Juan Bautista Davila.

Letters of Blessed John of Avila online

. (page 5 of 10)
Online LibraryJuan Bautista DavilaLetters of Blessed John of Avila → online text (page 5 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

our faults with His Blood; He gives us His
Sacraments. His Fatherly love grants an easy
pardon to our sins, and a generous reward for
our services. He leads us through the Red
Sea to the Promised Land, setting our sins as
far apart from us as the East is from the West.
He drowns them in His Precious Blood, so
that, although we still see them, they are dead,
and only incite us to praise our Lord, " Who
hath thrown the horse and the rider into the
sea." (Exod. XV.) Go, then, with God's
blessing, to enjoy and rejoice in the riches of
your tender Father, which He gained for you
in bitter warfare by the shedding of His Blood,
for He never fails to succour those who place
their hope and love in Him.

We shall all miss you, dear Father, and feel
lonely without you, but as God calls you to
this blessed lot, our love for you will make us
happy in your gain. For, though we shall
grieve at our loss, yet we shall rejoice for you,
as the brothers of Rebecca did, when she left
them to be espoused to Isaac, whose name
signifies "joy." Therefore we say to you:
"Thou a^t our brother; mayst thou increase to

Letter IX ji

thousands of thousands, and may thy seed
possess the gates of their enemies." (Gen.
XXIV. 60.)

It is not for me to counsel you how to
prepare for this great festival, for there are
those around you who can direct and help you
to pass from the hands of men into those of
God. May the Saviour, Who came into the
world and was raised upon the cross for you,
be your succour, so that though you walk
through the valley of the shadow of death
you may fear no evil. Cry to your Redeemer,
for though you should be in the belly of the
whale. He can hear you even there. Call upon
His Blessed Mother, who is our Mother too;
supplicate the saints, who are our fathers and
our brethren, for with such aids as these you
need not fear to lose the heavenly kingdom.
If our Lord will you to pass through purgatory,
may His Name be blessed, for with the hope
of seeing Him, you will welcome its pains.

May Christ who died for you, be with you
at your death and receive your soul into His
arms as it leaves this world. Say to Him, as
He said to His Father: "Father, into Thy
hands I commend my spirit," and I trust that
in His mercy He will receive you as His son,
and as the heir of God, and joint heir with
Himself in His kingdom of heaven.

72 Blessed yohn of Avila

letter r




" Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the
God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all
our tribulation; that we also may be able to
comfort them who are in all distress, by the
exhortation wherewith we also are exhorted by
God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound
in us, so also by Christ doth our comfort
abound." (2. Cor. I. 3-5.)

These are the words of the Apostle St. Paul.
Thrice he was scourged with rods, five times
with whips, and once he was stoned in such a
way that he was left for dead. He was persecuted
by men of all conditions, and exposed to all
sorts of afflictions and trials, and this so often,
that he says in another part of his writings:
" we who live are always delivered unto death
for Jesus' sake: that the life also of Jesus may
be made manifest in our mortal flesh." (2. Cor.
IV. II.) In spite of all these sufferings he
never murmured or complained of the way God
treated him, as weak souls do; or gave way to
grief as men do who care for their own honour
^nd comfort; or prayed the Almighty to deliver

Letter X 73

him from his pains, like those who cannot
understand their value and therefore desire to
be freed from them. Unlike some Christians
who shirk sufferings, he does not think them
slight graces only. Far from it; rising above
all ignorance and weakness, he blesses our Lord
during his torments, and gives Him thanks for
them as for a signal mercy. The Apostle holds
himself happy to bear something in honour of
Christ, Who bore such dishonour to raise us
from the base condition in which our sins had
placed us. For indeed our Lord beautified our
souls and honoured us with the gift of His
Spirit, and by adopting us as sons of God
He gave us an earnest and pledge that from
Him and through Him, we should one day
enjoy the kingdom of heaven.

