“I Am In thy Hands, O Mary”, Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, Doctor Scott Piper, Sir Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP & Sr. Maria Miguel Wright, OP; from the album “Mater Eucharistiae”, (2013)
The Virgin Mary (detail), Gietzrwald, Poland 1877
When I have learned to see my duty in the light of faith, I shall realize that my daily duties, as they present themselves to me moment by moment, and under various aspects, are the expression of God’s will.
I think this truth is sitting right in front of my face and residing in my soul if I am honest with myself. It is expressed simply in a solid, detailed way in the manifest duties of my state and circumstances of my daily life.
The “duties of my state” determine particularly how I must act on a daily basis so as to be always in conformity with the divine will. That divine will which asks me at this moment that certain task, that duty, that pious practice, that act of love, of charity.
If I know how to do this with fidelity and constancy, I shall really know how to seek God in love.
So, in reality, when I fulfill my daily duties to the absolute best of all my abilities, promptly and with attention, even dedication, I am praying in each and every moment “Thy will be done, Oh Lord, thy will be done”.
“Inner Thoughts” Rodrigo Rodriguez, from the album “Inner Thoughts” (2006)
Marcus Aurelius – was Roman emperor from AD161 to AD180,
When searching for answers about “what constitutes right living?”, and “how does one know when one is following the right path?” one is really asking oneself “How do I know with certainty what is the will of God?” Understanding the perfection of love, that is “love of another besides myself” consists in striving towards the perfect conformity of my will with the divine will.
I think it is sitting right in front of our face and residing in our soul of we are honest with ourselves. It is expressed simply in a concrete and detailed way in the duties of my state and the various circumstances of my life. The “duties of my state” determine particularly how I must act on a daily basis so as to be always in conformity with the divine will.
Those duties are expressed in the commandments of God, known in “natural law” to all men, in all times, in rules and customs, commands of superiors, and tasks imposed by obedience, my duties are those required by my family life, my profession or occupation, my social activities, and by good citizenship.
And so, as is known in “natural law” to all men, in all times, Marcus Aurelius reflects on Duty: Our duty is to “Begin the morning by saying to thyself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. All these things happen to them by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil.
On Virtue: But I who have seen the nature of the good that it is beautiful, and of the bad that it is ugly, and the nature of him who does wrong, that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity, I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kinsman, nor hate him,
On Suffering, : For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away.” going forward in duty by virtue regardless of the consequences and violence we might suffer whenever the all too human tendency to refuse co-operation, to insist on doing things our own way, to work against each other and to experience the suffering inherent in human relations whenever the reality of selfishness and self worship impact the smooth exchanges of daily relations.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book Two.
We understand, from reading the “ancients”, from reading the “classics”, that “natural law” is knowable and known, to all men, in all times, since man began. And God’s will, as discerned in natural law, is also marked out for me by the circumstances of my life, whether it is important or not, down to the very smallest detail, in health or sickness, wealth or poverty, interior joy or aridity and emptiness, success or failure, struggles, misfortunes and losses.
From time to time I am presented with tasks – special tasks – of patience, generous activity, love, or renouncement, detachment, submission, and sacrifice. These tasks may come to me through the actions of my superiors, governing bodies, professional organizations, family members, or some combination of the actions and consequent fallout of such actions involving some or all of the above groups.
But everything is permitted by God, “To them that love God, all things work together unto good” (Rom 8, 28), so it remains to me to discover what the divine will may be in each task with which I am presented. Sanctity does not consist in doing extraordinary things … sanctity is reduced to simply the fulfillment of duty … therefore it is most definitely possible for me to attain to sanctity regardless of how insignificant I may view my role in the tapestry of life.
Therefore I must be persevering and punctual in the fulfillment of my duties, diligent, being careful in my actions, accustoming myself to see the expression of God’s will in every one of my duties, no matter how trivial. I must fulfill my duties not only when I feel great fervor but also when I am sad, tired, frustrated, or in a state of spiritual aridity. I must express constancy with generosity.
It may feel small and insignificant but it takes uncommon virtue to fulfill all one’s duties without carelessness, negligence, or laziness, to avoid the pitfall of giving everything a “lick and a promise” or just going through the motions in order to “get it done”. It takes uncommon virtue to put the effort into attention, piety, and spiritual fervor, to pay attention to the details, for the whole combination of ordinary duties which make up my daily life. The details matter.
I must not be discouraged by failure, either resulting from outside forces or from my own failure of attention or lack of competence – my mistakes and forgetfulness and so on and so forth. Always acknowledge faults and failures, take ownership of them and begin again with renewed commitment.
