To the question, "In what things should we practice conformity to the will of God?" there can be only one answer: "In everything."
The first thing that God asks of us is that we should faithfully keep his commandments and those of the Church, humbly obey those who have authority over us, and carefully fulfill the duties of our state.
Thereafter we should desire what God does and accept with filial submission all that is decided by His Providence. Let us now see some of the circumstances which may arise.
In a spirit of conformity to His holy will we should accustom ourselves for the love of God to putting up with all the little daily vexations, such as a word said that wounds our self-esteem, a fly that annoys us, the barking of a dog, knocking into something as we walk along, a small accidental hurt, a light suddenly going out, a rent in our clothes, a pen that won't write, and so on. In one way it is even more important to practice conformity to God's will in these small things than in larger ones, both because they are more frequent and because the habit of supporting them in a Christian spirit prepares us in advance and in a natural manner to show resignation when we have to face serious difficulties.
We should wish with the divine will for heat and cold, storm and calm, and all the vagaries and inclemencies of the elements. We should in short accept whatever kind of weather God sends us, instead of supporting it with impatience or anger as we usually do when it is contrary to what we desire. We should avoid saying, for instance, "What awful heat!" "What terrible cold!" "What shocking weather!" "Just my bad luck!" and other expressions of the same kind which only serve to show our lack of faith and of submission to God's will.
Not only should we wish the weather to be as it is because God has made it so but, whatever inconvenience it may cause us, we should repeat with the three youths in the fiery furnace: Cold, heat, snow and ice, lightnings and clouds, winds and tempests, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.1 The elements themselves are blessing and glorifying God by doing His holy will, and we also should bless and glorify Him in the same way. Besides, even if the weather is inconvenient for us, it may be convenient for someone else. If it prevents us from doing what we want to do, it may be helping another. And even if it were not so, it should be enough for us that it is giving glory to God and that it is God who wishes it to be as it is.
St. Francis Borgia, the third General of the Society of Jesus, provides us a good example in this matter. He was once traveling to a house of the Society when it was snowing hard and bitterly cold, and his arrival was delayed until a late hour of the night when everybody was in bed and asleep. He had to wait some time before his knocking aroused someone to let him in, and then to the apologies for keeping him waiting so long in such foul weather he answered cheerfully that it was a great consolation to him to think that it was God who had dropped so much snow on him.
This practice of conformity to His will is so pleasing to God that it often has a visible influence on the material things of life. There is a story in the Lives of the Desert Fathers of a laborer whose fields always gave better crops than those of his neighbors. When asked the reason he replied that he always had whatever kind of season or weather he chose. "I never wish for any other kind of weather but what God wishes" he explained, "and as I wish for everything that pleases God, He too gives me the sort of crop that pleases me."
We ought to conform to God's will in all public calamities such as war, famine and pestilence, and reverence and adore His judgments with deep humility in the firm belief that, however severe they may seem, the God of infinite goodness would not send such disasters unless some great good were to result from them. Consider how many souls may be saved through tribulation which would otherwise be lost, how many persons through affliction are converted to God and die with sincere repentance for their sins. What may appear a scourge and punishment is often a sign of great grace and mercy.
As far as we are personally concerned, let us meditate well on this truth of our faith that the very hairs of our head are numbered,1 and not one of them will fall except by the will of God. In other words we cannot suffer the least harm unless He wills and orders it. Relying on this truth we can easily understand that we have nothing more or less to fear in times of public calamity than at any other time. God can just as easily protect us in the midst of general ruin and despair as He can deliver us from evil while all around is peace and content. The only thing we need to be concerned about is to gain His favor, and this is the inevitable effect of conforming our will to His. Let us therefore hasten to accept from His hand all that He sends us, and as a result of our trustful surrender He will either cause us to gain the greatest advantages from our misfortunes or else spare us them altogether.
