by Edward Leen


SAINT PAUL, writing to the Christian converts, addresses them as persons
called to be Saints. It is clear from this mode of address that, in the
eyes of the Apostle, the vocation of every Christian, as such, is that he
be a saint. To the Apostle's mind this calling, once one has been baptized,
is ineluctable. To evade it to the end is not merely to risk but actually
to incur everlasting unhappiness. Startling as this thought is, there is
not needed much reflection to see that its truth cannot be gainsaid.
Nothing "unsaintly" can find place in heaven. What is definitely and by
irrevocable choice "unsaintly" is for ever excluded from the presence of
God, and this is necessarily so by the very nature of things. It is not in
consequence of a stern, arbitrary and, if He chose, revocable decree of
banishment issued by God that the unholy soul is banned from heaven. The
unholy soul simply could not exist in heaven. It would shrive! up in a
veritable agony. It could no more exist there than could a dry twig in a
blazing furnace. Light is not more incompatible with darkness than the
sanctity of God with what is unholy. It is the infinite purity, the perfect
sanctity of God that makes heaven impossible for the unsaintly. Since
eternal happiness depends on sanctity, it is important to have a very clear
notion of what it consists in and of the way by which it is attained.

What is sanctity? The philosophers, aiming at making clear what a thing
is, very often prepare the way by pointing out what it is not. This
procedure is a great help towards the acquisition of clear ideas, and can
be applied in the present inquiry with some advantage. By very many
sanctity would very probably be defined as that which renders a person
eligible for canonization. Such a definition would be too exacting. Those
who are placed on the roll of honor of the Church and are offered to the
veneration and admiration of the faithful are heroic saints. The process of
canonization reveals the elements of heroic, not of ordinary, sanctity. In
an army it is not only those decorated with the official insignia of valor
who are good, brave and trustworthy soldiers. In God's army the official
saints are the specially distinguished. There are multitudes of others who
make good the vocation of which the Apostle speaks and verify in their
lives the notion of Christian holiness. Therefore sanctity is not to be
limited to heroic sanctity.

Neither may sanctity be confounded with ethical perfection. One cannot be a
saint without having all the qualities that go to make a man, but those
moral perfections that constitute the perfect ethical man[1] do not
constitute the saint. One might, abstractly speaking, possess and practice
all the moral virtues, prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, and all
the others that come under these heads--one might realize the ideal of the
perfect man traced by the moral philosophers and yet not be a saint.

Christian sanctity is a supernatural thing. To know what it is, recourse
must be had to the eternal source of the supernatural, namely, to God
Himself. God is the supreme Saint. Holy is His Name.[2] He is Sanctity
Itself, and therefore the exemplar and prototype of all sanctity. The
holiness that is not modeled on His is not veritable holiness. Hence it
was that Jesus said to the multitudes: " Be ye therefore perfect, as also
your heavenly Father is perfect".[3] It is as if He said," You must be
saints, and if a man is to be a Saint, he must be like God".

In what does God's Infinite Holiness consist? It consists in His Infinite
Charity, that is in His Infinite love of Himself. This statement needs a
little explanation and expansion for, as it stands, it might appear to the
superficial to savor of an immense egoism.' God is Holy, not for the
reason that He loves Himself but because That which He does love with an
infinite intensity is w hat merits to be infinitely loved and chosen for
its lovableness. God Himself embraces in Himself all that verifies the
notions of Good.[5] He loves that Infinite Good infinitely and in that lies
His Infinite Holiness. He loves proportionately every created participation
of that all-complete Good. He loves these created reflections of the
Infinite Good, not for themselves, but as being ectypes of that which is
the object of His Infinite complacency. In that lies His Holiness and He
loves Himself in these things.

For men and angels also, sanctity lies in the love of that which is worthy
of most supreme love. It is synonymous with the love of God, and is
measured by that love. It is scarcely necessary to remark that this love of
God is not a sentiment, a feeling, or an emotion. It is of the will, not of
sensibility.[6] It consists in a deliberate election, choice and preference
of the Supreme and Infinite Good, above all else. God, the Infinite Good,
as revealed by faith, is made the supreme object of desire to the rejection
of the claims of all other good things that can be selected in His stead
and substituted for Him as an object to which the will should adhere. This
adherence of the will to God is nothing else but the conformity of the
human will with the Divine; man wills the same things as God wills; he
rejoices in what pleases God and is saddened by what displeases Him; he
does God's holy Will with all care and accepts from His hands the daily
cross. This total surrender to and conformity with the Divine Will implies
that the Soul has willingly yielded to the attractiveness of God, and this
willing yielding is love. That man is a Saint for whom the attraction of
God is supreme above all other attractions. To be a Saint is to be
effectively enamoured of the beauty of God, to desire Him and to desire
nothing which would conflict with that desire of God. As for God Himself,
so also for man, the love of the Supreme Good carries with it a love of
every created participation of that Infinite Good. But that created good
must not be loved for itself. It must be cherished because it is of God,
and because its beauty is a reflection of His.

Amongst these created participations of the Infinite Good which is God, one
of the fairest is the supernatural perfection of a rational creature. God
made man to be man. He made him to be something more. By the infusion of
Sanctifying Grace He made him to be a being whose moral excellence should be
touched with divinity. The man of God's design in the actual order of
things is one whose soul should be equipped not only with the moral but
also with the theological virtues. The human participant of the Infinite
Good is one in whom exists Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance, along
with Faith, Hope and Charity. The state of soul realized by the possession
of these seven virtues is good and an object of desire. Aiming at sanctity
means aiming at a life in which all these virtues are steadily and
constantly operative.

Jesus Christ was the man who realized this ideal in all its perfection. He
was, in a supreme measure, prudent, just, brave and temperate. Instead of
Faith and Hope He possessed from the first their consummation in Vision.[7]
In charity, that is ardent love of God, the Infinite Good, He could not be
rivaled. In Him, human perfection, as planned by God, was fully and
perfectly realized. God could look upon this handiwork of His Divine Spirit
and say that 'it was Good.' As such, it was an object, a thing, lovable and
to be desired. Jesus could, and did, love His own moral and spiritual
perfection. But He did not make it an object of desire for its own sake. It
was God that He loved in this perfect earthly mirror of God's Beauty. If He
wrought in His life and in His actions such a perfect masterpiece of moral
and spiritual excellence, it was not for the sake of, or because He was
drawn by the attraction of that moral excellence in itself. He did it
because it was God's Will that He should do so. God's will is identical
with Himself. To seek God's will perfectly in all things is the same as to
pursue the Supreme Good in all things. This Jesus did. He did not exercise
virtue for virtue's sake, but because he apprehended it as God's will.
Through and in the act of virtue He as man kept united with God, His
Supreme Good.

The spiritual life is sometimes spoken of as the seeking after perfection.
If this be understood to mean that the man aiming at spirituality is to set
before him his own perfection as an object after which he is to strive, it
is apt to lead to serious mistakes in the spiritual struggle. It is true
that the development of a full spiritual life involves in its attainment
man's perfection; yet it is not precisely at this perfection that he must
aim, but at God. God is the final end of man and therefore the object after
which he must strain in all his spiritual and moral endeavors. The
spiritual life may be more clearly, simply and correctly described as the
"cultivation of intimacy with God" and the following pages are an attempt
to show how, ordinarily speaking, the soul may cultivate that intimacy, and
how it is to overcome the obstacles it encounters in its efforts to become
intimate with its Creator. God has smoothed the path for the human soul by
becoming man. To become intimate with God, the soul has only to become
intimate with Jesus, who is like to the soul in his humanity, like to it in
all things except sin.[8] Man can grow in friendship with God by growing in
friendship with One Who is a fellow-man. The spiritual life is the process
of growth in charity, that is in love of Jesus, true man and yet true God.
This love not only binds the soul to Jesus, but has the intrinsic effect of
assimilating it to Him, transforming it to His likeness. "But he who is
joined to the Lord," writes St. Paul, "is one Spirit."[9]

It is to be observed that the Savior in tracing for men the path they were
to tread in order to enter into this union with Him, did not point to
Himself saying, "Behold in me the pattern of, and the living object lesson
in every human virtue, prudence, justice, courage, kindliness, truth and
the rest." He did not say, "Seek to acquire all these virtues which you see
in their perfection in me and then you will become my intimate friends".
His instruction was much more direct and simple. He said, "Learn of Me,
that I am meek and humble of heart."[10] One has only to be humble after the
model of Jesus and all else will follow. How this is so is not immediately
apparent; for the full implications of the virtue of humility are not
readily seized. Elsewhere a full analysis of this virtue will be given.
What is there said may be summarily expressed thus. Humility consists in
making God all and oneself nothing in one's life. [It is, to use a phrase
expressive, but, perhaps, of unfortunate associations.] "God over all." It
is the practical acceptance of St. Michael's battle cry: Quis ut Deus! Who
is like unto God! It is the complete obliteration of all the false claims
of self, in face of the all pervading sovereignty of God. All that is
required on the part of the Christian to make perfect his calling, is to
efface himself before God. Hence it is that the whole burden of the
Savior's teaching to men is the practice of self-abnegation. Self-
abnegation is something much larger than either suffering or mortification.
The instructions on prayer that follow are an exposition of the mode by
which this conquest of self is carried to a final and successful issue.
Prayer, properly carried out, will have as its effect the gradual revelation
to the soul of this disease of self-love which so intimately penetrates the
very fibers of its being as to pass unobserved by the person that does not
lead an interior life. In prayer the soul gradually draws into the radiant
purity and truth of the soul of Jesus. It becomes bathed in and penetrated
through and through with that radiance; and in this splendor all in it
that is of self and not of God, all that is in it unlike Jesus, stands
clearly revealed to that soul's own gaze. When this unlikeness is purged
away by the action of suffering and the sacrament of the Eucharist, then
the close union of the soul with God takes place.

Prayer, mortification and silence prepare the soul for the action of the
Blessed Eucharist. Once the obstacles are cleared away from the soul this
great Sacrament of union accomplishes in its perfection that which is its
special effect, namely the creation of a union of spirit between the soul
and Jesus. Prayer prepares the way for this, for prayer that is good must
have as its effect the gradual growth in self-abnegation. The presence of
self-love in the soul is the great obstacle to the action of grace. Prayer
reveals the presence of this self-love and secures the aid of God to its
extermination. The grace of Jesus flowing to the soul through prayer and
the Sacraments carries out this process of extermination. As the Christian
soul empties of self, it fills up with God, not merely with some thought or
aspect of God as visualized by a self-centered spirituality or even as
revealed in created reflections, but with God as He is in Himself and as He
reveals Himself to " little ones". To be filled with God is to be perfect
with the very perfection of our heavenly Father, but this happy result is
conditioned by the soul's practical application of the means explicitly
stated by Our Divine Guide and Exemplar: "Learn of Me that I am meek and
humble of heart."[11] It is in no narrow or particular sense that God is said
" to resist the proud and to give grace to the humble."[12]

In these words of the Apostle is revealed the connection, not logically
immediate, between humility and spiritual perfection. Humility is not
fortitude nor temperance nor yet charity. But where it exists all these
will exist. For the Christian supernatural virtues, the only ones that
avail for union with God in this life and in the next, are not acquired but
infused. God gives them. They are communicated with grace. They grow with
grace and are proportioned in their perfection to the measure of grace. God
gives grace generously to the humble. To each He gives according to the
measure He has predestined, which is not the same for all. But each one in
his own individual case receives according as he is more or less perfectly
disposed to receive. As humility is perfect so is the disposition perfect.
The perfectly humble man will flourish in all virtues. He will be fearless,
temperate, kind, loving, and all the rest. He has not to accomplish acts
of temperance to have the virtue of temperance. He has it already in virtue
of grace and in a strength proportioned to that grace. The acts merely give
a greater facility in the exercise of the virtue and dispose the soul for a
further increase of grace. So it is in the case of each of the other
cardinal virtues and in the case of the Theological Virtues.

It is sad that of all those who start out with such confidence and such
goodwill on the supernatural life, so very few attain to any marked degree
of spirituality. The causes of this very general failure are known only to
God. They are necessarily inscrutable to us from whom are hidden the secret
resistances of the created will. Resistance to grace is the reason of the
absence of growth in the spiritual life. Yet it would be hard to say that
the resistance is in the majority of cases deliberate. It is quite possible
that it may proceed from want of spiritual enlightenment, and that great
numbers of failures are to be attributed not to bad will but to an
imperfect understanding. It is quite possible that souls do not succeed
simply because they employ faulty methods or make a faulty use of good
ones. Self-knowledge is needed for growth in the spiritual life. St.
Catherine of Siena stresses this point with great emphasis in her writings.
Now perhaps the concentration of the soul's attention on the constituent
elements of the virtues that it ambitions to attain and of the vices it
longs to eradicate may impede the growth of self-knowledge. One who has
some experience in dealing with souls cannot fail to remark that very many
good and promising beginning send in disappointment and discouragement.
Such a one will observe that generally speaking--not absolutely speaking--
there is a common cause for this. It is due to the soul's being continually
occupied by the symptoms of its spiritual state, be these symptoms healthy
or the reverse. Its gaze ranges over the whole field of the virtues and the
whole field of the vices and it brings its own daily conduct into relation
with these. It aims at development by striving after the practices of the
virtues and by eliminating the activities of the vices. In this it can fail
to go to the radical cause of its growth or rather of its absence of growth
in virtue.[13] An example from medicine will make this clear. When a patient
presents himself to a doctor and reveals that he is suffering several kinds
of pain and in different parts of his body there are two courses of action
open to the medical man. He may deal with each form of suffering and by the
resources of his skill bring alleviation to one after the other. In due
time the patient is discharged from the hospital free from suffering, but
only to fall back into his old state in a short time. If he has found a
very skilled doctor his experience will be different. The expert physician
will set himself to find out in his patient the "focus of infection", which
is the source of the various ills the sufferer complains of. If this
'focus' is discovered and eliminated the patient leaves hospital not
temporarily but permanently cured. In the spiritual world there is an
unerring and divine Physician. It is Christ Himself. He has diagnosed the
"focus of infection" in every soul. It is "self" in its varying forms and
manifestations. Eliminate this and there ensues necessarily a
healthy spiritual life. Hence it is that He preaches self-abnegation in the
first place, He preaches it in the second place: He preaches it all the
time. On it all depends. Self-abnegation is but humility in act: it is the
practical carrying out in action of the precepts of that fundamental

Jesus is the perfect type of humility of soul: He is the perfect model of
self-abnegation in act. Mental prayer is the means by which the soul grows
into the spirit of Jesus, developing in itself "the mind of Christ." If the
soul that practices mental prayer does not grow in humility and self-
abnegation it is a sign that its prayer is badly made and is not fulfilling
its purpose. It is essential for spiritual progress that one should have a
clear vision of the role that prayer has to play in this progress. That
role is the development, through loving contemplation of the Man-God, of
the fundamental dispositions of the Sacred Humanity. Little by little the
soul grows in that basic humility so characteristic of Christ; complete
dependence on and loving subjection to God become as it were the leaven
which spreading by imperceptible degrees pervades its every action, it is
marked by a self-abnegation which aims at purging from it everything that
is not God, so that "conformed to the image of His Son" it may live its
life in full accord with the designs of Providence in its regard.

1. By "ethical man" is meant the man who possesses all the natural virtues
in perfection without grace. Needless to say that in the present order this
is purely an abstract idea.

2. Cf. Isaias vi. 3. And they [the seraphim] cried to one another and said:
Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord God of hosts.

3. St. Matt. v. 48. cf. Levit. xi. 44. " For I am the Lord your God. Be
holy because I am holy."

4. Egoism is disordered love of self God's love of Himself is not
disordered since He loves in Himself that Divine Goodness which merits to be
infinitely loved and is the reason why anything else is worthy of love in
any degree. Theologians speaking of God's love of Himself call it "most pure
love," to signify that it cannot be tainted by the disorder of egoism.
When, in full submission to the Divine Will, we labor to realize in
ourselves the designs which God has for us, we may be truly said to love
ourselves. Neither is this love egoism, for it is an ordered love--we love
ourselves, as it were, in God. But when we seek to gratify ourselves
independently of God, when our self love does not spring from (and is not
nurtured by) the true love of God, then we are guilty of egoism.

5. This means that (in scholastic language) the formal reason of God's
holiness is that He loves infinitely what is worthy of being infinitely
loved. Concretely that which He does love is Himself, therefore it is only
materially speaking (to use a scholastic expression) that God is holy
because He loves Himself.

6. Too often the word "love" is associated exclusively with the emotional
movements that accompany natural affection. This is a mistake. True love,
even though it be natural, is not in the emotions but in the will, and the
emotional movements that often accompany it must not be mistaken for it,
nor are they necessary for its existence. St. Thomas gives the true notion
of love when he says that 'to love is to will that good should befall a
person'; "amare est velle bonum." If all this is true of natural love, with
how much more force can it be applied to love that is supernatural.

7. Faith and Hope are virtues belonging to the state of the wayfarer. In
our celestial Fatherland, belief will have found its perfection in
knowledge, Hope will have passed into possession. But because Charity
unites us to God even in this life, its perfection in the next is not
something specifically different but is a closer and more intense union
with the divinity: "Charity never passeth away."

As regards the Beatific Vision, Christ was never a wayfarer; He enjoyed the
sight of God from the moment His human soul sprang into existence. Faith
and Hope when He could not have, for He already possessed something more
perfect. But His Charity was most intense.

8. Heb. iv. 15.

9. I Cor. vi. 17.

10. St. Matt. xi. 29.

11. St. Matt. xi. 29.

12. St. James iv. 6. cf. I St. Peter v. 5.

13. It seems to me from practical experience that this is very often the


"Let nothing hinder thee from praying always, and be not afraid to be
justified even unto death: for the reward of God continueth for ever.
Before prayer prepare thy soul: and be not as a man that tempteth God."
(Ecclesiasticus xviii. 22-23).

Chapter I: The Aim of Mental Prayer

The science of prayer is the science of the intercourse of man with God.
Prayer itself is the unfolding of our mind before the most High and in His
presence. It begins by a desire on the part of the soul to put itself in
the presence of its Creator; in its development it tends to become an
interchange of thought and affection between the soul and God. This
unfolding of our mind before the Almighty is not an idle and egoistic self-
analysis. It is the exposition of one's sentiments, needs and aspirations.
It is prompted by a desire that God should supply the soul's needs: it is
sustained by the firm confidence that God is disposed to give the soul all
that the soul is created to obtain from God the Author of its being.

The ultimate end of the relationship established between the soul and God
in prayer, is, that the soul should, by His help, abandon its own natural
earthly way of thinking and willing, and enter into God's views and
affections, judge things as God judges them, and therefore conform its
thought and desires to the thoughts and desires of God. This conformity of
thought and affection between God and the soul, is effected by the soul's
conformity in thoughts and affections with Jesus Christ, the God-Man. There
is a significance in the injunction of St. Paul: "For let this mind be in
you, which was also in Christ Jesus."[1] The final end of prayer, considered
as a potent means for the development of God's life in the soul, is to
emancipate us from natural habits or thought and affection and elevate us
to a supernatural manner of thinking and willing, to change our natural
outlook on life and things and to make it supernatural. The function of
prayer therefore (and especially of mental prayer)[2] is to transform our
minds and through the transformation of our minds to effect a change in our
dispositions and in our hearts. This mental conversion is not as simple as
it is usually taken to be; normally it does not take place in a day or in a
year; it involves a process which demands a long time for its completion.

It is not generally realized to what an extent our modes of thought--even
when we are leading christian lives--are alien to the modes of thought of
God. To think "christianly" is not an easy matter. God warns us of this
through the Prophet Isaias: " For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor
your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the
earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your
thoughts".[3] Prayer aims at bridging over this infinite gulf; it aims at
enabling us to enter into the mind of God and from that point of vantage to
contemplate all created things and the mysteries of Faith. To arrive at
this view of reality, it is necessary that it be not the spirit of human
wisdom or prudence that should shed light upon the objects of our thought,
or should reveal what are to be the worthy objects of affection. It is
needful that the light of merely human understanding be replaced by the
illumination of the Spirit of God. For "the things also that are of God no
man knoweth, but the spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of
this world, but the spirit that is of God: that we may know the things that
are given us from God. . . . But the sensual man perceiveth not these
things that are of the spirit of God; for it is foolishness to him, and he
cannot understand because it is spiritually examined. But the spiritual man
judgeth all things. . . . For who hath known the mind of the Lord that he
may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ."[4] To the extent that we
remain insensible to the promptings of the Spirit of God within us, to the
degree in which we have failed to come under the influence of the Divine
communication by God of Himself to us, to that extent we are what the
apostle calls "sensual." At the beginning of our "conversion" we are almost
entirely "sensual" in our ways of judging and understanding; we are unable
to probe the inner meaning and penetrate to the spirit of the mysteries of
our faith. We hold them as true; our knowledge is a knowledge of
"possession" and not of "use." These mysteries remain, in a sense, external
to us. We know that they are true. Their outward features--that is, the
formulae in which they are expressed--are familiar to us, but we have
little apprehension of their inner meaning; hence they exercise little or
no power on the affections of our heart or on the direction of our lives.
For us the vital meanings pent up like life-giving waters within these
formulae, and containing in themselves the power to transform and
transfigure our human life, have not broken loose and flooded our souls
with their refreshing streams. The habit of prayer, and that alone, can
correct all this, for it makes us cease to judge sensually and enables us
to acquire the art of judging all things spiritually.[5]

The concluding words of St. Paul in the text cited above, namely, "we have
the mind of Christ," perfectly express the result aimed at by the process
of mental prayer. In all the varied forms which our intercourse with God
necessarily assumes, the desire to acquire this mentality, the mentality of
Jesus Christ, must act as a guiding and unifying principle.

We cannot flatter ourselves to have made any considerable progress in
prayer until we have advanced in learning to think with God--understanding
Him and His ways. We cannot be properly intimate with Him until this has
taken place. The reason is obvious for one who studies ordinary human
relationships. How constrained and artificial and labored are our
conversations with those with whom we have little in common! How difficult
it is to find satisfaction in the company of those who are completely out
of sympathy with our attitude towards life! How often it is the lot of
Catholics to meet with non-catholics--who are equipped with the ordinary
human virtues, men who are fair minded, upright and trustworthy but who
have no clear perception or understanding of the supernatural. A sincere
Catholic, no matter how kindly disposed, will inevitably find intimacy with
such persons extremely difficult if not impossible. No matter what apparent
agreement there may be in many minor points there is really little or no
common ground of understanding. This difficulty is intensified infinitely
in our relations with God. Prayer is an intercourse or communing of the
soul with God according to the words of St. Paul:--"Our conversation is in
heaven; from whence we look for the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, who
will reform the body of our lowness, made like to the body of His glory,
according to the operation whereby he is able to subdue all things unto
himself."[6] "In my opinion," says St. Teresa, "prayer is only a friendly
intercourse in which the soul converses alone with Him by Whom she knows
she is loved."[7]

Now this personal intercourse cannot exist, or can exist but very
imperfectly unless there is some common ground of understanding--some
identity of thought and interests. For it must be remembered that,
according to St. Thomas, prayer is an art of the reason, that is to say, it
must have a basis in the intelligence. Growth in prayer is merely a growth
in familiarity with God."

In all prayer there are two agents to be considered. There can be no
converse with God unless the soul wants it and actually enters on it, and
the soul cannot desire to pray or actually engage in prayer unless God is
at hand. God is the principal agent, prompting the first desire of the soul
for intercourse with Him; His Holy Spirit influences the intellect, awakens
pious thoughts in the memory, arouses the imagination to develop and
preserve these thoughts, draws the reason to examine religious truths and
excites holy desires conformable to the thoughts He has inspired. Desiring
more intensely to communicate Himself to the soul, than it could desire
union with Him, He directs every effort it makes in its intercourse with
Him. God's action does not exclude that of the soul. Diligent cooperation
on its part is vitally necessary; the soul must petition God for the grace
of prayer, and at the same time spare no pains to conform its thoughts and
ways to those of God.

A very touching and intensely human incident in the Gospel illustrates all
this, and carries us rapidly through the various stages of the intercourse
of the soul with God, from its initial want of comprehension to the final
illumination by which its ignorance of the divine is swept away. As the
evening of the first Easter day was drawing to its close, two of the
followers of Jesus of Nazareth left Jerusalem and directed their steps
towards a small town about eight miles distant, called Emmaus. As was
natural, their thoughts revolved around the tragic happenings of the
previous days. Seeing nothing in these sad events but the frustration of
all their hopes and the end of their ambitious dreams, they were plunged in
gloom. Their state of mind is well portrayed in their own words: "but we
hoped that it was He that should have redeemed Israel: and now besides all
this, today is the third day since the settings were done."[9] Yet being
unable to tear their thoughts away from what they had witnessed, they could
speak of nothing else.

As they walked and talked, a stranger drew near, and being anxious to
interchange their thoughts with another, they were glad when he came to
share their company. "And it came to pass that while they talked and
reasoned with themselves, Jesus Himself also, drawing near, went with
them."[10] The disciples being asked by their new companion what it was that
was the subject of their conversation, expressed surprise at any one being
ignorant of the terrible scenes which Jerusalem had just witnessed. "And he
said to them: what are these discourses that you hold one with another as
you walk and are sad? And one of them, whose name was Cleophas, answering,
said to him: art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the
things that have been done there in these days?"[11] The stranger asked them
to explain what they referred to, and straight away both proceeded to
sketch the life of Him Whose followers they had been. He was a great
prophet, mighty in word and work; they had expected great things of Him,
for on His remarkable power they had based their hopes of the restoration
and the freedom of Israel. And now all had ended in disillusionment and
tragedy. The mighty worker of wonders was seized without difficulty by the
priests and princes, and put to death without opposition. All was over.
"And they said: concerning Jesus of Nazareth who was a prophet, mighty in
word and work before God and all the people; and how our chief priests and
princes delivered Him to be condemned to death and crucified Him: but we
hoped that it was He that should have redeemed Israel."[12] It was true that
some women asserted that He had arisen again from the dead, but that was a
tale that had its origin in the overwrought imaginations of women,
distracted by the cruel sufferings and death of the Jesus whom they loved.
"Yea, and certain women also of our company affrighted us, who before it
was light were at the sepulcher, and not finding His Body, came saying that
they had also seen a vision of angels, who say that he is alive."[13]

This story of the resurrection the disciples were not prepared to admit. It
conflicted with their sense of what should be the normal development of the
events of the three years that had just ended. Evasion of death they
expected, but a death and resurrection did not fit into their habits of
thought. Regarding Jesus, His life, His work and His life's purpose from a
viewpoint that was to a large extent natural, and interpreting it from that
viewpoint, they completely misjudged the life and misunderstood the Man.
Their appreciation of the events of the last days of Holy Week, showed that
they had never properly understood Him Whom they called their Lord and

The stranger after having allowed them to express themselves fully on the
subject that filled their thoughts, and having listened to them in silence
to the end, began to speak in his turn. "Then He said to them: O foolish
and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken.
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into His
glory?"[14] Taking their minds back over the Scriptures, He set before them
contemplation after contemplation on the life, the character, the
disposition and the sufferings of the Messias. As feature after feature was
drawn for them, from the words of Moses and the Prophets, especially the
great Isaias, they began to see, in the career of Him Whom they had
followed, the fulfillment of each detail of the prophecies. At the same time
they began to understand Jesus of Nazareth and grasp the inner meaning, the
lesson, the purpose, of His life on earth. It became clear to them that His
was not a life of purely human limitations. The Divine element in it began
to show through for them. "And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, he
expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things that were concerning

At length it began to dawn upon them that the Redemption they looked for
was to be sought not without but within--not in the emancipation of their
persons from a political yoke, but in a subjection of their souls to the
deifying influence of the Redeemer. As the true portrait of the Messias
developed for them under the skillful hand of the Master Himself, their
minds grew in understanding of, and their hearts began to glow with love of
Him Whom they had so misunderstood. "Was not our heart," they said
afterwards to one another, "burning within us, whistle spoke in the way and
opened to us the Scriptures?"[16]

This walk and conversation with Jesus was mental prayer in its ordinary
form. As will be seen further on, it sets before us vividly, if only in
outline, the ordinary process through which the soul passes, as it grows in
knowledge of Jesus. In considering this Scriptural illustration we should
note that: (a) Jesus Himself drew near and went with them; (b) He led them
to expose their thoughts and sentiments; (c) He was ingenious in
facilitating intercourse and intimacy--He took the initiative. In a word,
He was the quiet, powerful Master of the whole situation just as He is in
prayer, if only the soul responds to His advances.

In the beginning the soul, attracted to Jesus by some impulse of grace,
comes to Him, filled with natural thoughts and aspirations, and very
ignorant of the supernatural. It understands neither God nor itself. It has
few intimate relations with the Divinity outside of itself and within
itself; but it begins to converse with Jesus. If it persists in the
frequentation of His company the Lord gradually takes an ever-increasing
share in the conversation, and begins to enlighten the soul. In its
contemplation of the mysteries of faith, He aids it to penetrate beneath
the words and facts and symbols, hitherto known but superficially, and to
grasp the inner sense of the supernatural truths contained in these facts
or words or symbols. The Scriptures are gradually opened to the soul. The
well-known texts begin to acquire a new and deeper meaning. Familiar
expressions convey a knowledge which the soul wonders never to have before
discovered in them. All this new light is directed towards giving a fuller
and more perfect comprehension of the mysteries of our faith, which are the
mysteries of the life of Jesus. From this comprehension springs a love and
sympathy with our Divine Lord. There is a growing desire for identification
with Him. Union of thought and feeling begets intimacy and constant
intercourse; the soul has a constant desire of conversing with Jesus about
His interests and its own, which love has made identical. "Consider how
great the happiness given to you," says St. John Chrysostom, "how wonderful
the glory bestowed on you, in this that you can discourse to God, hold
conversation with Christ, aspire after what you are inclined to, and ask
for what is wanting to you."[17] The soul cannot consort with Jesus without
ardently desiring to be like Him, and to liberate itself from whatever can
place an obstacle to the freedom of their mutual relations. It conceives a
distaste for all that tends to create in itself an unlikeness to Jesus. The
constant and habitual aspiration of the soul, running as an undercurrent
through all its communications with the Lord, is, to be freed from the
shackles of all deliberate faults, even the very least, and to be filled
with grace. "All our prayers," says St. Thomas, "ought to be directed to
the obtaining of grace and glory."[18]

The soul, striving after this conformity with Him who has become its
Friend, necessarily seeks to enter into and to develop in itself the
fundamental and guiding disposition of the Friend's soul. That disposition
is the disposition of sacrifice, or rather, a profound adoration of God
finding its expression in sacrifice. The fundamental disposition of
Christ's soul was one of absolute and loving subjection to God. Jesus
Himself expressed this, saying: "For I do always the things that please
Him."[19] Prayer is a means to the acquisition and cultivation of the spirit
of sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Now, when God finds this disposition in the
soul, He hastens to communicate to it a participation more and more
abundant of that Divine life of which the soul of Jesus is a limitless
ocean. Thus is realized the purpose of Christ's Incarnation: "I am come,"
He said, "that they may have life, and have it more abundantly".[20] To the
reception of this life all prayer must be directed: "This chiefly we must
seek in prayer," says St. Thomas, "namely, to be united to God."[21]

The ascension of the soul then, is, through prayer to the acquisition of
the spirit of sacrifice, and thence to union with God especially through
the Holy Communion. "The Blessed Eucharist", says Cardinal Billot, "is the
chief means that God has ordained for imparting the divine life to the
soul. That outpouring of divine life is proportioned to the dispositions of
the soul that receives it. The more perfectly the soul has entered into the
dispositions of Jesus, the more closely it has become akin to Him in taste
and outlook, the more abundant is the reception of the divine life that in
its plenitude resides in Jesus."[22] Prayer, Spirit of Jesus developed by
mental prayer, Communion--that is the order. This is perfectly exemplified
in the incident cited from the Gospel. At first the disciples failed to
recognize Jesus. After conversation with Him their faith was purified,
their devotion to Him grew and they at length understood and entered into
the meaning and spirit of His life and Passion. He saith to them: "O
foolish and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have
spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and so enter into
His glory?"[23] And then they understood and accepted the principle of
sacrifice for Him and for themselves, as the sole means to that redemption
which is of the soul, not of the body. They had dreamed of a redemption
that was wholly political and external, one which changed their worldly
status, leaving themselves unchanged. Now they understood redemption as
something wholly internal and spiritual, liberating them from the yoke of
their own fallen nature and giving their souls the regal condition of the
sonship of God. The imparting of grace, not the bestowal of earthly
position, they now understood to be the object of Christ's relations with
them. But the end was not yet. All this was a preparation for something
further. "And it came to pass whilst he was at table with them, He took
bread, and blessed and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened
and they knew Him."[24] With the reception of the sacred Host, came an inflow
of Divine grace into their souls and their final illumination.

Having sketched in outline the nature and aim of prayer in its fundamental
character, it remains to point out the different forms which it takes, to
show that growth in the habit of prayer is the same as the development in
spirituality, to expose the usual temptations and difficulties which the
soul experiences in the cultivation of the interior life, to describe the
route which progress in this life follows, to explain the ordinary
mechanism (if the word be permitted) by which the intercourse with God is
maintained, and finally to disclose the obstacles that impede, as well as
the conditions that help advancement.

1. Phil. ii. 5.

2. Prayer is mental when the thoughts and affections of the soul are not
expressed in a previously determined formula. All prayer ought to
participate to some extent in the nature of mental prayer because acts of
mind and will are always necessary. The ideas touched on in this paragraph
are developed in "The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena," Vol. I, chap.
xxxvi. (Ed. Hurtaud).

3. Isaias lv. 8--9.

4. I Cor. ii 11-16.

5. The religious state of the average soul at the beginning of its
conversion and prior to its initiation into the interior life, is aptly set
forth in the following passage from Newman. "In our condition as average
Christians . . . we know that God's service is perfect freedom, not a
servitude, but this it is in the case of those who have long served Him, at
first it is a kind of servitude, it is a task till our likings and tastes
come to be in union with those which God has sanctioned . . . 'The servant
knoweth not what his lord doth' (John xv. 15). The servant is not in his
lord's confidence, does not understand what he is aiming at, or why he
commands this and forbids that. . . . Such is the state of those who begin
religious obedience. They do not see anything come of their devotional or
penitential exercises, nor do they take pleasure in them; they are obliged
to defer to God's word simply because it is His word. . . . We must begin
religion with what looks like a form. Our fault will be, not in beginning
it as a form, but in continuing as a form. It Is our duty to be ever
striving and praying to enter into the real spirit of our services, and in
proportion as we understand them, they will cease to be a form and a task
and will be the real expression of our minds. Thus shall we be gradually
changed in heart from servants into sons of almighty God." Parochial
Sermons. Vol. iii Sermon 7.

6. Phil. iii. 20-21.

7. "Life." Ch. viii. St. Thomas quoting St. John Damascene, says that
prayer is an ascent or an approach of the mind to God. ii. ii. Q. 83. a. 17
ad 2. St. Gregory Nazianzen says that prayer is a conference or
conversation of the soul with God. "De. Or. Dom." 1. According to St. John
Chrysostom it is a discoursing with the Divine Majesty. Hom. 30 in Gen. St.
Augustine speaks of it as an affectionate turning of the mind to God.
"Serm." ix. 3.

8. (a) The conformity or harmony of will between the soul and God is a
conformity of the human will as enlightened by reason and faith. It doth
not exclude an actual opposing in to the Divine on the part of men's lower
or sensitive nature. (b) St. Thomas says the function of friendship with
God is to bring about that men should incline to the same things as God. He
quotes with approval Aristotle, saying . "One of the features of friendship
is that friends should have a liking for and choose the same things."

9. St. Luke xxiv. 21.

10. St. Luke xxiv. 15.

11. St. Luke xxiv. 17-18.

12. St. Luke xxiv. 19, 20, 21.

13. St. Luke xxiv. 22, 23.

14. St. Luke xxiv. 25, 26.

15. St. Luke xxiv. 27.

16. St. Luke xxiv. 32.

17. "Considera quanta est tibi concessa felicitas, quanta gloria attributa
orationibus fabulari cum Deo, cum christo miscere colloquia, optare
quovelis, quod desideras postulare." St. Chrysostom quoted by St. Thomas,
II. II. Q. 83. a. 2, 3.

18. "Quia omnes orationes nostrae ordinari debent ad gratiam et gloriam
consequendam." St. Th. II. II. Q. 83. a. 4 c.

19. "Quae placita sunt ei facio semper. St. John viii. 29.

20. St. John x. 10.

21. "Quia hoc praecipue est in oratione petendum ut Deo uniamur." St. Th.
II. II. Q. 83. a. 1, ad 2

22. "De Eccllesiae Sacramentis." Vo1. I. p. 94. Editio quinta.

23. St. Luke xxiv. 25-26.

24. St. Luke xxiv. 30-31.


"My heart hath said to Thee, I have sought Thy face. Thy face, O Lord I
will seek." Ps. xxvi. 7.

Without prayer salvation is impossible. To neglect it is to neglect the
only means given us to remain in touch with Almighty God; if we lose hold
of Him we necessarily fall back upon ourselves, and in ourselves we can
find nothing that can advance us towards eternal life. Everything that
appertains to that must come to us from God. Every gift in the supernatural
order is an effect of His bounty, "for every best gift and every perfect
gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights."[1] God has
ordained that these gifts be given to us on condition of our valuing them,
desiring them and petitioning Him humbly for them. He says to us: "Ask and
you shall receive." This implies--"if you do not ask you shall not
receive." We do not beg except for what we prize highly and are desirous of
possessing. There is no true prayer where there is not a real longing for
the things pertaining to the development of the spiritual life. All that
tends to impart, to strengthen, to develop and perfect that life, are the
gifts which God is prepared to give the soul, if the soul nourishes in
itself a holy desire for them, acknowledges its need of them, and confesses
its dependence on God for them.

The most necessary resolution for one that wishes to draw near to God and
to grow in intimacy with Him, the resolution that embraces and involves all
the others, is that of persevering in prayer in spite of all the
difficulties and trials to be met with in it.[2] For though it is true that
prayer is supernatural, "for no man can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy
Ghost,"[3] still the habit of prayer is fixed and strengthened and developed
in much the same way as natural habits are formed and developed in us. It
depends, therefore, for its firmness and force on our own diligence,
knowledge and industry, aided of course as is always to be understood, by
the grace of God.

It is an entirely mistaken notion to think that the gift of prayer is
something which in no wise depends upon us, but is altogether God-given.
Prayer, it is to be emphatically stated, does not 'happen' to us; we do not
'contract' spirituality as people contract a disease--by accident. Such a
view fosters spiritual sloth, by which the soul excuses itself for not
entering into relations with God on the grounds that it feels no taste of
inclination towards such intercourse and waits until God imparts this
devotional taste before beginning.

Again it is certain that the power to pray is a grace; but this grace is
infallibly given if we on our side fulfill the conditions required of us.
Our cooperation is necessary. We must not wait until influenced by pious
sentiments or emotions, or driven by necessity to address ourselves to God.
These pious feelings are not of the essence of prayer. We must be so
trained in the exercise of the divine converse, that we can approach God
with as much constancy when we feel a positive distaste for the
supernatural as when carried away by an access of sensible devotion. We
must learn to speak to God independently of our tastes and feelings. The
difficulty in prayer is not in prayer itself. It all comes from our want of
decision in electing definitely to find our unique satisfaction of mind,
will and imagination in the supernatural and in definitely renouncing the
tendency to seek in the natural world any form of satisfaction that does
not lead to God. If we are strong enough and resolute enough to choose God
as the term not of some, but of all our activity, if we are resolute enough
not to be continually oscillating between Him and creatures, prayer is
easy. As regards petition, there is no difficulty in asking for what we
like.[4] The whole world is daily occupied in that. Most deputations are
concerned with it. It is the characteristic action of childhood. But there
is a real difficulty in liking what we, as children of God, should ask for.
Naturally we have no taste for the things of the spiritual life. It is
intelligible that we should be very half-hearted in our petitions for what
we do not strongly desire. We are not prone to be very insistent in our
demands for what we are not very eager to have. Of course, Christians as a
rule are not conscious of this distaste for the supernatural. They
sincerely believe that they are quite earnestly beseeching God for the
things of eternal life. There is a certain amount of unconscious self-
deception in this matter. The petition for the things of eternal life is
accompanied very often, in fact most frequently, by a keen desire of, and
longing for things that are an impediment to that life. One desire, of
necessity, negatives, at least partially, the other and renders it to some
extent illusory. If what is actually longed for is in contradiction with
the life of grace or opposed to its development, the prayer for the things
of the spirit is but an idle formula, a complete self-delusion. The
cherishing in the soul of desires incompatible with the longing for God, is
the secret of the vast number of failures in the spiritual life.[5] Of the
many that embark on the interior life, few, comparatively, succeed. The
reason lies in this, that they have never resolutely chosen God to the
rejection of all else beside, or that having once made the choice, they
afterwards allow themselves to develop likings that impede or conflict with
the growth of God's life in the soul. They allow themselves to drift into
choosing other things as well as God. This inevitably tends to not choosing
God at all. Many will plead that they find the spiritual life a difficulty,
because they find prayer a difficulty. The truth is that men begin to find
prayer a difficulty when they have begun to find God a difficulty. This
comes when God has ceased to interest them because other things have begun
to interest them more.[6] The essential condition of success in the spiritual
life is to train oneself "to want" God and to school oneself "not to want"
what does not lead to Him. Hence it is that St. Catherine of Siena in her
"Dialogue," stresses so much the necessity of stirring up and nourishing in
the soul this holy desire.[7]

1. St. James i. 17.

2. Cf. "Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena." God the Father speaking to the
Saint says: " Know, my daughter, that it is by persevering in prayer that
is humble, incessant and full of faith, that all the virtues are acquired
by the soul It ought, then, to persevere and never to allow itself to be
forced to give up, either by the illusions of the devil or by its own
frailty, that is, by the thoughts that harass it, nor by the restlessness
of the body, nor by the talk that the devil puts in the mouths of men,
to turn the soul from prayer."

