De Divinis Moribus
The Ways of God
ascribed to Thomas Aquinas
translated by Raissa Maritain & Margaret Sumner
Windsor: Basilian Press, 1942
"Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mat 5:48). Holy Scripture never orders and never counsels us to do the impossible. By these words, then, the Lord Jesus does not command us to accomplish the very works and ways of God, that no one can attain in perfection.
But he invites us to model ourselves on them, as much as is possible, by applying ourselves to imitate them. We can do this with the help of grace and we should do so. And, as the Bishop John said, nothing is more suitable to man than to imitate his Creator, and to carry out according to the measure of his possibility, the designs of God.
God is unchangeable
Among the ways of God, there is a primary perfection which is that He never changes. He himself declares it by the Prophet: "I am God and I do not change" (Malachy 3:6), and by Saint James: "Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration" (1:17). Created things bear in themselves a trace of this changelessness, in that they are unchangeable in their essence. And if sometimes he sends his angels, and sometimes does not send them; if at time he withdraws his grace and at times confers it, if now he punishes sins, and now cloaks them, the change is in creatures, in no way in the Creator.
In short, the changeless of his decrees, in regard to the good and the bad will confirm itself at the last day, when he will give forever to he good a recompense superior to their merits, and will inflict forever on the bad a punishment that is less than the gravity of their faults.
Let us strive therefore to acquire stability of spirit, in order that, broken by adversity or tempted by prosperity, we never depart from the right way, and that we may say with Job: "My justification, which I have begun to hold, I will not forsake; for my heart does not reproach me in all my life" (27:6). and with Saint Paul: "For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, etc., shall be able to separate us from the love of God" (Romans 8).
But, alas, how inconstant we are in holy meditations, in lawful affections, in steadfastness of conscience, in a right will. Ah, how suddenly we pass from good to bad, from hope to a groundless fear, and from fear to hope, from joy to unreasonable grief, and from sadness to vain joy, from silence to loquaciousness, from gravity to trifling, from charity to rancor or to envy, from fervor to tepidity, from humility to vain-glory or to pride, from gentleness to anger, from joy and spiritual love to carnal love and pleasure.
In this way we never remain one single instant in the same state, if it be not, alas, that we are constant in inconstancy, in infidelity, in ingratitude, in spiritual defects, in imperfection, in negligence, in frivolity, and in ill-regulated thoughts and affections. Even the motions that trouble our exterior senses and our limbs reveal our interior instability.
Nevertheless we should work without ceasing to acquire constancy of soul, in order to conduct ourselves in all circumstances with equanimity, maturity and sweetness.
Good is pleasing to God
Among the ways of God there is another perfection, it is that all good is pleasing to him by nature, always and everywhere, whether it be in the angels or in the other creatures: qualities of the body, like beauty, strength, grace, sweetness, and the fullness of natural maturity; qualities of the soul, such as perspicacity of the spirit, tenacity of memory, subtlety of the intelligence, rectitude of the will, vigor of free-will; natural gifts, such as to read well, to sing well, to preach well, to be eloquent, sober continent, to have well regulated habits; finally, the gifts of grace, which please God above everything, like faith, hope, charity, humility, patience, obedience, mercy, temperance, justice, prudence and knowledge.
Similarly all evil displeases him everywhere and always and in whatever it exists. As justice is the enemy of injustice and impurity of purity,—equally so the malice of man is contrary to the goodness of God, because it diminishes or even completely destroys the divine good that grace brings to nature.
All that is good should please us also, always and everywhere and in every creature. We should protect and support good with solicitude and resist boldly those who combat it.
We should detest evil with all our heart and lay ourselves out to prevent it because it is injurious to God and harmful to one's neighbor; and even more because it endangers man's fate.
But, alas, oftener it is the opposite that takes place. For if we feel sad because some one is praised, and is beloved on account of his humility, his piety, his sermons, his devotion etc., and if we try to diminish his merits,—how do we show ourselves if not as beings whom good does not please?