If you are the father or mother of a family, you ought to conform your will to God's with regard to the number or sex of the children He pleases to give you. When men were animated by the spirit of faith they regarded a large family as a gift of God and a blessing from heaven, and considered God more than themselves as the father of their children. But now that faith has weakened and people live isolated from God, or if they think of Him at all it is mostly to fear Him and hardly ever to have trust in His providence, they are reduced to bearing the burden of their families alone. And as a man's resources, however ample and assured they may seem, are always limited and uncertain, even those who are most favored by fortune view with dismay an increase in their family. They regard it as a kind of disaster which fills them with apprehension, an endless source of worry to poison their existence. How different it would be if we realized God's paternal treatment of those who submit to Him with filial trust! If we did so we should realize also what St. Paul meant when he said that God is able to make all grace abound in you, so that always having ample means, you may abound in every good work.1
To obtain the help of Providence it should be your aim to cooperate, as it were, with the Fatherhood of God and bring up your children as He would wish them brought up, especially by showing them good example. Have the courage to lay aside all other ambition and let this be the only object of your care and desire. Then, whatever the number of your children, you can rest assured that their heavenly Father will provide for them. He will watch over them and dispose all things for their happiness and welfare, and the more unreservedly you entrust their future to His hands, the greater will be His loving care for them.
Avoid worrying, then, about anything else for your children except whatever may contribute to bringing them up virtuously. For the rest... having entrusted them to God try to see what His will for them is, to help them along the path in life He has chosen for them. Never be afraid of relying too much on Him, but rather seek always to increase your trust more and more, for this is the most pleasing homage you can pay Him and it will be the measure of the graces you will receive. Little or much will be given you according as you have expected little or much.
We should accept with the same conformity to the will of God the loss of employment or money and all other set-backs in our temporal affairs, repeating with faith the words of Job: The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away; as it has pleased the Lord, so is it done. Blessed be the name of the Lord! What does it matter why those who are the instruments of your reverse of fortune have acted as they have done? The revolt of Absalom and the curses of Semei were directed against David for a political purpose but this did not prevent him from attributing them, rightly, to the will of God. The misfortunes of Job were brought about by the devil because he was a just and God-fearing man. In the times of persecution Christians were deprived of rank and position, despoiled of their possessions, torn from their families, thrown into prison and sent to execution all for their religious convictions and faith in Christ. Far from complaining, they went their way, like the apostles, rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus.1 Whatever the excuse for the persecution you may be made to suffer, and especially if it is because of your religion, accept it all without hesitation as coming from the understanding and paternal hand of your Father who is in heaven.
It is the same with regard to money matters. You may find yourself obliged to make a payment you consider unjust -- something you have already paid but cannot prove, the forfeit of a security you have given for someone, or taxes you consider excessive, or anything of this nature. If the payment can be, and is, lawfully required of you, then it is the will of God you should pay it. It is He who is asking you for the money and it is to Him you are really giving it when you bow to the necessity in a spirit of submission to His will. Those who act in this way can be assured of His manifold graces. Let us take the case of two persons. One, out of a spirit of conformity perhaps excessive, perhaps quite unfair, but which his creditor has the power to demand. The other, of his own free choice, gives an equal sum to charity. It is well known what great advantages, even in this life, are to be gained from giving to charity, but the person who makes a sacrifice of his money not of his own accord or to some one he chooses to give it, but out of a spirit of conformity to God's will, is performing an even more profitable act. By the very fact that it is against his will, the act is purer and more agreeable in the sight of God, and if it can be said that from the experiences of all ages charity brings down upon man the abundant blessing of God, it can also be said without exaggeration that such an act as has been described brings down still more abundant blessings.
We ought to conform to God's will in poverty and all the inconveniences poverty brings in its train. It is not too hard to do so if we fully realize that God watches over us as a father over his children and puts us in that condition because it is of most value to us. Poverty then takes on a different aspect in our eyes, for by looking on the privations it imposes as salutary remedies we even cease to think of ourselves as poor.
If a rich man has a son in bad health and prescribes a strict diet for him, does the son think he has to eat small amounts of plain or tasteless food because his father cannot afford better? Does he begin to worry about how he will exist in the future? Will other people think that because of his diet he has become poor? Everybody knows how well off his father is and that he shares in his father's wealth and he will again have what is now forbidden him as soon as his health is restored.
