14 June 2009

Faults of Beginners

From Attaining Spiritual Maturity for Contemplation
According to St. John of the Cross
By Rev. Venard Poslusney, O. Carm.

Because the beginner is untried and not strong in virtue, he is weak and imperfect in many ways. John of the Cross proves this, by describing with great psychological insight, the many and varied manifestations of beginners' faults, according to the seven capital sins. In the Dark Night, Chapters Two to Seven, St. John of the Cross presents his case with devastating clearness. The picture he draws matches those faults that spiritual directors invariably notice in all beginners, whether religious or lay people. Here we shall present a short summary of them.

Spiritual Pride
Many beginners are self-satisfied with their works and with themselves. They condemn others in their thoughts when they notice that others do not have the kind of devotion they themselves desire. Some reach such a degree of pride that they would have no one appear good but themselves; they even condemn others in deed and word, and slander them, thus seeing the mote in their brother's eye, and overlooking the beam in their own. They blame their superior or confessor when these do not approve of their behavior or attitude, and consequently change confessors to suit their taste. Wishing to be esteemed as very spiritual and devout, they plan circumstances that are calculated to show themselves off to best advantage, such as assuming certain postures, ways of speaking, sighs, well-timed "ecstasies!" In order to impress their confessor, they do not make a frank and humble confession of their sins and faults with all their attendant motives, usually so petty and mean and uncharitable. Some beginners overlook faults they should be very quick to notice; at other times, they are over-depressed by their faults since they think themselves already worthy of the halo. As a result, they become angry and impatient with themselves. And how they love to be praised by others! Sometimes they even seek such praise. On the other hand, they have a real dislike for praising others.

Ouch! And I've just listed one of the capital sins the book addresses. I feel like a drill sergeant just ran me through my paces or Padre Pio chased me out of the confessional.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Hope you are planning on posting the rest of the list. Plenty of food for thought there!!!


swissmiss said...

Will post some more in the morning (Tuesday). The book is quite short, not even 30 pages, and I can loan it to you. It was given to me by my spiritual director. When I started reading it, I was thinking, "Is he trying to tell me something?" Which may be the case, but what prompted this was a discussion I was having about my recent encounters with Charismatics, my past history with that movement and my growing desire for a more "contemplative" spirituality. This book mentions the Charismatic movement very briefly and helps give some perspective to what Brother was telling me.

That is, unless he was really trying to tell me something :)

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm. . . I most certainly do not think he was trying to tell you something. I do remember when I had my own conversion experience- how I was so very rigid and judgmental- dear hubby calls it "being more Catholic than the Pope syndrome". I realize now that my focus was not where it should have been. Bless you for posting this (and yes, I would love to borrow the book!).