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28. TO FATHER NICHOLAS GOUDANUS

On the Gift of Tears

 Rome, November 22, 1553

summary | text of letter  | footnotes


          Nicholas Goudanus1 had been working in Germany and Austria alongside Peter Canisius since 1550. He was a selfless worker in the Lord's vineyard and, apparently, thought it would be good to have the gift of tears. Thus he wrote to Ignatius asking him to pray that the gift be granted him. In his response Ignatius, through his secretary Polanco, informs Goudanus that the gift of tears is not necessary for a fruitful apostolate. To have a heart filled with compassion for the miseries of one's neighbor, and to seek to alleviate them are as pleasing to God as the gift of tears. Ignatius ends by encouraging him to keep his will strong and reminds him that this will be enough for his perfection. The language of the letter is Italian [Ep. 5:713-715].

          The peace of Christ.

          My dear father in Christ Jesus:

          I received your letter of October 12, and it gives me great edification to see the desire you have of being of help to souls in Germany, not only by preaching and other external means, but also with your tears, which gift you desire from the giver of all good things.

          As to the first of your desires, to be of definite help to the neighbor by the external means of preaching and so forth, we will beg of Christ unconditionally to deign to give to his voice the voice of power [Ps. 68:33], and to the administration of the sacraments the desired fruitfulness. But the gift of tears may not be requested unconditionally, nor is it, absolutely speaking, necessary and proper for all indiscriminately. However, I have taken the matter up with our Father Ignatius, and I myself have asked of God, and will continue to ask, that our Lord grant it to you in the measure that will be good for the end that your reverence has in seeking it, namely, the help of your own soul and the souls of your neighbor. A hard heart shall fear evil at the last [Sir. 3:26], but the heart, my dear father, that is full of the desire of helping souls, as is that of your reverence, cannot call itself hard in God's service. If in the will and the superior part of the soul, this heart feels compassion for the miseries of one's neighbor, and seeks to do what it can to relieve them and performs those services which a man of determined will undertakes, tears are not necessary for such a heart, nor other tenderness of heart.

          Some indeed have tears naturally, when the higher motion of the soul makes itself felt in the lower, or because God our Lord, seeing that it would be good for them, allows them to melt into tears. But this does not mean that they have greater charity or that they are more effective than others who enjoy no tears. They are no less moved in the higher part of the soul—that is, in a strong and energetic will, which is the proper act of charity in God's service and the good of souls—than they who abound in tears.

          I will tell you, reverend father, what I really think. And that is that, even if it were in my power to allow this gift of tears to some, I would not give it, because it would be no help to their charity, and would be harmful both to their heads and their health and, consequently, stand in the way of every act of charity. Do not lose heart, then, because of this absence of external tears, but keep your will strong and energetic, and manifest it in your actions. This will be sufficient for your own personal perfection, the help of others, and the service of God. Remember that the good angels do what they can to preserve men from sin and obtain God's honor. But they do not lose courage when men fail. Our Father has much praise for those of Ours who in this sense imitate the example of the angels. No more for the present, except to commend myself to your reverence's prayers.

          From Rome, November 22, 1553.

 

Footnotes

1 Goudanus was a Dutchman, whose family name was Florensz, but was known as Goudanus because he had been born in Gouda about 1517. He entered (1548) the Society as a priest in Louvain, and then went to Rome. He was the first rector of the college in Venice and from there he went to Ingolstadt in 1550 and then to Vienna in 1552. He attended the conference at Worms in 1557; when his health broke he went to recuperate at Louvain. In 1562 Pope Pius IV appointed him special papal envoy to visit Queen Mary Stuart in Scotland. He died at Louvain on November 10, 1565.