Spiritual Perfection

St Gregory the Great by Antonello da Messina

Padre Quadrupani discusses our journey toward spiritual perfection. He starts off by making this distinction: “A Christian is not obliged to be perfect, but to tend continually towards perfection; that is to say, he must labor unceasingly and with all his strength to increase in virtue.” He adds: “To make no attempt to advance is to go back.”

“Never be afraid that you are not following the way of perfection because you still have defects and commit many faults. This was true of the greatest saints, for Saint Augustine declares that all of them could exclaim with the Apostle Saint John: ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.'”

Quadrupani makes another important distinction: “We must bear in mind the vast difference that exists between the love of sin and sin committed inadvertently or from weakness. Affection for sin is the sole obstacle to perfection. Thus the most learned Fathers of the Church make a distinction between two kinds of tepidity: that which can be avoided and that which cannot be avoided. The former condition is that of a soul that retains an attachment for certain sins; the other, that of one falling into sin through frailty and from being taken unawares, which has been the case even with the greatest saints.”

Accordingly, he gives this counsel: “In place of troubling yourself about these accidental falls, inseparable from human nature, make them turn to your spiritual advantage by causing them to increase your humility. It often happens, says Saint Gregory the Great, that God allows great defects to remain in some souls at the beginning of their spiritual life that by means of them they may grow in self-knowledge and learn to place their entire confidence in Him. Saint Augustine tells us that God in his infinite wisdom has been better pleased to bring forth good out of evil than to hinder the evil itself. Thus when you learn to draw fruits of humility from your faults, you correspond to the sublime designs of God’s unspeakable providence.”

Quotations from Carlo Giuseppe Quadrupani, Light and Peace: Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts and Allay Their Fears (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1898).

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