"God looks neither at long nor beautiful prayers, but at those that come from the heart."

The Cure D'Ars

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"When the devil has failed in making a man fall, he puts forward all his energies to create distrust between the penitent and the confessor, and so by little and little he gains his end at last."

St Philip Neri

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"Happy is the youth, because he has time before him to do good. "

St Philip Neri

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Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.  (1877 - 1964)  taught at the Angelicum in Rome from 1909 to 1960, and served for many years as a consulter to the Holy Office and other Roman Congregations.

 
  LIFE EVERLASTING
   

By Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange,OP

 

PART1. SOUL IMMENSITY IN OUR PRESENT LIFE(cont)

 

5. THE ROOTS OF VICE AND VIRTUE

 
That we may understand better the immensity of the soul, in particular of the will, we must now speak of vices and virtues, those roots which penetrate into the soul, either for our loss or for our salvation.

Virtue makes man perfect, inclines him to a good end, makes of him not only a good painter, a good sculptor, a good mathematician, but a good man. Vice is an evil habitude, that of acting contrary to right reason. It deforms man entire in the conduct of his life, because
it taints the will and inclines it to an evil end. Vice makes of a man not a bad painter, a bad sculptor, but a bad man, a criminal. This condition begins at times even in children of fourteen or fifteen years. All vices have one root in common, namely, the disordered love of self, opposed to the love of good, and especially of the sovereign good which is God. This evil root tends to sink itself ever more deeply into the will, and from this root there is born an evil tree. The trunk of this tree is egoism, of which the central and principal branch, the continuation of the trunk, is pride, of which the lateral branches are the concupiscence of the flesh and concupiscence of the eyes. Thus St. John. [17]

The branches of this wicked tree have numerous sub-branches which are called capital sins.

From concupiscence of the flesh is born gluttony and luxury. From concupiscence of the eyes, that is, immoderate desire of external goods, is born avarice, and then perfidy, fraud, cheating, and hardening of the heart. From the pride of life are born vainglory and
ambition, disgust for spiritual things, forgetfulness of God, envy, anger, injuries to neighbor.

The capital sins conduct man to others that are still more grave, to sins against the theological virtues. They lead to blasphemy, opposed to confession of the faith, to despair, opposed to hope, to the hate of God and neighbor, opposed to charity.

Some of these vices in the most wicked men have roots that are very deep, which manifest in their own sad manner the immensity of the soul. We know those words of St. Augustine: "Two loves have built two cities: the love of self extending to the scorn of God has made the
city of Babylon, that is, the city of the world, the city of immorality, whereas the love of God even to the scorn of self has made the city of God." [18] Just as man does not arrive all at once at sanctity, so too he does not arrive at once at complete perversity. Inordinate love of self, when it becomes dominating, puts forth roots more and more deep, to be seen in certain souls which are on the road to perdition. Their voice often has a sharp and piercing sound. They close their eyes to the divine light which alone could illumine and deliver them. At times they combat the truth, although it be evident. This is one of the forms of the sins against the Holy Spirit, impugnatio veritatis agnitae. After a miraculous healing obtained by St. Peter in the name of Jesus, the members of the Sanhedrin said: "What shall we do to these men? For indeed a miracle hath been done by them, known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. It is manifest, and we cannot deny it; but that it maybe no farther spread among the people, let us threaten them that they speak no more in this name to any man." [19] Thus they forbade Peter and John to speak further in this name to anyone. To which these two replied: "If it be just in the sight of God, to hear you rather than God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." The measureless depths of the human soul reveal themselves in this unregulated love of self, which rises at times to the scorn and hate of God. This malice is accompanied by a hate which is inveterate and incomprehensible, even against their greatest benefactors. Certain frightening perversities, as, for instance, those of Nero and other persecutors,
would not yield even to the constancy and goodness that radiated from the suffering martyrs.

Now this unbelievable degree of malice manifests by contrast the grandeur of God and of the saints. The Lord permits malice and persecution in order to let the sanctity of the martyrs shine forth the more brightly. In Spain, in I 936, during the Communist persecution,
the faithful would come to their priest and say: "How is it that God permits such atrocities?" And the priest would reply: "Without persecution there can be no martyrs, and martyrs are the glory of the Church." The faithful understood and were comforted.

The immensity of the human soul appears still more in those great virtues which are rooted in it, and which could grow still greater if the time of temptation and merit were not a mere prelude to eternal life.

In virtues we distinguish the acquired virtues, which arise by repetition of natural acts, from infused virtues, which are supernatural virtues that are received at baptism, and that grow in us by means of the sacraments, by Holy Communion, and by our merits.

But even acquired virtues manifest the depths of the soul. Temperance and courage send the light of right reason down into our sensibility, there to resist temptations, at times very vivid, of impurity and laxity. Similarly the acquired virtue of justice reveals the grandeur of the human soul, particularly when, for the common good of society, it establishes and observes laws demanding great sacrifices, even those of life. We need only recall the unjustly accused
Socrates, whose reverence for the laws of his land made him refuse to escape from prison.

But the infused virtues manifest still more clearly the grandeur of the soul. They proceed from sanctifying grace, which is received in the very essence of the soul as a divine root. Grace communicates to us a
participation in the intimate life of God, the very vitality of God. Sanctifying grace is in truth the seed of everlasting life, semen gloriae; when it is widely expanded and developed, it enables us to see immediately God as He sees Himself, and to love Him as
He loves Himself. Thus it becomes in us a germination of eternal life. If the germination of grain gives thirty or sixty or even a hundred per cent, what will be in the supernatural order the germination of eternal
life?

From this divine root, which is sanctifying grace, there flows into our intelligence infused faith, and into our will infused hope and infused charity. And from these virtues derive the infused virtues of Christian prudence, of justice, of religion, of courage, of chastity, of humility, of sweetness, of patience, and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The infused virtues, flowing from sanctifying grace, give to our faculties the power of acting supernaturally in order to merit eternal life. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, which accompany these infused virtues, render us docile to the inspirations of the inner master. He alone draws forth from our faculties, even from our sense faculties, harmonies that are not only natural, but supernatural, harmonies that we hear especially in the lives of the saints. Sanctifying grace gives us an entirely new spiritual organism.

Infused faith, resting on divine revelation, extends very widely the frontiers of our intelligence, because it lets us know God as the author of nature, and also as the author of grace -- a share in His own intimate life. Faith makes us adhere infallibly and supernaturally to truths which surpass the natural forces of any created intelligence, even of the highest angel. It enables us to adhere to the mysteries of the Blessed Trinity, the elevation of the human race to the supernatural order, to the mysteries of the Fall and of the redemptive Incarnation, and of the means of salvation. And the gift of intelligence renders this infused faith more and more penetrating.

Infused hope makes us tend toward God, toward the life of eternity. Although it does not give us certitude of salvation, which would require a special revelation, it has a certitude of tendency toward that goal. By infused hope we tend surely to our last end, just as the swallow tends to its home. This certitude is augmented by the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, who, in the midst of the greatest difficulties, consoles the just man and lets him feel that he is approaching heaven. The gift of filial fear preserves us from presumption. The gift of knowledge shows us the emptiness of terrestrial things, and the gift of piety increases our confidence in God our Father. In all these ways we see the height and the depth of the soul. We see it still better when we treat of charity.

Charity is a true friendship, a supernatural friendship, which unites us to God. Already in the Old Testament [20] Abraham is called the friend of God. Similarly the name is given to the prophets. [21] In
the New Testament we hear Jesus say to us: "You are My friends if you do the things that I command you. I will not now call you servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends: because all things whatsoever I have heard of My
Father, I have made known to you." [22] These words were spoken to the apostles, but also to us. This truth leads us far onward if we are faithful to it.

This virtue makes us love our neighbor, since he is loved by God, our common Father, inasmuch as he is a child of God or is called to be a child of God.

This charity should become ever more rooted in the depths of our soul and thus drive out the unregulated love of self. Charity widens our heart, gives it something of the grandeur of divine goodness, and makes us love, as God does, all men without exception. Yea, more, if a just man were to live on earth for an indefinite time, for millions of years, he could throughout all that time advance in merit, and charity
would not cease to grow greater in the depths of his will.

St. Thomas expresses this truth in these words: "Charity can always grow greater in itself, because it is a participation in uncreated love and unlimited love. Further it can also always grow as a gift of God,
its author, who can always make it grow greater. Lastly it can grow greater by our own cooperation, because the more charity grows the more the soul becomes capable of receiving its augmentation." [23] Charity, thus progressing, widens our heart, which in some sense has
been invaded by the love of God. [24] This love grows only in order to grow still greater. At times we are capable of experiencing this truth when we are in
prayer.

This page of St. Thomas clarifies the unmeasured depths of our will. Infused charity is rooted ever more deeply, excludes more decisively the unregulated love of self. It drives us on to love ourselves and our
neighbor, to glorify God in time and in eternity, on earth, in purgatory, and in heaven. It lets us grow into the immensity of the heart of God.

Length corresponds to depth and height. Listen to St. Paul: "Charity never falleth away." [25] Faith gives place to vision, hope to possession, but charity, like sanctifying grace, lasts forever. The life of grace and charity is already eternal life in embryo. Thus Jesus spoke: "He that believeth in Me hath everlasting life." [26] He who believes in Me with a living faith not only will have eternal life, but already has it in germ.

