That a Desire of Growing and Going Forward in Self-Improvement Is a Great Sign of One’s Being in the Grace of God

by admin on December 19, 2011

THERE is a consideration, very important and very consoling, that will be of much assistance in animating us to a great desire of self-improvement, a hunger and thirst after progress in virtue, and carefulness and solicitude to please the Lord daily more and more; it is that this is one of the greatest and surest signs of God’s dwelling in the soul. So says St. Bernard: “There is no greater sign, no more certain evidence of the presence of God in a soul, than having a great desire of more virtue and more grace and perfection”—Nullum omnino praesentiae Dei certius testimonium est quam desiderium gratiae amplioris. And he proves it by what God says through the Wise Man: He that eateth me shall have more hunger, and he that drinketh me shall have more thirst (Ecclus. xxiv. 29). If you feel hunger and thirst for spiritual things, rejoice, for it is a great sign that God dwells in your soul. He it is that puts into you this hunger and excites in you this thirst; you have struck the vein of gold leading up to this divine treasure, since you follow it so well. And as the hunts­man’s dog goes feebly and lazily when he has not caught scent of the game; but when he has caught it he is excited to great activity, seeking the scent on this side and that, and never gives over till he finds the game, so he who has truly caught the odor of this divine sweetness runs in the odor of so precious an ointment. Draw me, and we will run after thee in the odor of thine ointments (Cant. i. 3). God, who is within you, draws you after Him. But if you do not feel within yourself this hunger and thirst, fear lest per­haps God dwells not within your heart. This is the property of spiritual things and things of God, as St. Gregory says, that when we have them not we desire them not and have no care at all about them.

The glorious St. Bernard says that he trembled and his hair stood on end when he considered what the Holy Ghost says by the Wise Man: Man knoweth not whether he be worthy of love or hatred (Eccles. ix. 1).   But if this reflec­tion that we do not know whether we are in the grace of God or out of His grace, made holy men tremble who were as pillars of the Church, what effect should it have on us, who have reason for alarm for the many causes that we have given for it?   We have in ourselves the answer of death  (II Cor. i. 9).    I know for certain that I have offended God, and I do not know for certain if I am par­doned: who will not tremble?   Oh, how much would one give to get some pledge and security in a matter which touches him so nearly!   Oh, if I knew that the Lord had pardoned my sins! , Oh, if I knew that I was in the grace of God!   But while it is true that in this life we cannot have infallible certainty of being in the grace and friend­ship of God without a particular revelation from Him, nevertheless we can form some conjectures which raise in us a moral probability thereof; and one of them, and a very chief one, is our being possessed with this hunger and thirst after spiritual progress and daily growth in virtue and per­fection.   And so this alone should suffice to move us ever to keep up this desire, in order to have so great a pledge and witness that we are in the grace and friendship of God, which is one of the greatest of consolations and satisfac­tions; aye, the greatest that in this life we can possibly have.

This is confirmed by what the Holy Ghost says in Prov­erbs iv. 18: The way and path of the just and their man­ner of procedure is as the light of the sun that goeth forth in the morning and the further it goes, it goes growing and perfecting itself the more, until it arrives at the perfection of midday. Thus the just, the farther they go, the farther they advance in virtue. St. Bernard says: “The just never cries, ‘Enough’.” Nunquam iustus arbitratur se comprehendisse, nunquam dicit satis est, sed semper esurit sititque iustitiam, ita ut si semper viveret, semper quantum in se est iustior esse contenderet, semper de bono in bonum totis viri-bus conaretur. Of such it is said: They shall go from vir­tue to virtue (Psalm Ixxxiii. 8), ever aiming at going fur­ther until they arrive at the height of perfection. But the path of the slothful, the imperfect, and the evil is as the light of evening, which goes decreasing and growing darker till it comes to the darkness and gloom of midnight. The way of the wicked is darksome; they see not where they are likely to fall (Prov. iv. 19). They come to such blindness that they see not where they stumble, nor have any eye for the faults and imperfections which they commit and no remorse of conscience for falling into them. Rather, they often take that to be no sin which is a sin, and that to be a venial sin which perhaps is mortal; such are their mental confusion and blindness.

Excerpt from Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues by Alphonsus Rodriguez, translated by Joseph Rickaby (Loyola University Press, 1929). Reprinted with permission.

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