Unreasonable Zeal

Padre Quadrupani shows how zeal can become unreasonable. He says: “There are pious persons whose zeal consists in wishing to make everybody adopt their particular practices of devotion. . . . This is not an enlightened zeal. Martha and Mary were sisters, says Saint Augustine, but they have not a like office: one acts, the other contemplates. If both had passed the day in contemplation, no one would have prepared a repast for their divine Master; if both had been employed in this material work, there would have been no one to listen to His words and garner up His divine lessons. The same thing may be said of other good works. In choosing among them each person should follow the inspirations of God’s grace, and these are very varied. The eye that sees but hears not, must neither envy nor blame the ear that hears but sees not.”

“Bear well in mind that the zeal which would lead you to undertake works not in conformity with your position, however good and useful they may be in themselves, is always a false one. This is especially true if such cause us interior trouble or annoyance; for the holiest things are infallibly displeasing to God when they do not accord with the duties of our state of life.”

Quadrupani gives this counsel: “Be zealous, therefore, ardently zealous for the salvation of your neighbor, and to further it make use of whatever means God has placed in your power; but do not exceed these limits nor disquiet yourself about the good you are unable to do, for God can accomplish it through others.”

“In conclusion, zeal, according to the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, should always have truth for its foundation, indulgence for its companion, mildness for its guide, prudence for its counsellor and director.”

Archbishop Fenelon remarked: “Self-love disguised as zeal grieves and frets if it cannot succeed. . . . My part is to will what Thou willest and to keep myself recollected in Thee amidst all my occupations: Thine it is to give to my feeble efforts such fruit as shall please Thee.”

Quotations from Carlo Giuseppe Quadrupani, Light and Peace: Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts and Allay Their Fears (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1898).

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Zeal

Zeal, which is steady ardor in loving, can be reasonable or unreasonable. It can be unreasonable in two ways: when zealotry coerces others to love something, and when jealousy prevents others from loving something. Padre Quadrupani writes: “Zeal for the salvation of souls is a sublime virtue, and yet how many errors and sins are every day committed in its name! Evil is never done more effectually and with greater security, says Saint Francis de Sales, than when one does it believing he is working for the glory of God.”

Quadrupani offers this analogy: “Acts of zeal are like coins the stamp upon which it is necessary to examine attentively, as there are more counterfeits than good ones.” He teaches: “Zeal to be pure should be accompanied with very great humility, for it is of all virtues the one into which self-love most easily glides. When it does so, zeal is apt to become imprudent, presumptuous, unjust, bitter.”

He observes: “In every home there grows some thorn, something, in other words, that needs correction; for the best soil is seldom without its noxious weed. Imprudent zeal, by seeking awkwardly to pluck out the thorn, often succeeds only in plunging it farther in, thus rendering the wound deeper and more painful. In such a case it is essential to act with reflection and great prudence. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent, says the Holy Spirit (Eccl 3:7). Prudent zeal is silent when it realizes that to be so is less hurtful than to speak.”

Therefore, “Never allow your zeal to make you over eager to correct others, . . . and when you must do it remember that the most important thing to consider is the choice of the moment.”

Quotations from Carlo Giuseppe Quadrupani, Light and Peace: Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts and Allay Their Fears (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1898).

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Rash Judgment, Suspicion, Mistrust

Rash judgment, suspicion, and mistrust are three distinct actions which are often confused with each other. The first is a sin; the second is not only permissible, but often a duty; and the third is merely an involuntary human passion. Padre Quadrupani discusses these three as they pertain to charity.

Concerning rash judgment, he asserts: “It is very difficult for a good Christian to become really guilty of rash judgment, in the true sense of the word,—which is that, without just reasons or sufficient grounds he forms and pronounces in his own mind in a positive manner a condemnation of his neighbor.”

Concerning suspicion, he writes: “Suspicion is permissible when it has for its aim measures of just prudence; charity forbids gratuitously malevolent thoughts, but not vigilance and precaution. . . . Suspicion is not only permissible, but it is at times an important duty for those who are charged with the direction and guardianship of others. Thus it is a positive obligation for a father in regard to his children.” Prudent suspicion is employed by guardians “whenever there is occasion to correct some vice they know exists, or to prevent some fault they have reasonable cause to fear.”

Concerning mistrust, Quadrupani explains that it is “an involuntary and purely passive condition, to which we may be more or less inclined by our natural disposition without our free-will being at all involved.”

He advises then, in summary: “Mistrust, suspicion, rash judgment are then three distinct and very different things, and we should be careful not to confound them.”

Quotations from Carlo Giuseppe Quadrupani, Light and Peace: Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts and Allay Their Fears (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1898).

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Practicing Charity

Padre Quadrupani discusses practical ways to put the virtue of charity into practice:

“Assist your brethren in their needs whenever you can. However, you should always be careful to consult the laws of prudence in this matter and to be guided by your means and position. Supply by a desire to do good for the material aid you are unable to give.”

“When your neighbor offends you he does not cease on that account to be the creature and the image of God; therefore the Christian motive you have for loving him still exists. He is not, perhaps, worthy of pardon, but has not our Saviour Jesus Christ, who so often has forgiven you much more grievous offences, merited it for him?”

