PERFECTION 5

If you really want to become perfect, you must firmly hold to the counsel of the Apostle: Attend to yourself, which implies two things. The first is not to look at the affairs of others nor at their defects. For the one who wishes to do his duty well and correct his own faults certainly has enough to do. The second is to strive for your own perfection and work incessantly for it, without worrying whether or not the others are doing so.
– Abbot Pastore

St. John Berchmans was an outstanding example in this regard. From the first day of his religious life, St. John Berchmans resolved that he would tend only and always to his own affairs. To this he dedicated all his life with such solicitude, that he never had time to look at the affairs of the others or to notice their defects. Hence he never stopped to reflect why others did or said this or that, or whether they acted well or not. Nor did he ever take it upon himself to defend one at the risk of offending others. He just quietly let each one think of himself and take care of his own affairs. As for the defects of the others, he took no notice of them even when committed before his eyes. For this reason it can be said that he never was able to point out the defects in the others. All he worried about was to correct his defects and to do his duties well. Therefore, in order to keep his soul free from defects, he used extraordinary diligence. Alhtough he had a great love for studies, he never let his studies interfere with his spiritual exercises, acts of charity or obedience; he never sought to satisfy his desires but to gain as many merits as possible.

Lord, what wilt Thou have me do? Behold the true sign of a totally perfect soul: when one has reached the point of giving up his will so completely that he no longer seeks, expects or desires to do ought but that which God wills.
– St. Bernard of Clairvaux

These were St. Paul's first words as soon as he came to know Jesus: "Lord, what wilt Thou have me do?" He said these words with such sincere affection and such submission of his will, that from then on he had no other desire than to fulfill the divine will. Neither did he ever vacillate in his constancy and fidelity, regardless of how many adversities, sufferings or trials he encountered.

It is not as necessary to strive for great favors as it is to gain virtue, for the one who makes mortifications and, with humility and purity of conscience, serves the Lord is the one who, without doubt, will be the greatest saint. – St. Teresa of Avila

Rufino d'Aquileia narrates that one day, while praying, St. Macarius, who thought he had progressed quite well in virtue, heard an interior voice say: "Marcarius, know that you have not yet reached the virtue which is found in those two women who live in that city." Macarius went to visit those two women. After questioning and examining them, he found them to be quite advanced in virtue; for, although they had lived together for fifteen years, they had never disagreed either in words or in actions. Surprised, St. Macarius confessed that those two women were holier than he, even though head had received so many and such extraordinary graces.

I see two common mistakes among spiritual persons. The first is that they measure their devotions by the consolations and satisfactions that they experience in the service of God; so much so, that if these are lacking at times, they feel that they have lost all their piety. No, this is nothing but a sensible devotion. The true and substantial devotion does not consist in these things, but in having a will that is resolute, active, prompt and constant in not offending God and in fulfilling all that which appertains to His service. The second mistake is that if they should ever do something with repugnance or weariness, they feel that they have not gained any merit. On the contrary they have gained greater merit, for a single ounce of good performed with weariness and without satisfaction while the soul is undergoing a period of spiritual darkness, is worth more than one hundred pounds of good done with pleasure and satisfaction, because the first was performed with a stronger and purer love than the latter. Hence, no matter how much aridity and repugnance the sensitive part of us may feel, we must not lose courage but continue along our way. – St. Francis de Sales

In order to prevent his penitents from falling into the first mistake, St. Philip Neri used to tell them that in the spiritual life there are three degrees or stages. The first is called animal life and is of those who in their devotions seeks sensible consolations. These consolations are given by God to beginners so that, attracted by the delight derived from the sensible pleasure, they will give themselves to the spiritual life. The second is called the life of man, and is of those who, deprived of sensible sweetness, combat their passions for the acquisition of virtue. The third is called life of the angels. This life is reached by those who, having fought for a long time to overcome their passions, receive from God a tranquil, quiet and almost angelic life even in this world.



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