3. I Cor. xiii. 3. cf. Ss. Theol. II. II. Q. 83. a. 13 c.

4. Prayer of Petition is prayer in the most restricted and precise sense.
St. Thomas referring to petition says: "Prayer is a certain manifestation
of the human will," and again: "Prayer is a certain unfolding of our will
to God that He may fulfill it." III. Q. 21. a. 1.

5. St. John of the Cross develops the importance of mortifying our desires
in the "Ascent, Book I.

6. Cf. Ss. Th. II. II. Q. 35. a. I and 2, which articles treat of this
state of soul.

7. "Dialogue" Vol. I, chap. 36.


"All ye works of the Lord, bless the Lord." Dan. iii. 57.

There are two distinct ways in which the soul presents itself before its
Creator; that is, there are two distinct types of prayer, namely, vocal and
mental. Now, though a mental attention either to the meaning of what we are
saying, or to the Person we are addressing, is required, in order that the
formulae we utter with our lips merit the name of prayer, there is,
nevertheless, a fundamental difference in the nature and the purpose and
the effects of these two modes of communicating with God.

The word prayer is derived from the most characteristic act of this
exercise, that is, petition. All our dealings with God must have a
background of pleading in them; a note of entreaty must run through the
varied movements of the soul towards its God. There is always one ultimate
object which is aimed at in the converse of men with God, and to this
object all others must be subordinated; that is, that God communicate
Himself to His creatures in this life as a preparation for union in the
next. We are indigent before God; we need everything and He alone can give
us what we want. If we had not fallen, our utterances would mainly consist
of words of praise and adoration and worship. And though now, as has been
said, there is an element of petition always present in our intercourse
with God, yet praise, adoration and thanksgiving; are still the most
characteristic functions of prayer when it is vocal. For this reason it has
to be more formal than mental prayer. In the latter the operation is more
personal and intimate. In the former, God is the direct object of our acts.
In mental prayer we can have our own soul and its states as the object on
which will or understanding is exercised. Though people pray vocally in
private, yet it is characteristic of, and usual for vocal prayer to be
recited in common. Vocal prayer is always to a certain degree a public act,
and as such is something that is done to honor and reverence God. Of
course prayers in common are often recited, as in times of calamity, to
express repentance, to plead for mercy, to placate God's justice or to
obtain His blessings. But the distinctive function of vocal prayer remains
that of honoring, reverencing and worshipping God.

The most sublime form of vocal prayer is the Divine Office. This is formed
of language inspired for the most part by the Holy Ghost Himself to give
expression to the thoughts that should animate all created supernaturalised
intelligences in the presence of the great Lord of all. The ideas contained
in the Psalms and the words in which they are clothed are such as man, were
he a perfect child of God, would use to give expression to his admiration,
love, reverence and esteem for his heavenly Father. The holy Pope Pius X,
quoting Saint Augustine, writes: "That God might be praised in a fitting
manner by man, God Himself composed the praises of Himself. And because God deigned to praise Himself, man found the terms in which to sound God's
praises."[1] The Psalms are, therefore, a divine composition which God's
servants are to repeat in His presence to honor Him. In doing this they
stand in a relation to God similar to that of the beatified who ever stand
before His throne honoring Him by heavenly canticles. God desires that we
should deal with Him much in the same manner as that in which we deal with
one another. It is our custom at school, for instance, when we wish to
honor a distinguished guest, to have passages from some famous author
declaimed, or musical pieces from a great composer performed in the
presence of him whom we wish to honor. In a somewhat similar manner the
Holy Ghost has inspired for us the praises which we are to recite or chant
before God to honor Him.

The nature of public vocal prayer demands that we acquit ourselves of it
with great reverence and respect; our every gesture, tone and attitude must
be made to signify the honor we wish to pay to the Great Being in whose
presence we are. For the merit and perfection of our act it is not demanded
that we should necessarily advert to the meaning of the words we use; if
the whole action is directed towards God, if we realize that the formulae
we use are in themselves eminently pleasing to Him, and if from the
beginning we form the intention of acquitting ourselves well of the duty we
are undertaking, the whole function is meritorious and pleasing to God whom
we honor.[2] Any subsequent distraction or want of attention, as long as it
is indeliberate, does not destroy the initial intention. This intention
extends its influence over the whole multitude of acts which constitute the

The monastic choir is as a stage arranged before the King of heaven a stage
on which those who recite the Divine Office should endeavor to execute
with great expression and feeling, attention and perfection, those chants
in honor of God, composed by the Divine Spirit. Those who recite the
Divine Office should remember their role in the divine drama. It is that of
the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church, w hose inmost thoughts and
feelings, whose mystical life, whose states of soul and whose love and
devotion to God the Father, the divine hymns express in terms of wonderful
variety and perfection. The Divine Office differs from all other vocal
prayers. It is the official utterance of the Spouse of Christ, whose
accents exercise an unparalleled influence over the heart of God. "The
Church by her faith, her confidence, her love and her union with Jesus,
annihilates the distance that separates her from God and chants His praise
like the Word in the Bosom of the Trinity. She, united with Christ, sings
the very praises of God under the eyes of God."[3]

What has been said of the Divine Office is true in its degree and measure
of all vocal prayer. In every case there is a recital of a formula,
composed nearly always by a person different from him who prays. It does
not necessarily express the disposition of soul of the person employing the
formula; if it be an approved prayer, it voices sentiments, thoughts and
emotions which are in themselves pleasing to God. Of course the more
perfectly one identifies oneself with the thoughts expressed in these
recited formulae, the higher the value of the prayer. But it is clear from
what has been said that in the form of address one stands on a more formal
and distant relationship with Almighty God, than in the case of mental

The effect of vocal prayer upon the soul varies with the stage of
development the soul has reached in the spiritual life. For those who do
not lead an interior life, the role of such prayer is restricted to
exciting a sense of the supernatural and a sense of the duty of raising the
mind to God; for those advanced in the spiritual life, the liturgical
prayers are of a sovereign efficacy for bringing their souls into union
with the intellectual illuminations and affective impulses of the Holy
Spirit. The prayers and chants of Holy Church become for such souls the
natural and spontaneous outlet in which the pent up emotions of the heart
acquired in mental prayer find due expression.[5]

To acquit ourselves perfectly of vocal prayer, it is necessary to raise to
God our mind by attention, our heart by devotion, and our will by
submission. These dispositions deliberately stirred up in the soul at the
beginning will color the whole exercise, in spite of distractions. Actual
attention all the time is not vital. Our prayer is meritorious and obtains
its effect provided we begin with an attention that is not afterwards
retracted by any voluntary distraction. Of course actual attention the
whole way through is to be aimed at, for ii gives additional force and
efficacy to our words.[6] We should make it a point to begin well, by
deliberately putting ourselves in the presence of God, and by withdrawing
our powers from outward things, recollecting them in ourselves and fixing
them on God. If distractions come, we must aim at having all our
distractions turn on Divine things; this we can do by learning to view all
things in God's light. The power to do so is the direct effect of the
cultivation of the habit of mental prayer.

1. "Divine Afflatu."

2. God the Father speaking to St. Catherine of Siena says:--"The soul must
not separate vocal from mental prayer; while it pronounces the words, let
it strive to lift up its thoughts and direct them towards my love: to this
let it unite the consideration, in general, of its faults and of the
precious Blood of my Son, in which she may recognize the bountifulness of
my charity and the remission of its sins.---"Dialogue": Vol. I, chap. 36.

3. Cf. Marmion. "Christ the Ideal of the Monk." Chap. xiii, Part iii, p.
299. The public prayer of the Church is in very truth the prayer of Christ.
Sharing as we do in His life, forming but one body in Him, we become His
instruments, by which He can praise God. If we place ourselves wholly at
His disposal, it is He who prays in us, with us, by us. Thus we become one
in a very full sense with the eternal Praise and glory of His Father.

4. A recollected bearing, a reverential attitude and a becoming posture are
demanded for the due acquittal of vocal prayer. When vocal prayers are
recited in common, the exercise should be marked by something of the
decorum and dignity that surrounds the choral recitation of the Divine
Office. Such an exercise should always be begun with the express intention
that God should receive thereby a due measure of honor and worship.

5. The soul is turned into the fire of love and therefore every word is
like a spark rising from a fire inflaming and enlightening the powers of
the soul, that she listeth ever to pray and do nothing else. And the body,
is an instrument, and a trumpet of the soul in which the soul bloweth sweet
notes of spiritual prayers to God. Hilton. "Scale of Perfection." C. 12.

6. The words of St. Thomas, marked as usual by clarity as well as wisdom
are to be quoted in this connection. "Now prayer has three effects. The
first is common to all acts informed by Charity, and this is merit. In
order to realize this effect, it is not necessary that prayer should be
attentive throughout, because the vigor of the original intention with
which one begins to pray makes the whole prayer meritorious, as is the case
with other meritorious acts. The second effect of prayer is proper to it
alone, and consists in impetration: and again the original intention, to
which God looks chiefly, suffices to obtain this effect. But if the
original intention is absent, prayer lacks both merit and impetration:
because as Gregory says ("Moral" xxii.) "God hears not the prayer of those
who have no intention of praying." The third effect of prayer is one which
it produces immediately; this is the spiritual refreshment of the mind and
for this effect attention is a necessary condition: wherefore St. Paul
writes: (I Cor. xiv. 14): 'If I pray in a tongue . . . my understanding is
without fruit.'

"It must be noted however that there are three kinds of attention that can
be brought to vocal prayer: one which watches the words, lest we say them
wrong, another which attends to the sense of the words, and a third which
aims at the end of prayer, namely, God and to the thing we are praying for.
This last kind of attention is most necessary and even the untutored are
capable of it." (IIa. IIae. Q. 83. 2. 13.)


"I am the way; no one cometh to the Father but by Me." John xiv. 6.

Mental Prayer is an ascent or approach of the mind to God. It is nothing
else than a communing of spirit with spirit, a communing of the created
intelligence with the uncreated. To pray, therefore, it is necessary to be
present with God. When we wish to enter into conversation with our friends
on earth, we leave the place in which we are and transport ourselves to
where they are or make use of those means of communication invented by
science. No use of a medium of communication or change of position on our
part would seem to be necessary when it is question of coming into the
presence of God, since He is everywhere, and in Him we live, move and have
our being. Yet, strange to say, though we are surrounded by, and, as it
were, enveloped in God, still we can fail to have Him present to us. For a
spirit makes other beings to be present to it not by local movement but by
its acts. Our soul has present to it only those objects about which its
faculties are engaged. We can be said to be present only there, where our
thoughts, affections or imaginings are. It is in the very same way we are
present with God. We are in God's presence only during the time when the
faculties of our soul are exercised about Him or His attributes or in
something that has a bearing on our relations with Him. The meaning
therefore, of having placed ourselves in God's presence--of our mind having
ascended to Him--is that God has become for us an object of loving, or at
least interested, thought. This imports as its correlative aspect, the
withdrawal of our imagination and our senses, our will and our intellect,
with the acts that flow from them, from all objects other than God.[1]

We are in a real sense present where that object is which occupies our
imagination--more truly present where it is than where we may happen to be
locally. A familiar illustration may be drawn from a too common experience
in a teacher's life. The indifferent and distracted student is bodily
present in the class-room, but his surroundings and the teacher's words
make no impression on him as he allows his thoughts and interests to wander
to the joys of home or the excitement of the playing fields. He is, in a
human sense, more present where his thoughts and affections are than where
he is in body.

God is a pure spirit--and we are not. We cannot come into His presence as
an angel can. All the acts of our intellect depend on the senses and on the
imagination. We must have some imaginative image of a thing in order to be
able to think on it. It is difficult for us to form an image of the
Divinity and therefore difficult for us to be present with God. At least it
would be very difficult for us, had not God in His kindness, found a way by
which access to Him, by aid of the imagination, might be made easy for men.
That way was the Incarnation.

The Divinity is made present visibly and tangibly to us in the Humanity of
Our Lord: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we
have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have
handled, of the word of life; for the life was manifested; and we have seen
and do bear witness and declare unto you the life eternal, which was with
the Father, and hath appeared to us."[2] Our Lord shadows forth in a visible
manner the perfection of God--His goodness, His benignity, His holiness,
His mercy. Those attributes in a pure spirit we should have found very
difficult to imagine or conceive. As clothed in, and expressing themselves
through the Sacred Humanity these attributes of God are become accessible
to human imagination as well as to human thought. Jesus is the spotless
mirror of the Divinity. Therefore, the study of the life of Jesus and His
works--the contemplation of His humanity--forms the imaginative ground-work
from which the soul forms to itself the spiritual concept of God.
"Everything in Jesus is not only saintly but sanctifying also, and imprints
itself on the souls which apply themselves to the consideration of it, if
they do so with good dispositions. His humility makes us humble; His purity
purifies us; His poverty, His patience, His sweetness and His other virtues
imprint themselves on those who contemplate them. This may take place
without our reflecting at all upon ourselves, but simply by our viewing
these virtues in Jesus with esteem, admiration, respect, love and

Hence it is that our communion with God, the presence of our spirit with
His, is accomplished through the Sacred Humanity. Therefore, the ordinary
way of mental prayer or meditation[4] is the reviewing in our imagination and
in our intelligence the life and words of Jesus.

This however is only one part of prayer--it does not end with
considerations or reflections, for prayer in its essence is not a mere
reflection on a subject belonging to the order of divine things. "It is a
supernatural attitude of the soul before its Creator in which it directs
itself towards God and unites itself with Him, for the purpose of rendering
Him what is due to Him from His creatures, receiving in turn His
communications and rendering itself pleasing in His sight."[5] The
considerations--that is, the meditation strictly so called--have an
ultimate purpose. That purpose is to create in our minds a form or an ideal
of life and action, an ideal which is presented by our intelligence to our
will, as our highest good. Our considerations, therefore, must tend to
form, deepen and strengthen the conviction that the life of the Man-God is
the good life for us, that His way of acting and thinking is what Is most
deserving of our imitation. Meditation has for its object to fill our minds
with the conviction that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, that is
to say, to fill us with the conviction that our life is a false and vain
one in so far as it does not conform to the spirit of His; that His values
of human things are the only true values; that to attain the goal of
existence we must follow the path He has traced and be guided by His
principles; and finally, that it is only by making His modes of thought,
affection, and action our own that we shall enjoy the life that is truly
life.[6] The will necessarily moves with love towards that which the
intelligence presents to it as its good. The study of the attractiveness of
Jesus creates in the will the desire of conformity with Him and the
practice of the virtues exemplified in His life.

There is only one humanity that is united of itself to the Divinity; that
is the Humanity of Jesus, for it is united hypostatically. If w e are to be
united intimately with the Divinity it is necessary for us to prepare the
way for that union by becoming assimilated to that Humanity. How is this
done ? By assimilating ourselves to Jesus in thought, in affections, in
principles and in ideals--i.e. by reproducing in our life the features of
His human Life. This paves the way for vital union with the Divinity that
is in Jesus. This union with the Divinity grows in proportion to the
increase of sanctifying grace in the soul. The ordinary channel for the
communication of this grace of Christ is the Sacraments. These confer
greater or lesser grace as the dispositions of the soul resemble to a
greater or lesser degree the dispositions of the soul of Jesus of Nazareth.
Therefore our considerations in prayer are meant to set before our will as
an object to venerate, to admire, to love and to imitate, the ideal of
human life portrayed in the life of Jesus on earth. Our prayer must inspire
us with the desire to shape our actions after the model set up by the
Savior as the means to union with God. We must be attracted to the
loveliness of God by the loveliness of Jesus. God is the supreme and
ultimate good, and everything else, even virtue, is good only in as much as
it leads to the possession of Him.

Of course God reveals Himself to us in the works of creation, and from the
contemplation of these, we can acquire a certain knowledge of the
greatness, of the power, of the beauty and perfection of God, and with the
light of revelation to help we could develop in ourselves a kind of
personal regard for the Author of all created things. But this drawing
towards God could with difficulty attain to the nature of love; it would
remain strongly impregnated with fear and awe: its most perfect expression
would be reverence--the reverence of the creature devoted to its Creator.
Hence it was that those who lived under the old dispensation scarcely knew
God as a Father; for all created things are limited and imperfect, and
therefore generate but a very imperfect notion of God; they tend to
generate even a false one on account of the weakness of will and intellect
that followed on the fall. This was the reason why even the chosen people
had such a proneness to idolatry--a thing which many find very difficult to
understand. But in our Lord's life the attributes of God are reflected
without the slightest shadow of imperfection and in all their lovableness.
His sacred Humanity reveals God to us in a most attractive form and it
becomes possible for us to love God and desire to be united with Him, this
being the end of prayer, as it is the end of all our relations with God.

There can be union only between beings that are alike; to be united with
God we must be like Him, assimilated to Him, conformed in the passions and
affections of our humanity to the passions and affections of that Humanity
which He made His own. That Humanity is the bridge of union between Him and
us. The function of mental prayer, then, as an act of our mind, is to study
and contemplate the features of the life of Jesus Christ with a view to
reproducing the traits of that life in ourselves and so disposing ourselves
to growth in the divine life of grace. When we have made progress in this
contemplation it is possible for us to fix our gaze on created things, on
the world itself and the events that take place in it--and that without
danger to ourselves. For the Sacred Humanity has rectified our ideas about
all created things and in Its light we can study creatures without fear of
being led astray by them. When the mind has attained the view-point of
Jesus Christ, distraction in prayer does not normally turn the soul from
God, for every object that comes before the mind, every work, every event,
is instinctively reviewed in the relation in which it stands to Him, and
all will therefore (though at times insensibly) lead the mind back to God.

So far there has been question only of the soul's acts in prayer. These,
however, do not constitute the whole of this exercise. Prayer has been
defined as a familiar intercourse or conversation with God. It is a being
present with God and associating with Him, as we associate with those we
love on earth. Now two spirits cannot be present to each other, since such
presence is by means of acts, without strongly influencing each other. In
this intercourse the activity is not all one sided; it is not wholly on our
side. The Divine Spirit is operative as well as the human. God incessantly
plays His part and this is an active one. A conversation is not a speech
delivered before a person, it involves an interchange of thought; and as
our thought is directed towards God, so God's thought is directed towards

God is intensely operative and if the soul has willed to draw near to God,
He on His side, tends to draw near to it. The effect of the contact of two
spirits is one of assimilation, i.e. one is made like the other. The soul
by its activity cannot assimilate God to itself, for God cannot change; the
activity of God therefore is directed towards assimilating the soul to
Himself. God therefore takes up the soul and assimilates it to Himself, and
this in proportion as the soul by its own acts, helped by grace, abdicates
itself and lives the life of God by acting habitually and intensely under a
motive of faith and of charity. When the soul attains to the point of
practically always acting not merely under a habitual or virtual, but an
actual motive of faith,[7] it has already arrived at an advanced stage in the
life of ordinary prayer; for this conscious assumption of all its
activities under a rule or principle of faith makes its prayer continuous,
uninterrupted and unceasing. The actuality and vividness of the faith
clears the soul's activity of the influence of self, and accordingly God's
influence enters to an ever higher degree into such activities. Persons who
live this life of faith in a sustained manner carry about with them an air
of the divine easily perceptible by those with whom they come in contact.
There is nothing which helps more to foster and develop this life of faith
than the habit of seeing the will of God in all things even the most
insignificant, in the petty trials, disappointments, checks and even in the
pleasures and satisfactions that come our way.

Thus habitual prayer demands an habitual sense of God's presence--demands,
which is more accurate, God being continually present to us. Now there are
different and varying degrees of presence of persons, one with another. In
a social gathering many people are assembled in the same room within easy
reach of one another. All are bodily present in the same place. As is often
the case, those who are assembled together in great social gatherings come
as strangers one to another. The vast majority of them meet, perhaps, for
the first time. What happens is that each looks around in the assembly for
the few with whom he is on terms of acquaintanceship or friendship, and
engages in conversation with these. For the group thus formed the others
are as if they were not there at all. The friends that meet and converse
are present to one another; they are present to themselves but not to the
others, and this presence deepens in the degree in which their conversation
springs from a common interest or causes a deepening of mutual
understanding. The more their mutual interests and tastes lead to an active
interchange of thoughts and views and to a strengthening of the bonds that
bind them together, the deeper grows the presence. If again one of the
guests takes the lead in the conversation and all the others dominated by
his personality cease to speak and give themselves to the task of
listening, the speaker becomes present to everybody in the room, but not
everybody to him--those only are present to him who have led him on to
conversation, and interest in whom, incites him to speak.

So it is, in a measure, in our relations with God. We have already seen
that mere bodily presence before the tabernacle, or mere recitation of
formulae does not constitute God present to us; for that, it is needful
that the powers of our soul be occupied with God and with the things of
God. Now in prayer there is reciprocal action, prayer is a conversation. It
is as essential a part of mental prayer that God should address Himself to
us, as that we should address our- selves to Him.[8] He speaks to us through
the deepening of our faith, through the illumination He supplies to our
intelligence, to the penetration into the mysteries of our religion that He
grants us, and through the impulse to good that He gives to our wills. He
speaks to us above all, by the life and actions of Jesus Christ--these are
"His Word" to us--His Own "Word." "God Who, at sundry times and in divers
manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all,
in these days, hath spoken to us by His Son, Whom He hath appointed Heir of
all things, by whom also He made the World, Who being the brightness of His
glory, and the figure of His substance, sitteth on the right hand of the
majesty on High."[9] We become present with God by having present in
thoughts, affection and in imagination the life of Jesus. We associate with
and converse with God by associating and conversing in spirit with Jesus.
He Himself said: "Philip, he that seeth me, seeth the Father also."[10] God
on His side mingles familiarly with our life and its concerns, through and
in the life of His Word on earth. He communicates His light and His Life to
us through Him. Jesus is the channel of the communication of divine grace.
Prayer consists in living with and conversing with Jesus with a view to
becoming like to Him. Prayer is literally the instrument of a transforming
process by which we leave our own form and put on the form of The Son of
Man. The function of prayer consists in stripping us of earthly desires:
"Stripping yourselves of the old man with his deeds, and putting on the
new, him who is renewed unto knowledge, according to the image of him that
created him."[11] The following words from the autobiography of St. Teresa
form a fitting conclusion to the chapter. "By thought we can put ourselves
in the presence of Christ, set ourselves gradually aflame by a great love
for the Sacred Humanity, keep company with Him at all times, speak to Him,
recommend our needs to Him, seek compassion from Him in our trials, rejoice
with Him in our consolations, keep ourselves from forgetting Him in times
of prosperity. Let us not seek to make beautiful speeches to Him; but
rather speak simply to express our desires and wants. This is an excellent
method and makes us advance in a very short time. The person who studies
how to live in this precious company and draws there- from a genuine love
for the Master who has showered so many benefits upon us, that person, I
assert, has gone forward in the way of prayer. So that we must not grow
disconsolate, as I have already said, if the feeling of devotion is
lacking. Let us rather give thanks to Our Lord, Who despite the
imperfections in our works, keeps alive within us the desire of pleasing

"This method of prayer, which consists in keeping oneself in the company of
the Savior, is profitable at every stage. It is a very certain means of
progressing in the first degree of prayer and of reaching the second in a
short time. And in the last stages it serves as a protection against the
temptations of the devil.''[12]

1. Ven. Libermann, "Ecrits Spirituels," p. 82. no. 2.

2. I Jonn i. 1-2.

3. Faber. "Bethlehem," chap. i. Quoted ftom Rigoleuc "L'Homme d'Oraison p.

4. The word "meditation" is used to designate that kind of mental prayer in
which the considerations of the mind are very prominent and prolonged, in
this case the name of the first and most salient part is given to the

5. Ven. Libermann, Ecrits Spirituels," p. 294.

6. I Tim. vi. 19.

7. This means an actual intention at the beginning of each small series of

8. St. Francis de Sales says: "Prayer is a colloquy, a discourse or a
conversation of the soul with God, by it 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 in us." (Treatise on Love of God, Vl.)

St. Vincent de Paul says: " Prayer is a conversation of the soul with God,
an intercourse of the spirit in which God teaches it in an interior way
what it should know and do and in which the soul says to God what He
Himself teaches it to ask for." (Conf. on Prayer, 1648.)

Abbot Marmion, speaking of prayer says: "In a conversation one both
listens and speaks. The soul gives itself up to God and God communicates
Himself to the soul." ("Christ the life of the Soul." C. x, Part II.)

9. Heb. i. 1-3.

10. St. John xiv. 9.

11. St. Paul, Col. iii 9-10.

12. "Life" by Henelj, Ch. xii.


"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." Philipp. ii. 5.

In last analysis then, Mental Prayer is the act of the soul seeking the
society of Our Divine Lord, with a view to receiving His direction and
coming under the control of His Sacred Humanity. His life stands revealed
in the Gospel; the soul enters into contact with it, by a loving study of
its mysteries. The mother of Jesus has given us the example, she herself
passed her life doing what we are called to do. The Sacred writer assures
us of this twice. saying, "But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in
her heart,"[1] and again he says--"And His Mother kept all these words in her
heart." In Hebrew "word" means "event" or "happening" usually of a striking
or mysterious nature. It must not be forgotten that the life and actions of
Jesus were mysteries for Mary as they are for us. The meaning of the text,
then, is that she reflected on and turned over in her mind the actions and
words of her own Child, studying the events of which He was the center,
with a view to probing further into their inexhaustible depths of meaning,
in order to be penetrated with the sentiments, emotions and dispositions of
Jesus in all these. Mary meditated on the life of Jesus as it unfolded
itself before her, exactly as we are asked to do, and for the same purpose-
-to be steeped in and assimilated to the spirit of that life.

For meditation on the Mysteries of Jesus is not merely an idle speculation
followed by a barren admiration of the truth revealed in the mystery. It
must be undertaken with an object in view, namely to become good, avoid
vice and grow in virtue as a means to union with God. We practice prayer in
order to be assimilated to Our Head and Lord Jesus, to reproduce His life
in ours.

When the soul, touched by grace, determines to abandon the routine practice
of religion and to cultivate a real interior life, a beginning is
ordinarily made by passing from the mechanical recitation of vocal prayers
to the practice of Meditation. The first effect of Meditation is to awaken
the soul to the realization that it has a "mentality," an outlook on life,
an evaluation of things totally different from that of the Person whose
life it has begun to contemplate. This unlikeness in view, in tastes, in
tendencies between the soul and Jesus causes the influence of the Savior
to be felt but slightly in the beginning.

We are powerfully moved and affected only by those towards whom we are
attracted sympathetically. If we are out of sympathy with a person, it is
unlikely that we should be carried away or elevated or inspired to a higher
ideal by that person no matter how gifted or virtuous he may be. And it
must be confessed that there are comparatively few that have not been at
some time of their life out of sympathy with the principles of Jesus and on
a very imperfect under- standing with Him. Before their conversion men are
worldly-minded; and this worldly-mindedness manifests itself in that uneasy
feeling they experience when they hear of the maxims of holy men and
ascetical writers. The words of the Saints, their appreciation of things,
their outlook on life--all is, for worldly men, very chilling and
uninspiring. The appeal of humanism is felt to be much warmer. There are
few of us in whom these words of Father Faber have not at some time of
other found their verification--"There are many who when they hear or read
of the spiritual life, or come across the ordinary maxims of Christian
perfection, do not understand what is put before them. It is as if some one
spoke to them in a foreign language; either the words are without meaning
or the ideas are far-fetched and unreal. They stand off from persons who
profess to teach such doctrines or live by them, as if they had some
contagious disease, which they might catch themselves."[2]

When a soul fresh form this condition opens intercourse with Jesus, it is
obvious that it would be useless for the Lord to speak too much to it. The
uniquely in its sanctification. He is not concerned about its earthly
prospects except in so far as they have a bearing on spiritual issues. His
inner communications to the soul, then, will always have reference to the
process of sanctification, and the poor soul, on its side has as yet but
little comprehension of what sanctification means and of what its pursuit
involves. The soul is therefore not capable of understanding the Lord's
intentions unless very imperfectly. But anxious to advance and multiplying
its visits to, and its moments of contact with the Divine Master, it begins
to enter more and more into the views of its heavenly Director and falls
more and more under His influence. At first the soul is in continual
activity, the acts that make up the exercise of prayer are practically all
its own. It speaks to Our Lord with a dim perception of its wants and a
certain realization of its shortcomings. Acts of petition and contrition
form the burden of its communications. The growth of the soul in Divine
Grace, that is, in Divine Life, is imperceptible. Yet these pious acts
produced by a good will have promoted its development and have imparted a
certain amount of spiritual vigor. What is taking place spiritually may be
illustrated by the process of bodily nourishment. The sensible, evident
part of this process is the introduction of the food into the mouth, its
mastication and deglutition. All these operations are capable of
observation and control. But it is only when these observed operations are
completed that assimilation begins, vitality is imparted and growth
promoted. The process which is really life-giving is not an object of
consciousness, nor does it fall under observation. In a similar way is it
in the beginning of prayer. One is conscious of one's activities of
imagination, intellect and will. But there is no perception of the effects
that, by the action of grace, follow for the soul on these activities of
the faculties. So after the soul has elicited and multiplied its acts, the
Lord illumines the intelligence to truth and excites the will to good--in
the beginning in an imperceptible way and afterwards perhaps more plainly.

The touches of Divine Grace are very delicate and normally speaking escape
our consciousness. The soul is at the stage when its perceptions of
material and natural things is keen, and its perception of spiritual things
extremely dull. Still the process of growth in the soul-state, which
conditions the supernatural life, goes on. Those acts, that have been
spoken of, develop the soul inasmuch as they posit the conditions of
development. The development in divine life is of course entirely due to
God, the sole source of the supernatural. According as the activity of God
on the soul is being exercised in an increasing measure, the soul's own
activities diminish. Those of the Lord increase in proportion. The soul
simply enters into the Presence of its Director and Guide, who begins to
operate powerfully by instructions, illuminations and encouragements. When
this arrives at a point where the greater part or almost all the
conversation is carried on by the Lord, the soul leaves the ordinary course
and enters into the state of mental prayer which is called passive.

Hence we see that mental prayer is active or ordinary and passive or
mystical. In the former kind the action of the soul predominates; in the
latter, the action of God. When almost the whole activity is God's, the
soul has entered into the extraordinary states and has to undergo those
fearful purgations which wipe away the last traces of the effects of the
original revolt. These purifications remove the final elements of that
resistance to the Divine, which is found in our nature since the Fall, and
thus God is free (so to speak) to evolve His own life in the soul, and the
soul becomes almost powerless to resist the Divine influence.

We make mental prayer therefore, to be converted from evil to good, from
good to better, and from better to perfection; its object as has often been
stated, is to create in us those conditions of human mind and heart, which
are the conditions of the inflow of the Divine into us through the
Sacraments; "For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."[3]
The end (to the attainment of which, for adults, mental prayer is an almost
indispensable means) is the end of our supernatural being, namely, union
with God. Prayer aims at inaugurating that union on earth in the conditions
and limitations of mortality. Prayer is not, then, the mere asking of
things, but a willing associating with Jesus, in order to pass through Him
as man to God--"I am the Way . . . no man cometh to the Father but by me."[4]
The adoption of His principles of life and the application of them to our
own life, is the sole way by which we can arrive at that life of which He
as man has the plenitude--the Life Divine. A mere intellectual knowledge of
the Gospel story doe, not bring us to this; it is only humble meditation on
it, inspired by love, that will bring us to the determination to conform
ourselves to the Lord Jesus.

Many give up prayer in disgust because they do not understand its meaning,
its nature and its end. They believe prayer consists in asking for graces,
spiritual and temporal, the acquisition of virtues or the extirpation of
vices, and they pray in the belief that God will bestow virtues just as we
make presents of books, or take away our vicious habits as we remove
dangerous instruments from the hands of children Virtue is a growth and
follows the laws and conditions of growing things; the same is true of vice
; in the ordinary ways of Providence the sole mode of its removal is by the
growth of the contrary virtue. God does not take away our vices as the
surgeon severs a gangrenous limb from the body. We do not get virtues or
lose vices merely for the asking. The desire prompting and inspiring our
prayer should be the desire of growing in all respects like to Jesus. It is
in that growth that vices vanish and virtues make their appearance. We pray
to God through Jesus not so much to get something as to become some- thing,
namely to become " conformable to the image of His Son."[5] The ultimate
object of prayer is to glorify God and we glorify God by being as we should

The real end of prayer therefore is to be good, to effect in ourselves the
dispositions to sanctification, that is, to purify our souls and replace
our natural views by the views of Jesus Christ and to substitute for our
natural life, His mode of life. This is done by frequenting the society of
Our Lord, by dealing in converse with Him, whatever be the form this
converse may take. It may be a seeking for advice and instruction, a
communing on common interests, an expression of feeling or. sympathy with
His sufferings, an exposition of one's own wants and interests, a tribute
of praise, admiration or love. The familiar conversation with Jesus may
vary very much as to its themes; the effect aimed at must be always a
growing conformity to Him. In a word prayer may be considered a going to
Jesus for spiritual direction--a direction on the way that is to lead to
God. We pray not to dispose God to give, but to prepare ourselves to
receive-- to receive that plenitude of Divine life which is in Christ Jesus
Our Lord.

Note. The brief outline given in this chapter will be developed in the next

1. Luke ii. 19 and 51.

2. The Creator and the Creature. Bk. I, Chap. i.

3. Phil. ii. 5.

4. St. John xiv. G.

5. Rom. viii, 29.


"It is written--not on bread alone doth man live, but on every word that
procedeth from the mouth of God." Luke iv. 4.

When the soul moved by grace resolves to place itself entirely under the
direction of Jesus in view of its spiritual advancement, it is, ordinarily
speaking, full of imperfections. Moreover, it does not realize how
imperfect it is. Having as yet no comprehension of perfection it is without
understanding of imperfection. It is not alive to all the evil that is
active in itself. It comes to Jesus with a natural outlook, independent,
passionate, sensual, proud, uncharitable, a lover of ease and se]f-
satisfaction. Novices in the spiritual life are all this, without their
being aware of the fact of anything being wrong with them in that respect.
They know of sin only as a positive violation of God's Law, and are unaware
that there is an habitual cast of thought, that is more dangerous than an
actual evil act. They come imbued with the spirit of the world and
fashioned to the habits, formed by the years of living according to that
spirit. Life has been for them a tissue of those ideas, judgments,
sentiments, principles, hopes, fears, desires, regrets and dreams which
envelop the souls of men, corrupt their vision and little by little hide
from them heaven and the eternity for which they are destined. To those
entering on the spiritual life, things spiritual have appealed but vaguely,
whilst all that can be seen, weighed, touched and handled, alone have had
value in their eyes. The spirit of the world is the spirit which considers
life, health, glory, beauty, riches, family, country, goodness itself,
without referring them to God their author and end; it looks upon these as
objects to possess without any reference to God. Under the influence of
this spirit they are attracted to sensible things, to honors, pleasures
and satisfactions of all sorts and they are averse from heavenly

When God gives the call to the interior life, a ray of Divine Actual Grace
penetrates through this darkness that surrounds the soul, revealing to it,
in a flash of light, the beauty of the ideal of a spiritual or divine life,
and at the same time the will, by an additional grace, is captivated by the
beauty of this ideal and moved to embrace it. The soul without as yet
understanding anything of the ways of God or of the life of union with Him
dimly perceives that it is beautiful and happiness-giving. Then the soul
resolves to undertake that search for God which, if persevered in, will end
in the finding of Him and of itself.

The beginning of the interior life is therefore much occupied with
intellectual activity. It is devoted to the consideration of what we are,
of what God is. It is a study of the Christian life, its principles and its
maxims. The will's activity consists in the endeavor to establish in
ourselves the conviction that there should be a necessary connection
between the doctrine of the Gospel and our way of living. What is
discovered in this study shows a startling contrast between the principles
on which most of one's conduct has been based and the principles laid down
in the Gospel by Our Divine Lord. There follows on this discovery, feelings
of uneasiness, shame, terror and a keen desire to escape from the un-
Christian state of soul in which one finds oneself. The newly awakened soul
is startled to find that in reality it had been living its life as if the
Gospel and its principles were meant to apply only in a partial measure to
itself, and were reserved in their literal application only to some rare
beings with a special vocation to be saints.

It is truly disconcerting to find that there is but one Gospel for all and
that one has to conform oneself to that, or face the most severe
consequences here and hereafter. Without deliberately formulating it as a
theory, the average person practically works out a comfortable kind of
Gospel for himself, bearing but a faint resemblance to that of Jesus
Christ. In other words people who are not definitely converted to God,
Christians who allow themselves to be carried away by the worldly and false
life around them, come to justify views, principles and a course of action
which find no justification in the teaching of Jesus Christ. "God is hidden
in us, and from us," writes St. John of the Cross. "To find Him we must go
to hide ourselves where He is hidden. In other words to find God, we must
forget ourselves completely, separate ourselves from all creatures and
retire within our own interior. Then having renounced all, we can pray to
the Father in secret."[1] The beginnings of the Presence of God are very
painful and demand strong efforts, for sin (and the habits it engenders)
has sown such discord in the original relations between the soul and its
Creator, that we are in truth strangers to God--strangers to Him who is our
First Principle and our Last End--as if an abyss separated us from Him in
whom we live, move and have our being.

"We have been so accustomed," says St. Teresa, "to follow every whim and
fancy, to gratify ourselves in all that we consider not positively sinful
(our efforts to live a Christian life have consisted rather in the effort
to avoid what was wrong, than to do what was right)[2] that the soul no
longer understands itself as a soul. To accustom it to God it is necessary
to proceed slowly, with caution and patience."[3]

A vivid realization of the falsity of its attitude towards life is the
first strong grace given to the soul when it resolves to turn to God. The
work that is demanded from it, if it is to profit by that grace, is that it
should form strong, deep and practical convictions on this one point--
namely that the type of life portrayed by Our Lord is the only one that can
be adopted by oneself if one is to be Christian.[4] Owing to ingrained
habits, the soul finds an active rebellion in itself against the
acceptation of this life as its own. Mental Prayer at this point is made up
chiefly of considerations; the activity is mostly of the understanding; the
role of the will is limited. The acts of the latter are mostly of
repentance, an earnest pleading for forgiveness for the past which looms
now in horror against the vivid light which God has projected on the
background of the previous existence. The soul with a deep sense of its own
sinfulness pours itself out in humble petitions for help to improve. The
Lord listens patiently, contemplates with pity, says very little on His
side (for the soul cannot as yet understand the Divine instructions) but
accords an increased taste for spiritual things, a detestation of worldly
things, and the grace of strong repentance. The soul begins little by
little to see itself as God sees it, because it has learned to make its
considerations as if analyzing itself in the presence of the Divine Master.
Even when engaged in an examination of its own states and dispositions it
must not turn its gaze away from the Lord or lose the sense of His
presence. It must examine itself, as it were, through His eyes and in His

The soul leaves the presence of Jesus with the resolution to practice the
virtues which it has seen in Him and to uproot the vices it has now
discovered in itself. It succeeds as long as the movement of fervor lasts
and is cheated by this success into the belief that it is already on the
high road to sanctity. The soul having an imperfect notion of the action of
prayer, falls into the mistake of thinking that it can have virtues for the
mere asking of them and rid itself of its defects by praying for such an
emancipation. It does not realize that to acquire the former and rid itself
of the latter, there is required a long process and much labor and toil.
To extirpate a vice requires a constant unremitting reaction against its
activity, by continual exercise of the acts of the opposite virtue. The
soul does not readily understand this, and very easily, in a sense of false
security due to the excesses of fervor it has experienced, it allows
itself to drift into ways and modes of action incompatible with the
interior life. It yields to dissipation, distraction and immortification
without adverting to the fact that these faults rapidly undermine the frail
spiritual edifice it has constructed. The old habits have not, as it
thinks, been burned away and destroyed in the fervor of sensible devotion.
Their activities have been dormant for a time but they have remained
strongly rooted in the soul. The consequence is that when the fervor has
passed and the normal play of circumstances begins, and occasions arise,
things forthwith make the same appeal to the appetites as before.

Very few realize that every mortal sin leaves on the soul a strong tendency
to evil--sets up in it a perverse disposition which does not disappear with
the tears of repentance and the sentence of pardon. The habits created by
years of the self-indulgence of a worldly life do not disappear in the
fervor of a well-made retreat. Unless one is on the watch and exercises
oneself in mortification, these habits begin to manifest themselves when
the circumstances are favorable to their excitation. The things that
pleased of old begin to exercise the same attraction again; and in
corresponding measure the taste for spiritual things declines. The
inexperienced soul is astonished and dismayed at finding as active in
itself as ever the evil tendencies which it believed had disappeared for
ever. In the renewed contact with the evil in itself, all the period of
fervor begins to appear to have been a time of unreality. Having begun the
super- natural enterprise under a false notion, it becomes discouraged and
loses confidence in itself. It has erred in confusing sensible devotion
with spirituality.

