Blessed Sebastian Valfre
Blessed Sebastian Valfre is a wonderful saint for all people to turn to. Two aspects of his life, in particular, recommend themselves to us. First, he was one who knew the cross of interior suffering and teaches us how to bear it. Second, despite these sufferings, he persevered with courage and patience, becoming a saint by the pursuit of his daily duties, viewing all his activities in light of being a servant of God.
B Sebastian began his lesson in courage and perseverance from a young age. He grew up in a poor farming family when he began to experience a call to the priesthood. His parents were reluctant to let him go, but eventually, they permitted him to go. Through his studies, he had to support himself, often staying up late into the night copying books as a source of income.
In 1651 he joined the Turin Oratory which had been in decline with one rather eccentric living member left. He was nevertheless ordained the following year, and by his efforts, helped to revive and restore the work of the Turin Oratory. He mainly concerned himself with hearing confessions, teaching catechism, and helping the poor, sick, and prisoners.
At first, B Sebastian was reluctant to hear Confessions due to the need to give spiritual advice to penitents. He was greatly aware of his shortcomings. Who was he to come before others to teach and administer the sacraments, but yet be one filled with so much interior poverty?
While on the outside, others saw nothing but peace in the eyes of B Sebastian, and he was so well known for his joy, interiorly he struggled with repugnance and anguish. He greatly feared the judgement of God and experienced much spiritual dryness. He struggled to say a single Hail Mary without needing to fight against distractions, and he often experienced great anxiety over his salvation. So how did he become a saint with these struggles?
B Sebastian saw that these fears were his cross, and that to carry this cross was his path to holiness. He realised that suffering is not an obstacle to serving God, but rather a pathway to holiness that can only be obtained by perseverance. For in great suffering, we have none to turn to but God alone. Sebastian taught that when we come to the end of our lives we will not regret that we have suffered, but regret that we suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly. For suffering well, is the beginning of overcoming ourself.
All through these trials, B Sebastian continued to serve God, seeking to crush his fears under his feet. He persevered in the pursuit of his duties, so many of which he found so difficult and painful. Yet through this means God was to grant him many graces bearing much spiritual fruit.