Ave Maria! Several years ago I finally purchased the book Joy Out of Sorrow from a used bookstore online. This book is a marvelous spiritual treasure by Mother Marie des Douleurs, who founded the Congregation of Jesus Crucified in Paris during 1930. Each sister in this community is sick or handicapped in one way or another, and the talks in this book were given by Mother Marie to them. Her message is timeless for she addressed matters and principles common to all of us. As Rev. John LaFarge wrote in the "Preface" to Mother's book, her reflections are "a strong antidote for the self-pitying, anxious spirit; kind and delicately considerate, they are at the same time firm and virile: the spirit of the 'valiant woman,' the mulier fortis of the Scriptures." (cf. Prov. 31:10-31) And who of us doesn't fall into self-pity and anxiety now and then? Mother Marie possessed a keen understanding of our humanity and didn't hesitate to speak candidly about the vagaries of the human heart, all the while offering solid, practical advice on how to keep moving onward and upward to life on high in Christ Jesus. What follows is an excerpt from Mother's meditation on the feast of All Saints, which we celebrated at the beginning of this month.
Many of us, put off by the legends and halos of the saints, refuse to regard those faithful souls as of the same race as ourselves. Surely humility is a wonderful thing, but we must not confuse humility with cowardice! It's a fine thing to confess that you don't amount to much; but to make up your mind to keep yourself down in this category is depressing and an insult to your Creator and Savior. Admitting that one is a drunkard, while clinging to the bottle and preparing to pour another shot, can scarcely be called "confession"; it is denying the possibilities of struggle and victory in a human soul; it is dishonorable and vile. You don't realize that you are doing something just as bad by placing the saints in fairylandish meadows, where you imagine them dancing their peaceful steps. This is the same thing as confessing that you're not very keen to know how they went about achieving heroic fidelity and sovereign peace.
There are no boundary lines between sanctity and us. For all of us, including the greatest saints, as long as we are on earth, there are stretches of land that are extremely difficult to cross. Let us not regard the saints as of another race, but rather as older brothers and sisters who have gone on ahead of us; let us regard them as brave explorers and pioneers; let's not lose sight of their tracks; and let's remember that what one human being has been able to do can also be done by another -- and this isn't only true of evil
Great destinies are open to us: God is preparing more for us than we can imagine; and the holy ambition to fulfill His divine plan is the true complement of humility and its perfection, whereas the grumbling recognition of our misery is basically only love of laziness.
Let us raise our eyes toward the hills whence aid will come to us; and we will see them gleaming with the weapons of those who have preceded us in the good fight.
~Mother Marie des Douleurs
Mother sure does tell it like it is ... "we must not confuse humility with cowardice" (gulp!) ... "There are no boundary lines between sanctity and us" (really?!) ... "as long as we are on earth, there are stretches of land that are extremely difficult to cross" (you got that right!) ... "the grumbling recognition of our misery is basically only love of laziness" (ouch!) ... "Great destinies are open to us" (WOW!).
Great destinies indeed! Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Cor 15:57)
P.S. As an aside, the best way I know to find books on the Web is to use Bookfinder. In one fell swoop, it will search hundreds of millions of books from over 100,000 booksellers and 60+ worldwide websites for used books, out-of-print books, textbooks, rare books and new books for sale. I had been searching for Joy Out of Sorrow for a very long time but could never find it. Then one day a copy popped up, but the seller wanted $50 for it, plus shipping. As much as I desired this book, I wasn't willing to pay that much, so I kept searching for couple more years. Eventually I found a copy for $8, and now it's among those treasured books I keep close at hand.