In this installment of Treasures of the Faith, I’d like to begin looking at some of our great Latin maxims, starting with age quod agis.
Age quod agis can be literally translated as “Do what you are doing.” If that sounds meaningless, hold on, it isn’t! It’s full of practical wisdom!
The Duties of Our State of Life
One rather characteristic quote from the great patron Saint of spiritual direction, St. Frances de Sales, is “Be who you are, and be that well.” By this, he tells us that we don’t need to strive to be exactly like another great Saint, or any other person. We don’t have to be anyone else or mimic their deeds; we need to be exactly the person we were created to be and be that perfectly, performing the deeds set out for us. This means attending primarily to the duties of our exact state of life. For example, I am a husband and a father. I may feel drawn to spend hours in Eucharistic adoration each day, thinking that is what it means and what it takes to be holy. Granted, Eucharistic adoration is a great thing to do, and a wonderful source of grace, but if it is taking away from spending needed time with my family, or completing well the work that supports them, then I must focus first on my duties (and not those of a monk). I may get up a bit early for prayer or make frequent spiritual communions to find this balance; but missing needed sleep, important work meetings, or my child’s recital so that I may instead go to adoration again is probably not God’s Will for me. I can better love God by more generously loving my wife and children, by making the sacrifices presented to me in each moment: Those become my prayer. In fact, accepting those ordinary duties of mine rather than doing whatever extraordinary things I may want to do (even if those other actions may seem holier) is a beautiful offering in the eyes of God, when done for love of-and obedience to Him. As St. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him. […] Whatsoever you do, do it from the heart, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that you shall receive of the Lord the reward of inheritance. Serve ye the Lord Christ.”(3:17,23,24) We don’t so much need to do something else, just to do what we’re already doing, but do it better: intentionally, generously, lovingly, and for God. Age quod agis.
Small Things With Great Love
St. Mother Teresa—inspired by her namesake, St. Therese—promoted doing “small things with great love.” Neither Saint felt that the little things they did were great, but they were in fact heroic, and the great love with which they were done made those acts everlasting and immensely powerful. Mother Teresa smiling while cleaning putrid wounds and excrement while being herself hungry, exhausted, and in the middle of a 50-yr spiritual darkness: That is a great deed! “The patient man is better than the valiant: and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh cities.”(Proverbs 16:32) When St. Therese washed dirty handkerchiefs with a smile for love of Jesus and in reparation to Him, while her fellow sister carelessly squirted the nasty water on her face, is that a small or useless gesture? No way! Yes, it was hidden, but God sees all. The greatest events in history, such as the Incarnation and the birth of Christ happened in silence and obscurity. Such acts of great love by St. Therese and Mother Teresa were transformative for them and were like powerplants of grace for souls in need. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “What each one does or suffers in and for Christ bears fruit for all.”(CCC #961) And again St. Paul: “[I] now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church.”(Colossians 1:24) What could be lacking in the sufferings of Christ? Our part, our participation in union with Him, our love: letting Him Love in and through us in the little things. “With fear and trembling work out your salvation. For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will. And do ye all things without murmurings and hesitations; that you may be blameless, and sincere children of God, without reproof, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation; among whom you shine as lights in the world.”(Philippians 2:12-15)
Be a Saint: Be you and do what you are doing. Age quod agis.
Photo and Article by Stephen Snyder, 2020. All Rights Reserved.