From Attaining Spiritual Maturity for Contemplation
According to St. John of the Cross
By Rev. Venard Poslusney, O. Carm.
FAULTS OF BEGINNERS
Continuing with the second and third capital sins.
Some beginners are discontented and very peevish when they do not find the consolation they seek in spiritual exercises. They spend all their time listening to spiritual conversations, acquiring and reading many spiritual books which treat of spiritual consolations, instead of cultivating a spirit of mortification and detachment. They become walking piety stores, loaded with pictures, medals, rosaries, chaplets, crosses, relics, these objects must be made of special materials and according to a certain style. Here it is not devotion that attracts them, but the workmanship and variety of religious articles.
On this subject the Mystical Doctor is not considering sins against purity or chastity, but imperfections, (such as "impure acts and feelings" which "arise and assert themselves in the sensual part of the soul" the imagination and body), which a person is powerless to prevent and, certainly does not desire. This occurs when a person is deeply recollected in prayer, or is receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Holy Communion. The first cause of them lies in the fact that the body also shares in the spiritual pleasures and delights of the soul, but according to its sense nature. Thus spiritual joy overflowing into the body is experienced by the body in a pleasure that may be called sensual or even sexual. This occurs not only in beginners, but also in those who have made progress. This imperfection will be checked when "the sensual part is renewed by the purgation of the dark night," or the passive trials of sense.
A second cause of these weaknesses is the devil himself, who tries by such imaginations and feelings to influence the beginner into giving up his spiritual exercises, thinking that his devout practices are the cause of these impure onslaughts. In other words, the devil endeavors by these means to panic the individual into giving up his efforts to achieve the much desired union of love with God. The third cause is the fear itself of having these feelings and images before the mind during spiritual exercises. The Saint also speaks of certain spiritual friendships which are founded more on a hidden or unadmitted sex attraction than on a real desire for spiritual betterment and love of God. When this is the case, the love of God diminishes, sensual love grows and brings remorse of conscience. In the passive trials, love of God will be strengthened and purified, and sensual love will be brought under control.
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