Infused Grace, Contemplation and Mary
TAKEN FROM Christian Perfection and Contemplation According
to St. Thomas Aquinas and St. John of the Cross

by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

Copyright 1937, Herder Book Co., 1937
Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat, 1937


Some writers tell us that the attainment of mystical contemplation requires conditions that are impossible of realization for the majority of souls, no matter how generous they may be. According to this opinion, a special environment is necessary, such as a Carthusian or a Carmelite monastery, where silence, solitude, and long hours of prayer are the common rule. Without this atmosphere, a special temperament inclined to recollection and prolonged prayer is needed. Lastly, we are told that a soul must have appropriate spiritual guidance, directing it more and more toward the contemplative life. These conditions are usually wanting in the lives of the majority of generous interior souls that remain in the world or that enter active or even mixed religious orders. The cares of administration which occupy superiors and the demands which intellectual work makes on a priest whose principal activity is teaching, also hinder the development of the mystical life, properly so called, even in interior souls much attached to their duties.

We now offer our reply to this objection. Even if the above mentioned conditions, difficult of realization for many, were required, we should not, as a result, necessarily conclude that the mystical life is not the normal summit of the development of the life of grace. We should simply have to say that, for the attainment of this summit, conditions are demanded which are difficult of realization in the world, or even in a religious life that is not very fervent. In this case the soul is like a cedar, which attains the summit of its normal development only in certain conditions of soil and

Moreover, the conditions enumerated, though very useful, are not the chief ones. We recognize the fact that environment has its importance; also that a calm temperament is much better disposed to the contemplative life than a restless and agitated spirit. [1] It may indeed be that among these last, some, even though quite generous, would reach the mystical life only after a period longer than the ordinary span of life. And it is certain that bad spiritual direction often allows souls to vegetate or turns them away from
infused contemplation, whereas another type of direction would definitely turn them toward contemplation.

However important these conditions may be, they remain superficial compared to others which are the chief ones. Here again the same rule holds true as in the matter of salvation, which is possible to all who possess a developed conscience, even to those not born in a Christian environment, who are strongly inclined to evil, and who have not had an opportunity to hear the Gospel preached. If they ordinarily follow the dictates of their conscience, they will be mysteriously led from grace to grace, from fidelity to fidelity, to eternal life.

Anyone who wishes to advance in the spiritual life and to prepare himself for the grace of contemplation must, to the best of his ability, use the great means which the Church gives us all. The assiduous reception of the Sacraments, daily hearing of Mass, frequent Communion, love of the Eucharist, devotion to the Holy Ghost, filial and incessant recourse to the Sacred Heart of Jesus [2] and to the Blessed Virgin, mediatrix of all graces, are evidently necessary.

Contemplation is a fruit of true devotion to the Blessed Virgin, as explained by Blessed Grignion de Montfort. [3] He says that, without a great love for her, a soul will attain union with God only with extreme difficulty. "It is necessary to pass through dark nights, combats, strange agonies, sharp thorns, and frightful deserts. By the way of Mary, the soul advances with greater sweetness and tranquillity. Along this way it encounters many crosses and great difficulties to overcome, but our good Mother keeps so close to her faithful servants ... that, in truth, this virginal road is a path of roses in spite of the thorns." It thus leads more easily and surely to Divine union. Mary, wonderful to relate, makes the cross easier and, at the same time, more meritorious: easier, because she sustains us with her gentle hand; more meritorious, because she obtains for us a greater charity, which is the principle of merit, and because, by offering our acts to our Lord, she increases their value. By reason of her pre-eminent charity, Mary merited more while performing the easiest acts  than all the Martyrs in their tortures.
Another great means to prepare for the grace of contemplation, a means within the reach of all interior souls, is found in the liturgy, in an ever more intimate union with the great prayer of the Church. "The graces of prayer and of  the mystical state have their type and source in the hieratic .lire of the Church; they reflect in the members the likeness of Christ which is perfect in the body." [4] Liturgical prayer recited with recollection, in union with our Lord and His Mystical Body, obtains for us holy lights and inspirations which illumine and inflame our hearts.

 Consequently it is advisable to make mental prayer after the psalmody which prepares us for it; just as after Mass and Holy Communion, it is well to prolong our thanksgiving, and if possible devote an hour to it.

Lastly, the frequent reading of Scripture and the study of sacred doctrine, undertaken in a truly supernatural manner, are other excellent means to prepare the soul for contemplation. Thus the ancients [5] used to say that Divine reading (lectio divina) by pious study (studium) leads to meditation
(meditatio), then to prayer (oratio), and finally to contemplation (contemplatio ). [6]

. . . The supernatural predispositions for infused contemplation are chiefly (1) great purity of heart, "Blessed are the clean of heart"; (2) great simplicity of mind which seeks only the truth; (3) profound humility; (4) habitual recollection; (5) perseverance in prayer; (6) fervent charity. This last disposition is the most important together with a profound humility. In the order of material preparation, humility is fundamental, according to St. Thomas, ut removens prohibens, inasmuch as it removes the principal obstacle which is pride, intellectual pride so frequent in a certain type of learning, or spiritual pride. [7] This is why St. Teresa insisted so strongly on this fundamental disposition in all her works, particularly in the Epilogue to The Interior Castle. Our Lord Himself taught this to us when He exclaimed: "I confess to Thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones." Often, by reason of humility, the inequality of supernatural conditions or of graces balances marvelously the inequality of natural conditions or dispositions. In the exposition of traditional teaching, too much insistence cannot, therefore, be placed on the supernatural dispositions to contemplation. And who can answer that he is unable to have this purity of heart, simplicity of mind, profound humility, spirit of prayer, and charity? We ought to beg God to give us these dispositions.

