In a certain city lived a wise, handsome, and wealthy bishop who was praised for his wisdom and handsome looks, but did not, as he ought to, return thanks to God who had given him that very wisdom. He was praised and honored for his wealth, too, and he handed out numerous gifts with a view to worldly favor. He longed for even greater possessions so as to be able to give more gifts and win greater honor. This bishop had a learned priest in his diocese who thought to himself as follows:
'This bishop,' he said, 'loves God less than he should. His whole life tends toward worldliness.
Therefore, if it is pleasing to God, I would like to have his episcopate in order to give glory to God. I do not desire it for worldly reasons, seeing that worldly honor is but empty air, nor for the sake of wealth, which is as heavy as the heaviest of burdens, nor for the sake of physical rest and comfort, since I only need a reasonable amount of rest so as to keep my body fit for God's service. No, I desire it for the sake of God alone. And, although I am unworthy of any honor, still, in order to win more souls for God and to benefit more people by my word and example and to support more people through church revenues, I would gladly take on the burdensome task of being bishop.
God knows that I would rather die a painful death or put up with bitter hardships than to have the rank of bishop. I am as susceptible to suffering as the next man, but, still, he who aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. For this reason, I readily desire the honorable title of bishop along with a bishop's burden, although I do so in the same way as I desire death. I desire the honor as a means to saving more souls. I desire the burden for my own salvation and in order to show my love for God and souls. I desire the office for the sole purpose of being able to distribute the goods of the church to the poor more generously, to instruct souls more outspokenly, to instruct those in error more boldly, to mortify my flesh more completely, to exercise self-control more assiduously as an example to others.'
This canon prudently reproved his bishop in private. However, the bishop took it badly and embarrassed the priest in public, imprudently boasting of his own competence and moderation in everything. The canon, however, saddened over the bishop's improprieties, bore the insults with patience. But the bishop ridiculed the charity and patience of the canon and spoke against him so much that the canon was given the blame and thought to be a lying fool, while the bishop was seen as being just and circumspect.
At length, as time went by, both the bishop and the canon passed away and were called to God's judgment. In his sight and in the presence of the angels, a golden throne appeared with the miter and insignia of a bishop next to it. A large number of demons were following the canon, desirous of finding some fatal fault in him. As to the bishop, they felt as sure about having him as a whale does of the calves that she keeps alive in her belly amid the waves. There were many indictments leveled against the bishop; why and with what intention he undertook the office of bishop, why he grew proud about the goods intended for souls, the way he directed the souls entrusted to him, in what way he had responded to the grace God had given him.
When the bishop could make no just reply to the charges, the judge replied: 'Put excrement on the bishop's head instead of a miter and pitch on his hands instead of gloves, mud on his feet instead of sandals. lnstead of a bishop's shirt and linen garment put the rags of a whore on him. Let him have disgrace instead of honor. Instead of a train of servants, let him have a raging mob of demons.'
Then the judge added: 'Put a crown as radiant as the sun on the canon's head, gilded gloves on his hands, place shoes on his feet. Let him don the clothes of a bishop with every honor.'
Dressed in his episcopal garb, surrounded by the heavenly host, he was presented to the Judge as an honored bishop. The bishop, however, went off like a thief with a rope about his neck. At the sight of him the Judge averted His merciful eyes as did all His saints with Him.
That is the way in which many persons through their good intentions and in a spiritual sense attain the rank of honor scorned by those who were called to it in a physical sense. All these things took place instantaneously before God, although, for your sake, they were acted out in words, for a thousand years are as a single hour before God. It happens every day that, inasmuch as bishops and rulers do not want to have the office to which they were called, God chooses for Himself poor priests and parish clerks who, living according to their own better conscience, would be glad to be of benefit to souls for the glory of God if they could, and they do what they can. For this reason, they will take the places prepared for the bishops.
God is like a man who hangs a golden crown outside the door of his house and cries out to passersby: 'Anyone of any social standing can earn this crown! He who is most nobly clothed in virtue will obtain it.' Know that if bishops and rulers are wise in worldly wisdom, God is wiser than they in a spiritual sense, for He raises up the humble and does not give His approval to the proud. Know, too, that this canon who was praised did not have to groom his horse when he went off to preach or carry out his duties, nor did he have to light the fire when he was about to eat.
No, he had the servants and the means he needed to live in a reasonable fashion. He had money, too, although not for his own greedy use, for not even if he had had all the wealth in the world would he have given a single shilling to become bishop. But not for all the world would he have refused to become bishop, if that was God's will. He gave his will to God, ready to be honored for the honor of God and ready to be cast down out of love and fear of God."
We are appreciative of www.Catholic-Saints.net for providing the resources which allows us the opportunity to bring you these chapters.
Revelations and Prophesies Imparted to St. Bridget of Sweden - Book Three: Chapter Three