A description of the soul's journey to full union with God

The Illuminative Way of Proficients


Ch 22 : Docility to the Holy Ghost

Having spoken of the progress of the theological virtues in the illuminative way, we shall now treat of docility to the Holy Ghost who, through His seven gifts, is the Inspirer of our entire life with a view to contemplation and action.

Earlier in this work (1) we set forth the nature of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to the teaching of St. Thomas,(2) who considers them permanent infused habits, which are in every just soul that it may receive the inspirations of the Holy Ghost with promptness and docility. According to the fathers of the Church, the gifts are in the just soul like the sails on a vessel; the boat may advance by rowing, which is a slow and painful way of making progress; this is the symbol of the work of the virtues. It may also advance because a favorable wind swells its sails, which dispose it to receive, as it should, the impulsion of the wind. This analogy was indicated in a way by Christ Himself when He said: "The Spirit breatheth where He will; and thou hearest His voice, but thou knowest not whence He cometh and whither He goeth. So is everyone that is born of the Spirit." (3)

The gifts of the Holy Ghost have also been compared to the different strings of a harp which, under the hand of a musician, give forth harmonious sounds. Lastly, the inspirations of the gifts have been likened to the seven flames of the seven-branch candelabrum used in the synagogue.

These gifts, enumerated by Isaias and called by him "the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of godliness, and. . . the spirit of the fear of the Lord," (4) are granted to all the just, since the Holy Spirit is given to all according to these words of St. Paul: "The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us." (5) The gifts of the Holy Ghost are consequently connected with charity,(6) and therefore they grow with it. They are like the wings of a bird that grow simultaneously, or like the sails of a ship that increasingly unfurl. By repeated venial sins, however, the gifts of the Holy Ghost are, as it were, bound; these habitual venial sins are like folds in the soul, which incline it to judge in an inferior manner with a certain blindness of spirit, which is the direct opposite of infused contemplation.(7) We shall discuss first the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, then the ascending gradation of the gifts, and finally the conditions required for docility to the Holy Ghost.


The special inspiration to which the gifts render us docile is, as we have explained,(8) quite different from common actual grace which leads us to the exercise of the virtues. Under common actual grace, we deliberate in a discursive or reasoned manner, for example, to go to Mass, or to say the Rosary at the accustomed hour. In this case we move ourselves by a more or less explicit deliberation to this act of the virtue of religion. Under a special inspiration of the Holy Ghost, on the contrary, we are moved, for example, in the course of study, to pray in order to obtain light. Here there is no discursive deliberation, the act of .the gift of piety is not deliberate; but under the special inspiration it remains free, and the spirit of piety disposes us precisely to receive this inspiration with docility and therefore freely and with merit. St. Thomas distinguishes clearly between common actual grace and special inspiration when he shows the difference between cooperating grace, under which we are moved to act in virtue of an anterior act, and operating grace, by which we are moved to act by consenting freely to receive the impulsion of the Holy Ghost.(9) In the first case, we are more active than passive; in the second, we are more passive than active, for it is more the Holy Ghost who acts in us.(10)

It happens, moreover, that under this special inspiration the gifts are exercised at the same time that the work of the virtues is done. Thus while the boat advances by rowing, there may be a slight breeze which facilitates the labor of the rower. Likewise the inspirations of the gifts may recall to our mind many principles from the Gospel at the time when our reason deliberates on a decision to be made. Inversely, our prudence sometimes recognizes its powerlessness to find the solution of a difficult case of conscience, and it then moves us to ask for the light of the Holy Ghost, whose special inspiration makes us see and accomplish what is fitting. We should be increasingly docile to Him.


These inspirations of the Holy Ghost are exceedingly varied, as is shown by the enumeration of the gifts in the eleventh chapter of Isaias, and their subordination starting with that of fear, the least elevated, up to that of wisdom, which directs all the others from above(11) This gradation given by Isaias and explained by St. Augustine, St. Thomas, and later St. Francis de Sales, is like an ancient hymn replete with beautiful modulations, one of the leitmotifs of traditional theology. In this gradation we perceive a spiritual scale analogous to that of the seven principal notes of music.

