In the School of the Holy Spirit by Fr. Jacques Philippe – A Summary

Holiness:

  1. Holiness “is the emergence of an absolutely unique reality that God alone knows, and that he alone can bring to fruition” (18). Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
  2. Also, we will NOT have the grace to follow through with our own path of holiness when God wants us to take a different path. St. Paul said, “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it” (Romans 7:18).

Q: What is the shortest route to holiness?

A: Faithfulness to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

“O my Jesus, how very easy it is to become holy; all that is needed is a bit of good will. If Jesus sees this little bit of good will in the soul, He hurries to give himself to the soul, and nothing can stop Him, neither shortcomings nor falls – absolutely nothing. Jesus is anxious to help that soul, and if it is faithful to this grace from God, it can very soon attain the highest holiness possible for a creature here on earth. God is very generous and does not deny His grace to anyone. Indeed He gives more than what we ask of Him. Faithfulness to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit – that is the shortest route.” – St. Faustina 291

Q. How can we foster inspirations of the Holy Spirit?

A: The following tips, practiced little by little, will allow the Holy Spirit to turn us into saints:

  1. Prayer
  • Practice praise & thanksgiving: “What most attracts God’s grace is gratitude, because if we thank him for a gift, he is touched and hastens to give us ten more, and if we thank him again with the same enthusiasm, what an incalculable multiplication of graces! I have experienced this: try it yourself and you will see! My gratitude for everything he gives me is limitless, and I prove it to him in a thousand ways” ~ St Therese of Lisieux
  • Desire are ask for it: “Ask, and it will be given you” (Luke 11:9). Ask the Holy Spirit constantly for the light & strength to accomplish God’s will.
  • Perseverance: faithfulness to prayer is essential for acquiring all of these attitudes.
  • Examine the movements of our hearts: pay attention to the origin, motion and effect to discern whether they come from our nature (good or bad), the devil, or the Holy Spirit.
  • Learn from experience: through prayer, we come to take careful note of the different movements of our soul and can be more aware of inspirations in the future. You begin to develop a “spiritual sense” in which you can hear the Holy Spirit’s “tone of voice” and begin to faithfully follow these inspirations.
  • Peace & Silence: Since the Holy Spirit is a spirit of peace, He speaks and acts in peace and gentleness, never in tumult and agitation. Therefore, we must seek to actively “practice peace” to be led by the Holy Spirit. Maintaining peace is also linked to the practice of silence – that general attitude of inwardness that enables us to have an “inner cell” in our heart in which we are peacefully attentive to God’s presence and attentive to others.

A Prayer by Cardinal Mercier

“I am going to reveal to you the secret of sanctity and happiness. Every day for five minutes control your imagination and close your eyes to the things of sense and your ears to all the noises of the world in order to enter into yourself Then, in the sanctity of your baptized soul (which is the Temple of the Holy Spirit), speak to that Divine Spirit, saying to Him:

Oh, Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore you. Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me. Tell me what I should do; give me your orders. I promise to submit myself to all that you desire of me and to accept all that you permit to happen to me. Let me only know your will.

If you do this, your life will flow along happily, serenely, and full of consolation, even in the midst of trials. Grace will be proportioned to the trial, giving you the strength to carry it, and you will arrive at the gate of Paradise, laden with merit. This submission to the Holy Spirit is the secret of sanctity.

2. Goodwill

  • Resolve to refuse God nothing out of love: In everything, big or little, without exception.
  • Try your best: As long as you have goodwill, you have nothing to worry about.
  • Turn away from sin: strive for perfection.
  • Renew your resolutions: frequently renew this resolution to be docile to the Holy Spirit.

3. Obedience

  • Start now: To obtain more inspirations, we need to begin by obeying the ones we receive.
  • Spiritual director: open your heart to a spiritual director. The Holy Spirit leads us to consult people who are enlightened & follow their advice as well as helping us to obey more easily.
  • Obedience in the normal stuff: Being faithful to our normal duties of life, commandments of Scripture, teaching of the Church, our vocation, job, etc & obedience to community, family, social life.
  • Obey others: Practice renouncing your will for others to prepare yourself to renounce your will for God.

