Is it okay to see spiritual progress?

[quote=Gottle of Geer]About not seeing progression - be grateful for that: as the saying goes,“a watched pot never boils” - and if we tear up our roots in Christ to see we are growing, we shall be unable to grow in Christ. It is completely unimportant that we cannot see any growth - it would be a serious temptation to the sin of pride, if we could see: so it would be appallingly bad for us. Nothing is worse than pride, especially in our own holiness - for of ourselves, we have none. “Our” holiness is that of Christ in us - it is essential to remember this; otherwise we are going to be in danger of boasting about how pious, holy, good, and all the rest of it we are. It’s all rubbish - we are absolutely nothing without Christ: we did not make ourselves out of nothing - God did. And now He is remaking us. This is something we know by faith - not by seeing it.
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This is from the “How exactly do you let God sanctify you?” thread. It makes a lot of sense to me. But, I’ve been able to see my spiritual progress, especially over the last year or two. Is that bad? If so, how do I correct it? I find it hard to guard against pride - if I’m humble, people tell me, and I become prideful. I would love to be humble and not know it! But anyway, how much progress is it okay to acknowledge?

[quote=KatarinaTherese]This is from the “How exactly do you let God sanctify you?” thread. It makes a lot of sense to me. But, I’ve been able to see my spiritual progress, especially over the last year or two. Is that bad? If so, how do I correct it? I find it hard to guard against pride - if I’m humble, people tell me, and I become prideful. I would love to be humble and not know it! But anyway, how much progress is it okay to acknowledge?
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Dear friend

The ever spiralling spiral of pride, it catches us out at every turn, the secret to not falling into pride, which of course is totally impossible without God’s grace, is to always remember we are sinners and to offer glory, praise and thanks to God for all things.

We alone have not made spiritual progress, we can do nothing without God’s care and grace, so to rightfully put the praise where it should be, we praise God for our spiritual progress and this reminds us of our weakness and sinfulness as human beings and the great love God has for us.

The heart that praises and thanks God for everything is the heart that is truly seeking not to be prideful. The humble heart does not praise themselves, they acknowledge what God has done for them in so many ways as well as spiritual progress and praise and thank Him alone. It is not wrong to acknowledge everything that is good in our lives, it would be wrong to not acknowledge God’s gifts and God as the giver of these gifts to ourselves and to others and praise and thank Him for them.

I thank God for your spiritual progress and may God continue to bless you greatly in everything.

God Bless you and much love and peace to you

Teresa

yes of course, this is one of the benefits of a prayer journal. it is an immense help to have the guidance of a spiritual director in discerning this progress. the reason is we have a tendency to see what is not there, to rely on feelings, emotion and sentiment as guides, to congratulate ourselves for what “progress” we see and attribute it to our own efforts. Then we say, well if one rosary did all this, I will say two, or 10. What we are trying to discern is not the effectiveness of our own practices and spiritual exercises, but the workings of the Holy Spirit within us.

What is more usual is that we see the fruits of this working, which might be a better term than “spiritual progress”. Begin by looking at the fruits: more patience? more fidelity? more consistency? more virtue? more charity? Avoid the temptation to self-congratulate on the choice of prayer methods or other spiritual exercises or to attribute perceived graces as somehow the product of your own efforts.

The purpose of the spiritual exercises is to make us more receptive, aware, and appreciative of the workings of the Holy Spirit, who alone is responsible for our “progress”. The reason I distrust this word is that it implies “moving along under my own steam” which does not adequately or correctly describe the movements of the spiritual life.

A very sublime writing speaks about the glance of the soul at its own virtues, through the special grace of the Holy Spirit. The Spiritual Canticle by St. John of the Cross: karmel.at/ics/john/cn_25.html

And I said that the flowers of the virtues within her are wont to open …snip… It is sometimes a wonderful thing to see them all open through the Holy Spirit and diffuse a marvelous variety of fragrance.

The soul will behold in herself the mountain flowers mentioned above, which are the abundance, grandeur, and beauty of God; and, intertwined among them, the lilies of the wooded valleys, which stand for rest, refreshment, and protection; and next, interspersed there, the fragrant roses of the strange islands, referring to the strange knowledge of God. Then too she will be struck by the scent of the lilies beside the resounding rivers, which we said represented the greatness of God filling every soul. And she will perceive from the jasmine interwoven there a fragrance diffused by the whistling of love-stirring breezes, which we also said the soul enjoys in this state. Likewise she is aware of all the other virtues and gifts we mentioned: the tranquil knowledge, silent music, sounding solitude, and the delightful and loving supper.

And sometimes her experience and enjoyment of these flowers united together is such that she can very truthfully say: "Our bed is in flower, bound round with linking dens of lions." Happy is the soul who in this life merits at some time the enjoyment of the fragrance of these divine flowers! And she says that this bed is also hung with purple.

It is good to note that the soul in the above state is very advanced in perfection, but I believe the Lord sometimes draws back the veil to allow us to glimpse the work He has been trying to accomplish in the soul. This encourages us to welcome the trials He permits to come our way; and also moves us to give Him praise and glory for what He has effected in us, together with prayer to remain faithful so as not to lose these virtues.

“Keep me faithful to your teachings and never let me be parted from you!”

Carole

That’s a funny thing. You can be proud of your humility. One thing that really struck me is when I was reading about our Lady’s childhood according to the mystics. The other girls teased and tormented her but young Mary responded by asking them what she could do so as to not annoy them. Mary was perfect. She asked them even though she did nothing wrong. And she never experienced any pride.

That’s beyond me. But we can learn a lot from that.

Dear John,

Many years ago, I remembered having read the incident about Mary in the City of God, so I read it again because something just did not ring true.

I do not give a great deal of credence to these mystical writings, since the Church has not obliged us to believe in private revelations. The incident of which you spoke reveals that Mary was exhonerated of the evils of these girls through the Lord speaking to the priest and the instructress in a dream. She reportedly answered them afterwards, “My superiors, I am the one that deserves your reprehensions and I beseech you do not hold me unworthy of undergoing them, since I ask for them as most necessary to me.”

John, I personally don’t believe Mary would pretend to “deserve” punishment for faults that she knowingly did not commit, for that is to be contrary to truth, which she would uphold.

Humility is recognition of the truth of ourselves as we are before God. In Luke’s gospel, we see a different picture of Mary, who truthfully, yet humbly acknowledged and proclaimed God’s favor to her in the Magnificat, “For behold, all generations shall call me blessed, because He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.”

What I did find refreshing, though, since you did bring up the subject, Mary bore the false accusation of the temple maidens heroicly without her own defense, (according to the book) and God Himself vindicated her after she earned much merit through her sufferings.

There is another Saint whom I admire for this same quality, St. Gerard Majella, who bore false witness in the same manner, and refused to defend himself against his accuser.

For the purpose of our discussion, however, I think it is humility to recognize our spiritual progress, provided we give honor and glory to God for this, as did Our Lady.

Carole

[quote=Joysong]Dear John,

Many years ago, I remembered having read the incident about Mary in the City of God, so I read it again because something just did not ring true.

I do not give a great deal of credence to these mystical writings, since the Church has not obliged us to believe in private revelations. The incident of which you spoke reveals that Mary was exhonerated of the evils of these girls through the Lord speaking to the priest and the instructress in a dream. She reportedly answered them afterwards, “My superiors, I am the one that deserves your reprehensions and I beseech you do not hold me unworthy of undergoing them, since I ask for them as most necessary to me.”

John, I personally don’t believe Mary would pretend to “deserve” punishment for faults that she knowingly did not commit, for that is to be contrary to truth, which she would uphold.

Humility is recognition of the truth of ourselves as we are before God. In Luke’s gospel, we see a different picture of Mary, who truthfully, yet humbly acknowledged and proclaimed God’s favor to her in the Magnificat, “For behold, all generations shall call me blessed, because He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.”

What I did find refreshing, though, since you did bring up the subject, Mary bore the false accusation of the temple maidens heroicly without her own defense, (according to the book) and God Himself vindicated her after she earned much merit through her sufferings.

There is another Saint whom I admire for this same quality, St. Gerard Majella, who bore false witness in the same manner, and refused to defend himself against his accuser.

For the purpose of our discussion, however, I think it is humility to recognize our spiritual progress, provided we give honor and glory to God for this, as did Our Lady.

Carole
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Hi Carole,
I like the example you give about St Gerard and your other input.
Humility is more important than being right. I believe it was St Bernard who giving a speech quoted some sums and a total value. Someone corrected him and he accepted it even though he was right. Later some people quizzed him and he said it was more important to be humble than to be right.
It’s true what you say about being vindicated by God when we’re unjustly treated. God always makes sure saints become known no matter how humble an opinion they have of themselves or how much they withdraw from the world.

