Catholic belief, prayers and spiritual teaching
ABANDONMENT TO DIVINE PROVIDENCE (cont)
by Fr Jean-Pierre de Caussade, SJ
Book I. On the virtue of abandonment to Divine
Providence. Its nature and excellence.
Ch 1. Sanctity consists in fidelity to the order of God and in submission to all His operations. (cont)
The soul that does not attach itself solely to the will of God will find neither satisfaction nor sanctification in any other means however excellent by which it may attempt to gain them.
If that which God Himself chooses for you does not content you, from whom do you expect to obtain what you desire? If you are disgusted with the meat prepared for you by the divine will itself, what food would not be insipid to so depraved a taste? No soul can be really nourished, fortified, purified, enriched, and sanctified except in fulfilling the duties of the present moment. What more would you have? As in this you can find all good, why seek it elsewhere? Do you know better than God? As he ordains it thus why do you desire it differently? Can His wisdom and goodness be deceived? When you find something to be in accordance with this divine wisdom and goodness ought you not to conclude that it must needs be excellent? Do you imagine you will find peace in resisting the Almighty? Is it not, on the contrary, this resistance which we too often continue without owning it even to ourselves which is the cause of all our troubles?
It is only just, therefore, that the soul that is dissatisfied with the divine action for each present moment should be punished by being unable to find happiness in anything else. If books, the example of the saints, and spiritual conversations deprive the soul of peace; if they fill the mind without satisfying it; it is a sign that one has strayed from the path of pure abandonment to the divine action, and that one is only seeking to please oneself. To be employed in this way is to prevent God from finding an entrance. All this must be got rid of because of being an obstacle to grace.
But if the divine will ordains the use of these things the soul
may receive them like the rest-that is to say-as the means
ordained by God which it accepts simply to use, and leaves
afterwards when their moment has passed for the duties of the
moment that follows. There is, in fact, nothing really good that
does not emanate from the ordinance of God, and nothing, however
good in itself, can be better adapted for the sanctification of
the soul and the attainment of peace.
The perfection of souls, and the degree of excellence to which
they have attained can be gauged by their fidelity to the order
established by God.
But in order not to stray either to the right or to the left the soul should only attend to those inspirations which it believes it has received from God, by the fact that these inspirations do not withdraw it from the duties of its state. Those duties are the most clear manifestation of the will of God, and nothing should take their place; in them there is nothing to fear, nothing to exclude, nor anything to be chosen.
The time occupied in the
fulfilment of these duties is very precious and very salutary for
the soul by the indubitable fact that it is spent in accomplishing
this holy will. The entire virtue of all that is called holy is in
its approximation to this order established by God; therefore
nothing should be rejected, nothing sought after, but everything
accepted that is ordained and nothing attempted contrary to the
will of God.
Besides the duties imposed on everyone by their state of
life God may require certain actions which are not included in
these duties, although they may not be in any way opposed to them.
An attraction and inspiration are then the signs of the divine
approval. Souls conducted by God in this way will find a greater
perfection in adding the things inspired to those that are
commanded, taking the necessary precautions required in such
cases, that the duties of their state may not clash with those
things arranged by Providence.
We must not imagine that those whose virtue is shown in wonderful and singular ways, and by unquestionable attractions and inspirations, advance less on that account in the way of abandonment. From the moment that these acts become duties by the will of God, then to be content only to fulfil the duties of a state of life, or the ordinary inspirations of Providence would be to resist God, whose holy will would no longer retain the mastery of the passing moments, and to cease practising the virtue of abandonment.
Our duties must be so arranged as to be commensurate with the designs of God, and to follow the path designated by our attraction. To carry out our inspirations will then become a duty to which we must be faithful. As there are souls whose whole duty is defined by exterior laws, and who should not go beyond them because restricted by the will of God; so also there are others who, besides exterior duties, are obliged to carry out faithfully that interior rule imprinted on their hearts. It would be a foolish and frivolous curiosity to try to discover which is the most holy. Each has to follow the appointed path.
Perfection consists in submitting unreservedly to the designs of God, and in fulfilling the duties of one's state in the most perfect manner possible. To compare the different states as they are in themselves can do nothing to improve us, since it is neither in the amount of work, nor in the sort of duties given to us that perfection is to be found. If self-love is the motive power of our acts, or if it be not immediately crushed when discovered, our supposed abundance will be in truth absolute poverty because it is not supplied by obedience to the will of God.
However, to decide the question in some way, I think that holiness can be measured by the love one has for God, and the desire to please Him, and that the more His will is the guiding principle, and His plans conformed to and loved, the greater will be the holiness, no matter what may be the means made use of. It is this that we notice in Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In their separate lives there is more of love than of greatness, and more of the spirit than of the matter.
It is not written that they sought holiness in things themselves,
but only in the motive with which they used them. It must
therefore be concluded that one way is not more perfect than
another, but that the most perfect is that which is most closely
in conformity with the order established by God, whether by the
accomplishment of exterior duties, or by interior dispositions.