In What True Wisdom Consists
by Saint Alphonsus Liguori
Such was the Language of Holy Simeon, when he had the Consolation to hold in his hands, the Infant Jesus.
Among other things which he then Foretold, he declared that "this Child was set for the Fall and the Resurrection of many in
Israel". In these Words, he Extols the Lot-of the Saints, who, after this Life, shall Rise to the
Life of Immortality in the Kingdom of Bliss; he deplores the
Misfortune of Sinners, who, for the Transitory and Miserable Pleasures of this World, bring upon themselves
Eternal (∞) Ruin and
Perdition. But, notwithstanding the Greatness of his own Misery, the Unhappy
Sinner, reflecting only on the Enjoyment-of Present Goods, calls the Saints
Fools, because they seek to Live in Poverty, in
Humiliation, and in Self-Denial. But, a Day will come, when the Sinners
shall see their Errors, and they shall say: "We Fools esteemed their Life, Madness, and their
End, without Honor" - Wisdom 5:4. We Fools: behold how they shall Confess that they themselves have been Truly
Fools. Let us examine, in what True Wisdom consists, and we shall see, in the
First Point, that Sinners are Truly Foolish,
and in the Second, that the Saints are Truly Wise.
Sinners are Truly Foolish
What Greater Folly can be conceived, than to have the Power-of being Friends-of
God, and to-Wish to be His Enemies? Their Living-in
Enmity with God, makes the Life-of Sinners,
Unhappy in this World, and purchases-for them an Eternity (∞) of
Misery, hereafter. Saint Augustine relates that Two (2) Courtiers of the Emperor,
entered a Monastery of Hermits, and that One (1) of them began to read the Life-of Saint Anthony. "He
Read", says the Saint, "and his Heart was Divested of the World". He Read, and in Reading, his Affections were
detached-from the Earth. Turning to his Companion, he exclaimed: "What do we Seek? The Friendship of the Emperor is the Most we can
Hope for. And through how many Perils, shall we arrive at still Greater Danger? Should we obtain his Friendship, how Long shall it Last?".
Friend, said he, Fools that we are, what do we seek? Can we expect more in this Life, by Serving the Emperor, than to
Gain his Friendship? And should we, after so many Dangers, Succeed in making him our Friend, we shall Expose ourselves
to Greater Danger of Eternal (∞)
Perdition. What Difficulties must we Encounter, in-order-to become the Friends of
Caesar. "But, if I wish, I can in a Moment, become the Friend of God". I can acquire His
Friendship by endeavoring-to recover His Grace. His Divine Grace is that
Infinite (∞) Treasure, which makes us
Worthy of His Friendship. "For She is an Infinite Treasure to Men; which they that use, become
the Friends of God" - Wisdom 7:14.
The Gentiles believed it Impossible-for a Creature to become the Friend-of God; for, as Saint Jerome
says, Friendship makes Friends 'Equal'. "Amicitia pares accipit, aut pares facit". But
Jesus Christ has declared, that if we observe His Commands, we shall be
His Friends. "You are My Friends, if you do the things that I Command you" - John 15:14.
How Great then is the Folly of Sinners , who, though they have it in
their Power to Enjoy the Friendship of God, Wish to Live-in Enmity with
Him. The Lord does not Hate any of
His Creatures: He does not Hate the
Tiger, the Viper, or the Toad. "For Thou Lovest all things that are, and Hatest none of the things which Thou hast Made"
- Wisdom 11:25. But, He necessarily Hates Sinners. "Thou
Hatest all the Workers of Iniquity" - Psalm 5:7. God cannot but Hate Sin,
which is His Enemy and Diametrically Opposed-to
His Will; and therefore, in Hating Sin, He
necessarily Hates the Sinner who is United-with his
Sin. "But to God, the Wicked and his Wickedness, are Hateful alike".
The Sinner is Guilty of Folly
in leading a Life, Opposed-to the End for which he was Created. God has not
Created us, nor does He Preserve our Lives, that we may Labor-to acquire Riches or Earthly Honors, or that we may
Indulge-in Amusements; but that we may Love and Serve Him in this World,
in-order-to Love and Enjoy Him for Eternity
(∞), in the Next. "And the End, Life Everlasting" - Romans 6:22.
Thus the Present Life, as Saint Gregory says, is the Way by which we must reach Paradise, our
True Country. "In the Present Life we are, as it were, on the Road, by which we Journey to our Country" - Homily.
