Sunday, July 21, 2013

Fénelon: Fidelity in Little Things



 Fénelon:  Fidelity in Little Things

        Great virtues are rare: the occasions for them are very rare; and when they do occur, we are prepared for them, we are excited by the grandeur of the sacrifice, we are supported either by the splendor of the deed in the eyes of the world or by the self-complacency that we experience from the performance of an uncommon action. Little things are unforeseen; they return every moment; they come in contact with our pride, our indolence, our haughtiness, our readiness to take offence; they contradict our inclinations perpetually. We would much rather make certain great sacrifices to God, however violent and painful they might be, upon condition that we should be rewarded by liberty to follow our own desires and habits in the detail of life. It is, however, only by fidelity in little things that a true and constant love to God can be distinguished from a passing fervor of spirit.

            All great things are only a great number of small things that have been carefully collected together.  He who loses nothing will soon grow rich. Besides, let us remember that God looks in our actions only for the motive. The world judges us by appearance; God counts for nothing what is most dazzling to men. What He desires is a pure intention, true docility and a sincere self-renunciation. All this is exercised more frequently, and in a way that tries us more severely, on common, than on great occasions. Sometimes we cling more tenaciously to a trifle than to a great interest. It would give us more pain to relinquish an amusement than to bestow a great sum in charity.  We are more easily led away by little things, because we believe them more innocent and imagine that we are less attracted to them; nevertheless, when God deprives us of them, we soon discover, from the pain of deprivation, how excessive and inexcusable was our attachment to them.


Fran
çois de la Mothe Fénelon (1651-1715) Letters and Reflections, English Translation, 1906) p. 95, as printed in A Diary of Readings by John Baillie.

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