O! my most dear brothers, God seeks to show
you what a favour He does us, when the world
thinks He punishes us. O! what an honour it
is for us to be disgraced for seeking God's
honour, and what glory we shall one day get
for the affronts we suffer now! How merciful,
loving, and gracious, are the arms our Lord
holds out to receive those who are wounded in
the combat for His sake! In this our true joy
far exceeds every bitterness the sorrow of this
world can give. If we are wise, we shall long
for these caresses; for who, that understands
true happiness, does not long for what is
unmixed love and wholly to be desired.'' Be
sure, that, if you wish for this, and to see and

74 Blessed yolin of Avila

enjoy heaven, the path of suffering is the safest
to lead you there. This is the way which Christ
and all His servants trod, and which He calls
' the narrow way which leads to life.' He
taught us, that, if we wish to come to Him,
we must follow Him, for it is not right that the
Son of God should have endured dishonour,
and the sons of men should pass through life
without it. " For the disciple is not above his
Master nor the servant above his Lord."
(St. Matth. X. 24.) God forbid that our souls
should find rest in, or choose any other lot but
that of suffering beneath our Lord's cross. I
know not if bearing the cross can be called
" pain," for to my mind it is to repose on a bed
of down and roses.

O Jesus of Nazareth ! — name signifying " a
flower," how sweet is Thine odour, which
wakes in us desires of eternity, making us forget
our sorrows, at the thought of Him for Whom
we bear them and of the reward He will bestow
on us for doing so. Who that loves Thee,
does not love Thee crucified? In that cross,
Thou didst both seek and find me, didst cure
and make me free, and, loving me, didst give
Thy Life-Blood for me, by the hands of cruel

Therefore on Thy cross I seek Thee: there
do I find Thee, and finding Thee, Thou dost
heal me and deliver me from myself, — me, who
only obstruct Thy love for me which is my
salvation. Now^ delivered from my self-love.

Letter X 75

which is Thine enemy, I give The^ my Ipye,
^hiph though not equal to, is at least spmp ppqr
imitation of, the excessive love Thou didst show
upon the cross for me; in that loving The^
I suffer for Thee, as Thou for love didst die foy
me! But alas, what shame and sorrow must
I feel! The many torments Thou didst bear
for me witness to the greatness of Thy love, and
yet I show how tepidly I love Thee in return,
by the little I endure for Thy sake. Well do
1 know, that there are few who deserve th^
great happiness of being marked as Thine own
with the seal of the cross: yet think how sad it
is for me to desire, and not to obtain, to ask and
not to receive, especially when what I ask for is
not joy ^ but afflictions for Thy sake!

Tell me, why wilt Thou have me both for
Thy herald, and Thine ensign-bearer to carry
the standard of Thy Gospel, and yet wilt not
permit me to wear Thy uniform? How ill it
looks that I should be in the ranks of those
who serve Thee, and yet not wear that garment
with which thou wert so constantly, so willingly,
and so entirely clothed! Tell us, O beloved
Jesus, by Thy sweetest cross, was there a single
day on which Thou didst put off Thy robe
of suffering, to wrap Thyself in rest? Or didst
Thou ever put off that white garment which so
wore its way to Thy very Heart, that Thou
didst say: "My soul is sorrowful even unto
death." (St. Matth. XXVI. 38.) Ah no!
Thou didst never rest, for Thou didst neve^*

76 Blessed John of Avtla

cease to love us and therefore to suffer, for us!
When thev stripped Thee of Thy robe, they
cut out for Thee upon the Cross, as upon
a table, a cloak so long that it clothed Thee
from Head to Foot, covering Thy Body and
Hands, so that there was no part of Thee which
was not dyed with Thy most precious Blood,
and made crimson, and resplendent, and priceless.
Thy Blood flowed from Thy Head with the
thorns, from Thy Face with the blows, from Thy
Hands with the nails, from Thy Feet with
another nail, (most cruel indeed to Thee, but
most precious to us,) and from Thy whole Body
with stripes that could hardly be numbered.
He, who, looking on Thee, loves himself and
not Thee, does Thee great wrong. If, when
the soul sees Thee in such a plight, it flies from
the suflFerings which would make it resemble
Thee, its love for Thee is imperfect, for it does
not wish to be made like to Thee, therefore it has
but little desire to suff^er for Thee. He who
loves Thee with perfect love, dies to self for
love of Thee crucified, and is more eager to be
disgraced for Thy sake, than to receive all the
honours that this world, which is both deceived
and a deceiver, can give him.

