The School of Saints “My most holy Son and myself are trying to
find, among those who have arrived at the Way of the Cross, some soul, whom We
can instruct systematically in this Divine Science; and whom We can withdraw
from the worldly and diabolical wisdom, in which the sons of Adam, with blind
stubbornness, are rejecting the salutary discipline of sufferings. If thou
wishest to be our disciple, enter into this school, in which alone is taught the
Doctrine of the Cross and the manner of reaching true peace and veritable
delights. With this wisdom, the earthly love of sensible pleasures and riches
is not compatible; nor the vain ostentation and pomp, which fascinates the
bleary-eyed worldlings, who are so covetous of passing honors, and so full of
ignorant admiration for costly grandeur” (Our Lady to the Venerable Mary of Agreda). The Science of Saints “My daughter, in all that thou art made to understand and write concerning these mysteries, thou drawest upon thyself, and upon mortals, a severe judgment, if thou dost not overcome thy pusillanimity, ingratitude and baseness, by meditating day and night on the Passion and Death of Jesus crucified. This is the great Science of the Saints, so little heeded by the worldly, it is the Bread of Life and the Spiritual Food of the little ones, which gives Wisdom to them and the lack of which starves the lovers of this proud world . In this science I wish thee to be studious and wise, for with it thou canst buy thyself all good things. My Son and Lord taught us this Science when He said: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life: no one cometh to My Father except through Me’ (John 14:6). ” (Our Lady to the Venerable Mary of Agreda).
THE FIRST SORROW OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY The Prophecy of Saint Simeon
First of all, let us clarify one thing—this was not the first sorrow to occur in Our Lady’s life! She was no stranger to sorrow and suffering—her life had been more than filled with it way before Simeon’s prophecy came along! As Our Lady had revealed to the Venerable Mary of Agreda, there was not one day of her life when she did not suffer.
Suffering is the touchstone or litmus test of charity or love. When we are willing to suffer for somebody or something, then it shows that we must have a love or devotion to that person, thing or cause. ‘Fair-weather Catholics’ are innumerable, true Catholics, who are willing to lovingly drink of the chalice of the Lord, are few and far between. St. Louis de Montfort paints the following picture to drive the point home. The words of St. Louis could be applied, par excellence, to the dispositions of Our Blessed Lady herself:
“You call yourselves ‘Friends of the Cross.’ [for our purposes, we could change this to ‘Friends of the Sword of Sorrow’] What a wonderful name! … It is the unmistakable title of a Christian. Its splendor dazzles me but the weight of it frightens me. For this title implies that you have taken upon yourselves difficult and inescapable obligations, which are summed up in the words of the Holy Ghost: ‘A chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people’ (1 Peter 2:9).
“A Friend of the Cross [a Friend of the Sword of Sorrow] is one chosen by God from among ten thousand who have reason and sense for their only guide. He is truly divine, raised above reason and thoroughly opposed to the things of sense, for he lives in the light of true faith and burns with love for the Cross. A Friend of the Cross [a Friend of the Sword of Sorrow] is a mighty king, a hero who triumphs over the devil, the world and the flesh and their threefold concupiscence. He overthrows the pride of Satan by his love for humiliation, he triumphs over the world's greed by his love for poverty and he restrains the sensuality of the flesh by his love for suffering. A Friend of the Cross [a Friend of the Swords of Sorrow] is a holy man, separated from visible things. His heart is lifted high above all that is frail and perishable; ‘his conversation is in Heaven’ (Philippians 3:20); he journeys here below like a stranger and pilgrim. He keeps his heart free from the world, looks upon it with an unconcerned glance of his left eye and disdainfully tramples it under foot.
“A Friend of the Cross [a Friend of the Sword of Sorrow] is a trophy which the crucified Christ won on Calvary in union with His Blessed Mother. He is another Benoni (Genesis 35:18) or Benjamin, a son of sorrow, a son of the right hand. Conceived in the sorrowful heart of Christ, he comes into this world through the gash in the Savior's right side and is all empurpled in His blood. True to this heritage, he breathes forth only crosses and blood, death to the world, the flesh and sin and hides himself here below with Jesus Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). Thus, a perfect Friend of the Cross [a Friend of the Sword of Sorrow] is a true Christ-bearer, or rather another Christ, so much so that he can say with truth: ‘I live now not I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Galatians 2:20).” (St. Louis de Montfort, Letter to Friends of the Cross).
