Pleasing God

Father Frassinetti writes: “Possibly you imagine that the greatest difficulty of all is having to seek in all things that which is most pleasing to God. It appears to you that the burden of this constant attention must keep you in perpetual solicitude and distress. . . . But here again there is a great mistake. It is not at all required of us that we should try to find out what is most pleasing to God in everything whatsoever.”

“Let those souls that are given to such minutiae attend to the maxims of St. Francis of Sales: ‘It is not usual to weigh small coin, but only money of greater value. Buying and selling would be too tiresome, and would take up too much time, if we were obliged to weigh the farthings, the pence, and other small money. In like manner, we ought not to weigh all our minute actions, to try whether one is worth more than another.'”

“Simplicity and freedom of soul is necessary in all things. Perfection requires us to do those things which we clearly know to be most agreeable to God; for, according to the doctrine of St. Thomas, we cannot be bound to fulfil the Divine Will except so far as it is manifested to us; and in this there can be neither distress nor confusion.”

“Nothing is wanted but an ardent love of God, and then all is accomplished. . . . What is done for love and lovingly is done with freedom and cheerfulness. Try to be a little more earnest in the love of God, and then you will see that, instead of finding trouble and anxiety in endeavouring to do that which is most pleasing to Him, you will find great peace and much sweet satisfaction.”

“Divine love will enlighten you to know the good pleasure of God in many things that would be obscure to others; for Divine love is a fire which inflames us to act with quickness and fervour; and is also a light to illuminate us, so that we can see clearly what we ought to do.”

Quotations from Joseph Frassinetti, The Consolation of the Devout Soul, trans. Georgiana Lady Chatterton (London: Burns and Oates, 1876).

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Self-Denial

Father Frassinetti declares: “Self-denial is necessary for the acquirement of Christian perfection. . . . Self-denial is indispensable to prevent us from falling into mortal sin, and to keep us simply in a state of grace. . . . Without this self-denial no one can be a good disciple of Christ, who says: ‘If any man will follow Me, let him deny himself.'”

In what does this self-denial consist? “It consists in contradicting every inclination which is in any way inordinate. . . . It consists, first of all, in renouncing those inclinations that would lead us into mortal sin, such as the inclination to serious revenge, inclinations to immorality, etc.; secondly, in resisting those that would lead to venial sin, such as officious lying, small thefts, and the rest, and also those that would hinder us from doing what we know to be most pleasing to God, such as the inclination not to yield to another some small right which in strict justice we might retain, and which, notwithstanding, it is better to yield for the sake of fraternal charity. In these things consists the self-denial necessary for the acquirement of Christian perfection.”

Are there any inclinations one should not deny himself? “You have an inclination to eat, and you must eat; you have an inclination to sleep, and you must sleep; you have an inclination to take a suitable recreation after long and serious occupations, and it is necessary you should take it. You are only required to oppose those desires and inclinations which are in some way inordinate.”

“The word ‘self-denial,’ understood in its rigidly material signification, terrifies many, because they imagine it to mean a continual thwarting of oneself without any discretion; and so people come to the conclusion that they would not be able to persevere—at least for any length of time—in practising it. But if we understand it in its true signification, according to the spirit of the Gospel which taught it, no one could be dismayed or discouraged, because it means neither more nor less than the observance of the Divine law, which is an easy yoke and a light burden.”

Quotations from Joseph Frassinetti, The Consolation of the Devout Soul, trans. Georgiana Lady Chatterton (London: Burns and Oates, 1876).

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Taming an Irascible Nature

Father Frassinetti writes: “You have, perhaps, a very irascible nature? This means that, when there is anything to be angry at, you easily become angry.”

“When you are surprised by anger on account of some misfortune, some injury, some wrong or affront, suppress it as soon as you discover it. You should not be angry about these things, which God permits for your good, to keep you detached from the world, confident in Him alone, and above all things humble. I say ‘as soon as you are aware of it,’ because so long as it is unintentional, however bad it may be, it is nevertheless not a sin. Then when it comes on you because you see offences offered to God, duties transgressed, virtue vilified, and you feel still more angry because these things have been done by those who are placed under your authority, be content to bridle it, that it may not in an unruly manner overpass the limits of what is just and right. . . . A just anger is a fire that is necessary to give warmth and life to our zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of our neighbour.”

