Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, Doctor of the Church: "Let us be persuaded that the truly wise are they who know how to acquire the divine grace, and the kingdom of heaven; and let us incessantly implore the Lord to give us the science of the saints, which he gives to all who ask it from him. Oh! What a precious science to know how to love God, and to save our souls! This science consists in knowing how to walk in the way of salvation, and to adopt the means of attaining eternal life. The affair of salvation is of all affairs the most necessary. If we know all things, and know not how to save our souls, our knowledge will be unprofitable to us, and we shall be forever miserable: but on the other hand, though we should be ignorant of all things, we shall be happy for eternity, If we know how to love God. “Blessed is the man,” says St. Augustine, “ who knows Thee though he be ignorant of other things.” One day, Brother Giles said to St. Bonaventure: Happy you, Father Bonaventure, who are so learned. I am a poor, ignorant man, who knows nothing. You can become more holy than I can. “Listen,” replied the saint.; ‘If an ignorant old woman loves God more than I do, she shall be more holy than I am.” On hearing this, Brother Giles began to exclaim: O poor old woman! Poor old woman! Listen, listen: if you love God, you can become more holy than Father Bonaventure.
“The unlearned rise up,” says St. Augustine: “and bear away the kingdom of heaven.” How many rude and illiterate Christians, who, though unable to read, know how to love God and are saved! And how many of the learned of this world are damned! But the former, not the latter, are truly wise. Oh! How truly wise were St. Paschal, St. Felix the Capuchin, St. John of God, though unacquainted with human sciences! Oh! How truly wise were so many holy men, who, abandoning the world, shut themselves up in the cloister, or spent their lives in the desert! How truly wise were St. Benedict, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Louis of Toulouse, who renounced the throne! Oh! How truly wise were so many martyrs, so many tender virgins, who refused the hand of princes, and suffered death for the sake of Jesus Christ! That true wisdom consists in despising the goods of this life, and in securing a happy eternity, even worldlings know and believe: hence of persons who give themselves to God, they say; Happy they, who are truly wise, and save their souls! In fine, they who renounce the goods of the world go give themselves to God, are said to be undeceived. What then would we call those who abandon God for worldly goods? We should call them deluded men.
Brother, to what class do you wish to belong? In order to make a good choice, St. Chrysostom tells you to visit the sepulchers of the dead. The grave is the school in which we may learn the science of the saints. “Tell me,” says St. Chrysostom, “are you able there to discover who has been a prince, a noble, or a man of learning? For my part,” adds the saint, “I see nothing but rottenness worms and bones. All is but a dream, a shadow.” Everything in this world will soon have an end and will vanish like a dream or a shadow. But, dearly beloved Christians, if you wish to be truly wise, it is not enough to know your end, it is necessary to adopt the means of attaining it. All would wish to be saved and to be saints; but because they do not employ the means, they never acquire sanctity, and are lost. It is necessary to fly from the occasions of sin, to frequent the sacraments, to practice mental prayer, and above all, to impress on the heart the following maxims of the Gospel: ‘What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world?’ ‘He that loveth his life shall lose it’ That is, we must even forfeit our life in order to save the soul. ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself.’ To follow Jesus Christ it is necessary to refuse to self-love the pleasures, which it seeks. ‘Life is His good will.’ Our salvation consists in doing the will of God. These and other similar maxims should be deeply impressed on the soul."