We Must Continually Renew Our Commitment to Practice Self-Abandonment

To wish to give up your concern in yourself in order to be concerned only with God, and yet to come back continually to self is, I admit, a temptation as persistent as gnats in autumn; we must, therefore, drive this temptation away as persistently as we drive the gnats away, never becoming wearied in our efforts yet making them gently and without grief or vexation, by humiliating ourselves before God, as we do in similar troubles. We ourselves constrain God to afflict us with this wretchedness that we may be reduced to humility and a greater measure of self-scorn. If, despite this, we reveal so little humility and so much esteem of ourselves, how would it be if we were exempt from such wretchedness?-from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 382-383 (emphasis mine)

As we practice self-abandonment, we may find that we continually fail to make such practice a worthy one. Or we may find that we more often seek holiness for our own sake rather than seeking God himself. However, were God not to allow such temptations,– that often tend to spur us on to renew our commitment to him evermore — then, Fr. de Caussade writes, we would surely be mired even more in the wretchedness of our self-love.

So we should not be discouraged if we fail time and again in this holy practice of offering all to God, for he allows it only insomuch as we grow closer to him. Praise God in his mercy and draw near to him in all things, for even when we succumb to temptation, God burns with a love and desire for us to be wholly united with him. We need only rest again in his peace by admitting our extreme weakness and with contrite hearts, ask for forgiveness and the grace to soldier on in union with him.

At first, it may be difficult to admit that we are weak. And even though we admit it, our self-love may prevent us from really believing it. But if we remain faithful, God will reward us by increasing in us the virtue of humility. And when this happens, there is great freedom in admitting our weakness. The burdens of self-reliance, failure and shame are all lifted, and the freedom we find is the freedom from the bonds of sin. This does not mean that we no longer sin, only that when we do, we are not slaves to it; we are free to practice virtue once again because of his infinite mercy and forgiveness.

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Fixing Our Eyes On God

Seek to be guided not by human judgement which is weak, narrow and blind, but by the divine wisdom which is sure, righteous and infallible. So shall we make all things serve our edification, yet leave untroubled the peace of our heart and mind. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 310-311

There is great immorality in our world. It is easy to focus on the evil and corruption and grieve for what we are losing. But of course, the crux of all of these problems stems from our turning  away from God. I don’t presume to know why God is permitting evil to reign in many areas of our culture and world, but perhaps it is to bring us to our knees so that we return to him. God loves us so very much and wants us to turn to him with all of our problems.  And so, let us fix our eyes and our thoughts on our Almighty Savior and ask for the grace to remain with him always.

Trusting in God Instead of Our Merits

The fear of death and the judgement is good, provided it does not go so far as to trouble and disturb you; if it did so it would be an illusion of the devil.  After all, why should you be troubled?  Because you have not yet done what you have not been able to do?  Does God demand the impossible?  Beware here; the point is a very delicate one, for it looks as if there were a desire to acquire merits in order to trust in them.  That is not true confidence which can only be founded on the mercy of God and the infinite merits of Jesus Christ.  Any other confidence would be vain and presumptuous, being based on our own nothingness and I know not what wretched good works that are worthless in the eyes of God.  Without counting in any way on ourselves, we must try to accomplish all that he asks of us and hope only in his goodness and the merits of Jesus Christ his Son.  -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 176 (emphasis mine)

Our works are not our own, save for sin. The things that we are unable to accomplish are not about our abilities or lack of, as much as they are about God working in our lives in a unique and particular way. It is God who gives or takes away talent and ability. He does this not to make us unhappy, but rather to draw us nearer to him. The closer we are to God, the more we focus on him.  He desperately wants us to join him in Heaven, but he knows that we must first seek his kingdom.

 

Great Principles of Suffering

Writing to Sr. Marie-Thérèse de Vioménil, Fr. de Caussade writes about the great principles of suffering:

I sympathize with you on the continuation of your cross, but I should do so much more if you were not able to profit by it, at least by making, as they say, a virtue of necessity.  Remember our great principles: (1) That there is nothing so small or apparently trifling, even the fall of a leaf, that is not ordained or permitted by God; (2) that God is sufficiently wise, good, powerful and merciful to turn the most seemingly disastrous events to the good and profit of those who are capable of adoring and humbly accepting all these manifestations of his divine and adorable will. 

