Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange on the Spirit of Confidence in Providence

The spirit that should animate our self-abandonment to Providence

Is it a spirit that depreciates our hope of salvation in the plea of advanced perfection, as the Quietists claimed? Quite the contrary: it must be a spirit of deep faith, confidence, and love.

The will of God, as expressed by His commandments, is that we should hope in Him and labor confidently in the work of our salvation in the face of every obstacle. This expressed will of God pertains to the domain of obedience, not of self-abandonment. This latter concerns the will of His good pleasure on which depends our still uncertain future, the daily occurrences in the course of our life, such as health and sickness, success and misfortune.

To sacrifice our salvation, our eternal happiness, on the plea of perfection, would be absolutely contrary to that natural inclination for happiness which, with our nature, we have from God. It would be contrary to Christian hope, not only to that possessed by the common run of the faithful, but also to that of the saints, who in the severest trials have hoped on "against all human hope," to use St. Paul's phrase (Rom. 4:18), even when all seemed lost. Nay, to sacrifice our eternal beatitude in this way would be contrary to charity itself, by which indeed we love God for His own sake and desire to possess Him that we may eternally proclaim His glory. [...]

Far from it: self-abandonment involves the exercise in an eminent degree of the three theological virtues, faith, hope, and charity, as it were fused into one. [1]

It is nevertheless true to say that God purifies our desire from the self-love with which it may be tinged by leaving us in some uncertainty about it and so inducing us to love Him more exclusively for His own sake.

We should abandon ourselves to God in the spirit of faith, believing with St. Paul (Rom. 8:28) that "all things work together unto good" in the lives of those who love God and persevere in His love. Such an act of faith was that made by holy Job [....]

In the same spirit Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son in obedience to God's command, abandoning himself in the deepest faith to the divine will of good pleasure in all that concerned the future of his race. We are reminded of this by St. Paul when he tells us in the Epistle to the Hebrews (11:17): "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son (to whom it was said: in Isaac shall thy seed be called), accounting that God is able to raise up even from the dead." Far less exacting are the trials we have to endure, though on account of our weakness they sometimes seem to weigh heavily upon us.

At any rate, let us believe with the saints that whatever the Lord does He does well, when He sends us humiliations and spiritual dryness as when He heaps honors and consolations upon us. As Father Piny remarks, nowhere is there a deeper or more lively faith than in the conviction that God arranges everything for our welfare, even when He appears to destroy us and overthrow our most cherished plans, when He allows us to be calumniated, to suffer permanent ill-health, and other afflictions still more painful. [2] This is great faith indeed, for it is to believe the apparently incredible: that God will raise us up by casting us down; and it is to believe this in a practical and living way, not merely an abstract and theoretical way. [...] Every one of us must by humility be numbered among [the] little ones, among those that hunger for divine truth which is the true bread of the soul.

While fulfilling our daily duties, then, we must abandon ourselves to almighty God in a spirit of deep faith, which must also be accompanied by an absolutely childlike confidence in His fatherly kindness. Confidence (fiducia or confidentia), says St. Thomas (IIaIIæ, q.129, a.6), is a steadfast or intensified hope arising from a deep faith in the goodness of God, who, according to His promises, is ever at hand to help usDeus auxilians [NB: "helping/healing God"—a reference to the merciful omnipotence of God]. [3]

As the psalms declare: "Blessed are they that trust in the Lord" (2:12); "They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Sion: he shall not be moved forever that dwelleth in Jerusalem" (124:1); "Preserve me, O Lord, for I have put my trust in Thee" (15:1); "In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped, let me not be confounded" (30:1).

St. Paul (Rom. 4:18) reminds us how Abraham, in spite of his advanced years, believed in the divine promise that he would be the father of many nations, and adds: "Against hope, he believed in hope. . . .  In the promise also of God he staggered not by distrust: but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God: most fully knowing that whatsoever He has promised, He is able to perform." [...]

As Father Piny notes, to do one's duty in all earnestness and then to resign oneself with entire confidence into our Lord's hands is the true mark of a member of His flock. What better way can there be of hearkening to the voice of the good Shepherd than by constantly acquiescing in all that He demands of us, lovingly beseeching Him to have pity on us, throwing ourselves confidently into the arms of His mercy with all our failings and regrets? By so doing, we are at the same time placing in His hands all our fears for both the past and the future. This holy self-abandonment is not at all opposed to hope, but is childlike confidence in its holiest form united with a love becoming ever more and more purified.

Love in its purest form, in fact, depends for its support upon the will of God, after the example of our Lord who said: "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, that I may perfect His work" (John 4:34); "Because I came down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 5:30). Thus no more perfect or nobler or purer way of loving God can be found than to make the divine will our own, fulfilling God's will as expressed to us and then abandoning ourselves entirely to His good pleasure. For souls that follow this road, God is everything: eventually, they can say in very truth: "My God and my all." God is their center; they find no peace but in Him, by submitting all their aspirations to His good pleasure and accepting tranquilly all that He does. At times of greatest difficulty St. Catherine of Siena would remember the Master's words to her: "Think of Me and I will think of thee."

Rare indeed are the souls that attain to such perfection as this. And yet it is the goal at which we all must aim. St. Francis de Sales says:
Our Lord loves with a most tender love those who are so happy as to abandon themselves wholly to His fatherly care, letting themselves be governed by His divine Providence, without any idle speculations as to whether the workings of this providence will be useful to them, to their profit, or painful to their loss, and this because they are well assured that nothing can be sent, nothing permitted by this paternal and most loving heart, which will not be a source of good and profit to them. All that is required is that they should place all their confidence in Him. . . . When, in fulfilling our daily duties, we abandon everything, our Lord takes care of everything and orders everything. . . .  The soul has nothing else to do but to rest in the arms of our Lord like a child on its mother's breast. When she puts it down to walk, it walks until she takes it up again, and when she wishes to carry it, she is allowed to do so. It neither knows nor thinks where it is going, but allows itself to be carried or led wherever its mother pleases. So this soul lets itself be carried when it lovingly accepts God's good pleasure in all things that happen, and walks when it carefully effects all that the known (expressed) will of God demands. [4]
Then it can truly say with our Lord: "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me" (John 4:34). Therein it finds its peace, which even now is in some sort the beginning of eternal life within us—inchoatio vitæ æternæ.



1. Certain authors have spoken of the virtue of self-abandonment. In reality the act of self-abandonment has its source not in a special virtue, but in the three theological virtues combined with the gift of piety.

2. In the lives of many saints we see how the appalling calumnies they had to endure became, by God's permission, the occasion of a marvelous increase in their love for Him.

3. We are especially reminded of this, the formal motive of hope, in the name of Jesus, which means Savior, and in various titles given to the Blessed Virgin: Help of Christians, Refuge of Sinners, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

4. St. Francis de Sales, Spiritual Conferences, tr. by Mackey, O.S.B., Conference II, p. 25. The interior conviction expressed in this passage, as proceeding from the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost, far surpasses any theological speculation.


Source: Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Providence, trans. by Dom Bede Rose (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1998), 230-236.

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