And when we are conversing with slanderers and laugh with them, when we delight in these frivolities and other faults of the same order,—what do we do, if not certify that evil things do not displease us?
We also should tend towards this perfection, in order that no matter how grievously a man has injured us, we never hate his nature; and that, wishing him every kind of good, whatever be the corporal and spiritual help he expects from us, we should be always ready to grant it to him at once.
But there is in God a just hatred that we also should partake of; for it is necessary that the love we have for man should not extend to loving his sin, no more than we should detest human nature because we detest its vices. Let us know, everywhere, how to hate evil and love the very being of things.
The justice of God
Among the ways of God there is another perfection, which is that the malice of one person never damages, in the judgement of God, the good that is in another. Thus the fall of Lucifer did not harm the Archangel Michael; and the perfidy of Judas did not lessen the charity of the blessed Peter.
But we, miserable as we are, if a monk is guilty of some excess, we reproach the whole convent and the entire Order and even every monk without exception, with the fault of a single one.
If one of our enemies offends us, we pursue a great number of innocent people with our hatred, all his descendants, his friends and associates. That is something that the Law of God forbids. "The soul that sins, the same shall die, the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, and the father shall not bear the iniquity of the son; the justice of the just shall be upon him, and he wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him." (Ezechiel 18:20). "For everyone shall bear his own burden" (Galatians 6:5).
And how often does it not happen, when our soul is troubled, that we blame God himself, who certainly does not deserve it—for then we no longer wish to sing nor study, nor read nor pray.
The rectitude of God
Among the ways of God there is another perfection, which is that he never omits nor puts aside mercy for justice, or justice for mercy. In fact, he never judges nor condemns without mercy, and when he pardons justice is never wounded.
Whereas we, unfortunates, if we try to practice justice, mercy dies out in our soul, and if we open our hearts to mercy, it is at this moment that justice is buried.
But Scripture recommends justice and mercy both at the same time: "May mercy and truth never abandon you" (Proverbs 3). And the Psalmist said: "I will sing of mercy and of justice before you, O Lord" (100 :1).
Longanimity of God
Among the ways of God there is another perfection. Whereas, at time, all the saints and all creatures cry vengeance against the sinner, as is written in the Apocalypse (6:10): "And they cried in a loud voice, 'How long will it be, O Master, holy and true, before you judge our cause and avenge our blood among the inhabitants of the earth?'" God, however, with patience and mercy awaits the sinner until his death in order to have pity upon him, if he will, even in this last moment, regret his evil ways and turn towards him. For the Lord infinitely good cannot rejoice at the loss of the living.
But we, in our impatience, before the grave is dug for the sinner, cursing him and crying out for justice, would like to see him swallowed up on the very instant. We reproach God for bearing so long with the evil that the wicked cause the just to suffer, and we do not wish to consider the good that his wisdom expects to draw even from the malice of the impious.
For, in his forbearance with the wicked the Lord is equally good and also equally worthy of praise as though he had preserved the world from sin, had it pleased him to act thus,—or delivered it completely from evil.
It would have been easy, as a fact, to fling the wicked into the depths of Hell; but where above all his power is manifest is in the mercy which bears him to have pity on the sinner, and to forgive him.
The bounty of God
Among the ways of God there is another perfection, he communicates to creatures all the good that in its essence is communicable and that they have the capacity to receive, and this continuously, as soon as they allow him to give, even though he sees that his gifts do not fructify in them.
He united human nature and the divine nature in the person of the Word, the greatest work of all. And, without mentioning his other spiritual gifts, he has made the human soul capable of receiving the Trinity within itself, and he nourishes it with the flesh and blood of his beloved Son.
