Monday, January 18, 2010

St. Jane Frances de Chantal and spiritual suffering

I have come to have tremendous love for and devotion to St. Francis de Sales of late, having recently read his Philothea. As a result, I have also become aware of his great friend, St. Jane Frances de Chantal.

Saint Jane was an amazing woman in her own right. The mother of six children, her husband was killed in a freak hunting accident when she was but 28 years old. Later, after her children had been properly provided for, she became a nun and foundress of the Congregation of the Visitation, an order which took in those with a vocation who had been rejected by other orders.

Saint Jane was also someone who suffered greatly in spirit. Saint Vincent de Paul wrote, of her:
“She was full of faith, yet all her life had been tormented by thoughts against it. While apparently enjoying the peace and easiness of mind of souls who have reached a high state of virtue, she suffered such interior trials that she often told me her mind was so filled with all sorts of temptations and abominations that she had to strive not to look within herself...But for all that suffering her face never lost its serenity, nor did she once relax in the fidelity God asked of her. And so I regard her as one of the holiest souls I have ever met on this earth”
This should serve as a great comfort to those of us afflicted by the same trials and temptations in today's world. They can be overcome, with God's grace. We must always remember to ask for it.

The website on which I found this quote also had a rather profound observation on interior anguish, which hit me right between the eyes.
It may strike some as unusual that a saint should be subject to spiritual dryness, darkness, interior anguish. We tend to think that such things are the usual condition of “ordinary” sinful people. Some of our lack of spiritual liveliness may indeed be our fault. But the life of faith is still one that is lived in trust, and sometimes the darkness is so great that trust is pressed to its limit.
Yes, trust. There's the key to getting beyond the suffering and making of it a worthy sacrifice. We need to trust that God sees our plight, loves us, and that somehow, good will come from it.

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