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Spiritual Purgation and the Dark Night of the Soul

Preparing the soul to serve God and making one's love pure

St. John of the Cross, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
St. John of the Cross, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

“When the devil has failed in making a man fall, he puts forward all his energies to create distrust between the penitent and the confessor, and so little by little he gains his end at last.” St. Philip Neri

St. Augustine in the City of God talked about the two cities, the city of man and the city of God, the city of vanity and the city of salvation. To be a citizen in the city of God, only God knows whether you are genuinely seeking an authentic union with Him.

In the spiritual life as Christians, Christianity by default demands perfection out of us. To be an authentic Christian is to be in constant union with God, who is the maker of all things, where our will becomes His will. Our fidelity to Him is reflected in the way we live our life, and conduct ourselves both privately and professionally.

This authenticity is the main reason why people of little or no faith would be attracted to you as a person and the institution you represent, the Catholic Church. This maturity in the Christian faith requires strong asceticism where we strip ourselves of attachments to certain things, objects, pleasures and sins to be instruments of His will in our lives, and to be truly free. This spirit of cleansing the soul can be reflected in fine art or sacred architecture where we as Christians were building and making better music, art and architecture in the 16th century and the contemporary counterparts we find today.

This virtue, excellence and integrity is a reflection of an intimate relationship with God, where our failures as human beings are rooted out and we become a vessel of His presence in our lives.

St. John of the Cross, said for beginners in the spiritual life “For a clearer understanding of this and of how truly imperfect beginners are, insofar as they practice virtue readily because of the satisfaction attached to it, we will describe, using the seven capital vices as our basis, some of the numerous imperfections beginners commit. Thus we will clearly see how very similar their deeds are to those of children. The benefits of the dark night will become evident, since it cleanses and purifies the soul of all these imperfections.”

Today, the Catholic Church faces immense challenges both within and externally. We also live in a time of immense confusion and death that seeks to do us immense harm both within the Church and in the culture.

The great Saints such as St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Joan of Arc, St. Benedict of Nursia and St. Therese of Lisieux, showed us the way to remove the distractions of the world and focus on eternity. It is this discipline that spiritual purgation seeks to foster within us as we move from a state of dysfunctional behavior to a state of excellence in virtue, chastity and charity.

As the great St. Alphonsus Liguori says:

“A person who rails at God in adversity, suffers without merit; moreover by his lack of resignation he adds to his punishment in the next life and experiences greater disquietude of mind in this life.”

It is our duty as Christians to be concerned with God and with the higher things than to be trapped within our own excessive sinfulness and selfishness. For this excellence of soul which God nurtures within us is to be united to the all powerful, all conquering God, whose love is endless.


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