"Amen, amen I say unto you: Except that you eat the flesh of the Son of man,
and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you." The Living Bread (St. John 6:54)
[Classification of a soul's progress in the spiritual life by "testing souls on one hand by sin and imperfection, and on the other by their degree of prayer]
1. HARDENED BY SIN
Mortal sin: Stubborn persistence in sin, either out of ignorance or because of a maliciously warped conscience.
Prayer: Deliberate refusal to have any recourse to God.
1. SURFACE CHRISTIANITY
Mortal sin: Considered as a trifling evil, easily forgiven. The soul easily gives way and commits mortal sin at every possible occasion or temptation. -- Confession almost without contrition.
Prayer: Mechanical; either inattentive, or always dictated by temporal interest. Such souls enter into themselves very rarely and superficially.
1. MEDIOCRE PIETY
Mortal sin: Weak resistance. Hardly ever avoids occasions but seriously regrets having sinned, and makes good confessions.
Venial sin: Complete acceptance of this sin, which is considered as insignificant. Hence, tepidity of the will. Does nothing whatever to prevent venial sin, or to extirpate it, or to find it out when it is concealed.
Prayer: From time to time, prays well. Momentary fits of fervor.
1. INTERMITTENT PIETY
Mortal sin: Loyal resistance. Habitually avoids occasion. Deep regrets. Does penance to make reparation.
Venial sin: Sometimes deliberate. Puts up a weak fight. Sorrow only superficial. Make a particular examination of conscience, but without any method or coherence.
Prayer: Not firmly resolved to remain faithful to meditation. Gives up as soon as dryness is felt, or as soon as there is business to attend to.
1. SUSTAINED PIETY
Mortal sin: Never. At most very rare, when taken suddenly and violently by surprise. And then, often it is to be doubted if the sin is mortal. It is followed by ardent compunction and penance.
Venial sin: Vigilant in avoiding and fighting it. Rarely deliberate. Keen sorrow, but does little by way of reparation. Consistent particular examen, but aiming only at avoidance of venial sin.
Imperfections: The soul either avoids uncovering them, so as not to have to fight them, or else easily excuses them. Approves the thought of renouncing them, and would like to do so, but makes little effort in that direction.
Prayer: Always faithful to prayer, no matter what happens. Often affective. Alternating consolations and dryness, the latter endured with considerable hardship.
Venial sin: Never deliberate. By surprise, sometimes, or with imperfect advertence. Keenly regretted, and serious reparation made.
Imperfections: Wants nothing to do with them. Watches over them, fights them with courage, in order to be more pleasing to God. Sometimes accepted, however, but regretted at once. Frequent acts of renunciation. Particular examen aims at perfection in a given virtue.
Prayer: Mental prayer gladly prolonged. Prayer on the affective side, or even prayer of simplicity. Alternation between powerful consolations and fierce trials.
1. RELATIVE PERFECTION
Imperfections: Guards against them energetically and with much love. They only happen with half-advertence.
Prayer: Habitual life of prayer, even when occupied in external works. Thirst for self-renunciation, annihilation, detachment, and divine love. Hunger for the Eucharist and for Heaven. Graces of infused prayer, of different degree. Often passive purification.
1. HEROIC PERFECTION
Imperfections: Nothing but the first impulse.
Prayer: Supernatural graces of contemplation, sometimes accompanied by extraordinary phenomena. Pronounced passive purifications. Contempt of self to the point of complete self-forgetness. Prefers sufferings to joys.
1. COMPLETE SANCTITY
Imperfections: Hardly apparent.
Prayer: Usually, transforming union. spiritual marriage. Purifications by love. Ardent thirst for sufferings and humiliations."
Excerpted from The Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O., 1946.TAN