Jordan Aumann O.P.: Christian Spirituality in the Catholic Tradition



If Christian spirituality in the twentieth century is indebted to any nation more than others, that nation is France. Indeed it would be safe to say that until Vatican Council II, practically all the aspects of the life of the Church - liturgy, exegesis, theology, philosophy, mission work and spirituality -- received their most powerful impetus and orientation from French experts and leaders. Even officials of the Roman Curia were sometimes prodded into renewal and adaptation by French theologians and ecclesiastics.

Yves Congar has aptly stated that "the beacons which the hand of God has set aflame on the threshold of the atomic century are called Thérèse of Lisieux and Charles de Foucauld." There are other lights as well, not only as examples of Christian holiness but as experts in various fields that relate to the spiritual life, but it is worth noting that in an age of intense activism and flourishing technology, the Holy Spirit has raised up those two great witnesses to the power and efficacy of the contemplative life.


After St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, St. Thérèse of Lisieux is the third great luminary of Carmelite spirituality. Although she lived in the nineteenth century (1873-1897), her impact on the twentieth century is nothing short of remarkable. This is all the more true when we consider that she spent her youth in the closed circle of the Martin family, tenderly protected by a loving father and older sisters, and the remainder of her short life was hidden in the cloister of the Carmel of Lisieux.

Thérèse was the last of the nine children born into the Martin family, of which four children died in their infancy. Four of the girls became Carmelite nuns at Lisieux and the fifth became a Visitandine. From her earliest days, Thérèse felt the call to the cloister, but when she made the formal request for admittance to Carmel, the superiors refused her because of her youth. Thérèse even travelled to Rome with her father and Celine, to seek a dispensation from Pope Leo XI1I. Finally, on April 9, 1888, she was admitted to Carmel and made her religious profession on September 8, I89o.

In 1894 the prioress, Mother Agnes, a blood sister of Thérèse, asked her to write the memories of her childhood. This was the beginning of Thérèse's autobiography, known as Story of a Soul.(1) In 1895 Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face (to give her full title as a Carmelite nun) offered herself to God as a victim soul. The following year she completed the first section of her auto biography and in the same year she suffered her first hemorrhage. Nevertheless, she began the second section of her autobiography at the urging of another blood sister, Sister Genevieve (feline). In June of 1897 Th6r6se was moved to the infirmary, where she completed the autobiography. She received Communion for the last time on August 19 and died on September 30, I897.

The following year, on September 30, the autobiography was published under the title, L'Histoire dune âme, and immediately became one of the most widely read books of the time. In 1925 Thérèse was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius XI; in 1927 she was declared co-patroness of the missions with St. Francis Xavier; in 1944 Pope Pius XII named St. Thérèse co-patroness of France, together with St. Joan of Arc.(2)

In spite of her contemplative vocation, St. Thérèse of Lisieux has rightly been proposed as a model for the countless "little souls" (she called them petites âmes) who to all appearances never receive any extraordinary gifts of grace nor experience the lofty heights of mystical union. As a result, St. Thérèse emphasized the need for fidelity to the ordinary duties of one's state of life, the importance of love as a motivating power, and the cultivation of a filial trust in the heavenly Father.(3) Consequently, Pope Pius XI declared that Thérèse's form of spirituality is "an expression of the fundamental teaching of the Gospel." And St. Thérèse said of herself. "I have never given the good God anything but love and it is with love that he will repay."(4)

Judging from her own written testimony, St. Thérèse did not practice extraordinary penances or mortifications, although her mortal illness, coupled with her observance of the Carmelite life, surely constituted a severe form of asceticism. Nor do we find in her life the numerous charisms and extraordinary phenomena commonly recorded in hagiography, although Thérèse asserts in her autobiography that she was cured of a serious and strange illness in 1882 through the intervention of the Blessed Virgin;(5) moreover, she describes how she experienced the mystical flame of love after entering Carmel:

I was beginning the Way of the Cross; suddenly, I was seized with such a violent love for God that I can't explain it except by saying it felt as though I were totally plunged into fire. Oh! What fire and what sweetness at one and the same time! I was on fire with love, and I felt that one minute more, one second more, and I wouldn't be able to sustain this ardor without dying. I understood, then, what the saints were saying about these states which they experienced so often. As for me, I experienced it only once and for a single instant, falling back immediately into my habitual state of dryness.(6)
St. Thérèse also stated that at the age of fourteen she had experienced transports of love but it was only after she had made her "oblation to Merciful Love" that she experienced the flame of love. St. John of the Cross had described this experience in The Living Flame of Love, stanza 2 of the second redaction.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux is above all an apostle of love and a witness to the theological axiom that it is not works that make us holy, but love. Because of her childlike love and trust in the heavenly Father, she was able to practice perfect abandonment to the divine will and embrace wholeheartedly her vocation as a victim soul. Shunning any and all extraordinary favors and practicing utmost fidelity to the ordinary tasks of her daily life, she offers hope and encouragement to all the "little souls" who seek to follow Christ by performing their ordinary tasks extraordinarily well.


