Perfection involves acting in the life of virtue, exhibiting all the fruits of the Holy Spirit and, eventually, having a character completely formed in the Mind of Christ, which is found in the Beatitudes.
Some people are born with strong characteristics of the Beatitudes. These people are especially graced to maintain their innocence and baptismal purity. Such as the saints like Gemma Galgani and Aloysius Gonzanga. When confirmed, these saints are almost “perfect Christians”. They will suffer the passive perfection and be united to Christ quickly, but not without intense suffering.
We see this pattern in the life of St. Therese, the Little Flower, the saint of love. These young saints have been perfected on a fast track to holiness and illumination, love and unity.
Other saints must strive to conquer their predominant faults. Manning makes the distinction between a “just man, and a holy man, and a perfect man.”
He writes that, “A just man fulfils the law, and gives to every man his due; a holy man is specially united with God; the perfect man is both.”
Can parents understand why it is so important to form their children from little on, helping them create habits of charity and all the virtues, using the baptismal purity to move on to purity of mind and heart as adults?
This is not impossible. Manning notes that, “because truth is the revelation of the mind of God, the intellect is conformed to the divine intelligence.”
Read the process which is possible for all: “As this sanctifying grace grows in the heart, the intellect and will are conformed to the intelligence and will of God; and this growing conformity prepares both for the operation of the seven gifts. Then holy fear, and piety, and fortitude control, and soften, and strengthen the will; and knowledge and counsel form the practical reason or conscience; and understanding and wisdom enlarge the head and the heart, and unite both with God.”
Manning states, however, that this state is still not perfection.
“There may still be flaws and dents in the heart, mists in the intelligence, twists and crookedness in the will. There may be roots of many faults yet alive; habitual faults and deliberate venial sins.”
One may sin venially out of a knee-jerk reaction learning in childhood, habits which must be broken, but deliberate venial sins, with full knowledge, are more serious sins. Both types must be washed away in the Dark Night.
Manning continues, “The complete circle of charity and of it fertility is not yet expanded. There may be no self-denial, or generosity, or fervour. Such a man may still seek his own things, and not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. He keeps the commandments, but not the counsels. He dos many good things, but he does not spend himself, nor is he willing to be spent for the elect’s sake.”
As Manning notes, these people are good but not perfect. They do good works, but seem wooden and not spontaneous. They have to enter into the passive perfection of the soul, the purgation of self-will, the Dark Night, when all egoism is destroyed because good men judge one as evil, but nothing prospers from the work of one’s hands. ‘…everything goes wrong…all seem to prosper that is evil.”
Such is the way of the saint, those who want to be perfect. “Here is the realm which seems to be the home of those God has forgotten; where His face is never seen, nor a ray of His light ever shines. Let us now read over the Beatitudes: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit;’ Blessed are they that mourn;’ ‘blessed are they that hunger and thirst;’ Blessed are ye when men shall persecute you for justice’ sake.’
As Manning states most neatly—“This is the region not so much of active charity as of passive endurance.”
One suffers in the dark. Faith, hope and charity need to be used, daily. Those who want to be perfect, must go through this time. “They are learning to suffer without and within; from the world, from enemies, from friends, from Satan, from themselves. They are learning to be patient to be patient as their Divine Master, gentle to all, even the most unworthy; generous to the ungrateful, thankful under the cross, and their will in perfect submission to the will of God.”
As God told me on the Feast of Corpus Christi, “You have a long way to go….”
To be continued…