"Obedience is a short cut to perfection."

St Philip Neri

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"Spiritual persons ought to be equally ready to experience sweetness and consolation in the things of God, or to suffer and keep their ground in drynesses of spirit and devotion, and for as long as God pleases, without their making any complaint about it."

St Philip Neri

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"The one thing necessary which Jesus spoke of to Martha and Mary consists in hearing the word of God and living by it."

R. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP

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St. Francis de Sales  (1567-1622)
 Bishop, Founder of the Visitation and Doctor of the Church


By St Francis de Sales

Book IV. Of The Decay And Ruin Of Charity.

Ch 7. That We Must Avoid All Curiosity, And Humbly Acquiesce In God's Most Wise Providence.

The human spirit is so weak that when it would look too curiously into the causes and reasons of God's will it embarrasses and entangles itself in the meshes of a thousand difficulties, out of which it has much to do to deliver itself; it resembles smoke, for as smoke ascends it gets more subtle, and as it grows more subtle it vanishes. In striving to raise our seasonings too high in divine things by curiosity we grow vain or empty in our thoughts, and instead of arriving at the knowledge of truth, we fall into the folly of our vanity.

But above all we are unreasonable towards Divine providence in regard to the diversity of the means which he bestows upon us to draw us to his holy love, and by his holy love to glory. For our temerity urges us ever to inquire why God gives more means to one than to another; why he did not amongst the Tyrians and Sidonians the miracles which he did in Corozain and Bethsaida, seeing they would have made as good use of them; and, in fine, why he draws one rather than another to his love.

O Theotimus ! my friend, never, no never, must we permit our minds to be carried away by this mad whirlwind, nor expect to find a better reason of God's will than his will itself, which is sovereignty reasonable, yea, the reason of all reasons, the rule of all goodness, the law of all equity. And although the Holy Ghost, speaking in the Holy Scripture, gives reason in divers places of almost all we can wish to know of what this divine providence does in conducting men to holy love and eternal salvation, yet on various occasions he shows that we must in no wise depart from the respect which is due to his will, whose purpose, decree, good-pleasure, and sentence we are to adore; and he being sovereign judge and sovereignty equitable, it is not reasonable that at the end he manifest his motives, but it is sufficient that he say simply -- for reasons.

And if charity obliges us to bear so much respect to the decrees of sovereign courts, composed of corruptible judges, of the earth and earthly, as to believe that they were not made without motives, though we know these not - ah! Lord God, with what a loving reverence ought we to adore the equity of thy supreme providence which is infinite in justice and goodness!

So in a thousand places of the holy Word we find the reason why God has reprobated the Jews. Because, say S. Paul and S. Barnabas, you reject the word of God, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold we turn to the Gentiles.(1) And he that shall consider in tranquillity of heart Chapters IX. X. and XI. of the Epistle to the Romans, shall clearly see that God's will did not without reason reject the Jews; nevertheless, this reason must not be sought out by man's spirit, which, on the contrary, is obliged to be satisfied with purely and simply reverencing the divine decree, admiring it with love as infinitely just and upright, and loving it with admiration as impenetrable and incomprehensible.

So that the divine Apostle thus concludes the long discourse which he had made concerning it: 0 the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor?(2) By which exclamation he testifies that God does all things with great wisdom, knowledge and reason; yet so, that, as man has not entered into the divine counsels, whose judgments and designs are placed infinitely above our reach, we ought devoutly to adore his decrees as most just, without searching out their motives. These he keeps in secret to himself, in order to keep our understanding in respect and humility to ourself.

S. Augustine in a hundred places teaches us this practice. "No one cometh to Our Saviour," says he, "if not drawn; - whom he draws, and whom he draws not, why he draws this one and not that, - do not wish to judge if you do not wish to err. Listen once for all and understand. Art thou not drawn, pray that thou mayst be drawn." "Verily it is sufficient for a Christian living as yet by faith, and not seeing that which is perfect, but only knowing in part, to know and believe that God delivers none from damnation, but by his free mercy, through our Lord Jesus Christ; and that he condemns none but by his most just truth, through the same Lord Jesus Christ. But to know why he delivers this one rather than the other - let that man sound so great a depth of God's judgments who is able, but let him beware of the precipice." "These judgments are not therefore unjust because they are hidden:" "But why then does he deliver this man rather than that? We say again, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?(3) His judgments are incomprehensible, and his ways unknown, and let us add this: Seek not the things that are too high for thee, and search not into things above thy ability:"(4) "Now he granteth not them mercy, to whom, by a truth most secret and furthest removed from men's thoughts, he judges it not fit to communicate his favours and mercy."

We see sometimes twins, of whom one is born alive and receives Baptism, the other in his birth loses his temporal life, before being regenerated to the eternal, and consequently the one is heir of heaven, the other is deprived of the inheritance. Now why does divine providence give such different fates to one equal birth? Truly it might be answered that ordinarily God's providence does not violate the laws of nature, so that one of these twins being strong, and the other too feeble to support the labour of his delivery, the latter died before he could be baptized, the other lived; divine providence not willing to stop the course of natural causes, which on this occasion were the reason why the one was deprived of Baptism.

And truly this is a perfectly solid answer. But, following the advice of the divine S. Paul, and of S. Augustine, we ought not to busy our thoughts in this consideration, which, though it be good, yet in no respect enters into comparison with many others which God has reserved to himself, and will show us in heaven. "Then," says S. Augustine, "the secret shall end why rather the one than the other was received, the causes being equal as to both, and why miracles were not done amongst those who in case they had been done would have been brought to repentance, and were done amongst such as would will not to believe them."

And in another place the same saint, speaking of sinners, some of whom God leaves in their iniquity while others he raises, says: "Now why he retains the one and not the other, it is not possible to comprehend, nor lawful to inquire, since it is enough to know that it is by him we stand and that it is not by him we fall." And again: "This is hidden and far removed from man's understanding, at least from mine."

Behold, Theotimus, the most holy way of philosophising on this subject. Wherefore I have always considered that the learned modesty and most wise humility of the seraphic Doctor S. Bonaventure were greatly to be admired and loved, in the discourse which he makes of the reason why divine providence ordains the elect to eternal life. "Perhaps," says he, "it is by a foresight of the good works which will be done by him that is drawn, insomuch as they proceed in some sort from the will but distinctly to declare which good works being foreseen move God's will, I am not able, nor will I make inquiry thereupon and there is no other reason than some sort of congruity, so that we might assign one while it might be another. Wherefore we cannot with assurance point out the true reason nor the true motive of God's will in this: for as S. Augustine says: 'Although the truth of it is most certain, yet is it far removed from our thoughts.' So that we can say nothing assuredly of it unless by the revelation of him who knows all things. And whereas it was not expedient for our salvation that we should have knowledge of these secrets, but on the contrary, it was more profitable that we should be ignorant of them, to keep us in humility, God would not reveal them, yea the holy Apostle did not dare to inquire about them, but testified the insufficiency of our understanding in this matter when he cried out: O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!"

Could one speak more holily Theotimus of so holy a mystery? Indeed these are the words of a most saintly and prudent Doctor of the Church.

1. Acts xiii. 46.
2. Rom. xi. 33, 34.
3. Rom. ix. 20.
4. Eccli. iii. 22.