+JMJ+ Welcome to the last part of our current Catholic Book of the Month. I’m on a Quest to become a saint, using Introduction to the Spiritual Life, by Brant Pitre, as my guide. Come along with me and let’s become saints together! Now on to the book. We’ll be taking a quick look at its last two sections.
A Quick Review
In our posts on the Introduction to the Spiritual Life we’ve looked at the virtues as remedies the cultivation of which helps us to conquer the vices that keep us trapped in sin, making progress in the spiritual life possible.
We learned we have to combat the Three Big Temptations using the Three Spiritual Exercises Jesus gave us when He preached His Sermon on the Mount, and these are:
Three Big Temptations
- The lust of the flesh,
- The lust of the eyes, and
- The pride of life.
Three Spiritual Exercises
- Fasting and
We’ve learned that there are four things we must do daily to make spiritual progress, and that our liturgical worship parallels these.
- Read (careful study of the Scriptures)
- Meditate (application of the mind, using reason for knowledge of hidden truth)
- Pray (the heart’s devoted turning to God to drive away evil and obtain what is good) and
- Contemplate (the mind is lifted up to God and tastes the joy of everlasting sweetness).
(We can all seek the Lord in the hermit cell of the heart even if we cannot retire to the physical desert. We are all called to be holy and to be perfect even as our Father in Heaven is perfect.)
We’ve learned that the spiritual life is a battle and that prayer is a battle, too, and that we must persevere if we want to be victorious in that battle.
(Jacob wrestling wiht the Angel.)
We’ve learned that we must cultivate self-knowledge and identify our dominant fault, and work to remedy that fault, in part by cultivating the virtue that opposes it. We’ve learned that we must make an examination of conscience to cultivate our self-knowledge and pray to be given grace to overcome weakness. And we can’t let some failures depress us, leading us to give up. We have to try and try and try again, we have to make a firm resolve to no longer practice the vice and to practice the virtue.
(The Persistent Widow who won’t leave that Unrighteous Judge alone for even one minute.)
The Dark Night
Now we are going to learn about the Dark Night. Not the Dark Night of the Soul but the Dark Night of the Senses. After we’ve been faithfully praying and striving after the spiritual life for a while, and have been enjoying the sweet consolations the Lord sends to us, He expects us to do some growing up and maturing. He withdraws the consolations. Ouch!
And we discover right away that we loved not the Giver so much as the GIfts. We are still spiritually immature, in other words, and we are being kicked out of the nest, or at least, we are being told that the day is coming when we will be kicked out of the nest even if that day is not this day. (Why, yes, I can work partial, oblique and obscure Lord of the Ring references into most conversations. Thank you for noticing.)
We have to learn not to act like little babies who cry and wail the moment they don’t get their way about some little nothing. So He draws the sweetness away from us during our time of prayer? IS that why we were praying? Is it really? Then we are no better than a child throwing a tantrum over a lost toy and worse than that, I think. The child is, after all, a child and we are not. So we pick ourselves off of the floor, brush ourselves off, and pray again, whether we “feel” like it, whether we have glorious experiences, or not. It’s the faithful praying that matters.
But we have forgotten how to be faithful. And doesn’t that sum up a lot of our difficulties in every aspect of life? We have forgotten how to let our yes be yes and our no be no, and to show up when it is time.
(St. John of the Cross, author of the Dark Night of the Soul.)
Something we have to realize, if we haven’t already, is that prayer is a gift, it’s something that God does in us, it’s not so much something we do, though we do have to make ourselves available to Him so He can work in us. That’s that showing up thing I mentioned.
The Living Water
Dr. Pitre writes here of the water used “to enter the dwelling place of God and worship him in the Tabernacle” in Numbers 19:17-18. See also Exodus 12:22.
“[L]iving water” is sacrificial water that makes a sinful person capable of entering into God’s presence.Intro, location 565, ebook (on macOS, but page 245 using the Books app in iOS, just noticed the difference).
(Samaritan Woman at the Well.)
Also see Psalm 42:1-2 and Jeremiah 2:5,13. “God is the only one who can ever quench the spiritual thirst of his people.” We were made by Him, for Him.
And, O my Lord,
We know, we know,
We cannot now not know it:
That our heart will ever restless be,
Until at last, until at last,
Until at long, long last
It rests in Thee.
There’s more in this book than I can possibly cover in these posts. You can get a copy of your own in hardcover, Kindle ebook or audio format using the links at the end of this post. View other parts of the series on the annotated Table of Contents page and scroll down for this series of posts.
Thanks for visiting the blog and going on the Quest with me. We’ve reached the end of the book but our Quest has only just begun. Stay tuned for more about that.
I pray that you and I will stay holy and virtuous, and may these spiritual helps aid us to become who the Lord intends us to be: SAINTS. God bless you and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+
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“The Rosary is the ‘weapon’ for these times.” — Padre Pio
Notes and Links
- The current Catholic Book of the Month is Introduction to the Spiritual Life: Walking the Path of Prayer with Jesus, by Brant Pitre: Hardcover, Kindle. Audiobook via Audible (free with Audible trial). (Amazon affiliate links, see Full Disclosure below.)
- There are a lot of books on the spiritual life listed in a post I did a few years ago on Dr. Pitre’s audio course on Spiritual Theology. There are links in that post for some of those books in PDF format for free at archive.org.
- My brief verse at the end is a riff on St. Augustine’s beautiful words from The Confessions.
Image: in the banner, same one the cover of the book uses: The Road to Emmaus (or The Way to Emmaus), by Robert Zund, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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