BY Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey, SS.CC.
IMMOLATION OF LOVE
“Can you drink of the chalice of which l drink?”
(Mark x, 38.)
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him
take up his cross, and follow Me.”
(Mark viii, 34.)
WE, apostles of the Sacred Heart, must not be of that class of poets and romanticists who hymn the praises of Divine Love but do not live up to what they say. If this love of ours is to be sincere, it must not be a mere sentimental feeling but a principle of good works and true immolation.
This immolation consists, above all, in the strict and faithful observance of the law; “He that hath My commandments and keepeth them; he it is that loveth Me.” (John xiv, 21.) This scrupulous fulfilment of the law, this fidelity to all its points, whether great or small, constitutes the very first degree of self-immolation. Those thousand details of life and insignificant trifles, as we improperly call them, weave for us the roughest and most practical hair shirt. If we are not saints in our ordinary daily lives it is not because opportunity for doing penance is wanting, but because the love, which gives merit and worth to the inevitable daily sacrifices, does not animate our souls. If your health does not permit of your using instruments of penance, just live your life as God planned it for you. Such a course of action will be a more painful mortification than any bodily penance, but accept all with great love.
There are three loves which really constitute but one, namely: Love of the Eucharist, Love of the Cross, and Love of Souls. You cannot separate them nor can you have one to the exclusion of the others. And precisely because l preach the love of the Heart of Jesus to those who are to be His apostles, I must necessarily preach sacrifice since the two ideas are as closely linked together as the sun and light. Hence we cannot love without suffering, nor suffer gloriously and beneficently without loving. I cherish the Cross for the sake of the Crucified Whom I worship, but I love the Crucified Jesus on the throne of His Cross! He sealed, with His Sacred Blood, a pact of eternal love for us; we must seal with blood the pact of friendship and the pledge of apostleship which are our titles to glory. “I am Christ’s wheat,” said St. Ignatius of Antioch, “and that I may be made into bread worthy of God, l must needs be ground by the teeth of lions.” Our vocation in relation to the glory and the reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus requires that we should be, with Him and like Him, amoris victima, victims of love. By just living the life Our Lord has ordained for us, no more nor less, we shall be ground into the holy flour of which the “hosts” are made.
If you hunger for greater sacrifices; if, ever faithful to your daily cross, you feel that, by the grace of God, a true spirit of immolation is growing in your soul, you will experience how ingenious divine love is in raising up a thousand ways of proving your love. Never doubt that the best of crosses, the safest, the most divine is always that one which Jesus Himself ordains without consulting us. Increase your faith in this doctrine so dear to saints cast in the mold of Nazareth. Adore, bless and praise God in all the contradictions and trials which come directly from His Hand and, conquering the repugnance of your nature, say with all your heart “fiat” or still better, “Magnificat!”
“I wish to give thee My Heart,” said Jesus to St. Margaret Mary, ”but first thou must make thyself a victim of immolation.” Thus, before giving you His Heart that you, in your turn, may give It to others, Jesus requires that you should make yourselves voluntary victims of His love. But how, when and where? In all the wise and merciful rulings of His Providence, leaving Him full liberty to cut off, burn or destroy what He will, as absolute and beloved Sovereign. Why fear? He is no tyrant. He knows the exact point we can reach on the hill of Calvary and the weight of the crosses He lays on us. He knows what is lacking and what is plentiful in our home, and all that happens there. He is all-just, all-gentle, all-wise, since He is Jesus. A cross which is not of our own choosing is undoubtedly the heaviest to bear, not because of the cross itself, for that which Our Lord sends us is always more bearable and sanctifying than one of our own making, but because we are so fickle and capricious even in our efforts to attain sanctity. Our own character is one of the heaviest crosses, one which cannot be changed from day to day or left at home when we are on a journey or in public. Wherever we are, it weighs us down and covers us with confusion. In the same way, the cross of our defects and shortcomings purifies and raises our soul ”My daughter,” said Our Lord to a Religious, “I greatly rejoice to see how generously thou art striving to correct thyself but I leave thee the discipline of thy defects that thou mayst be sanctified thereby. On earth thou wilt never know how far thou hast corrected thyself, nor what stage of perfection thou hast attained by thy constant struggle.” And again He said to another: “I am building the solid shrine of My Love in thy apparent failures, which humiliate thee so much, and on the ruins of thy self love.” How can we be surprised at it since our very impotence is, according to St. Paul, but a potency of grace and a marvelous aid in our sanctification. (Cf. Rom. v, 20.) “I will make a saint of thee,” said Jesus to a soul, “by making use of thy impotence, provided that thou love Me much.”
