The Priest in Union with Christ by Garrigou-Lagrange - Part 2, Chapter 1
In this second part we intend to consider: first, the life of Christ in his members; secondly, the priest's union with Christ as high priest; thirdly, the priest's union with Christ as victim; fourthly, the priest's Communion; fifthly, the four ends of sacrifice and priestly perfection; sixthly, the priest's union with Mary; seventhly, the example given by priests who were saints; eighthly, the excellence of priestly holiness which, according to the mind of the Roman Pontifical, is intended to be a model for all the faithful.
THE LIFE OF CHRIST IN US, HIS MEMBERS1
We will first examine the teaching of Christ and St. Paul; then the general nature of Christ's life within ourselves; and finally, the practical consequences of this teaching on the exercise of the various virtues.
The teaching of Christ and St. Paul
Christ himself said: "I am the true vine . . . you are its branches; if a man lives on in me and I in him, then he will yield abundant fruit; separated from me, you have no power to do anything" (John xv, i and 5). Nothing at all—not a single salutary act, and therefore no act which merits eternal life. Even the beginning of belief is due to the antecedent grace of Christ—contrary to the teaching of the semi-pelagians.
St. Paul preached a similar doctrine: "We have been planted together in Christ" (Rom. vi, 5), who is so to speak the root of all holiness, "and if the root is consecrated, the branches are consecrated too" (Rom. xi, 16). The same truth is expressed in another metaphor: "You are Christ's body, organs of it depending upon each other" (1 Cor. xii, 27), and this St. Paul often repeats.
Through our Baptism we have "died like him" to sin, we have been "buried with him", "come to life again with him" (Rom. vi, 4). In writing to the Galatians the Apostle says (iii, 27): "All you who have been baptized in Christ's name have put on the person of Christ." And so "for me, life means Christ" (Phil, i, 21). St. Thomas explains that just as the hunter lives for the chase, the soldier for war and military service, the student for study, so also the Christian—and especially the saint—lives for Christ who ardently desires to live in him and he in his turn lives in an atmosphere of faith and trust in Christ and of love for him. "The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send on my account, will in his turn make everything plain, and recall to your minds everything I have said to you" (John xiv, 26). By the gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, fortitude, and even fear he will recall to your minds everything I have said to you, so that the words already spoken in the Gospel may become for you "words of eternal life", since they are "spirit and life."
We could not desire any clearer witness to the truth of Christ's life within us. "Yet I am alive; or rather, not I; it is Christ that lives in me" (Gal. ii, 20).
The general nature of Christ's life in his members
Christ himself as head of the Church has made satisfaction for all of us and has merited in strict justice all the sufficient and efficacious graces which we are receiving and will continue to receive in the future. At this present moment he is in Heaven making intercession on our behalf, and he is the physical instrumental cause of every grace we receive—the instrument conjoined to the divinity, whereas the sacraments are separate instruments for the conferring of grace. Cf. Ilia, q. 62, a. 5 and q. 8.
But what is required from our side so that we may share in this life of Christ? We must frequently call to mind and repeat to ourselves this truth: Christ desires to live in me, to pray, love, act, and suffer in me. Then we will be ready to lay aside freely our former self with its inordinate, lower and limited desires in exchange for the desires of Christ himself. This renunciation of our old self is of vital importance. Gradually we will come to realize the meaning of these words of St. John the Baptist: "He must become more and more, I must become less and less" (John iii, 30). Morally speaking, it is essential to forget one's own personality, to lose it—in the good sense of the word—for the sake of living in Christ as members in the head; in other words, we must think, desire, and act with him and in him, in the same way as our hand moves under directions from the head.
By degrees the spirit of Christ will take the place of our spirit —a way of thinking, feeling, judging, loving, willing, doing, and suffering, a mental outlook which is extremely cramped and superficial since it is materially dependent on our physical temperament, on our heredity, on the influence of our surrounding circumstances and on the ideas of our time and locality. It is this spirit which must slowly yield ground to the spirit of Christ, to his way of looking at things, of judging, feeling, loving, acting, and suffering. Only then is Christ truly living within us.
