Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Augustine of Hippo, perhaps the greatest Christian philosopher in Antiquity. If you read about his early life, you wouldn’t think that he would end up as a saint. That’s why, we should never give up hope for the future.
Specially during this COVID-19 pandemic, it seems that a pervading wave of pessimism is weighing down on everyone’s sensibilities. People are prone to panic and fear. It is imperative that people stand firm and never give up hope for the future. It is never too late to begin to focus on ways and means that would strengthen the human character. We all can learn from one of the aphorisms of Saint Josemaria Escriva, as follows:
Point no. 19
Will-power. A very important quality. Don’t disregard the little things,which are really never futile or trivial. For by the constant practice of repeated self-denial in little things, with God’s grace you will increase in strength and manliness of character. In that way you’ll first become master of yourself, and then a guide and a leader: to compel, to urge, to draw others with your example and with your word and with your knowledge and with your power.St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way
Defined as the ability to control one’s own actions, emotions, or urges, will-power is certainly one of the most important attributes that one should possess at this time in order to win this war against COVID-19. It begins with a desire – to win this war versus COVID-19. With the desire comes the willingness and the resolve to struggle against obstacles that would prevent it from happening.
For the young Augustine, he spent his first thirty years dabbling from one Christian sect to another, whilst enjoying a hedonistic life. In fact, at a tender age of 18, he sired a son by his lover of 15 years. It was only in the year 391 when Augustine met Bishop Ambrose, a master of rhetoric, who influenced him to become catholic. Once baptized as Catholic, Augustine pursued a life totally reformed. As described by his friend, Bishop Possidius, Augustine’s personal traits reflected a portrait of a man who ate sparingly, worked tirelessly, despised gossip, shunned the temptations of the flesh, and exercised prudence in the financial stewardship of his see. In a word, will-power resided in Augustine.
For the fainthearted, the great tendency is to shun taking risks or accepting challenges. As may be gleaned from Point no. 19, St. Josemaria warns everyone against trivialization of little things. It is vital that, in order to win the war against this pandemic, one ought to practice self-denial in the little things encountered each day. For example, these little acts of sacrifice could be seen in waking up early in the morning, not procrastinating on tasks in your list, reading books to learn, etc.. For in the end, the desire to have strength of character – will-power -can only be attained through the daily repetition of small acts of heroism that eventually contribute to building the foundation of strong character.
Love of God
Finally, sheer will-power by itself will not redound to success. In order to ensure the proper shaping of one’s self for the future, it is highly advisable to seek the will of God in accord with one’s particular state in life. Afterall, He loved us first. If, therefore, one corresponds to God’s call by surrendering one’s will to Him, out of love for God, then, there should be no need to worry about the future. The fire of love will sustain one’s will-power to face the future with hope. The words of St. Paul resonate deeply in my heart, as follows:
Sacrifice of Body and Mind.
“I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”Romans 12:1-2, NABRE