Confidence as a Virtue

 

When anyone has Complete Confidence in Me, and believes that I have the Power, the Wisdom, and the Desire to aid him on all occasions, this ravishes My Heart, and does Me such violence, that I cannot help favoring such a soul, on account of the pleasure I experience in seeing it so dependent upon Me, and to satisfy the Great Love I bear to it.

 

Our Lord Jesus Christ to Saint Gertrude

 

Confidence as a Virtue

by a Member of the Order of Mercy,
Imprimatur, 1891

As the Omnipotence of God is Infinite, nothing is impossible to Him; as His Wisdom is Infinite, nothing is difficult to Him; as His Goodness is immeasurable, He has an Infinite Desire for our Well Being. Now, should this not be enough to make us repose all our Confidence in Him? - Scupoli.

This thought must have taken strong hold of a certain Servant of God in Rome, who, as it is recorded, once addressed this Prayer to Him: "O Lord! I desire that there may be no delay; think of the matter Thyself, for I mean to be heard. Thou art my Father, and if Thou wilt not do this for me, there is no one else who can do it. Consider, if through the Merits of Thy Christ I do not deserve it, do not grant it, and I will be content".

Saint Francis de Sales was filled with so much Confidence in God, that he was in Perfect Tranquility amid the greatest Disasters; for he could not persuade himself, as he often said, that anyone who Trusts in a Providence Infinite in all respects, has not cause to Hope for a Good Result from whatever it permits to happen to him.

The Lord once appeared to Saint Gertrude, and said to her: "When anyone has complete confidence in Me, and believes that I have the Power, the Wisdom, and the Desire to aid him on all occasions, this ravishes My heart, and does Me such violence, that I cannot help favoring such a soul, on account of the pleasure I experience in seeing it so dependent upon Me, and to satisfy the great love I bear to it".

God certainly desires our Greatest Good more than we ourselves desire it. He knows better than we by what way it can come to us; and the choice of ways is wholly in His Hands, as it is He Who Governs and Regulates all that occurs in the World. It is, then, most certain that in all chances that can befall, whatever may happen, will always be best for us - Saint Augustine.

Saint Francis de Sales, knowing that all events succeed one another according to the disposal of Divine Providence, rested upon it more tranquilly than an infant upon its mother's bosom. He said that the Lord had taught him this lesson even from his youth, and that if he were to begin life again, he would despise Worldly Prudence more than ever, and allow himself to be governed entirely by Divine Providence.

Do you desire security? Here you have it. The Lord says to thee, "I will never abandon thee, I will always be with thee!" If a good man made you such a promise, you would trust him. God makes it, and do you doubt? Do you seek a support more sure than the Word of God which is Infallible? Surely, He has made the promise, He has written it, He has pledged His Word for it, it is most certain - Saint Augustine.

It is related in the Life of Saint Rose of Lima, that she had inherited from her mother, who was very Timorous and Apprehensive of Danger, such great Timidity that she did not dare, in the night, to go from one room in the house to another without a candle, except for Prayer, for the sake of which she conquered every Terror. One evening, she lingered longer than usual in the little Arbor which had been built for her Oratory in the Garden. Her mother, Afraid that some Harm might have come to her, resolved to go in search of her; but not having Courage to go alone, she asked her husband to accompany her. When Rose saw them, she immediately ended her Prayer, and went to meet them; then excusing herself for her Tardiness, she went back with them to the house. But on the way, she began to say to herself: "How is this? My mother, who is as timid as I, feels safe in the company of her husband. And am I afraid, accompanied by my Spouse, Who without ever leaving me, is continually at my side and in my Heart!" This Reflection made such an impression on her mind that it banished every Terror, so that, from that time on, she was no longer Afraid of anything; and in any appearance of Danger, she would say: "Non timebo mala, quoniam Tu mecum es" - I will Fear no Evil, for Thou art with me.

Surius relates of Saint Hugo, Bishop of Lincoln, that he was, one night, Grieved and Disturbed by the thought of a Disaster, which he believed to be impending. Then, recollecting himself, he smote his breast, and said: "Wretch that thou art! God has promised to aid us in all tribulations, and art thou afraid of anything that may happen?"