Let all things be accounted as nothing in
comparison with thy Cross — all that flourishes
on earth and so quickly fades. Let worldlings
blush for shame, for Thou hast fought them at
such bitter costs to Thyself, and hast conquered
by thy Cross. Let those who are counted

Letter X 77

among thy servants be abashed at not rejoicing
at the world's antagonism to them, since thou
wert reproached and abandoned and contradicted
by it, blind as it is, for it neither sees nor can
see that Thou art the Truth. But I will hold
fast to Thee, though all other things fail me
for aught else is but misery and mere nothingness.
I will wear no livery but Thine, though it
would secure the whole world for me. For to
own all which is not Thee, is but a burden and
affliction rather than riches, but to possess Thee,
and be possessed by Thee, is joy to the heart
and true riches, for Thou art the one true Good.
I have forgotten, my dear brothers, that I
commenced by begging and admonishing you in
Christ's Name not to be distressed or surprised
at the persecutions, or rather the shadow of
them, raised against us, as if they were strange
or unusual for God's servants. For this is
nothing but the proof, or examination of the
lesson we have been learning for the last five or
six years, which is " to suffer, — to suffer for the
love of Christ." Now it has come upon us, do
not let it frighten us; do not let us be like
children who will not repeat the lesson they
have learned, but be strengthened in the Lord
and in the power of His might. He will
defend you for love of you, and though He is
but One, yet He is more powerful than all the
rest together, being omnipotent. Do not fear
that He lacks wisdom, for He knows all things;
g,nd no one need fear being disturbed, who is

78 Blessed John of Avila

held fast to God by the three strong bonds of
infinite love, power and wisdom.

Care nothing for the menaces of your per-
secutors. As for myself, I tell you truly that
their threats do not weigh a hair's weight with
me, for I am entirely in the hands or Christ.
I deeply pity their blindness, for the Gospel
which I preached in their town is hidden from
their sight. As St. Paul says: " the god of this
world which is the devil, hath blinded the minds
of unbelievers, that the light of the Gospel of
the glory of Christ should not shine upon
them." (2. Cor. IV. 4.) I earnestly desire
and beg of God to be merciful to them, and
give them blessings, in return for the curses
they have heaped on others, and to give them
glcry for their insults, or rather, what they have
sought to do to me, for I hold that, in reality,
the only true honour in this world is to be dis-
honoured for Christ's sake.

Act in the same way, dear friends, and be
followers of Him Who gave to the man, who
had sold Him to His enemies, the kiss of peace
and the name of friend, and Who cried out on
the Cross ; " Father forgive them, for they know
not what they do." (St. Luke XXIII. 34.)
Look upon all your fellow men as God's
creatures, whom He desires to be saved, and
you will find that you cannot wish harm to
those for whom God has such good will.
Remember how often I have told you we must
love our enemies, and keep our heart at peace,

Letter X J^

speaking ill of no man. Be patient in this
time of trial, for our Lord will soon bring about
a change of circumstances. On no account
desist from any good v/ork you have commenced,
for that would be most wrong. Be thoroughly
convinced that He Whom you have followed is
the Lord of heaven and earth, of life and of
death, and that, in fine, though all the world
should strive to prevent it, His truth must
prevail. Endeavour to follow Him, and then
you need fear neither men nor devils nor even
the angels, if it were possible for them to be
against you in this.

Speak little with men, but much with God in
prayer in the depths of your heart, for all good
must come to us from Him. He wishes us to
obtain it through prayer, and especially to keep
before our minds the Passion of Jesus Christ
our Lord. If you suffer anything by the tongues
of wicked men, (and that is the only injury
they can do you) take it as a satisfaction for
your sins, and a special mercy from Christ.
He uses them like a cloth to cleanse you from
your faults, for they will be defiled by the foul
things they say, while you will be purified by
suffering, and your happiness in the next world
made sure. I would however, on no account,
have you think yourself any better than those
whom you see now in error, for you do not
know how long you may continue in the right
path, nor how soon they may amend. Work
out your salvation in fear and humility, and

8o Blessed John of Avila

hope to reach heaven yourselves without think-
ing that your neighbour will never get there.
Acknowledge the Almighty's mercies to you,
without reflecting on other people's shortcomings,
for you know that the history of the Pharisee
and the Publican is intended for a warning to us.

