Let us consider St Paul's words: "There are different works and services, but the same Spirit does them all." Dear children, you can see that every natural body has many different parts and senses, and how each particular part, whether it is eye, ear, mouth, hand or foot, has its own special functions, its own work to do. There can be no question of one part wanting to do the work of another part, or to be anything other than what God has made it. Now, we too are all one body. Each of us is a part of the body, and Christ is its Head. In this body, as in a natural body, the parts are very different from one another. One of us is an eye, another is a hand, someone else is a foot, a mouth or an ear. The eyes in the body of Christendom are those who have to teach; that is something you do not have to worry about. But we ordinary Christian people ought to take great care to find out what is the work to which our Lord has called and invited us, what is the grace which our Lord has prepared for us; because every skill or work, however small, is a grace, and it is the same spirit which produces them all for the use and benefit of mankind.
    Let us take the humblest tasks first. One person knows how to spin, another knows how to make shoes; some people are good at these practical things, others are not. All these gifts are from God, produced in us by His Spirit. Believe me, if I were a member of a community, and not a priest, I should be very proud of being able to make shoes. I should try to make them better than anyone else, and I should be glad to earn my keep with my own hands. Dear children, the foot or the hand must not want to be the eye. Everyone must do his own special work, entrusted to him by God, however menial it is; not everyone would know how to do it. Each of our sisters has her own work to do. Some of them can sing beautifully, and these are responsible for the Office. This is the work which the Spirit of God has given them to do. St Augustine said: "God is a being who is unvarying, divine and simple, and yet He is the cause of all multiplicity. He is everything in everything, one in everything and everything in one." There is never any little task, however small, no little skill, however homely, that is not a gift of God, a special grace from Him.
    Everyone should do for his neighbour what his neighbour cannot do so well as he, and in this way, by his love for others, he thanks God for His graces….
    Why is there so much grumbling, everyone complaining that his work is a hindrance to him? God gave him his work and God never hinders anyone. Our work will never give us a troubled conscience if God's spirit inspires the work in us. It should bring us peace, not trouble. Dear child, you must see that when this sort of thing disturbs your peace, it is not the work that causes the trouble, it is the disordered way in which you go about it. If you did your work, as you easily could, and as you ought to, with an eye to God alone and no thought of yourself, you would not be anxious to please or afraid of displeasing anyone, you would not be asking if your work is useful or pleasant, because you would ask for nothing in it except the glory of God. You would do all your work for God alone. If you did this, there could not possibly be any emotional upsets or crises of conscience.
    Any religious person ought to be ashamed of doing his work in such a disordered way, and with so little purity of heart that people hear that it causes him anxiety; because this shows that the work has not been done in God or with a pure and true intention. It was not done from a genuine and pure love of God or for the benefit of other people. If you are well contented with the work you have been given, this is a sign, to you and to other people, that you have been doing it for God alone. When our Lord blamed Martha, it was not because she was working. What she was doing was good and holy. What He blamed her for was her over-anxiety.
    We must perform such good and useful works as we find, but we must leave the care of them to God. We must do our work very carefully, peacefully, wholeheartedly, drawing God into it. We must pay attention to every detail, with great zeal and devotion, and we must keep an eye on ourselves, too, asking ourselves what motive prompts us to the work. We must be very conscientious in trying to distinguish what the Spirit of God is prompting us to, whether He is asking to be passive or active. We must follow His promptings and act accordingly. If He wants us to rest, let us rest; if we are to work, then let us go about it peaceably and cheerfully. When we come across old people, or the sick or helpless, let us not wait to be asked for help. We should anticipate their needs, and compete for the privilege of serving them in charity. Let us bear one another's burdens. You can be sure that if you neglect to do what God has given you to do, He will take it away and give it to someone who can do it properly, leaving you useless and empty of virtue and grace.
     If while you are at work you feel God's secret touch, pay careful attention to it, but without neglecting your work. In this way you will learn to bring God into your work, instead of running away from it to Him.
    Dear children, this is how we must learn to exercise ourselves in virtue. The only way to learn is to practice. God will not push virtues into you without any effort on your part. Do not think that Father, Son and Holy Spirit will simply flow into people who have never worked at acquiring virtue. Our virtue is worth very little until it has grown strong by exercise, interior or exterior…. I know a man who has loved God more dearly than most, and he has passed his whole life as a ploughman. He has followed the plough for forty years, and that is what he does to this day. This man once asked our Lord if He wanted him to stop working and go and sit in church; but the answer was: No, He did not want that. He wanted him to go on earning his bread with the sweat of his brow, to the honour of His most Precious Blood.  


In their many different idioms the classical spiritual writers have attempted to throw light on the eternal question of union with God. 
Every month we give you a brief passage from a spiritual classic.