Rorate Caeli

The Holy Gospels as a Means of Grace for the Interior Life: Counsels from Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

By Salvatore J. Ciresi


The apostolic writings from Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the most important records for our knowledge of the words and deeds of the Lord Jesus Christ.  No doubt, there are other means to read, study, and meditate upon the Savior’s life.  Such ways may be drawn from Tradition (and traditions), the venerable liturgical and sacramental rites of the Catholic Church, Magisterial statements, approved private revelations, classic devotional practices and customs, and the writings from the celebrated patrimonies of East and West.  Whichever means one employs, the inspired and inerrant chronicles from the Four Evangelists will always hold their unique status.  

Wisdom from a Dominican Master

Keeping in view the privileged place of the Holy Gospels within the Catholic Faith, the serious Christian should make them a central part of his intellectual and spiritual training.  The Church Militant may gain motivation to know and love the Four Gospels by heeding one of the great theological and spiritual masters within ecclesiastical history: Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. (1877—1964).  This towering Dominican teacher and guide, thanks to Divine Providence, has numerous writings accessible in our day.  

A particular tome, The Three Ages of the Interior Life: Prelude of Eternal Life, is the point of departure for this brief article.  Three short excerpts from this two-volume set will highlight some key truths on Divine Revelation, and then, direct the practical use of the Gospels for the interior life (called also the “devout life,” “supernatural life,” or “life of grace”).  Some comments, for the sake of application, will follow the excerpts.  

The Counsels      

Firstly, Garrigou opens: 

“From what book can we better draw life than from Scripture, which has God for its author? Especially the Gospels, the words of our Savior, the facts of His hidden, His apostolic, and His suffering life should be the living teaching to which the soul must ever turn.”  

The Dominican sets down the essential foundation of Holy Writ’s divine origin.  The inspiration of the Holy Bible is a particular charism (i.e., special grace) that the Catholic Church designates for no other documents.  Thus, the Sacred Page deserves our reverence, time, and attention.  Moreover, there is an appropriate emphasis on the Gospels, giving them a distinction among the collection of the inspired books.  Garrigou stresses the very utterances from the sacred lips of Our Lord — this is an incentive to memorize some of His renowned statements.  

Garrigou also points to the Redeemer’s infancy, His public ministry, and His passion; basically, the entire span of the life of Christ.  This indicates that all the stages from the Son of God’s appearance on earth have a perennial value.  A study of the early manger scene (cf. Lk 2:1-20), to take one example, with all its doctrinal and spiritual implications, is just as fruitful as a study of the later “High Priestly Prayer” in the Upper Room (cf. Jn 17:1-26).  The determined Catholic, then, ought to strive to learn and reflect upon all the sayings and actions of the God-man; from His sacred birth through Holy Week (and beyond to His glorious ascension).        

Secondly, Garrigou remarks: 

“Christ knows how to make the loftiest and most divine things accessible to all by the simplicity with which He speaks. His word does not remain abstract and theoretical; it leads directly to true humility, to love of God and neighbour. Each word tells us that He seeks only the glory of Him who sent Him and the good of souls.”  

Our teacher emphasizes that the King of kings has communicated to men in a way that is comprehensible.  The Good News, and by extension the Catholic Faith, is not given to a gnostic-like cult.  One does not need an advanced degree (although beneficial in some cases) to glean wisdom from a simple reading of the Gospel records.  If a point of uncertainty arises during one’s examination of the Four Evangelists (or any part of the Sacred Scriptures), then one need only turn to Tradition and the Magisterium to settle any difficulties.  

Garrigou also speaks of God’s Word as a path to virtue.  A familiarity with the Gospels, provided they are approached with the right disposition, will lead to charity towards God and love for our fellow men.  In other words, sanctity may grow with an increase in one’s knowledge of the life of Jesus Christ.  Holiness is one fruit of study, according to our Dominican teacher.  Gospel erudition can lead to genuine piety. 


Thirdly, Garrigou closes: 

“Besides the Holy Eucharist, the true food of the saints is to be found in the Scriptures: the word of God, transmitted by His only Son, the Word made flesh. Hidden under the letter is the living thought of God, which, if we are docile, the gifts of understanding and wisdom will make us penetrate and taste more and more.”  

Our guide expresses the link between the Bread of Life and the Word of Life — two necessary ingredients for one’s spiritual sustenance.  This joining of the Sacrament of the Altar to the Sacred Page, for one’s interior life, had been confirmed by no less an authority than Saint Jean Vianney.  The beloved Cure of Ars insists: “I do not know whether it is worse to have distractions during Mass than during the instructions; I see no difference. During Mass we lose the merits of the Death and Passion of Our Lord, and during the instructions we lose His Word, which is Himself.”  Strong words from Vianney — right in line with the thinking of Garrigou.

Garrigou mentions the necessity of humility as one interacts with the Holy Gospels.  Docility to supernatural revelation requires, by God’s grace, our cooperation.  The result are those gifts of the Holy Ghost so desperately needed today, understanding and wisdom, to navigate and survive the multiple crises (appearing daily) in the world.  The Dominican has helped arm the Church Militant for the battle.    



The brevity of this essay has overlooked a plethora of other advice derived from the timeless writings of Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange.  It is hoped that his counsels, covered here in a simple manner, will encourage all of us to know and cherish the life of the Only Begotten Son as told by the Four Evangelists.     

The present age, with wicked men in power in both Church and state, is going to require Catholics who want victory during this spiritual warfare to grow in grace and virtue (cf. Mt 11:28-30; 2 Pet 3:18).  This is done through faith, hope, and charity in view of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church founded by Him.  One method for the battle is to spend time and effort reading, studying, and praying with the Gospels with a sensus Catholicus.  This may be instilled by the tomes of one of the greatest minds among the Dominicans.  Thank you, Garrigou -- please pray for us.

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Ciresi directs the St. Jerome Biblical Guild, publishes its bulletin Veritas Scripturae, and is an adjunct faculty member of Christendom College’s Graduate School of Theology. 



1. Two sources for an introduction to Garrigou: Aidan Nichols, O.P., Reason with Piety: Garrigou-Lagrange in the Service of Catholic Thought (Naples: Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University, 2008) and Richard Peddicord, O.P., The Sacred Monster of Thomism: An Introduction to the Life and Legacy of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. (South Bend: Saint Augustine’s Press, 2005). As well, Mr. Nicholas Cavazos has published helpful articles about Garrigou at    

2.  Dr. Matthew Minerd has done a great service for Holy Mother Church by translating many of Garrigou’s works into English (purchasable online). I have learned much from Minerd’s audio files and video presentations, found at  

3.  R. Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., The Three Ages of the Interior Life: Prelude of Eternal Life, Volume One, trans. M. Timothea Doyle, O.P. (Rockford: TAN Books, 1947, 1989) 248. All three citations are from this page.   

4.  Suggestions are “the Beatitudes” from St. Matthew (cf. Mt 5:3-10), the “healing of the paralytic” from St. Mark (cf. Mk 2:1-12), “the parable of the lost sheep” from St. Luke (cf. Lk 15:3-7), and the “I am” sayings from St. John (cf. Jn 6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5). The choices, admittedly, involve some subjectivity.

5. Saint John Vianney, The Little Catechism of the Curé of Ars (Rockford: TAN Books, 1951, 1987) 19.