Dear John,

I really like your example from St. Bernard! :thumbsup:

Many of us would wear egg on our face if we knew the truth of similar situations where the little saints in our own lives are following the example of the masters.

Carole

If you are seeing the spiritual progress in the right way – God working through you – the response is to be happy about that. That doesn’t mean that we’re ever content with ourselves. The progress is not due to our merit; therefore there is nothing to be proud about. Rejoice in God’s mercy when you see Him work through you! Grave sin indicates in us, an ingratitude, which is worthy of Hell. Anyone who has mortally sinned, still technically deserves Hell, even if they have obtained forgiveness! If you keep that in mind, that should cure you of any leftover pride. But then we have the mercy of God to step in and save us from what we deserve. The mercy of God to us sinners, and his immense love for us despite our sins, however, is what we celebrate when we might see spiritual progress, and of course it makes us rejoice! :thumbsup: Such rejoicing is a rejoicing of newfound gratitude, and humility, and this in turn glorifies God. Seeing spiritual progress is a humbling event, if anything–and happy at the same time!

Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply! I really do appreciate all these responses. :slight_smile:

[quote=KatarinaTherese]This is from the “How exactly do you let God sanctify you?” thread. It makes a lot of sense to me. But, I’ve been able to see my spiritual progress, especially over the last year or two. Is that bad? If so, how do I correct it? I find it hard to guard against pride - if I’m humble, people tell me, and I become prideful. I would love to be humble and not know it! But anyway, how much progress is it okay to acknowledge?
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Well, this reminds me of the following passage

1 Corinthians 10:12 Wherefore he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall.

And yet, we must endeavor to stand:

Luke 21:36 Watch ye, therefore, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to come, and to stand before the Son of man.

And we must labor to make our calling sure:

2 Peter 1:10 Wherefore, brethren, labour the more, that by good works you may make sure your calling and election. For doing these things, you shall not sin at any time. 11 For so an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 12 For which cause I will begin to put you always in remembrance of these things: though indeed you know them, and are confirmed in the present truth. 13 But I think it meet as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance. … 19 And we have the more firm prophetical word: whereunto you do well to attend, as to a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts

We must attend to the light that is given to us, preparing for the day when the dawn shall rise in our hearts. But we cannot make it rise by our efforts. Our efforts prepare us to receive Him well.

hurst

Just wanted to add a little to what I wrote. Not that it’s always bad to see progress, but that it’s such a delicate thing that The Spiritual Combat (book) warns about how it causes so many people to fall, because they start to feel content, and explains how and why this happens, so you can avoid it. It tells you how to think of progress when you might be seeing it, and how to discern whether you really are, or are merely feeling consolations or a false sense of security from pride in what “you” [think you] have done. It states that some spiritual directors might see progress in a person but hold back on telling them, because they aren’t at a stage where they will view it correctly. And we might get to another stage where it makes us humble and grateful and then get to yet another stage where we don’t take it the right way again, and it’s better yet again to not know that we are making progress, if we are to progress further instead of fall. It’s a very tricky thing! In fact, it is so tricky that I’m not sure most people can handle it right, and so I tend to think that God is just going to have to intervene on our journey to guide the progress, perhaps by taking away consolations as needed, and giving us some trials, so we don’t get too “comfy” to the point where we stop working with *fear and trembling. *For me, I’m dense as all get out in the way of that kind of discernment, and I seem to need to read books like this to get myself un-confused. :confused: :o

The Spiritual Combat is well worth the $7 or so if you are interested in more detailed advice for a soul fighting to be holy. The new translation of it into modern English is a good one which makes it a much easier read than some of the older books I have, while the content is not sacrificed. If you’re concerned about accidentally becoming misguided when seeing spiritual progress, this is the book for you, and teaches you how to progress in a humble and grateful manner. It’ll make sure the reader knows what a miserable creature he or she is, heh heh - while giving the reader hope at the same time.

Dear Karin,

I don’t know if you realized it, but this is the very book that St. Francis de Sales carried on his person, and he read from it daily. It made him a saint! I bought the book, too, after discovering that. :thumbsup:

Carole

[quote=Karen10]The Spiritual Combat is well worth the $7 or so if you are interested in more detailed advice for a soul fighting to be holy. The new translation of it into modern English is a good one which makes it a much easier read than some of the older books I have, while the content is not sacrificed.
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What’s its ISBN, please?

