Saturday, 18 January 2020

'Mrs Peabody's Present' - a Christmas story.






We are still in the period of Christmastide, and it seemed a good idea to post another short story from that delightful book ‘The Seven Deadly Virtues and Other Stories’, written by Fr Bernard Basset S.J. in or about the 1950s. This particular story ‘Mrs Peabody’s Present’, emphasises a particular aspect of the Christmas story, which is  recognised by all Christians, but which is also so easy to overlook.

I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.

                  

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Mrs Peabody’s Present



The quickest and safest way to Mrs Peabody’s sweet-shop was to cut down the little alley behind the grocer’s and then take the second turning on the right.  There was another, more respectable route via Warwick Street, but this took longer and carried with it the risk of being recognised..  Once in the alley one was safe from adult observation and could study Mrs Peabody’s window at one’s ease.

`        Mrs Peabody’s display always deserved careful attention, for she crammed her window with every sort of confectionary guaranteed to upset the stomach and satisfy the taste.  With our noses glued to the glass we could count forty-three different kinds of sweets without squinting, divided roughly into two classes, those which lasted a long time but tasted of nothing, and those which went off with a bang and tasted of nothing on earth.

You could buy long strips of liquorice labelled “Charlie Chaplin’s braces”, or nougat wafers which did in two minutes what a dentist did in half an hour.  Then there were Sherbert Suckers which supplied a sudden and very satisfying sensation, but ended in a sore mouth if you went on too long. Treacle toffees and boiled sweets could be bought for fractions of a penny, and cannon balls, called by a less elegant name, cost only a farthing,  though, with a certain sobriety in sucking, they had been known to last for three hours and a half!

We boys loved Mrs Peabody’s shop.  It stood in what the nurses called a “disreputable district”, and when we were out in a convoy with nurses, prams, sisters and other children, we were not allowed to loiter but had to zig-zag by. Though no-one said so explicitly, yet we always felt that Mrs Peabody was included in the “Lead us not into temptation” of our night prayers. Certainly she was the personification of wickedness to our small intelligences, and some of us hinted that she was a witch.

We reckoned her age was well over a hundred, though Jimmy, who was cautious, plumped for ninety-nine and a bit. Whatever her age, she was stout, florid and forbidding, for she had wrinkled hands, tin spectacles and was short of breath.  Although we knew that she was a Catholic and had once seen her at Church on Sunday, yet we thought that she must be very wicked, and no matter how kind she was when we popped in with our pennies, we should not have been astonished if suddenly, with a hideous cackle, she had flown away on a broom.

At Christmastide when all the shops were decorated with tinsel and holly, Mrs Peabody also had a burst of window dressing; she washed the glass and swept away the wasps which had fallen into temptation the previous summer, and had been buried beneath a new consignment of boiled sweets.  New delicacies appeared beneath lurid labels, and crackers also came if there was room. One Christmas a row of cardboard cribs stood at the back of the window among the sweets. They were not very elegant cribs, but you could see Joseph and Mary with the Infant Jesus in the middle and a palm tree at the back.

I remember this occasion well, for we happened to be passing while Mrs Peabody’s wrinkled hands were putting the cribs in place. As luck would have it, the Parker baby, in the last pram but one, had come unstrapped at that moment, and the whole convoy of children, prams and nurses came to a halt outside Mrs Peabody’s door. We boys were walking on ahead, and of course we blessed the Parker baby and began to rub our noses on Mrs Peabody’s glass. There were the usual squeals of “Oo, look at that nougat” and “Bet you couldn’t swallow three lumps without chewing”, and then one of the girls noticed the cribs.

“Look, there’s Bethlehem,” she cried, “and there’s another and another; see Jesus, Mary and Joseph with a palm tree.”

“There aren’t any shepherds and kings,” rejoined one of the boys sulkily, “and I don’t want a crib without shepherds, do you?”

By now the Parker baby had been strapped into the cockpit, and the various nurses were ready to move on.

“Elizabeth, I don’t want to have to tell you again not to rub your face on that dirty window; Master Henry, it is bad manners to point.  Yes, yes, I can see the Child Jesus, but we can’t stop any longer, we’re late as it is.”

