Always Active, Always at Rest

St Augustin by Vittore Carpaccio

St. Augustine made this enigmatic statement: “Always active, always at rest.” Padre Quadrupani says something similar: “Cultivate a tranquil activity and an active tranquillity.” How are we to understand these puzzling maxims?

Quadrupani relates this story: “Saint Francis de Sales was never seen in a hurry no matter how varied or numerous might be the demands made upon his time. When on a certain occasion some surprise was expressed at this he said: ‘You ask me how it is that although others are agitated and flurried I am not likewise uneasy and in haste. What would you? I was not put in this world to cause fresh disturbance: is there not enough of it already without my adding to it by my excitability?'”

Quadrupani explains that we attain tranquility by honestly assessing our abilities and by not overreaching on account of our pride. He writes: “In order to acquire tranquillity in action it is necessary to consider carefully what we are capable of accomplishing and never to undertake more than that. It is self-love, ever more anxious to do much than to do well, which urges us on to burden ourselves with great undertakings and to impose upon ourselves numerous obligations. It maintains and nourishes itself on this tension of mind, this restless anxiety which it takes for infallible signs of a superior capacity. Thus Saint Francis de Sales was wont to say: ‘Our self-love is a great braggart, that wishes to undertake everything and accomplishes nothing.'”

The editor of Light and Peace adds this advice from St. Francis de Sales: “The desire of success is good, but only if it be not accompanied by solicitude. . . . Peace is necessary in all things and everywhere. If any trouble come to us, either of an interior or exterior nature, we should receive it peacefully: if joy be ours, it should be received peacefully: have we to flee from evil, we should do it peacefully, otherwise we may fall in our flight and thus give our enemy a chance to kill us. Is there a good work to be done? we must do it peacefully, or else we shall commit many faults by our hastiness: and even as regards penance, that too must be done peacefully.”

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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