To complete what we have said about union with God in the perfect, we should deal at least briefly with the life of reparation, which, through prayer and suffering, is an apostolate, willed by God to render abundantly fruitful the doctrinal apostolate by preaching.
Our Lord saved the world even more by His heroic love on the cross than by His sermons. His words gave us light, pointed out to us the way to follow; His death on the cross obtained for us the grace to follow this way.
Mary, who merited the title of Coredemptrix and that of universal Mediatrix, is the model of reparatory souls through her sufferings at the foot of the cross. By them she merited congruously for us, or by a merit of propriety based on charity, all that the Word made flesh merited for us in strict justice. His Holiness Pius X (1) approved this common teaching of theologians, and Pope Benedict XV ratified her title of Coredemptrix, saying that "Mary, in union with Christ, redeemed the human race." (2) Thus Mary became the spiritual mother of all men.
More recently, in the encyclical Miseremissimus Redemptor, His Holiness Pius XI reminded the faithful of the necessity of reparation, exhorting them to unite the oblation of all their vexations and sufferings to the oblation ever living in the heart of our Lord, the principal Priest of the Sacrifice of the Mass.
In the Mass, the immolation of Jesus is no longer bloody and painful as on the cross, but the painful immolation ought to continue in the mystical body of the Savior and will continue until the end of the world. While progressively incorporating into Himself the faithful whom He vivifies, Jesus, in fact, reproduces in them something of His life as a child, of His hidden, His public, and His sorrowful life, before making them share in His glorious life in heaven. By so doing He enables them to work, to cooperate with Him, through Him, and in Him, for the salvation of souls by the same means as He used. In this sense St. Paul wrote: "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His body, which is the Church." (3) Nothing is wanting in the sufferings of Christ in themselves. They have an infinite and superabundant value by reason of the personality of the Word of God made man; but something is lacking in their radiation in us.
THE LIFE OF REPARATION IN THE PRIEST
The priest in particular should be "another Christ." Jesus is Priest and Victim. The priest cannot wish to participate in the priesthood of Christ without sharing in some way in His state as victim, in the measure willed for him by Providence. When the priest ascends the altar, he bears on the front and back of his chasuble a cross which recalls our Savior's.
Great bishops who, in times of persecution, gave their lives for their flocks thus understood it. A similar idea of the priesthood distinguishes priest saints, like St. Bernard, St. Dominic, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Philip Neri, and nearer our own day the Cure of Ars, who, while offering the body and precious blood of our Lord, offered all his sufferings for the faithful who came to him.
Likewise too, the friend of the Cure of Ars, Venerable Father Chevrier of Lyons, used to say in substance to the priests whom he trained: "The priest should be another Christ. Thinking of the crib, he should be humble and poor; the more he is so, the more he glorifies God and is useful to his neighbor. The priest should be a man who is stripped. Recalling Calvary, he should think of immolating himself in order to give life. The priest should be a crucified man. Meditating on the tabernacle, he should remember that he ought to give himself incessantly to others; he should become like good bread for souls. The priest should be a man who is consumed." (4)
Father Charles de Foucauld, who offered his life in order to seal with his blood his apostolate among the Moslems, wrote in a notebook, which he always carried on his person: "Live as if you were to die a martyr today. The more everything is lacking to us on earth, the more we find the best thing that earth can give us: the cross." (5)
This attitude of soul is patent in the lives of many founders of religious orders, who, following the example of our Lord, had to complete their work by perfect self-immolation. This is especially manifest, and most strikingly so, in the life of St. Paul of the Cross, who founded the Passionists in the eighteenth century.(6) His life is one of the greatest examples of the life of reparation in a founder. By forty-five years of sufferings which were like a continual prayer in the Garden of Olives, he confirmed his work. St. Paul died in 1775 at the age of eighty-one; the last months of his life were like an anticipated heaven.
The profound pages in the book just mentioned, in our opinion throw light on the lives of several other saints, in particular on the last years of St. Alphonsus Liguori when he was so severely tried. A superficial reading of the interior sufferings described in his Life, written by Father Berthe, might lead one to believe that they were those of the passive purification of the senses united to those of the spirit. In reality, the soul of this great saint, then eighty years of age, was already purified, and these great trials at the end were chiefly reparatory for the sanctification of sinners. It is the great apostolate through suffering that makes the saints share in the sorrowful life of our Lord and that allows them to seal their work as He sealed His on the cross.
