Imitation of the Sacred Heart:
HOW GREATLY WE SHOULD ESTEEM HOLINESS, AND HOW MUCH WE SHOULD STRIVE AFTER IT
1. The voice of Jesus.-----Be thou holy, My Child, because I am holy. Whosoever longs to be a perfect Disciple of My Heart, strives to become holy, as I also am holy, by an interior, true, and solid holiness.
Holiness is a great good, it contains all blessings desirable upon earth, and begets everlasting bliss in Heaven.
Holiness is the completion of virtue, the guardian of sanctifying grace, the preserver of inward peace, the nurse of the heart's joy, and of ever-enduring happiness.
Holiness is true wisdom, real glory, inexhaustible wealth.
To be the least of the Saints is something incomparably greater than to be the greatest of the whole
What is there in this world that can justly be compared with holiness? not science, not dignity, not renown, not the possession of all riches. For all these things are only of earth, they last but for a
moment; like vapors in the air, they glisten and soon disappear. But holiness is heaven-born and permanent, it glitters before the inhabitants of Heaven like the sun; yea, when the sun fades away, it shall continue to shine for evermore.
Let not, then, the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the strong man glory in his strength, let not the rich man glory in his wealth: but he that glories, let him glory in this, that he knows and loves Me; that, through love, he follows Me, and thus sanctifies himself.
My Child, if thou understandest not these things at present thou shalt understand them later, even in spite of thyself,-----when, at the near approach of death, thou shalt entertain more correct sentiments.
Tell Me, if this day thou hadst to die, which wouldst thou rather desire, to be a Saint, or to have
been a king or a Pope? Would to God,-----exclaimed, when dying, one who had been a ruler, and had some experience in the matter,-----would to God that I had never been a ruler, but, in its stead, the least of God's holy servants! Would, sighed another, that I had not worn the tiara, but had passed my life in the kitchen of some house consecrated to God!
Thou canst not value holiness too highly, since I Myself have held it in such esteem that, to make it possible and easy, I poured out the treasures of My Heart, multiplied the means at My greatest costs, and ordered all things for the sanctification of the Elect.
Do thou, therefore, aspire to so great a good, My Child: and strive, magnanimously, to become a Saint.
2. The voice of the Disciple.-----I become a Saint, Lord! Ah me, Lord Jesus! for that, I have sinned too much during my life. And would it not be pride to feel such a presumption? and, moreover, I am so weak that I am unable to perform anything worthy of sanctity.
The voice of Jesus.-----Dost thou say these things of Thyself, My Child, or have others suggested it to thee? If of thyself, thou art mistaken: if at the suggestion of others, thou hast been deceived.
And first, if thou hast sinned during thy life, behold! this is a new reason why thou shouldst sanctify thyself, that thus, by the future, thou mayst make amends for the past.
But, My Child, there is no question of what thou hast been, but of what thou oughtest to be hereafter.
How many souls there are that, after having committed sins, have reached, in a shorter time, a higher degree of perfection than others that have ever remained innocent! And this, because they used the remembrance of the sins which they had unfortunately committed, and which had been most mercifully forgiven by Me, as a spur, to urge and goad themselves on to sanctity.
The sins that have been committed are, therefore, not only no hindrances, but, if thou art willing, may be instruments of holiness.
Besides, My Child, to strive after the perfection of virtue, to aspire to sanctity, is not pride nor presumption, but greatness, but nobleness of soul, without which no one is worthy to be a Disciple of My Heart.
These things I say: and take heed which of the two thou wilt believe, Me, or the spirit, thy enemy, who suggests the contrary.
Beware, My Child, lest, after being deluded, thou become fainthearted, and, consequently, incapable of aspiring to those things which alone are most deserving of the aspirations of every noble heart.
Raise thy courage, cast aside all littleness of heart, and cherish sentiments worthy of a Disciple of My Heart.
Lastly, if thou art weak, am not I strong? If thou canst not undergo austerities, art thou unable to love? If thou canst not act, art thou unable to suffer? Now, it is most of all by loving and by suffering that holiness is acquired.
It is not by extraordinary works, not by miracles; but, by love, a patient love, that the sanctification of the soul is chiefly promoted.
Endeavor, for love of Me, to suffer patiently whatsoever I Myself may choose, and give thee to endure: and, behold! thou shalt become a Saint.
If the things which the world calls great could be acquired with as much facility, what worldling would not secure their possession?
3. A constant desire of making progress, a continual striving after holiness, is rightly thought to constitute man's sanctity in their life.
None is perfect in holiness, who does not exert himself to become more perfect: and the more one aims at greater perfection, the more holy does he prove himself to be. Wherefore, My Child, the perfection of holiness is not the work of a day or a week. Do not, then, imagine that thou shalt be perfect in so short a time. For, by expecting this, and finding thyself afterward disappointed, thou mightest lose heart, or even be dangerously tempted to desist from further attempts. Perfection is the joint work of Divine grace and man's co-operation. Now, the goodness of My Heart, which wills that thou shouldst be a Saint, is much more inclined bountifully to bestow grace upon thee than thou art to ask for the same: nay, even of Its own accord, It pours grace upon thee. The more faithfully, therefore, thou co-operatest with grace, the shorter the time in which thou shalt gain possession of sanctity.
