Chapter 18 – Example of the Saints
Example of the Saints
“No man lighteth a candleth,” says Jesus, “and putteth it in a hidden place, nor under a bushel; but upon a candlestick, that all who come in may see the light.”
If you read the lives of the saints, and compare one with the other, you will find that most of them, as in other points, so also agreed in this: They tried to keep their good works secret, to hide the light of holiness that was burning in their lives. The world, frequently, knew them not, made little of them, despised them, persecuted them; so that the wicked, on the Day of Judgment, according to Holy Scripture, will say: “These are they, whom we had sometime in derision, and for a parable of reproach. We fools esteemed their life madness, and their end without honour. Behold, how they are numbered among the children of God, and their lot is among the saints.”
But God does not wait till the Day of Judgment to reveal this beautiful light of holiness in His Saints. He put many of them on the candlestick even while they were yet living in this world. Do what they would to hide the light, God so disposed that it had to break forth. It shone brightly, and enlightened the darkness of the world round about them. Their example was a silent but powerful sermon that often did more to draw sinners out of their wickedness and drive them on toward God than the most eloquent missionary could do with all his preaching.
St. Francis of Assisi went out one day with one of his brethren, with the intention, as he said, of preaching a sermon. They passed through the town, one street after another, without, however; saying a single word. The people came out to meet them, not to hear the sermon, but to scoff at them, to load them with insults.
When they returned home, St. Francis asked his companion: “Well, my brother, how did you like my sermon?”
“Father,” said the latter, “what shall I say? I heard nothing like a sermon. You did not say even one word.”
“Yet we have both preached a good sermon,” replied the saint. “By our good example we have taught them how to bear insults patiently and in silence.”
Do you see? This is the way the saints all preached.
Sometimes God so ordained that the sanctity of His saints remained hidden to the world as long as they lived; but so much the brighter did the light shine forth after their death. Read your “Lives of the Saints;” there is light in it, and fire.
My dear little follower of Jesus, we all should look up to this light; we should draw near and warm ourselves at this heavenly fire. It is the fire of God’s love that burned, and is burning still, in the hearts of His saints. The same fire should burn in our hearts. Let me tell you what you ought to do.
First: you ought to have a “Legend of Saints” in your house. If you have none yet, your parents certainly will get you one as soon as they can, if you ask them. Do not let it lie idle, though; you ought to read in it every day. You ought, at least, to read the life of the saint that is given for each day. Read it carefully, not merely for pastime. Try to find out which is the principal virtue for which the saint was renowned; make up your resolution to imitate it. In this way you will draw great benefit from you reading. The “Lives of the Saints” is the Gospel carried out in practice.
Secondly: there will be a few saints for whom you will feel a special liking. They hold a higher place in your regard and affection than others. Read their lives frequently, and with particular care; and take special pains to imitate their virtues.
Thirdly: you ought to have a book containing, more extensive and complete, the life of the saint whose name you bear. Read that book through often; get it by heart, I might say. Strive to imitate you patron, and you will become, like him, a true follower of Jesus.
Thomas à Kempis says: “They, the holy Fathers, were given for example to all religious; and ought more to excite us to advance in good than the number of lukewarm induce us to grow remiss.”