It is not laughter and joy that has paid for our sins and opened to us the possibility of gaining Heaven! It is sorrow and suffering that has obtained this unmerited grace! Yet, we would prefer to walk past the ‘Store of Suffering’ and would like to shop exclusively at the ‘Supermarket of Happiness’! Our Lady calls us into her ‘store’ with the words applied by Holy Mother Church to Our Lady of Sorrows: “O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow; for he hath made a vintage of me, as the Lord spoke in the day of His fierce anger!” (Lamentations 1:12). Yet most people walk on by, deliberately looking the other way! The following words of Holy Scripture could well be placed in the mouth of our Sorrowful Mother: “I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the Gentiles there is not a man with me … I looked about, and there was none to help: I sought, and there was none to give aid!” (Isaias 63:3-5).
Many turn to Our Lady in curiosity about her apparitions and miracles; many seek her intervention for personal gain or favors; many want her to be their ‘Mother of Mercy’, but very few want her to be their ‘Mother of Sorrows’! Just as the Imitation of Christ says of Our Lord: “Jesus has always many who love His heavenly Kingdom, but few who bear His Cross. He has many who desire consolation, but few who care for trial. He finds many to share His table, but few to take part in His fasting. All desire to be happy with Him; few wish to suffer anything for Him. Many follow Him to the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the chalice of His Passion. Many revere His miracles; few approach the shame of the Cross” (Book 2; Chapter 11).
In this first of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, Mary willingly accepts—or should we say agrees to continue with—the road or path of sorrow that Divine Providence had marked out for her. If Our Lord said of St. Paul, “I will show him how great things he must suffer for My Name's sake” (Acts 9:16), then how much more true would that not be of His Most Holy Mother? The closer we are to Jesus, the more He shares His Cross with us!
As St. Louis de Montfort writes: “My dear Friends of the Cross [Friends of the Sword of Sorrow], does every act of yours justify what the eminent name you bear implies? Or at least are you, with the grace of God, in the shadow of Calvary's Cross and of Our Lady of Pity, really eager and truly striving to attain this goal? Is the way you follow the one that leads to this goal? Is it the true way of life, the narrow way, the thorn-strewn way to Calvary? Or are you unconsciously traveling the world's broad road, the road to perdition? Do you realize that there is a highroad which to all appearances is straight and safe for man to travel, but which in reality leads to death?” (St. Louis de Montfort, Letter to Friends of the Cross).
We think that the Sword of Sorrow, that God wants to pierce our souls with, will bring death, whereas, in actual fact, it brings life! And the pleasures of the world, upon which most focus their lives, in reality, bring death! The Sword of Sorrow is like a surgeon’s knife that cuts in order to bring health. Yet worldly Catholics fail to see that. They have their own ideas about what life ought to be like—and suffering is not part of the furniture! But this is because they have closed their eyes to supernatural realities, and have plugged their ears to avoid hearing supernatural truth! As St. Louis de Montfort says:
“Do you really know the voice of God and grace from the voice of the world and human nature? Do you distinctly hear the voice of God, our kind Father, pronouncing His threefold curse upon everyone who follows the world in its concupiscence: AWoe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth@ (Apocalypse 8:13) and then appealing to you with outstretched arms: ‘Be separated, My chosen people (Isaias 48:20; 52:11; Jeremias 50:8; 51:6), beloved Friends of the Cross of My Son [Friends of the Sword of Sorrow], be separated from those worldlings, for they are accursed by My Majesty, repudiated by My Son (John 17:9) and condemned by My Holy Spirit (John 16:8-12). Do not sit in their chair of pestilence, take no part in their gatherings; do not even step along their highways (Psalm 1:1). Hurry away from this great and infamous Babylon (Isaias 48:20 ; Jeremias 51:6); hearken only to the voice of My Beloved Son; follow only in His footprints; for He is the One I have given to be your Way, Truth, Life (John 14:6) and Model: hear ye Him’ (Matthew 17:5; Luke 9:35; Mark 9:6; 2 Peter 1:17). Is your ear attentive to the pleading of the lovable and cross burdened Jesus, ‘Come, follow Me he that followeth Me walketh not in darkness (John 8:12) have confidence, I have conquered the world’ (John 16:33)?” (St. Louis de Montfort, Letter to Friends of the Cross).