. . . The external conditions that favor contemplation and union with God are: a certain solitude, silence, sufficient time given to prayer, no overburdening, no useless reading, no preoccupations foreign to our vocation. To these external conditions must be added natural aptitude and also enlightened direction. If many of these exterior conditions are lacking, it is difficult to reach contemplation, which no longer has its normal environment. Profound humility and ardent charity, however, may supply this lack, especially if joined with great devotion to the Blessed Virgin and to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus. [8] He who habitually begins his prayer with these two mediators, will be led by them to intimate union with God, since the object of the Blessed Virgin's influence is to lead us to her Son, and that of Christ to lead us to the Father.

. . . We might add that unfavorable surroundings often provoke a salutary reaction in good souls, especially in very good ones; and the Lord helps them in proportion to the difficulties to be overcome. For example, the suffering caused by injustice reveals to us the worth of justice; self-sufficiency and pride, which become unendurable, demonstrate the worth of humility. Love of truth, relish for the word of God, solid piety, all of which are not content with appearances, react by common accord and quite spontaneously against empty and pretentious learning, which alters everything by its false spirit. The lack of simplicity in life emphasizes the desirability of that frank cordiality without which there is no true union of hearts and minds in God. A discordant note, which violates the order of charity by placing the love of neighbor above the love of God, startles us and by contrast recalls the grandeur of the first precept.

 Falsehood under its various forms shows us the worth of truth; the absence of truth in varying degrees is one of the greatest obstacles to the life of prayer. A soul becomes contemplative only if it is established in the truth, because infused contemplation is simply the immediate effect of the direct operation of God's truth on the soul to bring it to a greater love.
Finally, the chief obstacle comes from certain subtleties of intellectual or spiritual pride which, especially when found in those who direct souls, can have irremediable consequences, at least for a time. In this case, mystical grandiloquence is no less to be feared than a certain sterile intellectualism. This explains by contrast why more real contemplation and sanctity are sometimes found in poor convents that are very little known, but are exceedingly dear to our Lord Jesus Christ. The Divine mercy often compensates for the inequality of natural conditions by great graces.

 "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Deep humility supplies for other conditions in the life of union with God. The two great mediators, Jesus and Mary, stoop to the humble in order to lead them to the intimacy of the Father. We have only one life, and on it our eternity depends. As Tauler says, if we have not entered the Divine intimacy before we are advanced in years, we run the risk of not entering it in this life, even though it is the normal prelude to Heaven.

1. St. Thomas, IIa IIae, q. 182, a. 4 ad 3um: "He that is prone to yield to his passions on account of his impulse to action is simply more apt for the active life by reason of his restless spirit. ...Others, on the contrary, have the mind naturally pure and restful, so that they are apt for contemplation. ...Those who are more adapted to the active life can prepare themselves for the contemplative by the practice of the active life; while, none the less, those who are more adapted to the contemplative life can take upon themselves the works of the active life so as to become yet more apt for contemplation." Thus all ought to tend toward contemplation as the normal prelude to the life of Heaven.
2. It is fitting to unite ever more closely devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and that to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in devotion to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, in order to thank our Lord for the act of supreme love by which He gave us the Holy Eucharist.
3. Trait
de la vraie devotion
à Marie, chap. 4, art. 5 (1909 ed., p. 119).
4. Father Cl
érissac, O.P., Le myst
ère de l'Êglise, p. 102.
5. The Rule of St. Benedict, chap. 48.
6. See IIa IIae, q. 180, a.3.
7. See iIa IIae, q. 161, a. 5: "Humility makes a man a good subject to ordinance of all kinds and in all matters." Ibid., ad 2um: "First, by way of removing obstacles: and thus humility holds the first place, inasmuch as it expels pride, which God resisteth, and makes man open to receive the influx of Divine grace. Hence it is written (Jas. 4: 6): God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. In this sense humility is said to be the foundation of the spiritual edifice."
8. Cf. Blessed Grignion de Montfort,
Traité de la vraie devotion
Marie,, chap. 4, art. 5, and the summary of this treatise, Le secret de Marie, made by Blessed Grignion. With a view to mental prayer, it is also well to meditate often on the office and Mass of the Sacred Heart, and also on the office and Mass of the Eucharistic Heart which have been recently approved by the Church.


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