God gives sensible fervor in order to enable us to break more readily with
our vicious habits. Being immortified we are drawn towards that which is
most attractive for us. God, stooping to this weakness and profiting by it
in the interests of our salvation, gives us a sensible attraction to
spiritual things and shows us natural things in a light which renders them
distasteful. By this illumination we are enabled to form a conviction of
the superiority of the good of the soul over any merely natural good. This
conviction is made to enable us to persevere afterwards when all becomes

Spirituality itself has no attraction for nature; on the contrary nature is
repelled by it. Our progress in the spiritual life is in direct proportion
to the degree in which natures has been brought into subjection. Now, if
the sensible attraction for spiritual things were to continue to exist, our
nature, that is, the appetite for self-gratification in us, would be
nourished by it and would not die. God, to wean the soul from seeking its
gratification in creatures, offers it in the beginning a gratification of a
superior kind derived from spiritual things. But the soul cannot make
progress unless it aims at spirituality independently of any gratification
it finds in it. Hence to cure it of its "spiritual sensuality," God
withdraws sensible delight in the interior life and leaves the soul to go
forward in faith. The soul then finds itself faced with the evil habits and
tendencies fostered by a life lived for the gratification of self. To
conquer these habits and develop the supernatural virtues of religion,
humility, charity and mortification, God leaves the beginner in the
spiritual life with merely the firm conviction, based upon faith, of the
necessity of acquiring the virtues just mentioned, of advancing in the
grace of God and saving his soul.

In this state it is evident that things will act upon the individual in the
way in which they were wont to act. The soul is affected by things
precisely in the same way as it was affected by them previous to its
conversion. It is readily drawn towards what is opposed to the life of the
spirit, and it has no attraction towards the acts and habits that pertain
to the life of virtue. It has nothing to move it to the practice of
christian virtue except the rational conviction, enlightened by faith, of
the utility and the necessity of virtue if it is to attain to union with

This is a moment of serious danger in the spiritual life. It is a point
where great numbers turn aside and quit the path that leads to intimacy
with God. Mortification, the avoidance of occasions that tempt to
dissipation or sensuality and the strong resolve to cling to God even
though His service involve only hardship and distastefulness--these are the
safeguards against failure. But if one is weak, if one allows oneself to
drift into the ways frequented before, if one seeks the same satisfactions
in pleasant companionships and indulges in the practices of the previous
immortified life, if one permits sensuality, waste of time, self-indulgence
and self-seeking to invade one's life, the inevitable happens. The
supernatural becomes a vague unreal memory, a dream from which one has
awakened to reality. The conviction of its importance is obliterated and
all the good effects produced during the period of fervor disappear.
Having been accustomed to doing always that which is agreeable and to avoid
what is disagreeable, the soul gives up spirituality as soon as it ceases
to exercise an attraction on it. The soul longed to find in spirituality a
bread pleasing to the sensible palate and so falls victim to the
temptations of sensuality. The soul at this juncture undergoes a struggle
that bears a resemblance to the first temptation of Our Savior in the
desert. The temptation is to renounce the pursuit of union with God when
there is no longer any " felt " or experienced satisfaction in that
pursuit. It is the temptation to ask that the stones that go to make up the
rugged path that leads to God, the hard stones of mortification and self-
denial, change their nature and be turned into something agreeable to the
palate of the natural man.

This temptation is very strong and many souls fall victims to it. It is all
the more subtle because it seems so reasonable. To the soul, finding in
itself a positive distaste for what appears to be the cold forbidding
deserts of the spiritual life and finding in itself on the other hand a
very strong inclination for and a drawing towards the pleasures of the
natural life, it seems absurd to continue the pursuit of an ideal for which
its experiences apparently manifest its unfitness. The former efforts after
a practice of Christianity above the ordinary now appear the effect of a
vain and mistaken ambition. The soul does not "feel" itself to be
spiritual, why should it continue to act in the way spiritual persons act?
Why not satisfy the natural longings (of course always within the limits of
the Ten Commandments) --why not "command the stones to be made bread" and
live like everybody else? Carried away by these reasonings the soul gives
up the practice of the interior life altogether or becomes slack and
perfunctory in the exercise of that life. Its ambition gradually dwindles
down to what it thinks to be the observance of the decalogue; the
observance of the ordinary law of God as interpreted by itself is
sufficient spirituality, it thinks, for one of its humble attainments and
unspiritual tastes; it is effort enough to keep within the limits of the
main points of Christian law. It persuades itself that salvation may be
secured by these limited efforts without facing the hardships of an austere
interior life. For a soul that has received the call to close intimacy with
God such a resolve may prove fatal.

As the temptation bears a resemblance to that of Jesus in the desert, the
resistance to it must be such as His was. "Not on bread alone doth man live
but on every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God."[6] Bread is
undoubtedly the staff of life. But the life that it maintains is not the
only one that is given to man to live. Life can have a higher form, and
nourishment of another kind. If we seek for a " life that is truly life "--
and that is what we are really seeking--we must give up looking for it in
the eating of bread, that is, in the pursuit of those things that are
agreeable to the appetite of the natural man. This seeking after and the
giving oneself every possible gratification, short of those that involve a
grave breach of God's law, does give a certain kind of life, but this life
is as nothing compared with that which is enjoyed by feeding our souls on
the word of God. Life is to be sought only where it is to be found
lastingly; it is so found in intimacy with God, in converse with Him, in
nourishing our souls on His communications. Life is to be found for us in
the words that proceed from the mouth of God and are addressed to the
spirit within. Convinced of the fundamental truth that we are created to
praise, revere and serve God, convinced that we belong to Him absolutely
whether we will it or no, we must be resolved to persevere in fulfilling
His will in our regard,--which will is our sanctification[7]--even though
everything that the fulfillment of that will involves, prove distasteful to
us. We must be ready to pursue the work of our own sanctification, even
though we are sorely tried by hunger after the satisfactions of a life
lived for the indulgence of every gratification not positively sinful. We
must be strong to rise superior to our feelings and to follow not that
which is more pleasant, but that which conducts us most surely and securely
to God's friendship.

The discipline of the religious life, resolutely submitted to, is a great
help in this crisis. The rule calls to the exercise of prayer several times
in the day; it enjoins an attention and a reverential posture at these
exercises; in this way it saves the soul from a complete surrender to
itself. If the sorely tempted soul were free to regulate the activities of
its day, it would, probably, abandon the practice of mental prayer
altogether as being tedious and unfruitful.

There is a definite course of conduct to be followed in this trial if the
danger it carries with it is to be escaped. The person that has begun to
walk in the way of the interior life, must continue to acquit him- self of
his exercises of prayer with fidelity and with all the perfection, at least
material and exterior, that he brought to their acquittal when carried away
by a strong movement of devotion and fervor. He must do them even though
he finds no apparent good in his prayer, even though he has no satisfaction
in it, even though he has a positive distaste for it. In a word though he
finds himself in no way 'prayerful,' he must 'act as if' he were. Those who
are at this point in the interior life must not allow themselves to be
betrayed into making their outward bearing reflect what they think to be
their inner attitude of soul. Though they feel as if all their spirituality
had oozed away from their soul, they must continue to bear themselves in
their relations with persons or things, and especially their spiritual
exercises, as they did when fervent. The salutary effect of this will be
felt speedily, for there is a natural reaction of the exterior on the
interior. There is a great virtue in this principle of "acting as if." Men
tend to develop feelings corresponding to their actions. The successful
effort to wear a smiling countenance induces an inner disposition of
pleasantness and amiability. Thoughts in their turn are influenced by
feelings and finally actions bear the impress of thoughts. It is by the
working of this psychological law that a spiritual bearing and deportment,
as, for instance, a deliberately reverential attitude in the presence of
God, a christian dignity and elevation in speech, and a courteous attitude
towards others, are instrumental in producing a true, inward devotion. For
all this, of course, there are needed, courage, energy and self-discipline.

The earnest and upright soul must not allow itself to be betrayed into the
belief that in acting in the manner outlined it will be behaving in ~n
unreal and hypocritical manner. It is a common temptation to judge that it
is dishonest not to bear oneself outwardly as one is (or believes one is)
inwardly. This judgment contains a profound error. There are in us two
selves, the true and the false. We are more conscious of the latter than
the former, and that is the reason why the false appears to us to be the
real self. By Baptism we have been made children of God and have ceased to
be children of wrath. The true self in us, in consequence, is the child of
grace, the brother of Jesus Christ. The alien from God has been thrust out
by Baptism, ostracized, and condemned to death. "You are not," says St.
Paul, writing to the Romans, "in the flesh, but in the spirit . . . and if
Christ be in you, the body indeed is dead because of sin, but the spirit
liveth because of justification . . . therefore, brethren, we are debtors
not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh."[8] We are really false in
our bearing and untrue to ourselves when we act and speak according to the
unspiritual promptings in us. That character is not acting hypocritically
but acting in the very reverse manner, who carries himself outwardly in all
the relations of life, as a being that is spiritual, of heavenly tastes,
though he " feels" anything but that interiorly. Furthermore, by constantly
acting " spiritually " he becomes " spiritual".[9]

When Satan, urging this argument of hypocrisy, bids us be such as we find
ourselves, he must be met by a counter argument. He said to the Lord, " Why
depend on God for your food, why not use the power that is really yours and
make these stones be bread ? " The Savior answered that though there was
in Him a life that was sustained by bread, there was another and a higher
life that was sustained by loving dependence on and union with God. So
likewise, when Satan whispers to us that we are really but sinful
creatures, with earthly tastes and likings, and that we should, if sincere
and honest, act as such, our reply should have a parallelism with that of
the Savior's. " True," we should say to him, " we are sinful creatures,
but we are not only that. We have been redeemed. By right and title we are
children of God." That is what we really and truly are; the other we have
been. To act then as it becomes us to act, truly to reflect in our conduct
what we are, we must in all things comport ourselves as having heavenly
tastes and ideals. It is to be admitted that years of seeking after
gratification have developed in us tastes the very opposite of those that
befit a child of God. At present, owing to the habits formed by the years
of self-indulgence, I find interiorly a contradiction between my true and
my false self, and the latter seems to be predominant. Yet by the
cultivation of a truly spiritual bearing in all things possible to me by
ascetical effort aided by grace, I know that this contradiction will
ultimately disappear. The exterior will finally affect the interior; the
old habits will wither away and I shall end by finding satisfaction in God
alone. My life will be the living by every word that proceeds from the
mouth of God. When the soul has in this manner rejected the wiles of Satan,
she has taken a decisive step onward in the. interior life.

It is because many souls are persuaded that they should reflect in their
exterior what they conceive to be their true, but what is in reality their
false self, that there is the too common spectacle of those who having
begun well end by being complete failures spiritually. The arguments of
Satan, condemning as hypocrisy, this effort to " act as if spiritual," must
be treated as a temptation and met by counter arguments. The truth is that
the Christian is by Baptism a child of God and should therefore have an
interior disposition corresponding to that state. He should have affection
only for God and for all else in God. When conversion is at its beginning,
the evil habits that have been contracted by a past life lived for self,
give us tastes quite opposite to the tastes that should be those of a child
of God. Those heavenly tastes and instincts cannot become rooted in the
soul until the contrary ones have been rooted out. That rooting out will
involve time and labor. But in the meantime whilst awaiting the successful
termination of the process of destroying the perverse tendencies, the
Christian can school himself to act as if the process were complete. He
must so bear himself as if his tastes were all spiritual, avoiding such
speech, such acts, such judgment, such courses of conduct as mark the non-

1. St. John of the Cross. 1st Strophe of "The Dark Night of the Soul."

2. The words in parenthesis are mine.

3. "Way of Perfection"---St. Theresa. Chap. xxvi.

4. In speaking of adopting the type of life led by Our Lord, the words are
not to be taken in a materiel sense. To adopt the Lord's life does not
involve taking up the occupation of His earthly existence, but it means
living our life after the principles which guided his.

5. The word 'nature' here is to be taken in the ascetical, not in the exact
philosophical sense. It means what St. Catherine of Siena calls sensuality
It is the 'ensemble' of these tendencies both of the spirit and the senses
in which man aims at procuring his own satisfaction, independently of the
law both of reason and of faith.

6. St. Matt. iv. 4.

7. "This is the will of God, your sanctification." (I Thess. iv. 3)

8. Rom. viii. 9-l[2].

9. It may be noted that it is equally true according to this psychological
law that by exteriorly acting in an "unspiritual way" one becomes
unspiritual. This fact frequently becomes of practical importance in the
spiritual life. The tendency to take the line of least resistance, to be
accommodating, to respond to the dictates of human respect, often leads
souls to assume a course of action or agree with a course of thought which
is distinctly unspiritual and even worldly. Such "putting on" is meant to
be "for the time being," but apart from the fact that it means a definite
relinquishing of principles it has the sad result of developing the
facility to be worldly and unspiritual and of producing a mentality that is
by no means Christ-like. The truth of this is exemplified in the case of
religious who in contact with the world (the parlor or hospital) assume
the ways and line of thought of those who are not in religion and whose
lives are not completely influenced by the principles of Christ Our Lord.
If spiritual progress is to be made the soul must adopt the advice of St.
John Berchmans: "Make open profession of aiming at the interior life."


"It is written---thou shalt adore the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou
serve." St. Luke iv. 8.

The soul having thus successfully surmounted the first great trial in the
interior life returns to God with the conviction that it must serve Him,
not for the delight it finds in the things appertaining to His service but
solely for His sake and for the sake of union with Him as the end for which
it has been created. It is now clearly seen that seeking God is not a
matter of delight but of a steady struggle to overcome defects, root out
vices and practice virtues. With this end in view, prayer takes on a new
tone. Already in the first stage strong and deep convictions have been
formed with regard to fundamental truths. The soul now occupies itself
seriously with the means of realizing the consequences that flow from these
basic truths. The principal of these consequences is that God must be won
at all costs and that the life which does not issue in close union with Him
is a failure. Acts of sorrow and regret are still frequent, but they have
changed somewhat their tone and character. Formerly they proceeded
principally from a hatred of the acts of sin because of the evil
consequences they involved, now repentance tends to become a dislike of sin
as being destructive of the moral beauty the soul aspires to.

The soul realizes its own fundamental weakness; it sees that the source of
its sins lies deeper than it thought at first. It thought it had only to
make an act of the will in order to be good. It thought that it had only to
will to change and immediately spiritual tastes would replace the earthly
ones. It finds that it can will and will very strongly to change and yet no
change follows. It believed that there was nothing more in sin than the
act, and that with the cessation of the act would disappear the root of the
sins. It has not yet realized that the habit of self-will and self-
indulgence is rooted out only by a long course of self- denial. The evil
that it still finds strong in itself makes it understand that its own
conversion to good has not destroyed in it the source of corruption. It has
become clear that this source can be dried up only by a laborious pursuit
and practice of the acts of the virtues contrary to the vices it finds
rooted in itself. It knows too that its own efforts count little but that
much can be achieved by the help of the Divine Master. It trusts to His
goodness for that help. Its chief aim at this stage, becomes the
acquisition of the virtues and it sets itself to a study of the means to
acquire these virtues and to overcome the opposite vices.

The soul becomes ardently eager for its own perfection and feels a deep
humiliation and shame at its imperfections. It asks the Lord earnestly to
assist it to acquire these virtues and to raise it to the perfection it
ambitions. Souls at this point often experience an acute spiritual jealousy
of others whom they see advanced in the way of perfection; they are pained
at the humiliating contrast presented by their own miserable state. This
ambition and jealousy show that there is a large measure of self-love and
self-esteem in the desire to become perfect. They importune Our Lord, more
because they desire to see them- selves perfect, than to see God served.
Acts of virtue are frequent. The soul gives itself eagerly to the practice
of them, because it has confidence that it can, with God's co-operation,
attain the end it has set before itself. The life of Jesus forms the
ordinary subject of meditation. The soul desires to contemplate Him in the
practice of the different virtues, in order to stimulate itself to the
desire of them and to learn how to practice them after the manner of its
Divine Model. The Lord, on His side, co-operates more strongly--impressing
the imagination powerfully with the details of His mysteries and forming
the intelligence to a more perfect understanding of the principles
underlying His life on earth. The soul is carried away by the beauty and
desirability of a life lived after the pattern He has traced. When in
prayer, owing to the strong way it is affected by the beauty of the conduct
it contemplates, it believes itself strong against its own weakness and it
thinks that it can easily imitate the Lord's virtue. Outside of prayer it
finds its weakness. It believes itself at times to be virtuous but fails
under test. Pained at its own failure and seeing in prayer alone a remedy,
it returns to it with eagerness and multiplies its petitions. The acts of
the will become more numerous and gradually replace in prominence the acts
of the intellect. The Lord gives good inspirations in plenty. His direction
is stronger and more manifest. The virtues begin to grow feebly because the
soul is schooling itself to act under the inspiration of grace and is
partially successful. The rule of life is carefully observed; the soul is
attentive to inspirations, but is still full of the seeds of faults. These
escape it on many occasions--especially faults of impatience, irritation
and jealousy. The habit of prayer however, grows and the practice of it
becomes less difficult.

By the aid of the particular examination it succeeds occasionally for a
certain length of time in producing the acts of one or other of the
virtues. This temporary success lulls it into security and cheats it into
the belief that the virtue in question is firmly rooted in the soul. A
sudden surprise, an encounter not prepared for, causes it to relapse into
impatience, uncharitableness, irritability, jealousy, etc., and it realizes
with keen disappointment that the virtue it fondly hoped that it possessed
is yet far from being acquired.

The days as they pass, witness a constant alternation of these successes
and failures. The spiritual combat is a series of beginnings. After much
effort little progress is to be noted, apparently. The soul finds itself as
prone to criticism, ill temper, sensuality, etc., as ever. It begins to
wonder why the Lord shows Himself so deaf to its appeals and allows it to
remain a prey to its vices and defects. It cannot reconcile the continued
refusal, as it seems to it to be, to accord it the virtues it pleads for so
humbly, earnestly and perseveringly, with the Lord's promise to give
whatever should be asked for in prayer. Tested by actual experience how can
His words, "Ask and you shall receive"[1] be found to be true? The soul has
asked again and again, and it has not received.

This is the ordinary state of good souls. Their faults are numerous enough
but their conscience is delicate and reproaches them for any want of
generosity in God's service. The source of their failures is to be traced
to their want of detachment from creatures but especially detachment from
themselves. Their notion of holiness evinces that, for they pursue not so
much the service of God as their own perfection. They do not want to be
miserable and imperfect, their self-love rebels against that. Hence, they
pursue virtue for its own sake, and they hate vice because it is degrading
and ugly. Nevertheless the action of the Lord is strong upon them and
increases continually whilst the action of the soul, hitherto somewhat
feverish and full of natural effort, becomes calmer and less complex. The
prayer tends to become more affective and has fewer and simpler
considerations. In the light of the illuminations the soul receives from
its Divine guide and director, it observes in itself defects which would
before have passed unobserved or which would have been regarded as not
worth considering. The Lord reproaches it for any infidelities and
especially for any natural attachments that it tends to allow itself to
contract. It is given clearly to under- stand that the Lord will not have a
divided heart and that His love demands perfect detachment.

The danger for the soul at this juncture is serious, for it can become
ensnared by its own striving after perfection. It is sincere in its belief
that it is actuated by an earnest desire to draw closer to God. But in
reality since it has as yet made little progress in detachment. its love of
God is not pure. It contains a heavy mixture of alloy. It is its own
goodness, its own perfection, its own purity that the soul is enamoured of.
The ideal of "itself perfect" draws it and inspires its efforts. God of
course is not excluded from this ideal for the call to perfection comes
from God, and it is in obedience to this call that the spiritual enterprise
has been engaged in. But not having as yet a clear idea of what constitutes
its perfection, the soul unwittingly is drawn on, mainly by the anxiety to
see itself equipped with virtue. Its own moral beauty, seen in thought as
an object capable of being realized by the aid of God, is what the soul is
in love with.[2] It thinks that this moral excellence is what God has
appointed to it as an end to strive after. The snare is a subtle one. It is
not easy for the inexperienced to see that there is a refined self-love
involved in this struggle after virtue, or rather after "oneself virtuous."
It is God, not virtue, that must be loved since virtue is a means not an
end. Not seeing this clearly, the soul is, unawares, really captivated by
an ideal that is human and created. The weakness generated in the soul by
this, leaves it exposed to be captivated by other forms of created good and
to seek its satisfaction therein. The devil seizes his opportunity to
ensnare it by one of its predominant tendencies. The soul is easily led to
form an obstinate attachment to its own excellence proposed to it under the
guise that makes the strongest appeal to its temperament. The ambitious
soul is carried away by the desire of praise, of success, of position. The
pursuit of all this will be made to appear as in line with one's progress
in perfection and the service of God. The affectionate and attractive soul
will be tempted to exercise its power and to attach others to itself--
ostensibly in the interests of God. The cold and upright will be easily
betrayed into a spirit of self-righteousness, domineering, harshness of
judgment, uncharitableness and want of consideration for others. Because of
the love of self that has insinuated itself into its pursuit of virtue the
soul may readily fall a victim to one or other of these temptations.

There is still another and a common danger to which it is exposed through
this base alloy of self-love that is mixed with its love of God. Just as it
is attracted by that created object--its own excellence, so it may easily
be drawn to the real or fancied good in other creatures. At this stage the
soul owing to its imperfection can easily form attachments to creatures.
These attachments are usually based upon the discernment of real excellence
in the object. The soul accustomed to love its own excellence easily
succumbs to the attraction of excellence in others. The affection called
forth by what is really good, will appear to be justifiable and according
to God. It often has, in fact, spiritual beginnings. But such attachments
to creatures, no matter how good, will, at this stage of the soul's
progress, eventually degenerate into something really harmful. The good
that is loved remains a created good. An idol is set up on the heart
alongside of God. The inordinate love of the created cannot exist by the
side of the love of the Creator.[3] The Holy Ghost is driven from His
rightful place and the soul becomes insensible to His inspirations.
Spiritual progress is impeded and retrogression begins. What is more
dangerous still is that this retrogression is imperceptible and will have
reached an advanced stage before it arouses attention. The reason is that
the soul, having acquired, by its previous efforts, habits of regularity of
prayer and of other pious practices, does not lose these habits
immediately. It can continue for a considerable time invested with the
outward form of spirituality, after the inner spirit has taken its

This temptation to love a created excellence in oneself or others--an
excellence that is wrongly thought to be closely connected with the
attractiveness of God--marks a decisive moment in the interior life. Our
Divine Lord has shown us how to resist it. We must be always on our guard
and never rely to any extent on the progress we have made. Attachments to
self in any of the ways above mentioned have slight and often imperceptible
beginnings and before it is aware the soul is entangled. To avoid this
disaster the soul must never allow itself to rest in any created thing no
matter how good. Even its own holiness and excellence is not to be pursued
as an end. Even that must remain simply a means to God. "And Jesus
answering said to him: It is written; thou shalt adore the Lord thy God,
and Him only shalt thou serve."[5] Satan unveiled to the Savior's gaze the
whole realm of created loveliness. There was much in that vision to attract
and subjugate the human heart. The appeal of beauty is very strong and it
is not the ignoble but the gifted and idealistic that are most sensitive to
that appeal. There are few that would appreciate as the Savior did the
attractiveness that stood revealed to Him in the whole realm of nature that
was spread before His gaze. The tempter thought that the Man who stood
before him would be conquered by that attractiveness, made a slave to it
and weaned thereby from the charm of the Creator of it all. He thought that
by an inordinate affection Jesus would be made the slave of the creature
and withdrawn from subjection to God. He was utterly mistaken. Jesus loved
what He saw, but loved it in God and not as a substitute for or in the
place of God. Before God only would He prostrate Himself. To Him only would
He offer the worship of His love. To His beauty only would He acknowledge
Himself a slave.

The soul that is determined to go forward in the interior life must be on
its guard against all attachments to creatures. There are, of course, human
affections which are in the plan of God and blessed by Him. There is no
question of these legitimate affections, but of the ones that are called
inordinate. These latter either not being according to God or not observing
the measure ordained by God, necessarily oust God from the soul and take
His place. Even good souls are susceptible to beauty in the various forms
in which it presents itself. They are susceptible to beauty of mind, to
beauty of soul and to beauty of the external form. The beauty in inanimate
nature and the splendors of art in its various forms can exercise a strong
sway over them. Pious souls are prone to be strongly drawn towards those
whom they think have been for them an inspiration to good and whose
qualities of mind or soul they admire. In all these cases, there is the
appeal of created beauty to the soul most sensitive to that appeal. There
is danger of enslavement. As long as there is a strong attachment to self
in the soul---and at this stage there is such an attachment--it is almost
morally impossible that its love for others will not be tainted with
selfishness. It is almost certain therefore that it will be inordinate and
impair the friendship with God. We can love creatures properly only when
our love is disinterested. We love them as we should, when we love them in
God and for His sake. As long as we are lovers of self in our tendency
towards God, there is danger that the affection we contract for creatures
will be inordinate. We shall love creatures purely when we love God purely.
That will be when we love God with perfect detachment from self. It is then
and then only that we can safely pour out our affections on creatures. We
attach ourselves to creatures without danger when we are perfectly detached
from them and from ourselves. The inordinate affections of which there has
been question can have relation to every created attraction that can warm
the human imagination. Those who have made headway in spirituality by the
overcoming of their sensuality can become enslaved to riches, honors,
distinctions, positions, the esteem of others, as well as to the beauty,
mental or physical, of those who have charm of mind or body. If the soul is
to advance, it must be jealous of its freedom. It must maintain complete
liberty with regard to all creature charms at any cost. It must be resolute
in the determination not to allow itself to be subjugated by any charm
except the charm of God.[6]

1. St. John xvi. 24.

2. The form of vanity described here and which is such a common obstacle
(especially for women) is ruthlessly denounced by St. John of the Cross.
Max. 314. "There are many Christians in our day who have certain virtues
and who do great things, but all of no use to them in the matter of
everlasting life because in them they do not seek that honor and glory
which belongs to God alone, but rather the empty satisfaction of their own

3. "The sources of the waters of interior joy are not on earth; the mouth
of desire must be opened heavenwards, utterly empty." St. John of the
Cross, Letter ii.

4. Cf. St. Fr. de Sales. "Love of God," iv. 9.

5. St. Luke iv. 8.

6. (a) "The immense treasures of God can only be contained in a heart which
is empty and solitary." St. John of the Cross. Max. 349. (b) The
solitariness or detachment which is needed is well summarized by St.
Francis de Sales:---"Indifference ought to be practiced in everything which
relates to natural life, such as health, sickness, beauty, ugliness,
weakness or strength; in all things concerning civil life, honors ranks
and riches; in all the varieties of the spiritual life: as dryness,
consolation, sweetness in prayer, aridity; in all our actions, sufferings
and every kind of happening." "Love of God," ix. 5.


"It is said--thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." St. Luke iv. 12.

When the soul has conquered its sensuality, when moreover it has succeeded
in maintaining the heart free for God, when it has kept itself faithful to
its resolve to find God at all costs, and has arrived at the renouncement
of all affections that are not in God and for God--and thus has attained
the detachment towards which the Lord has been directing it--it reaches the
third stage in the interior life, a stage that has characteristics which
distinguish it sharply from the other two.

The soul has learned by experience, that all its efforts after the
acquisition of the virtues have had very little success; time and time
again, when the occasions offered themselves of practicing those virtues
which at moments it thought it had acquired, it failed abjectly; it failed
in patience, submission, humility, simplicity and charity. The conviction
has at last been forced upon it--a conviction which the Lord has been all
the time trying to bring home to it--that it is, of itself, by its own
efforts, incapable of any good at all, much less of acquiring virtue.

The discovery has not, however, the effect of causing it any discouragement
or irritation-both signs of pride. For its detachment has earned for it the
great grace of a perfect confidence, that if it submits itself absolutely
to His action the Lord can accomplish in it these things to which it
aspires, that He can effect in it the virtues it has been struggling to

At last the truth has dawned on it that perfection is not its own work, or
to be acquired by its own efforts, but is purely the work of Our Divine
Lord Whom St. Teresa loves to compare to a gardener working in the soul.
The moment that the soul realizes that it is absolutely incapable of
attaining to goodness, is precisely the moment of salvation for it, if this
complete distrust in itself is accompanied by an unbounded trust in the
Lord's power to effect sanctification in the creatures He has redeemed by
His blood.[1]

The soul sees that its own co-operation in the work consists solely in
divesting itself of self by the practice of self-abnegation, and by
forgoing whatever would attach it or enslave it to any creature. It
understands that its role in the work of sanctification consists in holding
itself free from all ties in order that the Lord may operate freely in it.
It sees that what is required of it is to combat all inordinate affections
and to attach itself exclusively to God. It still falls into frequent
faults, because it is still very imperfect, but these passing failures
neither astonish nor wound, nor irritate nor cause disappointment. They are
clearly seen to rise from those depths of the soul as yet unsubmitted to
God. The soul realizes keenly that this fundamental weakness will show
itself as soon as it releases its hold on the hand of Jesus. But these
lapses do not cause despair of ultimate success; the soul seizes each lapse
as an occasion for plunging itself deeper and deeper into humility, and of
clinging with more and more tenacity to the help and companion- ship of
Jesus. It asks pardon, resolves to be with Him more frequently, to keep
closer to Him and begin again with unabated courage and perfect peace. If
the soul does any good it assigns it readily to the Lord, for it has been
clearly shown that it is He alone that operates any good; if it does wrong,
commits faults, it recognizes that nothing else is to be expected from
unregenerate human nature. The soul is illuminated to its depths by the
truth contained in the Lord's words--"I am the vine; you the branches; he
that abideth in me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit; for without
me you can do nothing."[2] It has become very patient with itself, and fully
expects that the Lord will in the end replace its own vileness with His
goodness. The process may take years but it is confident that that end will
come, if in the meantime detachment and docility of life are practiced.[3]

At this stage prayer has come to be of extreme simplicity; a mere glance at
the subject of meditation suffices to put the intelligence in possession of
the points, and of their bearing on the particular state in which the soul
happens to find itself. Considerations are no longer necessary; convictions
have been formed, and the soul is desirous of nothing except of pleasing
God and of advancing in friendship with Him, pursuing virtue merely as a
means to this. The whole exercise tends to develop into a simple, familiar
and intimate conversation with Jesus. The soul has now taken its own
worthlessness for granted, and is no longer so much enamoured with the idea
or prospect of its own excellence. Its objective is entirely changed; it
aims no longer at its own perfection as an end but at the love and service
of God. It asks for perfection, but its request is purely disinterested; it
is asked for simply because the soul sees in it an indispensable means
towards serving God properly. The soul has at last ceased to be self-
centered in its pursuit of perfection, and has become God-centered. It
surrenders itself entirely to the action of the Lord, begging Him to
transform it to His own likeness and to impress His own virtues upon it.
Sufferings are no longer merely patiently borne--they commence to be
valued; they are recognized to be most efficacious instruments in the
working out of perfect detachment from creatures, and in purifying the soul
from all attachment to self. The action or direction of the Lord now
becomes very pronounced, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost exercise increased

The soul has become very mobile to the action of the Holy Spirit. The self-
analysis characteristic of the former states disappears. Only one ambition
now stirs the soul, namely that of lending itself as an instrument, to be
used by the Lord to effect His purposes. It bewails its imperfections for
the reason that they destroy or mar its perfection as an instrument, making
it less serviceable. It, therefore, presents itself readily to the
purifying action of the Divine Will which tempers and perfects it in the
fire of trial and suffering. The Lord becomes the chief worker; and the
action of the soul consists in the loving desire to serve God at all costs,
and a docile surrender to Him to equip it for that service. The soul has
become much more childlike in its attitude towards the Lord, in its
attitude of complete dependence on Him and perfect confidence in Him.[4]

Its objective has undergone a complete change unconsciously. Zeal for the
glory of God and the accomplishment of His will, in itself, in others and
over the whole earth, has replaced its passionate ardor for its own good
and its own perfection. The action of the theological virtue of charity
dominates that of the virtue of hope. It has become to a great extent
oblivious of self and its own concerns, and begins to be more occupied with
the interests of God Whom it loves. It is not that it is obliged to make
efforts to leave self out of count or to forget self; but preoccupied as it
is, about God, it ceases without observing it, to think about self at all.
The absence of self-consciousness, the characteristic of that child- like
simplicity that Our Lord demands as a condition of entrance into intimacy
with Him, develops with the growth of charity; this want of self-
consciousness precludes to a great extent the necessity of that active and
positive repression of self which constituted the chief work of the soul in
the two previous stages. The acquisition of simplicity does away with the
necessity of self-repression--for self is no longer assertive.

According as this self-consciousness disappears there is developed a
consciousness of another kind--namely, a growing realization of the great
truth that one is not a mere isolated individual, but forms part of a great
mystical organism in the life of which the individual shares. The Catholic
sense is gradually replacing the individual sense. The soul now aims at
conforming its thoughts and its feelings with those of that Mystical Body
with whom it feels itself identified in the community of a common life. Its
previous experience and study has revealed to it fully the inner
dispositions, aspirations and devotion of the Head of that Body, of that
Head which imparts to the Body all the vitality it has in the supernatural
order.[5] The soul passionately desires that its life should be in perfect
harmony with that life of which Christ, its Head, has the plenitude. It is
perfectly aware that it cannot receive the inflow of that life to the
fullest of its own capacity, unless there disappears from it all pulsations
of the life of self which in its tendencies is opposed to the spirit of the
life of Christ. Its object now is to check all unsupernatural movements in
itself, in order that its whole life may be supernaturalised and that thus
it may be brought into perfect union with Jesus Christ Himself.

All manifestations of the inordinate life of self become abhorrent to it
for the sole reason that they prevent the perfection of that union and
harmony between itself, as member, and the Head of that Mystical Body. In
other words, the soul wishes to become a healthy cell in the Mystical Body
of Christ, a cell fully vivified by the life that animates that Body; it
shrinks from the condition of being a languishing one, possessing only a
tainted or incomplete life. Venial sins weaken the vital energy of the
Body; they diminish the fervor of charity and impoverish grace which is as
it were, the soul of the Mystical Body of Christ.[6] The conscience,
therefore, becomes very delicate and shrinks from everything that falls
short of a complete conformity to the will of God. Deviation from that
will, even when far short of opposition to it, appears in its real horror.
It has to do extreme violence to all its newborn instincts to commit a
single deliberate fault; and if it falls into such, it is seized with a
lively and keen remorse. Its infidelities become rarer, at least deliberate
infidelities--though the soul is still weak and can fail frequently through
frailty. But it cannot for a moment leave go of God to attach itself to
something else--even though that attachment may not be positively
displeasing to God--without instantly hearing His reproach in the depths of
its interior. The Lord's voice makes itself heard reproachfully at every
infidelity.[7] The soul grows rapidly in purity of conscience, and its
confessions become very sincere; its faults are traced back with perfect
surety of discernment to their true source, which is always a want of
correspondence in some direction or other to God's designs of love. It has
a growing discernment of the action of God on it, and understands to a
large extent how it can in its own activities co-operate with or impede
that action. It now perceives how its every act has an effect on its own
state, and makes or mars its growth in supernatural life.

Its contrition is deeper and more perfect, though all traces of irritation
and bitterness against self have disappeared from its sorrow for sin. It
abhors its faults now not as being a humiliating reminder of its native
weakness and imperfection, nor yet because of the loss and harm of which
they are the cause, but simply because they render it less apt to serve
God's purposes. Its sorrow is all for God and not for self; it views these
faults in His light not in its own, and therefore sees them justly and
truly; it sees them not only in themselves, but in their sources. The
purpose of amendment is directed to more than the elimination of the actual
sins; it aims at the mortifying of the principle from which they spring.
The examination of conscience is no longer a mere inquiry into the nature
and number of its faults; it is no longer a mere review of the "facts" of
its spiritual existence; it has become a study of the relations, in which
the soul stands to Almighty God, of the measure of its want of
correspondence to His grace, and finally of the obstacles it opposes by its
imperfections to the accomplishment of the Divine will in its regard.

The particular kind of life the soul is leading, will naturally determine
the direction which its positive activity towards spiritual progress will
take. Having only one purpose in view and that the promotion of God's
glory, it will have only one object to tend towards and that is to
extirpate in itself all that prevents God's glory being realized through
its instrumentality. If the soul has adopted the contemplative life as its
vocation, it will aim at consoling the Lord by its fidelity, by its
delicate attentions to Him and by the warmth of its affection, for the
abandonment He suffers from others. The soul desires that it should be a
Holy place where the Lord may come to take His rest, and where He may find
nothing but profound adoration, deep sympathy and warm affection. It aims
at excluding everything from its way of acting that could displease the
Lord or render His presence less intimate. Dissipation, purely natural
activity, or want of fervor are the kind of faults that frustrate the
realization of the glory God is to gain through that soul, and the soul
reproaches itself with deep sorrow if it has been betrayed by its frailty
into any faults. Inevitably in its conversations with God it will gravitate
towards this ruling thought--now become the Christian motive of its life--
that of lending itself to be a perfect and willing instrument in the hands
of God, for the fulfillment of His designs. The petition of its prayer will
be for fervor, recollection and interior peace, as being the means which
will render it pliable under the action of the Holy Ghost.

If devoted to the active or apostolic life, its energy will be directed to
the correction of those faults and defects of temperament or character
which might hamper its action on souls and check the flow of the Divine
influence which Jesus wills to transmit through it to others. Therefore in
order to have more power to attract souls, it will with an eagerness
inspired by love, work hard to bring under control al! movements of
impatience, rigidity and uncharitableness. On account of its high ideals--
which it believes only too low--it will at first tend to be hard and
exacting with weak and cowardly souls that choose to move in a lower plane
than itself. But the Lord Who does not "break the bruised reed and
extinguish the smoking flax," reveals to it that such a hard and exacting
spirit is not His. It sees in this illumination that it must cultivate a
Divine tolerance of weakness in others, and cultivate in itself a peace so
solidly established that it cannot be disturbed by the ceaseless
difficulties that God's work encounters in this world. This tolerance of
weakness in others combined with an intolerance of what is in any way
wrong, and this peace of soul which should remain unshaken by any
manifestation of wickedness, are necessary, it realizes, for the full
exercise on the souls of others of the supernatural vigor which the soul
itself possesses. It will naturally make all its conversations with Jesus
converge on the acquisition of the qualities which were so perfectly
exemplified in Our Blessed Savior's apostolic dealings with men, namely,
gentleness to sinners, intolerance of sin and calm of soul. These apostolic
motives will furnish the theme of all its petitions.

In this connection it is not out of place to deal with the Particular
Examen, an exercise which presents a considerable amount of difficulty to
the best intentioned soul; but one which can become, instead of a
distasteful duty a most consoling and fruitful spiritual occupation. There
should be no rigid line of demarcation between the Meditation and the
Particular Examen. The latter should be the taking up or the resumption,
under a particular aspect, of the former. The stage of prayer should always
determine the subject of the Examination; in the first stage it will be
some glaring defect, the cause of frequent falls--for instance,
lukewarmness, sloth, sensuality, carelessness of rule, a habit of criticism
or the like; in the second stage, the reproaches of the conscience will
turn on self-seeking in one or other of its various forms, inordinate
affections, want of kindness to others, eagerness for our own perfection
and the like; in the third stage the examination will turn on that
particular thing in us which we find to be a hindrance to the free
intercourse of the Lord with our souls. Instances of those obstacles have
already been cited; they are want of sincerity, or of simplicity, a
tendency to irritation against wrong doing, a habit of exaggeration,
hastiness in speech and in action, a yielding to weakness in handling the
affairs of the Lord, failure in meekness or patience, and other faults of
this kind. The soul casts a rapid glance over the twenty-four hours to see
if it has fallen and how many times into the particular fault to which it
is prone; it reviews the occasions in which these faults have occurred,
with a view to taking precautions in similar circumstances the next time,
and it strives to trace the different faults it discovers back to some
single fundamental defect in itself. This review should be rapid and never
exceed a few minutes. The soul then excites itself to a sincere regret for
what it has done, and this it will do without difficulty because it sees in
all its faults an impediment to its own movement under the high motive by
which its life is directed. When after the expression of its sorrow it has
made a humble petition for help in its future trials it will tranquilly
resume the spiritual position it occupied with the Lord at the termination
of the morning's mental prayer.[8]

As the soul subjects itself more and more to the Divine Master's influences
and enters ever further into His views, its devotions undergo an important
change; they become less and less the expression of a human spirit and more
and more the expression of a divine: "Likewise, the Spirit also helpeth our
infirmity. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the
Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings."[9] The liturgical
prayers commence to exercise a powerful attraction over it; they begin to
lay bare to its vision their beauty, and to its understanding their hidden
depths of meaning. It enters more fully and completely into the life of the
Church, and begins to think and feel with the Spouse of Christ. The
movements of grace forthwith in the soul correspond with the movement of
the liturgical life. It is given to the soul to enter into, and to
participate in, the different mysteries of the Savior's life, as if it
were itself a personal actor in those events; and it derives from these
mysteries, as unfolded and developed in the Liturgical Cycle, the
particular graces of sanctification which they are ordained to impart. The
feasts of the Church become for it spiritual feasts which fill it with
grace and joy, making its prayer merge naturally into the sentiments which
animate the Church on these occasions, and to which utterance is given in
the Office and in the Mass. The soul begins to respond to every movement
which vibrates in the Church. Its life becomes mystic in increasing
measure, for its whole natural existence--namely the daily round of human
duties--tends to be lifted into a supernatural plane by the close union
with Christ's life on earth that has been developed. Things which before
cost bitter struggles now become easy to it. Asceticism no longer costs an
effort. It is no longer a rude self-discipline to bring the soul into
subjection to Christ. This subjection now follows as a natural consequence
from the merging of the soul's life in that of Christ and from the soul's
ardent desire to live in constant fidelity to the promptings of the Holy
Spirit. The soul now attains to God's view-point with regard to life's
events; it sees them as He sees them, and in the perspective in which He
views them. The absolute futility of the things of earth is revealed in a
strong and vivid light, and in a vigorous contrast with the reality that is
God, and with all that pertains to Him and His service. Through the
activity of the gift of Wisdom, creatures arc seen in the light of their
First Cause and thus seen in their emptiness and vanity they cease to
exercise any attraction over the soul. They no longer hold it, but i; holds
them, for it has risen above and established itself in the source of all
created things.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven,"[10] its
perfect detachment has won for it the reward promised in this beatitude.
Having renounced earth, it has found God and in Him it has recovered
creatures once again. They become of interest to it, but to the extent only
in which it sees God in them. Creatures have not only lost the power to
attract; they have lost also the faculty to wound. Things that hurt before,
can still strike but they cannot move, for the soul remains unaffected by
anything that touches itself personally.[11] Having merged its individuality
in that of the Church, it can be wounded only through the latter. Its
interests and ambitions being bound up with hers, its only pursuit being
the extension and the building of the body of Christ, it is only the malice
or the wickedness that opposes an obstacle to this end, that can cause it
pain. It is only what hurts ;he Church can hurt it. Hence it feels a
passionate hatred of error, of false teaching, of false principles, of
worldly maxims, and of every invention of Satan by which souls are
corrupted and destroyed. It can enter into wrath about these things, for it
is yet imperfect and has not attained to that higher calm, where it enters
into the unruffled tranquillity of God. This calm it can enjoy only in the
realm of Passive Prayer.

