Without embarking upon a study of asceticism, let us at least remind the reader that EVERYONE is obliged to accept the following principles as absolutely certain, and base his inner life upon them.
FIRST TRUTH. Supernatural life is the life of Jesus Christ Himself in my soul, by Faith, Hope, and Charity; for Jesus is the meritorious, exemplary, and final cause of sanctifying grace, and, as Word, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, He is its efficient cause in our souls.
The presence of Our Lord by this supernatural life is not the real presence proper to Holy Communion, but a presence of vital action like that of the action of the head or heart upon the members of the body. This action lies deep within us, and God ordinarily hides it from the soul in order to increase the merit of our faith. And so, as a rule, my natural faculties have no feeling of this action going on within me, which, however, I am formally obliged to believe by faith. This action is divine, yet it does not interfere with my free will, and makes use of all secondary causes, events, persons, and things, to teach me the will of God and to offer me an opportunity of acquiring or increasing my share in the divine life.
This life, begun in Baptism by the state of grace, perfected at Confirmation, recovered by Penance and enriched by the Holy Eucharist, is my Christian life.
SECOND TRUTH. By this life, Jesus Christ imparts to me His Spirit. In this way, He becomes the principle of a superior activity which raises me up, provided I do not obstruct it, to think, judge, love, will, suffer, labor with Him, by Him, in Him, and like Him. My outward acts become the manifestations of this life of Jesus in me. And thus I tend to realize the ideal of the INTERIOR LIFE that was formulated by St. Paul when he said: “I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me.”
Christian life, piety, interior life, sanctity: in all these we find no essential difference. They are only different degrees of one and the same love. They are the half-light, the dawning, the rising, and the zenith of the same sun.
Whenever the expression “interior life” is used in this book, the reference is not so much to habitual interior life, which we may call the “principal” or “capital” of the divine life deposited in us, by sanctifying grace, as to the actual interior life, which invests this capital and puts it to work in the activity of our soul, and in our fidelity to actual graces.
Thus I can define it as the state of activity of a soul which strives against its natural inclinations in order to REGULATE them, and endeavors to acquire the HABIT of judging and directing its movements IN ALL THINGS according to the light of the Gospel and the example of Our Lord.
Hence: a twofold movement. By the first, the soul withdraws from all that is opposed to the supernatural life in created things, and seeks at all times to be recollected: aversio a creaturis. By the second, the soul tends upwards to God, and unites itself with Him: conversio ad Deum.
The soul wishes in this way to be faithful to the grace which Our Lord offers to it at every moment. In a word, it lives, united to Jesus, and carries out in actuality the principle: “He that liveth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit.
Qui manet in Me et Ego in eo, hic fert fructum tum (Joan. 15:5).
THIRD TRUTH. I would be depriving myself of one of the most effective means of acquiring this interior life if I failed to strive after a precise and certain faith in the active presence of Jesus within me, and if I did not try to make this presence within me, not merely a living, but an extremely vital reality, and one which penetrated more and more into all the life of my faculties. When Jesus, in this manner, becomes my light, my ideal, my counsel, my support, my refuge, my strength, my healer, my consolation, my joy, my love, in a word, my life, I shall acquire all the virtues. Then alone will I be able to utter, with sincerity, the wonderful prayer of St. Bonaventure which the Church gives me for my thanksgiving after Mass: Transfige dulcissime Domine Jesu.
FOURTH TRUTH. In proportion to the intensity of my love for God, my supernatural life may increase at every moment by a new infusion of the grace of the active presence of Jesus in me; an infusion produced:
1. By each meritorious act (virtue, work, suffering under all its varying forms, such as privation of creatures, physical or moral pain, humiliation, self-denial; prayer, Mass, acts of devotion to Our Lady, etc.).
2. By the Sacraments especially the Eucharist.
It is certain, then (and here is a consequence that overwhelms me with its sublimity and its depth, but above all, fills me with courage and with joy), it is certain that, by every event, person or thing, Thou, Jesus, Thou Thyself, dost present Thyself, objectively, to me, at every instant of the day. Thou dost hide Thy wisdom and Thy love beneath these appearances and dost request my co-operation to increase Thy life in myself.
O my soul, at every instant Jesus presents Himself to you by the GRACE OF THE PRESENT MOMENT—every time there is a prayer to say, a Mass to celebrate or to hear, reading to be done, or acts of patience, of zeal, of renunciation, of struggle, confidence, or love to be produced. Would you dare look the other way, or try to avoid His gaze?