What else is there to say about “duty”? It seems something of a truism that in our great self-regard we find it easier and more attractive to identify the duties of others than our own, and inversely, there will always be a plenitude of folks more than willing to tell us what our duty may be should we find ourselves momentarily unfocused and apparently idle.
Well, I suppose that might just be enough for one post – I will continue next post with thoughts a about virtue and how one employs virtue to carry out one’s duty and perhaps then into how this persevering way of life, constantly doing one’s duty by exercising virtue results in suffering …
“Think Of Me”, Andrew Lloyd Webber, from the “Phantom Of The Opera” soundtrack album, (2004)
I was focused on “Sincerity” yesterday, and the reality that, to be sincere, our words and actions must correspond to our thoughts. To be convinced of one thing, but to affirm something else, for the sake of expediency or to avoid hurting the “feelings” of another person is contrary to truth. Bluntly, it is a lie.
And bluntly, the foundation of our modern culture is a lie. We are totally preoccupied with our status in our FaceBooked, Love Me Wall, our Chat Group. Totally focused on the deadly competition to be the most liked, or the most admired, or the most beautiful, most successful, most well traveled, or at least the friend of the most beautiful or the most successful, or the most (fill in your most envied character trait or material desire here).
So what about Justice? The problem with this foundational lie of our society, the lack of sincerity, is that the lie precludes and prevents the existence of Justice. Justice for all or justice for anyone necessitates honesty and sincerity. Without honesty and sincerity there is NO justice.
We moderns have rejected any external standard that overtly or implicitly criticizes our self proclaimed goodness and questions our vices or appetites, our sins of choice, in pursuit of our envied idols, the goals assigned to us by the society in which we exist and which we willingly accept. We find all our self justification within our self worship, our “I’m OK, Your OK” philosophy of gratification.
… unless of course, you have the arrogance to disagree with me, THEN you really are not very OK at all and we will vilify you and shun you because you are shining a light on our much beloved darkness. This rejection of rejection is the very essence of “Injustice”. There is no justice possible in a universe where no one is wrong and no one dare identify bad behaviour.
It seems an accurate assessment, then, to name our modern society “Secular Humanist Progressivism”. It’s secular because it rejects all religion and religious values as well as the very existence of God.
It’s humanist because it holds man to be the apex of existence, the sole arbiter of “right”.
And it’s especially progressive because it implies some natural righteousness to “progress” as the discarding all the values of previous generations of mankind, to the extent that we no longer even teach values to our offspring.
But where is Justice if there is no right and no wrong?
A “Progressive” (individual) is a self referential existence of appetites and vanities pursuing an ever tightening spiral of gratification, self aggrandizement and the once frowned upon character trait of narcissism. This egocentric view of reality, this solipsistic approach to what is and what is not, leads to an eventual and inevitable denial of any truth whatsoever.
How can there be justice if there is no truth?
This ends in endemic moral relativism. Moral relativism is the view that moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint (for instance, that of a culture or a historical period) and that no standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others, that there is no absolute evil and no absolute wrong.
If moral judgments are invalid then how can there be Justice? How can there be Justice when moral relativism holds that there is no injustice?
Calvin & Hobbes
So, what is Justice? Jesus famously said: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God, the things that are God’s”. This clearly and precisely gives us the essence of Justice, to give to everyone what is his due. Justice is the will to give to everyone that which is due to him.
And what is our due? Respect, rights, obligations, duty, responsibility and the fulfilling with great exactness all the duties and responsibilities towards our neighbor even at the cost of sacrifice. In reality, respect for the rights of others not infrequently requires sacrifice on our part. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness necessitates respect, rights, obligations, duty, responsibility … towards others.
We cannot close our eyes to the rights of others whenever they interfere with our own personal interests. This is really a matter of life and death. Justice is absolutely essential to a life of virtue and its duties are so compelling that no motive can exempt us from fulfilling them.
For example, this view underlies all military virtues, those virtues extolled in our military, our police, and our first responders everywhere. In these “service” occupations, one might be called upon to go in harms way or even to die in carrying out ones duties for the service or protection of others who we might perhaps not even know personally. As we used to say back in the 70’s “Doing the impossible for the ungrateful”.
But, if moral judgments are invalid then how can there be rights and obligations and duty? As G.K. Chesterton famously wrote: “A man who won’t believe in God will believe in anything” or “When a man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything”.