:blessyou:

Hi Augustine,

amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/103-3007658-5984614?url=index%3Dstripbooks%3Arelevance-above&field-keywords=The+Spiritual+Combat+Dom+Scupoli&Go.x=8&Go.y=6

My copy does not have an ISBN number, just the publisher, Catholic Book Publishing Co. May 3, 1948. It has the customary Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur.

I think the second listing at Amazon is the one I have, for at the end of the book it has a small section called Peace of Soul.

We have been speaking in this section of the Forum about a number of classics, and I would like to recommend another one called Progress Through Mental Prayer by Edward Leen.

I send warm wishes for Christmas peace and joy to you, my friend
Carole

I’ve never read the book (although I want to now), but I think an online version of it can be found here. Only up to Chapter 29, though. shrug

Dear Carole,

I’ve also found this one, published in 2002: amazon.com/gp/product/1928832504/ref=pd_sr_ec_ir_b/103-4325160-3926256?n=283155I think the second listing at Amazon is the one I have, for at the end of the book it has a small section called Peace of Soul.
How about this section? We have been speaking in this section of the Forum about a number of classics…
I should check this thread out then. :wink:

May God bless y’all with His peace in this coming year.

:blessyou:

Growth in Holiness also deals with the subject, but I really think that book needs an update into modern English. Some sentences simply do not make any sense no matter how many times I go over them to parse them. They had a more free form of writing back in those days which tended to trail on for too long and which used certain expressions that I figure these people understood, but we don’t. (I think it’s from the 1800s). One sentence, I tried in vain to find subjects and verbs that agreed, and couldn’t.

I’m nowhere near finishing yet, but what I do get out of it is helpful. I believe it also has Imprimatur.

Enjoy the book(s) if you get them! :smiley:

Even some of the saints acknowledged that they were holy. Both St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross admitted they had reached a sublime degree of holiness (by earthly standards) and wrote chronicles on their spiritual ascent. It’s just that they first acknowledged the One who was the source of their holiness. The difference between them and us is we have a tendency to take credit for something that is, in all actuality, a free gift of God. The saints have the humility to understand that apart from God and His grace we amount to nothing at all. Humility is not the denial of the good aspects of life and ourselves (like spiritual progress made) but nevertheless every good gift must be offered back to God as acknowledgement that He alone is the sole provider of everything. Whatever holiness we have comes from God not from any innate merit we may pride ourselves possessing. It is He who works through us for His own good pleasure. We are merely empty vessels for His holy service.
Also understand that as God’s grace shines forth in our souls, we will become more mindful of our sinful condition. Just like a bright light turned on in a dark room, we will see the dirt and cobwebs we were oblivious to before. So, paradoxically, with spiritual advancement comes a more poignant sense of our own profoundly sinful and fallen condition.

[quote=Karen10]Just wanted to add a little to what I wrote. Not that it’s always bad to see progress, but that it’s such a delicate thing that The Spiritual Combat (book) warns about how it causes so many people to fall, because they start to feel content, and explains how and why this happens, so you can avoid it. It tells you how to think of progress when you might be seeing it, and how to discern whether you really are, or are merely feeling consolations or a false sense of security from pride in what “you” [think you] have done. It states that some spiritual directors might see progress in a person but hold back on telling them, because they aren’t at a stage where they will view it correctly. And we might get to another stage where it makes us humble and grateful and then get to yet another stage where we don’t take it the right way again, and it’s better yet again to not know that we are making progress, if we are to progress further instead of fall. It’s a very tricky thing! In fact, it is so tricky that I’m not sure most people can handle it right, and so I tend to think that God is just going to have to intervene on our journey to guide the progress, perhaps by taking away consolations as needed, and giving us some trials, so we don’t get too “comfy” to the point where we stop working with *fear and trembling. *For me, I’m dense as all get out in the way of that kind of discernment, and I seem to need to read books like this to get myself un-confused. :confused: :o

The Spiritual Combat is well worth the $7 or so if you are interested in more detailed advice for a soul fighting to be holy. The new translation of it into modern English is a good one which makes it a much easier read than some of the older books I have, while the content is not sacrificed. If you’re concerned about accidentally becoming misguided when seeing spiritual progress, this is the book for you, and teaches you how to progress in a humble and grateful manner. It’ll make sure the reader knows what a miserable creature he or she is, heh heh - while giving the reader hope at the same time.
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Thanks! I think I’ll try to request it from the library. Spiritual combat, fighting for God, etc., those kind of thoughts have always appealed to me. I guess that saying it that way gets through to me? I don’t really know how to say what I’m trying ot say.

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