The Path of Renewal

BLOG   INTRODUCTION     PATH OF RENEWAL   INTERIOR PILGRIMAGE

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The way of return, to God’s beautiful intention, is by way of holiness,
found only in Christ. Listen – listen for your call, your vocation from God!

You may hear His invitation to personal consecration in Christ, 
committed to holiness in Him, to remaining in communion with Him,
and with all who are in Him, in loving solidarity with every created human person…

and in earnest devotion to prayer and reparation –
in particular, through the precious gift of prayer, the Our Father.



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Persons of Consecration, Reparation, Prayer and Renewal

Genuine renewal in the Church will not come through careless or indifferent hearts – persons who hold the name of the Church, but do not love the living Faith or strive for His Truth. Renewal will come through persons of consecration, devotion and reparation,
who give themselves to Him.

We need to draw close to Him in prayer – heart to Sacred Heart. We need to grow to love Him as He deserves, to discover and embrace His consecration. The prayer He gave us, the Our Father, can teach us to pray and can lead us into consecration,
devotion and reparation.

Reparation is an invisible, spiritual work of repair, of restoration, of rebuilding, of cleansing and of renewal. Reparation is owed in justice, for the damages and insults of sin. Reparation is a work of sacrificial love, following the example of Jesus. Reparation is a silent and hidden apostolate, seeking and receiving no praise of men,
trusting ever in the Father who sees in secret and rewards in secret.

Reparation is an apostolate open to all, and especially to the ordinary. The most common and ordinary of human works can be offered to God in a loving gesture of reparation, and are received in love. The most ordinary of persons, in the most ordinary of lives, can offer in prayer to God the most ordinary of moments – yet in the transforming power and light of love – unto holy reparation in union with the Cross of Jesus. There is no suffering that God permits to us too great or too small that we cannot unite with His holy sufferings on the Cross. Reparation is a work of love, our common vocation. Reparation is a fruit of prayer along the ordinary path to holiness, our universal call.

Every age presents its own challenges, and opportunities, to the Christians of its time. Certainly this age with its entrenched secularism and materialism, its consumerism and hedonism, presents the Church with challenge! Many persons outside of the Church, and even some within her, are hungry for a more substantial food, and are thirsty for a deeper truth, than they have yet known. Christ is that truth and that food – and yet many, in an increasingly “post-Christian” culture, remain ignorant of Him who is so close to them.

The Church is sent to such people! The Church is entrusted with that very Gift that the world so desperately craves, and needs.

Many within the Church are weak also, and hardly know for themselves the Gospel they were sent to share with others. Many in the Church receive the holy sacraments of Christ, but fail to hold on to His grace when the church service is over. Many do not really know the doctrines of the Church; many have compromised the Christian moral imperatives. Many in the Church do not have that personal communion with Christ that is prayer. The world needs Christ and His truth! Christ has entrusted His Gospel, and His ministry, to the Church – and the Church needs renewal. My book, The Ordinary Path to Holiness, is offered to pass on to the Church a treasure almost forgotten: traditional Catholic spirituality.

True and lasting renewal in the Church requires a solid foundation – authentic communion with the living Christ. We need, in the Church His Bride and His Body, persons of consecration and of prayer. Renewal in the Church requires persons consecrated to His life, and in communion with Him through a vital, authentic life of prayer. Consecrated persons of prayer among the laity, among our priests, among our deacons and religious and bishops – these will be the fertile ground out of which will come renewal. My second book, The Interior Liturgy of the Our Father, is offered toward that work: to help Catholic Christians renew, deepen and grow in the interior life – the life of prayer – and thus help us all in the Church to progress in renewed life in Him.

The Personal Journey to Holiness

Persons grow, develop and mature in holiness according to the traditional Catholic spiritual understanding called the “three ways”, or three stages of the interior life of the soul.  This path, this journey, is that awaiting and to be experienced by the person seeking communion with God.  Yes there is a broad and easy way luring, tempting so many persons in this world!  But there is a path to God in Jesus Christ, sought and found by the saints – and these are our teachers in the  spiritual life.  This inner journey of prayer can be pictured, in its three stages, as follows:

threestagesgraphic
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This traditional “three stages” of the spiritual journey can be seen from several viewpoints:

1. Scripture. The first disciples of Jesus grew into spiritual maturity in three stages.

In the first stage, when they were following Jesus in His time on earth, they were revealed to be far less than His full intention for them! They did not fully understand the great event of the Incarnation; they struggled against their own unbelief and fear.

– In the second stage, after the resurrection, they came to know Jesus in a completely different, deeper way. He was revealed to them now as “My Lord and my God!” He came through closed doors, He showed them His crucified body; He was greater than death! Yet still they were weighted down with fear: still they hid behind closed doors. Jesus ordered them to wait: they were yet to be clothed with power.

– In the third stage, they came into the heroic life of witnesses, as was their vocation from the beginning. Following Pentecost, filled with the Holy Spirit, they lived the full life of a Christian.

2. The saints. These three stages have been understood by saints of the Church from several different perspectives.

St. Bernard, for example, recognized stages of love for God. In the first stage, a person discovers that God is his greatest benefactor, and he loves God for all that God can do for him.

– In the second stage, he discovers that this God is good and wonderful in Himself, beyond the good that He can do for us humans. The person begins to love God as God, and not merely as the great benefactor of the self.

– In the third stage, The great and infinite goodness and glory of God are seen, overwhelming fear and concern for self. The person begins to love others, and even himself, only in God. God is all.

St. Thomas Aquinas saw the three stages in terms of the concern of a Christian regarding charity: first to guard and protect the charity that was infused into the soul at baptism; second to increase charity through a life of virtue and good works in Christ; third to enjoy and live and remain in charity in a life of sanctity.

3. Traditional spiritual theology. The traditional terms that have developed to describe these three stages are first the Stage of the Beginner (the Purgative Stage); second the Stage of the Proficient (the Illuminative Stage); third the Stage of the Perfect (the Unitive Stage). This understanding is of real importance to the Christian who is going through any stage! It is especially helpful to a Christian who is in a transition, from one stage to the next!

St. John of the Cross, with great precision and insight, helped the Church understand the crucial transitional times in advancing from one stage to the next. The transition times are times of real spiritual crisis. St. John called them “Dark Nights” – the Dark Night of the Senses (corresponding to the experience of the apostles in the Passion), and the Dark Night of the Spirit (corresponding to the experience of the apostles after the ascension and before Pentecost. These are times of great trial for the soul!

Every Christian deserves to share in the wisdom of the saints – God gave them great graces, that they might bless His Church. My book, The Ordinary Path to Holiness, intends to pass on some of this great treasure, God’s gifts to His people.

Responses

  1. Dear Thomas,

    How many persons, among Catholic laity have ever even heard of these stages of growth in the interior life? Some for sure, but not as many as need to have some direction in how to grow spiritually. Perhaps, some Catholic Priests and Religious Brothers and Sisters, particularly in the Contemplative orders may have heard these teachings in their religious formation but in my experience in Catholic Education I don’t remember hearing any of my Religion teachers or pastors speak of the three stages of growth.

    I first learned it, by my own reading of St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila and other saints and individuals on retreats. I am so grateful that you are inviting others to read at this time — when the world is in such need of turning or in the case of some re-turning to God. Thanks again, Thomas.


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