The soul holding itself detached from creatures, can easily supernaturalise
its work, for it has become habitual to regard everything it has to do as
being appointed to it by God Himself. The commonest things thus become of
value, and cease at the same time to have any value in its eyes--a strange
paradox, one of the many with which the whole Christian life is interwoven,
all being based upon the fundamental one of life through death and death in
life. Things are of value because they are God's appointment; they cease to
have value because they are regarded as being nothing in themselves, and as
having only the worth that that appointment of God gives them. Hence the
soul relinquishes its tasks easily as soon as obedience calls it to some
other charge. No longer seeking itself, but God in those things, it leaves
off as soon as God can no longer be found in them and it knows well that
God can be found in occupations only as long as duty or authority binds it
to them. In a word, the soul lives and moves and breathes in a completely
supernatural atmosphere; out of it, it feels restless, unhappy and ill at
ease; it views itself and all things else from the vantage ground of
heaven; the supernatural has become for it quasi-natural. Its prayer,
without deliberate intention, tends to simplify itself more and more.
Having learned by experience the poverty of the results that attend on its
own eager activities, and on the other hand the strengthening and
transforming effect of the least action of God, it contents itself with
putting itself in the Divine Presence and willing to submit itself to the
Divine influence. It knows full well that its best activity is to hold
itself in that attitude which disposes it to receive from the hand of God
the gifts of God. The soul is well advised in giving itself to this form of
prayer when grace draws it to this manner of treating with God. " For the
soul is, in the last resort, but a mere capacity. It has nothing from
itself and in itself. It is on God it must draw to fill up the void, and
this it does by the union with Him developed in prayer. It ought,
therefore, rather receive than take. Consequently the perfect state of
prayer consists in this, that the faculties of the soul are united in a
contemplation marked by silence, calm and expectancy. This being so, the
soul's co-operation (in the work of sanctification) consists in consenting
to the gifts of God and in receiving them. . . . This silence and this
expectancy of the soul before God must constitute a state of dependence on
the Author of all gifts, of annihilation before Him and of adoration of His

This state of the soul, excellent as it is, is not with- out its own
dangers. The process of purification is not yet complete and that being so,
there remains the possibility of lapses into serious and even grave faults.
This danger diminishes considerably--only in rare cases does it altogether
disappear--when passive prayer begins. In the most perfect form of the
prayer of simplicity, such as has been described, the soul is still only at
the threshold of that life of comparative security; to cross that threshold
it must practice the utmost fidelity in the details of life. It is only
this constant and sustained and minute fidelity to the touches of grace
that will make it pass into the stages of passive prayer. Its prayer at the
point at which it has arrived is in its highest expression the prayer of
simplicity. This is still active prayer, though the activity is largely of
the will; the operations of the intelligence are few and simple; they no
longer involve reasoning and discourse; they consist mainly in a peaceful
regard, which embraces in a single intuition all the aspects of the subject
meditated on and its consequences. Very frequently at this point of
spiritual progress the soul undergoes an experience which causes it, if
uninstructed, a great deal of anxiety and misgiving. Prayer has become
easy. Entering into contact with God presents little difficulty. The mind
readily turns to Divine things and the will is easily stirred up to
affection for them. Everything seems to point to a rapid and indefinite
progress in the practice of prayer, when suddenly or slowly the soul finds
all its hopes, to all appearances, shattered. When it places itself before
God for its daily exercise of mental prayer it finds itself, as it appears
to it, utterly unable to pray. The understanding is apparently sluggish and
inert. There seems to be no vital reaction on the part of the intelligence
to the 'points' that the devout soul prepares for its meditation.
Consideration after consideration is suggested and they rest on the surface
of the mind lifeless, like stones on the surface of a frozen lake. They
seem not to penetrate the mind, to become part of it and to issue in
further reflections or in affections of the will. There is as little
response from the mind as there would be on the part of an inanimate body
to a stimulus applied to it. The soul feels, as it were, paralyzed.

The time of prayer, owing to the apparent inability of the understanding to
work, is filled with distractions. The soul is tempted to believe that it
is a waste of precious moments, has no useful effect and only excites the
displeasure of God. It is tempted to renounce the formal exercise of mental
prayer as useless and unprofitable. The temptation is all the stronger be-
cause it finds that outside the time of formal prayer, during the
occupations of the day, in difficulties, in labors, in joyous incidents,
it finds a comparative ease in raising itself to God in aspirations and

Another troubling phenomenon accompanying this species of seeming paralysis
in prayer is the loss of taste for spiritual reading. Up to this juncture
the soul found keen delight in perusing the works of ascetical and
spiritual writers. Their thoughts nourished it, illuminated the
understanding, stirred up the desire for Divine things and ministered ample
matter for the exercise of the mind during the times of prayer. Now it
reads and gets nothing from the reading. Whole paragraphs are gone through
and no savor is found in them. The books have become to the understanding
as food that has lost its savor and all its nutritious properties. If the
soul holds on to its spiritual reading (as of course, it should) it does so
in a sense of duty and it acquits itself of it as of a task-- a task that
seems to have little practical value or significance.

The soul sees in all this, clear signs of its having gone backwards and is
naturally troubled thereat. But it can console itself, for all these
symptoms are not signs of retrogression if deliberate faults have been
avoided and if the practices of the spiritual life have been clung to.[13]
The explanation of this peculiar and fearful state of soul is found in the
very progress that the soul has made. Up to this point there has been a
gradual forming of convictions with regard to the principles of perfection
and a steady approach on the part of the will to that point at which its
affections are definitely weaned from all that is not God or does not lead
to Him. The result is that all efforts at thinking itself into this
condition--which is the normal purpose of meditation--are wasted efforts
and issue in a sense of futility. It is a veritable "carrying of coals to
Newcastle" in the realm of spiritual things.

This explains the irritation of the soul when it strives to carry on its
exercise as usual. If it were enlightened enough at the moment it would
understand that the impatience at the usual procedure of turning over
points of considerations, is due to an inner consciousness that this
process has become a veritable distraction turning it aside from something
more profitable. The soul has no longer need to form convictions. It is
penetrated through and through with the sense of the desirability of God.
This anxiety to grow closer to God, to know Him more and to love Him more
meets with very little resistance now; it meets with more when the soul
finds itself in the presence of God for prayer. The instinct of the soul at
this point, if the instinct is not thwarted through a wrong understanding
of things, is to content itself with dwelling quietly in spirit before God,
with a single expectant look towards Him and without any multiplicity of
acts either of will or intellect. It has reached a stage w hen it has, so
to speak, developed a decided taste for God and can relish little else. It
has no need to persuade itself to this taste any longer. Hence
considerations weary it and prove distasteful.

Of course, owing to the fewness and simplicity of the acts of the
intelligence, the imagination is apt to run riot. Distractions are numerous
and even disquieting. But the soul need not be disturbed, for underneath
the rippling of these distractions over the surface of the soul, the soul,
in its depths, is adhering to God in a sustained act of loving regard. In
spite of the wanderings of the imagination the will is adhering to God and
the understanding is dwelling on Him.

The difficulty presented by spiritual reading is simply another aspect of
the difficulty in considerations. The soul has learned all about the
principles and practice of the interior life. It has nothing more to get
from books. These fail to present it with any further stimulus to a cult of
spirituality. The period of forming convictions and acquiring ideas is over
and past. The time has not yet come when the soul is so advanced that a
paragraph or even a sentence from the most commonplace spiritual book can
illuminate the understanding in a fresh and vivid way and stir up the
affections to warmth. A most ordinary word about God suffices to set
perfect souls aflame. But that stage is not yet reached. The soul must
therefore expectantly keep itself in peace, and in the meantime choose for
its spiritual reading those books which have a peculiar unction; the Holy
Scriptures, the "Imitation of Christ", the works of the great Saints and
Doctors of the Church.

Trials such as these should remind the soul that the virtues are still in
their tenderest growth, and constant watchfulness is necessary to prevent
this growth from being checked or destroyed. But the great danger of the
soul comes from the temptation which is peculiar to the state in which it
finds itself. It has surmounted sensuality; it has emancipated itself from
the love of creatures; but it still can be ensnared by the innate,
instinctive and humanly speaking, ineradicable "appetite"[14] to be
something. This tendency can be described better in negative than in
positive terms. There is in every person a shrinking from what may be
described as 'moral eclipse.' It is a shuddering fear of annihilation in a
moral not physical sense. It is a shrinking from obscurity and oblivion. It
is a dread of being counted by men as being nothing and as not to be taken
account of at all. To be despised, and w hat is worse, to be unknown, to be
forgotten, to be buried in obscurity as far as regards one's fellow-
creatures, that is extremely hard for human nature to bear, and human
nature, even much chastened, shrinks back from it. Even one who is
exercised in virtue will still retain this "appetite" to be something. This
appetite can be free from the taint of ambition, vanity and selfishness. It
may be free from all self-seeking in the vulgar sense. It springs not from
the instinct of self-seeking, but from what may be called the instinct of
self-preservation, under- standing this term in its most transcendental
sense in the moral order. One swayed by this "appetite" may desire "to be
something" in view of the interests of God. Such a one, ardently desirous
of doing something for God, of spending Himself in His service and of
winning souls to Him, may judge that in order to succeed in this it would
be necessary for it to be well thought of and to be held in a certain
amount of esteem. Without exactly seeking to acquire a reputation for the
possession of excellent qualities, a virtuous soul may not be unwilling
that it should appear to others to be in possession of these qualities in
order that they, submitting to its ascendency, may be in this way led to

This corresponds to the third temptation. The devil suggested to Our Lord
that He should do some striking thing in the eyes of men, insinuating that
they would thereby be more ready to be swayed by His words and to be
persuaded to follow His teaching; "And he brought Him to Jerusalem, and he
set Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and he said to Him; if thou be the Son
of God, cast thyself from hence. For it is written, that He hath given His
angels charge over thee, that they keep thee. And that in their hands they
shall bear thee up lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone."[16] The
reasoning implicit in this suggestion is very specious. "You are unknown
and obscure; as such you will get no hearing with the people and your
enterprise will meet with no success. Do something striking, show yourself
to be somebody and the people will acknowledge you as the Messias." The
reply of Jesus was simple: "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." That is
to say, "I leave the manifestation of what I am to God to be made according
to His good pleasure and at the time and in the circumstances He
determines." Christ refuses to anticipate the time and the action of God by
putting himself forward of His own accord. So too, must we be disposed to
remain hidden, obscure and unknown to men, if God so wills it. If He
chooses to manifest His power through us, He must be left His own time to
do so. God fulfills Himself in many ways, and we can never know whether He
shall realize His purpose in us through keeping us hidden or bringing us
into the light. The soul that seeks to be perfect must consent to be
nothing, that is, to be held as nobody. It is wrong to seek to do
remarkable things in God's service for the sake of attracting others to
that service. Self would be sure to recover itself in that.[16]

This temptation can be extraordinarily subtle, and it must be the sharpest
one in the devil's armory for it is the only one of the three that he
renews with Our Lord. "And his brethren said to Him; Pass from hence and go
into Judea; that thy disciples also may see thy works which thou dost. For
there is no man that doth anything in secret, and he himself seeketh to be
known openly. If thou do these things manifest thyself to the world."[17]
This is the same temptation in another form; Jesus is told by His brethren
that He can conquer hearts and wills, by an exhibition of the power of
which He is possessed --"show yourself to be somebody and a career awaits
you." The Evangelist adds with a certain sadness and pathos, "For neither
did his brethren believe in Him."[18] They could not see with His eyes; they
saw only through the eyes of the world--the world which judges self-
advertisement to be a necessary means to success. With a strange
persistency the devil returned once more with the same suggestion during
Our Lord's last moments; this time it came through the scribes and ancients
of the people--"Mocking, they said, if he be the king of Israel, let him
now come down from the cross and we will believe him."[19] By an appeal to
the Divine Power that was His in virtue of the Hypostatic Union, Jesus
could detach Himself from the cross; if He made such an appeal and did come
down, perhaps the incredulity of His enemies would be overcome? Such was
the temptation. Jesus paid no heed to the tempter. He consented to appear
there before the whole world completely helpless wholly powerless and an
abject failure. He consented to appear there on the cross as the "most
abject of men,"[20] as a very nothing from the points of human dignity and
worth. His attitude was the complete negation of that tendency in man "to
be something":--"There is no beauty in him whereupon we esteemed him
not,"[21] He is "a worm and no man, the reproach of men and the outcast of
the people."[22] And yet it was this utter annihilation in all human
estimation that wrought the redemption of mankind. There was no failure
like Christ's, and yet it was the word's salvation; so too from the bruised
and crushed human soul God can draw an immense flood of spiritual energy
for the regeneration of mankind, provided that the soul does not allow
itself to break and lose heart and courage under its cruel suffering. When
the soul, in its earnest pursuit of God has allowed this last citadel in it
to yield to grace, the citadel of that pride by which a man obstinately
resists being nothing in the eyes of men--when it has attained this degree
of humility, then it is perfectly prepared for that direct divine action on
it, which prepares the way for close, intimate and habitual union with God.

Union with God is effected by-the action of the three faculties of
understanding, memory, and will, operating through the divine infused
virtues of faith, hope and charity. It is the activity of those virtues
that attaches the soul to its Creator, as its final end. In the degree in
which this activity is intense and unintermittent, the union is intimate
and unbroken. The obstacle to the free action of the infused virtues of
faith, hope and charity in the soul is the activity of the three
concupiscences, the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the
eyes, and the pride of life--the sad heritage of original sin. By these
concupiscences man is attached to himself, to his bodily pleasures, to what
gratifies his imagination, and to what flatters his intellect and will.
Attached to himself by the activities of the concupiscences, he is
necessarily detached from God. In the preceding chapters has been sketched
the series of efforts the soul has to make to vanquish its sensuality, its
affections and its pride, and by these victories to paralyze the activities
of the concupiscences. When these enemies are overcome, the soul finds
itself unhampered and unimpeded in the exercise of the theological virtues
of Faith, Hope and Charity. This free and unfettered action of the infused
virtues is called the perfect spiritual life. "It is called spiritual,"
writes Ven. Libermann "because in it the soul detached itself and withdraws
from every material object to apply itself to God alone and to spiritual
things; it makes of this its whole life. It no longer allows itself to be
dominated or impressed by sensible objects, but by God alone with whom it
is in intimate relation. It no longer lives save to serve God in spirit and
truth. Its life is a life of religion."[23]

1. Compare the following passage from Newman. "Those whom Christ saves are
they who at once attempt to save themselves, yet despair of saving
themselves; who aim to do all and confess that they do naught; who are all
love and all fear; who are the most holy, yet confess themselves the most
sinful; who ever seek to please Him, yet feel they never can; who are full
of good works, yet works of penance. All this seems a contradiction to the
natural man, but is not so to those whom Christ enlightens. They
understand, in proportion to their illumination, that it is possible to
work out their salvation vet to have it wrought out for them, to fear and
tremble at the thought of judgment, yet to rejoice always in the hour and
hope and pray for His coming." Newman "P.S." vii, 12.

2. St. John xv. 5.

3. By docility of life is meant an uncomplaining submission to all the
dispensations of Divine Providence, accepting everything that comes to one
as coming from God's Hand and as being meant to work towards one's

4. The dispositions that characterize the soul at this stage are well set
forth in the following passage, translated from La Vie Spirituelle--Jan.
1923. "It will not be Out Of place to review the qualities of this
spiritual childhood either in what it excludes or in what it presupposes.
It excludes in fact the dominating idea of self the presumption that we
attain by human means to a supernatural end, the deceptive fancy of self-
sufficiency at the time Of peril and temptation. On the other hand it
presupposes a lively faith in the existence of God a practical adoration of
His power and mercy, a confident recourse to the Providence of Him who
grants us the grace to avoid evil and do good. Thus the qualities of this
spiritual childhood are excellent whether regarded from the negative or
positive point of view, and hence one understands how our Lord has marked
it out as a necessary condition to obtain eternal life."

5. An intelligent grasp and appreciation of the principles which motived
the life of Christ, an earnest application of these principles in the
living of our human lives, results (with God's grace) in that ideal
conformity to which we are bound to aspire. But of these even who study the
life of our Lord--and study it prayerfully--comparatively few approach it
to find a unified grasp of the principles according to which Jesus lived
His human life. This is a pity; and though the consideration of the life of
our Lord is never without benefit, the lack of some definite method of
approach may explain much "flabby" spirituality among holy persons, and
some absence of progress in the spiritual life.

As a matter of fact, the human life of our Lord is dominated by one
fundamental principle, namely, the complete and entire subjection of His
human will to the Divine Will of His heavenly Father. He came not to do His
own will but the will of Him that sent Him. (cf. St. John vi. 38.) His
prayer in the garden was one of complete submission to His Father, "Not my
will but thine be done" (St. Luke xxii. 42), and His whole life has been
told by St. Paul in one short phrase, "He was made obedient even unto
death." (Phil. ii. 8.) If His life was marked by the virile acceptance of
suffering obscurity and poverty it is because He would teach us that by the
willing acceptance of these things from the hand of God we too can most
easily overcome the attractions which earth holds out to self-love, in
order to base our lives on the fundamental principle of His life--that of
loving subjection to God--and so by impregnating our lives with the spirit
of His become in very truth "other Christs" (cf. Marmion: "Christ the Life
of the Soul," chap. ii, especially the concluding paragraphs).

6. Cf. Van Noort. "De Ecclesia Christi # 74, "Sanctifying grace is rightly
called the soul Or the Church."

7. The relations between Christ and the soul at this stage are aptly
expressed by "The Imitation, Book III, xxxii, in the colloquy:--

Christ--Take this short and perfect word: Forsake all, and thou shalt find
all, leave thy desires and thou shalt find rest.

Disciple--Lord this is not the work of one day, nor children's sport.

Christ--When thou art come so far that thou art no longer a lover of
thyself, but dost stand wholly at my beck . . . then wouldst thou
exceedingly please me and all thy life would pass in joy and peace."

8. But the Particular Examen is not always necessarily directed towards the
correction of faults and in the later stages is particularly effective in
producing a positive result. It may be used with great efficacy to form,
e.g., a habit of prayer, of self-abandonment, of supernatural living (i.e.,
of accepting events in the spirit of faith), or of conscious advertence to
the presence of God in the soul--all of which habits are direct and ideal
preparations for union.

9. Rom. viii. 26.

10. St. Matt. v. 3. The present tense is significant.

11. This does not mean that the sensitive nature is atrophied or deadened.
It is so controlled and influenced by the will divinely illumined that it
ceases to clamor for recognition or alleviation. As a matter of fact
extreme sensitiveness to pain inflicted by creatures frequently seems to
co-exist with and be a very accompaniment of an intense love of God. Love
for God does not encase the human heart with a crust as it were, making it
invulnerable to hurt inflicted by creatures but it so mingles its divine
balm with poor human sensitiveness and so enlightens, sustains and directs
the will, that the soul is not disturbed, and finds even a deeper peace.
(Sensitiveness to pain is a powerful help for developing growth in union
with God.)

12. Ven. Libermann: "Ecrits Spirituels" p. 117.

13. The aridity in prayer which is treated of here is not the same as that
mentioned in Ch. vi, though analogous to it. The trial spoken of in the
present chapter always presupposes a period of marked spiritual
advancement. On the other hand, the trial described in Ch. vi. is
essentially that which besets a beginner when God deprives the soul of
sensible delights in prayer either to lead it in the obscurity of faith to
solid virtue or to warn it of some negligence in His service.

14. The scholastic word 'appetite' derived from 'ad,' to, and 'petere' to
seek--is chosen deliberately as the only term suited to convey the idea
that is meant to be expressed. Anxiety, desire, wish, ambition--these words
are too strong, as they imply something that is too positive and
deliberate. What is designated by the word 'appetite' is more like an
instinct--the instinct proper to and springing from personality.

15. St. Luke iv. 9--11.

16. It is noteworthy that as the soul progresses in prayer and in the
interior life, temptations become more subtle and insidious and in a sense
more terrifying in their nature. The soul is not any longer set in
opposition to God by the attraction of creatures--it feels itself set in
opposition to God because of Himself. It begins to experience a species of
resentment against God Himself which appalls it because of the fearful
wickedness of the temptation. It feels in itself a dislike of the Divinity
itself and a distaste for God and a tendency to blasphemy and hatted. The
reason lies in this. The soul has, in its progress, penetrated very far
into its own interior and is now having a practical experimentation of the
fundamental opposition between self and God. Self is driven to its last
stronghold and resents God with all its spiritual energy. The soul must not
be terrified at this experience. It is a Sign of the nearness, not the
remoteness of God. It must be quietly and wisely alert to these snares of
self-love and of the wicked one. It must trust in God to enlighten it and
to direct the work of uprooting the clinging "self" which would impede the
perfect union with Him.

17. St. John vii. 3-4.

18. St. John vii. 5.

19. St. Matt. xxvii. 42.

20. Isaias liii. 3.

21. Isaias liii. 2, 3.

22. Ps. xxi. 7.

23. Ven. Libermann: "Ecrits Spirituels," p. 9.


"And after six days Jesus taketh with Him Peter and James and John and
leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves and was
transfigured before them." Mark ix. 1, Luke ix. 28, Matt. xvii. 1.

In the instructions on the interior life, the growth of the soul seems to
have been described solely as a progress in dispossession of self. Though
purporting to be the science of the development of life, mental prayer has
apparently as its term and its achievement nothing else than the complete
death of self. The different stages of advancement through which the soul
passes were shown to be processes of self-renouncement carried to an ever
higher degree of perfection, and penetrating ever more profoundly to the
depths of our nature. Now this result, however much to be desired, is
merely negative, and considering what it costs, in the way of suffering and
mortification it, in itself, holds out no attraction to warm our
imagination; it is too chilling an ideal to sustain our courage in the real
hardship that the spiritual combat involves. To very many the way of the
interior life will appear in this light only. Spirituality will mean the
mere negation of nature. The election of supernatural life will be regarded
as the renouncement of all joy and happiness. What is more the soul, not
understanding any pleasure except that which is derived through the
satisfaction of natural tastes, desires and impulses, is persuaded that
once it leaves these, it has to abandon delectation in every form. It does
not see and cannot realize that delectation can exist under other forms.
The invitation to enter into the spiritual life, is, it believes, an
invitation to enter into a region from which is shut out all light and
heat, and which is chill with the chillness of the grave. Growth in
spirituality seems to be a process of death, which at best, issues in an
existence vague, shadowy and intangible--holding out nothing to which our
poor nature can cling and in which it can find its rest. The life of prayer
thus envisaged, is harsh and forbidding, and it is not surprising that
many, understanding it in this manner only, shrink from entering upon it,
or, if they have made a beginning relinquish the undertaking at the first
strong appeal of nature. The life of prayer was expected to be a growth in
intimacy with Jesus and, for those whose courage has not carried them
beyond the preliminary stages, it has turned out to be a disheartening
revelation of self.

It is not correct to regard mental prayer at any of its stages as a mere
process of self-revelation and self-emptying. It is true that, in the
description of the gradual perfecting of the soul, a great deal of stress
was laid upon the question of the abnegation that conditions this
perfection. But there never was an instant in which this abnegation
constituted the totality of the soul process. Side by side with the
negative movement there went a positive; the relinquishing of oneself was
accompanied by the attainment of some-thing infinitely better. There was a
passage from nothingness to reality--from darkness to light. In the
beginning our vision of the supernatural is almost totally, though not
quite, obscured by the presence of the natural. Our soul is enveloped in a
mist. The process of self-renouncement is the gradual removal of this
curtain of darkness, and as this process proceeds our intuition of the
things of God becomes clearer. These are revealed to us in the humanity of
Jesus Christ. True self-revelation has always as its counterpart a growth
in knowledge of God. For it is only in the light of God that we see
ourselves for what we are. Hence self-abnegation in its full import is not
a merely negative thing; as self in its destruction disappears from our
view the vision of Our Divine Lord takes its place. According as the soul
ceases to be "self-regarding" in its activities, it becomes "God-
regarding." As the soul is being emptied of what is material, transient and
perishable, it is being filled with what is spiritual, enduring and

The soul in itself is, as it were, a void--but an infinite one. It is a
capacity for the unlimited. Its characteristic actuality is a yearning and
a longing for satisfaction that nothing finite can gratify. Having no
resources of its own on which to draw, it cannot find in itself what will
supply its native nothingness. It is, therefore, obliged to reach out, to
seize something external to itself, in order to satisfy its needs. It is an
infinite potentiality. This explains the restlessness and dissatisfaction
that all men experience--and from which the saints even, to a certain
degree, are not exempt; though, in them, it is found conjoined, as will be
seen later, with a certain tranquilizing of their longings. But the
majority of people carried away by the attraction that pleasure exercises
over their senses, give themselves up to the pursuit of exterior things, in
order to appease the soul's desires. Each pleasant object holds out a
promise of satisfying the soul's aspirations; but it is found incapable of
bringing to an end the restless striving of the soul to complete itself.
Satisfaction after satisfaction is sought; one object after another is
added to one's possessions, and yet one finds oneself still with that awful
feeling of emptiness of being with which all those who do not seek God are

And this must necessarily be so. The capacity of the soul cannot be filled
up except by what can be received into it; and, by sensible satisfaction,
we can reach only the surface of any created thing. No matter how close to
ourselves we may hold it, no matter how intimate the possession, if
created, it still remains outside of us and in purely external contact. The
soul remains in its emptiness and with its restlessness unsatisfied,--its
groping after completeness fruitless. Its thirst after fullness of being,
remains unslaked-- Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again,"
says Jesus. The water to which Our Lord makes allusion is created
satisfaction in any form whatsoever--it is the whole universe of created
things considered as the source of natural delectation. No matter how good
these satisfactions may be in themselves, they cannot be our entire and
final good, for they cannot complete our being. To do this it would be
necessary for them to be capable of being drawn into our souls and united
with them,--to become as it were the soul s substance, much as food is
transformed into the substance of the body. To realize this affective
identification is the aim of all affection and the pain of love consists
precisely in the futility of the effort. This is illustrated in the purest
of all human affections, that of a mother for her child. Love always tends
to union--and pure love to the surrender to, and union of oneself with the
person loved. When the mother strains the child to her bosom, there is in
that a passionate desire that their two beings should be fused into one.
This desire is ever to be thwarted. The contact though so close, so
intimate, still remains an external one--one soul cannot be fused with the
other. And this is true, in its own measure, of every affection; we shall
find, if we analyze our feelings, that in every case where we pursue or
cherish any created being, there is on our part a longing to be one with
that object; and the more we love, the more ardent is our desire to
identify ourselves in taste, in thought, in feeling with the cherished
creature. What is more, this striving goes further, it tends towards and
aims at identification in being in as far as that is possible. And of
course this aim is always thwarted; hence it is that every created
affection even though legitimate is attended by pain. The only thing that
could ease that pain, would be the physical possession by the soul of the
creature loved. But this cannot be. Hence it is that even though one should
accumulate around oneself all the treasures that have come from the hand of
God, even though one should taste to the full all the satisfaction that
creation is capable of yielding, still, after all that, nothing has really
entered into the soul, it still remains in its original state of void--of
mere capacity that has not been filled--still a prey to the tortures of
infinite yearnings, which have in no way been appeased.

Nothing can fill up the infinite capacity in the human soul except what can
physically enter into it and take possession of it--and this privilege
belongs to the Creator alone, and to that participation of His life which
is given in grace and in glory. "Thou hast made us for Thee, O Lord, and
our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee," says St. Augustine.
Nothing but God and the life of God can enter into the human soul, and
therefore, nothing but God can still its restlessness. And though nothing
but the complete possession of God (received in the life after death) can
fill to the full the measure of its capacity and reduce its strivings to
perfect repose, still, the slightest degree of union with the Divinity,
gives a degree of satisfaction directly proportionate to the measure of
that union--a satisfaction that infinitely surpasses all that could be
ministered by the whole created universe. The reason is that God is in the
soul, and created things are not; by union with God something is added to
the soul, by earthly pleasures, nothing; by the smallest degree of
spiritual happiness is given some actuality, whereas, by the highest
measure of created satisfaction, is given but the appearance of reality.
"But he that shall drink of the water that I will give him," says Our Lord,
"shall not thirst for ever."[2]

It is true that the soul shall always feel a longing to enter more and more
into the possession of God--or rather to be more and more possessed by God-
-and this longing is a kind of thirst. But still it is thirst that is being
ever satisfied, and as such, is a pleasure rather than a pain. Love, as was
said, ever desires union. This is even more true of spiritual than of
earthly love. The soul that "is taken with God" ardently desires to be, as
it were, one with Him, longs that God should enter more fully into itself,
and begs with earnest prayers, that He should take more complete possession
of it. As regards its own disposition, it looks for one thing only, namely
that everything in itself that prevents the completeness of this possession
of itself by God should disappear, and abounds, therefore, with
extraordinary earnestness to make to vanish the last vestiges of its own
independent life, in order to throb only with the life of God. Its striving
is never destined to cease until its every movement is a response to the
Divine impulses; until is attained that perfect union which is the very
one-ness dreamed of by love in its highest expression.

Yet, still, although the soul in this world, even in its spiritual life, is
never at rest, it is never rest- less; though it is never satisfied it is
never dissatisfied; though it is never without movement it is never
troubled: because, at each moment it is attaining some degree of that
"Reality" for which it is created. Until it has completely drunk into
itself God, its thirst is not perfectly slaked, but with each degree of
God's life that is taken into it, it is satisfying that thirst. Hence it is
that the possession of God granted us in this world gives happiness--and
our w ant of possession of Him gives a happiness too, for spiritual
delights once tasted both satisfy the appetite and create an appetite for
more. The longing for them by one who has experienced them is a happiness
in itself.[3] The Saints speak of the delights of the pain of longing for
that degree of union with God not yet attained.

And this happiness is the state towards which mental prayer of itself
tends. It is not the end at which we should aim in entering on the interior
life. For we must be careful to seek God alone and not the happiness that
is found in His service, and be ever ready to seek Him though this pursuit
be attended with pain and aridity. But in fact the happiness referred to is
always found conjoined with the cultivation of the interior life--and is
its connatural term.

We are created to know God with a supernatural knowledge. This supernatural
knowledge of God implies a knowledge of God as He is in Himself--by faith
in this life and by the light of glory in the next. Further supernatural
intellectual knowledge through faith that worketh by charity implies
possession, in this case not mere representative possession but physical
possession. For God the Holy Spirit has His Habitation in the souls of the
just, and this habitation means presence not in the ideal but in the real
manner. When faith is animated by charity God is held and possessed by the
soul in the very substantiality of His being. It is true that the intellect
operating through faith sees Him only by means of ideas derived from
created things. Its knowledge in this life remains always of the
abstractive kind. The intellect as yet cannot have an idea which adequately
manifests God to it. But nevertheless it is God Himself that it is
contemplating in such ideas of divine things as it is capable of forming
under the light of faith and theology. But dim and obscure and imperfect as
is this abstractive knowledge of God it gives to the prayerful soul a deep
contentment, a profound peace, and a tranquil satisfaction. The soul is
knowing God to some extent and it knows too that it possesses in itself, in
the reality of His Divine Being, the object which it is knowing. Even in
the natural order our purest pleasure is derived from intellectual insight.
When the mind has at last seen light on some problem that perplexed it,
when its doubts and hesitations disappear as the shadows before an
illumination, there is felt a kind of exaltation which carries with it the
keenest satisfaction. We are said to grasp, to hold, to possess the truth.
The object itself does not become intimate to us, but its ideal
representation. We possess not the object itself, but an idea of it,[4] and
yet this shadowy possession is capable of giving deepest pleasure. How much
greater is the contentment that is experienced by the interior soul as it
knows that in apprehending God by faith and loving Him by charity, it
possesses really within itself That which it knows and loves.

This contentment becomes one of startling intensity when, in certain
conditions of prayer the soul passes from knowing that God dwells within it
to realizing His presence. This experience is one that is fraught with
intense happiness. The soul not only knows that God is there present within
itself, but it 'feels'[5] that He is present,--and present not in an attitude
of majestic aloofness but in an attitude of loving tenderness towards the
creature He honors with His presence. This blissful experience, though it
may be accorded in a very slight and brief manner to the soul at any stage
of the interior life, is had ordinarily speaking only when a good deal of
progress has been made in self-abnegation, detachment and purity of soul.
Normally it follows on fidelity and recollection maintained over a
considerable period of time. It is something which does not, of itself,
belong to the states of prayer outlined in the foregoing chapters. It
carries with it a knowledge of God Such as cannot be arrived at by the
practice of any of the ordinary forms of mental prayer, up to and including
the prayer of simplicity. As has been said it may be accorded--though in a
very slight degree--at any one of the stages of development of the interior
life outlined in the previous pages, especially in the final stage, but it
is never the result of the soul's own efforts of intellect and will,
exercising themselves in faith and charity. This 'sense' of His presence is
given by God Himself and when it occurs in a very pronounced and frequent
manner it marks a definite change in the relations between the soul and
God. It is a sign of definite progress beyond the ordinary ways of mental

It is a far different thing to know God (to have knowledge about Him) and
to 'sense' God--even though both kinds of knowledge be of the supernatural
order and belong to the realm of faith. It is the former kind of knowledge
we acquire by meditation on the mysteries of the human life of Our Lord. By
successive contemplations on that life, our outlook upon Almighty God, the
world and ourselves undergoes a profound change. Each of these objects
appears to us in an entirely new light, and takes up its proper position in
our field of vision. This study reveals to us the meaning and purpose of
our earthly existence, and the attitude we must adopt towards it in order
to please God. Considering the perfection of Our Lord s life, we learn how
to make our own human life a perfect one, and acquire a knowledge of the
dispositions in which our existence should be fulfilled, if it is to come
up to the ideal which faith and reason set before us. All this
consideration is supernatural, because it is taken in view of and directed
towards the attainment of our final supernatural end. It makes known to us
a great deal about ourselves, our origin, our destiny, about God and His
relations with us. But this knowledge does not teach us to know God with
that knowledge that comes of His 'realized' loving presence in the interior
and the sense of His friendly companionship with His creature in the
vicissitudes of life. The knowledge acquired in the ordinary ways of mental
prayer teaches us rather to know about Him. Such knowledge is little more,
in itself, than a deepening of one's understanding of the ordinary truths
of faith and of the mysteries of religion, an apprehending of the
transformation in mind and will and conduct that conditions intimacy with
God here and vision of Him hereafter, and a forming of the resolute
determination to effect by the aid of grace that change in oneself which
makes for close union with God. The contemplation of the Sacred Humanity is
the regular means employed to achieve these objects. But if we were to
think that once we had studied His Human Life, grasped the principles of
His human activity, admired His virtues and lovingly tried to reproduce in
our own conduct, His way of acting towards God and man--we have thereby
reached the end of mental prayer, we should be mistaken. What we have done
is merely to realize those human supernatural conditions in ourselves,
which make union with the Divinity possible. We are meant to pass through
the Sacred Humanity, to the Divinity which it veiled and clothed. All this
study of the Sacred Humanity reveals God to us. It teaches us to know more
and more about God in Himself and in His relations with and in His designs
on us. But the knowledge we thus acquire is but feeble in comparison with
that which comes when God Himself acts and by a touch makes the soul
sensible of His presence. In this touch is given not only an apprehension
of the fact of the divine presence, but also a more intimate knowing of Him
Who is present. Jesus has promised this as a reward of faithful love. "He
that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father: and I will love him and
manifest myself to him."[6] This manifestation of Jesus, true God and true
Man, wherein the initiative is all on the side of Jesus, is the normal
crowning of the life of mental prayer and gives a vivid foretaste of the
joys of paradise.

When these manifestations of the glory of the Sacred Humanity become
frequent and regular the soul has definitely entered on the passive stages
of mental prayer. In the beginnings of this experience, the soul, in spite
of the happiness it undoubtedly enjoys, suffers a great deal of anxiety. In
the stage of ordinary meditation it experiences scarcely any misgivings. It
is always able to render an account to itself whether it has well or ill
acquitted itself of its exercise. The whole process is carried on in the
senses, in the imagination, and in the understanding, and in the will (the
rational appetite that acts in conjunction with the understanding).
Everything falls within the region of ordinary consciousness and the
different thoughts and affections can be noted without any difficulty. The
soul grasps the reasons by which the will is moved to embrace that pattern
of life and action traced by Our Divine Lord. The attraction of the will is
towards the exercise or the possession of those virtues portrayed in His
life. The soul knows about God, and about itself, all that is necessary to
direct its life according to His desires and according to the pattern of
perfection that He has traced and enjoined. In the processes of ordinary
prayer, the intellect and the will function according to their regular
human mode; the imagination furnishes images: the intellect abstracts ideas
from these images and the will is stirred up to love what is presented by
these ideas--in exactly the same way as if the objects of the operations of
the faculties belonged to the natural order--to the order of things subject
to sense and to reason. Even when prayer has attained a high degree of
simplification and the work of the understanding has become almost
negligible in comparison with the work of the will, still the functioning
of the faculties is perfectly natural. This functioning can be apprehended
and is a definite object of consciousness.
But the revelation of God of which there is now question takes place in a
mode that transcends the natural and ordinary mode of the functioning of
the understanding, and is attended necessarily with a certain darkness. In
this world we can never see God except through the dark veil of faith. He
cannot be the idea of our intellect without faith disappearing and yielding
place to vision, and this happens only in the life to come. What takes
place then? God makes His presence felt, as it were, to the intellectual
part of our soul. The intellect has no clear intellectual vision of its
object but it has nevertheless a perception of God's presence. It is a
spiritual feeling, a kind of awareness rather than a spiritual sight. It is
impossible to see God as He is in Himself and live. God does not actualize
the soul to such a vision in this world, except perhaps transiently, as
some say was the case with Moses and St. Paul. Why then does He impart this
vague, dark, indefinable sense of His presence? It is because the will
cannot be set in motion except in consequence of an excitation of the
intelligence. And at this perception of the presence of God the will is
moved with an ardent impulse towards the lovable object perceived or felt
to be present in the soul. The movement of love excited, is not an
affection towards any created thing, e.g. virtue--act--disposition, etc.,
or any created representation of the Uncreated, but towards God as He is in
Himself. For though we cannot in this world see God, as He is in Himself,
we can love Him as He is in Himself. In this spiritual experience of which
the passive character is very pronounced, the activity is nearly all of the
will, and consists for the most part in a longing for union with God--and
in a desire to express love of Him and to increase in that love. The action
of the intellect is obscure, and is not capable of being analyzed or
rendered in terms of the understanding. The soul is conscious of nothing
but movements of love of God in the will, whilst the faculty of thinking
and reasoning, not having ideas to foster and so excite these movements, is

According as God's direct action tends to replace the normal exercise of
intellect and will, the soul in the beginning of this new state becomes
haunted with the suspicion that it has become idle and inert. It believes
that progress is arrested because it cannot mark any longer in itself these
energetic exercises of its faculties which, for it, constituted signs of
well executed mental prayer. Consequently it is plunged in uneasiness and
unrest. In the way of meditation it was perfectly easy to follow the
gradual change of disposition that takes place, to note the increase in
knowledge of and love of Divine things, to trace the growing familiarity
with the ways and mind of Jesus, and to mark the disappearance of taste for
earthly things. The soul could, therefore, find perfect satisfaction and
contentment in this state. But this satisfaction is denied it when
meditation ceases and the higher form of affective prayer with the
character of passivity takes its place. God touches the intellect and
enters into and seizes the will--causing the soul to enter into a kind of
activity which it can understand but vaguely, for it is to a great extent
above all under- standing But still the joy is immense because at last and
only in this way, by the intimate realization of the physical presence of
God in the soul, the soul experiences that its cravings after infinite
happiness are beginning to be satisfied. The soul must yield itself up to
the happiness of this touch of God and be content not to understand what it
is going through, and it must cease from all anxious questionings as to
whether it is advancing or retrograding in intimacy with its Creator. It
must submit to be in darkness with regard to everything and follow with
docility the advice given it by its Director regarding the way it is to
comport itself during and after prayer.

