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REPOST: To live an interior life, we must keep a guard on our senses December 16, 2013

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, Glory, Interior Life, priests, religious, Tradition, Virtue.

I first posted this two years ago, but re-reading it today, it’s good enough for a re-post. I pray you find this edifying!

From Divine Intimacy by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen OCD, Chapter 16, Guard of the Senses:

To live a serious interior life, one that is wholly concentrated on seeking God, it is necessary to prevent the outside world from entering the soul and filling it with distractions; it is necessary, therefore, to guard its doors assiduously.  The senses are precisely the doors which open to earthly things – without a discreet mortification of the senses, the soul, the living temple of the Holy Trinity, becomes like a market place, open to all kinds of traffic, open to every wind of scandal.  A temple fo the Blessed Trinity by Baptism, the consecrated soul or the soul attempting to live an interior life is doubly so by reason of its desire for a close relationship with God, and is thus doubly obliged to guard the recollection of its spirit, in order to make it really a “house of prayer.”  According to St. Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus, “It suffices to keep well closed the outside doors, that is, the senses, so that the soul and the heart cannot go elsewhere than to their center, which is God.”  This was her method: “I shall fix my gaze on my heart and raise my heart to God.”  Mortification of the senses is an indispensable exercise for all souls, that they may become recollected and wholly concentrated upon God.

St. John of the Cross says that we should use our exterior senses in such a way as to not disturb our recollection. “The faculties and senses must not be employed wholly upon things, but only insofar as is unavoidable.  With this exception, all  must be left free for God.”  The “unavoidable” is indicated by what duty requires, and when we use the powers of our soul only to this degree, which is that determined by God’s Will, the soul cannot be harmed in any way.  But the Saint continues: “If there present intself to a man the pleasure of listening to things that tend not to the service and honor of God, let him not desire that pleasure, nor desire to listen to them [thus, I have striven not to listen to much popular music, including the C&W music I love, as an offering to God, and because there is much in that music that is not of God]; and if there present itself the pleasure of looking at things that help him not Godward, let him not desire the pleasure or look at these things; and if in conversation or in aught else, such pleasure present itself, let him act likewise.”  This means that we should not use our senses for anything that is not required by duty or which cannot serve to raise our mind to God.  However, those who are obliged to have almost continual contact with the world will not always be able to keep strictly to this rule [obviously!].  Therefore, St. John of the Cross adds that “if by reason of necessity or expedience the soul cannot avoid seeing or hearing such things, it suffices that he desire not to have this pleasure.”  In other words, it is necessary to learn how to pass over such sense satisfactions, without stopping at the pleasure we find int them, nor allowing them to take full possession of our senses, thus always maintaining that interior  liberty which permits the soul to elevate itself to God in all things.  Make use of the senses only insofar as is necessary; the rest must be “left free for God.”


Obviously, the above guidance is most challenging.  One can see some of the severity of Carmelite spirituality in the above – severity in terms of self-denial and denial of the world and all its “charms.”  Although my family and I have given up TV/cable, I have many attractions that present themselves visually – the internet has become a sort of “replacement TV” in terms of entertainment at times for me.  There are endless videos to watch on Youtube, the constant back and forth of politics, scandals of the world, interesting technical items – all of these can be or are a distraction from keeping the mind focused on God.  I know a good man who has given up the internet for Advent – that is a glorious sacrbifice, and would be quite challenging for me.  That doesn’t mean I want you to go away (I’m kiling myself here!)!!  We are not all called to Carmelite spirituality, although all authentically Catholic spirituality should look at the world at least warily.  I note with some irony my own two posts earlier today of a purely frivolous nature – shame on me!

We need to be very careful what we allow into our minds and souls.  Hopefully, if we are growing in faith, we should feel a stronger and stronger attraction to surround ourselves with things of the Faith and perhaps have a diminishing interest in things secular.  But everyone needs a break sometimes – even the good nuns! (and thus the reason for me occasional off-topic posts).  But the problem for many of us, myself included, is that we fill our minds and hearts with waaay more distractions than we need, and those distractions have a way of worming their way into our interior thoughts and even prayers, so that we are distracted and not focused on giving glory to God during those intimate periods of reflection.

Perhaps some thoughts to turn over in the mind as we head into the final days of Advent?  Perhaps we can make a resolution to greet our Lord this year with a heart more focused on serving Him than on our own desires?  I pray that I may do so.  And I pray that everyone may be abundantly blessed this coming Christmas season!


1. 1grandelatte - December 16, 2011

This was very good and if it were a meal it would have been one attended by the Lord Himself.

2. Dave Dlg - December 17, 2011

Oh, have I failed in this! Lord, have mercy!

Thanks for the post. It has reminded me of the importance of keeping the daily reading of this book which i have neglected this week.

3. TG - December 17, 2013

Something to reflect on. I know what you mean about the internet.

4. Lorra - December 17, 2013

Does anyone here know where I can get a used copy of this book that is inexpensive? Amazon’s used copies start at $45.00.

5. Lorra - December 17, 2013

“But the problem for many of us, myself included, is that we fill our minds and hearts with waaay more distractions than we need, and those distractions have a way of worming their way into our interior thoughts and even prayers, so that we are distracted and not focused on giving glory to God during those intimate periods of reflection.”
I had the exact same thought the other day. I was thinking about how I would love to go to a monastery for a month or so just to remove myself from all of the news, noise and distractions of the world.

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