Born at Bourges, France, in 1880, Elizabeth Catez entered the Carmel at Dijon in 1901 and died in 1906. The publication of Souvenirs, containing the biography of Elizabeth of the Trinity and a number of her writings, met with immediate success in France. Men of great authority were impressed with her doctrine, among them, Cardinal Merrier, John G. Arintero, R. Garrigou-Lagrange and M. M. Philipon. Like St. Thérèse of Lisieux, she was doctrinally nourished by the assiduous study of the works of St. John of the Cross, and to this she added her meditation on the Epistles of St. Paul.

In a letter to the Carmel of Dijon in 1927, John G. Arintero stated: "What I most admire in this servant of God is her profound understanding of the great mysteries of the Christian life: our incorporation in Christ, whose mission we must continue; the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in our hearts .... Through this grasp of the great mysteries, identical with St. Paul's, she became a faithful interpreter of some of the most sublime passages of his profound Epistles."

Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange has made the following observation concerning Elizabeth of the Trinity:

To be led to the heights of sanctity, it would be enough for a soul to live intensely but one of these truths of our faith .... The servant of God, Elizabeth of the Trinity, was one of those enlightened and heroic souls able to cling to one of these great truths, which are both the simplest and the most important, and, beneath the appearance of an ordinary life, to find therein the secret of a very close union with God. This mystery of the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity in the depths of her soul was the great reality of her interior life.(7)
Elizabeth made a private vow of virginity at the age of fourteen, but when her mother refused permission for her entrance into Carmel, Elizabeth took an active part in the social life of her circle and greatly enjoyed the vacation trips during the summer holidays. Amid all this activity, however, Elizabeth yearned for the Carmelite life and her friends were amazed at her ability to be so deeply recollected in prayer when the occasion offered. Her greatest challenge during this period was to control her violent outbursts of temper and to do so she practiced immediate and total obedience to her mother. At the time she was reading St. Teresa's Way of Perfection and was able to verify certain divine touches that she had been experiencing. It was at that time also that she met the Dominican, Iréné Vallée, who frequently preached and gave conferences to the Carmelites of Dijon. On asking him about her spiritual experiences, he acquainted her with the doctrine of the indwelling of the Trinity in the soul through grace. Elizabeth at that moment discovered the secret of her own spiritual life and henceforth the indwelling of the Trinity was the foundation of her interior life. Elizabeth entered Carmel in 1901 but she did not live to enter fully into the community of professed nuns. In 1904 she composed her sublime prayer to the honor of the Blessed Trinity:
O my God, Trinity whom I adore! Help me to become utterly forgetful of self, that I may bury myself in thee, as changeless and as calm as though my soul were already in eternity. May nothing disturb my peace or draw me out of thee, O my immutable Lord! but may I at every moment penetrate more deeply into the depths of thy mystery!

Give peace to my soul; make it thy heaven, thy cherished dwelling place, thy home of rest. Let me never leave thee there alone, but keep me there, all absorbed in thee, in living faith, adoring thee and wholly yielded up to thy creative action!

O my Christ, whom I love, crucified by love, fain would I be the bride of thy Heart; fain would I cover thee with glory and love thee .... until I die of very love. Yet I realize my weakness and beseech thee to clothe me with thyself, to identify my soul with all the movements of thy own. Immerse me in thyself; possess me wholly; substitute myself for thee, that my life may be but a radiance of thy own. Enter my soul as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior!

O Eternal Word, Utterance of my God! I long to pass my life in listening to thee, to become docile, that I may learn all from thee. Through all darkness, all privations, all helplessness, I crave to keep thee ever with me and to dwell beneath thy lustrous beams. O my beloved Star! so hold me that I cannot wander from thy light!

O consuming Fire! Spirit of Love! descend within me and reproduce in me, as it were, an incarnation of the Word; that I may be to him another humanity wherein he renews his mystery!

And thou, O Father, bend down toward thy poor little creature and overshadow her, beholding in her none other than thy Beloved Son in whom thou hast set all thy pleasure.

O my "Three," my All, my Beatitude, Infinite Solitude, Immensity wherein I love myself! I yield myself to thee as thy prey. Bury thyself in me that I may be buried in thee, until I depart to contemplate in thy light the abyss of thy greatness!(8)

In the middle of Lent, 1906, Sister Elizabeth was transferred to the infirmary, although until shortly before her death she kept all the observances of the Carmelite life. Diagnosed as suffering from an incurable disease, Elizabeth obtained permission to make a final retreat in preparation for her passage to eternal life. It was during that time that she composed her Last Retreat of Laudem Gloriae (the name she had taken for herself). Two other documents came from her hand: in the summer of 1906 she compiled retreat notes entitled Heaven on Earth, and a few weeks before her death she sent a lengthy letter to her lifelong friend, Marguerite, entitled Last Spiritual Counsels.(9)

A few days before her death Sister Elizabeth wrote with failing hand to one of the nuns: "It seems to me that in heaven my mission will be to draw souls, by helping them to go out of themselves in order to adhere to God by a very simple, wholly loving movement and to maintain them in that great inner silence which allows God to imprint himself on them and to transform them into himself."

Elizabeth was beatified by Pope John Paul II on November 25, 1984.


Born in Strasbourg in 1858, and orphaned at the age of five, Charles de Foucauld passed a difficult childhood. At the age of twenty-three he enlisted in the army and then later, from 1883 to 1884, he explored Morocco scientifically, for which he received a decoration from the French government. Converted from atheism in 1886, Charles thought of entering the religious life. After a visit to the Holy Land, he entered the Trappists in France but after six months he was transferred to a Trappist monastery in Syria, where he made his religious profession in 1892.

