This is translated from a french pamphlet that was addressed to the clergy (but is good for all).
It is taken from the works of the French priest, Blessed Antoine Chevrier (1826-1879).
THE SPIRIT OF GOD IN WORKS
Do you want to accomplish great things in the world of souls, whatever be the position that was confided to you by Divine Providence?
Have the spirit of God …
Who are those who have the spirit of God? They are those who have prayed much and who have asked for it for a long time. They are those who have studied the holy Gospel, the words and actions of Our Lord, for a long time; who have seen how the saints acted and how they conformed their life to the life of Jesus Christ; who have worked for a long time to reform in themselves that which is opposed to the spirit of Our Lord.
The person who truly has the spirit of God says nothing of himself, and does nothing by himself; all that he says and all that he does rests on a word or an action of Jesus Christ, which he has taken as the foundation of his life.
Jesus Christ is his life, his principle and his end. “It is not me who lives, it is Jesus Christ who lives in me,” can he say with the Apostle.
He is led neither by himself, nor by reasoning, but by the Faith and the Holy Ghost, who acts in him.
The saints often did admirable things, that men did not understand, because they were led by the spirit of God. The saints took all their inspirations and thoughts from the infinite love of God. They found them in the stable, Calvary and the Tabernacle, which are the three great glowing torches by which a true disciple of Jesus Christ must conduct himself.
The spirit of God is rare because it is very difficult to entirely forsake our judgement, knowledge, natural life, and faults in order to fill ourselves with the spirit of God. It is difficult to be so united to God that we are one with Him. It is difficult to be humble enough, small enough, docile enough and silent enough, so that we can always properly receive and follow His inspirations. His inspirations are so delicate, so imperceptible sometimes, that it is difficult to grasp them, understand them, and accept them. Knowledge, reason and the world make, on their part, so much noise around us, that they stifle this voice of grace.
Besides, the natural and all-human life is so strong within us, and the spiritual life, so elevated and opposed to our nature, that we are tempted to regard as unrealizable the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, which we often treat as far-fetched ideas.
The great teachings of the Gospel are regarded as impracticable, and we prefer to follow the common way, the ordinary way, than to follow the ways that are elevated and often painful to nature, which are the ways of the Holy Ghost. And besides, by reasoning, if it is not supported by Faith, we destroy the whole Gospel, we always find a way to arrange things, and to keep the natural life.
Human reasoning kills the Gospel and nullifies all that is elevated, grand and spiritual in the precepts and counsels of Our Lord, notably in what concerns, poverty, detachment, charity, renouncement, mortification and penance.
Also, when we find this man, so rare upon the earth, who has the spirit of God, how we seek him, how we run to him, how we go to get this spirit, these counsels, which come from on high. It seems then that we are with God and that it is heaven on earth. It is rare, and yet to have this spirit, we only have to fill ourselves with the Gospel and put it into practice.
The spirit of God! It’s the greatest treasure that God can give someone. It is also the greatest treasure that God can give to the earth; to give His spirit to a few men, so that others can see it in them and profit of it.
Let us ask for it from God, and let us not cease asking for it for ourselves and for others! … But , we must not have any illusions: to obtain it, we must continually battle against our nature, inclinations, prejudices, knowledge sometimes, and also against the world, which does not understand this spirit and which does not cease to treat as insane and mad all who act in opposition to it (the world).
The spirit of God is not in knowledge, genius, or human elevation; it is also not in exterior things. It is not in lodging, clothing, riches, titles, nor elevated or low positions. Not even in exterior practices of piety, since the Pharisees fasted, prayed and gave alms, and Our Lord condemns all their justice, however great and rigorous it appears to the eyes of men.
It is neither in titles, nor in positions, dignities, or honors; these exterior things assume the spirit of God, but do not give it. One can be a priest, canon, bishop, or religious and not have the spirit of God.
What a gross error do those commit who believe they have the spirit of God, wisdom, and virtue, because they are wearing a cassock, and that behind this deceiving exterior, they can govern with impunity, command as they see fit, as it comes to mind, exploit their title, their position, as if that made them wiser, more experienced, more enlightened, and especially incapable of deceiving!
We especially see young priests act without reserve and prudence, and yet believe themselves to be infallible and demand that everyone bow in front of them and submit to their authority. What madness! How these sorts of people make themselves despised and make the clerical dress they wear despised!
How necessary it is to act with discernment and even with fear, especially when one is young, because one is liable to do many foolish things! How we must be careful not to think that our cassock gives us wisdom and virtue!
On the other hand, the spirit of God is also not in this regularity or exterior discipline that one admires so much in our days; in these educational exercises which make men like true machines that one can turn or move with a signal!
When you will have really put all this exterior system of order, arrangement and mechanical regularity in your men, if you believe that the spirit of God is there, you deceive yourself; it can very well be that it isn’t there at all; because the spirit of God is not in the exterior, it is in the interior.
Where is there more order, discipline, and regularity than in the barracks, in a prison, or in a community school? and yet, where is there less of a spirit of God?
The exterior assumes the spirit of God, but does not give it.
All this exterior work to which we apply ourselves so much, especially in our days, and to which we attach so much importance in our houses, in our schools, even Christian schools, is of no use if we content ourselves with that.
You have to pay much more attention to the interior than to the exterior. The second without the first is a body without a soul.
Put the interior in souls and the exterior will always come. Put the exterior and you’ve done nothing.
To begin with the exterior is to build in air, without foundations; it is to make machines and weather vanes. You have to, before anything, put Faith and the love of God – the interior sap.
The exterior is like clothing with which we cover ourselves; it can be beautiful, well-made, give an elegant, gracious and noble air; but it does not give health. When the doctor wants to know if you are well, he doesn’t look at your clothing, he takes your pulse.
This is not to say that we have to neglect the exterior and demand nothing in this respect; no, order and regularity are necessary. But we must put, as a principal foundation, the interior, the spiritual sap which must give life to the exterior; otherwise we do nothing solid, nothing durable.
“Haec oportuit facere et illa non omittere,” says Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Pharisees, when speaking of the two precepts, the interior and the exterior.
Isn’t it also what we notice in the conduct of Jesus Christ with His apostles? He chose them first; during the three years he spent with them, forming them in the evangelical and apostolic life, we do not see Him concerning Himself at all with giving them exterior and regular, disciplinary forms; they lived according to the times as they could. But we see Him constantly attending to the interior formation of His apostles. He instructed them continually. At the same time, he instilled in them the great principles of the evangelical and perfect life, and made them practice it by putting these principles into action. He gives them no other rule than this: “Follow me, I am your rule, your life, the exterior form you must imitate.”
There are those who, beginning by exterior rules, form many precepts; all that is nothing; the true rule that you must impress on others is this: “Follow me, do as me.”
You must give yourself as an example to the world, by living poorly and saintly, imitating Jesus Christ; then you will convert the world.