The Spiritual Life

Author: Adolphe Tanquerey



by the Very Reverend Adolphe Tanquerey, S.S., D.D.


CHAPTER V. General Means of Perfection

#407. Once we have formed deep convictions concerning the obligation of tending to perfection, it remains but to seek and use the means that lead thereto. It is question here of the general means, common to all souls desirous of spiritual progress. In the second part we shall treat of the special means proper to the different stages of the spiritual life.

These means are interior or exterior. The former are dispositions or acts of the soul itself that gradually raise it toward God. The latter comprise besides these acts, exterior helps which aid the soul in this elevation. It is important to give first a brief survey of these means.

#408. I. Among the interior means there are four that must be considered here: (1) The desire of perfection which is the first step forward, giving us the impulse needed to overcome obstacles.

(2) The knowledge of God and of self. Since it is question of Uniting the soul to God, the better these two terms are known, the easier will be the task of effecting such union: May I know Thee, O Lord, that I may love Thee, may I know myself that I may despise myself !

(3) Conformity to God's will. To surrender our will to that of God is the most genuine token of love and the most effective means of uniting ourselves to the source of all perfection.

(4) Prayer viewed in its wider sense. as adoration and petition, mental or vocal, private or public, any elevation of the soul to God. It unites all our interior faculties to God, our memory and imagination, our mind and will, and even our outward actions inasmuch as they are an expression of our spirit of prayer.

II. The exterior means of perfection may likewise be reduced to four principal ones:

(1) Direction. Just as God has instituted a visible authority to govern His Church externally, so He has willed that souls be led by an experienced spiritual guide, who may help them to avoid danger, and further and direct their efforts.

(2) A rule of life, which approved by such a director further extends his influence over souls.

(3) Conferences, exhortations, and spiritual reading. Well chosen, these put us in contact with the teachings and the example of the Saints and lead us to follow in their footsteps.

(4) The sanctification of our relations with others, with parents, friends, or business-associates. This enables us to direct toward God not merely our pious exercises, but all our actions and our duties of state.

I. Interior Means: Desire of Perfection, Knowledge of God and of Self, Conformity to the Divine Will and Prayer

II. Exterior Means: Direction, A Rule of Life, Spiritual Readings and Conferences and Sanctification of Social Relations


I. The Desire of Perfection[1]

#409. The first step toward perfection is the sincere, ardent and constant desire to attain it. We shall examine, (1) its nature, (2) its necessity and efficacy, (3) its qualities, (4) the means of fostering it.

n1. ST. FR. DE SALES, "Devout Life," P. I. C. I-III; "The Love of God," Bk. XII, c. 2-3: ALVAREZ DE PAZ, "De vita spirit.," t. I, 1. V: RODRIGUEZ, "Practice of Christian Perfection," P. I, Tr. I, "On the Esteem of Perfection;" LE GAUDIER, "De Vie spirituelle," Fevr. 1920, p. 296; SCARAMELLI-STOCKMAN, "Manual of Christ, Perfection" P. I, art. 2.

1. The Nature of this Desire

#410. (1) Desire in general is a movement of the soul toward the good that is absent. It differs, therefore, from joy which is the satisfaction coming from the actual possession of a good. There are two kinds of desire: one is a feeling or passionate impulse toward a sensible good that is absent; and the other, the rational desire, is an act of the will tending toward some spiritual good. At times this rational desire reacts upon our sensibility and is thus mixed with feeling. In the supernatural order our good desires are influenced by divine grace, as we have said above.

#411. (2) The desire of perfection, then, may be defined as an act of the will, which, under the influence of grace, ever seeks after spiritual progress. It may be at times accompanied by pious sentiments that intensify it,[1] but this element is not necessary.

n1. See remark of St. THOMAS, Ia IIae, q. 30, a. I, ad I.

##412. (3) This desire is born of the combined action of God's grace and the human will. From all eternity God loves us, and by that very fact, desires to unite Himself to us: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee."[1] His unfailing love follows us, pursues us, as if His own happiness were incomplete without us. Then, when our own soul illumined by faith looks into itself, it finds an immense void that nothing but the Infinity of a God itself can fill: "Thou hast made us unto Thyself, O God, and our heart finds no rest until it rests in Thee."[2] Our soul, then, sighs after God, after His love, after perfection: " As the hart panteth after the fountains of water; so my soul panteth after Thee, O Lord... for Thee my soul hath thirsted."[3] Since on earth this longing will never be satisfied, for here this divine union can never be complete, it follows that if we place no obstacle in the way this desire will constantly grow.

n1. "Jerem.," XXXI, 3. n2. ST. AUGUST., "Confessions" Bk. I, n. I. n3. "Ps." XLI, 2; LXII, 2.

#413. (4) Unfortunately, obstacles abound that tend to stifle, or at least, to weaken this desire. Such are the threefold concupiscence (which we have described above, n. 193), the fear of the difficulties to be overcome and of the continued efforts required for co-operation with grace and for spiritual progress. Hence, we must thoroughly convince ourselves of the necessity of this desire and take the means to foster it.

II. The Necessity and Efficacy of the Desire for Perfection

#414. (1) Its Necessity. The desire for it is the first step toward perfection, the indispensable condition for attaining it. The road to perfection is arduous and implies constant and energetic efforts, for as we have remarked, no one can make progress in the path of God's love without sacrifice, without struggling against the threefold concupiscence and against the law of least resistance. No one ever enters upon any steep, rugged path unless he is possessed of an ardent desire of arriving at the goal; and were he to set out on such a path he would soon abandon it. Likewise, no one starts on the way to perfection or perseveres in it unless sustained by a strong desire to reach the end.

A) Hence, everything in the Sacred Scriptures tends to inspire in us this desire. The Gospels as well as the Epistles are a continual exhortation to perfection. This we have shown in treating of the obligation of tending to perfection; the object of the texts that establish this obligation is to stimulate the desire of pressing forward. What other purpose can they have? They present to us as the ideal the imitation of the divine perfections; they propose to us Jesus Christ Himself as our model; they recount His virtues; they urge us to follow His example. Does not all this inspire us with the desire of perfection?

#415. B) The Church's Liturgy has the same aim. By setting forth in the course of the liturgical year the various phases of Our Lord's life, it makes us give expression to the most ardent longings for the coming of Christ's kingdom in the souls of men during the season of Advent; for His growth in our hearts, at Christmastide and the Epiphany; for penitential exercises, through the Lenten period, as a preparation for Easter graces; for an intimate union with God, through the Pascal time, and for the gifts of the Holy Ghost, from Whit-Sunday till the end of the cycle. Thus, all through the year the Sacred Liturgy, in one form or another, quickens our desire for spiritual growth.

# 416. C) The experience gained from reading the lives of the Saints or from the actual direction of souls shows us that without the oft-renewed desire for perfection, there is no progress in the spiritual life. St. Teresa[1] makes us well aware of this fact: "Let us not stifle our desires. This is highly important. Let us firmly believe that with the divine help and our own efforts we, too, can in the course of time obtain what so many Saints, aided by God, finally attained. Had they never conceived such desires, had they not little by little carried them into execution, they would never have risen so high... Oh! how important it is in the spiritual life to rouse oneself to great things !" The Saint herself offers us a striking example of this. As long as she was not determined to break all the bonds that interfered with her flight towards the heights of perfection, she painfully dragged along the way of mediocrity; from the day she resolved to give herself entirely to God, she advanced wondrously.

n1. "Life by Herself," C, XIII.

#417. The practice of direction corroborates the teaching of the Saints. Generous souls possessed of a humble and persistent desire to advance in the way of perfection relish and employ the means we suggest to them. If, on the contrary, such desire is lacking, or exists but feebly, we readily observe that the most urgent exhortations produce but little effect. Spiritual nourishment, like food for the body, profits but those who hunger and thirst. God heaps His gifts upon those who crave them, but allots them with measured hand to those who do no. prize them: "He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away."[1]

n1. "Luke" I, 53.

#418. (2) Efficacy of the desire for perfection. This desire is a real force that makes us grow in holiness.

a) Psychology demonstrates that an idea deeply impressed tends to elicit a corresponding act. This is the more true, when the thought is accompanied by the desire, for the latter already constitutes an act of the will which sets our faculties in motion. Hence, to desire perfection is to tend towards it, and to tend towards perfection is to begin to attain it. To desire to love God is already to love Him, since God sees the heart and takes into account all our intentions. Hence, Pascal's profound words: "Thou wouldst not seek me, hadst thou not found me ". Now, to desire is to seek, and he who seeks finds: "For every one that seeketh findeth."1

n1. "Matth.," VII, 8.

#419. b) Furthermore, in the supernatural order, desire constitutes a prayer, an elevation of the soul towards God, a sort of spiritual communion which lifts our soul towards Him and draws Him to us. Now, God delights in granting our prayers, especially when their object is our sanctification,-- the most ardent desire of His Heart: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification."1 Thus God, in the Old Testament, urges us to seek after, to pursue wisdom, that is to say, virtue, making the most wondrous promises to those that hearken to his voice, and granting wisdom to those that earnestly desire it: "Wherefore I wished, and understanding was given me: and I called upon God, and the Spirit of wisdom came upon me."2 In the Gospels, Our Lord invites us to quench in Him our spiritual thirst: "If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink."3 The more ardent our desires, the more abundant the graces we receive, for the Source of living water is inexhaustible.

n1. "Thess." IV, 3. n2. "Wisdom," VII, 7; cfr. "Prov." I, 10-13. n3. "John," VII, 37. As St. Thomas remarks (I,q. 12, a. 6), desire renders the soul more fit -- better disposed -- for the reception of the desired object.

##420. c) Lastly, desire dilates the soul and so renders it more apt for the reception of divine communications. There is in God such a fullness of goodness and of graces, that the measure of His bounty is to a great extent in proportion to our capacity to receive. The more we expand our soul by earnest and ardent desires, the more capable it becomes of receiving of the fullness of God: " I opened my mouth and drew unto myself the Spirit... Open thy mouth wide, and will fill it."1

n1. "Ps." CXVIII, 131; LXXX, II.

III. The Qualities Which the Desire for Perfection Should Possess

To attain such happy results, the desire for perfection must be supernatural, predominant, persevering, and practical.

#421. (1) It must be supernatural in its motive as well as in its principle.

a) Supernatural in its motive, that is to say, based upon reasons furnished by faith, which reasons we have already explained: the nature and the excellence of the Christian life and of Christian perfection, the glory of God, the edification of the neighbor, the welfare of our soul, etc.

b) Supernatural in its principle, in the sense that it must be conceived under the influence of grace, which alone can impart to us the light that will make us understand and relish such motives, and the strength required to act in accordance with our convictions. Since grace is obtained through prayer, we must ask insistently of God that He increase in us this desire for perfection.

#422. (2) It must be predominant: in other words, it must outdo in intensity any other desire. Since perfection is in reality the hidden treasure, that pearl of great price which must be bought at any cost, and since each degree of Christian perfection is attended by a corresponding degree of glory, of the Beatific Vision and of love, the same must be longed for and sought after in preference to any thing else whatsoever . " Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God and his justice.1

n1. "Matth.," VI, 33.

#423. (3) It must be persevering. To seek perfection is a long and arduous work calling for constant progress. Hence the desire to do better must be renewed frequently. Our Lord tells us, therefore, not to look backwards over the distance traversed, or to cast complacent eyes upon the results of past efforts: "No man putting his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God."1 On the contrary we must look ahead, as St. Paul tells us, to see the way we must yet travel and redouble our effort, like the runner who stretches forth his arm the better to reach hold of the goal: " Forgetting the things that are behind, and stretching forth myself to those that are before, I press towards the mark, to the prize of the supernatural vocation."2 St. Augustine lays great stress upon this same truth; he says that to halt is to fall back, to tarry in the contemplation of the way we have traveled is to lose our vigor. The motto of perfection is to go ever forward, to aim ever higher: "Linger not on the way, stray not from it... Always strive, always move, always advance."3

n1. "Luke, IX, 6 2. n2. "Philip," III, 13-14. n3. ST AUGUSTINE, Sermon 169, n. 18.

We must not consider the good we have achieved but the good that is yet to be accomplished; we must not look to those who do less than ourselves, but to those who do better, to the fervent, to the Saints, and above them all to Jesus Himself, our True Model. Then, the more we progress the further we seem from the goal, just because we realize the better how lofty that goal is.

However, there must be an entire absence of anything like over-eagerness, impatience, and, above all, anything like presumption in our desires. Violent efforts are of short duration, and the presumptuous soon lose heart after the first failures. What really makes for our progress is a calm and oft-renewed desire based on convictions and on the omnipotence of grace.

#424. (4) Then, desire becomes practical and efficacious, because it is directed not towards an ideal that is impossible to realize, but towards the means that lie within our reach. There are souls possessed of magnificent, but purely speculative ideals, souls who aspire to high perfection the while they neglect the means that lead thereto. Herein lurks a twofold danger: we may fancy we have attained perfection, simply because we dream of it, and thus fall into pride; or we may come to a standstill and fail. We must instead, bear in mind the saying that he who wills the end wills also the means. We must recall that it is fidelity in little things that ensures fidelity in greater things, and that our desire for perfection should bear on our present duties, however trifling they may be, since the faithful accomplishment of these will guarantee fidelity in those of greater moment. "He who is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in that which is greater."1 To pretend to desire perfection and then relegate to the morrow the efforts that should accompany such desire, to wish to sanctify oneself through the performance of great actions and then take no heed of ordinary ones, is to labor under a double illusion, which reveals either a lack of sincerity or an ignorance of psychology. High ideals are, no doubt, required, but so also is their immediate and progressive realization.

n1. "Luke" XVI, 10.

IV. Means to Stimulate this Desire for Perfection

#425. (1) Based upon supernatural convictions, the desire for perfection takes root and grows chiefly through meditation and prayer. It is necessary then first of all to reflect on the great truths we have explained in the foregoing chapters, on the greatness of this life which God Himself communicates to us, on the beauty and the wealth of a soul that cultivates it, on the delights which God has in store for it in heaven. It is necessary to meditate on the lives of those Saints who grew the more in holiness as their longing for perfection gained daily in constancy and ardor That such meditation may be made more fruitful, we must join to it prayer which, drawing God's grace upon the soul, makes our convictions concerning the need of perfection deeper and more vital.

#426. (2) There are certain favorable circumstances, in which the action of grace is more keenly felt. A wise spiritual director will know how to profit by them in order to awaken in his penitents the desire for perfection.

a) From the first dawn of reason, God invites the child to give himself to Him. How important it is that parents and confessors avail themselves of these divine solicitations to stimulate and direct the impulses of young hearts ! This is true of the time of First Communion, of the moment when the signs of vocation first appear or a choice of life is to be made; of the time when one enters college, seminary, or novitiate; or of the time when one receives the sacrament of matrimony. On all these occasions, God grants special graces to which it is important to correspond with a generous heart.

#427. b) The same is true of the time of retreat The prolonged periods of recollection, the instructions, the readings and the examinations of conscience, and the prayers offered, above all, the more abundant graces then received, contribute to the strengthening of our convictions, to a better knowledge of our state of conscience, to the more sincere abhorrence of our faults and their causes, whilst new, more practical and more generous resolutions are suggested, giving us a new impetus-toward perfection. Thus it has come to pass in recent years that more frequent retreats1 have formed among the clergy and the faithful choice men whose one ambition is that of advancing in the spiritual life. Spiritual directors in seminaries, likewise, know the wonderful effects produced in their students by the general retreats and the retreats for ordination. Then it is that generous desires for a better life are conceived, renewed or intensified. We must, then, profit by these opportunities to answer God's appeal and begin or perfect the reformation of our life.

n1. A. BOISSEL, "Retraites fermees, pratique et theorie."

#428. e) Providential trials, physical or moral, such as illness, death, moral suffering, evil turns of fortune are often accompanied by interior graces that urge us on to a more perfect life. Provided we take advantage of these ordeals to turn to God, they wean us from earthly things, purify our soul through suffering, inspire us with a yearning for Heaven and for perfection which is the way to Heaven.

#429. d) Lastly, there are times when the Holy Spirit produces interior movements in the soul, inclining it towards a life of greater perfection. He enlightens us on the vanity of human things, on the happiness flowing from a more complete gift of self to God, and urges us to greater efforts. We must profit by these interior graces to hasten our progress.

#430. 3c There are Spiritual Exercises which by their very nature tend to awaken in us the desire for perfection. These are:

a) The particular examen, which obliges us each day to study ourselves in regard to some one special point, not only in order to ascertain our failings or successes, but above all to renew our determination to advance in the practice of such or such a virtue. (N. 468.)

b) The systematic practice of Confession with a view to correct such or such a fault (n. 262).

c) The monthly and annual retreats that come to renew our desire of doing better.


#431. In making use of these various means we shall continually or at least habitually keep our wills fixed on the end to be attained, spiritual progress. Then, upheld by God's grace, we shall more easily triumph over obstacles. No doubt, there will be slight failings now and then, but spurred on by the desire of advancing, we shall courageously resume our march, and our little setbacks, by exercising us in humility, will serve but to draw us nearer to God.

II. The Knowledge of God and the Knowledge of Self

#432. Since perfection consists in the union of the soul with God, it becomes evident that in order to effect this union, we must be acquainted with its two terms, God and the soul. The knowledge of God will lead us directly to love: May I know Thee, that I may love Thee. The knowledge of self, by making us realize the worth of all the good wherewith God has endowed us, will awaken in us a corresponding sense of gratitude; while the sight of our miseries and our faults, by making us conceive a just contempt of self, will engender in us true humility: May I know myself in order that I may despise myself. Divine love will be the result, for it is on the ruins of self-love that the love of God is built.

I. The Knowledge of God1

#433. In order to love God it is necessary first of all to know Him.2 The more profound our consideration of His perfections, the more ardent the love of our heart for Him; for, all is loveliness in Him. In Him is found the fullness of being, of beauty, of goodness and of love: God is love. This much is evident. It remains to determine: (1) What we must know of God in order to love Him, and (2) How to come to that affectionate knowledge of God.


Concerning God, we must know whatever can render Him admirable and lovable. We must learn of His existence, His nature, His attributes, His works, above all, His inner life and His relations with us. Nothing that concerns the Godhead is foreign to devotion; the most abstract truths themselves have an affective aspect which is a very great aid to our piety. Let us see this with the help of a few instances taken from philosophy and theology.

n1. FABER, "Creator and Creature," "The Precious Blood," "Bethlehem;" NEWMAN "Grammar of Assent" and other works (See word God in Index to the Works of CARD. NEWMAN by RICKABLE, S.J.); BELLORD, "Meditations on Dogma;" BRAN-CHEREAU, "Meditations," vol. I, Med. I-VI; HEDLEY, "Retreat," IV_V; HOGAN, "Clerical Studies," C. IV; A. I; SCOTT, S.J., "God and Myself;" BOSSUET , "De la connaissance de Dieu et de soi-mene; Elevations sur els mysteres; Mediations sur l'Evangile;" L. BAIL, "Theologie affective;" LESSIUS, "De perfectionibus moribusque divinis; P. D'ARGENTAN, "Les Grandeurs de Dieu;" CONTENSON, "Theologia mentis et cordis;" BEAUDENOM, "Les Sources de la Piete;" SAUVE, "Dieu intime, Jesus intime, L'homme intime," etc.; P. SAUDREAU, O.P., "Les divines paroles;" M. D'HERBIGNY, "La Theologie du revele," ch. VII-XI; P. R. GARRIGOU-LAGRANGE, "Dieu, son existence, sa nature," 1920. n2. Contrary propositions of Molinos were condemned, DENZ-BANN. 1226, 1329.

#434. A) Philosophical Truths.1 a) The metaphysical proofs of the existence of God seem abstract enough, and yet they are inexhaustible treasures of marvelous considerations leading to divine love: God, the Changeless Prime Mover, Pure Act, is the origin of all movement. Hence, we cannot move if not in Him and through Him. He must be, therefore, the first principle of all our actions. If He is our first principle, He shall be our last end: " I am the beginning and the end. " God is the First Cause of all beings, of whatever of good there is in us, of our faculties, of our acts. To Him alone, therefore, be all honor and glory! God is the Necessary Being, the Only Necessary Being. He is then the only good to be sought. All other things are contingent, accessory, transient, useful solely inasmuch as they lead us to this Only Necessary Being. God is Infinite Perfection . creatures are but the faint reflection of His beauty. He is then, the Ideal to pursue: "Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect."2 We must set no limits to our perfection: "I am infinite," said Almighty God to St. Catherine of Sienna, "and I seek infinite works, that is, an infinite sense of love."3

n1. See especially JOYCE, "Natural Theology." n2. "Matth.," V, 48; cfr. Commentary of IV Lateran Council. (Densinger, 432). n3. "Dialog" I, p. 40.

#435. b) If we pass thence to the divine nature, even the little we know of it is sufficient to wean us from all created things and raise us up to God. He is the fullness of being: "I am Who am." Hence, mine is but a borrowed existence, incapable of .subsisting by itself, and I must acknowledge my utter dependence upon the Divine Being. This it was that God wished to teach St. Catherine of Sienna when He said to her: "Learn, my daughter, what you are and what I am... You are that which is not, and I am He Who is."1 What a lesson in humility! What a lesson in love!

n1. "Vie," by RAYMOND DE CAPOUE, trad. Cartier, t. I, p. 71.

#436. e) We learn the same lesson from the consideration of the divine attributes. There is not one that if well meditated upon does not act as a stimulus to our love in one form or another. The simplicity of the Godhead moves us to the practice of singleness of purpose or purity of intention, which causes us to tend directly to God, to the exclusion of every inordinate thought of self. His immensity, which encompasses and pervades our being, is the foundation of that practice so dear and so profitable to pious souls, the exercise of the presence of God. His eternity detaches us from all things that pass away with time, by recalling that whatever is not eternal is nothing. His unchangeableness aids us in the midst of human vicissitudes to maintain that peace of mind so necessary to a close and abiding union with Him. His perpetual activity spurs us on to action, preventing us from lapsing into indifference or into a sort of dangerous apathy or quietism. His omnipotence, ministering to His unbounded wisdom and His merciful goodness, inspire us with a filial trust that becomes a singular aid to prayer and to a holy abandonment of ourselves to Him. His holiness makes us hate sin and cherish that purity of heart which leads to a familiar union with Him: " Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God." The soundest foundation of our faith rests upon His infallible truthfulness. His beauty, His goodness, His love, captivate our heart, giving rise to outpourings of love and gratitude. Thus it is that saintly persons love to lose themselves in the contemplation of the Divine attributes and by gazing adoringly upon God's perfections, to draw them in a measure into their own hearts.

