O Voice of Christ, mysterious voice of grace that resoundeth in the silence of our souls, Thou murmurest in the depths of our hearts words of sweetness and of peace. In response to our miseries, Thou repeatest the counsel so often given by the Divine Master during His mortal life: “Confidence, confidence!”
To the guilty soul, crushed by the weight of sin, Jesus would say: “Confidence, son, thy sins are forgiven thee.”1 Again, to the sick woman, suffering for long years from an incurable malady, who touched the hem of His garments in the firm belief that she would be cured, He said: “Confidence, daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole.”,2 When the Apostles saw Him one night walking on Lake Gennesareth they trembled with fear. He calmed them with these reassuring words: “Have confidence, it is I, fear ye not.”3
And, on the eve of His Passion, at the Last Supper, knowing the infinite fruits of His sacrifice, He comforted the Apostles with these words of triumph: “Have confidence, I have overcome the world.”4
These divine words, so full of tender compassion, as they fell from His adorable lips, effected a marvellous transformation in the souls of those to whom they were addressed. A supernatural dew transformed their aridity; rays of hope dissipated their darkness; a calm serenity put their anguish to flight. “The words that I have spoken to you, are spirit and life”;5 “blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it.”6
Our Lord exhorts us now, as He did the Apostles long ago, to have confidence in Him. Why should we refuse to heed His voice?
Many Souls Are Afraid of God
Few Christians, even among the most fervent, possess that confidence which excludes all anxiety and all doubt.
The Gospel tells us that the miraculous draft of fish terrorised Saint Peter. With his habitual impetuosity, he measured at a glance the infinite distance that separated his own littleness from the greatness of Our Lord. He trembled with holy fear and prostrated himself with his face to the ground, crying out: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”7
Like the Apostle, some souls have this terror. They feel their sinfulness and their misery so keenly that they scarcely dare approach Him Who is Holiness itself. To them it seems that the all-holy God must experience revulsion upon inclining Himself toward them. This unhappy impression hampers their interior life and at times paralyses it completely.
How Mistaken Are These Souls!
Immediately, Jesus approached the frightened Apostle and said to him, “Fear not,”8 and made him rise.
You also, Christians, you who have received so many proofs of His love, fear not! Above all, Our Lord is concerned that you might fear Him. Your imperfections, your weaknesses, your most serious faults, your repeated relapses, nothing will discourage Him, so long as you sincerely wish to repent. The more miserable you are, the more He has pity on your misery, the more He desires to fulfil His mission of Saviour in your regard. Was it not above all to call sinners that He came to the earth?9
Others Lack Faith
Other souls lack faith. They, of course, have that common faith, without which they would betray the grace of Baptism. They believe that Our Lord is all-powerful, good, and faithful to His promises. But they find it hard to believe that He is concerned about their individual necessities. They do not have the irresistible conviction that God, mindful of their trials, is watching over them, ever ready to help them.
Our Lord asks of us, however, this special concrete faith. He exacted it of old as the indispensable condition for His miracles; He still expects it of us before granting us His favours.
“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth,”10 He said to the father of the possessed boy. And, in the convent of Paray-le-Monial, using almost the same words, He said to Saint Margaret Mary: “If thou canst believe, thou shalt see the power of My Heart and the magnificence of My love.”
Can you believe? Can you attain that certainty which is so strong that nothing shakes it, so clear that it amounts to evidence? This is everything. When you reach this degree of confidence, you will see wonders realised in you. Beseech, therefore, the Divine Master to increase your faith. Repeat often the prayer of the Gospel: “I do believe, Lord: help my unbelief.”11
This Lack of Confidence Is Very Harmful to Them
Lack of confidence, whatever be its cause, does us much harm and deprives us of great blessings. When Saint Peter, in his eager desire to meet Our Lord, jumped from his boat into the lake, he walked upon the waters with an assured step. But the wind blew violently. Soon the waves rose angrily, threatening to engulf him. Peter trembled with fear. He hesitated …and began to sink. “O thou of little faith,” Jesus said to him, “why didst thou doubt?”12
And so it is with us. In our moments of fervour, we remain tranquil and recollected at the feet of Our Lord. When the tempest comes, the danger engrosses our attention. We turn our eyes away from Our Lord to fix them anxiously on our trials and our dangers.We hesitate… and then we sink.
Temptation assails us. Our duties seem tiresome and disagreeable. Disturbing thoughts take possession of us. The storm rages in our intellect, in our sensibility, and in our flesh. Passion overcomes us; we fall into sin; we give way to a discouragement more pernicious than the sin itself. Souls without confidence, why do we doubt?