We are firmly convinced that the Truths of Faith cannot deceive us, and yet we cannot bring ourselves to trust to them; nay, we are far more ready to trust to Human Reasonings and the Deceitful Appearance of this World. This, then, is the cause of our slight progress in Virtue, and of our small success in what concerns the Glory of God - Saint Vincent de Paul.

Saint Anthony and Saint Francis arrived at the Highest Perfection only by confiding Obedience to these words of the Gospel: "If thou wilt be Perfect, sell what thou hast, give to the poor, and then follow Me".

Both for our own profit and the Salvation of others, it is absolutely necessary to follow in everything the Bright Light of Faith, which is accompanied by a certain Unction secretly diffused in our Hearts. Truly, there is nothing but Eternal Truth capable of filling our Hearts and leading us in a Safe Path! Believe me, it is enough to be well established upon this Divine Foundation, to be sure of quickly reaching Perfection, and being able to do Great Things. - Saint Vincent de Paul.

Saint Philip Neri always prefaced any business of importance by Prayer, by means of which he acquired such great Confidence in God, that he used to say: "As I have time for Prayer, I have sure Hope of obtaining from the Lord whatever Grace I ask of Him; for I rest entirely upon the Promise of the Lord, that we shall receive whatever we ask in Prayer with lively Faith".

It is told of Saint Francis that his brother, seeing him barefooted and thinly clothed in the depth of winter, sent a boy to ask him, in Mockery, to sell him a drop of his sweat. The Saint replied Joyously: "Tell my brother that I have already sold it all to my God and Lord, and at a very good price".

Father d'Avila took a vow of Poverty, that he might preach the Gospel more freely, and said that he found great support in this promise of Christ: "Quoerite primum regnum Dei et hoec omnia adjicientur vobis" ----- Seek the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you, ----- for it had never deceived him.

O Lord of my soul, who can find words to tell what Thou givest to those who Trust in Thee, and how much, on the other hand those lose, who, though they may have attained to Ecstasies and Rapture, yet confide in themselves! ----- Saint Teresa.

This Saint said she had known persons eminent in Virtue, and who had even attained to the Prayer of Union, who afterwards Fell into the Power of the Demon, because of their Overweening Self-Confidence. For, when the Soul sees herself so near to God, and perceives the vast difference between the Good Things of Heaven and those of Earth, and experiences the Great Love the Lord manifests for her, there springs up from these Favors such Security of nevermore Falling from the Happiness she enjoys, that it seems to her impossible that so delightful a life should ever be exchanged for the baseness of Sensual Delights. With this Confidence, she begins to Expose herself to Labors and Dangers, without discretion or regard to proportion, not considering that she is not yet in condition to leave the nest and fly, as her Virtues are not confirmed, and she has no experience of Danger.

To rely upon our own talents is a cause of great loss. For, when a Superior, a Preacher, or a Confessor, places confidence in his own Prudence, Knowledge, and Intelligence, God, to make him know and see his insufficiency, withdraws from him His Help, and leaves him to work by himself. Whence it happens that all his Plans and Labors produce little or no Fruit. This is often the cause why our undertakings fail - Saint Vincent de Paul.

This is clearly seen in the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites and the Egyptians. The former placed all their Confidence in God, and crossed successfully. The latter placed theirs in their Horses, and were Drowned.

Saint Francis de Sales managed all the affairs that God entrusted to him, with Success. The cause of this was that he trusted never to his own ability, but Wholly to Divine Providence; and he never Hoped to succeed in a business if he had any other reliance than this.

Saint Philip Neri used to say: "If a person voluntarily puts himself in the way of sin, saying, 'I shall not fall, I shall not commit it', it is an almost certain sign that he will fall to the ruin of his soul".

Let us endeavor to conceive a very great diffidence of ourselves, and to establish ourselves firmly in this Virtue; for, of ourselves we are good for nothing, except to spoil the Designs of God. This will keep us in entire dependence upon His Guidance, and make us have recourse constantly to His Help - Saint Vincent de Paul.

The venerable Father Daponte said of himself, that those things that frequently furnish a motive for Dejection, such as Human Frailty, or one's own Weakness and Sins, rather produced in him a greater Confidence, for he fixed his eyes upon the Goodness and Mercy of God, to Whom he had entirely committed himself and his interests.

