It is said that a very rich king had a reputation for being indifferent to material wealth and that he was known to be a man of deep religiosity, something somewhat unusual for someone of his ranking. Faced with this situation and moved by curiosity, a subject wanted to find out the sovereign’s secret of not being dazzled by the gold, the jewelry, and the excessive luxuries he possessed.
Immediately after the greetings that etiquette and courtesy demand, the man asked: “Your Majesty, what is your secret for cultivating a spiritual life in the midst of so much wealth?”
The king said to him: “I will reveal it to you, but, first you have to walk all around my castle to understand the magnitude of my wealth. But, you will carry a lighted candle. If it goes out, I will decapitate you.”
When the person went back, the king asked him: “What do you think of my riches?” The person replied: “I saw nothing. I was only worried to make sure that the flame would not go out.” The king said, “that is my secret. I am so busy trying to keep my interior flame burning that I cannot be interested in the riches outside.”
Many times, we want to improve in our spiritual life and we try to add devotions, penances, works of mercy, etc. We think that to grow in our spiritual life we just need to add those types of things (mere acts). But, that is not exactly what helps us to grow in our spiritual life.
“Now the more the mind is concerned about thinking and dealing with what is merely lower and human, the more it is separated from the experience in the intimacy of devotion of what is higher and heavenly, while the more fervently the memory, desire and intellect is withdrawn from what is below to what is above, the more perfect will be our prayer, and the purer our contemplation, since the two directions of our interest cannot both be perfect at the same time, being as different as light and darkness” (Saint Albert the Great, On Cleaving to God, chap. 3).
That is, having a consistent spiritual life means to have our spiritual faculties concentrated on God and not on earthly things (referring not only to material things but also affections, passions, desires, projects, etc.). And concentrating on God means to discover his presence in our soul and to found our relationship with Him in that interior presence
“What is more, as is said in the book On the Spirit and the Soul (of St. Augustine), to ascend to God means to enter into oneself. He who entering within and penetrating his inmost nature, goes beyond himself, he is truly ascending to God.” (Ibid., chap. 7).