Purity of Intention


Purity of intention consists in doing everything with the sole view of pleasing God. The good or bad intention with which an action is performed renders it good or bad before God. St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi says:

"God rewards actions according to the amount of purity of intention with which they are done." Let us examine the practice of it.

In the first place, in all our exercises (of devotion), let us seek God and not ourselves: if we seek our own satisfaction we cannot expect to receive any reward from God. And this holds good for all spiritual works. How many labor and exhaust themselves in preaching, hearing confessions, serving at the altar, and in doing other pious works; and because in these they seek themselves and not God, they lose all! When we seek neither approbation nor thanks from others for what we do, it is a sign that we work for God's sake: as also when we are not vexed at the good we undertake not succeeding; or when we rejoice as much at any good that is done by others, as if it had been done by ourselves. Further, whenever we have done some good in order to please God, let us not torment ourselves in endeavoring to drive away vainglory; if we are praised for it; it is enough to say: "To God be the honor and glory." And let us never omit doing any good action which may be edifying to our neighbor, through fear of vainglory. Our Lord wishes us to do good even before others, that it may be profitable to them: So let your light shine before men, that they may see you;' good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 5:16) Therefore when you do good, have first the intention of pleasing God; and secondly, that also of giving a good example to your neighbor.

In the second place, in our bodily actions; whether we work, eat, drink, or amuse ourselves with propriety, let us do all in order to please God. Purity of intention may be called the heavenly alchemy, which changes iron into gold; by which is meant, that the most trivial and ordinary actions when done to please God become acts of divine love. St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi used to say:

"A person who performs all his actions with a pure intention will go straight to paradise."

A holy hermit, before putting his hand to any work, used to raise his eyes to heaven, and keep them fixed there for a short time; and when he was asked what he was doing, he answered: "I am taking my aim, so that I may not miss the mark." Let us also do in like manner: before beginning any action, let us make sure of our aim, and say: "Lord, I do this to please You." [Emphasis added.]

St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Preparation for Death, Rev Eugene Grimm Trans., Redemptorist Fathers Brooklyn Publishers (1926) p. 453-454. Imprimatur +Patrick Cardinal Hayes, 1926.

This material is presented for religious and educational purposes only. It appears as it is in the text of Preparation for Death except to replace archaic words and the words in brackets.

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