Christian Perfection |
Portions of the following are taken from the excellent work My Catholic Faith by Bishop Louis LaRavoire Morrow in 1949 which is one of the most succinct, simple and concise explanations of the doctrines and practices of Roman Catholicism that both Catholic and non-Catholic can easily understand without any ambiguity or relativism. Pure, unadulterated facts and absolutes. Bolded sections for added emphasis, comments to modern practices, etc. are by editor.
From St. Paul we learn what armor to wear in our struggle for Christian perfection:
"Put on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil...Stand, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of justice, and having your feet shod with the readiness of the gospel of peace, in all things taking up the shield of faith, with which you may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take unto you the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, that is, the word of God."Ephesians 6: 11-17
We should not be satisfied merely to keep the commandments of God, but should always be ready to do good deeds, even when they are not commanded. The commandments of God state the minimum requirements for salvation. They should be kept not merely according to the letter, but also according to the spirit; this obliges us to strive for greater perfection.
If we only give God what He commands us to give, we would be doing only what is absolutely necessary. In such a case we would go to church only once a week, plus six holydays of obligation a year; we would go to Confession only once a year, and receive Holy Communion only during the Easter Time. By doing these things and avoiding all serious violation of the Commandments, we would still be obeying God and keeping ourselves from mortal sin and saving our souls.
What would you think of a child who gives his parents only what is demanded of him? What would you think of him if he never showed them any affection, never did anything extra for them to show his love and gratitude? We would say he is an abnormal son, an unnatural child.
We say that we love God, our Creator, Father, and Friend, our Savior, the Source of all our benefits and graces. Love is proved by deeds, by the amount of sacrifice we would be willing to make for the beloved person. Can we ever serve God sufficiently, to show our affection? He does not command us to go out of our way to help the poor; but can we consider anyone a good Christian who does not do so? A Christian should not only obey the commands of Christ, but should follow His counsels. We go to church on weekdays, because we love Him, and wish to visit Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar, to receive Him into our very hearts. We should think up extra things to do for the person we love most. Our parents do not command us to buy gifts for them on their birthdays; but if we do so, are they not delighted at our show of affections?
Christian perfection consists in union with God by the practice of virtue; it requires love of God and our neighbor, and detachment of the heart from the things of this world. By striving after true Christian perfection, we make clearer and clearer in ourselves the true image of God. Is not this a wonderful incentive?
Christian perfection is nothing else but sanctity, holiness, the love of the saints for God. Lest those who call themselves "ordinary mortals" be afraid to aspire to this sanctity, we must make it clear that it does not require extraordinary works. It only requires deep, abiding love, for "Love is the fulfilling of the law," the fulfillment of it to its very foundation and depths, not merely on the surface.
Did our Blessed Mother do any extraordinary works, judged by normal standards of the world? But no mortal has been or can be as holy, as full of perfection.
The spirit of Christ obliges us to strive for greater perfection. He says: "You therefore are to be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5: 48). Those who practice virtue wil receive an eternal reward, and are happy even on earth. Hence Our Lord pronounces them blessed in the Beatitudes (cf. Matthew 5: 3-10).
All states of life can be sanctified by those who wish only to live for God. Saints are found in every class. Love of God is in everybody's power.
As there are different degrees of love, so alos there are different degrees of perfection, according to the capacity of each individual. But all can practice virtue. From other good works we can excuse ourselves, saying: "I cannot fast, for I am sickly," etc. But no one can say, "I cannot love." However, religious and pious practices should be adapted to the occupations and duties of an individual. A mother of twelve young children would do wrong to spend half the day in church praying. One who works in an office should not stay so long at daily Mass that he is habitually late for his work.
The model of Christian perfection is Our Lord. The saints, who imitated Him steadfastly, are also patterns of perfection. No one can ever be as perfect as Christ. But having Him fo ra model inspires us to strive for greater and greater sanctity. He said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14: 6). And in reply to the young man who wished to become perfect, Jesus said, "Come, follow Me" (Matthew 19: 21). We should try to make progress every day, so that we are better today than yesterday. "He who is just, let him be just still, and he who is holy, let him be hallowed still" (Apocalypse 22: 11).
We should begin from youth to strive after perfection. Unfortunately today, other than Traditional Catholic home schooling, the Catholic school system since Vatican II has been a disaster where youth are encouraged to experiment in perversion and not to hold absolutes. Worse, they are taught there is no hell and not to worry because everyone is going to Heaven. Thus the youth today have been so dumbed-down that they have no clue how clever satan has wrapped them in ribbons and bows for his celebration. We strongly recommend reading To Hasten the Reign of Antichrist on the necessity of imbuing in today's youth the need to strive for sanctity. Emulate saints such as Saint Dominic Savio who, on his First Communion day, when only seven years old, made some resolutions to which he was faithful till his death. These resolutions helped him towards perfection, so that at the age of fifteen he died a holy death. Among his resolutions were: (1) frequent confession and communion; (2) Jesus and Mary as friends; and (3) death rather than sin.
Every one should choose for his model a saint whose position and calling are similar to his own. Besides our Patron Saints, here are some examples: Schoolboys will find among the best models Saint Aloysius and St. Dominic Savio; schoolgirls, the Little Flower St. Theresa of Lisieux, Saint Agnes, Saint Maria Goretti, and always the Blessed Virgin Mary; married men, Saint Louis IX of France and Saint Thomas More as well as Saint Joseph; married women, Saint Monica and Saint Elizabeth of Hungary; religious, the canonized founders of their order; priests, the Cure d'Ars Saint John Marie Vianney, Saint John Bosco and Saint Philip Neri; bishops, Saint Charles Borromeo, Saint Robert Bellarmine, Saint Athanasius, Saint Francis de Sales, etc.
In order to be in the state of Christian perfection, we must have a spirit of detachment towards the things of this world. Let us remember that the eternal is what counts: the temporal is given us by God only to help us fulfill our end of praising, of serving Him, and thus saving our soul.
By the spirit of detachment is not meant actual dispossession. A rich man can be completely detached from riches, if he uses them only for the end God gave them to him, if he does not love his riches for the sake of riches or for other worldly purposes, but uses his wealth for God and his fellow-men. A man in a high position of honor and power is detached from such honor and glory if he knows they all come from God, and uses them for God's purposes. On the other hand, even the poorest of men and the most despised can violate the spirit of detachment if he desires to possess what he does not have, for the sake of such possession.
To the bereaved, God in His infinite mercy extends, through our Mother Church, the consoling assurance of Purgatory. This knowledge, which Protestants refuse to acknowledge and believe, bridges the chasm yawning between us and our dear departed; it makes us feel that death has not cut the bonds of love uniting us with them. Instead of desolation for our loss, we find surcease for sorrow, and a practical expression of our affection in prayers and good works offered to God in behalf of our beloved dead, who may still be in Purgatory.
Next: Installment 285 - General Means of Perfection
For previous installments, see APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH Archives
Time of Septuagesima
vol 14, no. 4
APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH