Lenten Meditation 40: Natural Occurrences

Consider what things there are in which we have to bring ourselves into uniformity to the will of God.

In the first place, we must have this uniformity as regards those things of nature that come to us from without; as when there is great heat, great cold, rain, scarcity, pestilence, and the like. We must take care not to say, What intolerable heat! what horrible cold! what a misfortune! how unlucky! what wretched weather! or other words expressive of repugnance to the will of God. We ought to will everything to be as it is, since God is he who orders it all. St. Francis Borgia, on going one night to a house of the Society when the snow was falling, knocked at the door several times; but, the Fathers being asleep, he was not let in. They made great lamentations in the morning for having kept him so long waiting in the open air; but the saint said that during that time he had been greatly consoled by the thought that it was God who was casting down upon him those flakes of snow.

In the second place, we must have this conformity as regards things that happen to us from within, as in the sufferings consequent on hunger, thirst, poverty, desolations, or disgrace. In all, we ought ever to say, “Lord, be it Thine to make and to unmake. I am content; I will only what thou dost will.”

In the third place, if we have any natural defect either in mind or body, a bad memory, slowness of apprehension, mean abilities, a crippled limb, or weak health, let us not therefore make lamentation. What were our deserts, and what obligation had God to bestow upon us a mind more richly endowed, or a body more perfectly framed? Could he not have created us mere brute animals?or have left us in our own nothingness? Who is there that ever receives a gift and tries to make bargains about it? Let us, then, return him thanks for what, through a pure act of his goodness, he has bestowed upon us; and let us rest content with the manner in which he has treated us. Who can tell whether, if we had had a larger share of ability, stronger health, or greater personal attractions, we should not have possessed them to our destruction? How many there are whose ruin has been occasioned by their talents and learning, of which they have grown proud, and in consequence of which they have looked upon others with contempt, a danger which is easily incurred by those who excel others in learning and ability! How many others there are whose personal beauty or bodily strength have furnished the occasions of plunging them into innumerable acts of wickedness! And, on the contrary, how many others there are who, in consequence of their poverty, or infirmity, or ugliness, have sanctified themselves and been saved; who, had they been rich, strong, or handsome, would have been damned! And thus let us ourselves rest content with that which God has given us: But one thing is necessary [Luke 10:42]. Beauty is not necessary, nor health, nor sharpness of intellect; that which alone is necessary is our salvation.

Text from St. Alphonsus de Liguori, The Way of Salvation and Perfection, ed. Eugene Grimm, 2d ed. (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1886).

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