As I write this pastor’s note, the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori (August 1). If you have never read anything from St. Alphonsus, I encourage you to acquire some of his works, such as The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, which I reference below. St. Alphonsus makes a strong case for the absolute necessity to become a saint and the way of life that leads surely to that outcome, as well as the way of life that leads surely away from it. One of the main themes of his spirituality is to be thoroughly and completely convinced of the love of Jesus Christ and to let this love be the source and inspiration for our own love. We can consider The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ to have two meanings: on one hand, it means practicing the love of Jesus in every moment, and on the other hand, it means practicing love by loving with the love of Jesus in every moment. And the defining trait of Jesus’ love is obedience: “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). It was the loving obedience of Christ that undid the hateful disobedience of Adam; by His perfect “yes” to the Father, He freed us for life, undoing the knot of death tied around us by the “no” of Adam. If we would become saints, that will hinge directly upon the perfection of our own “yes” to God throughout our lives. St. Alphonsus reminds us that:
“All sanctity consists in loving God, and all love of God consists in doing His blessed will. We must bow with resignation to all the dispositions of Divine Providence without reserve; and so cheerfully submit to the adversity as well as prosperity which God sends, to the state of life in which God places us, to the sort of health which God bestows on us: and this should be the grand aim of all our prayers, namely, that God would enable us to fulfill His holy will in all things.”
Of course, this will is known by Scripture, Tradition, the authority of the Church, and one’s own spiritual superiors, and does not include anything by which the individual would be led to do something contrary to the rule of faith or the moral law. But so often we find that obedience to the laws of God, to the words of His Christ, or to the teachings of Christ’s Church is not desirable or popular. We know becoming a saint is important, but, as St. Alphonsus said, “the mistake is, that some indeed wish to become Saints, but after their own fashion, they would love Jesus Christ, but in their own way…”. The truth is that, while there are many ways of being a saint, there is only one way to become a saint, and that is by living and loving as Jesus loved, with complete and perfect obedience to the Father’s will for us in whatever state in life he has called us to live. Of course, this takes time and work, and a great deal of patience and prayer. For the married, this obedience is lived out in every moment of conjugal and home life, rejecting the lies and temptations of a culture that so often gets marriage and family wrong. For the single, this obedience is lived out by using one’s freedom from any ecclesial or social bonds (such as ordination, consecration, or marriage) in the service of others. For the layperson, it means trusting and submitting to the teachings of the Church in everything, ordering and shaping life around these things, and for the ordained it means offering his own life for the salvation of souls, being willing to do anything and only those things that would contribute to that end.
We read in Sacred Scripture: “Love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13:8). Our love will be judged according to our obedience to the commandments and teachings of the Lord. Sometimes it is hard to do what God wants, or we are afraid, or we simply want to go our own way to “become a saint after my own fashioning”. But a saint is someone who has known, loved and served God according to His will, not one’s own will, and this is why it is so important to practice the love of Jesus Christ, who teaches us what it means to love. If we recall in every moment how much He has loved us, then how can we look at Him and refuse to offer the same kind of love? When obedience is hard when saying yes to the commands of the Lord is difficult, remember to do it for love, do it because He loves you, and do it because you want to love Him. When we let the love of Jesus Christ be the source and inspiration of our obedience to Him, we find that there is nothing He could ever ask and nothing we could ever do that would be “too much”, because it is impossible to love Him too much, He who has loved us even to the point of death. May God bless you in the week ahead and may Mother Mary lead you more deeply into the Sacred and Merciful Heart of Jesus. I remain,
Affectionately Yours in Christ,