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Fix Me, Jesus; Fix Me – Three Reasons Why Even Our Spiritual Life Needs Fixing

June 28, 2015

When I was a good bit younger, in college actually, I had to take a few economics and marketing courses. At that time I thought to myself, “God has a bad marketing department,” since things like Scripture and prayer were often so difficult to understand and do. God seemed to insist that we pray, but everyone I ever asked admitted that prayer was difficult. And while many had reasons they offered as to why prayer was difficult, I still wondered why, if God could just zap prayer and make it delightful, He didn’t just do so. “Yes,” I thought, “God has a bad marketing plan!”

But of course God isn’t selling products; He’s raising children. He’s healing hearts, and heart surgery involves pain and often lengthy procedures. Many purifications, mortifications, and changes are going to be necessary if we want to attain holiness and Heaven.

Let’s look at three reasons our soul needs purification. Note that purifications of the soul are akin to, but distinct from, the mortifications necessary for our body and the passions related to it (e.g., gluttony, lust, and greed). For our soul, too, can be weighed down with excesses and defects.

Drawing from the spiritual masters and St. Thomas Aquinas, Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange details three reasons that our soul needs purification, especially as we begin to make progress. They are spiritual pride, spiritual gluttony, and spiritual sloth. Each of these brings conditions and temptations to a soul that is beginning to make some progress in prayer and fervency. The very gifts of progress and fervency are also possible dangers to the ongoing growth that is needed. Thus God purifies us in diverse manners in order to avoid having these traps capture us entirely.

Let’s look at each in turn. The text is my own, but the insights and inspiration are found in Fr. Garrigou-LaGrange’s Three Ages of the Interior Life, Vol two, pp. 44ff, Tan Publications.

I. Spiritual pride – This comes when a person, having made some progress and experienced consolations as well as the deeper prayer of a proficient, begins to consider himself a spiritual master. He or she may also start to judge others severely who seem to have made less progress.

Those afflicted with spiritual pride often “shop around” for a spiritual director, looking for one who affirms rather than challenges their insights. Further, they tend to minimize the true reality of their sins out of a desire to appear more perfected than they really are.

Soon enough we have a Pharisee of sorts, who regards himself too favorably and others too poorly. There is also the problem of hypocrisy, since spiritual pride would have one play the role of a spiritual master and proficient, when one really is not.

God, therefore, must often humble the soul who has begun to make progress. In a certain sense He slows the growth, lest the greatest enemy, pride, claim all the growth.

II. Spiritual sensuality – This is a kind of spiritual gluttony, which consists in being immoderately attached to spiritual consolations. God does sometimes grant these to the soul, but the danger is that the consolations come to be sought for their own sake. One starts to love the consolations of God more than the God of all consolations. Growth in the love of God for His own sake is too easily lost or becomes confused and entangled. Or even worse, it becomes contingent upon consolations, visions, and the like.

Hence God must often withhold these for the sake of the soul, which must learn the discipline of prayer, with or without consolations, and to love God for His own sake. Uncorrected, spiritual gluttony can lead to spiritual sloth, which we consider next.

III. Spiritual sloth – This emerges when spiritual gluttony or other expectations of prayer are not met. There sets up a kind of impatience or even disgust for prayer and the narrow way of the spiritual life. Flowing from this is discouragement, a sluggishness that cancels zeal, and the dissipation of prayer and other spiritual practices. One allows endless distractions, makes excuses, shortens prayer and other spiritual exercises, or does them in a perfunctory manner.

Here, too, God must seek to purify the soul of attachment to consolations, lest such sloth lead to a complete disgust and a refusal to walk the narrow way of the spiritual life. Perhaps this sort of purification will take place through secondary causes, wherein the Lord acts though a spiritual director to insist on prayer, no matter how difficult. Perhaps, too, certain seasons such as Lent and Advent, or other “ember days” and the like will be used by God to bring greater zeal to the soul weighed down with spiritual sloth.

Clearly, God must correct this spiritual sloth and help us to accept God and prayer on His terms, not ours. The insistence on delight and consolations on our own terms is a great enemy to the docility and humility necessary for true growth.

Yes, there are many purifications necessary for us, whether we like to admit it or not. We might like to think that our spiritual life would itself be free from excesses or defects or at least would be a sign of great progress. But often even the most beautiful prayer experiences and spiritual stages are replete with the need for purification and further growth. Perhaps this is what Isaiah meant when he wrote,

In our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?  We have all become like one who is unclean, and even our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment (Is 64:5-6).

