Father Reginald Garrigou-LaGrange

Emptiness poured out

Thus from the spiritual point of view, many souls are quickly, even too quickly, satisfied by a very relative perfection, which seems altogether insufficient to others. The latter feel a need for the eminent exercise of charity and of the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Certain very passionate temperaments and extremely vigorous intellects seem to find peace only in a lofty perfection, even that described by St John of the Cross. With still greater reason, this is true of souls which received early in life a superior attraction of grace. They will find rest only after the painful purification, in the transforming union, in which they will no longer be disturbed by the devil, the flesh, and the world. –Father Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange ‘Christian Perfection and Contemplation According to St Thomas Aquinas and St John of the Cross’

It is difficult to give Father Lagrange due diligence as life spreads me thin in energy, demanding much, allowing little time for reading. I accept the matter with grateful scrutiny, understanding God is demanding the living of life in order to fully be humbled and healed. Being a contemplative is not mastering knowledge.  I must live the life God presents.  I must be myself fully, a passionate man of seeking, a man going deeper, acceptance essential.  Being open and vulnerable, acquiescing aspirations to the reality of failings, shortcomings softened by an opening to the Holy Spirit, I think of the wonderful earthen vessels painted purple the extern sisters at St Paul Shrine utilize to decorate their altar. Wonderful, colorful, seasonal gold accented, flowing pieces of fabric run down from the high altar, grace descending, water falling, the fabric cascading from both sides of the tabernacle and standing Eucharist, merrily moving past the three earthen vessels. The lower two vessels, positioned lateral, pouring out, emptiness spilling, grace dispensing to the adoring. The highest vessel stands erect, proud in stature, still and filled, the emptiness within defining interior space. The earthen vessels, beautifully shaped, colorful and attractive, are defined majestically by interior emptiness, the lacking being its greatest space. The vessels emptiness containing the potential for filling. I love the imagery during the Advent season, a time of preparation and concentration. It is a blessed time of the year.

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east; and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar.  Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me round on the outside to the outer gate, that faces toward the east; and the water was coming out on the south side.  Going on eastward with a line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle-deep.  Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the loins.  Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through.  And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this.” –Ezekiel 47

Going Deeper, by Louise Bass, based on Ezekiel 47

Going Deeper, by Louise Bass, based on Ezekiel 47

Sometimes God asks us to do nothing more, and everything within, to extend ourselves only so we can be crushed on our deepest level, to be hurt so badly everything seems to collapse within us, to understand that the things I want the deepest will never come true, my profoundest loves never allowed to be nourished, to accept the fact we are nothing special, a simple lonely life within a complex wonderful world, a stranger in a strange land, nothing more than a man struggling, never seemingly able to achieve or attain the things I desire, a man of sorrows, even the goodness in life I aspire to being a futile attempt, always running late as a broken man, brokenhearted, beaten on every earthly level. I am a thirsty man diving to deep, my tongue parched, sore and weeping, unable to understand, determined to never cease, life amounting to a severe humbling, a hurt so penetrating it calls and cries out to God with a voice so loud it causes His Son to bleed eternally, the blood of Christ washing away my tears.


Vocational discernment, pursuing a life of prayer, seeking serenity

Other souls, after struggling for a long time, become discouraged, says St Teresa, when they are within a few steps of the fountain of living water. They fall back and, since without prayer they no longer have the strength to carry the cross, they lapse into a superficial life in which others might perhaps be saved, but in which they run the risk of being lost because their powers will carry them to excesses, if indulged outside of God, would be their ruin. For certain souls of a naturally lofty turn, mediocrity is impossible; either they give themselves wholly to God, or wholly to themselves in opposition to God. They wish to enjoy their ego and their abilities and, as a result, run the risk of setting up self instead of God as their absolute end. The angels can know only ardent charity or unpardonable mortal sin….Angels or devils, very holy or very wicked, for them there is no other alternative. Certain souls have something angelic about them; for them it is very dangerous not to preserve in prayer, or at least to be at prayer only bodily without any act of true love. This amounts to the abandonment of the interior life, perhaps ruin. The saints tell us that, if we are to persevere, we must, first of all, hope in our Lord who calls all devout souls to the living waters of prayer. –Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange ‘Christian Perfection and Contemplation According to St Thomas Aquinas and St John of the Cross’