The Trappist life did not satisfy Charles de Foucauld, for he wanted to found his own religious order in which there was no distinction between choir monks and lay brothers, no choral office, and the monks would support themselves completely by manual labor. He left the Trappists and went to Palestine, where he found work as a laborer for the Poor Clares and spent many hours of the day and night in mental prayer. Later he returned to France, where he was ordained to the priesthood in t9ot. He then returned to Africa, where he intended to work for the conversion of the Arabs by a hidden life of continual prayer and penance.

Dressed as an Arab, and living in a small hut, Charles passed through the dark night of suffering and abandonment. His spirituality was eminently Trinitarian and he rejoiced that he could surrender everything and simply have the happiness of realizing that God is God. This great "apostle of the Sahara" was murdered by Arabs in 1916.

The hidden life of Charles de Foucauld has produced abundant fruit in the twentieth century. The Little Brothers of Jesus and the Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were established in 193 3 and are flourishing throughout the world. In 1939 another congregation inspired by Charles de Foucauld was founded -- The Little Sisters of Jesus -- and they exercise an apostolate among non-Christians and among the abandoned masses. Finally, there are several fraternities that follow the spirit of Brother Charles. The spirit and mission of the Little Brothers of Jesus was described by Charles de Foucauld:

The Little Brothers of the Sacred Heart have a special call, first, to imitate our Lord Jesus Christ in his hidden life at Nazareth; secondly, to live in mission countries, there to practice perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed .... By taking the altar and its tabernacle into the midst of unbelieving peoples, they sanctify those peoples with out speaking a word, as Jesus silently sanctified the world for thirty years at Nazareth .... It is true that we do not take part in the glorifying of God, the work of our Lord the saving of souls, by preaching the Gospel; but we do so effectively by taking to people the Eucharistic presence of Jesus, Jesus offered in the holy Sacrifice, and the evangelical virtues, the charity of Christ's heart which we do our best to practice. We have not received a call from God to the ministry of the word; so we bless and preach by silence.(10)
In the Directory for the association of prayer which he founded in France, de Foucauld stated that he and his followers would direct their efforts to the conversion of "those who are spiritually the poorest, the most crippled, the blindest, the infidel peoples of missionary countries; those who know not the Good News; who have no tabernacle, nor priest; the most abandoned souls, those who are most sick, the sheep that are indeed lost."(11) Thus, Charles de Foucauld promoted a missionary activity which was simply a vocation of presence among the people he wished to lead to Christ. A new form of contemplative life was introduced, a contemplative life lived in the world, with silence as a means of influence, presence as a method of communication, and poverty as a witness to fraternal love for the poor and needy in whose midst the Little Brothers and the Little Sisters live. Far from being an apostolate of social service, however, it is an apostolate of sharing the same sufferings of the poor and giving witness of the Gospel teaching. Contemporary followers of the ideal of Charles de Foucauld have gone into the "desert" of the slums and the factories to bring the "presence of Christ" through the example of virtue and contemplative prayer.

There were others, too, who contributed to the spirituality of the twentieth century, and although we cannot discuss all of them, we can at least refer to some of the leading figures. To do so, we shall relate them to the specific areas in which they played a significant role: the liturgical movement, the remarkable expansion of the foreign missions, holiness among the laity and developments in systematic spiritual theology.


The revival of liturgical spirituality can be credited to the Benedictine, L. P. Guéranger, the restorer of the Benedictine Order of France. The traditional practice of methodical mental prayer had been so well established between the sixteenth and the twentieth centuries that the liturgical revival inaugurated by Guéranger and the monks of Solesmes in 1837 seemed to be in conflict with the individual piety fostered by mental prayer. Guéranger (1805-1875) made his position very clear: "By asserting the immense superiority of liturgical over individual prayer, we do not say that individual methods should be suppressed; we would only wish them to be kept in their proper place."(12) Nevertheless, some of his followers went so far as to deny any place at all to the practice of mental prayer in the monastic tradition. The most famous works of Guéranger are: L'année liturgique, in 15 volumes (1841-1901), and the three volumes of Institutions liturgiques (1840-1851).

The efforts of Dom Guéranger were seconded and carried to fulfillment in large part by Pope Pius X (1835-1914), who settled the argument on frequent Communion by issuing a decree on frequent and daily Communion for all Christians in the state of grace and having the proper dispositions.(13) The same Pontiff encouraged the active participation of the faithful in the liturgy of the Church. The effort was successful, more in some localities than others, and E. Masure has described the results as follows:

Like theology, . . . the liturgy never ceased to exist in the Church, but at the beginning of the century it was given new life and was lifted up to heights that would have astonished Dom Guéranger himself .... Christian worship has new vitality. Souls are lifted to the invisible by music, chant, drama, texts with their pictures, symbols with their meaning -- and the Christian community once more in ceremonies finds its sacramental unity.(14)
The success of the liturgical revival was due to the dedication and zeal of the French Benedictines, and especially to the monks of Solesmes. But, as we have seen, it received its official promulgation from Pope Pius X. However, it was through the efforts of the Belgian Benedictine, Dom Beauduin (1873-1960), that the liturgical movement became more popularized, more pastoral and less monastic. As a result, the Catholic faithful gained a deeper appreciation for the Eucharist as the center of Christian life. Nor should we fail to recognize the great contribution made by the monastery of Maria-Laach in Germany and the contribution of writers such as Dom Casel (1886-1948) and Pius Parsch (1884-1954). Finally, we note the encyclical, Mediator Dei, by Pope Pius XII, which set into motion the liturgical reforms that would be implemented by Vatican Council II.


