Abelly: Book 3/Chapter 05

From Vincentian Encyclopedia

When Saint Basil was once asked how a person could show his love of God, he responded that it was in doing all he could, and even more than he could if we may speak this way, to accomplish continually, in all things, the holy will of God with an ardent desire for procuring his honor and glory. <Ftn: PG 31:3, 1223.> It was with good reason that he said this, since the union accomplished by love is mainly a union of hearts and wills. A person can never make his love of God more apparent than when he perfectly conforms his own will to God's.

This is what Monsieur Vincent practiced with so much holiness. As a result, it could be said this conformity of his own will to the will of God was the moving force, and the overriding virtue of this holy man, shedding its light on all his other virtues. It was the master virtue controlling all the other faculties of his soul and even of his body. It was the prime motive of his exercises of piety, of all the holy practices of religion, and of all his actions. Whenever he knelt in God's presence in his mental prayer or was attentive to his presence, he could say with Saint Paul, "Lord what would you have me do?" <Ftn: Acts 9:6.> If he was so anxious to consult God, to listen to him, and to use such circumspection in discerning the true inspirations coming from his Spirit, in contrast to the false inspirations from the demon or the disordered movements of human nature, it was to discern the will of God with more assurance, and to dispose himself better to accomplish it. If he strongly rejected the teachings of the world to embrace those of the Gospel, if he renounced himself so perfectly to embrace the cross with such affection, and if he abandoned himself to do and suffer all for God, it was to conform himself most perfectly to the will of his divine Master. He had such high regard for this disposition of soul that he once said: "Whoever conforms himself in everything to the will of God and takes his pleasure in it, leads a truly angelic life upon earth. He can even be said to be living the very life of Jesus Christ."

On another occasion he said: "Our Lord unites himself continually to those virtuous souls who remain faithfully and constantly united to his holy will, to those who choose or do not choose according to his wishes." <Ftn: CED I:233.> Since he was so filled and penetrated with this important truth, and knew from his own experience all the graces and blessings flowing from this conformity to the will of God, he sought to inspire this same sentiment in others, particularly in the members of his own Congregation. He even left them a precise regulation on the point, as follows:

"Since the holy practice of doing always and in everything the will of God is an assured means of acquiring Christian perfection, each one should do all he possibly can to familiarize himself with it. It would be helpful to consider these four steps: (1) To accomplish promptly the things we have been directed to do, and to flee from those forbidden, with the thought that this command or restriction comes to us from God, the Church, or our superiors, or even through the rules and constitutions. (2) In indifferent things, choosing those things more repugnant to human nature rather than those more pleasing, unless they happen to be necessary. They were to be chosen then, not indeed because they are pleasing to our senses, but solely because they are pleasing to God. If some indifferent things come up, being neither agreeable nor disagreeable in themselves, then we should accept either one, indifferently, as coming from the hand of divine Providence. (3) As to those unforeseen things which happen to us, such as afflictions or consolations, whether bodily or spiritual, we should receive them with an equanimity of spirit, as coming from the fatherly hand of our Lord. (4) Doing everything for the sole motive of the good pleasure of God, imitating in this as far as we can, our Lord Jesus Christ, who always acted this way, as he said himself in these words reported in the Gospel: "I always do the things which my Father has commanded me." <Ftn: John 8:29; Common Rules, ch. 2,3.>"

He considered this practice as a sure remedy for all ills. When he was asked how one should correct oneself of some fault, such as impatience or some other imperfection, or how to overcome some temptation, or how to preserve peace of soul in the midst of losses and sufferings, he would say that the secret was to conform oneself to the will of God. He insisted that this holy practice should be followed courageously, and that God's holy and divine will should be sought out perseveringly. He would not allow any lessening of this attitude. He wished the will of God to be the usual concern of the soul, as if it were the air it breathed, and the happiness to which it aspired. Once, speaking to his confreres on this topic, he said:

The perfection of love does not consist in ecstasies, but in fulfilling the will of God. Whoever who would be the most perfect of all is the one who has best conformed his own will to God's in such a way that no distinction remains between his own will and God's. Whoever would excel on this point would be the most perfect. When our Lord wished to instruct the man spoken of in the Gospel about how best to arrive at perfection, he said: "if anyone wishes to come after me, let him renounce himself, take up his cross, and follow me." <Ftn: Matt 16:24.> Now I ask you, who renounces himself more, or who carries the cross of mortification better, or follows Jesus Christ more perfectly than he who seeks to follow the will of God rather than his own will? Scripture says somewhere that the one who adheres to God is one spirit with him. Again I ask, who adheres more perfectly to God than he who does the will of this same God and not his own, who wills and does nothing but what God wills? Oh what a means for acquiring quickly in this life a great treasure of grace. <Ftn: CED XI:317.>

On another occasion, he wrote to a priest of the Congregation, a victim of a serious accident:

"What can we do? We must will what divine Providence wills, and not anything else. This thought came to me this very morning in my wretched mental prayer. A great yearning to accept all that comes, whether good or bad, whether the evil around us or personal sufferings, just as God wills, and just as he sends them to us. It seems to me that this practice is most necessary for missionaries, and is likely to produce marvelous results. We must strive to acquire this disposition of having our wills conform to God's. Among the great benefits of this, surely peace of soul will not be the least. <Ftn: CED VI:476.>"

On another occasion, reflecting on the third petition of the Lord's Prayer, Fiat voluntas tua sicut in caelo et in terra, ["Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"], <Ftn: Matt 6:10> he said:

"By these words, our Lord wished to teach us that just as the angels and the blessed in heaven accomplish the holy and adorable will of God, so too he wishes those of us still on earth to apply ourselves to this same attitude with as much love and perfection as is possible for us. He gave us the example of this himself. He came from heaven to earth just to do the will of God his Father in accomplishing the work of our redemption, and he delighted in doing what he knew to be most pleasing to God, at the time and in the way he recognized as being in conformity with his will. <Ftn: CED XI:313.>"