A Book of Light and Consolation - Father Remler
Whether it be due to our own over-indulgences in abusing the varied and sundry goods of this earth, our own seemingly countless transgressions against God’s commandments, or the providentially paternal designs of our Creator and first Benefactor, we will have our lot of suffering in this life. There is no escaping that. The question is how to benefit from it individually unto our everlasting glory and happiness in heaven. Suffering and death are part of our debt due to original sin. Therefore, they are necessary for our good. We must suffer and, in the end, die. But, why such a debt as this? How can its acceptance be for our good? Father Remler provides fifteen reasons why we ought to embrace our trials and tribulations, be they physical or spiritual, for the priceless opportunity that every pain provides us in our vocation to be made conformable to our Savior and King, Jesus Christ. It would be hard to find a book like Father Remler’s that so wonderfully explains the value of penance in the light of the patient and enduring acceptance of the cross. Outside of grace, the author writes, our sins cast no shadow. They are committed in the darkness in which we chose to wallow, a darkness that will drag us into the pit of hell. Stepping out of that darkness, into the light of grace, we can come back to God Who is drawing us to Him through a sincere confession. Once the guilt of our sins has been remitted, however, their effects remain.
This is the shadow that follows us through life, because only if we are in the light of faith, living in hope and charity, can we see truly the sad effects of our sins, our shadow. The higher the light of Christ is in our lives, the more directly we let it shine upon us by our embrace of suffering, the more the shadow of past transgressions is reduced. Our goal, the will of God, is that this shadow disappear altogether. In some sense this is a very practical book, for it has a foolproof game plan that, if followed well, will cut short dramatically our time of purgation in the next life. But, it is much more than that. This magnificent analysis of suffering, as to its cause, its value, and its ultimate effect (i.e., conformity to Christ, the Man of Sorrows) will give us more strength to bear not only our own cross, but to willingly share in the suffering Jesus endured for all men by accepting, as joyful victims, crosses vicariously borne for sinners within our own family, for our wayward friends, for the crimes of our nation, and for those dear to us who are languishing in Purgatory.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
First Reason: Sharing the Consequences of Original Sin
Man’s Original Endowments
The Effects of Our Disinheritance
“O Happy sin of Adam!”
Second Reason: Expiation of Public and National Sins
Why Must the Innocent Suffer?
Third Reason: Natural Results of Indiscretions
Sickness and Disease
Fourth Reason: Natural Results of Sins Against the Ten Commandments
Converting Evil Into Good
Fifth Reason: Temporal Punishment of Your Sins
Application of These Truths
Sixth Reason: A Substitute for Purgatory
Seventh Reason: The Body’s Share in Making Atonement
Eighth Reason: Your Need of Conversion
Ninth Reason: Your Need of Perfect Conversion
Tenth Reason: Forestalling the Danger of
The Condition of the Poor
Sickness and Infirmities
Deaths and Bereavements
Turning Bereavements to Good Account
The Timeliness of Every Man’s Death
Eleventh Reason: Making Atonement for the
Sins of Others
In Religious Communities
Twelfth Reason: Promoting the Welfare of the Church
Thirteenth Reason: Procuring the Conversion of Sinners
Fourteenth Reason: Acquiring Conformity with
Fifteenth Reason: Predestination to an Exalted
Degree of Glory in Heaven
The Day of Eternity
The Saints: Our Models
The Holy Man Job
The Elder Tobias
Saint John of the Cross
Saint John the Baptist
The Blessed Virgin Mary
Jesus Christ: The Man of Sorrows
Sharing the Consequences of Original Sin
Of the many reasons why you must suffer, the first and principal one is this: As a child of Adam and a member of the great human family, you must, like all the rest of men, endure your share of the painful consequence of original sin.
Man’s Original Endowments
If there had been no original sin, suffering would be unknown among the children of men. Conditions of life would be entirely different than they are now, for we would be living in that state of marvelous perfection in which Adam was created, a perfection which would exclude every physical and moral evil more effectually than the bright rays of the rising sun banish from the earth the darkness of night.
But in what would this perfection consist? It would consist in the first place in the endowments of what is called Pure Human Nature. By this is meant that we would possess the faculties of our soul – memory, understanding, and free will – the members, organs and senses of our body, in that degree of completeness which would be required to make us what we were designed to be – rational beings – composed of a spiritual soul and an animal body. We would possess, without any defect or deficiency, all the qualities necessary to make us perfect in our order of being: A keen mind, a faithful memory, a strong will, and perfection of bodily form, beauty, health, and vigor. There would be an entire absence of those numerous defects of soul and body which we now labor under because of the deterioration brought on by sin.
