Maybe it’s just me and other Catholics accept the constant challenges of our times serenely, with an immediate default reaction and constant attitude of total trust in Providence? Probably I am just weaker than everyone else, but I know that I need to often remind myself to “just let all the worrisome thoughts go” and make repeated acts of trust in God’s unsearchable ways of Providence – on a daily basis – in order to keep an even keel and my very sanity in this crazy world. “Wherefore I will pray to the Lord, and address my speech to God: Who doth great things and unsearchable and wonderful things without number” (Job 5:8-9).
Short of reading the Book of Job or praying the Psalms, meditating on the contents of this little book would have to be among the best means to maintain, or restore as might be the case, peace of soul. As we all know, Christ alone can give that incomparable peace that the world cannot give, but we must rightly orient our hearts and minds to allow Him to give us, and keep us in possession of, that unspeakable gift. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid” (St. John 14:27). The pearls of wisdom in this book serve to align our minds with Divine truth and the peace that flows therefrom – and hence it is a veritable godsend.
Being so small, I often carry the book on me, or have it close at hand, since it is one of those aids which I call “my lifelines.” I know that without it I would easily be dragged down and drown beneath the stormy waves of the ongoing trials and tribulations which are a necessity of this vale of tears. None of us are exempt from these afflictions, so we all need our wisely-chosen lifelines lest we perish in the tempest. Most importantly, we must remember to use them as often as required.
Many of us have ongoing troubles, which aren’t going to go away in a hurry. Whether it be due to the machinations of “the powers that wannabe” (who keep multiplying laws diametrically opposed to our Catholic Faith and morality) or from those classified as “Malignant Narcissists” (who are a law unto themselves), or another, it seems that there is always someone doing Satan's work of constantly devising schemes and traps to inflict evil on us. Furthermore, it appears that we could be living during that prophesied time when iniquity hath abounded causing the charity of many to grow cold; is it surprising then that there is an epidemic of such persecutors?
Knowing that they have hidden nets for us, stretched out cords for a snare and laid for us a stumbling block by the wayside, as it were, how natural and understandable it is that we would shrink with fear and worry. Yet how supernatural and imperative it is that we instead call upon God through prayerful supplication and then completely trust in His powerful aid; “Who bringeth to nought the designs of the malignant, so that their hands cannot accomplish what they had begun” (Job 5:12)… “For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways. In their hands they shall bear thee up: lest thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Psalm 90:13-14).
Then, piling on top of the interior anguish, oftentimes we also have illness and physical pain to endure. Injuries happen at what we deem the most inopportune time, sickness strikes rendering us effectively bedridden, or at least ineffective at carrying out our duties the way we had planned to do. All the mental willpower in the world will not banish such suffering nor restore us to health. If only we could sincerely say with St. Paul, “Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (II Corinthians 12:9). The entirety of St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians is worth revisiting when we feel overwhelmed with our infirmities and are begging God to “take it all away so I can get on with my life.” But what are we thinking? We need to realise that being sick or infirm is getting on with our life! It may not be the life we had intended for ourselves, but at least for that period of time it is the life that Our Lord intends for us. Of course, the latter is what we should be living and hence is the best possible way we can be spending our time.
The section in the book called “In Sickness and Infirmity” is brief, but it drives home these truths. For example, we are told, “We ought to conform to the will of God in sickness and infirmity and wish for what He sends us, both at the time it comes and for the time it lasts and with all the circumstances attending it, without wishing for one of them to be changed; and at the same time do all that is reasonable in our power to get well again, because God wishes it so.” Wow! That one sentence speaks volumes. That it is "easier said than done” is quite the understatement. Yet it presents to us the correct model, in sufficient detail, for what our conduct should be in these situations and we would be foolish to ignore it.
Later in the book we are encouraged in the section “Unexpected Advantages from Our Trials” (this sounds a bit more promising). It begins with, “If the consequence of your adversity is that which was intended by God, if it turns you aside completely from creatures to give yourself unreservedly to your Creator, I am sure that your thanks to Him for having afflicted you will be greater than your prayers were to remove the affliction.” They would be mighty powerful thanks, indeed, because we know how earnest our prayers for removing such crosses usually are!
When trying to decide which parts of this book to quote in this review, it was tempting to just type out the entire thing because it is all so tremendously potent and cogent! Such a task would probably be very profitable for anyone generally inclined toward anxiety or who finds it difficult to surrender their trust in themselves and human devices upward to where their trust should reside. It wouldn’t even take that long to copy out the whole book at only 129 small-pamphlet-sized pages (or 144 pages, depending on the publisher). Actually, technically, it is not one book but extracts from two books: the first written by Father Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure (1588-1657), the second by Blessed Claude de la Colombiere (1641-1682) and both are continually making references to the Saints and to the Scriptures. No wonder it is so consoling, given it drinks deeply from the fountains inspired by the Divine Comforter, Himself!
Part 1 comprises three chapters: I. “The Will of God Made and Governs All Things," II. “The Great Advantages to be Gained from Entire Conformity to the Divine Will,” and III. “The Practice of Conformity to the Will of God.” Then Part 2 is composed of only two chapters: “Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence” and “Exercises of Conformity to Divine Providence.” Thus, you can tell from the outline that this collation is both theoretical and practical.
In closing, I will leave you with a quote from Saint Augustine presented in Chapter I, which is worthy of much consideration: “All that happens to us in this world against our will (whether due to men or to other causes) happens to us only by the will of God, by the disposal of Providence, by His orders and under His guidance; and if from the frailty of our understanding we cannot grasp the reason for some event, let us attribute it to divine Providence, show Him respect by accepting it from His hand, believe firmly that He does not send it [to] us without cause.”