Map of Life - Lesson 11.3


Map of Life: Chp 11 Supernatural Life -Means

Map of Life: Contents
Catechsim Series 1: 
Catechism Series 2: 
Aquinas 101: 
Summa Theologica:
Companion to the Summa: 
Random articles: Spiritual Life, Goodier - Know the Love of Christ

Ite Missa Est: The Shrinking Universe, The Expanding Universe


The Spiritual Life

  1. Recap:

    Introduction: Just as we need a geographical map to know where we are, and how to get to where we want to go in the world, we also need a map of life to know where we are in relation to everything else in life, and how to get to our ultimate goal in life. This map of life is given to us by God through Divine Revelation which is preserved, interpreted and transmitted through the Catholic Church.

    Chapter 1:  Just as we must have faith in the geographical map-maker at the start of a journey, we must have faith in life's map-maker at the start of our journey through life. The map of life tells us

          (a) what man is (a creature composed of body and soul, in the image and likeness of God by the possession of an intellect and a will),

          (b) where he is destined (his finality: supernatural union with God).

    Chapter 2:  We also need an law of life so that we might attain the goal indicated on the map of life. This law comprises the physical law (for all material creatures) and the spiritual law (for intelligent creatures). Some spiritual laws are natural to man (eg. the ten commandments), some are divinely revealed in Scripture or Tradition (e.g. the laws of the sacraments). Some spiritual laws form the basis of man-made laws such as canon laws or civil laws. 

    Chapter 3: The "X" that marks the spot on the map of life is heaven, where our highest faculties (intellect and will) are perfected by a perfect knowledge and love of God, which is only possible with supernatural grace (also called supernatural life, sanctifyfing grace and habitual grace).

    Chapter 4: Adam was created with the means of attaining heaven, but lost supernatural grace, virtues and gifts when he committed the sin of disobedience. It was the first sin of the first man and condemned humanity to a fallen state whereby every man was henceforth conceived in the state of Original Sin. The map of life became blurred to humanity, the path was either lost or impassible, and "X" was unattainable without supernatural help.

    Chapter 5: God then entered into His creation so that man might (a) know the truth about God, and (b) know the law by which he might attain God, and (c) be sanctified by the supernatural life necessary for union with God. He enacted the objective redemption by which the gates of heaven were opened once again.

    Chapter 6: The Catholic Church was founded by Christ to continue His mission after he had ascended into heaven. It's mission is to teach the truth, uphold the law (both natural and divine), and sanctify souls by the sacraments. Like a living being comprising body and soul, the Church has physical body which is its human hierarchy of members on earth, and a spiritual soul which is the Mystical Body of Christ (or some say that the soul of the Church is the Holy Ghost, but this is a matter of attribution). A soul must be a spiritually living member of the Church to benefit from the Redemptive work of Christ.

    Chapter 7: Christ established the Church to teach, govern and sanctify. In its teaching office it teaches with God's authority and has the protection of God so that it will never teach error. We say that the Church teaches infallibly. The official teaching of the Church is expressed in official documents which are known as Acts of the Magisterium. A Catholic assents to the truth of the Teaching Church, not because he agrees, or it seems reasonable, but because it is backed by the authority of God.

    Chapter 8: In the Church's teachings there are many mysteries which are truths about which we cannot know everything. This is because God cannot be entirely known by the finite intelligence of creatures. God reveals mysteries about Himself so that we may know Him better by discovering all the knowable truth in each mystery. The greatest mystery revealed by God is the mystery of the Blessed Trinity by which we may discern the three Persons of the Godhead eternally knowing and loving each other.

    Chapter 9: God's Law is found in men's heart by nature and is deduced by reason (Natural Law), and it revealed to man by Divine Revelation (Divine Law). Natural Law is necessary for man's natural perfection. Natural Law and Divine Law are necessary for man's supernatural perfection. Conscience is the judgement of a practical act here and now against the moral law. Conscience needs to be informed by the natural and divine law. Man is only free if he follows God's law.

    Chapter 10: Suffering is a consequence of Original Sin, but God has desired that suffering be the gateway to union with Him. Following God's law can cause suffering. Involuntary suffering and voluntary acts which cause suffering can expiate our sins, help us grow in mastery over our passions (grow in virtue), and configure us to Christ.

    Chapter 11.1: Being animated by the life of Christ is the perfection of our whole being by which we are members of His Mystical Body and so are incorporated into Christ (the Life). We become animated by the life of Christ by sanctifying grace which is transmitted to us chiefly by means of the sacraments.

    Chapter 11.2:
    Prayer, the sacraments and sacramentals are the conduits of the supernatural life. Prayer is the first duty of every Christian. The Mass is the perfect prayer and the means of confection of the greatest sacrament, the Holy Eucharist. All the sacraments are ordained to the Holy Eucharist.

  2. The Spiritual Life

    Definition: The life of the soul in relation to God. 

    Fundamental Elements: Its subject is the soul, its principal is sanctifying grace, its actions are supernatural.

  3. The goal of the spiritual life: Charity

    Charity is the goal of the spiritual life. Charity, in act, is the foremost of the fruits of the Holy Ghost. It is:

    - the possession of God by loving Him with His love,

    - loving Him with the same love that He loves Himself,

    - participating in His act of loving Himself.

    The action of charity (and of all the fruits of the Holy Ghost), is something that increases as we progress in the spiritual life. This action exists in proportion to our spiritual progress.