#437. B) Holy souls delight above all in the contemplation of revealed truths, all of which refer to the history of the Divine Life: its source in the Most Holy Trinity, its first bestowal by the creation and sanctification of man, its restoration through the Incarnation, its actual diffusion through the Church and the Sacraments, its final consummation in Heaven. Each of these mysteries enraptures and inflames souls with love for God, for Jesus Christ, for their brethren and for all things divine.

#438. a) The source of divine life is the Blessed Trinity. God, the very plenitude of being and of love, eternally regards His Own Self. Out of this contemplation He brings forth His Word, the Word that is His Son, distinct from, yet in all things equal to Him, His own living and substantial image. He loves that Son and is in turn loved by Him; and from this mutual love proceeds the Holy Ghost, distinct from the Father and the Son yet equal in all things to Both. And this is the life wherein we share!

#439. b) Because He is infinitely good, God wills to communicate Himself to other beings. This He does by creating and above all by sanctifying men. By creation we are God's servants, which already constitutes a high honor. Indeed, what a cause for wonder, for gratitude, for love, that God should have thought of me from all eternity, that He should have chosen me out of billions of possible beings in order to bring me into existence and bestow upon me life and intelligence ! But what shall I say of His calling me to share in His own divine life? Of His having adopted me as a child, having destined me for the clear vision of His essence and for His undivided love? Is not this the consummation of charity? Is not this a great motive-power urging us to love Him without measure or stint?

#440. c) Through the fault of our first parents we lost our right to this participation in the divine life, and of ourselves we had not the power to regain it. But behold ! The Son of God sees our plight, becomes a man like ourselves and is thus constituted the Head of a mystical body whose members we are; He atones for our sins by His sorrowful Passion and His death on the Cross, reconciles us to God and makes that life He has drawn from the bosom of His Father flow once more into our souls. Can there be a stronger appeal to make us love the Word-made-Flesh, to urge us to unite ourselves to Him and through Him to the Father?

#441. d) To facilitate this union, Jesus remains among us. He abides with us through His Church, that transmits and explains His teachings; through His Sacraments, mysterious channels of grace, giving the life divine. He dwells among us, above all, in the Holy Eucharist wherein He at once perpetuates His Presence, His merciful action, and His Sacrifice: His Sacrifice through the Holy Oblation of the Mass, wherein in a mysterious manner He renews His immolation; His merciful action, through Holy Communion, wherein He comes to us with all the treasures of grace to perfect our souls and impart to them His own virtues; His abiding Presence, willingly imprisoned day and night within the Tabernacle, where we can visit Him, converse with Him, glorify with Him the Most Blessed Trinity, find health for all our spiritual miseries, and consolation in sorrow and discouragement: "Come to me all you that labor and are burdened: and I will refresh you."1

n1. "Matth.," XI, 28.

#442. e) This is but the dawn of the noonday light of eternity, wherein we shall see God face to face, as He sees Himself, and shall love Him with a perfect love. In Him we shall behold and love whatever is good, whatever is noble. We came from God by creation; we return to Him by glorification. In glorifying Him we find perfect happiness.

Dogma is, then, the true source of real devotion.


#443. Three principal means are at our disposal in order to acquire this affective knowledge of God: (1) the devout study of philosophy and theology; (2) meditation or mental prayer; (3) the habit of seeing God in all things.

A) The Devout Study of Theology.1 One may study philosophy and theology in two ways: merely with the mind, as one would study mathematics or any other secular science, or with mind and heart. It is the latter that begets godliness. When St. Thomas plunged into the depths of the great philosophical and theological questions, he studied them not as a Greek sage would, but as a disciple and lover of Christ. According to his expression, theology treats of divine things and of acts inasmuch as they lead us to a perfect knowledge of God, in which eternal happiness consists.2 This is why his piety was even more wonderful than his knowledge. The same was true of St. Bonaventure and other great theologians. Of course, the most of them have not gone into devout considerations concerning the great mysteries of our faith which they sought but to explain and prove, yet it is from these very truths that godliness springs Whoever studies them in the spirit of faith, cannot but admire and love Him Whose grandeur and goodness theology reveals. This holds especially if we know how to avail ourselves of the gets of knowledge and of understanding. The former lifts us up from creatures unto God disclosing to us their relations with the Divinity; the latter makes us penetrate to the very heart of revealed truths, to discern their marvelous harmony.

With the aid of these lights, the devout theologian will know how to rise from the contemplation of the most speculative truths to acts of adoration, of wonder, of gratitude and of love, which spring spontaneously from the study of Christian dogmas. These acts, far from paralyzing his intellectual activities, will but quicken and sharpen them; for one studies better, with more diligence and greater perseverance, whatever one loves. One discovers depths which the intellect alone could not sound, and draws inferences which broaden the field of theology, whilst nourishing piety.

n1. The Church has condemned the assertion of Molinos that a theologian is not as well disposed for contemplation as an ignorant man (DENZ.-BANN., 1284). FATHER FABER writes: Is not all doctrine practical? Is it not the first use of dogmatic theology to be the basis of sanctity...? He who separates dogmatics from ascetics seems to assert this proposition: The Knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ was not meant primarily to make us holy... " (FABER "Spiritual Conferences," "Conf. on Death," 3, p. 137). (Theology) "is the best fuel of devotion, the best fuel of divine love... If a science tells of God, yet does not make the listener's heart burn within him, it must follow either that the science is no true theology, or that the heart which listens is stupid and depraved. In a simple and loving heart, theology burns like a sacred fire." (FABER, "The Precious Blood," C. III). n2. "Sum theol." I, q. I, a 4.

#444. B) Meditation must accompany study. We do not meditate sufficiently upon Christian dogmas, or we confine our consideration to their secondary aspects. We must not hesitate to take the very essence of these dogmas as the subject of our meditations. Then it is that the light of faith, under the influence of grace, reaches such heights and pierces such depths as the intellect alone could never discern. We find proof of this fact in the writings of unlettered persons, who having been raised to contemplation, have left us appreciations concerning God, Christ our Lord, His doctrines and Sacraments, that actually rival those of the most exalted theologians. And did not St. Thomas say that he had learned more from his Crucifix than from the works of Doctors? The reason for it is that God speaks more readily in the silent peacefulness of prayer; and that His Word, then better understood, enlightens the mind, enkindles the heart and sets the will in action. Then it is, likewise, that the Holy Spirit deigns to impart, over and above the gifts of knowledge and understanding, that of wisdom, which gives a relish for the truths of faith, causes us to love these truths and live by them, and thus establishes a very close union between God and the soul. This is well described by the author of the Imitation in the following words: " Happy is the soul that heareth the Lord speaking within her, and receiveth from His mouth the word of comfort."1

The repeated and affectionate remembrance of God is but the prolongation of the happy effects of our mental prayer. The frequent thought of God increases our love for Him, and this love deepens and refines our knowledge.

n1. "Imit." Bk. III, c. I.

#445. C) Then it is that we acquire the habit of rising more easily from the creature to the Creator, and of seeing God in all His works, in things, persons and events. The basis of this practice is " the divine exemplarism," taught by Plato, perfected by St. Augustine and St. Thomas, elucidated by the school of St. Victor, and taken up by the French school of the Seventeenth Century.1 All beings have existed in the divine thought before their creation. God has begotten them in His mind before bringing them forth and He has willed that they reflect, in various degrees, His divine perfections. If, therefore, we regard created things, not only with the eyes of the body, but with the eyes of the soul, by the light of faith, we shall see there three things:

a) All creatures, according to their degree of perfection, are an image, a likeness of God; all proclaim God for their Maker and bid us join in praise of Him, since their own being, all their beauty and goodness, is but a created and finite participation in the divine essence.

b) Intelligent creatures in particular, raised as they are to the supernatural order, are images, living likenesses of God, sharing, though in a finite way, in His intellectual life. Since all the baptized are Christ's members, it is Christ that we must see in them: Christ in all.

c) All events, propitious or adverse, are designed in the mind of God to perfect the supernatural life wherewith He has endowed us, and to facilitate the recruitment of the elect, so much so, that we can profit by everything unto sanctification.

We must add, however, that in the order of time, souls go first to Jesus Christ. It is through Him that they go to the Father, and once they have reached God, they never cease to hold themselves in the closest bonds of union with Jesus.

n1. see especially "La Journee Chretienne" of FATHER OLIER where this doctrine is wonderfully applied.


#446. The affective knowledge of God leads us to the holy exercise of the presence of God. We shall now note briefly the foundation, the practice, and the advantages of this exercise.

A) Its foundation is the doctrine of God's omnipresence. God is everywhere, not only by His all-contemplating vision and His all-pervading action, but likewise, by His substance. As St. Paul told the Athenians: "In Him we live, and move, and are."2 This is true from both the natural and the supernatural point of view. As Creator, after having given us our being and our life, He preserves us and quickens our faculties by His concurrence. As Father, He begets us unto the supernatural life, which is a participation in His own, He co-operates with us as principal cause in its preservation and its growth, and He is thus intimately present in us, within the very center of our soul, yet without ceasing to be distinct from us. As we have said above (n. 92), it is the Triune God that lives in us: the Father, Who loves us as His children, the Son Who deals with us as His brethren, and the Holy Ghost Who gives us both His gifts and Himself.

B) The Practice of This Exercise. To find God, then, we need not seek Him in the heavens. a) We find Him close by in the creatures round about us. It is there that we look for Him at the outset. One and all suggest to us some divine perfection, but it is especially so of those creatures which, endowed with intellect, are the dwelling places of the Living God (n. 92). These constitute for us the steps, as it were, of a ladder by which we ascend to Him. b) We know, moreover, that God is near those that confidently invoke Him: "The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him,"3 and our soul delights to call to Him now by ejaculatory prayers, now by long supplications. c) Above all we recall the fact that the Three Divine Persons dwell within us4 and that our heart is a living tabernacle, a Heaven, wherein They give Themselves to us even now. It is enough, then, simply to recollect ourselves, to enter within the inner Sanctuary of our soul, as St. Catherine of Sienna calls it, and contemplate with the eyes of faith the Divine Guest Who deigns to abide there. Then shall we live under His gaze, under His influence; then shall we adore Him and co-operate with Him in the sanctification of our souls.

n1. S. THOM, I., q. 8, a. 3; LESSIUS, "De perfectionibus moribusque divinis," lib. II; RODRIGUEZ, "Practice of Christian Perfection," Part 1, Treatise VI; P. PINY, O. P., "La Presence de Dieu;" P. PLUS, S J., "God in us," "Living With God," "In Christ Jesus"; S. FRANCIS DE SALES, "Introd. to a Devout Life," P. II, c II, XII, XIII; VAUBERT "How to Walk before God;" "Spiritual Combat," c. 21-23; MATURIN, "Principles of the Spiritual Life," p. 116-138; HAMON, "Medit.,m" Vol. V, p. 95-125; CURSUS ASCETICUS, Vol. II, p. 308-317; HEDLEY, "Retreat for Priests," II. n2. "Acts," XVII, 28. n3. "Ps." CXLIV, 18. n4. See C. I, a I.

#447. C) It is easy to see the advantages of this exercise for our sanctification.

a) It makes us carefully avoid sin. Who shall dare offend the majesty of God while realizing that God actually dwells within him, with His infinite holiness that cannot endure the least blemish, with His infinite justice obliging Him to punish the slightest fault, with His power to punish the guilty, above all with His goodness, forever seeking our love and our fidelity!

b) It stimulates our zeal for perfection. If a soldier fighting under the eyes of his commander is inspired to multiply his feats of valor, should we not be ready to undergo the most strenuous labors, to make the greatest efforts when conscious that not only does the eye of God watch us in our struggle, but that His victorious arm ever sustains us? Could we lag, when encouraged by the immortal Crown He holds out to us, and above all, by the greater love He bestows on us as a reward?

c) What great trust does not this thought inspire in us! Whatever may be our trials, our temptations, our weariness and our weakness, are we not assured of final victory, when we recall that He, Who is All-powerful, Whom nothing can resist, dwells within us and invests us with His power? Doubtless, we may sustain partial reverses and experience excruciating anguish, yet we are certain that, supported by Him, we shall conquer, and that even our crosses will but make us grow in God's love and multiply our merits.

d) Lastly, what a joy for us is the thought that He Who is the Joy of the Elect, and Whom we shall see one day face to face, is even now our portion, Whose presence and conversation we may enjoy all day long!

The knowledge and the habitual thought of God are, therefore, most sanctifying. The same is true of the knowledge of self.

II. Self-knowledge1

The knowledge of God leads us directly to love Him, since He is infinitely lovable. The knowledge of self helps us indirectly to love God by disclosing to us the absolute need we have of Him, in order to perfect the qualities with which He has endowed us and to heal our deep miseries. We shall explain: (1) the necessity of self-knowledge, (2) its object, (3) the means of obtaining it.

n1. MATURIN, "Self-knowledge and Self-discipline"; RODRIGUEZ, "Christian Perfection," P. 1. tr. VII; S. FRANCIS DE SALES, "Introd. to a Devout Life," P. II, X, XI, P. V, III-VII- MEYER, "Science of the Saints," Vol. I, Lessons l, XIII, XVI; FABER, "Spiritual Conferences," "Self-deceit;" CLARE, "The Science of the Spiritual Life;" SCARAMELLI-STOCKMAN, "Manual of Christian Perfection," P. I, a. X.


A few words will convince us of this.

#448. A) If we lack self-knowledge, it is morally impossible to perfect ourselves. The reason is that we then entertain illusions concerning our state, and, according to our character or our changing moods, we fall either into a presumptuous optimism that makes us believe we are already perfect, or into discouragement that causes us to exaggerate our faults. In either case, the result is almost identical--inaction, lack of sustained effort, carelessness. Besides, how can we correct faults with which we are not acquainted or of which we have at best but an imperfect knowledge? How undertake the cultivation of virtues, of qualities of which we have but a vague and confused notion?

#449. B) An honest and accurate knowledge of ourselves on the contrary, is an incentive to perfection. The good qualities we discover move us to thank God and to show our gratitude by generous co-operation with His grace. Our defects and the realization of our helplessness show us how much we have yet to accomplish, and how important it is to lose no opportunity of advancing. Then we profit by all occasions to uproot or, at least, to weaken, mortify, overcome our vices and to foster and further the growth of our good qualities. Conscious of our weakness, we humbly beg of God the grace of advancing each day; and, upheld by trust in Him, we cling to the desire and the promise of success; This is what excites and steadies our efforts.


#450. General Remarks. That this knowledge be more profitable, it should extend to all that is ours, qualities and defects, natural and supernatural endowments, likes and dislikes, our personal history, our faults, our efforts, our progress; all this to be studied, not in a pessimistic frame of mind, but with due impartiality, with a right conscience enlightened by faith.

a) We should then candidly, without any sort of false humility, ascertain what are the good qualities that Almighty God has dealt out to us, not, indeed, to glory therein, but to thank the Giver and to cultivate His gifts. These are the talents He has entrusted to us and of which He will ask an account. The field to be explored, then, is vast indeed, comprising as it does all our natural and supernatural gifts: those things which we hold directly from God, and those we have received from our parents; those we owe to our Christian education and those that are the results of our own efforts sustained by grace.

#451. b) We must, at the same time, face with courage the sight of our miseries and our faults. Drawn forth from nothing, thither forever we tend. We can neither subsist nor act, except by the ever-present concurrence of God. Drawn to evil by a threefold concupiscence (N. 193 and foll.), we have added new strength to our evil tendencies by our actual sins, and by the evil habits resulting from them. We must humbly acknowledge this fact and, without losing heart, set to work with the help of divine grace to heal these wounds by the practice of Christian virtue and thus approach the perfection of Our Heavenly Father.

#452. Practical Applications. To guide ourselves in this study we may examine successively our natural and supernatural endowments, following a sort of questionnaire that will facilitate our task.

A) Our Natural Gifts. Regarding the natural gifts, we may ask ourselves, before God, what are our outstanding tendencies. In this we may adopt the following practical, if not strictly philosophical order.1

n1. In an Appendix will be found a brief study on character that will aid us in this study of self. Cf. DOSDA. "L 'Union avec Dieu," t. I, IIe p., ch. XXI.

#453. a) As regards the sensitive appetites. Is-feeling predominant with us, or is it reason and will? There is within all of us this mixture of the higher and the lower, but not in the same proportion. Is our love a matter of sentiment rather than of devotedness and will? Do we control our exterior senses, or are we under their sway? What power do we hold over our imagination and our memory? Are not these faculties excessively flighty and often engaged in empty daydreaming? Are our passions properly directed and controlled? Is sensuality our ruling passion, or is it pride or vanity? Are we apathetic, soft, listless, sluggish? If we are slow by nature, do we, at least, persevere in our efforts?

#454. b) As regards the mind. What sort of mind do we possess ? Is it quick and clear but superficial, or slow but deep? Do we belong to the intellectual, reflective type, or do we belong to the class of practical men, who study in order to love and to act? How do we set about the work of cultivating our mind? Do we do so with earnestness or with unconcern, steadily, or by fits and starts? What results do we obtain? What are our methods of study? Could we improve upon them? Are our judgments biased by our feelings? Are we obstinate in our opinions? Can we listen with an open mind to those who hold views different from ours?

#455. c) As regards the will. Is our will weak and inconstant, or is it strong and persevering ? What do we do to train it? The will should reign supreme over the other faculties, but it cannot do so unless we use great tact and make great efforts. What do we do to assure the control of the will over our exterior and interior senses, over the activities of our mind? What do we do to strengthen, to steady the will? Have we strong convictions? Do we renew these frequently? Do we strengthen our will power by fidelity in little things, and by the small sacrifices of daily life?

#456. d) As regards character. Our character is of capital importance in what concerns our relations with the neighbor. A good disposition, the gift of getting along with others, is a powerful asset to zeal, and a bad disposition one of the greatest obstacles. A man of character is one who, having the courage of his convictions, strives resolutely and perseveringly to live up to them. A good character is that harmonious combination of kindness and firmness, of meekness and strength, of frankness and tact that elicits the esteem and the love of those with whom it comes in contact. A bad character is one which is lacking in frankness, in kindness, in tact or in firmness, or which, by allowing egoism to hold sway, is rude in its manner and makes itself repulsive, at times hateful to others. Here then, we have an important element for study.

#457. e) As regards habits. Habits result from a repetition of the same acts, and they make the repetition of these acts easy and pleasant. It is important to study such habits as we have already acquired, in order to strengthen them, if they are good, to uproot them, if they are bad. What we shall say in the second part of this treatise about the capital sins and the virtues, will be of help to us in this inquiry.

#458. B) Our supernatural gifts. Penetrated as our faculties are by the supernatural, we would not gain a complete knowledge of ourselves if we did not take account of the supernatural gifts God has imparted to us. These we have described above (n. 119 and foll.). God's grace however takes sundry forms in its way of working,1 and it is important that we study its special action upon our soul.

a) We must examine the attraction grace makes us feel for such or such a virtue. Our sanctification, in fact, depends on the docility wherewith we follow these motions of grace.

I) There are decisive moments in life when God speaks in clearer and more urgent tones. To hearken to His Voice and follow His inspirations is of the utmost importance.

2) We should ask ourselves whether there be among the attractions we feel, one that is predominant, stronger than the others, oft-recurring, drawing us toward a particular kind of life, toward a certain kind of prayer, toward some determined virtue. We shall thus find the special way wherein God wishes us to walk. It is important that we enter it, for it is there that we shall receive the fullness of grace.

n1. "I Peter", IV, 10

#459. b) Besides discovering our attractions, we must also take cognizance of the resistance we offer to grace, of our failings, of our sins, in order to regret them with all sincerity, make amends and avoid them in the future. This is a painful, humiliating study, especially if carried out honestly and minutely, but it is a most profitable one; for, on the one hand, it is a great aid in the practice of humility, and on the other, it throws us with perfect trust on the merciful love of God, Who alone has the power to heal our weaknesses.


#460. Self-knowledge is difficult to attain. a) Attracted as we are by outward things, we hardly care to enter into ourselves to scrutinize that unseen miniature world; we care even less, proud as we are, about discovering our faults.

b) Our interior acts are extremely complex. There is within us, as St. Paul says, the lower life of the flesh and the higher life of the spirit and often turbulent conflict ensues between them. In order to sift what proceeds from nature, what from grace, what is willful, and what is not a great deal of attention is required, a great deal of insight, of honesty, of courage, of perseverance. The light comes but gradually--a bit of knowledge leads to more, and this prepares the way for deeper insight.

#461. Since it is through examinations of conscience that we come to know ourselves, we shall give, in order to facilitate this exercise, some general rules, offer a method, and suggest the dispositions with which these examinations should be made.

#462. A) General Rules. a) In order to perform this examination well, we must first of all invoke the light of the Holy Ghost, Who " searcheth the reins and the hearts " of men, and beg Him to show us the inmost recesses of our soul by bestowing upon us the gift of knowledge, one of whose functions is to help us know ourselves and thus to lead us to God.

b) Next, we must bring before us the perfect Exemplar, Jesus, Whom we must resemble more and more every day, and we must adore and admire not only His exterior acts, but above all, His interior dispositions. By the light which the contrast between ourselves and our Divine Model will give, our faults and imperfections will be the more clearly discerned. Nor shall we be disheartened at the sight, for Jesus is also the Healer of souls Whose one anxiety is to dress our wounds and heal them. To make our confession to Him, so to speak, and humbly ask His forgiveness is an excellent practice.

#463. C) Then comes the moment to enter into our inmost soul. From outward actions we pass on to the hidden causes from which they spring, our interior dispositions. Thus, if we have failed in charity, we shall ask ourselves whether it was through thoughtlessness, envy, jealousy, talkativeness, or from a desire to be witty.

Then to estimate the morality of the act, and to determine our responsibility, we must ask ourselves whether it was actually willful, or willful in cause; performed with full consciousness of its malice, or with only a half-advertence; with full consent of the will, or with a half- consent. At the outset, all this is rather obscure, but it gradually becomes clear.

To be even more impartial in our judgments, it is good to place ourselves in the presence of the Sovereign Judge, and to hear Him say to us, kindly, indeed, but with supreme authority: "Render an account of thy stewardship." Then we shall endeavor to answer as frankly as on the last day we shall wish to have done.

