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From The School of St. Philip Neri, “Of Tribulations, Persecutions, Adversities, and the Passions of the Soul”

The present Lesson on Tribulations being exceedingly important, it is necessary that we should attentively lend our heart, rather than our ear, to the advice and maxims given by our holy Master on the subject. He supplies a noble introduction to this Lesson by saying, “Nothing can be more glorious for a Christian than to suffer for Christ. There cannot be a greater distress to one who truly loves God than the not having opportunities to suffer for Him. The greatness of a man’s love for God may be known by the greatness of his desire to suffer for the love of Him. Nor is there a more clear and certain proof of the love of God than adversity.” Tarugi justly said that the hand of the Lord is most lavish in granting gifts and abundant spirituality when heavy tribulations approach and are impending over us.

But to return to the holy Master. He says that nothing more easily produces contempt of the world, and more unites the soul to God than the being troubled and afflicted; and, to induce us to seek this union, he says, “We must seek Christ where Christ is not, that is, in crosses and tribulations, in which He is not now, for He is in glory.”

This truth was well known and practiced in the holy School of Saint Philip. The great disciple Fr. Giovenale greatly valued tribulations, and looked at them with a very different eye from that of the world. He esteemed them so much, that, recognizing in them a certain sign of predestination, he said that tribulations are a pledge that a man is in the grace of God. And, for this reason, he used to recommend himself with particular confidence to the prayers of the afflicted, as the persons most beloved and favored by God.

If, to the eyes of the worldly, afflicted persons seem to wear a sad and distressed countenance, those who look upon them with the eyes of Saint Philip, will see their faces shining like those of angels. We learn this by the following example, given by Cardinal Frederick Borromeo.

A person fell into such a heavy affliction that few could be worse. It lasted long, and at the end of seven or eight days, Father Philip said that he saw his face completely changed, so that it seemed to be that of another person, and he said to him, “See, you have never before had that face: thank God very much for the tribulation; and I will thank Him too, for I see your face shining like that of an angel.”

The holy Master so much desired to impress this truth on the hearts of his people, that even after his death he wished to teach it, for when, on his flight to heaven, he appeared to a nun in the monastery of Saint Martha, he showed her a field full of thorns, saying to her, “If you would come where I am, you must pass through this;” meaning through tribulations.

If, then, tribulations are such necessary and ineffable blessings to the soul, how can we ever bare to complain of them? We should be most careful not to say that we cannot bear the adversity, for the holy Father reproves this, telling us to say, in such cases, that we are unworthy that the Lord should visit us with such blessings.

One tribulation alone ought to trouble us, and that is what the holy Master thus expresses: “The greatest tribulation which a servant of God can have is the being without tribulation, and they may justly be called unhappy who are not admitted into this school.”

The holy Master taught these doctrines not only in word, but in practice, for whatever has been related of his suffering falls far short of the truth, since they were for the most part concealed, as the Saint himself confessed to Domenico Migliacci, to whom, when speaking of his persecutions in San Girolamo, he said, “O Domenico, if you did but know wat I have suffered in that place.”

Since, then, according to the holy instructions and example of our Saint, we are disposed to bear afflictions with patience, let us know that patience is acquired by suffering tribulation, for when Saint Philip was imploring patience before the Crucified One, he heard an interior voice say to him, “Ask me not for patience, for know that I have given it to thee; but I would have thee acquire it by these means.”

In times of persecution, insult, unkindness, and other tribulations, the person should humble himself, imitating the holy Father, who on such occasions used to say, “Was I humble, God would not send me this. This tribulation is sent me, as God is willing to make me humble and patient; and when I have derived the fruit which God intends, and have been well mortified, the persecution will cease, When God sees that I am humble, He will remove this Cross from me.”

The holy Father, to exhort us to bear adversity with patience, tells us not to lose courage, for God is wont to weave human life of alternate sorrows and consolations, at least interior ones. We should never seek to fly from a cross, for we shall surely find a greater, and there cannot be a better thing than to make a virtue out of necessity; whereas men, for the most part, make their own crosses. Saint Philip also confirmed this instruction by his example, for when entreated by his people to leave the church of San Girolamo, where he had received affronts and insults, he relied that he could not do so on any account, that he might not fly from the cross which God had sent him in that place.

Fr. Giovanni Matteo Ancina says of those crosses which we suffer without fault, “The cross which we endure without fault is most precious, and the arms of Christ are a red cross on a white field, that is the cross accompanied by innocence.”

But though the holy Father teaches us that the great advantage that we may derive from tribulations, which make the Christian happy, are the most certain indication of the love of God, he nevertheless counsels us not to ask tribulations from God in the presumption that we shall be able to bear them, but desires us to use great caution in this, adding that man does no small thing who bears what God daily sends him.

Prayer to St. Philip Neri

Look down from heaven, Holy Father, from the loftiness of that mountain to the lowliness of this valley; from that harbor of quietness and tranquility to this calamitous sea. And now that the darkness of this world hinders no more those kindly eyes of thine from looking clearly into all things, look down and visit, O most diligent keeper, this vineyard which thy right hand planted with so much labor, anxiety and peril. To thee then we fly; from thee we seek for aid; to thee we give our whole selves unreservedly. Thee we adopt as our patron and defender; undertake the cause of our salvation, protect thy clients. To thee we appeal as our leader; rule thine army fighting against the assaults of the devil. To thee, kindest of pilots, we give up the rudder of our lives; steer this little ship of thine, and, placed as thou art on high, keep us off all the rocks of evil desires, that with thee for our pilot and guide, we may safely come to the port of eternal bliss. Amen.


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