I pay all my debts from Christ's merits

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When you place yourself in God's presence, endeavour rather to listen to Him, than to speak to Him, and strive more to love Him, than to learn from Him. (Saint John of Avila)

I would be remiss were I not to offer the readers of Vultus Christi a text of Saint John of Avila, whom the Holy Father today proclaimed a Doctor of the Church. This particular letter is taken from the collection translated and selected from the Spanish by the Benedictines of Stanbrook in 1904, with a preface by Dom Gasquet. The subtitles are my own.

Trust in the Mercy of God

If we would not offend God, there are two points on which we must be particularly careful -- one is, that we should love His goodness, and the second is, that we should trust in His mercy. How great is the blindness of a heart which does not love God! And just as great is its weakness, if it does not confide in His abundant mercy. The graces we have received from Him in the past ought to incite us to love Him, for they flowed from Divine Love, which requires a like return from us. These gifts ought also to encourage us to trust in God, for surely. He Who has already bestowed such benefits on us, and has set us in the path of holiness, will give us the grace to persevere.

It Is in the Passion that I Trust

We ought also to find motives for hope in Christ's Passion: we should love Him for dying for us and trust in His mercy. Cast away, then, all doubts, faintheartedness and misgivings, for the merits of the Passion are ours, because Christ gave them to us, and we are His. It is in the Passion that I trust, on it I rely, and by it I laugh my enemies to scorn. Through it I make my prayers to the Father and offer Him His Son; I pay all my debts from Christ's merits, and have more than is requisite for the purpose. Although I have many sorrows, I find in Christ's sufferings more than a sufficient solace; they are such a source of joy that the grief caused by my own defects is dispelled.

God Is Wounded by Our Want of Trust

O God most loving. Who art Love itself, how we wound Thee if we trust not in Thee with all our hearts! If, after the favours Thou hast shown us, and more than all, after having died for us, we do not feel confidence in Thee, we must be worse than the very brutes. After all Thou hast given us in the past, can we doubt Thy loving kindness in the future, or think that Thou wilt cease to protect those Thou hast saved from hell? Wilt Thou leave Thy adopted sons to die of hunger, or cease to guide them aright in the path in which Thou didst set them when they had wandered away? When we were estranged from Thee, Thou didst give us many graces-- wilt Thou then refuse them now when our only desire is to serve Thee? Whilst we offended against Thee Thou didst cherish us; Thou didst follow after us when we fled from Thee; Thou didst draw us to Thyself, didst cleanse us from our guilt, and giving to us Thy Holy Spirit, didst fill our souls with joy, and bestow on us the kiss of peace. And wherefore didst Thou do all this? Surely it was that we might believe that, as for Christ's sake Thou didst reconcile us to Thyself when we were among Thine enemies, much more surely, wilt Thou keep us for His sake, now that we are in the number of Thy friends.

Love Trusts the Beloved

O my God and my Mercy! after the countless favours Thou hast shown us, permit not that we distrust Thee and question whether Thou dost love us and intend to save us. More evident than the sun at mid-day is the witness borne by Thy works that Thou dost cherish us and give us the hope of salvation. Let our hearts rely confidently on God, even though we feel not the sweetness of His consolations. Genuine faith believes without the need of argument or miracles; and love trusts its Beloved, even though He chastise it: true patience is content to suffer without relief, and so a real confidence in God remains unshaken by the absence of any solace from Him. Let us not ask for any signs of God's favour, but obey His command to rely implicitly on Him, and all will be well with us. If we feel weak, let us rely on God, and we shall be strong: for those who confide in Him " shall take wings as eagles and not faint." (Isaias XL. 31.) If we know not what to do, let us trust in our Creator, and He will be our Light; for, as Isaias says, "who is there amongst you that hath walked in darkness and hath no light? Let him hope in the name of the Lord, and lean upon his God." Holy Scripture also tells us: "They that trust in God shall understand the truth." (Wisdom III. 9.) Let us place our hope in our heavenly Father when we are in trouble, and we shall be set free from it, as David, speaking in His name, says in the Psalms: (XC. 14.) "Because he hoped in me I will deliver him." These words show that God only asks that we hope in Him, in order that He may deliver us, and this, because those who fall in time of tribulation, fall because their faith is weak.

Let Us Go Bravely On

St. Peter, while he felt no fear, walked on the sea as if it had been dry land; but the instant he lost confidence he began to sink, and our Lord said to him : " O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?" (St. Matthew XIV. 31.) Let us fear lest this reproof should be addressed to us. However wildly the sea of temptations may rage around us, let us go bravely on, and not let a thought of fear or mistrust enter our hearts. Rather let us confide in God's great love for us, which keeps us safe amid all perils.

God Can Overcome All Our Doubts and Temptations

I have said all this because as I wish your belief in the Catholic faith to be pure from all error, and your love for God to be without taint of tepidity, so I would have your hope in Him to be free from all distrust and fear. Believe me, God can overcome all our doubts and temptations. May He grant us the grace to be wholly converted to Him, and to place all our hope in Him, for if we gave ourselves to our Creator's care, there would be no need of help from creatures.

God Fills the Soul Who Dwells in Solitude

If at times doubts enter our mind, let us put them from us and think of other things, for if God does not give us the means to solve those doubts, we should not trouble ourselves much about them. I wish you and Don Pedro, to whom this letter is addressed as well as to yourself, to be very discreet in fasting and bodily mortifications during this Lent, but to be careful to practise the advice I have given you. Let your memories observe strict abstinence, not only from all thoughts of created things, but even from thinking of yourselves. Forgetting all things, let us go to God, and abide entirely in Him: let us fast from all consolation in any creature, so that, as our souls dwell in solitude, God may come and fill them, because they are empty of all else. When you place yourself in God's presence, endeavour rather to listen to Him, than to speak to Him, and strive more to love Him, than to learn from Him. May the same Jesus Christ, of Whom we speak, be with you and with us all. Amen.

2 Comments

"Although I have many sorrows, I find in Christ's sufferings more than a sufficient solace; they are such a source of joy that the grief caused by my own defects is dispelled."

When I undergo a trial, I focus too much on myself, instead of uniting my sufferings to those of Christ. I will need to strive for conversion in this area.

Easy to see why he's a Doctor.

Thank you, Dom Mark, for your faithfulness to Christ, and for continuing to provide spiritual nourishment via this blog.

~Walt near Scranton

Such consolation! -- and a complement to Chapter 34 of the Rule of Benedict (Whether All Should Receive in Equal Measure What Is Necessary). So often in my case lack of trust is really lack of feeling in control, or even stemming from the perception that others are more blessed or favored than I. How often this lack of trust leads to the dreaded murmuring!

From G.A. Simon's commentary on the Rule for Oblates: "...murmuring is a species of mental atheism, a denial of God's providential ways over His creatures ... [It] keeps the heart troubled and is always the index of self-love and pride."

Thank you, Father Mark, for the daily spiritual sustenance. St. John of Avila, pray for us!

Pauline in Morgantown, WV

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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