Why The Rosary?

In the Living Stream of grace which began with my Baptism, and ever copiously flows, I have found a glorious formation of living stepping stones. Perfectly placed, cleansed by the water, polished by the Spirit and designed as if for me alone, they provide a path that leads me always onward, one stone or step or prayer at a time, to the very Heart of God’s Son.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

St. John of the Cross

St. John of the Cross in The Ascent of Mount Carmel (Book III, Chapter XXVIII
The principal evils into which a man may fall through vain rejoicing in his good works and habits I find to be seven; and they are very hurtful because they are spiritual.
 The first evil is vanity, pride, vainglory and presumption; for a man cannot rejoice in his works without esteeming them. And hence arise boasting and like things, as is said of the Pharisee in the Gospel, who prayed and congratulated himself before God, boasting that he fasted and did other good works.
 The second evil is usually linked with this: it is our judging others, by comparison with ourselves, as wicked and imperfect, when it seems to us that their acts and good works are inferior to our own; we esteem them the less highly in our hearts, and at times also in our speech. This evil was likewise that of the Pharisee, for in his prayer he said: ‘I thank Thee that I am not as other men are: robbers, unjust and adulterers . . . .
 The third evil is that, as they look for pleasure in their good works, they usually perform them only when they see that some pleasure and praise will result from them. And thus, as Christ says, they do everything ut videantur ab hominibus [so men will see], and work not for the love of God alone . . . .
 The fourth evil follows from this. It is that they will have no reward from God, since they have desired in this life to have joy or consolation or honor or some other kind of interest as a result of their good works: of such the Savior says that herein they have received their reward. And thus they have had naught but the labor of their work and are confounded, and receive no reward. There is so much misery among the sons of men which has to do with this evil that I myself believe that the greater number of good works which they perform in public are either vicious or will be of no value to them, or are imperfect in the sight of God, because they are not detached from these human intentions and interests . . . . In these good works which some men perform, may it not be said that they are worshipping themselves more than God? . . . . In order to flee from this evil, such persons must hide their good works so that God alone may see them, and must not desire anyone to take notice of them. And they must hide them, not only from others, but even from themselves.
 The fifth of these evils is that such persons make no progress on the road of perfection. For, since they are attached to the pleasure and consolation which they find in their good works, it follows that, when they find no such pleasure and consolation in their good works and exercises . . . , they commonly faint and cease to persevere, because their good works give them no pleasure. In this way may be spiritually understood these words of the Wise Man: ‘Dying flies spoil the sweetness of ointment.’
 The sixth of these evils is that such persons commonly deceive themselves, thinking that the things and good works which give them pleasure must be better than those that give them none . .  . .
The seventh evil is that, in so far as a man stifles not vain rejoicing in moral works, he is to that extent incapable of receiving reasonable counsel and instruction with regard to good works that he should perform. For he is lettered by the habit of weakness that he has acquired through performing good works with attachment to vain rejoicing; so that he cannot consider the counsel of others as best, or, even if he considers it to be so, he cannot follow it, through not having the necessary strength of mind. Such persons as this are greatly weakened in charity toward God and their neighbor; for the self-love with respect to their good works in which they indulge causes their charity to grow cold.
All seven evils become possible in doing virtuous things, even in doing prayer.  We may (1) take pride and self-congratulatory satisfaction in our praying, (2) compare ourselves favorably with others who prayer differently, (3) find our prayer enjoyable when others see us doing it, (4) find ourselves miserable when prayer brings no reward from God (5) give up praying when we discover little or no progress, (6) deceive ourselves by thinking that enjoyable good works must be preferred to prayer, and (7) when not stifling such thinking, we refuse to receive reasonable counseling and instruction.
What are we to do when we realize how self-centered we are, not only by doing wrong, but also when doing what is right, right in prayer itself?  St. John provides something of an answer when discussing the fourth evil:
In order to flee from this evil, such persons must hide their good works so that God alone may see them, and must not desire anyone to take notice of them. And they must hide them, not only from others, but even from themselves.

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