THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
A TREATISE ON ASCETICAL AND MYSTICAL THEOLOGY
by the Very Reverend Adolphe Tanquerey, S.S., D.D.
CHAPTER II The Nature of the Christian Life
#88. The supernatural life which, by virtue of the merits of Jesus
Christ, is a participation in God's life, is often called the life of
God in us or the life of Jesus in us. Such expressions are correct
provided one takes care to explain them, so as to avoid anything
savoring of pantheism. We have not a life identical with that of God
or our Lord; we only have a life similar to theirs, a finite
participation, yet most real.
We may define it thus: a share in the divine life given us by the
Holy Ghost who dwells in us, because of the merits of Jesus Christ; a
life which we must protect against all destructive tendencies.
#89. We see, then, that as regards our supernatural life God plays
the principal role, we a secondary one. It is the Triune God that
comes Himself to confer it upon us, for He alone can make us share in
His own life. He communicates it to us in virtue of the merits of
Christ (n. 78), who is the meritorious, exemplary and vital cause of
our sanctification. It is perfectly true that God lives in us, that
Jesus lives in us; yet, our spiritual life is not identical with that
of God or of our Lord. It is distinct from but similar to the one and
the other. Our role consists in making use of the divine gifts in
order to live with God and for God, in order to live in union with
Jesus and to imitate Him. But we cannot live this supernatural life
without a continual struggle against the threefold concupiscence
which still remains in us (n. 83). And moreover, since God has
endowed us with a supernatural organism, it is our duty to make that
life increase in us by meritorious acts and the fervent reception of
This is the meaning of the definition we have given, and this whole
chapter is but its explanation and development. From it we shall draw
practical conclusions concerning devotion to the Most Holy Trinity,
devotion to and union with the Incarnate Word, and even concerning
devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the Saints, since all these
devotions flow from their relations with the Word of God-made Flesh.
Although the action of God and that of the soul have parallel
developments in the Christian life, we shall for the sake of
clearness treat of them in two successive articles, one on the role
of God and the other on the role of man.
ART. I. THE ROLE OF GOD IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
God acts in us either directly, by Himself or through the Incarnate
Word, or through the mediation of the Blessed Virgin, the Angels and
[I] The Role of the Blessed Trinity
#90. The first cause, the primary, efficient cause and the exemplary
cause of the supernatural life in us is no other than the Blessed
Trinity, or by appropriation, the Holy Ghost. True, the life of grace
is a work common to the Three Divine Persons, for it is a work ad
extra, yet, because it is a work of love, it is attributed especially
to the Holy Ghost.
Now the Most Adorable Trinity contributes to our sanctification in
two ways: the Three Divine Persons come to dwell in our souls; there
they create a supernatural organism which transforms and elevates
them, thus enabling them to perform Godlike acts.
I. The Indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the Soul1
#91. Since the Christian life is a participation in God's own life,
it is evident that none but God Himself can confer it upon us. This
He does by coming to dwell in our souls and by giving Himself wholly
to us in order that we may first of all render Him our homage, enjoy
His presence and allow ourselves to be led with docility to-the
practice of Christ's virtues and into the dispositions of His holy
soul.2 Theologians call this uncreated grace. Let us then examine
first how the Three Divine Persons live in us, and next, what our
attitude must be toward Them.
n1. St. THOM., I, q. 43, a. 3; FROGET, "Indwelling of the H. Ghost;"
R. PLUS, "God within Us; MANNING, "Int. Mission," I; DEVINE, "Ascet.
Theol.," p. 80; TANQUEREY, "Syn Theol. Dog.," III, 180-185.
n2. It is upon this truth that Father OLIER bases his spiritual
system. See "Catechism for an Interior Life," P. I, C. III: :Who
deserves the name of Christian? He who is possessed by the Spirit of
Jesus Christ... that makes us live both interiorly and exteriorly
like Jesus Christ."--"He (the Holy Ghost) is there with the Father
and the Son, and there infuses, as we have said, the same
dispositions, the same sentiments and the same virtues of Jesus
(1) HOW THE THREE DIVINE PERSONS DWELL WITHIN US
#92. God, says St. Thomas,1 is in all creatures in a threefold
manner: by His power, inasmuch as all creatures are subject to His
dominion; by His presence, because He sees all, even the most secret
thoughts of the soul, "All things are naked and open to his eyes;"2
by His essence, since He acts everywhere and since everywhere He is
the plenitude of being itself and the first cause of whatever is real
in creation, giving continually to creatures not only life and
movement, but their very being: " In Him we live and move and are."3
Yet, His presence within us by grace is of a much higher and intimate
nature. It is no longer the presence of the Creator and Preserver who
sustains the beings He created; it is the presence of the Most Holy
Trinity revealed to us by faith. The Father comes to us and continues
to beget His Word within us. With the Father we receive the Son equal
in all things to the Father, His loving and substantial image, who
never ceases to love His Father with the same infinite love wherewith
the Father loves Him. Out of this mutual love proceeds the Holy
Spirit, a person equal to the Father and the Son and a mutual bond
between Father and Son. The Three are withal distinct one from the
other. These wonders go on continually within the soul in the state
of grace. The presence of the Three Divine Persons, at once physical
and moral, establishes the most intimate and most sanctifying
relations between God and the soul. Gathering all that is found here
and there in the Scriptures, we can say that God through grace is
present within us as a father, as a friend, as a helper, as a
sanctifier, and that in this way He is truly the very source of our
interior life, its efficient and exemplary cause.
n1. "Sum. theol.," I, q. 8, a. 3.
n2. "Heb.," IV, 13.
n3. "Acts," XVII, 28.
#93. A) By nature He is simply in us to give us natural endowments;
by grace He gives Himself to us that we may enjoy His friendship and
thus have a foretaste of the happiness of heaven. In the order of
nature God is in us as the Creator and the sovereign Master; we are
but His servants, His property. In the order of grace it is
different; here He gives Himself to us as our Father; we are now His
adopted children; an unspeakable privilege and the basis of our
supernatural life. St. Paul and St. John repeat again and again: "
For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear: but
you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry Abba
(Father). For the Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit that
we are the sons of God."1 God, therefore, adopts us as His children
and in a way more thorough and more complete than men are adopted in
law. By legal adoption men are, indeed, able to transmit to others
their name and their possessions, but they cannot transmit to them
their blood and their life. "Legal adoption," says Cardinal Mercier,2
"is a fiction." The adopted child is considered by its foster parents
just as if it were their child and receives from them the heritage to
which their offspring would have had a right. Society recognizes this
fiction and sanctions its effects. Withal, the object of such fiction
is in no wise changed. But the grace of divine adoption is by no
means a fiction... it is a reality. God gives divine sonship to those
who have faith in His Word, as St. John says: " He gave them power to
be made the sons of God, to them that believed in his name."3 This
sonship is not such merely in name, but in very truth: " that we
should be called and should be the sons of God."4 By it we come into
the possession of the divine nature, "partakers of the divine
n1. "Rom.," VIII, 15-16.
n2. "La Vie Interieure,"' ed. 1909, p. 405.
n3. "John," I, 12.
n4. "I John," III, I.
n5. "II Peter," I, 4.
#94. No doubt, this divine life in us is only a participation, a
sharing, "consortes," a similitude, an assimilation which does not
make us gods, but only Godlike. None the less, it constitutes no
fiction, but a reality, a new life, a life not, indeed, equal but
similar to God's and which, on the testimony of Holy Writ,
presupposes a new birth, a regeneration: " Unless a man be born again
of water and the Holy Ghost... by the laver of regeneration and
renovation of the Holy Ghost... he hath regenerated us unto a lively
hope... of his own will hath he begotten us by the word of truth."1
All these expressions show us that our adoption is not merely
nominal, but true and real, although distinct and different from the
sonship of the Word-made-Flesh. By it we become heirs, by full right,
to the kingdom of heaven and coheirs of Him who is the eldest-born
among our brethren: " heirs indeed of God and joint heirs with
Christ... that he might be the firstborn amongst many brethren."2 Is
it not, therefore, most fitting to repeat the touching words of St
John: " Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon
us, that we should be called and should be the sons of God!"3
God has for us then the tenderness and devotedness of a father. Does
He not compare Himself to a mother that can never forget the child of
her womb? "Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on
the son of her womb? And if she should forget, yet will not I forget
thee."4 He has most assuredly given proof of this, since in order to
save His fallen children He hesitated not to give and sacrifice His
only-begotten Son: "For God so loved the world, as to give his only
Begotten Son: that whosoever believeth in him may not perish, but may
have life everlasting."5 The same love prompts Him likewise to give
Himself wholly, and from now on, in a permanent manner to His
children by dwelling in their hearts: "If any one love me, he will
keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him,
and will make our abode with him."6 He lives in us as a most loving
and most devoted Father.
n1. "John, III, 5; "Tit.," III, 5; "I Peter," I, 3; "James," I, I8
n2. "Rom.," VIII, 17, 29.
n3. "I John," III, I.
n4. "Isa.," XLIX, 15.
n5. "John," III, 16.
n6. "John," XIV, 23.
#95. B) He gives Himself also as a friend. Friendship adds to the
relations between father and son a sort of equality: "amicitia
aequales accipit aut facit." It adds a kind of familiarity, a
reciprocity whence flows the sweetest intercourse. It is precisely
such relations that grace establishes between us and God. Of course,
when it is question of God on one side and man on the other, there
can be no real equality, but rather a certain similarity sufficient
to engender true intimacy. In fact, God confides to us His .secrets.
He speaks to us not only through His Church, but also interiorly
through His Spirit: " He will teach you all things and bring all
things to your mind whatsoever I shall have said to you."1 At the
Last Supper Jesus declared to His Apostles that from that time on
they would not be His servants, but His friends, because He would no
longer keep any secrets from them: "I will not now call you servants:
for the servant knoweth not what his lord doth. But I have called you
friends: because all things whatsoever I have heard of my Father, I
have made known to you."2 A sweet familiarity will from now on
pervade their intercourse, the same that exists between friends when
they meet and speak heart to heart: " Behold that I stand at the gate
and knock; if any man shall hear my voice and open to me the door, I
will come into him and I will sup with him; and he with me."3 What an
unspeakable familiarity is this! Never would man have dared dream of
it or aspire to it had not the Friend Divine taken the initiative!
This very intimacy has been and is an everyday fact not only between
Almighty God and His Saints, but between Him and every man who by
leading an interior life consents to throw open the gates of his soul
to the Divine Guest. To this the author of the " Imitation " bears
witness when he describes the oft-repeated visits of the Holy Spirit
to interior souls, the sweet converse He holds with them, the
consolations and the caresses He imparts to them, the peace He
infuses, the astounding familiarity of His dealings with them: " Many
are His visits to the man of interior life, and sweet the
conversation that He holdeth with him; plenteous His consolation, His
peace and His familiarity."4 The life of contemporary mystics, of St.
Theresa of the Child Jesus, of Elizabeth of the Blessed Trinity, of
Gemma Galgani and of so many others, gives proof that the words of
the Imitation are daily realized. There is no doubt that God does
live in us as the most intimate of friends.
n1. "John," XIV, 26
n2. "John," XV, 15.
n3. "Apoc.," III, 20.
n4. "Imitation," II, c. I, v. i.
#96. C) Nor is He idle there. He acts as our most powerful ally, our
most efficient helper. Knowing but too well that of ourselves we can
not foster the life He has engendered in us, He supplies for our
deficiencies by working with us through actual grace. Are we in need
of light to perceive the truths of faith which shall from now on
guide our steps? The Father of Lights will be the one to .enlighten
our intellect pointing out clearly our last end and the means- to
reach it. He will suggest to us the godly thoughts that inspire godly
actions. Again, do we want strength to give our life its orientation,
to direct it towards its last end, the one great object of all our
strivings, of all our efforts? The same God and Father will bring to
us the supernatural help that gives the power to will and to do: "
for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to accomplish."1
When it comes to combating and controlling our passions or overcoming
the temptations that at times assail us, once more it is none other
than God who gives us the power to resist them and even to draw
profit from them: "God is faithful who will not suffer you to be
tempted above that which you are able, but will make also with
temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it."2 If weary of
well-doing and if discouraged we begin to falter, He draws close to
sustain us and to secure our perseverance: "He who hath begun a good
work in you will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus."3 No, we
are never alone. Even when devoid of all consolations we think
ourselves abandoned, God's grace is ever close at hand as long as we
are willing to cooperate with it: "And his grace in me hath not been
void: but I have labored more abundantly than all they: yet not I,
but the grace of God with me."4 Leaning on this all-powerful Helper
we become invincible: "I can do all things in him who strengtheneth
n1. "Philipp., II. 13.
n2. "I Cor.," X, 13.
n3. "Philipp.," I, 6.
n4. "I Cor.," XV, 10.
n5. "Philipp.," IV, 13.
#97. D) This divine Helper is at the same time our Sanctifier. Coming
to live in our soul He transforms it into a sacred temple enriched
with all manner of virtues: "the temple of God is holy, which you
are."1 The God that lives in us is not merely the God of nature, but
the Living God, the Blessed Trinity, the infinite source of divine
life, whose only longing is to make us share in His holiness. Often
this indwelling of God in the soul is attributed or assigned to the
Holy Ghost by appropriation, since it is a work of love; but being a
work ad extra it is common to the Three Divine Persons. This is why
St. Paul calls us alike the temples of God and the temples of the
Holy Ghost: "Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that
the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"2
Our soul, therefore, is made the temple of the Living God, a
sanctuary reserved to the Most High, a Holy of Holies, a throne of
mercy where He is pleased to be lavish with His heavenly favors and
which He enriches with every virtue. It follows that the presence
within us of a Thrice Holy God, as just described, cannot but
sanctify us. The Most Adorable Trinity living and acting within us
must, indeed, be the principle of our sanctification, the source of
our interior life. This holy presence constitutes likewise its
exemplary cause, for being sons of God by adoption we are bound to
imitate our Father. This we shall understand better when we examine
what our attitude should be towards these Three Divine Guests.
n1. "I Cor.," III, 17.
n2. "I Cor.," III, 16.
(2) OUR DUTIES TOWARDS THE MOST HOLY TRINITY LIVING WITHIN US1
#98. Possessing such a treasure as the Most Holy Trinity, we ought to
make it the object of frequent meditation-- "to walk inwardly with
God." Such a thought awakes in us chiefly three sentiments:
adoration, love and imitation.
#99. A) The very first impulse of the heart is that of adoration:
"Glorify and bear God in your body."2 How could we do otherwise than
glorify, bless and thank that Divine Guest who transforms our soul
into a sanctuary? From the time Mary received the Incarnate Word in
her virginal womb her life was but one perpetual act of adoration and
thanksgiving: "My soul doth magnify the Lord... He who is mighty hath
done great things to me, and holy is his name."3 Such are, even if
lesser in degree and intensity, the sentiments that lay hold of the
Christian on becoming aware of the Holy Ghost's presence within him.
He understands that being God's dwelling he ought to offer himself
constantly as a sacrifice of praise unto the glory of the Triune God.
a) He begins his actions by making the Sign of the Cross, in the name
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and thus
consecrates them all to the Three Divine Persons; he ends them by
acknowledging that whatever good he has done must be attributed to
Them: Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. b)
He loves to repeat the liturgical prayers that proclaim Their
praises: the Gloria in excelsis Deo, which so well expresses all the
religious sentiments towards the Most Holy Trinity, especially
towards the Incarnate Word; the Sanctus, proclaiming the awful
holiness of the Godhead; the Te Deum, the song of thanksgiving. c)
This Divine Guest the Christian recognizes as his first beginning and
last end. He realizes his inability to praise Him adequately and
unites Himself to the Spirit of Jesus who alone can render to God
that glory which by right is His: "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."4
n1. All these sentiments are wonderfully expressed in the beautiful
morning prayer composed by Fathe OLIER, cf. "Manual of Piety."
n2. "I Cor.," VI, 10.
n3. "Luke," I, 46, 49.
n4. "Rom.," VIII, 26.
#100. B) After having adored God and proclaimed his own nothingness,
the Christian gives vent to sentiments of the most confiding love.
Infinite as He is, God nevertheless stoops down to us like a loving
father toward his child, asking us to love Him and to give Him our
heart: "My son, give me thy heart."1 He has a strict right to demand
this love, yet He prefers to entreat us with the sweetness of
affection so that our return may be, so to speak, more spontaneous,
and our recourse to Him more confident and childlike. Could we refuse
our trustful love to such thoughtful advances, to a solicitude so
Our love should be a repentant love, a love that expiates
infidelities past and present; a grateful love that renders thanks to
our great Benefactor, the devoted Co-worker who labors without stint
and without rest. Above all, it should be the love of friend for
friend holding sweet converse with the most faithful, the most
generous of friends, whose part we should take, whose glory we should
make known, whose name we should forever bless. This love then should
not be a mere feeling, but a generous, daring love, forgetful of self
to the point of sacrifice and the renunciation of our own wills, by a
willing submission to the precepts and counsels of God.
n1. "Prov.," XXIII, 26.
#101. C) Such love will lead us to imitate the Most Adorable Trinity
in the measure in which this is compatible with human weakness.
Adopted children of an all-holy Father, living temples of the Holy
Ghost, we can better appreciate the reason why we must be holy in
body and soul. This was the lesson learned by the Apostle and
repeated by him to his followers: " Know you not that you are the
temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? But if any
man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy. For the temple
of God is holy, which you are."1 Experience is witness to the fact
that with generous souls this is the most powerful motive to turn
them away from sin and incite them to the practice of virtue. Temples
wherein the thrice Holy One resides can never be too rich in beauty,
too glorious in sanctity. It is remarkable that when our Lord wished
to propose to us an ideal, a model of perfection, He pointed to God
Himself: "Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."2 At
first sight this ideal does seem too high. But when we recall that we
are the adopted children of God and that He lives in us in order to
impress upon us His image and to collaborate in our salvation, then
we realize that a high rank imposes obligations, "noblesse oblige,"
and that it is no more than our plain duty to approach ever nearer
the divine perfections. It is chiefly in view of the fulfillment of
the precept of fraternal charity, the love of our fellows, that Jesus
Christ demands of us to keep before our eyes this perfect model, the
indivisible oneness of the Three Divine Persons: " That they all may
be one, as thou, Father in me and I in thee; that they also be one in
us."3 What a tender prayer! St. Paul echoes it later on begging his
dear disciples not to forget that since they are but one body and but
one spirit, and since they have but one Father who lives in all just
souls, they should preserve the unity of spirit in the bond of peace.4
To sum up, we may say that the Christian life consists above all in
an intimate, affectionate and sanctifying union with the Three Divine
Persons who sustain us in the spirit of religion, love and sacrifice.
n1. "I Cor., III, 16-17.
n2. "Matth.," V, 48.
n3. "John," XVII, 21.
n4. "Eph.," IV, 3-6.
II. The Organism of the Christian Life1
#102. The three Divine Persons inhabit the sanctuary of our soul,
taking their delight in enriching it with supernatural gifts and in
communicating to us a Godlike life, similar to theirs, called the
life of grace.
All life, however, implies a threefold element: a vital principle
that is, so to speak, the source of life itself; faculties which give
the power to elicit vital acts; and lastly, the acts themselves which
are but its development and which minister to its growth. In the
supernatural order, God living within us produces the same elements.
a) He first communicates to us habitual grace which plays the part of
a vital, supernatural principle.2 This principle deifies, as it were,
the very substance of the soul and makes it capable, though in a
remote way, of enjoying the Beatific Vision and of performing the
acts that lead to it.
n1. St. THOM, Ia IIae, q. 110; ALVAREZ DE PAZ, "De vita spirituali
ejusque perfectione, 1602, t. I, II, c. I; TERREIN "La Grace et la
Gloire," t. I, p. 75 sq.; BELLAMY, "La vie surnaturelle."
n2. "Gratia praesupponitur virtutibus infusis, sicut earum principium
et finis." ("Sum. theol.," Ia IIae, q. 110, a. 3.)
#103. b) Out of this grace spring the infused virtues1 and the gifts
of the Holy Ghost which perfect our faculties and endow us with the
immediate power of performing Godlike, supernatural, meritorious
c) In order to stir these faculties into action, He gives us actual
graces which enlighten our mind, strengthen our will, and aid us both
to act supernaturally and to increase the measure of habitual grace
that has been granted to us.
n1. "Sicut ab essentia animae effluunt ejus potentiae, quae sunt
operum principia, ita etiam ab ipsa gratia effluunt virtutes in
potentias animae, per quas potentiae moventur ad actum". (Ibid., a.
#104. Although this life of grace is entirely distinct from our
natural life it is not merely superimposed on the latter; it
penetrates it through and through, transforms it and makes it divine.
It assimilates whatever is good in our nature, our education and our
habits. It perfects and supernaturalizes all these various elements,
directing them toward the last end, that is toward the possession of
God through the Beatific Vision and its resultant love.
In virtue of the general principle explained above, n. 54, that
inferior beings are subordinated to their superiors,1 it is the part
of the supernatural life to direct and control our natural life. The
former cannot develop nor endure unless it reigns supreme and keeps
under its sway the acts of the mind, of the will and of the other
faculties. This dominion in no way dwarfs or destroys our nature, but
rather it elevates and completes it. We shall show this in the
subsequent study of these three elements.
n1. EYMIEU, op. cit., p. 150-151.
(1) Habitual Grace1
#105. God out of His infinite goodness wills to lift us up to Himself
in the measure that our weak nature allows, and for this purpose
gives us a principle of supernatural life; a Godlike, vital
principle, which is habitual grace. It is also called created grace2
in contradistinction to uncreated grace, which is the indwelling
itself of the Holy Ghost within us. Created grace makes us like unto
God and unites us to Him in the closest manner: "This deification
consists, in so far as is possible, in a certain resemblance to God
and union with Him."3 These two points of view we shall explain
presently by giving the traditional definition and by determining
precisely the nature of the union that grace produces between God and
n1. See St. THOM., Ia IIae, q. 110 "Syn Theol. Dog.," III, n.
186-191; FROGET, op. cit., IVe P.; TERRIEN, "La Grace et la Gloire,"
p. 75 ss.; BELLAMY, "La vie surnaturelle, 1895; SCHEEBEN, "The
Glories of Divine Grace; MANY, "La vraie vie," 1922, p. 1-79.
n2. This expression is not altogether exact, since grace within us is
not a substance, but and accident, an accidental modification of the
soul. But because it is something finite and can originate only in
God, not being merited by us, this name of created or con-created is
given to it, to show that it is derived from the power the soul as a
created thing has of becoming whatever the Creator wills it to
n3. "Est autem haec deificatio, Deo quaedam, quoad fieri potest,
assimilatio unioque." PS.-DIONYS, "De eccl hierarchia," c. I, N. 3,
P.G., III, 373.
#106. Sanctifying or habitual grace is commonly defined as a
supernatural quality inherent in the soul, which makes us partakers
of the divine nature and of the divine life in a real and formal, but
a) Grace is a reality of the supernatural order, but not a substance,
for no created substance could be supernatural. It is but a mode of
being, a state of soul, a quality inherent in the soul's substance
that transforms it and raises it above all natural beings, even the
most perfect. It is a permanent quality remaining in the soul as long
as we do not forfeit it by mortal sin." It is, " as Cardinal Mercier
says,1 on the authority of Bossuet, "a spiritual quality infused into
our souls by Jesus Christ, which penetrates our inmost being,
instills itself into the very marrow of the soul and goes forth
(through the virtues) to all its faculties. The soul that possesses
it is made pure and pleasing in the eyes of God. He makes such a soul
His sanctuary, His temple, His tabernacle, His paradise. "
n1. "La Vie interieure," p. 401.
#107. b) This quality, according to the forceful expression of St.
Peter, makes us " partakers of the divine nature."1 According to St.
Paul, it causes us to enter into communion with the Holy Ghost, "the
communication of the Holy Ghost,"2 and St. John adds that it
establishes a sort of fellowship between us and the Father and the
Son: " our fellowship... with the Father and with his Son Jesus
Christ."3 It does not make us the equals of God, but it changes us
into Godlike beings, makes us like unto God. Nor does it give us the
life of the Godhead itself which is incommunicable, but it imparts to
us a life similar to God's. Our task is to explain this, so far as
the human mind is able to comprehend it.
n1. "II Peter," I, 4.
n2. "II Cor.," XIII, 13.
n3. "I John," I, 3.
#108. 1) God's own life consists in direct self-contemplation and
love of Himself. No creature whatever, no matter how perfect, could
of itself contemplate the essence of the Godhead, "who dwells in
light inaccessible;"1 but God, by a privilege, gratuitous in every
sense of the word, calls man to contemplate this divine essence in
heaven. As man is utterly incapable of this, God lifts him up, makes
his intelligence transcend its natural capacities, and confers on him
this power through the light of glory. Then, says St. John, we shall
be like unto God because we shall see Him as He sees Himself, that is
to say, exactly as He is in Himself: " We shall be like him: because
we shall see him as he is."2 We shall see, adds St. Paul, no longer
through the mirror of creatures, but face to face with luminous
clearness: "We see now through a glass in a dark manner: but then
face to face."3 Since we shall know and love God as He knows and
loves Himself, we shall also share in God's own life, even if it be
in a finite way. Theologians explain this by saying that the divine
essence will come and unite itself with the soul's inmost being, so
as to allow us to contemplate the Divinity directly, with the aid of
no image or of any created intermediary.
n1. "I Tim.," VI, 16.
n2. "I John," III, 2.
n3. "I Cor.," XIII, 12-13.
#109. 2) Habitual grace is already a preparation for the Beatific
Vision and a foretaste, as it were, of that unspeakable boon; it is
the bud that needs but to open to show forth the flower. Habitual
grace and the Beatific Vision are, then, one in kind and one in
A comparison, no matter how inadequate, will not be out of place. We
can know an artist in three different ways: by studying his works,
through friends, or by personal intercourse with him. The first is
the kind of knowledge we get of God through His works, by the
contemplation of His creatures. This is an inductive, imperfect
knowledge; for though creation reveals His wisdom and His power, it
tells us nothing of His personal, interior life. The knowledge we
derive from faith illustrates the second manner in which we come to
know God. On the authority of the sacred writers and, above all, on
the testimony of the Son of God we believe what it has pleased Him to
disclose to us, not only concerning His works and His attributes, but
concerning His personal, interior life. This, we believe that from
all eternity He begets the Word, His Son, that there exists a mutual
love between Them, and that out of this reciprocal love proceeds the
Holy Ghost. We do not, indeed, understand, nor do we in any way see,
but we believe with invincible certainty. This faith makes us share
in the knowledge that God has of Himself. But this is a veiled
knowledge, rather obscure, though none the less real. Only eventually
through the Beatific Vision shall we acquire direct knowledge of Him.
Still, this second mode of knowledge, as can be readily seen, is at
bottom of the same nature as the first, and assuredly far superior to
mere rational or reasoned knowledge.
#110. c) This participation in the divine life is formal; it is not
simply virtual. Virtual participation means that we share a quality
in a different way from that in which it is possessed by the
principal where it is found. Thus, reason is simply a virtual
participation in the divine intellect, because reason gives us a
knowledge of truth, but vastly different from that knowledge of truth
which God possesses. Mindful then of disparity and distinction, we
can say that such is not the case between the Beatific Vision and
faith. Both cause us to know God as He is, not in the same degree, it
is true, but the knowledge acquired through either of them is the
same in kind.
