You seem to be suffering, my dear child, from a very common religious malady – discouragement and want of patience with yourself, looking for and expecting to see great results from your efforts to become holier. You forget what a clog the body is on the soul, and how in spite of the most generous intentions and determination, it prevents us, time after time, from carrying out our plans. You remember St. Paul’s bitter complaint that the good he wished to do he did not: “I am delighted with the law of God, but I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind and captivating me in the law of sin.” This is the experience of all who are striving to serve God well. They cannot always do what they would like and what they know He asks of them, but in the end the grace of God – St. Paul’s remedy – will bring the victory, if only we persevere.
COMMENT: A few days ago we examined Fr Doyle’s remarkable life of penance. It is thus very consoling to read his balanced and sane advice today on avoiding discouragement with our weaknesses. We all struggle against faults and failings. Yes, we are called to perfection, but ultimately we will never reach it on this earth. What we need to do is persevere. If we are sincere in our efforts, God’s grace will supply us with what we lack.
Today we also celebrate the feast of one of the great Jesuits, St Edmund Campion. I am not aware that Fr Doyle ever wrote about him, but it is certain that he admired him. St Edmund’s dramatic life surely appealed to Fr Doyle’s own personality.
St Edmund, like so many others, was martyred for being a Catholic at Tyburn. Here is what he had to say on this matter.
And touching our Society, be it known to you that we have made a league – all the Jesuits in the world – cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood. So the faith was planted; so it must be restored.
“It is of God, it cannot be withstood…”. So too with our own lives, even if they are much less dramatic than St Edmund’s or Fr Doyle’s. If we struggle to improve in our interior life, in our work and family relationships, in our apostolate, and entrust all this to God’s grace, then surely it cannot be withstood.