Laudetur Jesus Christus! Gelobt sei Jesus Christus! Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! Praised be Jesus Christ!
This time of year is full of great saints for us to contemplate. We see the Feasts of Sts. Anne and Joachim, St. John Vianney, St. Dominic, St. Lawrence, St. Clare, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, and St. Rose of Lima. Among so many others also worth mentioning.
These saints also lived in difficult times, different, but like our own. They each responded to what God was calling them to do for the salvation of souls. Sts. Anne and Joachim responded generously in raising well the Immaculate Mother of God. St. John Vianney, living in post revolution France, faithfully and fearlessly served the people of his parish, St. Dominic combated the Albigensian heresy and founded the Dominican Order for the proclamation of the Gospel.
One of our very own from this side of the world, St. Rose of Lima, was born to Spanish parents in Lima, Peru. She was known to be very beautiful, but from a young age was extraordinarily virtuous and committed to the Lord. She wanted to be a nun from an early age, and took on extreme penances and fasts. Her parents opposed her desires to become a nun, but was finally permitted to enter at the age of 20. To help temper her passions, she took on penances that she thought would unite her more closely to Christ. She said: “Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.”
She took on these penances, not for their own sake, but as a means to understand better what Christ suffered for us. She knew that she had to temper her own passions, and penance was the best way to do so.
The human person is composed of different parts, and three such parts are the intellect, the will, and the passions. Before the fall, man acted appropriately and rightly ordered. The intellect informed our will on what to choose. We always chose the good in such a world, until the fall with Adam and Eve. At that point, we allowed our passions to dictate to our will what it should choose. Passions are neither good nor bad, but when they begin to control us, we choose sinful things. The passions tell us when we are hungry, but when we overdo hunger we fall into gluttony. If we allow the passions to become too strong, our passions bully our will into continuing to eat. Even though our intellect tells us that if we continue to eat we will either become sick or overweight. And so it is with any passion.
The penances of St. Rose of Lima, and many other saints, show us the importance of penance. They were given special graces for such extreme penances, always under the direction of their confessors, graces we have not been given. Even though we may not do such extreme penances, we are all still called to penance. The Church asks this of us on Fridays and throughout Lent, but we are each still encouraged to do more. Perhaps we forgo our favorite food, television, internet, alcohol, cell phone use, or socialization for a period of time each week. We each must examine our own lives and see our likes, and willingly offer those to God so that we each may understand the sacrifice of Christ better and work out of own salvation. Have a blessed week ahead!