He withheld nothing that could be given, and this is the property of Divine Goodness. That which he possesses by his nature, God communicated to creatures by grace; bliss to the angels, without their having known misery; power to the choir of Apostles, in such a way that all that they should bind or unbind on earth, should be bound or unbound in Heaven; the prevision of things to come to the Choir of Prophets; strength to the Choir of Martyrs; constancy to the Choir of Confessors, and to the Choir of Virgins continence amid the seductions of the flesh.
She shares also with some in particular the blessings that he has by his nature. He gave magnanimity to Abraham, meekness to Moses, who was the gentlest of men, the stewardship of Egypt to Joseph, to Sampson strength, To Eli zeal for justice, to Job and to Tobit patience, to Elisha power to raise the dead, to Daniel wisdom in judgements, to Samuel faithfulness, to David mercy towards his persecutors, to Solomon prudence, to John the Baptist love of holiness and truth, to Peter charity, to John chastity, to blessed Paul zeal for souls and the understanding of things above, to the Blessed Virgin humility. Each one distinguished himself in the exercise of his special gift, while possessing also the other virtues.
And we, not only should we make a mutual gift of our eyes, that they may see for others, of our ears that hear penitents, of our mouth that it be ready to preach and to counsel, of our feet that they may be the servants of our neighbor, and of our heart that it may meditate his salvation,—but also all that we can do outwardly by our works, inwardly by our desires, all that we are in body and in soul, we should give generously to each of those who are in Purgatory and to those who are now alive and who soon will be gone, in order that the will of God be accomplished in them now and always.
God allows himself to be easily appeased
Among the ways of God there is another perfection, which inclines him to forgive immediately the gravest and most numerous offenses, if we make a firm resolution to turn from them and truly to amend.
Even more, he forgets them in return for a single lamentation of a contrite heart, as the Scripture says. And, if we remain in this good-will, he does not meditate vengeance for our sins later on, nor does he meditate reproaching us with them in order to dismay us, nor charging us with them in order to love us less, nor driving us away from him in withdrawing his intimacy.
But we who should walk in the footprints of God, it is with difficulty that we agree to forgive, from the heart, a single small offense to one who implores our forgiveness. If it happens that we do not forgive, we almost never forget; we rejoice in the embarrassment of our debtor; we have small pity for him in adversity, or else we love him less than we did before. If we do not reproach him it is certain, however, that we exclude him from our intimacy, and even in times of trial we refuse him our counsel and our support.
We should, on the contrary, forget the offenses of our enemy, even though he neither repents nor amends, in imitation of Christ, who prayed for those who crucified him, and who, far from repenting, mocked him.
Nothing makes us more like God, said Saint John Chrysostom, than to allow ourselves to be easily appeased and to be pitiful to the wayward and to those who harm us. For the height of perfection is to love our enemies, and to pray for them as did the Lord Jesus.
The mercy of God
Among the was of God there is another perfection; he exacts nothing that is beyond our strength in fasting, prayers, watchings, almsgiving, bodily mortifications and regular discipline etc.
And, if we fail in great and difficult works—to efface our sins he contents himself with the most humble things, such as tears that come from the heart.
It is thus he considered the tears of Ezechiah, and revoking the sentence of death that he had pronounced upon him by the Prophet, he granted him fifteen more years of life.
He listened, with the same mercy, to the tears of blessed Peter, when at the cock-crow, he wept bitterly over the enormous fault of his denial.
If it happens that some one cannot weep, a single word, coming from a contrite heart, suffices for God. It is thus that to the robber who said to him, "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom," Jesus replied: "This day you shall be with me in Paradise."
And if some one lost in the use of his tongue, God would accept fully the lamentations of his heart, according as it is written: "At whatever hour the sinner laments I will forget all his iniquities."
Finally, if illness deprived a man of the use of all his members, and even of the power to groan, before this extreme weakness God would even be contented with a good and sincere will, in order to forgive the most grievous offenses.
