APPENDIX - THE SUPERHUMAN MODE OF THE GIFTS OF THE
Since we have treated this question of the superhuman mode of the
gifts of the Holy Ghost in other works, (1) we shall briefly recall
the exact meaning of what we have previously written on this point and
add some new and exact statements.
IN WHAT SENSE CAN THE GIFTS HAVE TWO MODES, THAT
ON EARTH AND THAT OF HEAVEN?
We have several times recalled this incontestable truth, namely,
that one habitus can have acts whose formal object is distinct from
that of the habitus, and we have admitted that in the specifying
object of the habitus two different modes of acting may be found, as,
for example, in the case of the infused virtues and the gifts, their
mode of acting here on earth and their mode in heaven. But we have
emphasized the fact that one and the same habitus cannot be the
principle of acts that have distinct modes, such as that of earth and
that of heaven, unless the first mode is ordained to the second and
thus falls under one and the same formal object.
A recent work offering an entirely contrary opinion (2) states that
the gifts of the Holy Ghost would, according to St. Thomas, have even
here on earth two specifically distinct modes, the one ordinary, the
other essentially extraordinary; the latter would be required for the
infused contemplation of the mysteries of faith. Consequently
contemplation would not be in the normal way of sanctity.
We replied to this opinion.(3) The essence of our reply, which
should not be overlooked, was as follows: "If there were here on earth
two specifically distinct modes for the gifts of the Holy Ghost, one
of which would be ordinary, and the other not only eminent, but
intrinsically and extrinsically extraordinary, the act characterized
by the human mode would not be ordained to the act characterized by a
superhuman and essentially extraordinary mode. (It would not be
ordained to it any more than to the acts which suppose graces gratis datae, such as prophecy.) On the contrary, the act of the
gifts exercised on earth is essentially ordained to that of heaven.
They are, as St. Thomas insisted in the Quaestiones disputatae,
'in eadem serie motus,' in the same series of operations, and the last
must be placed, otherwise all that precede fail to attain their end.
"This text from the Quaestiones disputatae (4), in no way
contradicts what we have said. It does not state that the seven gifts
of the Holy Ghost have on earth two specifically distinct acts, one
ordinary, the other essentially extraordinary. It states quite the
contrary; for it demands that for one and the same habitus the less
perfect act should be ordained to the second, just as the foundation
of a building is to the superstructure, as Christian life on earth is
to that of heaven." We even underlined (ibid., p. 76) in the text of
St. Thomas invoked against our opinion, the word ordinetur, which the
writer had neglected to consider.
R. Dalbiez, writing in the Etudes Carmelitaines, April, 1933
(pp. 250 ff.), made the same observation that we did. He placed in
parallel columns the integral text of St. Thomas and the quotation
that Father Chrysogonous had taken from it, although the latter failed
to cite these significant words: "Si autem non accipiatur unum in
ordine ad aliud, tunc non erunt eaedem virtutes, nec secundum actum
nec secundum habitum." (5) Father Dalbiez adds (ibid.): "The passage
which I have underlined and which Father Chrysogonous did not quote is
quite unfavorable to his thesis. . . . The idea of finding in this
so-called definitive text the slightest support for the thesis of the
two modes, human and superhuman, of the terrestrial acts of the gifts
of the Holy Ghost must be abandoned."
P. Perinelle, in the Revue des sciences philosophiques et
theologiques, November, 1932 (p. 692), makes a like observation on
the central argument of the thesis. He adds that Father Chrysogonous
was mistaken in saying that according to St. Thomas there are three
infused intellectual virtues (understanding, knowledge, and wisdom)
parallel to the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and that it is only since the
Fall that the gifts are necessary.
What most interests us here is that the author did not at all
succeed in proving the principal point that he wished to establish:
namely, that the gifts have here below two specifically distinct modes
of operating, one ordinary, the other essentially extraordinary, which
would characterize infused contemplation.