#111. d) The participation we have in God's life is accidental, not
substantial. It is thus distinct from the generation of the Word, who
receives the whole substance of the Father. It is likewise distinct
from the hypostatic union, which is a substantial union of the divine
and human natures in the person of the Word. In our union with God we
keep our personality, and therefore, this union is not substantial.
This is the doctrine of St. Thomas: " Grace, being altogether above
human nature, can neither be a substance nor the soul's substantial
form. It can only be its accidental form."1 Explaining his thought he
adds that what exists in God substantially is given us accidentally,
and makes us partake of the divine goodness.
With such restrictions we steer clear of pantheism and still conceive
a very exalted idea of the nature of grace. It reveals itself to us
as a likeness of God stamped by Him on our souls: "Let us make man
according to our image and likeness."2
n1. "Sum. Theol.," I1 IIae, q. 110, a.
n2. "Gen." I, 26.
#112. In order to help us to understand this divine resemblance the
Fathers have employed various comparisons. I) Our soul, they say, is
like to a living image of the Most Blessed Trinity, for the Holy
Ghost Himself impresses His features on us as a seal does on molten
wax, stamping and leaving there the divine likeness.1 They conclude
that the soul in the state of grace possesses an entrancing beauty
since the author of that image is none other than God Himself who is
infinitely perfect: "Behold thy likeness, O man; see thy likeness
beautiful, made by thy God, the Great Artist, the Master-Painter."2
They rightly reason that, far from disfiguring or destroying such
resemblance, we must perfect it more and more. At times they compare
the soul to those transparent bodies that receiving the sun's rays
become all aglow and reflect in turn a marvelous light all around.3
n1. "Homil. Paschal.," X, 2 P. G., LXXVII, 617.
n2. St. AMBROSE, "In Hexaem.," I. VI, c. 8, P.L., XIV, 260.
n3. St. BASIL, "Ce Spir. S.," IX, 23, P.G., XXXII, 109.
#113. 2) To show further that this divine resemblance is not merely
on the surface, they have recourse to the analogy of iron in the
fire. As a bar of iron, they say, plunged into a glowing fire soon
acquires the brightness, the heat and the pliancy of fire, so the
soul in the fire of divine love is rid of impurities, burns, glows
and becomes docile to God's inspirations.
#114. 3) To express the idea that grace is a new life, the Fathers
and spiritual writers liken it to a divine branch ingrafted into the
wild stock of our nature, there combining with it to form a new,
vital principle and, therefore, a life far superior in kind. Yet, in
the same way that the branch does not give its life to the stock in
all its essence and particulars but only such or such of its vital
properties, so sanctifying grace does not give to us God's entire
essence but simply something of His life, which is for us a new life.
We share then in the life of the Godhead, but by no means possess it.
in its fullness. This resemblance of the soul to the Divinity
evidently prepares it for a most intimate union with the Most Holy
Trinity that dwells in it.
B) Union of God and the Soul
#115. From what we have said concerning the indwelling of the Most
Blessed Trinity in the soul (n. 92) it follows that there is the
closest and most sanctifying union between our souls and the Divine
Guest. But is this all? Is there not something physical besides this
#116. a) The comparisons the Fathers employ would seem to imply so.
1) A great many of them tell us that the union of God with the soul
is like that of the soul and the body. There are in us two lives,
says St. Augustine, the life of the body and the life of the soul;
the life of the body is the soul, the life of the soul is God.1
Evidently, these are only analogies; let us try to bring out the
truth they contain.
The union of body and soul is a substantial union, so much so, that
they form but one nature and only one person. The union between God
and the soul is different. We retain always our own nature and our
own personality and thus remain essentially distinct from the
Godhead. However, just, as the soul gives the body its life, so God
(without becoming the form of the soul, as the soul is of the body)
gives the soul supernatural life, a life not equal to His, but truly
and formally like unto His, producing a union that is most real
between the soul and God. This implies a concrete reality which God
communicates to us and which constitutes the bond of union between
Him and us. Assuredly this new relation adds nothing to God, but it
perfects the soul and makes it Godlike. Thus the Holy Ghost is not
the formal cause, but the efficient and exemplary cause of our
n1. "Sicut vita corporis anima, sic vita animae Deus." (Enarrat. in
psal. 70, sermo2, n. 3. P. L. XXXVI, 893.)
#117. 2) The very same truth flows from the other comparison made by
other authors.1 They liken the union of the soul with God to the
hypostatic union. Again, there is an essential difference. The
hypostatic union is substantial and personal, for though the human
and the divine natures are absolutely different, yet, they constitute
but one and the same person in Jesus Christ. The union of God with
the soul through grace, on the contrary, leaves us our own
personality, essentially distinct from that of God, and unites us to
God in a merely accidental manner. "It is brought about in fact
through the medium of sanctifying grace, an accident superadded to
the soul's substance. Accidental union is the name given by the
Scholastics to the union of an accident with a substance."2
None the less it is true that the union of the soul and God is a
union of substance with substance,3 that man and God are in contact
as closely as the incandescent iron is with the fire which permeates
it, as closely as the glowing crystal is with the light that
penetrates it. We can sum it up briefly in these few words: the
hypostatic union makes a God-man, the union of grace makes deified
men. In the same way as the actions of Christ are both divine and
human, theandric actions, so those of the just man are Godlike,
performed at once by God and by man. They are thus meritorious worthy
of eternal life, which is nothing else but direct union with
Divinity. We can say with Father de Smedt4 that "the hypostatic union
is the type, the model, of our union with God by grace and that the
latter is the most perfect imitation of the former that can be found
We conclude with this same writer that the union of God and the soul
by grace is not a mere moral union, but rather one which contains a
physical element and which justifies the name of physico-moral union:
"The divine nature is truly and properly united to the substance of
the soul by a special bond and in such a way that the soul really
possesses the divine nature as if it were personally its own. As a
consequence, the soul possesses a divine character, a divine
perfection and a divine beauty which is infinitely superior to all
possible natural perfection wherever found and in whatsoever
creature, whether actually existing or capable of existing.5
n1. BELLAMY, "La Vie surnaturelle," p. 184-191.
n2. CARDINAL MERCIER, "La Vie interieure," ed. 1919, p. 392.
n3. This is perhaps the though of Cardinal Mercier when he adds
(l.c.): "In a sense, however, this union is a substantial one. On the
one hand, it takes place between substance and substance without the
interference of any natural accident. On the other, it places the
soul in direct contact with the divine substance; it places the
latter within the immediate reach of the former after the manner of a
gift which the soul has the power both to possess and enjoy." In this
way are explained the expressions of the Mystics who with St. John of
the Cross speak of the divine contact "that takes place between the
substance of the soul and the Divine substance in the course of
intimate and loving friendship." Father Poulain in "Graces of
Interior Prayer," C. VI, has gathered a great many texts from the
"Contemplatives" on this point.
n4. "Notre Vie surnaturelle," p. 51.
n5. Op. cit., p. 49.
#118. b) If we leave comparisons aside and look for the exact
theological doctrine on the question, we arrive at precisely the same
conclusion. 1) In heaven the Elect see God face to face without the
aid of any intermediary. It is the divine essence itself that acts as
the principle of knowledge or "species impressa" as it is called.1
This means that there exists between God and the Elect a true and
real union that can be called physical; since God can not be seen and
possessed unless He be present to them by His essence nor can He be
loved unless He be actually united to their wills as the object of
their love. But grace is nothing less than the beginning, the
inception, the seed of glory.2 Hence the union between the soul and
God begun here on earth. by grace is in fact of the same kind as that
in heaven; it is real and, in a certain sense, physical, like the
latter. The following is the conclusion of Father Froget in his
beautiful work, "The Indwelling of the Holy Ghost." Supported by
numerous texts from St. Thomas he says: "God is then truly,
physically and substantially present in the Christian in the state of
grace; this is no mere presence, but a real possession with the
initial enjoyment thereto attached."
2) We draw the same conclusion from the analysis of grace itself.
According to the teaching of the Angelic Doctor, based on the very
texts of Holy Scripture we have quoted, habitual grace is given us in
order that we may enjoy the possession not only of divine gifts but
also of the Divine Persons.3 But to enjoy anything whatever, adds a
disciple of St. Bonaventure, the presence of the said thing or object
is absolutely necessary, and therefore, in order to enjoy the Holy
Spirit, His presence is necessary as well as the presence of the
created gift which unites us to Him.4 If the presence of the created
gift is real and physical, should not that of the Holy Ghost be
likewise real and physical?
Therefore, our deductions from Dogma as well as the comparisons
employed by the Fathers authorize us to say that the union of the
soul with God is not merely moral, nor on the other hand substantial,
in the strict sense of the term, but that it is so real that it may
be justly called a physico-moral union. However, it remains veiled
and obscure; its growth is gradual, its effects are perceived more
and more clearly in proportion as we make efforts to cultivate faith
and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Fervent souls who long for this
divine union are ever possessed of an urgent, desire to advance
further each day in the practice of virtue :and the use of these
n1. "In visione quao Deus per essentiam videbitur, ipsa divina
essentia erit quasi forma intellectus quo intelliget." St. THOMAS,
"Sum. theol.," Suppl., q. 92, a. I.
n2. "Gratia nihil est quam inchoatio gloriae in nobis." "Sum, theol."
IIa IIae, q. 24, a. 3.--This is likewise the thought of Pope Leo XIII
in his Encyclical, "Divinum iddud munus:" "Haec autem mira
conjunctio, quae suo nomine inhabitatio dicitur, conditione tantum
seu tatu ab ea discrepat qua caelites Deus beando complectitur."
CAVALLERA, "Thesaurus doctrinae cathol.," n. 546.
n3. "Per donum gratiae gratum facientis perficitur creatura
rationalis ad hoc quod libere non solum ipso dono creato utatur, sed
ut ipsa divina persona fruatur." St. THOMAS, "Sum. Theol.," I, q. 43,
n4. Ps BONAVENTURE, "Compend. Theol. veritatis," 1, I, c. 9.
(2) THE VIRTUES AND THE GIFTS
A) Existence and Nature
#119. In order to act and develop, the supernatural life ingrafted
into our souls by habitual grace demands faculties likewise of a
supernatural character. These the bounty and liberality of God have
given us in the form of infused virtues and gifts of the Holy Ghost.
As Leo XIII tells us: "The just man living the life of grace and
acting through the virtues that fulfill the function of faculties,
stands also in need of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost."1 In fact,
it is only meet that our natural faculties which of themselves can
produce but natural acts, should be perfected and deified by infused
habits to place them on a supernatural plane and enable them to act
supernaturally. Because God's liberality knows no bounds, He has
granted us a twofold boon: first, the virtues which, directed by
prudence, enable us to act supernaturally with the help of actual
grace; then, the gifts making us so docile to the influence of the
Holy Ghost that we are, so to speak, moved and directed by that
divine Spirit, guided by a sort of divine instinct. Here it must be
noted that these gifts, conferred as they are together with the
virtues and habitual grace, do not exert a frequent or an intensive
action except in mortified souls who have by a prolonged practice of
the moral and theological virtues acquired that supernatural docility
and ease that render them completely obedient to the inspirations of
the Holy Spirit.
n1. "Homini justo vitam scilicet viventi divinae gratiae et per
congruas virtutes tamquam facultates agenti, opus plane est septenis
illis quae proprie dicuntur Spiritus Sancti donis." LEO XXIII,
"Encyc. Divinum illud munus." See the English translation in "The
Great Encyclicals of Leo XIII, p. 422-440.
#120. The essential difference between the virtues and the gifts
consists in their different mode of action within us. In the practice
of virtue grace lets us act under the influence of prudence. In the
use of the gifts, once they have reached their full development,
grace demands docility rather than activity. We shall go deeper into
this question when treating of the unitive way. In the meantime, a
comparison will help us to understand it: when a mother teaches her
child to walk, she at times simply leads him supporting him at the
same time so that he may not fall; at other times she takes him in
her arms to help him over some hindrance in the way or to let him
rest a while. The first instance illustrates the influence of the
virtues, the latter that of the gifts. From this it follows that
normally the acts performed under the influence of the gifts are more
perfect than those accomplished under the sole influence of the
virtues precisely because in the former case the operation of the
Holy Ghost is more active and also more fruitful.
B) The Infused Virtues
#121. It is certain from the Council of Trent that at the very moment
of justification we receive the infused virtues of faith, hope and
charity.1 The common doctrine, confirmed by the "Catechism of the
Council of Trent"2 is that the moral virtues of prudence, justice,
fortitude and temperance are likewise communicated to us at that same
moment. We must remember that these virtues endow us, not with
facility, but with a supernatural, proximate power of eliciting
supernatural acts. In order to acquire that facility of action which
acquired habits give, we need to perform repeated acts of such
Let us now see how these virtues supernaturalize our faculties.
a) Some of these virtues are theological, because their material
object is God, their formal object some divine attribute. Faith, for
instance, unites us to God, the Supreme Truth, and aids us to see
all, to view all things by His divine light. Hope unites us to God,
the source of our happiness, who is ever ready to pour forth upon us
all His favors so that our transformation may be perfected, and to
tender us His all-powerful help to enable us to elicit acts of
absolute trust in Him. Charity takes us up to God, infinitely good in
Himself. Under the influence of this love, we delight in the
perfections of God even more than if they were our own- we desire to
make them known and have them praised; we form with Him a holy
friendship and a sweet intimacy. Thus we become more and more like
n1. "In ipsa justificatione...haec omnia simul infusa, accipit home,
fidem, spem et caritatem." ("Trid.," sess. VI, c.7).
n2. P. II, de Baptismo, n. 42.
#122. b) These three theological virtues unite us directly to God;
the moral virtues remove the obstacles to that union and thus prepare
for and perpetuate it. The object proper of these moral virtues is a
moral good distinct from God. Our actions are so regulated by them
that, in spite of obstacles from within or without, they are kept in
steady course towards God. Thus, prudence makes us choose those means
best adapted to the pursuance of our supernatural end. Justice, by
having us render to others what is due them, sanctifies our relations
with them, so as to bring us close to God and to make us more like
Him. Fortitude equips our soul for trials and struggles. It makes us
endure suffering with patience and causes us to undertake with holy
ardor and daring the most painful and laborious tasks for the glory
of God. Lastly, since guilty pleasure would lead us astray,
temperance controls our thirst for pleasure and brings it under
subjection to the law of duty. All these virtues have their part to
play either in removing obstacles or in supplying positive means to
press onward towards God.1
n1. In the second part of this work where we shall treat of the
illuminative way, we shall explain these virtues in detail. The
explanation of the gifts of the Holy Ghost we shall join to the
treatment of the unitive way.
C) The Gifts of the Holy Ghost
#123. Here we shall not describe the gifts in detail, but simply show
how they correspond to the virtues.
First, the gifts are in no way superior to the theological virtues.
This becomes evident if we but think of divine charity. Their
function, however, is that of perfecting the exercise of the virtues.
By the gift of understanding we can penetrate farther into the truths
of faith to discover the hidden treasures and discern the mysterious
harmony therein contained. The gift of knowledge makes us look upon
creatures from the point of view of their relation to their Maker.
The gift of fear, by weaning us from the false goods of earth that
might allure us into sin, fortifies the virtue of hope and
intensifies the desire for the happiness of heaven. Wisdom makes us
relish divine things thus increasing our love of God. The gift of
counsel crowns the virtue of prudence by showing us in exceptional or
difficult cases what it behooves us to do or not to do. Piety
perfects the virtue of religion, making us recognize in God a Father
whom we delight in glorifying by love. The gift of fortitude
completes the virtue which bears the same name by urging us on to
what is more heroic in endurance and in daring. The gift of fear
besides rendering easy the practice of hope, perfects temperance by
begetting in us a dread of the penalty and of the ills issuing from
the illicit love of pleasure.
In this fashion the virtues and the gifts receive their harmonious
development in our souls under the influence of actual grace, of
which we must now briefly speak.
(3) ACTUAL GRACE1
In the order of nature we can do nothing to bring power into action
without the concurrence of God. The same is true in the supernatural
order; without actual grace we cannot set our faculties into
#124. We shall explain: (1) the notion of actual grace, (2) its mode
of action, (3) its necessity.
A) Notion. Actual grace is a supernatural, transient help given us by
our Lord to enlighten our mind and strengthen our will in the
performance of supernatural acts.
a) Its action on our spiritual faculties is direct. Now, grace acts
on the mind and the will not simply to raise them to the supernatural
order, but to set them in motion and cause them to elicit
supernatural acts. For instance, before justification, that is,
before the infusion into the soul of habitual grace, actual grace
makes us see the malice and frightful consequences of sin in order to
have us loathe it. After justification actual grace shows us by the
light of faith God's infinite beauty and His loving kindness, in
order to have us love Him with all our heart.
b) Besides these interior helps, there are others called exterior
graces. These latter act directly on our senses and our sensitive
faculties. They, therefore, indirectly reach the spiritual faculties,
especially since they are often attended by real, interior helps. To
this category of exterior graces belong, for instance, the reading of
Holy Scripture or the perusal of some spiritual work, the hearing of
a sermon or a piece of religious music, a pious conversation, etc.
These do not of themselves strengthen the will, but they produce in
us favorable impressions which by quickening the mind and rousing the
will predispose them towards the supernatural good. Besides, God
often gives in addition inward promptings which by enlightening the
mind and giving strength to the will, move us on to amendment,
conversion or advancement in the way of perfection. This is what we
draw from the Book of the Acts where the Holy Ghost is spoken of as
opening the heart of a woman named Lydia "to attend to those things
which were said by Paul."2 As for the rest, God who knows that it is
through things sensible that we rise to things spiritual, adapts
Himself to our weakness and makes use of the visible things of this
world to bring us to the practice of virtue.
n1. Cf. S. THOMAS, Ia IIae, q. 109-113; TANQUEREY, "Syn Theol. Dog.,"
III, n. 122-123. Besides Latin works sdd WAFFELAERT, "Meditations
theo..," I, p. 606-650; DE BROGLIE, "Confer. sur la vie
surnaturelle," I, p. 249; LABAUCHE, "God and Man," IIIe P., C. I; VAN
DER MEERSCH, in the Dict de theol: "Grace".
n2. "Acts," XVI, 14.
#125. B) Its mode of action. a) Actual grace exerts its influence
upon us both in a moral and a physical manner. In a moral way, by
means of persuasion and attraction, just as a mother might in
teaching her Child to walk, call him to herself with a promise of
something good. It influences us physically1 by adding new forces to
our faculties, too weak to act of themselves, as a mother not only
coaxes her child to try to walk, but actually takes him by the arms
and helps him to take a few steps. All schools admit that operating
grace acts physically by producing in our souls indeliberate
impulses. As to co-operating grace various schools of theology hold
different opinions; these differences, however, have but little
importance in practice. We shall not discuss them here since we do
not wish to base the doctrine of the spiritual life upon questions
that are matter for controversy.
b) From another point of view, grace either goes before the free
assent of the will or accompanies it in the performance of an act.
Thus, for example, the thought of making an act of love of God
suggests itself to us without any effort on our part. This is a
preventing grace, a good thought that God gives us. If we acquiesce
in it and make an effort to -perform the act of love, we then
accomplish this through the help of a grace called concomitant.
Another distinction analogous to this is the one between operating
and co-operating grace: through the former God acts in us without us;
through the latter God acts in and together with us, that is with the
free co-operation of our will.
n1. This is at least the Thomist teaching thus summarized by Father
Hugon, "Tract. Dog.," II, p. 297: "Gratia actualis...est etiam
realitas supernaturalis nobis intrinseca, non quidem per modum
qualitatis, sed per modum motionis transeuntis."
#126. C) Its necessity.1 The general principle is that actual grace
is necessary for the performance Of every supernatural act, since
there must be a proportion between an effect and its cause.
a) Thus, when it is question of conversion, that is, of the passing
from mortal sin to the state of grace, supernatural grace is needed
to perform the preliminary acts of faith, hope, sorrow and love; nay,
such a grace is needed even for that devout desire of believing which
is the first step, the very starting point of faith. b) Our
steadfastness in good, our perseverance unto the hour of death, is
likewise the work of actual grace. In fact, in order to persevere one
must resist temptations which assail even the justified soul so
persistently and tenaciously at times, that without God's help one
could not withstand their onslaught. This is why the Savior warns His
Apostles immediately after the Last Supper to watch and pray, that is
to say, to rely upon grace rather upon their efforts and good will,
lest they fall victims to temptation.2 Beside the resisting of
temptations, perseverance also implies the accomplishment of one's
duty. The constant and strenuous efforts we must put forth in order
to fulfill it will not be made without the power of grace. He alone
who has begun in us the good work of perfection can bring it to a
happy close.3 Only He who has called us unto His eternal glory can
perfect and confirm and establish us.4
n1. Cf. "Syn. Theol. Dog.," III, n. 34-91. There we also examine how
far grace is needed for the performance of natural acts.
n2. "Matth.," XXVI, 41.
n3. "Philip.," I, 6.
n4. "I Peter," V, 10.
#127. This holds true especially of final perseverance, a singular
and priceless gift.1 We cannot merit it strictly speaking. To die in
the state of grace in spite of all the temptations that assail us at
the last hour, to escape these by a sudden or tranquil death--falling
asleep in the Lord --this is truly in the language of Councils the
grace of graces. We cannot ask for it insistently enough. Prayer and
faithful co-operation with grace can obtain it for us.2
C) We truly have to rely upon the divine favor. Think what this
means, if one wishes not merely to persevere in grace, but to grow in
holiness each day, to avoid deliberate venial faults and reduce as
much as in our power lies even our faults of frailty. To pretend that
we could for long escape all the faults that hinder our spiritual
progress is to contradict the experience of the choicest souls, souls
that sorrowed bitterly over their lapses; it would be to contradict
St. John who declares that whoever imagines himself free from sin
labors under a delusion;3 in fine, it is to contradict the Council of
Trent which condemns those who maintain that justified man can,
without a special privilege from God, avoid all venial sin during the
whole course of his life.4
n1. "Trid.," sess. VI, Can. 16, 22, 23.
n2. S. AUGUST., "De dono persev.," VI, 10, P.L. XLV, 999.
n3. "I Joan.," I, 8.
n4. Sess. VI, Cap. 23.
#128. Actual grace is, therefore, needed even after justification. We
obtain it of the divine mercy by prayer; hence, the stress laid in
Holy Writ upon the necessity of prayer. We can also obtain it through
our meritorious acts, in other words, by our co-operation with grace;
for the more faithful we are in availing ourselves of the actual
graces received, the more will the Almighty be moved to grant us new
and greater ones.
#129. (1) We must hold in greatest esteem the life of grace, for it
is a new life which unites and assimilates us to God. It is a life
much higher and richer than our own natural life. As the life of the
mind, our intellectual life, is superior to vegetative or sensitive
life, so the supernatural life infinitely surpasses mere rational
life. This latter in fact is due to man the moment God determines to
create him, whilst the former is above the activities and the merit
of even the most perfect creature. What created being could ever
claim the right of becoming the adopted child of God? Of being made
the dwelling place of the Holy Ghost? Of seeing, contemplating God
face to face as He sees and contemplates Himself? The Christian life
is, therefore, the hidden treasure which we must hold dearer than all
#130. (2) Once this treasure is ours, we must be ready to sacrifice
all things rather than run the risk of losing it. This is the
conclusion arrived at by Pope St. Leo: "Understand, O Christian, what
dignity is yours! Made a partaker of the divine nature, do not by an
unworthy life return to your former wretchedness."1 No one should be
possessed of a greater reverence for self than the Christian, not
indeed on account of any merits of his own, but because of that
divine life in Which he shares, because of the Holy Ghost whose
living temple he is. The holiness of this temple must not be violated
nor its beauty tarnished: "Holiness becomes Thy house, O Lord, unto
length of days."2
n1. "Sermones," XXI, 3, P.L., LIV. 195.
n2. "Ps. XCIII," 5.
#131. (3) Our plain duty is to make use of, to develop this
supernatural organism Which constitutes our greatest possession. If
on the one hand it has pleased the divine goodness to raise us to a
superior rank, to endow us with virtues and gifts that perfect our
natural powers; if at every moment God gives us His aid that we may
live and act through those powers, it would be the blackest
ingratitude to scorn and despise such gifts and to live a merely
natural life without looking for fruits worthy of eternal glory. The
more generous the giver, the more active and fruitful the
co-operation expected. We shall understand this better still after we
have studied the place of Christ in the life of the Christian.
[II] Role of Jesus in the Christian Life1
#132. The Three Divine Persons of the Most Blessed Trinity confer
upon us that participation in the life of God described above. It is
granted, however, because of the merits and satisfactions of Jesus
Christ. On this account He plays a signal part in our supernatural
life which is, therefore, called the Christian life.
According to the teaching of St. Paul, Jesus Christ is the head of
regenerated humanity, just as Adam was the head of the human race;
but, in a far more perfect manner. By His merits Christ regained for
us our rights to grace and glory, and by His example He shows us how
we are to live in order to sanctify ourselves and merit heaven. More
than this, He is the head of a mystical body of which we are the
members. Thus, He is the meritorious, exemplary, and vital cause of
I. Jesus, the Meritorious Cause of our Spiritual Life
#133. When we say that Jesus Christ is the meritorious cause of our
sanctification, we take the term in its broader sense as implying
both satisfaction and merit. " Because of the exceeding great charity
wherewith He loved us, by His holy passion on the cross, He merited
for us justification and made satisfaction for us."2 Logically,
satisfaction precedes merit. The offense done to God must first of
all be atoned for to obtain the pardon of sin, before grace can be
merited, In reality, however, all the free acts of our Savior were at
once satisfactory and meritorious; all had an infinite moral value,
as we said above, n. 78. From this truth a few conclusions follow.
A) No sin is unpardonable provided that contrite and humbled we
meekly ask for forgiveness. This is what we do in the tribunal of
penance where the power of the Blood of Christ is applied to us by
His minister. The same is effected in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
There Jesus offers Himself incessantly for us by the hands of His
priests as a sacrifice of propitiation, which repairing the injury
done to God by sin, inclines Him to forgive us and at the same time
obtains for us graces which excite in our souls sentiments of sincere
contrition. Christ thus obtains for us the full pardon of our sins
and remission of the temporal punishment due to them. We may add that
all the acts of our Christian life, when united to those of Jesus
Christ, have a satisfactory value both for ourselves and for those
for whom we offer them.
n1. St. THOM, III, qqq. 8, 25, 26, 40, 46-49, 57 and elsewhere;
BERULLE, "Oeuvres," ed. 1657, p. 522-530; 665-669; 689; OLIER,
"Pensees choisies;" PRAT, "Theology of St. Paul," I, 1, III, c. I; 1,
IV, c. 3; II, 1, III, IV; MARMION, "Christ, Life of the Soul;"
DUPERRAY, "Le Christ dans la vie chretienne"; PLUS, "In Christ
n2. Co. of Trent, sess, VI, c. 7.
#134. B) Christ likewise merited for us all the grace we need to
attain our supernatural end and to develop in us the supernatural
life: "Who hath blessed us with spiritual blessings in heavenly
places, in Christ."1 He merited for us the grace of conversion, the
grace of steadfastness in good, the helps to resist temptation, the
aids to profit by trial, the grace of comfort in the midst of
tribulations, the grace of renewal of spirit and of final
perseverance. He merited all things for us. We have the solemn word
that anything we ask the Father in His name, that is, through His own
merits, will be granted to us.2 Then in order to inspire us with
greater confidence, He instituted the sacraments, visible signs,
which confer His grace in all the important events of life and which
give us a right to actual graces in time of need.
n1. "Eph.," I, 3.
n2. "John," XVI, 23.