Do not let us then exact more from whomsoever it be, secular or religious, even though by reason of his vocation he is bound to greater perfection, if he has done faithfully what he was capable of doing.
God is perfectly balanced in his judgments
Among the ways of God there is another perfection; he reproaches no one with their natural defects of body or of soul, such as blindness, deafness, deformity of the members, stupidity, lack of intelligence, of mind, of memory, of reason and natural pusillanimity. For defects of this kind God does not disdain and does not reject any man.
But he gravely charges us with the spiritual defects that are easy for each one to rise above with the help of grace, such as to take pride in the greatness of certain gifts, to desire superfluous things, to be sad at the progress of the just, to rejoice at their afflictions, to detest good works or to obstruct them, to vilify one's neighbor, to lessen his good reputation, to hold obstinately to one's preferences, never to renounce one's own opinion, to apply one's self to please man, to hate reprimand, to love adulation, to seek extraneous consolations, to cherish carnal affections.
In the same way we should never be contemptuous to those who are deprived of health, strength, beauty, eloquence, charm in conversation,—gifts that no one holds from himself. Let us give thanks to God for those who possess these gifts. Let us be patient with the others, and let us try, according to our strength, to supply all they lack.
Generosity of God
Among the ways of God there is another perfection, which leads him to grant his grace with extreme liberality according to the calling of each one—as is said in the Gospel: "And he gave to one five talents, and to another two and to a third a single one, to each according to his capacity" (Matthew 25:25).
Also, the more the heart of man is dilated by love of God and of his neighbor, the more his meditations, his fervent prayers, his humility and his generosity will have opened his soul to grace—the more elevated and greater is the grace that God the All Powerful will bestow upon him. And in the measure, even, that he seeks to conserve it and to use it for the praise of God and the common utility, in the same measure he disposes himself to receive a more abundant infusion of grace in this world and of glory in Paradise.
Let us then dilate our hearts and prepare them by frequent aspirations in order that God who is "rich in mercy to all who invoke him" may shower his grace upon us according to his munificence.
But let him who is charged to dispense spiritual goods by preaching and by counsels, watch with the greatest care that he does not give holy things to the dogs, and does not throw pearls before swine.
"Day to day utters speech and night to night shows knowledge" (Ps 18 :3); which signifies that the most perfect things must be given to the perfect and less perfect to the imperfect, as is the duty of a faithful steward. It is thus, indeed, that Saint Paul announced Jesus to the imperfect, even Jesus crucified, but the mystery of wisdom contained therein he disclosed only to the perfect (1 Cor 2).
The discretion of God
Among the ways of God there is another perfection: "He exacts much from him to whom he has given much, and even more from him to whom he has given more" (Luke 12:48).
From him whom God has leaded with temporal goods, he requires more abundant almsgiving; and from him who has received as his share health and strength, more fasting and watchings, meditations, pilgrimages and good works.
From him to whom he has remitted a greater number of sins, or graver sins, and from him whom he has preserved from them, he awaits a more generous love and more worthy fruits of penitence.
From him to whom he grants superior virtues, more perfect natural gifts of the spirit, of the intelligence, of the memory, of the will, and to whom he provides more numerous and more uplifted spiritual gifts, such as devotion, peace of conscience, spiritual joy, a firm and universal confidence, wisdom in discourse, persevering search for perfection, diligence in well-doing, purity of intention, zeal for souls, fervor in prayer, God lawfully requires greater acts of thanksgiving.
And from him whom God in his benevolence admits more often, and in a more intimate manner, to the knowledge of his goodness, of his serenity, of his immensity, of his all-powerfulness, of his liberality, of his charity, of his wisdom, of his mercy, of his justice, of his truth, of his faithfulness, of his patience, of his humility, of his suavity and his nobility, he expects praise more abundant, more frequent and more fervent.