This elaboration on prayer by the immensely intellectual Father Reginald sketches upon an idea I possessed regarding myself, and others of a creative nature. It is either fully in or fully out—no middle ground. The angels are passionately adoring God or they are devils in violent conflict and rebellion against God. It is obvious in the modern chaotic secular world of pop culture, over-sexualization, intellectual selfish exploration, and an overall fantasy life of the imagination that consciousness is being taken to the extreme. I always point to the proliferation of movies and fascination being concentrated upon superheroes, zombies, vampires, and an overall reality devoid of a basis in reality. The simplistic natural life of Christ, a natural life empty of grand endeavors and individual greatness, tenderly introduces the sacrificial supernatural reality of the most sublime and refined transcendence. A simple solitary humble life in acquiescence to the will of God produces the greatest supernatural endeavor. There is no need for superheroes and the fantastic. There is a need to make simple choices between servitude and rebellion.

My line of thinking centers this morning after another rough day at work, experiencing turmoil and inner-frustration. Conclusions are not forthcoming, patience and clarity arising important. Touching upon details, I performed a large task the other day, doing a good job, feeling proud in my effort, only to arrive at work yesterday to find third shift rejected my work, replacing everything I did. I was stunned. This came on top of two of my coworkers exploding in a nearly violent argument, taking everything into our boss’s office and creating an overall disruption of departmental dynamics. This all on top of the fact my ninety day probation period comes to an end in weeks, thus demanding an evaluation and testing of my skills and acumen. Everything is overwhelming and sadly I become even further discouraged when I realize others in the department feed off the chaos, especially the combative state of the two men in verbal conflict. One of the men was sent home for the day as he had become so worked up. My work environment trends toward total absorption. Yet overall, it is not that bad. I comprehend my coworkers like me, respect me, especially my boss. If anything I feel the third shift gentleman, a lurking dominating physical and intelligent man, who keeps following up all my efforts and improving them, writing everything up and the other day taking credit for discovering a problem that has been plaguing a CNC machine that I identified and showed him, conducts the effort because he thinks our boss has his eye on me. He is making the clear statement that he is superior to me in skill and strength of personality. He is really a good man exercising his instinctual need to dominate. I have no problem with the fact, in fact, I must be careful in my reaction because I tend to surrender and beat myself up in conjunction of his efforts of putting me in my place. I am willing to join him in defeating myself.

My overall point concludes with the realization that this is my recovery effort becoming a reality. Ann, remerging, endured a barrage of text messages, experiencing firsthand the turmoil I place upon my back, the instinctual need I have to defeat myself, calling my skills immediately into question. I expressed to her the need to bring peace, harmony, and prayer forefront into my life. She responded with a condemnation for pursuing an easy path, the intellectual concept of the cross and suffering being the mature way. In words and idea, I respect and honor her words, yet also I am moving beyond concepts and intellectualizing, fixating my spiritual life within reality, aspiring for the simple natural life of Christ, becoming a man of prayer. Christ did not accept the cross as a superhero, an intellectual man of ideas choosing and creating his destiny. He was a simple man, a carpenter, the son of Mary and Joseph, a teacher of a small band, working miracles, healing others, while remaining small in worldly stature, surrendering to the will of the Father in a longing of love and desire to establish eternal peace. He made himself small, modest and artless in ideas, telling parables, gently working his ways upon the earth.

This is taking too long, and the Hospice calls, presenting another patient needing tending, leading me directly into my conclusion. Is it spiritually beneficial to give so much of myself to the world through my employment? I am able to enjoy a lucrative paycheck, worldly enticements allowed, or is it more in service to God to pursue a pastoral vocation, allowing my passions to rule.  I cherish and feel invigorated by all my exchanges with Hospice personnel. To be honest, I am not sure. Day by day, I advanced forward in prayer, grateful within the Advent season, seeking the solace of God through daily Mass and the Eucharist, blessed by the reality my soul and life crushing rebellion is dissipated. Small bits of heaven are allowed to mingle with the aftertaste of damnation lingering, a mixing of black and white into a calm shade of grey. It really does not have to be all or nothing. God is good and all giving.

I decided to include a video, a calling this morning to listen to this song over and over, the secular world gracing with inspiration.  No need for Superman, in fact waiting for Superman is rather ridiculous.  And regarding conceptualizing the embracing of the cross, I love the lines: Is it getting heavy?  And then I realize, is it getting heavy?  Well hell, I thought it was already as heavy as can be?  You want to talk of carrying the cross, well hell I thought the weight of the cross has been as heavy as could be this whole time.  One carrying the cross seeks and talks of peace and prayer.  One living a life of distraction and entertainment talks of carrying a cross.


