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Monday 11 November 2013

On Discernment Again

Someone asked me yesterday about the gift of discernment. Now, I have written about this several times on the blog. All Catholics who are baptized and who have been confirmed have discernment.

This is not a special gift. This is not a charismatic gift, as some think, but a gift necessary for the living out of the daily Catholic life. Discernment is connected to the virtue of Prudence, which helps each one of us decide on spiritual realities we meet daily.

Not only do we have discernment for ourselves, and for various situations, but we have it for others as well. For example, we have discernment for our children, if we are parents. As teachers, who are praying and living their faith, we can have discernment for our students.  Those in government, if they are living a life of virtue, can have discernment for the people they govern and so on.

See my other blogs on discernment.

Again, on The Dark Night

One needs St. John’s commentaries on his poetry. One needs all the help one can get in understanding the passive time of purgation.

Do not kid yourselves that you have been purified is there is any inclination to sin left in your soul.

One thinks, “Ah, with all this pain and suffering, I must be moving out of the Dark Night.” Then, something happens and one’s predominant faults rears their ugly heads. Like monsters under the bed which only come out at night, these faults only are seen for what they are in the Dark Night.

One could get discouraged. One does. God, however, does not leave one in discouragement, but allows the virtue of humility to crowd out peevishness and impatience.

Growing in humility is a great sign of being in the Dark Night.

One no longer talks about one’s self.

One can listen patiently to others.

One can listen to God and speak with a new authority which only comes with suffering.

Authority is a gift of the Dark Night. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta had this authority. So did Venerable Fulton J. Sheen. This authority comes with the territory of intense sorrow for sin and the awareness of one’s total dependence on God Alone for virtue.

One can look at St. David’s life as if in allegory. He was a warrior king. He created Jerusalem, the City of Peace as the capital. He overcame his own sins and his enemies. Yet, God did not let him build the temple. Because David was a man of war, a man of action, the Temple had to wait until Solomon, the man of peace and wisdom was on the throne.

So, too, is the soul in the Dark Night. The soul, in passive purgation, is involved in the great battle against sin and concupiscence.  But, the temple, the place of peace and purity must come only after the purgation of the enemy of self. Once peace enters into the soul, once God visits the soul in love and creates a longing for union, then the Temple can be built.

In the Illuminative State, the Temple is visited by the shekinah glory. The Holy Spirit is finally released in the soul, as He has been held back by the barriers of self-love and sin.

St. John reveals the three stages of the Illuminative State in his Spiritual Canticle.  The soul is still weak from the time of purgative, but now the soul realizes that she is free from “the hands of sensuality and the devil”. She is being transformed into God.  A total surrender to God happens at this state and, finally, the life of the virtues is released.

I am astounded how many Catholics do not understand that there is no life of the virtues without purgation. The habit of the virtues, painstakingly worked on for years, now becomes a great flowering of gifts.  St. John writes, “Let us rejoice in the communication of the sweetness of love, not only in that sweetness we already possess in our habitual union, but in that which overflows into the effective and actual practice of love, either interiorly with the will in the affective act, or exteriorly in works directed to the service of the beloved.”

As I have noted on this blog before, would the Church not be truly powerful and a different Church if all Catholics let themselves graciously follow the path of perfection to this Illuminative State.

We have not seen power in the Church because of the lack of generosity on the part of the laity, clergy et al.

St. John notes that suffering many continue in the Illuminative State and even in the State of Union, but it is no longer the suffering of purgation, but the suffering of pure love.  Suffering becomes an expression of joining in the Passion of Christ with a heart full of joy and love.

Finally, God raises up the soul in a glory, which is appropriate for this side of the grave.  This earthly state of perfection is not the full union the soul will experience in the Beatific Vision and the soul knows this, thus adding to the knowledge of the lack of perfect union, and the great desire for real, complete union, which only happens after death.

In The Spiritual Canticle, as Kavanaugh notes, St. John’s poem may be divided into four stages of the Illuminative State moving into the Unitive State. Remember, the Church canonizes persons who have reached this last state while still on earth:

1)      The anxious longing and the searching by every means;
2)      Encounters of loving union and the urgent desire for complete freedom from inner and outer impediments;
3)      The full union, the mutual and total surrender and gift of self;
4)      The aspiration to glory.

To be continued….

Leading Up to The Spiritual Marriage

Moving out of the Dark Night is noted by St. John of the Cross as the time of betrothal of the spiritual marriage. He is clear that the long Dark Night purges one of the smallest imperfections, so that one is emptied of evil. A new strength comes into the person, and St. David’s psalm, 59, reveals this stage. “I will keep my strength for you.”

No longer is the person concerned about anything but God and His Perfect Will. All longings and desires have become totally focused on God Alone. This transition is, however, not yet the Unitive State, but the Illuminative State.

Some of the signs of the Illuminative State follow:

off and on raptures or ecstasies;

infused knowledge of God, especially His attributes;


an overflowing of the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit, now completely freed from sin and imperfections;

a great awareness that God’s Power is mightier than all other powers-in other words, No Fear;

God is now all things for the soul, the soul rests in God;

a wounding of God’s Love, yet unfilled.

One can see why St. John of the Cross refers to this time as the betrothal or engagement period of the bride, which is the soul. In a time of engagement, one feels this type of flow of love and power, good will and virtue. Most people who have become engaged note that these attributes carry one into a peace about the coming marriage. The fiancĂ© is all in all, and nothing else matters. One is wounded by love and can hardly wait for love’s fulfillment.

Many times, a new confidence enters into a woman in the time of engagement.  Many young women feel very alive and bask in the love of the other during this time. A humility at being loved is a sign of a virtuous woman during engagement.

Nothing will satisfy the soul except God, just as nothing will satisfy the bride-to-be but the fiancé.

God is preparing the soul for complete union, at least as complete as it can be experience on earth.

In the Illuminative State, a new power for good explodes and affects the Church. Such saints as SS. Benedict, Francis, Francis de Sales, Dominic and others would have started their orders which have lasted so long, at the period of Illumination.

The end of the passive purgation is also experienced. And, like a lover, the soul asks for complete union.

To be continued….