Reply to Fr. McGovern
SIR,– -Fr. McGovern wishes for an enlargement of my contention that sanctity is incompatible with mental weakness.
My remarks were based on two principles, the first, theological, that grace is built upon nature and perfects it, and the second, a philosophical one, that nothing is loved without first being known. These two principles could be developed as follow: " grace is built upon and perfects nature, but does not create something " and " a person's love of a thing will be no larger than his knowledge of it." The laws of the spiritual life in this matter correspond with those of the natural life. Just as our natural life is one of intellect and will, so
love, interior life is one of faith and
It is noticeable in the lives of the Saints how these rules have been observed. Let us remember the words of the poor unlettered Cure d'Ars and how they moved multitudes. He had not been a success at books but he had a very deep knowledge of God. Fr. McGovern seems to have read in my last letter " uncultured" for " weak minds." St. Bonaventure's teaching is consoling that a poor uneducated woman may know more about God than the. most 'learned theologian. Many have heard of the story of the old lady who was visited in hospital by a priest, who spoke to her of prayer. " And how do you pray? " asked the priest. " Oh, Father, I can't pray at all," answered the lady. " When I start the Lord's Prayer, I can get no further than ' Our Father.' I start thinking of what it means for God to be Our Father, and of His Goodness."
This is what I mean by R " great knowledge of God," the knowledge implied in the souls of those who are frequently thinking lovingly of the Attributes of God, of those who lead lives of prayer, and especially contemplation, of those in whom the Gift of Understanding is well developed. After all will not our eternity be spent in knowing God?
Thus my contention would debar from sanctity no one of a normal mind, no one capable of contemplation; and every person of a normal mind can arrive at acquired contemplation. Clearly I cannot mean " that the attainment of sanctity is to be regarded as being in direct proportion to an intelligence quotient or educational attainment ratio." Nor again would my remarks restrict the working of grace. God works according to laws and we are considering what usually takes place. If God does depart from His laws of sanctification, He must work miracles to supply for the want of material on which he is to act. As a sculptor needs something material as well as his artistic ability, as a culture is the product of certain physical elements and a view of life, as man is the union of soul and body, so the Saint is the product of nature and grace. Sanctity is not all grace, and after God has worked his miracles the weakness of mind is no longer present.
Fr. McGovern thinks that my letter
will do unlimited harm. But I don't agree with him. There can only be two classes of people who will read this paper, those normal people who are capable of sanctity, and the other abnormal people. The first class has nothing to fear. Neither has the second class. Since they are aiming at an impossible ideal, Fr. Faber would have said that they are living above their grace, and perhaps I could add that they are living above their nature, Let them not be afraid of the truth. Heroism is not for them. They must set up attainable ideals. They must lower their standards. They must be satisfied with being little. Remember what Ste. Therese said about " the loved sight of one's littleness." Experience has taught me that the failure of most efforts at acquiring holiness is due to this refusal to submit to what God wants one to be. Let not a man of one talent try to bring forth five talents. Let them be content with their " one talent." If they are, they will also hear from Our Lord the words, " Well done, thou good and faithful servant." Reflection on this parable should teach us humility in our ambitions. But to apply it we must know ourselves, whether we are men or women of five talents, two talents, or one talent.
Hoping that Fr. McGovern will find all his queries satisfactorilyBELT ARarnswAeret