FIFTH TRUTH. The triple concupiscence caused by original sin and increased by every one of my actual sins establishes elements of death that militate against the life of Jesus in me. Now in exact proportion as these elements develop in me, they diminish the exercise of that life. Alas! They may even go so far as to destroy it outright.
In case you do not know what triple concupiscence is, this term means that since Adam's sin, we all have a weakness and tendency towards sin in three ways. These are the desire for things of the earth, such as worldly status, money, and so on connected to the sin of greed; the preoccupation and seeking of the pleasures of the senses, such as falling into the sins of lust and gluttony; and the gross overexertion of our free will, self-will and rebellion, even when we choose something unreasonable.
The harmony found in the Garden of Eden before the Fall, "original justice", as the CCC notes, was marred forever through Original Sin.
Nevertheless, inclinations and feelings contrary to that life, and temptations, even violent and prolonged can do it no harm whatever as long as my will resists them. And then (what a consoling truth!) like any other elements in the spiritual combat, they serve only to augment that life, in proportion to my own zeal.
SIXTH TRUTH. If I am not faithful in the use of certain means, my intelligence will become blind and my will too weak to co-operate with Jesus in the increase, or even in the maintenance of His life in me. And the result will be a progressive diminution of that life: I shall find myself slipping into tepidity of the will.
In the long perfection series, I have written about this clouding of the intellect and loss of discernment.
This tepidity is clearly distinct from the dryness and even disgust which fervent souls experience in spite of themselves. For in that case, no sooner are the venial faults that escape us, through weakness committed, than we fight back, and detest them, and consequently show no evidence of tepidity of the will.
Asking for the grace to see one's venial sins immediately forms a good prayer and creates a habit of instant reflection.
But the soul that is poisoned with this kind of tepidity manifests two opposing wills: one good, the other bad. One hot, the other cold. On one hand, it wants salvation, and therefore it avoids evident mortal sin; on the other hand it does not want what is demanded by the love of God. On the contrary, it wants all the comforts of a free and easy life, and that is why it allows itself to commit deliberate venial sins.
God does not want any of us to be sinning in a venial decision. The deliberate ones need to go, and then, the Holy Spirit begins working on the knee-jerk, automatic ones, which are the hardest to fight.
When this tepidity is not resisted, the very fact goes to show that there is in the soul a partial, though not total, bad will. That is to say, one part of the will says to God: “On such and such a point I do not want to cease displeasing You.” (Father Desurmount, C.SS.R., Retour Continuel a Dieu.)Through dissipation, cowardice, self-delusion, or blindness, I tend to compromise with venial sin. But therefore my whole salvation is in danger, since I am paving the way to mortal sin.
Self-delusion may be connected to pride, and in the Dark Night, God chips away at this sin.
Were I to have the misfortune to fall into this tepidity (and a fortiori if I were to go lower still), I would have to make every effort to get out of it. 1) I would have to revive the fear of God in my soul by imagining myself, as vividly as possible, face to face with my last end, with death, with the judgment of God, with hell, eternity, sin, and so forth. 2) And to revive compunction by the sweet science of Thy wounds, O my merciful Redeemer. Going, in spirit, to Calvary, I would throw myself down at Thy holy feet and let Thy living Blood run down upon my head and heart to wash away my blindness, melt the ice in my soul, and drive away the torpor of my will.
Meditating on the Four Last Things helps tremendously.
SEVENTH TRUTH. I must seriously fear that I do not have the degree of interior life that Jesus demands of me:
I cannot emphasize the importance of this section enough.
1.If I cease to increase my thirst to live in Jesus, that thirst which gives me both the desire to please God in all things, and the fear of displeasing Him in any way whatever. But I necessarily cease to increase this thirst if I no longer make use of the means for doing so: morning mental-prayer, Mass, Sacraments, and Office, general and particular examinations of conscience, and spiritual reading; or if, while not altogether abandoning them, I draw no profit from them, through my own fault.
2.If I do not have that minimum of recollection which will allow me, during my work, to watch over my heart and keep it pure and generous enough not to silence the voice of Our Lord when He warns me of the elements of death, as soon as they show themselves, and urges me to fight them. Now I cannot possibly retain this minimum if I make no use of the means that will secure it: liturgical life, aspirations, especially in the form of supplication, spiritual communion, practice of the presence of God, and so on.