He disperses our own plans, our golden dreams like a puff of smoke. We often cherish some scheme which we think will serve His Glory whilst He has quite different projects for our own glory. It is very trying to contemplate the ruins of what we thought to be, and which perhaps indeed was, a holy project! But these ruins are holier, more glorious and richer still in merit, when we conform with generous love to the blessed will of God. “Leave Me to do as I wilt,” Jesus says, “tie not My Hands with thy whims, trace not out the path for Me, for I am the Way. Dost thou say from thy heart: ‘Thy kingdom comei? If so, let Me direct and order all, for I am Love. Wouldst thou be useful and happy? Put the rudder in My hands, entrust it entirely to Me, but complain not if I plan out thy life for thee.” What should be your reply, Apostles of the Sacred Heart? “Fiat, Magnificat!” Henceforth, O Jesus, never consult us; speak, command, rule over us as absolute King of our hearts.
Even in our spiritual life we are wont to mix with the good wine the muddy water of our own desires, and we do not allow Our Lord, except under protest, to disarrange our little plans for sanctity! St. Teresa. one evening, got ready a number of penitential instruments, proposing to commence a novena of austerities on the next day for an important intention; but on the following morning she was laid up with a high temperature. With her habitual trust and familiarity she said to Our Lord: “Didst Thou not know that l purposed to begin my novena of penance today? Couldst Thou not delay sending me this illness till my penance was accomplished?” And Jesus replied: “Thou shalt make a novena and be holy in My way, not in thine!” Happy the souls that live on truth and fear illusions in holy things, seeing and accepting in their every day lives “the discipline of Jesus and His Holy Will.”
If it is true that corporal penance is absolutely indispensable to salvation — and above all to sanctification — why are many who aspire to a holy life rendered incapable of fasting, watching, taking the discipline, sleeping on the bare ground, mixing bitter herbs with their food, etc. The Divine Master cannot be acting in a contradictory way by asking them to fly and then clipping their wings. There are thousands of other austerities that may be practised. The severest penance, even in the cloister, is the physical pain and moral anguish which God, in His wisdom and mercy, ordains for our sanctification. This includes illness, sorrows, inclemency of weather, work, contradiction and lack of resources. We can make use of these penitential garments a hundred times a day, even a hundred times an hour!
Many fervent people, owing to the delicacy of their health, their obligations or obedience, cannot and must not fast. They are ordered to sleep longer and to take care. of themselves. Justice, charity and obedience require that they should submit. Yet such people are not exempt from the duty of penance; they need not renounce the ideal of sanctity. They should accept with submission, faith, peace and love their poor health, their sufferings and all the weariness and humiliation attached thereto. They will thus become great penitents and great saints.
This assurance will give relief to many a troubled heart that has hitherto looked upon corporal penance as essential to sanctification. A chronic invalid may lead as penitent a life as a Carthusian. A mother whose heart, like that of Mary, is pierced with sorrows — yet who blesses God and rejoices in her martyrdom — is a penitent and a martyr of the highest order, a real marvel of grace. This luminous and inspiring doctrine is not of my invention — God preserve me from such an audacity — but is essentially the teaching of the Heart of Jesus. Our fellow creatures, too, often cause us the acutest sufferings, and God permits this because we have often been gall and vinegar to the lips of Our Divine Lord. Let us do penance and suffer lovingly! We have all experienced at one time or another a feeling of utter loneliness, the suffering of being misunderstood, the impossibility of opening our hearts to anyone that we can fully trust. Here, again, let us do penance and suffer lovingly! Another torture is temptation, the revolt of passions, the scourge of finding an incentive to evil in all around us — not because of others but on account of our own evil nature. In such trying moments let us remember Our Lord’s words to St. Paul: “My Grace is sufficient for Thee.” Let us do penance and suffer lovingly! Calvary is to be met with even in our own homes, where we encounter the cruel sufferings of disappointments, loss of fortune, sorrow, death itself. It would be a great mistake to look on home crosses as a scourge. They are but a trial of our love. Jesus spared not even His own Mother. He willed that she should weep and so increase the beauty and tender mercy of her soul. Why then should we be spared? Our Blessed Mother was the most sorrowful, the most afflicted of God’s creatures because of her glorious vocation of Queen of martyrs and apostles. Let us do penance and suffer lovingly!