In the second place, we would be enriched with the endowments of what is known as the perfection of supernature. At our entrance into the world the gift of supernatural grace would be conferred on us, by which we would be elevated high above the plane of pure nature and adopted by God as His most dear children, with the right and title to the endless enjoyment of the glory of Heaven. After having lived in bliss and happiness on this earth for the length of time decreed by God we would be translated, without tasting the bitterness of death, into “the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).
In the third place, this elevation to the state of supernature would include the bestowal of a number of extraordinary endowments which constitute what is called the perfection of preternature. We would possess an extensive knowledge of natural and supernatural truths; we would be free from ignorance and from liability to error in the acquisition of new knowledge; we would also be free from evil concupiscence, because our inclinations and the so-called passions would be so perfectly at the command of the will that they could not become rebellious nor impel us to commit sin. In addition we would possess two very remarkable endowments, the one of impassibility or freedom from every form of suffering, and the other of immortality or freedom from the painful ordeal of death. God created man incorruptible and immortal. Death was not meant for him.
In a word we should all be the happy heirs of that vast assemblage of wonderful gifts which Adam received in his creation and which he possessed up to the moment of his fall from grace.
The Effects of Our Disinheritance
The effects produced by our disinheritance are the following:
First, we were completely stripped of all the endowments of supernature. We lost sanctifying grace and with it the sonship of children of God and the right and title to Heaven. No longer well-beloved children of God, we were children of wrath and outcasts from our home in Heaven. Only for the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ, Heaven would have remained closed against us forever.
Second, we also completely lost all the endowments of preternature – our freedom from ignorance, concupiscence, sufferings and death. Our intellect has become clouded; our will greatly weakened, and our passions have grown turbulent and rebellious; we suffer much from sickness and disease, from the elements, from accidents and catastrophes, from famines and wars; we must endure the natural results of our own sins and of the sins of others, such as unkindness, hatred, deceit, injustice, oppression, cruelty and the like. And finally, we must undergo the penalty of death. “It is appointed unto men once to die” (Heb. 9:27).
Third, while we did not incur the loss of the gifts of pure nature, since these are essential for our existence as human beings, we nevertheless suffered a great deterioration in them. Our natural faculties were much impaired. Our intellect lost its former keenness and wide range of perception; the reason became clouded and liable to every kind of error; the will was so weakened that it became the plaything of the passions, which, like rebellious slaves, usurped the dominion that was formerly exercised by the reason and the will. As a consequence we find that they keep impelling us into the commission of all kinds of sinful excesses.
The final outcome of our disinheritance can be summed up as follows: Left to ourselves and unaided by grace, we tend toward sin as naturally as a stone is drawn to the earth by gravity, as readily as a boat that is caught in a strong current is carried downstream. Sin is a deadly poison to soul and body alike. It invariably produces spiritual and physical deterioration. Of course with the help of grace it is possible to resist the allurements of sin; but as the greater number of men reject this God-given help, vice and crime inevitably abound, directly producing the distressing conditions we witness on every side. In the words of the prophet Osee: “There is no truth, there is no mercy, there is no knowledge of God in the land; cursing and lying and killing and theft and adultery have overflowed, and blood hath touched blood” (Osee 4:1).
Thus were all the evils that afflict mankind introduced into the world by original sin.
An illustration taken from life will serve to make the truth of original sin and its effects more easily understood. Imagine a multimillionaire, the father of a happy family of several children. As long as he administers his affairs carefully, his children have everything they can desire to make them happy. They know nothing of poverty, want, destitution, hunger or starvation. Their needs are looked after, their health is tenderly cared for, and no pains are spared to give them a good education. When their father dies, each one will receive a fixed share of the paternal wealth, in virtue of the right of inheritance.
But the man becomes a drunkard and a reckless gambler. In a short time he loses all he owns, even his house and home – he is a ruined man, reduced to beggary and want, forced to live in the poor house.
However, his criminal conduct involves not only himself, who alone bears the guilt, but also his children, who are entirely innocent of their father’s wrongdoing. Once they were happy in the possession of everything apt to make their life pleasant and above all, they held the full right of one day inheriting their father’s immense wealth, together with his good name and social prestige; now they are reduced to wretchedness and misery, their hopes of a bright future are rudely shattered, and in place of a large fortune they are doomed to poverty, destitution and other sufferings. Though innocent of any wrongdoing, they are nevertheless affected in a most intimate and painful manner by the inexcusable folly of their father. The law of cause and effect is at work, and it is pitiless in its operation. It makes no allowance for the children’s innocence. Though they are in no way implicated in their father’s sinful conduct, they must suffer as much as if they, and not he, had been guilty of squandering their fortune.
In much the same way we are now subject to the sad consequences of the loss of our supernatural inheritance in which Adam involved us by his sin of disobedience. We are born into this world in a state of disinheritance, deprived of those wonderful gifts and endowments which were set aside for us from the beginning. Like the unfortunate children of a ruined millionaire, we bear the miseries of life as though we, and not our first parent, were the real transgressors.