WHETHER THE SUPERHUMAN MODE OF THE GIFTS CAN BE
We have often affirmed that ordinarily the superhuman mode of the
gifts is at first quite hidden, that is, in the ascetical life, and
that this mode becomes more manifest in the mystical life, at least
for an experienced director.(6) We may express this teaching more
exactly by stating that in the ascetical life the influence of the
gifts is either latent and quite frequent (it makes one think of the
breeze which only facilitates the work of the rowers), or manifest but
rare (in certain striking circumstances), whereas, on the contrary, in
the mystical life the influence of the gifts is both frequent and
manifest. It is not, however, always striking, as in the case of the
great contemplatives, but occasionally diffuse, very real
nevertheless, as is the case in saints who have an active vocation,
such as St. Vincent de Paul. (7)
Some may object: "The operation belonging to the superhuman mode
could not remain hidden; the soul necessarily perceives it from the
very fact that this operation deviates from the natural mode of the
subject." This assertion springs from the preceding one which, we have
seen, has not been proved. It would be true if the gifts had here on
earth two specifically distinct modes, and if the superhuman mode were
extraordinary to the point of requiring infused ideas or a manifestly
supernatural arrangement of our acquired ideas. But this is not so.
Even in the case of prophecy, which is an extraordinary grace, there
may be, says St. Thomas, a prophetic instinct hidden even from him who
receives it; by it he can, like Caiphas, prophesy without knowing it.
"The prophet's mind is instructed by God in two ways: in one way by an
express revelation, in another way by a most mysterious instinct 'to
which the human mind is subjected without knowing it,' as Augustine
says (Gen. ad lit., II, 17)." (8)
Since this is true for prophecy, which is an essentially extra
ordinary grace, with even greater reason is it true of the special
inspiration of the Holy Ghost, to which the gifts, present in all the
just, should render them docile. All spiritual writers admit that this
special inspiration, which resembles the breeze that comes up at the
right moment, is ordinarily latent and almost imperceptible at first,
and that, if it is not resisted, it generally becomes stronger and
more urgent. Innumerable passages from Scripture, from the fathers,
from St. Thomas, and St. John of the Cross could be quoted on this
point. They make this statement in particular when commenting on
Christ's words: "The Spirit breatheth where He will, and thou hearest
His voice; but thou knowest not whence He cometh and whither He goeth:
so is everyone that is born of the Spirit." (9) The inspiration, at
first latent and obscure, becomes more manifest, luminous, and
compelling if one is faithful.
St. John of the Cross expresses the same idea in The Ascent of
Mount Carmel: "It is indispensable to possess this knowledge
proper to contemplation before leaving discursive meditation. But it
is to be remembered that this general knowledge. . . is at times so
subtle and delicate, particularly when most pure, simple, perfect,
spiritual, and interior, that the soul, though in the practice
thereof, is not observant or conscious of it." (10)
The special inspiration which we should receive with docility
through the gifts of the Holy Ghost is undoubtedly often quite hidden.
According to spiritual writers, we must establish ourselves in silence
that we may be attentive to this inspiration, hear it, and then
distinguish between it and one that might lead us astray. This is the
whole question of the discernment of spirits. This admonition is
frequently expressed in The Imitation of Christ: "Consider
these things, 0 my soul, and close up the doors of thy sensual
desires; that thou mayest hear what the Lord thy God speaketh within
thee." (11) Moreover, there are certainly many degrees of docility to
the Holy Ghost, from our first response to the attraction of our
vocation up to the last moment when we give up our souls to God.
ARE THERE DEGREES IN DETACHMENT FROM CREATURES?