The gift of fear is the first manifestation of the influence of the Holy Ghost in a soul that leaves off sin and is converted to God. It supplies for the imperfection of the virtues of temperance and of chastity; it helps us to struggle against the fascination of forbidden pleasures and against the impulses of the heart.(12)

This holy fear of God is the inverse of worldly fear, often called human respect. It is superior also to servile fear which; although it has a salutary effect on the sinner, has not the dignity of a gift of the Holy Ghost. Servile fear is that which trembles at the punishments of God; it diminishes with charity, which makes us consider God rather as a loving Father than as a judge to be feared.

Filial fear, or the gift of fear, dreads sin especially, more than the punishments due it. It makes us tremble with a holy respect before the majesty of God. At times the soul experiences this holy fear of offending God; occasionally the experience is so vivid that no meditation, no reading, could produce a like sentiment. It is the Holy Ghost who touches the soul. This holy fear of sin is "the beginning of wisdom," (13) for it leads us to obey the divine law in everything, which is wisdom itself. Filial fear increases with charity, like the horror of sin; in heaven, though the saints no longer have the fear of offending God, they still have the reverential fear which makes the angels themselves tremble before the infinite majesty of God, "tremunt potestates," in the words of the preface of the Mass. This fear was even in the soul of Christ and still remains there.(14)

This fear of sin, which inspired the great mortifications of the saints, corresponds to the beatitude of the poor: blessed are they who through fear of the Lord detach their hearts from the pleasures of the world, from honors; in their poverty they are supernaturally rich, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Fear has a negative element, making us flee from sin; but the soul needs a more filial attitude toward God. The gift of piety inspires us precisely with a wholly filial affection for our Father in heaven, for Christ our Savior, for our Mother, the Blessed Virgin, for our holy protectors.(15) This gift supplies for the imperfection of the virtue of religion, which renders to God the worship due Him, in the discursive manner of human reason illumined by faith. There is no spiritual impulse and no lasting fervor without the gift of piety, which hinders us from becoming attached to sensible consolations in prayer and makes us draw profit from dryness, aridities, which are intended to render us more disinterested and spiritual. St. Paul writes to the Romans: "You have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father). . . '. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings." (16) By this gift we find a supernatural sweetness even in our interior sufferings; it is particularly manifest in the prayer of quiet, in which the will is captivated by the attraction of God, although the intellect often has to struggle against distractions. By its sweetness this gift makes us resemble Christ, who was meek and humble of heart. Its fruit, according to St. Augustine, is the beatitude of the meek, who shall possess the land of heaven. St. Bernard and St. Francis de Sales excelled in the gift of piety.

But to have a solid piety that avoids illusion and dominates the imagination and sentimentalism, the Holy Ghost must give us the higher gift of knowledge.

The gift of knowledge renders us docile to inspirations superior to human knowledge and even to reasoned theology. We are here concerned with a supernatural feeling that makes us judge rightly of human things, either as symbols of divine things, or in their opposition to the latter.(17) It shows us vividly the vanity of all passing things, of honors, titles, the praises of men; it makes us see especially the infinite gravity of mortal sin as an offense against God and a disease of the soul. It throws light particularly on what in the world does not come from God, but from defectible and deficient second causes; in this it differs from the gift of wisdom. By showing the infinite gravity of mortal sin, it produces not only fear but horror of sin and a great sorrow for having offended God.

It gives the true knowledge of good and evil, and not that which the devil promised to Adam and Eve when he said to them: "In what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil." As a matter of fact, they had the bitter knowledge or experience of evil committed, of proud disobedience, and of its results. The Holy Ghost, on the other hand, promises the true knowledge of good and evil; if we follow Him, we shall be in a sense like God, who knows evil to detest it and good to realize it.

Only too often human knowledge produces presumption; the gift of knowledge, on the contrary, strengthens hope because it shows us that every human help is fragile as a reed; it makes us see the nothingness of earthly goods and leads us to desire heaven, putting all our confidence in God. As St. Augustine says, it corresponds to the beatitude of the tears of contrition. Blessed are they who know the emptiness of human things, especially the gravity of sin; blessed are they who weep for their sins, who have true compunction of heart, of which The Imitation often speaks. By this gift we find the happy mean between a discouraging pessimism and an optimism made up of levity and vanity. Precious knowledge of the saints possessed by all great apostles: St. Dominic, for example, often wept on seeing the state of certain souls to which he brought the word of God.