THE LIFE OF REPARATION IN ALL THOSE WHO HAVE A HEAVY CROSS TO CARRY
If the priest ought to be another Christ, the simple Christian should also "take up his cross daily" (7) and offer his sufferings in union with the sacrifice of Jesus perpetuated on the altar. He ought to offer them for himself and for the souls for whose salvation he should work.
St. Benedict Joseph Labre was not a priest. He did not share, in the real sense of the word, in the priesthood of Christ, but he shared largely in His state as a victim. As much must be said of many spouses of Christ, who, following Mary's example, share in His sufferings and find therein a profound spiritual motherhood, which is like a reflection of the spiritual maternity of the Blessed Virgin in relation to souls redeemed by the blood of her Son.
Mary did not receive the priestly character; she could not consecrate the Holy Eucharist, but as Father Olier says, "she received the plenitude of the spirit of the priesthood," which is the spirit of Christ the Redeemer. She penetrated the mystery of our altars far more than did the Apostle St. John, when he celebrated Mass in her presence and gave her Holy Communion. In the early Church, Mary, by her interior oblation united to that of the Mass, rendered the apostolate of the Twelve fruitful. By her interior suffering at the sight of the nascent heresies that denied the divinity of her Son, she was the spiritual mother of souls to a degree unimaginable without profound experience of this hidden apostolate. She thus continued the sacrifice of her Son.
A servant of God who lived by this truth for a long time said to us: "The mystical body of Christ can no more live without suffering than our eyes without the light of the sun. On earth, the nearer a soul is to God, that is, the more it loves, the more it is dedicated to suffering. For souls that have received everything from the Church, is it not a noble vocation to live and immolate themselves for their Mother?" (8) The same valiant religious said also: "Patience is necessary, but I shall win her. Our Lord will win her. . . . I always say to Him: I want that soul at the cost of no matter what suffering." (9) "Until the end of the world, Christ will agonize in His members, and it is by these sufferings and this agony that the Church, His spouse, will bring forth saints. . . . Since the death of Jesus, the law has not changed: souls are saved only by suffering and dying for them." (10) "The eternally glorified heart of Jesus will suffer no more, it can no longer suffer; henceforth it is our turn. . . . What happiness that it is our turn and no longer His to suffer now!" (11)
The Lord causes these reparatory souls to hear words such as these: "Have you not asked Me for a share in My passion? Choose: do you wish the joy of unclouded faith, ravishing you and flooding your soul with delights, or do you wish darkness, suffering, which will make you cooperate in the salvation of souls?" (12) Our Lord invites such souls to choose quite freely; but, as if powerless to resist, they abandon joy and choose suffering with all its darkness, so that light, sanctity, and salvation may be given to others.
From time to time, God allows them to see the hardness of hearts, and at certain times hell seems unchained to tear from them an act of despair. They fight for hours; it is a struggle of spirit against spirit; at no matter what cost, they must follow the Master to the end. He lets them understand with increasing clearness that He expects from them love of scorn and complete destruction, like that of the grain of wheat cast into the earth, which must die that it may bring forth much fruit. This life of reparation is that of souls called to the intimate service of the Lord Jesus.(13)
Such is the sign of perfect love, as it is described in The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena: "This is seen by the same sign that was given to the holy disciples after they had received the Holy Spirit, . . . not fearing pain, but rather glorying therein. . . . Through this charity, which is of the Holy Spirit, the soul participates in His will, fortifying her own." (14) In the same book, we read (it is the Lord who speaks):
These, I say, as if enamored of My honor, and famished for the food of souls, run to the table of the most holy cross, willing to suffer pain and endure much for the service of the neighbor, and desiring to preserve and acquire the virtues, bearing in their body the stigmata of Christ crucified, causing the crucified love which is theirs to shine, being visible through self-contempt and delighted endurance of the shames and vexations on every side.
. . . Such as these follow the Immaculate Lamb, My only-begotten Son, who was both blessed and sorrowful on the cross. . . . These souls, thrown into the furnace of My charity, no part of their will remaining outside, but the whole of them being inflamed in Me, are like a brand wholly consumed in the furnace, so that no one can take hold of it to extinguish it, because it has become fire. In the same way, no one can seize these souls or draw them outside of Me." (16)
This is perfect configuration to Jesus Christ; it is, in the life of reparation, the transforming union which has become fruitful and radiating. It is the participation in the state of Jesus as victim and, even in saints who have not received the priesthood properly so called, it is a very close union with the eternal Priest, in which are admirably realized St. Peter's words: "Unto whom coming, as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen and made honorable by God, be you also as living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." (16)
This configuration to Christ crucified by the life of reparation is like the immediate prelude of eternal life.
