The resolution being now well formulated, the task of making it begins. Merely to say it over or to promise it in a feeble way is absolutely useless. The whole will, with the whole force and energy of the will, must be brought into it.
Not only that, but the whole living strengths of the will must be literally hurled into it, not once or twice, but again and again each day, right up to the very last day of the month. The resolution must be meant.
We must be able to say, “Yes! before God, I mean that! I mean it as intensely and really as I can ever mean anything! I will keep that resolution. I know I can and will keep it because I mean it. Further, I will take every precaution to keep it alive and vigorous within me by re-making it again and again.”
Needless to say such resolutions should not be lightly made, nor should they be trifled with. In them the credit of the will is at stake. It is a serious thing to make a serious resolution, and it is a bad thing to break one, bad for the will and bad for self-respect.
Now, Catholic writers suggest many means whereby we may render our resolutions more secure. One practical method is to make the “Particular Examen,” which consists in a half-daily examination of our failures or success in our resolution.
We must pray for the grace to keep our resolutions. Supernatural aid will then be ours; but prayer will also aid us naturally.
We must meditate on the advantages of keeping it and on the disadvantages of breaking it, on the beauty of patience and on the pettiness and shame of irritability. Our mind will be convinced by this means, and our emotions will be aroused in favor of the resolution.
Next, we are advised to intensify our resolution not merely by direct will-acts, but by indirect will-acts derived from self-inflicted penance. For pain and hunger will make us more in earnest and will make our “meaning” more sincere.
Such, in general, is the method which Catholics are taught to employ in the matter of resolutions. Needless to say, if this method is faithfully employed the will grows strong and energetic—its good qualities are developed and its faults are corrected.
Of course, it must not be thought that religion in itself wholly consists in making and keeping good resolutions. This is not so. Nevertheless, to a great extent, religion depends on the making and keeping of good resolutions, as on its method.
It may perhaps be well to take a type of will-hero, whose strength of will was the outcome of religion.
Such a one was John Berchmans, a young Flemish Jesuit of the early seventeenth century. His name is unknown to the literary and political world, but none the less he was possessed of remarkable gifts of mind.
The chief note of his character was moderation and good-sense, combined with an extraordinary tenacity of purpose. If he put before himself some end to be gained, he devoted his whole strength towards achieving it, and he regarded every tiny detail involved in this pursuit of his end as of the most serious consequence–maximi minima habuit.
He combined the qualities of miser and spendthrift in such matters, being most miserly about allowing himself the slightest deviation from his purpose or the slightest delay in winning it, whereas he was most lavish and generous in giving himself and all he had to the working out of his aim.
In him the maxim was verified to the fullest: “Suae quisque vitae victor est; artifex hujus operis est voluntas.” Each one is the conqueror of his life; the artist is the will of this work.
He set himself to become a saint in a new way, by doing ordinary things extremely well, and thanks to his lifelong pertinacity of purpose he gained his end.
That be sought in religion strength and inspiration is of course indisputable. To fulfil perfectly all his religions duties was the main object of his life, and it was in fulfilling them that the promptness, consistency and persevering regularity of his will were manifested.
It would not be difficult to find among the annals of the Saints many other examples of will-heroes: some were men of extraordinary energy, like Francis Xavier, some of extreme gentleness, like Francis de Sales, some of cold intellectual intensity, like Ignatius, some of child-like sweetness, like Antony of Padua.
In each case great will-strength followed in the wake of religious perfection. In each case converse with God raised and developed the will-faculty, just as it improved every other faculty of the mind.
We have seen at some length that the practice of religion implies will-training, but nevertheless it must be remembered that it is not the special aim of religion to train the will. It does so only indirectly, and it does not always do so as perfectly and as surely as we might wish.
It seems necessary to have some specific training. To train the will, as it were, for the sake of the will itself, for the sake of the perfection of the will, and not for the sake of other thing.
The will must be taught, to some extent, to will for the sake of willing. The will builds up will by willing. As we shall see later, it builds up will best by willing will.
The will must, as it were, turn back on itself in willing, and will will. Exercises calculated to provoke willing for the sake of willing are necessary.
We must feel the pure glow of pleasure involved in willing for the sake of the will. Just as the intellect or memory must be trained, apart from the training they receive in the practice of religion, so must the will be trained apart from the training it receives in this manner.
It must not, however, be overlooked that will-training of itself, without relation to religion and morality, is in great part meaningless. For, as Professor Forster writes, “All our efforts are lacking in deeper meaning if they are not correlated to a great spiritual view of life as a whole. Even the most perfect development of willpower tends to degenerate into a mere athletic exercise without enduring significance.”
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