Today, December 3rd, is the Feast day of St. Galgano. St. Galgano was a Knight in Tuscany who lived a very worldly and sinful life, through a series of visions from St Michael the Archangel he reformed his life, and despaired of his salvation he said “Ah, but I could more easily plunge my sword into this stone, than obtain forgiveness for my many sins” at that he thrust his sword into the rock up and it entered like a knife through butter. (Hear more on the free Audiobook here, or purchase the text here).
The sword in the stone is still preserved today in a chapel that was built around it, the sword has been scientifically analyzed and authenticated to match the narrative of the story, read more here.
Unsurprisingly, the world embraced the Story of the Sword in the Stone, but not as a sign of mercy and a call to penance, but rather as a sign to establish Camelot, an earthly paradise here on earth, a sign of waiting for a leader to arrive to establish justice, rather than a God already come to show us to embrace the cross.
“Assure yourself you can not have two paradises; it is impossible to enjoy delights in this world, and after that to reign with Christ.” The Imitation of Christ, Of Judgment, and the Punishment of Sinners
Where are we in this whole mix? During this advent I believe there are several questions we should interrogate ourselves with, before standing before God in judgement when we die, so that we are not surprised, when Jesus Christ who was crucified for our sins asks them to us in justice.
- Have we ever done penance for our sins? Is this part of our regular life? God assures us that unless we do penance we shall perish. Luke 13:3
- Has our penance been worthy? It is impossible to ever repay Christ fully for laying down His life for our sins, or even to repay the divine forbearance for not casting us into hell to do eternal penance after our first mortal sin. But, when God numbers our penances will he only find trivial sacrifices? Will he find numbered among our works of penance, tears, fasting, prayer, bodily mortifications, humiliations, flight from worldly pleasures? Or will he find giving up chocolate now and then and meat on Fridays during lent? People forget that even the little way of St. Therese if you have read of both her childhood and her life as a Carmelite in detail her life was highly mortified, and she added little sacrifices on top of that.
Today some live and teach that to do real penance is to somehow foster a doubt that God has forgiven us, or that great penance is not necessary. This attitude is far from the truth Blessed Columba Marmion said that penance is the “greatest possible assurance of perseverance in the way of perfection – because it is, when one really looks at it, one of the purest forms of love.” Christ the Life of the Soul.
God performed a miracle to show how easy it is to forgive our sins, and St. Galgano embraced a life of penance. This is the first time translation of his life into English and was translated by Ryan Grant of Mediatrix Press, in a joint project between us. Compare the penance that St. Galgano did with your own and then ask yourself this last question.
What am I going to do about the small amount of penance I have done up until this point? How can do more, (especially hidden) penance?
“Then a strict life and severe repentance will be more pleasing than all earthly delights. Accustom yourself now to suffer a little, that you may then be delivered from more grievous pains. Prove first here what you can endure hereafter. If now you can endure so little, how will you then be able to support eternal torments? If now a little suffering make you so impatient, what will hell fire do hereafter? The Imitation of Christ, Of Judgment, and the Punishment of Sinners
In my own heart of hearts I stand convicted by these questions, but I am never the less hopeful. God helped St. Galgano become a great Saint in only one year. It is a new Church year, my God grant us the grace dear reader to also become great saints quickly.
The Sword in the stone is real, it is still there, and it endures as a reminder of God mercy, and mans call to do penance. The Cross is real, it is still there and without it we will not be saved. Will we embrace it?
St. Galgano, Pray for us.
NB There is a lot more to his story, and to find out more please listen to the Audiobook available here, or purchase the book available here, to find out more about his incredible life.