Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 16, 2009
Controlling passions enables us to do good
BY CINDY WOODEN
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY — When people control their passions and desires, they can direct their energy toward total love of God and serving others, Pope Benedict said.
“Passions are not bad in themselves” but can lead to bad behaviour if they are not controlled, the pope said Feb. 11 during his weekly general audience.
The pope’s talk focused on St. John Climacus, the sixth-century author of Ladder of Paradise, a step-by-step explanation of how to grow and mature in the spiritual life.
Pope Benedict said St. John Climacus’ work divides the Christian spiritual journey into three phases:
- Cultivating “spiritual infancy,” or the attitude of a child totally dependent on God;
- “Spiritual combat” against human passions through the cultivation of spiritual virtues;
- Obtaining “Christian perfection” through faith, hope and love.
For St. John Climacus, he said, spiritual combat is not a negative exercise in the sense of ridding one’s life of desires. Rather, it takes the positive approach of cultivating virtues so that passion becomes a source of energy and of true longing for union with God.
“According to St. John, passions are not bad in themselves. They only become so because of the negative way people with their freedom use them.
“If they are purified, passions set people energetically on the path toward God,” he said.
Pope Benedict said, “For me it is particularly important that the highest point of the ladder, the top rungs, are at the same time the basic, initial, most simple virtues: faith, hope and love.
“They aren’t virtues that are accessible only to moral heroes.”