« Prev Chapter XX. How he broke himself from drink. Next »


How he broke himself from drink.

ANOTHER afflictive exercise, which he once adopted, was to limit himself to an exceedingly small measure of drink; and that he might not transgress this measure either at home or abroad, he caused a little cup to be made of the exact size, and carried it with him whenever he went out. In times of great thirst it was no more than enough to cool his parched mouth, just like what is given to refresh a sick person in a burning fever. For a long time he drank no wine at all, save only on holy Easter-day, and he drank it then in honour of the high festival. On one occasion, after he had long endured great thirst, and from a spirit of mortification was resolved not to quench his thirst with water or wine, he looked upwards to God in the excessive anguish of his soul, upon which God answered him interiorly in this wise:—Mark and see how thirsty I was in My death-agony, with nothing but a little vinegar and gall to drink; and yet all the cool fountains upon this earth were Mine, for I have created them all, as well as all things else, and ordained them all for man’s support. Wherefore thou also must endure 72patiently privation and want, if thou wouldst imitate Me.

It happened once before Christmas that the Servitor had utterly renounced and put from him all bodily comforts, and moreover had taken upon himself three penitential exercises in addition to the ordinary practices which he had long pursued. The first of these was, that he remained after matins until daybreak standing on the bare stones before the high altar, and this too at a time when the nights were at the longest, and the bell for matins rang very early. The second practice was, that he avoided going to any warm place, either by day or night, and never warmed his hands over the chafing-dish at the altar;44   It was the custom to place a chafing-dish upon the altar when the cold was very great, in order that the priest might warm his fingers at it. in consequence of which his hands became horribly swollen, because the cold at that time was exceeding great. When compline was ended, he used to go, all cold as he was, to sleep upon his bench, and after matins he stood before the altar on the bare stones till daybreak. The third practice was to abstain altogether from drinking during the day, however great his thirst might be. He 73only drank in the morning at table, and at that time he was not thirsty. When, however, it drew towards evening, his thirst became so excessive that his whole frame panted for drink; nevertheless he bore it all perseveringly, though the pain of it was bitter and intense. His mouth, inside and out, was as dry as that of a sick person in a distemper, and his tongue was so cracked that for more than a year afterwards it would not heal. When he stood in choir at compline thus parched with thirst, and the holy water was sprinkled around according to custom, he would eagerly open his parched mouth, and gape wide towards the sprinkling-brush, in the hope that a little drop of water might fall upon his dried-up tongue and cool it a little. Again, when he used to push away the wine from him at the supper-table, all athirst though he was, he would sometimes lift up his eyes and say:—Ah, heavenly Father, receive this cool drink as an offering of my heart’s blood, and give Thy Child to drink of it in that thirst wherewith He thirsted in His death-agony upon the cross. Sometimes also, when he was very thirsty, he would go opposite the fountain and gaze at the tinkling water in the tinned basin, and then he would look upwards to God and 74sigh deeply. At other times he was so utterly overcome by his sufferings that he would cry out from the depths of his heart:—Alas, O everlasting Good, how hidden are Thy judgments! Ah me! that the broad lake of Constance is so nigh, and the clear Rhine flows all around me,55   The Dominican Convent in which Blessed Henry Suso lived stood on a small island at the point where the Rhine flows out of the lake of Constance. It is now a manufactory. and yet one single drink of water is too dear for me to purchase! This is indeed a misery.

This state of things continued until the time when the Gospel was read at Mass about how our Lord God changed water into wine. That same Sunday night he sat in misery at table, for through excess of thirst he had no desire to eat. As soon as grace was read he hurried quickly to his chapel, for he was so overcome with agony that he could no more contain himself, and, bursting into a flood of bitter tears, he exclaimed:—O God, Thou alone knowest what sorrow and anguish of heart are. Wherefore was I born into this world so utterly poor and destitute that in the midst of all abundance I must endure such grievous need! While 75he was uttering these lamentations, it seemed to him as though a voice spoke within his soul, saying:—Be of good courage; God will soon rejoice and comfort thee. Weep not, brave knight; bear thyself well. These words brought fresh life to his heart, so that he stopped lamenting, and tried to leave off weeping altogether. But the pain he suffered would not let him feel quite joyful, and his tears continued falling, though something inwardly forced him to smile, as though at some pleasant adventure close at hand which God would ere long send him. In this state he went to compline. His mouth sang while his heart trembled, and it seemed to him the while that he should soon be recompensed for all his sufferings. And so it came to pass not long afterwards, and even that very night he received part payment in the following manner: It appeared to him in a vision as though our dear Lady, God’s Mother, came to him with the little Child Jesus in the form He wore on earth when seven years old. The Child carried in His hand a small goblet of fresh water. The goblet was glazed all over, and was a little larger than one of the convent-mugs. Then our dear Lady took the goblet in her hand, and gave it to the Servitor to drink. 76He received it with great eagerness, and quenched his thirst to his heart’s content.

