Cardinal Dulles died this morning, on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The following lines written in 1946, and already marked by profound humility and wisdom, are taken from the Cardinal’s account of his conversion to the Catholic faith, “A Testimonial to Grace.”
Humble Love and Confidence
Brethren outside the Church, do not be scandalized by the frailty and ineptitude of Catholics. Our human faults, the whole burden of fallen nature, remain with us as much as with you. Your conduct is often more praiseworthy than ours. The sufficiency of which we seem to boast so much lies not in ourselves, but in Christ. There is no sin so hideous that He refuses to pay the debt for it, provided that we go to Him with sorrow, humble love, and confidence.
Sin Conspicuous and Hidden
The acquisition of virtuous tendencies is a slow and difficult process, in which many of us will never greatly succeed. By the power of our own will we can to some extent avoid the more conspicuous acts of sin. But the evil, thus repressed, continues to live underground, and, unless grace be present, will exhibit itself in other ways such as the stiff-necked complacency of the Pharisees. The world will never condemn secret pride as bitterly as it condemns the shameful sins. But Christ condemned it more severely because it is more incompatible with love.
The Crowning Virtue of Simplicity
True progress can be made through love alone. By forgetting ourselves and living entirely for the glory of Almighty God we can unite ourselves efficaciously with Jesus Christ, Who offered His Sacred Humanity to the Father without stint or hesitation. When one lives completely in the presence of God and for His sake, commendable actions become easier and more fruitful. The saints are able to conform their actions fully with their faith, exercising the necessary tact and delicacy, because they possess the crowning virtue of simplicity. Their whole body is filled with light because their eye is single. They have acquired the spirit of prayer.
Spiritual Childhood: To Cast All Our Care on Him
To advance in the life of grace is to become more childlike, more conscious of one’s own littleness and ineffectiveness and of the bigness and strength of God. Gradually, and after many falls, we learn how to cast all our care on Him Who has a fatherly care for us, to trust Him completely because He is all-wise, all-loving, and all-powerful. As one loses oneself in Him one learns what it is to wrestle against principalities and powers. At the same time, however, one learns the meaning of that peace which was the parting gift of Christ to His children in the world.
A Struggle Not Without Rich Rewards
Through a gradual growth in humble Christian hope and faith and love one rises on the ladder of perfection. The ascent is difficult because the spiritual life is a continual struggle. The field to be subdued is as broad as the eye can see, and as one rises the horizons widen. Yet the struggle is not without rich rewards, even at the bottom rungs of the ladder.