Law, counsels, virtue, perfect virtue

An analogy occurred to me between the relationship between law and virtue, and the counsels and perfect virtue, which may be helpful in considering the role and necessity of the counsels in attaining spiritual perfection. A lawmaker intends to lead those who are subject to the law, to virtue, so that from within themselves, from inner principles, their own reason and will, they do right deeds. Thus virtue has a certain priority as the end of the law. Again, when it comes to particular actions, virtue also has a priority as regards leading someone to act well, since it is not possible to consider thoroughly all of the elements involved, and thus one must act from one's inclination… and it is virtue which makes this good.

Similarly, the counsels aim to lead those who follow them to a perfect state of virtue, so that from within themselves they act with a fully spiritual attitude… to do all for God, and rely entirely upon him. Thus this habitual spiritual attitude is the end of the counsels, and also in concrete life has the priority as regards actually turning one's attention to God.

Have no anxiety about anything

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:4-6).

Most of the time anxiety is not particularly helpful. The purpose of anxiety is to make us alert and ready to avoid some danger. But when there's nothing we can do to avoid the evil we're afraid of, when it's not reasonable for us to take many steps to avoid it, or in general when this being-on-guard against danger is useless, there's no point in being anxious. It takes away peace, and hinders us from a wholehearted and joyful pursuit of the good we are about. An recent example occurred, in which someone on a pilgrimage was anxious about reaching a Mass on time. The judgment that they should walk more quickly might be a reasonable one, but after making such a judgment, and increasing the pace, there is no point in worrying more about the matter.

But how to avoid such anxiety? One important step is to mentally accept the potential bad outcome about which one is tending to worry. If there is nothing more one can to do avoid it, it is perfectly legitimate to accept it as if it already happened. Another step, more relevant to the passage quoted from St. Paul, is to look at the matter in light of God's providence. The present situation is within God's providence, as well as the outcome, whether that turn out to be what one is hoping for, or the contrary. St. Francis de Sales states, as a general principle, that we should do what we can to attain good results, but leave the result in God's hand, as in fact it is. As we accustom ourselves to seeing God's hand in everything, this reliance on God will naturally lessen worry and anxiety, without in any way diminishing our care to fulfill our duties.

See also sayings of St. Therese on love

Proof of God's Love

Today is the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, where the glory of God's love appears. Sometimes one is inclined to see only the dishonor and pain of the cross, and glory first in the Resurrection. But indeed, precisely while raised on the Cross, Christ reveals his glory, the glory of his love and the love of his Father, who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (Joh 3:16), so that we might live forever with him. Christ tells us that there is no greater love "than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Joh 15:13). The power of love is revealed above all in embracing suffering for the sake of love.

This is true not only of Christ's love, but of our love as well. Love is both revealed, and grows through suffering for love–not only when we accept great sufferings out of love, but also when we put up with minor irritations from family, friends, co-workers, for their sake and for God's.

Does this mean we should go out and seek the greatest sufferings possible? No, because there is an even more important principle involved: as Christ did not seek "his own will, but the will of him who sent" him, so above all we need to conform our wills to God's. And it is God's will that we primarily accept with patience or even joy the sufferings in which he plays them, and only secondarily that we sometimes take on other sufferings on our own initiative.

My Vocation is Love!

"O Jesus, my Love, finally I have found my vocation: my vocation is Love!… Yes, I have found my place in the Church, and it is you, O my God, who have given me this place… in the heart of the Church, my Mother, I will be Love!…. Thus I shall be all things: thus my dream shall be realized!!!"

Has St. Thérèse just found the vocation common to all men and women–the vocation to love–or has she found her own unique vocation? Or both? I propose that it is both: her special vocation is to devote herself entirely to that which is the common vocation of us all–to live love. I've posted her words in context, with further reflection on the common and special vocation to love.

Why not marrying may seem selfish

"It is inconceivable, unfathomable, that it would be Our Lord's will that a young adult, who is dedicated to getting closer to Him and is perfectly able to accept the marriage/family vocation, rejects this vocation and chooses to remain 'single.' "

I did not invent this statement. It is a statement someone actually wrote. I do not agree with this position. Please note: I do not agree with this position. However, I think it is always important to do one's best to understand everyone, including those people with whom we disagree. Hence, I would like to make some remarks on why it might seem selfish for someone not to marry, and yet without becoming a priest or religious. Before getting upset and posting a comment along the lines of: "How can you dare say that single persons are selfish?", please take the time and to care to actually read what I say in this post, and to pay attention to what the actual purpose of this post is.

One person may marry because they think they will be happier in marriage. Another may refrain from marriage because they think they will be happier without marriage. What's the difference between the two cases?

Though in a sense the motivation is the same, there is a difference between these two. What if we described the two situations in this way: some resolve to love because they think it will make them happier; others resolve not to love because they think in this way they will be happier, that love would not make them happy.

I'm not saying that this is the reality of the motivation of all those who remain single by choice. But I would say that as long as it is purely negative, that is, as long as they are single simply because they don't want to marry, and don't intend to use the freedom offered by the single life to love God and/or their neighbor, they are not embracing the single life as a vocation, and are being selfish.

And yes, those who marry without intending to love their spouse through their marriage are also being selfish, and even more so than those who don't marry at all.

When someone doesn't marry, and becomes a priest or religious, then people see that there is some other mode of love that they are devoting themselves to; if they don't see this in another person who remains single, they may see him as selfish. Of course we cannot judge the heart, but if is true than the person remaining single isn't giving themselves in love to any one, he or she is in fact selfish, and that appearance is correct.

Much more could be said about the question of happiness. Everyone seeks to be happy, and no one seeks to be unhappy. St. Augustine and many others have pointed this out many times. The difference is precisely in how we seek to attain that happiness: do we seek to attain it in God, through giving ourselves in love, or do we seek to attain it in a good lifestyle, through piling up things, time, etc., for ourselves? The first way is good, the second way is not.

See also the post "Single vocation?" on whether there is a single vocation.

More articles on the single vocation