And thus we find the saints attaining a higher selfless state in their spiritual life, a state vasty superior to that in which they possessed their own natural personality. As an example in the field of learning we can think of St. Thomas—the universal doctor of the Church—who never speaks of himself in his works but remains completely objective; as examples in the active life there are many saints who vividly portray the life of Christ in their actions, such as St. John Vianney. These saints have amply fulfilled the words of St. Paul: "Life means Christ." They alone have realized that our moral personality cannot be brought to its full perfection unless it is in some way lost in the person of Christ, just as a river only reaches its term when it flows into the sea. Consequently, the saints have substituted for their own ideas and judgments the judgments of Christ accepted on faith; their own will has made way for the holy will of Christ, and their own activity for his sanctifying activity. In this way they have become God's servants in the fullest sense of the word, just as our hand is the servant of the will. And so St. Paul could say: "Yet I am alive; or rather, not I; it is Christ that lives in me" (Gal. ii, 20). St. John Chrysostom said that the heart of Paul was the heart of Christ.
This does not mean that Christ must lower himself in any way in order to come down to our level of life, but we must offer ourselves to him, so that he may live in us his own divine life which far surpasses our own. Thus, when we pray, we must unite ourselves to the powerful prayer of Christ, so that our prayer then becomes, so to speak, an extension or continuation of Christ's prayer.
If we adopt this way of life, our soul will not merely become more perfect but will also surrender itself completely so as to live in utter self-forgetfulness. It will then appreciate Christ's invitation to so many of the saints: "Allow me to live in you, while you die to yourself." That was the way followed by St. Benedict, St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Vincent de Paul; these obtained the true freedom of the sons of God.
If this applies to the faithful—as, indeed, it does—then how much more to priests? We must be quit of the old self and "clothed in the new", "putting on the person of Christ" (Gal. iii, 27; Ephes. iv, 24; Rom. xiii, 14).
The effect of this teaching on the practice of particular virtues
The truths we have been considering have important consequences for the practice of prayer, humility, brotherly love, faith, hope, love of God, and submission to the cross.
Prayer. The soul will no longer pray for its own cribbed and narrow interests, but will regard its prayer as an extension and continuation of Christ's prayer, once it has penetrated the meaning of the words spoken to the Apostles: "Whatever request you make of the Father in my name, I will grant, so that through the Son the Father may be glorified; every request you make of me in my own name, I myself will grant it to you. . . . Until now, you have not been making any requests in my name; make them, and they will be granted, to bring you gladness in full measure" (John xiv, 13; xvi, 23).
During the Mass the soul will worship God in the name of Christ; it will intercede in the name of Christ for the conversion of innumerable souls both in the present and in the future; it will also make reparation in the name of Christ by accepting generously every annoyance; it will thank God in the name of Christ not only for individual benefits but also for the universal gifts of creation, elevation to the life of grace, the Incarnation, the Redemption, the Eucharist. On seeing the children receive their spiritual food it will join in Christ's praise of his Father: "O Father, who art Lord of heaven and earth, I give thee praise that thou hast revealed these mysteries to little children" (cf. Matt, xi, 25).
Such a soul will speak to our Blessed Lady as though with the voice of Christ and will find in her title of "Mother" hitherto unsuspected depths of meaning. It will understand better the wealth of Mary's spiritual motherhood for those struggling towards salvation.
The soul at this stage finds it easier to prolong its prayer throughout the day, offering at each hour the various actions of the Saviour, especially those which are recalled in the Rosary and in the Way of the Cross.
During its visits to the Blessed Sacrament this Christ-like soul offers to God the acts of the infant Jesus, the acts of his hidden life, of his public life, of his Passion, of his risen and eucharistic life. Christ lives in that soul as fully as possible, radiating, so to speak, his own contemplative prayer and salvific love into that soul.
