Saint Robert Bellarmine: Sermon Sixty-Eight: On Tribulations (Parts One and Two)

[As noted on the homepage, this Feast of Saint Robert Bellarmine is an excellent opportunity to give readers of this website access to Saint Robert Bellarmine's two-part sermon On Tribulations as today is the Feast of Saint Robert Bellarmine (as well as the one hundred fifth anniversary of Our Lady's first apparition to Jacinta and Francisco Marto in the Covia da Iria near Fatima, Portugal).

[The text of the Saint Robert Bellarmine's sermon can be found below Father Kenneth Baker's synopsis of it. Our Saint's explanation of the tribulations that must afflict all men during their lifetimes here in this mortal vale of tears is very timely in our age of barbarism and statism, of amorality, hedonism, rank materialism and the worship of everything except the true God of Divine Revelation, the Most Holy Trinity.

[Please say a Hail Mary for Sharon, who transcribed the text below from Sermons of St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J., Sermon 68, On Tribulation, translated from the Latin by Father Kenneth Baker, S.J., and published in 2017 by Keep the Faith, Inc., Ramsey, New Jersey.]

Synopsis of Saint Robert Bellarmine

by Father Kenneth Baker, S.J.

The purpose of the author and the occasion for these sermons are explained at the beginning; at the same time he answers the objection why he is talking about tribulation at this calamitous time, and what great abundance of misery there in on all sides is shown. The origin of the word “tribulation” from tree-cutting and its definition is given with its reasons, and it is explained how great tribulation is without God. another etymology of this word, taken from a certain kind of vehicle, separating and threshing the grain from the chaff, is accommodated to tribulation, which also separated the good from the bad, and this is proved by the testimony of Saint Cyprian and of others. What the heresies have accomplished and how they have spread in our time is treated in the first part.

In the second part, a twofold tribulation is gathered from the sacred writings, namely, of the present and of the future life – the latter being eternal and the former being temporal. Then various temporal tribulations are enumerated; very many of them afflict man, both on the part of the external senses, and on the part of the intellect, the memory, and the will. Then those are listed that assault him in groups from the sun, from the earth, from water, from fire and wind, from animals and men, from angels and demons. But the most important tribulations of all are these three – plague, famine, and war, which are explained at some length at the end. (Father Kenneth Baker, S.J., Synopsis of Saint Robert Bellarmine's Sermon Sixty-eight: On Tribulations. As found in Sermons of St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J., Sermon 68, On Tribulation, translated from the Latin by Father Kenneth Baker, S.J., and published in 2017 by Keep the Faith, Inc., Ramsey, New Jersey, p. 101.)

Saint Robert Bellarmine: Sermon Sixty-Eight: On Tribulations, Part 1 and Part 2

Since today with a humble prayer I am beseeching from God, the Father of orphans and the judge of widows, dear listeners, because by his just judgment he willed to castigate and afflict this calamitous region, which is an eminent part of his inheritance, so gravely in our days, I am asking him to inspire me to give an argument so that at least in some way I may console my hearers, who are experiencing such mourning for the fatherland. First of all it occurs to me that this common calamity of the fatherland, if I am to speak about it accurately, I saw has a good future, so that when now for a long time we have received a great sadness and no small loss, from there we many gain no less advantage and consolation. For we do not read in vain what has been written: Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. And, it is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. When the cares of my heart are many, you consolations cheer my soul. For, God like a wise doctor does not hurt, unless it is to heal; he does not destroy, unless it is to save; he does not wound the flesh, unless it is to deal the mind; he destroys the body in order to save the soul. Therefore I have decided inspired and helped by God today and on the following Sundays until the paschal season, to speak about tribulation in eight. First of all we will treat the name and nature of tribulation; then we will consider its many different kinds and varieties; after that its causes and effects; and finally we will speak about the remedies and tools of tribulations.