A GREAT EXAMPLE THE REPARATORY NIGHT OF THE SPIRIT IN ST. PAUL OF THE CROSS (1)
The reading of the works of St. John of the Cross leads one to consider the night of the spirit chiefly as a personal passive purification, which prepares the soul for the perfect union with God, called the transfonning union. This purification, which in its passive aspect is a mystical state and implies infused contemplation, appears thus as necessary to remove the defects of proficients of whom the author speaks in The Dark Night.(2) .This is particularly true of a secret spiritual pride, whIch is sometimes the cause of manyillusions. The night of the spirit is a purgatory before death, but a purgatory in which the soul merits and grows greatly in love. Finally, this darkness and the affliction experienced in this state give way to the superior light and joy of the transforming union, the immediate prelude of the life of heaven. The winter of the night of the spirit seems followed by a springtime and a perpetual summer, after which there would no longer be an autumn.
Such is the impression created by the reading of The Dark Night and The Living Flame of Love. It may be said that for advanced souls the night of the spirit is only a tunnel to be traversed before entering the transforming union, and that afterward the soul need not pass through it again.
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.
Though St. John of the Cross does not insist particularly on this point, he alludes several times to the interior trials endured by the saints for the salvation of sinners.(3) St. Teresa also mentions them when she writes of the great generosity of souls that have entered the seventh mansion.(4)
What should be our attitude toward a night of the spirit that is more reparatory than purificatory and is even prolonged over lengthy period after the entrance into the transforming union, when the tried soul is already personally purified? We treated this question briefly in another work; (5) here it is expedient to recall in regard to this point the incontrovertible principles and some significant facts.
First of all, the Christian mind cannot forget that the great interior sufferings which our Lord and His holy Mother experienced at the sight of sin and in the offering of themselves as victims for us were not for their purification but for our redemption, and that the more souls advance in the spiritual life, the more their interior sufferings resemble those of Jesus and Mary. The common opinion is that the servants of God are more particularly tried, whether it be that they need a more profound purification, or whether, following the example of our Lord, they must work by the same means as He used for a great spiritual cause, such as the foundation of a religious order or the salvation of many other souls. St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa almost continually experienced this, as the facts clearly show.
We shall point out here a particularly striking fact in this connection, and we shall then briefly compare the purifying night of the spirit with that which is chiefly reparatory and which contains an apostolate through suffering that is as fruitful as hidden.
Let us note first of all, though without insistence, a fairly characteristic fact, verified toward the close of the life of St. Alphonsus Liguori. A superficial reading of this period of his life, he was then eighty, might give the impression that he was experiencing the passive night of the senses, which is frequently accompanied by strong temptations against chastity and patience, virtues having their seat in the sensible part of the soul. The holy old man had at this time such violent temptations that his servant wondered if they would not cause him to lose his mind. But consideration of all the work already accomplished by grace in the soul of this great saint leads to the conclusion that this trial in his last years was not precisely for him the passive purification of the senses (although it had all the appearances of being so), but a series of afflictions that he endured chiefly for his neighbor and for the consolidation of his Order for which he had already suffered so much.
There is an even more striking example in the life of St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionists. We may form an exact idea of his interior life from his numerous letters,(6) from the notes left by his confessor and director, Father John Mary, and from other documents of the period, quoted in the process of canonization and the preparatory work. Father Cajetan of the Holy Name of Mary, CP., assembled the most important of these documents in his book, Oraison et ascension mystique de saint Paul de la Croix.(7) Father Cajetan kindly gave us some other documents which he plans to publish soon and which confirm the contents of those already published.
We shall cite here only the most significant facts in the long and austere life of the saint, which was wholly dedicated to the service of God. Born in 1694, St. Paul of the Cross, who lived to be eighty-one, became the founder of a religious order vowed to reparation.
Brought up in a thoroughly Christian manner and accustomed from his youth to complete abnegation and the practice of all the virtues, St. Paul very early in life had the affective prayer of simple gaze, and at about the age of nineteen a notable increase in piety. He called this period "his conversion"; in it appear the signs of the passive purification of the senses, accompanied, as is not unusual, by an attack of scruples. (8)
From this time on, Father Cajetan rightly distinguishes three periods in his mystical life. In the first, which lasted twelve years, the saint was raised progressively to the different degrees of prayer described by St. Teresa, even to the transforming union. In the second period, which lasted forty-five years, he had exceptionally profound experience of the life of reparation. In the third period, which comprised the last five years of his life, although his trials continued, consolations increased in proportion as he drew near the end of his journey.
