Irenaeus, Apostolic Succession, and the One True Faith

Saint Irenaeus

By: William Hemsworth

In the second century Gnosticism threatened to tear the young Christian Church apart.  It was a heresy that taught that all matter was evil, Jesus was spirit, and that true salvific doctrine was passed down through a secret oral tradition.  To combat this growing problem the early Church father St. Irenaeus wrote a lengthy treatise titled Against Heresies

Foundations Of The Creed

One of the methods used by the great Church Father was the rule of faith.  In describing the rule of faith Irenaeus writes, “The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation.”

This rule of faith would lay the groundwork for what would become the Apostles’ Creed.  St. Irenaeus argues that the faith was given by Christ to the Apostles, and then to the bishops to whom the disciples appointed.  Which is exactly what the Catholic church teaches today.

The Historic Faith

The rule of faith also shows that Christ was truly incarnate, and that matter was created by an eternal God and not evil.  The rule of faith was a vital part in combating Gnostic teaching because it showed that they had no historical, scriptural, or apostolic support for the claims that they were making.

Incarnation of Jesus

It helped expose their schismatic and anti-scriptural view of Christianity.  Irenaeus also appealed to Ephesians 1:9-10 in his refutation of Gnosticism.  That passage of scripture states, “he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth (NRSV).”  The great saint used this to show that, contrary to the Gnostic view, not all matter is bad.

One Faith Given By Christ

The Church was to be a unified body of believers with Jesus Christ as its head.  However the Gnostic heresy was causing division.  It is linked with the rule of faith in that there was only one faith handed down from Christ.  There was not one faith for one group, and a special secret faith for a select few.  The faith in Christ is available to all people and in that we should be unified.

The rule of faith previously cited is a great tool in confronting false doctrines in our own times  There is no shortage of false doctrine and some of these groups out there are great at evangelization.  This is impressive given how low their numbers are compared to Catholics.  The rule of faith is a great tool because it shows that the catholic faith is not a new invention, but was passed down by Christ himself.

It shows that Christ is God incarnate, and firmly teaching that the Trinity is one being with three distinct persons.  Many of these groups deny the Trinity and claim scriptural support.  Many of these passages were used in the days of Irenaeus and he corrected false usage.

Go preach the gospel

Whether it be in person, phone, or email, a dialogue about the truth can mean a lot to someone caught in false doctrine.  It gives them someone to ask questions to and the Holy Spirit can plant a seed.  Many great saints came to faith in just that way.


About our guest blogger:

William is a convert to the Catholic faith.  Before entering the church he was ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary.  William lives with his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults.  Check out his website/blog at williamhemsworth.com for more great and informative Catholic content!


 

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3 Reasons Why Mary is the Devil’s Greatest Enemy

mary and satan

 

 

 

 

 


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 13, 2017.


God is Not Satan’s Biggest Rival

According to St. Louis de Montfort, “[Mary] is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus and will surrender themselves to her, body and soul, without reserve in order to belong entirely to Jesus (True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary ). Even though I am a life-long Catholic this quote caught me off guard. It seemed too intrepid and I thought it was statements like this that bred the Catholic caricature in the mind of Protestants.

I have since been graced with the understanding that the above quote by the French saint is true and a vital truth in our Catholic faith. Earlier this week I start a Marian consecration with my parish disciple group [communal level] and with my wife [private level]. This will culminate on the centennial anniversary of Mary’s Apparition at Fatima.

Like with most of my daily blog topics, my original topic I wanted did not match what I actually wrote. Today is no different. To be honest, I had an urging of the Holy Spirit to write about Mary during my drive back to work during the noon hour. Let me explain why I believe Mary is the prime foe to Satan. I will incorporate Scripture, writing from St. Louis de Montfort, and my own personal experience as evidence to back this claim.

