by Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P.
Although the times we are living in can be described as a wicked amalgamate of a myriad of errors of old, one of the most pervasive of these is probably the heresy of Naturalism. Never before has the reality of the human soul been undermined this much. It seems as if anything supernatural is likely to be held up to ridicule by the so-called modern man.
This book by the eminent French theologian, a faithful son of St. Dominic, renowned for his expounding of the glorious philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas in the first half of the 20th century, is a much-needed antidote to the spiritual ailments we are all likely to suffer from in this unbearably materialistic era.
The full title of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange’s work is as follows: “Life Everlasting and the Immensity of the Soul: A Theological Treatise on the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell”. If you feel somewhat overwhelmed by the “theological treatise” part – please, do not be discouraged. Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange was not only an illustrious theologian but also an apt spiritual writer, well-aware of the supernatural needs of his readership. By no means is this a specialised manual, to be studied in seminaries and at theological faculties. On the contrary, as Father himself states in the preface: “our purpose is to enlighten souls, to arouse conscience and responsibility. Our book would recall those who may be on the road to perdition, would instruct those who often commit deliberate venial sins, who take no pains to expiate mortal sins already remitted in the tribunal of confession. Above all we would give the reader a high idea of heaven, of eternal happiness, in its opposition to hell, in its retardation by purgatory, in its infinite elevation.”
Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange divides his work into five parts, which are further subdivided into short chapters. In part one, the life of the soul in the temporal order, with its faculties and attributes, is taken into consideration. In part two, the circumstances of death and judgment are discussed in detail. Part three is dedicated to the sobering reality of hell. In part four, the state of the soul in purgatory is dealt with. Finally, part five offers a sublime explanation of the eternal bliss of heaven. The book concludes with an inspiring epilogue, which reads almost like the kind of a sermon you would really like to hear from the pulpit. Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange was notable for his restless fight against the Modernist New Theology, the cornerstone of what was to become the false post-conciliar theology. His Thomistic zeal for the Catholic Truth, along with the absolute clarity of thought, is beautifully manifest in his oeuvre.
This moderately sized book (about 200 pages plus some 40 pages of footnotes) will provide a diligent reader with just the right amount of basic theology concerning the soul, and a generous source of spiritual counsel. It may also serve as a concise companion to the more voluminous eschatological classics by St. Alphonsus de Liguori and Fr. Martin von Cochem.
When you have turned its last page, you will be amazed at the depth of your own soul and be horrified by the neglect to which it is subjected by the worldlings. After all, we all need some spiritual “smelling salts” from time to time, especially now that the world, the flesh, and the devil would rather have us sleep deeply. Rising above the mundane in a time when the naturalistic ideas of enjoying temporal goods and pleasures as the ultimate object of human existence are being touted incessantly requires that we carefully tend to the interior lives of our immortal souls. What better thought to wake us up than the following remark by Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange: “The life of grace is everlasting life already begun.”