Father Marie Eugene tackles the question of: Are we ALL called to contemplation? Don’t we all want to be sanctified to the fullest measure here on earth by the power of God’s grace? He answers by giving us the wisdom of the Holy Ghost through the writings of St. Teresa and St. John. The findings are both inspiring and sad. Inspiring because God wants ALL TO BE SAINTS!!! Sad because the reality is– most do not have the generosity to seek God with our whole heart, mind and soul in order to be His saints. May we read these words and decide to have a determined determination to seek God!
Mystical life is the spiritual life marked by the habitual intervention of God through the various gifts of the Holy Ghost.
Contemplative life is the life of mental prayer marked by the habitual intervention of God through the particularly contemplative gifts of knowledge, understanding and wisdom.
Mystical life, then, is a broader term than contemplative life which is only one form of it, but on a more elevated level. Basically, whatever may be the gifts that God uses to intervene in souls, it is to the same holiness and the same participation in His divine life that He leads all, but by different ways.
Question of Right
Are all souls called to the mystical life and to contemplation? A distinction has been made between a general call and a particular call and it is determined that all baptized souls have the practical means for attaining it.
Father Marie Eugene emphatically states YES to the general call to a mystical life and to contemplation by means of our Baptism. Every soul possessing the seven gifts received at Baptism can be moved by God and brought by Him to the plentitude of the mystical life, including supernatural contemplation!
It does depend on the free intervention of God’s Will to elevate the soul to mystical life and contemplation. The mystery of God for the design of each soul does belongs to God but we also know that God is Love and is therefore the Good, communicative of itself. To give Himself is an essential movement of His nature. He finds incomparable joy and glory in the diffusion of His grace in souls; and most especially, in His perfect reign in each one of them. His free will is captivated by the movement of His love. How could His will resist the call of the gifts of the Holy Ghost in souls that long to be filled with His holy love. This is precisely what St. Teresa of Jesus stresses – She stressed His Love and also our need to be totally persistent. We must have determined determination. If He sees our longing – His love does not resist that longing. She states:
“Remember, the Lord invites us all; and since He is Truth Itself, we cannot doubt Him. If His invitation were not a general one, He would not have said: “I will give you to drink”. He might have said: “Come all of you, for after all you will lose nothing by coming; and I will give drink to those whom I think fit for it.” But, as He said we were all to come, without making this condition, I feel sure that none will fail to receive this living water unless they cannot keep to the path.” (Way of Perfection, Peers, p. 85)
She emphasizes the following ---
“So take my advice and do not tarry on the way, but strive like strong men until you die in the attempt, for you are here for nothing else than to strive… always pursue this determination to die rather than fail to reach the end of the road.” (Way of Perfection, Peers, p. 85-6)
St. John of the Cross states the following regarding this subject of our determination: “And here it behooves us to note why it is that there are so few that attain to this lofty state. It must be known that this is not because God is pleased that there should be few raised to this high spiritual state – on the contrary, it would please Him if ALL were so raised.” (Living Flame, Peers, p. 51)
We are prone in our thinking to setting limits but yet the ways of God are many. There is a different approach by God not just for each saint but for each soul, even the most humble. Holiness is one, it is true, but its gifts are varied to infinity. All are called to the fullness of divine union and of charity, though the roads that lead to the summit come from starting points far remote from each other. St. Teresa says that there are many roads to God as there are many mansions in Heaven.
Question of Fact
Among the seven Mansions, only the last four concern the mystical life. The first three constitute a phase of the spiritual life characterized by the predominance of the activity of the virtues in their human modes.
Souls Outside the Castle
Those outside the castle are obviously outside of God’s grace. As stated previously, only those who have received Baptism can receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Those non-Christians can receive manifestations of God’s divine actions both exterior and interior which only touch their senses. God can speak or manifest His power to any intelligent creature whatever, and make known to him His will and by miraculous or supernatural means. He can also use him as an instrument but all of these manifestations only reach the senses and do not effect supernatural grace for the soul because of the lack of Baptism. To refuse this power of God would be to refuse His dominion over all. These manifestations may be to move the soul such as in the case of St. Paul.
Souls in the First Three Mansions
The first three mansions are considered the first phase of the spiritual life. According to St. Teresa there is yet no mystical life in this soul. In connection with the intervention of the Holy Ghost in the sanctification of the soul, St. Thomas Aquinas asserts that it is not in the power of reason, even enlightened by faith and infused prudence, to know all things; and “consequently, it is unable to avoid folly…God however, to Whose knowledge and power all things are subject, by His motion safeguards us from all folly, ignorance, dullness of mind and hardness of heart and the rest. Consequently, the Holy Ghost which make us amendable to His promptings, are said to be given as remedies to these defects.” From this one may conclude that the direct intervention of the Holy Ghost through the gifts is necessary for any supernatural act. To move further there must be activity through these gifts over the presence of the virtues.
St. Teresa stated that the growth of the soul is not like the body where there is steady progress of growth. The soul is known to move up and down in progress. To increase in progress, a prudent counsel of a wise director might be the only way to enlighten the soul as to the value of a gift received, and prepare it discreetly for the more elevated and frequent ones the God intends it to have in the future. (Again, as stated in previous chapters, do not get discouraged by a lack of good directors – God will provide through your prayers. Refer to Fr. Dubay’s Spiritual Direction book for guidance during these deficient days of directors)
Souls in the Second Phase
The second phase is considered the Fourth through Seventh Mansions. These are the mansions that are considered to have mystical life. Are there many who make it this far? St. Teresa states that “the Christians are numerous who remain in the outer court of the castle.” These souls are not in the state of grace. Numerous also – and a great multitude – are those who inhabit the first Mansions, leading a Christian life which is poorly sustained with a few exterior practices and rarely concerned with interior acts of love or with the thought of God. In the second and third mansions are persons solicitous about piety; and according to St. Teresa they are many who do not go beyond the third mansions.
St. John of the Cross states: “Not all those who consciously walk in the way of the spirit are brought by God to contemplation, nor even the half of them –why, He best knows.” (Dark Night, Peers, pg. 378)
It is then concluded that the large majority of Christians do not enter into the mystical life.
Those who do enter the mystical life hunger and thirst for God, manifest a great faithfulness to prayer, love silence and retreat, are eager for knowledge of the spiritual life and have real fruits of virtue.
Why so few souls? Both St. Teresa and St. John conclude it is a lack of generosity on the part of many. It is also lack of light. So few directors who themselves practice contemplation. If there were only more sermons to spur the people on. More examples for others to follow – the fire would ignite.
These statements of St. Teresa and St. John confirm the complaints of Love Who is not enough loved. Yet, He calls us ALL to the Fountain of the Living Water of intimate union with Him, and His will is that we all should be saints! How very very sad and what a calling for all of us who are reading this.
May Our Lady pray for us and guide us!
Blessed Fr. Marie-Eugene