#135. C) He has gone further still. In His desire to associate us
with Himself in the work of our own sanctification, He has given us
the power of satisfying and meriting, thus making us the secondary
causes, the agents of our own sanctification. He has, as a matter of
fact, made this co-operation a law and an essential condition of our
spiritual life. If He has carried His cross, it is that we may follow
Him bearing ours: " If any man will come after me, let him deny
himself and take up his cross and follow me."1 It was thus understood
by the Apostles. If we would share in His glory, says St Paul, we
must share in His sufferings: "Yet so, if we suffer with him, that we
may be also glorified with him."2 St. Peter adds that if Christ
suffered for us it is that we may follow in His footsteps.3 Moreover,
self-sacrificing souls are urged, after the manner of the Apostle of
the Gentiles, to undergo suffering joyfully in union with Christ for
the sake of the Church, His mystical body: "Who now rejoice in my
sufferings for you and fill up those things that are wanting of the
sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the
church."4 In this wise these souls share in the redeeming power of
Christ's passion and become secondary agents of the salvation of
their brethren. How true, how sublime, how consoling is this
doctrine! Compare it with the incredible affirmation of certain
Protestants who assert, that since Christ suffered to the full for
us, there remains for us only to enjoy the fruits of His plentiful
redemption without drinking of His chalice. They thus pretend to pay
homage to the fullness of Christ's merits. Does not our Christ-given
power to merit show forth better the fullness of the redemption by
Christ? Does it not do more honor to Christ to manifest the power of
His satisfaction by enabling us to join in His work of atonement and
co-operate with Him even though in a secondary manner?
n1. "Matth.," XVI, 24.
n2. "Rom.," VIII, 17.
n3. "I Peter," II, 21."
n4. "Coloss.," I, 24.
II. Jesus, the Exemplary Cause of our Spiritual Life
#136. Jesus was not content to merit for us; He willed to be the
exemplary cause, the model of our supernatural life.
In order to develop a life that is no less than a participation in
the life of God, we must strive as far as it possible, to live a
divine life. Hence, the need we had of a divine model. As St.
Augustine remarks, men whom we see were too imperfect to serve us as
a pattern and God, who is holiness itself, was too far beyond our
gaze. Then, the eternal Son of God, His living image, became man and
showed us by His example how man could here on earth approach the
perfection of God. Son of God and son of man, He lived a Godlike life
and could say: " Who seeth me seeth the Father."1 Having revealed the
holiness of God in His actions, He can present to us as practical the
imitation of the divine perfections: " Be you therefore perfect as
also your heavenly Father is perfect."2 Therefore, the Eternal Father
proposes Him to us as our model. At His baptism and His
transfiguration He said: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well
pleased."3 Because He is well pleased in Him, the Eternal Father
wills that we imitate His only-begotten Son. Thus with perfect
assurance our Lord tells us: "I am the way... no man cometh to the
Father but by me... learn of me because I am meek and humble of
heart... I have given you an example that as I have done to you so
you do also."4 At bottom the Gospel is no more than a relation of the
deeds and traits of our Lord's sacred person proposed to us as a
model for our imitation: "Jesus began to do and to teach."5
Christianity in turn is nothing more than the imitation of Christ.
St. Paul gave this as the sum-total of all our duties: "Be ye
followers of me as I also am of Christ."6
n1. "John," XIV, 9.
n2. "Matth.," V, 48.
n3. "Matth.," III, 17; XVII, 5.
n4. "John," XIV, 6; "Matth.," XI, 29; "John," XIII, 15.
n5. "Acts," I 1
n6. "I Cor.," IV, 16; XI, I; "Eph.," V, I.
#137. a) The following are the qualities of the model given us. Jesus
is a perfect model. On the admitted testimony of even those who do
not believe in His divinity, He is the highest type of virtue ever
seen among men. He practiced all virtues to the degree of heroism.
His motives were the most perfect: religion towards God, love of His
fellow-men, utter self-effacement and horror of sin and its
approaches.1 And yet, this model is withal capable of imitation; it
is universal, magnetic, powerful.
n1. This is very well explained by Father Olier, "Catechism for an
Interior Life.", Part I, C. I.
#138. b) All men can imitate Him. Indeed, He willed to bear all our
weaknesses and miseries and even our temptations; He willed to be
like us in all things, sin excepted " For we have not a high-priest
who can not have compassion on our infirmities: but one tempted in
all things like we are without sin."1 During thirty years He lived an
ordinary life, hidden and obscure; He was subject to Mary and Joseph,
working as an apprentice, a wage-earner, a toiler, " the carpenter's
son."2 This has made Him the perfect model for the great mass of men
who have but lowly duties to perform and who must work out their
sanctification amid humble occupations. His public life was one of
zeal. This He exercised, now by training His Apostles, His chosen
ones, now by evangelizing the multitudes. He underwent hunger and
fatigue, enjoyed the friendship of a few, and had to bear the
ingratitude and even the enmity of others. He had His successes and
reverses, His joys and His sorrows. In a word, He passed through the
vicissitudes of the man who lives close to his friends and in daily
contact with the people. The sufferings of His passion have given us
the example of heroic patience in the midst of physical and moral
torture, endured not only without complaint but with a prayer for His
persecutors. And we must not reason that because He was God He
suffered less. He was also man, a man possessed of the most perfect,
and therefore the most delicate sensibility. So, He felt and felt
more keenly, more vividly than we ever could, the ingratitude of men,
the defection of His friends, the treason of Judas. He tasted
weariness and grief and terror to the full, so that He could not stay
the groaning of His heart, He could not halt the prayer that if
possible the bitter chalice might pass from Him. Lastly, on the cross
He let escape that woeful cry of utter dereliction, torn from the
recesses of His soul, and revealing abysmal depths of interior
sorrow: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!"3
n1. "Heb." IV, 15.
n2. "Matth.," XIII, 55.
n3. "Matth.," XXVII, 46; "Mk.," XV, 34.
#139. c) A universal model is also a magnetic one. Speaking of the
manner of His death, He foretold that once He be lifted up from the
earth He would draw all things to Himself: "And I, if I be lifted up
from the earth, will draw all things to myself."1 The prophecy has
come true. Gazing upon what Jesus has done and suffered for them,
generous souls are smitten with love for Him and for His Cross.2 In
spite of the abhorrence of nature they bravely carry their interior
or exterior crosses to become more like their Lord and Master, to
give Him a proof of their love by suffering with Him and for Him, to
share more richly in the fruits of His redemption, to join Him in
working for the sanctification of men. This is revealed in the lives
of the Saints who seek after crosses more eagerly than worldlings do
n1. "John," XII, 32.
n2. This is the meaning of the prayer of the Apostle St. Andrew who,
crucified for His Master, lovingly greeting the Cross, saying: "O
#140. d) This attraction is all the stronger since He adds thereto
all the power of His grace. All the actions of Christ before His
death were meritorious; they merited for us the grace of performing
actions similar to His own. When we observe His humility, His
poverty, His mortification and all His other virtues, we are drawn to
imitate Him, not merely by the persuasive force of His example, but
by the impelling power, the efficaciousness of the graces which He
merited for us by practicing such virtues.
#141. There are especially certain actions of our divine Savior that
transcend all others. To these we must unite ourselves since they are
the source of greater grace; they are His mysteries. At His
incarnation our Lord offered us all with Himself to the Eternal
Father to consecrate us to Him. This mystery then merited for us the
grace of self-renunciation and of union with God. The mystery of His
crucifixion gained for us the grace of crucifying our flesh and its
concupiscences. The mystery of His death obtained for us the grace of
dying to sin and to the causes of sin.1 The truth of this will be
better realized by considering how Jesus is the head of a mystical
body of which we are the members.
n1. OLIER, "Catechism for an Interior Life," P. I, c. XX-XXV.
III. Jesus the Head of a Mystical Body or the Source of our Spiritual Life1
142. The doctrine of the mystical body is contained in substance in
the words of our Lord:2 "I am the vine and you the branches." Here He
asserts that we draw our life from Him as the branches do from the
stalk. This comparison brings out the notion of our participation in
the life of Christ. It is easy to pass thence to the conception of
the mystical body in which Jesus, the Head, communicates His life to
the members. St. Paul is most insistent on this teaching so fruitful
in its consequences. A body must have a head, a soul and members.
These three elements we shall now describe, following the doctrine of
n1. "Sum. Theol.," III, q. 8; PRAT, op. cit., I, ed. 1920, p.
358-369; DUPERRAY, op cit., C. I-II; MARMION, "Christ the Life of the
Soul," p. 79-92; PLUS, op. cit.
n2. "John, XV, 5.
#143. (1) The head plays a threefold role in the human body: it is
first of all its most prominent and preeminent part, its center of
unity, holding together, controlling and directing all the members;
it is the source of a vital influx, for life and movement proceed
from it. This threefold function is exercised by Christ in the Church
and in the souls of men. a) He is without question the most prominent
and preeminent among men. As God-man He is the first-born of all
creatures, the object of the divine complacency, the exemplar of all
virtues, the meritorious cause, the source of our sanctification, who
on account of His merits was exalted above His brethren and before
whom every knee must bend in heaven and on earth.
b) He is the center of unity in the Church. Two things are essential
to any complete organism: variety of organs and the functions they
fulfill, and a single, common principle. Without these we should have
a mass or a motley gathering of living beings with no tie to bind
them together. After having given diversity of members to the Church
by the establishment of a hierarchy, Jesus Christ still remains its
center of unity; for it is He who as the invisible but real Head of
the Church gives impetus and direction to its rulers.
c) He is likewise the vital influx, the principle of life that
quickens all the members. Even as man He received grace in all its
fullness to communicate it to us: "We saw him full of grace and
truth... from whose fullness we have all received and grace for
grace."1 He is in fact the meritorious cause of all the graces
bestowed upon us by the Holy Ghost. The Council of Trent does not
hesitate to affirm the reality of this influx,, this vital action of
Jesus upon the just: "For the same Christ... does infuse virtue into
those that are justified... as the head unto the members."2
n1. "John," I, 14, 16.
n2. Sess. VI, c. 8.
#144. (2) A living body must have not only a head but also a soul.
The Holy Ghost is the soul of that mystical body whose head is
Christ. This Holy Spirit infuses charity into the souls of men and
also the graces Christ merited for us: "The charity of God is poured
forth into our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given to us."1 This is
why He is called the Vivifier; "I believe in the Holy Ghost... the
Vivifier". This is what St. Augustine had in mind when he said that
the Holy Ghost is to the body of the Church what the soul is to the
human body: " What our soul is to the body, the Holy Ghost is to the
body of Christ, which is the Church."2 These words have been adopted
by Leo XIII in his encyclical on the Holy Ghost. This same Spirit
dispenses the sundry spiritual gifts, the diversity of graces--
charisms--"To one the word of wisdom, to another the word of
knowledge, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy,
to another divers kinds of tongues... but all these things one and
the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he
n1. "Rom.," V, 5.
n2. Sermo 187, De Tempore.
n3. " Cor.," XII, 6-11.
#145. Nor can this twofold action of the Holy Ghost and of Christ
work at variance. On the contrary, one completes the other. The Holy
Ghost comes to us through Christ. When Jesus was on earth His holy
soul possessed the Spirit in all its fullness, and by His actions and
above all by His sufferings and death He merited for us the
communication of this same Spirit. It is, therefore, because of Him
that the Holy Ghost comes now to impart to us Christ's life and
virtues and to make us like unto Him. Thus we see how on the one hand
Jesus being man could alone be the head of a mystical body composed
of men, since the head and the members must be one in nature; and we
see on the other hand how as man He could not of Himself bestow the
grace required for the life of His members. This the Holy Ghost does,
but He does it in virtue of Christ's merits. Hence, we can say that
this vital influx takes its origin in Christ in order to reach His
#146. (3) Who are the members of this mystical body? All those who
have been baptized. It is baptism that incorporates us into Christ.
St. Paul says: "For in one Spirit were we all baptized unto one
body."1 For this reason he adds that we have been baptized in Christ,
that in baptism we put on Christ,2 that is to say, we participate in
the interior dispositions of Christ. This the "Decree to the
Armenians" explains, saying that by baptism we become members of
Christ and of the body of the Church.3 From this it follows that all
the baptized are Christ's members, but in various degrees. The just
are united to Him by habitual grace and the privileges that come with
it; sinners, by faith and hope; the blessed, by the beatific vision.
As regards infidels, they are not actually members of Christ's
mystical body, although as long as they live upon earth they are
called to become such. Only the damned are irrevocably excluded from
this wonderful privilege.
n1. "I Cor.," XII, 13.
n2. "Rom.," VI, 3; "Gal.," III, 25; "Rom.," XIII, 17.
n3. DENZINGER-BANN., n. 696.
#147. (4) The Consequences of this Doctrine. A) This incorporation
forms the basis of the doctrine of the communion of Saints. The just
upon earth, the souls in purgatory and the blessed in heaven are all
integral parts of Christ's mystical body. As such they all share in
His life, come under His influence, and are obliged to love and help
one another. St. Paul tells us: "If one member suffer anything, all
the members suffer with it; or if one member glory, all the members
rejoice with it."1
n1. "I Cor.," XII, 26.
#148. B) This is what makes all Christians brothers. From now on
there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither freeman nor slave; we are all
one in Christ Jesus.1 We are all in closest fellowship so that what
is profitable unto one is profitable unto all others. No matter how
great the variety of gifts, or how great the diversity of offices,
the whole body derives gain from whatever good there is in each
member, and each member in turn shares in the common good of the
body. This doctrine reveals to us the reasons why our Lord could say
that whatever we do to the least of His little ones we do unto Him;2
for the head is one with the members.
n1. "Rom.," X, 12; "I Cor." XII, 13.
n2. "Matth.," XXV, 34-40.
#149. C) From St. Paul's teaching it follows that Christians are
Christ's complement. God has in fact "made him head over all the
Church, which is his body and the fullness of him who is filled all
in all."1 The fact is that Jesus, Himself perfect, needs an increment
in order to form His mystical body. From this point of view He is not
sufficient unto Himself; in order to exercise all His vital functions
He requires members. Father Olier concludes: " Let us yield our souls
to the Spirit of Jesus Christ so that Jesus may have an increase in
us. Whenever He finds apt followers, He expands, grows and diffuses
Himself within their hearts, filling them with the same spiritual
fragrance wherein He abounds."2 This is how we are able and are
called to fulfill those things that are wanting of the sufferings of
Christ, our Savior, for His body, which is the Church,3 suffering
even as He did, that His passion, so full in itself, be likewise
fulfilled in His members through time and space. There is no doctrine
more rich, more fruitful, than this doctrine of Christ's mystical
n1. "Eph., I, 23.
n2. "Pensees," p. 15-16.
n3. "Coloss." I, 24.
CONCLUSION: DEVOTION TO THE INCARNATE WORD1
#150. From all that has been said concerning the role Jesus Christ
plays in our spiritual life, it follows that in order to foster this
life an intimate, affectionate and habitual union with Him is
demanded of us, that is, devotion to the Incarnate Word. " He who
abideth in me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit."1 The Church
brings this home to us when at the end of the Canon of the Mass she
reminds us that through Him we receive all spiritual blessings, that
through Him we are sanctified, quickened, blessed; that through Him,
with Him and in Him is given to the Father Almighty in union With the
Holy Ghost all honor and glory. A whole system of spiritual doctrine
is here contained: having received from God all things through
Christ, through the same Christ we must give God glory, through the
same Christ we must ask further graces, with Christ and in Christ we
must perform all our acts.
n1.BERULLE (called the Apostle of the Incarnate Word), "Discours dc
l'Estat et des Grandeurs de Jesus."
n2. " John," XV, 5.
#151. (1) Jesus is the only perfect adorer of His Father. In the
words of Father Olier, He is the perfect worshipper of God, the only
one that can offer Him infinite homage. It is clear, therefore, that
in order to pay our debts to the Most Blessed Trinity, we can do
nothing better than unite our every act of religion with the perfect
worship of Jesus Christ. Nor is this difficult. Jesus being the head
of a mystical body whose members we are, adores His Father not merely
in His own name, but in the name of all those that are incorporated
into Him. He puts into our hands, He places at our disposal the
homages He pays to God Almighty; He allows us to make them our own
and to offer them to the Blessed Trinity.
#152.(2) With Him and in Him can we best make our petitions for new
graces efficacious. He is the High-priest, "always living to make
intercession for us."1 Even when we have had the misfortune of
offending God, He pleads for us and takes our part all the more
eloquently as with His prayers He offers also the Blood He shed for
our redemption. " If any man sin, we have an advocate with the
Father, Jesus Christ the just."2 More, He endows our prayers with
such worth that if we pray in His name, that is, trusting to His
infinite merits and uniting our poor prayers with His perfect
prayers, we are certain of having our petitions granted. " Amen,
amen, I say to you; if you ask the Father anything in my name, he
will give it you."3 The fact is that the value of His merits is
imparted to His members, and God can not refuse anything to His Son.
"He was heard for his reverence."4
n1. "Heb.," VII, 25.
n2. "I John," II, 1.
n3. "John," XVI, 23.
n4. "Heb.," V, 7.
#153. (3) Lastly, it is in union with Jesus Christ that we must
perform all our acts, by keeping, as Father Olier so aptly puts it,
"Jesus before our eyes, in our heart and in our hands."1 Now, we keep
Jesus before our eyes when we think of Him as the ideal, the model,
we are to imitate; when like St. Vincent de Paul we ask ourselves:
"What would Jesus Christ do were He in my place?" We keep Jesus in
our heart by drawing into our soul the dispositions of His own heart,
His purity of intention, His fervor, in order to perform our actions
in the spirit in which He performed His. We have Jesus in our hands
when we carry into action with generosity, determination and
constancy the inspirations which He suggests to us. Then, our life
is, indeed, transformed and we live Christ's own life. "I live, now
not I, but Christ liveth in me."2
n1. "Introd. a la vie et aux vertus chret.," c. IV, p. 47.
n2. "Gal.," II, 20.
[III] The Part of the Blessed Virgin, the Saints and the Angels in
the Christian Life
#154. Assuredly there is but one God and one principal mediator,
Jesus Christ: " For there is one God: and one mediator of God and
man, the man Christ Jesus."1 However, it has pleased the Divine
Wisdom as well as the Divine Goodness to grant us protectors,
intercessors and models that are, or at least appear to be, closer
still to us. Such are the Saints, members of Christ's mystical body,
who having reproduced in their own lives the divine perfections and
the virtues of Christ, are concerned in the welfare of their
fellow-members, their brethren. By honoring them we honor none other
than God Himself, since they reflect the divine perfections. In
asking them to intercede for us before the Almighty, it is none other
than God whom we really invoke. Lastly, since their own sanctity
depends solely upon their imitation of the divine Model, upon the
measure in which they themselves have reproduced His virtues, when we
imitate them we do nothing else but imitate Jesus Christ Himself. Far
from detracting, then, from the worship due to God and to the
Incarnate Word, devotion to the Saints confirms it and carries it out
in all its fullness. And since the Blessed Mother of Jesus occupies a
unique place among the Saints, we shall first explain the place she
holds in the Christian Life.
n1. "I Tim.," II, 5.
I. The Part Mary Holds in the Christian Life1
#155. (1) Its foundation. This rests upon the fact of Mary's intimate
union with Jesus, in other words, upon the dogma of her divine
Motherhood. Corollaries deduced from this doctrine are her dignity
and her office as the mother of men.
A) At the moment of the Incarnation Mary became the mother of Jesus,
mother of the God-man, mother of God. If we consider the dialogue
between Mary and the Angel, we discover that the Blessed virgin is
the mother of Jesus not simply inasmuch as He is a private
individual, but inasmuch as He is the Savior and Redeemer of the
The Angel does not speak merely of the personal grandeur of Jesus. He
tenders Mary a call to become the Mother of the Savior, of the
expected Messiah, the Eternal King of regenerated mankind. The whole
work of redemption hinges on Mary's "fiat". She is aware of what God
proffers her; she accedes without restriction or condition to what
God asks of her. Her "fiat" embraces the whole import of that divine
invitation, it extends to the entire work of redemption.2 The
Fathers, following St. Irenaeus, remark that Mary is, therefore, the
Mother of the Redeemer and that, being associated as such with His
work of Redemption, she has in our spiritual restoration a part
similar to that of Eve in our spiritual ruin.
Mary, the Mother of Jesus, has the most intimate relations with the
Three Divine Persons. She is the well-beloved Daughter of the Father
and His collaborator in the work of the Incarnation. She is the
Mother of the Son with a real title to respect from Him, to His love
and, upon earth, even to His obedience. By giving Him His body and
blood, the instruments of our redemption, and by sharing in His
mysteries, she was the secondary but true agent, the co-worker with
her Son in effecting the sanctification and salvation of men. She is
the living temple, the privileged sanctuary of the Holy Ghost, and.
in an analogical sense, His Spouse; for with Him and under Him she
has an active part in bringing forth souls to God.
n1. St. THOMAS, "In Salut. Angel. Expositio;" SUAREZ, "De Mysteriis
Christi," disp. I-XXIII; BOSSUET, "Sermons sur la Ste Vierge;
TERRIEN, "La Mere de Dieu et la Mere des hommes," III; GARRIGUET, "La
Vierge Marie; Dict. d'Apol. (d'Ales)," "Marie"; HUGON, "Marie, pleine
de grace;" BAINVEL, "Marie, mere de grace; Syn. Theol. dog.," II, n.
n2. BAINVEL, op. cit., p. 73, 75. The thesis can well be based on the
words of the Angel: "Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt
bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus (i.e. Savior);
He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High. And
the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his Father; and
he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever." "Luke," I, 31, 32.
#156. B) At the Incarnation Mary became likewise the Mother of men.
As we have already stated, n. 142, Jesus is the head of regenerated
mankind, the head of a mystical body whose members we are. As such
did Mary conceive Him. She likewise conceived His members, all those
who form part of Him, those who have been born again and those who
are called to incorporation with Him. When she became the Mother of
Jesus according to the flesh she became the mother of men according
to the spirit. The scene on Calvary only confirms this truth. At the
very moment that our redemption is to be completed by the death of
the Savior, Jesus says to Mary: "Behold thy son!" Then to St. John
himself He says: "Behold thy mother!" This, according to a tradition
that goes back as far as Origen, was a declaration that all
Christians are the spiritual children of Mary. This double title of
Mother of God and Mother of men is the foundation of the office which
Mary fills in our spiritual life.
#157. (2) Mary, a meritorious cause of grace. We have seen, n. 133,
that Jesus is in the strictest sense the chief meritorious cause of
all the graces we receive. Mary, however, associated with Him in the
work of our sanctification, merited these graces, not in the same
manner as Christ, but secondarily and "de congruo,"1 that is, under
Christ and because of Him, in other words, because He conferred upon
her the power of meriting for us.
She merited these graces first of all at the moment of the
Incarnation when she uttered her "fiat"; for the Incarnation is
already the beginning of Redemption. To co-operate then in the
Incarnation is to co-operate in the Redemption and in all the graces
resulting therefrom, and hence in our sanctification and salvation.
n1. This expression has been ratified by Pope Pius X in his
encyclical, "Ad diem illum," Feb. 2, 1904, wherein he declares that
Mary has merited for us "de congruo" all the graces that Jesus had
merited for us "de condigno."
#158. Besides, Mary whose will was ever in accord with God's will and
with the will of her divine Son, associated herself during her whole
life in the work of redemption. She brought up Jesus, she nourished
and made ready the victim of Calvary. Associated with Him in His joys
as well as in His trials, in His lowly labors at the house of
Nazareth as well as in His virtues, she also united herself to her
Son with tender and generous compassion in His sufferings and death.
At the foot of the Cross she again uttered her "fiat", acquiescing in
the death of Him whom her soul loved even more than herself while the
cruel iron pierced her heart, fulfilling the prophecy of Simeon
"Thine own soul a sword shall pierce."1 For many of the Jews present
on Calvary the death of Jesus was the execution of a criminal; for a
few it was the murder of an innocent man; but for His Mother it was a
sacrifice for the salvation of the world. She saw in the Cross an
altar, in Her Son a priest, and in His blood the price of our
redemption. She suffered in her soul what Jesus suffered in His body,
and in union with Him she offered herself as a victim for our sins.
What merits did not her perfect immolation gain!
Even after the ascension of Her Son into heaven she continued to
acquire merits. The privation of the joy of His presence was a slow
martyrdom. Though she ardently longed for the moment when she would
be forever united to Him, yet, because it was God's will and for the
sake of the infant Church, she lovingly accepted this ordeal and thus
secured for us merits without number. Furthermore, her acts possessed
the greater merit because born of a perfect purity of intention, " My
soul doth magnify the Lord,"2 because they were elicited with such
fervor that they fully realized God's will: "Behold the handmaid of
the Lord: be it done unto me according to thy word;"3 and lastly,
because they were performed in a most intimate union with Jesus
Christ, the very source of all merit.
No doubt, all these merits were first and foremost for herself,
increasing her own treasure of grace and her titles to glory; but
because of the part she took in the work of our redemption, she was
also found worthy of meriting in our behalf; as St. Bernard says, she
who was full of grace poured forth her overflow of grace upon us.4
n1. "Luke," II, 35.
n2. "Luke," I, 46.
n3. "Luke," I, 48.
n4. "In Assumpt.," sermo II, 2.
#159. (3) Mary, an exemplary cause. Next to Jesus Mary is the most beautiful model offered for our imitation. The Holy Ghost who in virtue of her Son's merits lived in her, made her a living image of Christ. Never was she guilty of the least fault, never did she offer the least resistance to grace; on the contrary, she carried out her words to the letter: "Be it done to me according to thy word." The Fathers, therefore, particularly St. Ambrose and Pope St. Liberius, represent her as the finished model of all virtues; "charitable and full of consideration for all who surrounded her, ever ready to serve them, never uttering a word or doing the least that could give pain, she was all-loving and beloved of all."1
It will suffice to note the virtues mentioned in the Gospel: 1) Her deep faith. She unhesitatingly believed the marvels the Angel announced to her from God. For this faith she was praised by St. Elizabeth under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost: " Blessed art thou because thou hast believed."2 2) Her virginity is revealed in her answer to the Angel: "How shall this be done for I know not man?"3 3) Her humility is evidenced by the confusion she experienced at hearing her praises on the lips of the Angel. and by her expressed determination of ever remaining the handmaid of the Lord at that very moment when she was proclaimed Mother of God. It further betrays itself in that ecstatic prayer, the Magnificat, as well as in her love of a hidden life, while as Mother of God she had a right to be honored above all creatures. 4) Her interior recollection whereby she pondered in silence all that concerned her divine Son: "But Mary kept all these words in her heart."4 5) Her love for God and men which caused her to accept willingly all the trials of a long life, especially the immolation of her Son on Calvary and the painful separation from Him from the time of His ascension to the moment of her death.
n1. BAINVEL, "Le Saint Coeur de Marie," p. 313.
n2. "Luke," I, 45.
n3. "Luke," I, 34.
n4. "Luke," II, 19.
#160. This perfect model is also wonderfully attractive. First, Mary
is a mere creature as we are, a sister, a mother whom we are drawn to
imitate that we may show her our gratitude, our veneration and our
love. Then, she is a model easy of imitation in this way that she
sanctified herself in the ordinary, everyday life common to most of
us, by fulfilling those lowly household duties of a young woman and a
mother, leading a hidden, retired life both in joy and in sorrow, in
the heights of exaltation and in the deepest humiliations. We are on
firm ground when we imitate the Blessed Virgin. It is the best way of
imitating Jesus and of obtaining Mary's all-powerful intercession.
#161. (4) Mary, universal Mediatrix of grace. Long ago St. Bernard
formulated this doctrine in the well-known text: "It is God's will
that we should receive all graces through Mary."1 It is important to
determine the precise meaning of these words. It is certain that when
Mary gave us Jesus, the Author and Meritorious Cause of grace, she
thereby gave us all graces. But we can go further. According to a
teaching which, as time goes on, is becoming unanimous,2 men do not
receive a single grace which does not come to them immediately
through Mary, that is, through her intercession. It is question,
therefore, of an immediate and universal mediation, subordinated,
however, to that of Jesus.
n1. "Sermo de aquaeductu," n. 7.
n2. The proofs for this assertion will be found in Terrien, op. cit., III.
#162. In order to explain more exactly this doctrine we shall quote
Father de la Broise:"1 "The actual disposition of the divine decrees
ordains that any supernatural favor accorded to men be granted them
by the common concord of three wills and in no other way. First of
all, by the will of God, the Giver of all graces; then, by the will
of Christ, the Mediator who by right of justice has merited and
obtained grace; and lastly, by the will of Mary, a secondary mediator
who through Jesus Christ has in all equity (de congruo) merited and
acquired graces." This mediation is immediate in the sense that for
each grace granted to men Mary interposes the good offices of her
past merits and of her actual intercession. This by no means implies
that the recipient of a grace must of necessity demand it of Mary.
She can intervene unasked in our behalf. Her mediation is also
universal, that is, it covers all the graces given to men since the
fall of Adam. However, it remains always subordinated to the
mediation of Jesus; for if Mary can merit and obtain graces, it is
solely through the mediation of her divine Son. Thus, Mary's
mediation simply emphasizes the import and richness of Christ's own
This doctrine has been confirmed by an Office and Mass in honor of
"Mary Mediatrix," which Pope Benedict XV granted to the dioceses of
Belgium and to all the dioceses of the Christian world that should
request it.2 The teaching is therefore safe and we can make practical
use of it. It can not but inspire us with an immense confidence in
n1. "Marie, mere de grace," p. 23-24.
n2. Cardinal Mercier by letter of January 23, 1921 makes the fact
known to his flock in the following terms: "For years past the
Belgian episcopate, the Faculty of Theology of the University of
Louvain, all the Religious Orders of the nation, have been addressing
their requests to the Sovereign Pontiff to have the title of the
Blessed Virgin, "Mediatrix of All Graces", authentically recognized.
His Holiness, Benedict XV, has just granted to the churches of
Belgium and to all those of the Christian world that will so request,
a proper Office and Mass for the thirty-first day of May in honor of
n3. On this subject see: BITTREMIEUX, "De Mediatione Mariae;
O'CONNOR, "Our Lady Mediatrix of Graces;" HUSSLEIN, "All Graces
through Mary;" and many articles in Catholic Reviews of recent years.
CONCLUSION: DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN
#163. Since Mary plays such an important part in our spiritual life, we must entertain a great devotion to her. Devotion means devotedness, and devotedness means the gift of self. We shall be devoted to Mary, then, if we give ourselves entirely to her and through her to God. In so doing we simply imitate God who gives Himself and His Son to us through Mary. We shall give her our intellect by holding her in most profound reverence, our will by an absolute confidence in her, our heart by the gift of a tender and childlike love; in fine, our whole being by copying as far as possible all her virtues.
#164. A) Profound veneration. Veneration for Mary has its foundation in her dignity as Mother of God and in the consequences of this dignity. We can never adequately honor and esteem the one whom the Word-made-Flesh reveres as His Mother, the well-beloved daughter whom the Eternal Father contemplates with loving eye, and whom the Holy Ghost regards as His chosen sanctuary. The Father wishing to associate her so intimately in the work of the Incarnation shows her the utmost respect; He sends her an Angel who hails her full of grace and who awaits her "Fiat". The Son reveres, loves and obeys her as His Mother. The Holy Ghost comes and takes His delight in her. When, therefore, we venerate the Blessed virgin we join with the Three Divine Persons in esteeming what They Themselves esteem.
No doubt, we must not exaggerate or indulge in any excess as regards
this devotion to Mary. We must especially avoid anything that might
suggest equality of Mary with Almighty God such as making her the
source of grace. As long, however, as we see in her but a creature
possessed of no grandeur, no holiness, no power save such as her
Creator bestowed upon her, there can be no danger of sinning by
excess. It is then God Himself whom we honor and venerate in her.
Our veneration for Mary must, moreover, surpass that which we give to
the Angels and the Saints, for her dignity as Mother of God, her
office of Mediatrix and her exalted holiness place her above all
other creatures. Thus the devotion we accord her, although ever
remaining what is technically called "cultus duliae" (veneration),
that is, the cult that we pay to created beings as distinct from the
worship (adoration) which we pay to God alone (cultus latriae), is
nevertheless called by theologians " cultus hyperduliae" to show that
it transcends the homage we pay to the Angels and the Saints.
#165. B) Absolute confidence. This confidence is founded on two
facts: the power and the goodness of Mary a) Her power consists in an
efficacious intercession with God, who will not turn a deaf ear to
her whom He honors and loves above all creatures. And there is
nothing more fitting than this. Mary gave to Jesus His very flesh,
that human nature which made it possible for Him to acquire merit;
she co-operated with Him by her acts and sufferings in the work of
redemption. Is it not, therefore, most fitting that she should have a
share in the distribution of the fruits of redemption? Jesus will,
indeed, never refuse her requests, and we can say in all truth that
Mary is all-powerful in her supplication, "omnipotentia supplex." b)
Her goodness is that of a mother who has for us, the members of
Christ, the same affection she bears her own Son; that of a mother
who having brought us forth in pain and labor during the anguish of
Calvary will measure her love for us only by the price of her
sacrifice. Hence our trust, our confidence in her must be firm and
1) It must be firm in spite of our miseries and our sins, for Mary is
the Mother of mercy, whose business is not justice, but compassion,
kindliness, condescension. Knowing as she does that we are ever
exposed to the attacks of the world, the flesh and the devil, she
takes pity on us who remain her children even when we have sinned.
Thus, no sooner do we give the least intimation of good-will, of
desire of returning to God, than she accords us a tender welcome;
nay, often her thoughtfulness anticipates our prayer and obtains for
us those very graces which produce in our souls the first desire of
conversion. The Church, well aware of this, has instituted a feast
for some dioceses under the title of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Refuge of Sinners, a title at first strange to our ears, but fully
justified in fact, for it is precisely because she is without
blemish, because she has never been tainted With the least sin, that
she overflows With compassion for her unfortunate children who,
unlike her, have not been exempted from the bane of concupiscence.
2) Our confidence in Mary must-also be universal; it must extend to
all the graces we need for conversion, for spiritual growth, for
final perseverance, for preseveration amidst dangers, trials and
difficulties. St. Bernard is never weary of recommending this trust
in the Mother of God:1 "When the storm of temptation arises, when you
are midst the reefs and shoals of tribulation, fix thy gaze upon the
Star of the Sea, call upon Mary. If tossed by the rising tide of
pride and ambition, if lost upon the troubled waters of scandal and
contention, look then at the Star, invoke her name. Do the billows of
anger, of avarice, of lust batter against thy soul, cast thine eyes
upon Mary. Does the greatness of thy crime fill thy soul with terror,
does thy wretched conscience beat thee down in shame and the fear of
judgment paralyze thy heart, then, when about to sink to the depths
of despondency, to plunge headlong into despair, then think of Mary.
In perils and in sorrows and in fears think of her, call upon her
name. Let her name be ever on thy lips and the thought of her be ever
in thy heart. Follow her that the power of her intercession may
attend thee; imitate her, for in her footsteps thou canst not go
astray; call upon her and thou canst not despair; think of her and
thou canst not fail. If she holds thee by the hand how canst thou
fall! Under her protection thou shalst know no fear; under her
guidance thou shalt not falter; under her patronage thou shalt surely
reach the goal." Because we ever stand in need of grace to make
progress and to conquer our enemies we must time and again have
recourse to her who is so fittingly called Our Lady of Perpetual Help
and Mother of Divine Grace.
n1. "Homil. II, de Laudibus Virg. Matris," 17.
#166. C) Our confidence in Mary must be accompanied by filial love, a
love like the child's, true, frank and tender. Destined by the
Almighty to be the Mother of His Son, and therefore favored with
whatever is lovable and endearing, she is the most loving of mothers,
thoughtful, kind and devoted. Was not her heart created expressly for
the one purpose of loving the God-man, her Son, and for loving Him in
the most perfect way? Now, this very love she had for her Son she
bears also towards us who are His living members, parts of His
mystical body. She reveals this love in the mystery of the visitation
where she hastens to bring to her cousin, Elizabeth, Him whom she
holds in her womb and whose very presence sanctifies the home of
Zachary. Again, she shows her tender love for men at the
marriage-feast of Cana, where her delicate thoughtfulness pleads with
her Son to spare her hosts the shame of humiliation. On Calvary she
consents to sacrifice her dearest Possession for our salvation. In
the Upper Room where the disciples prepare for the coming of the Holy
Spirit, she intercedes in behalf of the Apostles to draw down upon
them in a larger measure the precious gifts of the Holy Ghost.
#167. The most lovable as well as the most loving of mothers, she
should be also the best loved mother. This is one of her most
glorious prerogatives. Wherever Jesus is known and loved, there Mary
is also known and loved Although aware of the vast difference between
them, we love them both, but in different degrees. Jesus we love with
the love that is due the Godhead; Mary we love under God as His
Mother, with a tender, generous and devoted love.
We love her with a love of complacency, delighting in her greatness,
her virtues and her privileges; meditating frequently on them,
admiring them, rejoicing in them, and congratulating her on her
exalted perfections. We love her with a love of benevolence; we
sincerely long that she be better known and better loved- we pray
that her influence over souls be widespread, and to our prayer we
join the force of word and action. We love her with a .filial love,
with tenderness and without reserve, with all the abandon, with all
the unreasoned, whole-hearted devotedness, With that sweet
familiarity and respectful intimacy of a child with its mother. We
strive to conform our wills in all things to the Will of Mary and
thereby to the will of God. In .fact, this union of wills is the
genuine mark of friendship.
#168. D) Imitation of Mary is the most pleasing homage we can render
her. In this way we proclaim by our deeds by our life, and not merely
by our words that we actually regard her as a perfect model for
imitation. We have noted above (n. 159) how Mary, a living picture of
her Son, is for us an example of all virtues. If to resemble her is
to resemble. Jesus, could we do better than to study her virtues, to
ponder them and strive to imitate them in our own lives? There is no
better way to accomplish this than to perform each of our actions
through Mary, with Mary and in Mary.1 Through Mary, asking through
her intercession the graces we need in order to imitate her, going
through her to Jesus. With Mary, that is to say, considering her as a
model and helper, asking ourselves often what Mary would do were she
in our place, and humbly begging her to help us to perform our
actions according to her will. In Mary, in entire dependence upon our
good Mother, taking her point of view, entering into her plans, doing
all things as she did them, for God's honor and glory: "My soul doth
magnify the Lord."
n1. This was the practice of Father Olier, popularized by Blessed
Grignion de Montfort in "True devotion to the Blessed Virgin."
#169. These are the dispositions we must entertain in offering up our
prayers in honor of Mary: in reciting the "Hail Mary" and the
"Angelus" which bring back to mind the scene of the Annunciation and
recall her august title of Mother of God; in saying the "Sub tuum
praesidium," an act of confidence in her who shields us from harm,
and the "O Domina mea," a full surrender into Mary's hands by which
we give her our entire being; in the recitation of the "Rosary,"
whereby we unite ourselves to her in her joyful, sorrowful and
glorious mysteries which render so easy the sanctification of our
joys and sorrows in union with her and with Jesus; and lastly, in the
recitation of the "Little Office of the Blessed Virgin," which will
often remind those who are privileged to say it of the grandeur, the
holiness and the sanctifying mission of this good Mother.
THE ACT OF ENTIRE CONSECRATION TO MARY1
#170. Nature and extent of this act. This is an act of devotion which
in itself embodies all the others As explained by Blessed Grignion de
Montfort it consists m the entire gift of self to Jesus through Mary.
It comprises two elements: first, an act of consecration which is to
be renewed from time to time, and then an habitual attitude by which
we live and act in entire dependence on Mary. "The act of
consecration," says Blessed Grignion de Montfort, "consists in giving
oneself wholly to Mary and through her to Jesus as her slave. "Let no
one be shocked at the word, "slave," which today seems so repugnant
to us, but which has no such evil meaning as explained by this
servant of God. A mere servant, says he, receives his wages, is ever
free to quit his master's service. He gives his labor only, not his
person, not his rights, not his goods. A slave, however, freely
agrees to work without wages and, trusting to the master that gives
him food and shelter, hands himself over to him forever, with all
that he is and has, in order to live in entire dependence on the
master in the spirit of love.
n1. GRIGNION DE MONTFORT, op. cit.; A. LHOUMEAU, "La Vie spirituelle
a l'ecole du B. Grig. de Montfort," 1920, p. 240-427.
#171. Carrying the application of the simile to things spiritual, the
perfect servant of Mary gives himself over to her, and through her to
a) His body with all its senses, keeping only the use thereof and
pledging himself not to employ them except in accordance with the
good pleasure of the Blessed virgin or her Son. Moreover, he accepts
beforehand the dispositions of Divine Providence as regards sickness
and health, life and death.
b) All worldly possessions, using them solely in dependence on Mary,
for her honor and the glory of God.
c) His soul with all its faculties, dedicating them under Mary's
guidance to the service of God and the good of souls and renouncing
at the same time whatever might compromise his sanctification or
imperil his salvation.
d) All his interior and spiritual treasures, his merits, the value of
his satisfactory acts as well as the impetratory power his good
actions may possess. All these are placed in the hands of Mary to the
extent in which they can be given over to another. Let us explain
this last point:
1) Our merits properly so called (i. e., de condigno) b which we
procure for ourselves an increase of grace and glory cannot be given
away. When, then, we make a gift of them to Mary it is not in order
to apply them to others, but that she might hold them in trust for us
and give them increase It is quite otherwise With the merits called
"de congruo," which can be offered for others, and these we leave
entirely to Mary's free disposition.
2) In the same manner we allow her1 to dispose of and to apply freely
the satisfactory value of our acts and the Indulgences we may gain,
since these can be given to others.
3) In virtue of our consecration to Mary we cede to her even the
impetratory value of our acts, that is to say, of our prayers and our
good actions, in so far as they are endowed with such efficacy.
n1. St. THOMAS, "Supplement," q. 13, a. 2.
#172. Once we have made this act of consecration, we can no longer
without her permission dispose of the goods we have made over to her.
However, we may and at times we should beg her to favor according to
her good pleasure those to whom we are bound by special ties and to
whom we are under special obligation. The best way, therefore, of
harmonizing our gift of self to Mary and our duties to others is to
offer up to her all those who are near and dear to us: "I am all
Thine, all mine are Thine." Thus the Blessed virgin will draw on what
we have given her, but more still on the treasury of her own merits
and those of her Son in order to help those we have committed to her
care. Our friends, therefore, will lose nothing.
173. Excellence of this act of consecration. It is an act of holy
abandonment, of self-surrender, excellent in itself and containing,
moreover, acts of the highest virtues: religion, humility and
1) It is an act of religion toward God, the Word-made Flesh, and
Mary, the Mother of God. By it we acknowledge God's sovereign
dominion and our own nothingness, and proclaim with heart and soul
those rights over us which God has given Mary.
2) It is an act of humility, for by it we acknowledge our nothingness
and our helplessness. We divest ourselves of everything that we have
received from God and restore all to the Giver through the hands of
her from whom, under Him and through Him, we have obtained every good
3) It is an act of confiding love, for love consists in the gift of
self; and to give oneself entirely and unreservedly presupposes
absolute trust and living faith.
It may be said that this consecration if rightly made, and frequently
and earnestly renewed, is even of greater worth than the heroic act
by which we give up but the satisfactory value of our acts and the
indulgences we may gain.
#174. Fruits of this act of consecration. They come from its very
nature. 1) By this act we glorify God and Mary in an unparalleled
manner: we give ourselves to God forever, with all that we are and
all that we have, without measure or stint, and we do so after the
manner of Divine Wisdom, that is, returning to God in the very way He
chose to come to us, and hence, in the way that is most pleasing to
#175. 2) We thereby also insure our individual sanctification. Mary
cannot but minister unto the sanctification of those who, having
disposed of their persons and goods in her behalf, are, so to say,
her own property. She will most assuredly secure for us choice graces
to safeguard our little spiritual treasure, to make it grow and have
it bring forth fruit in season until the hour of death. She will help
us through her superabundant merits and satisfactions and through her
powerful intercession with God.
3) A third fruit of this consecration to Mary is the sanctification
of our neighbor. This is true especially of the souls entrusted to
us. They are certain to gain by our gift. We can be sure that when we
leave the apportioning of our merits to Mary's good-pleasure,
everything will be done with greater wisdom. She is by far more
prudent than we are, more thoughtful and more devoted. Consequently
our friends and relatives can only be the gainers.
176. It may be objected that by such an act we alienate all our
spiritual goods, above all, our satisfactions and the indulgences and
prayers that would be offered up for us, thus rendering our purgatory
all the longer. In itself this is true; however, it resolves itself
into a question of trust Do we rely more on Mary than on ourselves or
our friends? If we do, let us have no misgivings, for she will care
for our souls and further our interests far better than we could ever
do ourselves. If we do not, then let us refrain from making this act
of complete consecration for we might regret it before long. In any
event one should not make this act of consecration without reflection
II. The Share of the Saints in the Christian Life
#177. By their powerful intercession and by their noble example, the
Saints in their blessed possession of God minister to our
sanctification and help us to progress in the practice of the
Christian virtues. Hence, we should venerate, invoke and imitate
#178. (1) We should venerate them. All the good they possess is the
work of God and His Divine Son. As mere natural beings they are so
many reflections of the divine perfections. Their supernatural
qualities are the work of that divine grace Which Jesus merited for
them. Even their meritorious acts, while being their own in the sense
that their free will co-operated With Almighty God, are none the less
the precious gift of the Divine Goodness who is ever their first and
efficacious cause: "Thou dost but crown Thy gifts when Thou crownest
our merits."1 When, therefore, we pay the Saints the homage of our
veneration it is God and His Son, Jesus, whom we really honor and
revere in them.
We venerate these Blessed Ones as: a) the living sanctuaries of the
Triune God who has deigned to dwell in them, to adorn their souls
with virtues and with gifts, to prompt their faculties to action and
cause them to elicit meritorious acts, and to grant them at last the
crowning grace of perseverance to the end. b) We honor them as the
adopted and well-beloved children of the Father, who surrounded by
His paternal care knew how to respond to His love and to grow more
like Him in holiness and perfection. C) We hail them as the brethren
of Christ, the faithful members of His mystical body, who drew from
Him their spiritual life and cultivated it in abiding love. d) We
revere them as temples of the Holy Ghost, as His docile servants, who
allowed His inspirations to be their guide rather than blindly follow
the bent of a corrupted nature. Father Olier aptly expresses these
thoughts: "You will be able to adore with the most profound
veneration this life of God communicated to His Saints; you will
honor Jesus Christ who animates them all and who through His divine
Spirit makes them all one in Himself. It is Jesus Christ Himself who
proclaims in them the glory of God; it is He who puts upon their lips
their canticles of praise; it is He through whom the sainted glorify
God now and through all eternity."2
n1. "Coronando merita coronas et dona tus." St. Augustine.
n2. "Pensees choisies," by G. LETOURNEAU, p. 181-182.
179. (2) We should invoke the Saints in order to obtain through their
powerful intercession the graces we need. True, the mediation of
Jesus Christ alone is necessary and all-sufficient in itself;
however, because of the very fact that the Saints are members of the
risen Christ, their prayers are united to His. Thus, the whole
mystical body of the Savior prays, and with its entreaties it does
sweet violence to the heart of God. When, therefore, we pray in union
with the Saints we join our petitions to those of Christ's mystical
body and thereby insure their efficacy. Moreover, the Saints are glad
to intercede in our behalf: "They love us as brothers born of the
same Father and they have compassion for us. Seeing our plight and
remembering that it once was theirs, they behold in us souls who like
themselves ought to contribute to Christ's glory. What joy must they
not experience in finding souls to join them in glorifying God!"1
Their goodness and their power must inspire us with full confidence
We are to invoke them especially on their feast-days. Thus we shall
enter into the spirit of the liturgy of the Church, and share in the
particular virtues practiced by the different Saints.
n1. FATHER OLIER, "Pensees choisies," p. 176.
#180. (3) Lastly and above all, we should imitate the virtues of the
Saints. Each one of them strove to reproduce the divine model and
each one can address us in the words of St. Paul: " Be ye followers
of me, as I also am of Christ."1 In most cases, however, the Saints
have cultivated a special virtue which is, so to speak, their
characteristic trait. Some have directed their efforts chiefly toward
the cultivation of the spirit of faith, hope or charity; others have
centered them round the spirit of sacrifice, humility or poverty;
others, again, have excelled in the exercise of prudence, fortitude
or chastity. We can beg of them their distinctive virtues with the
assurance that they have a special power to obtain them for us.
n1. "I Cor.," IV, 16.
#181. This is the reason why we should be specially devoted to those
Saints who lived in conditions similar to our own, who discharged the
same duties that we must perform and who practiced the virtues that
we need most.
We should also have a special devotion to our patron Saints, seeing
in the choice made of them on our behalf a providential arrangement.
Still, if for special reasons the movements of grace draw us to some
other Saints whose virtues correspond better to the needs of our
souls, there can be no objection to our cultivating devotion to them.
182. Thus understood, devotion to the Saints is most useful to us.
The example of men with the same passions as we have, who, tried by
the same temptations, have won the victory with the help of the same
graces that are accorded us, is a powerful incentive to make us
ashamed of our faintheartedness and to strengthen in us the
determination to put forth the efforts constantly required for the
accomplishment of our resolutions. We thus naturally apply to
ourselves the words of St. Augustine: "Canst thou not do what these
n1. "Tu non poteris quod isti, quod istae? "Confessions," VIII, c. II.
III The Share of the Angels in the Christian Life
The part of the Angels in the Christian life has its origin in the
relations they have with God and with Jesus Christ.
183. (1) First of all, the Angels show forth God's greatness and
perfection. "Each symbolizes individually some attribute or other of
that infinite Being. In some we see His power, in others His love, in
others His strength. Each is a reproduction of some beauty of the
divine Original; each adores Him and glorifies Him in the perfection
it portrays."1 It is God, then, whom we honor in the Angels. They are
like mirrors reflecting the perfections of their infinite Creator.2
Raised to the supernatural order, they share in the life of God; and
victorious in trial, they enjoy the Beatific vision: "Their angels in
heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven."3
n1. OLIER, "Pensees choisies," p. 158.
n2. Ibid., p. 164.
n3. "Matth., XVIII, 10.
#184. (2) If we consider their relations with Jesus Christ, it may
not appear absolutely certain that they hold their grace from Him;
but this much does appear with certainty, that in heaven they unite
themselves with Him, the Mediator of all religion, in order to adore,
praise and glorify the Majesty of the Most High. It is their bliss to
add in this wise a greater worth to their worship: "Through whom the
Angels praise, the Dominations adore and the Powers hold in awe Thy
Majesty."1 Hence, when we unite ourselves to Jesus Christ to adore
God we join at the same time with the Angels and Saints in a heavenly
harmony which renders the praise of the Godhead still more perfect.
We can well make our own the words of Father Olier: "May all the
Angelic Host, the mighty Powers that move the spheres of heaven,
forever pour forth in Jesus Christ whatever be wanting to our song of
praise. May they forever thank Thee, Lord, for all those gifts both
of nature and of grace which from the goodness of Thy hand we all
n1. "Preface," Roman Missal.
n2. "Pensees choisies," p. 169.
#185. (3) From this twofold consideration it follows that they have
at heart our sanctification. since we share with them in the divine
life, and since we are like them the religious of God in Christ
Jesus, they long for our salvation that we may join them in
glorifying God and in enjoying the Beatific vision. a) Thus it is
with joy that they accept those God-given missions to minister to our
sanctification. The Psalmist says that God has entrusted the just man
to their care that they may guard him in his way: "For he hath given
his Angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways."1 St. Paul
adds that the Angels are in God's service as servants to minister
unto the welfare of the heirs of salvation: "Are they not all
ministering spirits, sent to minister for them who shall receive the
inheritance of salvation?"2
In fact, they burn with the desire of rallying elect souls to fill
the vacant thrones of fallen angels, and to glorify and adore the
Almighty in their stead. victors over demons, they ask but to shield
us from the perfidious enemies of our souls. It is our part to ask
their timely assistance in order to repel the assaults of Satan. b)
They present our prayers to the Most High3 by joining their own
supplications to our requests. It is, therefore, to our advantage to
call upon them, especially in the hour of trial, and above all, at
the hour of death, that they may defend us from the attacks of our
enemies and conduct our souls to Paradise.4
n1. "Ps, XC", 11-12.
n2. "Heb.," I, 14.
n3. "Tob.," XII, 12.
n4. That the Angels conduct our souls to heaven is a traditional
doctrine, as is shown by DOM LECLERCQ, "Dict. d'Archeol., Les Anges
psychagogues," I col. 2121.
#186. The Guardian Angels. Some among the Angels are commissioned
with the care of individual souls: these are the Guardian Angels.
This is the traditional doctrine of the Fathers, based upon
scriptural texts and supported by solid reasons. It has been
confirmed by the Church in the institution of a feast in honor of the
Guardian Angels. The reasons that support this doctrine flow from our
relationship to God, for we are His children, members of Jesus Christ
and temples of the Holy Ghost. "Because we are His children," says
Father Olier,1 "He appoints to us as tutors the princes of His realm,
who hold it an honor to have us in their charge. Because we are His
members, He wills that those very spirits that minister unto Him be
also at our side to render us their services. Because we are His
temples in which He Himself dwells, He wills that Angels hover about
us as they do about our churches, so that bowed down in worship
before Him they may offer a perpetual homage to His glory, supplying
for our neglect and making reparation- for our irreverence." Father
Olier goes on to say that God wishes to unite intimately through the
agency of His Angels the Church Triumphant and the Church Militant: "
He sends this mysterious host of Angels in order that they may by
uniting themselves to us and binding us to themselves form one body
of the Church of heaven and the Church of earth.
n1. "Pensees," p. 171-172.
