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Friday 8 February 2013

Doctors of the Church Series-Part Five on the dangers of spiritual self-will

This is the fifth part of the series on the Doctors of the Church. I have covered two out of the thirty-five.

I shall cover all of them from the point of view of my perfection series.

I shall include those honoured by both the East and the West. Seventeen who were declared as such before the great schism are to be included, of course. I have done Ephraim and John of Avila.

As there are only four women, my next set will cover them: SS. Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux and Hildegard of Bingen.

I am concentrating on their holiness and some of the writings. The reason a person is declared a Doctor of the Church is sort of like an honorary PhD. in holiness and excellence in writing. They have also shown that they are completely orthodox and true in doctrine.

One cannot, cannot be holy or find perfection outside of orthodoxy.

If a person insists on having areas where he or she is in disagreement with the Church in any way which is doctrinal, one is not on the way to holiness, but stuck in sin.

St. Catherine of Siena provides a perfect of example of obedience and clarity of mind. God gave her discernment, a gift which is part of prudence. Her dates are 1347-1380.

Her writings reflect deep prayer and a deep relationship with the Trinity.

Several days ago, I quoted her in depth on priests and holiness. Her she is again, from her Treatise on Prayer: 

"For, if the soul truly have light, she will wish to arrive at perfection. In this second perfect light are to be found two kinds of perfection; for they may be called perfect who have abandoned the general way of living of the world.

"One perfection is that of those who give themselves up wholly to the castigation of the body, doing great and severe penance. These, in order that their sensuality may not rebel against their reason, have placed their desire rather in the mortification of the body than in the destruction of their self-will, as I have explained to you in another place. These feed their souls at the table of penance, and are good and perfect, if their penance be illuminated by discretion, and founded on Me, if, that is to say, they act with true knowledge of themselves and of Me, with great humility, and wholly conformed to the judgment of My Will, and not to that of the will of man.

"But, if they were not thus clothed with My Will, in true humility, they would often offend against their own perfection, esteeming themselves the judges of those who do not walk in the same path. Do you know why this would happen to them? Because they have placed all their labor and desire in the mortification of the body, rather than in the destruction of their own will.

"Such as these wish always to choose their own times, and places, and consolations, after their own fashion, and also the persecutions of the world and of the Devil, as I have narrated to you in speaking of the second state of perfection.

"They say, cheating themselves with the delusion of their own self-will, which I have already called their spiritual self-will, 'I wish to have that consolation, and not these battles, or these temptations of the Devil, not, indeed, for my own pleasure, but in order to please God the more, and in order to retain Him the more in my soul through grace; because it seems to me that I should possess Him more, and serve Him better in that way than in this.' And this is the way the soul often fails into trouble, and becomes tedious and insupportable to herself; thus injuring her own perfection; yet she does not perceive it, nor that, within her, lurks the stench of pride, and there she lies.

" Now, if the soul were not in this condition, but were truly humble and not presumptuous, she would be illuminated to see that I, the Primary and Sweet Truth, grant condition, and time, and place, and consolations, and tribulations as they may be needed for your salvation, and to complete the perfection to which I have elected the soul.

"And she would see that I give everything through love, and that therefore, with love and reverence, should she receive everything, which is what the souls in the second state do, and, by doing so, arrive at the third state. Of whom I will now speak to you, explaining to you the nature of these two states which stand in the most perfect light." 

What Catherine is warning against is the great temptation to pride which happens in the Illuminative State. Here is the place where people become heretics or schismatics  insisting on their own insights or directions and separating themselves from Rome.

I believe that such men as Calvin and Knox became very holy before falling into certain ideas which carried them away from the Church and away from holiness. 

How many times have you witnessed a person who is charismatic, a leader in the Church and very pious suddenly fall away over one thing?

I have seen marriages break up when a pillar of the Church commits adultery or supports a child in a homosexual relationship, or who changes his mind about women priests and holds an opposite opinion.

The road to perfection STOPS and the soul slides back into darkness.

It happens too easily.

The experience of love and light make these men and women confident in God, but the temptation to be overly confident in themselves leads to sin.

They fall into self-deception and Catherine saw this happening in the Church. The Illuminative State brings love and power. But, humility must accompany this state or the temptations of pride creep into the soul.

After the active and passive purification, comes more enlightenment, as there are stages in the Illuminative State.

God prepares the soul for His Love. We must have our hearts and minds ready with no hindrances for that Love.