“Am I wasting my life?” That’s the question Carlo Carretto asked himself one night as he walked under the stars in the North African desert. For twenty years he had led the Italian youth group Catholic Action, gaining national recognition while counseling and befriending thousands of young people. Now he had chosen life as a monk in the desert. Here he was nobody, surrounded only by a handful of fellow monks and the impoverished neighbors they sought to serve. Outwardly Carretto’s new life seemed isolated, even unproductive. But in the desert, he found answers to universal questions that each of us must face. The secret? “Don’t worry about what you ought to do – worry about loving.”
Night came, and I could not sleep. I left the cave, and walked under the stars above the vast desert. I stretched out on a sand dune and gazed at the starry vault above.
I cast my eyes back to Andromeda. The night was so clear that I could just discern it. It is the celestial body that is farthest from the Earth yet visible to the naked eye: millions of light years away. Such is the space in which is gathered the galaxy to which we belong – on a tiny grain of sand called Earth.
Beyond Andromeda are other galaxies, and thousands and thousands of stars which my eyes cannot see, but which God has created.
It is true that Jesus said, “Go, and make disciples of all nations.” But he also added, “Without me you can do nothing.” It is true that Saint Ignatius said, “Act as though everything depended upon you.” But he added, “But pray as though everything depended upon God.” God is the creator of the physical cosmos as well as of the human cosmos. He rules the stars as he rules the church. And if, in his love, he has wished to make us his collaborators in the work of salvation, the limit of our power is very small and clearly defined. It is the limit of the wire compared with the electric current.
We are the wire, God is the current. Our only power is to let the current pass though us. Of course, we have the power to interrupt it and say “no.” But nothing more.…
The thought that the affairs of the world, like those of the stars, are in God’s hands – and therefore in good hands – apart from being actually true, is something that should give great satisfaction to anyone who looks to the future with hope. It should be the source of faith, joyful hope, and, above all, of deep peace. What have I to fear if everything is guided and sustained by God? Why get so worried, as if the world were in the hands of me and my fellow men?
Only one thing in this world is not problematic: charity, love. Love alone is not a problem for him who lives it.
To those who ask me if I am wasting my time, I can only say. “Live love, let love invade you. It will never fail to teach you what you must do.”
Charity, which is God in us, will point to the way ahead. It will say to you “Now kneel,” or “Now leave.”
Don’t worry about what you ought to do. Worry about loving. Don’t interrogate heaven repeatedly and uselessly saying, “What course of action should I pursue?” Concentrate on loving instead.
And by loving you will find out what is for you. Loving, you will listen to the Voice. Loving, you will find peace.
Love is the fulfillment of the law and should be everyone’s rule of life; in the end it’s the solution to every problem, the motive for all good.
“Love and do as you will.”
This is the crux. When I love I can no longer do as I will.
When I love I am love’s prisoner; and love is tremendous in its demands when it has God as its object, especially a crucified God. I can no longer do my own will. I must do the will of Jesus, which is the will of the Father….
The will of God. That’s what rules the world and moves the stars, what converts the nations, what starts all life and brings triumph out of death.
And if the will of God urges you to seek out the poor, to give up all you possess, or to leave for distant lands, what does the rest matter? Or if it calls you to found a family, or take on a job in a city, why should you have any doubts?
“His will is our peace,” says Dante. And perhaps that is the expression which best brings into focus our deep dependence on God.
From Carlo Carretto, Letters in the Desert, Orbis Books.