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Serenity in This Life

  • ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI

Acting according to this pattern, one not only becomes holy but also enjoys perpetual serenity in this life.


sunleavesAlphonse the Great, King of Aragon, being asked one day whom he considered the happiest person in the world, answered: "He who abandons himself to the will of God and accepts all things, prosperous and adverse, as coming from his hands."  "To those that love God, all things work together unto good" (Rom. 8:28).

Those who love God are always happy, because their whole happiness is to fulfill, even in adversity, the will of God.

Afflictions do not mar their serenity because, by accepting misfortune, they know they give pleasure to their beloved Lord: "Whatever shall befall the just man, it shall not make him sad" (Prov. 12:21).  Indeed, what can be more satisfactory to a person than to experience the fulfillment of all his desires?  This is the happy lot of the man who wills only what God wills because everything that happens, save sin, happens through the will of God.

There is a story to this effect in the "Lives of the Fathers" about a farmer whose crops were more plentiful than those of his neighbors.  On being asked how this happened with such unvarying regularity, he said he was not surprised because he always had the kind of weather he wanted.  He was asked to explain.  He said: "It is so because I want whatever kind of weather God wants, and because I do, he gives me the harvests I want."  If souls resigned to God's will are humiliated, says Salvian, they want to be humiliated; if they are poor, they want to be poor; in short, whatever happens is acceptable to them, hence they are truly at peace in this life.  In cold and heat, in rain and wind, the soul united to God says: "I want it to be warm, to be cold, windy, to rain, because God wills it."

Whatever happens is acceptable to them, hence they are truly at peace in this life.

This is the beautiful freedom of the sons of God, and it is worth vastly more than all the rank and distinction of blood and birth, more than all the kingdoms in the world.  This is the abiding peace which, in the experience of the saints, "surpasseth all understanding" (Phil. 4:7).  It surpasses all pleasures rising from gratification of the senses, from social gatherings, banquets and other worldly arguments; vain and deceiving as they are, they captivate the senses for the time being, but bring no lasting contentment; rather they afflict man in the depth of his soul where alone true peace can reside.

Solomon, who tasted to satiety all the pleasures of the world and found them bitter, voiced his disillusionment thus: "But this also is vanity and vexation of spirit" (Eccles. 4:16).  "A fool," says the Holy Spirit, "is changed as the moon; but a holy man continueth in wisdom as the sun" (Eccles. 27:12).  The fool, that is, the sinner, is as changeable as the moon, which today waxes and tomorrow wanes; today he laughs, tomorrow he cries; today he is meek as a lamb, tomorrow cross as a bear.  Why?

Because his peace of mind depends on the prosperity or the adversity he meets; he changes with the changes in the things that happen to him.  The just man is like the sun, constant in his serenity, no matter what betides him.  His calmness of soul is founded on his union with the will of God; hence he enjoys unruffled peace.  This is the peace promised by the angel of the Nativity.  "And on earth, peace to men of good will" (Luke 2:14).  Who are these "men of good will" if not those whose wills are united to the infinitely good and perfect will of God?  "The good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God" (Rom. 12:2).

By uniting themselves to the divine will, the saints have enjoyed paradise by anticipation in this life.  Accustoming themselves to receive all things from the hands of God, says St. Dorotheus, the men of old maintained continual serenity of souls.  St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi derived such consolation at hearing the words "will of God," that she usually fell into an ecstasy of love.  The instances of jangling irritation that are bound to arise will not fail to make surface impact on the senses.  This however will be experienced only in the inferior part of the soul; in the superior part will reign peace and tranquility as long as our will remains united with God's.  Our Lord assured his apostles: "Your joy no man shall take from you your joy shall be full" (John 16:22, 24).

He who unites his will to God's experiences a full and lasting joy: full, because he has what he wants, as was explained above; lasting, because no one can take his joy from him, since no one can prevent what God wills from happening.

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Acknowledgement

StAlphonsusLiguoriSt. Alphonsus Liguori. "Serenity in This Life," from Uniformity with God's Will. TAN Books (2009).

Reprinted with permission from TAN Books. Image credit: Photo by Han Lahandoe on Unsplash.

The Author

St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) was an Italian bishop and Doctor of the Church who was canonized in 1839. In his day he was a prolific writer who produced great works on a vast array of subjects, including moral and spiritual theology.

Copyright © 2009 Tan Books
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