Friday, November 19, 2010

Catholic Teaching on Concupiscence: Further Information in Consideration of TOB, part 3

Following is my third comment on Dawn's blog (May 25, 2009).

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. . . I would like to say additionally that the transformation that grace works in the soul enables the budding saint to better deal with temptations of any sort, but this is not equivalent to a state in which temptations are no longer present. So, from the point of view of the interiority of the Christian disciple, growth in holiness will produce an increase in the interior peace and equanimity with which he is able to handle temptation. The spiritual athlete gains spiritual strength; his need for spiritual muscles are never negated (Maybe an analogy here. . . Pain tolerance. Different people will react to the same injury differently. Although the pain is the same as to its physiological source, some handle it much better (more calmly), while others have a great reaction, shouting, writhing, etc. The one who is calmer is not necessarily in less pain. He has learned to handle it more successfully, with less emotional/psychological angst.)

Might you be mistaking the saint's growing ability to handle temptations with less anxiety than those not as holy, for downright removal of temptation itself? Exteriorly these may look the same. Interiorly they are definitely not.

Another factor at play here is the following. As a person grows in grace the sort of temptations he will be faced with will change to some extent. To say (as the Church does) that temptation remains as holiness increases, does not mean that the nature of the temptations do not change. Growth in holiness will entail a shift in the types of temptation with which the soul is assaulted. As a saint becomes better able to deal with the assaults of lustful temptations, for example, other temptations will sprout up to try to trip up the holy soul (even as the temptation to lust, while diminished, is never fully extinguished).

Also, as a person grows in sanctity, he becomes less likely to be his own source of temptation. And in this way some temptations in his life will diminish. But, again, other sorts of temptation will come more prominently into the saint's life as he becomes more adept at handling those which at first were the most troubling for him.

It is a mysterious thing, progress in sanctity. Every soul is unique and the particular trials and how they are dealt with by each soul are at least somewhat different for every person. One thing remains true, however; no saint, no matter how holy, will be entirely free of all varieties of temptation in this life. The rare Saint who has become free of personal sin will still be assaulted by temptation. That they may no longer appear tempted to outside observers is simply a testament to the high degree of their grace-enabled self-possession--not to the absence of temptation itself.

The above is consistent not only with the teaching of the Church but with the experience of Saints who have written about their interior life. Have you ever heard of a canonized Saint who claimed in a literal fashion that all temptation had been removed from him? I haven't. I highly doubt such a Saint exists.

Being made perfect includes being made perfect in our ability to respond to temptation without giving way to sin. And more, by our full cooperation with grace, this perfection transforms every temptation into an occasion of further growth in holiness for the Glory of God, for our benefit, and the benefit of all mankind. Our Lord does not remove these opportunities from the saints as long as we remain in this life. His grace is sufficient for us.

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