Are we not the children of the God of riches, the co-heirs of Christ? Being so, is there anything we can lack? Let it be said boldly: whoever responds to his divine adoption with the feelings of love and trust that the position of being children of God demands has a right, here and now, to all that God Himself possesses. Everything then is ours. But it is not expedient we should enjoy everything. It is often necessary we should be deprived of many things. Let us be careful not to conclude from the privations imposed on us only as remedies that we may ever be in want of anything that is to our advantage. Let us firmly believe that if anything is necessary or really useful for us, our all-powerful Father will give it to us without fail. To those gathered round to hear Him our Savior said: If you evil as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father...?1
This is an unquestionable truth of our holy faith, and any doubt about it, through lack of confidence on our part, can only be blameworthy and an insult to Christ who again and again made the most definite promises about the matter. Do not be anxious for your life, what you shall eat He tells us, nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you of much more value than they?... And as for clothing, why are you anxious? Consider how the lilies of the field grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which flourishes today but tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more you, O you of little faith! Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink? or 'What are we to put on?', for after all these things the Gentiles seek; but your Father knows that you need all these things.2 He has given His word and there is only one condition attached -- that we seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, that we make this search the one great aim of our lives by bringing everything else into relation with it to make it successful and fulfill our every duty with this end in view. In return for this He will unburden us of all anxiety, He will take upon Himself all our needs and the needs of those who belong to us or for whom we have to provide, and His care will be all the greater in proportion to the degree of confidence and surrender to His will we strive to attain.
Do we then for love of Him give up the desire to possess the perishable goods of this world? By virtue of another of Christ's promises these goods a hundredfold, as well as eternal life, are assured us in this life, and as a result we shall be rich while we are judged to be poor. Freed from the thirst for wealth, from the possession of it and the burden that accompanies it, we shall enjoy a peace and contentment unknown to those who, appearing to possess riches, are in reality possessed by them and cannot escape the cares they bring with them. In this way we shall experience the truth of St. Paul's words that godliness has the promise of the present life as well as of that which is to come.3
We ought to conform to the will of God in adversity as well as in prosperity, in humiliation as well as in honor, in disgrace as well as in respect. We should willingly accept all things as being the ordering of Providence, so as to give God by our submission the honor due to Him, and at the same time attain without fail our greatest good.
When David left Jerusalem to escape the attack of his son Absalom, the Ark of the Covenant was carried after him by the order of Sadoc the High Priest so that it might serve as a safeguard for the king in his imminent danger and be a pledge of his safe return. But David told Sadoc to take the ark back, because God would see to his return if He so wished, and then he added: But if the Lord shall say to me: 'Thou pleasest me not' -- I have withdrawn my favor from you, I will not have you reign longer over my people, I will take away your power and give it to your enemy -- I am ready. Let him do that which is good before him.'1 We should say the same in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, and above all take care not to refuse on the specious pretext that we are not capable of such heroic resignation. God Himself will accomplish it in us provided we do not oppose resistance to His grace.
This is the point of the story that Cassian tells us about the old man who was attacked by a mob of pagans in Alexandria. He remained calm and unruffled in spite of insults and blows. Someone asked him mockingly what miracles Christ had worked. "He has just worked one" the old man replied, "for in spite of all you have done to me, I haven't been angry with you or the least bit upset."
Our conformity to the will of God should extend to our natural defects, mental ones included. We should not, for example, complain or feel grieved at not being so clever or so witty or not having such a good memory as other people. Why should we complain of the little that has fallen to our lot when we have deserved nothing of what God has given us? Is not all a free gift of His generosity for which we are greatly indebted to Him? What services has He received from us that He should have made us a human being rather than some lower animal? Have we done anything to oblige Him to give us existence itself?
But it is not enough just not to complain. We ought to be content with what we have been given and desire nothing more. What we have is sufficient because God has judged it so. Just as a workman uses the shape and size of tool best suited to the job in hand, so God gives us those qualities which are in accordance with the designs He has for us. The important thing is to use well what He has given us. It may be added that it is very fortunate for some people to have only mediocre qualities or limited talents. The measure of them that God has given will save them, while they might be ruined if they had more. Superiority of talent very often only serves to engender pride and vanity and so become a means of perdition.
