Saint Claude de la Colombiere
Once when St Teresa of Avila was traveling, her cart tipped, spilling her into a muddy stream. Soaked and irritated, Teresa looked to heaven and cried, "God, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!"
How often we feel this way? We try to serve God and difficulties arise.
- You're a Catholic mother pregnant with your fifth child and you suffer for months with morning sickness. "I'm trying to serve you God! Can't you give me some slack?"
- You're driving to daily Mass and you get in a wreck.
- You wait in line for confession for 30 minutes and then the priest announces that confessions are over. The priest must go.
- You're little children are finally being good at Mass when an old lady criticizes one of them for letting her jacket fall on the floor.
- You're late for Mass and you cannot find your keys.
- You try to pray at Holy Mass, but your three year old is being disruptive so it's off to the "room of tears."
Perhaps it's more mundane:
- You're trying to fix something for a friend and your tool breaks before you finish.
- Your computer crashes before you save a critical document.
- Your air conditioning unit breaks in August.
- You cannot sleep on account of poison ivy.
- You're trying to respond to email and you lose your internet connection.
- You're prepare a wonderful meal only to find that your guest is diabetic or allergic to what you made.
These are the frustrations of our life. What is the meaning of these tiny troubles. Saint Claude de la Colombiere sums it up nicely:
Our whole lives are made up of incidents of this kind, occurring ceaselessly from one minute to another and producing a hose of involuntary feelings of dislike and aversion, envy, fear, and impatience to trouble the serenity of our minds. We let an incautious word slip out and wish we had not said it; someone says something we find offensive; we have to wait a long time to be served when we are in a hurry; we are irritated by a child's boisterousness; a boring acquaintance buttonholes us in a the street, a car splashes us with mud; the weather spoils our outing; our work is not going as well as we could wish; a tool breaks at a critical moment; we get our clothes torn or stained--these are not occasions for practicing heroic virtue but they can be means of acquiring it if we wish.
Saint Claude continues:
If we were careful to offer all these petty annoyances to God and accept them as being ordered by His providence we would soon be in a position to support the greatest misfortunes that can happen to us, besides at the same time insensibly drawing close to intimate union with God.
God is sovereign and He orchestrates these annoyances so that we might grow in virtue on earth and glory in Heaven. This is a hard teaching. It's much easier to blog about than it is to pray about when one is in the midst of frustration, sickness, or pain.
Saint Paul said it best when he compared the discipline of God the Father to the discipline of earthly fathers:
And you have forgotten the consolation which speaketh to you, as unto children, saying: My son, neglect not the discipline of the Lord: neither be thou wearied whilst thou art rebuked by him. For whom the Lord loveth he chastiseth: and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. Persevere under discipline. God dealeth with you as with his sons. For what son is there whom the father doth not correct? But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are made partakers, then are you bastards and not sons. Moreover, we have had fathers of our flesh for instructors, and we reverenced them. Shall we not much more obey the Father of spirits and live? (Hebrews 12:5–9, D-R)
Since we know that God loves us more than we love ourselves, we should trust His will. When hardships come, Saint Claude instructs us not to fall into self-pity, but to fall "at the feet of the Saviour and implore His grace to bear your trial with fortitude and patience. A man who has been badly wounded does not, if he is wise chase after his assailant, but makes straight for a doctor who may save his life."
Again, these are hard teachings. They cannot be simply learned, but they must be absorbed over time. Two recommended books on the subject (you can get both for about $10):
You won't be sorry to have read these books over and over again.