What are the characteristics of a person accustomed to doing good works? How would one recognize such a one?
It is said that the Lord spoke these words to St. Francis of Assisi: “Thou mayest know thyself to be My true servant when thou thinkest holy thoughts, speakest holy words, and performest holy works.”
St. Francis observes: “It is easy to recognise if a servant of God have the spirit of his Divine Master when God makes use of him to perform some good work.”
St. Francis desires that humility should permeate all the goods works done by his friars. He urges them: “I beseech you, brethren, by the charity that is in God, to endeavour to humble yourselves in all things, never to glorify yourselves, never to take vain pleasure in your good works or words, or in any other good thing God may do in you or by means of you.”
But, he cautions them: “There are many who give themselves up to prayer and works of zeal, who impose on themselves innumerable privations and mortifications, but who, if one single word is said injurious to their good name, or if they are deprived of the smallest thing, begin at once to trouble themselves to take scandal. These are not poor in spirit.”
You have heard the maxim “actions speak louder than words.” Here is St. Bonaventure’s version: “If you are a Christian, show yourself to be such, not only by your words, but in deed and in truth.”
St. Joseph of Cupertino urges preachers: “Servants of God, set the example! Preach by actions more than by words. Actions penetrate the heart; words slip by and are gone.”
St. Leonard of Port Maurice gives this maxim: “He who wishes to attain eternal salvation must lead a regular life; he must have a fixed rule for the employment of his time and for his spiritual duties.”
The same saint pronounces this admonition: “We all rely on a long life, which is not in our power, and we trouble ourselves very little about our duty to live a good one, which is in our power.”
Finally, St. Lidwina of Schiedam places vocations and their particular duties in perspective, when she says: “The holiest man is not he who is in the holiest state of life; it is he who fulfils most perfectly the duties of the state in which Divine Providence has placed him.”
Quotations from Flowers from the Garden of Saint Francis for Every Day of the Year (London: Burns and Oates, 1882).