Our sanctification is God’s aim in all His dealings with us. What would He not do for His own honor and our good if we would only let Him! The heavens make no resistance to the spirits that guide them and their motion is magnificent, orderly and useful; they declare aloud the glory of God and preserve order in the universe by their influence and the invariable succession of day and night.
If they resisted this guidance and instead of following the motion set for them they followed a different one, they would soon fall into the utmost confusion and destroy the world. It is the same when the will of man lets itself be guided by God’s will.
Then all that is in this microcosm, this “little world,” all the faculties of the soul and members of the body are in the most perfect harmony and regular motion. But man quickly loses all these advantages and falls into the utmost confusion once he opposes his will to God’s and turns aside from it.
Man Sanctifies Himself By This Conformity
In what does the sanctification of man and his perfection consist? “Some,” says St. Francis de Sales, “place it in austerity, others in giving to charity, others in frequenting the Sacraments, others in prayer. But for my part I know no other perfection than loving God with all one’s heart. Without this love all the virtues are only a heap of stones.”
The truth of this cannot be doubted. The Scriptures are full of it. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, thy whole soul and thy whole mind.” This is the greatest and the first commandment, Our Lord tells us (Matt. 22:37-38). And St. Paul: “Above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection” (Col 3:14).
In the same way that virtue is ennobled and perfected by the love of God, “so likewise,” says Rodriguez following St. Chrysostom, “the highest, purest and most excellent part of this love is absolute conformity to the Divine Will and having in all things no other will but God’s.”
For, as theologians teach with Pseudo-Dionysius and St. Jerome, “the chief effect of love is to unite the hearts of those who love each other so that they have the same will.” Hence the more we submit to God’s designs for us, the more we advance towards perfection. When we resist we go backwards.
“Whoever makes a habit of prayer,” says the great St. Teresa of Avila, “should think only of doing everything to conform his will to God’s. Be assured that in this conformity consists the highest perfection we can attain, and those who practice it with the greatest care will be favored by God’s greatest gift and will make the quickest progress in the interior life. Do not imagine there are other secrets. All our good consists in this.”
It is related of Blessed Stephanie of Soncino, a Dominican nun, that she was one day carried in spirit to Heaven to see the happiness of the Saints. She saw their souls mingling with the choirs of angels according to each one’s degree of merit, and noticed among the Seraphim several persons she had known before their deaths.
Having asked why these souls were raised to such a high degree of glory, she was told it was because of the conformity and perfect union of their will with God’s while they lived on earth. Now, if this conformity to the will of God raises souls to the highest degree of glory in Heaven among the Seraphim, it must be concluded that it raises them on earth to the highest degree of grace and on it is founded the highest perfection man can attain.
Since it is the most perfect act of charity and the most pleasing and acceptable sacrifice that is given to man to offer to God, there can be no doubt that whoever practices entire submission to His Will lays up inestimable treasures at every moment and amasses more riches in a few days than others are able to acquire in many years and with great labor. To remain indifferent to good fortune or to adversity by accepting it all from the hand of God without questioning, not to ask for things to be done as we would like them but as God wishes, to make the intention of all our prayers that God’s will should be perfectly accomplished in ourselves and in all creatures is to find the secret of happiness and content.
“He fulfills the desire of those who fear him,” says the Psalmist, “He hears their cry and saves them. The Lord keeps all who love him” (Psalm 144:19-20). And again: “We know that for those who love God all things work together unto good” (Rom. 8:28).
This article is taken from a chapter in Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence by Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint Jure, S.J. and St. Claude de la Colombiere, S.J. which is available from TAN Books.