No sanctity is secure without the holy fear
of God, in which I would have you "grow
old," (Eccli. II. 6) as the Holy Scriptures say,
by which they mean to teach us that we must
not only begin with this fear, but persevere in it
to the end. This fear is not irksome, but
pleasant, and rids the heart of all levity: it keeps
a man from self-confidence in his own merits,
however good his actions may be, so that he
leaves God to be the Judge both of himself and
and of his neighbour, as St. Paul says: " Neither
do I judge my own self, but he that judgeth
me is the Lord." (i. Cor. IV. 3.) This is
He Whom you must fear if you would continue
in the right way, so that what you build up
may not fall, but stand firmly, and rise upward
until it reaches the most high God; which end
is to be accomplished by love.

I pray our Lord Jesus Christ to bestow this
love on you. Amen.

Pray fervently for me, as I believe you do,
and I hope that He will hear you and allow me
to continue serving you as in former times.

Letter XI 8 1

letter xi



I think that you must be feeling
grief: much, however, as I desire your happiness,
your spiritual progress is more to me, so that
I would rather see you bearing trials with
patience than enjoying peace and devotion.
God is better pleased with submission in
suffering than with gratitude in prosperity.
Remember our Lady*s sorrows: during the
Passion alone, at the heart-rending sight of her
Son being led to execution as a malefactor,
bearing a heavy cross on His shoulders, and so
altered that she scarcely recognised Him, she
suffered more than has been borne by all the
mothers in the world at being parted from their
children. Think what must have been her
woe, as she saw Him she loved more dearly
than herself, pass thus from life! What must
she have felt, as she held Him, Who was both
the Son of God and her own child, dead in her
arms, when all His cruel torments were ended!
And then again, after Christ's Resurrection and
Ascension into heaven, when she was separated
Vol, I, 6

82 Blessed John of Avila

long years from Him, she felt His absence
more keenly than other mothers feel separation
from their sons, for her affection was greater
than any they can have.

If we glory in being our Lady's servants,
should we not share in her dolours? As we
gaze on her standing at the foot of our Lord's
cross, let us contemplate her with a soul filled as
hers was with sorrow, for mourners cannot talk
with the light-hearted. So let those who wish for
union with the Blessed Virgin and her Son, desire
some share in their sufferings. When in this
world were afflictions ever wanting to this Mother
and Son.? Was not sorrow always mingled
with any joy that they had.f^ Their life was but
a painful exile and a heavy cross; until they left
this world they experienced only trouble. At
last they are at peace, but even now they do
not wish their followers to think of that, but
of the trials they bore while living here below.

Our repose is being kept for the future and
it will indeed be sweet. Here let us work
manfully. Our Lord has many ready to share
His table but few to partake of His sorrows,
and it is for us to be among those few, if we
would be in the number of His friends. Let
us help Him to drink His chalice, for that will
show that we love Him sincerely. It is no
easy matter to be the friend of Jesus Christ.
Suffering borne for Him is the only sure way
to test which is the true and which the false
friend. Although the draught may be bitter,

Letter XI 83

yet drink it — think for Whom you take it;
how soon its taste will pass away; what a reward
it will bring you, and it will taste so sweet that
you will complain that there is so little given
you. Learn to love God as He loves you, and
know that a true love will make you give
yourself wholly to Him, and keep back nothing
for yourself. Do not fear to place yourself in
God's hands, abandoning yourself entirely to
Him, for all He holds is safe, and all else will
certainly be lost. Our Saviour has said :
" He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he
that hateth his life shall keep it." (St. John
XII. 25.) Do not care for the present, as many
have done, only to find themselves deceived at
last; but lift your eyes to Heaven, for which
you were created, and pray that you may get
there, be the cost what it may. None of those
who are already there have passed through the
world without greater afflictions than you have;
if some of them had less to bear, their tortures
were incomparably more severe in Purgatory,
for our Lord has ordained that none shall take
part in His joys but they who have shared His
pains. He has kept this rule with all souls
beloved by Him, therefore let us not complain
of it nor feel aggrieved, even if we had the
option of passing through life without sharing
in the pains He and His Mother bore. This
is the road to heaven, let us walk in it; it is the
purgatory of our sins, do not let us think it too
hard. This is what God's friends must pass

84 Blessed John of Avila

through; let who will spend their time in
pleasure. Our Lord told us, knowing well
what was to come: "Amen, Amen, I say to
you, that you shall lament and weep, but the
world shall rejoice: and you shall be made
sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into
joy. A woman, when she is in labour, hath
sorrow, because her hour is come: but when
she hath brought forth the child, she remem-
bereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man
is born into the world. So also you now indeed
have sorrow, but I will see you again and your
heart shall rejoice. '' (St. John XVI. 20-23).
These are our Lord's words, and for the sake of
the joys to come, forget your present pains, and
wait patiently until you see our Lord, Who will
come sooner than you expect Him.

