Taken from: HOLY ABANDONMENT
Rt. Rev. Dom Vitalis Lehodey, O.C.R.
Original Pub. 1934, Dublin
ON THE OBJECT OF HOLY ABANDONMENT
ON ABANDONMENT IN THE SPIRITUAL VARIETIES OF THE COMMON WAY:
FAILURES AND FAULTS
ARTICLE I.------FAILURES IN THE WORKS OF ZEAL
LET us treat first "of certain moral or spiritual goods, such as the exercise of works of zeal, the direction of enterprises of charity," all our exterior activities designed for the glory of God. Perhaps Providence does not demand any such service from us. In that case, remarks Dosda, "the true love of God obliges or counsels us to sacrifice the secondary goods to the supreme good, which is the Divine will. With regard to this point, certain people, excellent in other respects, sometimes fall into a dangerous mistake by confounding the love of God with the love of good. The two things are quite distinct. Circumstances may arise where we should be bound to abandon the good which God does not demand of us, in order to attach ourselves to Him alone and to surrender ourselves absolutely to His Divine Providence."
When Providence applies us to external works of zeal, we must seek only God, and by supernatural intentions. " The pursuit of the good," continues the same author, "is not true charity when we pursue it with a bad intention, or even when we pursue it for its own sake. Divine charity does undoubtedly will the good, but only for God's sake. What discouragements, what jealousies, what pettinesses do we not witness amongst those who are more attached to the good than to the will of God! Their efforts in well-doing often miscarry, and they are disappointed and depressed. They observe others participating in their enterprises and they grow jealous. In order to succeed in their undertakings, they do not scruple to discredit or to oppose their collaborators in the same grand work, the work of Redemption. They just love themselves, and prefer the human good to the Divine. They pretend to be going towards Jesus Christ, but they make an easy and often an unsuspected detour which brings them back to themselves. They do not know how wide a difference there is between the man devoted to good and the man of God. How many workers, brilliant in outward show, remain barren in results, because the love of self, rather than the love of God, has had the chief influence in forming and inspiring them?" 1
Not alone must we be careful to preserve purity of intention in all our enterprises, but we must also firmly attach ourselves to our duty, that is to say, to the sole will of God, and we must make ourselves virtuously indifferent to failure or success. On the one hand, we are reasonably sure that God wills this work for us at the moment; but, on the other hand, we never know what His future intentions may be. "Very often, in order to exercise us in holy indifference (even as to what regards His service) He inspires us with noble undertakings, the success of which, however, He does not will." 2 Thus Providence appears to be playing with us. But the play is for us very profitable, indeed, since we always win even whilst losing. For we derive from it, God so arranging, the merit of our pious intentions, the merit of our conscientious labour, and the merit of a trial patiently endured. On the other hand, perhaps success would have occasioned the loss of our humility, our detachment, and of other virtues besides. "Nevertheless, we must not allow such considerations to paralyse our efforts or to diminish our zeal. We must neglect nothing that is required for the success of the enterprise which God has placed in our hands; but at the same time we are to be so disposed that should it issue in failure, we shall support the disappointment with meekness and calm. For, on the one hand, we are commanded to exercise great care in everything which concerns the glory of God and of which we have charge; whilst, on the other, we have no obligation or charge with respect to the sequence of events, since it lies altogether beyond our control. Therefore, just as we are obliged to carryon the work with confidence, courage and constancy, as far as it is possible for us; so should we accept meekly and tranquilly whatever result it may please God to appoint for our labour." 3 Our holy father, St. Bernard, preached the second crusade only at the express command, of the Sovereign Pontiff. He confirmed his words by miracles beyond number. Several prodigies, following the disaster, attested the fact that he had truly accomplished the Divine will. And yet the expedition proved most unfortunate, and aroused a storm of accusations and abuse against the holy preacher. He felt his position very keenly. The Blessed John of Casamari wrote as follows to console him: "If the crusaders had conducted themselves like true Christians, the Lord would have been with them. Even when they abandoned themselves to vice, He answered their malice with His clemency. He visited them with tribulations only in order to purify their souls and bring them to Paradise. Numbers of them died avowing that they were glad to leave this world, because they feared they would relapse into vice if they returned to their native countries. As for you, blessed father, the Lord gave you the gifts of eloquence and of miracles for this enterprise because He knew what fruit He would derive therefrom." If, therefore, the enterprise was a failure in the estimation of men, according to the designs of Providence it had succeeded. It did not deliver the Church of the Orient, but it sent many new Saints to the Church Triumphant in Heaven. St. Bernard, despite his affliction, humbly adored the judgments of God, welcomed them with meek resignation, and said: "If men must murmur, I prefer that they murmur against me rather than against the Lord. I esteem myself happy to serve Him as a buckler. Gladly will I expose myself to the keen arrows of the maligners, to the poisoned darts of the blasphemers, provided He is spared. I count my own glory as naught, if only His be respected." 4