As to the grave trouble of which you speak, hang it on your cross like an extra weight with which divine Providence permits you to burden yourself, and say two fiats instead of one. After this, remain in peace in the higher part of your soul whatever the storms and tempests devastating your lower nature. It is as if you were at the bottom of some great mountain where torrents of rain and hail are pouring down, while on the summit the weather is beautiful.  Remain on those heights so as to be protected from lightning and other disagreeable mishaps. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 123 (emphasis mine)

Submission is required despite our feelings and inclinations toward rebellion and distrust. God only requires our desire to submit to his holy will; he doesn’t require that we feel wonderful about it. However, distressing feelings should not deter our peace. It seems to be a paradox, but we must understand that peace is not a feeling; it is confidence in God’s mercy and knowledge that our lives are ordained by God alone.

Remembering the great principles of suffering noted above, we can find peace in the goodness and mercy of our Lord, knowing that when we are abandoned to him, he will not abandon us.

To Suffer Humbly

Know…that you are to thank God, as though for a grace, for what you suffer meanly and weakly, that is to say, without much courage.  At such times you feel overcome by your ills, upon the verge of giving way to them, inclined to grumble about them and to yield to the rebelliousness of your human nature.  Indeed, this is a true grace and a great grace at that, since to suffer this is to suffer with humility and with no great spirit.  If, instead, you feel a measure of courage, a measure of strength and conscious resignation, your heart is puffed up by these, and you become, yourself unaware, full of trust in yourself, interiorly proud and presumptuous. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg 298 [Fr. de Caussade is writing to Sr. Marie-Thérèse de Vioménil] (emphasis mine)

God is so good to us! Where at once we are inclined to condemn ourselves because we do not suffer with quiet humility as the Saints did, we can take comfort in God that he would keep us from the sin of pride were we to laud the accomplishment of suffering well.

Fr. de Caussade continues to encourage Sr. de Vioménil:

In such a state as yours, however, we draw near to God, altogether weak, humiliated and disconcerted at having suffered so feebly.  This truth is sure and comforting, essentially interior, and little known.  Remember it on all those occasions upon which, feeling more keenly the weight of your tribulations and sufferings, you feel your weakness also, looking always inward in peace and simplicity to all that God wills; for this is the most satisfying way of suffering. You must apply this rule in every painful ordeal, and recall it particularly in the midst of those daily difficulties that come your way through the person you find trying, and at all times when you feel antagonistic towards others. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 298-299 (emphasis mine)

Fr. de Caussade describes this truth as “little known”.  To save us from our wretched self-love, God mercifully works in and through us though we do not perceive it.

Surrendering Our Ideals

Not a few of the devout, wedded to their own ideas, headstrong in their supposed renunciation, far from mortified in their mortifications, are driven to commit many faults through ignorance or forgetfulness of this truth. What illusion they harbour not to realize that self-love spoils and corrupts the most holy of practices! Whoever, out of love of God, shall once renounce will, judgement and ideas shall make great progress in the ways of true and lasting perfection. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence , pg. 223 (emphasis mine)

Are we hanging on to our ideals? In other words, are we clinging to what we think our lives should look like? Or are we accepting all the circumstances that God offers us in an effort to trust in him more completely?

Fr. de Caussade goes on to explain how we can renounce our own desires:

Henceforth use your intelligence and your reason solely to learn what is required of you, and do it with ready cheerfulness, utter trust in God and complete surrender to his mercy. This trust will come to you easily as soon as your one ambition is to do his holy will. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg 223-224 (emphasis mine)

When our lives don’t look like we think they should, we may become discouraged. Unfortunately, discouragement can unwittingly foster our self-love if we try to “fix” things ourselves.

But God is not only asking us to accept our present circumstances as difficult as they may be, but he also asks us to be at peace about our weakness and sin. This is not a license to become complacent about our piety, but rather an opportunity to recognize our wretchedness which causes us to grow in humility.

And so to completely “surrender to his mercy”, we must peacefully lay our feelings of inadequacy at the feet of Jesus, confident in his love and trusting in his desire to heal us in his perfect time.