Wednesday, December 11, 2013

St. John of the Cross in free verse ...

             "Malice, rancor, pusillanimity, discouragement,

sluggishness, and dissipation of spirit."
"The soul began to set out on the way of the spirit,
... wherein God Himself teaches and refreshes the soul without meditation or any active efforts that itself may deliberately make."  
Nevertheless the soul continues to struggle to remove the obstacles to this grace and to be faithful to it.
Hence, the necessity of purification
arises from the defects of beginners, which may be reduced to three:  
spiritual pride, spiritual sensuality, and spiritual sloth.
Yet the mystical doctor considers only the disorder that results from them in our relations with God; he does not speak of all that taints our dealings with our neighbor and the apostolate which may be under our care.
Spiritual sensuality...  spiritual gluttony, consists in being immoderately attached to sensible consolations ... The soul seeks these consolations for themselves, forgetting that they are not an end, but a means; In others, this self­seeking is in the exterior apostolate,  
in some form or other of activity. 
Spiritual sloth comes as a rule from the fact that, when spiritual gluttony or some other form of selfishness is not satisfied, one falls into impatience and a certain disgust for the work of sanctification as soon as it is a question of advancing by the "narrow way." 
 [It's] called acedia. 
[It] leads to malice, rancor, pusillanimity, discouragement, sluggishness, and dissipation of spirit ... in regard to forbidden things. 
Spiritual pride manifests itself quite frequently when spiritual gluttony or some other self-seeking is satisfied, when things go as one wishes; then a man boasts of his perfection, judges others severely, sets himself up as a master ... 
To the defects of spiritual gluttony, spiritual sloth, and spiritual pride, are added many others:  
curiosity, which decreases love of the truth; 
sufficiency, which leads us to exaggerate our personal worth, to become irritated when it is not recognized; 
jealousy and envy, which lead to disparagement, intrigues, and unhappy conflicts, which more or less seriously injure the general good.  
Likewise in the apostolate, the defect rather frequent at this time is natural eagerness in self-seeking,  
in making oneself a center,  
in drawing souls to oneself or to the group to which one belongs instead of leading them to our Lord.
 Finally, let trial, a rebuff, a disgrace come, and one is, in consequence, inclined to discouragement, discontent, sulkiness, pusillanimity, which seeks more or less to assume the external appearances of humility. 
However ... 
Rancor ... the critical spirit ... often gives us away. - Adapted from Three Ages
That's a good thing.
 Art: St. John imprisoned in the conventual jail in Toledo, incarcerated by his own brothers of the Ancient Observance.  Teresa wrote to the king for his release, exclaiming: “I would rather see (him) among the Moors, for (he) might well show (him) more pity.”  The king did not intervene.


  1. How does curiosity "decrease the love of truth"? I've often heard other saints denounce curiosity. But are they referring to curiosity full stop, or curiosity about other people's lives (or curiosity about things that may be harmful or at least unhelpful in our state of life, i.e. the scrupulous reading about the feats of great ascetics)? I ask this as someone who has a voracious appetite for knowledge in history, science, etc. I'm always interested in learning new things. Also, isn't some degree of curiosity necessary to want to learn more about God, the Church, etc?

    1. Think of it in terms of idle curiosity and gossip. Think of it in terms of the post I just did on St. John's Abbey, or in terms of the speculative stories other bloggers post about. Think of it in terms of all the posts analyzing the Time magazine story on their choice for Man of the Year.

    2. In other words, curiosity about gossip, other people's sins, or things we know might lead us into sin (i.e. peeking into a strip club to "see what's going in in there", etc.)

      So curiosity CAN be a good thing if it's search for real knowledge, even worldly knowledge, right? What I mean is, he's referring to something more than just a desire to know.

    3. St. John is a Thomist. So:

      167. Curiosity

      (d) he may seek knowledge from unlawful sources, as from demons;

      (e) he may seek creatural knowledge without referring what he knows to God; (f) he may foolishly risk error by trying to master what is beyond his capacity.

      1. Curiosity, in our present use of the word, is the vice which stands opposed to studiousness. Curiosity throws aside the moderating influence of studiousness, and disposes man to inordinateness in seeking knowledge. This inordinateness appears in a variety of ways. Thus: (a) a man may seek knowledge to take pride in it; (b) he may seek to know how to sin; (c) he may seek useless knowledge and waste effort which should be expended in learning what he needs to know;

      2. Curiosity appears also in the order of sense-knowledge.Inordinateness here appears in an excessive love of sight-seeing;of neglecting study to gaze idly on a meaningless spectacle; of looking needlessly on what may occasion evil thoughts; of observing the actions of others to criticize and condemn them, and so on. If,however, one is intent upon material things in an ordinate way(that is. in a way that accords with reason) one exercises studiousness, not curiosity, even in the order of sense-knowing.

    4. By this definition, it sounds like doing anything for mere entertainment - whether watching a movie, a play, or reading a book, is somehow sinful. I love movies, and I read about hobbies too, and I love to read about a whole range of topics. I especially enjoy reading about history, which is not per se relevant to my jobs and responsibilities.

      So reading just for fun, or to learn just for the hell of it, is bad???

    5. And I see the last paragraph, but how can one be exercising "studiousness" watching a movie, playing a video game, etc., even if it is in moderation?

    6. Oh, now I see where you are coming from. No - this doesn't apply to you. Haha! Move along - nothing to see here.

      Creative, just for fun, acquisition of knowledge is vitally important for you and me and anyone else.

  2. St. Terese of Lesuix....had a very curious mind: I read that she humbled herself (or maybe used this as a sacrifice -) by denying herself the satisfaction of asking what people were talking about, when she entered a room, etc. I forget her exact words, but now I may have to find this section. This was quite hard for her to do ! This is something else I really like about her, yet another "little way" to detach oneself. also I really like your bringing over,Terry: ..'foolishly risking error by trying to master what is beyond one's capacity", or even, especially, assuming one knows more than one does.

    1. Therese did mortify her curiosity in that way - she would have been a great scholar otherwise. She loved to learn. Carmelites are very mysterious religious, and so inventive when it comes to mortification.


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.