Off we all moved, but the nurses and governesses, when they thought we were busy talking nougat, had a few words together on the sly.

“I don’t hold with putting cribs in the window along with dirty sweets, do you, Miss Philips?”

“No, my dear, I think it’s downright irreverent; what are we coming to these days?”

That was that, and a few days before Christmas I was out on some small commission at the grocer’s, and it was only one minute down the alley and the second turning on the right to Mrs Peabody’s shop. Perhaps I had persuaded myself that my father would like a nougat wafer for his present, perhaps I had settled my doubts by an earnest glance at the cribs in the window; all I can remember is that I was in the shop with my eyes on a box of chocolates, and with four pennies in my hand. Heavy breathing off-stage heralded the approach of Mrs Peabody, and I clasped my coppers as Casablanca might have gripped a floating spar.

“One of these, please,” said I in a faint whisper, keeping my eyes averted lest Mrs Peabody should cast a spell.

She shuffled across the shop to survey the window, then looked at my quaking finger to see which way it led.

“One of which, my dear?” she queried, breathing over the bon-bons, then all at once she smiled and pounced upon a crib.

“There you are, dearie,” said she, “the cave of Bethlehem for four-pence, and you are a good, pious well-instructed boy to want a crib with all them sweets about.”

A good, pious, well-instructed boy I may have been, but I was also greedy, and the sudden danger of losing the chocolates and my four-pence brought panic to my head.

“Excuse me, please,” said I, “but I wanted a box of chocolates.  I don’t want a crib, because there aren’t any shepherds, and I don’t hold with putting cribs in the window along with the sweets. I think it’s downright irreverence.”

Mrs Peabody looked at me and blinked behind her spectacles, and then she paused and gazed at the crib in her hands. Next she peeped at the row of cribs in the window as though making up her mind. Slowly, and perhaps sadly, she reached down for a packet of chocolates, and stood it on the counter with the rejected crib by its side. I knew now that I had hurt her, and being kind-hearted like most children, I was anxious to make amends

“Excuse me,” said I, “But I hope that you are not offended, I only told you what Nurse Parker said.”.

Mrs Peabody looked at me again and made a clicking noise with her teeth to denote disapproval of Nurse Parker, and then she picked up the crib.

“See here, my dear,” said she, pointing to the Child in the manger, “Who is this?”

“Jesus,” said I promptly, bowing my head in the approved manner and feeling less afraid.

“What is He doing in the manger?” asked Mrs Peabody kindly, to which I answered with some hesitation:

“He’s not doing nothing; He’s just waiting for the shepherds to arrive. You haven’t got any shepherds in your crib, but we’ve got ever so many on the mantelpiece at home.”

Mrs Peabody smiled.

“Well, dearie,” she replied, “You can’t expect shepherds and sheep for four-pence, and besides, they don’t matter so very much anyway.  All those shepherds who went to the cave on the first Christmas, they died hundreds of years ago, didn’t they, and they are all now enjoying themselves in heaven, as they deserve.”

“Suppose so,” said I, though I’d never before thought of the lot of the first shepherds, but Mrs Peabody obviously wanted me to agree,

Mrs Peabody was pleased

“They are all dead,” she continued, “but the Holy Child is still in the manger, isn’t He? He’s still alive, the same yesterday, today and for ever, because He’s God.”

She had been bending over the counter, holding the crib before her, but now she suddenly stood up.

“Run home, dear,” she said, “and take your chocolates, four-pence, thank you, and you can have the crib without the shepherds as Mrs Peabody’s Christmas present. There ain’t no shepherds now, they’re all dead and buried, but He’s still alive and He’s waiting for you. That is why I put a whole row of cribs in my window, so that all you children, when you peep through the window, can take the shepherds’ place. There ain’t no shepherds now, and don’t you forget it, because it now rests with you and me.  If we don’t remember Him at Christmas then He lies alone in the manger just as much as if the first shepherds had not bothered to come. He’s always the same, He always wants the same love and affection, but the shepherds change. Each Christmas the chance and the choice comes to a new crowd of people, and this Christmas, if you and I don’t bother about Him, then there ain’t no shepherds at all. Now you run home, there’s a good boy, and enjoy your chocolates; maybe you’re a bit young to twig what old Mrs Peabody is trying to say. Just take a peek now and again, at old Mrs Peabody’s present, and remember that if you can’t be bothered, then He’s one shepherd short. There ain’t no shepherds now, they are all dead and buried, but He is still living and waiting for me.”