#464. At times, it is useful, especially for beginners, to make this examination in writing, so as to concentrate attention better and to be able to compare the results obtained each day and each week. Should anyone do so, however, care must be taken to avoid anything that savors of self- seeking, any studied elegance of style, and the danger of having such memoranda fall under the eyes of others. If we use a record with conventional signs, we must be on our guard against routine or shallowness. At all events, a time generally arrives when the better course is to discard such means and candidly examine ourselves under the eye of God immediately after the performance of the principal actions of the day, and make a general review of these in the evening.

#465. In this, as in all else, we shall follow the counsel of a wise spiritual director, and ask him to help us to come to a better knowledge of ourselves. Experienced and impartial observer, he generally sees better than we do ourselves the depths of our conscience, and thus is more competent to judge the true character of our acts.

#466. B) Methods for the examination of conscience. Every one acknowledges that these have been greatly perfected by St. Ignatius. In his Spiritual Exercises, he carefully differentiates between the general and the particular examination. The former bears upon all the actions of the day, the latter upon one special point, a fault to be corrected, a virtue to be cultivated. Both may, however, be made together. In this case, one will limit the general examination to a summary glance over the day's actions in order to discover the chief faults, passing directly on to the particular examination which is far more important.

#467. a) The general examination, which every good Christian should make in order to know and to improve himself, comprises five points, says St. Ignatius:1

I) "The first point is to return thanks to God Our Lord for the benefits received." This is an excellent exercise, at once consoling and sanctifying, for it brings into relief our ingratitude, thus preparing the way for contrition, and at the same time it sustains our confidence in God.2

2) "The second is to ask grace to know the sins and cast them out." If we want to know ourselves it is in order to reform ourselves, but we accomplish neither without the helping grace of God.

3) "The third, to demand of the soul an account from the hour of rising to the present examen, taking hour by hour or period by period; and first of thought, then of word, and afterwards of deed, in the same order that has been mentioned for the Particular Examen."

4) "The fourth is to ask pardon of God Our Lord for the faults." In fact, we must not lose sight of this, that sorrow is the principal element of the examination and that this sorrow is mainly the work of grace.

5) "The fifth is to purpose amendment with His grace." This resolution, to be practical, should bear upon the means of reform. He who wills the end, wills also the means. The recitation of the Our Father is a fitting conclusion for this examination, bringing before our eyes the glory of God which we must seek, and uniting us to Jesus Christ in our supplication for the pardon of our sins and for the grace of avoiding them in the future.

n1. "Spiritual Exercises," 1st week. The words within the quotation marks belong to St. Ignatius' own text; translation is by Father RICKABY, S J., "The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius." n2. Here the method of S. Sulpice adds the adoration, that is to say all those acts by which we adore, praise, bless, love and express our gratitude to God; we place ourselves then in the presence of Jesus Christ, our model and our Judge, as has been explained above, n. 462.

#468. b) The particular examination,1 in the judgment of St. Ignatius, is of greater moment than the general one, and of even more importance than meditation itself, because it enables us to run down, one by one, our defects and thus overcome them the more easily. Besides, if we examine ourselves thoroughly on some important virtue, we not only acquire that virtue, but all the others related thereto. Thus, whilst we advance in the practice of obedience, we perform at the same time acts of humility, of mortification, and we exercise ourselves in the spirit of faith. Likewise, to acquire the virtue of humility means that we are perfecting ourselves in the practice of obedience, of the love of God, of charity, since pride is the chief obstacle to the exercise of these virtues. There are, however, rules for the choice of the subject of examination, and for the manner of performing it

n1. MEYER, "Science of the Saints," Vol. I, Lesson XIV.

#469. The choice of a subject. 1) In general we must attack our predominant fault by striving to practice the contrary virtue. This fault is, as a matter of fact, the great stumbling block, the great leader of the opposing forces. If it is conquered, the entire host is routed.

2) Once the subject is determined upon, we must attack first the outward manifestations of the particular fault so as to do away with whatever offends or scandalizes the neighbor. Thus, if charity be the subject chosen, we must begin by suppressing words and actions contrary to this virtue.

3) Then, we must without great delay pass to the subject of the hidden cause of our faults. This may be, for instance, feelings of envy, a desire to be brilliant in our conversation, etc...

4) It is important not to limit our efforts to this negative side, that is, to the struggle against faults, but we must carefully cultivate the opposite virtue. Here, to suppress means to replace.

5) Lastly, in order to make more certain of our progress, we should carefully divide the subject of our examinations in accordance with the different degrees of a virtue, so as not to cover the whole field, but merely those acts that more exactly correspond to our individual needs. Thus, as regards humility, one should practice, first, what may be called self-effacement or forgetfulness of self; speaking but little, giving others the opportunity to speak by means of discreet questions, loving to be unnoticed, to lead a hidden life etc...

#470. The manner of performing the particular Examen.1

St. Ignatius tells us that this particular examen involves three periods of the day and two examinations of conscience.

The first time is that in the morning, as soon as the man rises, he ought to purpose to be carefully on his guard against that particular sin, or defect, of which he wishes to correct and amend himself

The second, after dinner, the man ought to beg of God what he wants, to wit, the grace to remember how often he has fallen into that particular sin or defect, and to amend himself in future; and thereupon let him make the first examen, taking account of his soul of that particular thing proposed, whereof he wishes to correct and amend himself, ranging through the time hour by hour, or period by period, beginning from the hour that he rose even to the hour and moment of the present examen; and let him score on the top line of the figure as many dots as are the times that he has fallen into that particular sin or defect; and afterwards let him purpose anew to amend himself until the next examen that he shall make.

The third time, after supper, the second examen shall be made also from hour to hour, beginning from the first examen until the present second examen, and let him score on the second line of the same figure as many dots as shall answer to the times that he has fallen into that particular sin or defect.

n1. From the translation of the Spiritual Exercises of S. Ignatius, by Father Joseph Rickaby, S. 1.


The first Addition is that, as often as the man falls into that sin or particular defect, he puts his hand to his breast, grieving that he has fallen,--which may be done even in presence of company without their noticing what he is doing.

The second, since the first line of the figure represents the first examen, and the second the second examen, let him observe at night whether there is any improvement from the first line to the second, that is, from the first examen to the second.

The third- to compare the second day with the first, that is, the two examens of the second day with the other two of the day previous, and see whether from the one day to the other there has been improvement.

The fourth Addition; to compare one week with another, and see whether there has been improvement in the present week upon the former.

We must observe that the first great _ which follows signifies Sunday; the second smaller signifies Monday ; the third Tuesday, and so of the rest.

#472. This method may, at first sight, appear somewhat complex; in actual practice, it proves less so. Should one be unable to devote to it such a notable space of time as indicated above, one can condense the essential features of these acts within a shorter period, for instance, ten minutes at night. If one foresees that it cannot be performed in the evening, a part of the time given to visiting the Blessed Sacrament may be set apart for it.

#473. C) The Dispositions that should attend this examination. That the examination of conscience general or particular, may be effective in uniting us more closely to God, it must be accompanied by sentiments or dispositions that are, so to speak, its soul. We shall note the principal ones: gratitude, sorrow, purpose of amendment, and prayer.

a) First in order is a lively sense of gratitude toward God, Who all through the day has encompassed us about with His paternal Providence, protected us against temptation, and guarded us from innumerable sins. Without the aid of His grace, we should have fallen into many a fault. We should overflow with gratitude, thanking Him in a practical way--by putting His divine gifts to better use.

#474. b) Such a sentiment will beget a sincere sorrow, all the more profound, as we have abused so many benefits received, offending so good and so merciful a Father. Out of this sorrow a sincere humility is born. Realizing from our own experience our frailty, our helplessness, our unworthiness, we accept with joy the confusion we feel at the sight of our repeated failures; we are happy to exalt the boundless mercies of a Father ever ready to forgive; and we rejoice that our misery serves to proclaim the infinite perfection of our God. These dispositions are not a passing mood; rather they abide with us through the spirit of penance, calling often to mind the thought of our faults: "My sin is ever before me!"1

n1. "Ps." L, 5.

#475. e) The firm determination to atone for sin and to reform our lives will follow: to atone by acts of penance, which we take care to impose upon ourselves in order to deaden in us the love of pleasure, the source of our sins; to reform our lives by determining the means we shall employ, in order to lessen the number of our faults. Such determination must carefully exclude presumption, which by having us rely too much on our own will and our own strength, would deprive us of manifold graces and expose us to additional imprudences and further falls. On the other hand, our determination must rest confidently upon the omnipotence and the infinite goodness of God, ever willing to come to our aid when we acknowledge our weakness.

#476. d) It is to implore this divine help that we conclude the examination with a prayer, all the more humble, all the more earnest, now that the sight of our sins has made us more distrustful of self. Realizing that of ourselves we are incapable of avoiding sin and still more incapable of rising up to God by the practice of virtue, we rely on the infinite merits of Jesus Christ, and cry out to God from the depths of our wretchedness, to come unto us, to lift us from the mire of our sins, and to raise us up to Himself It is through these dispositions rather than by a minute scrutiny of our faults that our souls are gradually transformed under the influence of grace.


#477. In this way, then, the knowledge of God and of self cannot but promote the intimate and affectionate union between the soul and God. He is infinite perfection, and we are absolute poverty. Hence, there is between the two a certain contact.--He has all that we need, and we need -that He has. He stoops down to us to surround us with His love and His favors, whilst we tend toward Him as toward the One Being Who alone can supply for our deficiencies, the One Who alone can make up for our weakness. Our thirst for happiness and for love is quenched only in Him, Who with His love satiates our heart and all its longings, giving us at once both perfection and bliss. Let us repeat these well-known words: "May I know Thee O Lord, that I may love Thee; may I know myself, that I may despise myself."

III. Conformity to the Divine Will1

#478. The knowledge of God not only unites our mind to that of God, but it also leads to love, because all in God is lovable. By showing us the need we have of God the knowledge of self makes us ardently long for Him and throws us into His arms. Conformity to the divine will, however, unites us even more intimately and directly to Him Who is the source of all perfection. In fact, it subordinates and unites our will to God, thus placing our ruling faculty at the service of the Sovereign Master. It may be said that our degree of perfection corresponds to the extent to which we conform to the will of God. In order that this be better understood we shall explain: (1) the nature of this conformity, (2) its sanctifying power.

n1. P. DE CAUSSADE, "Abandonment to Divine Providence," Part. I, 1. I.; LE GAUDIER op. cit., P. III, sect. II; St. FR. DE SALES, "The Love of God," Bks. VIII-IX; DESURMONT, Oeuvres, t. II, sur "La Providence;" MGR. GAY, "Christian Life and Virtue," XI, XIV; DOM V. LEHODEY, "Le Saint Abandon," I Partie, TISSOT, "The Interior Life" Part. II; DREXELIUS, "The Heliotropium or Conformity of the Human will to the Divine."

1. Nature of Conformity to the Will of God

#479. By conformity to the divine will we understand the absolute and loving submission of our will to that of God, whether it be His "signified will" or His will of "good pleasure."

As a matter of fact, God's will manifests itself to us under a twofold aspect: a) as the moral norm of our actions, clearly intimating what we must do in virtue of His commandments or His counsels; b) as the ruling principle that governs all things with wisdom, directing the course of events so as to make them work together unto His glory and the salvation of men, and made known to us by the providential events that take place in or about us.

The first is called the signified will of God, since it proclaims in clear terms what we must do. The second is called the good pleasure of God in the sense that God's will is here manifested by providential events to which we must submit. In practice, then, conformity to God's will means doing God's will and submitting to God's will.

We shall explain: (1) what is the signified will of God; (2) what is His will of good pleasure; (3) what degree of submission this latter includes.


#480. Conformity to God's signified will consists in willing all that God manifests to us of His intentions. Now, says St. Francis de Sales: "Christian doctrine clearly proposes unto us the truths which God wills that we should believe, the goods He will have us hope for, the pains He will have us dread, what He will have us love, the commandments He will have us observe and the counsels He desires us to follow. And this is called God's signified will, because He has signified and made manifest unto us that it is His will and intention that all this should be believed, hoped for, feared, loved and practiced."1

This will of God, then, according to the holy Doctor2 includes four things: the commandments of God and of the Church, the counsels, the inspirations of grace, and, for Religious, the Constitutions and the Rules.

n1. "Treatise of the Love of God," Bk. VIII, c 3, (Mackey's translation page 329). n2. "Spiritual Conf." XV.

#481. a) God, being our Sovereign Lord, has the right to give us commands. Since He is infinitely wise and infinitely good, He commands nothing that is not conducive at once to His glory and our own happiness. We must, then, willingly and unquestioningly submit ourselves to His laws: the natural law, the positive divine law, ecclesiastical law, or a just civil law; for as St. Paul says, all lawful authority comes from God, and to obey Superiors within the limits of their authority is to obey God Himself, just as to resist them would be to offer resistance to Him: "Let every soul be subject to higher powers. For there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist purchase to themselves damnation."1 We do not inquire here in what cases disobedience to the various laws constitutes a grave or a light sin; this we have done in our treatise on Moral Theology. Suffice it to say that from the point of view of perfection, the more faithful and Christlike is our observance of law, the closer is our approach unto God, since law is the expression of His will. We may add that duties of state come within the category of commandments. They are, as it were, particular precepts incumbent upon us by reason of our special vocation and the special offices God has confided to us.

Sanctification, then, is impossible without the observance of the commandments and the fulfillment of the duties of our state. To neglect them under the pretext of performing works of supererogation is a dangerous illusion, a veritable aberration, for it is evident that commands take precedence over counsels.

n1. "Rom.," XIII, 1-2.

#482. b) The observance of the counsels is of itself not necessary for salvation, nor does it fall under a direct and explicit command. But, as we have already said in speaking of the obligation of striving after perfection (n. 353), in order to remain in the state of grace, we must at times perform certain good works over and above the strict requirements of the law, that is to say, exercise ourselves in the practice of the counsels. This constitutes an indirect obligation based upon the principle that he who wills the end, wills also the means.

When it is question of perfection, however, we proved in n. 338, that one cannot sincerely and effectively seek it without observing some counsels, such as are in accord with our condition in life. Thus, a married person may not carry out in practice those counsels which would go counter to the discharge of marital or parental duties. A priest in the ministry may not lead the life of a Carthusian. However, when we aim at perfection, we must be resolved to do more than that to which we are strictly bound. The more generous we are in giving ourselves over to the practice of the counsels compatible with the duties of our state, the closer we draw unto Our Lord, for such counsels are the expression of His designs upon us.

#483. e) The same must be said of the inspirations of grace, when they are clear and are submitted to the control of our spiritual director. One may say that these are so many particular counsels addressed to individual souls.

No doubt, care must be taken to refer them in the main to the judgment of our spiritual director lest we should become an easy prey to illusion. Ardent, passionate souls readily persuade themselves that they hear the voice of God, when in truth it is the voice of their own passions suggesting such or such a dangerous practice. Punctilious or scrupulous souls would mistake for divine inspirations what is but the product of a feverish imagination, or even a diabolical suggestion, calculated to induce discouragement. Cassian relates many such instances in his Conferences on "Discretion,"1 and experienced directors of souls know how the imagination does at times suggest practices morally impossible and directly at variance with the fulfillment of the duties of state, all colored by the appearance of divine inspiration. Such suggestions create trouble. If we yield to them, we make ourselves ridiculous; we waste and make others waste much valuable time. If we withstand them, we think we rebel against God, we yield to discouragement and end by surrendering to laxness. A certain control, then, is necessary and the rule to follow is this: if it be question of customary things generally done by fervent persons living under the same circumstances as we do, of things that do not trouble the soul, we may do them without hesitation and later on mention them to our director; but if it is question, on the contrary, of things extraordinary, even in the least degree, of things not usually done by devout souls, let us wait till we have consulted our spiritual adviser and, in the meantime, fulfill with all generosity our duties of state.

n1. Second Conference, c. 5-8.

#484. With this limitation, it is evident that any one seeking perfection ought to lend a ready ear to the voice of the Holy Ghost speaking within his soul: "I will hear what the Lord God will speak in me,"1 and he should without delay and without sparing himself comply with God's demands: "Behold, I come to do thy will, O God".2 This is nothing more than correspondence to grace, and it is precisely this willing and steadfast co- operation that makes us perfect: "And we helping do exhort you that you receive not the grace of God in vain."3 This is, in fact, the very characteristic of perfect souls, that they hearken to and carry out in practice these divine inspirations: "I do always the things that please Him."4

n1. "Ps." LXXXIV, 9. n2. "Hebr.," X, 9. n3. "II Cor.," VI, I. n4. "John," VIII, 29.

#485. d) As to those that live in communities, the more generously they obey their rules and constitutions, the more perfect they are. These rules are means of perfection which the Church has explicitly or implicitly approved and to the observance of which a Religious binds himself on entering the community. Undoubtedly, to fail through weakness in certain details of some rules does not of itself constitute a sin. However, often a more or less sinful motive enters into such willful negligences, and the violation of rules, even when not sinful, certainly deprives us of a priceless opportunity for the acquisition of merit. It ever remains true that to observe one's rule is the safest means of accomplishing God's will and of living for Him: "He who lives by rule, lives unto God." To fail willfully in this matter, with no good reason for it, is an abuse of grace.

Thus it is that obedience to God's signified will is the normal way of attaining perfection.


#486. This conformity consists in submitting oneself to all providential events willed or allowed by God for our own greater good, and chiefly for our sanctification.

a) It rests upon this basis, that nothing happens without God's order or permission, and that God, being infinite Perfection and infinite Goodness, cannot will or permit anything but for the good of the souls He has created, although this is not always apparent to our eyes. This is what Tobias said in the midst of his afflictions and the reproaches of his wife: "Thou are just, O Lord... and all thy ways mercy and truth and judgment."1 This is what Wisdom proclaims: "But thy Providence, O Father, governeth... She reacheth therefore from end to end mightily and ordereth all things sweetly."2 This is also what St. Paul teaches: "To them that love God, all things work together unto good."3

But in order to understand this teaching we must take the point of view of faith and of eternity, of the glory of God and the salvation of men. If we look only at the present life and its earthly happiness, we cannot understand the designs of God, Who has willed that we undergo trials here below in order to reward us in Heaven. All things are subordinated to this end. Present evils are but means of purifying our soul, of grounding it in virtue, and occasions of acquiring merits, all in view of God's glory, the ultimate end of all creation.

n1. "Tob.," III, 2. n2. "Wisd," XIV, 3; VIII, I. n3. "Rom.," VIII, 28.

#487. b) It is our duty, then, to submit ourselves to God in all the events of life, happy or unhappy, midst public calamities or private ills, whether we are lashed by the hand of nature or gripped by that of want and suffering, in sorrows or in joys, in the unequal distribution of gifts natural and supernatural, in failure or success, in desolation or in consolation, in sickness or in health, in life or in death with its attendant suffering and uncertainties. In the words of holy Job: "If we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive evil."1 Commenting upon these words, St. Francis de Sales2 cannot but admire their beauty: "O God! How this word is great with love! He ponders, Theotimus, that it was from the hand of God that he had received the good, testifying that he had not so much loved goods because they were good, as because they came from the hand of the Lord; whence he concludes that he is lovingly to support adversities since they proceed from the hand of the same Lord, which is equally to be loved when it distributes afflictions and when it bestows consolations." And, indeed, it is affliction that enables us to over the more genuine proof of our love for God. To love Him when He lavishes His favors upon us is an easy task; but it is only a perfect love that accepts ills at His Hands, for they cannot be loved except for the sake of Him Who sends them.

n1. "Job.," II, 10. n2. "The Love of God," Bk. IX, c. 2. (Mackey's translation, p. 370.)

#488. The duty of submission under trial to the good pleasure of God is a duty of justice and obedience, for God is Our Supreme Lord and Master, Who wields all authority over us. It is a duty inspired by wisdom, since it would be folly to wish to elude the action of Providence, whilst in humble resignation we find our peace. It is a duty urged by our own interest, because God's will merely puts us to the test that we may be exercised in virtue and acquire merit. It is a duty imposed, above all, by love, which is the gift of self, even to immolation.

#489. e) To facilitate this submission to the divine will for souls who are not as yet schooled in the love of the Cross, it is always good to offer them some means of assuaging their sufferings. We can point out two remedies, the one negative, the other positive, I) The first is not to aggravate sufferings by employing false tactics. There are persons who occupy themselves in gathering together in their minds all their ills, past, present, and to come, until their weight seems insupportable. It is the contrary that we must do: "Enough for the day is the evil thereof."1 Instead of reopening past wounds, we must never give them a thought, unless it be to note the profit derived from them: increase of merit, growth in virtue, more strength to bear pain. Thus is suffering soothed, for ills only vex us when we heed them: slander, calumny, injuries hurt us only as long as we brood over them.

As to the future, it is irrational to let it prey upon the mind. True, it is the part of wisdom to foresee it and provide for it, in the measure that we are able, but to brood in advance over the ills that may befall us, to be saddened by them, is a loss of time and sheer waste of energy. Such ills may never come to pass; if they do come, then will be the time to bear them with the help of grace which will be given us for that purpose. Just now we have not such grace and, left to our own forces, we shall surely succumb under the weight of a self-imposed burden. Is it not wiser to abandon ourselves into the arms of Our Heavenly Father, and to drive out relentlessly any wicked thought or evil fancy that would force upon our minds the ills of the future and of the past?

n1. "Matth.," VI, 34.

#490. 2) The positive remedy consists in reflecting, when we suffer, upon the great advantages of suffering Pain is a teacher and a source of merit. As a teacher, it is a source of light, a source of power: of light, for it reminds us that we are exiles on the way home and that we cannot entertain ourselves gathering the flowers of consolation, since our true bliss is in Heaven; of power, for while pleasure-seeking dulls activity, undermines courage, and leads to disgraceful surrenders, suffering, not indeed in itself, but by reason of the reaction it produces, tends to reinforce our energies, and develops in us manly virtues.

#491. Suffering is also a source of merit for us and for others. Patiently borne for God's sake and in union with Jesus Christ, it merits for us an eternal recompense, a fact which St. Paul forever kept before the eyes of the early Christians: "For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us...1...that which is momentary and light of our tribulation worketh for us an eternal weight of glory."2 For the benefit of generous souls he adds that in suffering with Jesus, they fulfill what is wanting to His passion and contribute with Him to the welfare of the Church: "I fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His body, which is the Church."3 This is a consequence of the doctrine of our incorporation into Christ (n. 142 and foll.). These thoughts, indeed, do not deliver us from pain, but they do lessen in no small measure its bitterness, by making us realize its fruitfulness.