187. Our Guardian Angel keeps us in constant touch with heaven. To
derive full profit from his guardianship we can do no better than
direct our thoughts frequently to our Guardian Angel, making him the
object of our veneration, our confidence and our love.
a) We venerate him by hailing him as one of those privileged beings
who ever see the face of God and who are to us the representatives of
our Heavenly Father. Therefore, we should do nothing that could
displease or sadden our Angel; on the contrary, we must strive to
give him proof of our respect by emulating his fidelity and loyalty
in God's service. This is, indeed, the most touching way in which can
attest our esteem for him. b) We show him our confidence, by bearing
in mind the mighty protection he furnishes us and his unfailing
goodness towards us, his God-given charges. since he is a master in
foiling the wiles of the devil, we should invoke him especially when
we are assailed by this treacherous foe and in all dangerous
occasions in which his foresight and his adroitness will be of great
help. We should likewise call for his assistance when determining our
vocation, for he better than any other will know the providential
designs of God in our regard. Finally, in all important affairs with
others it is well to address ourselves to their Guardian Angels that
these persons may be well-disposed towards the mission we are about
to discharge in their behalf. c) We manifest to our Guardian Angel
our love by reflecting that he has ever been and is still our devoted
friend, ever ready to render us services the extent and import of
which we shall realize only in heaven. By faith, however, we can even
now understand, though only imperfectly, something of his good
offices toward us, and this suffices to call forth our gratitude and
our love. When loneliness weighs heavily upon us, let us remember
that we are not alone, that near us hovers a friend, devoted and
generous, upon whom we can lean and with whom we can hold familiar
converse. Let us bear in mind that honoring our Guardian Angel we
honor God Himself whom our Angel represents here below, and let us
often unite ourselves to him ill order to give greater glory to God.
188. God, then, has a vast share in the work of our sanctification.
He comes to dwell in our souls in order to give Himself to us and to
sanctify us. To impart to us the power to rise up to Him, He endows
us with a supernatural organism composed of habitual grace, the
virtues and the gifts. Habitual grace penetrates the very substance
of the soul, thus transforming it and making it Godlike. The virtues
and the gifts perfect our faculties and enable them with the help of
actual grace to elicit supernatural acts that merit eternal life.
#189. God's love does not stop here. He also sends His Only-Begotten
Son, who, becoming one of us, becomes likewise the perfect exemplar,
our guide in the practice of those virtues that lead to perfection
and ultimately to heaven. The Son of God merits for us the grace
necessary to follow in His footsteps in spite of the difficulties
that we find within ourselves and all about us. In order to win us
over to Himself He incorporates us into Himself, imparting to us
through His Divine Spirit that life which is His in all its fullness.
Through this incorporation He gives to the least of our actions an
immeasurable value, for, we being made one with Him, our actions
share in the value of His own actions. With Him, then, and through
Him we can give adequate glory to God Almighty, obtain new graces,
and become more and more like our Heavenly Father by reproducing in
ourselves His divine perfections.
Mary, being the Mother of Jesus and His co-worker, though in a
secondary manner, in the work of the Redemption, co-operates in the
distribution of the graces Christ merited for us. Through her we go
to Him and through her we ask for grace. We venerate and love her as
a Mother and strive to imitate her virtues.
Lastly, Jesus, being the Head not only of mankind, but also of the
Angels and the Saints, places at our service their powerful
assistance as a protection against the attacks of the Evil One and as
a safeguard against the weaknesses of our own nature. Their example
and their intercession are for us a tower of strength.
What more could God actually do for us? If He has given Himself to us
so prodigally, to what lengths should we not go to return His love?
to what extent should we not be ready to spend ourselves to promote
the growth of that divine life Which He has so generously shared with
ART. 11. THE SHARE OF MAN IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
190, It is clear that, if God has done so much to have us share in
His own life, we must in turn respond to His advances, gratefully
accept His gift, cherish and foster it in our souls and thus prepare
ourselves for that eternal bliss which will crown the efforts we
shall have made on earth. This is for us a duty of gratitude. Indeed,
the most telling way in which we can show our appreciation of a gift
is to use it for the purpose for which it was given. Our spiritual
welfare itself demands that we make such a return, for Almighty God
will reward us according to our merits, and our glory in heaven will
correspond to the degree of grace we shall have acquired by good
works: "Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his
labor."1 On the other hand, God owes it to Himself to punish with due
severity those who willfully scorn His divine gifts and abuse His
grace. The Apostle tells us: "For the earth, that drinketh in the
rain which cometh often upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for
them by whom it is tilled, receiveth blessing from God. But that
which bringeth forth thorns and briers, is reprobate, and very near
unto a curse, whose end is to be burnt."2 God made us free beings and
He respects our freedom; He will not sanctify us in spite of
ourselves. But He never wearies of urging us to make the right use of
the graces He has so liberally dispensed to us: "And we helping do
exhort you that you receive not the grace of God in vain."3
n1. "I Cor.," 8.
n2. "Hebr.," VI, 7-8.
n3. "II Cor.," VI, I.
#191. In order to correspond with this grace we must first of all
practice the great devotions of which we have spoken in the preceding
article: devotion to the Most Blessed Trinity, to the Incarnate Word,
to the Blessed virgin, the Saints and the Angels. Herein we shall
find the most powerful motives for giving ourselves entirely to God,
doing so in union with Jesus and under the protection of our mighty
intercessors. In these devotions we shall also find models of
sanctity to point out the way for us; nay more, we shall find
supernatural forces that will enable us to realize more fully day by
day the ideal of perfection proposed for our imitation.
In explaining these devotions we have followed the ontological order,
arranging them according to their intrinsic excellence. In practice,
however, it is seldom that we begin with devotion to the Most Blessed
Trinity, but rather we generally begin with devotion to our Blessed
Lord and our Blessed Lady and then gradually rise to the Holy Trinity
#192. But we must do more than this. We must make use of the
supernatural organism wherewith we are endowed and develop it
notwithstanding the obstacles to its growth encountered within our
own selves and all about us. (1) First of all, since the threefold
concupiscence is an ever-abiding foe, which spurred on by the world
and the devil, inclines us perpetually towards evil, we must
relentlessly combat it and its lusty allies. (2) We are to multiply
our merits, since the supernatural organism of which we have spoken
is given us for the purpose of producing Godlike acts, acts worthy of
eternal life. (3) Because it has pleased Divine Goodness to institute
sacraments productive of grace in proportion to our co-operation, we
should approach them with the most perfect dispositions. In this
manner we shall preserve in us the life of grace; nay, we shall make
it grow more and more.
[I]. The Fight against Our Spiritual Enemies
These enemies are concupiscence, the world and the devil.
Concupiscence is the foe we carry within us. The world and the devil
are the foes from without that feed the fires of concupiscence and
fan its flames.
I. The fight against Concupiscence
Saint John describes concupiscence in his well-known text: "For all
that is in the world is the concupiscence of flesh and the
concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life."1
n1. "I John," II, 16.
[I] THE CONCUPISCENCE OF THE FLESH
#193. The concupiscence of the Flesh is the inordinate love of
A) The evil of Concupiscence. Pleasure in itself is not evil, God
allows it when directed toward a higher end, that is, toward moral
good. If He has attached pleasure to certain good acts, it is in
order to facilitate their accomplishment and to draw us on to the
fulfillment of duty The moderate enjoyment of pleasure, if referred
to its end --moral and supernatural good --is not an evil. In fact,
it is a good act, for it tends towards a good end which is ultimately
God Himself. But to will pleasure without any reference to the end
that makes it lawful, that is, to will pleasure as an end in itself
and as an ultimate end, is a moral disorder, for it is going counter
to the wisdom of a God-established order. Such disorder leads to
further evil, because when one's sole motive of action is pleasure,
one is exposed to love pleasure to excess; one is no longer guided by
an end which raises its barriers against that immoderate thirst for
enjoyment which exists in all of us.
#194. Thus, God in His wisdom willed to attach a certain enjoyment to
the act of eating, to offer us an incentive towards sustaining our
bodily forces. But, as Bossuet. remarks, "Ungrateful and sensual men
use this enjoyment rather to serve their own bodies than to serve
Almighty God... The pleasure of eating enslaves them, and instead of
eating in order to live they live rather in order to eat. Even those
who know how to curb their desires and who are guided in taking their
meals by the needs of the body, are often deceived by pleasure and
taken in by its allurement; they soon go beyond due measure; they
gradually come to indulge their appetite and do not consider their
needs satisfied, so long as food and drink gratify their palate."1
Hence, excesses in eating and drinking. What shall we say of the
still more dangerous pleasures of lust, "of that deep-rooted and
unsightly sore of human nature, of that concupiscence that binds the
soul to the body with ties at once so tender, so strong, so difficult
to break; of that lust which brings down upon the human race such
n1. "Tr. de la Concupiscence," C. IV.
n2. Ibid., C.V.
#195 . Sensual pleasure is all the more dangerous as the entire body
is inclined to it. Our sight is infected by it, for is it not through
the eyes that one begins to drink in the poison of sensual love? Our
ears are a prey to the contagion; a suggestive word, a lascivious
song enkindles the fire, fans the flames of an impure love and
excites our hidden tendencies to sensual joys. The same is true of
the other senses. And what heightens the danger is that these sensual
pleasures act as stimulants one to the other. When those enjoyments
which we fancy the most innocent, will, unless we are ever on the
alert, lead on to guilty pleasures. The body itself labors under a
softening languor, a delicate and responsive sensitiveness that
craves relaxation through the senses, quickens them and whets the
keenness of their ardor. Man so cherishes his body that he forgets
his soul. Over-solicitous for his health, he is led to pamper the
body at every turn. All these sensual cravings are but the branches
of the same tree, the concupiscence of the flesh.1
n1. In this paragraph we merely give a summary of the fifth chapter
of Bossuet's "Treatise on Concupiscence."
#196. B) The remedy for this great evil is found in the mortification
of the senses. As St. Paul tells us, "They that are Christ's have
crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences."1 But to
crucify the flesh, according to Father Olier, " is to fetter, to
smother all the impure and inordinate desires we feel in our flesh."2
To crucify the flesh is likewise to mortify our exterior senses,
those channels that put us in contact with things about us and stir
within us dangerous desires. The motive, at bottom, giving rise to
the obligation of practicing this mortification, is none other than
our baptismal vow.
n1. "Gal.," V, 24.
n2. "Cat. for an Int. Life," Part. I, lesson 5.
#197. Baptism, by which we die to sin and are made one body with
Christ, obliges us to mortify in ourselves all sensual pleasure.
"According to St. Paul, we are no longer debtors to the flesh that we
should live according to the flesh, but we are bound to live
according to the spirit. If we live by the spirit let us walk
according to the spirit which has written in our hearts the law of
the Cross and has given us the strength to carry it."1 The symbolism
of baptism by immersion (the more common way of administering baptism
in Apostolic times and in the early centuries) teaches us the truth
of this doctrine. The catechumen is plunged into the water and there
he dies to sin and the causes of sin. Coming out he shares in a new
life, the life of the Risen Christ. This is St. Paul's teaching: "We
that are dead to sin, how shall we live any longer therein? Know you
not that all we who are baptized in Christ Jesus are baptized in His
death? For we are buried together with Him by baptism into death:
that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so
we also may walk in the newness of life."2 Thus, the baptismal
immersion represents death to sin and to the concupiscence which
leads to sin. The coming out of the baptismal waters typifies that
newness of life through which we are made sharers in the risen life
of the Savior.3
Hence, our baptism obliges us to mortify the concupiscence that
remains in us and to imitate our Lord who by the crucifixion of His
flesh merited for us the grace of crucifying our own. The nails
wherewith we crucify it are the various acts of mortification we
This obligation of mortifying our love for pleasure so imposes itself
upon us that our spiritual life and our salvation depend upon it.
"For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the
spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live."4
n1. Ibid., lesson 5.
n2. "Rom.," VI, 2-4.
n3. "It does not alter the thought of the Apostle to express it in
the following theological language: The Sacraments are efficacious
signs which produce "ex opere operato" the effects which they
signify. Now, baptism represents sacramentally death and the life of
Christ. It follow that it causes in us a death, mystical in its
essence, but real in its effects; a death to sin, to the flesh, to
the old Adam; and a life in agreement with that of the Risen Christ."
(Cf. PRAT, "The Theology of St. Paul," II Book 5, C. 2.)
n4. "Rom.," VIII, 13.
#198. In order to obtain a complete victory, it does not suffice to
renounce evil pleasures (this we are strictly bound to do), but we
must, in order to be on the safe side, sacrifice all dangerous ones,
for these almost invariably lead us to sin: "He who loves danger
shall perish in it."1 Besides, we must deprive ourselves of some
lawful pleasures in order to strengthen our wills against the lure of
forbidden ones. In fact, whoever indulges without restraint in all
lawful pleasures, is in proximate danger of falling into those that
n1. "Eccli.," III, 27.
(2) THE CONCUPISCENCE OF THE EYES (CURIOSITY AND AVARICE)
#199. A) The evil. The concupiscence of the eyes comprises two
things: all unwholesome curiosity and inordinate love of the goods of
a) The curiosity of which we speak consists in an excessive desire to
see, to hear, to know what goes on in the world, the secret intrigues
that are woven there; not in order to derive any spiritual profit
therefrom, but to indulge our craving for frivolous knowledge. Nor is
this curiosity confined to present-day happenings; it may cover the
events of past centuries, as when we delve into the history of bygone
days to seek not what will be a wholesome inspiration but what may
please our fancy. A special object of this curiosity is the
pseudo-science of divination whereby men make bold to peer into
things hidden and into events to come, the knowledge of which God has
reserved to Himself. This phase of curiosity "constitutes an
aggression upon the rights of God Almighty and an attempt to wreck
the confidence and trust wherewith man should abandon himself to his
Providence."1 Furthermore, this curiosity extends to true and useful
science when men give themselves over to its pursuit without
moderation or to the detriment of higher duties. Such is the case of
those who read indiscriminately every kind of novel, play or poetry,
"for all this is nothing less than an excess, a morbid disposition of
the soul, the shriveling up of the heart, a miserable bondage
allowing us no leisure to turn our thoughts upon ourselves, and a
source of error. "2
n1. BOSSUET, l. c., C. 8.
n2. BOSSUET, l. c.
#200. b) The second form of the concupiscence of the eyes is the
inordinate love of money, regarded either as a means for the
acquisition of other goods such as honors or pleasure, or considered
as an object of attachment in itself an object which we delight to
see and finger and in which we find a certain sense of security for
the future. The latter is avarice properly so-called. Both expose us
to the commission of numberless sins, for cupidity is the prolific
source of all kinds of fraud and injustice.
#201. B) The remedy. a) To combat vain curiosity we must recall to
mind that whatever is not eternal is not worthy of winning and
captivating the thought of immortal beings such as we are. "The
fashion of this world passeth away";1 but one thing abideth, God and
the possession of God, which is heaven. We must, therefore, heed only
what is eternal, "for whatever is not eternal is as nothing." No
doubt, present-day events as well as those of the past may and ought
to engage our interest, yet only in so far as they contribute to the
glory of God and the salvation of men. When God created this world
and all that exists He had but one end in view, to communicate His
divine life to those creatures He had endowed with
intelligence--angels and men--and to recruit His Elect. All else is
secondary and should not be made the subject of our study, save as a
means of leading us to God.
n1. "I Cor.," VII, 31.
#202. b) As regards inordinate love of the goods of this world, we
must bear in mind that wealth is not an end in itself, but the means
given by Providence to minister to our needs. God ever retains the
supreme dominion over all things, and we are but stewards who shall
have to render an account of the use we have made of our temporal
possessions "Give an account of thy stewardship."1 It is wise, then,
to give a large portion of what is over and above our needs in
almsgiving and other good works. This is in truth to enter into the
designs of God who wills that the rich be, so to speak, the
treasurers of the poor; it is to make in the bank of heaven a deposit
which will be returned to us with a hundredfold interest upon our
entrance into eternity. "Lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven,
where neither the rust nor the moth doth consume, and where thieves
do not break through or steal."2 This is the way to detach our hearts
from earthly goods so as to raise them to God; for as our Lord adds:
"Where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also."3 Let us then seek
first the kingdom of God, holiness, and all other things shall be
added unto us.
If we would be perfect we must go further and practice evangelical
poverty. "Blessed are the poor in spirit."4 This may be achieved in
three ways according to our attractions and opportunities: 1) by
selling all our goods and giving the proceeds to the poor. "Sell what
you possess and give alms."5 2) By having all things in common, as is
done in religious communities. 3) By renouncing the right of using
the capital which we retain refraining, for instance, from making any
outlay not sanctioned by a prudent spiritual director.6
n1. "Luke," XVI, 2.
n2. "Matth.," VI, 21.
n3. "Matth.," V, 3.
n4. "Matth.," XIX, 21.
n5. "Luke," XII, 23, XVIII, 22, "Matth.," XIX, 21.
n6. OLIER, "Introd.," C. XI; "Chevrier, Le veritable disciple," p. 248-267.
#203. Whichever way is adopted, the heart must be freed from its
attachment to riches if it would take its flight towards God. This is
what Bossuet urges: "Happy they who in the lowly seclusion of God's
house delight in the bareness of their narrow cells, in the beggarly
appointments that satisfy their wants in this earthly existence--a
shadow of death--there to gaze solely upon their weakness and the
heavy, oppressing yoke of sin. Happy those consecrated virgins who no
longer seek to appear before the world and who would fain hide
themselves from their own eyes beneath the sacred veil that shrouds
their form! Blessed that sweet restraint wherewith we guard our eyes
lest they light upon vain things, the while we say with David: " Turn
away mine eyes, that they may not behold vanity."1 Happy those who,
living in the world according to their state of life, remain
undefiled and unfettered,... those who can say with Queen Esther:
"Thou knowest, O Lord, how I scorn this emblem of pride (her crown);
how I abhor the glory of the wicked and ungodly; how thy handmaid
hath never rejoiced save in thee, O Lord God of Israel.2
n1. "Ps. CXIII," 37.
n2. "Esth.," XIV, 15-18.
(3) THE PRIDE OF LIFE
204. A) The evil. "Pride," says Bossuet, "is a profound depravity; it
is the worship of self; man becomes his own god through excessive
self-love."1 Forgetful that God is his first beginning and his last
end, he overrates himself; he considers himself the sovereign lord
and master of those qualities, real or imaginary, which he possesses
without referring them to God. From this arises that spirit of
independence, of self-sufficiency, that finally brings man to
renounce allegiance to God and His representatives on earth. Hence,
also,, that egotism which prompts him to do everything for self as
though he were himself his last end; that vain complacency in his own
excellence as though God were not its source; that conceit in his
good works as though they were not above all the result of God's
action on the soul. Hence, again, the tendency to exaggerate the good
qualities he possesses, and to attribute to himself others that he
lacks. Hence, too, the disposition to prefer self to others and at
times, like the Pharisee, to despise others.
n1. L.C., C. X, XXIII.
#205. This pride is accompanied by vanity, which seeks inordinately
the esteem, the approbation, the praise of men. It is called
vainglory, for, as Bossuet points out, " if it be but an empty or
undeserved applause, what an absurdity to delight in it! If it be
genuine, why the further folly of rejoicing less at truth itself than
at the tribute paid to it?"1 A paradox, indeed, that one should be
more solicitous for the esteem of men than for virtue itself, that
man should find cause for greater humiliation in a blunder committed
in the sight of all than in a real fault committed in secret! This
failing once yielded to is not slow in bringing others in its wake.
It gives rise to boasting, to speaking of self and one's
achievements; to ostentation which courts the public eye with finery
and display; to hypocrisy which makes a show of virtue while careless
about its practice.
n1. "Tr. de la Concupiscence," C. XVII.
#206. The effects of pride are deplorable. This vice is the
arch-enemy of perfection. 1) It robs God of the glory due Him and
thereby deprives us of many graces and merits, since God can not
allow Himself to be made an accomplice in our pride: "God resisteth
the proud."1 2) It is the source of many sins, such as sins of
presumption which are punished by lamentable falls and enslavement to
shameful vices; sins of discouragement at seeing oneself fallen so
low; sins of dissimulation because of the hardship of confessing
certain sins; sins of resistance to superiors, of envy and jealousy
towards the neighbor, etc.
n1. "James, IV, 6.
207. B) The remedy consists: a) in referring all to God, recognizing
that He is the author of all good and that, being the .first
principle of all our actions, He must be likewise their last end.
This is what St. Paul means when he asks: "What hast thou that thou
hast not received? And if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory,
as if thou hadst not received it?"1 From this he concludes that all
our actions must tend to the glory of God: "Therefore, whether you
eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of
God."2 In order to give these actions greater value, let us be
mindful of doing them in the name and through the merits of our Lord
Jesus Christ: "All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in
the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the
Father by him."3
n1. "I Cor., IV, 7.
n2. "I Cor.," X, 31.
n3. "Coloc.," III, 17.
#208. b) since, however, our nature inclines us to self-seeking, we
must, in order to react against this tendency, remember that of
ourselves we are but nothingness and sin. No doubt, there are in us
good qualities, natural and supernatural, which we are to hold in
high regard and which we must cultivate; but coming as they do from
God, is it not to Him that the glory is due? When an artist creates a
masterpiece, it is he and not the canvass that is to be praised.
Of ourselves we are mere nothingness. "This is," says Father Olier,
"what we have been from all eternity; the being wherewith God has
clothed us is of His creation and not of ours; and whatsoever He has
given us remains His own property by which He wills to be honored."1
Again, of ourselves we are but sin in the sense that by concupiscence
we tend to sin; so much so that, according to St. Augustine, if we do
not fall into certain sins we owe it to the grace of God. "To Thy
grace it is due that some evil I left undone. For what might I not
have done, seeing that I loved even fruitless misdoing."2 Father
Olier thus explains this doctrine: "This I can say about it: there is
no conceivable sin, no imperfection or disorder, no blight of error,
no confusion with which our flesh is not teeming. Likewise, there is
no fickleness, no folly, no stupidity of which mortal flesh is not
capable at any moment."3 Assuredly, our nature is not totally
corrupt, as Luther affirmed. With God's concurrence, natural and
supernatural,4 it is capable of some good, even of a great deal of
good, as is evident in the case of the Saints. But since God is ever
the first and principal cause of this good, it is to Him that thanks
must be given.
n1. "Cat. for an Int. Life," Part I., lesson 15.
n2. "Confessions," ii, C. 7.
n3. "Catechism," P. I, lesson 17.
n4. Theology teaches (Syn. theol. dog.," III. n. 72-91) that fallen
man can do some good in the natural order with the mere natural
concurrence of God; but that in order to observe the whole of the
natural law and repulse all grievous temptations, a preternatural or
supernatural help is needed.
#209. We conclude with Bossuet:. "Trust not overmuch in thyself, for
this is the beginning of sin. Covet not the glory of men, for having
received thy reward only torments shall await thee. Glory not in
thine own self, for whatsoever of thy good works thou dost attribute
to thyself, thou takest away from God, its author, and thou placest
thyself in His stead. Shake not off the yoke of God's law; say not to
thyself with the haughtiness of the proud: I shall not serve; for if
thou servest not unto justice, thou shalt be the slave of sin and the
child of death. Say not: I am not unclean, and reckon not that God
has forgotten thy sins because thou thyself rememberest them no more,
for the Lord shall rouse thee saying: See, look at thy paths in that
vale obscure. I have followed thee along thy ways. I have counted thy
steps. Resist not the counsel of the wise and be not angry at
correction; for this is the consummation of pride, to rebel against
the truth itself when it reproves thee, to kick against the goad."1
If we follow this advice we shall be stronger in our fight against
the world, the second of our spiritual enemies.
n1. "Tr. de la Concup.," C. XXXI.
II. The Fight against the World1
210. The world we speak of here is not the total aggregate of men
upon the earth, among whom are found both choice souls and
irreligious men; but the sum-total of those who oppose Jesus Christ
and are the slaves of the threefold concupiscence. These are: 1)
unbelievers, hostile to religion, precisely because it condemns their
pride, their love of pleasure, their lust for riches; 2) the
indifferent, who do not want a religion that would stir them out of
their apathy; 3) hardened sinners, who love sin because they love
pleasure and are loath to part with it; 4) worldlings, who believe
and even practice their religion, yet, combine with it the love of
pleasure, of luxury and of ease, and who not unfrequently scandalize
their neighbor by giving them occasion to say that religion has but
little influence on morals. This is the world .which Jesus cursed
because of its scandals: "Woe to the world because of scandals!"1 Of
this world St. John says: "The whole world is seated in wickedness."2
n1. Meyer, "The World in Which We Live."
n2. "Matth.," XVIII, 7.
n3. "I John," V, 19.
#211. (1) The dangers of the world. The world which through visits,
letters and worldly literature worms its way into the heart of
Christian families, even into religious communities, constitutes a
great obstacle to the attainment of salvation and perfection. It
stirs up and feeds the fire of concupiscence; it seduces and
212. A) It seduces us with its maxims, with the show of its vanities
and with its perverse examples.
a) It holds up maxims directly opposed to those of the Gospel. It
actually extols the happiness of the wealthy, of the powerful, of the
ruthless, of the upstart, of the ambitious, of all those who know how
to enjoy life. On the lips of worldlings is ever the cry: "Let us
crown ourselves with roses before they wither."1 Must not youth have
its day, must not each live his life to the full? Many others do this
and Almighty God can not damn all mankind. One has to make a living,
and were one to be scrupulous in business one could never become
b) The world seduces us with the show of its vanities and pleasures.
Most worldly gatherings cater to curiosity, to sensuality, and even
to lust. Vice is made attractive by being concealed beneath the guise
of what are called "innocent fashions and amusements," but which are
none the less fraught with danger. Such are, for instance, immodest
dress and immodest dances, especially such as seem to have no other
purpose than to occasion wanton looks and gestures. What must be said
of most theatrical performances, of public entertainments, of the
lewd literature that one encounters at every turn?
c) The world seduces us with its evil examples. At the sight of so
many youths living solely for pleasure, of so many men and women who
make light of their marriage vows, of so many business-men who do not
scruple to enrich themselves by questionable means, the temptation to
follow suit is, indeed, very strong. Moreover, the world is so
tolerant of human weaknesses that it actually seems to encourage
them. A home-breaker is considered a sportsman; the financier, the
business-man who amasses his wealth dishonestly is called a clever
fellow; the free-thinker is considered a broad-minded man who follows
the light of his conscience. How many men are thus encouraged to lead
a life of sin!
n1. "Wisdom," II, 8.
#213. B) When the world fails to seduce us it attempts to terrorize us.
a) At times this takes the form of an actual, organized persecution
against the faithful. Those that make public profession of their
faith or send their children to the Catholic school are denied
promotion in certain departments of business or of civic life.
b) At other times, the world turns timid souls from the discharge of
their religious duties by mockery and jest. It refers to them as
hypocrites and dupes believing still in antiquated dogmas. It holds
up to ridicule parents whose daughters are modestly dressed, asking
them if it is thus that they hope to make a match for them. Many
souls are in this manner, in spite of the protests of conscience,
driven to conform through human respect to fashions and customs that
offend against Christian modesty.
c) Sometimes the world resorts to threats. Individuals are served
notice that their religious affiliations disqualify them for certain
positions, or they are made to understand that their prudishness will
make them unwelcome guests at entertainments; or again, they are told
that if their conscience stands in the way of business they must
either do as every one else does--deceive the public and make more
money--or be ready to lose their positions.
It is but too easy to let ourselves be won over or terrorized, for
the world has its accomplice within our own hearts, in our natural
desire for high places, for dignity and for wealth.
214. (2) The remedy.1 To resist successfully this dangerous trend one
must have the courage to look upon life from the point of view of
eternity, and regard the world in the light of faith. Then the world
will appear to us in its true colors, as the enemy of Jesus Christ,
to be fought against with all our might in order that we may save our
souls; it will appear to us as the scene of action for our zeal
whither we must carry the maxims of the Gospel.
n1. TRONSON, "Examens partic.," XCIV-XCVI.