Enmity Predicted in Genesis 3:15

Mary Devil's enemy

Listen to the words of the inspired writer in Genesis, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head,while you strike at their heel.” The word enmity actually means malice, hostility, or antagonism. No simple division occurred between the woman [Mary] and the serpent [Satan]. There is an antagonistic battle between the two. Interestingly enough, this theme is found in the other bookend of the Bible in the Book of Revelation.

Opposites Don’t Attract

Unlike the adage, “opposites attract” or the truth revealed when playing with magnets, in the case of Mary versus Satan—OPPOSITES DO NOT ATTRACT! St. Louis de Montfort sums it ups both concisely and beautifully, “What Lucifer lost by pride Mary won by humility” (True Devotion 53). Mary’s powerful intercessory power comes from her intimate union with God through her silent prayer and pondering heart. The devil as his weapon of choice is noise and chaos. He wants to increase the “decibels” so our spiritual life never takes root in the silent pondering before God.

Bullies Are Scared of Their Victim’s Mothers

A friend of mine told our discipleship group earlier this week, “Satan will hate you for starting this Marian consecration”. I curiosity asked, “How so?” He went on to tell about his temptations and struggles when he began a similar journey a few years ago. His foreshadowing came true today.

My family’s morning started off hectic and the stress only increased and even doubled down as the day went on. But viewing Mary as the greatest enemy of Satan makes perfect sense of today’s turmoil.

Bullies like Satan tend to get really self-defensive when their victims’ mother intervenes. If anyone bullied my son, I would warn the bully ahead of time to be more afraid of my wife than me. In a similar way, the silent salvo our Salve Regina unleashes on the Devil may intensify during the ensuing days of my Marian consecration.

Before I conclude, I do want to provide a qualifying statement to any non-Catholic reader. I do not intend to place Mary at the equal level of God. She is not God. However, Catholics honor Mary as the most perfect creation of God. We also honor her as the Mother of God.

Mary is doorway to God

I will leave you with words of wisdom from St. Louis, “The Son of God became man for our salvation but only in Mary and through Mary” (True Devotion 16). Let us thank God for allowing Mary to be a doorway upon which we may experience God’s graces.

Related Links

Mary’s Enmity Towards Satan Was Absolute

Why Mary is the Mortal Enemy of Satan

De Montfort: Mary in the Struggle Against Satan

 

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3 Ways Your Words Can Infect Others with Kindness

Word have power

Words hurt more than weapons in the age of social media. Communication is instant. Less than it takes you to snap your fingers you can receive a direct message or email from someone across the globe. During the current global pandemic the human race is experiencing similar things more than any other time in history.

People largely respond in two ways to a stressful situation. Selfish or selfless. The dichotomy could not be starker in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Hoarding toilet paper was the initial selfish reply to the panic. Now that the first wave of angst has passed people are now getting restless. Self-quarantine or local curfews in some larger cities have lead to cabin fever. Really it’s cabin fever multiplied by hundred. I have noticed more snarky, sarcastic, rude, and angry social media posts. It is understandable to be frustrated, but it never gives anyone a right to treat others with disrespect. To combat the negativity I am sharing three tactics of how to use your words to provide unity and build up your neighbor.

Silence is Golden

According to St. John of the Cross, “Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you, remember Christ crucified and be silent.” Today’s world rewards people speaking their mind. Bad press is good press. At least that is the philosophy of many who believe that getting your name in the news is better than remaining in anonymity.  Voicing your opinion on social media opens up the possibility for Internet trolls to bombard threads with hate and ignorance. Your first reaction may be to reply with a similar negative tone.

Silence is the best weapon against hateful, prideful, or narrow-minded comments. It doesn’t come natural to practice silence when someone attacks your ideas or character. What helps me is to remember how Jesus replied as the crowd jeered at him on the Cross. He didn’t yell or jeer back. Instead, he prayed. Jesus asked his Father to be merciful, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Remaining silent during an argument online or in real life is difficult, but not impossible. It is necessary if you want to become a better version of yourself.

tame your tongue

Give Compliments and not Complaints

Another strategy in controlling the sins of the tongue is to give a compliment as opposed to a complaint. Negative news surrounds us daily. It’s much more interesting. It usually takes at least twice as many positive thoughts to cancel out a negative one.

