Proper use of our talents

April 18, 2023
Source: District of Asia
Proper use of our talents

Isn't it disappointing that sometimes good people put their talents to work for the wrong cause?

One person is a good speaker; another is intellectually brilliant; another is remarkably gifted with his hands, another has an appreciable amount of psychological finesse; and unfortunately, often, these talents are not put to the service of good.

And yet, if there is one fundamental element for the Christian of the 21st century, it is knowing how to make good use of the resources that God has given him. Natural resources of intelligence, practical sense, or any human quality; and supernatural resources of grace, infused virtues, and gifts of the Holy Spirit. We remember the famous parable of the talents: God will ask each one for an account of the talents he has received, and woe to the bad servant who will have kept his talents for himself without making them bear fruit for the master.

The problem, however, in our century, is that it is anything but obvious to use one's talents well. Fr. Hyacinthe-Marie Cormier, elected Master General of the Dominicans in 1904, and whom St. Pius X declared when he was elected to the Generalate to be a saint, wrote these lines, which have not aged a bit:

"Today, when the world, if one considers its ideas and morals, is in the midst of paganism, more than one Christian would be willing to be dazzled by the false grandeur of human society and bow to the frivolous opinions of the day as to a deity. But others, going to the opposite extreme, will readily set themselves up as ruthless censors, will see the work of the devil everywhere, and will refuse even to consider whether there is not some good to be found in the chaos which surrounds them."

Fr. Cormier describes well the twofold abyss that tempts us: either to bow to the false ideas of the world, and to make our talents serve the edification of this chaotic society where God is set aside; or to reject everything, and render our talents useless.

Let us continue our reading: "The true wise man avoids these two pitfalls; he weighs everything, knows how to sympathize with the miseries and weaknesses that surround him, takes into account the distant causes that have prepared them, and unravels what remains of good tendencies, of noble and sincere desires, even if misdirected, in this present confusion of things. He knows how to wait; and when he acts, he carefully seconds any tendency that may predispose his neighbor to do better. One day God will show him that he was right to prefer hope to discouragement, the charitable use of all resources to the unquestioning condemnation of what he did not like." (Être à Dieu, Ed. du Cerf, 1994, p. 82).

This wise Dominican, who himself had so many difficulties and conflicts to resolve, and who always did so with admirable prudence, traces for us an interesting line of conduct: it is a question of detecting what is still good, and of supporting what is good. In other words: take things as they are, and try to improve them according to our possibilities. To take an image, it is a matter of finding the unquenched ember, and blowing on it to rekindle the flame.

This profound advice embraces many aspects. First, in our family life, with those who are related to us by blood; then, in our professional life, through the job we do, with our colleagues, there is good to be done; and finally, in our political life, in the noble sense of the term, that is to say in the role we have to play in the city that is ours: France, our region, our city, or village.

In all these contexts, good is not absent. Of course, evil is sometimes obvious, insolent, or even oppressive. But evil is not a being in itself, it only exists grafted onto a good that it damages. A colleague who makes anti-clerical remarks, for example, could not make them if he were not already a man, and therefore a being created by God and redeemed by Jesus Christ.

It is therefore necessary, courageously, to work from the existing good, seeking to perfect it. It is precisely here that two virtues must come into play: prudence, which will help us find the right good to achieve, and strength, which will help us maintain our resolution despite the difficulties. This work colleague, to take up the example, should I act towards him? If so, how can I get him to change? With words? In private, in public, in a frontal or subtle way? And if I don't succeed, can I at least cancel out their effects on this or that colleague? These are the questions that the virtue of prudence will formulate, and to which it will provide a concrete answer, followed by a practical application. As for strength, it will provide the shock: if this colleague attacks us, or if the action proposed by prudence does not bear immediate fruit.

These two virtues of prudence and strength, put into daily practice in all aspects of our human and Christian lives, will allow us to avoid a fault that threatens us and that Fr. The extent of the evil and its progress could make us give up and fall on the side of those who think that "in any case, everything is ruined". This is a convenient way to avoid acting, but it will hardly escape the reproach of Our Lord: "You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I did not sow, that I gather the grain where I did not scatter it. Then you should have put my money in the bank, and when I came back, I would have found it with interest. So take away his talent and give it to the one who has ten. To the one who has, it will be given again, and he will have plenty; but the one who has nothing will have even what he has taken away." (Mat. 25)

Between discouragement and inaction, there is only one step, which is quickly taken.

Let's take hold of this conviction that God is Almighty, and that he only asks us to work well, in our place. At the time foreseen by him, we will experience these words of Father Cormier:

“One day God will show him that he was right to prefer hope to discouragement, the charitable use of all resources to the unquestioning condemnation of what he did not like.”

Abbé Guillaume Scarcella FSSPX