The Way of Purgation Begins

Father Benson observes: “Often, the first sign that the Way of Purgation has been really entered, lies in a consciousness that there is beginning for her an experience which the world calls Disillusionment. It may come in a dozen different ways.”

“She may, for example, be brought face to face with some catastrophe in external matters. She may meet with an unworthy priest, a disunited congregation, some scandal in Christian life, in exactly that sphere where Christ seemed to her evidently supreme. She had thought that the Church must be perfect, because it was the Church of Christ, or the priesthood stainless because it was after the Order of Melchisedech; and she finds to her dismay that there is a human side even to those things that are most associated with Divinity on earth.”

“Or it comes to her, perhaps, in forms of worship. The novelty begins to wear off, and the sweetness of familiarity has not yet had time to form; and she finds that those very things which had seemed to her to be the most directly connected with her new Friend are in themselves external, temporary and transitory. Her love for Christ was so great as to have gilded over all those exterior matters which He and she had in common; now the gilding begins to wear thin.”

“This then is usually the first stage of Purgation; she becomes disillusioned with human things, and finds that however Christian they may be, they are not, after all, Christ.”

“If she is, after all, but a superficial kind of soul, she will lose her Friendship with Christ (such as it was), together with those little gifts and enticements of His with which He wooed and pleased her. There are wandering souls in the world who have failed under this test; who have mistaken human romance for an internal love, who have turned back again from Christ so soon as He has put off His ornaments. But if she be stronger than this, she will have learned her first lesson—that Divinity is not in these earthly things, that the love of Christ is a deeper thing than the mere presents He makes to His new friends.”

Quotations from Robert Hugh Benson, The Friendship of Christ (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1912).

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