Venerable Emmanuel D’Alzon – Address to the Faculty at Assumption College, Nîmes – 1 February 1846

Venerable Emmanuel-Maurice d'AlzonWe must steep ourselves thoroughly in Christian thought by the strength, faith and love that derive from a knowledge of God and His Church. Wherever we go, we must spread this Christian thought in the minds and hearts of young people and influence them thoroughly, never getting discouraged by their seeming ignorance and superficiality.

How can we fill our students with this strength, faith and love? How will these things grow in the student?

The Christian enters into communication with God, connects himself with God. His soul now becomes like a battery: to be charged and vitalized with what only God can give. In God the Father he finds his strength and in the Son, understanding. And the more truth he discovers, the more attracted he becomes to truth; the more he pursues the truth, the more he loves it. Then the Spirit of God comes to him, takes hold of him, and lifts him up. Without this threefold influence of God, his spiritual life will be incomplete. Without it he will never acquire the perfection of his destiny. So the Christian must allow God to act within him. He must welcome and give free access to this divine life which flows into his soul from the God who is both one and three.

We need strength

We’re in great need of strength from on high! Look into your own heart; what do you discover there? A broken will, torn one way and the other. Original sin has broken our spirit and neutralized our efforts.

What with this personal weakness, how can we hope to manifest God? And what can be done to make up for this weakness? We must re-inforce our feeble nature with God’s own almighty power. The more we become powerful, the more clearly will we reveal his power, not ours. As long as we rely on our own puny strength, we will be ineffectual; we will convey no spiritual life to the minds and hearts of others.

So, abandon your weakness, discard it. Raise your eyes on high. Learn to appreciate the spiritual resources God offers you, to lift you up and restore your dignity, to strengthen you and enable you to overcome.

This is how God acts and reveals Himself in the world. He creates and restores. We must endeavor to imitate God in His redeeming action, and so we will reveal in ourselves His strength. We must mend the little world inside us, then turn our efforts to the little world around us. God will use us in this work of redemption and wants us to co-operate with Him in a joint effort.

So why tremble? Why hesitate? Fortified by God’s own strength, placing our own feeble resources under His supreme command, we forge ahead. We communicate to our young people the strength in which they are sadly lacking, but it is strength we now possess, since God has transmitted it to us.

We need such strength in order to fight against the multiple obstacles we come across in our students: their obstinacy, evil, and every influence of the power of darkness. The strength we require is super-human, but we find it in God, and God will fight on our side.

Prayer, perseverance and good example! And thus we conform to our divine model, our Lord Jesus Christ who “began to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1).

We need understanding

A powerful means of communicating the power and strength of God lies in the hands of the teacher. It is by teaching, in the classroom, that we make the truth known.

But, alas, our vision is obscured. How difficult it is to banish the darkness. We need to know ourselves and the contradictions of our heart, as well as the world and its true value. We need to dispossess ourselves of a will so weak that it does what is evil even though it knows what is good.

The light of faith shows us up in all our wretchedness. Stripped of pride, of lies, and of illusions, we will at last be disposed to welcome truth, the truth to which we must henceforth be willingly and courageously crucified.

It is this truth that will set us free (Jn 8:32), free from the slavery of our own perverse will. It will make us long to escape from the confusion in which we find ourselves entangled and draw us to herself and to her brilliance.

And once the truth has become a part of us, once we have well and truly assimilated it, then we need have no fear of whether we will be able to put it across to our listeners. Our mouth speaks from the abundance of our heart. The truth which has taken possession of our hearts will erupt from us. We will find ourselves urging our young people towards God, delivering them from what is false, raising them to the level of truth, transforming them into vessels of truth, convincing them that nothing but truth is real or good. Our love for them will render us ingenious in the conquest of their souls. We will present the truth to them in all its forms and discover hidden in characters that are disordered flammable matter that lacks only a spark to be set afire.

With the love of God

Christian truth is not only to be systematized or reflected on. It is especially something to love. When the person who searches for truth and longs for it, when he finds it, it becomes his consuming passion.

Where will we find this truth, except in God himself, by delving into the very depths of God, by assimilating that true life which is the life of God, who is to be found in the Church?

If we ourselves love the truth, we will spare no efforts in teaching our students to love it too. We will fight with all our might against whatever evil influences prey upon their weakness, against whatever evil tendencies lurk in their hearts. We will be ardent in our endeavor to save them and set them free. We will lead them up to the heights of truth. Truth will become their friend and the whole purpose of their lives.