Does it take a lot to become spiritually mature? What is needed to grow in love? Do I have to dedicate my time only to prayer and meditation? What is needed to live the way I should live?
There is only one love, but two objects, two ways of loving. Some people think that it is not possible to love God and to love another person. They divide the world in two: those who love God (like religious, priests) and those who love people (married couples, committed singles, etc.) And they demand different things from these two groups: those who love God need to spend hours in prayer, in the churches, chapels, singing psalms, reciting rosaries and novenas, and those who love people need to do good things for others.
For Francisco Palau, there is no such division. There is only one love that produces two different effects (operations, actions) in a human’s heart. The first operation is done when a person decides to dedicate time and effort to her relationship with God. It happens not only in the times of prayer and meditation, but it consists of the constant awareness of the presence of God in whom “we live, we move, we exist”. It is as simple as always thinking of a person we love, without even procuring it: it just happens. We can try to grow in it through “aspirations and ejaculations” (short spontaneous exclamations that bring God to our conscience). This first movement is very necessary for love to become mature. Without it, the fruits of charity that we grow in external works will be unripe, meaning to say, they will speak more about ourselves, our own needs, our own intentions, our own motivation, than about the love of God that we are pretending to bring. It is so because in prayer, apart from meeting God, we also meet with ourselves, we discover the depths of our own hearts, of our dreams and life’s aspirations; we become more aware of what we really say when we say ‘I love you’. And this love needs to pass through times of trials. Without it, it will remain as illusions, wishful-thinking, pure imagination. We will keep thinking, for example, that we are so very patient and merciful, but as soon as we meet somebody who tests our patience, we bust in anger. Real life is a place where the pureness of our love gets verified, where it has the opportunity to grow and mature.
Another necessary factor that makes us ‘spiritually mature’ is abnegation, poverty, and detachment. The truth is that none of us like instability. We prefer to have things clear, to know where to go, and what to do. New things make us feel insecure. This happens because we build our spiritual life on external securities, on our schedules, positions, obligations, responsibilities, social roles, etc. When they lack, everything collapses. Francisco Palau teaches that it takes a lot of self-denial to live hanging only on God’s promises. We like to rush things to find a good place for us to live stable and comfortably, but it means that our love is still unripe, we still need to learn.
In the end, there is only one thing needed: to listen to the voice of God and arrange our life according to his demands and will. Nothing more, nothing less.
To Juana Gratias: Ibiza
Es Cubells (Ibiza) June 6, 1857
My dear sister in Christ: Here is the interior and exterior movement of your spirit marked by obedience.
Interior movement: The whole of Christian perfection is based on charity. All the virtues whether divine, human, infused and acquired, theological, moral and spiritual and all the graces, gifts and spiritual assistance granted by the hand of God and of the angels and of men are all directed to make charity progress in you.
Charity has two actions; it breaks forth in the soul in two actions: first, it unites the soul with God. Second, united with God it dedicates the soul to the welfare of the neighbors.
First action: this consist in making your will in all things, actions, thoughts and words, conform to God’s will, in a manner that it is no longer you who wills or do not will but what God wills in you, with you and for you. This action of charity subdues, controls and directs the passions of the heart; it excludes the world and its foolish affections, extravagance, vanities; conquer the devil, its caprices, its insinuations; purifies the soul from all sins be it grave or slight and from every voluntary and deliberate imperfection.
This practical union divinizes the heart and soul and work out the growth of one’s life; makes it strong with acts of faith, hope and charity accompanied by external works and actions directed by God. And this interior process takes place in the meditation and mental prayer and as far as possible in the incessant awareness of God’s presence and by frequent and strong aspirations and ejaculations. This union produces the second effect and that is the love of neighbors.
Second action of charity: Love of neighbors. The soul united with God by love, charity assisted by all virtues and of the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit, brings about in the soul the love to the neighbors. Brings about, I say, and it directs and ordains all the energies and virtues of the soul for the welfare of others, this ordered love with tranquility brings about ripe, sweet, nutritious and wholesome fruit.
The love of neighbors has to exist, be put in order and acquired before it could burst out into action. And if it is not well–ordered, the action will bud forth green fruits, and the effect will be temerity, indiscretion, rashness; and the soul will be disturbed and restless; and fatigue will take away its repose.
The exterior (movement) in line with the interior. Just as in natural order the plants are sown, watered, tilled and cultivated, these grew by the continuous change of weather; similarly, in the moral order, charity sown and cultivated in the soul will grow through continuous external vicissitudes and agitations.
Charity, at a proper time and at its proper day works if God wills, and will offer means to overcome all obstacles, and if not, these will increase and will be a hindrance. In order to get settled, the circumstances of the persons, the territory and many other things must be considered; and to settle provisionally there is nothing like obedience.
Considering all the circumstances, I think it is the order and will of God that you settle in Gramat or Rocamadour or in its neighborhood, with a provisional life style. This I have deliberated sufficiently and prayed to God, but as to settle there with a stable life style, this I have not yet decided. Nevertheless, if providence will offer you a place and means, accept them, erect it and work without waiting for an answer or asking anyone, then this will be the sign of the will of God.
Since the first is not sure and the other is, let us go to the provisional style. Content yourself with it because it is good and it goes along with the will of God and like the other it has its advantages and disadvantages. The good thing about it is that it offers the spirit the material abandonment and detachment: no land or house or city or town. Similar to Christ and his apostles, it offers a state of exterior abnegation and of absolute poverty and dispose the spirit of the necessity of cherishing and fostering renouncement, sacrifice and contempt of the world and of all its wealth and treasures, goods and possessions.
To settle in one’s own land, brings along obligations, ties, greater care and anxiousness, but in exchange, it is a safeguard before the world and of the malicious people and provides the spirit of stability; and the exterior stability helps the interior, as it lay down the arms of the hand and allows rest. Yet this same repose and this same exterior stability could be harmful if considered necessary because the spiritual building would be resting on the brittle and fragile foundation of the matter; and this building rests solidly, only and exclusively on charity, renouncement, abnegation; and the exterior poverty always do and help admirably the interior abnegation, and for this Jesus Christ commanded his apostles to practice this and wanted that his Church would be founded from above and not from below; and for this he made the church from the beginning mendicant, independent of this earth and its possessions, and demanded his apostles to practice this exterior abnegation.
The church was founded without house, without place, without money, without material protection in the midst of dreadful persecution; and this exterior abnegation helped the early Christians for the interior abnegation.
To be settled in one’s own house is good and advantageous for those who are already perfect in the interior abnegation and for other designs and purposes.
Since the providence by its lofty plans has left you neither a house, nor land, nor money, and now that it offers you this means no doubt in order that at this time you will continue to work out in your interior abnegation and to perfect it, and when it will be his will, He will arrange otherwise.
The rest I will tell you at its proper time and when needed.
Fr. Francisco Palau of Jesus Mary Joseph