Lenten Meditation 41: Corporal Infirmities

We must be particularly resigned under the pressure of corporal infirmities; and we must embrace them willingly, both in such a manner, and for such a time, as God wills. Nevertheless, we ought to employ the usual remedies; for this is what the Lord wills also: but if they do us no good, let us unite ourselves to the will of God, and this will do us much more good than health. O Lord! let us then say, I have no wish either to get well or to remain sick: I will only that which Thou dost will. Certainly the virtue is greater, if, in times of sickness, we do not complain of our sufferings; but when these press heavily upon us, it is not a fault to make them known to our friends, or even to pray to God to liberate us from them. I am speaking now of sufferings that are severe; for, on the other hand, there are many who are very faulty in this, that on every trifling pain or weariness they would have the whole world come to compassionate them, and to shed tears around them. Even Jesus Christ, on seeing the near approach of his most bitter Passion, manifested to his disciples what he suffered: My soul is sorrowful even unto death [Matt 26:38]; and he prayed the Eternal Father to liberate him from it: My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me. But Jesus himself has taught us what we ought to do after praying in like manner; namely, straightway to resign ourselves to the divine will, adding, as he did, Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.

How foolish, too, are those who say that they wish for health, not indeed, in order to suffer, but to render greater service to God, by the observance of the rules, by serving the community, by going to church, by receiving Holy Communion, by doing penance, by study, by employing themselves in the saving of souls, by hearing confessions, and by preaching! . . . These desires and regrets do not spring from the love of God, but from the love of self, which is hunting after excuses for departing from the will of God! Is it our wish to give pleasure to God? Let us say, then, whenever we happen to be confined to bed, to the Lord this only, Thy will be done. . . . There is no better mode of serving God than by cheerfully embracing his will.

But if health is what we would seek, let us ask for it with resignation at least, and on the condition that health of body be suitable to the health of our soul; otherwise a prayer to this effect will be faulty, and rejected.

I call the time of sickness the touchstone by which spirits are tried, because in it is ascertained the value of the virtue of which any one stands possessed. If he does not lose his tranquillity, if he makes no complaints, and is not over-anxious, but obeys his medical advisers and his superiors, preserving throughout the same peacefulness of mind, in perfect resignation to the divine will, it is a sign that he possesses great virtue.

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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