A minimum of recollection must become a habit. and, again, asking God for the grace of the instant recognition of sin. The next paragraph should put fear into one's heart and mind, as it is so easy to be trapped in self-delusion.
Without this, my life will soon be crawling with venial sins, perhaps without my being aware of it, self-delusion will throw up the smoke screen of a seeming piety that is more speculative than practical, or of my ambition for good works, to hide this state from me, or even to conceal a condition more appalling still! And yet my blindness will be imputed to me as sin since, by failing to foster the recollection indispensable to it, I shall have fomented and encouraged its very cause.
EIGHTH TRUTH. My interior life will be no better than my custody of my heart. “Before all things keep a guard over thy heart, for from it springs forth life.”
Omni custodia serva cor tuum, quia ex ipso vita procedit (Prov. 4:23).
How true this is....where you heart is so is your treasure. Is it food, money, status, another person? Again, pray to God and you guardian angel to show you the truth of habitual idolatry; even if it seems relatively unimportant--anything can become an idol.
This custody of the heart is simply a HABITUAL or at least frequent anxiety to preserve all my acts, as they arise, from everything that might spoil their motive or their execution.
It is a peaceful, unexcited anxiety, without any trace of strain, yet powerful because it is based on childlike confidence in God.
It is the work of the heart and the will, rather than of the mind, which has to remain free to carry out its duties. Far from being an impediment to activity, the custody of the heart perfects it, by ordering it to the Spirit of God, and adjusting it to the duties of our state of life.
Now, this may confuse some of my regular readers, who have read many posts on the heart-head dilemma. We can always turn to reason for help against inordinate desires, or even too strong of a love. Our reason must control, always, the heart, contrary to popular songs, writings, even some sermons. Once we have purity of heart, we can trust the desires, and we then can discern what is from God and what is not from God, but from ourselves.
It is an exercise that can be carried on at any hour. It is a quick glance, from the heart, over present actions and a peaceful attention to all the various phases of an action, as we perform it. It is carrying out exactly the precept, “Age quod agis.” The soul, like an alert sentry, keeps watch over every movement of its heart, over everything that is going on within it: all its impressions, intentions, passions, inclinations; in a word, all its interior and exterior acts, all its thoughts, words, and deeds.
Custody of the heart demands a certain amount of recollection: there is no place for it in a soul given to dissipation.
I recollect during conversations, in Church, in a car, like Sam-I -Am, reflecting everywhere. This becomes a constant habit if one prays for the grace and cooperates with that grace.
A paraphrase: Would you reflect with a mouse? Would you reflect in a house? Would you reflect in a box? Would you reflect with a fox? Would you? Could you? In a car? And so forth.....
By frequently following this practice, we will gradually acquire the habit of it.
Quo vadam et ad quid? Where am I going and why? What would Jesus do? How would He act in my place? What advice would He give me? What does He want from me, at this moment? Such are the questions that spring up spontaneously in the soul that is hungry for interior life.
For the soul that goes to Jesus through Mary, this custody of the heart takes on a still more affectionate quality, and recourse to this dear Mother becomes a continual need for his heart.
NINTH TRUTH. Jesus Christ reigns in a soul that aspires to imitate Him seriously, wholly, lovingly. This imitation has two degrees: 1) The soul strives to become indifferent to creatures, considered in themselves whether they suit its tastes or not. Following the example of Jesus, it seeks no other rule, in this, but the will of God: “I came down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of Him that sent me.”
Descendi de coelo non ut faciam voluntatem meam sed ejus qui misit me (Joan. 6:38).
Complete objectivity, complete detachment...2) The soul shows more readiness in doing things that are contrary to its nature, and repugnant to it. And thus it carries out the agendo contra that St. Ignatius speaks of in his famous meditation on the reign of Christ. It is acting against natural inclination in order to tend, by preference, to what imitates the poverty of the Savior, and His love for sufferings and humiliations. “For Christ did not please Himself.”
Christus non sibi placuit (Rom. 15:3).
This is huge...we all need to stop pleasing ourselves and concentrate on pleasing God alone. Especially, because of recent events, this has become extremely important.
Following the expression of St. Paul, the soul then truly knows our Lord: “You have learned Christ.”
Didicistis Christum (Eph. 4:20).
In this next paragraph, Father describes the Illuminative State perfectly.