  4. Where are we in our spiritual lives?

    As we wish to attain to spiritual perfection, my dear brethren, it is natural that we wish to know how far we are from this perfection, how far advanced we are in the spiritual life. When we ask this question of ourselves, our instinctive reaction is to commence an examination of the key parameters that we perceive to indicate spiritual perfection:

    - the quantity of prayers that we say,

    - the frequency with which we receive the sacraments,

    - the length of time we spend in mental prayer,

    - the length of the worn-out shopping list of sins that we confess,

    - whether we receive spiritual consolations,

    - whether we feel good about our faith,

    - whether we feel benevolent towards our neighbour.

    The list reads like a car service maintenance checklist. In effect, our first instinct is to turn in on ourselves and often enough, if our conscience accuses us of tepidity, we try to explain it away or, if we cannot, we make ineffective resolutions to do better from now on. The truth about our spiritual lives is found in God. The measure of our spiritual lives, my dear brethren, is not to be found by examining ourselves. If it is to be found at all, it is found by gazing into the face of God.

  5. Humility

    The more we plunge ourselves into the beauty of God (a knowledge of Whom we acquire by thinking of Him, by reading of Him, by talking about Him, by talking to Him [rather than at Him]), the more we become conscious of the infinite gulf that separates us and we become aware of our helplessness without Him. We cannot judge the distance between God and ourselves by looking at ourselves, we must look at God to see how far we are from Him.

    This vision is the essence of humility. Humility is not saying, “I am a worm” it is knowing that without God we can do nothing. Nisi Dominum vanum. Humility is the first step and foundation of the spiritual life.

  6. Surrender

    If we can do nothing without God, there is nothing left to a soul but to remain passive to His action within it. It must surrender itself to Him and correspond to His actual graces and inspirations.

    Surrender is not quietism (by which a soul abandons all effort), it is a difficult act of the will. It is the second step of the spiritual life and precisely finds its perfection in the Evangelical Councils of poverty, chastity and obedience:

    - giving up our exterior goods: poverty

    - giving up our body: chastity

    - giving up our will to the Divine Master: obedience

    The Evangelical Councils are not precepts, they are the means by which a soul may more quickly and more perfectly attain to eternal life (to charity).

    If surrender is the second step of the spiritual life, then we cannot ascertain its progress by self examination either. Just as you cannot judge the transparency of water without gazing at the light that shines through it, we cannot judge our passivity to God’s will without seeing God in all our movements.

  7. Suffering

    When God acts upon souls, His action differs from soul to soul. Each receives different graces. But there is one grace that comes to all the souls that surrender to Him: the grace of suffering. Just as the Cross was an instrument of the Passion, suffering is an instrument of love. [We are not called to suffer for its own sake (that is perverse), we are simply given the opportunity of deepening our love and manifesting this love by enduring and offering our suffering.]

  8. Union

    Suffering is the door to the third and final step: that of charity or union with God. As with humility and surrender, to ascertain the degree to which we have arrived at the fruition of our spiritual lives, my dear brethren, we do not look to ourselves for the measure of our love for Him, for the measure of our love is the permanency and intensity of our vision of Him. We cannot critically exam our hearts and be consumed by him simultaneously.

    Here is an extract from the writings of a soul who attempts to describe the union of soul and God. In the description we can clearly trace the three steps of the spiritual life and we see nothing of self-preoccupation.

    When I look at the Father, He gives me His Son. I give Him back. I give Him back His love, and then there is established between my soul and Him something indefinable produced by one single look towards the Father. I feel that the three are, as it were, in motion (what am I saying?) and it is all very simple. The Father pronouncing His Word from all eternity cannot not utter Him to us, but we, we seem only to receive this Utterance, this Word, of the Father in order to be able to return Him to the Father — or rather — I am wrong : we do nothing, we remain silent, we gaze on Him, and the thing is effected without anything on our part, anything definite. A 'something' goes out from us, it is true, but this 'something' is nothing but Himself, Who seems to be given to us only that we may give Him back... Everythingthat I write is beyond definition.

    It seems, too, that with this interior presence of the Son, this Fire that the Holy Spirit adds to it is really the Father upon Whom I ought to gaze. But what am I saying? I seem to separate them. O adorable Trinity, incomparable Unity, I adore You, I love You, I am wholly Yours.

    In the bosom of the Father, we find the Father uttering His Word, the Word loving the Father, and Father and Word giving to each other their mutual Love, Love personified, the Holy Spirit. The bosom of the Father — but this is eternity anticipated. Sr. Mary of Jesus. In the Silence of Mary.
    Carmelites of Notting Hill.

  9. Conclusion

    So how far advanced are each of us in the spiritual life? While some of us would be keen to answer that question (of ourselves or others), the truth is that our spiritual lives cannot be reduced to Cartesian measurement.

    - The more a soul advances in humility, the further he sees he must travel.

    - The more a soul advances in passivity or surrender, the more transparent and invisible it becomes to itself.

    - The more a soul is in union with God, the less it heeds itself.

    There is no point trying to measure our spiritual advancement for the purpose of improving it. We are much better off simply gazing at God so that we may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and height and depth of the charity of Christ that surpasses all knowledge

    The BVM, throughout her life progressed in the spiritual life. She, although full of grace, forever grew in grace through her living God’s life in her. Let us ask her to intercede for us that we, like her, may attain to the fullest union with Her divine Son, the plenitude of Charity.