There is no incompatibility between our life and our vocation (1964)
In this circular letter, I would like to continue what I had begun talking about after the spiritual exercises and to say something about a temptation and danger which threatens the unity of our life.
How often do we separate our consecrated life from our life in the workplace! In our view, perfection must consist in giving witness to a life of prayer, of hu-mility, of peace, virtues which we practice precisely where Divine Providence has appointed for us to live and precisely in the fulfilment of our mission, in the realization of those works which our brothers and sis-ters expect from us. It is precisely in living our life of teaching, of household work, of responsibility in various associations, etc., that we may give witness to an authentic life of prayer, humility, and love. This fact is very obvious and yet we are unable to accept it. We live as if there were some incompatibility between our life and our vocation. This incompatibility is fruit of our will alone, our will which tends to separate what God has joined together.
It is certainly not easy to live a life in which we must bear witness to a real presence of God, while at the same time working and living like everyone else; yet this is precisely what Jesus taught us. Jesus, in order to live His life of union with the Father, did not separate Himself from the human race, He did not try to defend His own private prayer nor reserve personal time for Himself in the silence and recollection of the cloister. On the contrary, he lived with other human beings, he lived the same life they did. In order to live our consecration to God, we need not separate our-selves from our brothers and sisters, we need not live a life which is, if not extraordinary, at least different from that of everyone else. Or put in a better way, in our love for our neighbour (which is inspired and nurtured by God Himself) we must be in solidarity with everyone, we must not distinguish ourselves from others, but rather identify ourselves with them. Our love for God must make us, in an increasingly deeper and more concrete way, equal to our brethren in every sense: equal in our life, work, in the problems of the Community. We believe that everyone can become part of the Community, and we believe that those of the Common Life must not erect a barrier between themselves and other men and women, a barrier which is a kind of escape from the problems, work, and life of others.
If Jesus, in order to live His life as Son of God, as Redeemer of mankind, did not escape the common life of men, then it follows that the common life of men does not hinder, in itself, living the most sublime life of holiness. We are not saying that our occupations, the environment we live in, the responsibilities we have, the difficulties of life all hinder our life of prayer and union with God. If we are not living our vocation, it is so both because we place ourselves outside of reality while waiting for certain conditions of life which God has not promised us and because we do not commit ourselves to respond to God here and now. We must live the grace of the present moment.
In the religion of Israel, man had to wait for the fulfilment of God’s promises, but in the Christian religion, man must receive, in faith, the gift of God Himself. The gift is so great, that it permits and re-quires that one embark on a spiritual journey towards holiness, but this gift does not take me elsewhere, it does not make me wait for something that I do not already have: it immerses me ever more deeply in Christ, it opens my heart more and more so that the capacity of my heart may gradually adapt to the immensity of this gift.
It is in this life of ours that we must receive God and live with Him. Precisely in living today your com-munion with God are you in the position to fulfil His will tomorrow.
There is no preparation for all of this other than prayer; there is no other way of knowing God’s will tomorrow other than that of doing His will today. We are humble and attentive without getting discouraged by problems; we are without anxiousness and without fear.
May God help us carry out this resolution of ours so that we may live the life of prayer to which we are called: with this hope, I pray for and bless you all.
Ember Days of Lent, 1964