The name of Pauline Jaricot (1799-1862) will always be held in reverence by missionaries because she was the foundress of what is known as the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. At the age of seventeen she made a private vow of perpetual virginity and founded the Union of Prayer in Reparation to the Sacred Heart, an organization composed of working girls. She founded an association for the missions in 1820 and collected modest donations from the ordinary faithful. In 1826 she established the Loretta house, a home for working girls, and founded the Association of the Living Rosary. When a new group of twelve laymen banded together in Paris for the purpose of soliciting financial aid for the foreign missions, the members decided to join forces with the Association founded by Pauline Jaricot and this was done on May 3, 1822. Such was the beginning of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, but Pauline Jaricot has always been considered the foundress. She spent the last years of her life in abject poverty and the victim of derision and slander. "May God do what he wills," she said, "without being turned one iota from his holy purpose in my regard by my sufferings, my tears, my prayers or my complainings."(15)

During this same period, France was the scene of the foundation of numerous religious institutes dedicated to the foreign missions; to a lesser extent the same can be said of Italy and Germany. The number of missionary institutes increased with amazing rapidity and the Catholics of Europe and the United States contributed generously to the support of the foreign missions. One of the disastrous effects of the Second World War was the curtailment of missionary activity, and yet this prepared the way for a native hierarchy in those countries which had been evangelized.

Living at the same time as Pauline Jaricot and, like her, dedicated to the works of mercy, was Frederick Ozanam (1813-1853). Descended from a Jewish family, he was educated at Lyons. Eventually he became a professor of foreign literature at the Sorbonne, as a specialist on Dante. While in Paris he was in contact with the outstanding literary and religious thinkers of the day: Lacordaire, Chateaubriand, Montelambert, and others. In 1833 he founded the "Conference of Charity" and in 1835 the organization took as its formal title the "Society of St. Vincent de Paul." Since that time the Society has flourished throughout the world, especially in the United States, and has become a symbol of charitable work on behalf of the poor and needy.(16)

The works of Pauline Jaricot and Frederick Ozanam provide us with the proper setting in which to describe briefly the historical evolution of Catholic Action. The precursors of the promotion of the lay apostolate were St. Vincent Pallotti, Pope Pius IX, who called for the collaboration of the laity in the work of the Church, and Pope Leo XIII, who promoted the organization of Catholic Action. It was also fostered by Pope Pius X, and historians of Catholic Action usually point to him as the Pope who understood what Catholic Action should be.(17) But the actual creation of Catholic Action as a lay apostolate was the work of Pope Pius XI.

Congar lists three original concepts of Catholic Action that are the contribution of Pope Pius XI: the insistence on its apostolic character; it embraces all classes and categories of the Catholic laity; and it is an apostolate of the layman as a Christian in the world doing God's work in the world.(18) Pope Pius XI defined Catholic Action as "the participation of the laity in the apostolate of the hierarchy." In 1923 Joseph Cardijn founded the J.O.C., or Young Christian Workers (Y.C.W.), and it prospered so greatly that in 1935 there were more than one hundred thousand delegates from fifteen countries in attendance at its Congress. Pope Pius XII finalized the definition and structure of Catholic Action.(19)


Since all Christians are called to the perfection of charity, we would expect to find outstanding examples of holiness among the laity of every century. In addition to Pauline Jaricot and Frederick Ozanam, we should mention St. Gemma Galgani and Elizabeth Leseur.

Born near Lucca, Italy, in 1878, Gemma was orphaned at an early age and was taken into the household of Matteo Giannini, where she remained until her death in 1903. She suffered from chronic illness, which prevented her from entering the monastery of the cloistered Passionist nuns at Lucca. Nevertheless, she experienced extra ordinary favors from God, such as the stigmata, continual raptures, and visions of Jesus, Mary and the Passionist St. Gabriel, for whom she had great devotion.

St. Gemma did not write any work for publication, but we know her doctrine through her letters, her autobiography and her life, written by the Passionist, Germano of St. Stanislaus. Her outstanding virtue was humility and because of the countless miracles worked through her intercession, she is one of the most venerated saints of modern times. She was canonized in 1940.(20) Together with St. Gabriel, she is an exponent of Passionist spirituality.

Elizabeth Leseur, born in Paris in 1866, is an impressive example of sanctity within the married life and an active social life. From her earliest years she followed a rule of life in which the practice of prayer, the study of religious doctrine and a constant effort to overcome her faults played an important part. At the age of twenty-one she married Felix Leseur, who had lost his faith completely, and although he had promised to respect Elizabeth's practice of her religion, he soon began a relentless attack to make her lose her faith.

After seven years of marriage, Elizabeth abandoned the practice of religion, but on reading Renan's History of the Origins of Christianity, she saw through the falsity of his arguments. As a result, she began to read the works of the Fathers of the Church, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis de Saes, but above all, the Bible. The result was her conversion back to the faith of her youth and an intense practice of the Christian life.