Saint Vincent, King of Bohemia, was asked how he felt when his Army had been Routed, and he himself had been taken Prisoner. He replied: "I never felt more encouraged than I do now. When I was well provided with human aids, I had not time to think of God. Now that I am quite destitute of them all, I think only of God, and that He will not abandon me".

Saint Philip Neri exhorted his Penitents to follow his example in sometimes saying to God: "O Lord, do not leave anything to me, for if Thou help me not, I shall surely fail"; or, "O Lord, expect nothing from me!" He also said that in speaking of future contingencies, we ought never to say, "I shall do", or "I shall say"; but rather, with Humility, "I know what I ought to do or say, but I do not know what I shall do or say".

Be careful not to depend or rely much upon the Friendship and Protection of Men. For they cannot sustain us by themselves; and when the Lord sees us leaning upon them, He withdraws from us. - Saint Vincent de Paul.

This Holy Man not only refrained from seeking Human Support, but even refused it when spontaneously offered to him. One day, the Governor of a City asked his influence at Court, in favor of a certain affair, and promised that he would in return protect his Missionaries against any who might Molest them. But the Saint made this reply: "Whenever I can do it with Justice, I will serve you willingly. As for the interests of my Congregation, I beg you to leave them in the Hands of God and Justice". It was a rule with him not to seek anything by the influence and favor of Men.

Saint Jane Frances de Chantal was of the same opinion. Her brother, the Archbishop of Bruges, once wrote to her that in an interview he had just had with the Queen of France, she showed a desire for her Prayers and those of her Order. He urged her, therefore, to write to the Queen, who, he said, would be much pleased with the attention. The same advice was given her by many persons, both inside and outside of the Convent; but she would not receive it, and wrote to her brother a letter-of-excuse, begging him to assure the Queen that she and all her nuns would not fail to recommend her to the Lord. She spoke of the matter in this way to her Religious: "I cannot and must not do it, for we ought to keep ourselves too much abased and hidden, to seek by human invention to retain a place in the hearts of the great. If we study to do our duty in regard to them before God, by Praying for their Safety, their Prosperity, and, above all, their Salvation; God, Who has undertaken the charge of us, will bring us to their Minds when we need their help, and will incline their Hearts towards us".

Saint Teresa once said: "I am very sure that there is no safety in relying upon Men; for they are all like so many stalks of dried rosemary-----they break under the least weight of disappointment or contradiction. The true friend in whom alone we can trust is Jesus Christ. When I rely upon Him, I am conscious of such Power, that I feel able to resist the whole world, were it opposed to me".

"Whoever manages his affairs with Artifices and Subterfuges, offends the Providence of God, and renders himself unworthy of His Paternal Care" - Saint Vincent de Paul.

This glorious Saint kept always at a distance from all Artifice in everything he said and did, and left Scheming, as he often said, to the Prudent of this World.

The same is true of Saint Thomas, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Charles, Saint Mary Magdalen di Pazzi, Sister Maria Crucifixa, and others, as we have elsewhere shown. All of these prospered in their affairs, and were much Esteemed and Favored for their frankness, not only by God, but also by Men.

"When one puts all his care on God, and rests wholly upon Him, being careful, meanwhile, to serve Him Faithfully, God takes care of him; and the greater the Confidence of such a one, the more the care of God extends over him; neither is there any danger of its failing, for God has an Infinite Love for those souls that repose in Him" - Saint Francis de Sales.

The same thing was once said by Our Lord to Saint Catherine of Sienna: "Think of Me, and I will think of you, and take care of all your interests".

Saint Hugo, the Bishop, said that it was his experience that the more he attended to performing well and diligently all that pertained to the Worship of God, the more God provided for him in all necessary things.

More than any other, Saint Francis manifested, and still manifests, this Truth, by the wonderful protection of Divine Providence which he experienced, and which sustains his sons even to this day. And so, the Viaticum which he gave his companions when they were going to a distance, was this Verse of the Psalms: Jacta super Dominum curam tuam, et ipse te enutriet ----- Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He will sustain thee. And when the Pope asked him about his means of living, he replied: "Holy Father, we have a mother truly poor, but a very rich Father".