Everything, then, invites us to conform our will to that of God, even in the midst of trials.

n1. "Rom.," VIII, I8. n2. "Cor.," IV, I7. n3. "Coloss.," I, 24.


#492. St. Bernard distinguishes three degrees of this virtue, corresponding to the three stages of Christian perfection: " The beginner, moved by fear, patiently bears the Cross of Christ; the one who has already made some progress on the road to perfection, inspired by hope, carries it cheerfully; the perfect soul, consumed by love, embraces it ardently."1

A) Beginners, upheld by the fear of God, do not indeed love pain, but rather seek to escape it. However, they choose to suffer rather than to offend God and, though groaning under the weight of the Cross, they endure it in patience, they are resigned.

B) Those who have already made some progress, are sustained by the hope and the desire of heavenly things, and, though they do not yet seek the Cross, they willingly carry it with a certain joy, knowing that each new pang represents an additional degree of glory: "Going, they went and wept, casting their seeds. But coming, they shall come with joyfulness carrying their seed."2

C) The perfect, led by love, go further. To glorify the God they love, to become more like our Lord, they go forth to meet the Cross, they long for it and embrace it lovingly, not because it is in itself lovable, but because it offers them the means of proving their love for God and for Christ. Like the Apostles, they rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus. Like St. Paul, they rejoice in their tribulations.3

This last degree is called holy abandonment, to which we shall return later when we speak of the love of God.4

n1. Serm. S. Andreae, 5. n2. "Ps." CXXV, 6-7. n3. "Following of Christ," Bk. III, c. 17, Bk. II, c. XI-XII. n4. S. FR. DE SALES, "The Love of God," Bk. IX, c. 15.

I I. The Sanctifying Power of Conformity to the Will of God

#493. From what has already been said, we reach the evident conclusion that conformity to God's will cannot but sanctify us, since it makes our will one with God's and, by that very fact, unites all our other faculties to Him, Who is the source of all sanctity. The better to realize this, let us see how it purifies us, reforms us, and make us like unto Jesus Christ.

#494. (1) This conformity to the divine Will purifies us. Already in the Old Dispensation God often said that He is ready to forgive all sins and to restore the soul to the stainless splendor of-its pristine purity, if it but undergo a change of heart or will: "Wash yourselves: be clean. Take away the evil of your devices from my eyes. Cease to do perversely. Learn to do well... If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow."1 Now, to conform our wills to that of God, is assuredly to cease to do evil, and to learn to do good. Is not this the meaning of that oft repeated text: "For obedience is better than sacrifices."2 In the New Law, Our Lord declares from the very moment of His entry into the world that it is with obedience that He will replace all the sacrifices of the Ancient Law: "Holocausts for sin did not please thee. Then said I: Behold, I come... that I should do thy will, O God."3 And, in truth, it is by obedience unto the immolation of self that He has redeemed us: "He was made obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross."4 In the same way, it is through obedience and through the acceptance of God-ordained trials in union with Christ that we shall atone for our sins and cleanse our soul.

n1. "Isaias," I, 16-18. n2. "Kings," XV, 22; cfr. "Osee," VI, 6; "Matth.," IX, 13; XII, 7. n3. "Hebr.," X, 6-7. n4. "Phil.," II, 8.

#495. (2) This conformity works out our reformation. What has deformed us is the disordered love of pleasure, to which through malice or through weakness we have yielded. Conformity to the divine will cures this malice and weakness.

a) It cures our malice. This malice is the result of our attachment to creatures and, especially, of our attachment to our own judgment and our own will. Now, by conforming our will to that of God, we accept His judgments as the standard of ours, His commandments and His counsels as the rule of our will. Thus we wean ourselves from creatures and from self and rid ourselves from such attachments.

b) It cures our weakness, the source of so many failings. Instead of relying on our own frail selves, we make through obedience the Omnipotent God our support: He gives us His own strength enabling us to overcome even the severest temptations: "I can do all things in Him Who strengtheneth me."1 When we do His will, He takes His good pleasure in doing our own by granting our petitions and helping our weakness.

Thus freed from our malice and weakness, we no longer sin deliberately against God and we gradually effect the reformation of our lives.

n1. "Phil.," IV, 13.

#496. (3) Through this conformity, we make our wills one with Christ's. a) The truest, the closest, the most far reaching union that can exist is that between two wills. Through conformity to the divine will, we unite our will to that of Jesus Christ Whose food was to do the will of His Father.1 Like Jesus and with Jesus we desire but what He wills and that all the day long. This is the fusion of two wills. We are one with Him, we adopt His views, His sentiments, His choices: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus;"2 and soon we can make our own the word of St. Paul: "I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me."3

n1. "John," IV, 34.; VI, 38 VIII, 29. n2. "Philip," II, 5. n3. "Galat.," II, 20.

#497. b) In submitting our will, we yield and unite to God all the other faculties which are under its sway; hence, we yield and unite unto Him our whole soul, which by degrees conforms itself to the will and wishes of the Master. Thereby the soul acquires one by one all the virtues of Our Lord. What we have said of charity, n. 318, can also be said of conformity to the divine will; that like charity it embodies all other virtues. In the words of St. Francis de Sales: "Abandonment is the virtue of virtues. It is the cream of love, the fragrance of humility, the merit, it seems to me, of patience and the fruit of perseverance."1 Hence, Our Lord calls by the tender names of brother and sister and mother those who do the will of His Father: "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father that is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother."2 He repeatedly declares that the true test of love is doing God's will: "If you love me, keep my commandments... not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will of my Father who is in Heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven."3

n1. Spiritual Conferences, XI. n2. "Matth.," XII, So.-- n3. "John," XIV, 15; "Matth.," VII, 2I.


#498. Conformity to the divine will, then, is one of the most effective means of sanctification. Hence, we cannot but end with these words of St. Theresa: "The sole concern of him who has but entered into the way of prayer, --keep it in mind, it is very important--must be to strive courageously to conform his will to that of God... Herein lies, whole and entire, the highest perfection to which we can attain. The more perfect this accord is, the more do we receive from the Lord and the greater is our progress."1 She adds that she herself had wished to live in this way of conformity without being raised to rapturous transports and ecstasies, so firm was her conviction that the path of conformity was all-sufficient to the most exalted perfection.

n1. "Interior Castle," Second Mansion.

IV. Prayer1

#499. Prayer embodies and completes all the preceding acts. It is itself a desire for perfection, since no one would sincerely pray who did not wish to become better. It presupposes some knowledge of God and of self, since it establishes relations between the two. It conforms our will to that of God, since any good prayer contains, explicitly or implicitly, an act of submission to Our Sovereign Master. Prayer, moreover, perfects all these acts, by bringing us in all humility before the Majesty of God, in order to adore Him, and to implore new graces that will enable us to grow in perfection. We shall, then, explain: (1) the nature of prayer; (2) its efficacy as a means of perfection; (3) the way in which our lives are transformed into a habitual prayer.

n1. St. THOM,, IIa IIae, q. 83-84; SUAREZ, "De Religione," Tr. IV, lib. I, "De Oratione;" ALVAREZ DE PAZ, t. III, lib. I; St. ALPH. DE LIGUORI, "The Great Means of Prayer," St. FRANCIS DE SALES, "Devout Life," P. II- GROU, "How to Pray" MESCHLER, "Three Fundamental Principles of the Spiritual Life," P. I; "Spiritual Combat," c. 44-52; HEDLEY, "Retreat," XXI; "Retreat for Priests" IX, X, P. MONSABRE, "La Priere, Philosophie et Theologie de la priere,"; P. R.RAMIERE, "L'Apostolat de la priere"; P. SERTILLANGES, "La Priere," 1917. References to Works on Mental Prayer will be given in the Second Part of this Work.

1. The Nature of Prayer

#500. We use the word prayer here in the widest sense of the term, as an elevation of the soul to God. We shall explain: (1) The notion of prayer. (2) Its various forms (3) The perfect prayer, The Lord 's Prayer.


#501. In the Fathers we find three definitions of prayer that complete one another. 1) In its broadest signification it is, says St. John Damascene,1 an elevation of the soul to God. St. Augustine had stated before him that prayer is the soul's affectionate guest of God.2 2) In a narrower sense it has been defined as the asking of seemly things from God.3 3) To set forth the relations that prayer establishes between God and the soul, it has been represented as a familiar conversation with God.4 All these aspects of prayer are true and, by uniting them, we may define prayer as an elevation of our soul to God to offer Him our homage and ask His favors, in order to grow in holiness for His glory. This definition we shall explain.

n1. "De Fide Orthod.," 1. III, c. 24, P. G., XCIV, 1090. n2. "Serm,". IX, n. 3. n3. S. JOHN DAMASCENE, ibidem. n4. S. GREG. NYS, Orat. 1, de Orat. Domini, P. G., XLIV, 1124

#502. The term elevation is a metaphor indicating the effort we make to detach ourselves from creatures and from self in order to fix our thoughts on God Who not only surrounds us, but dwells in our inmost soul. As we are only too prone to let our faculties roam over a multitude of subjects, it requires an effort to snatch them away from these vain and alluring goods and center them on God. Such elevation is termed a colloquy, because prayer, whether it takes the form of worship or of petition, calls for an answer on the part of God and thus implies a sort of conversation with Him, even if it be of the briefest duration.

Our first act in this conversation, evidently, must be to render to God religious homage, just as we begin by saluting those persons with whom we hold converse. It is only after having acquitted ourselves of this fundamental duty that we may present our requests. Many forget it, and this is the reason why their petitions are less favorably answered. Even when we ask for the graces of sanctification and salvation, we must not lose sight of our principal purpose, the glory of God. Whence, the last words of our definition "for his glory."


#503. A) Considering the twofold end of prayer, we distinguish the prayer of worship, and the prayer of petition.

a) Prayer of Worship. This includes adoration, due to God as our Sovereign Master; thanksgiving, because God is likewise our Benefactor; and reparation, because we have offended Him.

I) The first sentiment that imposes itself when we raise our soul to God is that of adoration, that is to say, an acknowledgment of God's supreme dominion and of our absolute dependence. All creation adores God after its own manner, but inanimate nature lacks both an intellect to grasp Him, and a heart to love Him. It must be content to display before our gaze its own harmony, its activities, its beauty: "It cannot see -- it reveals itself; it cannot adore--it brings us to our knees, loath to have us ignore the God it cannot apprehend... But man, a breath divine within a body of clay, possessed of reason and intelligence and capable of knowing God, both through his natural powers and through the agency of creation, is urged by his own self and by all creatures to bow before God in humble adoration. For this reason is man, himself a microcosm, placed in this world, that contemplating this universe and, as it were, gathering it all up in himself, he may refer himself and all things to God alone. So much so, that man is made to contemplate the visible things of this creation only in order that he may adore the Invisible Being Who brought them out of nothing by the omnipotence of His power."1 In other words, man is the pontiff of creation upon whom it devolves to glorify God in his own name and in that of a]l creatures. This duty man fulfills by acknowledging "that God is perfection itself and hence incomprehensible; that God is Supreme; that God is Goodness... We are instinctively drawn to revere what is perfect,... to depend on that which is supreme,... to cling to what is good."2

n1. BOSSUET, "Sermon sur le culte de Dieu." n2. BOSSUET, 1 cit.

#504. Thus it is that mystics delight to adore in creatures the power, the majesty, the beauty, the activity, the fecundity of God hidden in them: "My God, I adore Thee in all Thy creatures, Thou the real, the sole strength that bears this mighty world. Without Thee, nothing would be; nothing does subsist outside of Thee. I love Thee, O my God, and praise Thy Majesty shown forth in all creation. All that I behold, O God, but reveals to me the mystery of Thy beauty unknown to mortal eyes... I adore the splendor of Thy glory, the grandeur of Thy majesty that outshines the noon day sun a thousand times. I adore the fecundity of Thy power, more wonderful by far than that disclosed by the starry skies."1

n1. OLIER, "Journee chret.," II p.

#505. 2) Adoration is followed by thanksgiving. God is not merely Our Lord and Master but our great Benefactor, to Whom we owe all that we are, all that we have, whether in the order of nature or of grace. Therefore, He has a right to everlasting gratitude from us who forever receive new favors at His Hand. Hence, the Church daily calls upon us, just before the Canon of the Mass, to thank Almighty God for all His gifts, and chiefly for that which embodies all others, the Holy Eucharist: "Let us give thanks to the Lord Our God. It is truly meet and just, right and salutary to offer thanks..."1 Hence, the Church also places on our lips formulas of thanksgiving: "We give Thee thanks for the greatness of Thy glory."2 In so doing, she but follows the example of Christ, Who often gave thanks to the Father; she but carries out the instructions of St. Paul, who invites us to give thanks to the Most High for all His blessings: "In all things give thanks, for this is the will of God...3 Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift."4 Generous souls need not be reminded of this duty. They feel themselves impelled by the thought of the divine favors to give vent again and again to the gratitude that overflows their heart.

n1. Preface of the Mass. n2. "Gloria in excelsis Deo." n3. "I Thess.," V, 18. n4. "II Cor.," IX, 15.

#506. 3) In our present state of fallen nature, a third duty forces itself upon us -- that of expiation and of reparation. We have but too often offended God's infinite majesty, using His gifts to offend Him. This constitutes an injustice requiring as full a reparation as we are able to offer. It consists of three principal acts: the humble acknowledgment of our faults; a sincere sorrow for them; the courageous acceptance of the trials God in His goodness may see fit to send us. If we desire to act with generosity, we shall add thereto the offering of ourselves as expiatory victims in union with the Victim of Golgotha. Then we may humbly beg and hope for pardon and ask for further graces.

#507. b) The Prayer of Petition. Asking of God for what we need is itself homage rendered to Him, to His power, to His goodness, to the efficacious operation of His grace; it is an act of confidence that honors Him to Whom it is offered.1 The reasons for prayer of petition are, on the one side, the love God bears His creatures, His children, and, on the other, the sore need we have of His help.

Inexhaustible source of all good, God longs to communicate it to souls: goodness tends to communicate itself. Being our Father, God desires nothing so much as to give us His life and increase it in our souls. The better to attain this purpose He sent to earth His Only-Begotten Son, Who came full of grace and truth purposely to fill us with His treasures. Nay more, He invites us to ask for His graces, and promises to grant them: "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you."2 We are, therefore, certain of pleasing God by presenting our requests to Him.

n1. ST. THOMAS, IIa- IIae, q. 83, a. 3. n2. "Matth.," VII, 7.

#508. Besides, we stand in sore need of God's help. Whether in the order of nature or in the order of grace, we are poor, steeped in poverty. Depending of necessity upon God, even in the order of nature, we cannot so much as preserve the very existence He has given us; we are at the mercy of physical causes, themselves depending on God. In vain we may protest that we possess brain and sinews, and that we are well able with our strength and our energy to draw from the earth the things we need for our subsistence. That brain, those sinews, are sustained by God; they can work only with His concurrence. The earth flowers not, save when watered by the rain He sends; it produces nothing, save when quickened by the warmth of His glowing sun. And how many forces of destruction can wreck the fruit of man's work and man's care!

Our dependence upon God in the supernatural order is more absolute still. We need light to guide us, and who will give it to us if not the Father of lights? We need courage and strength to follow the light; who will give these except He Who is All-Powerful? What else then can we do but implore the help of Him Whose one desire is to succor us?

#509. Let no one say that His omniscience is aware of all that is necessary and useful to us. St. Thomas answers that no doubt, out of pure liberality, God does bestow upon us innumerable benefits unasked, unsought, but that there are some which He will grant only at our request, and this for our own good, namely, that we should place our confidence in Him and come to acknowledge Him as the source and origin of all our goods.1 When we pray, we cherish the hope of being heard and we are less exposed to forget God. As it is, we forget Him all too often; what would it be, if we should never feel the need of recurring to Him in our distress ?

It is for very good reasons then that God demands of us prayer in the form of petition.

n1. "Sum. theol.," IIa IIae, q. 83, a. 2, ad e. -- Cfr. MONSABRE, "La Priere", 1906, p. 54-55.

#510. B) From the point of view of form, we can distinguish between mental and vocal, private and public prayer.

a) From the point of view of expression, prayer is mental or vocal, according as it takes place wholly within the soul, or is given outward expression.

I) Mental prayer is a silent intercourse of the soul with God. "I will pray with the spirit, I will pray also with the understanding."1 Every interior act of the mind or of the heart that tends to unite us to God, such as recollection, consideration, reasoning, self-examination, the loving thought of God, contemplation, a longing of the heart for God-- all these may be called by the name of mental prayer. All these acts, even our examination of conscience, the purpose of which is to make our soul less unworthy of Him Who dwells in it, raise us up to God. All of these deepen our convictions, exercise us in virtue, and constitute our training for that heavenly life that is nothing else but an eternal, loving contemplation of the Godhead. Mental prayer is likewise the very food and the soul of vocal prayer. 2.

n1. "I Cor., " XIV, 15. n2. In the Second Part of this work we shall return to the subject of mental prayer indicating which kind is in harmony with each of the three Ways.

#511. 2) Vocal prayer finds expression in word and act. It is frequently mentioned in our Sacred Books, which call upon us to proclaim God's praises by word of mouth, with lip and tongue: "I have cried to the Lord with my voice... O Lord, thou wilt open my lips and my mouth shall declare thy praise."1 But why thus express our sentiments, since God reads them in the depths of our heart? It is in order to honor Him not only with the soul, but also with the body, and, above all, with that word which He has given us to express our thought. This is the teaching of St. Paul, who after showing that Jesus died for us outside the walls of Jerusalem, invites us to come out of ourselves and join our Mediator, in order to offer unto God a sacrifice of praise, the homage of our lips: "By Him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise always to God, that is to say, the fruit of lips confessing to His name."2 Vocal prayer, moreover, stimulates devotion by the very utterance of the words: "That man may rouse himself by word of mouth to devout prayer."3 Psychology, indeed, shows that gestures intensify the acts of the heart. Finally, it works unto the edification of our neighbor; for, seeing or hearing others pray devoutly increases our own devotion.

n1. "Ps," III. 5; L, 17. n2. "Hebr.," XIII, 15. n3. ST. THOMAS. "In Libr. Sentent.," distinct. XV, q. 4, a. 4.

#512 . b) Vocal prayer may be private or public, according as it is offered in the name of an individual or of society. We have elsewhere proved that society as such owes God social homage, since it must acknowledge Him as its Sovereign Master and Benefactor. This is why St. Paul urged the early Christians to unite, not only with one heart, but with one voice in praising God with Jesus Christ:" That with one mind and with one mouth, you may glorify God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."1 Our Lord had already exhorted His disciples to come together in order to pray, promising to come to them and sponsor their requests: "For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them."2 If this is true of the gathering of one or two, how much truer is it when a multitude comes together to thank God in an official manner! St. Thomas says that the power of prayer is then irresistible: "The prayers of the many cannot go unheeded, when they unite in one."3 Just as a father who would not yield to the request of a son is moved by the united requests of all his children, so Our Heavenly Father cannot resist the sweet violence of the united prayers of a great number of His children.

n1. "Rom.," XV, 6. n2. "Matth.," XVIII, 20. n3. "Commentar. in Matth.," c. XVIII

#513. It is important, therefore, that Christians should often join in common prayer and worship. This is why the Church calls them on the Lord's Day and on holy days to assist at the great public prayer, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and at other religious services.

#514. Since, however, the Church cannot gather her faithful children every day, and since nevertheless God deserves perennial praise, she commits to her priests and religious the discharge of this grand duty of public prayer. This they fulfill several times a day through the recitation of the Divine Office, which they perform, not in a private capacity, but in the name of the entire Church, and on behalf of all mankind. Hence, it is important that they unite themselves to the perfect worship offered to God by the Incarnate Word, in order to give glory to God through Him, with Him, and in Him, and ask at the same time all the graces that the Christian people need.


#515. Among all the prayers we recite, private or public, there is none so beautiful as that taught us by Our Lord Himself--the Our Father.

A) We find therein, first of all, an appropriate introduction which ushers us into God's presence and excites our confidence: Our Father Who art in Heaven. The very first step in prayer is to draw nigh unto God. The word Father places us at once before Him, Who is pre-eminently the Father Who has adopted us as children. We face then the God Who surrounds us with the same love wherewith He loves His Son. And that Father is in Heaven; that is, He is all-powerful, He is the source of all graces, hence we are impelled to invoke Him with a filial trust that knows no bounds, for we are His offspring; all brethren, because children of the same God: Our Father.

#516. B) The object of the prayer follows. We ask for as we desire, and in the order in which we should desire it: a) We place the principal end before all else--God's glory: "Hallowed be Thy Name," that is to say, may Thy Name be known and proclaimed blessed. b) Then comes the secondary end-- the growth of God's kingdom within us, which is the preparation for our entry into the Kingdom of Heaven: "Thy Kingdom come." c) Next, we ask for the essential means for attaining this twofold end, that is, conformity to the Divine Will: "Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

We ask, after that, for the secondary means. -- This request constitutes the second part of the Our Father. d) First, the positive means--our daily sustenance, food for the body and food for the soul; we need one and the other, if we are to subsist and grow: "Give us this day our daily bread." e) Lastly, we beg the negative means, which comprise 1) the remission of sin--the only real evil, which is forgiven us in the measure that we ourselves pardon others: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." 2) The removal of trials and temptations to which we could fall victims: " Lead us not into temptation. " 3) The removal of physical evils, of the miseries of life so far as they constitute an obstacle to our sanctification: "But deliver us from evil. Amen."

A sublime prayer, since every word of it refers to God's glory, and yet so simple that it is within the reach of all; for whilst glorifying God, we ask for all the things that are most useful to us.

Hence, the Fathers and the Saints have taken delight in commenting1 on this prayer, and the Catechism of the Council of Trent gives an extended and solid explanation of it.

n1. Many of these commentaries are found in HURTER'S, "Opuscula Patrum selecta," t. II; cf "Sum. Theol.," IIIa 1IIae, q. 83, a 9; ST. THERESA, "The Way of Perfection;"; P. MONSABRE, "La Priere Divine, le Pater."