Humility. This devoted soul begins to detest a life lived only for self: it begins to despise itself in comparison with Christ. More than ever before it sees how limited, confined, base, and opposed to the freedom of the sons of God is any excessive thought of self. It strips itself of this mental fashion in order to model itself through faith on the words of Christ which "are spirit and life."
It begins to shun self-love in all its forms as the chief obstacle to Christ living within us, just as the hand would hinder the life of the body if it were anxious to live for itself and not for the body.
Such a soul is ready to delight in humiliations and to accept contempt with little or no distress—it is only right that its defects should be noted in order that the excellence of Christ who must dwell within us should stand out in vivid contrast. Now it sees more clearly the significance of Christ's request: "Allow me to live in you while you die to yourself", and his promise: "While you are stricken with extreme poverty, I am rich and my riches will suffice for you." His riches are to be ours, our own personal property.
The soul learns to belittle its own limited virtues and to extol as its own possession the unlimited perfections of Christ himself. That which is highly prized by the proud and ambitious is reckoned of no account, since the soul has ceased caring for its own glory.
Brotherly love. The Christian soul begins to see others as Christ sees them, discovering in all a trait of beauty worthy of imitation, just as beauty can be found in each and every wild flower. She has a special love for the poor as the sorrowing members of Christ, and also for the children because of their innocence, loving them as far as possible as Christ loves them. She loves the aged whom others have forsaken, finding in many of them greater wisdom than elsewhere.
The faith of this soul is more and more enlightened by the gifts, becoming more penetrative and lucid. She looks at everything from Christ's point of view, asking herself what would Jesus think about this, what is he actually thinking about it. The soul realizes better the true value of the Mass, Holy Communion, and sacramental absolution. She has a keener insight into the spiritual meaning of everyday events, seeing the higher good which God intends through permitting evil. She says to herself: "Christ sees this higher good", and even she herself foresees it to some extent.
In a similar way her confidence increases, because the confidence of Christ has supplanted trust in self. The encouragement of Christ is constantly before her: "Have confidence, I have overcome the world"—I have overcome sin, death, and the devil. "Have confidence": and the soul replies by putting all her trust in God, no longer daring to hope in her own strength—like St. Paul: "When I am weakest, then I am strongest of all." St. Philip Neri used to say: "Whenever I lose hope in myself, then I can trust all the more in the grace of God." John Baptist Manzella, the apostle of Sardinia, adopted exactly the same attitude when he was face to face with great difficulties: "An act of despair—I do indeed despair of myself, 1 lose all hope, but I trust in God alone."
The love of God increases noticeably, because it is as though the love of Christ passes into the soul which begins to live by him, causing a spiritual ecstasy wherein the ardent soul goes out of itself, so to speak, and is carried towards God. In his natural state a man is nearly always thinking about himself and his own interests, at least in a confused way; but the man in whom Christ lives begins to think almost continuously of God. His love for God is fully sincere, acting as the foundation for the love of himself and his neighbour. This love has no other purpose but the giving of greater glory to God in which he finds peace and joy, at least in the higher part of his being. Then it is that the soul dedicates itself without reserve to God, abandoning itself entirely into the hands of God.
And so is realized that prayer of Blessed Nicolaus von Flüe: "My Lord and my God, remove from me all that stands in the way of my coming to you; give me everything that will bring me closer to you; rid me of myself and take me completely into your possession."
Then the soul generously accepts the cross permitted by God so that it may co-operate more effectively in the saving of souls. That was the way taken by the saintly poor like St. Benedict Joseph Labre, and which is now being taken by many living in our own day—by the sick, for example, who suffer night and day without complaint, offering their sorrows in union with Christ for the conversion of sinners, knowing that without suffering the world can never enjoy true peace.