215. A) since the world is the enemy of Jesus Christ, we must accept
as our standard of life that which is opposed to the maxims and
examples of the world. We must repeat to ourselves the dilemma
proposed by St. Bernard: "Either Christ blunders, or the world is
astray; but it is impossible for Divine Wisdom to blunder."1 since
there exists a manifest opposition between Christ and the world, a
choice on our part is absolutely necessary, for no one can serve two
masters. But Jesus is infallible Wisdom itself. Hence, He has the
words of eternal life, and it is the world that blunders. Our choice,
therefore, will be quickly made, for as St Paul says, "We have
received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit that is of
God."2 To wish to please the world, he adds, is to displease Jesus
Christ: "If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Jesus
Christ."3 St. James says: "Whosoever, therefore, will be the friend
of this world, becometh an enemy of God."4 Hence, the following
a) Let us read and reread the Gospel, reflecting that it is the
Eternal Truth that speaks to us, and praying its Divine Author to
make us understand, relish and live its maxims. It is thus that we
become true Christians and such is the price we must pay if we would
become real disciples of Christ. Whenever we hear or read maxims that
go counter to those of the Gospel let us courageously say to
ourselves: This is false, since it is opposed to infallible Truth
b) Let us likewise avoid dangerous occasions so numerous ill this
world. No doubt, those that live outside the cloister must of
necessity mingle more or less in the world; yet, they must keep
themselves free from its spirit by living in the world as those that
were not of it; for Jesus asked His Father not to take His disciples
out of the world, but to keep them from evil: "I pray not that thou
shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them
from evil."5 And St. Paul wants us to make use of this world as
though we did not use it.6
e) This attitude towards the world is incumbent above all upon
ecclesiastics. They should be able to say with St. Paul: "The world
is crucified to me, and I to the world."7 The world, ruled as it is
by concupiscence, can have no charms for us. Just as we are to it an
object of repulsion, for by our character and even by our garb we
stand as a condemnation of its vices; so the world in turn can not
but inspire us with a like antipathy. Hence, we must dispense with
social visits purely worldly in character, in which we should be out
of place. No doubt, we shall have to make and receive such visits as
courtesy, business, and above all, zeal for souls impose; but they
shall be brief. We shall not forget what is said of our Lord after
His resurrection, that He came among His disciples but rarely, and
only in order to complete their training and to speak to them of the
kingdom of God.8
n1. "Sermo III, de Nativitate," n. I.
n2. "I Cor.," II, 12.
n3. "Gal.," I, 10.
n4. "James," IV, 4.
n5. "John," XVII, 15.
n6. "I Cor.," VII, 31.
n7. "Gal.," VI, 14.
n8. "Acts," I, 3.
#216. B) We shall not, then, venture into the world except to
exercise there our zeal either directly or indirectly, that is to
say, to carry there the maxims and examples of the Gospel. a) We must
not forget that we are "the light of the world."1 Without turning our
conversation into a sort of sermon (which would be out of place) we
shall judge everything, persons and things, by the light of the
Gospel. Thus, instead of proclaiming the rich and the powerful the
happy ones of this world, we shall note in all sincerity that there
are sources of happiness other than those of wealth and success; that
virtue does not go without its reward even in this world; that the
pure joys of home and hearth are the sweetest; that the consciousness
of duty done is a source of satisfaction and comfort to many
unfortunate souls; that the peace of a good conscience is worth
infinitely more than the intoxication of pleasure. A few examples
will bring home these remarks. But it is chiefly by his own example
that a priest is a source of edification in conversation. A profound
impression is created upon those who listen to him if he is in every
sense of the word a man among men, a Christian gentleman utterly
devoted to the service of souls; if his whole bearing, as well as his
words, reflects candor, good-fellowship, cheerfulness, charity, in a
word, true sanctity. No one can help admiring those who live
according to their convictions; and a religion which knows how to
promote solid virtue is held in high regard. Let us, therefore, carry
into practice the saying of our Lord: "So let your light shine before
men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who
is in heaven."2 The exercise of this apostolate is not limited to
priests. Men of conviction among the laity can practice it with real
success, as persons are less on their guard against their influence.
n1. "Matth.," V, 14.
n2. "Matth.," V, 16.
#217. b) It is for such select souls and for priests to infuse into
the more timid Christians the courage to fight the tyranny of human
respect, of fashion and of legalized persecution. The best means of
effecting this is to band together into societies those influential
laymen who have the courage of their convictions, and who fear
neither to speak nor to act accordingly. It is in this manner that
the Saints brought about in their times the reformation of morals. It
is also in this manner that in our great centers of learning, the
universities, solid groups have been formed that know how to make
their religious practices respected and how to steady the weaker
brethren. On the day when such groups shall have been considerably
multiplied not in cities alone but in the country-districts as well,
the death knell of human respect shall not be long in sounding, and
true piety, if not universally practiced, shall at least be held in
218. We must make no compromise with the world. We must make no
concessions either to please it or to seek its esteem. As St. Francis
de Sales rightly says, "No matter what we do, the world shall ever
war against us... Let us turn a deaf ear to this blind world; let it
cry as long as it pleases, like an owl to disturb the birds of the
day. Let us be constant in our designs and invariable in our
resolutions. Our perseverance will demonstrate whether we have in
good earnest sacrificed ourselves to God and dedicated ourselves to a
devout life. "1
n1. "Introd. to a Dev. Life," P. IV, C. I.
III The Fight against the Devil1
#219. (1) The existence of and reasons for diabolical temptation. We
have seen, n. 67, how the devil, jealous of the blessedness of our
first parents, incited them to sin, and how well he succeeded.
Therefore, the "Book of Wisdom" declares that it was "by the envy of
the devil that death came into the world."2 Ever since, he has not
ceased to attack the children of Adam or to lay snares for them. And
even though, since our Lord's advent into the world and His triumph
over Satan, the latter's power has been greatly curbed, it is none
the less true that we have to battle not only against flesh and
blood, but also against the powers of darkness, against the spirits
of evil. This is exactly what St. Paul teaches: "For our wrestling is
not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of the world of
this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness."3 St. Peter
compares the devil to a roaring lion prowling about, seeking to
destroy us: "Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth
about seeking whom he may devour.4
n1. St THOM., I, q. 114; ST. THERESA, "Life by Herself," C. XXX-XXXI;
RIBET, "L'Ascetique chret.," C. XVI.
n2. "Wisdom," II, 24.
n3. "Eph.," VI, 12.
n4. "I Peter," V, 8-9.
#220. If divine Providence allows these attacks, it is in virtue of
the general principle that God governs men not only directly, but
also through the agency of secondary causes, leaving to creatures a
certain freedom of action. On the other hand, He warns us to be on
our guard, and sends His Angels, particularly our Guardian Angels, to
help and protect us (n. 186 sq), to say nothing of the assistance
that He gives us directly, or through His Son. By availing ourselves
of such helps we triumph over the enemy of our salvation, grow in
virtue and lay up to ourselves treasures of merit in heaven. These
wonderful ways of Providence show us all the more clearly the great
importance we must attach to the affair of our salvation and
sanctification, an affair in which both heaven and hell so concern
themselves that around the soul, at times within the soul itself,
fierce combats rage between the powers of heaven and those of
hell,--and it is the eternal life of the soul that is at stake. In
order to obtain the victory, let us see how the devil proceeds.
#221. (2) The devil's strategy. A) The Evil One can not act directly
on our higher faculties, the intellect and the will. God has kept
these as a sanctuary for Himself, and He alone can enter there and
touch the mainspring of the will without doing violence to it. The
devil, however, can act directly on the body, on our exterior and
interior senses, and particularly on the imagination and the memory
as well as on the passions Which reside in the sensitive appetite.
Thus, the devil acts indirectly on the will, soliciting its consent
through the various movements of the sensitive appetite. The will,
however, as St. Thomas remarks, remains ever free to give or refuse
B) No matter how extensive the power of the devil over our faculties,
there are nevertheless limits set to it by God Himself, who will not
allow him to tempt us beyond our strength. "God is faithful, who will
not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able; but will
make also with temptation issue."2 Whoever leans upon the Almighty in
humble trust can be sure of victory.
n1. "Sum. theol.," I, q. III, a. 2.
n2. "I Cor.," X, 13.
#222. C) We must not believe, says St. Thomas,1 that all the
temptations we experience are the works of the demon. Concupiscence
stirred up by habits formed in the past and by imprudences committed
in the present, is sufficient to account for a great number of them.
" Every one is tempted by his own concupiscence, being drawn away and
allured."2 On the other hand, it would be rash to assert, and
contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture and Tradition, that there
is no diabolical influence in any of our temptations. The envy the
devil bears mankind and his desire to bring men into subjection
adequately explain his intervention.3
How then will diabolical temptation be recognized ? This is no easy
matter, for our concupiscence itself may sufficiently account for the
violence of temptation. It may be said, however, that when a
temptation is sudden, violent, and protracted beyond measure, the
devil is largely responsible for it. One can especially suspect his
influence if the temptation casts the soul into deep and prolonged
turmoil; if it excites a desire for the spectacular, for strange and
conspicuous mortifications, and particularly if it induces a strong
inclination to be silent about the whole affair with our spiritual
director and to distrust our superiors.4
n1. "Sum. theol.," I, q. 114, a. e.
n2. "James," I, 14.
n3. "Sum. theol.," I, q. 114, a. I.
n4. See the rules for the discernment of spirits in the first and
second weeks of the "Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius."
#223. (3) The remedies against diabolical temptation. The Saints, and
particularly St. Theresa,1 point out the following remedies.
A) The first is humble and confident prayer to secure the help of God
and His holy Angels. If God is for us who will be against us?2 For,
"who is like unto God?" Our prayer must be humble, for there is
nothing that so quickly puts to flight this rebellious spirit, who,
having revolted through pride, never knew the virtue of humility. To
humble ourselves before God, to acknowledge our inability to conquer
without His help, defeats the schemes of the prince of pride. Our
prayer must also be full of confidence. God's own glory is bound up
with our triumph and we may, therefore, fully trust in the power of
His grace. It is likewise a good practice to invoke the intercession
of St. Michael, who, having once obtained a signal victory over
Satan, will gladly complete his triumph in us and through us in the
day of our struggle. He will have a powerful ally in our Guardian
Angel provided we place our trust in him. But above all, we must not
forget to have recourse to the Blessed virgin. Her foot did crush the
serpent's head and she is more terrible to the demon than a whole
army in battle array.
n1. "Life by Herself," C. XXX-XXXI.
n2. "Rom.," VIII, 31.
#224. B) The second means consists in making use in all confidence of
the sacraments and the sacramentals. Confession being an act of
humility routs the devil; the absolution which follows applies to us
the merits of Jesus Christ and renders us invulnerable to the thrusts
of the enemy. Holy Communion brings into our hearts Christ who
triumphed over Satan and who now fills him with terror. Even the
sacramentals, the sign of the Cross, or the prayers of the Liturgy,
said in the spirit of faith in union with the Church, are a precious
help. St. Theresa recommends in a special way the use of holy water,1
perhaps because of the humiliation Satan must suffer at seeing
himself baffled by such a simple device.
n1. "Life by Herself," C. XXXI.
#225. C) The last means against diabolical temptation is an utter
contempt of the devil. It is once more St. Theresa who assures us of
this. "These cursed spirits torment me quite frequently, but they do
not frighten me in the least, for I am convinced that they cannot
stir except by God's leave. Let this be known well, that every time
we make them the object of our contempt, they lose their strength,
and the soul acquires over them greater ascendancy. They have no
power except against cowardly souls who surrender their weapons.
Against such they do show their power."1 It must be, indeed, a bitter
humiliation to those proud spirits to be contemned by weaker beings
such as men are. As we have said, if we humbly lean on the strong arm
of God, it is our right as well as our duty to despise them. "If God
is for us who will be against us?" The evil spirits can bark; they
cannot harm us unless through lack of prudence or through pride we
put ourselves into their power. Thus it is that the fight that we
must wage against the devil, the world and the flesh strengthens us
in the supernatural life and enables us to make spiritual progress.
#226. (1) We have just seen that the Christian life is a warfare, a
harassing warfare that entails a lifelong and intricate maneuvering
ending only with death, a warfare of supreme importance since it is
our eternal life that is at stake. As St. Paul teaches, there are
within us two men: a) the regenerated man, the new man, with
tendencies which are noble, supernatural, divine. These the Holy
Ghost produces in us through the merits of Christ and the
intercession of the Blessed virgin and the Saints. We strive to
correspond to the higher tendencies by making use, under the
influence of actual grace, of the supernatural organism wherewith God
has endowed us. b) But there is also in us the natural or carnal man,
the Old Adam, with all the evil inclinations which remain even after
Baptism, with the threefold concupiscence inherited from our first
parents. This concupiscence is stirred up and intensified by the
world and the devil; it is an abiding tendency inclining us toward an
inordinate love of sensual pleasure, of our own excellence, and of
the goods of this world. These two men necessarily engage in
conflict. The Old Adam, the flesh, seeks pleasure without regard to
the moral law. The spirit in turn reminds the flesh that there are
forbidden pleasures and dangerous pleasures which must be sacrificed
to duty, that is to say, to the will of God. The flesh, however, is
persistent in its desires; it must, therefore, with the help of grace
be mortified and, if need be, crucified. The Christian, then, is a
soldier, an athlete, who fights unto death for an immortal crown.1
n1. "II. Tim.," II, 1-7. St. Paul describes the Christian's armor in
"Eph" VI, 10-18.
#227. (2) This warfare is constant, for in spite of all our efforts
we can never fully divest ourselves of the Old Adam. We can but
weaken him, bind him, while at the same time we fortify the New Man
against his attacks. At the outset the fight is keener, more
obstinate, and the counter-attacks of the enemy more numerous and
more violent; but as we by earnest and persevering efforts gain one
victory and then another, our enemy weakens, passions subside and,
except for certain moments of trial willed by God to lead us to a
higher degree of perfection, we enjoy a relative calm, a pledge and a
foretaste of final victory. All success we owe to the grace of God.
We must not forget that the grace given us is the grace for struggle
and not the grace for peace; that we are warriors, athletes,
ascetics; that like St. Paul we must fight on to the end if we would
merit the crown. I have fought the good fight: I have finished my
course: I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for
me a crown of justice, which the Lord the just judge will render to
me in that day."1 This is the means of perfecting in us the Christian
life and of acquiring many merits.
n1. "II Tim.," IV, 7-8.
[II] The growth of the spiritual life by merit1
228. We progress, indeed, by the fight we wage against our enemies,
but more still by the meritorious acts which we perform day by day.
Every good act freely done by a soul in the state of grace and with a
supernatural intention, possesses a threefold value for our spiritual
growth, inasmuch as it is meritorious, satisfactory and impetratory.
a) The meritorious value means an increase of sanctifying grace and a
corresponding right to a higher degree of glory in heaven.
b) The satisfactory value contains a threefold element: I)
propitiation, by which with a contrite and humble heart we turn God
auspiciously towards us and incline Him to forgive our trespasses; 2)
expiation, that is to say, the effacement of guilt by the infusion of
grace; 3) satisfaction, which in view of the element of suffering
accompanying our good works, cancels wholly or in part the punishment
due to sin. This happy result is not merely the outcome of good works
properly so-called, but also, as the Council of Trent teaches, of the
willing acceptance of the ills and sufferings of this life.2 What is
more consoling than to be able to turn all manner of adversity into
gain for the purification of the soul and closer union with God?
c) Lastly these same acts, when they embody a request to the Divine
Mercy for new graces, possesses also an impetratory value. As St.
Thomas justly remarks, we pray not only when we explicitly make a
request to Almighty God, but whenever we turn our hearts to Him or
direct any act of ours towards Him; so much so, indeed, that our life
becomes a continual prayer when our activities are constantly
directed towards God. "Man prays whenever he so acts in thought, word
and deed as to tend towards God; hence, life is a constant prayer if
wholly directed towards God."3 Is not this an effectual means of
obtaining from Him for ourselves and for others whatever we desire?
For the end we have in view it will suffice to explain:1) the nature
of merit; 2) the conditions that increase the merit of our good
n1. St. THOM., I-II q. 114; TERRIEN, "La Grace et la Gloire," II, p.
15 ff; LABAUCHE, "Man," P. III, C. III; HUGON in "La vie
spirituelle," II (1920), p. 28, 273, 353; TANQUEREY, "Syn theol.
dog.," III, n. 210-235; REMLER, "Supernatural Merit;" WIRTH, "Divine
Grace," C. VIII; SCHEEBEN, "Glories of Divine Grace."
n2. Sess. XIV, "De Sacramento poinit.," Cap. 9.
n3. "In Rom.," C. I, 9-10.
I. Nature of Merit
Two points must be made clear: (1) What we mean by merit; (2) What
makes our actions meritorious.
(1) WHAT IS MEANT BY MERIT
#229. A) Merit in general is a right to a reward. Hence, supernatural
merit of which we speak here is a right to a supernatural reward, a
right to a share in God's life, a right to grace and glory. Since,
however, God is in no way obliged to make us share in His life, there
must exist a promise on His part that confers upon us an actual title
to such supernatural reward. Merit, then may be defined: a right to a
supernatural reward arising both from a supernatural work done freely
for God's sake, and from a divine promise to give such a reward.
#230. B) There are two kinds of merit : a) merit properly so called
(de condigno) to which a recompense is due in justice, because there
exists a sort of equality, a real proportion between the work and the
reward. b) e other kind of merit, called de congruo, is not based
upon strict justice; its claims are simply those of a certain
fitness, since the reward outweighs by far the work done. The
following example gives an approximate notion of this distinction. A
soldier acquitting himself bravely on the battlefield has a strict
right to his pay, but he can lay only a claim of fitness to a
citation or a decoration.
C) The Council of Trent teaches that the works of the justified man
truly merit an increase of grace, eternal life and, should he die in
this state, the attainment of glory. #231. D) Let us recall briefly
the general conditions for merit. a) A work to be meritorious must be
free. If man acts through constraint or necessity, he is not actually
responsible. b) The work must be supernaturally good in order to be
in proportion with the reward. c) When it is question of merit
properly so-called, the work must be performed in the state of grace,
for it is this grace that causes Christ to dwell in our souls and
makes us share in His merits. d) The work must be performed during
our life on earth, for God has wisely decreed that after a period of
trial wherein we can merit or demerit, we should reach the end where
we shall forever remain fixed in the state in which we die. These are
the conditions on the part of man. To them is added on the part of
God the promise which gives us a real right to eternal life. As St.
James says: "The just receive the crown of life which God hath
promised to them that love Him."1
n1. "James," I, 12.
(2) WHAT MAKES OUR ACTS MERITORIOUS
#232. At first sight it seems difficult to understand how very
simple, ordinary and transitory acts can merit eternal life. This
would be an insuperable difficulty if these acts were produced by us
alone. But as a matter of fact they are the result of the
co-operation of God and the human will. This explains their efficacy.
God whilst crowning our merits, crowns His own gifts, for our merits
are largely His work. To enable us to understand better the efficacy
of our meritorious acts let us explain the share of God and the share
A) God is the first and principal cause of our merits: "Not I, but
the grace of God with me."1 In fact, it is God who has created our
faculties; God who has perfected them, raised them to a supernatural
state by the virtues and by the gifts of the Holy Ghost; God who by
His actual grace calls us to perform good works and assists us in
doing them. He is, therefore, the first cause exciting the will to
action and giving it new energies that enable it to act
n1. "I Cor.," XV, 10.
#233. B) Our free will, responding to God's solicitations, acts under
the influence of grace and the virtues and thus becomes a secondary,
but real and efficacious cause of our meritorious acts, since it
truly co-operates with God. Without this free consent there can be no
merit. In heaven we can no longer merit, for there we cannot help
loving that God whom we clearly see to be Infinite Goodness and the
Source of our beatitude. Besides, our cooperation itself is
supernatural. By habitual grace the very substance of our being is
deified; by the virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost our faculties
are likewise deified, and by actual grace even our acts are made
Godlike. Once our actions are deified there exists a real proportion
between our works and grace, which latter is itself a Godlike life,
as well as between our acts and glory, which is the full development
of that life. No doubt, the acts themselves are transitory, while
glory is eternal; yet, as in our natural existence transient acts
produce states of soul that endure, it is but just that the same
should hold good in the supernatural order, and that virtuous acts
producing an abiding disposition to love God be rewarded by a lasting
recompense. Lastly, since our soul is immortal it is fitting that
such recompense should endure forever.
#234. C) It might be objected that in spite of this proportion
between act and reward, God is in no manner constrained to bestow a
recompense so great and so enduring as grace and glory. We fully
grant this, and we acknowledge that God in His infinite goodness
rewards us above our deserts. Hence, He would not be bound to have us
enjoy the Beatific vision through all eternity had He not promised
it. But He has promised it by the very fact that He has destined us
for a supernatural end. His promise recurs repeatedly in Holy Writ
wherein eternal life is represented as the reward promised to the
just, and as a crown of justice: "The crown which God hath promised
to them that love Him... a crown of justice which the just judge
shall render unto me."1 Therefore, the Council of Trent declares that
eternal life is at once a grace mercifully promised by Jesus Christ,
and a recompense which in virtue of this promise is faithfully
awarded to good works and to merit.2
n1. "James," I, 12; "II Tim.," IV, 8.
n2. Sess. VI, Cap. 16.
#235. From the fact that merit is based on this promise of God, we
can infer that merit is something personal. It is for ourselves and
not for others that we merit grace and life everlasting, for the
divine promise goes no further. It is different with our Lord Jesus
Christ, who having been made the moral head of the human race, has
merited for each of His members, and this in the strict sense of the
word. We can, indeed, merit for others, but by no title of justice,
simply "de congruo," that is, by a title of mere fitness. This fact
is in itself most consoling, because this merit is joined to the one
we gain for ourselves and thus it enables us to co-operate in the
sanctification of our brethren whilst working at our own.
II. Conditions for Increasing Merit
#236. These conditions evidently proceed from the different causes
that concur in the production of meritorious acts, hence, from God
and from ourselves. We can always count upon God's liberality, for He
is always munificent in His gifts, and therefore, we must center our
attention principally upon our dispositions. Let us see what can
improve these dispositions either on the part of the one who merits
or on the part of the meritorious act itself.
(1) CONDITIONS ON THE PART OF THE ONE WHO MERITS
237. There are four principal conditions . the degree of habitual
grace or charity, our union with our Lord, our purity of intention,
a) The degree of sanctifying grace. To merit in the proper sense of
the word, the state of grace is required. Hence, all things being
equal, the more habitual grace we possess, the greater is our power
for meriting. This, no doubt, is denied by some theologians on the
ground that the amount of habitual grace does not always influence
our acts so as to render them better, and that at times holy souls
act negligently and imperfectly. But the doctrine we maintain is the
common teaching, based on the following reasons.
1) The value of an act even in human affairs depends largely upon the
dignity of the person that performs it, and upon the degree of esteem
in which he is held by the rewarder. Now, what constitutes the
dignity of the Christian and what makes him dear to the heart of God
is the degree of grace, that is, of divine life to which he has been
raised. This is why the Saints in heaven or the saints on earth have
such great power of intercession. Hence, if we possess a higher
degree of grace we are worth more in the eyes of God than those who
have less; we please Him more, and on this account our actions are
nobler, more agreeable to God, and therefore, more meritorious.
2) Besides, this degree of grace will ordinarily exercise a happy
influence on our acts. Living more fully a supernatural life, loving
God more perfectly, we are led to improve the quality of our acts, to
put into them more charity, to be more generous in our sacrifices.
Now, every one grants that such dispositions increase our merits. Let
no one say that at times the contrary happens. This is the exception,
not the rule. We had that in mind when we said: all other things
How consoling is this doctrine! By multiplying our meritorious acts
we daily increase our stock of grace. This store of grace enables us
to put more love into our works and thus further the growth of our
supernatural life: "He that is just, let him be justified still."1
n1. "Apoc.," XVII, II.
#238. b) Our degree of union with our Lord. The source of our merit
is Jesus Christ, the Author of our sanctification, the chief
meritorious cause of all supernatural good, the Head of the mystical
body whose members we are. The closer we are to the source, the more
we receive of its fullness; the closer we approach to the Author of
all Holiness, the more grace we receive; the closer we are to the
Head, the more life and activity it imparts to us. Does not our Lord
Himself tell us this in the beautiful allegory of the vine? "I am the
vine and you the branches... he who abideth in me and I in him, the
same beareth much fruit."1 We are united to Jesus as the branch is to
the stem and, therefore, the closer our union, habitual and actual,
with Him, the more we receive of His vital influence. This is why all
fervent souls, all that wish to become fervent, have ever sought a
more and more intimate union with our Lord. This is why the Church
herself asks us to perform our actions through Him, with Him and in
Him. Through Him, for: "No one cometh to the Father but by me;"2 with
Him, by acting in union with Him, since He consents to be our
co-worker; in Him, in the virtue, in the power that is His very own,
and above all, with His intentions. In the words of Father Faber: "To
do our actions by Christ is to do them in dependence upon Him, as He
did everything in dependence upon His Father and by the movements of
His Spirit. To do our actions with Christ is to practice the same
virtues as our Lord, to clothe ourselves with the same dispositions,
and to act from the same intentions, all according to the measure of
the lowliness of our possibilities. To do our actions in Christ is to
unite ours with His, and to offer them to God along with His, so that
for the sake of His they may be accepted on high."3
If we thus perform our actions in union with our Lord, He lives in
us, inspires our thoughts, our desires and all our acts in such a way
that we can say with St. Paul: "I live, now not I, but Christ liveth
in me."4 It is evident that acts performed under the influence of
Christ's life-giving action and with the aid of His all-powerful
cooperation, have a far greater value than those done by ourselves
even with the help of ordinary grace and with only habitual union
with Christ by sanctifying grace. In practice, then, we should unite
ourselves frequently with our Lord, especially at the beginning of
our actions; we should make our own His perfect intentions, fully
conscious of our inability to do anything good of ourselves and
confident that He is able to overcome our weakness. Thus we strive to
carry out the advice of St. Paul: "All whatsoever you do in word or
in work, all things do ye in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ."5
n1. "John," XV, 1-6.
n2. "John," XIV, 6.
n3. "Growth in Holiness," p. 467.
n4. "Gal.," II, 20.
n5. "Colos.," III, 17.
#239. c) Purity of intention or perfection of the motive under which
we act. For our actions to be meritorious it is enough, according to
many theologians, that they be inspired by any supernatural motive:
fear, hope or love. It is true that St. Thomas requires that our
actions be at least virtually under the influence of charity through
a preceding act of love the influence of which still endures. He
adds, however, that this condition is fulfilled in all those that
perform any lawful action whilst in the state of grace: " For those
in the state of grace every act is meritorious or demeritorious."1 In
fact, every good act springs from some virtue; but all virtues
converge into charity which is the Queen of virtues just as the will
is the Queen of faculties. And charity ever active directs all our
good acts towards God and gives life to all our virtues. If, however,
we want our acts to be as meritorious as possible, we need a more
perfect, a more actual intention. The intention is the principal
element in our actions; it is the eye that sheds its light upon them
and directs them towards their end; it is the soul that animates them
and gives them their worth in God's sight: "If thy eye be single, thy
whole body shall be lightsome."2 Now, there are three elements that
bestow special value upon our intentions.
n1. "Quaes. disp.," de Malo. q. 2, a. 5, ad 7. Hence it appears that
what St. Thomas calls virtual intention, modern theologians call
n2. "Matth.," VI, 22.