II. The Efficacy of Prayer for Sanctification

#517. The sanctifying power of prayer is such that the Saints never tired of saying that he lives well who prays well. Prayer produces three marvelous effects : 1) it detaches us from creatures, 2) it unites us entirely to God, 3) it gradually transforms us into God.

#518. (1) It detaches us from creatures in so far as they are an obstacle to our union with God. This effect of prayer follows from its very nature as an elevation of the heart to God. In order to be raised up to God we must first loosen the bonds that fasten us to creatures. Drawn by these, and by the alluring pleasures they hold out to us, dominated moreover by selfishness, we cannot free ourselves except by breaking the shackles that fetter us to earth. Nothing works this happy deliverance more effectively than the elevation of the soul to God through prayer, for in order to think of Him and of His glory, in order to love Him, we are constrained to forget self and creatures with their deceitful allurements. Once we are nigh unto Him, united to Him in intimate converse, then His infinite perfections, His loving kindness, and the sight of His heavenly riches, complete the liberation of the soul: "How wretched the earth when I gaze upon the heavens!" We hate mortal sin more and more, for it would turn us away altogether from God. We detest venial sin because it would impede our ascent towards Him, and we deplore even imperfections, since they would cool our intimacy with Him. We are likewise schooled to a more vigorous strife against the disordered inclinations latent within our nature, because of the realization that they tend to make us wander away from God.

#519. (2) Prayer moreover makes our union with God more complete and more perfect day by day.

A) More complete. Prayer lays hold of all our faculties, in order to unite them to God. a) It seizes the higher faculties of our soul: the mind, by absorbing it in the thought of divine things; the will, by directing it toward the Glory of God and the welfare of souls; the heart, by permitting it to pour out its love into a Heart ever open, loving, ever merciful, and enabling it to produce affections that cannot be but sanctifying. b) It seizes the lower faculties of the soul, by helping us to fasten upon God and Our Lord, our imagination, our memory, our emotions, and even our passions in so far as they are capable of good. c) It even takes possession of our body, helping us to mortify our outward senses, which so often lead us astray, and to regulate our exterior according to the dictates of modesty.

B) More perfect. Prayer, as just described, produces in the soul acts of religion born of faith, sustained by hope and vivified by love: " Faith believes, hope and love pray, but these could not exist without faith; hence it is, that faith also prays."1 Is there anything nobler, anything more sanctifying than these acts of the theological virtues? Prayer, likewise, presupposes the performance of acts of humility, of obedience, of fortitude, of constancy, so that it is not difficult to see that the holy exercise of prayer unites our soul to God in a most perfect manner.

n1. ST. AUGUSTINE, "Enchirid.," VII.

#520. (3) No wonder, then, that through it, the soul is gradually transformed into God. Prayer causes, so to speak, a mutual exchange between us and God: whilst we offer Him our homages and our requests, He stoops down to us and bestows upon us His graces.

A) The mere consideration of His divine perfections, the mere fact of admiring them and taking in them a genuine delight, draws them into us through the desire we thus feel of sharing in them. Little by little our soul feels, as it were, all pervaded, possessed by that Simplicity, that Goodness, that Holiness, that Serenity which God would fain communicate to us.

#521. B) Then God stoops down to hearken to our prayers and to bestow upon us His graces in abundance. The more we honor Him, the greater is His concern in sanctifying a soul that seeks His glory. We can ask a great deal, provided we do so with humility and confidence. He can refuse nothing to humble souls who care more for His interests than for their own. He gives them light to show them the emptiness, the nothingness of human things; He draws them to Himself by revealing Himself to them as the Supreme Good, the origin of all good; He strengthens and steadies their will that they may will nothing, love nothing, but what is worthy. We cannot but conclude with St. Francis de Sales:1 "If prayer be a colloquy, a discourse or a conversation of the soul with God, by it then we speak to God, and He again speaks to us; we aspire to Him and breathe in Him, and He reciprocally inspires us and breathes upon us." Happy exchange! It shall be altogether to our advantage, since its ultimate end is no other than the transformation of ourselves into God, by making us share in His thoughts and His perfections!

n1. "The Love of God," Bk. VI, c. I. (Mackey's translation).

III. How We Can Transform Our Actions Into Prayers

#522. since prayer is such an effective means of sanctification, we should frequently and perseveringly make use of it. Our Lord said: "We ought always to pray and not to faint."1 St. Paul teaches the same doctrine both by word and example: "Pray without ceasing.. Making a remembrance of you in our prayers without ceasing." 2 How are we, however, to pray without ceasing, the while we discharge our duties of state? Is not this impossible? We shall see that it is simple, once we have learned to regulate our lives. To accomplish it, two things are required: (1) that we perform a certain number of spiritual exercises in harmony with our state of life; (2) that we turn our ordinary actions into prayer.

n1. "Luke," XVIII, I. n2. "I Thess.," V, 17; I, 2.

#523. (1) Spiritual Exercises. In order to foster a life of prayer, first of all, a certain number of spiritual exercises re necessary, the extent and duration of which will vary In accordance with our duties of state. Here we shall speak of such as are proper to priests and religious, leaving to directors of souls the care of adapting this program to the laity.

Three different sets of spiritual exercises school the priestly soul to prayer: in the morning, meditation and Holy Mass present to us the ideal we are to pursue and aid us to realize it; throughout the day, the Divine Office, devout readings and some great Catholic devotions help to keep up in the soul the habit of prayer; in the evening the examination of conscience will cause us to note and correct our failures.

#524. A) The morning exercises are sacred in character. Priests and religious can not dispense with them without giving up real concern for perfection. a) It is meditation, the loving thought of God, that, above all, recalls to mind the ideal we must ever keep before our eyes and pursue with all our strength. This ideal is no other than the one pictured for us by the Divine Master: "Be you, therefore, perfect as also your Heavenly Father is perfect,"1 So we must place ourselves in the presence of God, the source and exemplar of all perfection; in the presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has realized in the world this ideal of perfection and has merited for us the grace of imitating His virtues. After offering Him our homage, we draw Him unto us by becoming one with Him in thought, through the formation of deep-seated convictions regarding the special virtue we want to practice; we then draw this virtue from His heart into our own by earnest prayers that obtain for us the grace of actually practicing it. Finally, we humbly, but resolutely, co-operate with the grace received by making the generous resolve of practicing the said virtue during the course of the day.2 b) Holy Mass confirms us in this disposition by placing before our eyes, in our hands, and at our disposal, the Sacred Victim we are to imitate. Holy Communion causes His thoughts, His sentiments, His interior dispositions, His graces and His Divine Spirit to penetrate our own souls there to abide the day long. We are priests, then, in order to act, and our action vivified by His influence will be an unceasing prayer.

n1. "Matth.," V, 48. n2. This we shall explain later when treating of the method of prayer.

#525. B) That this be so, it is necessary that from time to time there be exercises renewing and promoting our union with God. a) This will be effected by the recitation of the Divine Office, so aptly styled by St. Benedict God's Work, wherein, in union with the perfect worship of God by Jesus Christ, we shall glorify Him and implore His graces for ourselves and for the entire Church. After the Holy Sacrifice, this is the most important act of the day. b) Another exercise fostering our union with God is the reading of Holy Scripture and the lives of the Saints, the perusal of which will once more place us in close contact with God and His Saints. e) Lastly come what may be called the essential Catholic devotions that nourish piety, such as the visit to the Blessed Sacrament--a heart-to-heart talk with Jesus--and the recitation of the beads, through which we are privileged to hold familiar conversation with Mary and to consider devoutly the mysteries of her life and her virtues.

#526. C) At night, the two examinations, general and particular, will take place. These we shall turn into a humble and sincere confession to the Great High Priest, and into a means of seeing to what extent we have realized in the course of the day the ideal conceived in the morning. Alas! we shall ever find a discrepancy between our resolutions and their realization; but without any loss of heart, we shall retire to rest with a sense of trust in God, abandoning ourselves into His arms, determined to greater effort on the morrow.

Weekly, or at least fortnightly confession, together with the monthly retreat--a summary review of the month-- will complete the work of our daily examination of conscience and be the occasion of a spiritual renewal.

#527. (2) This is the sum-total of spiritual exercises, that prevent us from losing sight of God's holy presence for any considerable time. What shall we do, however, to fill in the time between these various exercises and to transform all our actions into prayer? St. Paul answered this question when he wrote: "Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God... All whatsoever you do in word or in work, all things do ye in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ."1 St. Augustine and St. Thomas tell us how this can be done; the former tells us to convert our life, our actions, our occupations, our meals, even our repose, into a hymn of praise unto God's glory: "Let the harmony of thy life ever rise as a song, so that thou mayest never cease to praise.. . If thou wilt give praise, sing, then, not only with thy lips, but sweep the chords upon the psalter of good works, thou dost give praise when thou workest, when thou eatest and drinkest, when thou liest to rest, when thou sleepest, thou givest praise even if thou holdest thy peace."2 The latter briefly expresses the same thought: "Man prays so long as he directs his whole life toward God."3

It is love that directs our whole life towards God. The practical means of giving all our actions this direction, is to offer each of them to the Most Blessed Trinity in union with Jesus Christ living in us, and in accordance with His intentions (n. 248).

n1. "Cor.," X, 31, Col. III, 17. n2. "In Psalm," CXLVI, n. 2. n3. "Comment. in Rom.," c. I, lect. 5.

#528. Father Olier shows the importance of performing our actions in union with Jesus. He explains first how the Son of God is within us in order to sanctify us.1 "He dwells in us not only through His immensity, as the Word...but also as the Christ, through His grace, in order to make us partakers of His unction and of His divine life. Jesus Christ is within us to sanctify both ourselves and our works and to fill all our faculties with His own Self. He wills to be the light of our mind, the fire of love in our hearts, the might and strength of all our faculties, in order that in Him we may have power to know and to fulfill the desires of God, His Father, whether it be to work for His honor or to suffer and endure all things unto His glory." Father Olier then explains how the actions we perform of ourselves and for ourselves are defective: " Because of our corrupted nature, our intentions and our thoughts tend toward sin and, should we decide to act of ourselves and follow the bent of our own sentiments, our works would be of sin."2 His conclusion is, therefore, that we must renounce our own intentions so as to unite ourselves to those of Jesus: "You see thereby what great care you must take to renounce, upon undertaking any action, all your sentiments, all your wishes, all your own thoughts, all your desires, in order to enter, according to the word of St. Paul, into the sentiments and the intentions of Jesus Christ: For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."3

When our actions endure for some time, it is useful to renew this offering by an affectionate gaze upon our Crucifix, or better, upon Jesus living within us, and to raise our soul to God through oft-repeated ejaculations.

In this manner our actions, even the most commonplace, will become a prayer, an elevation of the soul to God, and we shall thereby comply with the teaching of Jesus: "We ought always to pray and not to faint."4

n1. "Catech. Int. Life," Part. II, Lesson X. --Cfr. FATHER CHARLES, S.J. "Prayer for all Times." n2. "Catech. Int. Life," Part. II, Lesson VI. n3. "Philip.," II, 5. n4. "Luke," XVIII, 1.

#529. Here then we have four interior means of perfection that tend at once to glorify God and perfect the soul. The desire to be perfect is, in fact, a first flight toward God, a first step toward holiness. The knowledge of God draws God down to us and helps us give ourselves to Him through love. The knowledge of self shows us the need we have of God and stimulates in us the desire of receiving Him in order to fill the void that exists within us. Conformity to His will transforms us into Him. Prayer lifts us up to Him while it draws unto us His perfections, making us share in them in order to render us like unto Him. All leads us to God, because all proceeds from Him.


#530. These means can be reduced to four principal ones: spiritual direction that provides safe guidance, a rule of life, which is the sequel and the complement of spiritual direction; spiritual reading, and devout exhortations, which present to us the ideal to follow; the sanctification of our social relations, which enables us to supernaturalize our dealings with the neighbor.

I. Spiritual Direction1

Two points, chiefly, are to be elucidated: (1) The moral necessity of spiritual direction; (2) the means required to insure its success.

I. Moral Necessity of Spiritual Direction

Direction, although not absolutely necessary for the sanctification of souls, is one of the normal means of spiritual progress. Authority, and reason based on experience, demonstrate this.


#531. A) God, Who established His Church as a hierarchical society, has willed that souls be sanctified through submission to the Sovereign Pontiff and to the Bishops in things external, and to confessors in things internal. When Saul was converted, Our Lord, instead of directly manifesting to him His designs, sent him to Ananias to learn from this man's lips what he was to do. Cassian, St. Francis de Sales and Leo XIII argue from this fact to show the necessity of direction. "God," says Leo XIII, "in His infinite Providence has decreed that men for the most part should be saved by men; hence He has appointed that those whom He calls to a loftier degree of holiness should be led thereto by men, ' in order that, ' as Chrysostom says, ' we should be taught by God through men. ' We have an illustrious example of this put before us in the very beginning of the Church, for although Saul, who was breathing threatenings and slaughter, heard the voice of Christ Himself, and asked from Him, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do" he was nevertheless sent to Ananias at Damascus: "Arise and go into the city, and there it shall be told thee what thou must do." This manner of acting has invariably obtained in the Church. All without exception who in the course of ages have been remarkable for science and holiness have taught this doctrine. Those who reject it, assuredly do so rashly and at their peril."2

n1. CASSIANUS, "Collationes," coll. II, c. I-I3; ST. JOHN CLIMACUS, "L Echelle du Paradis," 4e Degre, n. 5-12; GODINEZ, "Praxis Theol. Mysticae," lib. VIII, c. I; SCHRAM, "Instit. theol. mysticae," P. II, cap. 1, 327-353; St. FR. DE SALES, "Introd. to a Devout Life," Part 1, ch. 4; TRONSON, "Traite de l'obeissance," IIe Partie; FABER "Growth in Holiness," Ch. XVIII; H. NOBLE, O. P., "Lacordaire apotre et directeur des juenes gens, 1910; DESURMONT, "Charite sacerdotale," 183-225; "Catholic Encyclopedia, Direction;" F. VlNCENT, S. Francois de Sales, Derecteur d' Ames;" ABBE D'AGNEL et Dr D ESPINEY, "Direction de conscience," 1922, V. RAYMOND O. P., "Spiritual Director and Physician," 1917. n2. Apostolical Letter "Testem Benevolentia", Jan. 22, 1899. From The Great Encyclical Letters of Leo XIII, P. 447.

#532. B) Unable to quote all the authorities, we shall briefly review a few witnesses that can be considered representatives of ascetical theology. Cassian, who had spent long years among the monks of Palestine, of Syria, and of Egypt, has set down their teachings together with his own in two works. In the first, the Book of Institutions, he urgently exhorts the young cenobites to open their heart to the elder charged with the direction of their life; to disclose to him without false shame their most secret thoughts, and to submit themselves entirely to his decision as to what is good and what is evil.1 He treats this point again in his Conferences, and, after showing the dangers to which those who do not seek counsel from their elders expose themselves, he affirms that the best means to overcome temptations even the most dangerous, is to disclose them to a wise counselor. This he says on the authority of St. Anthony and the Abbot Serapion.2

What Cassian teaches to the Monks of the West, St. John Climacus instils into those of the East by his "Ladder of Paradise." To beginners he says that those who wish to leave the land of Egypt for the Promised Land and subdue their disorderly passions, stand in need of another Moses to serve them as a guide. To those that are advanced he declares, that in order to follow Christ and enjoy the holy liberty of the children of God, one must humbly deliver the care of one's soul to a man that is the representative of the Divine Master; and that such a one must be chosen with care, because he must be obeyed in all simplicity, in spite of the shortcomings that may be detected in him; for the sole danger lies in following one's own judgment.3

n1. CASSIANUS, "De Caenobiorum institut.," I, IV, c. 9; P. L. XLIX, 161. n2. "Id. Collationes," II, 2, 5, 7, 10-11; P. L. XLIX, 526, 529, 534, 537, 542. n3. "Scala Paradisi," Grad. I, IV; P. G. LXXXVIII, 636, 680-681.

#533. For the period of the Middle Ages, two authorities will suffice. St. Bernard wants the novices to have a guide, a foster-father to enlighten them, direct them, console them, and encourage them.1 To more advanced souls, like Ogier, the Canon Regular, he declares that whoever constitutes himself his own guide, becomes a disciple of a fool. He adds: "I know not what others think about themselves on this matter; for myself, I speak from experience and I hesitate not to say that I find it easier and safer to direct many others than I do to guide myself."2 In the Fourteenth Century, the eloquent Dominican, St. Vincent Ferrer, stated that spiritual direction had ever been the practice of souls that wished to make progress, and he gave the following reason: " He who has an adviser whom he absolutely obeys in all things, will succeed much more easily and quickly than he could if left to himself, even if endowed with quick intellect and possessed of learned spiritual books."3

n1. "De Diversis," sermo VIII, 7. n2. Epist., LXXXVII, 7. 3. "De Vita Spirituali," II Part, ch. 1.

#534. It was not only in communities that this need of a spiritual guide was felt, but likewise in the world. The letters of St. Jerome, of St. Augustine, and of other Fathers, to widows, virgins, and other persons living in the world, are ample proof of it.1 It is therefore with good reason that St. Alphonsus in explaining the duties of a confessor declares that one of the most important of these duties is that of directing devout souls.2

Besides, reason itself, enlightened by faith and by experience, shows us the necessity of a spiritual director in order to advance in the way of perfection.

n1. See the instances given by FABER, "Growth in Holiness," C. XVIII. n2. "Praxis confessarii," n. 121-127.


#535. A) Progress in holiness is a long and painful ascent over a steep path bordered by precipices. To venture thereon without an experienced guide is highly imprudent. It is extremely easy to deceive oneself as regards one's own condition. We are unable to gaze eye to eye upon ourselves, says St. Francis de Sales; we cannot be impartial Judges in our own case, by reason of a certain complacency, " so veiled, so unsuspected that the keenest insight alone can discover its existence; those who suffer from it are not aware of it unless some one points it out to them."1 Hence, he concludes that we need a spiritual physician to make a sound diagnosis of our state of soul and to prescribe the most effective remedies: "Why should we wish to constitute ourselves directors of our own souls when we do not undertake the management of our bodies. Have we not noticed that physicians, when ill, call other physicians to determine what remedies they require?"2

n1. "Devout Life," Part. III, c. 28. n2. "Sermons recuellis," pour la fete de N. D. des Neiges, t. IX, p. 95.

#536. B) The better to understand this need, we have but to explain briefly the chief dangers one encounters in each of the three ways leading to perfection.

a) Beginners must be on their guard against relapses and, in order to avoid them, they must undergo a long and rigorous penance in proportion to the number and gravity of their faults. Some of them, soon forgetting their past, want to enter forthwith into the path of love. Such presumption is frequently followed by a withdrawal of sensible consolations, by discouragement and fresh falls. Others give themselves without discretion to bodily mortifications, take therein a vain complacency, impair their health, and then, under pretense of taking proper care of it, fall into a state of relaxation. It is, therefore, important that an experienced director hold the former to the spirit and the practice of penance, and check the latter in their impetuous ardor.

Another danger for beginners is spiritual aridity, following the withdrawal of sensible consolations. In this state a soul imagines itself abandoned by God, gives up its exercises of piety, which now appear useless, and falls a prey to lukewarmness. Who will be able to forestall this danger? Only a wise spiritual director, who, during the season of consolations, will give warning that these do not last forever, and, at the time of aridity, will comfort this soul by explaining that there is nothing better than such trials for the strengthening of virtue and the purifying of love.

#537. b) In the illuminative way, a guide is still needed, in order to discern which are the virtues especially suited to this or that person in particular, as well as the means of practicing these virtues, and the proper method of self-examination. When a soul becomes a prey to that sense of weariness experienced upon the discovery that the way of perfection is longer and more arduous than imagined, it is hard to see what can prevent this feeling from degenerating into lukewarmness, if not the fatherly affection of a director who will be able to recognize the difficulty, obviate discouragement, console the penitent, urge him to new efforts and make him discern the fruits to be gained from such a trial courageously borne.

#538. c) Direction becomes even more necessary in the unitive way. To enter herein, one must cultivate the gifts of the Holy Ghost by a generous and constant docility to the inspirations of grace. But to distinguish divine inspirations from those that proceed from nature, or from the Evil One, the counsel of a wise and disinterested adviser is oftentimes required. This is all the more necessary when one undergoes the first passive trials, when aridity, weariness, fear of God's judgments, besetting temptations, inability to reason in meditation, and contradictions from without burst all together upon a desolate soul and cast it into the greatest turmoil. It is evident that a pilot is indispensable to guide the disabled craft to safety. A spiritual director is equally necessary for one enjoying the delights of contemplation. This state presupposes so much discretion, humility, docility and, above all, so much prudence in harmonizing passivity with activity, that it becomes morally impossible not to go astray without the advice of an expert guide. This is why St. Theresa used to open her soul with such candor to her spiritual directors; this is why St. John of the Cross often insisted on the necessity of disclosing to him everything. "God," says he, "so desires that man place himself under the direction of another, that He absolutely does not want to see us give full assent to the supernatural truths He Himself imparts, before they have issued out of the mouth of man."1

n1. "Sentences et avis apirituels," n. 229, ed. "Hoornaert," p. 372.

#539. To sum up what has been said, we can do no better than quote the words of Fr. Godinez: " Hardly ten in a thousand called by God to perfection heed the call; of a hundred called to contemplation, ninety-nine fail to respond. It must be acknowledged that one of the principal causes is the lack of spiritual directors. Under God, they are the pilots that conduct souls through this unknown ocean of the spiritual life. If no science, no art, how simple soever, can be learned well without a master, much less can any one learn this high wisdom of evangelical perfection, wherein such great mysteries are found. This is the reason why I hold it morally impossible that a soul could without a miracle or without a master, go through what is highest and most arduous in the spiritual life, without running the risk of perishing. "

#540. It may be said, therefore, that the normal way to advance in the spiritual life is to follow the counsels of a wise spiritual adviser. As a matter of fact, fervent souls so understand it and seek direction in the tribunal of penance. When of late years a need was felt for a select body of truly devout and earnest Catholics, no better means of forming it was found than a strong direction given in Sodalities, vacation-camps and above all in regular retreats. Direction, then, is one of the normal means of spiritual progress.

I I. Rules to Insure the Success of Spiritual Direction

That spiritual direction be profitable, (1) its object must be clearly determined; (2) the co-operation of both director and penitent must be assured.


