Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Purgative Way to Union

The Three Ways of the Spiritual Life
Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange
(Kindle Edition)

What seems like forever ago, a friendly reader suggested with great charity that I stop complaining about St. John of the Cross and look to Father Garrigou-Lagrange for help. She even gave me a link to his lectures published online. I started but did not or have not as yet gotten all that far. For that reason, I am pleased that Kindle came to my aid with recommendations for three works which cost me a total of less than $4.00

Father does much in this particular work to help one work through the obscure. I took delight in some fundamental principles which he brought home again and again in the course of his teaching:

Unitive love then becomes in the soul like a sea of fire that ' reaches to the farthest heights and depths, filling it wholly with love. ' This love, hardly perceptible at first, grows more and more until the soul experiences an ever-increasing hunger for God and a burning thirst, of which the Psalmist says: ' For thee my soul hath thirsted; for thee my flesh, O, how many ways ! ‘This is truly the beatitude of those that hunger and thirst after justice; this is truly the prelude to the life of heaven, truly a beginning of eternal life, ' quaedam inchoatio vitae aeternae. ' as St. Thomas has said. This is the supreme, but normal, development of the life of grace on earth, the seed of glory, semen gloriae. (Highlight Loc. 1380-85)

He reminds us of the solid Catholic teaching which grounds it all: This is the supreme, but normal, development of the life of grace on earth, the seed of glory, semen gloriae.

Perhaps Father’s language can help some understand how the spiritual torments (purgation) of St. Catherine of Genoa could lead to her treatise on Purgatory:

Let us see now (I) why this conversion is necessary for proficients, (2) how God purifies the soul at this stage and (3) what are the fruits of this third conversion. The necessity of the purification of the spirit. Many imperfections remain even in those who have advanced in the way of God. If their sensibility has been to a great extent purged of the faults of spiritual sensuality, inertia, jealousy, impatience, yet there still remain in the spirit certain ' stains of the old man ' which are like rust on the soul, a rust which will only disappear under the action of an intense fire, similar to that which came down upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. (Highlight Loc. 812-18)

All such discourse, obscure (I’m sorry) as it is, despite the great Dominican’s comparisons to the more familiar developmental stages of man: child, youth, adult, leads me on to continue studying and hoping to understand something more of interiority and sanctity.

Pray for me as I do for you, that we might make it through this “dark night” together!


  1. Your Excellency,
    And is it also the case that the Lord allows certain struggles, in spite of the great desire of a soul longing for the most intimate union with God - for the purpose of ensuring that humility remains the foundation of that ascent.
    I have found some recent comments of the Holy Father most enlightening, for instance"You might say ‘But Father, we might make mistakes.' I might respond, 'Well, what of it? Onward, if you make a mistake, you get up and go forward; that is the way.' Those who do not walk to avoid mistakes, make a the more serious mistake.” (Homily at Mass, 8/5/13)
    To me, I have always thought to try and climb is to take risks, sometimes to be in situations that are uncomfortable but perhaps necessary for a more evangelical (in the purest sense) pursuit of the love of God.
    God Bless,

    1. Dear Stephen!
      I think Father Garrigou-Lagrange would have been encouraging in that very same way, speaking about crises in the spiritual life as steps to growth. He uses words back in 1938 ("stunted", "idiot") which go against the grain today, but the point is that which the Holy Father makes: We need to risk something in order to grow. God Bless!


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