Trials come to us in a thousand forms. Our temporal affairs are in a dangerous state; we worry about the future. People slander us, and our reputation is injured. Death breaks the ties of our deepest, most tender affections. We forget then the fatherly care that Providence has for us. We murmur, we rebel; thus we increase our difficulties and the bitterness of our suffering. Souls without confidence, why do we doubt?
If we had clung to Our Lord with a confidence that grew in proportion to the apparent desperation of our situation, we would have suffered no harm. We would have walked safely and calmly on the waves; we would have reached the tranquil and safe gulf without accident. Soon we would have found ourselves on the sunny shore that is illuminated by the light of heaven.
The saints struggled against the same difficulties; some of them committed the same faults. But at least they never lost confidence. More humble after their fall, they rose without delay, relying henceforth only on God’s assistance. They preserved in their hearts the absolute certainty that, trusting in God, they could do all things. And their hope did not confound them.13 Begin, then, to be confident souls. Our Lord exhorts you to this. Your interests demand it. And, at the same time, your souls will have light and peace.
Goal and Content of This Book
This work has no other end than to incite you to the knowledge and practice of the virtue of confidence. Accordingly, its nature, objects, foundation, and effects will be expounded here very simply. O pious reader, if this modest little book should sometime fall into your hands, do not put it aside. It does not pretend to literary distinction or originality. It merely contains consoling truths that I have collected from the Scriptures and the writings of the saints. And this is its unique merit.
Try to read it slowly, with attention, in a spirit of prayer. I would almost say: Meditate on it! Allow the teachings in its pages to sink deeply into your soul; they contain the quintessence of the Gospel. Could there be a better food for souls than the words of Our Lord?
May you, upon finishing this reading, be able to confide solely in the Divine Master Who has given us everything: the treasures of His Heart, His love, His life, to the very last drop of His Blood!
1“Confide, fili, remittuntur tibi peccata tua.” Matt. 9:2.
2“Confide, filia, fides tua te salvam fecit.” Matt. 9:22.
3“Confidite, ego sum, nolite timere.” Mark 6:50.
4“Confidite, ego vici mundum.” John 16:33.
5“Verba quae ego locutus sum vobis, spiritus et vita sunt.” John 6:64.
6“Beati qui audiunt verbum Dei et custodiunt illud.” Luke 11:28.
7“Exi a me? quia homo peccator sum, Domine.” Luke 5:18.
8“Noli timere.” Luke 5:10.
9“Non enim veni vocare justos, sed peccatores.” Mark 2:17.
10“Si potes credere, omnia possibilia sunt credenti.” Mark 9:22.
11“Credo, Domine, adjuva incredulitatem meam.” Mark 9:23.
12“Modicae fidei, quare dubitasti?” Matt. 14:31.
“13Spes autem non confundit.” Rom. 5:5.
Regarding Rome, the Eternal City, “I will not speak about the places [Saint Thérèse, her father and sister Celine] visited . . . only about the impressions I had.
“One of the sweetest views that really moved me was that of the Coliseum, as I finally contemplated the arena where so many martyrs had shed their blood for Jesus . . . .
“My heart beat very strongly when my lips kissed the dust turned red by the blood of the first Christians. I asked for the grace of being also a martyr for the love of Jesus, and felt deep in my heart that my prayer was heeded! . . . .
“Martyrdom, behold the dream of my youth! The dream that grew up with me in the shadow of the Carmel’s cloisters . . . . Here also I perceive that my dream is folly, for I could not limit myself to desiring only one type of martyrdom . . . . “
It is to be found everywhere and among everyone; it can be both violent and astute. In these last centuries, it has attempted to disintegrate the intellectual, moral, and social unity in the mysterious organism of Christ. It has sought nature without grace, reason without faith, freedom without authority, and, at times, authority without freedom. It is an “enemy” that has become more and more apparent with an absence of scruples that still surprises: Christ yes; the Church no! Afterwards: God yes; Christ no! Finally the impious shout: God is dead and, even, God never existed! And behold now the attempt to build the structure of the world on foundations which we do not hesitate to indicate as the main causes of the threat that hangs over humanity: economy without God, law without God, politics without God.
Thought about culture has a long history in the life of the Church. Indeed, it has been a constant preoccupation, becoming remarkably accentuated at crucial moments of human history. We are in fact considering a topic which is central to human life and the life of the Church.
