Posted by: Catholic of Thule | February 1, 2011

He has ceased to be good whosoever does not desire to be better.

“He has ceased to be good whosoever does not desire to be better,” declared St. Bernard…. Anyone making genuine progress is unsatisfied with his present state. The fact is that as we grow we have more divine light, we see God’s purity more clearly, and we preceive how far we still fall short of our goal. People who are well content with their position before the Lord are either beginners or grievous sinners. The latter have a blunted conscience and little concept of sanctity and no lively desire for it. The former have little experience with their mixed motives even in doing good… hardly understand the demands of total love… do not yet see their many defects, willed and unwilled… are unacquainted wiht heroic virtue… and do not grasp what it means to be “perfect as [our] heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). Hence a calm discontent – not to be confused with the unrealism of a poor self-image – is an encouraging sign of progress in our journey to God (My emphasis).

I highly recommend the late Father Thomas Dubay’s book Seeking Spiritual Direction, from which the quotation is taken. And while I am at it, I also wish to recommend his Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer and Prayer Primer, both of which I really would benefit from rereading soon.

Though be warned that one must brace oneself before reading. His works are apt to strip one of spiritual illusions. Indeed, he tends to remind me a little of how I am still very much the spiritual equivalent of the not-so-very-brave-when-push-comes-to-show Sir Robin.

However, that is exactly the point. It is the fact that Father Dubay is uncompromising in challenging us to truly apply ourselves to the quest to respond to God’s call and graces to grow in holiness that makes his works great. He very effectively helps awaken in us a dissatisfaction at our state by reminding us of all the reasons we have to feel dissatisfied with our spiritual state by pointing to the holiness to which we are called. And he does his bit to awaken in us a desire to do something about it, without which that dissatisfaction cannot possibly become fruitful and holy. Dissatisfaction in one’s spiritual state in and of itself is absolutely not a guarantee of growth, but it is surely a necessary prerequisite. Importantly, he also helps us not to slip into despair by not neglecting to point out the graces and means available to help us ascend by steps if we truly desire to dispose in our hearts to do so, pointing us to practical ways of co-operating with God’s grace to do so. Because it is something we cannot possibly hope to do on our own.

[6] Blessed is the man whose help is from thee:

in his heart he hath disposed to ascend by steps,

[7] In the vale of tears, in the place which be hath set.

[8] For the lawgiver shall give a blessing, they shall go from virtue to virtue:

the God of gods shall be seen in Sion.

(Psalm 83[84])

Sadly, Fr. Dubay cannot alter for us the fact that this is all a lot easier said than done. But there is no getting away from that fact….

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