It with the Sword of Sorrow that the world will be conquered, and not by the Laughter of the Lukewarm, nor the Pistols of the Pleasure-Seekers, nor the Guns of the Greedy, nor the Cannons of the Cowardly. It is by the Cross that victory will come, just like the sign of the Cross, painted on the shields of Constantine’s soldiers, brought them victory and the ultimate conversion of Constantine. Take the cross, turn it upside down, and it resembles a sword—truly a Sword of Sorrow! A powerful, yet despised and neglected weapon. To illustrate this, we again turn to and end with the words of St. Louis de Montfort:
“Dear Brethren, remember that our beloved Jesus has His eyes upon you at this moment, addressing you individually: ‘See how almost everybody leaves Me practically alone on the royal road of the Cross. Blind idol-worshipers sneer at My Cross and brand it folly. Obstinate Jews are scandalized at the sight of it as at some monstrosity (1 Corinthians 1:23). Heretics tear it down and break it to pieces out of sheer contempt. But one thing I cannot say without My eyes filling with tears and My heart being pierced with grief, is that the very children I nourished in My bosom and trained in My school, the very members I quickened with My spirit, have turned against Me, forsaken Me and joined the ranks of the enemies of My Cross (Isaias 1:2; Philippians 3:18). Would you also leave Me? (John 6:68). Would you also forsake me and flee from My Cross, like the worldlings, who are acting as so many Anti-Christs? (1 John 2:12). Would you subscribe to the standards of the day (Romans 12:2), despise the poverty of My Cross and go in quest of riches, shun the sufferings connected with My Cross, to run after pleasure and spurn the humiliations that must be borne with My Cross, and pursue worldly honors? There are many who pretend that they are friends of Mine and love Me, but in reality they hate Me, because they have no love for My Cross. I have many friends of My table, but few indeed of My Cross.’ (Imitation of Jesus Christ, Book 2, Chapter 11).” (St. Louis de Montfort, Letter to Friends of the Cross).
“Dear Brethren, these are the two groups that appear before you each day, the followers of Christ and the followers of the world. Our loving Savior's group is to the right, scaling a narrow path made all the narrower by the world's corruption. Our kind Master is in the lead, barefooted, thorn-crowned, robed in His blood and weighted with a heavy cross. There are only a handful of people who follow Him, but they are the bravest of the brave. His gentle voice is not heard above the tumult of the world, or men do not have the courage to follow Him in poverty, suffering, humiliation and in the other crosses His servants must bear all the days of their life. To the left is the world's group, the devil's in fact, which is far superior in number, and seemingly far more colorful and splendid in array. Fashionable folk are all in a hurry to enlist, the highways are overcrowded, although they are broad and ever broadening with the crowds that flow through in a torrent. These roads are strewn with flowers, bordered with all kinds of amusements and attractions and paved with gold and silver (Matthew 7:13-14).” (St. Louis de Montfort, Letter to Friends of the Cross).