The infused cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, courage, temperance, are far superior to the acquired virtues of the same name. These infused virtues are the virtues, not only of the perfect man, but of the child of God. Between acquired prudence and infused prudence there is a greater distance than that between two musical notes of the same name separated by an entire octave. Infused prudence is of another order than acquired prudence, to such a degree that this latter could grow continually greater without ever attaining the least degree of the other. And the same truth holds-good for the other acquired moral virtues in relation to the infused virtues of the same name. If acquired virtue is silver, infused virtue is gold, and the gift of counsel, still higher, is a diamond. But acquired virtue does facilitate the exercise of the infused virtue and of the gift which accompanies it, just as manual agility facilitates the exercise of the musician's art, which is in his intellect.

Certain Christian virtues have a very special elevation by reason of their affinity with the theological virtues.

Humility, comparable to an excavation made for the construction of an edifice, recalls our Savior's word: "Without Me you can do nothing," and St. Paul's word: "What hast thou that thou hast not received?" [27] We are not capable of drawing for ourselves, as coming from ourselves, the least thought profitable for salvation. Grace is required even for the least supernatural act.

Humility recalls to us also these words ascribed to St. Augustine: "There is no fault committed by another man of which we ourselves are not capable if we were placed in the same circumstances and surrounded by the same evil examples from the time of our youth." Hence we read that St. Francis of Assisi, when he saw a criminal led to execution, spoke to himself: "If this man had received the same grace as I have received, he would have been less faithless than I. If the Lord had permitted in my life the faults which he has permitted in this man's life, I would be in his place today." We must thank God for all the good He has enabled us to accomplish, and for avoidance of all the faults we could have committed. We are dealing here with the great depths of Christian life.

Infused magnanimity perfects acquired magnanimity. It completes humility and preserves us in spiritual equilibrium. It enables us to undertake great deeds for God, even in the most humble conditions, for instance, that of a good servant faithful to his master throughout his life. It enables us to avoid ambition as well as pusillanimity, reminds us that no great deeds are done without humility, without the succor of God which we ask for in prayer daily: "Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." [28]

Patience, that Christian sweetness which shines so gloriously in the martyrs, enables us to support the evils of the present life with equanimity, without worry. Patience supports inevitable evils, remains on the right road, continues the ascent to God. Martyrs are in the highest degree masters of themselves. They exercise the principal act of courage, which consists, not in attacking, but in enduring. They do not yield to persecutors, but pray for them.

The virtue of religion, aided by the gift of piety, carries us on to offer to God the worship which is His due, with that filial affection which the Holy Spirit inspires, with boundless confidence in the efficaciousness of prayer, in the goodness of God, even when all seems lost.

Penance carries us forward, in union with the Sacrifice of the Altar, to repair offenses against God. It kindles zeal for the glory of God, for the salvation of our neighbor. It goes on to make reparation for sinners. A little Roman child, Antonetto Meo, who died in the odor of sanctity (July 3, 1937), had, at the age of less than six, to undergo amputation of a leg because of cancer. When his mother said to him: "If the Lord asked you for this leg, would you give it to him?" he answered, "Yes, Mama." Then after a moment of reflection he added: "There are so many sinners in the world, someone must make reparation for them." During the course of the second operation, not less painful, his father asked: "Is your suffering very great?" His answer was: "Yes, Papa, but suffering is like cloth. The stronger it is, the more value it has." This spirit of reparation, which characterizes the great saints, leads into the high things of God. All infused virtues
grow simultaneously. The saints reach "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ." [29]

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are to the soul what seven sails are to a ship, or rather as seven spiritual antennas to the inspirations of a harmony of which God is the author.

If perversities show in sad fashion the depths of the soul, virtues reveal that depth still better, above all infused virtues, especially charity. Its roots sink ever more deeply into our will, where they chase away all egoism, all unregulated love of ourselves. Charity grows by Holy Communion. Let each Communion be substantially, if not more emotionally, more fervent, more fruitful, than the preceding Communion. A good Communion today disposes us for a better Communion tomorrow. Thus it is in the lives of the saints, since
they put no obstacle in the road of this progress. Saints exemplify the parable [30] of the sower: grains fall upon good ground, and they bring forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixty-fold, and some thirty-fold. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Seen from this viewpoint, old age, with all its drawbacks, is yet man's most beautiful age, since it is the age where merit reaches its full development, wherein we are most near to the eternal youth of heaven.

The depths of the soul, thus manifested by growth in virtue, are manifested still more clearly by those purifications of the spirit which enable us to have our purgatory before we die to the earth.
 
 

   
 
17. 1 John 2:16.
18. City of God, Bk. XIV, chap. 28.
19. Acts 4:16.
20 Judith 8:22.
21. Wisd. 7:27.
22. 6 John 15:15.
23. IIa IIae, q. 24, a. 7.
24. "I have walked in the way of Thy commandments, since Thou hast widened my heart." Ps. 118:32.
25. 1 Cor. 13:8.
26. John 3:36; 5:24; 6:40, 47.
27. 1 Cor. 4:7.
28. Ps. 126:1.
29. Eph. 4:13.
30. Matt. 13:8.