One day as he was walking in the country, he happened to meet, on a narrow pathway, a poor, respectable woman; and when the woman drew near him, he gave up to her the dry path, and went himself into the wet at the side, in order to let her go by. The woman, turning round, said to him:—Dear master, how comes it that you, a gentleman and a priest, give way so humbly to me, a poor woman, who ought much more fittingly to have given way to you? He replied:—Ah, dear woman, it is my custom to pay willing deference and honour to all women for the sake of the gentle Mother of God in heaven. At this she lifted up her eyes and hands to heaven, and spoke thus:—I beseech this same august Lady that you may not depart this world until you have received some special grace from her whom you honour in all of us women. He answered:—May the pure Maiden Mary in heaven obtain me this.

It happened soon afterwards that, though there was abundance of every kind of drink before him, he left the table, according to his custom, with a thirsting mouth. That same night, when he lay down to rest, there came 77and stood before him, in a vision, a beautiful heavenly form, which thus addressed him:—It is I, the Mother, who gave thee to drink from the little goblet the other night; and, since thou art so exceeding thirsty, I will in pity give thee once more to drink. To this the Servitor made answer very wisely:—Ah, purest one! but thou hast nothing in thy hand out of which to give me drink. She replied:—I will give thee to drink of that healthful drink which flows from my heart. He was so terrified at this that he could not answer her, for he knew well how unworthy of it he was. Then she said to him, with great kindliness:—Inasmuch as Jesus, the treasure of heaven, has come down so lovingly into thy heart, and since thy parched mouth has so dearly earned this grace, I will bestow it on thee for thy special consolation; and it is not a corporeal drink which I will give thee, but a healthful, spiritual, and excellent drink of real and true purity. Then he let it be as she had said, and he thought within himself:—Thou shalt now drink thy full, and be able to quench thy great thirst. When he had well drunk of this heavenly drink, there remained something in his mouth like a little soft lump. It was white, and of the nature of 78manna; and he kept it in his mouth for a long time, as a voucher for the truth of what had taken place. Afterwards, he began to weep from his very heart, and he thanked God and His dear Mother for the great grace that they had vouchsafed him.

That same night our dear Lady appeared to a holy person in another town, and said:—Go and tell my Child’s Servitor from me what is written of the great doctor, John Chrysostom of the golden mouth, how that one day, when he was still a scholar, as he was kneeling before an altar, on which the heavenly Mother was represented in carved wood giving the Child in her arms to drink, as mothers do, the image of the Mother bade her Child stop awhile, and allowed the afore-named scholar likewise to drink from out her heart. This same grace the Servitor also has received from me in a vision, and as a voucher for its truth, mark this: that from this time forth the teaching which will proceed from his holy mouth will be much more fervent and pleasanter to hear than it has ever been before. When the Servitor heard this, he lifted up his hands, heart, and eyes, saying:—Praised be the vein of the outflowing Godhead, and praised beyond praise be 79the sweet Mother of all graces by me, poor worthless man, for this heavenly gift.

The same holy person made answer, saying:—One thing more I have to tell you. Know, then, that our dear Lady, with her dear Child, appeared to me last night in a vision, and our Lady had in her hand a beautiful drinking-vessel of water. The Child and the Lady spoke loving words about you, and then she held the vessel of water to the Child, and prayed Him to pronounce His blessing over it. He pronounced His holy blessing upon the water, and immediately the water became wine; and He said:—It is enough. My will is that the brother should no longer mortify himself by abstaining from wine. Let him henceforward drink wine for his wasted frame’s sake. From that time forth, now that God allowed it to him, the Servitor drank wine as he had done before.

At this same period, when the Servitor had become very ill, owing to the excessive burden of the afore-mentioned exercises which he had so long practised, our dear Lord appeared to a holy friend of God, holding in His hand a box. She said to him:—Lord, what meanest Thou by the box? He answered:—I mean to cure my Servitor with it, for he is sick. Then our Lord 80went to the Servitor with the box, and opened it, and in the box there was fresh blood. He took out some of the blood, and spread it over the Servitor’s heart, so that it became all bloody, and after that He spread it over his hands and feet and all his limbs. Upon this, she said to Him:—Ah, Lord! why dost Thou mark him thus? or is it Thy will to impress upon him Thy five love-marks? He answered:—Yes. I will lovingly mark his heart and all his frame with sufferings, and I will heal him, and restore him to health, and I will make of him a man after My whole heart.

At length, after the Senator had led, from his eighteenth to his fortieth year, a life of exercises, according to the outer man—such as have been in part described above—and when his whole frame was now so worn and wasted that nothing remained for him except to die or leave off these exercises, he left them off; and God showed him that all this austerity and all these practices were nothing more than a good beginning, and a breaking through his uncrushed natural man; and he saw that he must press on still further in quite another way, if he wished to reach perfection.

« Prev Chapter XX. How he broke himself from drink. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection