Thursday, 1 August 2013

To Aspire to Sanctity Before Wisdom

St. Thomas Aquinas

This is something that I fear I forget too easily. It is, of course, quite a bad thing for one to go about one's life without ever praying, or without doing so frequently. But it is somewhat a good deal worse if one devotes oneself to the study of the theology and the things of God. Study in general should not be a distraction from the spiritual life; much less should the study of theology be such a distraction. Theology, because it the study of divine things, cannot in the wildest stretch of the imagination be ever separated from prayer and the spiritual life. Such a separation is the height of absurdity. And I am guilty of it. Lately my spiritual life has been turning lukewarm, and I fear that this is much due to the distractions which the theological sciences hold for me. It is not theological knowledge that will bring me to my salvation; rather, it is the interior life of faith, hope, and charity that will save me. That must be my absolute first priority; then I can focus on whatever else. And in fact, by subordinating the other parts of my life to my spiritual life, I may be able to prosper in all these other areas much more than before. Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange writes: 
The interior life is for all the one thing necessary. It ought to be constantly developing in our souls; more so than what we call our intellectual life, more so than our scientific, artistic or literary life. The interior life is lived in the depths of the soul; it is the life of the whole man, not merely of one or other of his faculties. And our intellectual life would gain immeasurably by appreciating this; it would receive an inestimable advantage if, instead of attempting to supplant the spiritual life, it recognized its necessity and importance, and welcomed its beneficial influence -- the influence of the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. (Three Ways of the Spiritual Life.)
 All the greatest thinkers of the Church were saintly men and women, many of them canonized. People such as St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Francis de Sales, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and many more... These are all doctors of the Church. The degree and eminence of their learning and wisdom could only have been attained by the angelic height of their interior lives, their love and devotion to God. St. Thomas is known for having said that he learned more by contemplating a crucifix than by the study of his books! Just the thought of that, in this very moment, makes me realize my lowliness both as an aspiring saint and an aspiring theologian... I want to have that sanctity and that wisdom!

Creator beyond human endurance, Who out of Thy wisdom'd treasures, didst establish three hierarchies of Angels, setting them in wonderful order to preside over the empyrean heaven, and Who hast most marvelously assorted the parts of the universe; Thou Who art called the fountain-head of life and of wisdom, and the one over-ruling principle; be pleased to shed the ray of Thy brightness over the gloom of my understanding, so as to dispel the ignorance in which I was born; Thou Who makest eloquent the tongues of babes, instruct my tongue, and shed the grace of Thy blessing upon my lips. Bestow on me keenness of wit to understand, the power of a retentive memory, method and ease of learning, subtlety for explaining, and a gift of ready speech. Teach me as I begin, direct me as I advance, complete my finished task for me, Thou Who art our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.  
(St. Thomas Aquinas)

1 comment:

  1. Have you read Dom Chautard's The Soul of the Apostolate? You can borrow it online here.

    He argues that the interior life is vitally necessary for any good works, which charitably flow as surplus from it.