[T]he good towards which the will inclines—and by which this connatural affinity is produced—can be very different from what is perceived from the outside. Two people who carry out the same assignment can be doing two very different things. One may be totally absorbed in not appearing bad in the eyes of the person who has given him that assignment, while the other really wants to serve. This second person is forming a virtue while the first isn’t, since the good sought is ultimately that of not looking bad before someone with authority. It is true that this action can be a better step than simply refusing to do the task. But as long as it isn’t followed by a series of further steps, that person would not be growing in virtue no matter how many times the action is repeated. Hence it is very important to rectify, to constantly purify our intention in order to little by little embrace the reasons for which it is really worthwhile doing something, and thus to shape our emotions with them.

We all have our own experience or that of others on how limiting oneself to respecting certain rules easily ends up becoming a burden. The example of the older son in the parable warns us of this danger (cf. Lk 15:29-30). While in contrast, sincerely seeking the good that these rules are meant to foster brings freedom and joy. Ultimately, we could say that we need to shape not so much our doing as our wanting. Not only what I do is important, but also what I want when I do it.[2] Freedom, thus, is the decisive factor. It is not sufficient to do something; we have to want to do it. We have to do it “because we want to, which is the most supernatural reason,”[Saint Josemaria, Christ is Passing By, 17.] because only thus we are growing in virtue, that is, we are learning to enjoy what is truly good. A mere fulfillment that leads to cumplo y miento, to fulfilling and lying, [Cf. Don Alvaro, Letter, September 1995, in Family Letters I, 8.] doesn’t lead to freedom, nor to love and joy. But when we understand why this way of acting is truly great and worthwhile, and let ourselves be guided by these reasons in our actions, then we foster our freedom, and strengthen our love and joy.”


Formation is integral only when it reaches all these levels. In other words, there is only true formation when the various faculties that intervene in human acts—reason, will, emotions—are integrated. These faculties shouldn’t fight with one another but rather work together. If we fail to properly mold our feelings, that is, if the virtues are understood as only an added force for our will that enables it to override our feelings, the moral norms and the struggle to try to live them will be repressive and will fail to lead to an authentic unity of life. For we would always feel within us powerful forces that try to pull us in the opposite direction and produce instability. We are well acquainted with this instability, since it is where we start from. But we are able to overcome it little by little, as we guide these forces progressively towards harmony. Then the moment will come when “because I want to,” which is the “most supernatural reason,” comes to mean because I like it, because it attracts me, because it accords with my way of being, because it fits with the interior world that I have formed for myself. And ultimately, because I have learned to make my own the sentiments of Christ Jesus.

Thus we make progress towards the attractive and exalted goal that Saint Paul sets out for us: Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5). And we realize that thus we are putting on the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Rom 13:14). “Christ’s life is our life … a Christian should live as Christ lived, making the affections of Christ his own, so that he can exclaim with Saint Paul: non vivo ego, vivit vero in me Christus (Gal 2:10), it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.[12] Fidelity consists precisely in this, in living, wanting, and feeling in accord with Christ—not because we “disguise ourselves” as Christ, but because this becomes our own way of being. Then in following God’s will, in being faithful, we are deeply free, because we do what we want, what we like, what we “feel like” doing. Deeply free and deeply faithful. Deeply faithful and deeply happy.


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