“To the right, the little flock that follows Jesus can speak only of tears, penance, prayer and contempt for worldly things. Sobbing in their grief, they can be heard repeating: ‘Let us suffer, let us weep, let us fast, let us pray, let us hide, let us humble ourselves, let us be poor, let us mortify ourselves, for he who has not the spirit of Christ, the spirit of the Cross, is none of Christ's. Those who are Christ's have crucified their flesh with its concupiscence. We must be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ or else be damned!’ ‘Be brave,’ they keep saying to each other, ‘be brave, for if God is for us, in us and leading us, who dare be against us? The One Who is dwelling within us is stronger than the one who is in the world, no servant is above his master; one moment of light tribulation worketh an eternal weight of glory; there are fewer elect than man may think; only the brave and daring take heaven by storm, the crown is given only to those who strive lawfully according to the Gospel, not according to the fashion of the world. Let us put all our strength into the fight, and run very fast to reach the goal and win the crown.’ Friends of the Cross [Friends of the Sword of Sorrow] spur each other on with such divine words.” (St. Louis de Montfort, Letter to Friends of the Cross).
“Worldlings, on the contrary, rouse one another to persist in their unscrupulous depravity. ‘Enjoy life, peace and pleasure,’ they shout, ‘Enjoy life, peace and pleasure. Let us eat, let us drink, let us sing, let us dance, let us play. God is good, He did not make us to damn us, God does not forbid us to enjoy ourselves; we shall not be damned for that; away with scruples; we shall not die.’ And so they continue.” (St. Louis de Montfort, Letter to Friends of the Cross).
“In answer to the gracious invitation which Jesus extends, let us rise above ourselves. Let us not, like Eve, listen to the insidious suggestion of sense. Let us look up to the unique Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus crucified (Hebrews 12:2). Let us fly from the corrupting concupiscence and enticements of a corrupt world (2 Peter 1:4). Let us love Jesus in the right way, standing by Him through the heaviest of crosses. Let us meditate seriously on these remarkable words of our beloved Master which sum up the Christian life in its perfection: ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me’ (Matthew 16:24).” (St. Louis de Montfort, Letter to Friends of the Cross).
Our Lady could well say: “If any man or woman will follow me, let them take up their Sword of Sorrow, place it their heart, deny themselves the pleasures of the world, and then come follow me and suffer with me!” Let us beg of Our Lady of Sorrows the grace to become true Friends of the Sword of Sorrow; to understand its power; to feel its strength; to treasure this medicine and enjoy the victory which it will inevitably bring—the victory of salvation!
Below you will the account of the prophecy of St. Simeon, as related by Our Lady to the Venerable Mary of Agreda, taken from the book, Mystical City of God.
THE MYSTICAL CITY OF GOD by the Venerable Sr. Mary of Agreda Volume 2 : The Incarnation; Book 1, Chapter 20 "The presentation of the Infant Jesus in the Temple and what happened on that occasion."
§596. The sacred humanity of Christ belonged to the eternal Father, not only because it was created like other beings, but it was His special property by virtue of the hypostatic union with the person of the Word, for this person of the Word, being His Only-begotten Son, was engendered of His substance, true God of true God. Nevertheless, the eternal Father had decreed, that His Son should be presented to Him in the temple, in mysterious compliance with the Law, of which Christ our Lord was the end (Romans 10:4). It was established for no other purpose than that the just men, of the Old Testament, should perpetually sanctify and offer, to the Lord, their first-born sons, in the hope that one, thus presented, might prove to be the Son of God and a Child of the Mother of the expected Messias (Exodus 13:2). According to our way of thinking, His Majesty acted like men, who are apt to repeat and enjoy over and over again a thing which has caused them enjoyment. For although the Father understood and knew all things in His infinite wisdom, He sought pleasure in the offering of the incarnate Word, which, by so many titles already, belonged to Him.
§597. This will of the eternal Father—which was conformable to that of His Son, in so far as He was God—was known to the Mother of life and of the human nature of the Word; for she saw that all His interior actions were in unison with the will of His eternal Father. Full of this holy science, the great Princess passed the night, before his presentation in the temple, in divine colloquies.
