“The brightest ornaments in the crown of the blessed in heaven are the sufferings which they have borne patiently on earth.”
St. Alphonsus was no stranger to suffering and beautifully exemplified the virtue of patience throughout his life. He was persecuted by his family for becoming a priest, deserted by all but one of the members of his order, and suffered daily the pains of rheumatism. A master theologian, he earned a doctorate at the age of sixteen and was practicing law at nineteen. He was known for leading great pastoral reform with kindness at the root of his teaching and presenting theology in a more simplistic way.
He taught not only of kindness and patience toward others, but toward the self as well.
In The Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguori he writes:
“God wishes us to be meek even toward ourselves. When a person commits a fault, God certainly wishes him to humble himself, to be sorry for his sin, and to purpose never to fall into it again; but he does not wish him to be indignant with himself, and give way to trouble and agitation of mind; for, while the soul is agitated, a man is incapable of doing good.”
When I was very young, and reportedly very ornery, my parents could not match the level of disappointment I had for myself with any little mishap. Crying over spilled milk was my specialty. This beautiful teaching is balm to my soul and it has taken me a lifetime to begin to put this into practice.
St. Alphonsus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, warns against falling into the prideful trap of placing our own limitations and fears above the abilities and mercy of God.
How easily I caused myself so much suffering by doing just that. Oftentimes it is difficult to not be angry with ourselves because we feel unworthy of God’s mercy. We feel sadness and despair because we have again offended God. St. Alphonsus reminds us that God wants us to learn from our mistakes and embrace his mercy. We are sinful creatures and we must be patient with ourselves. Focusing on our faults makes us captives of our own pride.
In His mercy, God doesn’t keep score and thankfully, doesn’t give us what we deserve. Instead, he gives us forgiveness and unconditional love. God’s mercy is endless – even when we feel we don’t deserve it.