Friday, January 15, 2010

Is infused prayer necessary for perfection?

"It is quite certain that it is not necessary. St Teresa declares that her daughters, 'although devoted to prayer, need not all be contemplatives properly so called.' She says that is impossible. 'A soul will not be prevented from being perfect without this gift and can achieve perfection just as the greatest contemplatives do.' The way of contemplation is a 'short-cut' by which God gives powerful aid and accomplishes His work in a very short time. But He distributes His grace when He wishes, as He wishes, and to whom He wishes without taking account of time or the service one has rendered Him. 'He acts in this way for reasons known only to Himself.'

However, side by side with this way of contemplation, there is another, which is the way of conformity to the divine Will and which, too, can lead to perfection. 'Real union with God,' says St Teresa, 'can easily be achieved if we make efforts not to have any will of our own and to embrace everything demanded of us by the divine Will.' No doubt, this will demand more effort from us 'because the soul works more with its own energy,' but it will also have much more merit, 'and its reward will be greater. Ultimately, however, the infused kinds of prayer themselves have no other purpose than to bring us to that union of conformity in which true perfection consists.'

St John of the Cross is of the same opinion. 'God does not elevate all those to contemplation,' he writes, 'who are faithful in the practice of the spiritual life. Not even half of these are so privileged. Why? He alone knows the reason.' The reason, say the Carmelite authors who have interpreted this statement, is to be found sometimes in a lack of generosity in these souls, sometimes in the Will of God.

There are, then, two ways of arriving at perfection. However, even souls who do not walk in the way of infused contemplation or mystical prayer can sometimes be favored by contemplation."

-- The Spirit and Prayer of Carmel by Fr François Jamart, ocd

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