"The greatest glory we can give to God is to do his will in everything."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"Let persons in the world sanctify themselves in their own houses, for neither the court, professions, or labour, are any hindrance to the service of God."

St Philip Neri

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"The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you."

Thomas á Kempis

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 St Augustine   (354-430A.D.)   Father and Doctor of the Church
Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II


By St Augustine


Ch 24. The Solution to Present Spiritual Enigmas to Be Awaited in the Life of the World To Come

94. And thus it will be that while the reprobated angels and men go on in their eternal punishment, the saints will go on learning more fully the blessings which grace has bestowed upon them. Then, through the actual realities of their experience, they will see more clearly the meaning of what is written in The Psalms: "I will sing to thee of mercy and judgment, O Lord"(199) --since no one is set free save by unmerited mercy and no one is damned save by a merited condemnation.

95. Then what is now hidden will not be hidden: when one of two infants is taken up by God's mercy and the other abandoned through God's judgment--and when the chosen one knows what would have been his just deserts in judgment--why was the one chosen rather than the other, when the condition of the two was the same? Or again, why were miracles not wrought in the presence of certain people who would have repented in the face of miraculous works, while miracles were wrought in the presence of those who were not about to believe. For our Lord saith most plainly: "Woe to you, Chorazin; woe to you, Bethsaida. For if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles done in your midst, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes."(200) Now, obviously, God did not act unjustly in not willing their salvation, even though they could have been saved, if he willed it so.(201)

Then, in the clearest light of wisdom, will be seen what now the pious hold by faith, not yet grasping it in clear understanding--how certain, immutable, and effectual is the will of God, how there are things he can do but doth not will to do, yet willeth nothing he cannot do, and how true is what is sung in the psalm: "But our God is above in heaven; in heaven and on earth he hath done all things whatsoever that he would."(202) This obviously is not true, if there is anything that he willed to do and did not do, or, what were worse, if he did not do something because man's will prevented him, the Omnipotent, from doing what he willed. Nothing, therefore, happens unless the Omnipotent wills it to happen. He either allows it to happen or he actually causes it to happen.

96. Nor should we doubt that God doth well, even when he alloweth whatever happens ill to happen. For he alloweth it only through a just judgment--and surely all that is just is good. Therefore, although evil, in so far as it is evil, is not good, still it is a good thing that not only good things exist but evil as well. For if it were not good that evil things exist, they would certainly not be allowed to exist by the Omnipotent Good, for whom it is undoubtedly as easy not to allow to exist what he does not will, as it is for him to do what he does will.

Unless we believe this, the very beginning of our Confession of Faith is imperiled--the sentence in which we profess to believe in God the Father Almighty. For he is called Almighty for no other reason than that he can do whatsoever he willeth and because the efficacy of his omnipotent will is not impeded by the will of any creature.

97. Accordingly, we must now inquire about the meaning of what was said most truly by the apostle concerning God, "Who willeth that all men should be saved."(203) For since not all--not even a majority--are saved, it would indeed appear that the fact that what God willeth to happen does not happen is due to an embargo on God's will by the human will.

Now, when we ask for the reason why not all are saved, the customary answer is: "Because they themselves have not willed it." But this cannot be said of infants, who have not yet come to the power of willing or not willing. For, if we could attribute to their wills the infant squirmings they make at baptism, when they resist as hard as they can, we would then have to say that they were saved against their will. But the Lord's language is clearer when, in the Gospel, he reproveth the unrighteous city: "How often," he saith, "would I have gathered your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks, and you would not."(204)

This sounds as if God's will had been overcome by human wills and as if the weakest, by not willing, impeded the Most Powerful so that he could not do what he willed. And where is that omnipotence by which "whatsoever he willed in heaven and on earth, he has done," if he willed to gather the children of Jerusalem together, and did not do so? Or, is it not rather the case that, although Jerusalem did not will that her children be gathered together by him, yet, despite her unwillingness, God did indeed gather together those children of hers whom he would? It is not that "in heaven and on earth" he hath willed and done some things, and willed other things and not done them. Instead, "all things whatsoever he willed, he hath done."


199.  Ps. 100:1 (Vulgate); cf. Ps. 101:1 (R.S.V.).
200. Matt. 11:21.
201. This is one of the rare instances in which a textual variant in Augustine's text affects a basic issue in the interpretation of his doctrine. All but one of the major old editions, up to and including Migne, here read: Nec utique deus injuste noluit salvos fiere eum possent salvi esse SI VELLENT (if they willed it). This would mean the attribution of a decisive role in human salvation to the human will and would thus stand out in bold relief from his general stress in the rest of the Enchiridion and elsewhere on the primacy and even irresistibility of grace. The Jansenist edition of Augustine, by Arnauld in 1648, read SI VELLET (if He willed it) and the reading became the subject of acrimonious controversy between the Jansenists and the Molinists. The Maurist edition reads si vellet, on the strength of much additional MS. evidence that had not been available up to that time. In modern times, the si vellet reading has come to have the overwhelming support of the critical editors, although Rivire still reads si vellent. Cf. Scheel, 76-77 (See Bibl.); Rivire, 402-403; J.=G. Krabinger, S. Aurelii Augustini Enchiridion (TŸbingen, 1861 ), p. 116; Faure-Passaglia, S. Aurelii Augustini Enchiridion (Naples, 1847), p. 178; and H. Hurter, Sanctorum Patrum opuscula selecta (Innsbruck, 1895), p. 123.
202. Cf. Ps. 113:11 (a mixed text; composed inexactly from Ps. 115:3 and Ps. 135:6; an interesting instance of Augustine's sense of liberty with the texts of Scripture. Here he is doubtless quoting from memory).
203. I Tim. 2:4.
204. Matt. 23:37.