Letter XII 85

tetter x\\


I CONSIDER that it is by God's special Providence
that it has fallen to your lot to have to bear
with the person about whom you wrote to me.
You have long known that you would have to
suffer a great deal in every way, both great and
small; and how else could this be accomplished?
Besides, how is it possible to learn patience,
mortification and humility, except in trials of a
kind such as come from this person, and from
other members of your household.'' For al-
though you may have made plenty of good
resolutions to bear with others and mortify
yourself, unless some one puts them to the test,
they are dreams rather than realities. Valour
must be shown in battle, or else it is but idle
boasting. This seems to be the case with you,
for when anything of the sort happens you are
disturbed, and behave as badly as the person you
are correcting. Patience must be kept at all
times, and nothing is to be gained by avoiding
the occasions of practising it. Your outward
behaviour may be correct when you have
nothing to try you, but if the root of the evil
is within you, appearances are of no valu^.

86 Blessed John of Avila

God brings you in contact with people of the
kind you mention, so that you may master or
control your great impetuosity. Be like that
youth who, when he was insulted by an old
man of Athens, laughed, saying that he was
giving him for nothing what he had been
obliged to pay other men dearly to offer him.^

Meditate constantly on the insults our Saviour
met with, until you are able to rejoice at
receiving the same treatment: consider yourself
fortunate when you meet with it, as it enables
you to please our Lord. St. Elizabeth, the
daughter of the King of Hungary, was deeply
wronged by a large number of people, and she
prayed for them with many tears, begging our
Lord to bestow some grace on them in return
for each injury they had done her. Christ
answered her that no petition had ever been so
acceptable to Him, and that He pardoned all
her sins in return for it. It is difficult for
a man to conquer himself, and especially in his
inclinations. It is no small thing in God's eyes
to bear being despised by our dependents.

* This tale is to be found in the " Lives of the Fathers of the Desert "
where it is told by Saint John the Dwarf. A philosopher, whose disciple
had offended him, condemned the culprit to carry other people's burdens
for three years, and then, for the same period, to pay men to insult and
annoy him. At the end of that time, the philosopher bade his pupil
enter the city of Athens to learn wisdom. At the gate sat a wise old
man, whose custom it was, out of a desire to learn their dispositions to
insult those who entered. Our youth laughed at his rudeness, and upon
the elder inquiring the reason, replied: "No wonder, for you have given
me gratis what I have had to buy dearly for three years. " Upon this
the old man exclaimed: "Enter the city, for you are worthy of it,"
(See Rosweyde's Vita Patrum^ Liber III, 84).

Letter XII 87

This happened to Job, whose servant would
neither come, nor pay heed to his master when
called by him. Our Redeemer was betrayed
by His disciple, and received death and dishonour
at the hands of those who should have served
Him. St. Augustine says: "Do not think
that the wicked live in vain, for God keeps
them here and suffers them patiently, either
that they may be converted, or that they may
exercise the virtues of good men." There
would have been no Abel, without Cain's malice,
nor would there have been martyrs, if there
had been no cruel executioners: chastity is not
proved unless it is assaulted, nor patience
without ill-treatment. Therefore receive this
trial from the hand of God as a very special
favour: thank Him for it, and make such good
use of it, that, with holy Job who said he would
not be without it, you may say: "I was the
brother of dragons, and the companion of
ostriches." (Job XXX. 29.) You will see
more clearly how far you have advanced in
holiness by the manner in which you bear this
trial than you could possibly do while enjoying
the sweetness of consolations, or even while
suffering illness. For such annoyances as you
meet with are so very hard to endure, that God is
much pleased to find we love Him well enough
to bear them well for His sake. This must be
the object of all your efforts. When you have
to inflict any punishment, beware of doing so
while you feel angry; let the matter rest for the

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10

Online LibraryJuan Bautista DavilaLetters of Blessed John of Avila → online text (page 5 of 10)