#541. A) General Principle. The object of spiritual direction consists in all that has a bearing upon the spiritual formation of souls. Confession limits itself to the accusation of faults; direction goes far beyond this. It reaches the causes of sin, deep-rooted inclinations, temperament, character, acquired habits, temptations, imprudences. This, in order to discover the right remedies, such as go to the very roots of the evil. In order to combat defects the better, direction in also concerned with virtues opposed to them, the virtues common to all Christians and those special to each particular class of persons. It includes the means most apt to foster the practice of these virtues: spiritual exercises such as mental prayer, the particular examination, devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament, to the Sacred Heart, the Blessed virgin, which supply us with spiritual arms to force our way onward in the practice of virtue. It deals with vocation, and, once this question is settled, with the duties peculiar to each state of life. Hence, it is clear that the field of direction is very wide.

#542. B) Applications. a) In order to guide a person wisely, the spiritual director must be acquainted with the chief features of his past life, his habitual faults, his efforts to correct them, the results obtained, so that he sees clearly what is left to be done. He must, likewise, know his present dispositions, his likes and dislikes, the temptations , he undergoes and the method employed to overcome them, the virtues he feels the greatest need of, and the means used, to acquire them. The director must know all this in order to give proper advice.

b) Then it is that the director can more easily form a plan ,of direction, a flexible plan, adaptable to the actual condition of the penitent and calculated to foster his spiritual progress. It is impossible to lead all souls in the same way; a director must take them as they are, and lead them gradually through the various stages along the steep path of perfection. He must realize that some are more eager and more generous, others more calm, more slow, that all are not called to attain the same degree of perfection.

#543. There is, however, a progressive order to be followed which gives a certain measure of unity to spiritual direction:

I) From the outset it is important that souls should be taught to sanctify all their ordinary actions by the practice of union with Our Lord (n. 248). This holds good for their whole life and the Director must insist on it again and again showing how such practice is grounded on the spirit of faith so indispensable in these days of rampant naturalism.

2) The purification of the soul, through the practice of penance and mortification, should never cease altogether; penitents should be often brought back to it, taking into account their state of mind, so as to vary the exercise of these virtues.

3) Humility is a fundamental virtue, which must be inculcated almost from the beginning, and penitents must be frequently reminded of it at all the stages of the spiritual life.

4) Fraternal charity, because so often violated, even by devout people, should be insisted upon in the examinations of conscience and m confession.

5) Habitual union with our Lord, our model and co-worker, cannot be too frequently emphasized, for it is one of the most effective means of sanctification.

6) A thing to be cultivated with care, because so necessary in this our day, is manliness or strength of character, based upon strong convictions, and with it, honesty and loyalty which cannot be separated from it.

7) In an epoch of proselytism like ours, zeal is of paramount importance and a spiritual director should keep in view the formation of select souls who will be of help to the priest in the innumerable details connected with his ministry.

As for the rest, one has but to bear in mind what we shall say when explaining the three ways.


Direction will not produce any profitable results, unless both director and penitent work together in all earnestness.

1) Duties of the Spiritual Director

#544. St. Francis de Sales1 declares that a spiritual director must have three principal qualities: "He must be full of charity, of knowledge and of prudence: if he lacks one of these, there is danger."

A) The charity wherewith he must be filled is a supernatural and paternal affection that makes him see in his penitents so many spiritual children confided to his care by God Himself so that he may cause Jesus Christ and His virtues to grow in them: "My little children of whom I am in labor again until Christ be formed in you."2

a) Hence, he surrounds them all with the same thoughtfulness and care, making himself all things to all, in order to sanctify all ù spending his time, his efforts and himself to form in them the Christian virtues. In spite of himself, no doubt, he will at times feel drawn more to some than to others, but he will not allow his natural likes or dislikes to govern him, being careful to avoid sentimental affections that would tend to create attachments, at first innocent, then distracting and finally dangerous both to his good name and to his virtue. Father Olier rightly says that to wish to attach to oneself the hearts made to love God, constitutes a sort of treason: "Spiritual directors have been chosen by Our Lord to go forth to conquer kingdoms, that is to say, the hearts of men, which belong to Him, which He has bought by the shedding of His Blood, and in which He wants to establish His reign. What an ingratitude! What a fraud! What an outrage! What a betrayal! if instead of offering those hearts to Him as to their lawful sovereign, they constitute themselves their lords and masters."3 Such conduct would be equivalent to placing a well-nigh insurmountable obstacle in the way of one's own spiritual progress and in that of one's penitents, for God does not want a divided heart.

n1. "Introduction to a Devout Life," P. I, C. IV. n2. "Galat.," IV, 19. n3. "L''Esprit d'un directeur des ames," p. 60-61. Father Olier often returns to this subject in this little work.

#545. b) Kindliness on the part of the spiritual director must not mean weakness. It must, on the contrary, be coupled with firmness and frankness. The director must have the courage to give sound, fatherly warnings, to point out to his penitents their defects, and not allow himself to be directed by them. There are persons very demure, yet very clever, who want to have a spiritual director, but on condition that he accommodate himself to their tastes and fancies. Such seek after approbation rather than guidance. To be on guard against this abuse that might involve his own conscience, the spiritual director must not let himself be swayed by the schemes and maneuvers of such penitents; he must remember that he represents Our Lord Himself, and resolutely render his decisions according to the rules of perfection and not according to the wishes of his penitents.

#546. c) It is chiefly in directing women that one must be reserved and firm. A man of wide experience, Father Desurmont,1 writes as follows on this subject: "Let there be none of those affectionate words, none of those tender expressions, no private talks except those absolutely indispensable. Let there be nothing savoring of feeling, either in manner or gesture, nor the least shadow of familiarity. As to conversations, no more than is necessary; as to dealings outside of matters of conscience, only those that have a recognized serious purpose. As much as possible, let there be no direction outside the confessional, and no correspondence. They must not be made even to suspect that one is personally interested in them. Their mentality is so constituted that if they be led to think themselves the object of a particular regard or affection, almost without fail, they descend to a natural plane, be it through vanity or sentimentality." The same author adds: "Generally speaking, it is best that they be not conscious of being directed at all. Woman has the defects of her qualities: she is instinctively pious, but she is likewise instinctively proud of her piety. The adornment of the soul affects her no less than that of the body. For her to know that one wishes to adorn her with virtues, ordinarily constitutes a danger." One should, then, direct them without acquainting them with the fact, and give them counsels of perfection as if it were the common ordinary thing for the welfare of souls.

n1. "La Charite sacerdotale," t. II, 196.

#547. B) In the spiritual director, devotedness must be accompanied by the knowledge of ascetical theology so necessary to confessors, n. 36. He will, therefore, never tire of reading and re-reading spiritual authors, correcting his judgments by their standards, and comparing his own method with that of the Saints.

#548. C) Above all, prudence and a sound judgment are needed in order to direct souls not according to one's own ideas, but according to the motions of grace, the temperament and character of the penitents, and their supernatural attractions.1

a) Father Libermann rightly remarks that the spiritual director is but an instrument in the hands of the Holy Ghost.2 He should, therefore, first of all, apply himself to gain through discreet questions a knowledge of the action this Divine Spirit has upon the soul." I consider it a capital point in spiritual direction, " he writes, "to discover the dispositions whereby a soul is animated..., to perceive how far you can urge it, to allow grace full scope, to distinguish true from false attractions, and prevent souls from going astray or running to excesses. " In another letter he adds: "The spiritual director having once ascertained God's action in a soul, has nothing else to do but to guide it that it may obey the promptings of grace... He must never attempt to inspire a soul With his personal tastes and individual attractions, nor lead it after his own way of acting, or his own peculiar point of view. A director that would thus act, would often turn souls from God's own guidance and oppose the action of divine grace in them. "

He adds, however, that this applies to souls who work earnestly to attain perfection. As to those that are sluggish and lukewarm, the initiative must be taken by the director, who will, by his exhortations, his counsels, his rebukes, and all the means which his zeal suggests, strive to stir them out of their spiritual torpor.

n1. This is exactly what St. Francis de Sales practiced as shown by F. VINCENT, op. cit., p, 439-481. n2. "La direction spirituelle," d'apres les ecrits et les exemples du "Ven. Libermann," 2e edit., p. 10-22.

#549. b) The prudence in question here is, therefore, a supernatural prudence, fortified by the gift of counsel, which a spiritual director should ever beg of the Holy Spirit. He will invoke Him especially in difficult cases, repeating in his heart the "Veni Sancte Spiritus" before rendering any important decision. Having consulted the Holy Ghost, he will listen with attention and childlike simplicity to the answer whispered to his soul, and communicate it to his penitent: "As I hear, so I judge. And my judgment is just."1 In this wise, a director will in truth become the instrument of the Holy Spirit--a joint instrument with God--and his ministry will be fruitful.

This care to take counsel with the Most High will not hinder the director from making use of all the means prudence will place at his command to acquire a thorough knowledge of his penitent. For this knowledge, he will not rely merely on the penitent's words; he will study his conduct, and without subscribing to all his judgments, will weigh these in accordance with the rules of prudence.

n1. "John," V, 30.

#550. C) Let prudence guide the spiritual director not only in giving counsel, but in all matters connected with the practice of direction. 1) He should devote no more time than is necessary to this duty of his ministry, important as it is. He should hold no protracted conversations, nor indulge in idle talk, nor ask indiscreet questions. He should limit himself to what is of real profit to souls. Brief advice to the point, the clear exposition of one of the means of perfection, will well occupy a penitent for a fortnight or a month. More, the director will strive so to lead souls that before long they may be, not indeed self-sufficient, but may rest satisfied with briefer spiritual direction, and be able to resolve their ordinary problems by means of the general principles imparted to them.

2) Although the spiritual direction of youths and men can be carried on anywhere, that of women demands greater reserve. Ordinarily, it should be given only in the confessional, and this briefly, without allowing them to go into useless details. We belong to all, time is limited and should not be wasted. We must, no doubt, I)e patient, giving each soul all the required time, but bearing in mind the while that there are other souls who also need our ministrations.

2) The Duties of Penitents

#551. Penitents will see in their spiritual director the person of Our Lord Himself. If it is true that all authority comes from God, it is more so of the authority the priest exercises over consciences in the confessional. The power of binding and loosing, of opening and closing the gates of Heaven, of guiding souls in the paths of perfection, is a divine power and cannot reside outside of him who is the lawful representative, the ambassador of Christ. "For Christ's therefore we are ambassadors, God as it were exhorting by us."1 This is the principle from which all duties toward a spiritual director flow -- respect, trust, docility.

n1. "II Cor.," V, 20.

#552. A) The director must be respected as the representative of God, clothed as he is with God's authority in what regards our most intimate and most sacred relations with God. Hence, if he has his shortcomings, let us not dwell on them, but simply regard his authority and his mission. A penitent will thus carefully avoid any criticism whereby the filial respect due his director is lost or lessened. He should likewise avoid excessive familiarity, hardly compatible with true respect. This respect will be tempered by an affection that is frank and genuine, but full of reverence, an affection of a child for his father, an affection that excludes the desire of being singularly loved, and the petty jealousies issuing from such desire. "In a word, this friendship should be strong and sweet, holy, all sacred, wholly divine and entirely spiritual."1

n1. ST. FRANCIS DE SALES, "Introduction to a Devout Life," Part. 1, C. IV.

#553. B) A second duty toward the spiritual director is filial trust and perfect openness of heart. "Open your heart to him with all sincerity and fidelity, manifesting clearly the state of your conscience without fiction or dissimulation; by this means your good actions will be examined and approved, and your evil ones corrected and remedied... Place great confidence in him, but let it be united with a holy reverence, so that the reverence may not diminish the confidence, nor the confidence the reverence."1 We are to open our heart to him, then, with full confidence, making known to him our temptations and our weaknesses, that he may help us conquer the former and heal the latter; we must submit to his approbation our desires and resolutions; we must tell him of the good we strive to accomplish, that he may help us to do even more; of our good purposes that he may examine them, and suggest the means of realizing them, in a word of whatever has a bearing on the spiritual welfare of our soul. "The better he knows us, the more will he be able to counsel us wisely, to encourage, comfort and fortify us, in such wise, that after taking leave of him, we can repeat the words of the disciples at Emmaus : Was not our heart burning within us, whilst he spoke...?"2

n1. "ST. FRANCIS DE SALES, "Introduction to the Devout Life," P. I, C. IV. n2. "Luke," XXIV, 32.

#554. There are persons who, though willing enough to be thus perfectly open, through a sort of timidity or reserve do not know how to make known their state of soul. Let them speak of this to their spiritual director, who will help them with pertinent questions and, if need be, have them read some book or other that will enable them to come to a better knowledge of themselves and to analyze the state of their souls. Once the ice is broken, such intimate communications will be made with greater ease.

Others there are who, on the contrary, are liable to talk overmuch and to turn spiritual direction into pious prattle. These must remember that a priest's time is limited, that others wait their turn and may grow impatient of delay. They should, therefore, set a limit and leave less important matters for some future meeting.

#555. C) Docility in listening to and carrying out of a director's advice must accompany this frankness. There is nothing less supernatural than to wish him to enter into our views, nothing more hurtful to the welfare of our soul, for then it is not the will of God we seek, but our own, with this aggravating circumstance, that we abuse a God-given means in order to attain our selfish purposes. Our only desire must be to know God's will through the agency of our spiritual director and not to extort his approval through more or less clever devices. One may deceive a spiritual director, but not Him Whom he represents.

Doubtless, it is our duty to make known to him our likes and our dislikes, and if we foresee serious difficulties in carrying out his advice, we must candidly mention them to him. Once this has been done, we must submit to his decision, or if we think it unwise, seek another director. Strictly speaking, our spiritual director may be mistaken, but we make no mistake in obeying him, except, of course, were he to give counsel opposed to faith or morals.1

n1. "This obedience to our director is a stumbling-block to many of us. I cannot think it would be so if we had a clear idea of it or, which is the same thing, an unexaggerated idea of it... A spiritual director is not a monastic superior... The superior's jurisdiction is universal, the director's only where we invite it or he asks it and we accord it... If we disobey a superior, we sin; it would require very peculiar and unusual circumstances to make disobedience to our director any sin at all. FABER, "Growth in Holiness," C,XVIII.

#556. D) Only a grave reason and mature reflection should determine us to seek another spiritual guide. There should be in direction a certain continuity that cannot exist if changes be frequently made.

a) Some persons tired of listening to the same counsels, especially if these bear upon things disagreeable to nature, or led through curiosity, change confessors in order to see what the attitude of another will be. Others do the same through inconstancy, finding it impossible to hold for any length of time to the same practices. Others are inspired by vanity, wishing to go to one who enjoys a greater reputation, or who is more in vogue, or to one who will probably flatter them. Some change through a kind of restlessness that causes them to be ever dissatisfied with what they have and to dream of an imaginary perfection. Again, some do so, through an ill-regulated desire of opening their soul to different confessors, so as to engage their interest or to be reassured. Lastly, some change through a false shame, to hide from their regular confessor some humiliating weaknesses. Evidently, these motives are not sufficient, and one must learn to brush them aside, if one wishes to make consistent progress in the spiritual life.

#557. b) On the other hand, we must remember the growing insistence wherewith the Church safeguards the freedom individuals must enjoy in the choice of a confessor; hence, if there be good reasons to have recourse to another, one must not hesitate to do so. What are the chief reasons? I) If in spite of all our efforts we cannot have towards our director the respect, the confidence, and the openness above mentioned, even if there be little or no grounds for such state of mind;1 for in such a case, we could derive no profit from his counsels. 2) Should we have any grounded fears that our director would deter us from perfection, because of his too natural views, or because of a too strong and too sentimental affection he has shown on some occasions. 3) If we should detect in him a lack of the necessary knowledge, prudence or discretion.

Such cases are rare, it is true; but should they occur, we must remember that spiritual direction is productive of good only if there exist between director and penitent real co-operation and mutual trust.

n1. P. LIBERMANN, op. cit., p. 131.

II. A Rule of Life1

#558. A rule of life extends the influence of the director, by imparting to the penitent principles and rules that will enable the latter to sanctify all his acts through obedience, and that will provide him with a norm of conduct at once sound and safe. We shall explain: (1) its utility; (2) its qualities; (3) the manner of keeping it.

n1. ST. FRANCIS DE SALES, "Introd. to A Devout Life," Part. I, C. III, Part. III C. XI; TRONSON, "Manuel du Seminariste;" ID., "Traite de l'obeissance," III' Partie RIBET, "L'Ascetique," ch. XLI; KEATING, "The Priest, His Character and Work," P. I, C. II; "The Secret of Sanctity," C. I.

I. Utility of a Rule of Life

Useful even to laymen who seek holiness in the world, a rule of life is of still greater importance to members of religious communities and to priests in the ministry. It is no less conducive to personal sanctification than to the sanctification of the neighbor.

#559. (1) Its utility as a means of personal sanctification. In order to sanctify ourselves we must make good use of our time, supernaturalize our acts, and follow a certain program of perfection. Now, a rule of life wisely made with the help of our spiritual director secures for us this threefold advantage.

A) It enables us to make a better use of our time. Let us actually compare the life of a person that follows a rule with that of another that does not.

a) He that lives without a rule inevitably wastes a great deal of time: 1) He hesitates as to what is the best thing to do. Time is spent in deliberation, in weighing the reasons for and against, and, as in many cases there are no decisive reasons on either side, he is liable to remain inactive; then, natural inclinations gain the upper hand and he runs the risk of being led by curiosity, pleasure or vanity. 2) He neglects a certain number of duties, for having neither foreseen nor determined the acceptable time and place for their fulfillment, he no longer finds time to perform them all. 3) These negligences engender inconstancy. At times he makes vigorous efforts to steady himself, while at other times he surrenders to his native indolence, and this, just because he has no fixed rule that would act as a corrective to the fickleness of his nature.

#560. b) The man who holds to a well-defined rule of life saves considerable time: 1) He wastes no time in hesitation. He knows exactly what he is to do, and when he is to do it. Even if his schedule is not mathematically detailed, at least it sets off time-periods and lays down principles with regard to religious exercises, recreation, work, etc... 2) There is little or nothing unforeseen, for even should the unusual occur, he has already provided for it by determining beforehand exercises that may be shortened and the manner of making up for them. At all events, as soon as these exceptional circumstances cease to exist, he immediately comes back to his rule. 3) Inconstancy likewise vanishes. The rule urges him to do always what is prescribed, and that every day and at every hour of the day. Thus, habits are formed that, give continuity to his life and assure his perseverance; his days are full days, teeming with good works and merit.

#561. B) A rule of life enables us to supernaturalize all our actions. a) They are performed through obedience, and this virtue adds its own special merit to that which is proper to every virtuous act. It is in this sense that the saying obtains, that he who lives by rule lives unto God; since it means the constant fulfillment of His holy will. Faithfulness to a rule has, besides, a decided educative value. Instead of caprice and disorder that run rampant in an ill ordered life, duty and strength of will prevail, and as a consequence, order and system. The will submits to God, and our inferior faculties yield their obedience to the will. This is a gradual return to the state of original justice.

b) With a rule of life, it is easy to infuse supernatural motives into all our actions. The mere fact of conquering our tastes and whims puts order into our life and directs our actions towards God. Moreover, a good rule provides for a brief thought of God before every action of any importance, and for the forming of a supernatural intention. Thus each and every one of our actions is explicitly sanctified and becomes an act of love. What a great measure of merit can be thus gained each day!

#562. C) A rule gives us a program of sanctification. a) What we have described already constitutes such a program, and by following it, we march on to perfection; it is none other than the highway of conformity to the Divine Will so extolled by God's Saints (n. 493-498).

b) Moreover, no rule of life is complete that does not single out the virtues best adapted to the individual penitent's condition in life and to his state of soul. Of course, this program will be subject now and then to change by reason of new needs that arise, but all this will be done in agreement with the spiritual director.

#563. (2) A rule of life cannot but promote the sanctification of the neighbor. To sanctify others, we must join prayer to action, make good use of the time devoted to works of zeal, and give good example. This is exactly what is done by the man who is faithful to his rule.

A) In his well-regulated life he finds the practical means of combining prayer with action. Convinced that the soul of zeal is an interior life, he takes care that his rule devotes a certain portion of time to prayer, Holy Mass, thanksgiving, and all other exercises indispensable as spiritual food to the soul (n. 523).

This does not prevent him from devoting a good measure of his time to works of zeal. Having learned how to make a wise distribution of time (n. 560), he knows how to spare it whilst doing all things in an orderly and methodical manner. Fixed hours are devoted to the divers kinds of parochial work, like confessions and the administration of the Sacraments. The faithful, once they know these arrangements, readily abide by them, happy to know just when they may call on the priest in their various needs.

#564. B) Furthermore, the faithful are edified by the example of punctuality and regularity which they observe in the priest. They cannot help thinking, and repeating that he is a man of duty, ever faithful to the rules laid down by ecclesiastical authorities. When they listen to him urge from the pulpit or in the confessional obedience to the laws of God and of the Church, they feel drawn more by the force of his example than by his words, and they become in turn more faithful in their observance of the Commandments.

A priest that lives up to his rule sanctifies in this manner both himself and the neighbor. This is true also of those of the laity who devote themselves to works of zeal.

I I. Qualities of a Rule of Life

That a rule be productive of these happy results, it must be devised with the help of our spiritual director; it must be at once flexible and firm; it must grade one's duties according to their relative importance.

#565. (1) It must be devised with the help of our spiritual director. Prudence and obedience require this: a) prudence, because to draw up a practical rule of life, great discretion and experience are needed in order to see not only what may be good in itself, but also what is good for this particular individual; what is advisable in his case, what is beyond his strength, what is timely and what is not, considering his circumstances. Few, indeed, are those that can unaided settle all these things wisely. b) Besides, one of the advantages of a rule of life is to give us occasions to practice the virtue of obedience. This would never be the case if we were its sole framers and did not submit it to a lawful authority.

#566. (2) The rule must be firm enough to sustain the will, yet elastic enough to be adaptable to the various circumstances arising in real life, which not unfrequently foil our calculations.

a) It will have the necessary, firmness if it embodies all that is needed to fix, at least in principle, the time and the manner of performing our spiritual exercises, of fulfilling our duties of state, and of practicing the virtues proper to our condition in life.

#567. b) It will possess the required elasticity if, once these points have been determined, it leaves a certain freedom of action as to changes of time, substitution of practices not essential in themselves by their equivalents, and if it makes allowance even for the shortening of exercises at the demand of charity or of some other duty, the more so if the religious exercises be completed at some later time.