But the Misfortune of the Greater Part-of Mankind is, that, instead of following the
Way of Salvation, they Foolishly walk-in the Road to Perdition:
Some have a Passion for Earthly Riches, and, for a Vile Interest, they Lose
the Immense Goods of Paradise;
Others have a Passion for Honors and for a Momentary Applause, they Lose their Right to be Kings in
Others have a Passion for Sensual Pleasures, and, for Transitory Delights, they Lose
the Grace of God, and are Condemned to Burn
Forever (∞), in a Prison of Fire.
Miserable Souls! if, in Punishment of a certain
Sin, their Hand was to be Burned with a Red-Hot-Iron, or if they were to be Shut-up for
Ten (10) Years in a Dark Prison, they certainly would Abstain-from it. And do they not Know that, in
Chastisement of their Sins, they shall be Condemned
to remain Forever (∞) in Hell, where their
Bodies, Buried in Fire, shall Burn for all
Eternity (∞)? Some, says Saint Chrysostom, to Save
the Body, choose to Destroy the Soul; but, do
they not Know that in Losing the Soul, their Bodies
shall be Condemned to Eternal (∞)
Torments? "If we Neglect the Soul, we cannot Save the Body".
(A Unity (1) of Body and Soul)
Infused Virtues and Gifts of the
In a Word, Sinners Lose their Reason, and Imitate Brute Animals,
that follow the Instincts-of Nature, and seek Carnal Pleasures, without ever Reflecting-on their Lawfulness or
Unlawfulness. But, to Act in this Manner is, according to Saint Chrysostom, to Act not like a Man, but
like a Beast. "Hominem illum dicimus", says the Saint, "qui imaginem hominis salvam retinet:
quae autem est imago hominis? Rationalem esse". To be Men, we must be Rational; that is we must Act, not
according-to the Sensual Appetite, but according-to the Dictates of Reason.
If God gave to Beasts the use of Reason, and if they Acted according to its Rules,
we should say that they Acted like Men. And it must, on the other hand, be said that the Man whose Conduct is Agreeable-to the
Senses, but Contrary to Reason, Acts like a Beast. He who follows
the Dictates of Reason, Provides-for the Future. "O that they would be Wise and would Understand,
and would provide for their Last End" - Deuteronomy 32:29. He looks to the Future - that is, to the Account he must Render, at the
Hour of Death, after which he shall be Doomed to Hell
or to Heaven, according to his Merits. "Non est
sapiens", says Saint Bernard, "qui sibi non est.
Sinners think only-of the Present, but regard not the End, for which they were Created.
But, what will it Profit them to Gain all things, if they Lose their Last End, which alone can make them
Happy? "But One Thing is necessary" - Luke 10:42. To Attain our End, is the only
Thing necessary for us; if we Lose it, all is Lost. What is this End? It is
Eternal (∞) Life. "Finem
vero vitam aeternam". During Life, Sinners care little for the Attainment-of their End. Each Day, brings them
nearer-to Death and to Eternity (∞);
but they Know not their Destination. Should a Pilot, who is asked 'Whither' he is going, answer that he did not Know; would not all,
says Saint Augustine, Cry-out that he was bringing the Vessel to Destruction? "Fac hominem
perdidisse quo tendit, et dicatur ei: quo is? et dicat, nescio; nonne iste navem ad naufragium perducet?" The Saint then adds:
"Talis est qui currit praeter viam". Such are the 'Wise' of the World, who Know how to-Acquire Wealth and Honors, and to
Indulge-in every kind of Amusement; but Know not how to Save their Souls.
How Miserable the Rich Glutton, who, though able to Lay-up Riches, and to Live Splendidly,
was, after Death, Buried-in Hell! How Miserable
Alexander the Great, who, after gaining so many Kingdoms, was Condemned to Eternal
(∞) Torments! How Great the Folly of
Henry the Eighth, who Rebelled against the Church, but seeing at the
Hour of Death, that his Soul should be Lost,
cried out in Despair: "Friends, we have Lost all!" O God,
how many others now Weep in Hell, and exclaim: "What hath
Pride profited us? or what Advantage hath the Boasting of Riches brought us? All those things are Passed Away, like a Shadow" - Wisdom 5:8-9. In the
World, we made a Great Figure - we enjoyed Abundant Riches and Honors; but now all is Passed-away like a Shadow,
and nothing Remains for us, but-to Suffer and Weep for
Eternity (∞). Saint Augustine says, that the Happiness which Sinners
enjoy in this Life, is their Greatest Misfortune. "Nothing is more Calamitous than the Felicity of
Sinners, by which their Perverse Will, like an Internal Enemy, is Strengthened".
