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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Sin and God’s Will

Writing to Sr. Marie-Thérèse de Vioménil, Fr. de Caussade counsels her regarding sin:

You cannot, you say, report anything to me, other than your wretchedness. I can well believe you, since, as long as we are in this life, we can but find ourselves for ever most wretched and imperfect. Do you desire a remedy that will effectively cure all this wretchedness?  Here you have it: while abominating the sins which are the cause of them, cherish, or at least accept, their consequences, namely, the self-abjection and self-scorn which follow them. Yet in every case do so without vexation or grief, anxiety or discouragement. Do not forget that God, though he does not desire sin, makes a very useful instrument of it to keep us at all times in abjection and self-scorn.  But for this bitter remedy we should soon give way to the intoxication of self-love. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 357 (emphasis mine)

We must realize that we can do nothing to draw nearer to God by our own merits, other than cooperating with his grace. It is God who will give us the grace to be freed from our sins. Gods needs only our desire–the surrendering of our own will–to perfect us.  If we remain fixed on him, desiring to be perfect as he is perfect, he, who is the consummate healer, will free us from iniquity.

Psalm 51:17 A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Humility

The one cure for repeated unfaithfulness is to lament it, to be peacefully humble over it, and to turn again to God as soon as may be.  Until we die life’s difficulties and humiliations will be with us because of our besetting ingratitude and unfaithfulness. Yet provided that this is the result of our weakness of nature without affection of the heart, all is well. For God recognizes our weakness; he is aware of our wretchedness and our powerlessness to shun all unfaithfulness.  He perceives, further, that it is for our good to be reduced to that pitiful state since, failing it, we should be unable to resist the assaults of presumptuous pride and of secret trust in ourselves. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 198 (emphasis mine)

Hopefully these words give us great peace. When we realize that we are powerless “to shun all unfaithfulness” toward God, the burden to rely on ourselves is lifted, and what we are left with is humility.

Father de Caussade continues and explains that we will always have our imperfect natures unto death, but by embracing our shortcomings, Jesus cannot refuse us:

O God! How insidious is self-love!  Go in dread of this accursed self-love, remembering that, despite every effort of yours, it will die finally and irretrievably only in that last moment of your life. Offer no resistance, therefore, but allow the self to be abased, humiliated and destroyed.  there is nothing more calculated to purify the soul, nor can you bring to Holy communion a frame of mind more harmonious with that state of obliteration to which Jesus Christ is reduced in that mystery.  He will be unable to repulse you when you come into his presence with abysmal wretchedness and in humility verging on self-annihilation. -from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 199 (emphasis mine)

Unreserved Self-Abandonment

If God at times takes tranquillity away, let it go with all the rest.  For ever God remains, and it is enough to love him with the greater purity in that he alone remains.  At such times, therefore, by those interior deprivations which nature so abominates as its final death, its ultimate annihilation and its final loss. Let us be patient. Fiat! Fiat! Only by the ways of loss, self-abnegation, unreserved self-abandonment, do we make steady progress towards perfection. –from Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, pg. 414

Unreserved self-abandonment implies that abandonment alone is not enough. With haste we must throw caution to the wind and look only to our Lord Jesus. Not saintly thoughts, not good deeds, but Jesus Christ alone must be our guide, our light, our center.

Jesus, who loves us without fail.

Jesus who never goes away.

Jesus, who already knows all the sin in us — past, present, and future — adores us in an intimate way.  There is no act, thought, idea or even prayer that surpasses him.

On the same page, Father de Caussade continues [he is writing to one of the sisters]:

It is precisely the lively consciousness you have of your extreme frailty which must have been one of the things which helped you most, since, in making you realize that you are liable to fall at any moment, it instills in you a thorough distrust of yourself, and enables you to put into practice a blind trust in God. It is in this sense that the Apostle said: “For when I feel most weak, then am I more powerful, because the acute sense of my weakness clothes me, through a more complete trust, with all the strength of Jesus Christ.” (emphasis mine)

It is only when we recognize and firmly acknowledge our weakness and inability to do anything apart from God that we stop relying on ourselves and develop this “blind trust in God” of which Fr. de Caussade speaks. Of course, God can work however he chooses, however, this distrust of ourselves and trust in God will more than likely be a gradual change.

Again, it is important to remember that the recognition of our sinfulness and frailty is a grace given to us by God, and by extension, the trust in God that comes about because of it is also from him.