7. TOTAL SELF-GIVING AND STABILITY IN RELIGIOUS LIFE
Rome, January 19, 1947
We believe it would be helpful to call the attention of everyone, especially the Professed Sisters, on two points of prime importance: total dedication and stability in religious life.
Under the skill of the divine artisan, the person who feels the call in the first instance, perhaps in an unclear way and then in a more striking way by the One who calls whom He wills,1 gives her assent by her yes on the day she decides to enter the religious life. This yes is reiterated with an ever-increasing joy, dedication and strength in the postulancy and novitiate.
On the day of the Religious Profession, the person then, having reflected seriously on what she is leaving behind and the obligations she is taking on, bursts forth in a more conscious and freely given yes, because that is precisely the moment in which she must make her self-giving to God without reserve and without taking it back.
This self-giving must then be lived out with an ever increasing rhythm: in the mind, with thoughts centered on God and with supernatural way of reasoning; in the will, with perfect submission to the divine will and the observance of the vows and virtues; in the heart, by subordinating all affection to the divine love, in such a way that Jesus becomes indeed the center of our whole life and to be able to repeat with St. Paul: I live yet not I, but Christ lives in me.1
St Gregory1 and St. Thomas2 rightly say that to profess religious life is a spiritual holocaust in which the person gives to God everything that she/he has. The holocaust was, in fact, the perfect sacrifice in which the whole victim was annihilated and offered to God.3
To give oneself to God means to forget oneself and to entrust to him one's soul and body; it means giving him all of one's own powers, aspirations, sentiments, desires, fears and hopes, and reserving for oneself only the task to think of him, to serve him in the perfect fulfillment of our duties and to love him with our whole heart.
To offer oneself to God means to ring out a perpetual yes in the midst of all the events of life, all the ups and downs of life, all the changes that affect our internal and external life. It is a simple and filial consent to all the provisions of the Heavenly Father; it is the complete abandonment in God.
To offer oneself to God means to offer oneself to the Congregation, to put oneself at the disposition of the Superiors and to allow them to arrange things as they think fit.
This self-giving which begins in the period of postulancy, grows during the novitiate, flowers in the time of temporary profession, is consummated in perpetual profession.
Oh!, happy is the person who generously, completely, con-sciously gives herself/himself to Jesus.
What constitutes religious life is precisely this generous, complete and conscious giving of self and not dressing up differently from the lay persons or living in a special house.
The Divine Master warns us further: Whoever puts his hand to the plow but keeps looking back is unfit for the reign of God.1
Consequently, once this self-giving has been made, it is necessary for the person to be steadfast and constant in her own vocation, in her own apostolate, faithful to her own Superiors, her own sisters, her own Rules.
The religious state is called a state of life precisely because it implies a way of living which is stable and permanent. Without this stability the true religious state cannot be understood and the Institute cannot count on members who are not steadfast.
How can a building stay up if the foundation is unstable? There are persons who vacillate, who cause disturbance with a lot of talks, even grumbling sometimes, who lose time going from one place to another, from one assignment to another, with the net result that little or no work is done. Oh!, what shall torment most the person in the religious life at the hour of death, is to have wasted time by failing to be faithful to and steadfast in one's duties.
Certain persons who had said yes to the Lord many times and had made their self-offering with generosity then encounter difficulties of various kinds. It could be a superior or the fellow sisters with whom they do not get along well as desired. So they think that a change could be an effective remedy to all the problems. Sometimes the devil tempts a person precisely on this point and she is deceived into believing that by changing her asssignment, confessors, apostolate or house, she could make greater progress. Almost invariably this is an error. Wherever we go, we take with us our I with all its defects, so let no one be deceived, but to remain where the Lord called her. It is there that she will find the grace to correct herself, to advance and become holy.
It can also happen that someone believes that she is called by God to leave her own congregation, her own apostolate and to enter a cloistered order. In general, even here there is a hidden self-deception. It is not a real calling to the cloister but probably, it is simply a question of an invitation that the Lord extends to the person, so that she may become more recollected, acquire a deeper interior life and a greater love of prayer.
How can we defend ourselves from similar deceit and temptations? What are the means to be used?
Prayer is always the primary means, faithfulness to the practices of piety, to our practices of piety, according to the Pauline method Way, Truth and Life. A lot of grace is needed to overcome the difficulties that are prone to come our way in the religious life, to master the deceptions whereby the devil assails our stability and grace is obtain with prayer, fervent communions and hours of Adoration.
Another means to be faithful to one's own apostolate is to learn about this apostolate, to exercise it, to love it and to become enthusiastic of it. St. John Berchmans1 used to say: I esteem all the religious orders but I love more than any other, my Company of Jesus. Let the same be said by each one of us with regards to our Congregation, to one's own apostolate.
The overriding thought, the one that should prevail is the divine promise: You will receive many times as much and inherit everlasting life.1 With your thoughts on the reward, you will never tire of doing the good that is yours, your own.
1 Cf. Mk. 3, 13.
1 Gal. 2,20.
1 St. Gregory I the Great, Pope (540-604) >, Doctor of the Church.
2 St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Doctor of the Church.
3 Cf. Lv. chap. 1
1 Cf. Lk. 9, 62.
1 St. John Berchmans (1599-1621)
1 Cf. Mt. 19, 29.