a letter by Saint Peter Damian, bishop
Let us rejoice in the joy that
ou asked me to
write you some words of consolation, my brother. Embittered by so many tribulations,
you are seeking some comfort for your soul. You asked me to offer you some soothing
there is no need for me to write. Consolation is already within your reach,
if your good sense has not been dulled. My son, come to the service of
God. Stand in justice and fear. Prepare your soul; it is about to be
tested. These words of Scripture show that you are a son of God and,
as such, should take possession of your inheritance. What could be clearer
than this exhortation?
Where there is justice as well
as fear, adversity will surely test the spirit. But it is not the torment
of a slave. Rather it is the discipline of a child by its parent.
Even in the midst of his many
sufferings, the holy man Job could say: Whip me,
crush me, cut me in slices! And he would always add: This at least
would bring me relief, yet my persecutor does not spare me.
But for Gods chosen ones
there is great comfort; the torment lasts but a short time. Then God bends
down, cradles the fallen figure, whispers words of consolation. With hope
in his heart, man picks himself up and walks again toward the glory of happiness
Craftsmen exemplify this same
practice. By hammering gold, the smith beats down the dross. The sculptor
files metal to reveal a shining vein underneath. The potters furnace
puts vessels to the test. And the fire of suffering tests the mettle of just
men. The Apostle James echoes this thought: Think it a great joy,
dear brothers and sisters, when you stumble onto the many kinds of trials
and tribulations. . . .
Therefore, my brother, scorned
as you are by men, lashed as it were by God, do not despair. Do not be
depressed. Do not let your
weakness make you impatient. Instead, let the
serenity of your spirit shine through your face. Let the joy of your mind
burst forth. Let words of thanks break from your lips.
The way that God deals with men
can only be praised. He lashes them in this life to shield them from the
eternal lash in the next. He pins people down now; at a later time he will
raise them up. He cuts them before healing; he throws them down to raise
The Scriptures reassure us: let
your understanding strengthen your patience. In serenity look forward to
the joy that follows sadness. Hope leads you to that joy and love enkindles
your zeal. The well-prepared mind forgets the suffering inflicted from without
and glides eagerly to what it has contemplated within itself.
Saint Peter Damian, bishop
Office of Readings, February 21