In 'Fine', the Words of Solomon are fulfilled, with-regard-to all who Neglect their Salvation:
"Mourning taketh hold-of the Ends-of Joy" - Proverbs 14:13. All their Pleasures, Honors, and Greatness, End in
Eternal (∞) Sorrow and
Wailing. "Whilst I was yet but Beginning, he cut me off" - Isaiah 38:12. Whilst they are Laying the Foundation-of
their Hopes-of realizing a Fortune, Death comes, and Cutting the Tread-of Life, deprives them of all their Possessions, and
sends them to Hell, to Burn Forever
(∞) in a Pit of Fire. What Greater Folly
can be Conceived, than to wish to be Transformed-from the Friend-of God, into the Slave-of
Lucifer, and from the Heir-of Paradise to become, by Sin,
Doomed to Hell? For the Moment a Christian commits a Mortal
Sin, his name is written-among the Damned. Saint Francis de Sales said, that if the
Angels were Capable-of Weeping, they would do nothing else than Shed Tears
at the Sight-of the Destruction which a Christian, who commits Mortal Sin, brings
Oh! how Great is the Folly of Sinners, who, by Living-in
Sin, Lead a Life-of Misery and Discontent! All
the Goods in this World, cannot 'Content' the Heart of Man, which has been Created-to Love
God, and can find no Peace, out of God. What are all the Grandeurs
and all the Pleasures of this World, but "Vanity of Vanities"?, - Ecclesiastes 1:2. What are they but
"Vanity, and Vexation of Spirit"? - ibid 4:16. Earthly Goods are, according to Solomon, who had experience of them,
Vanity of Vanities; that is, mere Vanities,
Lies and Deceits. They are also a "Vexation of Spirit":
they not only do not 'Content', but they even Afflict the Soul;
and the more-Abundantly they are Possessed, the Greater the Anguish which they Produce.
Sinners Hope to find Peace in their Sins;
but what Peace can they Enjoy? "There is no Peace to the Wicked, saith the Lord" -
Isaiah 48:22. I Abstain-from saying more at the Present Time, on the Unhappy Life of Sinners;
I shall speak of it in Another Place. At present, it is enough for you to Know that God
gives Peace to the Souls who Love Him, and not
to those who Despise Him. Instead of Seeking to be the Friends-of
God, Sinners Wish to be the Slaves of Satan,
who is a Cruel and Merciless Tyrant to all who Submit-to his
Yoke. "Crudelis est et non miserebitur" - Jeremiah 6:23. And if he promises Delights, he does it, as Saint Cyprian says,
not for our Welfare, but that we may be the Companions-of his Torments in Hell:
"Ut habeat socios poenae, socios gehennae".
The Saints are Truly Wise
Let us be Persuaded that the Truly Wise are those who Know how to Love God,
and to gain Heaven. Happy the Man to whom God has given the
Science of the Saints. "Dedit illi scientiam sanctorum" - Wisdom 10:10. Oh! how
Sublime, the Science which Teaches us to Know how to Love God, and to Save
our Souls! Happy, says Saint Augustine, is the Man "who Knows God, although he is Ignorant of
other Things". They who Know God, the Love which He
Merits, and how to Love Him, stand not in-need-of any other Knowledge. They are
Wiser than those who are Masters-of many Sciences, but Know not how to Love God. Brother Egidius,
of the Order of Saint Francis, once said to Saint Bonaventure: "Happy you, O Father Bonaventure, who are so Learned, and who, by
your Learning, can become more Holy than I can, who am a Poor, Ignorant Man". "Listen", replied the Saint,
"if an Old Woman knows how to Love God better than I do, she is more Learned, and more Holy, than I am". At hearing this,
Brother Egidius exclaimed: "O poor Old Woman! poor Old Woman! Father Bonaventure says that if you Love God more than he does, you
can Surpass him in Sanctity".