The reason why certain souls choose to make this generous offering of themselves to God as a victim and holocaust is because Christ, having foreseen their sufferings, inspires them to do so. He himself bears their pains as though he were suffering in them; in this sense he continues his agony until the end of time. It was Christ who was the strength of the martyrs, suffering in them, so to speak, during the first three centuries of the Church.
And it is this spirit which inspires the prayer of many at the present time: "Lord, in this time of world-wide strife, when a spirit of pride is being spread abroad denying all religion and God's existence, give me a deeper understanding of the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation and of your holy self-abasement in the Passion. Make me desire to share in your own humiliations and sorrows to the extent which your Providence desires. Make me discover in this desire peace, strength, and even at times joy according to your own good pleasure, in order to give strength to me and confidence to others."
This is true for all the faithful who desire to be saints: how much more for priests who by their ordination are specially obliged to strive for Christian perfection, seeing that they are to sanctify those committed to their care, who today are threatened by pernicious errors and false doctrines: they must be able to lead back to the Christian way of life all who have abandoned it.
Self-love: the greatest obstacle to Christ living in us
Spiritual writers have no hesitation in saying that the most insidious enemy of the spiritual life is not the world with all its temptations, nor the devil with his many wiles, but inordinate love of self; if only we were to uproot this love from our nature, the temptations of the world and the craft of the devil would be overcome more easily. At the moment they find a willing accomplice in our unbalanced self-esteem.
Once again we turn to the teaching of St. Thomas (la Ilae, q. 77 and q. 84), who explains in a concrete and practical way how this inordinate love of self is opposed to the love of God and more often than not destroys it: how this inordinate love of self is never completely annihilated even in perfect Christians: how we ought to meet the craftiness of this love: what is the best way of attacking it.2
How this inordinate love of self obstructs the love of God and eventually often destroys it
This excessive love of self is extremely cunning in many respects. Very often it assumes another name, e.g. honour, care of one's good name and dignity: it argues that a man just like an angel is bound to have a natural love for himself and to wish himself well. Where is there any lack of moderation in that? In fact, supernatural love urges us to love ourselves even more than our neighbour. But this disordered love of self conveniently forgets that in the natural order—no less than in the supernatural order—love of self must be subordinate to the love of God, the author of nature and grace. Or if it does remember this necessary subordination, it does so in such an abstract, theoretical way that it has no practical influence. And so, in effect, we are implicitly seeking our own interest, and gradually this self-regard becomes disproportionate as a result of original sin. Although Baptism removed from us this sin of our race, there still remain wounds in our nature in the form of a scar which is re-opened from time to time by our own personal sins.
This inordinate love of self can slowly introduce its own disorder into most of our acts, even into our higher acts, if we direct them towards ourselves for our own natural satisfaction instead of towards God. By degrees this disease spreads throughout the whole of our interior life, halting the growth of Christ's union with us. This was certainly exaggerated by La Rochefoucauld in his book Les Maximes and by the Jansenists, but at the same time there was a great deal of truth in what they said.
So we find that many make no effort to foster in themselves a love for God, but develop an exaggerated admiration for self and its talents and are continually looking for approval and praise from others. They are blind to their own failings but never cease exaggerating the faults of others, rather after the fashion of critics in political journals. They are most severe in their judgments of others, while making excuses for themselves. The only remedy for such people would be humiliation, which they ought to recognize as promoting their welfare: "Lord, it is for my own benefit that you humiliate me." This immoderate regard for self breeds pride, vanity, and not infrequently concupiscence of the eyes and flesh, and then the capital sins which spring from these sin-bearing desires; for example, sloth, gluttony, impurity, hatred, anger, and so on.
The wide gulf between love of God and this inordinate love of self is obvious, in so far as the true lover of God is only anxious to do God's will and to please him, whereas the lover of self looks after his own personal satisfaction, even when this is not subordinated to God.