4. Abandonment:

  • We have 4 options when confronted with a painful situation: (1) rebel, (2) endure them unwillingly, (3)  resign ourselves to them passively, (4) choose what we have not chosen.
  • –> This 4th option is much more positive & fruitful. St. Therese of Lisieux, who, as a child, said: “I choose it all!” We can give this the meaning: I choose everything that God wants for me. I won’t content myself with merely enduring, but by a free act of my will; I decide to choose what I have not chosen. St. Therese used the expression: “I want everything that causes me difficulties”.
  • This “obedience to events” may be the most important & most overlooked form of obedience. 
  • “What most prevents us from becoming saints is undoubtedly the difficulty we have in consenting fully to everything that happens to us, not, as we have seen, in the sense of fatalistic passivity, but in the sense of a trusting total abandonment into the hands of our Father God” (34). Externally it doesn’t change anything about this situation, but interiorly it changes everything. This consent, inspired by love and trust, makes us free and active instead of passive, and enables God to draw good out of everything that happens to us whether good or bad. “For those who love God, everything works together for good” (Romans 8:28).

5. Detachment

  • We should make an effort not to “hang out” to anything, either materially, or affectively, or even spiritually.
  • Be willing to give up your own ideas, points of view, and ways of doing things.
  • Make sure that the way in which you want things is also good.

6. Devotion to Our Lady

  • Entrust the whole of your spiritual life to Mary because Mary’s whole life was a perfect act of consent to all the operations of the Spirit in her, and this led her to a more and more ardent and even higher degree of love (65).

Q: How can we know that an inspiration comes from God?

A: The following points are sound methods of judging & discerning:

1. External criterion:

  • God doesn’t contradict Himself – an inspiration cannot contradict the Word of God, the teaching of the Church, and the demands of our vocation. True inspirations always go in the direction of a spirit of obedience to the Church. “When God puts inspirations into a heart, the first he gives is obedience” ~ St. Francis de Sales

2. Internal criterion:

  • A tree is known by its fruit – Jesus gives us this most important criterion. Inspirations from God will produce sound fruit: peace, tranquility of heart, joy, charity,  obedience, communion, humility, etc. Since this can only be applied retrospectively, make sure to reflect of these experiences and be more aware of possible fruit during the actual experience.

3. Experience

  • Building up our experience: We must learn the lessons of experience humbly and go forward without getting discouraged, trusting that “all is grace,” and from this we will build up greater certainty of judgment.

4. Discernment of spirits:

  • what comes from the Spirit of God brings with it joy, peace, tranquility of spirit, gentleness, simplicity, and light VS. the spirit of evil brings with it sadness, trouble, agitation, worry, confusion, and darkness. Peace is the most characteristic factor. Be aware though that our initial resistance can cause trouble at first. “A divine inspiration can disturb us to begin with, but to the extent that we do not refuse it, but open ourselves to it and consent to it, little by little it will establish peace in us” (53).

5. Complementary signs:

  1. constancy – divine inspirations are stable & constant, whereas evil inspirations are unstable and changing.
  2. humilitywhen we follow an inspiration we see clearly that we are weak & that all the good we do comes from God & that we have nothing to boast about. A sure test of true humility is the spirit of obedience.

Other Questions:

Q. Is God’s will always the choice that is most difficult?

  • God’s will can be demanding and challenging, but know that renouncing ourselves and taking up our crosses to follow Jesus ultimately leads to freedom, simplicity, peace, joy, happiness, and joy that culminates in a maximum of love!
  • “There is more love in resting in trust than making ourselves suffer through worrying!” (58).