When the will is thus powerfully drawn towards God, by a movement impressed
on it by God Himself, it sometimes happens that the soul becomes, as it
were, intoxicated with the happiness that it experiences and with the pain
accompanying it. For the more it loves, the more it desires to love, and
the more keenly alive it is to the amount of perfection its love lacks and
which it needs to make union complete. But the pain it experiences in its
anxious desires to supply what is needed to attain the utmost measure of
affection, is itself a kind of happiness. The soul no longer makes use of
sustained reasonings--all it does is to express in every way it can invent,
its love for God, and for Him alone. It never judges it has said enough,
and it never tires as long as the movement lasts. When this urge is less
evident in its effects, the soul rests peacefully in God, in an attitude of
self-surrender, sinking as it were into Him in silent adherence to His
loving action. And in the fire of its pure love for God affection for
everything out of relation to God is burned away. Not only does it choose
God before and above all things, but in these movements every earthly thing
fades into absolute insignificance. The soul struggles to possess the
unique object of its choice more and cannot; it yearns to make its love
transform it more into God, and its desires are baffled. And the pain it
feels at the futility of its efforts, is an act of love which carries its
charity to a higher pitch. It is intoxicated with God, and there is
scarcely a return on itself. There are many souls that pass through this
experience, though its intensity varies much, and in some cases the
experience may be only slightly perceptible and of short duration.

May not that which fell to the lot of Peter and James and John on the
heights of Thabor be assimilated to the spiritual experience outlined in
the preceding pages ? These three had been constantly with Our Lord, had
enjoyed His intimacy, had grown to love His human qualities and had in
their humble way striven to imitate His ways and conform their own way to
His. It was for them the ordinary way of mental prayer. But one day Our
Lord took them apart and led them up into a high mountain away from the
sounds and sights and attractions of earth. And there before their eyes, He
allowed the Divinity to shine through the transparent robe of His Sacred
Humanity. The vision of His Divinity threw them into a stupor--transcending
as usual the operations of the understanding--the Scripture says, "they
were struck with fear." This was evidently not the ordinary passion of fear
which is accompanied by sadness and distress, for the Apostles were, on the
contrary, transported with joy. Their fear was the bewilderment that the
human always experiences at contact with the Divine. But this first
instinctive movement past, there followed the impulse of the will to
embrace, possess and hold for ever the object dimly perceived. Time
disappeared, the earth faded away, their worldly ambitions vanished--and
they desired nothing but to continue for ever in the enjoyment of the
vision vouchsafed to them, "Let us build here," said St. Peter, "three
abiding places where we can remain for ever." Consumed with love, desire,
vision, intoxicated with the happiness that he felt at the first glimpse of
the Divinity through the sacred veils of the Humanity, he uttered nonsense,
as lovers do in the delirium of their love: the Scripture tells us, "He
knew not what he said."[7] But this was not to last. God spoke from heaven
saying: "This is my beloved Son: hear ye Him";[8] explaining that life was
not to be spent in the enjoyment of Thabor but in a faithful adherence to
the doctrine of Jesus, walking in the obscurity of faith.

Then the vision passed, and they were contemplating 'only' the human
lineaments of Jesus, they had to descend from the mountain, return to the
ordinary ways of life and resume their existence; to walk by the way of
faith and self-denial. But one moment of the happiness they had enjoyed
surpassed all that earthly joys extended over centuries could yield; and
that scene they had witnessed was never to be effaced from their memories
and was destined to be a support to them in the rude contests they were to
endure later for Christ--"for," said St. Peter, "we made known to you the
power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ (but), having been made eye-
witnesses of His Majesty . . . when we were with Him on the Holy Mount."[9]

So it must be with us. These transient visitations of God must be for a
memory and a help to walk with courage in the way of self-denial when the
light goes out and is replaced by the obscurity of faith. We must not cling
to these favors; we must be very grateful when they are given us; but we
must not think that all is lost when they are withdrawn. We must be content
to see no one, only Jesus in His life and actions, and be satisfied with
walking in His footsteps in simplicity, humility and self-denial. And
though the joys of Thabor are no more, in the depth of our souls there will
be profound content. For just as Jesus was as really with the Apostles in
the plains below as on the mountain above, and just as this ordinary
presence was to them a continual source of happiness, so too He remains
with us when we tread the beaten ways, and His abiding presence brings to
us that unruffled peace which is the hallmark of souls that live for God

1. St. John iv. 13.

2. St. John iv. 13.

3. Cf. Homily of St. Gregory in the Gospel of the Sunday within the Octave
of Corpus Christi.

4. Not in its "esse physicum" but in its "esse intentionale."

5. The word 'feels' is of course by analogy with bodily perception. It is
one that is commonly used by mystical writers to describe this 'experience'
of God indwelling in the soul.

6. St. John xiv. 21.

7. St. Luke ix. 33.

8. St. Mark ix. 6.

9. 2 Pet. i. 16-17.



"The just man liveth by faith."---Gal. iii. 11.

Every soul walking in the way of perfection enters into what is called a
state of prayer. This state is nothing else than the habitual disposition
in which the soul normally finds itself. It is something that is
independent of the conscious and deliberate acts of the soul's faculties.
State of prayer is a term which expresses the degree of intimacy that the
human soul enjoys ordinarily with God; the deeper the intimacy the higher
the state of prayer; the less close the intimacy, the more imperfect the
state. Each soul, in the measure of its progress, is in a certain
supernatural condition which marks the degree and the closeness of its
relationship with God. "In order to converse in the most advantageous way
with God," says the Ven. Libermann, "the soul must, in beginning its
meditation, strive to put itself in the state of prayer that is peculiar to
it. Doing otherwise it runs the risk of gaining little profit from its
spiritual exercise. In order to know the state that is proper to us, we
have only to give close attention to the interior attitude the soul adopts
instinctively before God in its moments of marked recollection and fervor.
A great sameness will be noticed in the supernatural attitude that the soul
assumes on these occasions, and that is the one that should be adopted in
the regular exercise of prayer. It undergoes a change as one advances in
the interior life. Often it changes--in the sense that it attains a greater

Intimacy with our Creator is based upon knowledge. By this is not meant the
mere acquisition by our intelligence of a number of truths concerning God
or Divine things. The acquisition of theological science, no matter how
profound that science may be, has no power of itself to make us better
acquainted with God or to put us on terms of close relationship with Him.
But when the activities of the intelligence exercised on these truths is
animated, directed and informed by the infused virtue of Faith, then this
intellectual activity serves to make us grow in knowledge of God, and,
through knowledge, in love. Our natural activity of knowing must be
elevated and enlivened by the infused intellectual habit of faith[2] in order
that it may help to bring us close to God. It is written in the prophets--
" And they shall all be taught of God."[3] Our knowledge of God must be
supernatural knowledge if it is to promote and perfect our spirituality.
The divinity stands revealed only to the divine gaze: it is only the
piercing intuition of that glance that can comprehend the Godhead as it is
in Itself and for what it is in Itself. It is such a vision that alone can
originate a love which pours itself out on the Divine beauty in its full
reality--as opposed to any participated or reflected forms of that Beauty.
It is only the vision of God as He is in Himself that can generate a
personal love of God as He is in Himself. That vision and that love belongs
by nature to God alone, and is for that reason called supernatural. But God
in His mercy deigns to call us to share the contemplation which belongs to
Himself. By infusing the divine gift of Faith into the human intellect He
elevates that faculty and, giving it a participation of His own Divine
Intuition, He enables it to contemplate--in a veiled manner in this world,
clearly in the next when faith gives way to vision--the same Divine Beauty
which He Himself eternally sees and loves.[4] It is only this vision of God,
seen by the eyes of faith, that can issue in sanctity--which is nothing
else than the surrender of the will to the charms of the Divine Beauty. No
philosophical knowledge no matter how great, can cause the very smallest
degree of this love. It is knowing God as a child knows its own parent, not
knowing a great deal about God, that sanctifies the soul. The vision of God
that alone can make us holy is God's Vision of Himself; it is by the love
in which that vision issues that we are perfected.

The vision of God is given us in this world truly, though imperfectly, by
Faith. Faith is nothing else than the supernatural, obscure intuition (not
face to face) of God, which whilst always remaining obscure in the
condition of this world, can nevertheless grow in intensity, in purity and
in depth. Since the truths which are the object of Faith infinitely surpass
human reason, whole-souled and dutiful assent to them demands a grace-
inspired act of the will; and this whole-souled and dutiful acceptance of
them carries with it serious moral consequences for ourselves.[5] Hence it is
evident that progress in Faith tends to perfect concomitantly the will as
well as the intellect. We cannot see ourselves and God in the light that
streams from the Divine Intelligence without being impelled to suit our
life's activities to that condition which in this light is seen to be ours.
A clear view of what the Creator is and what the creature is, when that
view is given in the light of Faith, constrains the creature to act in a
spirit of profound adoration and unquestioning submission to the will of
God. Hence, in the last resort, growth in Faith is growth in holiness; and
the measure of our faith is the measure of our perfection. This explains
St. Paul's glorification of this virtue in the 11th chapter of the Hebrews-
-"Faith," he says "is the evidence"--that is, the clear intuition--"of
things that appear not."[6] These things "that appear not" are the mysteries
of the divine life, whether that be considered as it is in the bosom of the
Blessed Trinity or in the economy of its communication to human souls
through the Sacred Humanity of Jesus. God alone contemplates that
mysterious life in its fullness, and adequately comprehends it: "So the
things also that are of God, no man knoweth, but the spirit of God."[7]

God's holiness is a consequence of the vision of Himself which He enjoys.
His love of the Divine reality is infinitely perfect, being in proportion
to and determined by that vision of Himself. The measure of that vision
that He imparts to us--is the measure also of our resemblance to Him in
that infinite movement of love in which He tends toward Himself. All
Holiness consists in the love of that Infinite Good. Supernatural holiness
is nothing but the gravitation of the will towards God--of the will as
carried towards Him by the weight of Love: "Amor meus pondus meum."[8] Though
cut off from this vision by our condition as creatures, we attain to it by
faith. By faith, we contemplate though dimly, obscurely and inadequately
what God contemplates. " But to us God hath revealed them by the spirit . .
. Now we have received the spirit that is of God, that we may know the
things that are given us from God."[9] The spirit of which St. Paul speaks is
the gift of faith and the things that are given is the Divine Life

Since faith is a participation of supernatural or divine knowledge, the
more of mere human understanding that is found mingled with its exercise
the less perfect it becomes. The intellect in its contemplation of the
mysteries of divine life of the Blessed Trinity in Heaven or of the
Incarnate Son of God on earth, even when elevated by the gift of faith, is
prone to vitiate its considerations by the introduction into them of
reasonings, judgments and appreciations, which are the fruit of its human
spirit. In this sense faith must undergo a purification and its operations
must have these corrupting elements eliminated from them if man is to know
God as a friend knows his friend. Such a purification takes place in the
saints. The whole process of sanctity according to the teaching of St. John
of the Cross, depends on this progressive elimination of the purely human
elements from the operations of the virtue of Faith.[10] In the case of
Christians who take but little interest in the supernatural life the faith
contains a large alloy of the natural. They see God it is true, but they
see Him badly. Their spiritual vision is defective. They suffer from a
supernatural myopia. They resemble persons who, because of their defective
eyesight, cannot see objects clearly in distinct outline and in all their
details--but only dimly, obscurely and in a confused and uncertain manner.
As their understanding of God depends on their spiritual sight of Him, they
know Him very imperfectly and easily hold false notions concerning Him.
That is the reason why so many who are said "to have the faith" are so
frequently without virtue. Their faith is very superficial; it takes but
the feeblest share in the soul's activity, which is dominated by human
impulse, passions, and affections. In such souls the knowledge of God is
darkened and dragged down to earth by the human considerations and views
that mingle with and tarnish the purity of the knowledge of faith. As long
as these conditions prevail, the soul's activity will be largely human,
unsupernatural and, to a great extent, uninfluenced by grace and withdrawn
from the direction of the Holy Ghost.

It is lamentable that so many baptized souls are thus neglectful of the
gift of Faith which they possess and allow to remain latent--almost
atrophied--for want of exercise. The claims of the visible world clamor
powerfully in a too successful rivalry with the claims of "things unseen";
and yet, we know that the hidden world of the supernatural life is the
world of Reality; and each baptized soul bears responsibility for the
development of that supernatural life within. The Divine Virtue of Faith is
exercised in prayer. Thus it is that prayer is an ideal means of developing
faith and an ideal preparation of the soul for the reception, and increase,
of that Divine gift.

"And the Apostles said to the Lord: 'Increase our Faith'.''[11] Our prayer of
petition will be very perfect when it attains their earnestness and is
directed towards the same thing for which they prayed with such longing and
such childlike simplicity, namely, an increase of Faith. Such a prayer of
petition is eminently pleasing to the Savior. The Gospels bear eloquent
testimony to the great value for the soul that He attached to the virtue of
Faith. The expression of it always has the effect of stirring His
admiration, moving His feelings and unlocking the treasures of His Mercy.
On Him an act of real faith operates like a veritable rod of Moses, for it
touches His Heart and causes waters of grace to gush forth in the soul of
the believer. The predilection of Jesus for this virtue should not cause
astonishment. He knows full well that a man's life takes its color from
the depth and sincerity of his faith. The more one penetrates into the
inner world of divine realities, veiled under the happenings of the life of
the Man-God on earth, the more one experiences the transforming effect of
that life and the more easily one's conduct conforms to the manner of
acting of Jesus. Faith that is strong cannot be inoperative. As God's
vision of Himself is the source of His life of love, so our Faith,
according as it is purified from the imperfections caused by the darkened
condition of our soul, will issue in activities which will bear a
resemblance to the divine goodness. This will develop perfection in
ourselves and render us capable of effecting good in others. The whole end
of meditation considered as such, is to increase, deepen and purify our

In the previous chapters there was instituted a study of the soul in its
progress through the different states or conditions of prayer; that is an
examination of the phases through which the soul passes in its emancipation
from what is purely human and natural, in its progress in the divine
intimacy and in its assimilation to God, which is the direct fruit of that

No soul, ordinarily speaking, is taken by God into His intimate friendship
unless it freely chooses to enter into those relations of friendship, and
unless it consents to adopt the means by which this friendship is initiated
and cultivated.[12] The soul is aided by actual graces to make this choice,
but it has the fatal power to resist grace and to disregard the divine
appeal. The exercise of mental prayer is the normal way by which the soul
becomes intimate with God, shares His secrets and receives His
communications and spiritual gifts.[13] the details of method in mental
prayer must now be considered carefully.

1. Ven. Libermann "Ecrits Spirituels," p. 94. cf. "Letters," Vol. I, No.

2. All apprehension and knowledge of supernatural things cannot help us to
love God so much as the least act of living faith and hope made in
detachment from all things. (St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Max. 24.)

3. St. John vi. 45, Is. liv. 13.

4. By this infusing the divine gift resides in the intellect but submission
is not compelled.

5. Cf. "Christ, the Life of the Soul." Marmion. Part Il. Ch. i.

6. Heb. xi. 1.

7. I Cor. ii. 11.

8. St. Augustine--"My love presses me as a weight." Confess. xiii. 9.

9. Cor. ii. 10, 12.

11 St. Luke xvii. 5.

12. Mental prayer as an exercise is the discipline to which the soul must
submit itself in order to enter into the way of union with its God.

13. The exercise of mental prayer must be distinguished from the state of
prayer, which is its result, i.e., that in which it normally issues and
which is, as was said, the position which the soul instinctively tends to
adopt in the presence of God.


"Hearken to the voice of my prayer, O my King and my God. . . . O Lord in
the morning thou shalt hear my voice. In the morning I will stand before
thee." Ps. v. 3-5.

# 1. Method in Mental Prayer.

There are several methods of prayer; the differences between them are
accidental. All are substantially the same in that they take account of the
constitution of our human nature in tracing the path which that nature must
pursue in order to get away from itself and reach God. They all point out
that the activities by which that union is, in its first stages, developed,
are elicited by human faculties, in a human way, though supernaturalised.
The several methods differ solely in the manner in which they direct the
calling into operation of the several activities. In all forms of prayer
those activities are the ones which belong to us as rational creatures,
namely, the activities of the intellect, the memory and the will. The
imagination, a faculty which we have in common with the animals, plays its
part, for the operations of our intelligence are conditioned by it. It can
be a great help as well as a great hindrance: all methods of prayer must
take account of it and the Ignatian method accords it a very important

So true is it that all methods are fundamentally the same, that a person
that has never studied any, will instinctively follow in his approach to
God, the broad lines that they all have in common. It is by the will and
the understanding that spirit is united with spirit; and the operations of
these faculties, in human beings, must always take place in a human way,
and be conformable to human nature: this in all of us is essentially the
same. Still, it is of great utility to have a reflective knowledge of the
processes of prayer, for frequently, because of fatigue of mind, or want of
energy in God's service or absorption in external work or for any such
cause, our entry into converse with God will lack spontaneity, facility,
and positive direction. It is in these circumstances--when the soul is
sluggish--that method is useful. A practical grasp of the order of the
different acts which the soul must elicit, and a consciousness of the
effects which, with grace, these acts produce, will help to overcome our
natural inertia, dissipate vagueness or idle dreaming, and set the soul in
movement towards God.

# 2. Remote Preparation for Mental Prayer.

Mental Prayer is confessedly difficult; but it has no peculiar difficulties
of its own; it presents none other than those which occur in every effort
of the soul to respond to a movement of the divine as opposed to the
movement of the natural. Its difficulties are keenly felt, solely because
in it the human is more consciously felt in presence of, and in contact
with, the divine than is the case in the ordinary circumstances of life. In
these, it is too often true that what is seemingly supernatural and under
the influence of grace, is purely natural and therefore excites no conflict
or repugnance in us. But to apply ourselves to mental prayer we must put
ourselves deliberately in the presence of God and we must make an effort to
submit our souls to the divine operations--and this costs and is something
against which our natural self revolts. The great difficulty then in mental
prayer is not in the exercise itself but is outside of it. Yet no matter
what difficulty, what pain, is involved in the work by which the soul,
gathering up its faculties, sets foot, as it were, on the path of prayer,
though this effort--because of original sin--runs counter to nature and is
even recognized to be but the beginning of a painful progress, it is well
to remember that each effort in the feeble struggle attracts the loving
gaze of God and calls forth a new influx of divine energy. Moreover it is
true that even if this struggle were to last for a lifetime, such a life of
effort to effect contact with the supernatural would avail more than many
lives spent in the more comfortable observance of what may be termed the
bare essentials of the exercise of religion.

As has been said, it is only by these three faculties, intellect, will and
memory,--to which may be added the imagination--that we can effect contact
with God. Such contact is impossible unless these faculties are called away
from the natural objects on which they find pleasure in exercising their
activities. We remember what concerns us: our thoughts turn towards what
interests us and our imagination busies itself with what flatters us. The
faculties relinquish their objects with extreme reluctance. It requires
much self-discipline and strong effort--a discipline and an effort from
which the average person shrinks--to withdraw the powers of the soul from
what naturally pleases them and concentrate them on the divine which has
but little attraction for them. The gait of those who are summoned away
from a pleasant occupation to one which is eminently disagreeable gives a
lively image of the attitude of the faculties when they are called away
from what appeals to them and bidden to fix themselves on God. This calling
in of the powers of the soul to attach them to God as the object on which
to exercise themselves is called recollection, that is, a gathering
together and away from something else. This effort of recollection cannot
be renewed day by day unless there has been made a deliberate choice by
which God is preferred to all creatures and unless the soul is schooled day
by day, in spite of temptations, to adhere with determination to that
choice, cost what it may to nature. It must say to itself constantly: "I
must have God at all costs." It must, using the power of free election,
strive to resist the visible attractions of creatures, when inordinate, and
desire to surrender to the invisible beauty of God for "God does not give
Himself entirely to us until we give ourselves entirely to Him."[1] For
unless there is made this preliminary surrender on our part, the exercise
of prayer tends to become a mere form, if it is not rendered utterly
impossible.[2] This surrender is not beyond us; God asks it and His grace
will give the strength we need.

To make this exercise successfully then, we must elicit a strong and firm
determination in our will to progress in our will to progress in
spirituality and to overcome all the obstacles that oppose themselves to
our advancement in friendship with God. We must have the will to renounce,
that is aim at renouncing all inordinate attachment to things of earth
(perfect renouncement comes only by degrees), and we must will to cultivate
an interest in the things of heaven. This is to dispose ourselves to
acquire that "poverty of spirit" to which is promised the Kingdom of
Heaven.[3] To the soul that empties itself of all inordinate desire for
created satisfaction, God comes with the abundance of His Gifts; He
establishes His reign in that soul. He communicates to it a knowledge and
love of Himself which begets a happiness that bears an analogy with the
beatitude of the blessed in Heaven. "Blessed are the clean of heart for
they shall see God," said Our Lord.[4] This resolution to steel ourselves
against the attraction of the things of earth, must be accompanied by
endeavors on the part of our intelligence to increase in knowledge of the
mysteries of our religion. For although Faith is an infused Virtue, its
exercise will be paralyzed unless the faculty, namely the intellect, in
which it resides, becomes more and more aptly disposed for it by activity
exercised on the revelation of God. Mere intellectual grasp of religious
truths is useless; but still real deepening of faith is impossible without
growth in understanding of these truths. Where the study of these truths is
made with humility, with a subjection of our minds to what is beyond their
power to comprehend (though not to know), with a sincere desire to gain a
deeper insight into the wonderful manifestations that God has made of
Himself to men--the intellect is made apt to be penetrated through and
through with the Virtue of Faith. The virtue itself becomes more and more
deeply rooted in it and the light of the virtue compenetrates and elevates
the natural light of the intellect, imparting new energy and at the same
time strengthening its natural activity.

The soul has not a natural liking or taste for the study of divine things,
at least for that study which has as its object an ever nearer approach to
God's understanding of things, and a reforming of conduct with a view to
conforming it to the pattern traced by God made Man; therefore the
acquisition of a taste for spiritual knowledge involves self-conquest. So
far indeed is the study of divine things from being a congenial exercise
for the human intelligence that it can safely be said that a growing
interest in, and a desire for, greater knowledge of spiritual things, is a
sure sign that God is calling the soul to intimate friendship with Himself.
A taste for spiritual books or an anxiety to hear instructions on
supernatural truths is a great grace, and one for which we should often

In the firm resolve of the will to renounce satisfaction in the things of
the earth and in the study by the intellect of the mysteries of faith,
consists the principal remote preparation for meditation. It leaves the two
faculties through which we come in contact with God, free to exercise those
activities by which that contact is effected. "For mental prayer means the
occupation of our faculties upon God, not in the way of thinking or
speculating about Him, but stirring up the will to conform itself to Him
and the affections to love Him."[5] It is not easy for those who live in the
world to acquire that poverty of spirit, that aloofness from earthly things
which is a pre-requisite for mental prayer. Hence for them the practice of
it presents some difficulty.[6] Those who enter religion make that poverty of
spirit the condition of their lives, and therefore remove the chief
obstacle to progress in intercourse with God. This of course is not
sufficient. One must not remain idle and inactive, trusting to this initial
grace. It is always necessary to hear the admonition of the apostle saying
that it is obligatory to "stir up the grace of God which is in us" and make
it effective and fruitful.[7]

We must aim at acquiring a great purity in our affections, gradually
weeding out from them all that is too natural. We are brought to a
standstill in our mental prayer if we allow ourselves to be held captive by
inordinate affections for creatures or by an excessive regard for
ourselves, our own ease and our own satisfactions.[8] Vigorous efforts must
be made to get control over every attachment that threatens to take
possession of and master us. If we are not prepared to make these efforts,
or if we are too cowardly to act against our inclinations we shall impede
the action of grace and fail to make progress.[9] All our passions must be
kept under restraint. To allow ourselves to act with too much eagerness in
anything is to surrender ourselves to the matter in which we are
interested; it is to permit it, not our own soul, to control our
activities. Eagerness in thought or act implies always that something has
strongly gripped us. In such cases we fall under the control of something
distinct from ourselves and our activities lose their autonomy, as it were.
They will not be perfectly under our domination and can therefore with
difficulty proceed from a principle of faith or even of reason. Feverish
activity or anxiety tends to disturb the calm and balance of our interior
faculties; besides, God's grace cannot make an impression upon the soul
when it is in a state of agitation. Those desirous of advancing in the ways
of spirituality must school themselves to act without precipitation and to
preserve a certain peaceful moderation in all things. Excitement is fatal
to prayer.

The same vigilance to curb the passions must be extended to our senses,
interior and exterior. The imagination of each one of us is stored with
images, many of which are not of things pertaining to the supernatural
world. To keep one's mind prepared for God, and keep it fixed on God when
prayer has commenced, we must have learned to exercise a great deal of
control over the imagination. It must not be allowed to govern us or carry
us away with it. The habit of indulgence in reverie or day-dreaming is very
harmful. We must strive to store our imagination with images between which
and the truths of faith or the service of God, there may be an easy
connection. A continual mortification of the spirit of curiosity is a great
help towards acquiring control of the imagination. The sense of sight and
that of touch must be submitted to the same discipline. To expect to be a
person of prayer and to accord every satisfaction, even when these
satisfactions are not positively wrong, to one's senses, is to expect the
impossible.[10] On the other hand it is evident that the persistent effort to
make our lives a remote preparation for prayer results in real progress on
the path that leads from self to God. It demands, it is true, much that is
difficult and even bitter to human nature; but God's help will be abundant
and response to this demand ensures that tranquillity and that liberty of
spirit, which, making the soul receptive of Divine peace and light and
love, facilitate the communication of the hidden mysteries of God.

# 3. Immediate Preparation for Mental Prayer.

The grace that God gives to the soul which He is calling to Himself, the
desire of the soul to respond, and the measures that it takes to prepare
itself to be receptive of God's communications, all these constituting the
remote preparation, place the soul in a certain condition or attitude
towards God. A spiritual want now makes itself felt and one naturally looks
for some subject which will enable the intellect, the memory and the
affections to direct themselves towards God. The immediate preparation
consists in the selection of some subject; some scene or some thought,
which will serve to put the soul in touch with God and with itself.
Although we are not capable of analyzing the matter to ourselves in the
beginning yet the fundamental yearning and aspiration of the soul--that
which forms the undercurrent of all its strivings--is a reaching after God
Himself. This yearning, set up in us by faith, is spiritual and
supernatural. It is not a reaching out after some external good, like
position or property; nor after physical well-being; nor yet after
intellectual development. All these are the desires of sense and mere
natural understanding. The groping of the soul of which there is question
is governed by the dim consciousness that the attainment of the objective
at which it aims is to be effected by some kind of radical change in
itself.[11] The soul realizes though in a very obscure manner, that it is
aspiring after more perfect union with God, and at the same time is made
aware by the instincts generated in it by sanctifying grace that such union
is impossible unless it is made in some way like to God. It vaguely
understands that to be more intimate with God it must grow in resemblance
with God.[12] The soul penetrated by grace has a new life, and it is the
efforts of that life to expand and to develop itself that sets the soul in
motion. The whole process is nothing else than the stirring of grace
reaching after its own growth.

This movement of the soul must be concerned with some object. The human
spirit can develop only by the activities of will and intellect. These
faculties demand objects for their exercise: their activity cannot be, as
it were, self-originated or self-sustained. To think, we must think about
something: to will, we must desire something. Furthermore, in the present
state of existence in this world, the intellect depends on the imagination
for its operations. Where there is no imaginative image, there can be no
intellectual idea. Now the movement of the soul stirred up by grace,
supernatural though it is, must conform to the natural modes of thought.
The mind even when concerned about divine things must lean on the help of
the imagination. God Himself, however, presents no hold for the
imagination. Hence the soul, in its efforts to produce that activity which
should develop the divine life in it, is confronted with a serious
difficulty. It knows that it can grow in likeness to God only through
acting in a way which bears a resemblance to God's way of acting. But how
can man act as man and yet act like God? It would seem impossible. And yet
in the depths of the supernatural being that is given it by grace, the soul
is aware that there is an obligation on it, created by grace itself, to be
"perfect as its heavenly Father is perfect."[13] How can this obligation be
fulfilled ? God in His Wisdom, Goodness and Power has solved the

If God were to live like man and were to do and suffer as man acts and
suffers, and if He were to do all that as it becomes God to do it, then man
would have had traced out for him a pattern of divine action set forth in
human and therefore imitable terms. God came and acted as man, doing that
with a divine perfection so that man might learn to act as God, and thus
grow in likeness to God. More intimate union with God follows and is in
proportion to the likeness to God. The soul is created for and destined for
this union. In the life of His Divine Son on earth God showed man the path
that he is to follow in order to enter into union with the Divinity. Hence
He said, "this is my beloved Son--hear ye him.''[14] That is to say that we
have only to contemplate and to try to reproduce in ourselves the soul-
operations of Jesus Christ, in order to cause the Divine Life planted in us
by Baptism to expand and reach its development. The life, the virtues, the
words the actions and the principles of Jesus form the exemplar on which
our imagination can lay hold, and from which it will furnish the matter for
the intellect and the will to work upon. Jesus traces the pattern of our
activity. In Him that activity is the expression of the Divinity, of which
He has the plenitude; its reproduction by us is the means by which is
developed in us that Divine Life of which our souls are almost empty in the
beginning (for by Baptism, the soul receives as it were, merely the germ of
that life). The constant and sustained effort to copy in ourselves the life
of Jesus Christ as gradually unfolded during the thirty-three years and as
culminating in the passion, will work out in our persons first the
purification of the senses, and then the purification of the spirit; it is
only after these purifications that God can take complete possession of our
souls. The imitation of the virtues of Our Lord's life necessitating as it
does, fidelity to the inspirations of grace and contradiction of the
movements of self, purifies the soul of inordinate desires and affections.
An entry into, and a participation in, the sufferings and passion of Our
Lord achieve that final purification in which the last vestiges of egoism
arc burned away and the soul is made ready for yet closer union with God.

The purifications are considered here actively that is as taking place
through the soul's co-operation with the Divine action. In the higher
states of prayer, even in the obscure beginnings, the purifications are
passive and are effected by the direct action of God.

The subject then of meditation will be taken from something connected with
the life of Our Lord. One will naturally select what suits one's spiritual
condition, and the manner in which the subject will be utilized will be
dictated by the spiritual needs of the soul at the moment. The same subject
may be taken at different stages of the soul's progress, but the mode in
which it is handled will vary with the varying moods of the spiritual life.
An incident in the life of Our Lord will suggest different reflections and
different affections to one who is beginning and to one who has already
made progress. This subject should always be prepared over night out of the
Gospel itself or out of some spiritual book. One or two thoughts should be
retained in the mind as those which should furnish the matter of
conversation with God in the morning. A real desire for progress, if it
exists, carries with it a consciousness of the obstacles to that progress
existing in ourselves and a keen anxiety to obtain the grace necessary to
overcome them or sweep them away. The sight of the obstacles to grace will
naturally create regret for our perversity, a dislike of it and a turning
to God for help to correct it. These emotions are examples of the
affections which should accompany the reflections and to which the
reflections should lead. Hence with the preparation of the considerations
there should be determined at least in a general way the affections to
which they should give rise, considering the needs of our souls.

This preparation of the subject should take place if possible, after the
contact with men and affairs necessary during the day has ceased. One
should endeavor to allow no distracting thought or occupation to intervene
before the morning's meditation; for such would banish from the memory the
spiritual thoughts and affections that have been prepared. We should with
all possible tranquillity of spirit, and without any violent efforts of
memory, strive to keep the subject of next day's prayer uppermost in our
minds when retiring. If the reflections and affections are present to us
when we prepare to go asleep, they will easily be recalled in the morning.
Whilst dressing, our thoughts should be directed towards the Church, and
should be colored with a certain pleasurable anticipation of some
spiritual advantage to be derived from the audience with Our Lord which is
to take place. Each morning's exercise of meditation is an important event
in our lives, for if done with good-will and with a serious effort, it will
always mark an advance in intimacy with Our Divine Lord. Every fresh
conversation we have with a person in whom we are interested, whom we like
and whose acquaintance we are cultivating, makes us grow in intimacy with,
and in knowledge of, that person. The same effect is produced by our
conversations with Our Lord in prayer. Every morning's meeting with Him
should be looked forward to by us as something new, fresh, and interesting
in our lives, as something fraught with great possibilities for us.

This immediate preparation of meditation should never be omitted. It is not
respectful to the Lord to enter into His presence to speak to Him in our
morning meditation without having settled in our mind what matters we
should treat of with Him. We never enter the room of a person occupying any
position without our being fully prepared with the observations we intend
to make, the propositions to put forward and the matters to discuss. If we
were to enter, and then, when in the person's presence being asked what was
the object of our visit, we were to say that we were not quite sure but
that we would then and there begin to look for some subject of
conversation, our reception would be rather cold and we should be politely
shown to the door--our procedure would be unmannerly in the extreme. To
enter a meditation without having mind and will ready for the interview
with the Lord is to be guilty of very bad manners in His regard. And yet
there are many souls who, quite polite in human intercourse, are frequently
guilty of this grave discourtesy to the Savior, The King of Kings, and the
Lord of this world and the world to come. His forbearance with us and His
magnanimity should not encourage us to treat Him with a rude and
inconsiderate familiarity.

Meditation is a work of memory, intellect and will. That it be not waste of
time and a tempting of God, the memory should be stored with some knowledge
suited to our spiritual condition, our intellect should be prepared to
consider it, and our will stirred up to adopt the resolutions that such
considerations might suggest.[15]

# 4. Entry into mental prayer.

From the moment that we rise from sleep our minds should be directed
towards the audience with Our Lord that is presently to take place; and we
should come to the Church with a vivid realization of the fact that we are
really coming into the very presence of One Who means everything to us--One
Who is ready and willing to listen to us as we plead the interests of our
souls with Him, and finally Who has the power to raise us to that state in
which our souls will be fitted to share His intimacy. It is a great
consolation for us to realize that He is more interested in our progress
than we are ourselves, and that in Him we shall have a patient and tender
listener Who will follow with sympathy every movement, every thought, every
aspiration of our souls during the time we spend in His presence.[16] This
reflection will enable us to enter the Church with the same pleasurable
anticipation as we have when we enter a room where there is one awaiting
us, who is great and kind, who has the power to do immense good, who is
ever ready to help those who are in need, and who loves us very tenderly.
The consciousness of our unworthiness should not be allowed to interfere
with this glad eagerness that we should rightly experience at the prospect
of being privileged to enjoy, undisturbed, the society of Our Lord for
half-an-hour or more. If we w ill it, that is if we are willing to do our
part of what is necessary in order to have this tranquil intercourse with
Jesus, we can remain with our souls bathed in, and enveloped by, the
influence of His presence during the whole time allotted to meditation. All
that is required of us is that, like Mary, our thoughts, the eyes of our
spirit as it were, should be fixed on Him the whole time.

This involves recollection, that is, the gathering up of the activities of
our memory, our understanding and our will to prevent them from being
exercised on any other object than on one connected with His life, His
actions, His virtues, His thoughts, His sufferings.[17] This dwelling on the
mysteries of Our Lord's life may--in fact, should--be accompanied by a
certain return on ourselves; His feelings, emotions, acts, experiences
should be contrasted with ours. This contrast between the perfection
manifested in Him and the perversity revealed in us, generates detestation
of the perversity and the desire to become more conformed to the Savior.[18]

The sight of the tabernacle with the lamp burning before it, as we enter
the Church (i.e., if the meditation be made in Church), reminds us that
therein resides the Great God of Heaven and Earth, the Sovereign Lord and
Savior of mankind, Who, clothed in the flesh lived that scene on earth or
exercised that virtue which we have selected to review in His presence, and
about which we intend to converse with Him, with regard to Its bearing on
our own inner life. The thought of His infinite perfections and the
plenitude of the Divinity which resides in Him in its fullness should cause
us instinctively to fall on our knees before Him, in an attitude of
profound adoration and reverence. This exterior act of worship should be
the outward expression of our interior submission--the prostration of our
whole being before the Majesty of God made man involves the homage of our
understanding, of our will and of all our faculties of body and soul. It
will help if, with eyes closed, we imagine Him in front of us, while we
keep ourselves in this humble position before Him. But the act itself must
be one of the will really directing all the powers to take up this attitude
that becomes the creature in the presence of the Creator. This inner act of
worship should reflect and express itself externally in a devout and
respectful position of the body. The effort to assume and maintain this
posture of deep respect will react upon the interior, and give ease, force
and vividness to the inner dispositions of mind and heart. The initial act
of adoration is of great importance; it will repay the effort to make it
with full consciousness and actuality of intention, for, if well made, it
is in itself sufficient, oftentimes, to secure the success of our

The presence of God to us that is a consequence of these acts of the
intelligence and the will deliberately directed towards Him, is a profound
reality. God is present also to the slothful, the heedless, the distracted
and the indifferent, but in a totally different manner. He is present to
such persons as one is present to those to whom one is near but by whom one
is not observed. But to the devout worshipper He is present as the kind
benefactor is to the person on whom a kindness is lovingly bestowed.

It is only by faith that we can conceive of God as present in this way.
Reason by itself could only reveal to us God as present in us and all
around us as the First Cause of all things. This is the omnipresence known
to philosophy. Our first act of Adoration then implies an act of
Supernatural Faith. "We adore that which we know."[19] This act of Faith may
regard its object in various ways--all good, but not all equally effective.
Some will, by an effort of the imagination, represent God to themselves as
seated before them on a throne of majesty and themselves prostrate in
worship at His feet. Others will prefer to fix their thoughts on the fact,
without any pictorial representation, that God is present in the Tabernacle
before them. St. Teresa loved to think of God as dwelling in the depths of
her soul and of herself as pouring out all her desires and longings and
emotions at His feet.[20] The more ordinary manner, especially in the
beginning, is to worship God, in Jesus Christ, presented before us by
imagination, in the mystery which has been chosen as the subject of prayer.
However the initial act of worship be made, the faculties must be brought
back to be occupied about the mystery as if it were taking place at the
actual moment of the meditation. One must, as it were, annihilate space and
time and transporting oneself in spirit to the actual epoch at which our
Lord walked on earth, live over with Him again the event that is being
contemplated, and strive to excite in the heart the feelings that would
have been stirred were one present with Him in these circumstances. If one
has given way to distractions the return to our Lord is comparatively easy
when the imagination has been strongly impressed by the details of the
mystery. When a good deal of progress has been made in the interior life,
when the spirit by frequent contemplations has been steeped in the inner
dispositions of the Sacred Humanity, and when the imagination, grown
sluggish, no longer lends itself easily to the "composition" of details,
the soul can adopt another simpler and more direct way of putting itself in
the presence of the Lord.

The soul can represent to itself the Divine Master living in the depths of
its own interior--as He really is in His Godhead[21]; it can consider Him
there as the source of the Divine Life which it possesses in some little
measure and can regard itself seated at His Feet in the position of Mary,
developing its considerations as if He were giving ear to them, and holding
itself attentive to receive the impulses of the graces that are internally
flowing from His Sacred Heart: "Virtue went out from Him and He healed
all."[22] The exercise of prayer can be made in this way even when there is a
formal contemplation of an actual scene from the life of Jesus. The soul
can represent to itself the whole series of events,--the sayings, the
actions and the rest--that the mystery comprises, as taking place in the
midst of itself, with Jesus as the center. It is to be remembered that
spirit is present to spirit solely by the operation of its two spiritual
faculties, and chiefly by the operation of the will. We can therefore
maintain ourselves under the sanctifying influence of the proximity of
Jesus, as long as we keep our thoughts and affections fixed on Him. This
means an effort on our part to withdraw our thoughts, our imaginations and
our interests from everything that is not Himself. Furthermore, when,
through distraction or through some other cause, we have withdrawn
ourselves from His divine influence we have the power to place ourselves
under it once more, by an act of the will, recalling our wandering

The deep sense of the nearness of God bringing, as it does, some taste of
that peace which the world cannot give should inspire us with a deep
feeling of gratitude for the happiness of being admitted into His Presence:
for in the light of His Holiness and Goodness we cannot fail to recognize
how unworthy we are to appear before Him owing to our own misery,
worthlessness and incapacity for all good. His perfect purity and justice
reveals in a strong light--proportioned to our faith--our own sinfulness.
We realize that apart from the grace of God we are nothing and can do
nothing, and that of ourselves we are utterly devoid of virtue. The light
of God's presence shows us that if there is any virtue in our souls, it is
entirely due to Him, and that we have nothing of ourselves except
resistance to His grace and the nullifying of His favors. Thus the acts of
Faith and Adoration logically issue in one of profound humility. But this
expression of abasement must be filial, not servile; it must be more akin
to reverence than to shrinking fear, and must be accompanied by a peaceful
confidence that the Lord, who has shown Himself in so many ways good to His
creature, will pity the imperfections of that creature, enable it to
overcome its vicious inclinations and help it to advance in the way of
holiness. We know that God cannot love except Himself; He can love us then,
only in so far as He finds Himself in us. We have experienced His love and
we expect with confidence that He will impart to our souls that which will
enable Him to love those souls ever more and more--by imparting to them an
ever increasing participation in His own life.

The consideration of God's goodness, of our own great needs, and of the
ardent desires that we feel in ourselves to have these needs supplied,
inspires us with the hope of obtaining our request. From the depths of our
hearts we send up a strong supplication to the Holy Ghost that He would
impart light to our intelligence and strength to our memory, that we may be
able to penetrate deep into the meaning of the mystery on which we are
about to meditate. We should beg, in addition, that He would impart
strength and vigor to our will that we may be able to give effect to the
good desires aroused in us by our deeper understanding of the subject of
meditation. Finally, we should ask that the Holy Spirit would so direct and
guide us that all the acts and movements of the soul elicited during the
ensuing prayer should be for the glory of God and for our own spiritual
progress.[23] These acts of the presence of God, of Faith, Adoration,
Gratitude, Humility, Confidence and Supplication for Light and Strength,
constitute the Introduction or entrance into the body of prayer which is
made up of considerations and affections. If the soul, in making these
preliminary acts, which as a rule need not occupy much time, finds a
particular savor in any one of them, it need not force itself to pass on.
If for instance, it finds a great satisfaction in its act of adoration and
feels a desire to remain in the interior attitude of deep worship before
its Creator, it may continue to abide in that disposition of worship. It
can so remain until the impulse to go on to the other preliminary acts or
to the body of the meditation, comes to it.

