The soul that is not united solely to the will of God will find neither rest nor sanctification in any self-chosen means — not even in the most excellent exercises of piety. If that which God Himself chooses for you does not suffice, what other hand can minister to your desires? 

If you turn from the food the divine will itself has prepared for you, what viands will not prove insipid to a taste so depraved? A soul cannot be truly nourished, strengthened, purified, enriched, or sanctified, except by the fullness of the present moment. 

Then what more would you have? Since you here find all good, why seek it elsewhere? Are you wiser than God? Since He ordains it should be thus, how could you desire it should be otherwise? Can His wisdom and goodness err? Should you not from the moment He ordains an event be utterly convinced that it is the best that could happen? Do you think you will find peace in struggling with the Almighty? On the contrary, is it not this struggle too often renewed, almost unconsciously, which is the cause of all our disquiet? It is but just that the soul which is not satisfied with the divine fullness of the present moment should be punished by an inability to find contentment in anything else.

If books, the example of the saints, spiritual discourses, destroy the peace of the soul, if they fill without satisfying, it is a mark that we have not received them in simple abandonment to the divine action, but have taken them in a spirit of proprietorship. Their fullness, therefore, bars the entrance of God to the soul, and we must rid ourselves of it as an obstacle to grace. But when the divine action ordains the use of these means, the soul receives them as it does everything else — that is, in the order of God. She accepts them as she finds them, in her fidelity simply using them, never appropriating them; and their moment passed she abandons them to find her contentment in what follows in the order of Providence. In truth, there is nothing really beneficial for me but that which comes to me in the order of God. Nowhere can I find any means, however good in itself, more efficacious for my sanctification and more capable of giving peace to my soul.

But who are the most perfect? Vain and idle research! Each one must follow the path which is traced for him. Perfection consists in absolute submission to the order of God and carefully availing ourselves of all that is most perfect therein. It advances us little to weigh the advantages of the different states considered in themselves, since it is neither in the quality nor quantity of things enjoined that sanctity is to be sought. 

If self-love be the principle of our actions, or if we do not correct it when we recognize its workings, we will be always poor in the midst of an abundance not provided by the order of God. However, to decide in a measure the question, I think that sanctity corresponds to the love one has for God’s good pleasure, and the greater one’s love for this holy will and this order, whatever the character of their manifestations, the greater one’s sanctity….

We must therefore conclude that there is no special way which can be called the most perfect, but that the most perfect in general is fidelity to the order of God, whether in the accomplishment of exterior duties or in the interior dispositions, each one according to his state and calling.

O dear souls who read this, let me repeat to you: Sanctity will cost you no more; do what you are doing; suffer what you are suffering: it is only your heart that need be changed. By the heart we mean the will. This change, then, consists in willing what comes to us by the order of God. Yes, holiness of heart is a simple fiat, a simple disposition of conformity to the will of God. And what is easier? For who could not love so adorable and merciful a will? Let us love it, then, and through this love alone all within us will become divine.

Let others, Lord, ask Thee all gifts, let them multiply their petitions; I have but one gift to ask, but one prayer to make: Give me a pure heart.

Taken from Abandonment, by J. P. de Caussade, 1887. This piece is in the public domain, available at Project Gutenberg.

Photo by lilartsy on Unsplash.

Text First Published February 1887 · Last Featured on Renovare.org June 2022

📚 The 2022 – 23 Renovaré Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shaping journey features four books, old and new, prayerfully curated by Renovaré. Now underway and there’s still time to join.

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