Spiritual experiences

Started by CatholicStudyAttempt, May 04, 2023, 01:32:41 PM

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Quote from: Michael Wilson on September 23, 2023, 12:39:01 PMFr. Alonso Rodriguez S.J., who was the director of novices of a Jesuit religious house in Spain in the 16th C. and the author of "The Practice of Christian Virtues and Perfection"; a famous book used in most of the novitiates of religious orders for centuries; explained that the normal state in the spiritual life is one of dryness. I don't know which author said this, maybe it was Saint Teresa,  who stated that in the spiritual life we should not be looking for consolations from God, but for the God of consolations. St. John of the Cross also stated in his book "Ascent of Mt. Carmel", that the way of perfection is through the stripping oneself of all attachment to consolations, visions etc. And seeking God in the way of naked faith. 

Fr. Faber wrote a whole chapter in "Growth in Holiness" to correct this misunderstanding.


THERE is no subject on which the ancient and modern traditions of the spiritual life are more apparently at variance than concerning the right use of spiritual favors. Ancient books bid us seek after them, pray for them, make much of them, while modern books tell us to shrink from them, to be afraid of them, to be nervously cautious when we have them, and to pray rather to be guided by the common way of faith. There is no real discrepancy in this seeming contradiction. It is the same tradition manifesting itself differently under altered circumstances.

I am writing, let me repeat it, for persons living in the world, yet nevertheless aiming at perfection and a disinterested love of God. If any one is so bold as to say that perfection of any kind is impossible to seculars, he must consider the treatise a simple mistake from beginning to end. I have no controversy with him, and shall not stay now to prove a truth, in whose favor I have the whole ascetical tradition of spiritual writers, and the indubitable facts of many processes of canonization.

I confine myself therefore to the second division of gifts, and whenever I speak of spiritual favors I shall mean only one or both of two things, either spiritual sweetnesses or spiritual consolations, which, though of the uncommon order and gratuitous, are the ordinary gifts not only of the perfect, but of every soul honestly striving after perfection. It is as if they were merited by our having no reserves with God, and followed as a spiritual consequence from generosity although for various causes they are often withdrawn or suspended.

I shall now make some observations on the following pointe;
- first, the office of these spiritual favors ;
- secondly, the fruits of them ;
- thirdly, the necessity of them shown by their efficacy;
- fourthly, the signs of them;
- fifthly, the delay, denial, or suspension of them;
- sixthly, the way to obtain them ;
- seventhly, the right use of them ;
- and eighthly, the apparent discrepancy between ancient and modern books upon the subject.

First, let us speak of the office of these spiritual favors. St. Bonaventure sums them all up in five headings.
- They fill the memory with holy thoughts.
- They give us a vast intelligence of God.
- They inspire us efficaciously with conformity to His will.
- They cause reverence and composition of body and outward demeanor.
- They lead us to delight in hard work, and, if need be, in suffering for God.

The fruits of these spiritual favors rapidly make themselves manifest in the soul.
- The busy, noisy, populous memory, ever like a seething and seditious city, becomes quiet and loyal, and attends to its manufactures, and keeps the feasts of Holy Church with an obedient joy.
- All trains of thought which concern heavenly things display a copiousness and exuberance which they never had before.
- Meditations are fluent and abundant.
- The virtues no longer bring forth their actions in pain and travail, but with facility and abundance, and their offspring are rich, beautiful and heroic.
- There are provinces of temptations always in discontented and smouldering rebellion. But we have a power over them which is new, and which is growing.
- We have such a facility in difficulties as almost to change the character of the spiritual life; and a union of body and spirit which is as great a revolution as agreement and peace in a divided household.

All these seven blessings are the mutations of the Right Hand of the Most High. Even to beginners, God often vouschafes to give them, not merely as sugar-plums to children, as some writers have strangely said, but to do a real work in their souls, and enable them to drive their way through the supernatural difficulties proper to their state. But proficients should ardently desire them, for they fatten prayer, and the perfect can never do without them, as they can never cease augmenting their virtues and rendering the exercise of them pleasant.

Well, therefore, may Alvarez de Paz say, "They err then who do not magnify this spiritual sweetness, and do not thirst for it in prayer, and are not saddened, if it withdraws. They show that they have never learned by experience its manifold utility. For If they had once tasted it, and seen how by its impulse they rather ran than walked, yea and even flew to perfection, they would indeed have esteemed that to be precious which brings with it so great an increase of virtues and purity.

One of the reasons which have induced some spiritual writers to speak discouragingly of consolations is their laying us open to delusion. This of course expresses an undoubted truth of ascetical theology. Yet I will venture to say that the exaggeration, that common bane of spiritual books, into which some writers have fallen, has done far more harm to the souls of readers by the false and unreasonable suspicions it has created, than even a positive delusion of Satan would have done. Nay, this diabolical prudence, to use a common expression of ascetics, is itself a delusion of the enemy, and one of his most fatal and must successful stratagems: and spiritual books are his usual ambuscades.

Thirdly, emboldened by the doctrine of Alvarez de Paz, I will go on to say that some measure of these spiritual favors is necessary, and that the necessity may be shown by their effects. Can we do without fervor, which it is their special office to produce? Are not copious and tender affections, something more than a help to us in prayer? Do we not actually measure our growth in holiness by our facility in the exercise of virtues? Shall we persevere in mortifying ourselves, if we do not at last come to love mortifications?