Since the world is a place of meriting,
it is rightly called a valley of tears. We are placed here to suffer,
so that by patience we may bring our own souls to life eternal, as Our Lord
himself says: By your patience you will win your souls (Lk 21:19).
God gave us the Blessed Virgin as a model of all virtues. But particularly
as a model of patience. Saint Francis de Sales commenting on the marriage feast
at Cana, remarks that it was precisely for this reason that Our Lord's answer
to the Blessed Virgin seemed to pay but little attention to her request:
Woman, what is that to you and to me? (Jn 2:4). He did this
to give us an example of his mother's patience. But why do we have to look
for examples? Mary's whole life was one continual exercise of patience.
The angel said to Saint Bridget: "As a rose grows up among thorns,
so did the Blessed Virgin grow up among tribulations." Her compassion
for the sufferings of the Redeemer was enough in itself to make her a martyr
of patience. Saint Bonaventure says: "A crucified Mother conceived
a crucified Son." In speaking of her sorrows, we have already mentioned
how much she suffered during her journey to Egypt and during her
as well as during the time she spent with her son in the house at Nazareth.
But what Mary had to endure when her son was crucified on Calvary is
enough in itself to show how constant and steadfast her patience was:
There stood by the cross of Jesus his mother. It was then, according to
Saint Albert the Great, that she brought us forth to the life of grace.
If then we wish to be children of Mary,
we must strive to imitate her patience. "What can enrich us
with greater merit in this life," asks Saint Cyprian, "or with
greater glory in the next, than the patient endurance of sufferings?"
Divine Wisdom said, by the prophet Osee: I will hedge in her way with
thorns (Osee 2:6). Saint Gregory adds: "The way of the elect
is hedged with thorns." As a hedge of thorns protects a vineyard,
so God protects his servants from attaching themselves to the earth
by surrounding them with tribulations. Saint Cyprian concludes,
therefore, that it is patience that delivers us from sin and hell.
It is also patience that produces saints: Let patience have its perfect
work (Jas 1:4). Patient souls bear in peace not only the crosses
that come immediately from God, such as sickness and poverty, but
also those that come from men - persecution, injuries, and the like.
Saint John saw all the saints carrying palm branches, the emblem of
martyrdom, in their hands: After this I saw a great multitude...and
palms were in their hands (Apoc 7:9). This meant that all adults who
are saved must be martyrs in some sense, either through shedding their
blood for Christ or through the practice of patience. Saint Gregory
urges us to take courage, maintaining that "we can be martyrs without
the executioner's sword, by merely preserving patience." "Provided,
of course," adds Saint Bernard, "that we endure the trials of
this life not only patiently but willingly and with joy." What fruit
every pain borne for God's sake will produce for us in heaven! The Apostle
encourages us, saying: For our present light affliction, which is for the
moment, prepares for us an eternal weight of glory (2 Cor 4:17).
Saint Teresa's reflections on this subject are beautiful. She used to
say: "Those who embrace the cross do not feel it." And again: "Once
we have made up our minds to suffer, there is no more pain."
our crosses weigh heavily upon us, let us have recourse to Mary whom
Holy Church calls "comforter of the afflicted," and whom Saint John
Damascene calls "the remedy for all the sorrows of the heart."
O my sweet Lady,
you who were innocent endured suffering with so much patience.
Why do I, who deserve hell, refuse to suffer at all? My mother,
I now ask you for this favor - not to be delivered from crosses,
but to bear them patiently. For the love of Jesus, I beg you to
obtain this grace from God. I confidently hope for this from you.