Love of God urges a soul to generosity, to a determined and practical effort for perfection: inordinate love of self urges a soul to avoid all inconvenience, self-denial, effort, and weariness. The love of God becomes more and more disinterested, it thinks it is never doing sufficient for God and other souls: inordinate love of self considers it is always doing too much for God and for other people. True love for God is anxious to credit God with all the glory and praise it receives for its apostolic zeal: inordinate love of self has no desire whatsoever to give but only to receive, as though man was the centre of the universe to which everything must gravitate. If a priest walks along that road, his soul will be as barren as the fig-tree of the Gospel.
Finally, this self-idolatry leads to the destruction in our soul of all love of God and our neighbour, because of mortal sin which follows from it, especially repeated mortal sin. The soul becomes more and more confirmed in its antipathy to God, and immerses itself in temporal pleasure and a depraved love for self. In this way it would be possible for all our inclinations to be vitiated, as they are in the damned: for example, even the natural inclination to love God above all things as the author of nature is twisted in the devil, because in the damned this inclination gives rise to an inordinate desire to possess God not through any love for him, but because of their unbridled spiritual gluttony, in so far as they lack all other goods and satisfactions.
This tragic opposition between the two loves is often described by St. Augustine when he compares charity and cupidity. At the end of the fourteenth book of the City of God he writes: "Two loves have built two cities. The love of God even to the extent of despising self has built up the city of God, and the love of self even to the extent of despising God has built the city of Babylon or perdition." St. Paul had already written to Timothy (i Tim. vi, 10): "The love of money (i.e. an inordinate love of self) is a root from which every kind of evil springs." When St. Thomas is considering the triple cause of the capital sins (la Ilae, q. 77 and q. 84), he explains that the gratification of corrupt nature, the gratification of the eyes and the empty pomp of living are all derived from an inordinate love of self. This is clearly revealed in the lives of the wicked3 and, from another angle, in the lives of imperfect Christians.4
How self-love remains concealed even in perfect Christians and priests
In the life of St. Vincent de Paul written by Domino Coste (I, 12; III, 300) the saint himself tells of an incident which occurred when he was studying at some college: "One day I was told that my father was coming to see me, but because he was only a poor farmer from the country I was loath to go and speak with him. On a previous occasion when my father was taking me to town. I was upset by his state of life and I felt ashamed of my own father."
When speaking of the period after the foundation of his Congregation the saint narrates the following story: "One of my nephews came to visit me at the college of which I was superior. Thinking of his uncouth appearance—as he would be badly dressed like all country folk—I directed that he should be brought to me without anyone else knowing. But immediately I changed my mind and resolved to make amends for this initial outburst of self-love. I went down to the door, embraced my nephew, led him by the hand to the community-room where my brethren were assembled, and introduced him to them: 'Here is a member of the family who is far more respectable than I am.' " In this way St. Vincent de Paul fought against his self-respect; even so he was still afraid that this victory might in fact have been a more subtle outlet for his self-love.
The dangerous deceit of self-love
For example, it is quite possible for our mental prayer to be vitiated by an excessive desire for sense consolation, by spiritual gluttony, by sentimentality when there exists in our sense nature a pretence to the love of God and our neighbour which is not sufficiently strong in the will. The soul is then seeking itself rather than God, and that is why God purifies our soul by sense aridity—in order to destroy this imperfection. If the soul fails to respond with generosity during this period of trial, it lapses into spiritual sloth and tepidity, making very little effort towards perfection.
In a similar way our intellectual or apostolic labours may be impaired by this disordered love of self, by trying to find in them personal satisfaction or praise rather than the glory of God and the saving of souls. And thus a preacher may find his words become fruitless and ineffectual "as sounding brass and tinkling cymbal." The soul ceases to make progress, it no longer takes the initial steps along the road to perfection, it fails to reach the age of spiritual proficiency. The soul remains stunted in its growth, like a child who stops growing; he neither remains a child nor does he grow into a normal adult; he is a deformed dwarf. This sterility of life results from immoderate self-love.5
The method of attack against this inordinate love of self
It is essential for victory that we recognize our predominant failing and root it out. That failing is, so to speak, a caricature of the good inclination which ought to have prevailed, the reverse side of the coin. Then the battle is joined between the good inclination and the bad. Although it is true that the opposite vice to a virtue cannot be active in a person at the same time as the virtue, yet the tendencies to both can exist together. It is these which give rise to the struggle, the outcome of which will be victory either for the good inclination in the form of an active virtue or for the predominant failing in the form of an active vice.