But try that exercise. Whenever you find yourself tempted to complain do the following:

  • Pause
  • Write your complaint on a post-it note
  • Crumple up the note and throw it in the trash
  • Write a compliment about yourself or give someone else a compliment

Forming new habits takes practice. Hard work. But if you consistently remind yourself to shift your mind from complaints to compliments it will become easier over time. Eventually it will become natural for your to give compliments.

God over Gossip

The last tactic in the battle over the tongue is to pray more. Sounds simple. It is simple, but its not always easy. Gossip is an easily accepted sin. People don’t think it is that bad compared to “mortal sins”.  The Bible provides clear direction on this subject. Leviticus 19:16 states, “Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people.” It is quite clear. Don’t engage in gossip. How exactly do you stave off the temptation to gossip? Fill your mind with holy thoughts. Ask God for help. Praying is nothing more than talking to God. Petition the Holy Spirit. Thank God for the blessings in your life. Praise Jesus for his sacrifice on Calvary. All those will orient yourself toward the Holy Trinity and away from gossip.

kindness is contagious

Avoiding negative comments, complaints or gossip goes a long way towards shifting your mindset. Add in compliment about yourself or others and you will soon notice an overall change in your attitude. You will become more patience, kinder, and generous. Kindness is always in style evevn during the coronavirus pandemic. Change the world by controlling your words. Choose kindness over anger. Build up your immunity against negativity. Don’t let pessimism infect you. Kindness is a good contagion to spread!

 

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How You Can be the Hands and Feet of Jesus during the Pandemic

Prayer

Pray for everyone affected by the coronavirus. Is the toilet paper shortage frustrating? Definitely, but remember we are all on the same side—Team Humanity.

We should be helping the most vulnerable. Why? Because Jesus did that. He dined with sinners and tax collectors. Allowed the prostitute to wash his feet with her hair and perfume—even though the elite ridiculed him for that decision.

Christ let the children come to listen to him. He wasn’t afraid to help the leper. When he was tempted by the Devil, despite being hungry and thirsty, Jesus never gave into worldly power.

Social distancing makes it tougher to help our neighbor in the same tangible way that Christ helped those around him. But that shouldn’t cause us to lead to inaction.

As a Catholic, I became an adopted son of God. The Holy Spirit swells within all baptized individuals. A creative force of Love, the Holy Spirit will never cease to inspire us and grant us the gifts of courage, understanding, wisdom, knowledge, and wonder. The key is we have to be ready to ask for the gifts. Humble ourselves.

Here are a few ways to be the hands and feet of Christ during this pandemic crisis:

Be the Hands and Feet of Jesus

1️⃣ Hand write letters you your family members, especially those lonely, neighbors, or even contact a nursing home to get names of senior citizens to write to.

2️⃣ Don’t take more than you need

There is a difference between gathering for reasonable concern over a quarantine versus hoarding goods in panicked response or because you want to turn a profit.

3️⃣ Exercise charity online

Social distancing doesn’t mean people will stop being social. Digital interactions will increase. While we have been used to social media for years, the newsfeed has become saturated with negativity about the virus.

Fighting fire with fire only leads to more flames. The same is true with negativity. Match pessimism with a greater dosage of positivity. Be kind and empathetic online to others. Share a funny anecdote about how you are dealing with this crisis.

Jesus forgave Peter for being a jerk who denied him three times. You can certainly forgive those people who acted uncharitably regarding this issue or those individuals whose hysteria led to hoarding.

St. Paul was right in writing in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no better time as the present to start. Learn from the suffering caused by this pandemic to love others!

Related Links

The Coronavirus and the Crowning of Mary

Profiting From The Panic Of The Coronavirus

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3 Reasons Why I Thought Purgatory was Basically Overtime in a Football Game


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 26, 2017.


