Reading Garrigou-Lagrange again and again, I am struck with the idea of docility. Now, some of us are made more or less docile. As a person with a strong will and strong character, docility is something I have had to learn. My saintly mother, who is 84, is docile by nature, most sweet-tempered, and a joy to be around. Not all of us are created the same. The idea of modern psychologically which states in popular terms that we can be all we want to be is simply not true in one sense and very true in another. Garrigou-Lagrange insists that docility may be learned or acquired by all, and should be the goal of the saint. In fact, one cannot grow in holiness without docility.
Now, docility is not “wimpiness” or a lack of character. One must have character and person-hood in order to seek spiritual docility. To live in fear, fear of anything or anyone, is no docility. In fact, really craven fear hinders one from coming to trust in Providence, another great theme of Garrigou-Lagrange. Unless one trusts in Providence, one cannot grow in docility of spirit.
Perhaps two of the most individual and strong saints, mentioned last week on this blog, SS. Teresa of Avila and Therese, the Little Flower, demonstrated in their autobiographies, that they had powerful, personal characters. They knew who they were, they knew their talents and limitations, they were capable of facing their own lack of perfection and cooperating with grace to attain such perfection.
In my little mini-series on perfection, in which I have tried to make Garrigou-Lagrange more accessible to modern readers, I have found that the simple message of perfection rests in the desire and seeking of docility. Now, for any woman in the modern world who is a feminist, my statement sounds like heresy. In the age of the emerging woman, which is a false idea by the way, as one only has to look at the great saints here mentioned, plus SS. Etheldreda, Gertrude, Brigid, Bridget, Matilda, Hilda, Eanswyth, Catherine of Siena, and so on to see powerful women acting in public spheres in the Church for centuries, women are supposed to be what I call “Bolsheviks”, that is, contradictory and totally independent. Of course, this is a physical, psychological and spiritual impossibility, created to destroy vocations as well as society. The Bolshevik mentality lends itself to splendid and, indeed, painful isolation. Some men fall into this mode of being, to the loss of their soul's growth and even salvation, as it is in dying to self that one gains heaven.
Docility requires greater courage than action. One must control one's desires, tongue, plans, in fact, give up control one's own life and trying to control the lives of others. This is also a goal of the Benedictine Rule, which I love so much. To be obedient to one's superior is to give up control. To give up control, is to become docile.
Obedience, dying to self, docility. The great spiritual masters, such as Garrigou-Lagrange and St. Benedict tell us that this is the only way to happiness and holiness.
As Garrigou-Lagrange notes, the ultimate docility is the giving of our soul completely to God. This action is connected to detachment and to listening in contemplation. By the way, without some silence in one's life, one cannot attain either docility or detachment. Silence is the absolute sine qua non of the spiritual life.