The Charitable Man Loves God With His Whole Being
revolution and (or?) love
Revolution has been a key fixture of society since the 16th century. From the Protestant Revolution to the intellectual revolution of the Enlightenment to the American and French political revolutions, Western man has enshrined the right to revolt against authority, human or divine. Indeed, Americans take great pride in their revolutionary ideas: in politics, in economics, in sex, in the arts, and the list goes on. Though many natural goods have come about through this long series of revolutions, Catholics must be wary of the supernatural ills of a revolutionary spirit. Visible, external revolutions are signs of an internal revolt against God and His created order.
Many American Catholics are, as Americans, too comfortable with the influences of revolutionary ideas, albeit without noticing. Think of the American ideals captured in lyrics of popular songs (e.g. “I did it my way”), storylines of popular movies (e.g. the scrappy underdog ousting the oppressive but legitimate authority), and “old sayings” (e.g. self-made man; pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps) — these ideals seep into the American psyche through culture, but many are incompatible with the Christian life. The Christian man is to say “Thy will be done”; he believes that he is blessed to suffer injustices for Christ’s sake; and he relies not on himself, but on the action of the Holy Spirit in him. Even the seemingly good idea of “making a better life for oneself” (i.e. the striving after some material good(s)) is a disturbance to the order of God. There is a tension between one’s formation as an American and one’s formation as a Catholic. The Catholic formation must win out.
The goal of the Christian life is sanctity. Sanctity is achieved through a gift of one’s very self to God, one’s Creator. For the creature, there is nothing else to give. One’s accomplishments, acquisitions, and accolades add nothing to one’s standing before God. Man must daily, in each of his acts, conform his own will to the will of the Father, thereby allowing God to form his soul into the masterpiece God desires. As long as one retains the influences of one’s revolutionary heritage, one’s submission to God will be imperfect. While society is torn apart by one revolution to the next and disorder rears its vicious head, the Catholic man can bring peace into the world by submitting himself and his family to the loving and merciful will of the Father. As the lesson for this week describes, we must give our entire being to God in charity, the total love of God.
From St. Francis de Sales in the Introduction to the Devout Life
Well-meaning people, who have not as yet attained a true devotion, attempt a manner of flight by means of their good actions, but rarely, slowly and heavily; while really devout men rise up to God frequently, and with a swift and soaring wing. In short, devotion is simply a spiritual activity and liveliness by means
of which Divine Love works in us, and causes us to work briskly and lovingly; and just as charity
leads us to a general practice of all God’s Commandments, so devotion leads us to practise them
readily and diligently. And therefore we cannot call him who neglects to observe all God’s
Commandments either good or devout, because in order to be good, a man must be filled with love,
and to be devout, he must further be very ready and apt to perform the deeds of love. And forasmuch
as devotion consists in a high degree of real love, it not only makes us ready, active, and diligent
in following all God’s Commands, but it also excites us to be ready and loving in performing as
many good works as possible, even such as are not enjoined upon us, but are only matters of counsel
Catechism 1431: Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart).
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