Speaking to the Father she said: “My Lord and God most high, Father of my Lord, a festive day for Heaven and earth will be that, in which I shall bring and offer to Thee in Thy holy temple the living Host, which is, at the same time, the Treasure of Thy Divinity. Rich, O my Lord and God, is this oblation; and Thou canst well pour forth, in return for it, Thy mercies upon the human race: pardoning the sinners, that have turned from the straight path, consoling the afflicted, helping the needy, enriching the poor, succoring the weak, enlightening the blind, and meeting those who have strayed away. This is, my Lord, what I ask of Thee in offering to Thee Thy Only-begotten, who, by thy merciful condescension is also my Son. If Thou hast given Him to me as a God, I return Him to Thee as God and man ; His value is infinite, and what I ask of Thee is much less. In opulence do I return to Thy holy temple, from which I departed poor; and my soul shall magnify Thee forever, because Thy divine right hand has shown itself toward me so generous and powerful.”
§598. On the next morning, the Sun of Heaven, being now ready to issue from its purest dawning, the Virgin Mary, on whose arms He reclined, and being about to rise up in full view of the world, the heavenly Lady, having provided the turtle-dove and two candles, wrapped Him in swaddling-clothes and betook herself, with Saint Joseph, from their lodging to the temple. The holy angels, who had come with them from Bethlehem, again formed in procession in corporeal and most beautiful forms, just as has been said concerning the journey of the preceding day. On this occasion, however, the holy spirits added many other hymns of the sweetest and most entrancing harmony in honor of the infant God, which were heard only by the most pure Mary. Besides the ten thousand, who had formed the procession on the previous day, innumerable others descended from Heaven, who, accompanied by those that bore the shields of the Holy Name of Jesus, formed the guard of honor of the incarnate Word on the occasion of His presentation. These, however, were not in corporeal shapes, and only the heavenly Princess perceived their presence.
Having arrived at the temple-gate, the most blessed Mother was filled with new and exalted sentiments of devotion. Joining the other women, she bowed and knelt to adore the Lord in spirit and in truth in His holy Temple and she presented herself before the exalted Majesty of God with His Son upon her arms (John :23). Immediately, she was immersed in an intellectual vision of the most Holy Trinity and she heard a voice issuing from the eternal Father, saying: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 27:20). Saint Joseph, the most fortunate of men, felt at the same time a new sweetness of the Holy Ghost, which filled him with joy and divine light.
§599. The holy priest Simeon, moved by the Holy Ghost as explained in the preceding chapter, also entered the Temple at that time (Luke 2:27). Approaching the place where the Queen stood, with the Infant Jesus in her arms, he saw both Mother and Child enveloped in splendor and glory. The prophetess Anne, who, as the Evangelist says, had come at the same hour, also saw Mary and her Infant surrounded by this wonderful light. In the joy of their spirit, both of them approached the Queen of Heaven, and the priest received the Infant Jesus from her arms upon his hands. Raising up his eyes to Heaven, he offered Him up to the eternal Father, pronouncing at the same time these words so full of mysteries: “Now dost thou dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy Word in peace. Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: a light for the revelation of the gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29).
It was as if he had said: “Now, Lord, Thou wilt release me from the bondage of this mortal body and let me go free and in peace; for until now have I been detained in it, by the hope of seeing Thy promises fulfilled and by the desire of seeing Thy Only-begotten made man. Now that my eyes have seen Thy salvation, the Only-begotten made man, joined to our nature, in order to give it eternal welfare, according to the intention and eternal decree of Thy infinite wisdom and mercy, I shall enjoy true and secure peace. Now, O Lord, Thou hast prepared and placed before all mortals Thy divine light, that it may shine upon the world, and that all, who wish, may enjoy it throughout the universe and derive, therefrom, guidance and salvation. For this is the light which is revealed to the gentiles for the glory of Thy chosen people of Israel” (John 1:9, 32).
§600. Most holy Mary and Saint Joseph heard this canticle of Simeon, wondering at the exalted revelation it contained. The Evangelist calls them in this place the parents of the divine Infant, for such they were in the estimation of the people who were present at this event. Simeon, addressing himself to the most holy Mother of the Infant Jesus, then added: “Behold this Child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed.” Thus said Saint Simeon; and, being a priest, he gave his blessing to the happy parents of the Child. Then also the prophetess, Anne, acknowledged the incarnate Word, and full of the Holy Ghost, she spoke of the mysteries of the Messias to many, who were expecting the redemption of Israel. By these two holy old people, public testimony of the coming of the Redeemer was given to the world.
