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On the Abandonment to Divine Will: St. Francis de Sales and the Life of the Church

St. Francis de Sales, the Patron of Catholic Writers

Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Matthew, Chapter 6:26.

The great Saints and the Doctors of the Church talk at length about the importance of surrendering one’s will to the Lord and being dependent on divine providence. Numerous prayers, sermons and books have been written on this reality at great length. Such books have been written due to the fact that there is an inherent drama within the human condition where the person seeks to control reality and turn to God as a sort of gift giver, where we plead to Him to give us the things that we really want rather than to seek understanding and Truth. This inner angst to control our lives and the world around us fails to bear much fruit and we start to drift away from our ‘faith’ and live lives of immense superficiality and ignorance. The purpose of surrendering one’s will to the Lord is to accept salvation and to grow out of fear.

As Catholics including religious and Bishops, we fail to understand the deeper meaning of these texts, sacred scripture, and our relationship with the Lord and His Church. The Catholic Church does not belong to anyone, its sacraments, its teachings and its mission cannot be changed or determined by the passions of man and the currents of culture. It must be noted that Peter denied our Lord three times when put to the test, our Lord knew that his own people will betray Him when it mattered the most. This drama of sin can be clearly seen in the sins of apostacy being perpetrated by Catholics most notably the German Bishops Conference in their quest to redefine gender, or perhaps something more-closer to home in our failure to understand the reality of sin and sinfulness.

As children of the Enlightenment and products of our culture, we are told that we are responsible for determining our own reality and destiny, and that we must be passionate about things. The Church teaches a Truth, a reality, that goes against this very ignorance that fails to understand the fullness of reality and seeks to control the world by the tools of man’s ignorance.

Surrendering one’s will to the Lord is not an act of slavery or self-denial, but there is a deeper understanding that the Lord is perfect and fully understands our human condition, our desires and longings. This relationship between man and God can only be strengthened through prayer and the sacraments.

You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. Book of James 4:2–3

The abandonment to divine providence is a realization that nature, reality, and God are far greater than the human confines of control and ‘mastery’ over nature. The ongoing chaos in the modern world is a reflection of the fact that we are not in control of reality and that we cannot understand nature. Every second, trillions of essential chemical reactions take place in the human body. No man is capable of mapping how each reaction is interrelated with each other. Yet, for some reason out of our own hubris we believe that we understand and know science.

Similarly in the life of salvation, Our Lord calls on man to grow deeper into the reality of the sacraments, the death, the resurrection, and the value of human life in this temporal world. This drawing of man deeper into the ocean of salvation and freedom is the purpose of abandoning one’s self to divine providence, where we understand that we are not the authors of our own existence, and that we accept the governance of our lives over to an authority who made us, who values our existence and engages with us constantly through prayer and the sacraments. During Holy Week, the drama of human existence plays out where man is in his own wickedness sought to destroy the gift of salvation, yet salvation defeated man’s wickedness through the Cross and Resurrection. The abandonment to divine providence and the surrender of the will to the Lord is the only way one can become virtuous, chaste, and ordered. Without this act, man goes adrift to the winds of the passions of the flesh and the currents of a barbaric culture.

Act of Abandonment by St. Francis de Sales

O my God, I thank you and I praise you for accomplishing your holy and all-lovable will without any regard for mine. With my whole heart, in spite of my heart, do I receive this cross I feared so much! It is the cross of Your choice, the cross of Your love. I venerate it; nor for anything in the world would I wish that it had not come, since You willed it. I keep it with gratitude and with joy, as I do everything that comes from Your hand; and I shall strive to carry it without letting it drag, with all the respect and all the affection which Your works deserve. Amen.


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