The original predominant fault is the corruption of a virtue into a vice which is materially similar to the virtue but formally opposed to it; for instance, the natural inclination to humility can degenerate into faintheartedness, the inclination to magnanimity into pride and ambition, the inclination to courage into bitter irony and cruelty, the inclination to justice into severity, the inclination to meekness and mercy into weakness. This can be better understood by considering, for example, how the virtue of humility is more directly opposed to pride than to faintheartedness which, however, is the contrary of humility; so is magnanimity more directly opposed to faintheartedness than to pride. And these two virtues are connected like the two curves of a Gothic arch.
What we must do is to discover the particular form of self-love in ourselves. Is it pride, or vanity, or laziness, or sensuality, or gluttony, or anger? We must ask ourselves: what is my predominant fault which reveals itself in the sins I commit more frequently, and which is continually captivating my imagination? Some will find it is their pride which keeps their tendency to anger in check so as to preserve the good opinion of others: some may find their pride restrained by sloth which no longer bothers about the good esteem of others.
So we must be on our guard to restrain this predominant failing with tenacity and perseverance, and thus gain the mastery over self for God's sake without regard for the praise of men. Although this is often a difficult task it will always lie within our power so long as we are on earth. God never makes impossible demands; he exhorts you both to do what you can and to ask for what you are not able to do, and he will give the help enabling you to do it.6
Even though some people do not have such a clear-cut predominant fault they will find their self-love revealing itself in various ways.
Everyone without exception must make war on the citadel of self from different points, denying it all opportunity of growing stronger, labouring more and more for the love of God, trying to please him by fulfilling first their obligatory and facile external tasks in a spirit of faith, and secondly, their more spiritual and difficult duties. And thus by degrees our life will become dominated by the three theological virtues together with their corresponding gifts.
In this methodical assault on self three principal weapons are required: purity of intention, progressive self-denial, and habitual recollection.
Purity of intention is of the highest importance. "The eye is the light of the whole body, so that if thy eye is clear, the whole of thy body will be lit up; whereas if thy eye is diseased, the whole of thy body will be in darkness. And if the light which thou hast in thee is itself darkness, what of thy darkness? How deep will that be" (Matt, vi, 22). St. Thomas in his commentary on that passage says: "The eye signifies the intention. A man who desires to act first forms the intention. Therefore, if your intention is clear—that is, directed towards God—your whole body—your activities—will be clear." This is true of every good Christian and of every pastor who takes good care of the flock committed to his care.
This purity of intention must first be practised in the easy tasks of everyday life. It was in this way that St. Benedict used to train his religious, who often possessed little or no education: "Perform all the duties laid down by the Rule with a pure intention, in a spirit of faith, hope and love of God, in order to please God." By carrying out their external actions of the religious life in this spirit and with this purity of intention, these religious—including the lay brothers—reached a high degree of perfection and union with God. They subdued completely their inordinate self-love and became genuine saints to the immense spiritual profit of their neighbour. Hence we read in St. Luke's Gospel xvi, 10: "He who is trustworthy over a little sum is trustworthy over a greater", or will be, even to the point of martyrdom. St. Augustine used to say: "Details are in themselves of little value, but constant faithfulness even in details is of the highest value."