Above the gift of knowledge, according to the enumeration of Isaias, comes the gift of fortitude. Why does the prophet place fortitude above knowledge? Because to be able to discern good and evil is not sufficient; we need strength to avoid the one and practice the other perseveringly without ever becoming discouraged. We must undertake a war against the flesh, the spirit of the world, and the spirit of evil, which is at times exceedingly afflictive. We have powerful, subtle, perfidious enemies. Shall we let ourselves be intimidated by certain worldly smiles, by a thoughtless speech? If we yield on this point, we shall fall into the snares of him who wishes our damnation and who struggles so much the more desperately against us as our vocation is higher.(18)

The gift of fortitude strengthens our courage in danger, and comes to the help of our patience in long trials. It is this gift that sustained the martyrs, that gave invincible constancy to children, to Christian virgins, like Agnes and Cecilia, to St. Joan of Arc in her prison and on her pyre. It corresponds, says St. Augustine, to the beatitude of those who hunger and thirst after justice in spite of all contradictions, of those who preserve a holy enthusiasm that is not only sensible, but spiritual and supernatural, even in the midst of persecution. It gave the martyrs of the early Church a holy joy in their torments.(19)

But in difficult circumstances, in which the lofty acts of the gift of fortitude are exercised, we must avoid the danger of temerity which distinguishes fanatics. To avoid this danger, we need a higher gift, that of counsel.

The gift of counsel supplies for the imperfection of the virtue of prudence, when prudence hesitates and does not know what decision to make in certain difficulties, in the presence of certain adversaries. Must we still preserve patience, show meekness, or, on the contrary, give evidence of firmness? And, in dealing with clever people, how can we harmonize "the simplicity of the dove and the prudence of the serpent"? (20)

In these difficulties, we must have recourse to the Holy Ghost who dwells in us. He will certainly not turn us away from seeking counsel from our superiors, our confessor, or director; on the contrary, He will move us to do so, and then He will fortify us against rash impulsiveness and pusillanimity. He will make us understand also what a superior and a director would be incapable of telling us, especially the harmonizing of seemingly contradictory virtues: prudence and simplicity, fortitude and meekness, frankness and reserve. The Holy Ghost makes us understand that we should not say something that is more or less contrary to charity; if, in spite of His warning, we do so, not infrequently it produces disorder, irritation, great loss of time, to the detriment of the peace of souls. All of this might easily have been avoided. The enemy of souls, on the contrary, exerts himself to sow cockle, to cause confusion, to transform a grain of sand into a mountain; he makes use of petty, almost imperceptible trifles, but he achieves results with them as a person does who puts a tiny obstacle in the movement of a watch in order to stop it.

Sometimes it is these trifles that arrest progress on the way of perfection; the soul is held captive by inferior things as by a thread which it has not the courage to break: for example, by a certain habit contrary to recollection or humility, to the respect due to other souls, which are also the temples of the Holy Ghost. All these obstacles are removed by the inspirations of the gift of counsel, which corresponds to the beatitude of the merciful. These last are, in fact, good counselors who forget themselves that they may encourage the afflicted and sinners.

As the gift of counsel is given to us to direct our conduct by supplying for the imperfection of prudence, which would often remain hesitant, we need a superior gift to supply for the imperfection of faith. This virtue attains the mysteries of the inner life of God only by the intermediary of abstract and multiple formulas which we should like to be able to sum up in a single one that would express more exactly what the living God is for us.

Here the gift of understanding comes to our assistance by a certain interior light that makes us penetrate the mysteries of salvation and anticipate all their grandeur.(21) Without this light, it happens often that we hear sermons, read spiritual books, and yet remain in ignorance of the deep meaning of these mysteries of life. They remain like sacred formulas preserved in the memory, but their truth does not touch our soul; it is pale and lusterless, like a star lost in the depths of the heavens. And because we are not sufficiently nourished with these divine truths, we are more or less seduced by the maxims of the world.