One of my favorite things to watch is to watch NFL football games. I even own a cheese head to don during Green Bay Packer games. Nothing in sports is more exciting than when a football game goes into overtime and for the first time in NFL history the 2017 Super Bowl went to overtime.

football overtime

 

 

 

 

 

Extra regulation is needed in instances where teams end the fourth quarter in a tie. Neither team played well enough to earn the victory or bad enough to lose the game. I used to have a similar mindset when it came to the doctrine of Purgatory. Let me give 3 reasons for why I had this limited view when it came to arguably one of the more intriguing teachings of the Catholic Church.

Legalistic Outlook of Right versus Wrong

I thought for the longest time that if you followed the law [i.e. the Commandments] and your good actions outweighed your bad actions than you were on your way to Heaven after death. I viewed God as a divine accountant who tallied up all the good and bad that we committed in this live and granted us purgatory as an extra period for instances of ties. 

Limited view of suffering

Until recently, I do not truly suffer much. I always thought that purgatory was a period of “time” after death whereby people got extra suffering to make up for the comforts they received in this earthly life. My view on this has since changed immensely. I came to learn that suffering has not only a redemptive, but a purgative quality to it.

On a quite practical level, my marriage and family life has schooled my in this topic. For example, my lack of patience especially during our children’s bedtime routine, causes me much suffering. Through prayer and spiritual guidance I learned that God is using my children to help me grow in the virtue of patience- and sometimes growing is painful!

learning from suffering

Learned More about the Saints

Until a few years ago, I did not know that St. Therese of Lisieux suffering from tuberculosis and that St. John Paul II’s mother died a mere month per his 9th birthday and his father passed away about 10 years later. And yet, there was something different about these two individuals and really all saints in general—their faith grew in spite of the suffering and loss experienced.

Looking at the lives of the canonized saints I became aware that purgatory is not something that needs to begin after our earthly death. Rather, for them it begins in time and space. Because of this purgatory does not need to be limited to an “extra period” given since we failed to achieve sanctity in this life. We can start the process to being SAINTS today!

Conclusion

I will continue to write how my journey toward a more Catholic understanding of purgatory has changed my life for the better in future posts. St. Maria Faustina saliently wrote, “Jesus says; ‘My daughter, I want to instruct you on how you are to rescue souls through sacrifice and prayer. You will save more souls through prayer and suffering than will a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone.”

catholic purgatory

Related Links

3 Childhood Experiences that Taught Me about Purgatory

Purgatory 101

Catholic Answers–Purgatory

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How to Cure the Universal Virus Humanity Suffers from

jesus is the cure

We are all infected with a virus. Right now. I’m not referring the coronavirus. Is it serious? Definitely. Apocalyptic like the media portrays? I’m not quite sure about that. But I do know that humanity suffers from a spiritual sickness. A universal virus—sin.

Lent is period patterned on the 40 days that Jesus prayed in the desert. Though tempted by the Devil, Christ never came into the allure of sin. You may feel an intense pull to put yourself over others. To gossip at work. Or despair over news coverage of the coronavirus.

Don’t give up if you failed your Lenten promise already. I am the first to admit that I failed miserably so far. Fear has controlled me. Dealing with my children who had influenza the past week combined with my overnight work schedule has led to me feeling worth down and susceptible to the attacks of the Enemy.

Fear is the Work of the Enemy

Driving to work around 9 p.m. I thought to myself, “Will this schedule ever end? I can’t keep going like this. I am already wanting to sleep and my shift hasn’t even started!” Honestly, I have been having similar thoughts more and more frequently.

Getting a good night sleep is necessary for both your body and your mind. While my body finally got used to the erratic sleep schedule, my mind still is scrambling.  Inadequate sleep during the winter is a scary combination. I have been depressed for the past several months.

Tonight I finally had even of it. I was struggling so much with doubts I had to rely on a proven strategy that helped me during negative times in the past. Finding a blank post-it note I wrote the sentence: “I am feeling an attack from the Enemy. He is using the weapons of despair and doubt.”

