Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

On Zeal and Patience

I will probably be sued for copying such a large portion of a text, but this must be done, come what may. It is from Dietrich von Hildebrand's Transformation in Christ, which has been the lionshare of my spiritual reading since mid-Spring 2007. This portion is taken from chapter 12, entitled, "Holy Patience."

The rapidity of our immediate response may sometimes differ in our inward dedication and our outward actions.

A keen distinction must be made between our inward dedication to God and to His kingdom in ourselves and in others, and our action proper (on ourselves and on others). The call of God once perceived, our response cannot follow quickly enough. We should immediately and unconditionally respond to the sequere me [Lat., "Follow me"], giving ourselves to God without demur or reserve as did Mary: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word." All hesitation here would be a perilous error.

But this unhampered inward dedication to God does not by itself involve the performance of all single acts which it entails in a general and essential sense. Particularly does this caution apply to extrinsic and public action, that is, the works of the apostolate.

Certain saints – among them, as we have seen, St. Francis and St. Anthony the Hermit – immediately drew the full consequences from their conversion. But this is a great privilege of grace. Our sense of discretion must enlighten us about whether we may take the decisive step with its full implications at once, or had better remain for a period in inward maturing. There exists a danger of skipping over necessary stages.

Sometimes it also happens that a sincere but not so highly privileged Christian, instead of awaiting a more unmistakable and concrete call of God, overreaches himself in a kind of natural enthusiasm and anticipates certain acts fraught with grave obligations, without being able to posit them with a true inward decisiveness. Many converts immediately want to enter a religious Order, though they lack actual vocation and have not measured the whole significance of such an enhanced dedication to God.

The Church knows this danger; that is why she requires an adequate interval of inner maturing for all great steps in a religious life. Unless a particular and rare grace makes up for it, man needs an appropriate space of time for all deep and great things.

The attitudes deep things require cannot, in general, attain their complete validity and reality except after a period of organic development, whose length varies greatly according to each case. For every deep, fateful word there is a fullness of time in which alone it can be legitimately and fruitfully spoken. Anticipate it hastily by acting without discretion, and your utterance will be shadowy, devoid of maturity, and invalid. Again, let the “destined hour” pass unused, and you will no longer be able to speak that word except in an empty and purely formal fashion.

It is touching to read how the chamberlain in the Acts of the Apostles hastens to be baptized by the deacon Philip; for him, thanks to a special grace of God, the destined hour – the fullness of time – was at hand there and then. But the Church by no means modeled her general practice in admitting converts upon these cases, recorded in apostolic times, of an instantaneous and definitive conversion.

On the contrary, in the first centuries she imposed on the catechumens a long course of preparation through the successive stages of which they had to pass before being admitted to Baptism. Even today, every adult baptism must be preceded by a certain period of instructions and maturing. As regards the preparation for monastic life, the Church only allows the taking of temporary vows at first; final vows require a preparatory stage. Nor does she admit a definitive private vow of virginity without an antecedent temporary one. Thus, in forming these decisive resolutions concerning our inner and personal life, too, we must exercise holy patience, and
accord time the significance in human affairs with which God has invested it…

Notwithstanding all our zeal, then, we must observe the obligation of patience even as workers in the vineyard of the Lord. With careful discretion we must try to perceive the striking of God’s own hour for our work to start in His vineyard rather than insist, in a spirit of natural enthusiasm and impatience, on determining it by ourselves. Suppose we are animated by a glowing zeal: if, at the same time, we have patience, we may be infallibly sure that we no longer live by our nature but by a supernatural principle of life.

A buddy of mine, a close friend, after spending a week visiting a fairly austere Franciscan order, hoping to find his vocation there, remarked to me, "I might have a vocation to join them; but I think a vocation needs time to grow inside of you." Wise man, my friend.

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