Within the general framework of total detachment which Our Lord asks of us I would like to point out to you another particularly important aspect: our health. Most of you here are young. You are passing through that splendid period of being full of life, brimming over with energy. But time passes and inexorably we begin to notice a physical decline; then come the limitations of maturity and finally the infirmities of old age. Moreover, any one of us, at any moment, can fall ill or suffer some bodily disorder.

Only if we have a truly Christian appreciation of our periods of physical well-being, of 'our good times', will we be able to accept with supernatural cheerfulness such happenings as people mistakenly call bad. Without going into too many details I would like to pass on to you my own personal experience in this area. When we are sick we can get very tiresome: 'they aren't looking after me properly, nobody cares about me, I'm not getting the attention I deserve, nobody understands me…' The devil, who is always on the lookout, can attack from any angle. When people are ill his tactics consist in stirring up a kind of psychosis in them so as to draw them away from God and fill the atmosphere with bitterness, or destroy that treasure of merits earned (on behalf of souls everywhere) by pain, that is when it is borne with supernatural optimism, when it is loved! Therefore, if God wills that we be struck down by some affliction, take it as a sign that he considers us mature enough to be associated even more closely with his redeeming Cross.

What we need therefore is a long-term preparation, by practising daily a holy detachment from self, so that we are prepared to bear sickness or misfortune gracefully if Our Lord permits them. Begin now to make use of everyday opportunities: something you may have to do without, small recurring pains, voluntary mortifications, and also put into practice the Christian virtues.

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