During a trip to Rome with her husband in 1903, Elizabeth had a mystical experience of the presence of Christ within her and a complete renewal of her interior life. She abandoned herself to Christ without reserve. One of her greatest consolations and supports thereafter was in the reception of Communion. At the same time, she worked unceasingly for the conversion of her unbelieving husband, not by arguments, but by the witness of her own holy life and by her prayers. She died in 1914, without seeing the conversion of her husband.

However, in 1905 she had written in her diary that eventually her husband would be converted, and this did occur, three years after the death of Elizabeth. She had died of cancer and early in her illness she had offered her life for the conversion of Felix. After her death he entered the Dominican Order and became a priest. He died at the age of sixty-two, blessing the memory of his wife, who had offered her sufferings for his conversion. Elizabeth had written various works in addition to her Spiritual Journal, but her best writing was on the subject of Christian endurance of suffering.(21)

Since we have selected St. Gemma and Elizabeth Leseur as examples of Christian holiness among the laity, this is a suitable place to say a word about secular institutes as a form of consecrated life in the twentieth century. The origins and development of the profession of the evangelical counsels by persons living in the world are described in Provida Mater Ecclesia, issued by Pope Pius XII in 1947.(22) However, as early as 1889 Pope Leo XIII had promulgated the Decree, Ecclesia Catholica, in which he referred to associations of pious Christians living in the world, to which he gave the name "pious sodalities."(23) But it was only with the promulgation of the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius XII, Provida Mater Ecclesia, the Motu Proprio, Primo feliciter, and the Instruction of the Congregation of Religious, Cum Sanctissimus, that secular institutes received their own proper legislation.(24)

Throughout the history of the Church there had always been single individuals or groups who had embraced the life of the evangelical counsels -- poverty and continence in particular. But in 1948 the Holy See officially recognized and approved this mode of life for persons who are not religious but secular. Now religious and members of secular institutes are both listed under the general title "consecrated life".

According to Provida Mater Ecclesia, the secular institutes are a type of society or association, and in this respect they are similar to a pious union or a third order. Since they are secular institutes, the members are described as "remaining in the world" and the note of "secular" is emphasized throughout the legislation. This means that the members not only do not necessarily live in community, as religious are required to do, but they dedicate themselves to an apostolate and have contact with society to a degree that is not proper to religious. But the essential distinction would seem to be that the members of a secular institute remain individuals working in their particular professions or trades and on becoming members of the institute they do not enter a different "state of life," as would be the case of a layman who becomes a priest. In recent years the secular institutes have flourished and multiplied but, as so often happens with associations of the laity and diocesan priests, some of them have already begun to take on the appearance of religious institutes and to lose their specifically "secular" character.


The fact that at its very beginning the twentieth century was the scene of a sudden increase of interest in mystical questions and systematic spiritual theology may be attributed in large part to the writings of Joseph Görrés and his German contemporaries.(25)

Moreover, shortly after the First World War, theologians in France, Spain and Italy became involved in a dispute concerning basic principles of ascetico-mystical theology. For several decades books and articles were published in defense of incompatible views concerning such questions as the call to perfection; the relation between mystical experience and Christian perfection; the distinction between acquired contemplation and infused contemplation; and the unity or diversity of the path to perfection.

The "mystical question" has been a source of controversy since the early days of the Church, when the Apostolic Fathers attempted to defend orthodox Christian gnosis against pagan Gnosticism. With the passage of time and the deeper investigations of theologians, the term "mystical theology" gradually became more refined, so that pseudo-Dionysius, writing at the beginning of the sixth century, could apply the term to an experience of the divine, passively received. Until the seventeenth century, theologians of the spiritual life generally accepted the fact that individuals who cooperate fully with the graces received, can attain to a mystical experience of God.

Although he was not the first to do so,(26) it seems that the Jesuit John Baptist Scaramelli (+ 1752) had the greatest influence in propagating the theory that the perfection of the Christian life does not necessarily comprise the mystical experience nor, indeed, are all Christians called to that degree of perfection. In his two works, Direttorio ascetico and Direttorio mistico, he made a complete separation between the ascetical and mystical aspects of the spiritual life and posited two distinct types of Christian perfection.

The theological reasoning behind this division can be summarized as follows: since all Christians are called to the perfection of charity, and since relatively few souls attain the mystical state of infused contemplation, it would seem that the "ordinary" perfection of the Christian life is realized in the ascetical state. The theological conclusions that follow from this statement are numerous: I) the ascetical state and ascetical perfection are the normal, ordinary perfection of the Christian life; the mystical state and mystical perfection are extraordinary and therefore in the class of gratiae gratis datae; a) there are two paths to perfection and actually two distinct types of perfection at the end of these paths; 3) since the mystical state is extraordinary, it is unlawful to pray for or desire the mystical state, mystical experience or any of the phenomena that accompany them; 4) there is a distinction between acquired contemplation and infused contemplation and the former does not lead to the latter; 5) the perfection of charity does not necessarily involve for all Christians the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit nor infused contemplation nor a mystical experience of God's presence; 6) Christian perfection does not necessarily require the passive purgations.