We ought to conform to the will of God in sickness and infirmity and wish for what He sends us, both at the time it comes and for the time it lasts and with all the circumstances attending it, without wishing for one of them to be changed; and at the same time do all that is reasonable in our power to get well again, because God wishes it so. "For my part" says St. Alphonsus, "I call illness the touchstone of the spirit, for it is then that the true virtue of a man is discovered." If we feel ourselves becoming impatient or rebellious we should endeavor to repress such feelings and be deeply ashamed of any attempt at opposition to the just decrees of an all-wise God.
St. Bonaventure relates that St. Francis of Assisi was afflicted by an illness which caused him great pain. One of his followers said to him, "Ask Our Lord to treat you a little more gently, for it seems to me He lays His hand too heavily upon you." Hearing this the saint gave a cry and addressed the man in these words: "If I did not think that what you have just said comes from the simplicity of your heart without any evil intention I would have no more to do with you, because you have been so rash as to find fault with what God does to me." Then, though he was very weak from the length and violence of his illness, he threw himself down from the rough bed he was lying on, at the risk of breaking his bones, and kissing the floor of his cell said "I thank you, O Lord, for all the sufferings you send me. I beg you to send me a hundred times more if you think it right. I shall rejoice if it pleases you to afflict me without sparing me in any way, for the accomplishment of your holy will is my greatest consolation."And in fact if, as St. Ephraim observes, a mule-driver knows how much his mule can carry and does not try to kill it by overloading it, and if the potter knows how long the clay should bake to be suitable for use and does not leave it longer in the kiln than is necessary, then it would show very little appreciation of God to venture to think that He who is wisdom itself and loves us with an infinite love would load our backs with too heavy a burden or leave us longer than is necessary in the fire of tribulation. We can be quite sure that the fire will not last longer or be hotter than is necessary to bake our clay to the right point.
We ought to carry our conformity to God's will to the point of accepting our death. That we shall die is a decree against which there is no appeal. We shall die on the day and at the hour and in the manner that God decides, and it is this particular death we should accept, because it is the one most becoming His glory. One day when St. Gertrude was climbing a hill she slipped and fell down to the bottom. She was unhurt and began to climb up again saying: "What great happiness it would have been for me, O Lord, if this fall had been the means of bringing me sooner to thee!" Her companions asked her if she was not afraid of dying without receiving the last sacraments. "I would certainly wish with all my heart to receive them in my last moments," she answered, "but I much prefer the will of God, for I am sure the best disposition for a good death is submission to His will. So I desire only the death by which He wishes me to come to Him, and I am confident that in whatever way I die, His mercy will not fail me."
Even more, it is the teaching of great masters of the spiritual life that a person who, at the point of death, makes an act of perfect conformity to the will of God will be delivered not only from hell but also from purgatory, even if he has committed all the sins in the world. "The reason," says St. Alphonsus, "is that he who accepts death with perfect resignation acquires similar merit to that of a martyr who has voluntarily given his life for Christ, and even amid the greatest sufferings he will die happily and joyfully."
We ought to practice conformity to the will of God when we are deprived of those exterior aids to our spiritual well-being that He pleases to withdraw from us. For example a friend or counsellor on whom you rely for help and encouragement is taken away from you and you seem unable to get along without him. There is, in fact, some truth in what you feel, in that you really need the help of someone, and the friend or counsellor had been given to you for that very reason. But does God love you less now than He did when He made the gift? Is He no longer your Father? Or does such a Father as He is desert His children? Your guide and friend has been of value to you so far, but is he the right person to help you in what you are called to do now? Christ our divine Master said of Himself to His apostles It is expedient for you that I depart, for if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go I will send him to you.1 Who then can venture to say that it is not an advantage for him to lose a friend or spiritual adviser, however excellent, wise or holy he may be?
But, you may answer, how do I know it is not a punishment my sins have brought on me? It may well be so, but the punishments of a father become salutary remedies for obedient children. If you wish to stay the anger of your heavenly Father, soften His heart and even oblige Him to send you fresh graces, then accept your punishment, and in return for your trustful surrender to Him He will either find you someone to help you even better than before, or He Himself in His goodness will deign to be your guide. He will send you His Holy Spirit as He sent Him to His apostles. He will enlighten your path and fortify you by the action of His grace.
