Tag Archives: Garrigou-Lagrange

True Heaven vs. Banal Naturalism / Humanism

Once again, Garrigou-Lagrange wants to lift up the reader’s mind to the heights of heaven. Truly to contemplate, in however non-detailed a manner, how awesome is that to which we are called.

We all know, however, that sometimes when we imagine heaven, we get bored pretty quick. That tells more about us and our limited imagination than about the boredom to come. We know we shall not be bored, but we cannot picture it.

Hilarious: My son once asked, “Will we pass gas in heaven?” I responded, “No.” He retorted, “That’s ridiculous.” I think he was eight at the time. But he’s right in a way. When we try to get to details, we fall off the mark. On the other hand, if we just live for today, with no thought of tomorrow, we cannot map our priorities in the best way. Then, we will get unduly upset about things that should cause us less pain than otherwise.

How to keep the vision high? I’m not so sure. But that we must keep it high is crucial.
One ingredient Lagrange insists on is differentiating the true essence of the holy vision from false sentiments of “happiness to come.”

He writes,

“What a world separates the true idea of heaven from heaven as conceived by naturalism, by pantheism, a heaven which would be married to hell beyond good and bad, a heaven where without renouncing anything men would find supreme beatitude. This is the heaven defended by the secret doctrines of the counter-Church which begins with the Gnostics of old and continues in present-day occult doctrines that produce universal confusion. In the second part of Faust, Goethe is inspired by naturalism, so distant from Christian faith,” (Life Everlasting, p. 172, n. 20).

When we ask too little of souls, we belittle their worth and their calling. When we act as though heaven did not require repentance, we insult the very sinner himself. When we preach mercy without adequate articulation of the rigors of divine justice and the power – the truly healing power – of divine graces, we deprive souls of the reason to hope for great things. We make a marxist heaven, a down to earth ending, we make our exalted religion crass, we tread over delicate things, we make what is sacred into something … something, not simply profane but… —banal! And no one believes the banal. The banal is worthy of the rubbish heap.

But, when we demand excellence; when we exhort to sanctity, when we uphold the full extent of the moral law, when we cling to Tradition, when we sing the Wonder ever ancient and ever new, then, truly, do we raise a realistic hope: Arduous, to be sure, but firm and lasting and awesome.

Hell Saves: What?

That’s right, hell saves. The doctrine of hell, that is, saves many souls. So argues Garrigou-Lagrange.

I cite from his little book Everlasting Life, p. 97:

There is today an unwillingness to preach [about hell], and therefore people often forget revealed truth that is very salutary. They do not give attention to the truth that the fear of hell is the beginning of wisdom and the beginning of conversion. They forget that, in this sense, hell has saved many souls.

Someone might object: But that is negative. We should be positive. Start with the positive. And doesn’t perfect love cast out all fear? So, isn’t all fear of punishment evil? Isn’t it selfish?

Let us calmly reason. First, to love one’s own life is not “selfish” but just natural. And good. And God gives us this love of self in giving us life. Hence, his commandment to love neighbor is premised on love of self: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” So, let us get this clear and very clear. Recent heretics reject love of self, and then they prey on your inveterate love of self to make you hate yourself. (It is what certain “leaders” are doing with nations, when they say that all efforts to protect borders are evil.) This is very perverse and we must return to it in another post. Second, to fear what opposes your good is itself good. If I don’t fear the lion, I do not love myself. I am thus unnatural, sick. Third, hell indeed opposes my good. So, I should fear it. Fourth, whoever is not yet justified, not yet holy, does not have charity for God above all things. When you are reaching out to this person, you cannot appeal to the charity they do not have. You have to appeal to something they love naturally. They naturally love their own good and what they think will constitute their happiness. So, you can argue it out with them that none of these things will deliver. And further, if they believe in God and his providence, you can remind them of his coming judgment and the possibility of hell. Fear of hell can motivate them to stop sinning. This is not yet love of God, but it is better not to fornicate than to fornicate. It is a step in the right direction in this sense: It is to stop stepping in the wrong direction. Fifth, so many saints began their journeys this way. Teresa was shown hell. Ignatius begins the Exercises with mediation on hell. Dante teaches us by taking us down to hell. Newman – O Kindly Light – is very sober about true religion. True religion shows us hell before it shows us heaven. That is Newman. Newman! (See Grammar, chapter 10).

Lastly: Yes, the fear of hell is a sign that one is not yet perfect. But since we should accompany sinners, we should start where they are at. If they are not yet perfect saints, we should remind them of hell, or inform them of hell. “But in the proper context.” Yes, of course; this is obvious. It need not be stated. We get it. The context is important. Namely, One God, creator of all, freely made us and calls us, we sinned, he redeems; we balk, he calls; etc. BUT DO WE PRESUME ON THE GRACE OF HIS KINDNESS? DO WE NOT REALIZE THAT HIS KINDNESS IS MEANT FOR OUR REPENTANCE, SO THAT WE MIGHT STAND ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT WHEN HE JUDGES THE SECRETS OF HEARTS? (ROMANS, CHAPTER 2)

A True PREPPER: Catherine of Genoa

Garrigou-Lagrange’s wonderful little book, Everlasting Life, continues to impress me. His appreciation of St. Catherine of Genoa is immense, so immense that he gives a chapter by chapter summary of her classical text on Purgatory. Her life’s story is also a wonder, a wonder of early zeal, slackness leading to a somewhat worldly life, and a deep and lasting conversion, a conversion which won over her violent and evil husband.

Garrigou-Lagrange brings up these stories of heroic saints, both classical saints who are canonized and also the anecdotal saints whom he encountered in his priestly ministry. All the better to spur on our own zeal, our own desire to be with Christ, leaving behind the rubbish of yesterday, the rubbish of the world.

He cites from chap. 17 of Catherine these marvelous words of exhortation, a true goad for us to prepare for the one life that lasts, the one foundation that endures, the one house that cannot fall, BEING IN GOD:

O WRETCHED CREATURES, WHY SO BLINDLY ATTACHED TO THINGS THAT PASS? WHY NOT MAKE PROVISION FOR THE FUTURE? YOU SAY PERHAPS ‘I WILL GO TO CONFESSION, I WILL GAIN A PLENARY INDULGENCE, I WILL BE SAVED.’ BUT REMEMBER THAT THE ADEQUATE CONFESSION AND THE PERFECT CONTRITION, REQUIRED FOR GAINING A PLENARY INDULGENCE, ARE NOT EASILY ATTAINED. (P. 193)