This theology of the spiritual life was challenged by Saudreau in his book, Les Degrès de la vie spirituelle (1896), and later by Poulain in the work, Des grâces d'oraison (1907).(27) The controversy broke out in earnest when the Capuchin Ludovic of Besse criticized Poulain's doctrine on the distinction between asceticism and mysticism. Then, in 1908, Poulain attacked the doctrine contained in Saudreau's book, Faits extraordinaires de la vie spirituelle.(28) At this point the controversy spread from France to Italy and Spain, and precisely because Poulain defended the distinction between acquired and infused contemplation.

At the very time that the mystical controversy was at its height in France, a Spanish Dominican, John Arintero (1860-1928), abandoned his career as a specialist in the natural sciences and devoted the rest of his life to ascetical and mystical theology. His masterpiece in spiritual theology, La Evolución mística, won for him immediate recognition as an unusually gifted theologian.(29) Calling upon the teaching of the Fathers of the Church, the greatest theologians in the Catholic tradition and the experiences of the mystics themselves, he successfully defended the unity of the spiritual life, the place of infused contemplation as a normal development of the life of grace, and mystical experience (necessarily involving the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit) as a universal possibility, since all Christians are called to the perfection of charity.

In the short time that he taught at the Angelicum in Rome, Arintero inspired Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange to take up his pen and write for the same cause. Garrigou-Lagrange became known throughout the world as his works in spiritual theology were translated into various languages.(30) Nevertheless, to Arintero belongs the credit for being the champion of the return to traditional teaching in spiritual theology and in this field he must likewise be considered the master of Garrigou-Lagrange.

At the outset, Arintero became involved in controversies with Jesuits, Carmelites and some of his Dominican brethren. But today, except for a few scattered points of doctrine, the position of Arintero has generally been accepted by theologians throughout the world.

Among the Carmelites the outstanding modern author on spirituality is Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen (1893-1953), close friend of Garrigou-Lagrange and professor of spiritual theology in Rome from 1931 until his death in 1953. A prolific writer, Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen based his spiritual theology on St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. He was a staunch defender of the one path to perfection and the universality of the call to the greatest possible union with God through love. He likewise pointed to Mary, Queen of saints, as the model of Christian perfection, since she was totally submissive to the action of the Holy Spirit and yet lived an apparently ordinary life.(31)

Joseph de Guibert (1877-19422) was professor of spiritual theology at the Gregorianum in Rome and a highly respected retreat master and spiritual director. He is perhaps the most authoritative Jesuit author of spirituality in the twentieth century. Theologically, and typical of the Jesuit stance, he takes a middle position between the extremes defended by the theologians who were engaged in the arguments previously described. His approach to the treatment of ascetico-mystical theology is eminently practical and pastoral, for which reason he leans heavily on psychological data. Basing much of his teaching on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, he concentrates more on the ascetical than the mystical aspect of Christian holiness.(32)

Several Benedictine authors are also deserving of special mention, and first of all Dom Columba Marmion (1858-1923), the saintly abbot of Maredsous. His most famous trilogy comprises Jesus Christ, Life of the Soul (1917); Jesus Christ in His Mysteries (1909); and Jesus Christ, Ideal of the Monk (1922). A posthumous work entitled Jesus Christ, Ideal of the Priest, was compiled from the abbot's conferences and letters. The doctrine in these works is that of St. Paul and the constant theme is that we shall be holy in the measure that we are configured to Christ. All spirituality, therefore, must be Christocentric; the entire Christian life and all sanctity can be reduced to becoming through grace what Christ was by nature: Son of God. Pope Benedict XV was a constant reader of Jesus Christ, Life of the Soul, which is a work that can serve as a spiritual guide for persons from every walk of life.(33)

Another Benedictine who achieved worldwide fame as a spiritual writer is Dom John-Baptist Chautard (1858-1935), author of The Soul of the Apostolate. This is another book that is universal in its application and helpful to persons of every vocation. The basic message contained in the book is that all apostolate and all ministry should flow from an intimate union with God through a deep interior life. Dom Chautard has simply developed the theological principles that charity is the source and the form of all the virtues and that true virtue does not consist in the external acts but in the interior disposition or habitus.(34)

We close this survey of the history of spirituality with a layman, a philosopher and theologian of lasting importance and influence throughout the Catholic world. Jacques Maritain was born in Paris in 1882 into a Protestant family. He studied at the Sorbonne and at the end of his studies he became a Catholic and began to write for Les cahiers de la quinzaines, edited by Charles Peguy. After studying biology in Germany, and Thomism under Fr. Clérissac in France, Maritain was named professor at the Institute Catholique in Paris. In 193 z he was invited to lecture at the Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto, after which he taught at Columbia University in New York and at Princeton. From 1945 to 1948 he was ambassador to the Holy See for France and at the death of his wife Raïssa in 1960, he retired to the monastery of the Little Brothers of Jesus in Toulouse, where he died in 1973.

In addition to his numerous works on philosophy, Maritain also wrote several treatises on spirituality in conjunction with his wife, who lived an intensely mystical life. In his eighties, Maritain wrote his last work entitled The Peasant of the Garonne, which was his cry of alarm and of warning against those who were misinterpreting the teachings of Vatican Council II.