“Although it is forbidden us to show hatred or to entertain it voluntarily against the wicked and those who have offended us, this is not meant to prevent us from defending ourselves or taking such precautions against them as prudence suggests. Christian charity obliges and disposes us to love our enemies and to be good to them when there is occasion to do so; but it should not carry us so far as to protect the wicked, nor leave us without defence against their aggressiveness. It allows us to be vigilant in guarding against their encroachments, and to take precautions against their machinations.”

“Always be ready and willing to excuse the faults of your neighbor, and never put an unfavorable interpretation upon his actions. The same action, says Saint Francis de Sales, may be looked upon under many different aspects: a charitable person will ever suppose the best, an uncharitable one will just as certainly choose the worst.”

Quotations from Carlo Giuseppe Quadrupani, Light and Peace: Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts and Allay Their Fears (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1898).

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The Virtue of Charity

Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another.” (Jn 13:35) Accordingly, St. John writes: “He who saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, he is in darkness even until now.” (1 Jn 2:9)

Padre Quadrupani states: “Our divine Lord has said that His disciples should be known by their love one for another. This Christian virtue of charity makes us love our neighbor in God, the creature for the sake of the Creator. Love of God, love of our neighbor,—these virtues are two branches springing from the same trunk and having but one and the same root.”

He then shows how the virtue of charity is different from other kinds of love: “To feel and to consent are two distinct and widely different things. . . . When religion commands us to love our enemies, the commandment is addressed to the superior portion of the soul, the will, not to the inferior portion in which reside the carnal affections that follow the natural inclinations. In a word, when we speak of charity the question is not of that human friendship which we feel for those who are naturally pleasing to us, a sentiment wherein we seek merely our own satisfaction and which therefore has nothing in common with charity.”

The editor of Light and Peace adds this thought from St. Francis de Sales: “Charity makes us love God above all things; and our neighbor as ourselves with a love not sensual, not natural, not interested, but pure, strong and unwavering, and having its foundation in God.”

Archbishop Francois Fenelon distinguishes between affection and charity in this way: “To love our neighbor as ourselves does not mean that we should have for him that intense feeling of affection that we have for ourselves, but simply that we wish for him, and from the motive of charity, what we wish for ourselves.” Moreover, he insists: “Pure and genuine love, love having for its sole end the object beloved, should be reserved for God alone, and to bestow it elsewhere is a violation of a divine right.”

Quotations from Carlo Giuseppe Quadrupani, Light and Peace: Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts and Allay Their Fears (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1898).

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Enduring Earthly Struggles

No human life is without its struggles. St. Francis de Sales offers these reflections and practical advice on the subject:

“Rest is reserved for heaven; on earth we must always struggle between hope and fear, on condition that hope be ever the stronger when we consider the almighty power of Him who helps us.”

“Say frequently, in the midst of your contradictions and sufferings: This is the path to heaven; I behold the gate, and I am sure that the storms will not prevent my reaching it.”

“Consider for whom you labour, and those who strive to trouble you shall labour in vain.”

“Think frequently of Jesus crucified; consider Him covered with wounds, filled with sadness, despoiled of everything, loaded with maledictions. Then you will acknowledge that your sufferings can in no way compare with his, and that never shall you endure anything in the least degree approaching what He suffered for you.”

“Nothing gives us profound tranquillity in this world but to frequently look upon our Lord in all his sufferings. In comparison with all that He endured, we shall see that we are wrong to call the little accidents which we encounter afflictions, and that we do not need patience for things so trifling, since a little modesty would suffice to make us bear well all that happens to us.”

“In what way shall we show our love for Him who suffered so much for us, if not by patiently enduring aversions, repugnances, and struggles?”

“Believe me,” pleads St. Francis, “God loves souls shaken by storms, provided they receive all from his hands and valiantly strive to remain faithful.”

Quotations from Maxims and Counsels of St. Francis de Sales, trans. Ella McMahon (Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son, 1884).

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An Obedient Will

St. Francis de Sales encourages the cultivation of a will that is wholly obedient to God and trusts in Divine Providence:

“There are two kinds of wills: one says, ‘I would like very much to do good, but it costs a disagreeable effort; it is too difficult’; the other says: ‘I desire indeed to do good; the will is not wanting, but the power alone stops me.’ The first fills hell, the second paradise.”

“Be careful to purify your heart more and more each day. Now, this purity consists in weighing everything in the scales of the sanctuary, which are only the will of God.”

“If I want only pure water, what does it matter whether it be brought me in a vase of gold or glass? What is it to me whether the will of God be presented to me in tribulation or consolation, since I desire and seek only the divine will?”

“A heart indifferent to all things is like a ball of wax in the hands of God, capable of receiving all the impressions of his eternal good pleasure. It does not place its love in the things which God wills but in the will of God which decrees them.”

Consider this example of an obedient will: “St. John the Baptist, through obedience, kept himself absent from our Saviour, knowing well that to seek our Saviour outside of obedience was to lose Him.”

“We need not be troubled because we are weak, if by trusting in the power and mercy of God we never lose courage. . . . I would rather be weak than strong before God, for He takes the weak in his arms, and the strong He leads by the hand.”

Thus, St. Francis exhorts: “Let us adore and bless his will in all things.”

Quotations from Maxims and Counsels of St. Francis de Sales, trans. Ella McMahon (Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son, 1884).

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