I am currently trying to understand and read through St Thomas Aquinas' work Summa Theologica and, as you might imagine, am alternately delighted and overwhelmed. I am delighting in the way the great saint thinks through tough questions and I am overwhelmed at the depth of his thinking. I may not be stupid, but reading these writings is a real lesson in humility for this little Dominican.
Take the question of Prudence: Aquinas asks the question of whether or not the virtue of prudence is 'in' all who have grace. He then goes on to break it down enough so that, eventually, one can see that all who has grace has Charity and if one has Charity (which is a virtue) then one has Prudence because the virtues must be connected together.
What I really enjoyed reading, however, was the way Aquinas thought out the idea of being diligent - how one can be merely sufficient with regard to that which is necessary for salvation and how such diligence is given to all who have grace. However, the saint also speaks to those who care for both themselves and others in matters of salvation (and earthly needs) and that this type of diligence is not in all who have grace.
So that makes me stop and ponder - if we all have the capacity to be great saints by caring for others before we care for ourselves, what makes some of us open to that possibility and others of us too frightened to give much though to anyone other than ourselves?
I know that my 12 Step program is built on a foundation of service to others. There is a line in the literature that speaks to our very lives being dependent upon our constant thought of others. We can't just do it once in awhile, or when it is convenient or when we feel it will bear fruit.
Yet I also know that I fall short in that area every day. I start out wanting and deliberately offering to my Father my will and my life and every day I get discouraged by the message around me that blares "AS LONG AS YOU ARE HAPPY THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS".
Exercising the virtues is something I am willing to do; my problem is knowing when I am doing it and when I am simply going along to get along. Perhaps I can take some comfort in the thought that my diligence is what fades and then blossoms, sometimes several times a day, and that it is when I am able to be diligent in my behavior and my outlook that my ability to serve is strengthened.
Today I resolve to be diligent. I resolve to exercise the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity and Prudence. Today I resolve to keep trying to make my life one with His Life.
If I fail today, if my diligence fades or I become tired of the fight, may my Guardian Angel give me strength to keep going.