In the first period, after the passive purification of the senses and the painful attack of scruples, the servant of God, who had received the grace of infused contemplation, remained for three or four hours at a time in prayer.(9) He gave seven hours daily to mental prayer. According to the testimony of his confessor, Father John Mary, he had experience of ecstatic prayer at about the age of twenty-four, being often rapt out of his senses. He then received great lights on the mysteries of faith and was favored with visions which gave him to understand that he should found an order Consecrated to the Passion.(10) At this period he also received a vision of the Blessed Trinity, one of heaven, and another of hell; his faith "seemed to him changed into evidence." (11)
It seems certain that St. Paul of the Cross personally underwent the passive purification of the spirit at the age of twenty-six, chiefly during a retreat of forty days in 1720. Father Cajetan relates these trials at length.(12) At this time the saint heard words uttered against God, "diabolical words, which, he said, pierced his heart and soul" (13)
This passive purification of the spirit was completed by a contemplation of our Savior's passion,(14) a contemplation which led the saint "through love to make the most holy sufferings of Jesus his own." "The soul," he says, "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." (15)
From this time on, the saint's prayer consisted in putting on the sufferings of Jesus and in allowing himself to be immersed in our Savior's divinity.(16) Before the age of thirty-one, St. Paul of the Cross received the grace of the transforming union. This fact can scarcely be doubted if, after carefully considering the loftiness of the purifying graces which preceded it, one takes cognizance of the testimony gathered by Father Cajetan.(17) This signal grace was even accompanied by the symbolism which sometimes manifests it sensibly: by the apparition of our Lord, of His Blessed Mother, and of several saints. St. Paul of the Cross also received a gold ring on which were represented the instruments of the Passion.
When we see to what close union with Jesus crucified the servant of God attained before the age of thirty-one, and consider that he was to live to the age of eighty-one and found an order vowed to reparation, we are less astonished at seeing him associated afterward for a period of forty-five years with the sorrowful life of our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, after receiving the grace of the transforming union, he had, according to the testimony of his confessor,(18) to pass through forty-five years of interior desolations, most painful abandonment, during which, "from time to time only, the Lord granted him a short respite." (19)
His life was truly a life of reparation in all its depth and elevation; it was the apostolate by spiritual suffering to an exceptional degree. This suffering consisted not only in the subtraction of sensible consolations, but, as it were, in the eclipse of the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. The saint believed himself abandoned by God, he believed that God was irritated with him. His temptations to despair and sadness were overwhelming; and yet in this interminable trial, St. Paul showed great patience, perfect resignation to the divine will, and extreme kindness to all who approached him, as Father Cajetan relates.(20) In the Summary of the ordinary processes in view of his canonization, are the following declarations: "One day St. Paul said to his director: 'If anyone should ask me at any time what I was thinking about, it seems to me that I could reply that I was thinking of God.' " (21) This was likewise the case even in his greatest spiritual desolations, at a time when it seemed to him that he no longer had faith, hope, or charity. (22) He was accustomed to say: "It seems to me impossible not to think of God, since our spirit is wholly filled with God and we are entirely in Him." (23)
Actually, when St. Paul of the Cross went through the streets of Rome exclaiming: "A via Pauli, libera nos, Domine," he was unable to breathe spiritually except in God. Day and night for fortyfive years his prayer was a painful, heroic, incessant prayer, which sought God ardently, and which sought Him to give Him to the souls for whom this great saint suffered. More fruitful than years of preaching inspired by a lesser love, these painful years were a sublime realization of the Master's words: "We ought always to pray, and not to faint." (24) The saint's life and trials throw light on the import of the following thought of St. John of the Cross: "A single act of pure love can do more good in the Church than many exterior works" inspired by a lesser charity.
Near the close of these fony-five years of suffering, St. Paul of the Cross experienced intervals of consolation. He felt himself drawn into our Savior's wounds, and Jesus crucified said to him: "You are in My heart." (25) The Blessed Virgin appeared to him, and also the soul of a priest condemned to purgatory, for whom he was to suffer. Our Savior's passion was, so to speak, imprinted on his heart.(26)
After forty-five years, his trial was mitigated, and spiritual consolations increased progressively during the last five years of his long life. He had an apparition of our Lady of Sorrows and other favors in the sacristy of the church of SS. John and Paul in Rome, ecstasies with and without levitation. The last months of his life, at the age of eighty-one, were like the immediate prelude of the beatitude of heaven.
The facts we have just recounted are certainly most exceptional. From time to time, however, we find, more particularly in contemplative orders vowed to prayer and immolation, somewhat similar facts in souls that have a reparatory vocation and have made a vow consecrating themselves to this apostolate through suffering. We have known three very generous Carmelites and a priest, all of whom seemed to be in an interminable night of the spirit (thirty and forty years); yet these souls were apparently already purified, but their oblation for the salvation of sinners seemed to have been accepted.