A Catholic home should nurture strong and valiant souls capable of grasping, in all its integrity, the doctrine of the Heart of Jesus, the doctrine of suffering and its sanctifying and redeeming power. We should set our faces firmly against the opinion that suffering is to be looked upon with horror and disgust. Indeed, though considering themselves pious and claiming to love Our Lord sincerely, many flee in consternation at the slightest pin-prick and refuse to taste even a drop of His bitter chalice. Their only prayer, according to St. Teresa, is the ejaculation: ”From Thy Cross and my crosses deliver me, O Lord!”
On the other hand, thank God, many love to repeat with all their hearts the words of St. Teresa: “Grant me either to suffer or to die,” and that of St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi: “To suffer, not to die!” Many souls of this kind are now being formed in the school of the Sacred Heart. Huby says that whereas the lovers of the Cross were wont to press their lips in passionate love to the wounds of Christ, loving these wounds and seeking them with love, the lovers of the Heart of Jesus go much further. They penetrate, through the wound into His Side, right into the interior suffering of His Heart, learning in that bleeding sanctuary the glory of interior immolation and the joy to be found even in the bitterest anguish of the soul. The most heroic hearts are those which have been wrought on the anvil of the wound in Christ’s Side and in the furnace of His Heart.
To confine austerity to fasting and other corporal mortifications is to restrict the idea of penance. The Church, no doubt, encourages these practices — as we see by the Ecclesiastical fasts ordained — and she gives full approbation to certain religious orders such as the Trappists, which go far beyond what is prescribed for the ordinary Catholic in this respect. But eighty per cent of Her children unfortunately — nay, providentially — are unable to live such penitential lives. Yet we are bound to preach in season and out of season the obligation of penance. How are they to fulfil it? By just accepting the crosses of their daily lives and so accomplishing all that is required of them.
A good Catholic once said to me: “Father, I have long given up all thought or being a saint, for I know it is impossible, my health does not permit of the penance necessary for those who seek for sanctity.” How absurd! Just as though it were right to say: “I have no health, so I cannot be a saint.” It came as a revelation to her to learn that her delicate health, if borne in a great spirit of faith and love, afforded more opportunity for merit than any penance she could inflict upon herself. All this seems obvious and logical when thus argued and stated; but it is not universally understood because sufficient insistence has not been laid on the spirit of penance, of this kind of penance, and above all the fact that it is love which gives merit to austerities whatever these may be.
Jesus said to Margaret Mary: “Take, My daughter, the cross which I Myself give thee and plant it in thy heart, that thou mayest always have it before thine eyes and carry it in the arms of thy fondest desires. To carry it in thy arms means to embrace it courageously, every time it presents itself, as the most precious token of My Love.” Yet many of Our Lord’s friends do not embrace it but drag it along unlovingly and grumblingly. This is the more pitiful since we cannot get rid of it or lighten it by complaints; on the contrary, a cross we drag instead of bearing it bravely crushes us to earth, while one embraced with love lends wings which carry us aloft.
St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi, kissing the walls of her cell, in a rapture of happiness, said, in her sublime folly: “Thou hast deceived me, Jesus; yes, Thou hast really deceived me!” Our Lord appeared to her and said smilingly: “Daughter, what sayest thou? How have I deceived thee?”
She then threw herself at His Feet and said eagerly: “Yes, Jesus. I accuse Thee of deceiving me. I was told, before leaving the world, that I should find nothing but crosses, Calvary, Gethsemane and death in immolation, and nothing of the kind has happened.” “What?” said Jesus, ”hast thou found neither cross nor chalice in My service?” “Certainly, I have! But at the same time I found Thee, the Bridegroom, and with Thee pain is delight and death is life.”
Dear apostles, never give our enemies an opportunity of saying that the love of the Sacred Heart is a mere sentimental devotion. On the contrary, show them that friends and apostles of the King of Love know, like St. Laurence, how to smile on the gridiron of immolation. Do not envy the stigmata of the Seraph of Assisi, bear them within your souls like a fountain of life. As we shall see later, Jesus — Our King — wills to reign “a ligno” (John xii, 32.) from His Cross. He crucified with you and you with Him. Thus with you bring all men to His Heart.
Do not swell the ranks of those who follow the Master only in the breaking of bread and not in the drinking of His Chalice. There are three loves which should be inseparably linked together Love of the Eucharist , Love of Souls, Love of Immolation.
Love of the Eucharist ,
Love of Souls,
Love of Immolation.
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