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.”

The Padre 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.”

The editor of Light and Peace quotes Archbishop Fenelon: “I must look upon whatever presents itself each day to be done, in the order of Divine Providence, as the work God wishes me to do, and apply myself to it in a manner worthy of Him, that is with exactness and tranquillity. I shall neglect nothing, be anxious about nothing; as it is dangerous either to do God’s work negligently or to appropriate it to one’s self through self-love and false zeal. . . . 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,—none if Thou so wishest.”

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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Sayings of Catholic saints and sages: spiritual food for meditation and reflection.
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