“If you have an irascible nature bridle it according to the teaching of reason and of faith, but console yourself with the reflection that you are the more naturally disposed to the more lively and powerful operations of the holy love of God. In the mean while do not imagine that you ought to deface this your natural disposition, and transform it into its opposite. Such an undoing, such a complete alteration, you ought not even to ask from God. Ask Him rather for grace to make good use of your natural disposition, taking care that you are never angry without just cause, and that even your just anger never overpasses the limits of your duty. You may then rest assured that your natural disposition, however irascible it may be, will cooperate excellently well in bringing about your sanctification.”

Quotations from Joseph Frassinetti, The Consolation of the Devout Soul, trans. Georgiana Lady Chatterton (London: Burns and Oates, 1876).

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Moderating Anger

Father Frassinetti writes: “As St. Thomas says, all wrath is not bad; and there is a just anger. ‘Do not imagine,’ says the holy doctor, ‘that anger is a passion which is to be compared with pride, or envy, or other such things as of themselves are always evil and abominable.’ Anger, he goes on to say, is a passion necessary to man.”

“‘Anger is the instrument of virtue,’ as St. Gregory the Great adds. The evil of anger consists in being angry without sufficient cause, or in being angry beyond measure. Whoever is angry in a just cause, and with moderation, acts well, not ill.”

“St. Thomas reminds us that when anger is just, and regulated by reason, the disturbance and agitation caused by it are not in any way sinful. Hence he teaches us that well-regulated anger is not opposed to the virtue of gentleness, and that this passion (of course most perfectly kept in its proper order) is likewise to be found in the Divine Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . Our Lord Christ Himself was angry several times, particularly against the Pharisees, on whom (it is written) He looked with anger (Mark 3:5).”

“Anger is a passion, like love, which when it is just and moderate is good, and when it is distorted and immoderate is evil. . . . In love, as well as in anger, we can commit, and do commit, faults. . . . We must, then, distinguish bad anger from good. Evil anger is that which is awakened in us when inordinate self-love is wounded, or when there is no just cause for being angry, or when, though there is a just cause, it passes the limits of due moderation. Just anger is that which, without overpassing the boundaries of due moderation, is excited in our hearts at seeing offences committed against Almighty God, duty transgressed, virtue trodden down.”

“The various natures of all the sons and daughters of Adam are, each of them, in one way or another, defective and inclined to evil. The grace of God is sufficient to correct and amend every natural disposition, even the worst. Confide in Him, watch over yourself, and, whatever natural disposition you may happen to have, you will become holy.”

Quotations from Joseph Frassinetti, The Consolation of the Devout Soul, trans. Georgiana Lady Chatterton (London: Burns and Oates, 1876).

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Human Weakness Misunderstood

Father Frassinetti clears up a misunderstanding regarding human weakness. He writes: “The mischief is, that we accustom ourselves to draw distinctions between one thing and another, calling some things small and others great. . . . We flatter ourselves that we can succeed in the former; and then, not reflecting on the power of the Divine assistance, by virtue of which we are able to do all things, we despair of being able to accomplish the latter.”

The solution is this: “Let us be persuaded that we must seek continually from God, and expect from Him, all power, whether for little things or great ones. Then the consideration of our own weakness can never deprive us of courage, and our confidence will be invincible.”

“Was it not the saints who undertook and brought to a good termination the greatest, the most difficult works, and undertook them also without any of the means which ordinarily would have been considered indispensable? Were they overbold? Were they imprudent? Assuredly not; they knew that God required of them these works for His service, and this knowledge was sufficient for them. They knew that they were about to work with God, to whom nothing is impossible, and they were confident that they should be equally successful in great and in little things.”