From him whom he illumines in the quest for and knowledge of a higher perfection, in order that he shall practise it effectively and make more and more progress in it, God claims more; it is necessary as a result, that such a one by his words, his example, his prayers and his desires, bring, as much as he is able, to the knowledge and practise of perfection, those whom he judges capable of it.
Let us watch therefore, in order that on the day of reckoning we may be able to render to God with interest each of the gifts he confides to us lest he should order them to be taken away from us, and to throw us miserably into exterior darkness, with the lazy servant who had enveloped and hidden in a cloth the talent given him by the Lord.
The just judgment of God
Among the ways of God there is another perfection, which is that he does not judge human acts on their exterior appearance, but he discerns all in his immense and ineffable wisdom, according to the intentions of the heart. And it is according to the intention which gave birth to them that he accords to our works grave punishment or excellent recompense.
Neither, then, let us judge anyone on the testimony of our senses alone, on that which we see or hear.
That men show us an affable or a severe face, that they speak to us with sweetness or with rudeness, that they make us gifts or not, in every circumstance let us be attentive no only to what they do, but to the intention that prompts them, and let us conduct ourselves accordingly.
For it is more useful to us to bear rude words from a veritable friend who proposes our amendment, than to listen to the sweet and flattering discourses of those who do not truly love us, and whose only aim is to please us. "Wounds made by those who love us" said Solomon, "are better than lying kisses from those who hate us."
The veracity of God
Among the ways of God there is another perfection: He is true in his promises.
According to his own testimony, it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than that a single one of his words should change or cease to be true.
For the Lord Jesus never speaks in vain, as we others do, but each one of the words he has pronounced in time were said, in his wisdom, from all eternity.
And as he accomplished, in coming among us, the hidden predictions of the Prophets touching his incarnation, his nativity, his passion, his resurrection, his ascension and the mission of the Holy Spirit, he will in the same way bring to pass the general resurrection that he has promised—and the future judgment.
He will hold to what he has promised to the poor, when at the last day he will place them upon twelve thrones, to judge the twelve tribes of Israel, and to that which he promised to those who weep when he himself will console them as a mother consoles her children.
He will hold to what he promised to the humble, when he will exalt them, in the same measure that hey had been abased and disdained, and to what he promised to the proud, when he will humble them as much as they had glorified themselves.
And he will keep the promise that he made to the oppressed when, at the command of his Father, he will trample under his feet the neck of the oppressor.
"For God is faithful in all his words, and what he has promised he is powerful to accomplish."
Let us also be true and, first of all, let us keep faithfully the baptismal promises that our god-fathers have made in our name, and which oblige us to persevere in the Catholic Faith, to renounce the Devil and all his works, and to keep the ten commandments, keeping also, in the same way, the vows we may have made spontaneously later on: vows of obedience, of continence, of abstinence, of religion etc.
Let us be true in our dealings with our neighbor. That our speech be yes, yes; no, no; that is to say that our heart be always in accord with our lips.
Let us be faithful in our promises, and if we owe anything, no matter what, to a living person or to a dead one, let us free ourselves of our debt without delay. For God demands the truth, and punishes severely those who despise it.
Alas, alas, how odious to men is this most excellent truth by which salvation comes to all. "He who hates the truth, hates Christ." They hate truth, they betray it. And not only he betrays the truth who proffers lies for truth, said Saint John Chrysostom, but he who does not speak it freely also betrays it, for it must be freely spoken; also he who does not defend it boldly, for it must be boldly defended.
God is no respecter of persons
Among the ways of God there is another perfection: He is no respecter of persons (Acts 10).
Under the ancient Law, as a fact, it is not the illustrious and the mighty, but obscure men like Moses, Joshua, Gideon, that he established judges of his people.
Later he chose men of humble origin to reign, like Saul, son of Cis, and David, the least among his brothers, who tended sheep.
When he founded his Church, it was not nobles and men of great learning, but simple fishermen whom he constituted princes over the whole earth, confiding to them the government of the Church. As said the Apostle, "But the foolish things of the world has God chosen, that he may confound the wise" (1 Cor 1).