On the contrary, a simple soul prostrate before God, will understand the mysteries of the Incarnation, the redemption, the Eucharist, not to explain them, to discuss them, but to live by them.  It is the Holy Ghost who gives this penetrating and experimental knowledge of the truths of faith which enables the soul to glimpse the sublime beauty of Christ's sermons. It is He also who gives souls the profound understanding of their vocation and preserves them in this regard from every failure in judgment.

The gift of understanding cannot exist in a high degree without great purity of heart, of intention; it corresponds, according to St. Augustine, to the beatitude: "Blessed are the clean of heart: for
they shall see God.': Even here on earth they begin to glimpse Him in the words of Scripture, which at times are illumined for them as if underscored by a line of light. St. Catherine of Siena and St. John of the Cross excel in this understanding of the mysteries of salvation that they may make us comprehend the plenitude of life contained in them.

The gift of wisdom is finally, according to the enumeration of Isaias, the highest of all, as charity, to which it corresponds, is the loftiest of the virtues. Wisdom appears eminently in St. John, St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Thomas. It leads them to judge all things by relation to God, the first Cause and last End, and to judge them thus, not as acquired theology does, but by that connaturalness or sympathy with divine things which comes from charity. By His inspiration, the Holy Ghost makes use of this connaturalness to show us the beauty, the sanctity, and the radiating plenitude of the mysteries of salvation, which correspond so well to our deepest and highest aspirations.(22) Opposed to wisdom is spiritual folly, stultitia, of which St. Paul often speaks.(23)

From this higher point of view, it becomes evident that a number of learned men are mad in their vain learning, when, for example, in discussing the origins of Christianity, they wish to deny the supernatural at any cost; they fall into manifest absurdities. In a less inferior degree, believers who are instructed in their religion but whose judgment is faulty take scandal at the mystery of the cross which continues in the life of the Church.(24) They do not have a sufficiently clear perception of the value of supernatural means, of prayer, the sacraments, trials borne with love; they are too much preoccupied with human culture and occasionally confound liberalism and charity, as others confound narrowness and firmness in faith. This is a lack of wisdom.(25)

The gift of wisdom, the principle of a living contemplation that directs action, enables the soul to taste the goodness of God, to see it manifested in all events, even in the most painful, since God permits evil only for a higher good, which we shall see later and which it is sometimes given us to glimpse on earth. The gift of wisdom thus makes us judge everything in relation to God; it shows the subordination of causes and ends or, as they say today, the scale of values. It reminds us that all that glitters is not gold and that, on the contrary, marvels of grace are to be found under the humblest exteriors, as in the person of St. Benedict Joseph Labre or Blessed Anna Maria Taigi. This gift enables the saints to embrace the plan of Providence with a gaze entirely penetrated with love; darkness does not disconcert them for they discover in it the hidden God. As the bee knows how to find honey in flowers, the gift of wisdom draws lessons of divine goodness from everything.

Wisdom reminds us, as Cardinal Newman says, that: "A thousand difficulties do not make a doubt" so long as they do not impair the very basis of certitude. Thus many difficulties which subsist in the interpretation of several books of the Old Testament or of the Apocalypse do not make a doubt as to the divine origin of the religion of Israel or of Christianity.

The gift of wisdom thus gives the supernaturalized soul great peace, that is the tranquillity of the order of things considered from God's point of view. Thereby this gift, says St. Augustine, corresponds to the beatitude of the peacemakers, that is to say, of those who remain in peace when many are troubled and who are capable of bringing peace to the discouraged. This is one of the signs of the unitive life.

