On Misunderstanding Will Again

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By Supertradmum

Garrigou-Lagrange in Life Everlasting, leads up to the discussion of the four last things by sharing the Thomistic teaching on the will. One paragraph suffices to begin thinking about how important reason is to the spiritual life.

How unmeasured, then, must be the immensity of man’s

will, which is illumined, not by sense and imagination,

but by reason and intelligence! Imagination, sense

perception, leads animals, herbivorous or carnivorous,

each to the food it needs. Intelligence leads man to an

unlimited good, a good which is to be found only in

that unlimited reality which is God, because He alone

is unlimited and essential good. Hence if sense has

such an inexhaustible reach in the daily life of the

animal world, how boundless must be the reach of man’s

will in the pursuit of an unmeasured world of good!

One of the reasons why women especially are attracted to private revelations, approved and unapproved is that they do not understand the importance of reason in the journey towards holiness. Some recent movements in the Church have led people to seek out experiences and emotional highs instead of the older, more ordinary manner of becoming holy by silent prayer, the Mass, and reading.

The will is informed by the intellect, not the sense and imagination. If one is getting a daily dose of imaginative and sensual by reading experiential passages of private revelation, the person is not feeding or illuminating their will. These passages do not help one choose the good, choose God, but merely allow one to choose one’s self. This is the greatest danger of steeping one’s self in private revelations which are not intellectual meat, which the sermons of the Doctors of the Church would be, or the writings of the Early Church Fathers. Without stimulating the intellect, a person endangers the ability of the will to know God. In other words, the cult of private revelations, rather than leading one to deny one’s self and take up the cross in one’s life, perpetuates self-love.

We are called to deny ourselves, which means not seeking comfort or avoiding suffering. Suffering entails doing things which are arduous, like me following a strict diet to kill the cancer invading my body. Reading long tracts or short paragraphs from seers is not letting God create one’s own relationship with Him. One is piggy-backing on the spirituality of another person. Without the consent of the intellect, the will can shrivel and become impotent.

When the will Is informed by reason and the intellect, it thrives in light. Grace abounds, because a person, in humility, realises what food they need to be holy and to inform their will. Such food is the long teaching of the Catholic Church. Most people I know who are attending prayer meetings two or three times a week have never read the Catechism of the Catholic Church cover to cover, or any catechism for that matter. This is not the way to become a Catholic adult. One must hone one’s rational abilities in order to have an illumined will.

Children thirst for reason, for rational explanations of life and death. Garrigou-Lagrange uses the example of the types of questions a child may ask about a bird.

Thus the

infant’s mind grows on a series of whys: Why does the

bird fly? Because it is looking for food (its goal and

purpose). To fly it needs wings (instrumental cause).

Its nature requires wings (formal cause). It dies

because it is composed of matter and hence is


Herein lies the beginning of the spiritual life of the child. Such rational discourse leads him to ask questions about God, Mary, Jesus, the Church. The normal child in a Catholic home is give opportunities to learn through nature, to learn to think, through the liturgical life of the family, to understand the basic tenants of our Faith. Sacramental life then becomes not merely the experience of going to one’s baby sister’s baptism, but an adventure of dogmas and doctrines concerning Original Sin, the Sacrifice of the Mass, the nature of Christ as True God and True Man and so on. Children frequently ask profound questions, such as “What does the water do?” Or “Why is the baby’s name said by the priest?” And so on…this is the intellect beginning to inform the will. When a young child grasps the meaning of Original Sin and the necessity for baptism, he is on the way to the formation of his soul, his intellect and his will.

Chasing after false seers, even those already condemned by the Church, not only leads to a clouding of intellect but brings one into a habit of rebellion. A person is almost like a Protestant, setting up his or her own church as against the Teaching Magisterium—is this not Protestantism?

Garrigou-Lagrange states this…B

But if God Himself, who is the infinite good, were

immediately and clearly presented to us face to face,

we could not but love Him. He would fill perfectly our

affective capacity, which would be drawn irresistibly

toward Him. It would not keep any energy to withdraw

itself from this attraction. It could not find any

motive to turn away from Him, or even to suspend its

act of love. This is the reason why one who sees God

face to face cannot sin. As St. Thomas says: “The will

of him who sees the essence of God without medium,

necessarily also loves that essence and cannot love

anything else except in its relation to God, just as

here below we wish everything in virtue of our desire

for happiness.” [11] God alone seen face to face can

make our will invincibly captive. [12]

By opposition, our will remains free to love or not to

love any object which is good under one aspect and not

good or insufficiently good under another. The very

definition of liberty is that of the dominating

indifference of the will in regard to any object which

is good from one viewpoint and not good from another.

This definition of liberty is to be found, not only in

human liberty, but also in angelic liberty, and,

analogically, in divine liberty. Hence we see that God

was free to create or not to create, to elevate us to

the life of grace or not to elevate us.

The followers of the Divine Will deny this last sentence, saying that God was forced to create us and to love us…this denies the freedom of will which the followers do not understand because they have not done the hard thing and read the teachings of the Church on this matter as on others.

It is hard to become holy, harder to become a saint. There are no short-cuts, like reading other people’s experiences of grace (or non-grace). Freedom of the will depends on the intellect and not the heart, not emotions, not feelings, not someone’s else’s experience. To come to know, to love, and to serve God in this world and to share with Him His Divine Life in the next is, to put it simply, hard, individual work.

JMJ, pray for us!

God is good,


1 comments on “On Misunderstanding Will Again”

  1. I have spoken with a holy priest recently and he summed up the reality of love and our relationship to God simply. He said, “God wants us to love Him freely. He is not a tyrant.” Our will is sacred, and God honours our wills. We either come to Him freely or it is fake coercion on the part of misdirected zeal or pride.


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