#240. 1) since charity is the Queen and the soul of all virtues,
every act inspired by it will have by far more merit than acts
inspired by fear or by hope. It is important, then, that all our
actions be done out of love of God and the neighbor. In this way even
the most ordinary actions, like meals and recreations, become acts of
charity and share in the merits of that virtue. To eat in order to
restore our strength is lawful and, in a Christian, it is
meritorious; but to do this in order to work for God and for souls is
to act from a motive of love which ennobles our action and bestows on
it greater meritorious value.
241. 2) since acts of virtue animated by charity lose none of their
own value, it follows that an act done from more than one motive will
thereby be more meritorious. Thus, an act of obedience to Superiors
prompted both by respect for their authority and by the love of God
whom we see in their persons, will possess the twofold merit of
obedience and of charity. In this way one and the same act may have a
threefold or a fourfold value; for instance, when I detest my sins
because they offend God, I can also have the intention of practicing
penance and humility. Thus, I make this one act thrice meritorious.
It is, therefore, useful in performing our actions to propose to
ourselves several supernatural motives. We must, however, avoid all
excess and preoccupation in seeking to multiply intentions, for this
would disturb the soul. The prudent way is to make use of the
intentions that suggest themselves more or less spontaneously and to
subordinate them to that of divine charity. In this manner we shall
increase our merits without losing our peace of soul.
242. 3) since our will is fickle, we must form and renew frequently
our supernatural intention. Otherwise, it might come to pass that an
action begun for God would be continued from curiosity, sensuality or
self-love, and thus lose in part its worth. We say: in part, for
since these secondary motives do not utterly destroy the first, the
act does not cease to be supernatural and meritorious. When a steamer
leaves Cherbourg for New York, it is not enough to direct it once and
for all towards her destination. The tides, gales and ocean-currents
tend now and again to change her course, and it is necessary that the
pilot be constantly at the helm to keep her in her path. It is the
same with the will. It is not enough to direct it towards God once
for all or even once a day. Human passions and external influences
will soon throw it out of course; we must, therefore, by explicit
acts bring it back frequently in the direction of God and of charity.
We should be careful to realize and to mean what we say when we
recite the morning-offering: "I offer up to Thee, O my God, my
thoughts, words, acts and sufferings of this day; grant that they may
all tend to Thy glory and my salvation." We should renew this
offering before every important action of the day. If we are faithful
to this practice, God will gradually give us the facility to renew
the offering even in the course of our actions, without depriving us
of the requisite attention to do our work well.
243. d) Fervor or intensity of our actions. Even in the
accomplishment of good works, it is possible for us to be careless
and remiss; or, on the other hand, we may act with vigor, with all
the energy at our command, making use of all the actual graces placed
at our disposal. Evidently, the result in either case will be very
different. If we act halfheartedly we acquire but little merit and at
times become guilty of venial sins, which do not, however, entirely
destroy our merit. If, on the contrary, we pray and labor and
sacrifice ourselves whole-heartedly, each of our actions merits a
goodly share of sanctifying grace. Without entering here into
debatable questions, we can say with certainty that, since God
renders a hundredfold for what is done for Him, a fervent soul
acquires daily a great increase of grace and becomes perfect in a
short time, according to the words of Wisdom: "Being made perfect in
a short space, he fulfilled a long time."1 What a mighty incentive to
fervor! In truth, it is well worth the while to renew our efforts
unceasingly and resolutely.
n1. "Wisdom," IV, 13.
(2) CONDITIONS ON THE PART OF THE ACT ITSELF
#244. Subjective dispositions are not the only conditions that
increase merit; there are also objective circumstances that
contribute to render our actions more perfect. These are chiefly
a) The excellence of the object or of the act itself. There is a
hierarchy among the virtues; the theological excel the moral. Hence,
the acts of faith, hope and charity have greater worth than those of
prudence, justice, temperance, etc. But, as we have said, the latter
can, through the intention of the subject, become also acts of
charity and thus share in the special worth that attaches to this
virtue. In like manner acts of religion which of themselves have
God's glory directly in view, are more perfect than those that look
directly to our sanctification.
b) As regards certain actions, quantity may have some influence on
merit. All other things being the same, a gift of a thousand dollars
will be more meritorious than a gift of a hundred. But in this matter
quantity is often a relative thing. The mite of the widow who
deprives herself of much of her substance has a greater moral value
than the princely gift of the rich man who simply gives a portion of
his superfluous goods.
c) The duration of an act likewise may render it more meritorious. To
pray or to suffer for an hour is worth more than to pray or to suffer
for five minutes; for protracted prayer or suffering call forth more
effort and more love.
#245. d) The difficulty inherent to the performance of the act also
increases merit, not precisely inasmuch as it is a difficulty, but
inasmuch as it demands greater love and a more strenuous and
sustained effort. For instance, to resist a violent temptation is
more meritorious than to resist a light one; to practice meekness
with a choleric temperament and in spite of frequent provocations
from others is more difficult and more meritorious than to do so with
a nature that is gentle and mild or when others are kind and
considerate. We must not conclude, however, that the ease acquired by
the repetition of virtuous acts necessarily diminishes our merit.
Such facility, when used to sustain and to strengthen the
supernatural effort, contributes to the intensity or fervor of the
act, and in this way it rather increases our merit, as we have
already explained above. Just as an efficient worker in the measure
that he becomes proficient in his work avoids all waste of time,
material and energy, and thus realizes larger gains with less labor,
so the Christian who has learned to make better use of the means of
sanctification saves time and effort, and thus with less trouble to
himself gains greater merit. Because the Saints through the practice
of virtue make acts of humility, obedience, religion, with greater
facility, they are not therefore entitled to less merit; just the
contrary, since they make acts of love of God with greater ease and
frequency. Moreover, they continue their efforts to make sacrifices
whenever necessary. In short, difficulty increases merit, not
inasmuch it is an obstacle to be overcome but inasmuch as it calls
for more energy and more love.1
We must add that these objective conditions have a real influence on
merit only inasmuch as they are freely accepted by us, and thus react
on our interior dispositions.
n1. EYMIEU, "Le Gouvernement de soi-meme," I, Introd., p. 7-9.
#246. The logical conclusion of all this is the necessity of
sanctifying all our actions, even the most ordinary. We have already
said it: all our actions can become a source of merit if done with a
supernatural end in view and in union with our Lord, who even in the
workshop at Nazareth never ceased to merit for us. What progress can
we not thus make in a single day! From the moment we awake until we
retire at night the meritorious acts which we can perform, if we are
recollected and generous, may be numbered by the hundreds. Indeed,
there is a growth of the Godlike life of grace in our souls not only
through every act of the day, but through every effort to make each
action more perfect; through every effort to dispel distractions at
prayer, to apply our minds to our tasks, to keep back an unkind word,
to render a service to others. Likewise, every word inspired by
charity, every good thought turned to good account, ill short, all
the movements of the. soul directed by our free-will towards good are
so many means of increasing merit.
#247. It may be said in all truth that there is no means of
sanctification more efficacious, more practical, than the
supernaturalizing of our ordinary actions,--and this means is within
the reach of every one. It is of itself sufficient to raise a soul
within a short time to a high degree of holiness. Every act becomes a
seed of grace and glory, since it gives us an increase of sanctifying
grace and a right to a higher degree of heavenly bliss.
#248. The practical way of thus converting our acts into merits is to
recollect ourselves for a moment before we begin them, to renounce
positively all evil or inordinate intentions, to unite ourselves to
our Lord, our model and our Mediator, with a keen sense of our own
weakness, and to offer through Him every act for God's glory and the
good of souls. Thus understood the oft-renewed offering of our
actions to God is an act of self-renunciation, of humility, of love
of our Lord, of love of God, of love of the neighbor. It is, indeed,
a short-cut to perfection.1
n1. All spiritual writers recommend this practice in some form or
other. See RODRIGUEZ, "Practice of Christian Perfection," P. I, tr.
2, 3; OLIER, "Introd.," C. XV; TRONSON, "Examens," XXVI-XXIX; FABER,
"All for Jesus;" "Minting Money"; "Growth in Holiness," p. 463-468.
[III] Growth of the Christian Life through the Sacraments1
#249. We grow in grace and perfection not only by means of
meritorious acts, but also by the reception of the Sacraments.
Sensible signs instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ, they symbolize
and confer grace. God, knowing how easily man is drawn to external
things, willed in His infinite goodness to attach His grace to
material objects and visible actions. It is a matter of faith that
our sacraments contain the grace they symbolize and that they confer
it on all those who place no obstacle in the way;2 and this not
solely in virtue of the recipient's dispositions, but "ex opere
operato," that is, in virtue of the sacramental rite itself. The
sacraments are instrumental causes of grace, God ever being the
principal cause, and our Lord the meritorious cause.
n1. St. THOM., III, q. 60-62; SUAREZ, disp. VIII; DE BROGLIE, "Conf.
sur la vie surnat.," III; BELLEVUE, "De la grace sacramentelle;"
TANQUEREY, "Syn.," III, n. 298-323; MARMION, "Christ the Life of the
Soul," p. 65 and ff.
n2. "Council of Trent," Sess. VII, Can. 6.
#250. Besides habitual grace, each sacrament produces a special grace
which is called sacramental grace. This does not differ specifically
from sanctifying grace, but, according to St. Thomas and his school,
it adds to it a special energy calculated to produce effects in
harmony with the purpose of each sacrament. Be this as it may, all
agree that it gives a right to special graces at the opportune moment
for the more easy performance of those obligations which the
reception of the various sacraments imposes. The Sacrament of
Confirmation, for example, gives us the right to special actual
graces of strength for combating human respect and for confessing our
faith in the face of all.
There are four things we should dwell on: (1) sacramental grace,
proper to each sacrament; (2) the dispositions necessary for the
fruitful reception of the sacraments; (3) the special dispositions
required for the sacrament of Penance; (4) those required for the
reception of Holy Communion.
I. Sacramental Grace
The Sacraments confer special graces which correspond to the
different stages of life.
#251. a) In Baptism a grace of spiritual regeneration is given by
which we are purified from the stain of original sin, are born to the
life of grace. A new man is thus created within us, the regenerated
man that lives the life of Christ. According to the beautiful
teaching of St. Paul, "We are buried together with Him (Christ) by
baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead, so we also
may walk in newness of life,"1 Hence, the special or sacramental
grace given us is: 1) a grace of death to sin, of spiritual
crucifixion which enables us to oppose and to curb the evil
tendencies of the Old Adam; 2) a grace of regeneration that makes us
one with Christ, causes us to share in His life, renders us capable
of living in harmony with His sentiments and examples and thus makes
us perfect Christians. Hence, the duty for us of combating sin and
its causes, of adhering to Jesus Christ and imitating His virtues.
n1. "Romans," VI, 3-6.
#252. b) Confirmation makes of us soldiers of Christ. To the grace of
Baptism it adds a special grace of strength that we may with
generosity profess our faith in face of all enemies, in spite of
human respect that keeps so many from the practice of their religious
duties. This is why the gifts of the Holy Ghost already given us in
Baptism are conferred again in Confirmation, for the special purpose
of enlightening our faith, of rendering it more vivid, more
discerning, and of strengthening our will against sin. Hence, the
duty of cultivating the gifts of the Holy Ghost, especially those
that make for militant Christianity.
#253. c) The Eucharist nourishes our souls, which like our bodies
need food for sustenance and strength. None but a Divine Food can
nourish a Divine Life. The Body and Blood of Christ, His Soul and His
Divinity transform us into other Christs, infusing into us His
spirit, His sentiments and His virtues. This will be developed
further, (n. 283).
#254. d) Should we have the misfortune of losing the life of grace by
mortal sin, the Sacrament of Penance washes away our sins in the
Blood of Jesus Christ poured upon us by absolution (cf. n. 262).
#255. e) As death approaches we need to be fortified in the midst of
the anxiety and the fear inspired by the memory of past sins, by our
present failings, and by the thought of God's judgment. By the
anointing of our senses with the Holy Oils the Sacrament of Extreme
Unction infuses into our souls a grace of comfort and spiritual
solace that frees us from the remains of sin, revives our trust, and
arms us against the last assaults of the enemy, making us share the
sentiments of St. Paul who, after having fought the good fight,
rejoiced at the thought of the crown prepared for him. It is
important, then, to ask in good time for this Sacrament, that is as
soon as we become seriously ill, in order that we may receive all its
effects, in particular, restoration to health should this be God's
will. It amounts to cruelty on the part of those attending the sick
to hide from them the seriousness of their condition and to put off
to the last moment the reception of a sacrament from which flow such
abundant consolations. These five sacraments suffice to sanctify the
individual. There are two others instituted to sanctify man in his
relations to society, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The former gives the
Church worthy ministers, the latter sanctifies the family.
#256. f) Holy Orders bestow upon the ministers of the Church not only
the marvelous powers of consecrating the Body and Blood of Christ,
administering the Sacraments and preaching the word of God, but also
the grace of exercising these powers in a holy manner. This Sacrament
gives them in particular an ardent love for the Blessed Eucharist and
for the souls of men, together with a firm determination of spending
and sacrificing themselves entirely. We shall speak later on of the
high degree of sanctity at which God's ministers should aim.
257. g) In order to sanctify the family, the cradle of society, the
Sacrament of Matrimony gives to husbands and wives the graces they so
urgently need: the grace of an absolute and abiding fidelity so
difficult to the human heart; the grace of reverence for the sanctity
of the marriage-bed; the grace of devoted and steadfast consecration
to the Christian education of their children.
#258. At all the important stages of life, for every duty, individual
or social, we receive through some Sacrament a wonderful grant of
sanctifying grace. That such a grace may be turned to account, we
receive likewise through each Sacrament a right to actual graces that
urge us and help us to practice the virtues to which we are bound. It
is our task then to correspond to these graces by bringing to the
Sacraments the best possible dispositions.
II. Necessary Dispositions for the Fruitful Reception of the Sacraments
The amount of grace produced by the Sacraments depends both on God
and on us.1 Let us see how this grace can be increased.
n1. Thus the Council of "Trent," Sess. VI, Ch. 7: "The Holy spirit
distributes to each according as He wills, and according to each
one's disposition and cooperation."
#259. A) No doubt, God is free in the distribution of His gifts. He
may, therefore, grant more or less grace through the Sacraments,
according to the designs of His Wisdom and His Goodness. But there
are laws which God Himself has laid down and by which He wills to
abide. Thus, He declares again and again that He cannot turn a deaf
ear to prayer well said: "Ask and it shall be given you: seek and you
shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you."1 This holds good
especially if our prayer is supported by the merits of Christ: "Amen,
amen, I say to you: if you ask the Father anything in my name, He
will give it to you."2 If, therefore, when we receive a Sacrament, we
pray With humility and fervor and in union with our Lord for a
greater measure of grace, we shall obtain it.
n1. "Matth.," VII, 7.
n2. "John," XVI, 23.
#260. B) On our part two dispositions contribute to the reception of
an increase of sacramental grace, namely, holy desires before
approaching the Sacraments, and fervor in receiving them.
a) The ardent desire of receiving a Sacrament with all its fruits
opens and dilates the soul. This is an application of the principle
laid down by our Lord: "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after
justice: for they shall have their fill."1 Now, to hunger and thirst
for the Holy Eucharist or for Absolution is to open wide our hearts
to the divine communications. Then will God replenish our famished
souls: "He hath filled the hungry with good things."2 Let us then be
like Daniel, men of desire, and let us long after the fountains of
living water, the Sacraments.
b) Fervor in the actual reception of the Sacraments will make the
soul still more receptive; for fervor is that generous attitude of
refusing Almighty God nothing, of allowing Him to act in all the
fullness of His power and of co-operating with Him with all our
energies. Such a disposition expands the soul, renders it more apt
for the effusions of grace, more responsive to the action of the Holy
Spirit. From this co-operation of God and the soul spring forth
abundant fruits of sanctification.
n1. "Matth," V, 6.
n2. "Luke," I, 53.
#261. We may add here that all the conditions rendering our actions
more meritorious (cf n. 237), perfect at the same time the
dispositions we must bring to the reception of the Sacraments, and
consequently increase the measure of grace conferred upon us. We
shall understand this better when we apply this principle to the
Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist.
III. The Dispositions Required to Profit Well by the Sacrament of Penance1
The Sacrament of Penance purifies our souls in the Blood of Jesus
Christ, provided that we are well disposed, that our confession is
sincere, and that our contrition is true and genuine.
#262. A) A word concerning grave sins. We speak but incidentally of
the accusation of grave faults. This we have treated at length in our
Moral Theology.2 Should one that is tending toward perfection have
the misfortune, in a moment of weakness, of committing any mortal
sins he should confess them clearly and sincerely, mentioning them at
the very beginning of his confession and not half concealing them
midst a multitude of venial sins. He should state in all sincerity
and humility the number and species of these sins, and the causes
that brought them about, and ask his confessor most earnestly for the
remedies that will work a cure. He must, above all, have a deep
sorrow for sin together with a firm purpose of avoiding in the
future, not only these sins themselves, but also their occasions and
Once these sins have been forgiven, he must keep within his soul an
abiding and a lively sense of sorrow, and a sincere desire to repair
the evil done, by an austere and mortified life, by an ardent and
self-sacrificing love. An isolated fault immediately repaired, even
though grave, is not for long an obstacle to our spiritual progress.
n1. Besides consulting treatises of Theology, see: BEAUDENOM,
"Spiritual Progress"; ST. FRANCIS DE SALES, "Introduction to a Devout
Life," P. 1, C. 19; P. II. C. 19; FABER, "Growth in Holiness," C.
XIX, XX; MANNING, "Sin and its Consequences," "The Love of Jesus for
Penitent Sinners:" TISSOT, "Profiting by Our Faults;" MOTHER MARY
LOYOLA, "First Confession;" MARMION, "Christ the Life of the Soul,"
P. 11. C. IV.
n2. "Syn. theol. moral., De Paenitentia," n. 242 and ff.
#263. B) Deliberate Venial Faults.1 Venial faults are of two kinds:
those that are deliberate, that is, committed with full knowledge
that one is about to displease God and with a deliberate selfish
preference for a created good to the divine will. The others are such
as are committed through surprise, fickleness, frailty, lack of
vigilance or courage, and regretted on the spot, with the firm
purpose of committing them no more.
Sins of the first category are a very serious obstacle to perfection,
specially if the sins recur frequently and the heart is attached to
them, for example, willfully keeping petty grudges, habitually
forming rash judgments, speaking ill of others, yielding to the
attraction of inordinate, natural affections, stubbornly holding to
one's own judgment, to one's own will. These are cords that bind us
to earth and prevent us from taking our flight toward God. When one
willfully refuses Almighty God the sacrifice of one's tastes, of
one's way, one can hardly expect of Him those choice graces which
alone can lead to perfection. Such faults should be corrected at any
cost. The better to achieve this task, we must take up successively
the different species or categories of faults, for example, faults
against charity, then those against humility, against the virtue of
religion, etc. We must make a full avowal of them in confession,
chiefly of those more humiliating to us, as well as of the causes
that make us fall into such sins. Lastly, we must make firm
resolutions to avoid these causes entirely. In this manner, each
confession will be a step forward in the way of perfection.
n1. MEYER, S.J., "The Science of the Saints," Vol. I, C. XIII.
#264. C) sins of Frailty. Having once overcome deliberate faults, we
set upon those proceeding from frailty, not indeed to avoid them
altogether--this is impossible--but gradually to diminish their
number. Here again, we must have recourse to the same expedient of
dividing the task. We may, no doubt, accuse all the venial sins we
remember; but this we do rapidly and then we stress some particular
faults; for instance, distractions in prayer, failings against purity
of intention, lack of charity.
In the examination of conscience and in confession we shall not
content ourselves with saying: "I have been distracted in my prayers
"--which tells the confessor absolutely nothing--but we shall rather
put things thus: "I have been distracted or careless during such or
such a spiritual exercise, the reason being, that I failed to
recollect myself properly before beginning it," or "because I had not
the courage to repel at once and with determination the first
vagaries of my mind," or again "because after having repelled
distractions for a while I did not persevere and remain steadfast in
At other times we shall accuse ourselves of having been long
distracted on account of an attachment to study or to a friend, or
owing to some petty grievance.
The accusation of the causes of our sins will suggest the remedy and
the resolution to be taken.
#265. In order to insure the effectiveness of the confession, whether
it be question of deliberate faults or not, we shall end the
accusation by formulating the resolution for the coming week or
fortnight of "combating in earnest this source of distraction, that
attachment, such preoccupation." In the next confession we shall be
careful to render an account of our efforts, for instance: "I had
taken such resolution, I kept it so many days, or kept it only in
this regard, but I failed in this or that point."
Evidently, confession practiced in this manner, will not be a matter
of routine but will on the contrary, mark a step forward. The grace
of absolution will confirm the resolution taken and not only will it
increase habitual grace within us, but it will also multiply our
energies, causing us to avoid in the future a certain number of
venial faults and to grow in virtue with a greater measure of
#266. In frequent confessions stress must be laid on contrition and
on the purpose of amendment which necessarily goes with it. We must
ask for it with earnestness and excite it in ourselves by the
consideration of supernatural motives. These are always substantially
the same, even if they vary with different souls and with the
different faults accused. The general motives for contrition have
their source in God and in the soul. We shall briefly indicate them.
#267. A) As regards God, sin, no matter how trivial, is an offense
against Him; it is resistance to His will; it constitutes an act of
ingratitude toward the most loving and most lovable of fathers and
benefactors--ingratitude that is all the more hurtful because we are
His privileged friends. Hence God says to us: "For if my enemy had
reviled me, I would have borne with it..., but thou a man of one
mind, my guide, and my familiar, who didst take sweet meats together
with me, in the house of God we walked with consent."1 Let us lend a
willing ear to His well-merited reproaches, and hide our face in
shame and humiliation.
Let us hearken also to the voice of Jesus, telling us that because of
our transgressions His Chalice on the Mount of Olives was made more
bitter and His agony more terrible. Then out of the depths of our
misery let us humbly ask for pardon: "Have mercy on me, O God,
according to Thy great mercy... Wash me yet more from my
n1. "Ps." LIV, 13-15.
n2. "PS. L," Meditation on this psalm is a splendid preparation for
#268. B) As regards the soul, venial sin does not indeed of itself
lessen sanctifying grace, but it does affect the existing intimacy of
the soul with God. What a loss this is! It brings to a standstill or,
at least, it hampers our spiritual activity, clogging, as it were,
the fine mechanism of the spiritual life. It weakens the soul's power
for good by intensifying the love of pleasure. Above all, if it be
deliberate, it predisposes to mortal sin, for in many matters,
especially in what concerns purity, the line of demarcation between
venial and mortal sin is so narrow, and the charm of forbidden
pleasure so alluring, that the borders of mortal sin are easily
crossed. Every sin committed means a yielding to and therefore a
strengthening of some impulse of our lower nature; it means likewise
a weakening of our wills and a lesser grant of grace. When this is
repeated, it is easy to understand how the way is prepared for mortal
When we ponder over these consequences of venial sin, it is not
difficult to conceive a sincere regret for our negligences and a
desire to avoid them in the future.1 In order to have this good
purpose take an actual, definite form, it is well to make it bear
upon the means that should be taken to reduce the chances of
subsequent falls, according to the method we have indicated above (N.
n1. BEAUDENON, op. cit, t. II, ch. II.
#269. In order to insure still further the presence of contrition, it
is a good practice to accuse one of the more serious faults of the
past for which we are surely sorry, especially a fault that is of the
same species as the venial sins we deplore. Here we must be on our
guard against two defects: routine and negligence. The first would
make of this accusation a mere empty formula devoid of any real
sentiment of sorrow; the other would render us unmindful of any
actual regret for the venial sins presently accused.
The practice of confession carried out in this manner, the advice of
the confessor, and above all, the cleansing power of absolution will
be effectual means of disentangling ourselves from the meshes of sin
and of advancing in virtue.
lV. Dispositions Required to Profit Well by the Sacrament of the Eucharist1
#270. The Holy Eucharist is both a sacrament and a sacrifice. These
two elements are most closely united; for the Sacrifice of the Mass
makes present the victim which we receive in Holy Communion.
Communion is not, according to the common teaching, an essential part
of the sacrifice; it is, however, an integral part since it is by
virtue of communion that we partake in the sentiments of the victim
and share in the fruits of the sacrifice.
The essential difference between the one and the other is that the
sacrifice refers directly to the glory of God whilst the Sacrament's
immediate end is the sanctification of our souls. These two objects
are but one in reality, for to know and love God is to glorify Him.
Each, therefore, contributes to our spiritual progress.
n1. St. THOM., III, q. LXXIX; SUAREZ, disp. LXIII; DALGAIRNS, "Holy
Communion;" HUGON, O.P., "La Sainte Eucharistie;" HEDLEY, "The Holy
(1) THE: SACRIFICE OF THE MASS AS A MEANS OF SANCTIFICATION1
#271. A) Its Effects. a) The Sacrifice of the Mass first of all
glorifies God and glorifies Him in a perfect manner, for here Jesus
Christ, through the ministry of the priest offers again to His Father
all the acts of adoration, gratitude and love which He once offered
on Calvary,-- acts which have an infinite moral value. In offering
Himself as victim, He proclaims in a manner most significant God's
sovereign domain over all things--this is adoration; in giving
Himself to God in acknowledgment of His benefices, Christ offers to
Him a praise equal to His gifts-- this is thanksgiving, and it
constitutes the eucharistic worship. nothing can prevent this effect
from taking place, not even the unworthiness of the minister,2 for
the worth of the sacrifice does not depend essentially upon the one
through whose ministry it is offered, but on the worth of the victim
and on the dignity of the chief priest--no other than Jesus Christ
This is what the Council of Trent teaches in declaring that this
unspotted offering cannot be stained by the unworthiness or malice of
those who offer it; that ill this divine sacrifice is contained and
immolated, in an unbloody manner, the same Christ that offered
Himself in a bloody manner upon the altar of the Cross. Hence, adds
the Council, it is the same victim, the same sacrificing-priest who
offers Himself now through the ministry of priests and who once
offered Himself upon the Cross. There is no difference, save in the
manner of offering.3 Thus when we assist at Mass, and all the more
when we celebrate Mass, we render unto God Almighty all the homage
due to Him and that in a manner most perfect, since we make our own
the homage of Jesus, Priest and victim.
Let no one say that this has nothing to do with our sanctification.
The truth is, that when we glorify God, He is moved with love toward
us, and the more we attend to His glory the more He attends to our
spiritual concerns. By fulfilling our duties to Him in union with the
victim on the altar, we do a signal work for our own sanctification.
n1. Besides the works already cited, cf. BENEDICT XIV "De ss. Missae
Sacrificio;" BONA, "De Sacrificio Missae;" LE GAUDIER, op. cit. P. I,
sect. 10a; GIHR, "The Holy Sacrifice of teh Mass;" OLIER, "La Journee
chretienne," Occupations interieures pendant le saint sacrifice, p.
49-65; CHAIGNON, S.J., "The Holy Sacrifice; BACUEZ, S.S., "Du divin
sacrifice;" E. VANDEUR, O.S.B., "The Holy Mass Explained;" CARD.