Subtle over Sudden

Satan creeps up on you gradually before going for the spiritual kill. Naming your sins  or spiritual struggles specifically are important in an examination of conscience before the Sacrament of Confession. Why not name the sins you are battling right now?

That is what I did. I named my failings: despair and doubt. The opposite of trusting in God. Trust involves not knowing the whole story. I gave into pride. I wanted control of my narrative and desired a guarantee of the outcome. How short was my memory? Had I forgotten the countless times God’s saved and provided for me in the past?

Light Dispels the Darkness of Doubt

light over dark

As mentioned before, rarely does the Devil go for the sudden approach. Temptations and attacks occurs in stages. Succumbing to sin is like using the dimmer on light in your living room. Slowly your life gets dimmer, darker, and ultimately light is gone—unless you turn back to the light.

In John 1:5 we read, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This light that John is referring to is Jesus. He became man for the salvation of all. We don’t have to live long to learn that light will dispel darkness. As children we asked our parents to have a nightlight to shine brightly to ward off fear of the dark. Lights in the form of lamps or lanterns prove effective in caves or dark forests.

Jesus is the Light of the World. He is the Light for us individually too. Trusting in God leads to a dispersal of doubt. Fear disappears from the trusting Light of Christ illuminates your life. I found this powerful quote by St. Maria Faustina. The Polish saint wrote, “I will not allow myself to be so absorbed in the whirlwind of work as to forget about God.  I will spend all my free moments at the feet of the Master hidden in the Blessed Sacrament.”  Incredible. How often do you find yourself swept up in the whirlwind of life. Work, suffering, or fleeting pleasures? All end in doubts and despair.

While sickness has prevented my family from attending the Mass or going to Eucharistic Adoration lately, I can still turn to Jesus in the forms of Scripture and writings from the saints.  Sin is a spiritual virus. The only cure is Jesus.

 

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3 Stages of the Christian Spiritual Life


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 10,  2019.


The spiritual life for the Christian is not a mere horizontal path, but rather vertical and likened to a ladder— consisting of different levels of progression. Thus, the spiritual journey for the Catholic-Christian is composed of three steps being the interior, religious, and spiritual.  In this post, I will focus on individuals from St. Luke’s Gospel who exhibit each stage.

Stages of Christian Spirituality

Stage 1— The Interior Life

First, the “interior life” refers to the initial level of the spiritual path for Christians. At this stage, a person demonstrates the ability to be self-aware (self-autonomous) and shows the capacity to utilize their imagination. This stage is necessary for a Christian to increase and deepen their spirituality. However, it is possible to have a profound interior life without being spiritual.  A pragmatic instance of this is a secular artist painting a picture. They exercise their imagination without contemplating the mysteries of God. Nevertheless, normally the more powerful the imagination is, the greater potential a person has to power their “spiritual engine”—the mind.

Example of the Rich Young Man

Jesus and Rich Young Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two instances of the “interior life” within the Gospel of Luke include the Rich Young Man 18:18-30 and the centurion at the Crucifixion 23:44-49. Regarding the former, the Revised Standard Edition refers to the Rich Young Man as a ruler who initiates contact with Jesus by posing a query: “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”(v. 18).  An analysis of this statement shows the ruler demonstrating the “interior life” on a twofold manner: he knew Jesus was a good, informative teacher (he probably heard about the previous work and preaching of Jesus from others) and the question asked was of metaphysical nature, which thus required imagination and intellect to ponder.

Jesus responds by telling the man to adhere to the Decalogue. The man then tells Christ that he diligently follows the commandments. But Jesus required more, he wanted the Rich Ruler to give away his material goods to the poor. But the man was unable to do so.  While he exhibited an “interior life” by asking the right question, the Rich Young Man was not spiritual due to failure to move past material wealth (v.23). Augmenting this point the narrator tells the reader that the man was sad to give up his possessions and thus shows why he cannot move past the interior level.