Perhaps Mrs Peabody did cast a spell, for I cannot otherwise explain how a boy of ten stood so still for seven minutes in a sweet shop, nor is it usual to remember a lesson or sermon after more than twenty years. Her shop has gone, her sweets are now sold at double the price in hygienic wrappers, and Mrs Peabody is with the other shepherds on the eternal hills. But her point remains and deserves a thought each Christmas, for the shepherds are gone, but the Child remains and it is our choice now.

“There ain’t no shepherds now and He’s waiting for me,” is Mrs Peabody’s message, to which the governess replied:

“You wicked boy, you’ve been playing in that disreputable district: how many times have I told you not to say ‘ain’t’?”



(Ack. ‘The Seven Deadly Virtues and Other Stories’ by Rev. Bernard Basset  S.J.)

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

'St. Aloysius and the Tomatoes' by Fr. Bernard Bassett S.J.



Today is the last day of the year 2019 A.D. and I feel the need to complete my limited number of posts this year with a light-hearted tale by Fr Bernard Bassett S.J. entitled 'St.Aloysius and the Tomatoes',.  probably written in the 1950s, and subsequently published in his delightful book 'The Seven Deadly Virtues' published by Sands and Co., London.


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 Saint Aloysius and the Tomatoes

'I discovered only the other day that Marjorie entertains some very odd notions about saints. Of course, I have known for some time that her prayer book was packed with pictures of saints in impossible postures, but now I know that her head is also full of impossible ideas. For myself, I own with some confusion that sanctity has often appeared a dull and rather monotonous profession, for I was never much use at prayer or preaching, and certainly should be tongue-tied if called upon to preach to the birds.
          Marjorie’s  difficulty lies rather in not preaching to everybody and everything which comes within range  of her batteries,  but I cannot picture her standing for all eternity with a lily in her hand.  Perhaps she is right when she calls me a cynic, but I would rather be sceptical than commercial  in my devotions,  and her love for the saints is measured by their ability to get her out of a muddle,  or to find her other pair of spectacles which she had put in so safe a place that they have not been seen for three months.
          Marjorie is very lavish with sanctity and attributes it to anyone who dares not say boo to a goose.  “Oh, she’s a perfect saint,” she once remarked of Mrs Heskith, “you can see it from the way that she walks back from the Communion rail”,;  though what Marjorie was doing staring about at such a moment I did not dare to ask.  Anyway, I had a squint at Mrs Heskith myself next Sunday, and I agree that she does not look unlike the pictures in Marjorie’s prayer book;  at least she has her head on one side.  Far be it for me to say anything against Mrs Heskith’s candidature for a niche over the altar, but I should be sorry if St Peter decided our places in heaven by the elasticity of our necks.
          Then there was Sister Raphael, the portress at the convent, “a saint if ever there was one,” to use Marjorie’s expression,  whose qualifications as far as I can judge. were an inability to raise her voice above a whisper or her eyes above the lowest bolt on the convent door.
          On the other hand,  Mother Aphonsus, the headmistress, who could call a spade a spade and who told Marjorie that she could not have the children home two days before the term ended,  was dismissed by her as “one who means well but who has no manners and is not at all my idea of a nun.”
          From these and other examples it is clear to me that Marjorie’s saints suffer from spiritual tuberculosis in this life, while in heaven they spend their time looking for her spectacles with their heads on one side.
          To Marjorie I am the complete Philistine, for I see sanctity in cheerfulness and a sense of humour with plenty of spiritual fresh air and exercise.  I would not condemn old Mr Herringbone, as Marjorie does, because his fingers are stained with tobacco, for such trifles are beside the point.  Marjorie says that St Aloysius would not have had yellow fingers, nor would he have yawned as Mr Herringbone does in church.  She goes further and accuses me of picking my saints to fit my own low standards so that I can settle my conscience.  Few of my favourite saints, like Thomas More or Thomas of Canterbury, had any recorded vision, they expressed no particular affection for dumb animals, and they did not hold their head on one side.  Marjorie in her nasty way says that my heaven is going to be an eternal cup-tie final,  and the only snag for me will be  that as it is eternal there will be no half-time.
