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Wednesday 11 June 2014

Perfection Series II: St. Angela of Foligno 2

Perfection Series II: St. Angela

Continuing with Angela of Foligno, one sees the progression of her road to holiness. This saint admits that she had lived a loose life. She is sharing insights concerning the siren call of the world as one who escaped, through the grace of God, from the world.

Angela clearly writes that the men of the world fall into damnation by pursuing status, riches, comfort. She notes that this wisdom of the world revolves around the immediate and not the eternal.

As one who is writing from the Illuminative State, and finally, the Unitive State, Angela warns us that only the illumination from God regarding our sins and the falsity of worldly goals can keep us on the path.

This Illuminative State, which has been described here in the perfection series, is a gift for those who accept the humiliation of poverty and nothingness.

I have heard priests state that humility is not the same as humiliation. Angela (and I, from experience) assures us that this idea is false. To desire humility, one must be ready for humiliations, over and over again.

These humiliations happen according to the Mind of God. He allows some people to experience more humiliations than others for the sake of their souls. When humiliations come, one is inclined to see these as punishment from God. Some may be punishments for sins, a purgatory on earth.

Some humiliations are simply opportunities for growth. One cannot look for reward, as this is vainglory.

Angela admits that she was extremely impure on her road to perfection, by thinking she was holier than she was. God took her and showed her vainglory and pride.

Pride, the number one sin, gets in the way of holiness, and must be crushed. Angela of Foligno warns us all against these things, in her own words.

“…in order that our minds may be the better fixed upon God it is needful that we should cast off all perverse and useless habits, all superfluous familiarity with men and women of whatsoever nature, all superfluous knowledge and the desire to hear many new things, all superfluous labours and occupations. And, briefly, it is needful that man should put away from him all things which do distract his mind.”

Poverty takes care of many distractions. When one is poor, one cannot afford cable television, the Internet, newspapers, magazines, going out to plays, going on vacations,  or even books.

One cannot afford dinners out, or needless socializing. One can barely afford the basics necessary for life, which creates a gratitude, as one realizes that all one has is really from God and not from one’s own worth, value, efforts.

Focusing on God is not an automatic response of the poor, but not having other distractions helps to clear the mind of trivia.

Our model is Christ Crucified.  As Angela notes,  regarding the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, “….he (the sinner) must take heed that never forget this great benefit.”

To fix one’s mind totally on Christ demands the simplicity of life, and poverty provides this simplicity.

Ask yourselves today these simple questions:

How much time do I spend watching useless programs, or playing distracting computer games?

How much time do I fill my imagination with decorating the house, or planting more flowers, or fixing elaborate meals?

How much time do I waste on line reading copious comments, tweets, or news items, not necessary for my work or salvation?

The call to poverty should be cherished. Those who hate those of us who are poor fear facing the real poverty, which is the poverty of the soul.

To be continued…

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From A Friend of Mine in My Most Favorite Place

Perfection II: Angela Part Four

Perfection Series II yet again and again

Angela of Foligno writes that the worst poverty, abject poverty, is knowing one’s sins are the cause of the suffering of Christ. Such poverty is that which should be sought by all Catholics.


Unless one is emptied of self, one cannot love God as He desires to be loved.
Unless one allows purgation, one cannot come to know the Bridegroom.

Angela notes: “ …in order to raise man up again from out of this adverse poverty, the most high God, Christ Jesus, the most rich in all thing, did make Himself poor for our sake; how He, the most beatific and most joyful, did make Himself most wretched in order that through His infinite suffering He might redeem man and save him from everlasting and unspeakable pain.”

The more we meditate on the Crucifixion, the more we see and understand this great sacrifice of God Himself.  Angela explain, “ For the more clearly the soul doth know God and His exaltedness, His mercy and infinite goodness and worthiness…and the more clearly it beholdeth the wretchedness of man, his faults, is unworthiness, his ingratitude, infirmities, and vileness, the more deeply is it moved towards the love of Christ and the grief of His Passion, and is transformed into the likeness thereof, wherein consisteth all the perfection of man”

One cannot, absolutely cannot, become perfect without being transformed into Christ Himself, the Christ Who is on the Cross.

May I add that this meditation of Christ on the Cross is not merely a devotion, but a lifestyle. What I mean by this is that the contemplation of God as the Suffering Servant cannot be merely something which happens now and then, but daily, in order to conform one’s self to Christ.

The problem is that people honestly do not believe in the Suffering Christ.

To be continued….

Perfection Series II. Angela Part Three

Those who are poor endure many sufferings, which if accepted, join one to the sufferings of Christ. People who can avoid suffering poverty, should and rejoice in the gifts of God. But, they absolutely must not look down or scorn those who are not so blessed.

The blessings of wealth come completely freely from God, and despite the feelings or convictions of those who are wealthy, these gifts do not come from our own efforts, but from God’s Providence.

