"Words of Consolation for the Sick and Afflicted" is just that - consoling. Who has not had an illness or affliction at some point in his life? Who is exempt from suffering in this vale of tears? We all must drink of the chalice of sorrow in this life, and the beauty of this short book is the secrets it shares to be happy and holy while, or even due to, being visited by affliction.
Do you think you are useless because you are not able to do much as you battle sickness? Think again! Your mind will be changed after reading the Apostolate of the Sick section in this easy-to-read book. It relates this beautiful story: "A poor sick woman once said to a priest of a religious Order, who was attending her, 'What worries me most is the thought that I am no longer able to do anything for others.' The priest consoled her by explaining how, though physically disabled, she could still assist many. 'In our monastery,' he said, 'there are a number of aged Fathers who have become feeble and can do nothing but suffer and pray. A few of them can say only a few prayers, but they are resigned to the holy will of God. My good woman, these are the men who benefited our Order most...How helpless we would be if these venerable, infirm members of our Order did not sustain us by their prayers and by offering their sufferings to God. In a similar way you can be of greater benefit to others by drawing down God's blessing through your sufferings, than by any exterior work.'"
You will delight to peruse the sections on Confidence in God's Mercy, Mary, Patroness of the Dying, The Great Secret of Dying a Saint, and many more. One section of particular interest to me is Consolations of Purgatory. "In the opinion of St. Francis de Sales the thought of purgatory is far more suited to inspire us with consolation than with terror" we read. It is a new and beneficial way to meditate on purgatory - to think of the love and resignation of the souls there and not only on the pain they must endure. But far from suggesting we all sit back and wait to be cleansed in purgatory, the book also suggests ways to shorten or avoid a stay there.
Right away, I was drawn to this little book. The messages and style are so simple yet so eloquent. "Believe me, dear patient, no human soul is so disconsolate and abandoned, but that the Heart of Jesus can fully comfort and rejoice it. There is no misfortune so great and hopeless, no night so dark, but that this Heart can change the dreaded events and direct all for the best." This from the section on The Sacred Heart, a Source of Great Consolation. There is something beautiful and inspiring on every page. At the end of the book, there is a prayer section which includes some prayers especially meant for those suffering with illness.
With so many struggling with health issues these days, this book is a perfect read for our time. Even those not battling disease have much to learn from it. To end with a quote from the very first page: "St. Peter of Alcantara once visited a sick person who for a long time had endured a most painful illness with admirable patience. The saint, while sitting at the sufferer's bedside, was rapt in ecstasy. Upon regaining consciousness, he turned to the sick man and exclaimed, 'O happy patient, God has shown and revealed to me how great a glory you have merited by your illness. You have merited more than others can gain by prayer, fasting, vigils, scourging and other penitential exercises.'" O happy patient! Yes, after reading and putting into practice the suggestions of this book, we will indeed be happier, and holier, patients.