St Philip Neri

Two mistakes I find common among spiritual persons. One is that they ordinarily measure their devotion by the consolations and satisfactions which they experience in the way of God, so that if these happen to be wanting, they think they have lost all devotion. No, this is no more than a sensible devotion. True and substantial devotion does not consist in these things, but in having a will resolute, active, ready, and constant not to offend God, and to perform all that belongs to His service. The other mistake is, that if it ever happens to them to do anything with repugnance and weariness, they believe they have no merit in it. On the other hand, there is then far greater merit; so that a single ounce of good done thus by a sheer spiritual effort, amidst darkness and dulness, and without interest, is worth more than a hundred pounds done with great facility and sweetness, since the former requires a stronger and purer love. -St. Francis de Sales

St. Philip Neri, in order to save his penitents from the first of these mistakes, used to tell them, that in the spiritual life there are three degrees. The first, which is called animal, includes those who follow the sensible devotion, which God usually gives to beginners, in order that, drawn by this delight as animals are by sensible objects, they may give themselves to the spiritual life. The second, which is called the life of man, is led by those who without sensible consolation fight for virtue against their own passions, which is the true characteristic of man. The third is called the angelic life. Those have arrived at it, who after long struggles in subduing their own passions, receive from God a life calm and tranquil, and, as it were, angelic even in this world. And if any one perseveres in the second degree, God will not fail, in His own time, to raise him to the third.

Text from A Year With the Saints (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1891).

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