Presence of God. A certain spirit of contemplation is proper in the life of every Christian. We should all be contemplatives in the corner of the world where we work and live. The presence of God helps make real to us this supernatural dimension of our lives.
How are we to live this presence of God? The mother with a small child walks around the house with eyes and ears attentive to the cradle. The slightest sound draws her attention to the child. We can say that this mother lives in the presence of her infant. The child remains always in her thoughts. In the same manner we should be attentive to God, never losing sight of him during the rush and activity of human events. Even the thought of our own wretchedness should lead us to desire never to be separated from him.
The way of living this norm is very personal. Everyone has his or her own way. This devotion may be inspired by an aspiration, the sight of a church steeple, an image of the Blessed Virgin, a red traffic light, greeting our guardian angel, or a thousand other little things. In the book of Genesis God says to Abraham: “Live in my presence and you will be perfect” (Genesis 17:1). Living in the presence of God is a way of living, working, walking, and praying. Living in God’s presence may inspire us in the same manner as it inspired Andre Frossard, who uttered as he left a chapel in the Latin quarter of Paris: “God exists; I have met him.”
Consideration of our divine filiation. Our divine filiation — the fact that we are daughters and sons of God — is a basic truth in the economy of salvation. Our lives revolve around God. We are his adopted children, but by a special kind of adoption. When human parents adopt, the child enters their family; they give him their name and the right to inherit from them. But that child will never carry the parents’ blood in his veins; in the intimate reality of his being he will always to some extent be an outsider. But our adoption by God is not an external thing: we do have the blood of the Father which is his divine A PLAN OF LIFE 21 HELPING YOU FIND GOD WHEREVER YOU ARE grace. We have the same grace that Jesus Christ, our older Brother, had, although we possess it in a lesser degree.
To consider our divine filiation is to become aware of the reality of our situation and to live in the light of God our Father. Everything that happens to us comes from his hand. “And we have come to know, and have believed, the love that God has in our behalf” (1 John 4:16). Here is the great secret of the interior life. Divine providence — God’s watching out for us with the love of a Father — seems the most natural thing to us.
Work. Years before the Second Vatican Council, St. Josemaria was speaking of the sanctifying and sanctifiable reality of work: Work for us is dignity of life and a duty imposed on us by the Creator, for man was made “ut operaretur — to work.” Work provides the means for man to share in creation; hence it is not only worthy, no matter what kind of work it may be, but it is also a means of human (earthly) and supernatural perfection. Humanly speaking, work is at the origin of earthly progress, of civilization, of well-being. We Christians are obliged to help build up the earthly city, both for reasons of charity towards all men and out of a desire for personal perfection. In order to live well the norm of work, we need to work well — with intensity and supernatural awareness. This means we must avoid sloppiness, laziness, and pietistic pretense. Each person ought to work at what interests him and what he is naturally suited for, striving always to be a good professional person. It is likely that most of us have a long way to go to achieve this goal. We need to love our work. In a posthumously published article, former German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer wrote: “The best way to succeed is to make the work one is doing important.”
Cheerfulness. Cheerfulness is a virtue proper to Christians. It ought to be the atmosphere surrounding and summarizing the other norms, for it is the way we are meant to serve our Lord: “Serve the Lord with gladness.” It is the platter upon which we offer up the deeds of every day, together with our prayers and our apostolate.
But what kind of cheerfulness is it? St. Josemaria has commented: “The cheerfulness you should have is not the kind we might call physiological — like that of a healthy animal. Rather, it is the supernatural happiness that comes from abandoning everything, including yourself, into the loving arms A PLAN OF LIFE 22 HELPING YOU FIND GOD WHEREVER YOU ARE of our Father, God.” We practice true cheerfulness because we are children of God, and there are three conditions for living it fully: total dedication, the desire to do God’s will in everything, and the conviction that St. Paul was right when he wrote, “Omnia in bonum . . . — for those who love God all things work together unto good” (Romans 8:28).
The Christian virtue of cheerfulness or joy indicates the fullness or depth of one’s interior life. Strong winds may whip up mad, towering waves at the surface of the ocean, but far down, in the depths, all is peace and serenity. Within one’s soul, too, despite what turmoil may exist as the surface, there is always room for the calm depth of the interior life, for joy in spite of sorrow, for peace in spite of war.
We are also mindful of the joy of serving. Consider the words two of Nobel laureates: “I was sleeping and dreamt that life was nothing more than joy. I awakened and saw that life was nothing more than service. I began to serve and I saw that service was joy” (Rabindranath Tagore). And: “There is the joy of being well and of being good; but above all there is the beauty, the immense joy of serving” (Gabriela Mistral). Without joy it is impossible to serve God well.
And we should not forget the joy of struggle: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:7–8). This is the joy of the hundred for one. The joy of making the lives of others cheerful, of making the way of virtue and of sanctity lovable, and of bringing souls closer to God.