But perhaps there will be some persons who will say: Why is it necessary to present such a sad sermon? Does it not seem to you to be enough, if we are constantly suffering tribulations, that by the frequent mention of them you burden us with more trouble, and so afflict even more those who are already afflicted? But, my dear listeners, we have not decided to speak about tribulation in order to afflict the afflicted, but in order to console them: The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, Isaiah said, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. Holy Scripture is this tongue, whose saying are sweeter that honey and the honeycomb, since they wonderfully restore and console the exiled children of Adam. Therefore that great Johathon, the brother of Judas Maccabees, took so seriously the careful reading of the Scriptures that Spartiatis in his book says that he, being content with the consolation of the holy bloods did not need anything else. Therefore our discussion of tribulation, since all of it will be taken from the founts of the Scriptures, in no way can be sad or unpleasant. But if it also seems sad to some, nevertheless we have already been taught by the Lord and by the Apostle that that should not be immediately passed over which brings a certain amount of sadness, if it is good for the salvation of souls. But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away. And the Apostle Paul said: for Even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it (though I do regret it), for I see letter grieved you, thought only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved unto repenting: for you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss, through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death. But see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation what alarm, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! Salutary sadness, which calls one back from sin, makes a man from being unjust just, and from being impious holy. Therefore, there is no reason why we should fear sadness coming from sermons on tribulation. For either we will feel no sadness at all, or if we are sad, our sadness will not be the sadness of this world, which dries out and consumes the body, and kills the soul; but it is sadness according to God, a holy and salutary sadness, which makes the soul happy and peaceful and rich which produces repentance, solicitude, zeal, ardor and holiness.

But this argument will be not only not unpleasant, or bitter, but it will also be useful ad fruitful. For if in other things a wise man knows how to conduct and control himself, how much more will he be able to do that in adverse things, which have such great power to ruin and cast down the human mind, so that from it heresies, from it desperation, from it thefts, from it adulteries, from it homicides, from it all crimes seem to be born. And in these things all men so abound that, whether famous or unknown, whether private, we always have more calamities than happiness. Indeed from the day on which it was said: Cursed is the ground because of you... thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you, no ground has ever been found which was not fertile in thorns and thistles. We see often the lack of grain and of wine and of oil and of other fruits but certainly we have never seen the lack of tribulations, if we are evil; we walk on difficult roads, and we took our fill of the paths of lawlessness and destruction, as the wise man says, if we are good, through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles. Finally, the Holy Spirit says: Much labor was created for every man, and a heavy yoke is upon the sons of Adam. For how long? From the man who sits on a splendid throne to the one who is clothed in burlap, there is anger and envy and trouble. Therefore no one is exempt, not the great, not the small, not the rich, not the poor, not the just, not the sinner, and often those who seem to us to be happiest and most blessed are tormented much more that others. Therefore since the powers of tribulations are great, and there is such an abundance of them everywhere and since it is necessary for us to pass through the middle of so many terrors and dangers, it will be very helpful if we understand their nature and varieties, and also their causes and effects, and in order to overcome them we obtain the weapons we need from the armory of the divine Scriptures.

The word “tribulation,” so that we may begin with the name and definition, although it appears very rarely among the profane authors, is very frequent in the holy books, and is derived from the word for “thorn bush” (Latin: tribulus). A thorn bush is a plant that has small and very strong thorns, by which the ancient people, who often walked with bare feet and could not easily discern this plant from others, were frequently injured. Hence the puncture or the thorns, which was followed by a sharp sense of pain, was called tribulation. But from that one kind of annoyance, the word “tribulation” later was adapted to signify every kind of affliction, which men and other animals suffer, either when they lose some proper good, or are forced to accept and embrace a contrary evil, whether they want to or not. All the senses and powers of animals have certain goods that are in accord with their won nature – like the sense of seeing beautiful colors, the sense of hearing beautiful sounds, the sense of smelling sweet odors, the sense to tasting pleasant flavors; the same thing holds for the other powers which, when they sense their proper object, are extended, broadened and opened, so that they can be completely received; but when those goods are either absent or their contraries are felt, immediately they contract themselves and protect themselves. Often we see slugs, turtles and various worms on the ground, when by chance in some place they lie exposed to the rays of the sun; as soon as they begin to feel some pleasant and gentle warmth, they extend themselves and open themselves up fully: but it they are touched by something or hit, they contract immediately, and they make themselves as small as possible. But since we are speaking about human persons rather than about worms, when the feasts of the dedications of a church or the bacchanalia are near, and now people begin to speak about dances, about masks, about games, about drinking bouts, about banquets, I do not know how the human mind rejoices and expands, and opens itself up and all of its affections and secrets, and when the feast days are over and days of fasting and penance arrive it contracts itself, and it hides itself as if it were in a corner, and it seeks a hiding place. Thus there is this that the common people are wont to say: Hardships follow tribulation. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, says the Apostle Paul. And again, in another place: I wrote you out of much affliction and anguish of heart. And in the royal Psalms: Trouble and anguish have come upon me, and elegantly elsewhere when he wants to say that tribulation has been changed to consolation; You have given me room, he said, when I was in distress. For when tribulation produces anguish, and consolation gives room, what does, you have given me room when I was in distress, mean except that you have changed tribulation into consolation?