1. St. Teresa, "Way of Perfection," Ch. xxviii.

2. "Let no created thing have a place in your heart, if you would have the
face of God pure and clear in your soul; yea rather empty your spirit of
all created things and you will walk in the divine light. (1 St. John of
the Cross, Spiritual Max. 26.)

3. St. Matt. v. 3.

4. St. Matt. v. 8.

5. From a treatise on Mental Prayer.

6. Many holy people in the world however, completely overcome this
difficulty and become very proficient in mental prayer.

7. St. Teresa gives an excellent warning on this:--"O my sisters, be not
too secure, nor allow yourselves to sleep. . . . You know there is no thief
worse than a domestic one. Since, therefore, we are always ourselves, if
great care be not used (as is used in important affairs), and everyone do
not diligently use all her endeavors to be continually denying her will,
there are many things which may deprive us of this holy liberty of the
spirit which we seek after that it may fly to its Creator, without being
burdened with earth and lead." ("Way of Perfection." Chap. x.)

8. A man mounting a hill while dragging a cart gives us a picture of the
soul that wishes to lift itself up to God without being free from anxieties
and desires (cf. Spiritual Maxims of St. John of the Cross. No. 52 in
Critical Spanish Ed., Fr. Gerard, 1912, No. 137 in English Ed. Trans.

9. If we are faithful in making these efforts, we may with confidence
direct our petition to the giver of grace Whom we seek: "Look thou upon me
and have mercy upon me for I am alone and poor." (Ps. xxiv. 16.)

10. To think that God will admit to His friendship a lover of his own ease
is madness. (St. Teresa.) Quoted with approval by St. Alphonsus in Prax.
Conf. ix. 3. cf. Chap. xvi on Mortification for fuller treatment.

11. The soul at this stage is beginning to experience for itself the deep
truth contained in Our Lord's words: "Every one of you that doth not
renounce all he possesselh cannot be my disciple." St. Luke xiv. 33.

12. The word "deification" is used to express the process by which the soul
is made like to God.

13. St. Matt. v. 48.

14. St. Matt. xvii. 5.

15. To the soul who has joyfully observed all that is required as
preparation for mental prayer, the words of the Psalmist are beautifully
applicable: " Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the
ungodly . . . but his will is in the law of the Lord and on His law he
shall meditate day and night. . . . And he shall be like a tree which is
planted near the running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit in due
season." (Ps. 1.)

16. "If a soul is seeking after God, the Beloved is seeking it much more."
St. John of the Cross. "The Living Flame of Love, Stan. iii. 30.

17. The difficulty of recollection has been treated on p. 155.

18. This point will be developed later on when treating of the body of

19. St. John iv. 22.

20. cf. St. Fr. de Sales: "Devout Life," ii. c. 2.

21. St. Teresa describing her prayer in its early stages says: "I
contrived to picture Christ within me, and I used to find myself the better
for thinking of those mysteries of His life in which He was most lonely."
"Autobiography" ix. The whole passage should be read.

22. St. Luke vi 19.

23. These preliminary remarks find beautiful expression in the inspired
words:--"Hear O Lord my prayer! enter not into judgment with Thy servant
for in Thy sight no living man shall be justified . . . turn not away Thy
face from me . . . make Thy way known to me wherein I should walk, for I
have lifted up my soul to Thee . . . teach me to do Thy Will, for Thou art
my God . . . Thy good spirit shall lead me into the right land. . . . For
Thy name's sake, O Lord, Thou wilt quicken me in Thy Justice." (Ps. cxlii.)


"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." St. Matt.
xvii. 5.

All sanctity is effected in us by contact with the Sacred Humanity; this
contact is created by our willing contemplation of the great mystery of the
Incarnation. We posit the condition of our advancement in the interior life
by living with Jesus during His earthly pilgrimage, listening to His
instructions, accompanying Him in His journeys, studying His actions,
admiring His virtues and assisting at His sufferings. The nature and number
of the considerations to which the exercise will give rise, will correspond
to our spiritual condition, that is, to the degree in which the life of Our
Lord has been applied to ourselves and is being lived by us. Every thought
which we elicit must be directed to the moving of our will to adhere to
God, to accept His will, and so embrace the means of fulfilling it, and to
accept the happenings of life in the spirit of Jesus.

# 1. The Exercise of Prayer for Beginners.

In the beginning when the soul is just emerging from the life of nature,
the work of the intelligence is to form strong convictions on the
fundamental truths of religion. Its work is to create no; a mere
speculative belief in the necessity of living one's life on earth as a
preparation for the next world, but a practical conviction of the absolute
necessity of saving one's soul and of adopting the best means to secure
that end. The things of heaven are weighed in the balance against the
things of earth and are elected as being of infinitely greater value. The
attraction which the world exercises is recognized to be an obstacle to
salvation; therefore that attraction must be combated vigorously. The
principles which pass current in the world are seen to be opposed to those
of God and it is incumbent on us to destroy their hold on our minds. We
face the fact that if we are to secure heaven we must learn to regard
things differently from the way in which they are viewed by worldlings--and
from the way in which we considered them ourselves a short while since. Our
standards of value are to be changed. In one word, we labor to form in
ourselves a deep and practical conviction of the truth of Our Lord's words,
"What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss
of his own soul?"[1] Sin must be eliminated and the passions that tend to
drag us into offenses against God must be kept in check.

At first our convictions are weak and ineffectual; passions and faults
darken our mind and do not allow these supernatural truths to get hold of
and penetrate our soul. Creatures occupy and absorb our affections. Divine
things make little appeal to us. The will is difficult to move and
countless attractions tie it down to earth. A great deal of reflection,
comparison, consideration and petition for Divine help is necessary for us
in order that the new ideas, the new standards, the new outlook should be
thorough]y grasped and should issue in practical determination to reform
our life. The whole function of meditation at this stage is to create
"idees forces,"[2] in the supernatural order. The sense of our past
disorders, our present weakness, and the possibility of future failure is
present with us during all these considerations and it moves us to make
strong appeals to Our Lord for His light, help, and encouragement. These
are what are called the affections which it is the object of the
considerations to produce. They are meant to intermingle with the

At this period most of the time of prayer is given to reflection--and
affections arc elicited with difficulty.[3]

But when the intelligence under the influence of grace has perseveringly
labored to form in itself Divine Truth, and when the will has repeatedly
and even violently forced itself to withdraw from adherence to creatures,
and to move towards God, gradually a change takes place--the labor of the
intellect becomes less, the need of force (on the part of the will)
diminishes little by little. Thus by the operation of Divine Grace, and in
accordance with the law of habit, a change is effected which is a progress.
The soul now experiences the truth of the inspired words, "Draw nigh to
God: and He will draw nigh to thee."[4] Now the time required for
consideration is not so great a part of the whole, and the will more easily
turns to God--affections are elicited with less difficulty. This change
continues until, by degrees, the soul passes into the more advanced stage
which we have now to consider.

# 2. The Exercise of Prayer for Those More Advanced.

When the soul has succeeded in definitely breaking with the domination of
the passions, and formed the conviction that it must at all costs serve God
and preserve itself in sanctifying grace by His aid, then its activities in
prayer take a new direction. As this is the condition of most souls that
are aiming at leading a spiritual life, it will be necessary to develop at
more length the manner of prayer which is adapted to this stage. It is no
longer the warnings of Jesus with regard to the dangers of the world, the
difficulties of salvation and the dreadful fate that awaits those who
misuse the chances offered them, that constitute the theme on which the
understanding exercises itself; the soul dwells, preferably, on His
Personality and on the virtues through which that personality manifests
itself. Jesus is no longer listened to as a teacher of morals, but rather
studied as a model of perfection. The soul realizes that being as yet but
poorly established in virtue it is exposed at each instant to lapse into
sin or imperfection. It knows that unless it has acquired those fixed and
settled dispositions in mind and w ill by which it can with some facility
elicit right acts, it can have no stability in the way of holiness or abide
in the friendship of God. Until habits of virtue are formed, sustained
virtuous action for any length of time is morally impossible. The soul
sighs after that condition in which it can be strong to resist the assaults
of Satan, and in which it can serve God with facility, without having
before it the dread prospect of being dragged back into sin and severed by
its own frailty from the society of God. It realizes with keen anxiety that
as long as it is under the influence of bad habits and not possessed of
good ones, it has but a precarious hold on the spiritual life. There is no
effort of thought required to be convinced of this. The soul having once
tasted the peace and happiness that accompanies the feeling of being at
peace with God and the object of His love, is all eagerness not to forfeit
that peace and happiness. Yet, at each moment of the day it is being called
upon to act. Life must be lived, the hourly task demands speech, or
judgment or action; and the first clash of contact with practical life
reveals to the poor soul--now supernaturally sensitive--the futility and
imperfection of much of its activity. That activity is seen to be, not such
as will bind it closer to God, but such rather as will separate it from
Him, because, for the most part, ii has no claim on His approval. The soul
feels keenly that its thoughts, actions and judgments in a multitude of
cases are utterly unlike what Jesus would say or do if placed in similar
circumstances. And it knows as well that it can please God and be united
with Him in the exact degree in which it resembles Jesus in dispositions,
judgments and conduct. In order to keep close by God the soul is anxious to
do what is pleasing to Him, but in spite of its best efforts it fails. It
knows that it must be so until it has acquired the Christian virtues, and
it is filled with an ardent longing to be possessed of them.

Instinctively it turns to the study of the life of Jesus Christ on earth,
in order to penetrate itself with an understanding of the manner of acting
or suffering of Our Divine Lord. It is not content to view the mystery in
its external aspect as it strikes the senses; it aims at piercing through
this to the interior movements, emotions, feelings and thoughts of the Man-
God. It strives to trace back the word or the action to the virtue in which
it has its source; and labors to form to itself an idea of that human
character which thoroughly pleased--satisfied, if the expression be
permitted, Almighty God.[5] The Gospel lays before us a picture of a perfect
human life which, whilst remaining human, is all divine. Its pages present
us with a picture of virtue in act. We see portrayed, Adoration, Prayer,
Service of God, Zeal for His Service, Reverence in His Presence, Love of
Souls, Devotedness, Disinterested Charity, Prudence, Temperance, Benignity,
Kindliness, Simplicity, Condescension, Humility, Obedience and Fortitude
carried to the utmost limit. In Our Lord's soul was every human virtue
compatible with His state, and every incident of His earthly existence
calls one or more of them into activity. Meditation consists in dwelling
upon those incidents, studying their details and from those rising to an
understanding of the perfect dispositions of Heart and Soul of Him Who is
the center of each scene. We consider how perfectly Our Lord acted in each
case, and then under the influence of His grace we are led to turn back
upon ourselves and contrast with His our manner of acting; for instance, a
consideration of His patience reveals our own impatience; we set His
forbearance over against our intolerance; His humility against our pride;
His fortitude against our weakness; His firmness in good against our
repinings and even rebellion, and so on. This or some such return upon
ourselves is necessary if meditation on the life of Our Lord is to produce
abundant Fruit.[6]

Dwelling by thought on Our Lord in the actions of His Life, and grasping by
our faith the truth that those thirty-three years were one long act of love
for us, it is impossible that we should not be moved to love one who is so
lovable, or at least to desire that we should have some love to give in
return to one who has been and is so devoted to us.[7] The charm of the
personality of Jesus wins us to the admiration of the virtues which that
personality exhibited and to long to possess those virtues. The ideal set
before us by Our Divine Lord stands clear and radiant and against its
radiance is seen the dark picture of our vileness and continued
infidelities. This fills us with shame and confusion. An acknowledgment of
our unworthiness, of our want of virtue, and an act of profound humility in
which we prostrate that unworthiness before the Infinite Purity, Justice
and Goodness of Our Divine Lord, spontaneously rise from the soul when
confronted with the contrast which our dispositions and way of acting
present to His. And not only do we realize in the light poured on us from
the Holiness of the Heart of Jesus, that we are destitute of all goodness,
but also there comes to us the harassing thought that this absence of
virtue is due to ourselves, due to our resistance to grace, and to our
multiplied sins and infidelities in the past. This reflection will cause
the sincere soul to be penetrated through and through with compunction.

This return upon ourselves will be still more effective if we particularize
it, that is, if we contrast Our Lord's way of acting with ours in similar
circumstances of daily occurrence, or when brought in contact with certain
persons with whom we are often associated. Our self-seeking and our want of
Charity will stand out with great distinctness and will appear detestable
when we have established loving, sympathetic contact with the selflessness
and charity of Jesus as revealed in some incident of His life. There easily
follows a resolution to be more Christ-like on these particular occasions
(in which we have formerly failed), to deal more charitably with those
persons, to be more considerate and less selfish.[8] As it is always more
profitable to consider our want of virtue not merely of them will usually
be made, at least implicitly. But this is not necessary: if the soul feels
attracted to abide in any one single affection without feeling an
inclination to pass on to another it is better for it to follow its
attraction and pass the whole time in the exercise of that particular
affection. Those acts of the will should not be allotted a time distinct
from that given to the considerations; there should be no rigid line of
demarcation between the two: the considerations should always merge
naturally into the affections.

The reflections are to be made as if we were studying the subject and
giving expression to the thoughts to which it gives rise in us, in the
presence of a sympathetic listener, who is ready to aid us by the
illumination and strengthening of His grace. This Divine Listener, as has
been said, may be regarded as dwelling in the interior of our being, or may
be considered outside of or in front of ourselves, if that way is more
helpful. To receive this aid from Him it is well to make certain pauses or
complete cessations in the activities of will and understanding (as far as
that is possible) and to hold the soul in an attitude of attention to the
inspiration of the Divine Spirit. The Divine Spirit operates powerfully
during those moments of silence and recollection, though such action
remains, in normal conditions. imperceptible to us.[9]

In our consideration we should not be content with one view of the subject,
but should turn it over and consider It under its various aspects; first,
we should study it in itself, in order that it may lay secure hold on the
imagination. If this faculty is gripped forcibly by the theme we shall have
a strong help against distractions, and shall experience little difficulty
in recalling our faculties whenever they stray from God. In the second
place, we must study the subject in relation to ourselves, in relation to
the supernatural qualities we need to develop, the defects that we wish to
overcome and the vices that we desire to extirpate. But the end of prayer
being not the mere acquisition of virtues, but union with God, and union
with God being the effect of charity, it is the acts of the will, in which
faculty charity resides, that arc of primary importance; the operations of
the intellect are subordinated to them and are of value in so far as they
call forth these acts of the will. These are the affections. The word
should not mislead us into thinking that these should manifest themselves
in an emotional way. The will is spiritual and its activity need not
necessarily cause any feelings. It is quite possible to produce a strong
affection and remain entirely unmoved as far as our sensitive nature is

# 3. Application and Example.

At the commencement of our prayer we are to represent to ourselves Our
Divine Lord as He was in the mystery which we are contemplating, retracing
in our memory and in imagination some of the circumstances which were the
setting of that mystery. It is not necessary, and could be harmful, to
retrace those circumstances in too much detail; they might divert us from
the main consideration; for the regard of our soul should be fixed on the
person of Our Divine Lord Himself. With the eye of Faith we must picture
Him, to ourselves, according to the dispositions in which He was at the
time as revealed to us by His own words on the occasion, or by the words of
the Evangelist. His interior attitude thus reproduced in our imagination
aids us to pass beyond the veil of external historical circumstances and
penetrate into the secrets of His soul. By grace and faith we can discern
what passes there. This effort to read the Heart of Jesus should be made
with the same eager sympathy with which we strive to interpret the thoughts
and feelings of those whom we love, when we are in their company, and
perceive that they are laboring under some strong emotion. What our love
reveals to us will excite us to adoration, respect, compassion,
thanksgiving, etc., according to the subject. These acts will spring
naturally from our souls if we realize vividly to ourselves the presence of
Our Lord.

This proximity to Him is not a fiction of the imagination; it is a reality.
We can converse with Him, address our thoughts and aspirations towards Him,
express sympathy with Him, as we should have done were we near Him when He
was on earth. This can be made clear by a concrete example. Let us, for
instance, represent Our Lord as He was presented by Pilate to the people.
The imagination easily pictures the immense crowd that thronged the space
before the Pretorium; it can conjure up the cruel expression on those faces
upturned to see the Savior led forth by the soldiers from Pilate's hall,
and the horrid execrations that burst from their lips, as He appeared. One
can see Jesus crowned with thorns, covered with wounds, streaming with
blood, and clotted in the miserable mockery of a royal mantle. His head is
bent slightly forward and His Divine eyes range with pity over that hostile
crowd. In spite of the cruel extremity to which He is reduced, His presence
dominates the scene; a tranquil majesty, rising superior to outrage and
insult, radiates from His figure. In His Heart is the resolve to endure all
for the salvation of men, even for those howling for His blood, and to
carry out to its last exigency the will of that Heavenly Father to Whose
service He had devoted every moment of His mortal life. No anger against
His undeserved fate, no hatred of those who hated Him to death, only
compassion for their waywardness, found place in His magnanimous Heart. His
love for them triumphed over the worst efforts of their hostility. One
instinctively prostrates oneself before a person who is so high-souled.
After the act of adoration the soul asks itself why our Lord, though worthy
only of glory, praise and honor, accepted to undergo such humiliations. He
who is the source of all gladness is plunged in desolation; the All-
powerful Who could, with a simple act of the will, destroy His persecutors,
stands there with His hands bound and at the mercy of His creatures. Why
all that? To expiate sin, and our sins amongst the number. What gratitude
do we not owe for such disinterested love, and what horror should we not
have for that evil which has caused such suffering! The soul should be
penetrated through and through with a hatred of sin, and bitter sorrow for
ever having committed it. Humility, Contrition, Love, are the fruit of
those reflections. Furthermore, He Who was innocent endured all this unjust
treatment without a murmur, and we rebel against all harsh treatment, even
when we deserve it. And in fact we who have sinned can never be dealt with
unjustly by creatures, since we are real criminals.

In this way should our considerations be intermingled with affections--each
thought should suggest an appropriate act of the will. The whole exercise
should thus end in an ardent longing to reflect in our own conduct what we
have seen in Our Divine Model, and in a disposition to remain in a
sympathetic union with Him in the state in which we have contemplated Him.
This disposition of ours should not be allowed to lose its hold on us once
we have quitted prayer; during the whole day, we should from time to time
retrace in our memory the image of Our Lord as we saw Him in the morning's
meditation. And when the moment of reducing to practice the good
resolutions we have made presents itself, this mental picture will be of
great assistance to us in exercising the act of virtue required.

Besides those acts of the will which arise naturally out of the subject,
there are others which should form, as it were, the web on which should be
woven the pattern of our intercourse with God. These we shall now consider.

1. St. Matt. xvi 26.

2. Meaning "ideas calculated to induce action."

3. Teresa's words contain useful advice:--"These souls are almost always
occupied with the work of the understanding, in discourse of meditation,
and they do well, because more is not given to them. Still, it would be
good sometimes, to employ themselves in making acts of love and praise of
God, doing it as best they can, for these acts powerfully excite the will."
(Interior Castle. 4th Mansions. Chap. i. 7.)

4. St. James iv. 8.

5. "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." (St. Matt. iii. 17.)

6. It must always be remembered, however, that return upon ourselves is not
the essential activity and such return must be interwoven with abundant
petition for Divine Light. Any concentration on self not directed and
controlled by a supernatural impulse and movement of grace is likely to
beget mere natural activity if not to degenerate into morbid self-analysis.

7. The soul need never fear to spend much time in such movements towards
love. They are supremely efficacious in the process of sanctification.
Since Our Lord is "the Way" not only because He exemplifies and merits
holiness for us, but also, because He communicates it, the soul's response
to these impulses of love (a response which for the most part consists in a
'yearning' and a 'listening') will carry it far and quickly on the path of
prayer towards union with God.

8. In these returns on ourselves it is on the clear light of Jesus rather
than on the activity of our own intellect that we must rely for the true
vision of what we are. Intellect may and should be exercised in reflections
on the actions, emotions, etc., of Our Lord, but having thus drawn near, we
seek the vision of self especially as He reveals it in the light of His
love. "He that followeth Me, walketh not in darkness." (St. John viii. 12.)
Having done our part we may rely on Him to give the necessary light. It
usually comes in flashes without much activity on our part. Drawing near to
Our Lord in sincerity--by an earnest prayerful study of Him--we become
conscious of our vileness; as a child is aware of its limitations in the
presence of "grown ups," as a savage realizes his inferiority in the
presence of the civilized man.

9. In this connection Fr. Lallemont's words are of interest:--"It is an
error in prayer to constrain ourselves to give it always a practical
bearing. We excite and disquiet ourselves in resolving how we shall behave
on such and such occasions, what acts of humility, for example, we shall
practice. This way of meditating by consideration of virtues is wearisome
to the mind, and may even possibly produce disgust. Not but that it is well
to do this when we pray, to foresee occasions and prepare ourselves for
them; but it should be done with freedom of mind, without refusing to yield
ourselves to the simple recollection of contemplation when we feel
ourselves drawn to it. For then Our Lord in the course of one single
meditation will endow a soul with some particular virtue and even with many
virtues in a far higher degree than would be acquired in several years by
these external acts." "Sp. Doctrine," Prin. ii. Sec. ii. ch. iv.


"My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God." Ps. Ixxxiii. 3.

Development of Prayer: Meditation, Affective Prayer, Prayer of Simplicity.

In the previous chapter were briefly outlined the acts which ordinarily
constitute the body of prayer. Now besides those considerations and
affections which are immediately concerned with the subject considered,
there are certain movements of will and intellect which should
interpenetrate all our relations with God in much the same way as a
fundamental theme runs through all the figures of a piece of music. In all
our interchanges of thought and affection with God, we must ever have
before our eyes our sinfulness and infidelity. That we have sinned, and
that, in spite of the extraordinary graces bestowed on us, we find it
possible still, even daily, to fail in the duties of friendship towards our
Heavenly Lord, is a fact that we must never lose sight of; it should impart
a certain reserve to our warmest feelings or expressions of affection. Our
love for God must be ever tinged with a sadness arising from the
consciousness of our unworthiness to present ourselves before Him. We must
never cast ourselves at His Feet to worship, without recalling that our
worship must ascend to Him from hearts that to some degree have
disappointed and wounded Him. This thought will generate an ever present
feeling of compunction without which there cannot be true devotion. This
abiding sorrow for sin develops a sensitiveness to the claims of God on us;
the nearer we approach to Him, the clearer grows the understanding that
those claims cannot be satisfied without sanctity on our part. This helps
to maintain us in a humble and subdued frame of mind, checks all tendency
to presumptuous familiarity in our attitude towards our Creator, and
effectively curbs all movements of self-will, vanity and uncharitableness.
"And my sin is always before me," says Scripture.[1]

Through all our meditations there should run implicitly this spiritual
confession. It should consist rather in a repentant attitude of the soul
with regard to all its sins in general, than in a calling up for avowal any
of them in particular. When the activities of thought and affection
belonging to the main theme cease, the activities proper to this spiritual
confession should emerge into prominence. They are a consideration of our
guilt before, and ingratitude towards, God: regret that our sorrow is so
imperfect and so wanting in divine love: a desire that we should have a
truly humble and contrite heart, and a yearning for pardon and for the
grace of amendment; and all this should be accompanied by a longing to make
atonement by sacrifice.

But whilst being filled with regret for our transgressions and shame for
our unworthiness, we must never allow ourselves to lose sight of the graces
and favors which God has bestowed on us. It would be a perverse form of
humility to blind oneself to the good wrought in our soul by the action of
divine grace. Profound gratitude for the favors God has bestowed on us
should color all our implicit pleadings for growth in virtue and holiness:
"Bless the Lord O my soul, and never forget all He hath done for thee."[2]
Many spend their spiritual energies in perpetually bewailing their
sinfulness and do not allow themselves to advert to the truth that they
have much to be grateful for--even spiritually. God lilies us to bear in
mind with gratitude how much He has done for us and with what loving care
He watches over our spiritual welfare. With all our faults there are many
graces which we have turned to profit. "To make open avowal of what I have
received is not pride but devotion," says St. Augustine.[3] The smallest
grace is of a value, St. Thomas tells us that outweighs all the good of the
whole created universe; and to arrive at that state in which one is
privileged to converse intimately with God there is required a series of
special graces which are not given to all. Those who have made even a
little progress in the interior life could not exaggerate in their
expressions of gratitude to Almighty God. That they, in preference to so
many others, should be objects of that special providence by which they
have been initiated into the life of prayer--of familiar intercourse with
the Lord Himself--is a mystery, the mystery of Predestination. Their hearts
should overflow with gratitude in face of this mystery of election. There
are numbers of Christians around about them given the same opportunities as
they, perhaps more deserving than they are, oftentimes endowed with much
finer natural disposition, who are, nevertheless, destined to remain during
their whole life only on the borders of the supernatural world. Those who
have made some progress have only to contrast their present dispositions
with those they had when, as St. Paul puts it, they " were serving under
the elements of the world,"[4] to realize what freedom they have acquired and
how good God has been to them. Feelings of deep gratitude towards God
should be ever welling up in our hearts. Our sorrow for sin should not make
us gloomy; it should leave room for these feelings of joyous gratitude for
what God has made us by His grace. This sense of gratitude, so far from
marring humility, is an element of it. When the soul has, by frequent
exercise, so strongly impregnated its ordinary method of prayer with the
affections we have outlined that they come to predominate, then a change
that is gradual and yet easily perceptible begins to make itself felt in
our meditation. The soul has now become penetrated through and through with
an affective knowledge of the mysteries of faith. It moves habitually in a
supernatural atmosphere. Instinctively it considers everything from the
spiritual point of view, that is, it sees, in the light of faith the
circumstances in which itself and those around it move. The assaults of its
lower nature and of the passions have become enfeebled, and it no longer
experiences a difficulty in directing its thoughts and affections towards
God. In a word, the hold that the things of earth have had on it is relaxed
and it feels a real attraction for God, and the things of God.

Meditation is still necessary for the soul when in this condition, but
considerations and reflections now play a very minor part in this exercise.
The ordinary subjects chosen are still taken from the life of Our Lord, or
deal with the Christian virtues, studied in themselves or as seen in
exercise in His life or in the lives of Our Blessed Lady and of His Saints.
But no activity of the reasoning powers is required to persuade the soul of
the necessity of practicing those virtues; nor is any activity of the
imagination required to beget an attraction for them. The soul habitually
aspires after perfection which it realizes to be a condition of close
friendship with Jesus. Prayer, therefore, becomes extremely simplified. A
few thoughts having reference to the spiritual life are taken to occupy the
intelligence and imagination, because this is a means that it is necessary
to take in order to enter into a state of recollection. One act of
reflection is made on those ideas, one glance, as it were, of the
intelligence, when the exercise begins and the whole soul, without any
effort, persuasion or reflection, is possessed of the truth which they
contain. Instantly the will, without feeling any contrary appeal or counter
attraction, is drawn to desire with all its strength that perfection of
life which the living of those truths would mean. It does not seek that
perfection as an end, but as a means of making its union with God more
intimate. Though the soul knows that it will fail when the time for action
comes, still, at the actual moment at any rate, it enters into a state of
conformity in mind and heart and volition with the truth it has meditated
on. In this state of conformity it places itself directly and deliberately
under the action of God, with a view to receiving into itself the
outpouring of that grace which will enable it later on to shape its conduct
according to the truth which it is contemplating. This prayer is called
affective prayer because the acts of the intelligence being simple and
rapid, the acts of the will, called affections, predominate. The prayer of
affection, which is the ordinary development of prayer in souls who are
generous, may receive a further simplification. The affections themselves
cease to be multiple and varied and tend to unity. In this prayer the soul
recollects all its powers. It stills their activity and throws all its
being, and all the energies of that being, into a calm, simple, loving look
directed to God. All multiplicity in the acts of the will gradually
disappears. From time to time it elicits acts of love and of desire to be
nearer to God--acts of aspiration after that union which it feels to be yet
so far off. These acts of love are made without vehemence; they are more
like the breathing of the soul than positive acts. They are almost mere
pulsations. They resemble the slight heaving of the ocean when it has
subsided into a relative calm.

The sense of the remoteness of its objective, namely, a very close union
with God, provokes a longing in the soul which is a strange mingling of
distress and contentment. Union with God is discerned to be far off and
utterly unattainable by any efforts that the creature can make. It is
clearly recognized to be a divine and gratuitous gift. It is impossible to
know how it will be imparted and when. The soul recognizes that a still
more thorough transformation must take place in itself before deep and
intimate union becomes possible, and yet it is only too well aware that no
efforts of its own, however praiseworthy, can effect that transformation.
The soul sees in a certain sense in what consists this perfection to which
it aspires, but does not know how it can ever attain to it. All this causes
a certain anxiety in its patient longing. But in its expectancy there is no
sadness, it is content to hold itself before the Lord in a humble attitude
of dumb pleading. Knowing that the Holy Ghost alone can purify it, it
offers itself to His Divine operations, keeping itself silent and
recollected and laboring to divest itself of all that could present an
obstacle to the operations of the Divine Spirit. It does nothing but submit
itself to the action of God. This is the prayer of simplicity. It is not
without its inconveniences; for those who have attained to it, oftentimes
do not understand their own state. Finding in themselves a cessation of
considerations and of distinct movements of the will, they think that they
are doing nothing in prayer. The whole exercise takes place in the
obscurity of faith; hence there is little for the imagination to fix itself
on, or anything to keep the understanding in activity. As a consequence
distractions are very frequent, though the distractions are only apparent.
The regard of the soul remains all the time fixed in God, while the images
that rise in the imagination may even set the understanding in motion and
draw it away to alien topics.[5]

But on the whole the soul enjoys a great measure of peace when it has
passed the stage of ordinary meditation and entered into that of affective
prayer, or the Prayer of Simplicity. It is not unaware, in spite of its
consciousness of its utter weakness and powerlessness for good, that a
great revolution has taken place in itself, a revolution which it
recognizes by its effects. It lives in the sense of God's pervading
presence, and in the perception of God's action on it through creatures.
The gradual deepening of its faith, has put it in contact with the reality
underlying the external aspect of created objects. It is no longer led away
by appearances: the transitoriness of things has come home to it:--
external, sensible objects though still capable of soliciting, have lost
their power over its affections. Gradually, everything has dissolved and
left it face to face with the only reality, God Himself. It has been
brought to God the Father through meditation on the mystery of the
Incarnation. "No man cometh to the Father but by Me."[6] God has become for
it the supreme reality; life holds for it no other, except what brings it
into relation to Him; existence without Him means nothing and holds out no
prospect. Life empty of God is empty of everything and the thought of such
a life inspires it with horror. As the compass needle trembles, wavers and
is agitated, being drawn in different directions until it finally steadies
itself and takes up its definite position under the force of magnetic
attraction, so the soul ceases its vacillations at this stage and steadily
points towards God.

The end is not yet; but the soul looks forward confidently to that
consummation. As Faith grows in strength and vigor the theological virtue
of Hope develops with it. And acting under the influence of that virtue,
the soul, in spite of its nothingness and its deep sense of that
nothingness, looks forward with confidence to the moment when God will
stoop to it, lessen the distance that separates it from Him, and impart to
it an increasingly perfect union with Himself, and, if He so will, carry it
from the state of active into that of passive prayer.

1. Ps. l. 5.

2. Ps. cii. 2.

3. Comm. on Pater Noster.

4. Gal. iv. 3.

5. Bossuet describes very accurately the characteristics of the prayer of
simplicity. The greater its (the soul's) knowledge of God is, the purer
will be its love, the more upright its intention, the more pronounced its
hatred for sin, the more thorough its recollection, the more sustained its
humility and mortification . . . The light of faith grown stronger reveals
to us our least imperfection and enables us to conceive a deep regret for
them combined with a strong aversion from them. . . .

The best prayer is that in which one most completely abandons oneself to
the sentiments and dispositions that God puts into the soul and in which
one strives simply, with humility, candor and fidelity to conform oneself
to His will and to the example of Jesus Christ." Bossuet: "Prayer of

"The Prayer Of Simplicity," says Fr. Poulain, "is a mental prayer in which
(1) intuition in a great measure replaces reasoning; (2) the affections and
resolutions show very little variety and are expressed in few words. In
the prayer of simplicity there is a thought or a sentiment that returns
incessantly and easily (although with little or no development) amongst
many other thoughts, whether useful or not. This dominant thought does not
go so far as to be continuous. It merely returns frequently and of its own
accord. We may compare it to . . . a piece of wood which, carried along by a
torrent, continually goes under the surface, disappears and reappears."
"The Grace of Interior Prayer," Ch. ii. Republished by C.T.S.E. under the
title: "Prayer of Simplicity."

6. "Nemo venit ad Patrem nisi per me." St. John xiv. 6.



"If I have looked at iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."--Ps.
lxv. 18.

# 1. Purity of Conscience.

Since prayer is a relation of intimate friendship with One Who is
infinitely holy, progress in it demands a great purity of conscience. The
soul must not be content with merely cleansing itself from grievous faults,
it must aim at preserving a deep aversion for every deliberate venial sin.
Faults of weakness it cannot escape, but everything willful should be
carefully avoided. When there is absent this delicacy in one's relations
with Almighty God, it is a sign that the exercise of prayer does not touch
the depths of the soul where contact with God is found; because where such
contact exists, it is impossible not to feel sharp stings of remorse for
every action which consciously deviates from the will of God, even though
it be but to the extent of not co-operating with it.

# 2. Purity of Heart.

It is our irregular and inordinate affections for persons or things that
alone lead us into deliberate faults. Hence it is that it becomes incumbent
on us to labor to purify our affections. It is most important to aim at
loving only God, and severing every tie of which the Divine Master is not
the beginning and the end. Our Lord Who has created our human hearts, does
not discountenance the natural affections of those hearts; on the contrary,
He consecrates and blesses all. It is only when they become disorderly and
usurp the place of God, in our souls, that they become displeasing to Him.
The soul desirous of progress must aim then, not at destroying its natural
affections, but rather at purifying them. It must make its object be to
love only according to God, and in the manner in which He approves. The
instant that it finds any attachment causing its relations with God to
cool, or making it feel uncomfortable and ill at ease in His presence, it
must bring such an attachment to an abrupt termination. It is the only
remedy; one must be drastic in this matter. As long as the soul is attached
inordinately to anything created, it has no longer the same freedom as
before to raise itself up to God. A nothing can keep it tied to earth, and
God dwells only in heaven. There our affections ought to be.[1]

# 3. Purity of Mind.

To live in a state of prayer demands that the mind be constantly occupied
with the thought of God. This does not mean that the entire day be spent in
the exercise of meditation. This is impossible. It means simply that all
our actions should at least subconsciously be guided and influenced by a
sense of God's Sovereignty. This postulates a control by the will over the
workings of the mind and, consequently, over the activity of the
imagination. Our trains of thought are governed from within or from
without. If from within they are under the sway of the will and can be made
to issue from considerations of faith; if from without, they are under the
sway of nature. Things impress the imagination, the images of the
imagination start the processes of thought, and these processes follow the
course set by the images of the inferior faculty. Hence if we allow outside
things that have no bearing on the life for God, to occupy our imagination
and fill it, reflection on spiritual matters becomes exceedingly difficult.
Dissipation and distraction are the natural consequence of allowing the
imagination to occupy itself with images that have no connection with the
higher life. To abandon oneself habitually to every caprice of one's mind,
to make no effort to be master of one's mental activities, no effort to
direct them at one's will, and at the same time to expect to lead an
interior life, is to expect what cannot be realized. "Purity," says St.
Thomas, "is necessary if the mind is to be applied to God, because the
human mind is sullied when it is attached to inferior things; just as
anything is rendered impure by being mixed with something baser, e.g.
silver when mixed with lead. The mind ought to be withdrawn from inferior
objects if it is to be united to the supreme object; and therefore the mind
that lacks purity cannot be applied to God."[2]

# 4. Purity of Will.

The faculties of thought and imagination being emancipated from the control
of creatures, and subjected to the control of the will, one must set about
the purification of this latter faculty. The will is the faculty by which
we move towards and cleave to what is presented to us as being good, that
is, as satisfying a want in us. Whilst depending on the intelligence for
its object, the will, in virtue of the freedom that is inherent in it, can
control that faculty. The will is purified when it seeks only God and the
things that pertain to God, amongst which is its own spiritual perfection
or its own union with the divinity. To attain this state of purity it must
employ its liberty to cause the intellect to judge as " good " only that
which brings us to God. Its purification, therefore, consists in the
gradual elimination from its tendencies of all that is not God or does not
lead directly to Him. Thus it attains its perfection in an unquestioning
submission to the action of Divine Providence, and in embracing
wholeheartedly the dispensations of that Providence in the minutest details
of life. The purity of the will leads to the taking of strong and
efficacious resolutions.

# 5. Strong Devotion.

This is based upon a deep realization of God's absolute sovereignty over
us, and His right to unqualified subjection on our part; and it means a
promptitude of disposition to obey Him in all things and to exhibit a great
generosity in His service.[3] The soul possessed of true devotion is not
content merely with carrying out God's orders, it aims at forestalling His
wishes. Devotedness is something far higher than mere duty. It is inventive
to discover ways of giving pleasure to the Person, who is its object. Great
projects planned and undertaken for the promotion of God's cause find their
inspiration in devotion. Sometimes it is accompanied by a certain sweetness
and suavity which sustains this promptitude of the will and permeates the
soul with a relish for the things of God. But this is purely accidental to
devotion. More often, devotion is exercised without any feeling of relish
and in the darkness of faith; this absence of feeling is called spiritual
dryness. For faithful souls, such dryness is a test of their sincerity and
a trial sent by God to purify and deepen their faith. For the more the soul
acts by the prompting of faith alone, unsustained by any help coming from
its sensible feelings and emotions, the more perfect that faith becomes.
But for souls that are less strong and not so advanced, the absence of
sensible devotion may easily be the consequence of immortification and
slight but continued infidelities. If the soul, losing courage because no
longer finding satisfaction in serving God, ceases to make efforts to
acquire obedience, forbearance and humility, it loses not only the
sweetness of devotion but devotion itself. If, however, it does what it can
to remain united to God, even though it can hardly succeed in so doing, it
has preserved devotion substantially.

# 6. Knowledge of Self.

It is most important to have some knowledge of self, of our own tendencies,
of our weaknesses and of our qualities. Blindness as to what we really are,
can prove a great obstacle to our progress: for it will lead to continual
mistakes as to what in us proceeds from nature and what from grace. Through
such blindness we may easily be resisting the instincts and the promptings
of the Holy Ghost, Who usually directs us in accordance with our natural
aptitudes. This self-knowledge should never degenerate into minute self-
analysis: that would prove just as harmful as ignorance. It is best
acquired by the exercise of humility and by striving to live habitually in
the presence of God. Self-revelation comes very slowly, because the more
deeply rooted our own tendencies are, the more they form part of ourselves
and as a consequence the less they obtrude themselves on our notice when we
enter on action. We are less a mystery to others than to ourselves. This is
the psychological reason for the need of spiritual direction. It is also
the reason why we can so easily discern the mote in another's eye and be
blind to the beam in our own.

# 7. The Christian Motive.

Our Divine Lord's infinite wisdom is wonderfully reflected in his
admonition: "Lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven . . . for where thy
treasure is, there is thy heart also." Our interests and affections
naturally govern our life and its activities. To succeed in the spiritual
life, it is necessary for us to labor to place our affections at the
service of our faith. Attachments are our great obstacle The readiest means
to overcome them is, not to turn in on ourselves to combat them directly,
for sooner or later we would lose in the struggle, but to turn outward and
upward and combat them indirectly by creating counter attachments, in the
spiritual order. Progress will necessarily be slow for us as long as our
emotions are at variance with the dictates of our faith. To make our course
easier, it will be necessary to effect a union between the two. The purely
spiritual, because it is such, makes little or no appeal to our
sensibility. Something must be sought cut between God and our soul, which
may serve as a lever to lift us above the earth and bring us as it were
into God's reach. This lever must contain elements that, whilst giving free
exercise to our senses, our feelings, and our imagination, still tend to
carry us on to God and to bring us into relations with Him. The grandeur of
the catholic liturgy is such a thing that standing as it were midway
between the sensible and the spiritual world, effects a union between the
two by supernaturalising the former. Our senses, purified and refined by
the expressive and beautiful symbolic vesture in which holy Church robes
the deeply spiritual mysteries of our religion, will by this discipline
satisfy and elevate the sensibility and thus develop the emotional
tendencies in perfect harmony with the ultimate aspirations of the human
soul. This harmony being established between the tendencies of sense and
spirit, the soul will be free from that which presents the greatest
obstacle to its supernatural development, namely, the opposition to our
soul's upward movement which arises from our sensitive nature craving for
satisfactions that must be denied it, if purity of heart and conscience is
to be preserved. Through the appeal of the Church's ritual, we shall be
drawn into a sympathy with the mind of the Church which has created that
ritual for its outward expression. Drawn into the current of the life of
the Church, the soul will begin to breathe easily, as it were, in the
supernatural world. That world becomes its connatural element. In it, it
will become gradually penetrated through and through with the atmosphere
that prevails there. The life of the Church manifests itself uniquely in
the love of its Divine Spouse, Jesus Christ. Every act of the Sacred
Liturgy, every ceremony, every expression is dictated by that love, has its
source in it, and is the means by which that love finds voice and
utterance. The soul that is in sympathy with, and which enters into this
liturgical life, gradually assimilates that enthusiastic love of Jesus
Christ, with which the Church palpitates. In this pure and spiritual love
the soul goes outside of itself, relinquishes itself, and espouses the
interests of its Beloved. It makes its own the interests of Jesus Christ
and those of His Church, which are identical. These interests are simply
one absorbing interest, the salvation of the souls of men. This zeal for
the expansion of the Church, this consuming desire to bring ever increasing
numbers into its fold, becomes the 'grande passion' of the soul that is
seized by the spirit of the sacred Liturgy. The soul that is possessed by
it finds therein the great lever by which it is lifted up above that
preoccupation about self which is the chief obstacle to progress. In this
selflessness it will find that quality of simplicity which Jesus so admired
in children, and which He postulated as the condition of entrance into the
kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is realized for us here on earth,
in close and intimate union with God.