“Mark what St. Paul says: ‘I can do all things through God, who strengthens me.’ He was not content with saying, ‘I can do some things,’ but ‘all things.’ He, then, would never have thought of keeping himself only from mortal sins just to obtain salvation. Nay, he thought it by far the best to be able to abstain from venial sins also, and thereby hope to attain the very high glory that those have in Heaven who on earth aspire to arrive at perfect sanctity.”

Quotations from Joseph Frassinetti, The Consolation of the Devout Soul, trans. Georgiana Lady Chatterton (London: Burns and Oates, 1876).

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Human Weakness Defined

Father Frassinetti defines human weakness. To say that we are weak “means that if the grace of God were to abandon us, the full observance of the laws of God would be quite impossible for us; but it does not mean that this full obedience would be too difficult when assisted, as we are, by heavenly grace.”

He adds: “Observe also that when Almighty God wills to bestow on any soul a great degree of eminence in any given virtue, ordinarily speaking He permits that soul to undergo very strong temptations against that particular virtue. He dealt so with St. Paul—’for power is made perfect in infirmity.’ For this reason, if you have strong temptations against faith, it means that God wills to bestow upon you a very vivid faith. If against chastity, it means that God wills to enrich you with very perfect chastity. This is a thing that you ought to mark well and observe attentively, because it is just the reason why many people despair of being able to arrive at Christian perfection. They base their calculations upon their own strength, and not upon the strength of the grace of God.”

“If we were truly humble we should never be terrified by any difficulty we might encounter in the service of God. . . . Without the concurrence of Almighty God in the natural order we could not move an arm; without His, concurrence in the supernatural order we could not even invoke the name of Jesus. . . . Were we fully persuaded of this truth, great difficulties would no longer alarm us.”

A person so disposed “continually seeks the assistance of God, and expects it as well in little things as in the greater and more important undertakings which he may have on hand. Meantime he clearly sees that all things are great or little only in our own eyes; that all things are as nothing before God, since all are equally easy to Him; that it is the same thing for Almighty God to make a leaf fall from a tree or to create a world. . . . Placing all his confidence in God, he considers himself able to do all things, and is terrified at nothing in the service of his Divine Master.”

Quotations from Joseph Frassinetti, The Consolation of the Devout Soul, trans. Georgiana Lady Chatterton (London: Burns and Oates, 1876).

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Human Weakness Not Feared

Father Frassinetti writes: “Although extraordinary and marvellous things are not required for the attainment of Christian perfection, and it suffices that we should abstain from all sins of which we are fully aware, whether grave or light ones, and seek that which is most pleasing to God in things indifferent,—after all this, you will tell me that there still remains a most grave difficulty in human weakness and frailty, which renders a full and exact obedience to the Divine laws beyond measure difficult. Do not be afraid—take courage! Even this third difficulty is one more apparent than real.”

“It would be difficult, nay impossible, for a child to lift a great weight from the ground, but with the help of a strong man he can do so easily. And is it not of faith that the power of the grace of God assists our weakness, strengthens our frailty, so that we are enabled to fulfil all the Divine commands?”

The Council of Trent teaches: “God does not command what is impossible; but when He commands He warns you to do what you can, and to ask for assistance in those things which you are unable to do. Meanwhile He assists you, in order that you may be able to do them. His commands are not heavy, His yoke is sweet. His burden light.”

St. Paul gives this assurance: “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able, but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor 10:13). This means, says Father Frassinetti, that “God has promised to assist our weakness, and to restrain the wrath and fury of our enemies, so that they will not be able to overcome us in their assaults; nay, He therefore favours us with as much grace as will enable us to come out of the strongest temptation stronger than before.” Thus, St. Teresa remarks: “It does not disturb me to see a soul in the midst of very great temptations; for if it have the love and fear of God, it will come out of them with much gain.”

Quotations from Joseph Frassinetti, The Consolation of the Devout Soul, trans. Georgiana Lady Chatterton (London: Burns and Oates, 1876).

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