Is detachment from creatures the same for the greatest saints and
for souls that have reached a lesser perfection? To formulate the
question is to solve it; we have never had the slightest doubt on this
One must be possessed of a certain juvenile daring to write:
"Detachment from creatures ought to be the same for all perfect souls:
that is, total, absolute, universal. It is impossible to find a mean
between having and not having defects. Now perfection by its nature
excludes all defects, whether directly or indirectly voluntary. The
interior fervor exercised in detaching oneself from everything will
vary in the subject according to the degree of the grace received,
which is the seed of more or less striking victories; but objectively
speaking, the renunciation of everything, no matter how small, which
is opposed to the divine will, must be total and witnout any
The logical formalism which halts at the formula: "It is impossible
to find a mean between having and not having defects," ought not to
make us forget the concrete order of things, or the great difference
that exists among perfect souls, from the least elevated up to the
holy soul of Christ. In concrete reality, renunciation, even
objectively considered, progresses together with the fervor of will of
the subject in which it exists. In fact, an already perfect soul can
undeniably still progress, and in that soul detachment from creatures
increases with union with God. These are two aspects of the progress
of the life of grace, which continues in the unitive way. Thus many
indirectly voluntary defects, the result of a practically unheeded
negligence, are progressively eliminated in proportion as the depth of
the soul is purified and more intimately and continually united to
Moreover, it is certain that a just man, even though perfect,
cannot continually avoid all venial sins, although he can avoid each
venal sin in particular. As he grows in charity, he avoids them more
and more, so that in the transforming union, as St. Teresa
explains,(12) the soul is practically freed from the trouble of the
passions; as long as it is under the actual grace of the transforming
union, it does not commit deliberate venial sins. Outside of these
moments, it may still commit some venial fault, which is quickly
atoned for. Though some perfect souls are confirmed in good, this is
not true of all of them.
Finally, we must not forget that detachment from creatures was far
greater in the Blessed Virgin than in the greatest saints, since she
never committed the slightest venial sin. It was even greater still in
the holy soul of Christ, who not only never actually sinned, but who
was, even here on earth, absolutely impeccable. Therefore it is truly
an exaggeration of simplicity to say: "It is impossible to find a mean
between having and not having defects." What is true, is that there is
no mean between being or not being absolutely impeccable, between
continually avoiding or not avoiding every venial sin, between wishing
or not wishing to strive henceforth to avoid them more and more.
According to St. Thomas, "man (poenitens) needs to have the purpose of
taking steps to commit fewer venial sins." (13) According as this will
is more or less intense or fervent, he will actually avoid them more
or less. Detachment from creatures will increase with the progress of
charity or of attachment to God. Father Chardon strongly insisted on
this point in his beautiful book, La croix de Jesus.
From all evidence, there are many degrees in what St. Thomas
expresses in this manner: "Perfection can be had in this life. . . by
the removal from man's affections not only of whatever is contrary to
charity, but also of whatever hinders the mind's affections from
tending wholly to God." (14) In this detachment there are many degrees
even in regard to the exclusion of venial sins: "Those who are perfect
in this life are said to offend in many things with regard to venial
sins, which result from a weakness of the present life." (15) This
statement is not exaggerated in its simplicity; it is rather the
simple expression of Christian good sense.(16)
ARE THE PASSIVE PURIFICATIONS NECESSARY TO ELIMINATE
Our opponent writes in one of his replies: "We think that the defects
pointed out by St. John of the Cross in The Dark Night under the name
of capital sins, are all voluntary and that consequently the soul can,
with the help of ordinary grace, free itself from them. Does Father
Garrigou-Lagrange believe that the soul cannot purify itself of
spiritual gluttony, spiritual laziness, spiritual pride, and other
defects of this type. . . by the exercise of asceticism? We repeat
here what we wrote elsewhere: that, if it could not free itself from
them, these defects would no longer be voluntary and consequently
would not hinder perfection."