Today it is the same, in dispensing his favors God does not consider men's power, nor strength, nor riches, nor bodily beauty. "But that man is pleasing to God, no matter from what nation, who fears him and performs works of justice" (Acts 10).
It is not only men who are handsome, rich, illustrious, that the Lord calls to eternal life. It is also the poor, the blind, the lame, the weak, that he urges to enter in, and it is above all people of humble condition who progress in the Church of God and abound in spiritual grace.
At the last judgment he will take no account of the person of kings and princes. He will judge with perfect equity the great and the lowly, and he will glorify them uniquely according to the degree of their humility and of their charity.
Let us then keep ourselves from the respecting of persons. One must, as said Saint Gregory, honor man, because he is man and made in the image and likeness of God, and not for anything that surrounds him, like riches, precious clothing, power, a noble name, and a multitude of friends and relations, for in the Scriptures the respecting of persons is considered a great imperfection.
May one never hear, then, a preacher in his sermons praise the life of the rich and great, who have their consolation on his earth, nor blame without reason the life of the poor and afflicted who suffer here below.
God grant that a confessor never listen more willingly to a person who enjoys the advantages of fortune, of social rank, of youth or of beauty, or from whom he expects some personal profit, rather than to an old man, a poor man, an infirm, a man of the people, who might have greater need. He should not give more time and effort to the one than to the other. Or, if he occupies himself with the former, let it be only because they are more exposed to sin than others, and because they can drag a greater number into evil-doing.
And neither may it please God that those who distribute alms be respecters of persons. Let the alms be more abundant there where misery is the greatest; and let those who are progressing in virtue be aided more amply.
Nevertheless in all circumstances one must act according to the teaching of the Apostle (Rom 13) "Render to each man his due, to one who fears, fear, to one to whom honor is due, honor." To one who loves, love, to one who is friendly, friendliness according the degree of holiness, and according to the dignity of each one.
The care of God for creatures
Among the ways of God there is another perfection; it is that he takes care of all creatures. Two sparrows sell for only a penny, even so not one is forgotten by him. He maintains all the living in their being and supplies unceasingly all their necessities. He takes care of all inert matter, the herbs and the trees that nourish themselves by it, and of all the animals, great and small, who dwell upon the earth, in the air or in the waters.
But above all he takes care of men, created in his image and likeness. He made them members of his beloved Son and temples of the Holy Spirit. He has sent to each one an angel to watch over him. He gives life to them in the precious flesh and blood of his only Son. He provided for the necessities of all, and admirably too for the temporal needs of sinners, his enemies, still more abundantly than for the needs of his friends.
He takes care of the souls in Purgatory in permitting that they be rescued by the desires of the Church triumphant, by the prayers of the Church militant, and by the oblations of priests, even when they offer them unworthily, and therefore would, themselves, deserve to be condemned.
And while prayers, almsgiving, fasting and pilgrimages, accomplished without charity, are insufficient to efface the sins of those who practise these devotions, it is, however, permitted piously to believe that such works, offered for the souls in Purgatory, may obtain for them, by an effect of divine goodness, some relief and even the remission of their sufferings, on account of the merits that they had here below.
Finally, God takes great care of the holy angels, whom he has established in such bliss, and whom he has forever preserved from all experience of evil.
Let us also care for creatures, using each one according to the order willed by God, lest at the day of judgment they testify against us.
Let us care for all men, assuming intimately their joys and griefs, seeking to restrain them from wrong doing, and to comfort them in the Lord, by our desires, our prayers and our good examples.
Let us care for the souls in Purgatory, applying ourselves frequently to relieving their sufferings by works of mercy.
Let us care for the angels in order that they shall not, by our fault, be deprived of the joy they should receive from the progress that, thanks to their good care and to their protection, we make in virtue.
