Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dom Vitalis Lehodey on God's Will of Good-Pleasure

"There is also His will of good-pleasure which we must look for in all events. I mean to say, in everything that befalls us: in sickness, in death, in affliction, in consolation, in adversity and prosperity; briefly, in all unforeseen occurrences" (St. Francis de Sales). [...] It is in tribulations especially we must recognise [sic] the will of God; not that He loves these for their own sake, but He employs them as an effective means of vindicating right order, of remedying our failings, of healing and sanctifying our souls. [...] He wills to draw good out of evil, and, with that object in view, to make our own and our neighbour's [sic] shortcomings serve for the sanctification of souls through the practice of penitence, patience, humility, mutual support and forbearance, etc. He wills also that we should sustain our neighbour [sic] even whilst fulfilling in his regard the duty of fraternal correction, [...] seeing in his necessities and his faults the instruments God makes use of to exercise us in virtue. On this account, St. Francis de Sales does not hesitate to declare that it is chiefly through our neighbour we learn what God demands of us. The signified will of God differs profoundly from His will of good-pleasure in three respects:

Firstly, the signified will is always made known to us in advance, and as a rule very clearly, by the usual expressions of thought, viz., speech and writing. Thus we have the Gospels, the laws of the Church, our holy rule; we can at our convenience read therein the will of God, commit it to memory, and make it the subject of our meditation. [...] On the other hand, we hardly ever know God's will of good-pleasure otherwise than through the sequence of events. The qualified expression--hardly ever--is employed, because to this rule there are real exceptions. Thus we can be certain beforehand as to what God intends to do in the future, if He has been pleased to inform us. One may also acquire this knowledge by presentiment, by conjecture, or surmise, either from the actual trend of affairs, or from wise precautions taken, or from imprudences [sic] committed. But in general the divine good-pleasure is only revealed by the course of events which ordinarily lie beyond our prevision. Even during the actual occurrence of events God's will for us may remain obscure. For instance, He sends us sickness, spiritual aridity, or some other such trial. This, we know, is His present good-pleasure. But for how long? And what is to be the issue? We know not.

Secondly, it is always in our power either by obedience to conform to the signified will or to withdraw ourselves therefrom by disobedience. [...] By His will of good-pleasure, on the contrary, He disposes of us as our Sovereign Master. Without consulting us, often even against our wishes, He puts us in the position He has chosen, and under the obligation of discharging the duties thereof. It remains in our power indeed to satisfy this obligation or not, to conform ourselves to the divine good-pleasure or to revolt against it; but whether we like it or not, we have no choice save to submit to the sequence of events, the course of which can be arrested by no earthly power. Thus, as Supreme Ruler and Judge, God restores order and punishes sin; as Father and Saviour [sic], He reminds us of our dependence, and endeavours [sic] to recall us to the paths of duty as often as we wander out of them and lose our way.

Thirdly, from what has been said it follows that God demands obedience to His signified will as an effect of our own free choice and determination. [...] We require no doubt a secret grace which forestalls and assists us, a grace which we can always obtain by prayer and fidelity. But the will of God being clearly indicated, when the moment for its fulfilment [sic] arrives, we have to act by our own free determination; there is no need to wait for a sensible movement of grace or for a special motion of the Holy Spirit [....] On the other hand, if there is a question of the will of good-pleasure, we must wait until God declares it by the course of events. Before this is done, we cannot tell what He requires of us. But then we understand what that is clearly enough: submission to His good-pleasure in the first place, and next the discharge of the duties appertaining to such or such a position chosen for us by Him.


Source: Dom Vitalis Lehodey, Holy Abandonment, trans. by Ailbe J. Luddy (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 2003), 10-13.

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