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Monday, 10 February 2014

Perfection Series II: xxi

Retarded souls...At the beginning of the third part of this work, we shall speak of the second conversion through which one passes, with greater or lesser generosity, from the purgative way of beginners to the illuminative way of the advanced. Some souls, because of their negligence or spiritual sloth, do not pass from the age of beginners to that of proficients. These are retarded souls; in the spiritual life they are like abnormal children, who do not happily pass through the crisis of adolescence and who, though they do not remain children, never reach the full development of maturity. Thus these retarded souls belong neither among beginners nor among proficients. Unfortunately they are numerous.

Garrigou-Lagrange is clear that many, many Catholics get stuck at the beginners stage and do not pass on to the proficients. That is, they remain spiritual adolescents.

The Church is horribly weakened by spiritual adolescents, as only those who have allowed God to destroy their egos can go on to the Illuminative State.

Here is another snippet from the great Dominican.

The neglect of little things seems slight in itself, but it may become grave in its results. Our daily merit is ordinarily constituted by little acts of virtue from morning to night. As drops of water gradually wear away a stone, as drops of rain render the dried-up earth fertile, so our good acts by their repetition engender a good habit, an acquired virtue; they preserve it and increase it; and, if they proceed from a supernatural or infused virtue, they obtain the increase of this virtue.
In the service of God, things which seem small in themselves are great in their relation to our last end, to God who should be loved , above all else. They are also great by reason of the supernatural spirit of faith, confidence, and love which should make us accomplish them. If we acted thus, we would live from morning to night in the presence of God, which is infinitely precious; and we would live by Him, by His spirit, instead of living by the natural spirit in accordance with the inclination of egoism. Little by little there would grow up in us zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Unless we strive in this way, we may end by following the downward path of practical naturalism, allowing ourselves to be dominated by the more or less unconscious gross selfishness which inspires many of our acts.

In other words, we need to be faithful in the little things in order to be trusted by God in the big things. The next reason Garrigou-Lagrange gives is more serious, in that this is THE main fault of many Americans in the Catholic Church.

A second cause of tepidity in retarded souls is the refusal to make the sacrifices which the Lord asks. Some persons feel themselves called to a more serious, a more perfect life, to true prayer, to the practice of humility, without which there are no true virtues; but these souls refuse, if not directly at least indirectly, by seeking diversion. They do not wish to hear the words that recur daily in the invitatory of Matins: "Today, if you shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts." Some, who are preoccupied with doing something, for example, a book, a work that would let the world know they exist, say to themselves from time to time: "First of all, it is essential to become an interior soul; if the soul is empty, it can give nothing. To do something exterior is unprofitable unless the soul is united to God." To become an interior soul, only some sacrifices of self-love would be necessary; God would have to be truly sought instead of self. Without these sacrifices, how can anyone enter on a true interior life? If these sacrifices are refused, the soul remains retarded; it may stay so permanently.

Then it loses zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of its neighbor, the fervor of charity. It falls into tepidity, which, with habitual negligence, is affection for venial sin or the disposition of the will to commit certain venial sins deliberately when the occasion presents itself. There is finally, as it were, the firm resolution to remain in this state. In addition to the lack of the spirit of sacrifice, other causes may produce this tepidity of retarded souls: namely, levity of spirit, the thoughtlessness with which one tells, for example, officious lies (i.e., lies of expediency) whenever the occasion offers; spiritual sloth, which leads finally to the abandonment of the spiritual war against our defects, against our predominant fault, which quite frequently tries to pass for a virtue, and gives rise in us to other more or less inordinate passions. A person thus arrives at carelessness and indifference in regard to perfection and no longer truly tends toward it. The fact that he has perhaps promised to tend toward it by the way of the counsels is forgotten, as is also the loftiness of the supreme precept: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with all thy strength and with all thy mind." (3)

The next section is terrifying, as I know people who deride, who mock the good or who are constantly cynical.

Cynicism is a huge fault of our day. 

Among the causes of tepidity in retarded souls, the tendency to derision should be particularly noted. St. Thomas speaks of the derider when he discusses the vices opposed to justice: insult, detraction, murmuring against the reputation of our neighbor. He points out (4) that to deride or to ridicule someone, is to show that we do not esteem him; and derision, says the saint, may become a mortal sin if it affects persons or things that deserve high esteem. It is a grievous sin to ridicule the things of God, or our parents, or superiors, or good persons who lead a virtuous life. Derision may even become very grievous by reason of its consequences, for it may turn weak souls forever away from the practice of good. Job replied to his friends: "He that is mocked by his friends as I, shall call upon God; and He will hear him. For the simplicity of the just man is laughed to scorn." (5) But it is also said of deriders: "He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh at them." (6) The terrible irony of heaven will chastise that of earth.
The derider is himself a retarded soul, holding others back and becoming, often without being aware of it, the instrument of the spirit of evil. His cast of soul, which is the direct opposite of evangelical simplicity, is the one most opposed to supernatural contemplation. The derider, who wishes "to play the rogue," ridicules the just man who tends truly to perfection; he emphasizes the latter's defects and depreciates his good qualities. Why is this? Because he feels that he himself has little virtue, and he is unwilling to admit his inferiority. Then, out of spite, he lessens the real and fundamental value of his neighbor and the necessity of virtue itself. He may greatly harm weak souls which he intimidates, and, while working his own ruin, he may labor at their perdition.

And one more scary paragraph

The saints tell us that retarded and tepid souls may reach such a state of blindness of spirit and hardness of heart that it is very difficult to reform them. This statement is borne out by St. Bernard, who says: "You will more easily see a great number of seculars renounce vice and embrace virtue than a single religious pass from tepidity to fervor." (7) The higher a retarded or tepid soul has been raised, the more deplorable is its fall and also the more difficult is its conversion; in fact, it reaches the point where it judges its state to be satisfactory, and no longer has a desire to ascend higher. When the time of the Lord's visit is disregarded, He sometimes returns only after long petitions. Retarded souls are in danger; they should be entrusted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who alone can bring them back to the Savior and obtain for them the graces that will rekindle in them the desire for perfection.

To be continued.............