal their sins in shame. Very many are the general confessions I have heard of pentients who had formerly concealed their sins just because the confessors had reprimanded them too severely.
A mark of good Lenten reading is its ability to shame convict.