This song says, “Fix me, Jesus; Fix me.”

Comments (6)

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  1. edraCRUZ says:

    Truly I feel sorrow, depressed and discouraged about the same sex marriage decision of the Supreme Court. It had denigrated the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman to partake in the Creation of GOD of another human person. It is all our fault, my fault too, for how we have another person that is why these people chose this recourse. Fix me, fix them, fix all of us. Have mercy on me, on them, on all Oh GOD. YHWH ROPHEH.

  2. edraCRUZ says:

    It is all our fault, my fault too, for how we have treated another person that is why these people chose this recourse.

  3. Richard Connell says:

    Neat post. Thanks.

    Here is something I saw that cheered me today: “Qx(97): Revo, you are asking what `physical` evidence is there of a non-physical entity. I ask you: what spiritual evidence is there of the body?”

  4. winnie says:

    Thank you frCharles Pope. A very timely reminder

  5. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    This reminds me of,”From the Pastor” in our church bulliten this Sunday. A young man grew up in the country. He was deeply troubled about deciding what to do with his life. So one day he prayed to God and said,”God, please tell me what you want me to do.” When he opened his eyes, he saw some clouds formed into the letters “P C.” He thought quickly and then said: “That must mean Preach Christ. P. C. Preach Christ.” So he went off to the seminary and began to study for the ministry. But after a few short months, the professors realized that this young man just was not cut out for the seminary. Finally the Rector of the seminary talked to the young man and told him that it would probably be better if he tried to do something else. The young man cried out: “You can’t send me away. I prayed to God, and God showed me that sign in the clouds-P C- and right away I knew that I was supposed to preach Christ.” The seminary Rector replied: “Young man, did it ever occur to you that perhaps P C meant for you to plane corn?”

  6. Brother Gabriel says:

    And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  Matthew 22: 37-39

    The greatest impediment to growth in the spiritual life is putting loving of self ahead of the love of God. This choice and attitude of self-will vs doing God’s Will manifests and expresses itself in many different ways, including the three faults mentioned by Msgr. Pope. It is useful to note that attempts to cure or fix the symptoms, without addressing the root cause may ultimately lead to disappointment or discouragement.  

    It is said that self-knowledge is the doorway to humility. The grace to receive this unvarnished knowledge of truth about ourselves – as God sees us – is always available to those souls who sincerely desire it. With the Holy Spirit enlightening our minds and hearts, we are better able to see our true motivations and judge if they are self-centered or God centered. This truth about ourselves (humility) frees and empowers us to pick up our cross with greater passion and fortitude each day, to deny our very selves, and follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Putting love of God above love of self strengthens and encourages us to endure all things, all manner of purification and self-abnegation to reach our ultimate goal of union with our Beloved Lord. 

    St. John of the Cross: Ascent of Mount Carmel. Book 2, Chapter 7, 6&7

    “Oh, that one could tell us how far Our Lord desires this self-denial to be carried! It must certainly be like to death and annihilation, temporal, natural and spiritual, in all things that the will esteems, wherein consists all self-denial. And it is this that Our Lord meant when He said: ‘He that will save his life, the same shall lose it.’ That is to say: He that will possess anything or seek anything for himself, the same shall lose it; and he that loses his soul for My sake, the same shall gain it. That is to say: He who for Christ’s sake renounces all that his will can desire and enjoy, and chooses that which is most like to the Cross (which the Lord Himself, through Saint John, describes as hating his soul, the same shall gain it. And this His Majesty taught to those two disciples who went and begged Him for a place on His right hand and on His left; when, giving no countenance to their request for such glory,

    He offered them the chalice which He had to drink, as a thing more precious and more secure upon this earth than is fruition.

    This chalice is death to the natural self, a death attained through the detachment and annihilation of that self, in order that the soul may travel by this narrow path, with respect to all its connections with sense, as we have said, and according to the spirit, as we shall now say; that is, in its understanding and in its enjoyment and in its feeling. And, as a result, not only has the soul made its renunciation as regards both sense and spirit, but it is not hindered, even by that which is spiritual, in taking the narrow way, on which there is room only for self-denial (as the Saviour explains), and the Cross, which is the staff wherewith one may reach one’s goal, and whereby the road is greatly lightened and made easy.”