Father Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. on the Teachings of St. John of the Cross

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from Christian Perfection and Contemplation
Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

We shall demonstrate that this doctrine of St. John of the Cross, [concerning the unitive way as uniate and the perfection of Christian Charity, hence the destination of all Christians] while clarifying that of the great doctors who preceded him, remains perfectly conformable to their teaching, and that it is contained in the evangelical beatitudes. These propose to us Christian perfection in all its grandeur, and are certainly not inferior in elevation to what the author of The Spiritual Canticle has written. . . .

Is a special vocation necessary to reach the mystical life? In principle no. "The grace of the virtues and of the gifts" suffices in itself by its normal development to dispose us to the mystical life, and mystical contemplation is necessary for the full perfection of Christian life. But in fact, for lack of certain condo\itions which at times are independent of our will, even generous souls would attain contemplation only after a longer space of time than the ordinary span of life; just as some minds, which are capable of a superior intellectual development, never reach it for lack of certain conditions.

Now, it remains to be seen if Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange actually accomplishes what he sets out to do; however, his evidences thus far have been persuasive, if not conclusive.

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I discovered Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange this past February, when my spiritual director suggested I read "The Three Ages ..." Some powerful stuff there!

Disputations has started a discussion on the comparative value of the contemplative and active states in life, a frequent topic in my centering prayer group. Here is a different slant: In his book, Spirituality@Work, Gregory Pierce wrote that he was reviewing a 690 page book on selected writings from 2000 years of Christian spirituality. Since he is a publisher and a father, he consulted the index for topics such as work, employment, and business – and found nothing. The index entry for marriage was “renunciation of” and for children it was “as evil”. Such a book may be helpful for our prayer lives, but what do we do during the other 90% of our waking hours? For some suggestions, see my review.

There is another angle to this. We are often urged towards the contemplative state by interpretations of Mt. 5:48 (Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect). Msgr. Chester P. Michael makes the observation that the Greek word is "telios" and that a better translation might be “Be whole, or complete.” To me this means developing our own capabilities that are necessary for our vocation. The competencies, skills, abilities, and personal characteristics will be different for each vocation.

In the world of training and development, there is a vast body of literature about how to assess and develop the required competencies. Many writers, including Pierce, will insist that some sort of meditation – and even play – is essential to continued development.

We may never 'attain contemplation' in our lifetime, but the journey itself is worthwhile.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on April 12, 2004 7:17 AM.

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