Taulerus relates that a Servant of God, being often asked, by various persons to Pray for different objects, promised to do so, but sometimes forgot, and in such cases these people always obtained what they desired, and came back to thank her. Astonished at this, she said, one day, to the Lord: "How is it, Oh Lord, that Thou grantest these favors which I never asked"? And the Lord replied: "See, My daughter, on the day you gave Me your Will, I gave you Mine, so that sometimes if you do not ask for a particular thing that I know you would be pleased with, I do it as if you had asked Me".

"Whoever serves God with a Pure Heart, and, setting aside all individual and human interests, seeks only His Glory, has reason to hope for success in all he does, and especially under circumstances, when, according to Human Judgment, there is no help; for the Divine Works are above the sight of Human Prudence, and depend upon a Loftier Principle" - Saint Charles Borromeo.

This Holy Cardinal was accustomed to have recourse to God in all his affairs, and commenced, continued, and completed all his undertakings with Prayer. The more arduous and important anything was, the more Prayer he gave to it. And if it happened that something appeared not only Difficult, but even Hopeless, he did not Recoil in the least, but urged himself forward with Greater Spirit and Redoubled Prayers. It was thus that he succeeded, to the wonder of all, in so many great affairs, that seemed to Human Judgment impossible. The Saint was once talking with a person of rank, whom he was trying to persuade to have Confidence in God in all circumstances, because He never abandons, even in the smallest things, those who put their Trust in Him; and by way of proof, he related the following incident, which had happened to him a little while before. He said that his house-steward complained of being without money, and did not know how to provide for the Urgent Needs of the house, and therefore requested him to be more sparing in Alms and Pious Works, as it was by expenditure of that kind that the house was reduced to such Extremity. But he replied only that he ought to Trust in God, and hope for help from His Divine Majesty. This advice failed to satisfy him, and he went away much Discontented. Within Two (2) Hours, there arrived a bundle of letters, among which was a Bill of Exchange for Three (3) Thousand Crowns remitted to the Saint, from Spain. Sending for the steward, he gave them to him, and said: "Take them, O thou of little faith! Behold! the Lord has not abandoned us". He added that this was truly a work of Divine Providence, for he was not expecting such a remittance, nor should it have been sent until Two (2) Months Later.

We read also in the process of his Canonization, that at the time of the great Conflicts with the King's Ministers on the question of Jurisdiction, and on account of the Excommunications fulminated against them, the Governor of Milan, with some of the Secret Council opposed to the Cardinal, often thought of taking Rigorous Measures against his person, as they knew no other way to hinder him from defending the Rights of his Church. But every time that they assembled in the King's Council to settle upon something, the thoughts changed in their minds, and the words upon their lips, so that they could come to no resolution against him. They themselves were bewildered and greatly amazed at this, not knowing to what they should ascribe their change of purpose. But doubtless it was the result of his Great Confidence in God, in Reward of which God Blessed all his Enterprises, removed all Obstacles, and brought them to a Happy Ending. It ought, however, to be noticed, as the writer of the Life well observes, that this Confidence of the Saint was altogether regulated by Christian Prudence. He was most watchful in keeping himself from the Vicious Extreme of Presumption. He never exposed himself to unnecessary Dangers, or entertained Extravagant Plans, of little advantage to the Service of God, and not weighed deliberately and wisely. He employed due Diligence and Precaution, and on certain occasions, he did not refuse human aid, not taking it, however, as his Chief Reliance, but in Subordination to Divine Providence. All this is clearly to be seen in the Prudent Regulations that he made when the City of Milan was Desolated by the Plague, and on a thousand other well known occasions.

"The Pressure of Necessity gives occasion to show whether we truly Trust in God. Believe me, three strokes will do more than ten ordinarily, if God puts His Hand to the work; and He always does when He takes away human help, and obliges us to perform work above our strength" - Saint Vincent de Paul.

When this Saint was once told by his House-Steward that he had not a 'Sou' (5-centime piece) for daily expenses without considering the special ones for approaching Ordinations, he replied with a Tranquil Heart and Cheerful Face, full of Confidence in God: "What Good News! Blessed be God! Now is the time to show whether we Trust in Him. Oh, how Infinite are the Treasures of Divine Providence, which we dishonor by our want of Trust!"

King Josaphat, finding himself Assailed by a Great Number of Enemies, turned to his men, and said: "We have no power to resist so many; let us, then, raise our eyes to God, and Trust in Him, and all will be well with us". And so, indeed, it was.