"Every soul could live in inconceivable and sublime exaltation if all were contented with God’s purpose for them. Yes, if we could leave that divine hand to do its work we could all attain the height of perfection. It is offered to us all, we have only to reach out our hand for it. There is not a living soul whose nature is not uniquely sacred, so that all can live, act and speak sublimely. Souls have only to follow each other along the same path and divine action will make each one, though ordinary, unique.
"How can I explain to your creatures, O heavenly Father, what I am proposing to them? Is it possible that, possessing such a precious gift and being able to enrich the world, I must watch souls drying up like plants in a desert? Come, simple souls, without a trace of piety, talent or even the most elementary instruction or system, and with no understanding of spiritual matters, who are amazed and overwhelmed by the eloquence of the learned; come, I will show you how to outshine those clever scholars, and will set you so well on your way to perfection that you will always find it at your feet, over your head and all around you. I will unite you to God and you will be led by the hand if you do what I tell you. Come, not only to look at a map of the spiritual country, but to possess it and walk in it without fear of losing your way. Come, not to study the history of God’s divine action, but to be its object; not to learn what it has achieved throughout the centuries and still does, but simply to be the subject of its operation. There is no need to bother about what has been told to others; there are words for you alone."
- Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, (originally published under the name Prayer for the Blessed State of Self-Abandonment), translated by Kitty Muggeridge
Sometimes God’s will for us is simple. Sometimes tasks that appear ordinary become extraordinary in God’s working. Mary was a young girl who became pregnant and was the mother of Jesus. In her mothering, the angel Gabriel was sent to her and said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you." (Luke 1:28).
Jean-Pierre de Caussade, in the passage quoted above, wrote about how God gives each Christian a unique combination of gifts so that God can work through each one of us. “He ascended up on high . . . he gave gifts to men.” (Eph. 4:8) Fr. De Caussade wrote, “Come, not to study the history of God’s divine action, but to be its object; not to learn what it has achieved throughout the centuries and still does, but simply to be the subject of its operation.” Mary was the subject of the operation of unique divine action when she conceived a child through the Holy Spirit. All Christians are the subject of the operation of some measure of divine action when we allow God to use us as His instruments through the unique combination of gifts that He has given to us for that purpose.
We benefit from reading about the history of the Church and the lives of the saints, both in that they are role models and in seeking the intercession of some of them. However, it is important to not only look at God’s power in history, but also at God’s working in our own lives now, individually and as the body of Christ. One amazed and overwhelmed by the eloquence of Augustine or the brilliance of Aquinas might yet “outshine those clever scholars”, in the sense in which De Caussade meant it, when contented with God’s will.
Photo: Sunset over the ocean near Del Mar, taken from the Coaster Train, May 4, 2006.