Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rule & Love: not in opposition, but sides of but one coin when integrated

In a recent discussion, the struggle to live fully the Rule (for the Dominican Laity) came up. I said some things, and it was pointed out that such a discussion should be held in Chapter. In anticipation of that, I have collected a few thoughts and quotes to begin with as background.

let's dive into the deep end, beginning with chapter 21 of John:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs."

He then said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep."

He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." (Jesus) said to him, "Feed my sheep.
(Jn 21:15-17)

It is well at this point to examine what is going on here in the subtext which is hidden from us by the English translation:

Jesus asks: diligis me?
Peter answers: amo te

Jesus asks again: diligis me?
Peter answers again: amo te

Jesus finally asks: amas me?
Peter answers: amo te

Jesus as asked Peter twice for a divine, devotional love, and Peter only can offer a sensible, human love; the third time Jesus asks for what Peter has to offer, knowing that it will lead to the love which Jesus is seeking, a love which has consequences:

...someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. (Jn 21:18)

Diligence - a word in scripture which is translated as "love" leaves us lost without love because we focus on the sensible love, which is what we know by nature, not supernature. This is a love which does not seek itself in its satisfactions, but which sacrifices for the beloved.

From Divine Intimacy by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD:


“Diligence is the application of the soul in the prompt performance of good works. It makes man like the angels who fly with wonderful speed to fulfill God’s commands” (Ven. John of Jesus Mary). Promptness in doing good works is a special characteristic of diligence.

A negligent person goes to his work unwillingly, slowly, and with needless delay, whereas the diligent man hastens to it cheerfully, with promptness and concern. The prompt doing of a thing that should be done, even when it would be more convenient to do something else, is the fruit of diligence. Above all, one who is bound to a definite rule of life, either privately or in a community, must observe it punctually and exactly. In fact, any rule which has been approved by one who represents God, is, for the soul who is bound to it, a manifestation of the divine will, which must be carried out without delay or postponement. Punctuality exacts self-discipline and detachment; it often asks us to interrupt some interesting, pleasant work in order to give ourselves to another kind, perhaps less attractive and or less important. However, it would be a great mistake to esteem our duties and to dedicate ourselves to them according to the attraction we have for them or according to their more or less apparent importance. All is important and beautiful when it is the expression of the will of God, and the soul who wishes to live in this holy will at every minute of the day, will never omit the slightest act prescribed by its rule of life. To prolong what we are doing beyond the prescribed time, or to dispense ourselves from a duty without a serious reason, is to abandon the will of God; it shows an attachment to our own will, and often enough , to our own convenience.

“In carefulness not slothful. In spirit fervent, serving the Lord” wrote St. Paul to the Romans (12:11); and to the Ephesians he recommended, “See therefore, brethren, how you walk circumspectly: not as unwise, but as wise: redeeming the time … Wherefore, become not unwise, but understanding what is the will of God” (5:15-17).


“O Lord, meditating in You presence, I understand that the best remedy for carelessness and laxity in performing my duties is charity. I must strive to do everything for love, with the special intention of pleasing You” (Bl M. Thérèse Soubiran).

Diligence produces fruit as well; and the other aspects of this love; again from the Divine Intimacy:


1. The Christian religion is not limited to the simple relations of the creature with the Creator, relations which, given the infinite distance between the, would remain only within the sphere of reverence and homage, without any character of intimacy, without any confidential impetus toward God. A Christian knows that he is bound to God for other reasons than those of creation, strong though these may be – he has been redeemed from sin and raised to a supernatural state. A Christian is conscious of the fact that his is not only a creature, but a child of God, redeemed by Christ; and this gives to all his relations with God that quality of filial piety, which is the very soul of his religion. Let us contemplate Jesus in His relations with God; He knows he is a Son, a Son who lives for the Father who has given Him existence. “The Father hath sent Me … and I live by the Father” (Jn 6:58) ; a Son who has no other ideal than to do His Father’s will, to which He adheres with all the strength of His Heart: “Yea, Father, for so hath it seemed good in Thy sight” (Mt 11:26) ; a Son who in all His actions, seeks only to please His Father: “I do always the things that please Him” (Jn 8:29). Jesus, the only-begotten of the Father, the only Son of God by nature, has by grace made us sharers in His divine filiation, so that “we should be called and should be the sons of God” (1 Jn 3:1). If we are sons of God, then it is right that we, too, strive to share Christ’s dispositions of filial piety toward His heavenly Father. For it is this which truly characterizes our religion as given to us by our divine Master: “Thus, shall you pray: Our Father, who art in heaven” (Mt 6:9). He wishes us to consider and invoke God as our Father: the Father who provides for all our needs: the Father who wishes us to pray to Him in secret, and who in secret will hear our prayers; the Father who sees all our actions, even the most hidden ones, and who is preparing a reward for them; the Father who wishes us to honor Him by keeping His commandments, and who is pleased to make His abode in the souls of those who love Him. The divine paternity is the center of the Christian religion, and to this paternity should correspond, on our part, an attitude of deep filial piety. We should love God as a child loves its father, trying to please Him in all things. Piety is truly the heart of our religion.

2. God has wished to raise us to the dignity of being His children, we should live as such and not like servants. The servant does only what is strictly necessary to obtain his salary and retain his position; the son, however, does not consider the reward, but loving his father dearly, puts himself at his disposal unreservedly, without restriction. The servant is lazy and selfish; he tries to spare himself as much as he can, and does not wish to give his employer anything more than what has been agreed upon. Not so the son; for him it is not a question of a time for work and a time for rest; nothing is to laborious when it is a question of giving pleasure to his father; he is always ready to carry out his orders, always attentive to his wishes, he is happy to be able to repeat at every moment, “Behold, I come … to do Thy will” (Heb 10:7). Similarly, in our relations with God, filial piety flows into devotion, which according to St. Thomas, is the will to do promptly all that pertains to the service of God” (IIa IIae, q.82, a.i, co.). Piety as well as devotion can be very much alive in the soul, although in the sensible part it feels cold and dry; and this to the extent that all its exercises of prayer and virtue are performed without the feeling of any sweetness or consolation, but rather with great repugnance.

This should not alarm us: St. Thomas teaches that devotion is an act of the will, that this act can very well exist in spite of aridity, coldness, repugnance, and even rebellion in the inferior part of the soul. St Paul himself, although raised to the third heaven, was still not entirely free from these miseries, and confessed: “I am delighted with the law of God, according to the inward man: but I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind” (Rom 7:22-23). Now as St. Paul – in spite of this resistance in the sensible part of his soul – was not deprived of true piety and true devotion, so neither is the soul deprived of them if it remains firm in the decision of its will to give itself promptly to God’s service, in spite of everything. Devotion, which is derived from the Latin word devoveo, means precisely consecration to the divinity; and the soul gives itself entirely to God, not by bursts of enthusiasm in its feelings, but by an act of the will. Furthermore, when devotion is deprived of relish for the things of God, “it has a double worth, because the soul both fulfills its duty and governs its sensitive appetite by a strong act of the will” (Ven. John of Jesus Mary).


O Most High God, You have willed to be my Father; grant that I may really be Your child, a loving, devoted child, attentive and docile to every manifestation of Your will, desiring to serve and please You in everything. O You, who have a Father’s heart for me, create in me the heart of a child, a heart free from servile fear, but rich in filial fear, a disinterested, generous heart which has but one fear: the fear of offending You, and but one desire: that of pleasing You.

I will be following this with another post, but this is enough to chew on for a while. Greetings and blessings to our Secular Carmelite friends who will be joining us for our Aug 16th meeting!

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