How is it possible that so many persons, after living forty or fifty years in the state of grace, receiving Holy Communion frequently, give almost no indication of the gifts of the Holy Ghost in their conduct and actions, take offense at a trifle, show great eagerness for praise, and live a very natural life? This condition springs from venial sins which they often commit without any concern for them; these sins and the inclinations arising from them lead these souls toward the earth and hold the gifts of the Holy Ghost as it were bound, like wings that cannot spread. These souls lack recollection; they are not attentive to the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, which pass unperceived. Consequently they remain in obscurity, not in the darkness from above, which is that of the inner life of God, but in the lower obscurity which comes from matter, from inordinate passions, sin, and error; this is the explanation of their spiritual inertia. To these souls are addressed the words of the Psalmist, which the Divine Office places before us daily at Matins: "Today if you shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts." (26)


To be docile to the Holy Ghost, we must first hear His voice. To do so, recollection, detachment from the world and from self are necessary, as are the custody of the heart, the mortification of self-will, and personal judgment. If silence does not reign in our soul, if the voice of excessively human affections troubles it, we cannot of a certainty hear the inspirations of the interior Master. For this reason the Lord subjects our sensible appetites to severe trials and in a way crucifies them that they may eventually become silent or fully submissive to our will animated by charity. If we are ordinarily preoccupied with ourselves, we shall certainly hear ourselves or perhaps a more perfidious, more dangerous voice which seeks to lead us astray. Consequently our Lord invites us to die to ourselves like the grain of wheat placed in the ground.

To hear the divine inspirations, we must, therefore, create silence in ourselves; but even then the voice of the Holy Ghost remains mysterious. As Christ says: "The Spirit breatheth where He will; and thou hearest His voice, but thou knowest not whence He cometh and whither He goeth. So is everyone that is born of the Spirit." (27) Mysterious words, which should make us prudent and reserved in our judgments about our neighbor, attentive to the attractions placed in us by the Lord, which are the mixed seed of a future known to divine Providence. They are attractions toward renunciation, toward interior prayer; they are more precious than we think. Some intellectuals from an early age have an attraction to silent mental prayer, which alone perhaps will preserve them from spiritual pride, from dryness of heart, and will make their souls childlike, such as they must be to enter the kingdom of God, and especially the intimacy of the kingdom. A vocation to a definite religious order may often be recognized by these early attractions.

The voice of the Holy Ghost begins, therefore, by an instinct, an obscure illumination, and if one perseveres in humility and conformity to the will of God, this instinct manifests its divine origin clearly to the conscience while remaining mysterious. The first gleams will become so many lights which, like the stars, will illumine the night of our pilgrimage toward eternity; the dark night will thus become luminous and like the aurora of the life of heaven, "and night shall be my light in my pleasures." (28)

To succeed in being docile to the Holy Ghost, we need, therefore, interior silence, habitual recollection, attention, and fidelity.


We dispose ourselves to docility to the Holy Ghost by three principal acts: (I) By obeying faithfully the will of God which we already know through the precepts and the counsels proper to our vocation. Let us make good use of the knowledge that we have; God will give us additional knowledge. (2) By frequently renewing our resolution to follow the will of God in everything. This good resolution thus renewed draws down new graces on us. We should often repeat Christ's words: "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me." (29) (3) By asking unceasingly for the light and strength of the Holy Ghost to accomplish the will of God. We may with profit consecrate ourselves to the Holy Ghost, when we feel the attraction to do so, to place our soul more under His dominion and as it were, in His hand. We may make this consecration in the following terms: "O Holy Ghost, divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate to Thee my mind, my heart, my will, and my whole being for time and eternity. May my mind be ever docile to Thy celestial inspirations and to the teaching of the holy Catholic Church of which Thou art the infallible Guide. May my heart be always inflamed with love of God and of my neighbor. May my will be ever conformed to the divine will, and may my whole life be a faithful imitation of the life and virtues of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom, with the Father and Thee, O Holy Ghost, be honor and glory forever." (30)

St. Catherine of Siena used to pray: "O Holy Ghost, come into my heart; by Thy power, O God, draw me to Thyself and grant me charity with filial fear. Keep me, O ineffable Love, from every evil thought; warm and kindle me with Thy sweetest love, and every suffering will seem light to me. My Father, my sweet Lord, help me in all my actions. O Jesus love, O Jesus love!"

This consecration is also admirably expressed in the beautiful sequence:

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
Et emitte coelitus
Lucis tuae radium.

When such a consecration is made with a great spirit of faith, its effect may be most profound. Since a fully deliberate pact with the devil brings in its wake so many disastrous effects in the order of evil, an act of consecration to the Holy Ghost can produce greater ones in the order of good, for God has more goodness and power than the devil has malice.

