How Our Lord's Love Draws Forth Faith & Charity
BETWEEN the first awakening from sin or unbelief and a final resolve to believe fully there often comes a period in which we can but pray with the father of the demoniac boy: “Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.” I am no longer plunged in the darkness of total unbelief, yet is my belief faint and shadowy: Lord, help me!
S. Augustine, in a very remarkable passage, very strikingly says, “Hear and understand, O man. Art thou not drawn? then pray that thou mayest be drawn;” wherein he does not allude to the first motion God excites in us when He rouses us from the slumber of sin. No one can ask before he be awakened; but he is speaking of our resolve to be faithful, holding that to believe is to be drawn, and therefore he admonishes them that are drawn to believe in God, to ask the gift of faith. And assuredly none could better know the difficulties arising ordinarily between the first impulse stirred in us by God and the perfect resolution to believe; he who was so variously moved by the words of the great S. Ambrose, by the conversation of Pontilianus, and manifold other means, and yet hesitated so long ere he could decide; so that truly to none were more fitly said that which he said thereafter to others: “O Augustine, if thou be not drawn, if thou believest not, pray that thou mayest be drawn and believe!”
Our Dear Lord draws hearts by the attractions with which He sets forth His Heavenly Truths, but before they are altogether won to perfect submission the enemy likewise exercises his craft in temptation. Meanwhile we are fully free to accept or reject those Divine attractions, but if we do not repulse the grace of holy love, it will go on for ever swelling within our soul, until we be wholly converted, like to a mighty river overspreading a plain.
If that inspiration which has led us to believe be not resisted, it will lead us on further to penitence and love. S. Peter, like those birds we wot of, moved by the inspiration of his Master’s look, and letting himself be freely borne by the kindly breeze of the Holy Spirit, gazed into the life-giving Eyes which had stirred him, and reading there, as in a book of life, the blessed promise of pardon, he drew thence a lawful hope; and going forth, he realized and abhorred the greatness of his sin; he wept bitterly, and poured forth his sorrowful heart before the Merciful Heart of his Lord, asking pardon for his sin, and resolving perfect faithfulness for the future. So by this progressive course, fostered by continual grace, he attained remission of sin; going on from grace to grace, even as S. Prosper says, “Without grace we cannot follow after grace.”
In short, thus it is that the soul prevented by grace, experiencing its leadings and yielding to them, comes, so to say, to itself, and breaks forth: “Draw me, I will run after Thee.” Thy fruit is sweet to my taste, the savor of Thy ointment is refreshing. The Bride would not so cry out to her Beloved were she not moved thereto by His charms; but directly that she feels these, she prays Him to draw her, and being drawn, she runs; but she would not so run were she not won and revived by the sweetness of those perfumes; and the closer she wins to her Heavenly Bridegroom the more delicious those perfumes become, until at last He Himself flows into her heart with the very fulness of all possible sweetness and perfection.
Thus it is that heavenly inspiration comes and prevents us, kindling our will to holy love. And if we reject it not, it envelops us, urging us ever onwards; if we fail it not, it will never fail us until it bring us to that haven of perfect love, fulfilling towards us the office of the Archangel Raphael to Tobias, guiding us through the journey of penitence, shielding us from the assaults of Satan, and comforting and strengthening us under all difficulty.
Francis de Sales. (1888). Of the Love of God. (H. L. S. Lear, Trans.) (pp. 86–88). London: Rivingtons.