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Rectitude of Intention

By Barbara Kralis

©Barbara Kralis 2004

Why do we hear so little mention of this virtuous idiom, Rectitude of Intention?  Is it because the very meaning, per se, is a pox upon the relativism of our culture?

What does this term, ‘Rectitude of Intention’ mean.  It means having the correct intention in all that we do – in our daily work, our recreation, our civic obligations, and our religious duties – however, not for our glory but all for the glory of God.

We live in an age when society does all it can to avoid giving offense to sinners, tolerates perversions and remains fearful of correcting the reprobate.

Rectitude of Intention is the antithesis of ‘political correctness.’  It helps us do what we ought to do, not what society or culture want us to do.

Let us see how the dictionary defines:  rec·ti·tude  n; strong moral integrity in character or actions; correctness in judgment (formal).[1]

Having holy Rectitude of Intention means seeing with a supernatural outlook (like having ‘supernatural eyes’) that all things come from God.  By applying Rectitude of Intention to our ordinary daily work, we will have sanctified that work into a great gift to God.  Rectitude of Intention can make any work holy.  Moreover, through our sanctified work we sanctify others.

"Don't ever lose the supernatural point of view.  Correct your intention as the course of a ship is corrected on the high seas: by looking at the star, by looking at Mary.  Then you will always be sure of reaching harbour," wrote St. Josemaría Escrivá. [2]

Escrivá used to tell the true story about a girl he knew whose work in the kitchen was to peel potatoes.  Before, she used to just peel potatoes; now, through what she has learned through Rectitude of Intention, she sanctifies herself peeling potatoes because she does it all for the glory of God, and she does it very well.  It is a very small job but it has immense value because of the intention behind it. [3]

Continuing our apostolate when we do not see any results from our hard work is a sign of Rectitude of Intention and proof we are carrying out our task only for God’s glory.

Rectitude of Intention is a foreign message in today’s culture, where secular humanism is widespread, where everyone does their own thing and the chant of the multitudes is, ‘I’ve gotta be me.  I’ve got to be free.’

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches this about Rectitude of Intention:

"It is against simplicity that a servant be concerned with what the eye sees instead of what pleases the Lord.  For such a servant does not possess simplicity and Rectitude of Intention. [4]

Jesus spoke to St. Thomas one day:  "Thomas, you have written well of me.  What reward do you wish for your work?"

St. Thomas responded: "Lord, I want nothing else but You."

After saying Holy Mass one day, St. Thomas decided to leave unfinished his magnificent life’s work, the Summa Theologiae.  He explained:

"After what God saw fit to show me on the feast of Saint Nicholas, it seems to me that everything which I have written is worthless.  And so, I am unable to write anything more."[5]

Aquinas, having seen in a miraculous vision that God is more than anything he could conceive, continued to seek the Lord through a life of love and prayer.

Our fallen human nature and our lack of virtue, all due to sin, tempt us many times to do things for our own power and glory.  This is especially found in excessive activism.  When this happens, our works remain empty because we lack Rectitude of Intention.

We cannot think of Rectitude of Intention without thinking of John the Baptist.  The Baptist preached truth to a wicked generation and he cared neither for his safety nor for ‘political correctness.’  In fact, John lost his head because he did not conform to popular cultural consensus. 

A multitude of people followed John throughout his wanderings, and they thought him to be the long awaited Messiah.  Yet, John, with complete and perfect Rectitude of Intention, became small so that Jesus could become great.  John decreased so that Jesus could increase.  John did this for the greater glory of God.  This is the greatest example of Rectitude of Intention.

St. Bernard describes ...

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