A Catholic Monthly Magazine

A School for Prayer (2)

The human person in Christ

By Fr Craig  Larkin sm, 1943 - 2015

A spiritual life

To live a spiritual life is to live as children of God through the indwelling of the Spirit. The Spirit lives in us through the theological virtues; through the moral virtues; through the gifts and fruits of the Spirit; and through the gifts and charisms which belong to us as unique individuals.

The theological virtues

Faith, Hope and Love
Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

These virtues relate us to God:


-- believing in God


-- trusting in God


-- belonging to God

The moral virtues

The moral virtues relate us to self and to others. They control our desires. The moral virtues are, for example, truthfulness, patience, docility, gratitude, affability, equity, chastity, clemency, eutrapelia (being skilled in conversation), perseverance, magnanimity … and many others.

They especially help us in our struggle against the seven fatal flaws in our make-up: pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, sloth  – and other related faults.

These flaws or tendencies are not bad in themselves; they are legitimate desires gone wrong, either by excess -- I have too much or too little of it; or by their object -- focussing on the wrong thing.

Left to themselves, these things take over, like weeds in a garden. We need a struggle, an asceticism in our practical life.

The cardinal virtues

The cardinal virtues are virtues that guide the other virtues:


-- helps us to act appropriately


-- helps us to give each person his or her due


-- gives us firmness of character


-- moderates our inclination to pleasure

The spiritual combat

We are created, fallen, yet redeemed. We are damaged goods: damaged, but good. Through the Fall and original sin our will is weakened; our passions and desires incite us to evil; habits and traces of past hurts and sin catch up on us.

Because we are fallen, we have a tendency towards what is wrong, and this means a struggle. The struggle is the ascetical life; but allowing God to do it in us is the mystical life.

The ascetical life involves knowing oneself, accepting suffering, accepting failure, getting spiritual direction, and making it possible for God to take over our lives. The mystical life involves surrendering to God.

The seven gifts of the Spirit

There is a big gap between what we believe and aspire to as the ideal of the Christian life, and how we live it in reality. Flesh and blood trying to live the life of God is not easy! The gifts of the Spirit come to our help.


-- enables us to judge rightly in difficult times and circumstances


-- gives us an affection for God as Father and others as brothers and sisters


-- enables us to do difficult things joyously and fearlessly

Fear of the Lord

-- makes us do God’s will out of awe and reverence for God, and gives us an appropriate fear of committing sin


-- helps us to judge external things in relation to God’s plan


-- is a kind of divine instinct, a penetrating insight into God’s plan


-- perfects charity, and gives us a taste or a relish for the things of God, so that we are automatically able to judge things according to the mind of God.

We are wounded but perfectible. We are like someone who has fallen out of our tree; we are wounded, and we need help to get on our feet and back into the tree. We are like a person rowing a boat who is able to row for a time and with strength, but who needs help to move quickly. The gifts of the Spirit are like the sails on a boat, supplementing the struggle to row the boat.

Fruits of the Spirit

These fruits come from the spirit in people with developed virtue, and whose acts produce a certain spiritual delight. Joy is the sure sign of the presence of God.

Paul numbers nine fruits of the Spirit, but the list is not exhaustive. These fruits reflect the work of the Spirit in us.

What the Spirit brings is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galations 5:22).


Do not stifle the spirit! (1 Thess 5:19)

Do not grieve the Spirit!(Eph 4:30)

Be guided by the Spirit!(Gal 5:26)

As Scripture says:

From his breast will flow fountains of living water. He was speaking of the Spirit which those who believed in Him were to receive.

John 7:38

To be continued

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