§601. At the moment when the priest Simeon mentioned the sword and the sign of contradiction, which were prophetical of the Passion and Death of the Lord, the Child bowed its head. Thereby, and by many interior acts of obedience, Jesus ratified the prophecy of the priest and accepted it as the sentence of the eternal Father, pronounced by His minister. All this the loving Mother noticed and understood; she presently began to feel the sorrow predicted by Simeon and, thus, in advance, was she wounded by the sword, of which she had thus been warned. As in a mirror, her spirit was made to see all the mysteries included in this prophecy; how her most holy Son was to be the stone of stumbling; the perdition of the unbelievers; and the salvation of the faithful; the fall of the synagogue and the establishment of the Church among the heathens. She foresaw, not only the triumph to be gained over the devils and over death, but also that a great price was to be paid for it, namely the frightful agony and death of the Cross (Colossians 2:15).
She foresaw the boundless opposition and contradiction, which the Lord Jesus was to sustain both personally and in His Church (John 15:20). At the same time she also saw the glory and excellence of the predestined souls. Most holy Mary knew it all, and, in the joy and sorrow of her most pure soul, excited by the prophecies of Simeon and these hidden mysteries, she performed heroic acts of virtue. All these sayings and happenings were indelibly impressed upon her memory, and, of all that she understood and experienced, she forgot not the least iota. At all times she looked upon her most holy Son with such a living sorrow, as we, mere human creatures with hearts so full of ingratitude, shall never be able to feel. The holy spouse, Saint Joseph, was, by these prophecies, also made to see many of the mysteries of the Redemption and of the labors and sufferings of Jesus. But the Lord did not reveal them to him so copiously and openly as they were perceived and understood by his heavenly spouse; for in him these revelations were to serve a different purpose, and besides, Saint Joseph was not to be an eye-witness of them during his mortal life.
§602. The ceremony of the presentation thus being over, the great Lady kissed the hand of the priest and again asked his blessing. The same she did also to Anne, her former teacher; for her dignity as Mother of God, the highest possible to angels or men, did not prevent her from these acts of deepest humility. Then, in the company of Saint Joseph, her spouse, and of the fourteen thousand angels in procession, she returned with the divine Infant to her lodging. They remained, as I shall relate farther on, for some days in Jerusalem, in order to satisfy their devotion and, during that time, she spoke a few times with the priest about the mysteries of the Redemption and of the prophecies above mentioned. Although the words of the most prudent Virgin Mother were few, measured and reserved, they were also so weighty and full of wisdom, that they filled the priest with wonder and excited in him the most exalted and the sweetest sentiments of joy in his soul. The same happened also to the prophetess Anne. Both of them died in the Lord shortly afterwards.
The Holy Family lodged at the expense of Simeon. During these days the Queen frequented the Temple and, in it, she was visited with many favors and consolations, in recompense for the sorrow caused by the prophecies of the priest. In order to heighten their sweetness, her most holy Son spoke to her on one of these days saying: “My dearest Mother and my Dove, dry up thy tears and let thy purest heart be expanded; since it is the will of My Father, that I accept the death of the Cross. I desire that thou be My companion in My labors and sufferings; I long to undergo them for the souls, who are the works of My hands (Ephesians 2:10), made according to My image and likeness, in order to make them partakers of My reign and of eternal life, in triumph over My enemies (Colossians 2:15). This is what thou thyself dost wish in union with Me.” The Mother answered: “O my sweetest Love and Son of my womb, if my accompanying Thee shall include, not only the privilege of witnessing and pitying thy sufferings, but also of dying with Thee, so much the greater will be my relief; for it will be a greater suffering for me to live, while seeing Thee die.” In these exercises of love and compassion, she passed some days, until Saint Joseph was advised to flee into Egypt, as I shall relate in the following chapter.