This is the first and principal reason why sufferings of every kind come thick and fast into our lives.
But here we must add a reflection that will serve for our consolation in the midst of our trials. Thanks to the infinite wisdom and goodness of God, our present lot, sad though it undoubtedly is, is by no means as hopeless as it would seem to be at first sight. In the light which our holy Faith sheds on this subject, the state of suffering is seen to be a state of great blessedness and of unlimited possibilities to increase our glory in Heaven. Divine Wisdom has contrived in a most wonderful way to draw immense good out of so great an evil. “O felix culpa – O happy sin of Adam, which has merited for us so great a Redeemer!” is the jubilant hymn of gratitude and gladness which re-echoes in our churches on Holy Saturday. And why? Because Jesus Christ has made adequate atonement for Adam’s sin and now offers us a copious supply of His redeeming and saving grace which more than compensates for the loss of our original inheritance. True, this grace does not restore the Paradise which once existed on earth, nor does it remove from our lives the evils and miseries which spring from original sin; but it does what is infinitely better and more profitable to us in the end – it enables us to endure all sufferings with patience and resignation, to sanctify them by uniting them with the bitter passion and death of Our Lord, converting them into sources of rich supernatural merit, which in turn will procure for us in Heaven a throne far more glorious and exalted than if we had not fallen in Adam from the state of our original perfection.
But it is objected: “If God foreknew the fatal consequences of original sin, why did He not prevent Adam from committing that sin?” or: “Why does God not hinder the commission of sin now?” or again: “Why does He not hinder wicked persons from doing what brings suffering to the innocent?” To these objections the only answer is this: God has created man a free agent. The noblest faculty man possesses is his free will. With the exercise of this faculty God does not interfere in any way. Any interference would mean a limitation, a deprivation of free will, at least partially. This would in turn mean that man is not responsible for his moral actions. Interference with his free will would also do away with merit and demerit; reward for good deeds and punishment for evil acts.
Man is left entirely to his own counsel – perfectly free to choose between good and evil, obedience and disobedience, virtue and vice, Heaven and Hell. Whichever he chooses shall be his inheritance. In the lifelong struggle against the forces of evil – the Devil, the world and the flesh, man has at his disposal the powerful aids of Divine grace, by the right use of which he can avoid sin and do good; but God will not in any way compel him to use this grace, or to act one way rather than another.
Many abuse this noble faculty by doing what they know is forbidden and sinful, and thereby they become the authors of suffering for themselves and their fellowmen. God does not will this, but He permits it. In the meantime, His infinite wisdom and fatherly providence direct even the sinful actions of men to the furtherance of the welfare and salvation of His elect, even as He turned the malice and enmity of the Jews against Our Lord to the accomplishment of the redemption of man from sin and Hell.
Expiation of Public and National Sins
The second reason why you must suffer, especially in times of general calamity, is this: As a member of society and a citizen of your country, you must unite with the rest in making the atonement and reparation which Divine Justice requires for the public and national sins committed in the community in which you live.
By public and national sins we understand certain sins of a graver nature which are committed on so large a scale and by so many persons in a community, be it a city, or a province, or an entire nation, that they are attributed to the community as a body and not merely to this or that individual. Sins of this kind are: Apostasy from the Faith, irreligion and forgetfulness of God; godless education of the young; profanation of God’s Holy Name, cursing, blasphemy and perjury; the desecration of the Lord’s Day; immodest and scandalous fashions; immoral art, literature and amusements; divorce and adultery sanctioned by iniquitous state laws; dishonesty, injustice and oppression of the poor; murder and race suicide; and finally, those wild orgies of gross immorality and unrestrained license which periodically disgrace public festivities and celebrations, or occur in connection with balls, dances, banquets and the like.
God is exceedingly patient and long-suffering, and does not willingly inflict general chastisements, however richly they may be deserved by a community. He rather desires that His offending children seek His pardon by means of a timely repentance and conversion. He waited a hundred years before He sent the deluge which He had commissioned Noe to announce; He allowed forty years to elapse between the prediction made by Our Lord of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the fulfillment of that prediction by the Romans in the year 70; and He spared the city of Ninive altogether because its inhabitants immediately left off sinning and hastened to do penance at the preaching of Jonas.
