Why didn’t somebody tell me?
Well, somebody has now, and I have discovered a rather important find in the world of books on the Spiritual Life. In fact, it’s such a classic that the whole thing is out on the Internet:
The Three Ages of the Interior Life by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.
Now, the title is not all that catchy, and some other things I’ve read by Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange are not necessarily the most exciting. Here, however, he is in his element, and this is incredibly useful reading.
He starts with something very simple:
I. The One Thing Necessary
As everyone can easily understand, the interior life is an elevated form of intimate conversation which everyone has with himself as soon as he is alone, even in the tumult of a great city. From the moment he ceases to converse with his fellow men, man converses interiorly with himself about what preoccupies him most. This conversation varies greatly according to the different ages of life; that of an old man is not that of a youth. It also varies greatly according as a man is good or bad.
So that’s what the interior life is. But, it can change into something different…
The interior life of a just man who tends toward God and who already lives by Him is indeed the one thing necessary. To be a saint, neither intellectual culture nor great exterior activity is a requisite; it suffices that we live profoundly by God. This truth is evident in the saints of the early Church; several of those saints were poor people, even slaves. It is evident also in St. Francis, St. Benedict Joseph Labre, in the Cure of Ars, and many others. They all had a deep understanding of these words of our Savior: “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” If people sacrifice so many things to save the life of the body, which must ultimately die, what should we not sacrifice to save the life of our soul, which is to last forever?
This is just the beginning, but one thing is clear. The Interior Life makes all the difference.