Angela of Foligno reminds us that only in realizing our own wretchedness can we find God. I have moments of joy, but not consistently, as I am so far from perfection, when people revile me. “Why don’t you get a job?” (I have applied to so many, I have lost count.) “Why don’t you buy a car to get to a job?” (Banks do not give car loans to people without incomes. And, I could not afford to keep a car.)  “Why don’t you move in with some man to pay your way?” (No answer to that one.., which I heard last week.)  “Why does not son not leave the seminary to help you? (He does not exist for my happiness, but for God, to Whom he belongs. And, he would merely join the 50% of the unemployed of his age group.) “Why don’t you move back to Europe?” (Ummm…again, no answer to that one.) “Why don’t you apply for HUD housing?” (There is an eight year waiting list in this city and a ten year waiting list across the River.)

For those who have never faced their own wretchedness, the idea that to know one is nothing and to know that one is helpless in the face of poverty can be freeing is completely mysterious. The freeing of one’s self from the opinions of others brings an objectivity about grace and sin. Angela writes this and I paraphrase-that all knowledge of God comes from knowledge of self.  The self is a prison which keeps us from the Love and Mercy of God.

There is only one way to achieve both the knowledge of God and knowledge of self. This is the way of meditating, contemplating on the Crucifixion of Christ.

Thinking about the Passion of Christ reveals many things to one’s self. If one cannot do this, one is running away from suffering. If one can meditate on the sufferings of Our Lord, He begins to join His sufferings with ours.  One begins to enter into His suffering by this invitation.

We know we love someone when we want to share in their sufferings and not run away from these pains.  To focus on the sufferings of Christ is to be reminded that He actually chose to endure these pains so that we can join Him in eternal bliss.

St. Angela states that if one wants to become perfect, one must accept suffering, penance, disdain...

Such is love….

To be continued…

St. Angela of Foligno

Perfection Series II: Angela of Foligno

The Book of Divine Consolation of The Blessed Angela of Foligno provides another help for those seeking perfection. The perfection series will continue with some of her thoughts this week.

One of the most important points which the saints make is the absolute importance of poverty. Sadly, especially in America, the teaching of poverty has been suppressed by priests, who hardly ever mention this way to holiness.

In fact, I have heard sermons wherein priests have denied that Christ, while on earth, was poor. Of course, this liberal teaching, which emphasizes that Christ was “middle-class” is ludicrous, anti-historical, and against 2000 plus years of Church teaching. In fact, one cannot understand the Incarnation without an understanding of the deep poverty which God allowed His Son to endure by giving up for a time, the power of God. We see this in the Temptation of Christ, a lesson in deep humility. We see this in the beautiful hymn in Ephesians.

Angela of Foligno writes this: “Verily, God spake thus unto me: ‘If poverty had not been a most noble thing…I myself would not have assumed it.’ Certain it is that pride only exist in those who do possess something. For this reason, because they did believe themselves to be possessed of something, came the pride and fall  of the first man and the angel; neither the angel nor the man did possess anything in themselves of themselves, for God alone hate this, and humility is found along those who are poor and who are persuaded that they do possess nothing. Wherefore is poverty a most excellent thing, and God Himself did cause His dearly beloved Son to be more poor than any man ever was before or will be hereafter…”

To deny the poverty of Christ is to deny His Incarnation.

That poverty bring humiliation is something those of us who have experienced poverty can attest is a truism. Especially in the States, where poverty seems to be connected with sin and failure,  all left-over fallacies from Calvinism, which has infected the Catholic Church.

Those who see the value of poverty, notes Angela of Foligno, freely give up things and status. The nuns and monks who give up owing their own personal things, give up any chance of being seen as worthwhile in the world. But, these good people do not care, as they see the goal of finding God and clinging to Him in their nothingness.

Part of being poor is losing confidence in one’s own abilities and self. But, again, this is the truth of our situation in life-that all we have is from God and not ourselves.

Sadly, Catholics do not help the poor, or rarely, passing the job demanded by God for holiness to the State, which neither cares about the poor but only merely wants to create a dependent under-class. To help the poor is to try and confer dignity on those who are poor, so that they can live within their means, but with their own means.

Two aspects of poverty, as pointed out by Angela of Foligno, show us the way to perfection.

One is that people who are poor no longer can be deceived by demons. Why? Because the demons hate the humility which comes from those who no longer rest in their own talents, but rely entirely on God.

The second point clarifies that one who is poor “receive a clear and perfect comprehension and hath a most enlightened understanding of all the matters of this life, so that it can never be deceived the whiles it doth posses this truth. Wherefore do I know that poverty is the mother of all virtues and the revelation of the divine wisdom.”

BTW an Angela sent me this book by Angela of  Foligno, a book rich in wisdom on the way to perfection.

To be continued…