Prayer: Behold me humbly prostate at Your feet, O Jesus, my Lord and my King! You have caused me to hear Your voice, and I have listened; You have invited me to follow You, to quit the world, to seek holiness, and Your grace has given me the strength to respond to the call. But the first step suffices not for Your love, or for my obligations. It is necessary now that I render myself worthy of the choice which You have made of me; it is necessary that I render my life and my sentiments conformable to Yours; that I love what You have loved, and despise what You have rejected. It is necessary in fine that I understand the infinite value of sanctification, and above all the inestimable advantages which I find in it, of being able to arrive more surely and more happily at the end for which You have created me. Your grace will finish the work which it has commenced: I expect this of Your infinite mercy through the prayers and intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Meditation: Perfection increases in the soul in proportion with its union with God; and its progress will be so much the more sensible, as divine charity will have extended its dominion over a greater number of its thoughts, actions, and affections, animating all its virtues by transforming and in some sort divinizing them. Perfection then supposes the faithful practice of virtues in the midst of which shines charity, which is the queen and which gives them motion and life, at the same time that it gives value to their actions.
According to the Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure, perfection consists in fleeing vice, doing good and suffering the adversities of this life, and all this in a manner the most generous that is possible to us; that is to say, a perfect soul, not only abstains from grave faults, but even from those which have the appearance of evil, that she does good with fidelity, generosity, and facility, and that she embraces sufferings with joy, knowing that there is incomparably more love, and consequently more perfection in accepting tribulations, because it is the will of God Who sends them, than in practicing some other good works which we ourselves choose; according to the words of the apostle, St. James “Patience has a perfect work”. After these reflections, it is easy to see that perfection is not the work of a day, but a serious undertaking which requires great courage and a strong resolution. Because of the double consequence of original sin, our perverted will finds itself considerably weakened, and our corrupt nature tries without ceasing to draw us far from the difficult path which displeases it; while the demon, jealous of the glory of God and our own advantage, employs all kinds of snares and even violence to draw us from it; and little by little, if we give way to our laxity and natural inconstancy, we will soon find ourselves very far from the end which we had proposed to attain.
Let us then resemble a hardy navigator, who having discovered land fruitful in all kinds of riches, pursues his route with ardor until he reaches it, struggling with courage against the waves and contrary winds, and repulsing the powerful enemies who oppose his enterprise. Yes, whatever be the labor and the efforts which we must employ to acquire perfection, it is of so great a price and procures to those who attain it so much happiness, even in this life, that all the sacrifices which it requires bear no proportion to the advantages which it gives. By means of this divine perfection, the soul here below is put in possession of God Himself, to whom she is united by ties of the most ineffable friendship, and she enjoys the sweetness of a profound peace. If she must share with the other children of Adam, the sufferings and privations attached to their condition here, these evils lose for her the greater part of their bitterness, because love sweetens them and makes her come out victorious from these trials, enriched with the inestimable prize of patience. But a very consoling truth for the soul, is that it suffices that she be resolved to labor for it during her whole life, that at present she enter into it and never abandon it; notwithstanding all obstacles; notwithstanding even her infidelities. The first fruit which she will gather from her labor is the assurance of her perseverance, in as much as it is possible to be assured of this grace, which God without doubt is not obliged to give to any one, and which is a pure gift of His love. There is much to hinder fallen man in the practice of virtue, because his natural inclinations violently draw him down to base and terrestrial things. In the execution of his good desires, he remains always much behind the end at which he has proposed to arrive; if he wishes to keep strictly to the exact requirement of the law without being willing to do more, it often happens that he transgresses the law. In the same way that an arrow directed to an end will not reach it, because of its own weight which always tends downward, if the one who aims it does not look above the mark, thus the human will should be directed to acts of the most eminent virtues in order to succeed in those which are of necessity. This is why our Divine Master, Who alone possesses the science of the human heart, presses us in the Gospel to make every effort to enter by the narrow gate, and exhorts us without ceasing to follow the straight way which alone conducts to life, presenting us with nothing less than the sanctity of God Himself, as a model of the perfection which we should strive to attain, “Be ye perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” We must not neglect pious practices, make light of small faults, or very soon we will lose the inestimable treasure of grace and not even realize the immense loss which we have attained.
Perfection has degrees through which it is necessary to pass in order to arrive at perfect love. These degrees are the purgative way and the illuminative way; it is by them that the soul reaches the unitive life. It is necessary then, before all things and it is the first step in the seeking of perfection that the soul be purified from her past since by a sincere repentance; that after having discovered her secret vices, the disorderly inclinations of her heart, and her faults of character, she should labor generously to correct them, and to cause the death of nature by following the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
May we turn to Our Lady and ask her for the guidance and help along this purgative and illuminative way. We cannot do this without her. She will guide us to her Son and in the most perfect way. She will not fail us and she will be a good Mother who reprimands us and leads us once again when we have taken a fall. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel pray for us!
Bernadette Porter is a Traditional Catholic, a wife of 42 years with 6 adult home-schooled children and 6 grandchildren. A sincere devotion to Mary, the Mother of God leads me to want to share "The Church's best kept secret" - Mary!