Of Another Means to Do Our Actions Well, Which Is to Do Them as if We Had Nothing Else to Do

by admin on October 17, 2010

A third means to do our actions well is to do each of them apart, as though we had nothing else to do; to make our meditation, to say Mass, to recite our beads and divine office, and to do all the rest of our actions as if really we had no other business but just this that we are about. What gets in our way ? Let us not mix up our works; let not one hinder the other; let us keep ourselves always to that which we are doing at present. While we are at prayer, let us not think of our studies nor of our office nor of business; all that serves only to hinder prayer, so that we do neither the one nor the other well. You have all the rest of the day left to study in, to do the duties of your office, to fulfill your ministry. All things have their time (Eccles. iii. 1); let us give to each thing its proper time: Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof (Matt. vi. 34).

This is a means so just and so conformable to reason that even the pagans, who had not the faith, taught it as the proper way to deal more reverently with those beings whom they took for gods. Hence sprang that old proverb, Adoraturi sedeant—”Let them who are to deal with God settle down to do it,” in attention and repose, not cursor­ily and distractedly. Plutarch, speaking of the regard and reverence with which priests in his time approached their gods, says that, whilst the priest offered sacrifice, a herald ceased not to cry out and say in a loud voice: Hoc age, quod agis. “Do what you are doing, put your whole self into this business, do not turn aside, look well to the business on which you are engaged this hour.” Think what you are about, stand to that, put all your care and energy into that which is now present, never mind for the time being the whole of the rest of things, and in that way you will do everything well.

A philosopher went about to prove that we should attend only to what we are doing at present and not to the past nor to the future, and he gave this reason: the present alone is that which is in our power and not the past nor the future, for what is already past is no longer in our power, and as for the future, we do not know whether it will come. Oh, if a man could succeed with himself and be so far master of his thoughts and imaginations as never to think of any­thing else but what he is at present doing! But such is the instability of our heart and on the other hand so great the malice and cunning of the devil that, availing himself thereof, he brings before us thoughts and solicitudes of what we are to do next, to hinder and disturb us from doing what is before us at present. This is a very common temp­tation of the devil and a very harmful and ingenious one, his aim being therein that we should never do anything well. For this purpose, in meditation the devil brings in thoughts of business, study, the duties of your office, and represents to you how you might do this or do that well, to the end that you may not make the meditation well, which is your present concern; and in return for that he does not hesitate to put before you a thousand ways and manners of doing that other thing well in the future, to the end that you may do nothing well now; and afterwards, when you come to the doing of it, he will not fail to find something else to put before you, that you may not do that well either. And in this way he goes on playing tricks upon us, that we may never do anything well. But his intentions are not hid­den to us (II Cor. ii. 11); we understand them well. Leave alone what is to come and just at present take no care of it; for though that be a good suggestion for afterwards, it is not good to think of it now. And when there comes to you this temptation under pretense that afterwards you will not remember the suggestion that then occurred/by that very fact you will see that it is not God, but a temptation of the devil, because God is not a friend of confusion, but of peace and tranquility, order and agreement. Thus what disturbs your peace and tranquility and the order of things, is not from God, but from the devil, who loves confusion and per­turbation. Let it alone and trust in God that, on your doing what you ought to do, He will suggest to you in due time all that will make to your purpose, and with advan­tages. And even though the reason and the good point, and the good argument and solution occur to you at the time of your spiritual duties, give it up and believe that you will lose nothing thereby, but rather gain. St. Bonaventure says that the science which is set aside for virtue’s sake is found afterwards more amply by that same virtue. And Father Master Avila says: “When a care comes to you out of due time, say: ‘My Lord gives me no orders about this just now, and I have no business to think about it. When my Lord shall command me, then I will deal with it.’ ” 

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