Volunteer formation

Some theologians thought the grace that was profitable to salvation is called efficacious, not at all because of leading us gently and mightily to consent to good, but because it is given to us at the moment when God has foreseen that by ourselves we would choose to accept it rather than to resist it.  The divine prevision of man’s response is what distinguishes efficacious grace from grace that is not efficacious.  In other words, this efficacy does not come from the divine will, but from the human will; the grace is efficacious not because God wills it so, but because man accepts it.  According to this idea, it may happen that of two sinners under the same circumstances receiving equal actual graces, one will be converted and the other will remain in his sin.  Hence this difference of determination between these two men springs solely from the human will, and not at all from the difference in the divine help which they received.  The same grace, which remained sterile in one, was efficacious in the other because he himself made it efficacious.  –Father Reginald Garrigou-LaGrange ‘Christian Perfection and Contemplation According to St Thomas Aquinas and St John of the Cross’

This paragraph made me think, swirling about an incident yesterday, assisting in the accepting within complete mystery of a telephone call.  I was removed from the case of my hospice patient, informed the patient is doing better, removed from the bedside vigil program.  My initial reaction was ‘He is not getting better.  They are not even feeding him’.  I inquired a bit, yet it was obvious the woman calling possessed minimal details, not even sure if he was being fed, or that he was not even being fed.  She was simply making a call.  The call disturbed me, causing me to consider the words of Ann that I must be very careful, not showing my spirituality too conspicuously.  I was praying the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet, reading scripture and Catholic spiritual writing.  I studied my patient’s face closely, searching for signs of agitation.  I authentically focused matters upon his care, and not my agenda.  I conducted myself with silence for the most part, comfortable in everything I did.  Medical personnel walked in while I was praying, one finding me sleeping grasping my Rosary.  Did I show my faith, hope, and charity too much?  Did I overstep my bounds?  Was I improper?  I am convinced he is not getting better.  I doubt they resumed feeding him.  However, maybe I am wrong.  The bedside vigil program is based upon a forty-eight hour terminal caution.  He has been going for a week, and I always possessed the belief he was not close to death.  He was terminal, yet he was going to hang on.  I was positive he would endure for weeks, possibly months.  I would have continued, confident I brought him comfort.  The length of the time did not concern me, yet maybe that was what mattered to the hospice.  I am truly ignorant of the ways of the medical world.  I also considered my personal investment.  I truly enjoyed sitting bedside.  Did I become too attached to my consolations and internal rewards, thus prompting God to remove the blessing of sitting with the man?  Did the patient find me offensive?  What I was doing was important to me and now everything ends in mystery.  I accept the fact easily, yet thoughts and questions arise concerning proper formation.  As Father Peyriguere writes: While praising and loving the “mysteries of God’s designs,”…you must not strain to see these designs.  There is only one thing worth-while: to surrender yourself and your fortune to His will with the blind and total trust of a little child in his father’s arms.  I embrace the concept Ann presented, words she verbalized that strike from my own arsenal, that my presence is enough during the bedside vigils.  It is a being rather than a doing that brings comfort and spiritual bolstering.  Words and my efforts are not necessary.  If the patient is ready the grace will be efficacious.  The patient, in an acute spiritual state, will perceive the Christ I bring to his side.  I will be stealth in my future spiritual efforts while serving as a hospice volunteer.  I will also not become disgruntled with myself, a natural tendency of mine to be too hard on myself.  Possibly, I tried too hard, coming on too strong, naïve of the ways of the medical world, during my initial vigils.  It is ok.  God is good and all giving.  The efficacy of grace depends upon proper reception, however the dispensing of grace is not crushed by man.  God continues to give.  If I made a mistake, or even if the medical personnel were wrong, God will overcome, presenting future graces for me to serve those entering death.  Once again, God is good and all giving.


Higher degree of humility

The lofty perfection is that described by St Augustine and St Gregory; the perfection to which the twelve degrees of humility enumerated by St Benedict or the seven degrees counseled by St Anselm lead: (1) to acknowledge ourselves contemptible; (2) to grieve on account of this; (3) to admit that we are so; (4) to wish our neighbor to believe that; (5) patiently to endure people saying it; (6) willingly to be treated as a person worthy of contempt; (7) to love to be treated in this fashion.