We answer that St. Thomas avoids this excessively simple and
superficial manner of considering things, when he teaches the
necessity of the gifts of the Holy Ghost and of the corresponding
inspirations for salvation and perfection.(17) We have seen in the
course of this study that he by no means admits that the gifts would
have here on earth two specifically distinct modes, one ordinary, the
other essentially extraordinary, such as that of graces gratis
The soul can free itself of certain moral defects only by docility
to the special inspirations of the Holy Ghost. It would be entirely
false to say that if the soul cannot deliver itself from them without
these special inspirations, "these defects are no longer voluntary and
therefore do not hinder perfection." The gifts of the Holy Ghost are
given to all the just precisely to enable them to receive with
docility these special inspirations, whose superhuman mode, that is at
first latent, grows progressively more manifest if the soul is docile.
St. Thomas says in fitting terms: "Whether we consider human reason as
perfected in its natural perfection, or as perfected by the
theological virtues, it does not know all things, or all possible
things. Consequently it is unable to avoid folly and other like things
mentioned in the objection. God, however, to whose knowledge and power
all things are subject, by His motion safeguards us from all folly,
ignorance, dullness of mind, and hardness of heart, and the rest.
Consequently the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which make us amenable to
His promptings, are said to be given as remedies for these defects."
We hold, therefore, that the special inspirations of the Holy
Ghost are necessary that the soul may be purified of a certain
rudeness or harshness, of dullness, of spiritual folly, and other
similar defects, which are not only opposed to a certain psychological
purity, but to moral purity. Without progressive docility to these
special inspirations of the Holy Ghost, the depth of the soul will not
be purified of its more or less unconscious egoism which mingles,
under the form of indirectly voluntary negligence, in many of our acts
and in many more or less culpable omissions.
To say that the passive purifications are not necessary to perfect
moral purity would be to deny the necessity of the passive
purification of the will, which frees the acts of hope and charity
from all human alloy.(19) In this connection we may profitably recall
what St. Teresa wrote in her Life: "For instance, they read that we
must not be troubled when men speak ill of us, that we are to be then
more pleased than when they speak well of us; that we must despise our
own good name, be detached from our kindred, . . . with many other
things of the same kind. The disposition to practice this must be, in
my opinion, the gift of God; for it seems to me a supernatural good."
(20) The meaning which the saint gives to this last expression is well
known. Moreover, she remarks more than once that the progress of the
virtues normally accompanies that of prayer, and that profound
humility is ordinarily the fruit of the infused contemplation of the
infinite grandeur of God and of our own wretchedness. This growth in
virtue is not something accidental; it is the normal development of
the interior life.
St. John of the Cross clearly holds that the passive purifications
are necessary for the profound purity of the will. It will suffice to
recall what he says of the defects that necessitate the passive
purification of the senses and that of the spirit. In The Dark
Night of the Soul (Bk. I, chaps. 2-9, and Bk. II, chaps. I f.) he
speaks, especially in the last two chapters named, of the "stains of
the old man" which still remain in the spirit, like rust which will
disappear only under the action of an intense fire. Among the defects
of proficients which require "the strong lye of the night of the
spirit," he mentions rudeness, impatience, secret pride, unconscious
egoism which causes some souls to use spiritual goods in anything but
a detached manner, with the result that they fall into illusions.
Evidently they lack not only psychological but moral purity. Finally,
in the opinion of St. John of the Cross, these passive purifications
(which belong to the mystical order) and infused contemplation of the
mysteries of faith are indubitably in the normal way of sanctity since
he wrote the two following propositions, which are of primary
importance in his work: "The passive purification of the senses is
common, it takes place in the greater number of beginners"; being
passive, it belongs not to the ascetical but to the mystical
order.(21) "The soul began to set out on the way of the spirit, the
way of proficients, which is also called the illuminative way, or the
way of infused contemplation, wherein God Himself teaches and
refreshes the soul" (22) St. John of the Cross most certainly wished
to note here not something accidental, but something that is produced
normally in the way of sanctity when a soul that is truly docile to
the Holy Ghost does not recoil in the face of trial.
We maintain, therefore, what we have always taught on this point.
Moreover, the Carmelite theologians have taught the same doctrine.
