Ave Maria Meditations
Good people are so often worried and distressed because, they say, they feel no devotion; they feel no love of God in their hearts, no readiness to suffer anything for him, no zest for sacrifice. Then they have to be told that feelings are of no account: devotion is a question not of feelings but of will.
True, the emotions can be a great strengthening for the will: you work better when you are emotionally full of zest for the world you work with more energy when you are happy and sanguine and your heart is in it. And there are times when God gives the emotional zest in his service to show us that his burden is light and to help us to form the habit of working for him with vigor and constancy. But if he takes the joy away and gives us fatigue and boredom; if our hearts feel dead within us; if everything connected with his service seems purposeless and futile and perhaps cruel: then, provided we go on with the thing to be done, have we cause for despair or depression? On the contrary, it is then that we can show, and know, that we really are devoted. It is then that we can show, and know, that it is really God we love and not his gifts, and that love, for that very reason, can grow to its perfection; for love and devotion are not in the emotions but in the will.
Devotion, Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us, means the will to give oneself readily to God’s service; and he goes on to show how devotion and love are reciprocal causes: charity causing devotion, since love makes one ready to serve one’s friend, and devotion feeding charity, since friendly deeds safeguard and deepen friendship. Whenever you in fact do what God tells you, then, you are growing in the love of God, no matter what your feelings may be.
+ Fr. Gerald Vann O. P.