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The Importance Of The Interior Life And The Unum Necessarium – Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

October 24, 2012

Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. (February 21, 1877, Auch, France – February 15, 1964, Rome) was a Catholic theologian and, among Thomists of the scholastic tradition, is generally thought to be the greatest Catholic Thomist of the 20th century. Outside the ranks of Thomists of that sort, his reputation is somewhat more mixed. He taught at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, commonly known as the Angelicum, in Rome from 1909 to 1960.

By 1917 a special professorship in ascetical and mystical theology was created for him at the Angelicum, the first of its kind anywhere in the world. His great achievement was to synthesise the highly abstract writings of St Thomas Aquinas with the experiential writings of St John of the Cross, showing how they are in perfect harmony with each other.

Father Garrigou-Lagrange, the leading proponent of “strict observance Thomism,” initially attracted attention when he wrote against the Modernist Nouvelle Théologie theological movement. He is also said to be the drafter or “ghostwriter” of Pope Pius XII’s 1950 encyclical Humani Generis, subtitled “Concerning Some False Opinions Threatening to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine.”

He is best known for his spiritual theology. His magnum opus in the field is The Three Ages of the Interior Life, in which he propounded the thesis that infused contemplation and the resulting mystical life are in the normal way of holiness of Christian perfection. This influenced the section entitled “Chapter V: The Universal Call to Holiness in the Church” in the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium

He taught many eminent Catholic theologians during his academic career, the most illustrious being the future Pope John Paul II, whose encyclical Fides et Ratio is the mature fruit of his training under the learned Dominican. Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange is also known to have introduced Thomism to fellow theologian and priest Yves Congar, an expert on historical theology.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The following are some reading selections from Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange’s classic The Three Ages of the Interior Life. Yes, you should buy a copy and become a monk.  Maybe get a blog and become like me, a living icon of Derek Jeter.

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The Importance Of The Interior Life
The interior life is for all the one thing necessary
. It ought to be constantly developing in our souls; more so than what we call our intellectual life, more so than our scientific, artistic or literary life. The interior life is lived in the depths of the soul; it is the life of the whole man, not merely of one or other of his faculties.

And our intellectual life would gain immeasurably by appreciating this; it would receive an inestimable advantage if, instead of attempting to supplant the spiritual life, it recognized its necessity and importance, and welcomed its beneficial influence — the influence of the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

How deeply important our subject is may be seen in the very words we have used: Intellectuality and Spirituality. And it is important to us not only as individuals, but also in our social relations; for it is evident that we can exert no real or profound influence upon our fellow-men unless we live a truly interior life ourselves.

Material Vs Spiritual Goods
The pressing need of devoting ourselves to the consideration of the one thing necessary is especially manifest in these days of general chaos and unrest, when so many men and nations, neglecting their true destiny, give themselves up entirely to acquiring earthly possessions, failing to realize how inferior these are to the everlasting riches of the spirit.

And yet St. Augustine’s saying is so clearly true, that “material goods, unlike those of the spirit, cannot belong wholly and simultaneously to more than one person.”[ St. Thomas often quotes this Augustinian thought: cf. I-IIae, Q, Xxviii, art, 4, ad ~ III, Q. xxiii, art, i, ad 3] The same house, the same land, cannot belong completely to several people at once, nor the same territory to several nations, And herein lies the reason of that unhappy conflict of interests which arises from the feverish quest of these earthly possessions.

On the other hand, as St. Augustine often reminds us, the same spiritual treasure can belong in its entirety to all men, and at the same time to each, without any disturbance of peace between them, Indeed, the more there are to enjoy them in common the more completely do we possess them. The same truth, the same virtue, the same God, can belong to us all in like manner, and yet none of us embarrasses his fellow-possessors. Such are the inexhaustible riches of the spirit that they can be the property of all and yet satisfy the desires of each. Indeed, only then do we possess a truth completely when we teach it to others, when we make others share our contemplation; only then do we truly love a virtue when we wish others to love it also; only then do we wholly love God, when we desire to make Him loved by all. Give money away, or spend it, and it is no longer yours. But give God to others, and you possess Him more fully for yourself. We may go even further and say that, if we desired only one soul to be deprived of Him, if we excluded only one soul — even the soul of one who persecutes and calumniates us — from our own love, then God Himself would be lost to us.