Consequently the Christian who has consecrated himself to Mary Mediatrix, for example, according to the formula of St. Grignion de Montfort, and then to the Sacred Heart, will find treasures in the often renewed consecration to the Holy Ghost. All Mary's influence leads us to the intimacy of Christ, and the humanity of the Savior leads us to the Holy Ghost, who introduces us into the mystery of the adorable Trinity. We may fittingly make this consecration at Pentecost and renew it frequently.

Especially when difficulties arise, when most important actions are being changed, we must ask for the light of the Holy Ghost, sincerely wishing only to do His will. This done, if He does not give us new lights, we shall continue to do what will seem best to us. Therefore, at the opening assemblies of the clergy and of religious chapters, the assistance of the Holy Ghost is invoked by votive Masses in His honor.

Lastly we should note exactly the different movements of our soul in order to discover what comes from God and what does not. Spiritual writers generally say that God's action in a soul submissive to grace is ordinarily characterized by peace and tranquillity; the devil's action is violent and accompanied by disturbance and anxiety.


The first Protestants wished to regulate everything by private inspiration, subjecting to it even the Church and its decisions. For the true believer, however, docility to the interior Master admits nothing contrary to the faith proposed by the Church and to its authority; on the contrary, it tends only to perfect faith and the other virtues.

Likewise the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, far from destroying the obedience due to superiors, aids and facilitates its practice. Inspiration should be understood with the implied condition that obedience enjoins nothing contrary to it.

In the words of Father Lallemant, S.J.: "The only thing to be feared is that superiors may sometimes follow human prudence excessively, and that for want of discernment they may condemn the lights and inspirations of the Holy Ghost, treating them as illusions and reveries, and prescribe for those to whom God communicates Himself by such favors as if they were invalids. In this case, a person should still obey, but God will one day correct the error of these rash spirits and teach them to their cost not to condemn His graces without understanding them and without being qualified to pass judgment on them." (31)

Neither should it be said that docility to the Holy Ghost renders useless the deliberations of prudence or the counsel of experienced people. The interior Master tells us, on the contrary, to be attentive to what we can see for ourselves; He also invites us to consult enlightened persons, but adds that we should at the same time have recourse to Him. As St. Augustine says: "God orders us to do what we can, and to ask for the grace to accomplish what we cannot do by ourselves." The Holy Ghost sent even St. Paul to Ananias to learn from him what he was to do. This docility then harmonizes perfectly with obedience, prudence, and humility; it even greatly perfects these virtues.


All our perfection most certainly depends on this fidelity. According to Father Lallemant: "Some have many beautiful practices and perform a number of exterior acts of virtue; they give themselves wholly to the material action of virtue. Such a way of living is good for beginners; but it belongs to a far greater perfection to follow one's interior attraction and to regulate one's conduct by its movement." (32) Were we to apply ourselves to purifying our heart, to eliminating what is opposed to grace, we would arrive twice as soon at perfection. We read in the same chapter:

The end to which we should aspire, after we have for a long time exercised ourselves in purity of heart, is to be so possessed and governed by the Holy Ghost that He alone will direct all our powers and senses, regulate all our interior and exterior movements, and that we may surrender ourselves entirely by a spiritual renunciation of our will and our own satisfaction. Thus we will no longer live in ourselves, but in Jesus Christ, by a faithful correspondence with the operations of His divine Spirit and by a perfect subjection of all our rebellious movements to the power of grace.

Few persons attain the graces that God destined for them, or, having once lost them, succeed later in repairing their loss. The majority lack the courage to conquer themselves and the fidelity to use the gift of God with discretion.

When we enter on the path of virtue, we walk at first in darkness, but if we faithfully and constantly followed grace, we would infallibly reach great light both for ourselves and for others. . . .

Sometimes, after receiving a good inspiration from God, we immediately find ourselves attacked by repugnances, doubts, perplexities, and difficulties which spring from our corrupted nature and from our passions, which are opposed to the divine inspiration. If we received it with full submission of heart, it would fill us with the peace and consolation which the Holy Ghost brings with Him. . . .