God acts in this way still. He often waits a long time before He inflicts on sinful cities and nations those more extensive chastisements which their multiplied iniquities call for. He desires to spare them and therefore tries first in every possible way to recall them to a sense of their duty and to timely repentance and conversion. But if in spite of these delays they obstinately refuse to enter into themselves and to leave off sinning; if they continue in their wickedness, sometimes even to the extent of sinning more boldly because their evil deeds are not punished at once, then the hour must come in which the measure of their iniquity is filled to overflowing. That hour will mark the beginning of some general visitation which will fall heavily on the guilty community as a just punishment of its long continued transgressions of God’s Holy Law – destructive floods or storms, conflagrations, earthquakes; seasons of scarcity and famine; epidemics and pestilences; and especially the horrors of rebellions and revolutions, and of civil and international wars. Divine Justice makes use of these evils for the punishment and correction of a sinful people much the same as a wise father uses the rod for the chastisement and betterment of a wayward child.
Nor is it always necessary that God send such chastisement for public sins, as He sent the deluge or the destruction of Jerusalem. There are many sins which contain in themselves the seeds of future public suffering just as the acorn contains the gigantic oak. If such sins prevail for a sufficiently long time, unchecked and unrepented, they are bound to produce such conditions in the social order as make certain calamities unavoidable. Take, for example, the sin of godless education, that is, education of youth without religion. Where such a system has been adopted, the necessary results must be the following: After two or three generations the knowledge of God will disappear more or less completely among the people; the sense of right and wrong will be lost; good will be called evil, and evil good; there will be no respect for the moral law; the depravity of youth will grow worse and worse; dishonesty and corruption will prevail in business, in the courts, in the legislature, and in the government itself; taxes will be misappropriated or disappear in the pockets of grafters; heavy expenses will be necessary to maintain the growing number of asylums, juvenile courts, reform schools and prisons; there will be no security to honor property and life; the relations between capital and labor will be strained to the breaking point, so that violence and bloodshed will become inevitable; family life will be disrupted by adultery, divorce and free love; national rivalries, jealousies and hatreds, provoked by commercial greed, grow more and more intense, until they lead to international wars with their unspeakable misery to millions. Nations that sow the whirlwind must reap the storm.
Public and national sins must be expiated in this world for the very simple reason that they cannot be expiated in the next. In the world to come families, cities, provinces and nations will have no continued corporate existence. There, men and women will exist merely as individuals, without being united by those social, civil, political and national bonds which are necessary in this life for the welfare and preservation of the human race. In eternity, they will individually enjoy the fruits of their life on earth – the good will possess the kingdom of God in Heaven, while the wicked shall suffer for their evil deeds in the unquenchable fire of Hell. But as public sins require public expiation, and as this expiation cannot be made in this next life, it is clear that it must be made on this side of the grave.
Why Must the Innocent Suffer?
A question which proves a sore temptation to many persons whose faith is weak and unenlightened suggests itself in this connection: Why is it that the good and virtuous are not exempt at such times, but are compelled to suffer like the rest? If God is just, how can He allow the innocent to be afflicted with the guilty?
There are several reasons why God permits the good to suffer in times of public chastisement:
1. It is but right and just that the good should lend a willing hand in offering to God the atonement made necessary by public sins, because in normal times they enjoy in common with their fellow-citizens the blessings of peace, tranquillity, national prosperity. Their temporal interests are common, both in times of prosperity and in times of affliction.
2. Those who are innocent of actually taking part in public sins are not for that reason always wholly free from guilt in the sight of God. Very often they are guilty of these sins in an indirect manner – accessory to them, as it is called. Thus they may have connived at some form of immorality; they may not have protested against it; they may have neglected to use their authority, or influence, or right to vote, to hinder its introduction, or to procure its removal when already introduced, and all this from indifference, human respect, fear of persecution, of loss of business and similar unworthy reasons.
3. The sufferings endured by the good have a much greater atoning value than those endured by the wicked. Hence the more good persons there are to join in making the required atonement, the more quickly will it be made. Besides, God is easily moved, out of consideration for the sufferings of the good, greatly to mitigate His punishments, and sometimes even to cancel them altogether.
4. The sight of the good suffering for sins which they did not commit is apt to promote the conversion and salvation of the wicked, by vividly reminding them of the more rigorous chastisements inflicted for sin in the next life. If sin is punished so severely upon the good here on earth, how much more severely will it be punished upon unrepentant sinners in eternity!
5. Such sufferings afford the good an opportunity of making full atonement for their personal sins. For there is no one so holy and so confirmed in grace that he has not committed some sins, such at least as are venial. “Even the just man shall fall seven times,” i.e., frequently. But it is an unchanging law that every sin, even the smallest, must be fully expiated either here, or hereafter in Purgatory. But expiation made here is vastly more profitable than that which is made after death.
6. The patient endurance of undeserved suffering makes the good resemble Jesus Christ, who, though perfectly innocent, took upon Himself the task of making atonement for our sins and thereby opening Heaven to us. If He had not made this atonement, we could not be saved. Besides, innocent sufferings enable the good to reach the highest degrees of grace and virtue here, which will produce for them a correspondingly high degree of endless glory in the kingdom of Heaven.
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