1. "Does it make any difference," says St. John of the Cross, "whether a
bird be held by a slender thread or by a rope, while the bird is bound it
cannot fly 'till the cord that holds it is broken?" "Ascent" I. xi.

2. "Munditia enim necessaria est ad hoc quod mens Deo applicetur, quia mens
humana inquinatur ex hoc quod inferioribus rebus conjungitur; sicut
quarlibet res ex immixtione pejoris sordescit, ut argentum ex immixtione
plumbi. Oportet autem quod mens ab inferioribus rebus abstrahatur, ad hoc
quod supremae rei possit conjungi; et ideo mens sine munditia Deo
applicarti non potest." (II. II. Q. 81. a. 8.)

3. "Devotion," says St. Thomas, "is the will to give oneself with
promptitude to the things that belong to the service of God." (II. II. 82.

4. St. Matt. vi. 20-21.


# 1. A Preparation for Meditation

"Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my paths."--Ps. cxviii. 105.

Saint Augustine says that "he who wishes often to be with God ought to pray
frequently and read pious books," and all spiritual writers after him,
without exception, have insisted on the necessity of spiritual reading for
all those who wish to lead a really interior and supernatural life.[1]
Holiness is the fruit of prayer, and mental prayer is extremely difficult
without the reading of spiritual books. Such reading provides the
foundation on which the work of meditation is to be built up; it affords an
immediate preparation for the exercise and ministers the element by which
it is to be sustained. It is to the exercise of prayer what oil is to the
lamp; it supplies the material from which the flame of fervor derives its
nourishment and by which it is kept bright and burning. It is for this
reason that the religious orders from the beginning have insisted so much
on the necessity of spiritual reading, making it a point of rule, and
taking every precaution against the disregard or neglect of it. St.
Benedict appointed two monks to go round the Monastery at a fixed hour to
see that everybody was "making" his spiritual reading, and St. Ignatius
writes in his rules: "The religious should twice a day employ (therein) the
time allotted, for examination of conscience, for meditation and spiritual
reading; and with all possible care and diligence apply themselves
thereunto in the Lord." It is a matter to be regretted that this devotional
exercise ii confined mostly to those who have given themselves to the
religious life, and that books dealing with the characteristics and lives
of the saints, as well as with the principles and laws of the life of union
with God find a place in few libraries except those of religious houses.
They should find a place on the bookshelves of every truly christian home.

All are called to perfection, to that grade of perfection which consists in
conformity with the law of the Gospel, and this cannot be attained without
constant and intimate union with Our Divine Lord. For this union spiritual
reading forms an almost indispensable condition. The reason is obvious.
Prayer being an elevation of our souls to God, and this elevation
consisting in acts of the understanding and movements of the will, it is
plain that our souls must be as it were steeped in a supernatural element,
in order that they may easily and readily ascend to God. If our minds are
not familiar with divine things this elevation of the soul will be very
difficult. The extent of our familiarity with the supernatural will be the
measure of the facility which we shall find in giving ourselves to prayer.
Of course this facility depends on more than mere knowledge of spiritual
books and our own efforts when we give ourselves to prayer. Even when we
have done all that is required on our part, the results may still be poor,
for in each case, the successful accomplishment of the exercise of mental
prayer is a grace and a gift from God. But although God may also impart
knowledge of divine things directly, without the intermediary of books,
this is not in accord with the ordinary procedure of His Providential
guidance of souls. His grace is meant not to supersede but to raise and
elevate nature. He does not as a rule interfere with the regular working of
natural laws. The ordinary modes by which new ideas come to our minds are
reading and instruction. As our minds are constituted they dwell easily and
naturally on those thoughts with which they are stored, and which have the
most interest for us. If worldly pursuits, worldly interests, mere natural
and material things absorb our attention, and are the main theme of such
reading as we indulge in, it is inevitable that our reflections will take
the color of these preoccupations and interests when we set ourselves to
prayer. It is according to the laws of psychology that in such
circumstances our thoughts will tend to run almost entirely on earthly
things, things quite foreign to prayer. Our best attempts will issue simply
in endless distractions, in virtue of the laws that govern the workings of
the human mind. Prayer is not a haphazard thing nor can it issue from the
best will in the world unless we take account of the lines on which our
minds are constructed and adopt our measures in view of this structure and
according to the direction it imposes. If we wish to dwell easily on
supernatural' things our memories must be stored with them.

Saintliness is an art; it is always the product of adhesion to certain
principles, and is the application of these principles in the conduct of
life.[2] If we follow certain methods of action we can become saints, but
only on condition that we do follow these methods. If a man wishes to
acquire an art he gives himself to a certain well-defined course of
training, and to the learning of a code of rules. His success will depend
on his assiduity and application. In the same way sanctity is a methodical
affair and is never an accident.[3] Now meditation is the introduction to a
devout life, and meditation, being a work of the mind, presents grave
obstacles unless the mind is equipped for it. The Gospel is the text book
of sanctity. For this reason our intelligence must be habituated to the
examples of the Gospel by continually dwelling on them. The text of the
Gospel receives its illustration and amplification in works dealing with
the lives of the Saints and with spiritual themes. Spiritual reading has no
other purpose than to store our minds with ideas and our imaginations with
images pertaining to the supernatural order. And since our minds dwell with
ease and for a length of time only on what interests them, the daily
reading of pious books must not be merely an exercise to be got through,
but a pursuit to which we assiduously devote ourselves. It will entirely
fail of its purpose unless it gives a certain very definite turn to our
thoughts and a particular trend to our minds. It should extend its
influence beyond the mere space of time which is allotted to it; the manner
in which we form our judgments about things and devote ourselves to the
occupations of our lives must be largely influenced by it. It is only when
understood in this way that it forms a valuable aid to mental prayer. For
when the tone of our mind is supernaturalised little difficulty will be
experienced in putting ourselves in the proper attitude of soul whenever we
place ourselves in the presence of God for the formal exercise of prayer.[4]
All the difference between the ability and the inability to pray lies in
living or in not living the life of faith.[5] The life of faith consists in
thinking and acting with a view to God and estimating the things of this
world after the manner of the Saints. If our reading is done with ardor,
with a mind that is open to receive the impressions that spiritual books of
themselves necessarily convey, we shall gradually form the habit of
thinking in a supernatural way. Once this habit is formed, the chief and
greatest obstacle to the interior life is swept away.

It is not an easy thing for us to think supernaturally, and an occasional
look into a spiritual book will not be sufficient to develop in us the
habit of doing so. If we are to keep our judgments sure in a spiritual
sense, our outlook on life wise with true wisdom, and our conduct under the
guidance and control of motives of faith as opposed to those of
worldliness, spiritual reading must come to form the most substantial
element in our daily intellectual nourishment. It is only thus that it will
effectively counterbalance the evil tendencies of nature by awakening and
sustaining supernatural tendencies in the soul. Spiritual reading
substitutes, for the maxims and examples of the world, the maxims and
examples of Our Lord and the Saints. In a word, it is a kind of daily
invitation to look beyond earth to God and the things of God.[6] It must not
be the least important, but the most important part of our reading. This
does not mean that we are to open none but ascetical works--no, but it
means that the impressions or cast of thought that we derive from the
reading of these must determine, control and correct the cast of thought
that our ordinary reading tends naturally to produce. Our estimate of the
ideas that are enunciated or adumbrated in the secular books must be guided
and checked by the principles laid down by spiritual authors and not vice
versa. This is most necessary if we are to set up an effective barrier to
the stream of worldliness that is pouring in on us from every side. Our
duties may necessitate that a great part of our time for reading will be
given to the perusal of books that are frankly humanistic and unspiritual
in tendency, that are purely materialistic in outlook and that value life
in accordance with the sum of purely earthly happiness and well-being that
it can furnish. Constant reading of these, especially when they are written
in an attractive style, and with a certain force and plausibility of
argument, will introduce their subtle poison into our minds unless we are
careful to apply the antidote of spiritual reading. Furthermore, Christians
are obliged to live and move in an atmosphere saturated with worldliness,
in a world in which almost every appreciation of things is at variance with
the appreciations of Jesus Christ, and their judgments cannot remain
unaffected by the prevailing tone and tendency of the environment unless a
steady corrective be applied. This corrective is to be found in the use of
spiritual books. The baneful spirit of naturalism is nowadays not
restricted to a definite number or confined to particular regions: it
pervades the whole world. To-day, the words of St. Paul find an almost
literal verification: "for all seek the things that are their own, not the
things that are Jesus Christ's."[7] The doors of no Christian home can be
barred so securely, the walls of no religious house can be raised so high,
as to shut out this perverse, anti-gospel spirit. It penetrates with its
subtle poison everywhere. Its influence is felt within the best Christian
communities. Selfishness is becoming a code of conduct; and men use their
genius to discover and bring forward reasons and establish principles that
justify their self-seeking. The gospel of the world formulates its own
beatitudes, which are faithfully echoed by those who pass as normally good
Christians. In unison with the worldling they say: "Blessed are they that
have a good time." "Blessed are they that have enough of wealth to satisfy
every whim." "Blessed are they that can have their own way in all things
and can crush opposition," etc. "Self-sacrifice," the world says, "was all
right for men who lived at a time when men could not know any better--
people are too enlightened nowadays to entertain any longer these mediaeval
ideas of perfection." The air we breathe is reeking with these poisonous
thought-germs which tend to destroy the spiritual life of the soul; for it
substitutes a narrow, selfish and hard calculation for the childlike trust
in a loving Providence so recommended by the Gospel.

Apart from all these adverse influences that come from the world we should
still find enough of difficulty in ourselves, enough of obstacles to the
formation of supernatural habits of thought. Nothing reveals itself to our
consciousness in normal conditions but what is of the natural order. We
have no power of discriminating by mere consciousness between what is a
natural and what is a supernatural act in ourselves. In fact the
supernaturalness of any act of faith or hope or charity that we elicit can
never be revealed to our consciousness except, perhaps, in the highest
mystical states. If we go back over any of the processes by which God
stirred our soul in a special manner at any period of our lives, they will
appear to us to resemble any other processes of thought or emotion,
differing only in regard of the matter with which they are concerned. We
assign the change wrought in ourselves to the eloquence of the preacher,
the arguments he used, the clear and vivid way in which he put truths we
had often heard before, etc. In a word, the whole thing took place, we
think, in a way which we can explain, by the ordinary laws of cause and
effect. It is only one that is skilled in interior things that can detect
the presence of divine grace operating in all these things, and without the
operation of which, they would have proved ineffectual There is, then, a
decided tendency in us to look at things and judge of them in a purely
natural manner.

Now spiritual reading alone, which puts us in touch with and makes us
acquainted with the temper of the Saints, with their habits of thought,
with their estimate of things, will succeed in counteracting all these
influences, and give a certain insight into the action of God in life's
happenings. Association with the Saints through spiritual reading forms and
strengthens in us the conviction that the one thing of supreme value is,
not to be well off in this world, but to be well established in the state
of grace, to be well with God; that all the world's goods without the
friendship of God are valueless, and that sanctifying grace even without
these goods is sufficient; that the contemplation of divine things is a
more energetic influence than feverish activity; that the accomplishment of
God s will an not the gratification of our own is the chief business of
life; and that a man's greatness consists not in wealth or power or honor,
but in that degree of divine charity with which his soul is informed.

# 2. What we are to Read

If the works of ascetical writers are necessary in order to give us a good
grasp of the science of spirituality, it is the lives of the Saints that
will give us the stimulus to put what we know in practice. What is concrete
appeals to us more readily than what is abstract--and in the lives of these
heroic men and women we see christian principles in actual working. Without
the records of their lives before us, the life of christian perfection as
portrayed in the Gospel would run the danger of appearing to our weakness
as an ideal impossible to realize, the evangelical counsel and the teaching
of the Lord Jesus would appear as something to admire rather than to
practice, and, our natural weakness aiding, the teaching of the Savior
would soon lose all practical hold upon our hearts and wills. In the lives
of the Saints we have positive evidence that perfection is attainable--and
that what is impossible to human nature by itself, becomes possible and is
actually realized through the grace of Jesus Christ. These records of the
lives of these heroic men and women show that all that is required on our
part in order to reach sanctity is humility and the entire submission to
the Holy Will of God; they show that when these dispositions of humility
and fidelity to the divine will are contributed by man, with the help of
grace, the divine action can make the rarest virtues grow and flourish in
the soul. The reading of the lives of the Saints saves us from the danger
of believing that the gospel outlines an ideal which is practically

There is another danger from which Spiritual reading preserves us--a danger
into which many fall, and which has proved a stumbling block to them on the
road to perfection. The danger lies in this. The morality taught by Our
Lord is so lofty and so uncompromisingly opposed to the inclinations of our
lower nature that, under the promptings of that nature, we should be
tempted to whittle down the sayings of the Divine Master, explain away
their sense, elude their obvious meaning, prune them of all that is sharp
and exacting and seek to give them an interpretation more in harmony with
the pleasure-loving, easy, comfortable life which is our ambition. So great
is our aversion to what is austere and difficult, so unresponsive are we to
the appeal to mortification and self-sacrifice, that this tendency would be
sure to manifest itself in us, even if there were question merely of the
ordinary christian principles, and the counsels of perfection were left out
of consideration. This tendency--to explain away the 'exactingness' of the
Gospel--is discernible universally in those who, through a total neglect of
spiritual literature, are not conversant with the Saints and their ways,
and it is evident also even in those who read the lives of the Saints but
who do it in a perfunctory manner or by way of a task. Such persons,
judging things by the low standards set by their own lives, are inclined to
say, in face of the inexorable morality of the Gospel--"Such and such a
principle or maxim of conduct must not be taken in the strict sense."
"Putting such principles in practice life would be impossible." "No man
could live in the manner required by such a rule." With the example of
thousands and tens of thousands of saints, of all ages, of all nations, of
all ranks and of both sexes, before our eyes, such questionings are
silenced. Christian perfection is possible because so many, even of the
tenderest age, mere boys and girls, as for instance St. Pancratius and St.
Agnes, have attained to it. In their lives we see in actual working,
intense love of God, ardent love of the neighbor, a great spirit of self-
denial and an eminent degree of the exercise of the moral and the
theological virtues.

There is no one but recognizes the force of example. Any amount of
instruction may fail to rouse to stern endeavor the sluggish, those who
are not naturally of an elevated, noble or generous temperament. But when
the instruction is embodied in a life, which is its living expression, then
even the dullest are aroused to energetic action. A great and good life
excites admiration in the hearts of all that contemplate it. Admiration
begets imitation. We have an inborn tendency to assume the ways and manners
of those we admire. Hence it is that books written for boys deal mostly
with the doings of the chief character, who is pictured as possessing all
the qualities that it is desired should be emulated by the youthful reader,
viz:--truthfulness, honesty, fair dealing, judgment and courage. These
ideal figures fire the imagination, and the boy reader is filled with the
desire to resemble in all things the hero of his book. Reading of this kind
plays a large part in forming the ideals of young boys and in determining
their estimates of all that is great and heroic. Great harm then can be
done, and is done, in setting before the young mind a false standard of
manliness and virtue. One is naturally drawn to greatness, and if our idea
of greatness is false, it is easy to see to what a perverted notion of what
really constitutes a great and manly life a false standard may give rise.
That man alone is truly great who is perfect in self-mastery, and who is
perfectly submissive to Almighty God; this is the perfectly moral and
religious man. It is the Saints only who have fully and adequately realized
this ideal. We cannot have what is truly lofty and noble constantly before
our thoughts without being drawn to make the effort to reproduce at least
something of that loftiness and nobility in our own lives. This does not
mean that we are to strive to imitate the personal characteristics or the
heroic individual actions or mortifications of the Saints in our conduct.
Imitation of the Saints does not mean copying them. The attempt would be
futile and end only in caricature and finally in disappointment. We imitate
them by shaping our lives according to the principles which governed
theirs, and by accepting their practical estimation of things, and not
necessarily in making our own the material circumstances and the actual
doings of their lives. We are not called upon to do what they did aided by
the particular graces that were given them. But we are called upon to judge
things as they did and view life and its activities after their manner.

Many find spiritual reading distasteful and insipid. This will be the case
especially for those who indulge overmuch or even to any serious degree in
romantic literature. Even when the tone of this is not really bad, it
exercises a very disturbing effect on the imagination, renders the
assimilation of spiritual ideas difficult. The sensuous always appeals to
us more readily than the spiritual, and hence those eager to lead a truly
interior life must exercise a rigid mortification in the matter of light
literature. What is bad or of a dangerous tendency must be wholly shunned
by all who aspire even to an ordinary christian life. It is unfortunate
that parents and teachers do not understand how utterly unchristian can be
the mentality created by the works to which they so readily give their
approval, if they find nothing in them openly contrary to faith and morals.
For those who aim at intimacy with God, the selection of recreative reading
must be much more careful; everything taken into their hands with a view to
affording mental relaxation should tend at the same time to elevate and
ennoble the mind. Nothing should be provided which would only stimulate and
excite the imagination. Books turning upon the interplay of human passions,
and without any supernatural background to the dramatic representation of
the loves and hates of mankind, vitiate the taste and take away all relish
for books that deal with the spiritual experiences of those who have given
themselves to the life of intercourse with God.

Books that derive all their charm from the vividness with which they
portray the deep emotions of earthly and natural affection are dangerous
for souls which have consecrated the love of their hearts to God. The heart
of the priest and the nun must be virginal, and should be carefully
shielded from everything that would excite in it an interest in the play of
human passions. The imagination of those who, turning their back on secular
life and renouncing by vow the joys of domestic life, have bound themselves
to tend towards perfection, should, as far as depends on their efforts, be
kept free from all images of profane love. Then again those who have not
had the same call and who, having tasted the joys held out by the world,
have experienced the bitterness and disillusionment which too often attends
the experiment, will instinctively, in their revulsion of feeling, turn for
comfort and consolation to souls consecrated to the service of God. Those
who are disillusioned with life will trust to these consecrated souls to
establish contact once more between themselves and the supernatural world,
with which, in their worldly existence, they had gradually lost touch. If
they, whose profession is an exclusive devotedness to the things of God,
have nothing to offer to the world-weary ones who look to them for an
uplifting, except those very maxims, principles, and views of the world
which have proved so bitter a disillusionment, they will have betrayed the
legitimate trust that has been reposed in them. Consecrated souls must keep
in close touch with God, for the sake of others as well as in their own
interest. They must be always prepared in mind and will to be a guide to
the supernatural world, for those who are broken by the trials of earth;
for it is to that supernatural world and the God Who reigns in it, that the
human heart, when crushed under the burden of existence, will immediately
turn for healing and hope, if once it has known the goodness of that God.
If they, whose function it is to play the part of intermediary with God,
allow their minds to be formed to the same pattern as the minds of those
who live in habitual neglect of divine things: if they waste their time,
dissipate their energies and enervate their imaginations with the same type
of literature as fashions the taste and charms the leisure of the
worldling, then they cannot fulfill satisfactorily what is expected of them.
It is true that sometimes those who are devoting themselves seriously to
the cultivation of an interior life, are obliged in the discharge of their
duties to make an acquaintance with the books that are in vogue. But while
doing this they should hold themselves well on their guard against the
seduction of that reading and keep their literary taste pure and
uncontaminated. Interior souls should beware of making the perusal of
romantic literature a recreation: they should give themselves to it as to a
task and regret the time that may have to be spent in it. Where possible an
interior soul should renounce all indulgence in light or romantic
literature. If one who desires to give himself to spirituality has not a
taste for spiritual books, then that taste should be cultivated, for it can
be acquired. Its acquisition is, according to Father Faber, clearly a sign
of predestination; it is at any rate a powerful help towards a spiritual
life. When our minds are by constant reading steeped in the thoughts of God
and divine things, it will be easy for us to think of Him, and it will come
natural and easy for us to speak to Him and to speak of Him out of our full
hearts and well-stored minds.

After one is grounded deeply in spirituality it becomes possible to touch
these works of fiction without being defiled; they will have lost their
appeal; they will be read only through necessity; they will be read not for
amusement but in order that one may be a service to and a guidance to

# 3 How We are to Read

Spiritual reading as an aid to the development of an interior life is an
exercise which bears a close affinity to actual prayer. It is not practiced
mainly in view of gaining knowledge about things spiritual. Its object is
rather to stir up the affections than to equip the intelligence. Reading
for curiosity and devouring page after page of spiritual works defeats the
very purpose for which spiritual reading is undertaken. There is a wide
difference between religious reading and that which is read as an immediate
help to mental prayer. The end of religious reading is instruction and
enlightenment. It is necessary especially for directors of souls who must,
by reason of their office, acquire a profound and scientific knowledge of
asceticism and spirituality. The study of mystical, dogmatic and moral
theology is religious reading. It goes without saying that religious
reading must be supplemented by that which is properly spiritual in the
case of those who are charged with the direction of souls: without it their
instruction will lack the unction that is discovered in the words only of
those whose thoughts move habitually in the spiritual world. The mere
exercise of faith does not, of itself, steep the soul in a supernatural
atmosphere. The soul's being so steeped in divine things is, as was pointed
out, a condition of facility and growth in prayer. Spiritual reading is an
invaluable aid to this, on condition that it is done is done in the proper
way. Hurried and dilettante reading is to be deprecated. The books taken up
should be read through: passing from one to the other, after having read a
little in each, disturbs the calm and balance of the soul. A desire to have
one's Spirit drawn to and strongly attracted by all that belongs to the
interior life should be the motive impulse in spiritual reading. As
counseled by the Saints and masters of the interior life its purpose is to
affect the heart and will, making them enamoured of heavenly things, of
virtues, of divine grace, of purity of soul, of growth in intimacy with our
Divine Lord. One must be very dull and miserable not to be powerfully drawn
by the beauty of the world of grace as revealed in the soul confidences of
the Saints. The characteristics of their intimate converse with God, their
union with Jesus Christ, and the marvelous transforming and divinising
effects wrought in their souls through this intimacy and this union must,
if read in a true interior spirit, excite in the heart of the reader a
desire to penetrate, were it for ever so little a space, into this world of
happiness and of beauty.

That this be the effect, the reading, as has just been stated, must be made
in a disposition akin to prayerfulness. One should read slowly allowing
oneself plenty of time and allowing what is read to sink well into the
mind, so that the intelligence be penetrated by the truths exposed in the
text and the will strongly drawn towards them. " Read with attention and
application of mind and heart," says St. John Eudes, "weighing, tasting and
digesting at leisure the sense and the substance of the words."[8] If
spiritual reading be hurried through natural curiosity to get through a
great number of books, it will do very little good indeed.[9] Reading should
begin with a fervent invocation of God and should be interrupted and
interspersed with pious aspirations or ejaculatory prayer. It should be
selected in view of one's actual spiritual condition and in accordance with
one's spiritual needs. Reading that has no connection with the soul's
tendencies at the moment cannot prove very beneficial. That the exercise
should yield its full fruits, there should be a close and vital connection
between one's reading and one's mental prayer.

# 4. How to Profit by the Lives of the Saints

"Be ye followers of me," says St. Paul, "as I am of Christ.''[10] The same
indeed may be said of all the Saints--they are our models in the way of
Christian perfection. It has been asserted with the falsity that habitually
marks statements that proceed from a desire to appear clever rather than to
express the truth, that the Saints are rather objects of admiration than of
imitation. In canonizing the heroes of the christian warfare the Church
invites the rest of her children to walk in their footsteps. But by
imitation is not meant a slavish reproduction of the circumstances of their
lives, of their exceptional austerities, of their personal characteristics
and of all that was peculiarly personal to them. This would be an idle
effort and would not promote a healthy spiritual life. We are to imitate
the Saints in their endeavor to reproduce in their own lives the traits of
the life of Jesus. He is the supreme Model of human conduct. He is most
imitable. And each one of us is meant to reproduce according to his own
personal endowments, his own mental and moral characteristics and his own
individual measure of grace, his own personal expression of the human life
of Jesus on earth. There can be as many imitations that are different, yet
all true in their several measure, as there are individual Christians.
Hence the following are the lines of imitation of the Saints that our
conduct should pursue, if a profitable use is to be made of the reading of
their lives.

(1) We should strive to conduct and ground our lives on the supernatural
principles that guided theirs. In all their actions they were influenced
only by supernatural values and did not allow themselves to be swayed by
human motives. So too our conduct should not be determined by unchristian
motives and principles, if we are to live a truly interior life.

(2) The Saints are meant to be an inspiration for us in the practice of
those virtues which are the foundation of the christian life, in their
whole-hearted service of God, in their complete subjection to His Will, in
their contempt for the world, for its honors and advantages and in their
spirit of self-sacrifice. Of course, the practice of these virtues must be
adapted to the measure of our capacity. Thus, for instance, we must
practice mortification after their model, but not necessarily in the form
that the mortification took in their lives.

(3) We should admire the glory of God in the wonders He has accomplished in
them; they are the light of the world, they are those who have let their
light shine before men that men might glorify their Father Who is in

(4) Lastly, we should conceive a proper idea of the dignity and greatness
of the Saints. Our lives are shaped subconsciously by our ideals. It is
most important for us to have a true idea of real greatness and nobility of
life. Amongst men the Saints alone are truly great inasmuch as they retrace
in their life and conduct, the character of Him who is undeniably, even for
His enemies, the greatest amongst the sons of men. Beside His greatness,
the greatness of those whom the world worships shows itself utterly false
and shrunken. The Saints are the true heroes of humanity. They are the
truly great men and great women, because they closely resemble Him Who is
the most perfect realization of human greatness.

1. To quote a few examples from the Doctors of the Church: St. Bernard in
his explanation of the words, "seek and you shall find," says," Seek in
reading and you shall find in meditation. Strike by your prayers and the
door of contemplation shall be flung open." St. Jerome wrote to Saline,
"Spiritual reading is a sovereign remedy against evil thoughts," while St.
Augustine says, "Reading the scripture is like reading letters from the
other world."

We know also that the conversion of several saints began in spiritual
reading. The best known example is that of St. Ignatius, who was prompted
to change his manner of life and give himself wholly to God because of his
attentive perusal of a spiritual book, during convalescence. On the other
hand the progress in perfection of St. Jerome (who otherwise led a very
austere life) was retarded because of his zeal for pagan authors. (See
Scaramelli: "Direct Ascet.," Art. iv.)

2. Saint Catherine of Siena in her dialogue returns on this point more than
once, namely, that sanctity is the outcome of the actions and reactions
that follow relations with one's fellow-creatures. When these actions and
reactions are governed by the principle of divine charity and follow the
lines traced by Jesus Christ in His life, then sanctity is attained.

3. Art is the right procedure as determined by reason that is to be
followed if one's efforts are to issue in work that is perfect, in cases
where the work proceeds from the human brain and hand. Ars est recta ratio
factibilium. In a similar way there is an art of sanctity. It is the
procedure that is to be followed in our spiritual, mental and moral
activities, if sanctity is to result from these activities. A Saint is a
moral work of art, a finished product of personally controlled and
personally directed actions. The art of sanctity has its fixed principles
as have the fine arts.

4. The immediate end of spiritual reading is the elevation of mind and
heart to God, and the removal of opposing obstacles. It is really then a
way of making prayer; and on that account is of capital importance both for
the christian and for the religious life. "This exercise is one of very
great importance," says St. Eudes, "and operates in the soul the same
effects as mental prayer." ("La Lecture Spirituelle." J. Gauderon in "La
Vie Spirituelle," June, 1921, p. 186.)

5. Cf. chaps. vi and x.

6. ("La Lecture Spirituelle." J. Gauderon in "La Vie Spirituelle," June,
1921, p. 186)

7. Phil. ii. 21.

8. "Royaume de Jesus": Preface.

9. But a supernatural curiosity to learn things about our heavenly home,
about the ways of its inhabitants and the secrets of their glory, about
their works and their thoughts, is laudable. The words, counsels and
reflections of Jesus, Mary and the Saints should be of intense and
enthralling interest for us.

10. 1 Cor. xi. 1.


"Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus that the life
also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies." II Cor. iv. 10.

# 1. Disorder is in our soul from Adam's sin: mortification aims at
restoring order.

The development of the supernatural virtues in us is attended by a process
which has a twofold aspect. From one point of view this process is one of
decay and death, from another it is one of expansion and life. The
explanation lies in the fact that a great disorder has been brought about
in our human nature by the fall, and this disorder even though it has been
repaired in its effects by the redeeming grace of Our Savior, has not been
entirely healed the disarrangement in the powers of our nature has not been
undone except potentially. In other words, Our Divine Lord has placed in
our hands the means to repair the disorder but has not destroyed it in its
source. One of the consequences of Adam's sin was the development in him of
a vital activity hostile to the supernatural life. This vital activity--
which should be more accurately characterized as devitalising activity--is
the activity of concupiscence. Everything that ministers energy to this
baneful activity, injures and tends to lower the vital energy of the divine
life of grace. In the language of St. Paul, the evil and corrupting
vitality is the life of the flesh: that which it undermines and destroys is
the life of the spirit. Adam in revolting against God was punished by
experiencing a general revolt throughout his whole being. Every faculty in
his dual nature, that is, of sense and reason, asserting its independence,
sought to develop its own vitality regardless of the general interest of
the whole person, and made its own satisfaction the sole end of its
activity. Self-gratification in its various forms became the object of life
for man as swayed by the concupiscences-- the sad heritage of original sin.
The gratification sought after was not that which is proper to the
personal, ordered activity of man, but that of each individual faculty
capable of reaching after gratification. In the person of fallen man there
reigned general anarchy.

Before the Fall, Adam's soul opened like a flower to the sun of Divine
Influence. This Influence poured on his receptive spirit, flooded his
intellect and will; it passed from the former faculty, that is, the
intellect, into the imagination which held no image except such as had
reference to God; from the other rational faculty, namely, the will, the
divine influence passed into the senses which exercised themselves solely
in obedience to the Divine Will faithfully transmitted to them by the human
will which reflected the divine as a mirror. By the act of rebellion the
stream from heaven was dried up at its source and the spiritual link which
bound all the faculties was snapped. The result was that each faculty was,
so to speak, left to its own devices with the consequence that was to be
expected. Before the disaster there was only one term to the total activity
of man and that was God--after the Fall there were as many ends to pursue
as there were faculties to exercise themselves. Each blindly, obstinately
pursued its own good. The will was dragged after every form of
satisfaction. Owing to the greater vivacity of the apprehensive power of
the senses and the weak appeal of the reason the satisfactions sought after
were, for the most part, of a sensual kind. The reason which should and
could preserve the whole man in order, had lost its certainty of vision
after the initial error of breaking with God. Its dictates became uncertain
and consequently its hold on the will became more feeble. The good it
presented held out less attractions than that promised by the senses--hence
the whole man tended to be dragged down the path of sensual self-
gratification. Life became an effort to derive pleasure from every activity
into which vital energy was poured. Error--giving as it does scope for
self-indulgence--was forced on the will by the intelligence. Truth would
exercise too much restraint over men's passions, hence it became an object
of aversion for the appetitive rational faculty. Fallen man has a
pronounced leaning towards what is false. The intellect following the way
of the senses allowed itself to be carried away by precipitation and
prejudice and swayed by an imagination that flattered; it now sought as the
term of its exercise not what was true, but what could please and
especially what could justify the course of sensuality on which man had
embarked. There is a marked tendency in fallen man to discover a philosophy
which will justify his excesses and his aberrations. To justify his evil
courses, he embraces error. "He would not understand that he might do
well."[1] He shrinks from truth for it counsels restraint and right conduct.
The triple concupiscence reigned supreme--the concupiscence of the flesh,
that is, the thirst after sensible gratification in every form, the
concupiscence of the eyes, that is, the pursuit of the pleasures that we
have the power to conjure up for ourselves in imagination, and the pride of
life, or the inordinate appetite for independence, for unchecked freedom of
the will, and exaltation over one's fellows.

All the unregulated tendencies of men can be traced back to those three
fountains. In whomsoever there is given free rein to those tendencies, "the
charity of the Father is not in him."[2] He lives the life of the world, the
life that Christ reprobated, the life which checks his prayer at its
source. The life according to the concupiscences is an existence which
means spiritual death, and which tends even to its own decay, for the power
of satisfying oneself decays with its own indulgence. The life of the
concupiscences is a life which is a veritable dying, leading to a death
that does not open to any life beyond. It is the spiritual form of that
physical death which was inflicted on Adam for his sin; for by it man as
such tends to dwindle, in the darkening of his reason, in his growing
subjection to perishable things, and in his abandonment of what is eternal
and everlasting. The life according to the senses is death not only in the
order of grace, but even in the order of nature. "For all that is in the
world," says St. John, "is the concupiscence of the flesh, the
concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life, which is not of the
Father, but is of the world."[3] The man governed by his triple concupiscence
is the old man of which St. Paul speaks, whose works are death, in
contradistinction to the new man, that is, our nature as restored by
Christ, with everything in that nature subject to God and filled with His

Mortification aims at the rectification of this disorder in our fallen
nature, so that it may be replaced by that order in which sense is subject
to reason and reason to God. By His Grace, Jesus Christ gave us power to
recover, in a certain measure, this rectitude of our nature.[4] The function
of mortification is to enable us to "strip ourselves of the old man with
his deeds, and to put on the new, who is renewed unto knowledge, according
to the image of him who created him."[5] Mortification aims at replacing
disorder by order, revolt against God and reason by subjection to Christ
and His faith, disordered nature by vivifying grace, and self-indulgence by
purity and justice. The ultimate effect is to reduce our senses to the
control of our reason, our imagination to our will, and our will to God. It
may be defined then as a deliberate renouncement of the life of disorderly
satisfaction of our concupiscences, and a curbing of every inordinate
exercise of our external and internal faculties. According to the
signification of the word, it means a process of destruction, a dealing of
death to that activity in us which seeks pleasure for the sake of pleasure;
its purpose is that this activity being deadened, the life received in
baptism may have free scope for its development. It aims at death in order
to secure life. If we are to realize our vocation as Christians this
voluntary death is imposed on us; it is the condition of our
sanctification. "Know ye not that all we who are baptized in Christ Jesus,
are baptized in His death, for we are buried together with Him by Baptism
unto death: that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the
Father, so we also may walk in newness of life."[6] Even as Christ "for the
joy that was set before Him, endured the Cross,"[7] so we, by His Grace,
endure the cross of mortification for the joy that gleams beyond the
pathway of death, for the light towards which we stretch in the darkness,
for the fullness of life in God towards which we are called and towards
which by His Grace, we press forward. Mortification is an essential law of
Christianity, a consequence of our incorporation with Christ. There is no
possibility of receiving His life in our members, unless the activity of
corrupt nature in those members is paralyzed by self-inflicted privation.
For mortification in its exercise involves the privation not only of
unlawful satisfactions but even of those which in themselves are reasonable
and legitimate.

# 2. The right use of Pleasure: contentment of the mortified man.

It may seem a very rigorous law, that which imposes on us the necessity of
denying ourselves even innocent gratifications. It seems scarcely possible
to live without gratification of some kind or other. God, in fashioning our
nature, has indeed united a sense of satisfaction with the normal and
healthy exercise of each one of our faculties. Any activity that is
exercised with facility and on some object which is not beyond the capacity
of our powers is accompanied by a feeling of keen delight. This IS true for
the exercise of reason as well as for the play of the senses. The
intelligent and keen-witted find great happiness in grappling with problems
which, whilst testing their powers to the utmost, still hold out a
possibility of solution. The painter and the sculptor experience great joy
in the sense of power they have in using the materials of their arts to
express the beautiful concepts of their minds. The musician finds a charm
in calling forth and grouping harmonious sounds: the nature lover feels a
deep contentment when the eye rests upon a scene all the beauty of which it
is able to appreciate. The intellectual find pleasure in the exercise of
the mind, and the strong limbed in testing the powers of the body. Finding
this pleasure that accompanies the normal play of our faculties appetizing,
we have a tendency to seek that form of activity to which we feel our
powers proportionate, and to shun all that seems to present great
difficulty or to be beyond our capacity. We are tempted to pursue not what
we ought, but what holds out promise of pleasure. Disorder begins when
seeking only mere gratification we renounce everything which does not
promise it, and make everything we do minister it to us. We are meant by
God to make use of delectation, to make it serve our purposes, to find in
it an aid to surmounting the tediousness of life; we misuse it when we make
it an end, not a means. All immortification may be reduced to this--the
pursuit of satisfaction of mind or body as an end. Our Lord's life was the
very antithesis of this. As St. Paul says: "Christ did not please
Himself."[8] He did not seek His own satisfaction in what He did. He acted
not under the stimulus of pleasure but of Divine charity.

Were our nature not so corrupted by sin, it would be sufficient for us to
practice temperance and use pleasure in moderation. But so strong is the
attraction which pleasure exercises over us, so powerful is its appeal,
such a response does it find in us to its allurements, that the taste of it
is dangerous for us. It is difficult to yield to its influence without
running the risk of exceeding in the measure of it we accord to ourselves.
To school ourselves to the right use of delectation, we must begin by
starving our craving for it: we must be more than temperate in its regard,
we must be mortified--insensible, as it were, and dead to its call.[9] In the
restraint we have to exercise over the senses, over the imagination and
over the will, Religion demands more of us than reason. It is not
sufficient to prescribe the limits of reason to the bodily appetites, we
must, in order to make the body obedient to reason and faith, chastise it
and reduce it to subjection[10] by depriving it of many gratifications
legitimate enough in themselves and in the abstract. The more that is
conceded to the body the less it is satisfied and the greater are its
demands. The body will not be a good servant until it has been consistently
deprived of what it has strictly a right to. Our Lord has set us the
example for this rigorous treatment of ourselves. We shall not have order
and peace in our powers, contentment in our mind, and docility to the
inspiration of grace in our soul, unless we reduce to practice the lesson
given us by Him. This involves the patient, constant and unremitting
mortification of all our tendencies--resolutely denying ourselves in many
things--"always," as St. Paul advises us, " bearing about in our body the
mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in
our bodies."[11]

This is to face, apparently, a very somber and dreary existence--one which
seems but a dull and gray vista of years stretching as far as the tomb and
unrelieved by any ray of color or brightness. This is not so. Far from
making for sadness, self-abnegation brings us a joy which self-indulgence
never can. Self-indulgence promises happiness, but provides nothing but
restlessness and discontent and disillusionment. On the other hand, self-
denial even as inspired by religion holds out no prospect of gratification
and yet it begets the greatest joy that this life can discover--the
contentment which comes from the tranquillity of order in ourselves. It
brings the untroubled conscience and the cessation of all restless and
gnawing cravings; it ministers that "peace of God, which surpasseth all
understanding." But to secure this effect, our mortification must be
thorough; it must affect our interior as well as our exterior, our minds as
well as our senses. To confine ourselves to bodily penance and to neglect
the curbing of our interior powers is to perform a useless task; whilst on
the other hand to neglect corporal mortifications in the pretense of
devoting oneself to interior ones as being of much more importance, is to
engage ourselves in a futile endeavor. To combat the triple concupiscence
which nurtures the life of "the old man" in us, and stifles the life of the
new, we must mortify our senses, our imagination and our reason, and we
must encourage ourselves to do so by the thought that it is utterly
impossible to lead a truly interior and spiritual life without the
continual mortification of ourselves under this triple aspect. With the
gift of Faith, every Christian receives the light to understand, at least
to a certain extent, that mortification must form an integral part of his
life as a follower of Christ. It costs, of course, to keep free from mortal
sin, and to resist the temptations that incline us to it. There is penance
in this, but each one has the conviction that the life of mortification,
which aims at nothing higher than the curbing of the satisfactions that
involve mortal sin, will fail of its purpose; the christian sense warns a
man that unless his rebellious nature receives harsher treatment than is
involved in the checking of its sinful inclinations, he will in the end
yield to the seduction of evil. The Christian feels instinctively that he
must mortify himself. It is a hard necessity, an unpleasant occupation, but
it obtrudes itself insistently on the christian conscience. Its demands
cannot be evaded. But corrupt nature even when yielding to necessity will
seek compensation for what it surrenders. It happens frequently that we
mortify ourselves readily on some one point or other and so satisfy our
conscience that we are conforming ourselves to the law of Christianity.
Having given a salve to our conscience by exercising restraint in one
direction we give a free rein to self-indulgence in another: we curb our
desire to speak, for instance, and give free play to curiosity, by putting
no check to our desires of seeing: we may be exact in our observance of the
law of fasting, and very lax in the observation of the law of charity: and
it is possible to find Christians who chastise themselves with the
discipline and chastise others with their tongues. Holy Scripture speaks
very ironically of this partial exercise of penance. "Behold in the day of
your fast your own will is found, and you exact of all your debtors. Is
this such a fast as I have chosen for a man to afflict his soul for a day?
Is this it, to wind his head about like a circle, and to spread sackcloth
and ashes, wilt thou call this a fast and a day acceptable to the Lord? Is
not this rather the fast I have chosen? Loose the bonds of wickedness, undo
the bundles that oppress, let them that are broken go free, and break
asunder every burden. Deal thy bread to the hungry, and bring the needy and
harborless into thy house: then shall thy light break forth as the
morning, and thy health shall speedily arise, and thy justice shall go
before thy face, and the glory of the Lord shall gather thee up."[12]

# 3. The Practice of Mortification

In the work of gaining control of our disorderly appetites by
mortification, the beginner must keep well in mind the facility in prayer,
the happiness and the intimacy with God which will be the consequence of a
life of generous and persevering mortification. He should begin with
limited but fixed points on which mortification will be practiced. By
degrees things will become easier and his mortification will be extended
without extraordinary difficulty. In the account we propose to give of the
practice of mortification, we set before the reader a picture of the
perfectly mortified man. We show the goal to be aimed at rather than the
first practice to be put before the beginner.