It is of faith that the least inspiration of God is more precious and more excellent than the whole world, since it belongs to a supernatural order and cost the blood and the life of a God.

What stupidity! We are insensible to the inspirations of God because they are spiritual and infinitely elevated above the senses. We do not pay much attention to them, we prefer natural talents, brilliant positions, the esteem of men, our little comforts and satisfactions. Prodigious illusion from which, nevertheless, a number are undeceived only at the hour of death!

Then in practice we take away from the Holy Ghost the direction of our soul and, though its center is made for God alone, we fill it with creatures to His prejudice; and instead of dilating and enlarging it infinitely by the presence of God, we contract it exceedingly by occupying it with some wretched little nothings. That is what hinders us from attaining perfection.(33)

On the contrary, says the same author, docility to the Holy Ghost would show us that He is truly the Consoler of our souls in the uncertainty of our salvation, in the midst of the temptations and tribulations of this life, which is an exile.

We need this consolation because of the uncertainty of our salvation in the midst of the snares which surround us, of all that can make us deviate from the right road. Strictly speaking, we cannot merit final perseverance, for it is nothing else than the state of grace at the very moment of death, and grace, being the principle of merit, cannot be merited. (34) Therefore we need the direction, protection, and consolation of the Holy Ghost, who "giveth testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God." (35) He gives us this testimony, by
the filial affection for God which He Inspires In us. He is thus the pledge of our inheritance." (36)

We also need the Holy Ghost to console us in the temptations of the devil and the afflictions of this life. The unction which He pours into our souls sweetens our sorrows, strengthens our wavering wills, and makes us at times find a true, supernatural savor in crosses.

Lastly, as Father Lallemant says so well: "The Holy Ghost consoles us in our exile on earth, far from God. This exile causes an inconceivable torment in holy souls, for these poor souls experience in themselves a sort of infinite void, which we have in ourselves and all creation cannot fill, which can be filled only by the enjoyment of God. While they are separated from Him, they languish and suffer a long martyrdom that would be unbearable to them without the consolations which the Holy Ghost gives them from time to time. . . . A single drop of the interior sweetness that the Holy Ghost pours into the soul, ravishes it out of itself and causes a holy inebriation." (37) Such is indeed the profound meaning of the name given to the Holy Ghost: Paraclete or Comforter.

On the subject of the ascending gradation of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, which we discussed in this chapter, we should note the following important statement made by St. John of the Cross. It throws great light on the unitive way, which we shall discuss farther on. Treating of the transforming union, the mystical doctor wrote in A Spiritual Canticle of the Soul: "The cellar is the highest degree of love to which the soul may attain in this life, and is therefore said to be the inner. It follows from this that there are other cellars not so interior; that is, the degrees of love by which souls reach this, the last. These cellars are seven in number, and the soul has entered into them all when it has in perfection the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, so far as it is possible for it. . . . The last and inmost cellar is entered by few in this world, because therein is wrought the perfect union with God, the union of the spiritual marriage." (38)

These lines of St. John of the Cross express as clearly as possible the doctrine which we set forth in the course of this entire work on the full development of the life of grace.



1. Cf Vol I, chap.3, a. 4.

2. Summa, Ia IIae, q.68, a. 1,2.

3. John 3:8

4. Isa. 11:2.

5. Rom. 5:5.

6. Summa, Ia IIae, q.68, a.5.

7. Cf. Louis Lallemant, S.J., La Doctrine spirituelle, 4th principle, a.3.

8. Cf. Vol. I, chap. 3. a.5, pp. 88-96: Actual grace, its various forms, the fidelity which it demands.

9. Summa, Ia IIae, q. 111, a. 2.

10. Docility to the Holy Ghost is analogous to that of the perfectly obedient man toward his superior. He who obeys does not deliberate in order to determine what should be done, but he accepts promptly and freely in a meritorious manner the order given. His superior acts through him; he himself has the merit of obedience, which can increase his strength tenfold; for he cannot be deceived in obeying, and God will not refuse him the grace necessary for the fulfillment of the order received and accepted.

11. On the subject of the Messias, we read in Isaias (II: 2 ): "And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him: the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of godliness. And He shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord." At the end of verse two, instead of "the fear of the Lord" the Septuagint and the Vulgate place "piety," which has practically the same meaning, especially in the Old Testament, where the fear of the Lord is of great importance.

