The Simplicity of Sanctity

For this is the will of God, your sanctification.

1 Thess. 4:3

“If the work of our sanctification presents us with difficulties,” observes J. P. de Caussade (1675-1751), it is because we lack “a correct idea of what it consists in.” “In reality, holiness may be reduced to one point only: fidelity to the Order of God.” Caussade identifies three ways in which this Order is manifested to us—and thus three things in which we are to be faithful.

The first way of sanctity “consists in the accomplishment of the duties imposed on us by the general laws of God and the Church and by the particular state of life which we have embraced.” Since our duties in life “cease to be such when they are really beyond our powers,” it is always possible to fulfill them by doing whatever good is within our reach at the moment.

In those cases when God wants us to go above and beyond our general duties, he will send inspirations to facilitate extraordinary deeds. Fidelity to such “counsels” is a second way to sanctity. Normally, however, “God is pleased to content himself” with the great “number of very unimportant actions” comprising our lives. This second way therefore requires us to distinguish genuine inspirations from the impulses of pride or vanity.

Every life is full of suffering. Whether ours be the challenges and setbacks common to all, or circumstances demanding heroic risks or sacrifices, the third way of sanctity demands nothing more (or less) than “loving acceptance of all that God sends us at each instant.”

The first two ways are “active,” requiring us to know and do what the Lord expects of us. They are nonetheless simple, inasmuch as God never expects us to know what he has not revealed, or to achieve what he has not given us the strength to accomplish.

The third way is “passive” in nature, and is the simplest of all, in that it asks us only to let God govern the things we cannot control. Simple as it is, however, this way is only open to those who know, trust in, and embrace the God who has “ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight,” who “loves all things that are,” and above all “loves souls” (Wis. 11:21-27).

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