May 7, 2009

Dom Chautard's Stages

Today I'm just finishing up Jean-Baptiste Chautard's The Soul of the Apostolate. Since everybody loves a schema of the stages of the spiritual life, I thought I would share his:

1. Hardened in Sin

Mortal sin. Stubborn persistence in sin, either out of ignorance or because of a maliciously warped conscience.

. Deliberate refusal to have any recourse to God.

2. Surface Christianity

Mortal sin.
Considered as a trifling evil, easily forgiven. The soul easily gives way and commits mortal sin at every possible occasion or temptation. Confession almost without contrition.

Mechanical; either inattentive, or always dictated by temporal interest. Such souls enter into themselves very rarely and superficially.

3. Mediocre Piety

Mortal sin.
Weak resistance. Hardly ever avoids occasions but seriously regrets having sinned, and makes good confessions.

Venial sin.
Complete acceptance of this sin, which is considered as insignificant. Hence tepidity of the will. Does nothing whatever to prevent venial sin, or to extirpate it, or to find it out when it is concealed.

From time to time, prays well. Momentary fits of fervor.

4. Intermittent Piety

Mortal sin.
Loyal resistance. Habitually avoids occasion. Deep regrets. Does penance to make reparation.

Venial sin
. Sometimes deliberate. Puts up a weak fight. Sorrow only superficial. Makes a particular examination of conscience, but without any method or coherence.

. Not firmly resolved to remain faithful to meditation. Gives it up as soon as dryness is felt, or as soon as there is business to attend to.

5. Sustained Piety

Mortal sin
. Never. At most very rare, when taken suddenly and violently by surprise. And then, often it is to be doubted if the sin is mortal. It is followed by ardent compunction and penance.

Venial sin.
Vigilant in avoiding and fighting it. Rarely deliberate. Keen sorrow, but does little by way of reparation. Consistent particular examen, but aiming only at avoidance of venial sin.

The soul either avoids uncovering them, so as not to have to fight them, or else easily excuses them. Approves the thought of renouncing them, and would like to do so, but makes little effort in that direction.

. Always faithful to prayer, no matter what happens. Often affective. Alternating consolations and dryness, the latter endured with considerable hardship.

6. Fervor

Venial sin.
Never deliberate. By surprise, sometimes, or with imperfect advertence. Keenly regretted, and serious reparation made.

. Wants nothing to do with them. Watches over them, fights them with courage, in order to be more pleasing to God. Sometimes accepted, however, but regretted at once. Frequent acts of renunciation. Particular examen aims at perfection in a given virtue.

. Mental prayer gladly prolonged. Prayer on the affective side, or even prayer of simplicity. Alternation between powerful consolations and fierce trials.

7. Relative Perfection

. Guards against them energetically and with much love. They only happen with half-advertence.

Habitual life of prayer, even when occupied in external works. Thirst for self-renunciation, annihilation, detachment, and divine love. Hunger for the Eucharist and for Heaven. Graces of infused prayer, of different degree. Often passive purification.

8. Heroic Perfection

Nothing but the first impulse.

Supernatural graces of contemplation, sometimes accompanied by extraordinary phenomena. Pronounced passive purifications. Contempt of self to the point of complete self-forgetness. [sic] Prefers sufferings to joys.

9. Complete Sanctity

Hardly apparent.

. Usually, transforming union. Spiritual marriage. Purifications by love. Ardent thirst for sufferings and humiliations.

I love how the spiritual life is at its simplest at the most miserable and the most blessed, when it has only two descriptive categories. In the middle there can be up to four!

My short experience with the care of souls has convinced me that very few of us can accurately grade our own relative sanctity or lack thereof. People either accuse themselves of being worse than they are, thus robbing God of credit, or fail to take their imperfection and misery seriously and rob him of opportunity.

I diagnose myself at a 3. But there are people in my life whom I am confident to say live at 6, and might be perhaps be even higher.

So, leave a comment diagnosing yourself and the holiest person you know.


ben in denver said...

What does Dom Chautard mean by imperfections? Maybe I will ind out if I ever get to stage 5? I think I'm probably a 3. Evidence for this is my delusion that I would be more pious if I just had more time...that's surely tepedity of the will.

The holiest person I know runs a crisis pregnancy center. She is at least a 6. I'm not sure that I'm spiritually attuned enough to be able to distinguish between a 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Unknown said...

Very thought provoking. I will have to print it out. I am having a difficult time figuring out where I fit. Maybe I am edging up to 3.

All followers go out vote for A Minor Friar So he can win a Cannonball Award!

Here is the link:

Brother Charles said...

Stage three seems to be the winner!

Richard Chonak said...

For me, four is close, but, who knows, maybe I'm in denial about my propensity to sin!

My saintly friend, an SFO with health problems, is about a 7, it seems. Maybe better even, but I'm not in a position to know.

Thanks for the post: an organizing schema is always of interest!

Smiley said...


for narnia said...

thanks for sharing on this great topic, Fr. C. i've reading this post over and over and have been trying to figure out which level i'm at, which is probably somewhere in the middle. i agree with you that most of us wouldn't be good at diagnosing ourselves. i've been comtemplating on who i feel is a holy person and i feel that you, and the Friars of your Province of St. Mary as a whole, are holy and have been very instrumental in sharing the Peace and Good News of Jesus. thank you for your great example, kindness & gentleness! PEACE! ~tara t~

Paul M said...

Am reading the same book at the moment! Thank you and God bless for this overview. I'd like to think I am a 2.9 but that's probably what my spiritual director would think.