And last and above everything, let us take tender care of God himself, doing everywhere and always what he most desires us to do and that for which he has particularly destined us.
Nothing can disturb the serenity of God
Among the ways of God there is another perfection: Nothing can perturb him. And though Scripture often speaks of his anger and his fury, it only wishes by this to show him taking vengeance on sin, or justly retiring his grace from his creature.
But he himself is entirely serene. He has no contrary. His simplicity is so perfect, he possesses in his own nature such a felicity, so great a joyfulness, that no perturbations can ever touch him.
We must therefore as much as possible flee all that unbalances us, for grace cannot dwell in a soul that is agitated.
But to keep inner peace one must occupy one's self vehemently with God. It is necessary that love strong as death accomplish in us the work of death, in order that seeing the actions of those who approach us, we do not see them, and that hearing words which could harm us or which are said against us, we do not hear them, and that our heart be not occupied with these things. We should, in imitation of David, be like the blind, the deaf and the dumb, and like men without feeling. "But I as a deaf man heard not, and as a dumb man not opening his mouth" (Ps 37 :14).
Let us then give ourselves up faithfully and with fervor to the things of God, and leave each one to his own conscience, to the judgment of his superiors, and to the ultimate justice of God, who said "Vengeance belongs to me and I will render it to men according to their works in the appointed time."
Let us keep ourselves even more from troubling others, lest they in turn trouble us also, as often happens, and that our conscience be tormented.
For God the All-Powerful, who loves justice, will not leave unpunished at the last day actions which, in causing confusion, will have contributed to diminishing here below the number of holy meditations, of right desires, of prayers and of other good works, and thus harmed Catholicity in heaven or on earth or in purgatory.
The disinterestedness of God
Among the ways of God there is another perfection, which is that in all that he has done and arranged he has entirely ignored all thought of his own interest; he has considered, uniquely, the abundance of his eternal and immense goodness, and ordered all for the greatest good of the angelic and the human creatures.
In the creation and the preservation of the heavens, and of all that hey enclose, it is not his own advantage that he has proposed to himself, but rather than of men and of angels.
Whatever he ordains among his creatures, fair weather or tempests, famine or abundance, health or epidemics, all that he does for men, that he confers, that he retires his grace, that he makes them vigorous or weak, poor or rich, that he makes them to live or die, that he permits the good or the bad to reign, to succor or to afflict the poor, to judge with equity or to offend justice,—he does all, he orders all, he permits all, because of his infinite goodness, and in view of the common good of men.
In like manner in all our desires, prayers, fasting, almsgiving, in all our acts, in all our words, in all that we bear from God, let our intentions be pure.
Without aiming at our interest, without seeking to please men, without fear of displeasing them, without even fixing our intention on what we might receive of grace in the present time, and of glory in the time to come, we should only consider the admirable goodness of God, act purely and above all for it, and in the second place for the salvation of our neighbor.
The more our intention be pure and strongly directed towards God, the less we dwell upon our own advantages and even upon those of other men,—the more our works will be agreeable to God and profitable to all. But, alas, how much they will lose in value before God, and for the universality of creatures, if we see in them any other thing than the pure goodness of the Lord.
"He will separate the grain from the straw with his fan," says the Gospel (Matthew 3). His wisdom will separate the pure from the impure; he will gather up the wheat alone in his barns, and he will burn the straw; that is to say he will reward in heaven and will allow to serve for the good of all, only that which has, with a pure intention, been done or omitted or suffered for him alone. "The Lord will reward me according to my justice," said David, " and will repay me according to the cleanness of my hands, as my hands shall have been pure before his eyes" (Ps 17 ).
God has done all things well
Among the ways of God there is another perfection, in virtue of which he has done all his works in an excellent manner.
For the works of heaven and of the earth, of angels and of men, and of all the other creatures, is so perfect that it would be impossible conceive it better ordained.
