UST A FEW QUICK THOUGHTS this week because I’m sure most of you are busy planning rehearsals and making final preparations for Triduum liturgies. There’s no shortage of books on Our Lord’s Passion and death. But as I prepare spiritually for what lies ahead over the next week, I keep recalling a passage from Spiritual Excellence: How to Make Progress in Prayer and Love by Fr. Alban Goodier, S.J.
Fr. Goodier (1869-1939) is one of my beloved “old Jesuits.” I’ve greatly enjoyed his books and those of Fr. Raoul Plus, S.J., Fr. Narciso Irala, S.J., and others. Although most modern Jesuits don’t have a reputation for orthodoxy, these early-20th century authors found a way to write in an engaging, accessible style without compromising truth.
In his essay, “Determine whether your love is true,” Fr. Goodier argues that we don’t learn to love by reading about love; we learn to love by loving. To develop a loving nature, Fr. Goodier advises, we must think little of ourselves, allow ourselves to be affected by joy and sorrow (though always moderated by reason), and have the courage to act.
How, though, can we ensure our love is true and pure? The test follows from these same principles. If it’s true love, we continue giving it without considering any potential pleasurable consequences. True love stirs us so that we act based on more than just cold reason. True love never rests, longing to give even more than it possesses while knowing that this love will be its own and only reward.
Fr. Goodier acknowledges that some readers will find this concept appalling. For the rest of us, he closes the chapter on these stunning words, which I hope will help you persevere as you pour yourself into Holy Week liturgies:
[T]he germ of love is in every human heart. The pity of it is that in some it is nipped and frostbitten before it has had time to come to maturity.
But foster the spark, and it will enkindle. At first, it will thrill you with its glow. You will know it by its heat, by the ease with which it aids you to face a trouble, by the joy you find in doing. But later, be prepared for sacrifice.
When the flower has bloomed and the fruit is setting, then, gardeners tell us, is the time of trial. When you have made a certain way, and you have laughed and sung along the road, then will love begin to lead through darker ways, and whither you do not wish to go. It will ask of you surrenders for which you had not bargained.
It will disappoint you. It will fail to recognize you when you come face-to-face. It will leave your noblest actions unrequited, the noblest powers of your soul undeveloped. It will misinterpret your best motives, will envy your worthiest deeds, will crush you with sarcasm, will embitter you with mistrust, and suspicion, and dislike, and an assumption of contempt. At critical moments it will turn its back upon you and will ignore you when you are down. If you appeal for help, it will cry out against you. It will see you wounded on the road and pass you by; crucified, and say it was only your dessert; dripping your life’s blood out, and coldly wait the end.
And then, when it has killed you, then you will come to know. “He that loses his life for my sake shall find it.” When it has purified you, when there is left not a spark of that mean thing self, when you no longer look for relief, for consolation, for comfort, but only for strength to go on, then will come the revelation. Then you will know that which, by any other training, eye can never see, nor ear hear, nor can it enter into the heart of man to conceive.