On is gradation of the gifts, cf. St. Thomas, Ia IIae, q.68, a.7; also St. AugustIne, I, De sermone Domini in monte, chap. 4; St. Francis de Sales, IIe
Sermon pour Ie jour de la Pentecote.

St. Thomas (loc. cit.) remarks on the subject of this ascending gradation, that the gifts of contemplation, which direct the others, are superior to them; but that, according to the classical enumeration which has its origin in the text of Isaias 11: 2, the gifts of fortitude and counsel are superior to those of knowledge and piety, for fortitude and counsel are given for difficult things, whereas knowledge and piety are for common things. In Isaias 11: 2, the gifts are enumerated according to a descending gradation which reminds us of that of the petitions in the Our Father, whereas in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5),  the beatitudes which correspond to them are enumerated according to an ascending gradation.

12. Summa, IIa IIae, q. 19.

13. Ps. 110: 10.

14. Summa, IIIa, q.7, a.6.

15. Ibid., IIa IIae, q, 121.

16. Rom. 8: 15, 26.

17. Summa, IIa IIae, q .9. By the gift of knowledge, certain saints, like St.
Francis of, Assisi, see particularly how sensible things are the symbol of spiritual things. By this same gift, others, like the author of The Imitation, see in a striking manner the emptiness of created things.

18. St. Paul refers evidently to the gift of fortitude when he says (Eph. 6: 10­13): "Be strengthened in the Lord and in the might of His power. Put you on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil.. For our wrestling is not [only] against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in high places. Therefore take unto you the armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect."

19. Summa, IIa IIae, q. 139, a. I, 2.

20. Ibid., q. 51, a. 1-4.

21. Ibid., IIa IIae, q. 8, a. 1, 4, 6 ,7.

22. Ibid., q. 45, a. 1,2,5,6.

23. Ibid., q.46, De stultitia, a. 1, 2.

24. Christ said (Matt. II: 6): "Blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in
Me." The aged Simeon also declared (Luke 2:34): "This Child is set for the
fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be
contradicted." Cf. Bossuet, Elevations sur les mysteres, I8e semaine, for
splendid meditations on these words of the holy aged Simeon.

25. The value of supernatural wisdom appears rather frequently by the contrast of certain judgments. For example, when a presumptuous young man puts on the airs of a critic or of a man of broad study and says with affected calm: "There is a much read book, The Imitation, which does great harm by its spirit which is opposed to study," we have a striking case of that spiritual folly to which St. Thomas devoted the question in his Summa, which follows the articles on the gift of wisdom. When The Imitation (Bk. III, chap. 43) says that study which is not ordained to God and the salvation of souls, but to vain self-content, is nothing in comparison with the wisdom of the saints, it simply affirms the rights of God, our sovereign Good and last End, and His infinite superiority to every purely human end. St. Thomas speaks in like manner in his commentary on Matt. 7:26, apropos of "A foolish man that built his house upon the sand": "Some hear that they may know (not that they may do and love), and these build on the intellect (only), and this is a building on sand . , . (one must build) on charity."

26. Ps. 94:8.

27. John 3:8.

28 Ps. 138: 11.

29. John 4: 34

30. This act of consecration to the Holy Ghost was enriched with an indulgence of 300 days by His Holiness Pius X.

31. La Doctrine spirituelle, 4th principle, chap. I, a. 3. Father Lallemant adds (Ibid.): "What renders them incapable of judging rightly of these things, is that they are entirely exterior souls, completely engrossed in external activity and with only a meager spiritual life, never having risen above the lowest degrees of mental prayer. And what leads them to judge these things is that they do not wish to appear ignorant in these matters, of which, nevertheless, they have neither experience nor knowledge."

32 Ibid., chap. 2 33. Ibid., a. 1, 3.

34. St. Thomas, Ia IIae, q. 114, a.9.

35. Rom. 8:16.

36. Eph. 1:14.

37. Op. cit., 4th principle, chap. 1, art. 4.

38. Stanza 26, par. 2. f.