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The following excerpts, focusing on the merits of suffering in this life, are from a letter (penned sometime in the mid 1500s), by Saint John of Avila to an invalid lady:

“…a holy hermit (St. Nonnus, a monk and Bishop of Heliopolis) saw a woman of the world pass by, magnificently dressed and bejewelled. He burst into tears, exclaiming: “I beseech Thee to pardon me, O Lord, for this woman in one day takes more trouble to please men, than I have done in many years to please Thee!”

The love of God does not consist in mere words, but in sorrow and bitter sufferings, in being despised by the world, abandoned by all creatures, and, it may seem, at times, in the withdrawal of even our Creator’s favour. In spite of all these trials, the Christian’s courage must be firm; he must not complain, nor lose heart; he should imitate the martyr who, while they were disembowelling him and tearing the flesh from his bones with iron hooks, had no word on his lips but the Name of Jesus, nor any thought in his heart but “Blessed be God”…

“He was willing and resolute to bear even greater torments, if it pleased God to send them.

“Affliction, when borne for Christ, is both a gift and a grace, which He only bestows on His favourites. It is an act of great mercy to let off with a few cuffs a criminal who has been sentenced to a flogging; and if we can expiate the punishment due to us in the next world by suffering here, let us endeavour to satisfy God’s justice on earth, so that at our death we may behold His face without delay. Let us lead lives of penance during our exile here, that when we die we may enter at once into our heavenly country…”

This letter functioned as a corporal work of mercy insofar as the letter was a way for the heart of the Saint to visit the heart of the suffering lady.

The missive also served as four forms of spiritual works of mercy in a) instructing the ignorant (one who does not know about a truth or truths), b) comforting the sorrowful, c) counseling the doubtful and d) praying for the living.

St. John of Avila will soon be officially named a “Doctor of The Church” making him the 34th Doctor.

One would certainly not waste one’s time by reading the learned writings of the Church’s Doctors.

As a brief aside, the Latin word for ‘teacher’ is:  ‘doctor’.

This written communication from one person to another, two members of the ‘Church Militant’ at the time the letter was exchanged, is an example of the ‘communion of saints:’ two souls interacting with one another for the greater honor and glory of God.

I finish this post with a closing that Saint John of Avila used in the same letter to the invalid woman:

To Him be glory, world without end!