Mortification should begin with the senses, and when these are taught
restraint, not much difficulty will be experienced in controlling the
interior. For by the denial of their gratifications to the external
faculties, the imagination itself is starved of all that can excite in it
pleasant, agreeable and sensual images. The intellect depends for its
exercise to a large extent on the imagination, and the will in its turn is
attracted only by what the intellect presents to it as good and as worthy
of being sought; hence when that faculty, namely the imagination, which
stores the impressions conveyed by the senses, is rectified in its
activity, the operation of the higher or spiritual faculties will in their
turn be in order. This is generally true but, still, the rule may admit of
exceptions. There are persons who are faultless as far as this life of the
senses is concerned, and yet offend God mortally by an intolerable pride.
The malice of sin of this kind, the deliberate pursuit of the satisfaction
arising from the sense of one's own excellence, is diabolic in character
and more grievous in the sight of God than any disorder of the flesh. The
work of mortification consists in frustrating the work of sin everywhere,
arresting its development, and stamping out the seeds of it that are found
in the soul even when it has been regenerated in baptism. Mortification
deals its assaults on a dual objective. It exercises itself on the outward
and on the inward man, and accordingly is either interior or exterior. To
mortify oneself merely under one to the exclusion of the other of those two
aspects is practically to lose one's time. Without the double
mortification, what St. Paul called the "Flesh" is not sufficiently

Our sensitive faculties first must be submitted to a regular treatment,
consisting in a consistent thwarting of their desires. It is not a question
of depriving ourselves of the use of our senses but of securing that use of
them which shall be in accord with the demands of our rational as well as
of our supernatural being--the demands of reason and faith. To secure this
we must regularly, at least in the beginning, refuse them what might
legitimately be accorded them. We ought to submit them not only to
restraint and privation, but to positive suffering in order to be sure to
secure order in their activities. The following paragraphs describe the
rule of conduct to be followed in order to bring the senses perfectly under
control. The advises there given are in the abstract clear enough, and a
knowledge of them is essential, but in their application to each soul
imprudences are possible. Hence in this question of the mortification of
the senses, it is well for us to submit our course of action to a prudent
spiritual guide. We shall thus be protected from the natural error of being
too lenient on ourselves and so effecting nothing; what is more important
we shall be saved from that excess in this matter which is the pitfall of
so many beginners. The soul on the threshold of the spiritual life all
impatient to eradicate from itself defects only too apparent, is prone,
unless guided by a skilled director, to adopt a course of action impossible
because it is beyond its actual forces at the moment or beyond the
movements of grace. Only too soon it will abandon its attempt as hopeless,
and in all likelihood will cease altogether from practices of mortification
to its great spiritual detriment.

We should mortify our eyes not lending them to the gratification of an idle
curiosity. Not only should we not rest them on objects the sight of which
in themselves constitutes sin, but we should withhold them from regarding
any creature the contemplation of which might excite undue disturbances in
our imagination. We should not look merely to derive satisfaction from our
regards without any ultimate justification. That is the negative side of
the obligation. Taking the matter positively what we allow ourselves to see
should give us either the reasonable recreation that our body needs, or
serve to provide for the elevation of our mind. As we grow in the spiritual
life we should use our faculty of vision to contemplate the divine beauty
in creatures and thereby to raise our souls to God.

We should mortify our sense of hearing by training ourselves to shut our
ears to what merely pleases or flatters us. We should curb our desire to
hear, when we expect that what we are to listen to will provide food for
our vanity or our self-love. We should not be anxious to hear what is
favorable to ourselves, nor should we be ready to give ear to what is
unfavorable to others. Under pain of sin we must not allow ourselves to
listen to bad or uncharitable conversations: under risk of having the
purity of our conscience tarnished we must be rigorous in curbing our
curiosity to hear things, the knowledge of which we had better be without.
To seek for news is merely to open a wide gate to a multitude o f
distractions. Those who cultivate an interior life should desire to hear
only what might furnish food for noble thought or increase their knowledge
of God. They should be eager to be told not of the things of this world but
of the things of the next. Not that we should at all times have our minds
tense: good sense and understanding will dictate that at times it is useful
and may be obligatory to take part in conversations that have as their
object to refresh, to amuse and to recreate. Furthermore, we can practice a
good deal of mortification by being good listeners, especially when the
speaker happens to be a dull or tedious or uninteresting talker. Charity
will order us at times of recreation not to seek conversations that are
agreeable, and not to fly from those that are otherwise. Interior souls
should deliberately refuse themselves the gratification of conversations
that bring with them the spirit of the world--and should not allow
themselves when they are obliged to entertain, to be dragged in to talk
which would make subsequent contact with God difficult. They should lift up
others, rather than be pulled down themselves. Musicians should exercise a
check on their desire to hear music, should deliberately shut their ears to
all that is merely sensuous, and should refuse themselves the pleasure of
hearing again in their imagination the good music that appeals to them.

We must mortify our sense of taste. Fasting should hold a place in our
lives, and we should be far from seeking reasons to escape its obligations.
It promotes the well-being of the body as well as that of the soul; and
with the mitigations that have been introduced into it, there is little
fear of its doing any injury to the health.[13] Fasting is to be done at
certain times, but abstinence should be the ordinary condition of our
lives. Besides the ordinary weekly abstinence which we should accept as a
mortification imposed by the Church for our benefit, it is good to season
each meal with some little penance or other. The mortified Christian is
sparing in the use of condiments, and takes what is good for him rather
than that which merely pleases the palate. It is useful occasionally to
forgo the use of condiments altogether--though this must not be done often.
As a general rule, St. Francis de Sales observes it is better to take what
is going or what comes our way rather than to choose what is worst and he
is but explaining the words of Christ: "Eat what is set before you." Eating
outside of mealtimes is best avoided; and to take food simply because we
happen to feel hungry, or to drink simply because we happen to feel
thirsty, is a sign of great immortification. It is not too much to ask a
follower of Christ to endure the pangs of hunger and thirst until the time
for refection comes around.

The sense of touch is the most dangerous of all the senses and demands an
exercise of the most rigorous mortification. This sense furnishes the
sharpest temptations and provides at the same time the most numerous
occasions for chastising the body. Christian modesty and decorum demand a
great reserve in the use of the hands. We should forbid ourselves any touch
that has no other end but to yield a sensible gratification--even though
that gratification may not be sinful. To secure a mastery over our bodies
it is necessary to discipline them carefully in this matter; we should aim
at eliminating all undue seeking of comfortable or easy positions, and an
attitude indicative of indolence or surrender to self-indulgence should be
carefully avoided. In sitting, standing or walking, great care should be
taken to hold the body well: the cultivation of a proper 'tenue' carries
with it a great deal of corporal penance which has the double advantage of
procuring a mastery over the body, and imparting that dignity which becomes
a Christian whose body is the Tabernacle of the Holy Ghost. In our
occupations, in our recreations and at our prayers, constant efforts must
be made to hold the body well. We may take a restful position but never a
nonchalant one. The sense of touch may also be mortified excellently by
submitting uncomplainingly to the inclemencies of the weather, and by the
patient and reasonable endurance of the discomforts of both heat and cold.
This regular discipline of ourselves will ensure that we be able to
accomplish that most difficult of all things, namely, to bear sickness well
and to make it profitable to our souls; and at the same time it will enable
us to banish from our minds an excessive concern for our health.[14] Even
religious persons are found who make a fetish of it: "They seem," says St.
Teresa, "to have entered religion for no other purpose than to secure that
the date of their death be postponed to the utmost limit possible." In a
word, we must not aim at weakening our body, but at making it a useful
servant to our souls. We should not deprive it of what it needs, but we
should refuse it what is superfluous.

Our next efforts should be directed against the imagination. Once the
senses are mortified, this task of mortification of the imagination has
much of the difficulty removed. On the contrary supposition it is
impossible. The imagination can procure us great delectation by picturing
vividly to us the pleasures to come, and by conjuring up visions of those
that have been enjoyed already. We must not seek to taste what is in
anticipation nor savor what is past. It is a defect to use our imagination
for calling up pleasant sights or scenes or associations especially those
that flatter self-love or sensuality: its employ should be solely for the
purpose of subserving useful or good processes of thought. To lend it to
reverie or day-dreaming is to embark on a course which will eventually end
in temptation and very likely in sin.

If we exclude from our imagination images that merely procure pleasure and
preserve only those that can serve our intellectual and our spiritual life,
the control of the reason will be easy. It too requires its own discipline.
Work and pursuit of true knowledge with a view to knowing God and His world
better and so serving Him in a more enlightened manner, provides the
exercise which will maintain the intellect in order. The pursuit of
knowledge is arduous and carries with it a severe penance. All are tempted
to intellectual indolence, and it is more criminal to yield to it than to
bodily sloth for it carries with it more serious consequences. We should
use our minds to do our work efficiently in the service of God, not for the
satisfaction that we may find in intellectual exercise. For the intellect
as it develops power finds an intense satisfaction in a study which in its
beginning was irksome. There is danger here that we shall be tempted to
give our time to that form of mental work in which we find satisfaction to
the neglect of that which is distasteful, even when duty imposes the
latter. Method in our work, a limited time given to the studies that
satisfy, and a sufficient time given to those that are necessary or useful
will finally give us a keen, disciplined, controlled and mortified

Being exercised in what is right, our intellect will have nothing but
objects that have the form of truth or beauty or utility to present to the
will and the movement of the latter will always be in the direction of what
is right and reasonable. The will submitted to grace and reason is the will
that is submitted to God. This submission of the will to the divine impulse
and the renouncement of the following of its own caprices, constitutes its
mortification.[15] Thus there is created order in the whole man and the
efforts of the triple concupiscence are destroyed: the senses and the
imagination are brought under the government of the reason, the reason is
controlled by the will, and the latter faculty moves obediently to the
order of the Divine Will. Thus is perfect charity acquired, the way
prepared for the closest and most intimate union and the whole person
thoroughly mortified without appearing, even to that person's most intimate
acquaintances, in the least out of the ordinary. The mortification
described is perfect and effective and yet preserves him who practices it
from the danger of the pride that follows indulgence in penances that are
singular or extraordinary. It often causes surprise to souls filled with
generosity and goodwill to discover a discrepancy between the directions
they receive from their spiritual advisers and the injunctions laid down in
spiritual books. The latter insist on the necessity of the practice of
bodily mortifications, whereas the spiritual guides habitually manifest a
reluctance to give any concessions on this point when permission is sought
for the use of corporal austerities. The difference between theory and
practice is but apparent. There is a real danger that the unskilled in the
ways of the soul may make use of mortifications to evade mortification.
When nature is chastised in one direction, its tendency is to seek an
outlet in another. Particular bodily mortifications may easily give the
soul the persuasion that it is mortified, and lull it into a sense of
security as regards the rest of its conduct and actions. Mortified on one
point the soul may allow itself to be unmortified on many others. This is a
real danger against which the spiritual guide must be on his guard. A
general and universal curb on this tendency to self-gratification for
gratification's sake, is better than acts of penance confined to one
particular matter. Still, this danger of the misuse of corporal austerities
should not discourage their use. Even though beginners make mistakes in the
exercise of bodily penances these mistakes are corrected by time and
goodwill with prudent directions. The awkward movements of the child must
precede the assured and firm step of the adult. Corporal mortifications are
to be commended in spite of the risks that attend their use.

Well-ordered, thorough and persevering discipline of the higher and lower
powers of the soul, coupled with wisely directed bodily austerities fulfills
the injunction of always bearing about in our body the mortification of
Christ. By reason of it the whole man gradually comes into order, the
disarrangement wrought by sin diminishes, and God's action proceeds apace
in the soul--"the life of Jesus is made manifest in our bodies." The
removal of the obstacles to grace is then the aim of mortification as it is
also the aim of prayer. But it is attained by neither of them alone; both
work hand in hand. Prayer soon ceases, if unaided by mortification;
mortification can spring only from pride and end only in dissatisfaction
when it is not originated and sustained by a prayerful spirit. The labor,
pain and anguish experienced by the soul that enters on the hard way of
prayer and mortification seem very uninviting, and so they are, but the
sweet peace and unspeakable contentment, well known to those who have
persevered, so far outweigh initial suffering as to make it appear
negligible. This must needs be, for of what importance is any temporal
distress when viewed in conjunction with the attainment of that end for
which we w ere created, the all-sufficing possession of God reigning within
the soul as in His temple and sharing with it His own happiness.

1. "Noluit intelligere ut bene ageret." Ps. xxxv. 4.

2. I St. John ii. 15.

3. I St. John ii 16.

4. The condition of restored human nature differs from the condition of
nature in the state of original justice in this: In the state of original
justice the subordination of sense to reason and reason to God could be
maintained without any internal conflict. The maintenance of this right
order in redeemed man even when his efforts are aided by grace involves a
severe struggle. The internal conflict remains even after original sin has
been taken away. It is because of this that mortification is rigidly
necessary. Without it then this internal conflict cannot issue in success
for reason and faith.

5. Coloss. iii. 9, 10.

6. Rom. vi. 3, 4.

7. Heb. xii. 2.

8. Rom. xv. 3.

9. Cf. "Exercises of St. Ignatius," Additions x.

10. I Cor. ix. 27.

11 . 2 Cor. iv. 10.

12. Isaiah lviii. 3-8.

13. However, even in the case of fasting, it is well to consult our
confessor or director especially if there be question of a fast not imposed
by the Church or by rule and we should humbly accept his decision.

14. This usually expresses itself in a tendency to complain of little
ailments. Of these St. Teresa says, "if you can endure them say nothing
about them" and she adds, "if you cause self-love to die, you will
experience mortification in all the attention and care bestowed on you, you
will only accept the same from necessity." Nevertheless our endurance of
heat or cold must not be pushed too far, it must not be such as would in a
short time cause serious injury to health. Here again the advice of a
director will ensure that the limits of prudence are not transgressed.

15. This mortification of the will is nothing else than the mortification
of our desires. St. John of the Cross in the "Ascent of Mount Carmel,"
points out the supreme importance of this mortification: he shows how
desires torment and darken and pollute the soul and he declares that by
mortification of our desires we would make greater progress in a month than
we could make in many years by imprudent methods of devotion. And he adds:
"neither can the darkness and ignorance of our souls be removed if desires
are not quenched. (Bk. 1 ch. 8.)


"In silence and quiet the devout soul goeth forward and learneth the
secrets of the Scripture." Imit. I. 20. 6.

# 1. The Decline in Spiritual Life.

The most painful experience in the spiritual life is that of the
vicissitudes to which it is subject. At times all goes well with us; borne
along by the strong current of grace, all the obstacles of nature and
temperament yield before us. Acts of virtue are accomplished without
difficulty and even joyously; prayer is of astonishing ease; sacrifice is a
pleasure, and the service of God a service of deep happiness. The soul is
filled with buoyancy and with a joyous eager anticipation, for sanctity and
the unbroken union with God which is its result, seem within easy reach.
And suddenly, for no apparent reason, something as it were snaps; devotion
and the fine sense of the supernatural disappear, and we are left in the
hard biting chilling atmosphere of unregenerate nature; faults and
imperfections multiply, the exercise of virtue becomes extremely arduous,
and the yielding to our own temperament, with all the laxity and absence of
spirituality that belongs to this surrender, seems inevitable. The fair
form of sanctity which spurred us on to effort and which we thought we were
on the point of embracing, eludes our grasp and fades like a mirage of the
desert; we thought that we were quite close to God, and we find that He is
as far off from us as ever. The pain of keen disappointment attends the
experience. The soul, ignorant of itself, while attributing this failure
either to an intrinsic impossibility in the realization of the ideal it had
set before it, or at least to an incompatibility between that ideal and
itself, will be tempted to renounce the enterprise it has engaged on as
hopeless, and its object as unattainable.

For souls that are of a heroic mold and that are somewhat advanced in the
ways of God, this subtraction of fervor and the insipidity that is found
in spiritual things after the withdrawal, is a trial that serves for the
increase of their merits and for their greater perfection. But for ordinary
souls it is to be traced back to the infidelities into which they have
allowed themselves to drift--at least in most cases. The divine life in us
is of extreme delicacy, because it is a participation of the life of God
Himself--a very little thing can affect its vigor and diminish its glow:
"we have this treasure in earthen vessels."[1] It can be easily struck at by
forces hostile to it and when not actually destroyed, have its vitality
diminished. The least breath of nature (i.e. egoism) can weaken it. It
cannot retain its strength and perfection except every deliberate and
conscious activity of the soul is under the inspiration of grace. When,
owing to carelessness or want of spiritual discernment, or both combined,
the soul allows itself to follow the promptings of nature or of
temperament, the life of charity instantly loses its fervor, and there is
a lowering of supernatural vitality; this lowering of vitality carries with
it an inability to elicit readily and promptly or at least a great
difficulty in eliciting readily and promptly acts of the supernatural life.
This diminution of purely supernatural activity is intensified by the
decrease in the number of actual graces accorded the soul, by reason of its
infidelities, rendering itself unworthy to receive them. Every supernatural
vital movement that the soul, in the exercise of the divine life in it,
tends to elicit, appeals for--and that by the very nature of things--the
actual grace that is required in order that the act produced may be worthy
of and commensurate with the principle of life from which it issues. That
is, the soul striving to act supernaturally needs and receives the actual
grace needed to carry this striving into effect. On the other hand if the
soul stirs into movement under the impulse of nature, its act has not any
exigency of supernatural help, and ordinarily, in consequence, this is not
accorded. When such a condition of things becomes habitual, it is evident
that much of the activity of the soul issues forth at the prompting of
nature, and uninfluenced by grace. It is not then astonishing that acts
inspired and motived by charity become rare and difficult.

There is nothing which so quickly causes this decline in fervor as the
failure to maintain proper reserve in the use of the tongue. It is
surprising, but nevertheless true, that we more easily fail in speech than
in any other form of doing. There is comparatively little difficulty in
focusing plenty of attention on the action we accomplish either in
obedience to rule or at the call of duty; but to carry on a conversation
and maintain oneself in one's words in a spirit of faith for a considerable
length of time is within the power of comparatively few. Only those who
have attained to a certain measure of sanctity succeed in this. If there is
in us any passion, which has not been perfectly subdued, that passion will,
very frequently, in any conversation that is somewhat prolonged, begin to
exercise its influence on thoughts and judgments and speech and betray us
into the fault to which that passion inclines us.

Control of the tongue might seem only one element in the ascetic discipline
that the pursuit of perfection demands. One might easily imagine that after
the use of speech has been brought under the control of reason and faith
there would remain much to accomplish. This is not so, for it is hardly
possible that perfectly regulated speech exists until all the senses are
brought well under control. This is the truth conveyed in St. James' words:
"If any man offend not in word, that same is a perfect man." He had just
said, "For in many things we all offend."[2] The sequence of thought implies,
therefore, that if a man does not offend in words, he has reached a point
of perfection when he offends in nothing, that is to say that he is in the
habitual exercise of all the virtues. There is profound psychological
insight in this, as will be shown later.

# 2. Silence one of the Church's Traditional Antidotes to Spiritual

The practice of silence has been recognized from all times as the sole
means of arriving at this government of the tongue, without which
saintliness of life is impossible. The Apostle insists that "if any man
think himself to be religious, not bridling his tongue, but deceiving his
own heart, this man's religion is vain."[3] The early solitaries fled from
the intercourse of men and even from intercourse with one another,
depriving themselves for long years of the use of the faculty of speech, so
alive were they to the havoc caused to the interior life by the
immoderation into which the use of the tongue so often degenerates. And
even when they began to group themselves together in Monasteries, the
solitude of their lives was scarcely interfered with. They restricted their
intercourse to what was barely necessary. In this they felt they were
following in the footsteps of Our Divine Lord Himself Who, for our example
and instruction, showed such a marked preference for silence and
retirement, and a habitual restraint in the use of words. In the Holy House
of Nazareth, the spoken words must have been but few. Our Lord's time had
not come for manifesting Himself. His Parents had to use their supernatural
discernment to grasp the significance of His hidden Life. He vouchsafed no
information. Mary and Joseph spoke little but pondered much in the depths
of their souls on the mystery which daily developed before their eyes.
Words would have been an intrusion and would have but disturbed the course
of thought, which in each, under the illumination of the Holy Ghost,
discovered new and profounder meanings in the prophecies which they knew so
well and the realization of which they saw taking place under their own

This life of silence, broken only by words that come from souls occupied
habitually with the thought of God, was the ideal that the Founders of the
great Contemplative Orders had before them as they framed the rules of
their Institutes. They realized clearly that perfection could not be
practiced in their monasteries unless the intercourse of the religious with
one another, or with strangers, should be reduced to what should be
demanded by necessity or Charity. Conversation was strictly forbidden
during the hours of work and of prayer--it was forbidden at all times
except at recreation. And even then it was enjoined that the subjects
treated of should be such as could prove of general interest, should tend
to elevate whilst recreating the mind and should also impart edification.

In order that this calm tranquillity of the houses should be at all times
undisturbed, talking was prohibited not only in the oratories but in almost
all parts of the interior of the religious houses. It was understood that
conversation in the corridors, cells or refectories, even during the hours
of recreation, would banish the atmosphere of undisturbed quiet, which, as
was recognized, it was necessary to maintain in all those places where
souls were encouraged to commune with God. Silence consecrated not only the
hours of work and prayer, but even the very quarters which the religious
habitually frequented. And when the day's task drew to a close this silence
deepened and became more impenetrable--nothing but matters of the greatest
necessity was allowed to break in upon the stillness that descended on the
monastery and wrapped it round, as it were, in a thick mantle, from the end
of Vespers until the conclusion of the Mass and Office of the following
morning. All modern religious societies have followed the earlier ones in
this respect; the time from night prayers until the termination of the
Morning Office is called in all Institutes, the time of "great silence."
When the rule in this matter of silence is well observed fervor flourishes
and the peace of God reigns. It has been said with truth that all that is
needed to reform a house that has fallen into lukewarmness, is that the
rule of silence begin to be perfectly observed. The same is true of the
individual soul that is eager for its advancement in the spiritual life; if
it pays strict attention to due restraint of speech flagging devotion will

# 3. The Power of the Tongue for Good or Evil.

There appears something paradoxical in this attitude of the Masters of
perfection towards the exercise of the faculty of speech. They seem to
judge that the best use of the tongue is to use it as little as possible.
Yet speech is our noblest prerogative; it exalts us above the animals. The
tongue serves to manifest the thoughts of our minds and the determinations
of our wills. The faculty of articulate utterance has been given us by God
Himself to sound His praises, to proclaim His glory and to establish useful
and friendly intercourse with one another. It can procure immense good in
the natural as well as in the supernatural order. Who can measure the good
effects of a kind word, or set limits to its power to bring consolation to
weary spirit or wounded heart? It is the words of wisdom that fell from Our
Divine Lord's lips that have reformed the world. What would the world be
like if He had not spoken? And had not these words been lovingly treasured
by His followers, and found fresh utterance on their lips, His message
would not have reached the ears of mankind--would not have passed beyond
the narrow confines of His own land. It is to their bold speech that we owe
the priceless gift of Faith. "Faith cometh by hearing; and hearing by the
word of Christ. But I say; have they not heard? Yes, verily; their sound
hath gone forth unto all the earth: and their words unto the ends of the
whole world."[4] It is by words pronounced by human lips that the substance
of bread is changed into the Body of Our Lord, and Jesus is made present
with us. The priest speaks and as his voice dies away, the tide of
absolution flows on the sinner's soul, washing away the darkest stains; and
when God's minister pronounces the formula of Baptism, the slave of Satan
is elevated from his servile state to the exalted condition of a child of
God. And day by day the whole earth resounds with the praises of its
Creator, as from countless choirs ascend to heaven in human accents the
inspired utterances of the Holy Spirit. The great work of the Church is the
Divine Office, and it needs human lips and human voices for its
accomplishment. It would seem strange then, seeing that speech is the
source of so much good in the natural and supernatural order, that the
discipline of perfection should apparently demand its suppression.

There is no contradiction involved; for silence is not the cult of dumbness
nor of a morose taciturnity. It is a discipline undertaken in order to use
the faculty of speech in such a way as shall profit and not prove harmful
to the soul. It is only by silence that the use of the tongue is brought
into order and made to subserve the purpose for which it was given to us by
God. This purpose was twofold. We are given articulate speech to speak the
praises of God and to promote His glory--according to the words of St.
Paul: "Be ye filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms
and hymns and spiritual canticles, singing and making melody in your hearts
to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things, in the name of Our Lord
Jesus Christ, to God and the Father."[5] The other purpose aimed at by God in
this gift of speech was that it should be a means of promoting harmonious,
recreative, friendly, charitable and informative intercourse between men
living in social relations with one another.

The tongue like the other sensible faculties needs to pass through a rigid
mortification before its exercise can be made subject to reason. And as the
tongue is more difficult to control its discipline must be harder and more
stern than that which is needed for the other faculties. "The tongue is a
fire," says St. James, "a world of iniquity."[6] And where there is much
talk, sin will not be wanting, as we are told in the Book of Proverbs.[7] How
few there are who have not experienced at some time or other how a single
conversation can cause to disappear the good effects wrought in the soul by
a fervent meditation! To understand how this is so it is necessary to study
the motives that prompt us to speak. If we exclude the circumstances in
which the amenities of social life compel us to draw on our minds or
memories in order to contribute our share to making the time pass agreeably
and in an interesting manner, if we leave out of count the occasions when
necessity or duty oblige us to speak to those with whom we have to deal, we
shall find that almost invariably it is a motive springing from the egoism
of our unregenerate nature that prompts us to utterance.

It is true that Man is by nature communicative and not solitary. Nothing
belongs so intimately to nature, says Maximus,[8] as to share the thoughts of
our mind one with another, and God has attached to the exercise of the
power of communicating our thoughts a satisfaction which we should consider
as the gift of His kindness. In this, as in the exercise of the other human
faculties, there is a temptation to subordinate the use to the enjoyment.
There is in fallen man a tendency to seek satisfaction for satisfaction's
sake. This tendency is very pronounced in the case of the use of the
tongue. The habitual talker, the man who has not been disciplined by
silence, tends to talk for the mere gratification he finds therein
irrespective of any good or legitimate end to be achieved thereby. There
can be a disordered self-satisfaction in imparting information when not
utility or charity but one's own egoism is served by the giving of the
information. The unmortified seek this gratification with avidity. The
"exteriorised" soul--the extroverted--to use a term used by early English
mystical writers, is ever eager to impart news. He desires to experience
the sense of superiority that springs from the consciousness of the
possession of knowledge not held by those to whom he is making his
communication. The uncontrolled person is easily tempted to break through
rule or cast aside restraint in order to taste this pleasure which is
purely egotistical. And if, as may happen, though rarely, communicativeness
is inspired by a desire to confer a benefit on another, even in this case
it may be, in part at least, vitiated by a satisfaction administered to our
inordinate desire of superiority.

It is not only sensible satisfaction that is sought in the exercise of the
faculty of speech. Pride, very frequently, is at the root of the inordinate
use of the tongue. It is a great power to be able to call ideas into being
in the mind of another. The listener becomes in a certain sense the subject
of him by whose speech his mind is gripped and set in activity in a new
direction. The influence exercised by the gift of persuasive words is real
and lasting. There is in each one of us the ardor of the propagandist--
even concerning indifferent things. It is pride more often than the zeal
for truth that urges us to bring those with whom we converse to see things
as we see them. Impatient of opposition and eager to persuade, we try to
monopolize the conversation, and find difficulty in confining our remarks
to the times that call for speech. We are hurried by our unmortified
eagerness to leave aside restraint, and to pour out arguments, as soon as
they form themselves in our imagination, into the ears of those we desire
to persuade. It is almost invariably want of restraint over natural
impetuosity, absence of control of the imagination, and a craving to
satisfy our egoistic tendencies in one way or another that prompts
immediate and useless speaking. Seeing then that speech occurs at the very
moment that purely natural and, at the best, imperfect tendencies are
seeking satisfaction, and since the stirring into activity of these
tendencies is the occasion of speech, it is only of rigid consequence that
men in their words should be betrayed into numberless faults.

There is a close and intimate connection between speech and the
imagination. Idle and vain words call up idle and vain images in the
imagination.[9] These images summon others of a kindred sort, in virtue of
what is called the law of the association of ideas. In this way a train of
flattering, useless and egoistic images is started. Thought follows
imagination and participates in its self-gratifying tendencies. Speech
follows thoughts and words flow that do not bear on subjects that have a
tendency to supernaturalise the soul either of speaker of listener. In
conversation words are interchanged and multiplied; corresponding images
are called up; and though follows all the time the direction set by the
vocal and mental images. hence in profane conversation our mind is caught
up and carried along in the stream of natural activity, which becomes more
and more contaminated the further it is removed from the source; for in its
course it is ever gathering up material of a more and more dubious nature.

When the conversations are very intimated and take place between those
drawn together by some natural sympathy, the evil is intensified. An egoism
of a far worse nature than mere vanity, or sense of gratification, or the
desire to excel, or the eagerness to exercise power, comes into play when
not charity or justice but mere selfish liking draws people together in
intercourse: in this case the conversation will almost invariably take a
certain wrong direction. Things that will be said will proceed from the
desire to give free play to the expression of one's sympathies or one's
antipathies-- and more frequently the latter than the former. All the
passions of our sensitive nature are rooted in and spring from our loves or
our hates--or perhaps our likings or our dislikings if we are incapable of
such strong emotions as love or hate. If we are not accustomed to control
both likes and dislikes; if we are wont to have our actions swayed and
determined by these emotions; if we are not mortified enough to oppose
constantly our inordinate inclinations; if we make no effort to meet on
friendly terms those we dislike or to avoid the company of those to whom we
have a leaning, it is impossible that our words will remain for any length
of time on an indifferent or an elevated topic. Uncharitableness and
murmuring will presently make their appearance.

Our words and the words of those who share our views will fan to intensity
the passions which perhaps in the beginning of the conversations were not
very active; our likes and dislikes will become sharpened and with this
will be awakened all the other evil passions which are rooted in our
sympathies and antipathies, namely, jealousy, anger, envy and the rest. So
that in one conversation it will become possible to commit faults against a
large number of virtues. "And the tongue," says St. James, "is a fire and
inflameth the wheel of our nativity, being set on fire by hell.''[10] This is
perfectly accurate, for when our words are set going by the stimulus of a
base motive, each passion, one after the other, is set alight in the course
of the conversation. One can imagine a series of lamps each springing into
flame in its turn at the application of the devil's torch. The uncontrolled
use of the tongue or a use dictated by egoism will drag us into sins
against charity, justice, truthfulness, forbearance, reverence, kindness,
etc. And it is possible for a single conversation, taking its rise in a
movement of nature, to issue in faults of all these various kinds--not only
is it possible but, if the talk is prolonged enough, it almost invariably

# 4. How to Control the Tongue.

To keep in check, then, the passions, which in their activity destroy the
bonds of union, uproot charity and make common life unbearable, it is
necessary to exercise a rigid control over the tongue. In the beginning, to
acquire this control we must cut down our words more than will be found
necessary in a later stage of development. Silence must be kept with
scrupulous exactitude. Occasionally such a rigid adherence to silence may
seem insincere. When we feel a tumult within us with all the passions
raging and clamoring for expression it will seem that we are so wicked
that it would be just as well to speak out our mind. It seems that when we
feel so bad there is nothing to be gained by not expressing our badness.
This is a mistake. If a person for a continuous period strongly checks
every impulse to express his emotions, these emotions gradually lose their
force and vivacity. Every passion, somehow, becomes unnerved when it cannot
express itself. Expression seems to be the fuel that sustains it; deprived
of this fuel it dies down like a fire on which logs cease to be thrown.
Control of the tongue is, therefore, indirectly, a stern discipline and
mortification of all the vices, especially those which are contrary to

As has been said so often the first tendency of every faculty we have from
nature is egocentric by reason of the Fall. This tendency of course is to a
certain extent remedied by grace--but it remains all the same. Egocentrism
is another word for concupiscence taken in its universal sense. To bring a
faculty into order and to direct its activity towards God--or in other
words, to cause it to exercise its activity in accordance with right order-
-it seems a law (the law of mortification that weighs on us) that we must
first practice absolute renouncement in its regard. To exercise the faculty
of vision as God wants us to, we must first purify that vision by rigidly
denying it every useless satisfaction it seeks after. So it is with the
faculty of speech. It has been given to us to express the truth of the
natural order which our minds should reflect, to set forth the truth of the
supernatural order of which our spirit should be possessed, to promote
social intercourse amongst men, and to express the praise of God which
should be drawn from us at the contemplation of His works in the natural
and supernatural order. The tongue is given to us to glorify God, but it
tends to glorify self. It must therefore be denied every gratification in
this direction. It is more unruly, more difficult to curb than any of the
other faculties--hence silence practiced constantly, unremittingly, seems
to be the only resource. "For," says St. Gregory, "a man given to talk will
never make any great progress in virtue," and he has but repeated what has
been said in a certain passage --"a talkative man shall miss his way upon

The rigid practice of silence has an added advantage. As has been pointed
out there is a close connection between speech and imagination. The
starting of one involves to a great extent the starting of the other. The
more the imagination is emptied of images which serve to flatter self, the
more free it is to receive those which aid the mind to raise itself to God-
-the more open is it to receive images pertaining to things of the
supernatural order. The principal source of the natural images having been
dried up, the supernatural will readily take their place and give rise to
holy thoughts in the mind.[11] And when 'the imagination has been filled and
stored and is readily stirred by what is supernatural, it is these images
of the order of grace that will suggest the matter for speech and will
moreover illuminate and elevate the themes of the natural order that may be
selected for conversation. The man that is trained and exercised in the way
described will speak easily of divine things or will speak divinely of
human things. His conversation will not be a stumbling block for himself
and will be a source of enlightenment and edification for his hearers.

We are silent in order to be able to speak as we ought. For this silence
that is inculcated is not dumbness. It is the cutting off of activity in
one direction, in order to allow it freedom of development in another. The
mere negative abstention from words as such is not good--the dumb never
speak and yet they are not necessarily more silent than others. The
Christian virtue is the cutting off of intercourse with men in order to
converse more freely with God, or about God and the things of God. Silence
is not anti-social because when trained in this converse with the Lord, we
can speak with greater effect and greater utility for our neighbors.

# 5. Silence Indispensable for Recollection.

Silence is not inaction, but a means to a higher form of activity of our
imagination and intellect: "It imports," says St. Thomas, "not a cessation
from act, but a cessation from distracting disorder and from disturbing
images in the imaginative faculty." Therefore the mere yielding to a
disordered and distracting train of imaginings may be in itself considered
to be a rupture of silence, even when there is no expression given them in
speech. We can in effect violate the spirit of silence by giving free reign
to our thoughts, if these turn upon common, trivial or dangerous objects.
The spirit of silence is also disturbed by impetuosity in our movements or
by undue eagerness in the accomplishment of work. It is injured, too, by an
uncontrolled use of the eyes leading to the infiltration of images of all
kinds into the imagination.

Considered in this way, silence is closely akin to recollection. The mere
material cessation from the use of the tongue is not silence but simply the
prerequisite disposition to it. To be silent is to be recollected. The
effect of this recollection is that the soul having withdrawn its powers
from without inwards, can fix them on God. The mind that is fixed on God
esteems all earthly and transient objects as valueless in comparison and
despising them as refuse is not tempted to waste time in contemplating
them.[12] This state is at once the effect of and the condition needed for
prayer. Silence is a necessary and indispensable means to prayer. Prayer is
nothing else than attention to God with a view to be instructed by Him, and
to obtain His grace. If the mind of the pupil is intent and follows
diligently the words of the Master, he can profit by the instruction given.
The pupil is truly silent when his mind is fully alert to the matter taught
and fully withdrawn from alien matters. On the other hand, if the pupil
allows his mind to wander on topics foreign to the matter on hand even
though he does not converse with those about him, he may be said to have
violated the silence that the class demands. In the loud tumult of his
wandering imaginations and of his wandering thoughts he is deaf to what is
said. In this speechless violation of silence he does not heed the
instruction addressed to him even though the sounds of the teacher's words
fall on his ears. So it is with us and God: we must shut off the sounds of
earth, in order that His voice may reach us. That is, we must gather in
(the literal sense of the word, recollect) our exterior senses and our
interior sensitive faculties, prevent them from straying after mere natural
satisfaction and bring them under the control of the will, operating
through charity. This we must do if we wish to catch the voice of God. We
cultivate silence in order to be able to speak with and to hear God easily.

Those who cultivate silence in the spiritual sense and who have acquired
the habit of recollection are easily distinguished. They speak few words,
but what they say carries extraordinary weight--even when the words have
reference to the ordinary concerns of life. Their utterances do not flow
without consideration Their words, carrying all the force of the inner life
of thoughts, are not uttered at random; neither are they mere flashes
struck off the surface of the soul and varying with the nature of the sense
impressions got from contact with external reality. They are not mere
reactions to external stimuli. Recollected persons see straight and true
and just, and a look of calm wisdom shines in their eyes. The balance of
their judgment is not easily upset, "for an internal man quickly recollects
himself, because he never pours forth his whole self upon outward
things."[13] This habit of reserve which is not the thing called secrecy,
gives him power and influence over others--to whom he must always remain
somewhat of a mystery. Given to internal converse with God, he never
reveals himself wholly to creatures. Even in external activity, even in his
very words, the silence is unbroken; for there is rupture of silence only
when the interior attention flows out wholly into the exterior material
occupation in which one is engaged: silence is lost if one loses oneself in
one's work. Exterior occupations and the conversations with others which
they carry with them, would seem to make the observation of silence
impossible. This is not so. It is quite possible to pass the greater part
of the day in speaking, and yet maintain unbroken silence-- provided a
golden rule is observed. The rule is, never to speak merely for one's own
sake or for one's own gratification, or to satisfy some impulse, but solely
for the glory of God, for the right accomplishment of duty, for the
promotion of truth, for the exercise of charity, for the comfort of the
sorrowful and for the purpose of brightening the life of one's fellows.

One who aims at a truly interior life must cultivate a pure and simple soul
that aims at reuniting in God all its interior powers and exterior
occupations by recollection and retirement. "The spirit of God, which is
pleased to dwell in a silent and peaceful heart, never comes into a soul
that is in agitation or frequently troubled by the noise and disorder
caused by its passions and strong feelings. It dwelleth not in a dissipated
soul that loves to chatter idly and to communicate every passing thought in
conversations that are the enemy of recollection."[14] "But in silence the
devout soul goeth forward and learneth the secret of the Scriptures."[15] Our
silence is perfect when we shall be talking constantly to God--and have
ceased talking to men, for the mere pleasure to be found in such talk,
irrespective of any good to be wrought by it.

Perfect and holy silence is animated conversation with God. Talking is, at
least, in normal cases, the direct outcome of attention to persons and
objects or both that are around about us. It is the surrender of our
attention to, and our absorption in, external things or inward imaginings
that have no bearing on the real good of life, that constitute the
violation of the spirit of silence. For attention to, and interest in,
things that cannot be referred in any way to God inhibit free intercourse
with the Almighty. A person may talk a great deal and yet be silent, if
silence be understood in the sense we have explained: silence is observed
if our interest and attention do not stray from what is real. It is broken
if activities of mind and imagination are wasted on what is unreal. St.
Thomas spoke and dictated a great deal, yet he cannot be said to have
violated silence in his life--for his words never proceeded from or were
drawn from him by purely human or natural interests. Silence is meaningless
unless it issues from or is intended to promote the control over our
interior--control over our imagination and over our feelings.

The moment we allow anything outside, any external interest or object, to
absorb our attention and distract that attention from that to which God
desires us to attend, then we infringe silence. Silence is recollection as
applied to the faculty of speech. It means the restriction of all
unnecessary converse with men in order to allow our mind to converse more
uninterruptedly with God. It makes prayer easy and is a safeguard which
preserves devotion and spiritual sweetness from being dissipated. It makes
the soul sensitive to the slightest whisper of the Holy Spirit.
Recollection is absolutely necessary for the soul that aims at progress in
the interior life. "Whoever," says the author of the "Imitation," "aims at
attaining to things internal and spiritual, must with Jesus, go aside from
the crowd.''[16] Whoever cultivates the spirit of silence acquires wisdom and
attains to peace of heart. In the individual soul silence develops strength
and power. In groups of persons joined together, whether naturally as in
the family, or by vocation as in religion, where this spirit of silence is
observed, fervor reigns, peace resides, all bitterness and
uncharitableness disappear, and the works done are fruitful and blessed by

1. 2 Cor. iv. 7.

2. St. James iii. 2.

3. St. James i. 26.

4. Rom. x. 17, 18.

5. Eph. v. 18-20.

6. St. James iii. 6.

7. Prov. x. 19.

8. Catena Aurea, in Luc. Evan. x.

9. "Every idle word men shall speak, they shall render an account of it in
the day of judgment." St. Matt. xii. 36.

10. St. James iii. 6.

11. Other sources of natural images are our unmortified thoughts and
unrestrained use of the senses.

12. St. Paul, Phil. iii. 8. Our despising earthly things is given by St.
Thomas as one of the signs that we are in the state of Grace. I. II. 112.

13. "Imit." Book II. ch. 1.

14. Bossuet.

15. "Imit." Bk. 1. ch. xx. 6.

16. Bk. I. ch. xx.