An Illuminating Principle About Spiritual Goods
This truth, so simple and yet so sublime, gives rise to an illuminating principle; it is that whereas material goods, the more they are sought for their own sake, tend to cause disunion among men, spiritual goods unite men more closely in proportion as they are more greatly loved. This principle helps us to appreciate how necessary is the interior life; and, incidentally, it virtually contains the solution of the social question and of the economic crisis which afflicts the world to-day. The Gospel puts it very simply: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” If the world to-day is on its death-bed, it is because it has lost sight of a fundamental truth which for every Christian is elementary.

The profoundest truths of all, and the most vital, are in fact those elementary verities which, through long meditation and deep thought, have become the norm of our laws; those truths, in other words, which are the object of our habitual contemplation

The Unum Necessarium And The Modern Unemployment Crisis
God is now showing men what a great mistake they make when they try to do without Him, when they regard earthly enjoyment as their highest good, and thus reverse, the whole scale of values, or, as the ancient philosophers put it, the subordination of ends.
As though in the hope of compensating for the poor quality of earthly goods, men are striving to increase their quantity; they are trying to produce as much as possible in the order of material enjoyment. They are constructing machinery with the object of increasing production at a greater profit. This is the ultimate objective.

But what is the consequence? The surplus cannot be disposed of; it is wasted, and unemployment is the result. The worker starves in enforced idleness while others die of surfeit, The present state of the world is called a crisis. But in fact it is more than a crisis; it is a condition of affairs which, if men only had eyes to see, ought to be revealing; it ought to show men that they have sought their last end where it is not to be found, in earthly enjoyment — instead of God. They are seeking happiness in an abundance of material possessions which are incapable of giving it; possessions which sow discord among those that seek them, and a greater discord according as they are sought with greater avidity.

Do what you will with these material goods: share them out equally, make them the common property of all. It will be no remedy for the evil; for, so long as earthly possessions retain their nature and man retains the nature which is his, he will never find his happiness in them. The remedy is this, and this only: to consider the one thing necessary, and to ask God to give us saints who live only on this thought, saints who will give the world the spirit that it needs. God has always sent us saints in troubled times. We need them especially to-day.

A Radical Corruption Of The Notion Of The Interior Life
The notion of the interior life is radically corrupted in the Lutheran theory of justification or conversion. According to this theory the mortal sins of the convert are not positively blotted out by the infusion of the new life of grace and charity; they are simply covered over, veiled by faith in the Redeemer, and they cease to be imputed to the person who has committed them. There is no intrinsic justification, no interior renewal of the soul; a man is reputed just merely by the extrinsic imputation of the justice of Christ.

According to this view, in order to be just in the eyes of God it is not necessary to possess that infused charity by which we love God supernaturally and our fellow-men for God’s sake. Actually, according to this conception, however firmly the just man may believe in Christ the Redeemer, he remains in his sin, in his corruption or spiritual death. [Footnote: Luther went so far as to say “ Pecca fortiter et crede firznius, “Sin mightily and believe more mightily still; you will be saved.” Not that Luther intended thereby to exhort men to sin; it was merely an emphatic way of saying that good works are useless for salvation -- that faith in Christ alone suffices. He says, truly enough  that “if you believe, good works will follow necessarily from your faith.”]

But, as Maritain justly observes, in his thought these good works follow from salutary faith as a sort of epiphenomenon,” Moreover, the charity which will follow this faith is the love of our neighbor rather than the love of God. And thus the notion of charity is degraded, emptied gradually of its supernatural and God-ward content and made equivalent to works of mercy. In any case, it remains true that for Luther a man is justified simply by faith in Christ, even though the sin is not blotted out by the infusion of charity, or the supernatural love of God.

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