Ending this section on the general call of all to perfection, one can take a last look at St. Catherine’s Dialogue for help. I think most people can understand the activity needed on our part in order to walk the path to perfection, but what may be puzzling are the passive purifications.
Two signs, according the saint, indicate that one is going through the passive purifications of the soul, which is the same as the Dark Night of the soul. The first sign is complete docility to the Holy Spirit. One no longer trusts in one’s self, but in the movements of the Spirit. One is no longer rebellious but cooperative in grace. The second sign is the receiving of Divine inspirations through the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, and here, I am reminded both of St. Angela and Cardinal Manning in their repetition of the flowering of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
These seven gifts become “mature” after the passive purifications, a point I made over the past several years in the perfection series. That Garrigou-Lagrange reminds us of this fact corresponds with his other works, and with the great saints of perfection-Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Ignatius of Loyola, Francis de Sales, and Alphonsus Ligouri.
The passive purgations, again, take away all the dross in our hearts, minds, including the imagination, intellect, and memory. The senses are, as noted before, purged first, and then the spirit.
Then, one enters into the IlluminativeState and finally, the State of Union, again defined in the perfection series.
The seven gifts of the Holy Ghost are, as a reminder: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, Fear of the Lord.
These gifts come to the fore only after we are purified, which is hard for many people to understand. Sin blocks both gifts and virtues, even repeated venial sins, or venial sins which are habitually done almost automatically, revealing a need for healing as well as purgation.
Garrigou-Lagrange notes, that “while conforming ourselves to His expressed will, we must abandon ourselves to His divine will of good pleasure, however mysterious it may be, for we are certain beforehand that in its holiness it wills nothing, permits nothing, unless for a good purpose.”
Another theme on this blog which is covered in this book as well is that he who is faithful in little things will be faithful in big things. I have written over the years that being obedient in the small things is like a daily boot camp experience, wherein we make our wills stronger. Garrigou-Lagrange notes that “If every day we do what we can to be faithful to God in the ordinary routine of life, we may be confident that He will give us grace to remain faithful in whatever extremity we may find ourselves through His permission; and if we have to suffer for Him, He will give us the grace to die a heroic death rather than be shamed and betray Him.”
This book was published in 1937, when persecutions around the world were ratcheting up. We must not forget that the daily practice of virtue and the faithfulness in small things helps us grow. The author states that, “Daily fidelity to the divine will as expressed gives us a sort of right to abandon ourselves completely to the divine will of good pleasure as yet not made known to us.”
We are faced with suffering daily, and if we do not shirk from this suffering and if we do not complain or judge others, we are being faithful to this daily fidelity. Garrigou-Lagrange writes, “Daily fidelity and trusting self-abandonment thus give the spiritual life its balance, its stability and harmony. In this way we live our lives in almost continuous recollection, in an ever-increasing self-abnegation, and these are the conditions normally required for contemplation and union with God. This, then, is the reason why our life should be one of self-abandonment to the divine will as yet unknown to us and at the same time supported every moment by that will as already made known to us.”
Garrigou-Lagrange states something interesting: “In this union of fidelity and self-abandonment we have some idea of the way in which asceticism, insisting on fidelity or conformity to the divine will, should be united with mysticism, which emphasizes self-abandonment.”
Some things are just plain basics and on top of this we add our act of complete trust in God, in Divine Providence. We give God our present and our future. We also give God our past, which is very difficult for many of us who have had tumultuous pasts and need to rely on Divine Mercy, as the author points out, for the consequences.
There is no error, no misjudgment, no sin which God has not forgiven in our past. There is no trial so difficult in our present which God cannot overcome, and there is nothing in our future which we need to dread, as we are in the Hands of God.
Romans is most likely my favorite epistle of St. Paul, and Romans 8 may be the chapter masterpiece of this letter. Garrigou-Lagrange refers to Romans 8:31-39 as to the way of perfection through abandonment to God, whether we face the good will of men or malice, as he notes.
Childlike confidence is key. One cannot be too childlike, states the author, and I am glad he wrote that. He states,“Therefore, in abandoning ourselves to God, all we have to fear is that our submission will not be wholehearted enough.”