Therefor that affliction and annoyance, which comes from the presence of evil or the absence of good, and contracts and hinders the mind is called “tribulation.” From this definition it can be understood easily that, if we had integral senses, no tribulation would seem more severe to us that the loss of God. For according as the good is greater or more excellent that is lost, to that degree the tribulation is greater that follows such a loss. What if you lose some money? It is a little bit of earth. What do you lose when you lose honors? A little bit of distinction. What do you lose, when you fall sick? A little health. What do you lose, when a son dies? One small being, who was born under the law that he would die at some time. Are you not saddened and depressed when you lose these things? Certainly you are. Therefore you lost common things and you grieve greatly: but you lose God, the supreme and eternal good and you do not grieve? What else does this seem to signify but that you have corrupt senses, that you have a perverted judgments of the heart, so that you think sour is sweet and sweet is sour? Therefore God, the excellent and wise physician of the soul, arranges that many tribulations, like bitter potions, be given to us. He takes riches away from you, he takes away honors, he takes away health, he takes away wife and children, which we love so much that from this we may learn, how grave and bitter it is to lose God, who is much better and much more advantageous for us that all those things. Finally, he sends us small tribulations in order to free us from a great tribulation, and the soul understanding this is seriously converted to God, adheres to him alone and rests in him as in a peaceful and safe harbor.