Example of the Roman Centurion

A second case of someone having the interior life in Luke comes at the close of the gospel. After hanging upon the cross for several hours, darkness came over the land and the veil of the temple split in two and Jesus uttered his final breath. During this a centurion proclaimed “Certainly this man was innocent!” (v.47). The centurion saw the curtain torn and perhaps remembered Jesus’ premonition that the Temple would be destroyed. Such recall shows intellect and imagination. In fact he had such a powerful imagination, that the centurion “praised God” in v.47. Because of this, he had a profound “interior life”.

Stage 2—The Religious Life

Defined as the level where one is focused on concepts of rituals and/or sacraments, the “religious life” is the next stage in Christian spirituality. To put it another way, this phase denotes an experience of contact with the Transcendent deity via religion.

Two prime examples of this are the Pharisees in Luke 6:1-5 and Peter in 9:28-36. With the former, the Pharisees badgered Jesus and his disciples for gathering grain on the Sabbath. Their query in v. 2 shows that they are primarily concerned with Jewish ritual practices, which exhibits a sign of being in the “religious life” phase. The narrator gives a further clue that this is a case of the “religious life” because Jesus corrected them by showing that David set a precedent in 1 Samuel 21:1-6. The Pharisees were thus being nit-picky about the Sabbath law.

Example of the Transfiguration

Transfiguration

 

 

 

 

The second incident of a person existing in the “religious life” level of spirituality occurs a few chapters later at the Transfiguration. Upon witnessing Jesus’ conversation with Moses and Elijah, Peter utters a seemingly perplexing statement, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths…” (9:33). Knowledge of the main Jewish celebrations is needed to ascertain Cephas’ point. Peter is referring to the Feast of Booths which recalls Israel’s exodus from Egypt and their wandering in the desert for 40 years. Although Peter is being an astute Jew by wanting to follow that ritual custom of erecting a tent, his missed the true purpose of the Transfiguration and hence he is at the “religious” level of the spiritual life and not yet at the final stage.

Stage 3—The Spiritual Life

The final phase of the spiritual journey is at the level of the “spiritual life”. The phrase “the spiritual life” is delineated as the level where mankind’s spirit and the Holy Spirit connect— it also presupposes and fulfills the latter two stages in the spiritual excursion.

Example of Mary

At the outset of Luke’s Gospel, Mary’s fiat in 1:26-38 is the most perfect expression of obedience to God and a person having the fullness of the “spiritual life”.  First of all, when the angel Gabriel came to her, Mary although initially concerned did not flee. Rather she listened to the message. After hearing the news of her future pregnancy, Mary asked “How can this be since I have no husband?” (She pledged her life to remain a virgin). Gabriel responded by telling her that Jesus will be conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s reply in v. 38 displays her complete surrender to God’s will and shows why she exhibits the “spiritual life”.

Example of the Repentant Sinful Woman

The next case of the “spiritual life” in Luke also is of a woman. In 7:36-50 a sinful woman wept at Jesus’ feet, because of her sins, and cleansed them with her tears and expensive ointment. Luke juxtaposes this woman with Simon, Jesus’ Pharisaic host. He scorned the woman due to her sin. Jesus quips back by saying that the woman washed his feet without him asking. Simon failed to welcome Jesus with the same hospitality (v.45-47). Verse 48 shows the climax of this passage, “Your sins are forgiven”.  She desired forgiveness and Christ is pleased to forgive. For this reason, she is an example of having the “spiritual life”.

St. Francis de Sales quote

 

 

 

 

 

St. Francis de Sales declared, “All of us can attain to Christian virtue and holiness, no matter in what condition of life we live and no matter what our life work may be.” Our reflection on St. Luke’s Gospel proves that God meets individuals at various places and times. Whether you are at the beginning or more advanced path to holiness, the key to “climbing” the spiritual ladder is to let Christ carry you— cooperate with Divine Providence this week! I challenge you to plunge yourself into the Scriptures this week and mediate on how you can better encounter Jesus.

Related Links

The Three Ways or States of the Spiritual Life

Three Stages of the Spiritual Life by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P

St. Teresa of Avila Pray for Us!


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