Extraordinary Gifts

Venerable Joseph Frassinetti states: “It is not necessary to practise the evangelical counsels in order to attain Christian perfection. . . . The angel of the schools, St. Thomas [Aquinas], only recognised as necessary for perfect sanctity the fulfilment of the Ten Commandments.”

Father Frassinetti explains: “The evangelical counsels are three—Poverty, Obedience, and perfect Chastity. Now if it were true that the practice of these is necessary for the attainment of Christian perfection, it would be as much as to say that friars and nuns only could venture to aspire thereto. Married people would be excluded from it—all who do not live on alms, and do not renounce all that they possess, and all who do not give up absolutely their own will to the will of another. Therefore, since it is most true that God does not wish every one to practise the evangelical counsels, it would follow that He does not wish all to be saints, whereas the sacred Scriptures repeatedly assert that He does. The order of His providence requires that there should be continent people and married people; poor and rich. . . . He wills that all, according to their state, should become saints. Consequently it is a manifest error to assert that the practice of the evangelical counsels is necessary for the attainment of Christian sanctity.”

“Nor is it necessary to have extraordinary favours,” such as the gift of prophecy. “Such things are usually found in the lives of the saints, but these are not the means of forming saints; and in fact there are many souls gifted with none of these extraordinary favours who are yet more holy and deserve greater glory in Paradise than those who are enriched by them. . . . Even the greatest saints have been entirely deprived of some of these gifts, like St. John the Baptist, who in all his life never performed a single miracle. . . . We should not on any account venture to ask Almighty God to bestow upon us these extraordinary gifts—nay, that the desire for them would generally proceed from pride. Consequently, if you imagine that in order to become a saint you must be rapt in ecstasies, pass entire nights in prayer, wear a hair-shirt, take a little rest on the bare ground, pass whole days without eating, and do other marvellous things, you greatly err.”

Quotations from Joseph Frassinetti, The Consolation of the Devout Soul, trans. Georgiana Lady Chatterton (London: Burns and Oates, 1876).

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