Let us take another example. You are living a good Christian life in the practice of your religion. You fall seriously ill and cannot frequent the Sacraments or assist at Mass -- perhaps you feel too weak even to pray. But do not grieve. You are called to the honor of nourishing your soul by partaking, with Christ Himself, of a food that, perhaps, you know not of, and which will be the means of making your illness a powerful means of sanctification. My food He said to His disciples, is to do the will of Him who sent me.2 It is the same food that is offered to you, and note well that it is only by this food that it is given to us to live to eternal life. Prayer itself is valueless unless it is vitalized by this health-giving food, as our Savior explained when He said: Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven shall enter the kingdom of heaven.3 If then it is God who has placed you in the condition you are in, it is He who dispenses you from the practices of your religion, nay, forbids them. So you should not worry, but remember that in exchange He expects you to take more care in doing His will by giving up your own.
It is in order that you may make the doing of His will your chief food that the means to do it are so frequently given. How many inconveniences and sacrifices are in fact imposed upon us by illness! -- plans upset, expense incurred, unpleasant remedies, perhaps, loneliness and lack of care -- a host of large and small annoyances. There are so many opportunities to say, 'God wishes it so. His will be done.' Do not let any of these opportunities pass and you will be among those souls most dear to Christ. For whoever He said, does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, my sister, and my mother.4
Let us take another example. Some great feast-day or solemnity is approaching and you prepare yourself in anticipation of the joyful event. But when the day arrives you no longer feel the same as you did before. Your fervor has given place to disinterest and spiritual dryness and you are incapable of a single good thought. Do not try to force yourself out of this state. It has been produced in you by God, and we know that all that comes from Him is good, so it must be to your advantage if you submit to it.
Accept the situation from His hand, endeavoring as far as possible to be recollected in His presence and submitting yourself to Him as a patient who awaits the healing action of the doctor, and you can rest assured that no spiritual consolation will ever be so profitable to you as the dryness cheerfully born in a spirit of conformity to His will. It is not what we feel that prepares us for God's grace, but the act of our will, and this act is not one of feeling. It may well be accompanied by pleasurable sentiments, but this adds nothing to the merit of it. In the sight of God the absence of this sentiment or even the presence of contrary ones which we do not wish to have in no way minimizes the value of the act itself.
Let us realize this fact, that prayer has no need of feeling in order to be of value. It consists solely in the movement of the will towards God, and by its nature this movement has nothing to do with feeling. God's grace operates in us in the same way. It may be compared to the effects produced in us by the food we eat. We do not feel the food inside our bodies while it is engaged in its hidden work of restoring and fortifying; and in the same way Christ, our heavenly food, who is given to us for our spiritual nourishment, works hiddenly in our souls. But the trouble is we want to feel everything, and when we experience no feeling of satisfaction, we either get discouraged or try by long and forced prayers to produce something inside ourselves to reassure us. Such efforts impede rather than aid the operation of grace by occupying and agitating our minds too much.
It is related of St. Catherine of Siena that one day she asked Our Lord why it was that God had so often revealed Himself to the patriarchs, prophets and Christians of early times but rarely did so in her own time. Our Lord replied that it was because they were devoid of self-esteem and came to Him as faithful disciples to await His inspiration, allowing themselves to be fashioned like gold in the crucible or painted on by His hands like an artist's canvas, and letting Him write the law of love in their hearts.
But the Christians of her time acted as if He could not see or hear them, and wanted to do and say everything by themselves, keeping themselves so busy and restless that they would not allow Him to work in them. Note that Our Savior had already tried to warn us against such excess in the Gospel when He said When you pray, do not multiply words as the Gentiles do; for they think that by saying a great deal they will be heard. So do not be like them for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.5
With submission and conformity to the will of God we should bear the evil consequences of which falling into sin is often the cause. It may be some indisposition or some more serious effect on our health brought about by over-indulgence; some sacrifice we have to make because of money spent foolishly for selfish ends; some bad turn in our affairs owing to impatient or imprudent conduct on our part; difficulty in resisting temptation and leading a good life because of a long habit of sin we have contracted -- the situation fills us with worry and anxiety and we feel unable to cope with it. God certainly did not wish you should sin, but the sin having been committed, He wishes for your good that it should he followed by this punishment. Accept it then from His hand in the belief that there is nothing more suited to regaining His favor than your humble acceptance of it. Then, far from being prejudicial to you, your failures, in so far as they give you the opportunity of submitting to His will, will be as it were a monument to your perseverance in God's service, and the more numerous they have been, the more glorious will be their witness to your perseverance.