VAUGHAN, "The Mass;" HEDLEY, "Retreat," C. 24; "Retreat for Priests,"
C. 13; "A Bishop and his Flock," C. 10; DUNNEY, "The Mass;" MARMION,
"Christ the Life of the Soul," P. II, C. VII.
n2. In other words, this effect is produced, "ex opere operato," by
the very virtue of the sacrifice.
n3. Sees. XXII, cap. I-II.
#272. b) The Divine Sacrifice has besides a propitiatory effect by
the very virtue of its celebration ("ex opere operato," as
theologians say). It means that this Sacrifice, by offering to the
Almighty the homage due to Him together with an adequate atonement
for sin, inclines Him to bestow upon us, not sanctifying grace
directly (this is the effect proper to the sacrament), but actual
grace, which produces in us true repentance and contrition, thus
securing for us the remission of even the greatest sins.1
At the same time the Sacrifice of the Mass is satisfactory in the
sense that it remits without fail to repentant sinners at least part
of the temporal punishment due to sin. This is why the Holy Synod
adds that Mass can be offered not only for the sins and satisfactions
and needs of the living, but also for the relief of those that have
died in the Lord without having sufficiently expiated their faults.2
We can easily see how this twofold effect of the Sacrifice,
propitiatory and satisfactory, contributes to our progress in the
Christian life. The great obstacle to union with God is sin. By
obtaining pardon for it and by causing its last vestiges to vanish, a
closer and more intimate union with God is prepared: "Blessed are the
clean of heart: for they shall see God."3
How comforting to poor sinners thus to see the wall of separation
crumble down!--a wall that had kept them from the enjoyment of divine
n1. This is the teaching of the Council of "Trent," sess. XXII, c. II.
n2. Loc. cit.
n3. "Matth.," V, 8.
#273. c) Holy Mass produces also "ex opere operato" an impetratory
effect and thus obtains for us all the graces we need for our
Sacrifice is prayer in action and He Who with unspeakable groanings
makes supplication for us at the altar is the same whose prayers are
always heard: " He was heard because of His reverence."1 Thus the
Church, the authoritative interpreter of the divine mind, prays there
unceasingly, in union with Jesus, Priest and victim, "through Jesus
Christ Our Lord," for all the graces which her members need, for
health of body and soul, "for their longed for salvation and
well-being,"2 for their spiritual growth, asking for her faithful
children, specially in the Collect, the particular grace proper to
each feast. Whoever enters into this stream of liturgical prayer with
the required dispositions is sure to obtain for himself and others
the most abundant graces.
It is clear, then, that all the effects of the Holy Sacrifice concur
to our sanctification--this all the more effectively, since we do not
pray alone therein, but in union with the whole Church and above all
in union with its invisible Head, Jesus Christ, Priest and victim,
Who, renewing the offering of Calvary, demands in virtue of His Blood
and His supplications that His merits and His satisfactions be
applied to us.
n1. "Hebr., V, 7.
n2. Canon of Mass.
#274. B) Dispositions required to profit by the Holy Sacriflce.1 What
dispositions should we have in order to profit by such a powerful
means of sanctification? The fundamental and all-inclusive
disposition is that of humble and trusting union with the
dispositions manifested by Christ on the Cross and renewed now on the
Altar. We must strive to share His sentiments of religion and make
them our own. In this way we can all carry out what the Pontifical
demands of priests: "Realize what you do, and imitate the victim you
offer." And this is precisely what the Church through her Liturgy
urges us to do.2
n1. The fruits of the Mass, described above, are obtained in various
degrees according to the inscrutable decrees of God, first by the
celebrant, then by those for whom the Holy Sacrifice is offered, by
those whom the priest remembers at the altar, and finally by all
those who assist at Mass. We speak here only of these last.
n2. Cf. E. VANDEUR, O.S.B., "The Holy Mass; The Following of Christ,"
Bk. IV, C. 8-9.
#275. a) In the "Mass of the Catechumens" (as far as the Offertory,
exclusive) she would have us form sentiments of penitence and
contrition (the "Confiteor," "Aufer a nobis," "Oramus te," "Kyrie
eleison"); of adoration and gratitude (the "Gloria in excelsis"); of
supplication (the "Collect"), and of sincere faith (the" Epistle,"
"Gospel" and "Creed").
b) The grand drama follows: 1) The offering of the victim at the
"Offertory" for the salvation of the whole human race, "For our
salvation and that of the entire world"; the offering of the
Christian people together with the principal victim, "We beg of Thee,
O Lord, in humble spirit and with contrite hearts," followed by a
prayer to the Most Holy Trinity to deign to bless and receive the
offering of the entire mystical body of Christ. 2) The Preface
heralds the great action itself. At the Canon wherein the mystic
immolation of the victim is to be renewed, the Church summons us to
join with the Angels and Saints, but chiefly the Incarnate Word, in
thanking God Almighty, in proclaiming His Holiness, in imploring His
help for the Church, for its visible head, its bishops and faithful
children, and particularly those assisting at the Sacrifice and those
to whom we are bound by closer ties of love.
Then the priest, uniting in fellowship with the Blessed Virgin, with
the Holy Apostles, Martyrs, and all the Saints, moves in spirit to
the Last Supper, becomes one with the Sovereign Priest, and with Him
utters once more the words Jesus spoke in the Cenacle. Obedient to
His voice, the Word-made-flesh descends upon the altar with His Body
and Blood, silently adoring and praying in His own name and in ours.
The Christian people bow in adoration of the Divine victim; they
unite with our Lord's own sentiments, His acts of adoration, His
requests, and they strive to immolate themselves with Him by offering
their own small sacrifices "through Him, and with Him and in Him."
c) The "Our Father begins the preparation for Communion. Members of
Christ's mystical body, we repeat the prayer He Himself taught us. We
thus offer with Him our acts of religious homage and our entreaties,
asking most of all, for that eucharistic bread that will deliver us
from all evil, and will give us, together With the pardon of our
sins, peace of soul and abiding union With Christ: "And never permit
that I be ever separated from Thee." Then, like the Centurion,
protesting their unworthiness and begging humble pardon, the priest
and the faithful eat the Body and drink the Blood of Christ. Priest
and people are thus united most intimately to Jesus, to His inmost
soul and through Him to the very Godhead, to the Most Blessed
The mystery of union is completed. We are but one with Jesus, and
since He is but one with the Father, the sacerdotal prayer of the
Savior at the Last Supper is realized: "I in them, and thou in me:
that they may be made perfect in one."1
n1. "John" XVII, 23.
#276. d) But one thing remains--to thank the Almighty for such a
stupendous gift. This is done at the "Postcommunion" and the prayers
that follow. The blessing of the priest bestows on us the affluent
riches of the Triune God. The last Gospel recalls to us the glory of
the Incarnate Word, who has come once more to dwell among us, whom we
carry within us full of grace and truth, that we may throughout the
day draw life from life's Source, and live a life like unto His.
It is evident that to assist at Mass or to celebrate it with
dispositions such as these is to sanctify ourselves and to nurture in
the best possible manner that spiritual life that is within us.
(2) HOLY COMMUNION AS A MEANS OF SANCTIFICATION1
#277. A) Its Effects. The Holy Eucharist, as a sacrament, produces in
us an increase of habitual grace, "ex opere operato," by its own
virtue. In fact, it has been instituted to be the food of our souls:
"My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed."2 Its effects
are, therefore, analogous to those of material food; it maintains,
increases, and repairs our spiritual forces, causing at the same time
a joy that, if not always sensible, is nevertheless real. Jesus
Himself, whole and entire, is our food; His Body, His Blood, His
Soul, His Divinity. He is united to us to transform us into Himself;
this union is at once real and moral, a transforming union, and by
Such is Christ's doctrine as found in St. John's Gospel and
summarized by Father Lebreton:3 "The union of Christ and the
Christian as well as the life-giving transformation resulting
therefrom are consummated in the Eucharist. Here there is no longer a
question of adhering to Christ merely by faith, nor of being
incorporated into Him through Baptism. This is a new union that is at
once most real and most spiritual by which, it may be said, we are
made not only one spirit but in a sense one flesh with Christ." "He
that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, abideth in me and I in
"This union is so intimate that Our Lord does not hesitate to say:
"As I live by the Father, so he that eateth me the same also shall
live by me."5 No doubt, this is only an analogy; yet if the analogy
is to hold, we must see here not merely a moral union based on a
community of sentiments, but a real physical union which implies the
mingling of two lives or rather the sharing by the Christian in the
very life of Christ." This we shall try to explain.
n1. ST. THOM., q. 79; TANQUEREY, Syn. Theol. Dogm., t III. p.
619-628; DALGAIRNS, Holy communion, p. 154 and foll.; H MOUREAU, Dict
de Theol (Mangenot) under the word, Communion; P. HUGON, La Sainte
Eucharistie, p. 240 and foll.; MARMION, Christ the Life of the sould,
P. II. C. VIII.; LEJEUNE, Holy communion; HEDLEY, The Holy Eucharist;
MOTHER LOYOLA, Welcome; Spiritual Combat, c. 53-57; Introd. to a
Devout Life, P. 11, C. XXI; THE FOLLOWING OF CHRIST, B IV; Approved
n2. "John, VI, 55.
n3. "Les Origines du dogme de la Trinite," 1910, p. 403.
n4. "John," VI, 57.
n5. "John", VI, 58.
#278. a) This union is real. It is a matter of faith, according to
the Council of Trent, that the Holy Eucharist contains truly, really,
and substantially the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, With His Soul
and His Divinity--hence Christ whole and entire.1 Therefore, when we
receive Holy Communion we receive veiled under the sacred species the
real and physical Body and Blood of Christ, together with His Soul
and His Divinity. We are, then, not only the tabernacles but the
ciboriums wherein Christ lives, where the angels come and adore Him,
and where we should join the heavenly Spirits in adoration. More,
there exists between Jesus and ourselves a union similar to that
existing between food and him who eats it--with this difference,
however, that it is Jesus that transforms us into Himself, and not we
who transform Him into our substance. The superior being is the one
to assimilate the inferior.2 It is a union that tends to subject our
flesh more and more to the spirit and to make it more chaste--a union
that sows ;n the flesh the seed of immortality: "He that eateth my
flesh and drinketh my blood hath everlasting life, and I will raise
him up in the last day."3
n1. Sess. XIII, can. I.
n2. This is the remark made by St. AUGUSTINE ("Confessions," lib.
VII, c. 10, n. 16, P.L., XXXXII, 742). He puts these words on the
lips of the Lord: "I am the food of great souls, grow and you shall
be able to eat of me; but you shall not change me into yourself like
you do material food., it will be you that shall be changed into me."
n3. "John," VI, 35.
#279. b) To this real union is added another union, spiritual in its
nature, most intimate in its character, most transforming in its
effects. 1) It is most intimate, most sanctifying The soul of Christ,
in fact, unites with ours to make us but one heart and one mind with
Him--"cor unum et anima una." His imagination and His memory, so
righteous and so holy, unite themselves to our own imagination and
our own memory to discipline them and turn them toward God and the
things of God, by bringing their activities to bear on the
remembrance of His benefactions, on His rapturous beauty, on His
inexhaustible goodness. His intelligence, true light of the soul,
enlightens our minds with the radiance of faith; it causes us to see
and value all things as God sees and values them. It is then that we
realize the vanity of worldly goods and the folly of worldly
standards; it is then that we relish the Gospel truths, so obscure
before because opposed to our natural instincts. His will so strong,
so constant, so generous, comes to correct our weakness, our
inconstancy, our egotism, by communicating to our wills its own
Divine energy, so that we can say with St. Paul: "I can do all things
in Him who strengtheneth me."1 We feel now that effort will become
easy, that temptation will find us immovable, that steadfastness will
no longer be above our strength, since we are not alone, but cling to
Christ like the ivy to the oak, and thus share in His power. His
heart, aglow with love for God and for souls, comes to enkindle our
own, so cold toward God, so tender toward creatures. Like the
disciples of Emmaus we say to ourselves: "Was not our heart burning
within us, whilst He spoke to us in the way:?"2 It is then that under
the action of this divine fire we become conscious at times of a
well-nigh irresistible impulse toward good, at others, of a sober yet
firm determination to do all things, to undergo all sufferings for
God and to refuse Him nothing.
n1. "Philip.," IV, 13.
n2. "Luke," XXIV, 32.
#280. 1) It is evident that a union such as this is truly
transforming. Little by little our thoughts, our ideas, our
convictions, and our judgments undergo a change. Instead of weighing
the worth of things with the world's standards, we make the thoughts
and the views of Jesus Christ our own; we lovingly accept the maxims
of the Gospel; we continually ask ourselves the question: What would
Jesus do if He were in my place?1
2) The same is true of our desires, of our choices. Realizing that
both self and the world are in the wrong, that the truth abides only
in Jesus, the Eternal Wisdom, we no longer desire anything but what
He desires, that is, God's glory, our own salvation and that of our
brethren; we will only what He wills, "not my will but thine be
done," and even when this holy will nails us to the Cross, we accept
it with all our heart, certain that it bids fair for our spiritual
welfare and that of our fellows.
3) Our heart in like manner gradually frees itself from its more or
less conscious egotism, from its lower natural affections and
attachments, that it may love God and souls in God, more ardently,
more generously, more passionately. Now we love no longer divine
consolations, be they ever so sweet, but God Himself; no loner the
comfort of finding ourselves midst those we love, hut rather the good
we can do them. We live now, but we live a more intense life, a life
more supernatural, more divine than we did in the past. It is no
longer self, the old Adam, that lives, thinks and acts, but Jesus
Himself, His spirit, that lives within us and vivifies our own: "I
live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me."2
n1. "We become one with Jesus. That is, we have the same "will" as He
has. What He loves, we love; what He desires, we desire; what He says
ought to be done we long to do and do; His judgments are ours; His
behavior under every kind of condition, under all circumstances of
persons and occurrences, is the behavior we are always striving to
reproduce in our own life and action. Thus, it is no exaggeration to
say that in the Holy Communion, Jesus Christ gives us His own heart,
taking our heart away. His Heart is the Heart of charity, of purity,
of sacrifice." BISHOP HEDLEY, "Retreat," p.279
n2. "Galat.," II, 20.
#281. c) This spiritual union can be as lasting as we wish, as Our
Lord Himself testifies: "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my
blood, abideth in me and I in him.1 He desires to tarry with us
eternally. It rests with us, His grace helping, ever to remain united
How is this union maintained? Some authors have thought with Schram2
that Christ's soul folds itself, as it were, in the center of our own
soul there to remain constantly.--This would be a miracle most
extraordinary, for Christ's soul is ever united to His body and this
latter disappears with the sacramental species. We cannot, therefore,
accept this opinion, since God does not multiply miracles without
If, however, His soul does depart from us together with His body, His
divinity remains with us as long as we are in the state of grace.
More, His sacred humanity united to His divinity maintains with the
soul a special union. This can be explained theologically as follows:
The Spirit of Jesus, in other words, the Holy Ghost, dwelling within
the human soul of Christ, remains in us in virtue of the special
relationship we have entered into with Jesus Christ by sacramental
Communion, and produces therein interior dispositions similar to
those of the Holy Soul of Christ. At the request of Jesus, Whose
prayers for us are unceasing, the Holy Ghost grants us more abundant
and more efficacious actual graces. With a special care, He preserves
us from temptations; He causes in us movements of grace, directs our
soul and its faculties, speaks to our heart, strengthens our will,
rekindles our love, and thus perpetuates within our soul the effects
of sacramental Communion. To enjoy these privileges, however, one
must evidently practice interior recollection, hearken attentively to
the voice of God, and be ready to comply with His least desire. Thus
Sacramental Communion is complemented by a spiritual Communion which
renders its effects more lasting.
n1. "John," VI, 56.
n2. "Instit. theol. Mysticae," #153.
#282. d) This communion brings about a special union with the Three
Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity.1 In virtue of the indwelling of
each Divine Person within the other--circumincession--the Eternal
Word does not come alone into the soul; He comes with the Father
forever generating His Son; He comes with the Holy Ghost forever
proceeding from the mutual embrace of the Father and the Son: "If any
one love me, my Father will love him and we will come to him and we
will make our abode with him."2 No doubt, the Three Divine Persons
are already in us by grace, but at the moment of Communion they are
present within us because of another, a special title: as we are then
physically united to the Incarnate Word, the Three Divine Persons
also are, through Him and by Him, united to us, and They love us now
as They love the Word-made-Flesh, Whose members we are. Bearing Jesus
in our hearts, with Him we bear the Father and the Holy Ghost. Holy
Communion, then, is an anticipation of Heaven, and, if we are
possessed of a lively faith, we shall realize the truth contained in
the words of the "Imitation," that "to be with Jesus is a sweet
n1. Cfr. BERNADOT, "De l'Eucharistie a la Trinite."
n2. "John," XIV, 23.
n3. "The Imitation of Christ," Bk, II, C. 8.
#283. B) Dispositions to profit well by the reception of the
Eucharist.1 Since the object of the Eucharist is to effect an
intimate, transforming, and permanent union with Christ and God,
whatever in our preparation and thanksgiving fosters that union will
increase the effects of Holy Communion. a) The preparation will have
the form of an anticipated union with Our Lord. We take for granted
the union of the soul with God by sanctifying grace as already
existing; without it, Communion would constitute a sacrilege.2
1) There is first the more perfect accomplishment of all our duties
of state in union with Jesus and in order to please Him. This is the
best means of drawing unto us Him Whose whole life was a continual
act of filial obedience to the Father. "For I do always the things
that please Him"3 This practice we explained in N. 229.
2) The second disposition should be a sincere humility, based, on the
one hand, on the exalted sanctity of Jesus Christ and, on the other,
upon our lowliness and our unworthiness: "Lord, I am not worthy..."
This humility creates, so to speak, a void within the soul, emptying
it of its egotism, its pride, its presumption. Now, the more we empty
ourselves of self, the more ready we make the soul. to let itself be
inhabited and possessed by God.
3) To this humility must be added an ardent desire to be united to
God in the Eucharist. Realizing our helplessness and our poverty, we
should long for Him Who alone can give strength to our weakness,
enrich us with His treasures and fill the void within our hearts.
Such a desire will, by dilating the soul, throw it wide open to Him
Who in turn desires to give Himself to us: "With desire I have
desired to eat this pasch with you."4
n1. Mother M. Loyola, "Welcome;" Lejeune, "Holy Communion; Approved
n2. Hence, were one conscious of mortal sin, it would be imperative,
first of all, to confess it with contrition and humility of heart,
not being content with an act of contrition no matter how perfect.
Cf. AD. TANQUEREY, "Syn. theol. Dogm.," 1, III, N. 652-654.
n3. "John," VIII, 29.
n4. "Luke XXIII," 15.
284. b) The best thanksgiving will be to prolong our union with
1) It should begin by an act of silent adoration,1 of self-abasement
and complete surrender of ourselves to Him Who being God, gives
Himself all to us: " O Hidden God, devoutly I adore Thee... To Thee
my heart I bow with bended knee."2 In union with Mary, the most
perfect adorer of Jesus Christ, we shall abase ourselves before the
majesty of the Godhead to bless it, praise it, thank it, first, in
the Word-made-Flesh, and then with Him and through Him, in the Most
Blessed Trinity. "My soul doth magnify the Lord. . . He Who is mighty
hath done great things unto me, and holy is His name."3 Nothing so
enables Jesus to take complete possession of the soul, to penetrate
its very depths, as this act of self-abasement. This is the manner in
which we poor creatures can gives ourselves to Him Who is All. We
shall give Him whatever of good is in us since all this good proceeds
from Him and has never ceased to be His. We shall further offer Him
our miseries that He may consume them with the fire of His love and
place in their stead His perfect dispositions. What a wondrous
n1. Many, forgetting this first act, begin at once to ask for favors
without considering the fact that our requests will be all the better
received, if first of all, we render our homage to Him Who honors us
with His presence.
n2. "Hymn of" St. THOMAS.
n3. "Luke," I, 46 and ff.
#285. 2) Then take place sweet colloquies between the soul and the
Divine Guest: "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth... Give me
understanding that I may know thy testimonies... Incline my heart
unto the words of thy mouth .. " This is the acceptable time to
listen attentively to Our Master and Our Friend, to speak to Him with
reverence, with candor, with love. This is the moment in which Jesus
instills into us His dispositions and His virtues. We must lay our
soul open to the divine communications and not only receive them, but
also relish them and assimilate them. That this communion may not
degenerate into a mere form, it will be good to vary, if not daily at
least from time to time, the subject of our colloquies. This can be
done by choosing now one virtue and then another, or by the loving
consideration of some Gospel-texts, begging Our Lord for help to
understand and relish them, and for grace to live by them.
#286. 3) One must not fail to thank God for the lights and the loving
sentiments He has vouchsafed to us, to thank Him, too, for the very
darkness and weariness of soul in which He has at times allowed us to
remain. Even these are profitable to us unto humility, unto the
acknowledgment of our unworthiness to receive divine favors;
profitable, because they enable us to adhere more frequently by will
to Him Who even in the midst of our aridity, pours into us m a hidden
and mysterious manner His life and His virtues. We ask Him to
communicate to our souls His action and His life. "O Jesus living in
Mary, come and live in thy servants.1 We beg Him to accept and
transform the little good within us: "Take, Lord, and accept my
n1. Prayer of Father de Condren completed by Father Olier.
n2. Prayer of S. Ignatius in the "Contemplation on the love of God."
#287. 4) We promise to make the sacrifices required to reform and
transform our lives, especially in this or that particular point, and
conscious of our weakness we beg earnestly for the courage of
carrying this promise into effect.1 This point is of capital
importance: each Communion should be received with this end in view,
to advance in the practice of some particular virtue.
n1. On the spirit of a victim cf. L. CAPELLE, S.J., "Les ames genereuses"
#288 5) This is likewise the moment to pray for all who are dear to
us, for the vast interests of the Church, for the intentions of the
Sovereign Pontiff, for bishops and priests. Let us have no fear of
making our prayer too universal: this rather gives assurance that we
shall be heard.
Finally, we conclude by asking Our Lord to vouchsafe us the grace of
abiding in Him as He does in us, the grace of performing all our
actions in union with Him, in a spirit of thanksgiving. We entrust to
the Blessed Virgin that same Jesus she guarded so well, in order that
she may aid us in making Him grow in our hearts. Thus strengthened by
prayer we pass on to action.
#289. We have, then, at our disposal three great means of sustaining
and expanding that Christian life God has so bountifully begotten
within us--means of giving ourselves as whole-heartedly to God as He
has given Himself to us:
1) Fighting relentlessly and fearlessly against our spiritual foes.
With the help of God and the aid of all the heavenly protectors He
has given us, certain victory and the further strengthening of our
spiritual life are assured.
2) Sanctifying all our actions, even the most commonplace. Through
the oft-repeated offering of them to God, we acquire numberless
merits, add largely day by day to our stock of grace, and strengthen
our title to heaven, the while we make reparation and atone for our
3) The sacraments, received with right and fervent dispositions, add
to our personal merits a rich bounty of grace which proceeds from
Christ's own merits. Approaching so frequently the sacrament of
Penance and communicating daily as we do, it is in our power, if we
will, to become saints. Jesus Christ came and still comes to us to
communicate with largess His life to us: "I am come that they may
have life and may have it more abundantly."1
Our task is but to lay our souls open to receive this divine life, to
foster it and make it grow by our constant participation in the
dispositions, the virtues, and the sacrifices of Jesus Christ. At
last the moment will come when transformed into Him, having no other
thoughts, no other sentiments, no other motives than His own, we
shall be able to repeat the words of S. Paul: "I live, now not I, but
Christ liveth in me."
n1. "John," X, 10.
SUMMARY OF THE SECOND CHAPTER
#290. At the close of this chapter, the most important of this First
Part, we can understand better the nature of the Christian life.
(1) It is a real participation in God's life, for God lives in us and
we in Him. He lives in us really--in the Unity of His nature and in
the Trinity of His persons. Nor is He inactive there. He creates in
the soul a complete supernatural organism that enables it to live a
life, not indeed equal, but truly similar, to His, a Godlike life.
More, it is He Who gives it movement by His actual grace, He Who
helps us to make our acts meritorious, He Who rewards these acts by a
further infusion of habitual grace. We also live in Him and for Him,
for we are His co-workers. By the aid of His grace, we freely accept
the divine impulse, co-operate with it and by it triumph over our
enemies acquire merit, and prepare ourselves for the rich effusion of
grace given to us by the Sacraments. Withal, we must not forget that
even our free consent itself is the work of His grace, and this is
the reason why we refer to Him the merit attached to our good works,
living unto Him, just as we live by Him and in Him.
291. (2) This life is also a participation in the life of Jesus, for
Christ lives in us and we live in Him. He lives in us not only as the
Father lives in us--as God, but He also lives in us, as the God-man.
He is, in fact, the head of a mystical body whose members we are, and
from Him it is that we receive movement and life. He lives within us
in a still more mysterious manner, for through His merits and prayers
He causes the Holy Ghost to create within us dispositions like those
which the same Divine Spirit produced in His own soul. He lives in us
really and physically at the moment of Communion, and through His
divine Spirit communicates to us His sentiments and His virtues. We
too live in Him. We are incorporated into Him and we freely receive
His divine impulse. It is likewise by the free action of our wills
that we imitate His virtues, even though our success comes from the
grace He merited for us. Lastly, it is freely that we adhere to Him
as the branch to the vine and open our souls to receive that divine
life He so liberally infuses into us. As we have all from Him, it is
by Him and unto Him that we live, only too glad to give ourselves to
Him as He gives Himself to us, our one regret being that the manner
of our giving is so imperfect.
#292. (3) This life is, in a certain measure, also a participation in
Mary's life, or, as Father Olier says, a participation in the life of
Jesus living in Mary. Desiring that His Holy Mother be a living image
of Himself, Jesus through His merits and prayers communicates to her
His divine Spirit, Who makes her share to a preeminent degree in His
dispositions and His virtues. It is thus that He lives in Mary, and,
since He wills that His Mother be also our Mother, He wills that she
engender us in spirit. Giving us spiritual life (of course as a
secondary cause), Mary not only makes us share in Jesus' life, but in
her own as well. At the same time, then, that we participate in the
life of Jesus, we participate in that of Mary-- in other words, in
the life of Jesus living in Mary. Such is the thought which the
beautiful prayer of Father de Condren completed by Father Olier so
well expresses: "O Jesus, living in Mary, come and live in thy
#293. (4) Finally, this life is a participation in the lives of the
Saints of heaven and of those of earth. As we have seen, the mystical
body of Christ includes all those that have been incorporated into
Him by Baptism and especially those enjoying the possession of grace
and of heavenly glory. All the members of this mystical body share
one common life, the life they receive from the Head, which is
diffused in their souls by one and the same Spirit. We are then in
all truth brethren, having our life from a common Father, a life
spiritual, the plenitude whereof is in Christ Jesus, "of whose
fullness we have all received." Thus the Saints in heaven and those
of earth have our spiritual welfare at heart and aid us in our
struggle against the flesh, the world and the devil.
#294. How consoling are these truths! Doubtless, the spiritual life
here below is a warfare. Hell fights against us and finds allies in
the world, and chiefly in our threefold concupiscence. But Heaven
fights for us, and Heaven means not only the host of Angels and
Saints, but Christ the victor over Satan, the Most Blessed Trinity
living and reigning within the soul. We should, therefore, be full of
confidence, being assured of victory, if only we distrust ourselves
and rely upon God: "I can do all things in Him, Who strengtheneth
n1. "Phil.," IV, 13.