Are we getting on? …Here are five signs. If we have one of them, it is well; if two, better; if three, better still; if four, capital; if all the five, glorious.

If we are discontented with our present state, whatever it may be, and want to be something better and higher, we have great reason to be thankful to God.

For such discontent is one of His best gifts, and a great sign that we are really making progress in the spiritual life.

But we must remember that our dissatisfaction with ourselves must be of such a nature as to increase our humility, and not such as to cause disquietude of mind or uneasiness in our devotional exercises.

It must be made up of a rather impatient desire to advance in holiness, combined with gratitude for past graces, confidence for future ones, and a keen, indignant feeling of how much more grace we have received than we have corresponded to.

Again, strange as it may sound, it is a sign of our growth if we are always making new beginnings and fresh starts. The great St. Antony made perfection consist in it.

Yet this is often ignorantly made a motive of discouragement, from persons confounding fresh starts in the devout life with the incessant risings and relapsings of habitual sinners.

Neither must we confound these continual fresh beginnings with the fickleness which so often leads to dissipation, and keeps us back in our heavenward path.

For these new starts seen something higher, and therefore for the most part something arduous; whereas fickleness is tired of the yoke, and seeks ease and change.

Neither again do these beginnings consist in changing our spiritual books, or our penances, or our methods of prayer, much less our directors.

But they consist in two things chiefly: first, a renewal of our intention for the glory of God; and secondly, a revival of our fervour.

It is also a sign of progress in the spiritual life, when we have some definite thing in view: for instance, if we are trying to acquire the habit of some particular virtue, or to conquer some besetting infirmity, or to accustom ourselves to a certain penance.
All this is a test of earnestness, and also a token of the vigour of divine grace within us.

Whereas if we are attacking no particular part of the enemy’s line, it is hardly a battle; and if we are shooting without an aim, what can come of it but smoke and noise?

It is not likely we are advancing, if, as people speak, we are going on in a general way, without distinctly selecting an end to reach, and actively forcing our way to the end we have thus consciously selected.

Frederick William Faber (1814—1863): Growth in Holiness, pp. 23-36.