Let us take a practical example. A man has to make a journey on foot. He must go across rough country, he is without food and almost exhausted, so he falls repeatedly. But he gets to his feet again each time, determined not to give in and, come what may, arrive at his destination. When he finally arrives, is it not true to say that his perseverance has been all the greater and more heroic in proportion to the number of obstacles he has had to overcome and the falls from which he has recovered?
We ought to conform to God's will in interior trials, that is to say in all the difficulties met with in our spiritual life, such as temptations, scruples, anxieties, aridity, desolation and so on. Whatever immediate cause we may attribute to these states of mind, we must always look beyond to God as their author. If we think they come from ourselves, then it is true to say that they have their origin in the ignorance of our mind, the over-sensitiveness of our feelings, the disordered state of our imagination or the perversity of our inclinations. But if we go back farther, if we ask where the defects themselves come from, we can only find their origin in the will of God who has not endowed us with greater perfection, and by making us subject to these infirmities has laid on us the duty of bearing all the consequences of them for our sanctification until He is pleased to put an end to them. As soon as He judges it the right moment to touch our mind or heart, we shall be enlightened, fortified and consoled.
Even if we suppose that our disturbed state is the work of the devil, it must still be attributed to God. Does not the history of Job show that Satan has no power over us unless God gives it to him? When Saul was beset by temptations of jealousy and hate towards David, the Scriptures tell us, the evil spirit from God came upon Saul.1 But if the spirit was from God, how could it be evil? And if it was evil, how could it be from God? It is evil because of the devil's evil and depraved will to afflict men in order to bring them to perdition, and it is from God because God allows him to afflict them in His plan of salvation for them.
Moreover we learn from the principles of our faith and the teaching of the saints that often God Himself by His immediate action withdraws the visible effects of His grace for purposes in accordance with His wisdom and goodness. How many persons who have become lukewarm and careless in their duties are roused by the awareness of God's absence and are able to regain the fervor they had lost! How many more have been led to the practice of the highest virtue by interior trials! Who can measure the degree of heroic virtue saints like St. Ignatius, St. Teresa or St. Francis of Sales attained by this means? We must consider it the action of a Providence unceasingly attentive to the welfare of His children, who feigns to abandon them in order to rouse them from slumber or increase their humility, self-distrust and self-renouncement, their confidence in God, submission to His will and perseverance in prayer. Hence instead of allowing ourselves to become discouraged and faint-hearted under trials which may seem to overwhelm us, let us act in the same way as we do when our bodies are sick, consult a good doctor -- a good spiritual director -- and applying the remedies he advises, patiently await the effects that it pleases God to give.
Everything is meant for our good, and such trials ought to be counted as special graces from God. Whether or not they are sent as a punishment for our sins, they come from Him and we should thank Him for them, placing ourselves entirely in His hands. If we bear them with patience we shall receive greater grace than if we were filled with a sense of fervent devotion.
Finally -- and this is perhaps the most difficult aspect of what concerns the practice of conformity to the will of God -- we should desire virtue itself and the degrees of grace only in so far as God wishes to give them, and not desire more. Our whole ambition should be to attain the degree of perfection that has been appointed for us, since it has not been given to everybody to reach the same height. It is obvious that however well we may correspond with the graces given us, we can never equal the humility, charity and other virtues of the Blessed Virgin. And who can even presume to imagine that he can reach the same heights as the apostles? Who can equal St. John the Baptist whom Christ called the greatest of the children of men? Or St. Joseph to whom God entrusted His Son? In this we must as in all else submit to the will of God. He must be able to say of us, My will is in them; it rules and governs everything.