This excited the Envy of Saint Augustine, and made him Ashamed-of
himself. "Surgunt indocti", he exclaimed, "et rapiunt coelum". Alas! the Ignorant
Rise-up, and Bear-away the Kingdom of Heaven; and what are we, the Learned of this World doing? Oh! how many of the Rude
and Illiterate are Saved, because, though Unable to Read, they Know how to Love God;
and how many of the Wise of the World are Damned! Oh! Truly Wise were Saint John of God, Saint Felix of the Order of
Capuchins, and Saint Paschal, who were Poor, Lay Franciscans, and unacquainted-with Human Sciences, but Learned-in the Science
of the Saints. But the Wonder is, though Worldlings themselves are Fully Persuaded of this Truth, and constantly
Extol the Merit of those who Retire-from the World, to Live only to God, still they Act as if they Believed
Tell me Brethren, to which Class do you Wish to Belong - the Wise-of the World, or to the Wise-of God? Before you make
a Choice, Saint Chrysostom advises you to go to Graves of the Dead. "Proficiscamur ad
sepulchra". Oh! how Eloquently, do the Sepulchres of the Dead, teach us the Science
of the Saints, and the Vanity of all Earthly Goods! "For my part", said
the Saint, "I see nothing but Rottenness, Bones and Worms". As if he said: Among the Skeletons, I cannot distinguish
the Noble, the Rich, or the Learned; I see that they have all become Dust and Rottenness;
thus all their Greatness and Glory have passed-away like a Dream.
What then must we do? Behold the Advice-of Saint Paul. "This therefore I say, Brethren; the Time is Short; it
remaineth, that . . . they that use this World be, as if they used it not; for the Fashion of this World passeth away" - 1Corinthians 7:29-31.
This World is a 'Scene', which shall Pass-away and End very soon; the Time is very short. During the Days of Life that
remain, let us endeavor to Live like Men who are Wise, not according-to the World,
but according-to God; by attending-to the Sanctification of our
Souls, and Adopting the Means of Salvation; by Flying-from
Dangerous Occasions; by Practicing Prayer; joining some Pious Sodality;
Frequenting the Sacraments; Reading every Day a Spiritual Book; and by
Daily hearing Mass, if it be in our power; or at least by-visiting
Jesus in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, and some Image-of the most
Holy Mary. Thus we shall be Truly Wise, and
shall be Happy for Time and Eternity
- End of Liguori Sermon -
Prayer for the Graces Necessary for Salvation
Eternal Father, Your Son has Promised that You will Grant us all the Graces which we ask for in His Name. In the Name and
Merits of Jesus Christ, I ask the following Graces for myself and for all Mankind. Please give me a Lively Faith in all that the Church Teaches.
Enlighten me, that I may know the Vanity of the Goods of this World, and the Immensity of the Infinite Good that You are. Make me also see the
Deformity of the Sins I have Committed, that I may Humble myself and Detest them as I should.
Give me a Firm Confidence of Receiving Pardon for my Sins, Holy Perseverance, and the Glory of Heaven, through the Merits of
Jesus Christ, and the Intercession of Mary. Give me a Great Love for You, that will Detach me from the Love of this World, and of myself, so that I may
Love none other, but You.
I Beg of You a Perfect Resignation to Your Will. I Offer myself entirely to You, that You might do with me, and all that
belongs to me, as You Please.
I Beg of You a Great Sorrow for my Sins.
I ask You to give me the Spirit of True Humility and Meekness, that I may Accept with Peace, and even with Joy, all the
Contempt, Ingratitude and Ill-treatment I may receive. At the same time, I also ask You to give me Perfect Charity, which shall make me wish well to
those who have done Evil to me.
Give me Love for the Virtue of Mortification, by which I may Chastise my Rebellious Senses and oppose my Self-Love. Give me a
Great Confidence in the Passion of Jesus Christ and in the Intercession of Mary Immaculate. Give me a Great Love for the Blessed Sacrament, and a
Tender Devotion and Love to Your Holy Mother. Give me, above all, Holy Perseverance, and the Grace always to Pray for it, especially in Time-of
Temptation, and at the Hour-of Death.
Finally, I recommend to You the Holy Souls of Purgatory, my Relatives and Benefactors, and in a special manner I recommend to
You all those who Hate me or who have in any way Offended me; I Beg You to Render them Good, for the Evil they have done or may wish to do me. Grant
that, by Your Goodness, I may come One Day to sing Your Mercies in Heaven; for my Hope is in the Merits of Your Blood and in the Patronage of Mary.
Mary, Mother of God, Pray to Jesus for me.