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Monday, 28 January 2013

The Stuff of Martyrs and Garrigou-Lagrange Part One

I find it interesting that some young people accept that they will suffer, in some way, for their Catholic Faith in the future, and some do not.

Suffering is part of life and we either suffer because that is a direct consequence of our own sin, or the consequence of the sin of Adam (death, illness, clouding of the intellect, concupiscence and the weakening of the will), or we suffer because God has invited us to join Him in His Passion.

The latter is the road of the martyr. Christ invites a person to walk the way to Calvary with Him and face the horrible, degrading death He accepted for our sakes.

Some are called to do this. And, all Catholics are called to suffer with Christ once they have been purified of serious sin and are in the Illuminative State.

This purification is the last stage of such. Here is Garrigou-Lagrange on this point.

Interesting that we not only have to accept the Cross Christ gives us, but add mortifications we choose as well?

Ch 4 : The Passive Purification of the Senses and the Entrance into the Illuminative Way
The entrance into the illuminative way, which is the second conversion described by St. Catherine of Siena, Blessed Henry Suso, Tauler, and Father Lallemant, is called by St. John of the Cross the passive purification of the senses or the night of the senses. At this point in our study we must see what St. John of the Cross says about: (I) the necessity of this purification; (2) the way it is produced; (3) the conduct to be observed at this difficult time; (4) the trials which ordinarily accompany the purifying divine action. These points will be the subject of this chapter and the following one.

In The Dark Night of the Soul, St. John of the Cross says: "The night of sense is common, and the lot of many: these are the beginners"; (1) and he adds farther on, after discussing this trial: "The soul began to set out on the way of the spirit, the way of proficients, which is also called the illuminative way, or the way of infused contemplation, wherein God Himself teaches and refreshes the soul without meditation or any active efforts that itself may deliberately make." (2) Nevertheless the soul must always struggle to remove the obstacles to this grace and to be faithful to it. These two texts are extremely important, for they mark the age of the spiritual life in which the purifying trial we are considering is ordinarily produced.
The necessity of this purification, as the saint shows in the same book,(3) arises from the defects of beginners, which may be reduced to three: spiritual pride, spiritual sensuality, and spiritual sloth. St. John of the Cross teaches that remains of the seven capital sins, like so many deviations of the spiritual life, are found even here. And yet the mystical doctor considers only the disorder that results from them in our relations with God; he does not speak of all that taints our dealings with our neighbor and the apostolate which may be under our care.
Spiritual sensuality, with which we are especially concerned here under the name of spiritual gluttony, consists in being immoderately attached to the sensible consolations that God sometimes grants in prayer. The soul seeks these consolations for themselves, forgetting that they are not an end, but a means; it prefers the savor of spiritual things to their purity, and thus seeks itself in the things of God rather than God Himself, as it should. In others, this self­seeking is in the exterior apostolate, in some form or other of activity.
Spiritual sloth comes as a rule then from the fact that, when spiritual gluttony or some other form of selfishness is not satisfied to the desired extent, one falls into impatience and a certain disgust for the work of sanctification as soon as it is a question of advancing by the "narrow way." The early writers spoke much of this spiritual sloth and of this disgust, which they called acedia.(4) They even declared that acedia, when accentuated, leads to malice, rancor, pusillanimity, discouragement, sluggishness, and dissipation of spirit in regard to forbidden things. (5)
Spiritual pride manifests itself quite frequently when spiritual gluttony or some other self-seeking is satisfied, when things go as one wishes; then a man boasts of his perfection, judges others severely, sets himself up as a master, while he is still only a poor disciple. This spiritual pride, says St. John of the Cross,(6) leads beginners to flee masters who do not approve of their spirit; "they even end by bearing them rancor." They seek a guide favorable to their inclinations, desire to be on intimate terms with him, confess their sins to him in such a way as not to lower themselves in his esteem. As St. John of the Cross says: "They go about palliating their sins, that they may not seem so bad: which is excusing rather than accusing themselves. Sometimes they go to a stranger to confess their sin, that their usual confessor may think that they are not sinners, but good people. And so they always take pleasure in telling him of their goodness." (7)
This spiritual pride leads, as is evident, to a certain pharisaical hypocrisy, which shows that the beginners, whom St. John of the Cross is speaking of, are still very imperfect; they are, therefore, beginners in the sense in which this word is generally understood by spiritual authors.(8) And yet it is of them that St. John of the Cross says here that they need to undergo the passive purification of the senses, which therefore marks clearly the entrance into the illuminative way of proficients, according to the traditional meaning of these terms.
To the defects of spiritual gluttony, spiritual sloth, and spiritual pride, are added many others: curiosity, which decreases love of the truth; sufficiency, which leads us to exaggerate our personal worth, to become irritated when it is not recognized; jealousy and envy, which lead to disparagement, intrigues, and unhappy conflicts, which more or less seriously injure the general good. Likewise in the apostolate, the defect rather frequent at this time is natural eagerness in self-seeking, in making oneself a center, in drawing souls to oneself or to the group to which one belongs instead of leading them to our Lord. Finally, let trial, a rebuff, a disgrace come, and one is, in consequence, inclined to discouragement, discontent, sulkiness, pusillanimity, which seeks more or less to assume the external appearances of humility. All these defects show the necessity of a profound purification.
Several of these defects may, without doubt, be corrected by exterior mortification and especially by interior mortification which we should impose on ourselves; but such mortification does not suffice to extirpate their roots, which penetrate to the very center of our faculties.(9) "The soul, however," says St. John of the Cross, "cannot be perfectly purified from these imperfections, any more than from the others, until God shall have led it into the passive purgation of the dark night, which I shall speak of immediately. But it is expedient that the soul, so far as it can, should labor, on its own part, to purify and perfect itself, that it may merit from God to be taken under His divine care, and be healed from those imperfections which of itself it cannot remedy. For, after all the efforts of the soul, it cannot by any exertions of its own actively purify itself so as to be in the slightest degree fit for the divine union of perfection in the love of God, if God Himself does not take it into His own hands and purify it in the fire, dark to the soul." (10)
In other words, the cross sent by God to purify us must complete the work of mortification which we impose on ourselves. Consequently, as St. Luke relates: "He [Jesus] said to all: If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself [this is the law of mortification or abnegation], and take up his cross daily, and follow Me"; (11) per crucem ad lucem. This road leads to the light of life, to intimate union with God, the normal prelude of the life of heaven.

Notice the last phrase, "the normal prelude to the life of heaven". No longer do the clergy call men and women to this stage. Why?

Perhaps they have not pursued this level of holiness themselves. Perhaps they have had bad pastoral training in seminary. Perhaps they have lost their way.

Choosing a chaste life or even making a celibate vow is a form of mortification. Not compromising the Faith and being martyred is another way, chosen by God. Ever little choice we make leads to the big choice. Are we strong enough interiorly to not shrink from a final test? No cross, no glory.