This elasticity should especially apply, according to the wise remark of Saint John Eudes,1 to forms of prayer and the manner of offering our actions to God: "I beg you to notice that the practice of all practices, the secret of secrets, the devotion of devotions, is not to attach oneself exclusively to any one particular practice or exercise of devotion. Take care, on the contrary, in all your exercises and all your actions to give yourself up to the Holy Spirit of Jesus with humility, confidence, and detachment from all things, so that, finding you detached from your own spirit and from your own devotion and dispositions He may have full power and liberty to act in you as He desires, to inspire you with such dispositions and sentiments of devotion as He shall judge well, and to lead you by the ways which are pleasing to Him. "

n1. "The Reign of Jesus," p. 148.

#568. (3) The rule must give each duty its own relative importance for there is a hierarchy in our duties: a) God must evidently hold the first place; then come the welfare of our soul and the sanctification of the neighbor. Assuredly there is no real conflict between these duties; on the contrary they will, if we desire it, blend most harmoniously; for to glorify God means simply to know and love Him. But to know and to love God is to sanctify oneself, and also to sanctify others by making them know and love Him. If, however, one should devote his entire time to works of zeal to the detriment of the great duty of prayer, he would evidently be neglecting the most efficacious means of zeal. It is likewise evident that should any one neglect his personal sanctification, he would very soon be lacking in genuine zeal for that of others. So, if we are careful first to give to God the portion of time that should be consecrated to Him and to reserve the necessary time for our essential spiritual exercises, the means of working out our own sanctification, then our works of zeal will most assuredly bear abundant fruit. Therefore, the first and the last moments of the day should be devoted to God and to our soul. Then we can safely give ourselves to works of zeal, stopping however from time to time to raise our mind and heart to God. Our whole life will thus be divided between prayer and works of zeal.

b) However, in urgent circumstances we must be guided by another principle: that the more necessary comes first. A case in point would be that of an urgent sick call; a priest leaves all else to attend to this. Still, while on the way he should strive to occupy his mind with holy thoughts, which will take the place of whatever spiritual exercise was then to be performed.

III. The Manner of Keeping a Rule of Life

#569. That a rule be sanctifying, it must be observed entirely and in a Christian manner.

(1) It must be observed in its entirety, that is to say, fully, in all its parts, and with punctuality. If we pick and choose among the various points of our rule, and this without reasonable cause, we shall carry out those that cost us less and omit those that are more difficult. We should thus lose the chief advantages to be derived from the exact observance of a rule, for even in the points we should observe we would be in danger of acting from caprice or self-will. The rule, then, must be kept in its totality and to the letter, as far as possible. If for some grave reason this cannot be done, we must abide by the spirit of the rule and do all, that is, morally speaking, within our power.

#570. There are two faults to be avoided here: scrupulosity and laxity. 1) Let there be no scruples. As long as there is a serious reason to dispense with a given point of the rule, to postpone it or to substitute an equivalent for it, let it be done without misgivings. Thus an urgent duty, a sick-call for instance, is sufficient to dispense from the visit to the Blessed Sacrament, should no time be left for it; one may easily supply for it by communing with Our Eucharistic Lord on the way. The same may be said of a mother's care of her children; it dispenses her from her regular communion, when it is impossible to harmonize this with the other duty. Spiritual communion, in that case can take the place of sacramental communion.

2) Neither let there be laxity. A lack of mortification, the mere desire to prolong conversations without necessity, curiosity, etc., are not adequate reasons for deferring the performance of a given exercise, at the risk of omitting it altogether. Likewise, if the accomplishment of certain duties in the usual manner becomes impossible, we must strive to comply therewith in another way. Thus a priest who is obliged to take the Holy viaticum during his time of meditation, will try to turn the fulfillment of this duty into an affective prayer, by offering his homages to the God of the Eucharist Who rests upon his heart.

#571. Punctuality is an integral part of the observance of a rule of life. Not to begin an exercise at the prescribed moment, and that without a reason, already constitutes an act of resistance to grace, which admits of no delays; it is to run the risk of omitting or at least shortening this exercise from lack of time. If it is question of some public exercise of the ministry, a delay often means considerable inconvenience to the faithful; on the part of a teacher lack of punctuality sets before the students a bad example which they are but too prone to follow.

#572. (2) The rule must be observed in a Christian manner, that is to say, with supernatural motives, in order to do the Will of God, and thus give Him the most genuine proof of our love. This singleness of purpose is the soul of a rule; it gives to each of our actions its true worth, by transforming them all into acts of obedience and love. In order to practice this singleness of purpose, we must reflect a moment before acting, ask ourselves what our rule demands of us at the time, and then regulate our conduct thereby With the view of pleasing God: "I do always the things that please Him." Thus the keeping of a rule will enable us to live constantly for God: "He who lives by rule, lives unto God."

III. Spiritual Readings and Conferences1

#573. Readings or conferences complete the spiritual direction of souls. A spiritual book is in reality a written direction. An exhortation is oral direction addressed to several. We shall explain: (1) their utility; (2) the dispositions requisite to profit by them.

n1. ST BONAVENTURE. "De modo studendi in S. Scriptura;" MABILLON, "Des etudes monastiques" IIe Part., ch. II, III, XVI; LE GAUDIER, op. cit, P. V, sect. I; TRONSON, "Manue," IIe Part., Ent. I, XV, XVI; RIUET, "Ascetique," Ch. XLIV; D. COLUMBA MARMION, "Le Christ ideal du moine," p. 519-524; ST. FRANCIS DE SALES, "Introd. to a Devout Life." p. II. C 17; FABER, "Spiritual Conferences," A Taste for Reading; HEDLEY, "Retreat," c. XXX; A. BARRY-O'NEILL, "Priestly Practice," VI.

I. The Utility of Spiritual Readings and Spiritual Conferences

#574. A) The Reading of Holy Scripture, especially of the New Testament, evidently holds the first place.1

a) Truly pious souls take their delight in the Gospels. I) Therein they find Our Lord's teachings and examples. Nothing schools them better to a solid piety; nothing draws them more powerfully to the imitation of the Divine Model.

Should we ever have understood the meaning of humility, of meekness, of the bearing of injuries, of virginal chastity, of fraternal charity unto the immolation of self, had we not read and pondered the example as well as the instructions of the Master concerning these virtues? True, pagan philosophers, especially the Stoics, had written beautiful pages upon some of these; yet how great is the contrast between their literary disquisitions and the persuasive call of the Master? Theirs, we feel, is the art of the rhetorician, and often the pride of the moralist, exalting himself above the masses: "I loathe and shun the common herd." In Our Lord we behold perfect simplicity as He shrinks not from the lowly multitude, a perfect sincerity as He practices what He preaches and seeks not His personal glory, but the glory of Him that sent Him.

2) For devout souls, moreover, each utterance, each act of the Master holds a special grace that facilitates the practice of the virtues they set before us. In reading the Gospels, such souls worship the Divine Word- and they beg Him to enlighten them to make them understand, relish, and live His teachings. This sort of reading is a meditation, a loving conversation with Jesus, and souls emerge from it determined more than ever to follow Him Who is the object of their admiration and their love.

b) The Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles likewise supply food for our piety. They are the teachings of Jesus lived by His Disciples; explained, commented upon, and adapted to the needs of the faithful by those to whose care He entrusted the perpetuation of His work . There is nothing more tender or more stimulating than this first commentary on the Gospel.

n1. "The Following of Christ," Book I, C V.

#575. c) In the Old Testament: I) There are parts that should be in the hands of every one. Such are the Psalms. "The Psalter," says Lacordaire,1 "was our forefathers' manual of piety; it was found on the table of the poor and it lay on the kneeling-bench of kings. Today, it is still in the hands of the priest a treasure whence he draws the inspiration that leads him to the altar, the Ark of Refuge wherewith he ventures into the perils of the world and into the desert land of meditation." It is the most excellent of Prayer-books wherein we find in a language that always lives and never grows old, the most beautiful expressions of admiration, adoration, filial reverence, gratitude and love, together with the most ardent supplications, midst situations the most varied and trying: the appeals of the just to God when harassed by persecution, the bitter cry of the repentant sinner from a broken and humbled heart; the note of hope for a merciful pardon and the promises of a better life. To read and reread them, to ponder them and to make their sentiments our own is surely a highly sanctifying occupation.2

2) The Sapiential Books may likewise be read with profit by pious souls. They will find therein besides the urgent calls of Uncreated Wisdom to a worthier life the exposition of the great virtues we are to practice in our relations to God, the neighbor, and ourselves.

3) As for the Historical and Prophetical Books, to read them to advantage a certain preparation is required. We must see in them above all God's providential action over the chosen people in order to keep them from falling into idolatry and to recall them again and again, despite their estrangement, to the worship of the true God, to the hope of a Deliverer, to the practice of justice, of equity, of charity, especially towards the poor and the oppressed. Having been thus initiated, we find in these books most inspiring pages. If the weaknesses of the servants of God are therein recorded together with their good works, it is to remind us of the frailty of human nature and of God s wonderful mercy, so full of forgiveness to penitent sinners.

n1. "Letters to Young Men,", 2nd Letter. n2. Numerous commentaries facilitate the understanding of the Psalms. Among the most recent are those of BOYLAN, C. FILLION. BARRY and HUGUENY, O. P., whose object is to give both the literal and spiritual sense in view of the devout recitation of the Divine Office.

#576 . B) Spiritual writers, if we choose the best, especially from among the Saints, are for us masters and mentors.

a) They are masters, who having learned and lived the science of the Saints, can impart to us an understanding of and a taste for the principles and the rules of perfection They strengthen in us the conviction of our obligation to aim at sanctity; they point out to us the means to be employed, showing the effectiveness of these in their own lives; they exhort, encourage, and induce us to follow in their footsteps.

They are all the more helpful, since they are ever available. With the help of our spiritual director we can choose those best suited to our state of soul and hold converse with them as long as we will. We find excellent ones among them, adapted to the different states of soul and answering the needs of the moment. Our chief concern is to make a good choice and to read them with the earnest desire of profiting by them.

#577. b) They are likewise most benevolent mentors who reveal to us our defects with great discretion and kindness. They do this by placing before us the ideal we are to follow, enabling us by the light of this spiritual mirror to recognize our good qualities and our defects, the stages we have reached and those we have yet to traverse in the pursuit of perfection. Thus we are easily led to self-examination and to generous resolutions.

No wonder, then, that the reading of spiritual books and of the lives of the Saints has brought about conversions such as those of Augustine and Ignatius Loyola, and led to the highest degrees of perfection souls that would have otherwise never risen above mediocrity.

#578. C) Spiritual Conferences have a double advantage over the reading of spiritual books. a) Designed as they are for a special class of persons, they are better adapted to their peculiar needs. b) The appeal of the spoken word is stronger and, all things being equal, its power is greater than that of the written word, better calculated to carry conviction to souls: the eye, the living voice, the gesture, bring out the import of the thought expressed. But that this be so, the speaker has to drink at the purest sources, be deeply convinced of what he says and beg God Almighty to bless and vivify his words. His hearers. Likewise, must be possessed of the right dispositions.

II. Requisite Dispositions in order to Profit by Spiritual Readings and Conferences1

n1. J. GAUDERON, "La Lecture Spirituelle d'apres les principes de S. Jean Etudes, Vie spirit.," juin 1921, p. 185-202.

#579. The real purpose of spiritual reading is to sustain in us the spirit of prayer. It is one of the forms of meditation, one of the ways of holding converse with God, with the writer or the speaker as interpreter.

#580. (1) To draw real profit from these readings and conferences a great spirit of faith is required, making us see God Himself in the writer or speaker: "God as it were exhorting by us."1 This will be easy if the author or preacher is himself imbued with the teachings of the Gospel and can say in all truth that his doctrine is not his own, but that of Jesus Christ: "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.2

Let the pious reader or the devout hearer offer up to God a fervent prayer asking Our Lord to vouchsafe to speak to his heart through the Holy Ghost. Let him, moreover, be on his guard against curiosity, which seeks to learn novelties rather than to profit spiritually. He must beware of vanity, which prompts one to seek acquaintance with things spiritual in order to be able to speak about them and thus gain a reputation. He must beware of censoriousness, which prompts one to listen or read, not in order to gain profit but to criticize the matter or the literary form of the discourses. His sole purpose must be his spiritual gain.

n1. "II Cor.," V, 20. n2. "John," VII, 16.

#581. (2) A second requisite is a sincere desire to sanctify oneself. The fact is that we derive advantage from such readings and conferences in the measure in which we seek therein our own sanctification. Hence we must:

a) hunger and thirst for perfection, listening or reading with an alert mind that yearns after the word of God a mind that applies to itself, not to others, what it reads or hears, the better to assimilate it and carry it out in practice. We then find abundant food for the soul whatever may be the subject treated, for all things hold together in the spiritual life. What applies directly to beginners can be easily adapted to the more advanced; what is said for the latter constitutes the ideal of the former, and what has a bearing on the future enables us to form resolutions in the present, thus preparing ourselves for the duties that will fall to us later on. Thus victory over future temptations is prepared by the vigilance we exercise here and now. We can always draw profit in the present from whatever we hear or read especially, if we hearken to the inward voice that speaks to our inmost soul, if we have ears to hear: "I will hear what the Lord God will speak in me."1

n1. "Ps." LXXXIV, 9.

#582. b) This is the reason why we should read slowly, as St. John Eudes advises:1 "Stop to consider, ponder, and relish the truths that make the greater appeal to you, in order to fix them in your mind, therefrom to elicit acts and affections." When this is realized, spiritual reading and conferences become a prayer; little by little the thoughts and sentiments we either read or hear penetrate the soul, and we form the desire and pray for the grace of putting them into practice.

n1. "The Reign of Jesus," P. II, XV.

#583. (3) A third requirement is the earnest effort to begin to practice what is read or heard. This was St. Paul's recommendation to his readers: "Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified,"1 St. Paul but comments here on the words of the Master Who in the parable of the Sower declares that they profit by the word of God "who in a good and perfect heart hearing the word, keep it and bring forth fruit in patience."2

We should, then, imitate St. Ephrem, of whom it is said: "He reproduced in his life what he had read in the sacred pages."3 Light is given to us for action, and our first act should be an effort to live according to the instruction received: "Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only."4

n1. "Rom.," II, 13. n2. "Luc.," VIII, 15. n3. ENNODIUS, in ejus vita. n4. "James," I, 22.

IV. The Sanctification of Our Social Relations

#584. Thus far we have spoken of the soul's relations with God, under the guidance of a spiritual director. It is clear, however, that our relations extend to many other persons as well, to our relatives, to our friends, and to those with whom we come in contact by reason of our position in life and of the share we take in works of zeal. All these relations can and should be sanctified and thus contribute to strengthen our spiritual life. In order to facilitate the sanctification of these relations, we shall explain the general principles that should govern them and we shall point out some of the principal applications.

I. General Principles

#585. (1) In God's initial plan, creatures were designed to raise us up to God by reminding us that He is the Author and the Exemplary Cause of all things. since the Fall, however, creatures so attract us that if we are not on our guard they will turn us away from God, or at least retard our progress towards Him. We must then react against this tendency, and by the spirit of faith and of sacrifice make use of persons and things as means to reach God.

#586. (2) Among the relations we have with others, there are those that are willed by God, such as those born of family-ties or imposed by our duties of state. These relations must be maintained and supernaturalized. One is not relieved from duties imposed by the natural law because one aspires to perfection; on the contrary, one is thereby obliged to fulfill them in a more perfect manner. These relations must, however, be supernaturalized by being directed toward our last end, God. The best way to accomplish this is to look upon those with whom we come in contact as the children of God, our brethren in Christ, respecting and loving them because they possess qualities which are the reflection of the divine perfections, and because they are destined to share in God's life and in His glory. In this way, it is God Whom we esteem and love in them.

#587. (3) There are, on the other hand, relations which are dangerous or bad, Which tend to lead us into sin either by stirring up within us the spirit of the world or by creating in US an inordinate attachment to creatures by reason of the sensible or sensuous pleasure we find in their company. It is our duty to flee from such occasions as far as we can, and, if it be impossible to avoid them, it is incumbent upon us to remove them morally (to make the danger remote) by fortifying our will against the disordered attachment to such persons. To act otherwise is to hazard our sanctification and our salvation, for " he that loveth danger, shall perish in it."1 The greater our desire for perfection, the more must we flee from dangerous occasions, as we shall explain later when speaking of faith, charity, and the other virtues.

n1. "Eccli.," III, 27.

#588. (4) Lastly, there are relations which in themselves are neither good nor bad. They are merely indifferent. Such are visits, conversations, recreations. These may by reason of circumstance and motive be rendered useful or harmful. A soul striving after perfection will by purity of intention and by a spirit of moderation turn all such relations into good. First of all, we must seek those only which are truly conducive to the glory of God, the welfare of souls, or to the relaxation which health of body and mind requires. Then, in the enjoyment of, these we must exercise prudence and reserve, and thus conform all our relations to the order willed by God. Hence, we must not indulge in long, idle conversations Which constitute a loss of time and an occasion of fostering pride and lessening brotherly love, nor must we give ourselves to protracted and violent amusements that fatigue the body and depress the spirit.1 In short, let us ever keep before us the standard laid down by St. Paul: "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."1

n1. Concerning the sanctification of visits, conversations, recreations, journeys, cf, TRONSON, "Particular Exam." LXXVIII-XC. n2. "Coloss.," III, 17.

II. Sanctification of Family-Relations

#589. Nature is not destroyed, but perfected by grace. Family ties are God- given. He has willed that men increase and multiply through the sanctioned and indissoluble union of man and woman and that this bond be further strengthened by their offspring. Hence, the most intimate and most tender relations between husband and wife, parent and child. These the sacramental grace of marriage helps to supernaturalize.


#590. By His presence at the marriage-feast of Cana, and by raising Christian wedlock to the dignity of a Sacrament, Our Lord taught husband and wife that their union can be sanctified, and He merited for them that grace.

A) Before marriage, a truly Christian love, a tender and ardent love, pure and supernatural, has made their hearts one, and prepared them to bear bravely the heavy burdens of parenthood. The flesh and the devil will no doubt attempt to inject into this love a sensual element that might threaten virtue. However, the betrothed sustained by the reception of the Sacraments, learn to control such influences and to supernaturalize their mutual affection by realizing that every worthy sentiment comes from God and should be referred to Him.

n1. St. FRANCIS DE SALES, "Devout Life," Part. III, C. XXXVIII, XXXIX; GERRARD, "Marriage and Parenthood;" D HULST-CONWAY, "The Christian Family." KANE S. J., "The Plain Gold Ring."

#591. B) The sacramental grace of marriage, whilst uniting their hearts in an indissoluble bond, refines and purifies their love. They will ever keep in mind the words of St. Paul admonishing them that their union is the image of the mysterious union between Christ and His Church.

"Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord: because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church. He is the savior of his body. Therefore as the Church is subject to Christ: so also let the wives be to their husbands in all things. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church and delivered himself up for it: that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life: that He might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish. So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies... Nevertheless let everyone of you in particular love his wife as himself: and let the wife fear her husband."1 Hence, there should be between husband and wife a mutual respect and a mutual love that reproduce as far as possible the love of Christ for the Church. The wife must render obedience to the husband in all things lawful. The husband is bound to cherish and protect the wife. These are the duties outlined by the Apostle for the Christian husband and wife.

n1. "Ephes,." V, 22-33.

#592. C) When. God blesses them with children, they receive these as a sacred trust from His hand, loving them not merely as their own offspring, but as children of God, Christ's members, heirs-to-be of eternal glory. They ever surround them with their devoted care and solicitude. They give them a Christian education, intent upon forming in them the very virtues of Christ. With this aim in view, they exercise the authority committed to them by God, with tact, thoughtfulness, strength and meekness. They do not lose sight of the fact that they are God's representatives, and they avoid that weakness which would spoil their children, that selfishness which would delight in children as in so many playthings and fail to inure them to labor and virtue. With God's help and the aid of carefully chosen teachers, they will help them to grow to the fullness of Christian manhood, thus exercising a sort of priesthood within the sacred precincts of the home. Thus, they will be counted worthy of the blessing of God Almighty and of the gratitude of their offspring.


#593. A) The grace that hallows the relations of Christian parents perfects, likewise, and supernaturalizes the duties of respect, love and obedience which children must render to them.

a) That grace makes us see in our parents the representatives of God and His authority. To them, under Him, we owe our life, its preservation, its guidance. Our respect for them, therefore, reaches veneration. We revere in them their participation in the Fatherhood of God, "of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named."1 In them we pay homage to His authority, to His perfections, to God Himself.

b) Their attachment, their kindness, their solicitude are for us a reflection of the divine goodness, and our filial love in turn grows in intensity, rising to such perfect devotedness, that we are ready to sacrifice ourselves in their behalf and, if need be, lay down our lives to save them. Hence, we give them, to the full extent of our resources, all the temporal and spiritual assistance they need.

c) Seeing in them the representatives of the divine authority, we do not hesitate to render them obedience in all things, following the example of Our Lord, Who during thirty years of His life on earth was subject to Mary and to Joseph.2 This obedience knows no other bounds than those set by God Himself: we must obey God rather than men, and hence, in what regards our soul and particularly in what pertains to our vocation, we must rather follow the advice of our confessor, after acquainting him with home conditions. In this again we but follow Our Lord's example, Who, to His Mother's question of why He had remained in Jerusalem, made answer: "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?"3 Thus the rights and duties of each are safeguarded.

n1. "Ephes.," III, 15. n2. "Luke," II, 51, n3. "Luke," II, 49.

#594. B) By entering the ranks of the clergy we quit the world and, in a sense, the family. This, in order to form part of the great ecclesiastical family and to consecrate ourselves henceforward, and before all else, to the glory of God, the good of souls and the welfare of the Church. The interior sentiments of respect and love for our parents are not suppressed; rather they are refined. Their outward expression, however, from now on is subordinated to our duties of state. We must not, in order to please our parents, do anything that would interfere with our ministry. Our first duty is to busy ourselves with the things of God. Hence, if their views, their words, their demands go counter to the claims of our service to souls, we shall sweetly and lovingly, yet firmly, make them understand that in what relates to our duties of state we are dependent on God and our ecclesiastical superiors.1 We shall continue, however to honor, to love, and to aid our parents to the full extent compatible with the duties of our office. These principles apply all the more to those who enter a religious order or congregation.2

n1. A. CHEVRIER, "Le Veritable Disciple," 1922, p. 101-112. n2. RODRIGUEZ, "Practice of Christian Perfection," P. II, Treatise V.