Q. How much can human freedom be reconciled with our submission to God? (pg. 86)

  • God is our creator and holds us in existence as free beings at every moment, so there is no reason to think that in obeying the source of all freedom, we would in any way be limited.
  • Freedom = is not giving free rein to whim, but rather enabling what is best, most beautiful, and most profound in ourselves freely to emerge, instead of being stifled by more superficial things such as our fears, selfish attachments, or falsity.
  • Experience proves this to be true and this is the real test, not in philosophical arguments. A relationship of love with God solves this dilemma. Little children don’t suffer because they are totally dependent on their parents, but just the reverse, because their dependence is an exchange of love.
  • Love resolves the contradiction between two freedoms: only love can enable two freedoms to freely unite. Loving means losing our freedom freely in order to find and possess God, and ultimately finding ourselves and our true freedom in Him. “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10:39).
  • the more we are subject to God, the freer we are. It could even be said that the only way we can win our freedom is by obeying God. We are cooperating freely with God’s grace in the way that is best for us. God is the source of freedom, so Submission to God will only oppose what actually limits us in life.

Q. How should I weight big vs. small decisions in regards to following the inspirations of the Holy Spirit?

“You don’t count small change in the same way as you count gold ingots” ~ St Francis de Sales

Although small acts of obedience can yield tremendous fruit and progress in the spiritual life, many of the Spirit’s inspirations do not, in a sense, need any deliberation at all. Often they are clearly good ones or minor enough that if we have goodwill and feel at peace, we can follow through with the decision. Worst case, we can use the wrong decision for spiritual education.  Be careful to avoid wasting a lot of time in choosing between the good and the better because the devil wants to make you doubt and lose your peace. However, for big decisions, like vocation or a change of direction in our life, we should be prudent and act obediently to a spiritual director or a superior.

Other quotes:

“The whole spiritual life could be summed up as taking note of the ways and movements of the Holy Spirit in our souls and strengthening our wills in the resolution to follow them, using for that purpose all the exercises of prayer, reading, the Sacraments, the practice of virtue, and the accomplishing of good works” ~ Fr. Louis Lallemant

“The goal which we should aspire to, after we have exercises the purification of our hearts for a long time, is to be so possessed and governed by the Holy Spirit that it is he alone who leads all of our faculties and senses and who rules our interior and external movements, and that we abandon ourselves entirely by spiritual renunciation of our preferences and our own satisfactions. Thus we will no longer live in ourselves but in Jesus Christ, through full faithful response to the operations of his divine Spirit, and by perfect subjection of all our rebelliousness to the power of his grace…” ~ Fr. Louis Lallemant

Other Advice:

1. Beg the Holy Spirit to put the desire for holiness in you or even to leave you restless until you have that desire (10). “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for holiness, for they shall be satisfied!” (Mt 5:6).

2. Ask the Holy Spirit for the race to love God more so that we find freedom in following the inspirations of the Holy Spirit (89).

3. Practice renouncing your will for others to prepare yourself to renounce your will for God.

4. Journal about the movements of our hearts to discern where the origin of these movements come from & the effects to become more sensitive to the movements of the Holy Spirit.

5. Practice fidelity to small things daily: “Fidelity to small graces draws down bigger ones” (59).

6. When we realize that we have ignored or stifled some inspiration from the Holy Spirit, let’s not be discouraged by it. Let’s sincerely ask our Lord to forgive us, take occasion of it to humble ourselves and recognize how short of virtue we are, and ask him to “punish” us by granting us an extra measure of faithfulness so that we can make up for all the graces we lost!” (63).

Prayers:

1. “Come Holy Spirit! Give me the desire to love God as much as He can be loved! Give me the desire to strive for divine intimacy. And please leave my heart restless until I truly desire this & finally reach this goal.”

2. “Teach me Jesus how to recognize, welcome, and put into practice all the inspirations of the Holy Spirit”

3. “Inspire me in Holy Spirit all my decisions, and never let me neglect any of your inspiration”

4. “Only the Holy Spirit can turn me into a saint!”

5. “Punish me with extra grace Jesus so that I can be more faithful to Your inspirations!”

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