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Basic Spiritual Means

Item Number: 60759

Catalog Code: BSM

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Going nowhere on the path to spiritual and moral improvement?

Many fine priests and nuns have felt the same way -- and many found surer footing in this 1936 guide to growth in holiness.

Unfortunately, too many of us gloss over “the basics”, warns Fr. Philip E. Dion, a renowned spiritual director for priests and religious in the 1930s. Predictable result? The return of lassitude, discouragement and bad habits. The remedies are to be found in this step-by-step guide, whose plan -- and a warning -- Fr. Dion lays out in his Introduction:

“... to instruct the reader in the precise nature of certain basic spiritual means of sanctification. Unless one knows the nature of these means accurately, he cannot use them intelligently, and, moreover, he runs the risk of using them badly, and consequently being hindered by what is intended to help. Furthermore, unless their nature is understood properly, there is little likelihood of their being used with much enthusiasm or zeal.”

In simple and vivid language, Fr. Dion provides the means and the motivation you need:


  • How to conquer the natural human inertia which prevents one from living a more perfect life
  • The form of self-deception that is nearly always at the root of our failures to grow in holiness
  • How purity of intention can mean the difference between success and failure in spiritual matters. Simple tests for measuring it, and practical ways to further purify it
  • Methods for cultivating the “fundamental dispositions” that are most conducive to prayer
  • Most effective ways to identify, isolate, and conquer one’s “predominant fault” -- the habitual weakness that spawns most of our other spiritual and moral difficulties
  • How to avoid mistaking a surface symptom for the “root fault”
  • How to carry out the “particular examen,” as a means to combat your predominant fault
  • The difference between “interior” and “exterior” faults. Why one is more difficult to conquer.
  • The best way to tackle each
  • The two phases of holiness: neglecting one means ultimate failure in both
  • Signs that we prefer our will to God’s -- “surface rashes of the cancer of self-will”
  • The simplest, most effective method of mental prayer -- as it was handed down to us in the writings of St. Vincent DePaul
  • Three mental “hooks” on which to hang all our thoughts during prayer and meditation, to maintain the right focus
  • Common difficulties in examining one’s conscience. Two extremes to avoid
  • Right and wrong ways to make a resolution
  • Two difficulties in carrying out resolutions. Causes and cures
  • The importance of sincerity in seeking God’s will. Telltale signs that our search is insincere
  • Cultivating the virtue of “abandonment” -- the point where many well-intentioned souls part company with God’s will
  • How confession can be integrated into the systematic struggle against one’s predominant fault
  • Why prayer plays such an important part in the process of spiritual and moral self-motivation
  • How to come to a greater realization of the truths of our faith -- and how that strengthens motivation to grow spiritually
  • What is the proper role for the Blessed Virgin in our daily spiritual exercises? Her prayer life as a model for our own
  • The most powerful motive we can tap into in the battle against our predominant fault. Ways to arouse it
  • Lack of feeling in prayer: What does it mean about the depth of prayer?
  • The value of using a “reminder of the day”
  • Traps that keep us from thinking and judging as God wants us to
  • Our thoughts during prayer: what should they concern, and not concern? One common temptation, especially of the unpracticed
  • Find yourself “doing all the talking” during prayer? How to discern God’s voice
  • 15 false motives for obedience, 5 for true obedience
  • How we should handle suffering brought upon us by the sins of others
  • The antitode to spiritual discouragement
  • How much time should you spend examining your conscience?
  • The practice over overlooked after confession
  • Humility: what it really means
  • 3 attitudes one can take toward humiliations: one bad, one good, one better
  • How to create -- and keep to -- a schedule of daily prayer
  • Do you do the necessary preparation for prayer?

“Written in a simple, arresting style, and the author makes a liberal use of homely everyday examples to drive home the various practical points -- and they are many -- which he wishes to make. Indeed what might be described as the parable-technique is a very striking feature of Father Dion’s approach .... Here the old principles of ascetical theology are clothed in modern dress -- and the colors are clear, vivid and striking.” -- Irish Ecclesiastical Record

“Lucid and practical. ... A popular style and a certain sense of humor make the reading of this book both pleasant and instructive.” -- American Ecclesiastical Review


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