INSTRUCTION WHICH THE MOST HOLY QUEEN MARY GAVE ME
§603. My daughter, the doctrine and example contained in the foregoing chapter will teach thee to strive after the constancy and expansion of heart, by which thou mayest prepare thyself to accept blessings and adversity, the sweet and the bitter with equanimity. O dearest soul! How narrow and unwilling is the human heart toward that which is contrary and distasteful to its earthly inclinations! How it chafes in labors! How impatiently it meets them! How insufferable it deems all that is contrary to its desires! How persistently it forgets, that its Teacher and Master has first accepted sufferings, and has honored and sanctified them in His own Person! It is a great shame, yea a great boldness, on the part of the faithful, that they should abhor suffering, even after my most holy Son did suffer for them and when so many of the just, before his Death, were led to embrace the cross, solely by the hope that Christ would once suffer upon it, although they would never live to see it. And if this want of correspondence is so base in others, consider well, my dearest, how vile it would be in thee, who art so anxious to obtain the grace and the friendship of the Most High; who desirest to merit the name of a spouse and friend of God, who wishest to belong entirely to Him and that He belong entirely to thee, who wishest to be my disciple and that I be thy Teacher, who aspirest to follow and imitate me, as a faithful daughter to her mother (Matthew 7:21). All this must not result in mere sentiment and in empty words, or oft-repeated exclamations of: “Lord! Lord!” and, when the occasion of tasting the chalice and the cross of suffering is at hand, thou must not turn away in sorrow and affliction from the sufferings, by which the sincerity of a loving and affectionate heart is to be tried.
§604. All this would be denying in your actions, what you profess in your words, and it would be a swerving from the path of eternal life: for thou canst not follow Christ, if thou refusest to embrace the cross and rejoice in it, nor shalt thou find me by any other way (Matthew 8:34). If creatures fail thee, if temptation or trouble assail thee, if the sorrows of death encompass thee (Psalm 17:5), thou must in no way be disturbed, or disheartened; since nothing displeases my most holy Son, or me, more than placing a hindrance, or misapplying the grace given by Him for thy defense. By misusing it and receiving it in vain, thou yieldest great victory to the demon, who glories much in having disturbed or subjected any soul, that calls itself a disciple of Christ and of me; and, having once brought thee to default in small things, he will soon oppress thee in greater ones. Confide, then, in the protection of the Most High and press onward, trusting in me. Full of this trust, whenever tribulation comes over thee, fervently exclaim: “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? (Psalm 26:1). He is my Helper, why should I hesitate? I have a Mother, a Queen and Mistress, who will assist me and take care of me in my affliction.”
§605. In this security, seek to preserve interior peace and keep forever in thy view my works and my footsteps for thy imitation. Remember the sorrow, which pierced my heart at the prophecies of Simeon, and how I remained in peace and tranquility, without any sign of disturbance, although my heart and soul were transfixed by a sword of pain. In every event I sought motives for glorifying and adoring His admirable wisdom. If the transitory labors and sufferings are accepted with joy and with serenity of heart, they spiritualize the creature, they elevate it and furnish it with a divine insight; by which the soul begins to esteem affliction at its proper value, and soon finds consolation and the blessings of mortification and of freedom from disorderly passions.
This is the teaching of the school of the Redeemer, hidden from those living in Babylon and from those who love vanity (Matthew 11:25). I wish also that thou imitate me in respecting the priests and ministers of the Lord, who, in the new law hold a much higher dignity than in the old, since the divine Word has now united Itself with human nature and has become the eternal High-Priest, according to the order of Melchisedech (Psalm 109:4). Listen to their words and instructions, as God requires, whose place they take. Consider the power and authority given them in the Gospels, where it is said: “Who hears you, hears Me; who obeys you obeys Me” (Luke 10:16).
Strive after the perfection they teach thee. Ponder and meditate without intermission upon that, which my most holy Son suffered, so that thy soul be a participant in His sorrows. Let the pious memory of His sufferings engender in thee such a disgust and abhorrence of all earthly pleasures, that thou despise and forget all that is visible, and, instead, follow the Author of eternal life.