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The seed of our baptism is meant to grow into a mighty plant and take us to the heights of the spiritual life, so that at the end of life it is only a short step to Heaven.
In the course of our spiritual life, the 'climate' changes, when someone moves from a 'snowy' area of loneliness and pain to a joyful area of sunshine and harvest - with much joy and fulfilment - before 'rising up' to Heaven.
As a beanstalk grows high, towards the sky, so should our spiritual life 'grow' towards Heaven. Though at times it seems as if we am growing 'downwards', the truth is that we can be moving in a great spiral, closer and closer to our Heavenly Home, even now, while we are doing little of outward importance.
Catholics who do not pray, or who hope to do good but without prayer, cannot draw from Christ the graces they need for a vigorous spiritual life. They are like grapes that are shrivelling on the vine, through separation.
In the spiritual life, it can seem as though we travel on a narrow path, between high walls, with little hope of finding joy. But just where the path seems most unpromising, it can open out - if we persevere - into an orchard, full of trees laden with fruit and lush foliage. Helped by the prayers of the Saints, our state of life is becoming fruitful.
It is no small matter that many Christian bodies do not have the 'fullness of the means of salvation' which the Catholic Church has, as the 'one true Church'. In a matter of life and death, in bodily care, people take the tablets which are of known origin, proven efficiency, and correctly proportioned good ingredients. And so, for the spiritual life, for Eternity, we take 'medicine' from the Church of known origin - coming from Christ, known to have saints, and with valid sacraments.
Prayer and penance, faith and love, are essential. A person who hopes to reach the highest stages of the spiritual life, and Heaven, whilst ill-prepared and ill-disciplined, and self-centered in his opinions and plans is like a man who declares that he will climb Mount Everest by his own methods, and who sets out ill-equipped, and wearing flip-flops on his feet.
We can usually see little on a flight. Just as when, on an aircraft, we have little glimpses of bright fields or snowy mountains, so, in the spiritual life, God allows us 'glimpses' of spiritual joys, because He knows one of our greatest dangers is discouragement, and wants us to know that we are on our way to Heaven.
Just as, on an aircraft, the flight is endangered if someone becomes so angry that he attacks the pilot or breaks a window, so, in the spiritual life, a person who commits a mortal sin risks missing a safe landing, and even entering a state which is indescribably painful.
Many good followers of Christ seem to live in a bright 'cloud', in the spiritual life, which prevents them from seeing or hearing their beloved Lord. He allows this, for their souls' sakes, to help them grow in faith. If they persevere, they will experience a 'birth' into the joy and glory of known union.
What a lot of work must be done by a newly-converted soul who wants to make progress in the spiritual life, and please God by every thought, word and deed. A convert's penances, prayers and mortifications are like the hard work a gardener does, who clears the ground around a new plant, and prunes it, to make it grow strong and true.
If we are tempted to be proud or self-satisfied, seeing the good work we achieve for God, we need only remember Christ's Passion, by which He won for us all the graces we enjoy, and the blessings of the spiritual life, and we shall be able to serve Him as He deserves, in humility and gratitude.
Whenever someone makes a good confession, she should be confident that she has done something which is not only important and useful for herself and her own spiritual life. She delights the Three Divine Persons of the Blessed Trinity, who gaze upon her with delight, admiring her humility and simplicity.
A man who complains about a boring spiritual life and who prays only reluctantly and with little love is like a boy who is made to wash, by his mother, and grumbles about it, and who has not yet learned of the joys of being clean, fresh-smelling, and in a clean shirt after a good shower.
Through the intercession of Our Blessed Lady, a person who walks in a dark tunnel of the spiritual life can be given a moment of new hope, or refreshment - as if he had suddenly come upon a window through which he can see the beautiful country ahead, and can revive his hope of achieving sanctity, and entering Heaven.
A person who enjoys an intimate relationship with Christ, in the heights of the spiritual life, must not feel ashamed if she is not feeling as awe-struck and astonished as in the earlier years. If her heart has grown even more grateful to Christ, and even more glad about opportunities to share Good News, she can enjoy His blessed, quiet friendship in peace
Some people suppose that after a good Confession everything in the spiritual life will become easy, or the way ahead will be plain; yet they seem to be walking in a great spiritual cloud, unable to see the next step. They should believe that it is God who hides them within Himself. They are held by God, in God, as He urges them to take one step at a time, in faith, doing what is right and avoiding all that is wrong.
A person who has repented of mortal sin, and has been forgiven, after years of neglect of the spiritual life, is like a seaside shack after a furious storm. Even if it is still standing, and the rain is kept out for the occupant, it will need many repairs before it is a comfortable home. Much penance and prayer is necessary, to purify a sinner, and repair what had been damaged in him by prolonged self-love.
It is not enough to be content to be spiritual. Some people want to worship God, and serve Him, without being asked to believe in important doctrines; yet sound doctrine provides the framework and the strength to persevere in our spiritual life. If we know the truth we are set free to build with confidence, and to believe that our house of faith will last until we reach Heaven.
Just as a school child can learn nothing and make no progress if he opposes his mother's request, and has to be carried screaming into school, so a Catholic can make little progress in prayer or the spiritual life if he or she is constantly 'fighting' - by words, actions and campaigns - against the constant teaching of the Church, and her discipline.
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