The spiritual doctors of the church offer us a simple way of understanding the steps along our path to sanctity.
In previous articles, we learned about the various stages of prayer: vocal, mental and contemplation. Let’s now simplify the stages and examine our spiritual life in terms of personal conversion.
By conversion, we mean when a heart discovers its true love in God alone and begins to want him and his will above its previous selfish pursuits. These latter pursuits no longer have the same attraction or influence on the soul after conversion. The following steps as given by the saints may be helpful. They are the levels of progression as our hearts are turned more and more toward God.
Levels of conversion:
- Break the habit of serious sin. This first level means that the Christian is no longer trapped in habits of mortal and/or serious sin, but lives a new-found freedom.
- Abhorrence of venial sin. Not only does the Christian cease sinning mortally, but begins to feel a strong aversion toward all sin so as not to offend God.
- Habitual demonstration of virtue. The Christian increases in virtues like humility and charity to such a degree as to exhibit them fearlessly and consistently, even habitually. No longer is the heart attracted to things of this world as it once was, but is now attracted strongly and firmly to the will of God.
As we are drawn ever deeper into Christ, our desire to do the good and avoid that which is evil increases to the point where doing good becomes easy. We do good promptly, and with greater joy! This is what is meant by enjoying a virtuous life.
How do we gain this deeper union with Christ? Based on our previous lessons, it is obvious that prayer is absolutely indispensable to this growth. Yet, there are other indispensable elements that need to be mentioned here. For, without these, even prayer itself would be impossible.
Coming up next issue: The elements: actual and sanctifying grace.