In the field of spiritual theology Maritain was completely Thomistic and in accord with the doctrine of Arintero and Garrigou-Lagrange. In fact, Maritain made a positive contribution to the development of the theology of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Rather than maintain that every mystic will necessarily enjoy habitual infused contemplation in the mystical state, he proposed that since the gifts of the Holy Spirit are divided into intellectual and affective operations, it is possible that some mystics will be moved predominantly by the gifts that operate through the affective faculties.(35)

Undoubtedly the ecclesiastical event of greatest significance in the twentieth century was the Second Vatican Council, celebrated during the pontificates of John XXIII and Paul VI. Officially convoked in 1960, the first session began in October of 1962 and the closing session was held in December of 1965. The Council produced sixteen magnificent documents which will serve as guides and orientations for many years to come. Since the Council had as one of its goals the renewal of the Christian life, it is logical that great emphasis was placed on the Christian call to holiness and indeed to holiness as a mark of the Church.. This theme was stated repeatedly and in various forms in the fundamental document of the Council, Lumen Gentium. Some of the key passages serve well as a conclusion to this survey of the origins and development of holiness in the Church.

The Church, whose mystery is set forth by this sacred Council, is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy. This is because Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is hailed as "alone holy," loved the Church as his Bride, giving himself up for her so as to sanctify her (cf Eph. 5:25-26); he joined her to himself as his body and endowed her with the gift of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God. Therefore all in the Church, whether they belong to the hierarchy or are cared for by it, are called to holiness, according to the apostle's saying: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification (I Th. 4:3; cf. Eph. 1:4) This holiness of the Church is constantly shown forth in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful and so it must be; it is expressed in many ways by the individuals who, each in his own state of life, tend to the perfection of love, thus sanctifying others; it appears in a certain way of its own in the practice of the counsels which have been usually called "evangelical" . . . .

The Lord Jesus, divine teacher and model of all perfection, preached holiness of life (of which he is the author and maker) to each and every one of his disciples without distinction: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt.5:48). For he sent the Holy Spirit to all to move them interiorly to love God with their whole heart, with their whole soul, with their whole understanding, and with their whole strength (cf Mk. 12:30), and to love one another as Christ loved them (cf Jn. 13:34: 15:12) . . . .

It is therefore quite clear that all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society. In order to leach this perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ's gift, so that, following in his footsteps and conformed to his image, doing the will of God in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and-to the service of their neighbor ....

The forms and tasks of life are many but holiness is one-that sanctity which is cultivated by all who act under God's Spirit and, obeying the Father's voice and adoring God the Father in spirit and in truth, follow Christ, poor, humble, and cross-bearing, that they may deserve to be partakers of his glory. Each one, however, according to his own. gifts and duties must steadfastly advance along the way of a living faith, which arouses hope and works through love.(36)