          As far as I could make out, the Canon did not agree with Marjorie at all when he held forth on the saints the other evening, but Marjorie maintains that it might have been herself speaking, which is partly true.  There she was chatting away and trying to reduce the Canon’s contribution to an occasional affirmative at the end of each paragraph, but his Reverence was not to be silenced by such propaganda.
          It happened like this.  The meal was progressing according to plan, when suddenly Marjorie looked at me with her famous imitation of Garbo and begged me to be a saint and fetch the tomatoes from the second shelf on the left just inside the pantry door.  I replied with dignity that I would gladly fetch the tomatoes, but that sanctity did not enter into the matter, and I added that quite a number of saints might have refused to answer her request.  Marjorie countered by dragging in St Aloysius who would certainly have fetched the tomatoes for his mother, though he was a great prince.  That gave me the chance of saying that I could not appreciate the virtue of St Aloysius and that he would have brought the tomatoes with downcast eyes, for his biographer tells us that he always cast his eyes down.
          After that Marjorie fell back to other saints and other stories, and told us about St Elizabeth of Hungary, feeding a beggar and then finding hundreds of roses in her lap.  I could not see what this had to do with St Aloysius and the tomatoes, so I said so, appealing to the Canon for support. Before he could finish his mouthful, Marjorie was off on a tale about St Francis Xavier tearing up his letters from home unopened,  and another of St Lawrence Justinian, who buried both his parents without shedding a tear.  She had just reached another story about a saint hanging his coat on a sunbeam while sweeping his cell at the command of the abbot, when the Canon interrupted to arbitrate.
          The Canon agreed with me that not all the habits and customs of the saints could be appreciated by twentieth- century Englishmen, but he thought it was foolish to condemn where we did not understand.  Marjorie was delighted at this and began to nod approval, but the Canon caught her a dig with his next sentence, for as he said, we only know the saints as their biographers portray them, and not all biographers are saints. They stress the wrong points or they emphasise trivial qualities, or they try to make the saint what they imagine a saint should be. This was particularly the case in Victorian biography, when Little Lord Fauntleroy was in fashion, and poor St Aloysius had been decked out in velvet breeches and a sickly smile.
          The Canon was so annoyed by stupid stories that I took the opportunity to kick Marjorie under the table, but in such a way that she might think that the Canon had done it by mistake.
          As the Canon rightly said, one century cannot judge another, their whole outlook and atmosphere and customs were different, and if some cynics laughed at the early saints for not washing, it is well to remember that Queen Elizabeth and Shakespearian England was just as bad. Each age has its own standards, its own peculiar virtues and vices, and the saints are typical of their age.
          “Sanctity,” said the Canon, “can show itself in a hundred and one ways, all quite different,  but though it varies in its manifestations it remains the same in essence wherever it is found.  I’m not sure that it is possible over baked apples and custard to analyse its ingredients, but it was accurately and humanly explained by Our Blessed Lord when He told the story of the merchant who sold all that he possessed to buy a pearl of great price. Now that merchant was a wise and shrewd man, not a fool nor an enthusiast, and we may be sure that when the priceless pearl was in his possession he did not pine for the money by which it had been obtained.  So it seems to me that the saints were not idealists or fanatics, but common-sensed and hard-headed men.  Once grant that the pearl for sale is priceless and they become the most logical men in history;  nor were they people who set out to make themselves miserable, but carefree enterprising merchants, who had picked up a tremendous treasure at a trifling price. If the saints puzzle us it is not because they were crazy, but because we have not properly estimated the value of the prize.”