Culture is primarily to do with human beings and the meaning of their existence. I said as much in my address to UNESCO some years ago: 'For a culture to be created, man has to be seen - integrally and in its remotest consequences - as an autonomous, particular value, a subject endowed with transcendence of person. We must affirm man for himself, and not for other motives or reasons: for himself alone! Even more, we must love man because he is man, we must insist on love for man because of the particular dignity that is his' (Address to UNESCO, 2 June 1980, n.10).
A culture should be a space and a tool for making human life ever more humane (ef. Redemptor hominis 14; Gaudium et Spes 38), so that people can lead decent lives in accordance with God's plan. A culture which is not at the service of the human person is no true culture.
In attempting to evangelize our culture, then, the Church makes a radical option for humanity. Her option is thus for a true, integral humanism, raising the dignity of humanity to its true and inalienable dimension of the children of God. Christ reveals humanity to itself (ef. Gaudium et Spes 22), and restores people's greatness and dignity to them by letting them rediscover the value of their humanity, though obscured by sin. What immense value human beings must have in God's eyes, to have deserved so great a Redeemer!
Consequently, the Church's activities cannot be associated with those of the types of 'humanism' which limit themselves to a merely economic, biological or psychological view of human nature. The Christian conception of life is always open to God's love. Faithful to her aforesaid vocation, the Church holds herself above the various ideologies, so as to opt uniquely for man on the basis of the liberating Christian message.
This humanistic option from the Christian point of view requires clear awareness of a scale of values, since these are the foundations of every society.Without values there is no chance of building a truly humane society for these determine not only the course of our personal lives, but that of the politics and strategies of public life as well. A culture that ceases to be founded on the supreme values inevitably turns against humanity.
The big problems afflicting contemporary culture originate from this desire to isolate private and public life from a correct scale of values. No economic or political model will fully serve the common good if it is not based on the fundamental values corresponding to the truth about the human person, 'the truth which has been revealed to us by Christ in all its fullness and depth' (Dives in misericordia 1,2). Systems that regard economics as the unique and determining factor of the social fabric are doomed, by their own internal logic, to turn against humanity.
The exercise of authority requires certain qualities. In the first place, the leader must have a clear and firm notion of the objective and the common good of the group he directs. Then he needs a lucid knowledge of the means and procedures to attain this good. These intellectual qualities, however, do not suffice.
The leader must also be able to communicate his knowledge and, as much as possible, persuade those who differ. However broad his powers, however drastic the penalties imposed on those who disobey, however honorable and generous the rewards conferred on those who do obey, these factors are not enough for the leader to make himself obeyed.
A profound and stable consensus must exist between a leader and his subordinates regarding his objectives and methods. His subordinates must have earnest confidence in his capacity to employ these methods correctly and achieve these goals, all in view of attaining the common good.
Requisites of the Will and the Sensibility
Moreover, it is not enough for the leader merely to persuade through flawless logical argumentation. Other attributes are also necessary. These lie in the realm of the will and the sensibility. Above all, the leader must be gifted with a penetrating psychological sense. This quality requires the simultaneous exercise of the intelligence, will and sensibility. A very intelligent but weak-willed and unperceptive person ordinarily lacks the psychological sense needed to fathom even elementary aspects of his own mentality. How much less can he fathom that of others, such as his spouse, children, students and employees?
For a leader lacking psychological sense, it is difficult not only to persuade the minds of subordinates but also to unite their wills for a common action. Not even this psychological sense, however, suffices. The leader must also be endowed with a sensibility rich enough to suffuse whatever he says with the flavor of reality, honesty, authenticity, and a touch of interest and inspiration that prompts those who should obey him to follow joyfully.
In brief, these are the qualities without which someone who presides over a private social group will lack the conditions to fulfill his mission in ordinary circumstances. The Leader in Exceptional Circumstances, Whether Favorable or Adverse However, exceptional circumstances, whether favorable or adverse, occasionally alter the normal order in any private group. Unable to rise to the occasion, the average leader risks losing the excellent opportunities that he either fathoms incompletely or misses altogether. In this way, he lets
them slip by, taking either partial advantage of them or no advantage at all. Should he prove incapable of discerning danger when it appears on the horizon, evaluating the threat it poses, and devising means to eliminate it as quickly as possible,he risks seriously harming the group under his direction and even causing its ruin.
When confronted with exceptional occasions, whether favorable or unfavorable, a good leader is stimulated by them and grows in his qualities in proportion to the exceptional nature of the circumstances, thereby proving himself superior to them.