Indeed thorns or thistles are certain kinds of weeds that are found in fields of wheat and are separated with the chaff. And Scripture says: David brought forth the people who were in Rabbah, and set them to labor with saws, and iron picks and exes so that they were dispersed and defeated. And in the following chapter Onan said to David: See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings, and the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for a cereal offering. In addition, the word, “tribulation” is fittingly derived from “tribula” (threshing sledge) both because tribulation is like a threshing, because while it presses and grinds at the same time it also purges: and because tribulation no less separates the good from the bad, than a threshing sledge separates the wheat from the chaff. During a time of peace and prosperity all seem to be Christians, and they know how to give thanks to God and to praise him; but if there is common and public tribulation, like the spread of a plague, like a time of famine, like a flood, such as we experienced at the beginning of this year, then the good are separated from the bad, then the true and upright servants of God are made known. For then one can see those who shout towards heaven and manifest their impatience with blasphemies and sacrilegious curses. And on the other hand there are those who, following the example of holy Job, say nothing but: The Lord gave and the Lord has taken way; blessed be the name of the Lord. And, shall we receive good at the hand of God and shall we not receive evil? Saint Augustine said in book 1, chapter 8 of The City of God: As the same fire causes god to glow brightly, and chaff to smoke … so it is that in the same affliction the wicked detest God and blaspheme, while the good pray and praise. Thus all the persecutions of the Church seem to have been nothing ut certain threshing sledges by which God willed to cleanse his threshing floor. For as Eusebius of Caesarea and the blessed martyr Cyprian have pointed out, when a long peace is given to the Church, the chaff is always multiplied. For gradually slothfulness, dissolution, inertness creep in; then also more serious vices steal their way in, like fornications, riotous feasting and drunkenness; finally, no crime is excluded – not usury, not simony, not adultery, not parricide, not sacrilege. Then what is the divine punishment? He sends threshing sledges to his threshing floor, he lets loose the reins of the enemies of the Church – on pagans, heretics, and demons in order to separate the wheat from the chaff, and so that those who are upright may be made manifest. Listen to Saint Cyprian speaking about his own times and then apply it to our own time: Because, he said, a long peace had corrupted the discipline that had been divinely delivered to us, the heavenly rebuke has aroused our faith, which was giving way, and I had almost said slumbering; and although we deserved more for our sins, yet the most merciful Lord has so moderated all things, that all which has happened has rather seemed a trial than a persecution Each one was desirous of increasing his estate; and forgetful of what believers had either done before in the times of the apostles, or always ought to do, they, with the insatiable ardor of covetousness, devoted themselves to the increase of their property. Among the priests there was no devotedness of religion; among the ministers there was no sound faith: in their words there was no mercy; in their manners there was no discipline. In men their beards were defaced; in women their complexion was dyed; the eyes were falsified from what Gods hand had made them; their hair was stained with a falsehood. Crafty frauds were used to deceive the hearts of the simple, subtle meanings for circumventing the brethren. Not a few bishops who ought to furnish both exhortation and example to others, despising their divine charge, because agents in secular business, forsook their throne, deserted their people, wandered about over foreign provinces, hunted the markets for gainful merchandise, while brethren were starving in the Church. They sought to possess money in hoards, they seized estates by crafty deceits, they increased their gains by multiplying usuries, and so forth. These things point to the fact, dear listeners, that we understand that during a time of peace much chaff exists on the threshing floor of the Lord. But now listen to what happened during the following persecution and the threshing sledge cleansed the floor. At first, he said as soon as the enemy threatened them, a very large number of the brothers lost their faith, and it was not destroyed by the force of the persecution, but it was lost by a voluntary lapse. They indeed did not wait to be apprehended ere they ascended, or to be interrogated ere they denied. Many were conquered before the battle, prostrated before the attack. Nor did they even leave it to be said for them, that they seemed to sacrifice to idols unwillingly. They ran to the market place of their own accord; freely they hastened to death, as if they had formerly wished it, as if they would embrace an opportunity now given which they had always desired. Have we not often seen these things in our days, and do we not still see them? Certainly before these grave tribulations arose which were caused by the heresies of Luther and Zwingli and the other pseudo-prophets, there was as much chaff in the Church as scarcely could be held and contained by the threshing floor. There was almost no severity in ecclesiastical judgments, no discipline in morals, no erudition regarding the sacred writings, no reverence for divine things, almost no correct religion, and they came very close to excluding Christ from the assemblies and meetings of Christians. The exceptional grace of Holy Orders had almost disappeared: priest were subjected to all kinds of vile derision, they were contemned by the people, they were looked down upon, they suffered under grave and continual infamy; to possess many benefices as the same time to raise dogs and horses at Church expense, to live in concubinage were hardly thought to be sins. But drunkenness was also praised. The heavenly sacraments that divine and daily read, had so fallen into disuse that, if someone wanted to receive communion more than once a years, he was thought to be too holy and a hypocrite. So those divine and august sacraments in an unworthy manner were deprived of their due worship and honor. Therefore our crimes forced the justice of God to make use of very severe remedies in order to correct such great evils, and to apply the usual threshing sledges to the floor. And how much chaff he blew away from the domain of the Church, with the rise of the heresies, we have already seen. For those who easily departed from the Church, and defected to the heretics, those who left Christ and his Vicar, or joined up with Luther or Calvin or the other pseudo-prophets – what else are they but chaff? Certainly there was also chaff before our time, there were fickle men ready to be carried around by every wind of doctrine, but the wind was lacking that would carry them away. Before this there were worshipers of the belly and of sex and they would very willingly have accepted that there is no benefit in fasting, that virginity is not allowed, that confession is not required, that satisfaction is useless and superfluous, but there was no one to preach these things to them. Therefor who is it surprising, when the wind stirred up in the North began to blow over the Lord's threshing floor, if much of the chaff flew away from the floor? And would that now there were an end to that; would that those have remained on the cleansed threshing floor would all belong to the mass of grain, for then I a short space of time, with the removal of the blows and the threshing hammers, we would see that the tribulation has been put to rest. But since we are the same persons that we always were, and we see little or no correction of morals, I am very much afraid lest these grave misfortunes which we have experienced up until now, will be succeeded by even worse ones. But now let us rest a little while.

