For years, I have been speaking and writing about the fact that the levels of prayer are also levels of purification, sacrifice, penance.
Garrigou-Lagrange emphasizes this, as do the great saints of prayer.
My long perfection series and the Doctors of the Church series help unpack this ideal for my readers on the old blog.
But, today, reading an older book given to me as a present from a friend, Father Thomas Dubay’s Fire Within, I finally have modern back-up on this point.
I am only going to quote one paragraph from his helpful look at Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, two saints covered at length on the old blog—go check out those articles when you have time and the perfection series, which is mainly Garrigou-Lagrange.
Dubay notes this:
The perceptive reader will readily recognize that the teresan analysis of conditions for growing in prayer are not what we commonly read in current discussions of contemplation. Humility, detachment, solitude, suffering, obedience and generosity are not only often bypassed but also sometimes looked upon with a degree of disdain. These virtues are considered to be “negative” and hardly worthy of serious consideration by people who “have come of age” The chronological snobbery implicit in this attitude of supposed superiority over our ancestors does not merit attention, but it may be useful to point out that men and women who lack these virtues are never known for their depth of prayer. Those who reject Teresa’s teaching are of course rejecting the New Testament together with the experience of the ages.
Faithful readers will recall those commentators who thought my call for penance was too negative. Recall the vision of the Smarties and the Cross……
I have decried the spirituality of the “middle class Church”, the mind-set of those who want to remain comfortable in their materialistic philosophy of life and in their consumerist habits and still become holy. Middle-class spirituality wants to have cake and eat it, too. There are not many bourgeois saints. SS. Zelie and Louis Martin, our most recent holy couple to be canonized, suffered and sought out suffering and penances, not merely living a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. Their domestic church taught death to self, and the rule of obedience, as well as prayer and sacrifice.
Zelie had to work as well as her husband and raise a large family, with some difficult children to raise. . She endured the pain of breast cancer, in days when this condition could not be addressed.
Louis suffered the death of a relatively young wife, and, in his later years lost his keen faculties to strokes. They both suffered the vicissitudes of one particularly awkward child, Leonie.
There is no holiness without suffering, and that suffering accompanies the higher forms of prayer.
One reason for years I was put off joining any groups of Carmelite Tertiaries or Benedictine Oblates was that I could not see any holiness despite all the talk on prayer. Long discussions on meditation and contemplation mean little without the accompanying hard work of mortification and acceptance of the crosses God deems to give to those whom He loves. Holiness grows like a green shoot out of the process of purification, which only comes through and in suffering.