Dom Vital Lehodey
Abandonment in God
regarding place and environment
The religious is bound to her house as the son is to the paternal home. So long as this affection remains submissive to the divine good pleasure, there is nothing which is more legitimate. Yet we must not forget that God may dispose of us, by means of obedience, and He is free to place us at one time in a certain place and at another time in a different place, now with certain co-brothers and superiors and then with others. In all these things, it is necessary to conform oneself to His divine will.
The monastery is the enclosed garden in which God has placed us apart from the world and in which He deigns to live, together with us, in the most delicious intimacy. It is not yet Paradise, it is no longer Egypt, but rather the promised land in which an abundance of milk and honey flow. Beneath the same roof as Our Lord, a few steps from the Tabernacle, the religious spends sweet and holy hours in celebrating the august Mysteries, singing the praises of God, nourishing her soul with the bread of prayer and of spiritual reading.... Those blessed places, so abundantly watered with grace, were the happy witnesses of our greatest joys, of our battles and of our trials. There we have promised to live and die; from there our soul hopes to fly to Heaven, whilst the companion of its labours will go to rest beside our predecessors, awaiting its glorious awakening. And yet, this so legitimate attachment to our monastery must be subordinated to the divine good pleasure; because God always remains the supreme Arbitrator of our destiny. He may dispose of us, by means of obedience, and is free to permit the wickedness of persecutors.
The earth is a place of journeying; our permanent residence is in Heaven and it is of little importance whether we arrive there from exile or from our homeland: what is essential is to get there. Therefore as long as God wants us in the monastery, there we will find the way to Paradise and there is no other way comparable to this. But if Divine Providence sends us elsewhere, in whatsoever place He places us, there we will find our hope of salvation, because it is obedience that brings us to the Kingdom of Heaven.
In the cloister we have an environment which has been chosen by thousands and tens of thousands. A community is a family united in Jesus Christ, in which all compete in despising the world, in observing our holy rules, in striving to please God and to become a saint; and each day we experience how sweet and pleasing it is to live together as brothers.... However, even if all those who surrounded us were saints, we must still expect to find in men the remains of human weakness; there will be found at least different characters and temperaments, differences of sentiments and desires, a thousand little trifles which make us suffer, so much the more since the custom of being treated with respect, renders us more sensitive to everything which is less than delicate.
If, therefore, it happens that we are to bear something from our co-brothers, let us be convinced, above all, that it is the will of God. It is Him, in fact, and not by chance, Who has gathered us by four cardinal points and has united us in a certain community and under certain superiors, to live together in perpetual contact. Moods, opinions, tastes, and thousands of other things, are harmonised only by the practice of virtues; it is necessary for each one to make many sacrifices for the good of peace. God knows this and it is precisely for this reason that He has placed us together. In Heaven we will enjoy perfect rest and peace after the victory. Down here is the time for battle against ourselves, to expiate our faults, overcome our defects, grow in virtue and increase in merit. The means to do this are many. One of the best ways for us will always be the common life with the sacrifices which it entails.
Bl. Mary Magdalene Postel said to her Daughters: “Each one has her own nature, her character, her imperfections, her bad moods. If in the community there were not characters a bit difficult, it would be necessary to go and buy one to help us to gain Heaven.” God has provided this gratuitously: it is up to us to profit from these graces to die to ourselves!
Moreover, these difficulties which occur constantly, will provide many occasions each day to practice the most rare and solid virtues: charity, patience, sweetness, humility of heart, kindness, the renouncing of one’s own character, etc; and these little daily virtues, practiced with fidelity, will procure for you a rich harvest of graces and merits for eternity. In such way, better than with all the other practices and means, you will be able to obtain the great gift of interior prayer, peace of heart, recollection, the continual presence of God and His pure and perfect love.
The Joy of the Saints
An “unsuccessful” journey
When St. Leonard of Port Maurice, during one of his pilgrimages, found the way to be easy and level, he usually said to his companions: “Ah, brothers, this time we are unsuccessful, because on this journey we are not suffering!”
The eye of charity
One day, St. Francis de Sales had a lively conversation with a man who had a violent temper. “I will tear out one of your eyes!” said the hot-blooded soldier. “Ok, tear out one of my eyes––retorted the Saint sweetly––nothing will prevent me from looking at you lovingly with the other one.”
The precious stones of Brother Juniper
One of the first companions of the Poverello of Assisi, brother Juniper, competed with his Holy Father in bearing every sort of insult. When he went on pilgrimage to Rome, as soon as he left Assisi he was insulted by some youths. He, wholly joyful, turned towards them and exclaimed: “Well done! Continue to throw such precious stones at me; I desire nothing else than to be stoned until I reach Rome!”
A salutary fast
To he who advised St. Robert Bellarmine, at his age, not to fast three times a week, he replied: “I can prove by the Sacred Scriptures that I should fast, since it is written: ‘If your justice does not surpass that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven’: and they fasted twice a week.”
Too good to eat....
As a good teacher, the Holy Reformer of Carmel, St. Teresa of Avila, knew that the sense of taste offered many opportunities to mortify sensuality. One day, during a meal, she discretely removed the mouthful which she had taken. One of the nuns asked her why she had not eaten that dish which had been prepared with so much care. She replied: “It is precisely for that reason, sister! It seemed to me to be so good that I dared not swallow it; food is eaten to sustain the body and not to satisfy the taste.”
The high dignity of washing the dishes
St. Frederick, Count of Verdun, left the world with all its vanity and withdrew to the convent of Saint-Vannes, where he lived in intense fervour. One day he was visited by brother Godfried, who found him wholly occupied...washing the dishes. “What a duty for a Count, eh?” he said with an air of compassion. But the humble religious replied: “You are right my brother, this occupation far surpasses my dignity; because who am I that I merit to render the least service to God, in the person of the Monks of this Monastery?”