III. Sanctification of Friendship

Friendship can become a means of sanctification or a serious obstacle to perfection accordingly as it is supernatural or merely natural and sentimental in character. We shall treat, then :(1) of true friendship, (2) of false friendship (3) of that friendship wherein there is an admixture of the supernal and the sentimental.


We shall explain its nature and its value.

#595. A) Its Nature. a) Friendship being an interchange, a mutual communication between two persons, it receives its character chiefly from the variety of the communications themselves and from the diversity of the things communicated. This is very well explained by St. Francis de Sales.2 "The more exquisite the virtues are, which shall be the matter of your communications, the more perfect shall your friendship also be. If this communication be in the sciences, the friendship is very commendable; but still more so, if it be in the moral virtues: in prudence, discretion, fortitude and justice. But should your reciprocal communications relate to charity, devotion and Christian perfection good God, how precious will this friendship be! It will be excellent, because it comes from God; excellent, because it tends to God; excellent, because its very bond is God; excellent, because it shall last eternally in God. Oh how good it is to love on earth as they love in heaven; to learn to cherish each other in this world, as we shall do eternally in the next?"

In general, then, true friendship is an intercourse between two souls with the purpose of procuring each other's good. It stays within the limits of moral goodness if the good mutually shared belongs to the natural order. Supernatural friendship, however, stands on a far superior plane. It is the intimate intercourse of two souls, who love each other in God and for God with a view of aiding each other to attain the perfection of that divine life which they possess. The ultimate end of this friendship is God's glory, the proximate end their own spiritual progress, and the bond of union between the two friends is Our Lord. This was the thought of the Blessed Ethelred: "We are two, you and I, and I trust a third One is with us, Christ." Lacordaire thus renders this thought: "I can no longer love any one without reaching the soul behind the heart and having Jesus Christ as our common possession."3

n1. ST. FRANCIS DE SALES, "Devout Life," Part. III, c. 17-22; RIBET, "Ascetique," ch. XLIII, p, 437-441, 448-451; AD. A DENDERWINDEKE, "Comp, Theol. asceticae," 1921, n. 437-439; ROUZIC, "De l' Amitie;" MARCETTEAU, "The Young Seminarian s Manual," p. 401-411. n2. "Devout Life," Part. III, c. 19. n3. P. CHOCARNE, "Vie de Lacordaire," t, II, ch. XV.

#596. b) Thus, supernatural friendship instead of being passionate, all- absorbing, exclusive after the manner of sentimental friendship, is marked by calm reserve and mutual trust. It is a calm, self-possessed affection precisely because it is rooted in the love of God and shares in His virtue. For the same reason it is unwavering; it grows, unlike the love that is founded on passions and which tends to grow cool. With it goes a prudent reserve. Instead of seeking familiarities and endearments like sentimental friendship, it is full of respect and reserve, for it seeks nothing but spiritual good. This reserve does not exclude confidence. Because there is mutual esteem and because one sees in the other a reflection of the divine perfections, there arises a strong mutual trust. This leads to an intimate intercourse since each longs to share in the spiritual qualities of the other, thus establishing an exchange of thoughts, of views, and a communication of holy desires for perfection. Because such friends desire each other's perfection they do not fear to point out their respective defects and to offer mutual help for their correction. This mutual confidence excludes all suspicion and uneasiness and does not allow the friendship to become all-absorbing or exclusive. One does not take it amiss that one's friend should have other friends, but one is rather glad of it for his sake and the sake of others.

#597. B) The value of such friendship is evident. a) It has been praised by the Holy Ghost: " A faithful friend is a strong defense: and he that hath found him hath found a treasure... A faithful friend is the medicine of life and immortality."1 Our Lord Himself has given us an example in His friendship for St. John, who was known as " the disciple whom Jesus loved."2 St. Paul had friends to whom he was deeply attached; he sorrowed at their absence; meeting them again was his sweetest consolation; and he was comfortless because, contrary to his expectation, he failed to find Titus: "Because I found not Titus my brother."3 He rejoiced upon finding him again: "God comforted us by the coming of Titus... we did the more abundantly rejoice for the joy of Titus." 4 We see also the affection he had for Timothy, whose very presence did him so much good and helped him to do good unto others. Thus he called him his "fellow laborer,''5 his "dearest son,"6 his "brother,"7 his "beloved son."8 Christian antiquity, likewise, furnishes us with illustrious examples, among which one of the best known is that of St. Basil and St. Gregory Nazianzen.9

n1. "Eccles.," VI, 14-16. n2. "John," XIII, 23. n3. "II Cor.," II, 13. n4. "II Cor.," VII, 6, 13. n5. "Rom.," XVI, 21. n6. "I Cor.," IV, 17. n7. "II Cor.," I, I. n8. "I Tim.," 1, 2 n9. ST. FRANCIS DE SALES, loc. cit., c. 19, refers to many others.

#598. b) True friendship has three important advantages, especially for the priest in the ministry.

I) A friend is a protection for virtue, a strong defense We must needs open our hearts to an intimate confidant. At times our spiritual director answers the purpose, but not always; his friendship paternal in nature, is not the fraternal intimacy we crave. We need an equal to whom we can speak with perfect freedom. If we do not find such a one, we are liable to be betrayed into indiscreet disclosures to persons unworthy of our trust, and such confidences have their dangers for those who make and for those who receive them.

2) A friend is also a sympathetic counselor to whom we willingly bring our doubts and offer our difficulties in order that he may help us to reach a solution. He is likewise a mentor, prudent and devoted, who observing our ways and aware of what is said of us, will tell us the truth and save us from many an act of imprudence.

3) Lastly, a friend is a comforter who will listen with sympathy to the story of our sorrows, and who will find in his heart words of comfort and encouragement.

#599. The question has been asked whether or not such friendships should be encouraged in communities. It may be feared that they will be detrimental to the affection which should unite all the members and that they will be the cause of jealousies. Assuredly, care must be taken that such friendships do not interfere with the charity due to all, that they be supernatural and be kept within the limits set by Superiors. With these provisions, friendship retains in communities all the advantages described above, since religious as well as others need the counsel, comfort and protection that a friend alone can give. However, in communities more than elsewhere, all that savors of false friendship must be avoided with jealous care.


We shall speak of its nature and dangers, and of the remedies to be applied.

#600. A) Its Nature. a) False friendship has for its foundation external or shallow qualities, and for its purpose the enjoyment of the sight and charms of its object. Hence, fundamentally it is but a sort of masked egotism, since one loves the other because of the pleasure he finds in his company. Undoubtedly, he is ready to be of service to him, but this again in view of the pleasure he experiences ill drawing the other closer to himself.

b) St. Francis de Sales distinguishes three types of false friendships: carnal friendship in which one seeks voluptuous pleasure; sentimental friendship, based mainly on the appeal outward qualities make to the emotions, "such as the pleasure to behold a beautiful person, to hear a sweet voice, to touch, and the like;"1 foolish friendship, which has no other foundation than those empty accomplishments styled by shallow minds virtues and perfections, such as graceful dancing, clever playing, delightful singing, fashionable dressing, smiling glances, a pleasing appearance, etc.

n1. ST FRANCIS DE SALES, loc. cit., C. 17.

#601. c) These various kinds of friendship generally begin with adolescence and are born of the instinctive need we feel of loving and being loved. Often they are a kind of deviation of sexual love. In the world such friendships arise between young men and women and go by the name of "fond- love."1 In cloistered communities they exist between persons of the same sex and are styled particular friendships. Such affections are at times kept up in mature life; thus there are men who feel sentimental affection toward boys because of their youthful and attractive appearance, their frankness and openness of character, and the charm and winsomeness of their manner.

n1. ST FRANCIS DE SALES, loc. cit., c. 18.

#602. d) The characteristics whereby sentimental friendships may be recognized are gathered from their origin, development, effects.

1) Their origin is sudden and vehement because they proceed from a natural and instinctive sense of sympathy. They rest upon exterior and showy qualities. They are attended by strong and, at times passionate feelings.

2) Their development is fostered by conversations at times insignificant but affectionate, at others, fond and dangerous. In certain communities furtive glances take the place of familiar conversations.

3) These friendships are impetuous, all-absorbing and exclusive; the illusion that such affection will last forever is often brusquely destroyed by separation and the forming of new attachments.

#603. B) The dangers of such friendships are apparent.

a) They constitute one of the greatest obstacles to spiritual progress. God Who does not want a divided heart begins by making interior reproaches to the soul and, if it hearkens not to His voice, He gradually withdraws, leaving the soul without light and inward consolations. In proportion as the attachments grow, the spirit of recollection is lost, peace of soul vanishes, as well as relish for spiritual exercises and love of work.

b) Hence a great loss of time: the absorbing thought of the friend hinders both mind and heart from devoting themselves to piety and to serious work.

c) All this ends in dissatisfaction and discouragement; sentimentality gains control over the will, which loses its strength and languishes.

d) It is at this point that dangers threatening purity arise. One would wish, indeed, not to trespass the bounds of propriety, yet fancying that friendship confers certain rights, one indulges in familiarities of a more and more questionable character. Now the descent is swift, and he who risks the danger will end by perishing in it.

#604. C) The remedies against such friendships are:

a) To resist them in their beginnings. It is all the easier then, for the heart is not yet deeply attached. A few energetic efforts succeed, especially if one has the courage to mention the matter to one's director and to accuse oneself of the least failings in that regard. If one waits too long, the process of disentangling the heart will prove far more difficult.1

b) To root out these affections successfully, radical measures must be taken: " You must cut them, break them, tear them; amuse not yourself in unraveling these criminal friendships; you must tear and rend them asunder."2 So it is not enough to renounce intercourse with one to whom we are thus attached, but we must not even deliberately think of him; and should it be impossible to avoid all association with him, we shall on these occasions show courtesy and charity, but never indulge in any confidences or bestow any special marks of affection.

c) The better to insure success, positive means must be used. Let one's activities be wholly devoted to the fulfillment of the duties of state, and when, in spite of all, the object of such affections presents itself unsought to the mind, this should be made the occasion of eliciting acts of love toward God: "One is my beloved, One is my troth forever." We thereby profit by temptation itself to increase within us the love of Him Who alone is worthy to possess our hearts.

n1. The following is Ovid's remark in "De Remediis Amoris:" "Principiis obsta, sero medicina paratur Cum mala per longas invaluere moras". n2. "Devout Life," loc, cit., C. XXI.


#605. At times it happens that there is in our friendships a mixture of the sentimental with the morally good and the supernatural. One truly desires the supernatural good of a friend and at the same time craves the joy of his company and his words, sorrowing overmuch at his absence. This is well described by St. Francis de Sales: "They begin with virtuous love, with which, if not attended to with the utmost discretion, fond love will begin to mingle itself, then sensual love, and afterwards carnal love; yea, there is even danger in spiritual love, if we are not extremely on our guard; though in this it is more difficult to be imposed upon because its purity and whiteness makes the spots and stains which Satan seeks to mingle with it more apparent and therefore when he takes this in hand he does it more subtilely, and endeavors to introduce impurities by almost insensible degrees."1

n1. "Devout Life," loc. cit., C. XX.

#606. Here again we must watch over the heart and take effective means so as not to be carried as it were insensibly down this dangerous grade.

a) If it is the good element that predominates, one may continue such a friendship whilst purifying it. For this, one must first of all forego what would foster sentiment like frequent and affectionate conversations, familiarity, etc. From time to time one must deny oneself meetings otherwise in order, and be willing to shorten conversations that cease to be useful. In this way one gains control of sentiment and wards off danger.

b) If the element of sentiment predominates, one must for a considerable period of time renounce any special relations with the said friend beyond the strictly necessary, and when one must meet him one should abstain from speaking in terms of affection. Sentiment is thus allowed to cool; one waits for a renewal of relations until calm is restored to the soul. The renewed association then takes on a different character. Should it be otherwise, it must be severed forever.

c) In any case the results of our examination must be put to profit so that they may redound to a further strengthening of our love for Jesus Christ. We must protest that we want to love only in Him and for Him, and we should read frequently chapters VII and VIII of the second book of the Following of Christ. It is thus that temptations will become for us a source of victory.

IV. Sanctification of Social and Business Relations1

#607. Professional relations are a means of sanctification or an obstacle to our spiritual progress, according to the view we take of our duties of state and the manner in which we discharge them. In reality the duties imposed by our calling are in themselves in harmony with the will of God. If we fulfill them with the intention of obeying God and of regulating our life according to the laws of prudence, justice and charity, they are an aid to our sanctification.2 If, on the contrary, we have no other end in view than to secure position and wealth by the discharge of our professional duties in defiance of the laws of conscience, such relations become a source of sin and scandal.

A) A first duty then is to accept the profession to which God's Providence has led us as the expression of His will and to abide therein as long as we have no reasons justifying a change. It is part of the divine economy that there should be a diversity of arts, trades, and professions, and when we have found a place in any of them through a series of providential happenings, we may rightly believe that we are where God wills us to be. We make an exception when for prudent and lawful reasons we are convinced that it is our duty to effect a change, for whatever is in harmony with right reason lies within God's providential scheme. Therefore, whether we be employers or employees, industrialists or merchants, whether farmers or financiers, our duty is to carry on our activities so as to do the will of God, and conduct them according to the rules of justice, equity and charity. After this, nothing prevents us from sanctifying our actions by directing them to the ultimate end, a fact which does by no means exclude the secondary end we have in view, namely that of earning enough to provide for ourselves and those dependent upon us. As a matter of fact, Saints have sprung from each and every situation in life.

n1. A. DESURMONT, "La saintete dans les relations sociales, Oeuvres," t. XI, p. 272 and foll.; "Charite Sacerdotale," t. II, 205-213. n2. BOURDALOUE in his second sermon "for the Feast of All Saints" shows how the Saints have sanctified their respective stations in life and profited by their condition to arrive at a high degree of perfection.

#608. B) Our numberless activities and relations tend of themselves to fill our mind and thus to turn our thoughts from God. Hence, oft-renewed efforts are required on our part to offer to Him and so supernaturalize our ordinary actions. This we have noted above, n. 248.

#609. C) Besides, since we move in a rather dishonest world, where regardless of the laws of justice man greedily vies with man for honor and for gain, it is important that we remind ourselves of the fact that we are to seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, and use for the attainment of our purposes only legitimate means. The best standard for judging what is permissible and what is not, is to observe the behavior of honorable Christian men of the same profession. There are accepted ethics in every profession. We cannot change them without incurring and causing others to suffer considerable damage.

Standards generally followed by good Christian men in the profession can be followed safely until by common agreement a change for the better can be effected without compromising lawful interests.1 But we must never be led into imitating the practices and following the counsels of traders or producers who, devoid of conscience, mean to attain to wealth at any cost, even at the expense of justice. Their success does not justify us in employing similar, unlawful means. A Christian who would follow in their footsteps would be a stumbling block to others. We must seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all other things shall be added unto us.2

n1. Thus, standard wages for the same kind of work in the same locality are determined by norms which an employer could not set aside without incurring such losses that would soon bring his business to a stand-still n2. "Matth.," VI, 33.

#610. D) Thus understood and thus fulfilled, professional duties will prove a great aid to our spiritual progress, since they take up most of our time and most of our activity each day. Our Lord has shown us by His example that the most homely occupations, such as manual labor, can contribute to our personal sanctification and the spiritual welfare of our brethren. Therefore, if a laborer or a business man observes the rules of prudence, of justice, of fortitude, of temperance, of equity and of charity, numberless opportunities are offered to him daily for the practice of all the Christian virtues, the acquisition of all manner of merit, as well as for the edification of the neighbor. This is what has happened in the past, what is done today by fathers and mothers in the home, by employers and employees, by young and old, who by honesty in their work and in their dealings, elicit respect for the religion they profess and use their influence in the exercise of zeal.

V. Sanctification of Works of Zeal

#611. That works of zeal may be for us a means of sanctification is not difficult to understand. However, there are those who find therein a cause of distraction, of spiritual loss, even an occasion of sin and a source of reprobation. Let us recall the words of a social worker to Dom Chautard: "It is my overeagerness that has brought on my fall."1 There are persons who allow themselves to become so absorbed by an active life, that they no longer find time for their most essential spiritual exercises. Hence, a moral break-down giving the passions a new lease of life and paving the way for lamentable surrenders. In every case where the interior life is lacking, little personal merit is acquired, whilst outward activities secure but meager results since God's grace cannot render fruitful a ministry from which prayer has all but disappeared, Outward works must needs be vivified by the spirit of prayer.

n1. "The True Apostolate," p. 67.

#612. A) The first thing to remember is that the means employed in the exercise of zeal differ in effectiveness and importance; there exists among them a hierarchy, the most effective being prayer and sacrifice. Example follows next in order, word and action holding the last place. The example of Our Lord is enough to convince us of this. His whole life was one of continual prayer and sacrifice. He began by practicing what He taught others, leading a hidden life for thirty years before He would give Himself to a public ministry of but three years' duration. Let us bear in mind the course taken by the Apostles, who committed to deacons the discharge of sundry works of charity, that they might give themselves more freely to prayer and the preaching of the Gospel: "But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word."1 Let the words of St. Paul resound in our ears: "Neither he that planteth is anything, nor he that watereth: but God that giveth the increase."2

Prayer, then, will hold the first place in our life (n. 470). We shall make no surrender of the essential exercises of piety such as meditation, thanksgiving after Mass, the devout recitation of the Divine Office, examination of conscience, the explicit offering of our actions to God, fully persuaded that we thereby render greater service to souls than if we gave ourselves entirely to works of zeal. A shepherd of souls will be, as S. Bernard says, a reservoir not a mere conduit. The latter merely passes on what it receives, the former, being first filled, gives constantly of its overflow: "If thou hast wisdom, thou shalt prove a fountain-spring and not a channel."3

n1. "Acts," VI, 4. n2. "I Cor.," III, 7. n3. ST. BERNARDUS, "In Cantica," sermo XVIII, 3.

#613. B) To aim at creating a chosen group of devout souls without, however, neglecting the multitudes, will likewise help us to keep before our minds the absolute need of an interior life. We feel that we cannot succeed in this unless we are interior men. The study we make of the spiritual life, the advice we give to others, the virtuous practices we try to inculcate, will perforce lead us to a life of prayer and of sacrifice. But to attain our end, we must be generous enough to live by the advice we give to others. Then we need not fear laxity and lukewarmness. In fact, not a few priests have been brought to live an interior life, through their interest in leading chosen souls to strive after perfection.

#614. C) In the doctrinal or moral instructions we give our flock, we must follow a definite plan enabling us to present the whole field of Christian truth and Christian virtue. The preparation of such instructions will nourish our piety, for what we preach to others that we shall aspire to practice.

#615. D) Lastly, in the ordinary course of our parochial ministry, on the occasion of baptisms, marriages, funerals sick-calls, visits of condolence and even social calls, we must ever remember that we are priests and apostles, that is to say, servants of souls. Therefore, after a few expressions of good will, we should not hesitate to raise minds and hearts towards God. Priestly conversation must always suggest the higher, the nobler things of life.

These are the various means whereby our interior life is preserved and strengthened. Our ministry vivified by grace yields fruit a hundred-fold: "He that abideth in me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit."1

Thus, all our relations with our neighbor can and must be supernaturalized. All become then the occasion of further growth in virtue and of a development within us of that divine life of which we have received abundantly.

n1. "John," XV, 5.


#616. We have reached the end of the first part of our work, namely, The Principles of the Supernal Life. All we have said flows logically from the truths of our faith; all can be reduced to unity: God is our end, Jesus- Christ is our Mediator and the Christian life is the gift of God to the soul and the gift of the soul to God.

(1) It is God's Gift to the Soul. From all eternity the Most Holy Trinity has loved us and predestined us to that supernatural life which is a participation in the life of God. This Adorable Trinity living in our souls is both the efficient and the exemplary cause of that life, whilst the supernatural organism that enables us to elicit Godlike acts, is the work of the same Triune God.

The Incarnate Word, however, is the meritorious cause as well as the most perfect model of our supernatural life. Conformed to our weakness, He is man like unto us, without ceasing to be God. He is our friend, our brother, nay more, the Head of a mystic body whose members we are. Because Mary, associated as she is in the work of our Redemption, cannot be separated from her Son, she stands as the first stepping stone to Jesus, just as Jesus is the necessary Mediator with the Father. The Saints and Angels who form part of God's vast family aid us by their prayers and their example.

#617. (2) In order to correspond to God's loving kindness, we give ourselves entirely to Him, fostering that life so freely bestowed. We develop it by struggling against the concupiscence that remains in us; by eliciting supernatural acts which besides meriting an increase of divine life cause us to acquire good habits, that is, virtues; and by receiving the Sacraments, which add to our merits a sanctifying power that comes from God Himself.

The very essence of perfection is the love of God unto the immolation of self. To fight and annihilate within us the old Adam, that the new Adam, Jesus Christ, may live in us, is the task before us. In pursuing this work, that is, in making use of the means of perfection, we tend constantly toward God through Jesus Christ.

The desire for perfection is, fundamentally, but the generous answer of the soul to God's tender love. Such a desire brings us to the knowledge and the love of Him Who is all love, "God is love"; to a knowledge of self, that we may all the more forcibly feel the need we have of God and may entrust ourselves into His merciful arms. This love is shown by a conformity, to the full extent of our powers, to the will of God as manifested by His laws and His counsels, as made known by the events of life, propitious or adverse, all of which help us to love God the more. This love is, likewise, shown by prayer which becoming habitual constantly elevates the soul toward God. Even the exterior means lead us to God, for spiritual direction, a rule of life and spiritual reading are calculated to bring us into compliance with His will, whilst the relations by which we are brought into contact with others in whom we see a reflection of the divine perfections bring us to Him Who is the Source and Center of all things. since in the employment of all these means we constantly have before our eyes Jesus, our Model, our Co-worker, our Life, we are transformed into Him, into true Christians, for a true Christian is another Christ.

Thus is gradually realized the ideal of perfection outlined by Father Olier for his disciples at the beginning of the "Pietas Seminarii": "To live wholly unto God in Christ Jesus Our Lord, in such wise, that the Spirit of His Son may enter into our inmost soul," and that we, like St. Paul, may have a right to say: "I live, now not I: but Christ liveth in me."