"The essence of perfection is to embrace the will of God in all things, prosperous or adverse. In prosperity, even sinners find it easy to unite themselves to the divine will; but it takes saints to unite themselves to God's will when things go wrong and are painful to self-love. Our conduct in such instances is the measure of our love of God."

St Alphonsus de Liguori

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"God speaks to us without ceasing by his good inspirations."

The Cure D'Ars

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"It is vanity to love what passes quickly and not to look ahead where eternal joy abides. "

Thomas á Kempis

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St. Francis de Sales  (1567-1622)
 Bishop, Founder of the Visitation and Doctor of the Church


By St Francis de Sales

Book I. Containing A Preparation For The Whole Treatise.

Ch 12. That in These Two Portions of the Soul There Are Four Different Degrees of Reason.

There were three courts in Solomon's temple. One was for the Gentiles and strangers who, wishing to have recourse to God, went to adore in Jerusalem; the second for the Israelites, men and women (the separation of men from women not being made by Solomon); the third for the priests and Levites; and in fine, besides all this, there was the sanctuary or sacred house, which was open to the high priest only, and that but once a year.

Our reason, or, to speak better, our soul in so far as it is reasonable, is the true temple of the great God, who there takes up his chief residence. "I sought thee," says S. Augustine, "outside myself, but I found thee not, because thou art within me." In this mystical temple there are also three courts, which are three different degrees of reason; in the first we reason according to the experience of sense, in the second according to human sciences, in the third according to faith: and in fine, beyond this, there is a certain eminence or supreme point of the reason and spiritual faculty, which is not guided by the light of argument or reasoning, but by a simple view of the understanding and a simple movement of the will, by which the spirit bends and submits to the truth and the will of God.

Now this extremity and summit of our soul, this highest point of our spirit, is very naturally represented by the sanctuary or holy place. For, first, in the sanctuary there were no windows to give light: in this degree of the soul there is no reasoning which illuminates.

Secondly, all the light entered by the door; in this degree of the soul nothing enters but by faith, which produces, like rays, the sight and the sentiment of the beauty and goodness of the good pleasure of God.

Thirdly, none entered the sanctuary save the high priest; in this apex of the soul reasoning enters not, but only the high, universal and sovereign feeling that the divine will ought sovereignly to be loved, approved and embraced, not only in some particular things but in general for all things, nor generally in all things only, but also particularly in each thing.

Fourthly, the high priest entering into the sanctuary obscured even that light which came by the door, putting many perfumes into his thurible, the smoke whereof drove back the rays of light to which the open door gave entrance: and all the light which is in the supreme part of the soul is in some sort obscured and veiled by the renunciations and resignations which the soul makes, not desiring so much to behold and see the goodness of the truth and the truth of the goodness presented to her, as to embrace and adore the same, so that the soul would almost wish to shut her eyes as soon as she begins to see the dignity of God's will, to the end that not occupying herself further in considering it, she may more powerfully and perfectly accept it, and by an absolute complacency perfectly unite and submit herself thereto.

Fifthly, to conclude, in the sanctuary was kept the ark of alliance, and in that, or at least adjoining to it, the tables of the law, manna in a golden vessel, and Aaron's rod which in one night bore flowers and fruit: and in this highest point of the soul are found:

  1. The light of faith, figured by the manna hidden in its vessel, by which we acquiesce in the truths of the mysteries which we do not understand.
  2. The utility of hope, represented by Aaron's flowering and fruitful rod, by which we acquiesce in the promises of the goods which we see not.
  3. The sweetness of holy charity, represented by God's commandments which charity contains, by which we acquiesce in the union of our spirit with God's, which we scarcely perceive.

For although faith, hope and charity spread out their divine movements into almost all the faculties of the soul as well reasonable as sensitive, reducing and holily subjecting them to their just authority, yet their special residence, their true and natural dwelling, is in this supreme region of the soul from whence as from a happy source of living water, they run out by divers conduits and brooks upon the inferior parts and faculties.

So that, Theotimus, in the superior part of reason there are two degrees of reason. In the one those discourses are made which depend on faith and supernatural light, in the other the simple acquiescings of faith, hope and charity. Saint Paul's soul found itself pressed by two different desires, the one to be delivered from his body, so as to go to heaven with Jesus Christ, the other to remain in this world to labour in the conversion of souls; both these desires were without doubt in the superior part, for they both proceeded from charity, but his resolution to follow the latter proceeded not from reasoning but from a simple sight, seeing and loving his master's will, in which the superior point alone of the spirit acquiesced, putting on one side all that reasoning might conclude.

But if faith, hope and charity be formed by this holy acquiescence in the point of the spirit, how can reasonings which depend on the light of faith be made in the inferior part of the soul?

As, Theotimus, we see that barristers dispute with many arguments on the acts and rights of parties to a suit, and that the high parliament or senate settles all the strife by a positive sentence, though even after this is pronounced the advocates and auditors do not give up discoursing among themselves the motives parliament may have had: - even so, after reasoning, and above all the grace of God have persuaded the point and highest part of the spirit to acquiesce, and make the act of faith after the manner of a sentence or judgment, the understanding does not at once cease discoursing upon that same act of faith already conceived, to consider the motives and reasons thereof. But always the arguments of theology are stated at the pleading place and bar of the superior portion of the soul, but the acquiescence is given above, on the bench and tribunal of the point of the spirit.

Now, because the knowledge of these four degrees of the reason is much required for understanding all treatises on spiritual things, I have thought well to explain it rather fully.