Part Two

We have explained briefly what tribulation is, now a few things need to be said about the kinds, about the multitude, about the variety of tribulations. And we read in the divine writings that there are two kinds of tribulations for impious and wicked men: one of eternal punishment in hell and the other of temporal punishment in this world: The way of sinners is smoothly paved with stones, but at its end is the pit of hell. With these words the wise man has comprehended briefly both kinds of tribulations. For just as, if a convicted man is led by a rough and burdensome journey and the suffering of death, so also here on earth the life of evil men is something like a road that paved with stones, that is, hard difficult, laborious; and this is the first tribulation. Then after, death in hell there is at its end the pit of hell: and this is the second tribulation. Would you lie to hear the same thing in a different way from the same Sirach? All lawlessness is like a two-edged sword; there is no healing for its wound. There is really a great power in sins, but they are committed with such great ease. All lawlessness, he said is a lethal crime, no matter how small and slight it may seem to us: one fornication, one act of drunkenness, if it is done with full consent of the will, is like a two-edged sword, and with one command it inflicts two wounds on the sinner: one is temporal punishment and tribulation, while the other is eternal punishments and torments. And it is a wound for which there is no healing. For in hell there is no redemption. Behold what a lethal poison they drink who even once commit a lethal crime.

But lest Sirach alone should think to warn us about these two kinds of tribulation, let us listen also to one of the prophets: What do you plot, Nahum said, against the Lord? He will make a full end; he will not take vengeance twice on his foes, that it, there are two kinds of tribulations; but anyone who does not suffer the prior tribulation because of his crimes, he certainly in the future world will not feel the second tribulation. For, he will not take vengeance twice. Abraham said, “Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now hi is comforted here, and you are in anguish.” let us add to this, if you please, another testimony: he will deliver you, he said, from six tribulations; in sever there shall no evil touch you. What are the six tribulations? They are all the hardships and hard labors and calamities of this life. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work. What is the seventh tribulation? The torments of hell, and that horrible punishment, which remains for those who after this life do not arrive at the Sabbath of the blessed. This is called the seventh, because during the same time it will torment the impious when the blessed in heaven are celebrating the Sabbath, and it will last as long as the Sabbath of the blessed lasts.

Therefore from the divine writings we have some temporal tribulations and some eternal ones. And there are so many temporal tribulations that no one, even a perfect mathematician, can count all of them. There are not so many stars in the sky, there are not so many grains of sand of the seashore, there are not so may meadows or forest clothed in spring with flowers or leaves, as the race of the children of Adam which daily is covered with and almost suffocated by so many kinds of calamities and hardships. But if present tribulations can hardly be numbered, what shall we do with future once, which not only surpass the measure of numbers, but also so surpass the measure of time that they contend with eternity itself? This matter is surely full of amazement and astonishment.

Because God willed to subject this vile and abject little worm to so many storms and tempests of hardships, so that if you run through the parts and members of his body, you will see that he is immersed in an ocean of tribulations from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head. If you look at his powers and faculties, you will not find one that does not suffer its own hell here on earth. If you look at those things surrounding him – heaven and earth, the elements, brute animals, angels, demons – you will see that all of them in a certain sense conspire against man, so that he seems to be constituted like the center of an orbit or like a target at which arrows are directed from all parts of all created things. Consider the sense of touch – how many kinds of fevers, abscesses, ulcers, and wounds afflict it? But if there are many different illnesses, there are also many remedies. I admit that it is so. Nevertheless, what is the nature of those remedies? Can even one be found that does not punish sick people more that the illness itself. Fasting, medicines, bitter drinks, cutting of veins, burning injured members, pulling teeth are remedies for various illnesses: so that now I am not surprised, if C. Marius, as Plutarch says in his book, after he suffered with great constancy the cutting out of varicose veins in one leg, did not want the other leg to be cured, and so he said: The remedy is not worth so much pain. And we suffer many things not only when we are sick, but when we are in good health. For if it is summertime, intense heat causes us to be languid; if it is wintertime, severe cold, snow, frost and ice torment us. Then, now hunger, now thirst, now foods that are bad, bitter, acidic, spoiled torment the sense of taste. How many foul smells, how many bad breaths at time does the sense of smell have to endure? How many injuries, how many bad words, how much bad news does the sense of hearing have to hear, which penetrate the depth of the heart like sharp darts? How many things does the sense of seeing perceive each day, which it does not want to see? How many does it want to see that it cannot? Also, how many beautiful and pleasant things does it see that it cannot have? And the more attention it gives to them, the more the heart is wounded inflamed and tormented with desire.

