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Friday, 17 April 2015

A Reminder of Providence

Mendicant is a polite word for beggar. Today, the Church celebrates the life and death of a beggar and homeless man, St. Benedict Labre. He is one of my personal patrons.

I would rather be in Rome, however, God places us where He wants us to be.

I identify with this man who could not make the physical grade to be a monk. I wish I could visit all the wonderful pilgrimage places he did in his very short life.

As the patron of the homeless, St. Benedict Labre, like other fools for Christ, wandered through Europe praying and helping others. Sadly, today, God's fools are not admire anymore and even, in some states here, made into criminals.

St. Benedict Labre may be seen as a "man of Providence".

As we head into chaos and persecution in the Church, it behooves us to recall the definitions of Providence. Garrigou-Lagrange in his book by this name, already reviewed on this blog quite a while ago, reminds us of three points regarding Providence.

My comments in blue...

Why we should abandon ourselves to divine providence

The answer of every Christian will be that the reason lies in the wisdom and goodness of Providence. This is very true; nevertheless, if we are to have a proper understanding of the subject, if we are to avoid the error of the Quietists in renouncing more or less the virtue of hope and the struggle necessary for salvation, if we are to avoid also the other extreme of disquiet, precipitation, and a feverish, fruitless agitation, it is expedient for us to lay down four principles already somewhat accessible to natural reason and clearly set forth in revelation as found in Scripture. These principles underlying the true doctrine of self-abandonment, also bring out the motive inspiring it.

 See my posts on Quietism...but remember that these people just give up and neither hope nor work for their salvation "in fear and trembling". 

One can also become fixated on a particular sin or vice an forget that go is in charge of giving us the grace to combat sin.

The first of these principles is that everything which comes to pass has been foreseen by God from all eternity, and has been willed or at least permitted by Him.
Nothing comes to pass either in the material or in the spiritual world, but God has foreseen it from all eternity; because with Him there ii no passing from ignorance to knowledge as with us, and He has nothing to learn from events as they occur. Not only has God foreseen everything that is happening now or will happen in the future, but whatever reality and goodness there is in these things He has willed; and whatever evil or moral disorder is in them, He has merely permitted. Holy Scripture is explicit on this point, and, as the councils have declared, no room is left for doubt in the matter.

Most people understand this first principle, that God has known from all eternity all that happens. 

He wills good and permits evil, as all humans have free will, and for His Glory.

The second principle is that nothing can be willed or permitted by God that does not contribute to the end He purposed in creating, which is the manifestation of His goodness and infinite perfections, and the glory of the God-man Jesus Christ, His only Son. As St. Paul says (I Cor. 2: 23), "All are yours. And you are Christ's. And Christ is God's."

This glory and the revelation of God's goodness and all His attributes, are the goal of the will of God, either perfect or permissive.

In addition to these two principles, there is a third, which St. Paul states thus (Rom. 8:28) : "We know that to them that love God all things work together unto good: to such as, according to His purpose, are called to be saints" and persevere in His love. God sees to it that everything contributes to their spiritual welfare, not only the grace He bestows on them, not only those natural qualities He endows them with, but sickness too, and contradictions and reverses; as St. Augustine tells us, even their very sins, which God only permits in order to lead them on to a truer humility and thereby to a purer love. It was thus He permitted the threefold denial of St. Peter, to make the great Apostle more humble, more mistrustful of self, and by this very means become stronger and trust more in the divine mercy.

A reader noted that the posts on hell were particularly good on the day I had the flu. Being ill reminds me of my mortality and causes me to consider my end. Hence, the posts on hell. Also, when one is not feeling well, one is more aware of the passing of time, than when one is busy. Time sits heavy on the sick, and leads, or should lead, to reflection. God allows illness to help each one of us move in some way towards perfection.

One's personal salvation may be seen as tied up, intricately, with whatever happens in one's life, for good or for evil. The evil a person chooses, the good God directs.

These first three principles may therefore be summed up in this way: Nothing comes to pass but God has foreseen it, willed it or at least permitted it. He wills nothing, permits nothing, unless for the manifestation of His goodness and infinite perfections, for the glory of His Son, and the welfare of those that love Him. In view of these three principles, it is evident that our trust in Providence cannot be too childlike, too steadfast. Indeed, we may go further and say that this trust in Providence should be blind as is our faith, the object of which is those mysteries that are non-evident and unseen (fides est de non visis) for we are certain beforehand that Providence is directing all things infallibly to a good purpose, and we are more convinced of the rectitude of His designs than we are of the best of our own intentions. Therefore, in abandoning ourselves to God, all we have to fear is that our submission will not be wholehearted enough. [54]

When I complained to STS that I had to move again and was tired of this lifestyle, he noted that God was giving me lots of practice in trusting Divine Providence. As a person who has been too much in control, in the past, of my own life, to give all to God has been a challenge. Being pushed to rely on God for everything means that I am developing this childlike trust, and that His intentions are superior to mine, of course. This does not mean that one stops acting, of course not. In fact, a priest told me recently that I must make my needs known. Because sharing these creates negative responses in people most of the time, I pull back and hesitate. But, I must be obedient to the state in which God has designed to put me-that of a beggar, like St. Benedict Labre, whose feast is today.

One cannot trust in Divine Providence too much. And in times of stress, chaos, and persecution, when human aid disappears, trust in Divine Providence alone becomes essential for the Catholic.

Trusting in Divine Providence absolutely means "blind trust". One knows nothing of the whats, whens, wheres, hows, whys....

But, God has a design and a plan, which will come to completion in His time, not ours.

to be continued...the next post on this theme will be on the fourth principle concerning Providence.