The memoirs of the secretary of St Jane Frances de Chantal
|The martyrdom of love|
One day Saint Jane said this: ‘My dear daughters, most of our holy Fathers, the pillars of the Church, were not martyrs. Why was this, do you think?’
After each one of us had had her say, she went on: I think it is because there is such a thing as a martyrdom of love: God keeps his servants alive to work for his glory, and this makes them martyrs and confessors at the same time. I know this is the sort of martyrdom the daughters of the Visitation will suffer, that is, those of them who are fortunate enough to set their hearts on it.’
A sister wanted to know just how this martyrdom worked out in practice.
‘Give God your unconditional consent,’ she said, ‘and then you will find out. What happens is that love seeks out the most intimate and secret place of your soul, as with a sharp sword, and cuts you off even from your own self. I know of a soul cut off in this way so that she felt it more keenly than if a tyrant had cleaved her body from her soul.’
We knew, of course, that she was speaking about herself. A sister wanted to know how long this martyrdom was likely to last.
‘From the moment we give ourselves up wholeheartedly to God until the moment we die,’ she answered. ‘But this goes for generous hearts and people who keep faith with love and don’t take back their offering; our Lord doesn’t take the trouble to make martyrs of feeble hearts and people who have little love and not much constancy; he just lets them jog along in their own little way in case they give up and slip from his hands altogether; he never forces our free will.’
She was asked whether this martyrdom of love could ever be as bad as the physical kind.
‘We won’t try to compare the two and look for equality; but I do not think the martyrdom of love is less painful than the other, because “love is strong as death”, and martyrs of love suffer infinitely more by staying alive to do God’s will than if they had to give up a thousand lives for their faith and love and loyalty.’