          The Canon paused to consume some baked apple, and Marjorie was off on St Aloysius and the tomatoes again. The Canon swallowed quickly to cut her short.
          “St Aloysius,” said he, “is the most maligned of all the saints, thanks to his biographers, who present him as a sickly young man wearing a cotta and carrying a terrific scourge in his hand.  That is what comes of one century trying to judge another, without remembering the essential that a saint is a merchant out to buy a pearl of great price.  The merchants of every century are hard-headed and so are the saints. The contract, the price, the methods of purchase vary, the prize is the same. Don’t judge a saint by mere accidentals, put him in the circumstances which we all understand.  I cannot repeat too often that a saint has to get up in the morning, perhaps talks to himself while shaving, fills in the days and weeks with occupations which we ordinary twentieth-century Englishmen can appreciate.  His life is not made up of ecstasies and scourgings, and though the methods differ, the essentials of sanctity remain the same.”
          The Canon put down his spoon and fork.
          “I’ll admit,” said he, “that Saint Aloysius seemed very insipid to me until I had an intimate glimpse of him many years ago.  I was a young curate then, working in a poor parish, and I was invited to spend my fortnight’s holiday with rich titled friends.  There I was in a country house, with a feather bed, and trout for breakfast, and several dignified servants to put my pyjamas and tooth-brush away..  At first I was shy of these servants.  I rose early and said my breviary in the garden, but it did not take long before I was growing used to the leisure,, enjoying the lovely garden and the excellent food and wine..  Gradually my breviary got pushed into the last hours of the evening, and I stayed in bed longer in the mornings to have what my hostess called a real rest.  I began to fish about for further invitations, I delayed my departure, I saw a new world which I had never known before.  It seemed to me that I was squandering my youth and talents in my poor parish, when I was so obviously a success with my cultured friends.
          “Well despite all my efforts and evasions, the famous fortnight at last was over, and I returned to the presbytery with a heavy heart.  My poky little room and the Irish stew gave me jaundice, and I looked at my boy’s  club and other activities with a yellow eye.  On one terrible occasion, I don’t mind confessing, I sat at my desk, a man of twenty-six, five foot ten and a half in my stockings, and cried like a brat.  For one dreadful moment I doubted if I could ever resume my parish drudgery, and at that very moment old Canon McSweeney burst in, without knocking, to ask about a baptism.  He stopped dead in the doorway, for not even he expected to find his curate crying, and then he began to chuckle in his cheerful way. “Don’t tell me,” he said, “I need no explanation and will give no advice.  I know what’s the matter, and you’ll get over it, and the experience will open your eyes.  At any rate, my lad, you can’t do better than have a word with St Aloysius, for how that boy ever had the grit to leave a palace and a ducal crown and pomegranate toothpowder, to rough it in a presbytery or its equivalent, is more than we fish can understand.  Small wonder that he had to use extraordinary methods and that he wore himself out in a short time.”
          The Canon put down his napkin.
          “There you are,” he said, “that was McSweeney’s biography of St Aloysius, and my own short experiment as a country gentleman endorses his account.  We who have never enjoyed his means cannot appreciate his methods, but we ought to raise our hats or birettas to his strength of purpose.  Aloysius would have fetched the tomatoes, he might have cast his eyes down as he brought them, but the fatigue of getting them, like the pain of quitting his palace would have been no less than the common-sense of the young merchant who sold all his possessions with joy to buy the pearl of great price.” '

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“God, Who is unchangeable, would appear now as a child in a stable, now as a boy in a workshop, now as a criminal on a scaffold, and now as bread upon the altar.  In these various guises Jesus chose to exhibit himself to us; but whatever character he assumed, it was always the character of a lover.”

Ack.  ‘Thoughts from St Alphonsus’ compiled by Rev C McNeiry C.SS.R

               'Wishing all readers a blessed and happy New Year'

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

'The Spirit of Meekness is peculiar to God'






This article is taken from the writings of St Alphonsus Maria de Liguori  (1696-1787),  founder of the  ‘Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer’,  known as the ‘Redemptorists’. It is taken from his book ‘The Holy Eucharist’,  being volume VI of ‘The Ascetical Works’, considering  the ‘Practice of the love of Jesus Christ’, and concentrating in this case on the specific virtue of meekness.



                   Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori CSsR  (1696 -1787)

                             'He that loves Jesus Christ loves meekness'.
The spirit of meekness is peculiar to God:  ‘My spirit is sweet above honey’. Hence it is that a soul that loves God loves also all those whom God loves, namely, her neighbours; so that she eagerly seeks every occasion of helping all, of consoling all, and of making all happy as far as she can.  St Francis de Sales, who was the master and model of holy meekness, says, “Humble meekness is the virtue of virtues, which God has so much recommended to us; therefore we should endeavour to practise it always and in all things.”  Hence the saint gives us this rule:  “What you see can be done with love, do it; and what you see cannot be done without offence, leave it undone.” He means, when it can be omitted without offending God; because an offence of God must always and as quickly as possible, be prevented by him who is bound  to prevent it


This meekness should be particularly observed towards the poor, who by reason of their poverty, are often harshly treated by men.  It should likewise be especially practised towards the sick who are suffering under infirmities, and for the most part meet with small help from others. Meekness is more especially to be observed in our behaviour towards enemies: Overcome evil with good.  Hatred must be overcome by love,  and persecution by meekness; and thus the saints acted, and so they conciliated the affections of their most exasperated enemies.
         


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                  St Francis de Sales (1567-1622) Bishop of Geneva


 “There is nothing” says St Francis de Sales, “ that gives so much edification to our neighbour as meekness of behaviour.” The saint, therefore, was generally seen smiling, and with a countenance beaming with charity, which gave a tone to all his words and actions.  This gave occasion to St Vincent de Paul to declare that he never knew a kinder man in his life.  He said further, that it seemed to him that in his lordship of Sales was a true likeness of Jesus Christ.  Even in refusing what he could not in conscience comply with, he did so with such sweetness, that all, though unsuccessful in their requests, went away satisfied and well disposed towards him.  He was gentle towards all, towards Superiors, towards equals and inferiors, at home and abroad; in contrast with some, who, as the saints used to say, “seemed angels abroad, but were devils at home.” Moreover, the saint, in his conduct towards servants, never complained of their remissness; at most he would give them an admonition, but always in the gentlest terms.  And this is a thing most praiseworthy in Superiors.

            The Superior should use all kindness towards those under him.  When telling them what they have to do, he should rather request than command.  St Vincent of Paul said: “A Superior will never find a better means of being readily obeyed than meekness.”  And to the same effect was the saying of St Jane Frances of Chantal: “I have tried various methods of governing, but I have not found any better than that of meekness and forbearance.”

            And more than this, the Superior should be kind even in the correction of faults.  It is one thing to correct with firmness and another with harshness; it is needful at times to correct with firmness, when the fault is serious, and especially if it be repeated after the subject has already been admonished of it; but let us always be on our guard against harsh and angry correction; he that corrects with anger does more harm than good.  This is that bitter zeal reproved by St James. Some make a boast of keeping their family in order by severity, and they say it is the only successful method of treatment; but St James speaks not so: ‘But if you have bitter zeal …… glory not’.  If on some rare  occasion it be necessary to speak a cross word, in order to bring the offender to a proper sense of his fault, yet in the end we ought invariably to leave him with a gentle countenance and a word of kindness.  Wounds must be healed after the fashion of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel, with wine and oil:  “But as oil” said St Francis de Sales, “always swims on the surface of all other liquors, so must meekness prevail over all our actions.”  And when it occurs that the person under correction is agitated, then the reprehension must be deferred till his anger has subsided, or else we should only increase his indignation. The Canon Regular St John said, “When the house is on fire, one must not cast wood into the flames.”

            ‘You know not of what spirit you are’.  Such were the words of Jesus Christ to his disciples James and John, when they would have brought down chastisements on the Samaritans for expelling them from their country.

Ah, said the Lord to them, and what spirit is this? This is not my spirit, which is sweet and gentle; for I am come not to destroy but to save souls: The Son of Man came not to destroy souls, but to save. And would you induce me to destroy them? Oh, hush! And never make the like request to me, for such is not according to my spirit.  And, in fact, with what meekness did Jesus Christ treat the adulteress? ‘Woman,’ said He, ‘hath no man condemned thee? Neither will I condemn thee! Go and now sin no more.’  He was satisfied with merely warning her not to sin again, and sent her away in peace.  With what meekness, again, did He seek the conversion of the Samaritan woman, and so, in fact, converted her.  He first asked her to give Him to drink; then He said to her: ‘If thou didst know who He is that saith to thee, Give me to drink’; and then he revealed to her that he was the expected Messiah.  And, again, with what meekness did he strive to convert the impious Judas, admitting him to eat of the same dish with him, washing his feet and admonishing him in the very act of his betrayal: Judas and dost thou thus betray me with a kiss? Judas, dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss?  And see how he converted Peter after his denial of him! ‘And the Lord turning looked on Peter.  On leaving the house of the high priest, without making him a single reproach, he cast on him a look of tenderness, and thus converted him; and so effectually did he convert him, that during his whole life long Peter never ceased to bewail the injury he had done to his Master.

            Oh, how much more is to be gained by meekness than by harshness!  St Francis de Sales said there was nothing more bitter than the bitter almond, but if made into a preserve, it becomes sweet and agreeable: thus corrections, though in their nature very unpleasant, are rendered pleasant by love and meekness, and so are attended with more beneficial results.  St Vincent of Paul said of himself, that in the government of his own congregation he had never corrected anyone with severity, except on three occasions, when he supposed there was reason to do so, but that he regretted it ever afterwards, because he found it turned out badly; whereas he had always admirably succeeded by gentle correction.

            St Francis de Sales obtained from others whatever he wished by his meek behaviour; and by this means he managed to gain the most hardened sinners to God.  It was the same with St Vincent of Paul, who taught his disciples this maxim: “Affability, love, and humility have a wonderful efficacy in winning the hearts of men, and in prevailing on them to undertake things most repugnant to nature.” ……..

        

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                                 St Vincent de Paul (1581-1660)


  Kindness should be observed towards all on all occasions and at all times.  St Bernard remarks that certain persons are gentle as long as things fall out to their taste; but scarcely do they experience some opposition or contradiction than they are instantly on fire, like Mount Vesuvius itself.  Such as these may be called turning coals, but hidden under the embers.  Whoever would become a saint, must, during this life, resemble the lily among thorns, which, however much it may be pricked by them, never ceases to be a lily; that is, it is always equally sweet and serene.  The soul that loves God maintains an imperturbable peace of heart; and he shows this in her very countenance, being ever mistress of herself, alike in prosperity and adversity, according to the lines of Cardinal Petrucci:

               “Of outward things he views the varying guise,

                    While in his soul’s most inward depth

                Undimmed God’s image lies.”

Whenever it happens that we have to reply to someone who insults us, let us be careful to answer with meekness: a mild answer breaketh wrath. A mild reply is enough to quench every spark of anger. And in case we feel irritated, it is best to keep silence, because then it seems only just to give vent to all that rises to our lips; but when our passion has subsided, we shall see that all our words were full of faults.

            And when it happens that we ourselves commit some fault, we must also practise meekness in our own regard. To be exasperated at ourselves after a fault is not humility, but a subtle pride, as if we were anything else than the weak and miserable things that we are.  St Teresa said: “The humility that disturbs does not come from God, but from the devil”.  To be angry at ourselves after the commission of a fault is a fault worse than the one committed, and will be the occasion of many other faults; it will make us leave off our devotions, prayers, and communions; or if we do practise them, they will be done very badly.  St Aloysius Gonzaga said that we cannot see in troubled waters, and that the devil fishes in them. A soul that is troubled knows little of God and of what it ought to do.  Whenever, therefore, we fall into any fault, we should turn to God with humility and confidence, and craving his forgiveness, say to him with St Catharine of Genoa: O Lord, this is the produce of my own garden! I love Thee with my whole heart, and I repent of the displeasure I have given Thee! I will never do the like again: grant me Thy assistance!”


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Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) - Peter Paul Rubens (Wikipedia)