So when we hear or read that God in a short time has brought some
souls to a very high degree of perfection and shown them signal favors, enlightened their
understanding and imbued their hearts with His love, we should repress any desire to be
treated likewise so as not to fall short in pure love of conformity to His will.
should even unite ourselves still more closely to His will by saying, "I praise Thee,
O Lord, and bless Thee for deigning to show Thyself with so great love and familiarity to
the souls Thou hast chosen.
The honor you show them is above all measure, but the
accomplishment of Thy holy will is of more concern to me than all the marks of favor
Thou hast shown Thy saints.
The only favor I ask is that in no single thing should
I ever do my own will and that my will be entirely at one with Thine.
ask for what they wish, but my sole request is that I may wish what Thou wishest and
Thy purposes may be accomplished perfectly in me.
Do with me, in me, and by me
all that Thou wilt without resistance from me, in time and in eternity."
This submission and conformity in all things to His will is so pleasing to God that it gained for David the honor of being called 'a man after His heart.' I have found, He says, David the son of Jesse, a man after my heart who will do all that I desire.1 David, in fact, was so obedient to the commands of Providence that his heart was like wax, ever ready to receive indifferently any impression from the hand of God. My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast, he exclaims.2 St. Bernard asks why in this verse of the psalm David twice repeats the words My heart is steadfast, and replies that by this repetition he meant he was ready to accept bad fortune as well as good, disgrace as well as honor, and was prepared for all that God willed. Let us, too, enter resolutely into the state of steadfastness which rejoices the heart of our heavenly Father and will be the means of our sanctification, the source of peace and joy in this world and the pledge of our eternal happiness in the next.
It is useful for this purpose to familiarize ourselves with those phrases in Scripture where conformity to the will of God is expressed in the clearest manner. We can say, for example, with St. Paul, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?3 I am ready to do what ever you will. Or with David, I was like a brute beast in your presence4 not questioning, and obeying unresistingly. I am thine; do with me according to thy good pleasure.5 I seek not my own will, said Our Savior, I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me. My food is to do the will of my Father who is in heaven.6 Following our divine model let us make our food the accomplishment of God's will. Father, let it be so, for such is thy good pleasure -- Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.7 Our Savior recommended St. Catherine of Genoa to pause particularly on these words when she recited the Our Father. We should do the same and often pray God that His holy will may be accomplished here below in ourselves and in all creatures with the same perfection and for the same reasons that the saints accomplish it in heaven.
When we find some difficulty in obeying God or feel inclined to rebel, let us say with David, Why art thou downcast, o my soul? He has given you everything you have, He has provided everything for your salvation. I will not resist Him, I will obey His orders, for He is my savior and my God; and if human nature refuses to do what He orders, He is my strength to overcome it.8 Let us say with Our Lord during His agony, Father, not my will but thine be done9 "These words of our Divine Master," says the great St. Leo, "are the salvation of His whole Mystical Body, the Church. These words have instructed all the faithful, inspired all the confessors, crowned all the martyrs. Let all the Church's children, redeemed at so high a price, justified without any deserving on their part, learn these words and using them as a safe defense when they are assailed by any strong temptation, they will resist the attacks of nature and suffer tribulation with courage. In this spirit of conformity to His will we should accept not only all the incidents of our daily lives but all the inner struggles and difficulties such resignation may cost us, because God wishes us to experience them for His glory and our own profit.
Let us note here, with regard to the difficulties we may find in submitting to the will of God, that even when our will is firmly decided to submit, and has in fact submitted, our mind, following its natural inclination, may still continue to reason and argue on the events that are occurring or may occur. We may say to ourselves for example: "If I were now well, or if I were to fall ill, if I were given such and such a job, if I were sent to such and such a place, if such and such a thing happened, it would be good (or bad) for me, it would help (or prevent) my plans, I could do this or that as I want to," and so on. Nature tries thus to obtain at least the satisfaction of thinking about and discussing the incidents of our lives. But we should endeavor to exterminate these remains of our corrupt nature, and just as for the love of God we have forbidden our will to use its freedom of choice, for the same reason we ought to deny our mind the freedom of discussion and judgment. Let us entrust ourselves totally and unreservedly to the direction of Divine Providence.