The Reformation of the Will

December 20, 2021 • 4 min

From The Sinner’s Guide, page 412
By Venerable Louis of Granada

Section VII.

The Reformation of the Will.

One of the most efficacious means of effecting this reformation is to strengthen and adorn the superior will—that is, the rational appetite—with:

  1. humility of heart,
  2. poverty of spirit, and
  3. a holy hatred of self.

If we possess these the labor of mortification is easily accomplished.

Humility, according to the definition of St. Bernard, is contempt of self founded on a true knowledge of our baseness.

The effect of this virtue is to pluck from our heart all the roots of pride as well as all love of earthly honors and dignities.

It inspires us to seek the lowest place, persuading us that had another received the graces we enjoy he would have been more grateful and would have used them more profitably for the glory of God.

It is not sufficient that man cherish these sentiments in his heart; they should also be evident in his deportment and surroundings, which, regardless of the world’s opinion, should be as humble and simple as his position will admit.

And while he maintains the dignity due to his station his heart should ever be ready to submit not only to superiors and equals, but even to inferiors for the love of God.

The second disposition required to strengthen and adorn the will is poverty of spirit, which consists in a voluntary contempt for the things of this world, and in a perfect contentment in the position in which God has placed us, however poor and lowly it may be.

This virtue effectually destroys cupidity, and affords us so great a peace and contentment that Seneca did not hesitate to affirm that he who closed his heart to the claims of unruly desires was not inferior in wealth or happiness to Jupiter himself. By this he signified that as man’s misery springs from unfulfilled desires, he may be said to be very near the summit of happiness who has learned to subdue his desires so that they cannot disturb him.

The third disposition is a holy hatred of ourselves.

“He that loveth his life shall lose it,” says our Saviour, “and he that hateth his life in this world keepeth it unto life eternal.” [St. John xii. 25.]

By this hatred of self our Lord did not mean that wicked hatred in which they indulge who yield to despair, but that aversion which the Saints experienced for their flesh, which they regarded as the source of many evils and as a great obstacle to good.

Hence they subjected it to the empire of reason, and denied its inordinate desires, that it might continue an humble servant and willing helper of the soul.

If we treat it otherwise we shall realize these words of the Wise Man: “He that nourisheth his servant delicately from his childhood, afterwards shall find him stubborn.” [Prov. xxix. 21.]

This hatred of self is our chief instrument in the work of salvation. It enables us to uproot and cast from us all our evil inclinations, however much nature may rebel.

Without it how could we strike rude blows, penetrate to the quick with the knife of mortification, and tear from our hearts objects upon which our affections are centred?

Yes, the arm of mortification, which draws its force as much from hatred of self as from love of God, enables us to treat our failings with the firmness of a skilful physician, and relentlessly to cut and burn with no other thought than to rid the soul of every evil tendency.

Having developed this subject in the “Memorial of a Christian Life,” we shall not here speak of it at greater length.

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