Like the young man spoken of at the end of the last chapter, where he was hesitant to go and sell all he had to follow Jesus, many souls desire perfection but are hesitant also and go away. Teresa laments saying, “Truly, such misery is to be pitied”. Hence, we are at the stage of prayer where there is a parting of the ways for those who would really want perfection and those who become hesitant of what is asked of them. The saints of Carmel accept the words of Christ at their full meaning. “If you want to be perfect, sell all you have.” A soul is on the way to perfection only when it has made this first renouncement or detachment.
A. Folly and Perfection
It seems that with the words of Our Lord and the Carmelite saints, St. Teresa and St. John, we would be left with no other alternative but to give up all that we have. But, Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene states that this would seem to make perfection of the gospel impossible for all those whose position in life could not admit of such absolute poverty. He talks of this renouncement or detachment for laymen in this chapter. Complete detachment from possessions is imposed only on certain souls; but it is the sign of a more intimate and more general renouncement within the reach of all, adapted to each one, and crucifying all equally that he talks about.
2. He states that St. Paul clearly affirms this in the Epistle to the Corinthians – “Now when they heard of a resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We will hear thee again on this matter.” So Paul went forth from among them. Certain persons however joined him and became believers.” (Acts 17:32-3) Also is quoted, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the prudence of the prudent I will reject.” Also – “ And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not in loftiness of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of Christ.  For I judged not myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching was not in the persuasive words of human wisdom, but in shewing of the Spirit and power;  That your faith might not stand on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (I Cor. 2:1-5)In these quotations, a radical opposition is evident between the wisdom of the world in which St. Paul is living, and the wisdom of God who is guiding him in his apostolate and presiding over the development of Christianity. Like St. Teresa who admonishes a soul that bases everything on reason and wishes us to love to the point of folly, St. Paul underlines that the wisdom of Christ is folly to the eyes of the world.
3. Blessed Fr. Marie-Eugene uses examples of saints who, in the eyes of the world, loved God to folly. It is obvious that it is all the saints, but he uses the examples of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Lawrence, St. John of the Cross and the Cure of Ars. They are examples of a kind of sanctity which embraces the folly of the cross leading to supernatural fruits. He then goes further by posing questions about this folly such as: In what does this folly of the cross consist? Is sanctity really in opposition to human reason? In what measure must one be foolish in the eyes of men in order to be a saint? He answers by pointing out that there are several distinctions concerning the three wisdoms which are at the foundation of the moral and the spiritual order that will shed light on this problem.
B. The Three Wisdoms
First, Divine Wisdom directs all things sweetly to their final end by subjecting them to laws in conformity with their nature, and so establishes order in the universe. Divine Wisdom leads man to his supernatural perfection by manifestations of the divine will that appear in three different modes.
Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene uses an analogy of a nurse. A nurse without faith and God’s grace may do her duty with imperfections of impatience, unkindness or sloth. A nurse that does her job with the necessary graces cares for a sick person with a supernatural devotedness inspired by her sense of duty; then suddenly it comes to her in a concrete and living way that this patient is a member of the suffering Christ. From then on, she sees in him only her beloved Christ, and sweetly moved by a love that makes her forgetful of self, she continues her charitable mission with incomparable gentleness and delicacy. He quotes St. John of the Cross, “God alone moves the faculties of these souls…and thus the works and prayers of these souls are always effectual. Such were those of the most glorious Virgin Our Lady.” Ascent Bk III p. 230-1
C. The Different Wisdoms and Perfection
In Conclusion: Perfection according to St. Teresa is not the good exterior order and supernatural virtue that reason illumines and inspires. There must be that love that reduces reason to folly and submits it to the light and rapture of the Holy Ghost. God alone can make His saints. Before coming under His direct action, one has not entered into the way of perfection. This way opens after the third Mansions, and it is by engaging oneself upon it that one merits the name of beginner.
The poverty or detachment that Blessed Fr. Marie Eugene points out for laymen is this surrender to God, to not trust in one’s reason or self. To give up on relying on self and turn to God in prayer – turn to God for all things.
I will add that all perfection comes from the hands of Our Lady – turn to Her in prayer and ask for this humility of heart to depend solely on God and to surrender to His Will, His time and His grace for your soul. No two souls are alike but we are alike in that God wants us – He wants us to be united to Him. Let us go and not wait – we do not know if we have tomorrow.
My God, my God, I love You above all things! Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, pray for us!
Blessed Fr. Marie-Eugene