While I was reading my Office this morning, I realized that what I read tied directly into what I had hoped to write of this morning. In the Proper of Saints I discovered some words by Angela Merici that deserve attention:
"For Augustine said: 'love, and do what you will.' It is as if he was saying 'Charity cannot sin'. For a good tree cannot bear bad fruit."
Why do I mention these lines specifically? No matter what our vocation, it is our calling to first purify ourselves and then to do for others what we are inspired to do from holy Charity. For, if one speaks in Charity, the Holy Spirit speaks through him. If one works with the hands of Charity, the Holy Goodness is his every movement. This is the only strength of a religious... to be close to God and thus bring others to Him.
Sometimes it takes awhile to grow in true Charity, and we often must begin with willful Charity; that is, the decision of the will to love all people through Him, even if our hearts do not love. We are not all born with a sincere love of God and man... we are not all utterly willing to give our lives for the smallest chance to save the life of another... but Charity is very important for a religious. Our Charity is our motive for deciding to do right, even when we do not know it to be right. One who has charity and does all things for sincere love of Christ and His children will do good. Can you imagine that someone saying to Christ "I am following this vocation and doing these works for sincere love of You and my neighbor, I hope it pleases You" will not be tenderly guided by God to his true vocation?
One who is living a religious vocation must also have faith in God's presence at all times. For, if he does not have faith who will? How can one help others who does not listen to the whisperings of Christ, himself? Therefore, first and foremost on a young person's list of preparation for a vocation must be analyzing of his own faith. If he has faith, he will not be concerned about where his path lies... rather, his whole being will be concerned with God's Will only and he will accomplish much more. At this very important time in one's life, it is essential to say "Amen" with decision, and follow Christ's teachings with perfect obedience founded in faith.
Jesus knew this very well... He often "went alone to pray" to show us how we must act. If we are to do good in our vocation, we must first pray in silence for holiness. Jesus said to His disciples that the servant is greater than the master, and does this not touch directly on increasing personal spirituality? For a servant has the opportunity to practice obedience, is disciplined, and strengthens himself in body and soul through meek service of others. This does not merely teach us to be humble, it shows us where our strengths lay. Though he is not "great," one who has humbled himself can access the greatness of God. The disposition of a servant to do for others and humble himself is fertile soil for virtue.
In the old testament... the strong and brave Judith got all her strength from her prayer. While reading about her this morning I took notice of her constant going to pray, alone. How pertinent this is! A religious can do nothing without God. If we begin to think ourselves fully mature and grown, we will slowly wilt from separation of our need for constant spiritual growth and will no longer have the power to help others. In the Imitation of Christ this is touched specifically:
Acquiring Peace and Zeal for Perfection
We should enjoy much peace if we did not concern ourselves with what others say and do, for these are no concern of ours. How can a man who meddles in affairs not his own, who seeks strange distractions, and who is little or seldom inwardly recollected, live long in peace?
Why were some of the saints so perfect and so given to contemplation? Because they tried to mortify entirely in themselves all earthly desires, and thus they were able to attach themselves to God with all their heart and freely to concentrate their innermost thoughts.
If you do not overcome small, trifling things, how will you overcome the more difficult? Resist temptations in the beginning, and unlearn the evil habit lest perhaps, little by little, it lead to a more evil one.
If you but consider what peace a good life will bring to yourself and what joy it will give to others, I think you will be more concerned about your spiritual progress. (Imitation ch. 11).
If you were to read the remainder of this chapter, you would notice that it tells that we must never falter in our zeal... for, at the moment we stop moving forward, we die. We must make it our sincere purpose to grow constantly all our lives, even when we have seemingly obtained all that we hope for, God can give us more. Even when we have accomplished all that we imagine to accomplish, we can accomplish more. If we are to spread wisdom and goodness through word and action, we must first learn this wisdom ourselves: "God is our strength." If we don't, we do not know where to find the Fount of Wisdom. Learn this first... else you can learn nothing at all. Rather, learn first, or you cannot teach.
Therefore, what I am saying, is that all who wish to do any good at all must be contemplatives of the heart. A new mother who goes off to pray alone with her child at her feet ensures that child's growth in Christ. A religious who retreats to her cell alone to pray and purify herself is strengthening the Heart of the Mystical Body. A man who kneels in silent prayer before going off to work will find himself strong and successful. One who grows in faith and charity will accomplish great good because of their fruits.
I must also touch one other thing before I break off... and this is extremely important for one who is following a vocation. Purity of heart is a great strength. A woman who is strong in purity will be the strength of her husband when he is shallow and worn from the worries of the world. A religious who is strong in purity is pleasing to her Husband through this strength and brings Him joy. Purity is the strength of the soul... it is the great gates that block out evil and the beauty that lines the walls of the "inner rooms" with the clearest and strongest gems. Be pure and you radiate God. Only through purity of heart can God's Goodness radiate to others through you.
Be charitable, be full of faith, be contemplatives of the heart, and be pure... for in thus being, I promise you, God will do great things through you. Go alone to pray and be holy, for in thus doing, you will accomplish God's Will for you. It is our first duty to be holy.