  1. The most recent English translations of the writings of St. Thérèse are: Story of a Soul, tr. J. Clarke, ICS Publications, Washington, D.C.,1975; St. Thérèse of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations, tr. J. Clarke, ICS Publications, Washington, D.C., 1977.
  2. For further details on the life of St. Thérèse, cf. St. Thérèse of Lisieux by Those who Knew her, ed. and tr. C. O'Mahony, Veritas, Dublin, 1975; J. Beevers, Storm of Glory Image Books, New York, N.Y., 1955; A. Combes, Spirituality of Saint Thérèse, Kenedy, New York, N.Y., 195o; I. F. Goerres, The Hidden Face: The Life of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Pantheon, New York, N.Y., 1959; D. Day, Thérèse, Templegate, Springfield, Ill., 1979; P. T. Rohrbach, The Search for St. Thérèse, Hanover, Garden City, New York, N.Y., 1961; H. U. von Balthasar, Thérèse of Lisieux, Sheed & Ward, New York, N.Y., 1954.
  3. Cf. J. Clarke (tr.), Story of a Soul, ICS, Washington, D.C., 1975, pp. 187-200; 219-229.
  4. Cf. J. Clarke (tr.), op. cit., pp. 254-259.
  5. J. Clarke (tr.), Story of a Soul, pp. 60-67.
  6. J. Clarke (tr.), St. Thérèse of Lisieux: Her Last Conversations, ICS, Washington, D.C., 1977, P. 77.
  7. Cf. M. M. Philipon, The Spiritual Doctrine of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity, Newman Press, Westminster, Md., 1961, pp. xvii-xviii.
  8. Cf. M. M. Philipon, op. cit., pp. 53-54.
  9. For further details on life and works of Sister Elizabeth, cf. The Praise of Glory: Reminiscences, Newman Press, Westminster, Md., 1962; M. M. Philipon (ed.), Spiritual Writing of Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity, tr. M. St. Augustine, New York, N.Y., 1962; H. U. von Balthasar, Elizabeth of Dijon: An Interpretation of Her Spiritual Mission, tr. A. V. Littledale, New York, N.Y., 1956.
  10. For further information on Charles de Foucauld, cf. Oeuvres spirituelles, Paris, 1958; R. Bazin, Charles de Foucauld: Hermit and Explorer, tr. P. Keelan, London, 1923; A. Freemantle, Desert Calling, New York, N.Y., 1949; M. Carrouges, Soldier of the Spirit: The Life of Charles de Foucauld, tr. M. C. Hellin, New York, N. Y., 1956; J. F. Six, Witness in the Desert, tr. L. Noël, New York, N. Y., 1965; G. Gorrée, Memories of Charles de Foucauld, London, 1938.
  11. Cf. L. Sheppard, Spiritual Writers in Modern Times, New York, N.Y., 1967.
  12. Cf. The Liturgical Year, tr. L. Sheppard, Newman, Westminster, Md., Vol. 1, p. 7.
  13. The decree, Sacra Tridentina Synodus, was issued in 1905; in 1910 Pope Pius X extended frequent Communion to children who have reached the age of reason. For details on the dispute over frequent Communion, cf. A. Bride, "La Communion du XVIIe siècle à nos jours " in Eucharistia, Paris, 1947, p. 288.
  14. E. Masure, Some Schools of Catholic Spirituality, ed. J. Gautier, Desclée, Paris-New York, 1959.
  15. For further details, cf. J. Johnon, Pauline Jaricot, Paris, 1956; K. Burton, Difficult Star: The Life of Pauline Jaricot, New York, N.Y., 1947; M. Christiani, Marie-Pauline Jaricot, Paris, 1961; J. Servel (ed.), Un autre visage: Textes inédits de Pauline Jaricot, Lyons, 1961.
  16. For further information, Cf. Oeuvres completes, II vols., Paris, 1859-1865; E. Renner, The Historical Thought of Frédéric Ozanam, Washington, D.C., 1959; L. Baunard, Ozanam d'après sa correspondence, Paris, 1912.
  17. Cf. P. Dabin, L'apostolat laïque, Paris, 1931; Y. Congar, Lay People in the Church, Newman Press, Westminster, Md., 1957; J. Gaynor, The Life of St. Vincent Pallotti, St. Paul Editions, Boston, Mass., 1980.
  18. Y. Congar, Jalons pour une theologie du laicat, Ed. du Cerf, Paris, 1953, pp. 505ff.
  19. Cf. Pope Pius XII, "Allocution to Italian Catholic Action," AAS, Vol. 32 (1940), p. 362.
  20. Cf. Letters of St. Gemma Galgani, ed. by Germano of St. Stanislaus and tr. by Dominican nuns of Menlo Park, Calif., 1947; Sr. St. Michael, Portrait of St. Gemma, a Stigmatic, New York, N.Y., 195o.
  21. Cf. M. L. Herking, Elizabeth Leseur nous parle, Paris, 1955
  22. Cf. AAS, Vol. 39 (1947), pp. 114 ff.
  23. Cf. ibid., Vol. 23 (1931), p. 634.
  24. "Providi Mater Ecclesia," AAS, Vol. 39 (1947), pp. 114 ff:; "Primo Feliciter," AAS, Vo1. 40 (1948), pp. 283 ff.; "Cum Sanctissimus," AAS, Vol. 40 (1948), pp. 283 ff
  25. The following list gives an indication of the great interest in mystical questions in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century: W. Preger, Geschichte der deutschen Mystik im Mittelalter (1874-1893); M. Hausherr, Die wahre and falsche aszese (1856); Weibel, Die Mystik (1834); J. Haver, Theologia mystica; J. Gürres, Christliche Mystik (1842); Von Bernard, Theologia mystica (1847); Hettinger, De theologiae et mysticae connubio (1882); Helfferich, Die Christliche Mystik (1842).
  26. Prior to Scaramelli the "two ways" were defended by the Capuchin, Victor Gelen of Treves (+ 1669) and the Polish Franciscan, Chrysostom Dobrosielski (+ 1676).
  27. English versions of these works are: A. Saudreau, Degrees of the Spiritual Life, 2 vols., New York, N.Y., 1907; A. Poulain, The Graces of Interior Prayer, tr. L. Y. Smith, Celtic Cross Books, Westminster, Vt., 1978.
  28. For Poulain's response to Besse, Cf. Etudes, November, 1903. For the debate between Poulain and Saudreau, Cf. Revue du clergé français, June, 1908, and Etudes, October, 1908, and January, 1909.
  29. For the English version, Cf. J. G. Arintero, The Mystical Evolution, tr. J. Aumann, TAN Books, Rockford, Ill., 1978.
  30. In the field of spiritual theology, the following works are available in English: R. Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Ages of the Interior Life, tr. T. Doyle, 2 vols., Herder, St. Louis, Mo., 1947; Christian Perfection and Contemplation, tr. T. Doyle, Herder, St. Louis, Mo., 1937.
  31. The works of Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen were published in Italian; however an English translation of his St. John of the Cross was published in Ireland by Mercier, Cork, 1946.
  32. Most of the works by Joseph de Guibert were written in Latin.
  33. Cf. also M. M. Philipon, The Spiritual Doctrine of Dom Marmion, tr. M. Dillon Newman Press, Westminster, Md., 1956.
  34. Cf. Dom J.-B. Chautard, The Soul of the Apostolate, tr. T. Merton, Image Books New York, N.Y., 1946.
  35. The works of Jacques and Raïssa Maritain are readily available in English translation. The Peasant of the Garonne was translated by M. Cuddihy and E. Hughes and published by Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, N.Y., in 1968. The American Maritain Association was founded at Niagara University in 1977 "to perpetuate the wisdom, influence and inspiration of Jacques Maritain as a Catholic intellectual, a saintly Christian and a classical creative exponent of the philosophia perennis which has a living Thomism as its main embodiment for today and for the future."
  36. "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) in A. Flannery (ed.), Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents, Costello Publishing Company, Northport, N.Y., 1975, pp. 396-398, passim.