This great conception of Christian perfection and of the illuminative and unitive ways is the only one which seems to us to preserve all the grandeur of the Gospel and of the Epistles of St John and St Paul.   –Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange ‘Christian Perfection and Contemplation According to St Thomas Aquinas and St John of the Cross’

Embarking upon a mission, I am speaking with others, opening myself, prying for counsel, discerning within my imperfection, not afraid of others.  I invite the judgement that I am shallow, doing good deeds seeking only attention.  I know myself, privy to my weaknesses and strengths.  Avoiding the subtle temptation to remain hidden, to slide through under the radar, I fear not the eyes of others.  I love the defining of humility to the severest degree of accepting, loving, the disdain and disfavor of others.  My spiritual endeavors aligned with God are not wearied by talk, comprehending to the greater and deeper degree the danger of a life lived in secret pride that everything I do is superior within stealth.  To remain aloof, prideful in the distance one keeps from others, judging and looking down upon those socially healthy in spiritual pursuits is a harsh path of cruelty upon one’s self and others.  It is more beneficial for everyone involved to be open and honest.  Works of God do not out smart themselves and others.  Works of God do not hide within closed-off cleverness.  Too often good deeds kept hidden are a statement of over-sensitivity, the reality that one cannot accept criticism.  The truth that if others are drawn into intimacy they will most likely not approve of what they discover, criticizing and gossiping.  An advanced humility fears not righteous or unrighteous condemnation, unafraid and inviting disparaging words while not seeking sweet consolations.  An advanced religious is not afraid to socialize and profess their mission.  Jesus speaks: “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a bushel, but on a stand, that those who enter may see the light.  Your eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is sound, your whole body is full of light; but when it is not sound, your body is full of darkness.  Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.  If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”  I had an incredible half-hour one-on-one counseling session with Sister Mary Thomas today after mass, drawn into the encounter through a rare set of circumstances.  God is good and all giving.



Beginning to work with Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange


The Mystical Life

Some persons talk about mysticism, but misunderstand it and abuse it.  These persons must be enlightened by the sound teaching of theology.  Others, far greater in number, are altogether ignorant of mysticism and apparently wish to remain so.  They rely only on their own efforts, aided by ordinary grace, consequently they aim only at common virtues, and do not tend to perfection which they consider too lofty.  Hence religious and priestly lives, which might be very fruitful, do not pass beyond a certain mediocrity that is often due, at least in part, to their early imperfect training and to inexact ideas about union with God to which every Christian can and must aspire.

Pope Benedict XV…”In our day many neglect the supernatural life and cultivate in its place an inconsistent and vague sentimentalism.  Hence it is absolutely necessary to recall more often what the fathers of the Church, together with Holy Scripture, have taught us on the subject, and to do so by taking St Thomas Aquinas especially as our guide, because he has so clearly set forth the doctrine on the elevation of the supernatural life.  We must also earnestly draw the attention of the virtues and of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, the perfect development of which is found in the mystical life”.

The Natural Life

Confronting those spiritually agitating, especially on the subtlest levels, calls forth accountability, consequences are rendered.  Those seeking to advance their spiritual life beyond the stage of a beginner embrace matters passionately; whole heartedly pursuing.  Without a doubt, confrontations and differing opinions will arise.  Different paths will collide.  I found these words from Father Reginald penetratingly insightful.  My path does not advance through conquest, defeating others does not produce triumph.  Another being wrong does not make me right.  In fact, the spiritual shortcoming, mistakes, and perversions of others presents a dichotomy, a contradiction presenting an opportunity to discern appositeness, proper advancement, or to become consumed with a contradictory mentality fixated in opposition, a challenging and argumentative reasoning cemented in stagnation, an effort of my doing rationalizing within the need to be right.  Can I grow through others, even those I disagree with and find agitating?  Can I acquiesce, allowing the Holy Spirit and example of Christ, a super abundance of grace, and the examples plus traditions of the Church to propel, to lead me further?

In the delicate questions that we have had to consider, in combating an error, it is not always easy to avoid aligning oneself with the contrary error, and to formulate doctrine which rises above these opposing deviations and which is a just mean only because it is a summit.  If we have inadvertently employed any inexact expression in this study, we retract them here and now, and declare that we reject all spirituality that deviates ever so little from that of the saints, which has been approved by Holy Church.  That is why, as a rule, we have quoted only canonized mystics whose teaching is commonly received.

Quotes from ‘Christian Perfection and Contemplation According to St Thomas Aquinas and St John of the Cross’