"The Martyrdom of Saint Andrew" by Charles Le Brun
November is the month of the Holy Souls - the souls in purgatory. This year I did a month of daily prayers and works for the Holy Souls. Using an old 'Purgatory Manual' I prayed the meditations offered. It was rather instructive and very edifying. The author often refers to the Holy Souls as penitents, and points out the purgation they undergo for various faults and attachments before the can see God. It was very much like reading John of the Cross or other masters of the interior life, as regards the purgation the soul undergoes in preparation for union with God.
When I write about penance - I have such things in mind. At every stage in our earthly pilgrimage most of us have need of purgation - penitence. Even in the higher stages, particular saints have given example of this - Paul of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux, and more recently, Teresa of Calcutta - though already in a state of union, endured great interior trials. As Garrigou-Lagrange notes:
The lives of some great servants of God especially dedicated to reparation, to immolation for the salvation of souls or to the apostolate by interior suffering, make one think, however, of a prolongation of the night of the spirit even after their entrance into the transforming union. In such cases, this trial would no longer be chiefly purificatory; it would be above all reparative. - The Three Ages of the Interior Life
The goal of the spiritual life is union with God. And ...
It is through many trials and tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. - Acts 14:22
I wonder if we Catholics have a good understanding of that now days? As it is, many of us think everyone goes straight to heaven. Many give no thought to the purgation necessary to see God. In fact, I bet it may be safe to assume many of us hardly prepare to receive Holy Communion. I bet many more are convinced the sufferings of purgatory - if they exist - aren't that bad. Many of us resist the idea of inconveniencing ourselves, much less doing any penance. I laughed yesterday when I came across a blog post headline reminding readers that American Catholics had an indult saying they could eat meat on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Like a day without meat would be so bad. I have no problem with that - it's just funny.
Anyway. I want to do some penance - maybe for Advent. I actually need to.
You guys can do what you want.
Oh! And happy feast day to all the Andrew poodles I know.
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"The soul, all immersed in pure love, without an image, in most pure and naked faith, suddenly finds itself, when it so pleases the Sovereign Good, plunged equally into the ocean of the Savior's sufferings" and sees "that the Passion is wholly a work of love." - St. Paul of the Cross