Saints are those who carry the renunciation of their own will to the point of heroism. They are always ready to accept what God prepares for them at every moment.
Newsdesk (Gaudium Press) Submission to the Divine Will must not be a fatalistic subjection, like that of the ancient slave who was forced to master his rebellion in order to avoid death. “God loves those who give joyfully” (II Cor 9:7) and He wants His Will to be done with pleasure, as the Psalmist sings: “To do your will, my God, is what pleases me” (Ps 39:9).
Indeed, in the perfect prayer composed by Our Lord Jesus Christ, which contains the petitions most in conformity with His Person, the Father is not asked to attend to and satisfy the personal requests and desires of the one praying, but that His Will be done, “on Earth as it is in Heaven” (Mt 6:10).
Nevertheless, conceived in Original Sin and so often dominated by his own evil inclinations, man wants to steer his “helm” alone and follow his own whims, which do not always – not to say never! – coincide with the Divine Will.
Saint Francis de Sales sums up well our pilgrimage through this vale of tears. He assures us that man’s mortal existence “is like a tree planted by the hand of the Creator, cultivated by His wisdom and watered by the Blood of Jesus Christ so that it may produce the fruits appropriate to the taste of the Master, who wishes to be served above all in this: that we voluntarily allow ourselves to be governed by His Providence.
The role of suffering and pain
To understand and put this renunciation into practice, we must place ourselves in the perspective of Faith, which tells us that this life is a temporary time of trial, in which uncertainty and bitterness somehow mark all human actions, in order to purify the soul from imperfections and make it progress in virtue.
We must take advantage of adversities to bring our spirit more into conformity with the designs of God and to contribute to His glory. And just as the Redeemer carried His Cross for our sin and error, embracing it with love and accepting the Will of the Father, it is pain that will lead us to abandon ourselves to the Divine Will, unveiling to us a panorama of eternity.
“Suffering is an educator, a fountain of merits. It is an educator, that is to say, a source of light and strength: it reminds us that on Earth we are outcasts, on the way to the Homeland, and that we must not enjoy ourselves picking the flowers of consolations, since true happiness can only be found in Heaven,” says Fr. Tanquerey.
He goes on to explain that adversities, contrary to what people think and say, are a force, not in themselves, but through the reaction they provoke, for they strengthen the soul and oblige it to make an effort to stand firm, which fortifies it and makes it capable of the most noble virtues.
This is quite the opposite of the habit of indulging in disordered passions which “slackens activity, softens energy and prepares for shameful capitulation. For all this, it cannot be imagined that renunciation of self is made without difficulty and effort.
Let us recall the example of the Man-God who wanted to be a model for all those who in their spiritual life begin to collapse under the weight of the divine designs. In the Garden of Olives, seeing the torments that were in store for Him, He felt His soul “sorrowful, even to death” (Mt 26:38) and He prayed: “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” (Mt 26:42).
In his preaching, the Divine Master had already indicated the direction: “If any man would follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mk 8:34). “Take up your cross” means to accept and love what God wants for each one. Our Lord Jesus Christ say this to warn against the recalcitrance of those who, when some mortification is demanded of them, might claim that if it were another sacrifice they would willingly make it.
To some He will ask them to offer physical sufferings accepted with patience; to others, to devote themselves to trivial and seemingly insignificant activities; to some, He will ask for notable renunciations; to others, that in obscurity they give with joy and unselfishness the sacrifice of apparent futility.
The Example of the Saints
On the subject of this acceptance, St. Francis de Sales himself advises: “Have a strong and large heart to receive all kinds of crosses and resignations or abnegations for love of Him who received them so much for you”.
And he continues, recalling the way of abandonment to the designs of Divine Providence: “If we wish to carry our cross in imitation of Our Lord, we must receive all those that come to us indiscriminately, without choice or exception. This is the way to holiness.
Saints are those who carry the renunciation of their own will to the point of heroism. They are always ready to accept what God prepares for them at any moment, without preference between sorrow or joy, consolation or aridity, as St. Paul testifies: “I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:12-13).
The great Saint Teresa of Avila said that she was so convinced of the efficacy of the way of abandonment to the Will of God for achieving holiness that she would not be afraid to advance along it alone, leaving entirely aside the ecstasies and mystical raptures with which she was favoured. And she did not hesitate to affirm that in conforming to the Divine Will “consists the greatest perfection that can be reached on the spiritual path. Whoever conforms more closely to the Will of the Lord, the more he will receive from Him and the further he will advance along the way”.
With her characteristic candour and ardent charity, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus considered herself a little toy in the hands of the Divine Infant: “I am the little ball of the Child Jesus; if He wants to break His toy, He is completely free. Yes, I want everything that He wants”.
In the midst of the aridity of her last months in the exile of this world, when very hard temptations assailed her against faith, temperance, patience and all the virtues of which she had been a model during her short life, and she felt herself fainting, the Saint of Lisieux followed her Divine Spouse in the Garden of Olives in proclaiming her fidelity: “I do not desire either suffering or death, and yet I love them both. But it is only love that attracts me… I have longed for them; I have possessed suffering and I believed I would reach the shores of Heaven; I thought the little flower would be gathered in its spring… But now it is only abandonment that guides me; I have no other compass!…”
Source of peace on this earth and happiness in Heaven
As a reward for having left everything and, much more than material goods, surrendered their own will, of which concrete things can be a mere symbol, Our Lord Jesus Christ promised His Apostles “in this world a hundredfold, with persecutions, and in the world to come eternal life” (Mk 10:30).
Nothing is sought so much these days as peace, and yet nothing is so far from men! The source of this longed-for good is found in abandonment to the Divine Will, and, without doubt, it is the hundredfold reward already in this life for those who have renounced themselves. Indeed, everything that takes place under the sun is willed or permitted by God. Therefore, whoever entrusts himself to Him does not fear nor is startled.
To attain peace on this earth and happiness in Heaven would be reason enough to embrace the ways of abandonment into God’s hands. “This is why Our Lord gives the sweet names of brother, sister and mother to those who do the will of their Father: ‘Whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven is my brother, sister and mother’ (Mt 12:50).
By following the path opened by the Saviour and with the help of the Mother of Divine Grace, even if without consolation or sensibility, but with firmness and fidelity, the acceptance of the Divine Will will always be presented before the throne of God marked with special value, for “this kind of abandonment is the virtue of virtues, the refinement of charity, the perfume of humility. It is, it seems, the merit of patience and the fruit of perseverance”.
Text extracted, with adaptations, from the magazine Heralds of the Gospel n. 203, November 2018.
Compiled by Roberta MacEwan