4. If thou hast a constant and effectual will of sanctifying thyself, naught can hinder thee from becoming a Saint. Whatever may be thy natural inclination, thou wilt acquire holiness, not by the disposition of thy character, but by the co-operation with grace through thy free will. Neither thy character, nor thy state of life, nor thy employment, will hinder thee, if, with a generous fidelity of heart, thou co-operatest with Divine grace. Behold! great multitudes, which no one can count, have, by this fidelity, sanctified themselves in the religious state; and millions have become Saints, even in the midst of the world. By this fidelity, a Henry became a Saint in the camp; a Casimir, at the Court; an Elzear, amid intercourse with the world; an Isidore, in the fields; an Agnes, in the city; a Mary, in the country; a Catherine, in her father's house; a Christiana, in bondage.
Neither does holiness depend on being inscribed in the Catalogue of the Blessed or Saints; because this does not make the Saint, but simply declares to men that he was such. If thou art a Saint in Heaven; being perfectly conformed to the Divine good pleasure, thou wilt, of thyself, care little whether or not thy name is found on earth registered in the Canon.
Neither, in fine, can temptations and difficulties present an obstacle. For, whatsoever Hell can contrive, whatsoever the world may attempt against thee, all this, if thou art willing, shall be made to contribute to thy sanctification.
5. It is indeed true that he who desires to acquire holiness should avoid all, even the slightest, sins: but involuntary faults, which arise from human frailty, are no hindrances to perfection.
Even the greatest Saints were not altogether free from such miseries: and, so long as they lived upon earth, they experienced the frailty of their human nature.
Be not, then, troubled and uneasy about these things, wherein the will does not consciously take any part: a person may be very perfect, although he frequently offends involuntarily.
According to the example of the Saints, lessen involuntary defects as much as thou canst, and, with quiet love, humble thyself thyself before Me for these faults: in this manner thou wilt deprive profit from them for thy progress.
6. This being so, My Child, hearken thou to none who, under some pretense or other, may turn thee from the pursuit of holiness,-----neither to thyself, nor to any mortal, nor any spirit whatsoever. But, with a generous mind, that knows not despondency, continue to strive after interior sanctity.
This sanctity is so important a matter, so full of honor, and so grateful to Me, that sometimes one soul, thus sanctifying herself interiorly, glorifies Me more,-----is more pleasing to Me, and possesses more influence over My Heart,-----than a thousand others, that, although good, rest satisfied with an ordinary virtue.
Know thou, My Child, that holiness, to a certain degree, is really necessary to be admitted into the presence of the Divine Majesty; because, without holiness, none shall see God.
If thou dost not attain to this necessary holiness in the present life, thou must be purified with fire unto holiness in the life to come, before thou enterest Heaven,-----into which naught, except what is holy, can gain admittance.
Yet, for thy consolation, remember, My Child, that, if thou keepest a good and efficacious will of really sanctifying thyself, thou shalt not taste death, until thou hast acquired sanctity.
Meanwhile, never think that thou hast already attained to holiness, or that thou art perfect: but do thou ever advance and pursue the destined prize of thy supernal vocation.
Be of good courage, My Child, dare thou things worthy of a Disciple of My Heart: vie in zeal with the Saints, thy noble brothers and sisters. What thou art, they have been: what they are, thou canst be.
7. The voice of the Disciple.-----I then, O Lord Jesus, even I, the least of men, must and can become a Saint.
Yea I must; because Thou commandest me so, because I am obliged to correspond to so many singular favors and graces, which Thou hast bestowed upon me; because I am bound to satisfy, as much as I am able, the unutterable obligations, which I owe to Thee, for the mercy shown to me after my many sins; because I must have a care of my salvation, and prepare myself for Heaven; but, more than all, because Thou art supremely worthy of all love and honor.
And I can; because Thou givest me abundant and efficacious means; because Thou, ready to supply all the rest, demandest naught, except that I make the attempt with a sincere will; because nothing can hinder me, unless I myself so will it; because all things whatsoever, if I will, can help me and cause me to advance; because, finally, the whole work of my sanctification is simply a labor of love, of love for Thee, of a love which renders all things possible, easy, delightful.
Therefore, I long to be a Saint, not that, on earth, I may be numbered among the Saints, but that, in Heaven, I may glorify Thee among the Elect: not so much through fear of pain or hope of reward, as through love for Thee, most kind and sweet Jesus,-----that I may the more love Thee, the more honor Thee, now and for evermore.
Behold! O Lord Jesus, I have the will to become a Saint; so long as I draw breath, I shall not cease to will it: I beg and entreat Thee, by Thy most Sacred Heart, help my good will.