See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Monday, November 02, 2009

Little compromises



And the contagion of the world's slow stain.
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Fr. Angelo Mary writes eloquently on St Catherine of Genoa and purgatory today.  St. Catherine is one of my favorite saints and a great mystic who balanced an intense prayer life with the demanding and practical work of a hospital superintendent in 16Th century Genoa.  She is best known for her treatise on purgatory.  Superficial students of her work - like me - can find themselves initially contented by an abridged edition of her treatise, while imagining her doctrine somehow mitigates the severity of the sufferings of purgatory.
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A cursory reading of the Saint's work seems to lift the veil of terror and fear often associated with purgatory and presents it as an endurable course of passive purgation.  This due in part to the soul's divinely infused conviction of it's own sin, the just punishment due, as well as the necessary purification required to see God in the beatific vision.  Alternately, the soul experiences a deep peace and interior joy, along with a growing intensity of the love of God amidst suffering.   And so I always convinced myself  "purgatory ain't so bad" and rolled over and fell asleep.
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Reading Fr. Angelo's post, as well as an early morning recollection of a few sins I had somehow justified to myself as being not that serious, awakened me to what St. Catherine feared the most in the spiritual life, "the contagion of the world's slow stain".  That imperceptible tendency to compromise and allow little affections grow and infest and corrode our best intentions, permitting even venial sins - knowing a splash of holy water properly used can forgive them... Nevertheless, compromise upon compromise, lulling the soul to sleep.
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Fr. Angelo's wake up call.
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St. Catherine of Genoa (+1510) was a great mystic who was given insights into the plight of our poor brothers and sisters in Purgatory. Like all mystics she was given an understanding of supernatural realities that she had a hard time putting into words. The pain of the Poor Souls in their purification was beyond her ability to describe. But so was the love and joy of these souls who were so drawn to God by the bands of His love and who were so eager to be delivered from the imperfections that hindered them from uniting themselves to Him completely and freely.
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The world lies to us about happiness and about the relative value of the experiences of this life as compared with those that exist beyond the veil of death. Every time we sin we make a false estimation of the consequences of our actions. We take imprudent risks to our own detriment. We sell our inheritance for a bowl of porridge. All the while we settle on a transient relief from suffering and purification, like addicts getting their next fix only to crash harder than before.
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St. Catherine has no words for the extremity of our danger . . . and of the love that is the cure of our torpor. The souls in purgatory when they were alive thought too little about their danger and too little about love. Now they think nothing of their pain and only about the love of God. They will their purification. They do not sleep and they have no desire for it. Yet for all their love and joy in the midst of their pain, it is for them no merit, for their time has passed. - In Extremis
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St. Catherine pray for us to be converted by the love of God.  Safeguard us from illusion and the deceptive contagion of the world's slow stain.

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous2:08 PM

    Terry: once again you hit the nail right on the head, it is so easy for us to compromise thinking at least it is not as bad as........
    May the Lord protect all of us from half measures when the Lord wants all of us. Thanks!!

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  2. Fr. Groeschel loves St. Catherine of Genoa...speaks of her in some of his books, esp. on Purgatory.
    Like I said on another post, purgatory is certainly God's Mercy.
    We need a lot of "sos" scrubbing, most of us, anyway, before we are ready to don our white robes and enter the Nuptial Banquet of the Lamb.
    Thanks!

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  3. I am not familiar with this Saint's writings but you've intrigued me. I should look some of them up.

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  4. Great reflection, Terry. Thanks.

    I've always liked Mother Angelica's comment: "Aim for Heaven - if you miss, you at least have Purgatory. But if you aim for Purgatory and miss..."

    Happy All Souls Day.

    And please pray for me - I need to do better at not adding to the slow stain of contagion.

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