Feeding the Fire Within

This is my last reflection on Fire Within by Fr. Dubay. The topic for today is growing at prayer. I will summarize the synthesis that Fr. Dubay gives about St. Teresa of Avila's recommendations for growing in prayer. I will try to keep this as simple as possible.

The Basic Teresian Principles of Growth:
1. Practicing the virtues is more important than any method
2. Growth does not depend on our situation. It depends more on how generous we are in the situations we find ourselves.
3. We must generously go beyond what is strictly required of us by the commandments.
4. There is no prayer development unless it is accompanied by the purification of some faults.
5. We must actively attempt to purify ourselves. This does not mean that we should take on imprudent penances, but it does mean that we should have no time for pampering ourselves.
6. God gives growth precisely according to our degree of readiness for it.
7. Retrogression in prayer is possible!
8. The earnest practice of virtue causes deepening prayer at the same time.
9. Determination needs to be the key trait of our approach to the spiritual life.

Specific Conditions which Are Absolutely Necessary for Growth:
Humility: This is the rock on which we must build our house. If we are not humble, we are not able to receive advanced gifts in prayer, because these experiences would make our pride grow. Real humility is a recognition of the Truth. This means that we must recognize our complete dependence on God, and our helplessness without Him. Humility is not self-depreciation though, this is just a clever way for us to focus on ourselves.

Detachment: We must have an undivided heart for God. This means that every object in the world cannot be used for its own sake. Food, sex, money, and possessions must all be used in a way to glorify God (we must go beyond the commandments).

Solitude: We must take time to be alone with our beloved. No relationship grows unless you give your attention to it. We need time to be with God. Solitude does not just mean being alone; it means being with God. All of the other preoccupations of our lives must be put aside or offered to the Lord during this time.

Suffering Well: Everyone experiences trials and sufferings during their lives. What often separates the saints from the rest is that the saint suffers well. This means to suffer without complaint and turning the other cheek. Christ and Mary are the only victims in the history of the world that were also guiltless. Imitate their silent suffering which was the result of human selfishness.

Love-Generosity: Laziness and selfishness are the two deadly poisons to prayer. These things actually bring death to any relationship, whether it be marriage, a priest and his parishioners, or a spiritual life. Growth always happens on the battlefield of our will to love and our fallen nature. Laziness is the choice to not take up arms against the foe, and selfishness is taking up arms with the wrong side.

Fr. Dubay recognizes that many of these principles are almost completely ignored in most contemporary literature on the spiritual life. Things like humility and suffering are often looked down on now-a-days by "enlightened" modern writers, but these are the things that have made saints! When the Church is investigating someones life for canonization (to make them a saint), She does not look for the practice of diverse prayer methods. The Church has always and will always look for HEROIC VIRTUE in the lives of the saints. Heroic virtue is our calling, nothing less.

  1. gravatar

    # by Lorenzo - August 12, 2007 at 7:03 AM

    Andrew,

    Awesome post. I think that pretty well sums up the goal of the spiritual life. I'm curius what other readers think about this... Can other's comment on this, and maybe say how they see this means of looking at prayer at work in their spiritual lives?

    Thanks.