We borrow the following examples from St. Francis de Sales: "St. Louis, acting under a Divine inspiration, crossed the sea to conquer the Holy Land. The expedition resulted in failure, and he meekly acquiesced in the good-pleasure of God. To me, the tranquillity of his resignation appears even more admirable than the magnanimity of his design. St. Francis of Assisi went to Egypt in order to convert the infidels or to win the Martyr's crown; such was the will of God. He returned, nevertheless, without accomplishing the one or the other; and such was also the will of God. St. Anthony of Padua likewise longed for Martyrdom, and he likewise failed to obtain his wish. St. Ignatius of Loyola, having with immense labour founded the Society of Jesus, by which he already witnessed so many magnificent services rendered to the Church, and foresaw others still more magnificent, had nevertheless the courage to promise himself that if he saw it suppressed, although that would be the greatest affliction that could befall him in this life, one half-hour's mental prayer would suffice to restore his peace of mind and to conform his will to the holy will of God." 5 We could cite a multitude of similar examples, amongst them the example of St. Francis de Sales himself. When the existence of his Institute of the Visitation was threatened, soon after its establishment, by the severe illness of its foundress, St. Jane de Chantal, he said: 'Ah, well! God will be satisfied with the sacrifice of our good-will, as in the case of Abraham. The Lord has inspired us with great hopes, the Lord has disappointed them: blessed be the name of the Lord.' " 6 "I always think of our Congregation," said St. Alphonsus, "as a ship in the open sea, buffeted by contrary winds. If God wills that it should be swallowed up in the abyss, I say in advance, and shall ever say: Blest be His holy will!" 7
"Oh, how happy are these souls," exclaims St. Francis de Sales, "strong and bold in the enterprises with which God has inspired them, yet ready to abandon these same enterprises with meek resignation when God so wills! This is the proof of a perfect indifference: to desist from well-doing when such is God's good-pleasure, and to return from the half-finished journey when the Divine will, which is our guide, so ordains." Oh, how such abandonment in failure glorifies God and enriches us! On the contrary, how little supernatural they show themselves to be, who allow disquietude, disappointment and discouragement to take possession of their hearts! "Jonas did very wrong in yielding to sadness because in his judgment God had failed to fulfill his prophecy with regard to Ninive. The Prophet accomplished the Divine will in announcing the destruction of that city, but he mingled his own interest and his own will with the will of God. Hence when he saw that his prediction was not literally verified he grew angry and began to murmur. Now, if the Divine good-pleasure had been the one motive of his actions, he would have been as well satisfied to see it accomplished in the pardon which Ninive had merited by its penitence, as in the punishment it had deserved by its guilt. We would have all our enterprises and undertakings completely successful, but we have no right to expect that God will invariably humour such natural desires." 8
Suppose an enterprise has failed through our own fault, for instance, through lack of zeal or prudence: even in this case should we acquiesce in the will of God? Most certainly. For although He condemns the fault, He wills the punishment. "He was not the cause of David's sin, but He inflicted the punishment due to that sin. Neither was He the cause of the sin of Saul, but in punishment thereof He ordained Saul's defeat. So whenever in punishment of our faults our holy designs miscarry, we must detest the faults by a true repentance and accept the penalty imposed. For if the sin is opposed to the Divine will, its chastisement is in accordance therewith." 9
In short, all our undertakings for the glory of God require His action and ours. "Our part is to plant and to irrigate well, with the assistance of grace, but it is for God to give the increase." 10 We must therefore do all that lies in our power, and leave the issue in the hands of Divine Providence.
1. L' Union avec Dieu, 4e P., cc. iii et x.
2. St. Francis de Sales. Am. de Dieu, I, ix, c. vi.
4. De. Consid. I, ii. c. i.
5. Am. de Dieu, I, ix, c. vi.
6. Esprit, 6e P. x.
7. Berthe, op. cit. I, vi, c. ii.
8. Am. de Dieu, I, ix, c. vi.
9. Id., Ibid.
10. Id., Ibid., I, ix, c. vi.