Monday, October 20, 2014

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange on Holy Church's Aids to Contemplation

[385] We recognize the fact that environment has its importance; also that a calm temperament is much better disposed to the contemplative life than a restless and agitated spirit. It may indeed be that among these [386] last, some, even though quite generous, would reach the mystical life only after a period longer than the ordinary span of life. And it is certain that bad spiritual direction often allows souls to vegetate or turns them away from infused contemplation, whereas another type of direction would definitely turn them toward contemplation.

However important these conditions may be, they remain superficial compared to others which are the chief ones. Here again the same rule holds true as in the matter of salvation, which is possible to all who possess a developed conscience, even to those not born in a Christian environment, who are strongly inclined to evil, and who have not had an opportunity to hear the Gospel preached. If they ordinarily follow the dictates of their conscience, they will be mysteriously led from grace to grace, from fidelity to fidelity, to eternal life.

Anyone who wishes to advance in the spiritual life and to prepare himself for the grace of contemplation must, to the best of his ability, use the great means which the Church gives us all. The assiduous reception of the sacraments, daily hearing of mass, frequent communion, love of the Eucharist, devotion to the Holy Ghost, filial and incessant recourse to the Sacred Heart of Jesus [1] and to the Blessed Virgin, mediatrix of all graces, are evidently necessary.

Contemplation is a fruit of true devotion to the Blessed Virgin, as explained by Blessed Grignion de Montfort (True Devotion, ch. 4, art. 5). He says that, without a great love for her, a soul will attain union with God only with extreme difficulty. "It is necessary to pas through dark nights, combats, strange agonies, sharp thorns, and frightful deserts. By the way of Mary, the soul advances with greater sweetness and tranquillity. Along this way it encounters many crosses and great difficulties to [387] overcome, but our good Mother keeps so close to her faithful servants ... that, in truth, this virginal road is a path of roses in spite of the thorns." It thus leads more easily and surely to divine union. Mary, wonderful to relate, makes the cross easier and, at the same time, more meritorious: easier, because she sustains us with her gentle hand; more meritorious, because she obtains for us a greater charity, which is the principle of merit, and because, by offering our acts to our Lord, she increases their value. By reason of her pre-eminent charity, Mary merited more while performing the easiest acts than all the martyrs in their tortures.

Another great means to prepare for the grace of contemplation, a means within the reach of all interior souls, is found in the liturgy, in an ever more intimate union with the great prayer of the Church. "The graces of prayer and of the mystical state have their type and source in the hieratic life of the Church; they reflect in the members the likeness of Christ which is perfect in the body" (Fr. Clérissac, O.P., Le mystère de l'Église, p. 102). Liturgical prayer recited with recollection, in union with our Lord and His mystical body, obtains for us holy lights and inspirations which illumine and inflame our hearts. Consequently it is advisable to make mental prayer after the psalmody which prepares us for it [i.e. after the Divine Office]; just after mass and holy communion, it is well to prolong our thanksgiving, and if possible devote an hour to it [following St. Teresa of Avila's advice].

Lastly, the frequent reading of Scripture and the study of sacred doctrine, undertaken in a truly supernatural manner, are other excellent means to prepare the soul for contemplation. Thus the ancients used to say that divine reading (lectio divina) by pious study (studium) leads to meditation (meditatio), then to prayer (oratio), and finally to contemplation (contemplatio) (see 2a2ae.180.3).



1. It is fitting to unite ever more closely devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and that to the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, in order to thank our Lord for the act of supreme love by which He gave us the Holy Eucharist.


Source: Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Christian Perfection and Contemplation, trans. by M. Timothea Doyle (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1946), 385–387.

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