How often the internal senses deluded with vain images, appearances, dreams, phantasms? How often, for no reason, when we are alone in darkness or in a cemetery or a forest, the human mind imagines for itself such terrible monsters and ghosts that they hake the hair stand on end, the body breaks out in a cold sweat, and often we are scared to death. Then the intelligence, the most excellent part of the mind, with great effort and after a long time can scarcely understand the natures of even the most simple things; how often is it deceived and so it embraces error rather than truth? Learned men experience truth of what Solomon wrote truly; it is an unhappy business, that is one full of work and pain, that god has given to the sons of men to be busy with; also he has put eternity into man's mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. But even a greater misery has taken over the practical intelligences, since it produces a thousand frightful thoughts, or it begins to imagine things, and it thinks up a thousands schemes, a thousand reasons, a thousand ways by which it can climb up to a higher level and grow greater in the opinion and estimation of men. Is not the memory the guardian and treasure of so many things that escape us? How often do orators go blank in the middle of their speech? Who has sometimes not experienced that what he especially wants to remember, and which at other times he has at hand, he can in no way remember? Now consider the will. While, I ask, has ever counted the number of various desires, loves, hatreds, suspicions, jealousies, vain hopes, envies, fears and harassments of the human will? He does not dare to attempt anything without some fear. If he acts badly, he fears the judges, exile beatings, ignominy and torments; if he acts well, he fears the tongues of critics and enemies. What will he say, what will he think? Ultimately, he fears death, he sees that he will have to leave everything he holds dear; he may wish at least to leave rich children and he leaves them burdened with debts. Therefore the miserable child of Adam on all sides is immersed in a sea of tribulations and he does not see how he can ever escape from it.

But it would be a small thing if the labor and difficulty of every man came from internal infirmity and from the weakness of his senses and body members, and had nothing to fear from the things that are outside of man. But as we said in the beginning, heaven, earth, water, fire, wind, animals, demons, angels, the worlds and really everything, after the sin of Adam, seem to have conspired and taken up arms against our race. That very bright light, which we call the Sun, does it not at times with its rays act so fiercely that it cooks and burns everything? And sometimes it recedes so far away from us that it causes everything to be pressed together and to die? Regarding the earth, however, which is said to be our common mother, how many persons does it gulp down every day with its precipices, its pits, its earthquakes, its sudden openings? But what shall we say about the sea and its children, the rivers and lakes? What great fear do they suffer from who sail on the sea? How difficult is it for them to avoid shipwreck? How often do they see death taking place before their eyes? Then how many pirates are there? How many rocky crags? How many hidden rocks? How many shallows? How many Scyllas? How many Charybdis's? How many dangerous and unfavorable places are found in the sea? I will omit mentioning how great the miseries are to see oneself as it were confined to a wooden prison, to depend on the direction of the wind and the waves, and always to be thrown this way and that way rather than to stay on course. Then what great destruction do rivers often inflict on cities: about nineteen years ago almost all of Italy suffered from such floods. And at the beginning of this year you know even better what damage was caused to this city by a small river. Then what about fire and air, elements that are so necessary, what evil do they not produce, when at the command of Almighty God they are angry with men?  How horrendous it is, when a house or a city is destroyed by fire – to breath that foul air, to see those leaping balls of fire, to hear the sound and crash of burning, falling buildings. And what about the air, which often for a slight reason changes and produces clouds, fog, plagues and diseases? And where do violent storms, hail, tempest, lighting, and thunder come from if not from the air? But the brute animals do not show respect for man, who is their master; not only bears, tigers, lions and snakes, but also flies, gnats, fleas and other small animals so harass man that they give him no rest. But would that only the brute animals waged war with us and that we had nothing to fear from other men. For aside from the fact that neither the land, nor the sea, nor deserted places, nor public streets, nor private homes are safe from thieves and robbers, man has no greater or more powerful nor more cruel enemy than another man. Are not men killed because of a slight injury of words, because of a little piece of land, because of points of honor? What? Do not only enemies, but also friends and defenders of peace and justice attack some men? And it cannot be otherwise. For what is the meaning of so many prisons, so many yokes for criminals, so many racks, and so many other instruments of torture? And how many men are tormented with solicitudes and cares because of a wife, or children, or brothers or other relatives and friends? If you hate them, the hatred torments you; if you love them, the love consumes you. He who has no children, is troubled with the desire of having them; the one who has them is troubled by the fear of losing them. And we not only have physical enemies whom we can see and avoid, but what is much worse, we also have incorporeal enemies, by whom we are seen and who we cannot see. For the demons, who are very clever, cruel and powerful, seem to have no other purpose that to tempt, deceive, harass, trouble and destroy the miserable children of Adam. Also the holy angels sometimes at God's command take up arms against men: angels destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah; angels afflicted Egypt with so many disasters; angels killed so many thousands in the camps of Sennacherib; angels were with Joshua against the Chanaanites and Jebusites; angels fought with the Maccabees against Lysias and his army; finally, at the time of Theodosius the Younger about a hundred thousand Saracens were cast into the Euphrates River.