Progressive self-denial, both external and internal, must also be observed: "If any man has a mind to come my way, let him renounce self" (Mark viii, 34). No opportunity should be wasted, so that the love of God and our neighbour may gradually gain the mastery over our inordinate self-love. This is expected even of the faithful in general in order that they may tend in their own sphere of life to that perfection of charity expressed in the supreme precept: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with the love of thy whole heart . . ."; with even greater reason is the same mortification expected of religious and priests, especially if they have the care of souls.
Habitual recollection is required if union with God is to be maintained, and this not only while hearing confessions, celebrating Mass and preaching the divine word, but always, so that at every moment of the day he will be a pattern to his flock, a priest in whom Christ is evidently living.
Such a priest is then prepared for Christ to come and dwell within him; this is obvious from his humility and simplicity, from his way of thinking which is guided by the principles of faith, from his confidence, from his zeal for souls and for God. Gradually he will find verified in his own life the picture drawn by St. Augustine: his soul will travel further and further away from the city of perdition in which the love of self becomes so brazen as to despise God, and will draw near to the heavenly city in which the love of God develops into a complete contempt for self by uniting together true humility with charity for God and one's neighbour. And so with the help of God's grace the victory will be won for his glory and the salvation of souls.
Recently I came across the following inscription in a Carmelite monastery: "Look for God alone and you will find him." Would that our intention were always as single-eyed as that, and then with the aid of God's grace it would infallibly direct us towards our final end. That was the promise made by Christ: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these other things (food and clothing) will be added unto you" (Malt, vi, 33).
1Cf. St. Thomas, Ilia, q. 8; the encyclical of Pius XII De Corpore mystico Christi; and the many books which have been published recently on the mystical body, such as: Emile Mersch, S.J., The Whole Christ (English tr. by Fr. J. Kelly, S.J., Dobson, London, 1938); Ernest Mura, Le Corps mystique du Christ, sa nature et sa vie divine, 2e ed., 1936. I have already discussed this question in my work The Three Ages of the Interior Life (English tr. by Sister M. Timothea, vol. 1, pp. 109-118). A small work by Paul de Jaegher, S.J., One with Jesus (English tr. by Burns, Oates and Washbourne, London, 1930), can be highly recommended for its doctrine but not for the presentation of that doctrine. The author seems to presume that his readers will have reached the passive state of the spiritual life, but there will be many who could not admit that. It would have been better to have begun by setting forth the Scriptural evidence for this teaching and then to have shown that souls must strive for such an intimate union with Christ. That is the plan I have adopted here.
2The reader could refer with profit to the practical work written by a Vincentian missionary, Paolo Provera, Diamoci a Dio, Turin, 1945, p. 89: "Our most fearful enemy is self-love and we must imitate the surgeon in the use of his scalpel in order to rid ourselves of this growth."
4Men often show themselves prompt and energetic in satisfying their own avarice, pride, and vanity, but when it comes to the fulfilment of some inconvenient obligation—even though it be a matter of grave duty towards God or their neighbour—they are slow, sluggish, and slothful. The power of inordinate self-love is almost unbelievable, and if we do not make the effort to destroy it, we may find ourselves sooner or later deprived of all love for God and our neighbour
5Cf. Matt, xxi, 19: "Jesus seeing a fig-tree by the roadside, went up to it, and found nothing but leaves on it. And he said to it, Let no fruit ever grow 011 thee hereafter; whereupon the fig-tree withered away." St. Thomas makes the following comment: "Christ visited Judea, a country covered with leaves—that is, legal observances—but bearing no fruit. Some people, therefore, may appear outwardly as upright but inwardly they are evil and perverse. . . . Then followed the curse by which Christ signified the future sterility of Judea, as we read in Romans ix. And so it sometimes happens that those who give an external appearance of fruitfulness whereas they are in fact spiritually diseased are made 10 lose their vigour by God so as to prevent them causing damage to others." God does this because of his great love for souls and his desire for their salvation.
6St. Augustine, De natura et gratia, t. 43, 11. 30—quoted by the Council of Trent (Denz. 804).