‘When God desires a work to be wholly from His hand, he reduces all to impotence and nothingness, and then He acts. Nothing wounds God so much as pride.’ Jacque Bossuet.
One of my favourite books is Soul of the Apostolate, written by the French Cistercian Dom Jean Baptiste Chautard, who had been an Abbot of Sept-Fons from 1899 until his death in 1935. The book deals with the active worker in their faith and in page after page reveals the dangers of a work of God done by a person with a poor and malformed interior life. The book demands a slow and mediative journey throughout its pages. The above quote from Jacque Bossuet is from that book and like what is said in the book, is uncompromising and goes against the grain of human nature.
We are intelligent, resourceful, we may have relevant experience and education. We can believe that God has called us to do the work in which we have that passion for. Whether it is volunteering with the SVDP or working with children to ready them for confirmation; or a Vocation to the Religious and Priestly life, God often gives us a passion for the purpose He has for us. These are the good works prepared for us by our Lord (Ephesians 2:10). But our personal attributes, alongside the purposes we feel called to, can also be turned into a snare. They can become barriers to the main thing God wants: ourselves, loving Him with all our heart and all our soul (Luke 10:27). They then close off the next thing God wants, our dependence upon Him. Our pride is thus shrouded in what we think of as holy intention but it merely masks that ancient and ever renewed temptation that felled Adam – we want to be like God.
By cutting ourselves off from dependence on God we are rejecting the words of our Lord in St John’s Gospel: I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
To quote from Chautard; Now for a man, while busied in good works, to behave in practice as if Jesus was not the sole principle of supernatural life is what Cardinal Mermillod has called the HERESEY OF GOOD WORKS (authors emphasis). The result of this is ‘the love of action for action’s sake’.
St Gregory the Great in talking about St Benedict in his Dialogues, Book Two, said, ‘He lived within himself’. What does that mean? Part of it means St Benedict had no love for the world or what it could offer. He was concerned for his soul, as God is primarily concerned. To reorientate are lives then to a more interior contemplative mode is not rejecting the works God has for us – as Chautard shows us with Mary and Joseph. What monasteries did they set up? How many children did they feed? Yet the qualities of their interior life sound through the ages!
As the book continues then Chautard shows us the benefits of living within ourselves. He means by this in engaging in mental prayer and contemplation; this ultimately produces in the works we have been called to do, a supernatural thrust. A divine blessing that in the midst of many tasks does not make one feel busy. As St Bernard said, ‘In all places belong to thyself’.
Whatever our works are, they are supplied, they are maintained, and they are sustained, by Jesus ‘all things have been created for Him and by Him’. Let us renew our relationship with our Lord, reprioritise our priorities letting not the works of God become our god but the unstoppable result of a life lived with God in our own souls.
(Taken from the website of the Abbey of Sept Fons, https://www.ocso.org/monastery/sept-fons/)