12 May 2010

Trials: An Effect of God's Mercy

In a Charterhouse in Germany, one feast day, the Prior had granted the customary recreation for the novices and had himself gone to join them. As he had that morning preached on extraordinary graces that we receive from God, he invited the religious to recount any such favours they had received. The last novice, with great simplicity, related the following story:

‘As at the beginning of my novitiate’, he said, ‘I was assailed by violent temptations, I took back my secular clothes in order to return to the world. Before leaving the cell, however, I knelt for one moment before the statue of Our Lady, which is in every Carthusian’s cell, and made a short prayer to her, protesting that it was only from sheer necessity that I was leaving, since the trials by which I was overwhelmed made it clear that I was not to remain in the cloister. Then Our Lady seemed to address me with the utmost kindness, and told me that these trials were nothing but an effect of God’s mercy, intended to increase my merit; and that I would do God’s will by staying in the holy state which I had embraced. From that moment I have never had to suffer any further temptation of that kind’.

When the Prior heard this story, he was unable to suppress a feeling of envy. ‘What’! he thought, ‘here is a novice, only six months in the Order, and he has already had a vision of the Mother of God. And I . . . I have served her to the best of my ability for so many years, and have never received any such favour’. This resentment became so bitter that some months later he made up his mind to leave the Order. He, therefore, asked the Brother Tailor for secular garments, put them on when evening came, and made his way to the door of the monastery. He could not, however, cross the threshold without going to kneel for a moment before the altar of Our Lady of Compassion, which was in the Brothers’ choir. While he was there, his heavenly Mother in her clemency appeared to him and reproached him for what he was intending to do, telling him that he had no justification whatever for his action. Her novice, indeed, had need of a vision to console him, and to fortify him against the interior trials which were beyond his strength. He, on the contrary, had had nothing but spiritual consolations from the moment he had entered religion. Why, then, should he need any extraordinary favours? The would-be fugitive humbled himself under the maternal admonition, and full of gratitude to her who, by giving it to him, had just saved his soul from so dire a peril, prostrated himself and became absorbed in a prayer of thanksgiving, which continued so far into the night that in the end he was overcome by sleep. The Procurator, and the Brothers with him, arrived in due course for Matins, and found their Prior prostrate on the ground, and dressed as a secular. They wakened him and, when he came to himself, he insisted on presiding at the Office dressed as he was. Then, leading the community to the chapter-house, he knelt down before them all and confessed his fault, and related the remarkable favour which had caused him to abandon his purpose.

Wherefore, he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall ~ 1 Corinthians 10:12. Let us place our vows in Our Lady’s keeping, and beg her to obtain for us the graces that will make her motherly vigilance bear fruit.