Supremely perfect above all is the work of the Redemption; that non other, in heaven nor on earth, would have been able to accomplish but God.
"He carried wisdom to its summit when he conquered the Devil through that wood by means of which the Devil had triumphed,"—that is in hiding until the end the divine power under the fragility of humanity. "Because if the demons had recognized him," says the Apostle (1 Cor 2), "never would they have crucified the Lord of glory," that is to say they would not have incited the Jews to crucify him.
And all that God does today, be it that he chastises sins, be it that he cloaks them on account of repentance, be it that he confers his graces on the elect, be it that he retires his graces from them, that he acts towards the faithful soul no familiarly, now as a stranger, that the air be cold or warm, that it rain, that it blow, that the road be dry or humid, that the fruits of the earth abound or perish—it would not be possible that all this could be better at the given moment, because the immense wisdom of God by an extreme charity and benignity produces each thing at the very time it is needed.
He will also accomplish very perfectly the work of remuneration, when he will attribute to each sin, and to each member which will have been the instrument of the iniquity, its just punishment according to the quantity and the gravity of the fault committed and when he will recompense with justice each act of good-will, each word, each example, according to the intensity of the supernatural love that produced them.
We should then take every car, we also, to accomplish as well as possible each of our actions, doing them by the virtue of our Lord Jesus-Christ, with all the desire of the Church triumphant and militant, and in the name of our Creator, as though our salvation and the interest of God and of the universality of creatures depended upon a single act that we do, as if we should never again do a like act, or never again do anything at all.
For each time that an extraneous thought introduces itself into our actions, a turning of the should toward something else, the spirit relaxes in its present work. For example, when we are praying, if at this moment we suggest to ourselves that we must write, or undertake some other work, our attention to prayer lessens, and we soon leave what we had begun.
The benevolence of God
Among the ways of God there is another perfection, which leads him to judge no man according to his malice or his justice in the past or future, but according to the present state of his soul.
It is thus that he did not condemn Paul on account of is previous malice, nor save Judas on account of his past justice.
But we, miserable creatures, whatever be the progress that some one makes in virtue or in holiness, we do not omit to remind ourselves often of his past injustice. On the other hand, if the just man happens to turn aside form the way of justice in some one point, though it be one single time,—even if he repents of it, we no longer remember his holiness.
Similarly, God never punishes twice for the same fault, if a first chastisement suffices and if the fault be corrected following the punishment.
Yet we, miserable creatures that we are, we would inflict, if it were in our power, one hundred most terrible punishments for one single injury that is done us.
The soul should model itself on God
The faithful soul should make its effort to model itself as much as is possible on the divine ways of which we have been speaking.
For the more it has been modeled on its Creator in this world, the more it will be like him in the life to come, and the more it is like him,—the greater will be its bliss, the more it will give glory to God and will be useful to every creature.
From this moment on it behooves the faithful to exult in joy, for it will possess these ways of God in life eternal, "when we shall be like him and see him as he is."
O most gentle God, foreseeing our desire, you have imprinted your image in our soul. We pray you in the name of all that you are and by all that you are, mercifully also to implant in us your divine ways, in order that your labor be not lost for us, and that our life be not in vain nor given over to peril, if we do not make the care you have taken of us serve towards our veritable end.
We are unable to imitate God in all things
Among the divine ways still other perfections are found, which are not imitable and which we can only admire. Thus, he alone knows the secrets of hearts, he alone knows and loves himself perfectly, he alone rejoices fully in himself and finds in himself the praise that is befitting, he alone is sufficient to himself and has need of nothing outside himself.
He alone is the one from whom all good proceeds, the one alone in whom the bliss of all abides. Eternal, uncreated, he alone dwells in inaccessible light; he alone was able to make something out of nothing, he alone maintains all things in being.
He alone remits sin. He alone knows the hour of judgment. He alone knows the number of the elect, this blessed God. Amen.