Friday, July 18, 2014

Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene on Generosity

[868] Generosity is very similar to magnanimity but has a wider scope, including not only great things, but anything which concerns the service of God. It urges the soul to do all with the greatest devotion. Generosity is the virtue which teaches us to spend ourselves, without counting the cost, without ever saying, "It is enough"; it teaches us to give ourselves completely, and to work with the maximum of love, not only in great things but also in little ones, even the least. Only when we are not hampered by the bonds of selfishness can we be really generous, that is, capable of giving ourself [sic] wholly to the service of our ideal, to the accomplishment of our mission, without thinking of self, without letting ourself be detained by personal preoccupations. If we really understood that our vocation comes from God, and that He has prepared for us all the graces we need to correspond with it most perfectly, we should not allow ourselves to be disheartened by the sacrifices it requires. Selfishness, preoccupation with self, and discouragement are all enemies of generosity; they are "earth and lead" which weigh down our spiritual life, making it more fatiguing and keeping us from soaring to the heights. Why should we reduce ourselves to walking at "a hen's pace" (St. Teresa of Avila, Life, chap. 13) when God has made us capable of flying like the eagle? St. Teresa laughs somewhat mischievously at those who are afraid of doing too much for God, and under pretext of prudence, measure their acts of virtue with a yardstick: "You need never fear that they will kill themselves; they are eminently reasonable folk! Their love is not yet ardent enough to overwhelm their reason. How I wish ours would make us dissatisfied with this habit of always serving God at a snail's pace! As long as we do that we shall never get to the [869] end of the road. Do you think that if we could get from one country to another in a week, it would be advisable to take a year over it?" (Interior Castle, 3rd Mansions, chap. 2).

To become generous, we must first learn to forget ourselves, our own interests, our convenience, our own rights, making no account of weariness or pain. We must have but one thought: to give ourselves entirely to God and to souls. "God's good pleasure, the welfare of others, not my own; for me the most unpleasant things, in order to please God" (Bl. Marie Thérèse Soubiran). Such is the program of the generous soul. It desires nothing but to spend life, strength, and talents in serving God, knowing that it is in the total gift of self that the greatest love consists. "To love is to give all and to give oneself" (St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Poems).

To become generous, we must learn to do with our whole heart, not only what is a duty, but also what, though not obligatory, will give more glory to God. St. Teresa gives us a golden rule for this: the "first stone" of our spiritual edifice must be the decision to "strive after the greatest possible perfection" (Way, chap. 5). The proposal may seem too arduous, but the Saint is not talking at random. Even if at first the soul does not succeed in discerning or in doing always what is most perfect, yet this resolution, if it is sincere and accompanied by humility and trust in the help of grace, will be a great stimulus to desire always to do better, always to do a little more; it will prevent us from settling down in a tranquil mediocrity. It is very important for those who would be intimate with God to cultivate these dispositions; in this way, little by little, we will be able to make the complete gift of ourself, the gift God awaits before giving Himself completely. "God does not give Himself wholly until He sees that we are giving ourselves wholly to Him" (ibid., 28). God whats to give Himself to us in this life, but He proportions His gift to ours; it will depend upon our generosity in giving ourselves to Him.


Source: Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, Divine Intimacy, trans. by Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Boston (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1996), 868–869.

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