Philip of the Blessed Trinity (23) and Anthony of the Holy Ghost (24)
state very clearly: "All ought to aspire to supernatural
contemplation. All, and especially souls consecrated to God, ought to
aspire and to tend to the actual union of enjoyment with God." (These
theologians assign the same meaning to the words "supernatural" and
"infused" when they apply them to contemplation.)
Finally, as we have more than once remarked, Joseph of the Holy
Ghost wrote: "If infused contemplation is taken in the sense of
rapture, ecstasy, or similar favors, we cannot apply ourselves to it,
or ask it of God, or desire it; but as for infused contemplation in
itself, as an act of contemplation (abstraction being made of ecstasy
which may accidentally accompany it), we can aspire to it, desire it
ardently, and humbly ask it of God, although we cannot certainly
endeavor to have it by our own industry or our own activity." (25)
Joseph of the Holy Ghost even says: "God usually raises to infused
contemplation the soul that exercises itself fervently in acquired
contemplation. This is the common teaching." (26)
We have never taught anything else. This is truly the teaching of
St. John of the Cross, and it conforms fully to that left us by St.
Thomas on the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are connected with
charity and which, as infused habits, grow with charity. The full
perfection of Christian life is inconceivable without them and without
the special inspirations to which they render us docile.
||1. Cf. Christian Perfection and Contemplation, pp.
272-77, 324 ff.
2. P. Chrysogonous, O.C.D., La perfection et la
mystique selon les principes de saint Thomas, Bruges, 1931.
3. Cf. La Vie spirituelle, November, 1931, suppl., pp. 
4. Quaestio unica de virtutibus cardinalibus, a.4: "Utrum
virtutes cardinales maneant in patria."
5. Quaestio unica de virtutibus cardinalibus, a.4, in corp
6. Cf: Christian Perfection and Contemplation, pp. 282-85;
324 ff.; 328.
7. bId., pp. 320 ff.
8. See IIa IIae, q.171, a.5. Cf. ibid., q.I73, a.4, where St.
Thomas gives the example of Caiphas, who prophesied without knowing
that he did so.
9. John 3:8.
10 Bk. II, chap. 14.
11 Bk. III, chap. I; ibid., chaps. 2 f.
12. The Interior Castle, seventh mansion, chap. 2
I3. Summa, IIIa, q.87, a.1 ad 1um.
14 See IIa IIae, q. 184, a.2.
15. Ibid., ad 1um.
16. These last texts quoted from St. Thomas demonstrate, in spite
of what may have been occasionally said on the subject, that he would
by no means condemn the teaching of spiritual writers in regard to the
mortification of activity that is called "natural," that is, not
sanctified, which develops to the detriment of the life of grace. St.
Thomas insists here that in order to reach perfection one should will
to exclude "whatever hinders the mind's affections from tending wholly
to God." If a person does not oblige himself by vow to practice the
three evangelical counsels, he ought at least to have the spirit of
these counsels in order to be perfect (IIa IIae, q. 184, a. 3) To
attain this end, it is thus recommended that a person should not be
too much concerned with earthly things, but should use the goods of
this world as though not using them. In this renunciation there is
evidently a progress even in those who are already perfect.
17 See Ia IIae, q.68, a.2.
18. Ibid., ad 3um.
19. We treated this subject at considerable length in L'amour de
Dieu et la croix de Jesus, II, 597-632; "The Passive Purification
of Hope and of Charity."
20. Life, chap. 31, § 21.
21. The Dark Night of the Soul, Bk. I, chap. 8.
22. Ibid., Bk. II, chap. 14.
23. Summa theol. myst. (ed. 1874), II, 299; III, 43.
24. Directorium mysticum (ed. 1733), tr. III, disp. III,
sect. IV; tr. IV, disp. I, sect. VI.
25. Cursus theol. scol. myst., II, II Praed., disp. XI, q.
11, nos. 18, 23.
26. Ibid., disp. VIII.