TENTH TRUTH. No matter what my condition may be, if I am only willing to pray and become faithful to grace, Jesus offers me every means of returning to an inner life that will restore to me my intimacy with Him, and will enable me to develop His life in myself. And then, as this life gains ground within me, my soul will not cease to possess joy, even in the thick of trials, and the words of Isaias will be fulfilled in me: “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. Thou shalt call, and the Lord shall hear, thou shalt cry and He shall say:
‘Here I am.’ And the Lord will give thee rest continually, and will fill thy soul with brightness and will deliver thy bones, and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a fountain of water whose waters do not fail.”
Is. 58:8, 9, 11.
ELEVENTH TRUTH. If God calls me to apply my activity not only to my own sanctification, but also to good works, I must establish this firm conviction, before everything else, in my mind: Jesus has got to be, and wishes to be, the life of these works.
My efforts, by themselves, are nothing, absolutely nothing. “Without Me you can do nothing.”
Sine me nihil potestis facere (Joan. 15:5).They will only be useful, and blessed by God, if by means of a genuine interior life I unite them constantly to the life-giving action of Jesus. But then they will become all-powerful: “I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me.”
Again, look at the many posts on humility and merit. Good works follow the workings of perfection.
Omnia possum in eo qui me confortat (Phil. 4:13).But should they spring from pride and self-satisfaction, from confidence in my own talents, from the desire to shine, they will be rejected by God: for would it not be a sacrilegious madness for me to steal, from God, a little of His glory in order to decorate and beautify myself?
Daily, one must demand from one's self truth.
This conviction, far from robbing me of all initiative, will be my strength. And it will make me really feel the need to pray that I may obtain humility, which is such a treasure for my soul, since it is a guarantee of God’s help and of success in my labors.
Key is humility. More comments here later....am off to a busybakson.
Once I am really convinced of the importance of this principle, I will make a serious examination of myself, when I am on retreat, to find out: 1) if my conviction of the nothingness of my own activity, left to itself, and of its power when united to that of Jesus, is not getting a little tarnished; 2) if I am ruthless in stamping out all self-satisfaction and vanity, all self-admiration in my apostolate; 3) if I continue unwaveringly to distrust myself; 4) and if I am praying to God to preserve me from pride, which is the first and foremost obstacle to His assistance.
This Credo of the interior life, once it has become for my soul the whole foundation of its existence, guarantees to it, even here below, a participation in the joys of heaven.
The interior life is the life of the elect.
It fits in with the end God had in view when He created us.
Ad contemplandum quippe Creatorem suum homo conditus fuerat ut ejus speciem quaereret atque in soliditate amoris illius habitaret (St. Gregory the Great, Moralia, viii, 12).
It answers the end of the Incarnation: “God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we may live by Him.”
Filium suum unigenitum Deus misit in mundum ut vivamus per eum (1 Joan. 4:9).
It is a state of complete happiness: “The end of human creatures is union with God; and in this their happiness consists.”
Finis humanae creaturae est adhaerere Deo: in hoc enim felicitas ejus consistit (St. Thomas Aquinas).In this happiness, if thorns are seen from the outside, yet roses bloom within: but with the joys of the world it is just the reverse. “How pitiable they are, the poor people out in the world,” the Cure of Ars used to say, “they wear, over their shoulders, a mantle lined with thorns; they cannot make a move without being pierced. But true Christians have a mantle lined with soft fur.” Crucem vident, unuctionem non vident.
They see the cross, but do not see the consolations. (Said by St. Bernard, of those who took scandal at the austerity of the Cistercian life).
Heavenly state! The soul becomes a living heaven.
Semper memineris Dei, et coelum mens tua evadit. (St. Ephrem). Ever be mindful of God, and your mind will become His heaven.
Mens animae paradisus est, in qua, dum coelestia meditatur quasi in paradiso voluptatis delectatur (Hugh of St. Victor). The mind is the paradise of the soul, wherein, while it meditates upon heavenly things, it rejoices as though in a paradise of delights.
Then, like St. Margaret Mary, it can sing:
Je possède en tout temps et je porte en tout lieu
Et le Dieu de mon coeur et le Coeur de mon Dieu.
Et le Dieu de mon coeur et le Coeur de mon Dieu.
(I ever possess, and take with me everywhere, the God of my heart and the Heart of my God.) It is the beginning of eternal bliss, Inchoatio quaedam beatitudinis.
St. Thomas Aquinas. 2a 2ae, q. 180, a. 4.
Grace is the seed of Heaven.