Now finally let us come to the conclusion, and although human tribulations cannot be comprehended by any number, still there are three sources or as it were fountains of tribulations – plague, famine and war. A plague is a tribulation of such power that, in a short space of time, it can decimate large cities. The one man cannot help another, then riches, honors, parents and relatives can do nothing; then many die lie dogs and horses without the sacraments, without any consolation or spiritual help. They famine is a great scourge of God when you see yourself without food, you do not know where to turn, you thing you will die without a disease, and you cannot find any remedy. Hence so many turn to theft, to homicide, to sacrilege. Hence many women are forced to sell their virtue and to prostitute themselves. Hence what is most serious and bitter, against all the laws of nature, sometimes women are forced to eat their own children. Finally, what evil is not committed in war? The laying waste of fields, destroying the populations and wealth of cities, rapes, murders, fires, – are these not the fruits of wars? How many in this afflicted and calamitous region one year ago were rich, and now are paupers? How many had sons and brothers, who no do not have them? What? It is because war usually leaves in its wake a plague and lack of the necessaries of life? All these evils and hardships, dear listeners, God partly sends, partly permits, both so that we may learn whence all good things come to us, and so that we do not abuse to our own destruction the good things that God has created for our use. For often when we are prosperous and abound in all good things, we tend to attribute all of it either to nature or to good fortune or to our own efforts. Therefore, what does God do? I, he says, gave these things to you, but you do not acknowledge me as their author? Behold, now I will take them away from you, so that you may learn from your distress, who is the author and giver of all good things. Likewise, when we abound in riches and honors and other good things, we do not know how to use them properly, but we abuse them in riotous living, drunkenness and fornications. Therefore, what does God do? I, he says gave you these riches, so that you might make progress with them to go to heaven: that you might makes friends for yourself by means of unrighteous Mammon, so that you might prepare for yourself a garment of glory and a place in heaven; but you, on the contrary, are preparing the way to hell, and like a stupid merchant you are buying nothing but the rope with which you will be hanged. Now, therefore, I will take away your riches, I will take away your dignities, and since you cannot enter into heaven as rich and honored, at least you will be able to enter poor and unknown. And we, dear listeners, are really not worthy of anything else, but wounds and beatings; nevertheless, if we seriously convert ourselves to repentance, to sobriety, to humility, there is certainly hope that our God, who is holy and merciful, who abounds in steadfast love, finally will change our malediction into a blessing. For you are not ignorant about what the patriarch Jacob did once, when he greatly feared lest he received from his father a malediction in place of a blessing, namely, following the counsel of his mother he changed his clothes, and after having put on the clothes of his older brother he approached his father Isaac, and finally this way he received the blessing instead of a malediction. So also, dear listeners, although we deserve scourges and tribulations, still if we change our clothing, if we put on the clothing of our older brother, that is of Christ our Savior, which includes innocence, chastity, sobriety, and the other virtues, there is no doubt but that we will receive a blessing instead of a malediction, and all the blows and scourges of tribulations will cease, which may he grant to us who is blessed forever. Amen.(As found in Sermons of St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J.,  Sermon 68, On Tribulation, translated from the Latin by Father Kenneth Baker, S.J., and published in 2017 by Keep the Faith, Inc., Ramsey, New Jersey, p. 101-111.)