After the examination of these facts, in the light of principles we believe that we can reach the following conclusion: When the night of the spirit is chiefly purificatory, under the influence of the grace that is exercised mainly by the gift of understanding, the theological vinues and humility are purified of all human alloy. As we have shown elsewhere,(27) the formal motive of these virtues is freed from every accessory motive, and their primary object brought into powerful relief above every secondary object. The soul thus purified can pass beyond the formulas of mysteries and enter into "the deep things of God," as St. Paul says.(28) Then, in spite of all temptations against faith and hope, the soul firmly believes by a direct act in a most pure and sublime manner which surmounts temptation; it believes for the sole and most pure motive supernaturally attained: the authority of God revealing. It also hopes for the sole reason that He is ever helpful, infinite Mercy. It loves Him in the most complete aridity, because He is infinitely better in Himself than all the gifts which He could grant us. The first revealing Truth, formal motive of infused faith, the divine, helpful Mercy, formal motive of hope, the infinite Goodness of God sovereignly lovable in itself, then appear more and more in their transcendent supernaturalness like three stars of first magnitude in the night of the spirit.(29)
When this trial is chiefly reparatory, when it has principally for its end to make the already purified soul work for the salvation of its neighbor, then it preserves the same lofty characteristics just described, but takes on an additional character more reminiscent of the intimate sufferings of Jesus and Mary, who did not need to be purified. In this case the suffering makes one think of that of a lifesaver who, in a storm, struggles heroically to save from death those who are on the point of drowning. Spiritual life-savers, like St. Paul of the Cross, struggle not only for hours and months, but sometimes for years in order to snatch souls from eternal death; and, in a way, these reparative souls must resist the temptations of the souls they seek to save that they may come efficaciously to their assistance. Reparative souls are intimately associated with our Savior's sorrowful life; in them St. Paul's words (30) are fully realized: "Heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ; yet so, if we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him."
1. Encyclical Ad diem illum, February 1, 1904.
2. Acta Apost. Sed., X, 181, Letter of March 11, 1918.
3. Col. 1:24.
4. Cf. Anthony Lestra, Le Pere Chevrier (Paris, 1934), p. 165.
5. As another example of the life of reparation, we cite that of the holy Abbe Girard, subdeacon of Coutances, who died in 1921 after twenty-two years of suffering. His life has been written under the title: Vingt-deux ans de martyre, by Myriam de G. (Lyons), who herself has been nailed to a bed of pain for twenty-five years. After receiving the subdiaconate, the holy cleric was stricken with tuberculosis of the bones of the knees. In spite of several operations and his pilgrimages to Lourdes, he did not recover, but he obtained a greater grace, that of daily offering his suffering to render fruitful the apostolate of the priests of his generation. After twenty-two years of martyrdom, his body, eaten away by tuberculosis, was one great wound. As he lay dying, he accepted the continuation of his sufferings for as many years more if it were necessary. His painful immolation, united to that of the Mass, had made a saint of him; it must have obtained the conversion of a great number of souls.
6. Father Cajetan of the Holy Name of Mary, C.P., Oraison et ascension mystique de saint Paul de la Croix (Louvain, 1930), pp. 86-88, 115-77. See also the appendix to this chapter.
7. Luke 9:23: "And He said to all: If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
8. Mere Franfoise de Jesus (abridgment of her life, to which we have added extracts from her writings), p. 53.
9. Ibid., p. 54.
10. Ibid., pp. 143-45.
11. Ibid., p. 147.
12. Ibid., p. 177.
13. Ibid., p. 179.
14. The Dialogue, chap. 74.
15. Ibid., chap. 78.
16. Cf. I Pet. 2:4f.
1. These pages appeared in the October, 1938, issue of the Etudes carmelitaines, which was devoted to the study of the "mystical night." This number contained articles dealing with a psychological description, a theological explanation, the examination of natural or morbid cases which have some resemblances to this state.
2. Bk. II, chap. 10.
3. Cf. A Spiritual Canticle, Part II, st. 10.
4. The Interior Castle, seventh mansion, chap. 4: "His Majesty can bestow no greater favor on us than to give us a life such as was led by His beloved Son. Therefore, as I have often told you, I feel certain that these graces (of the transforming union) are sent to strengthen our weakness so that we may imitate Him by suffering much. We always find that those nearest to Christ our Lord bear the heaviest cross: think of what His glorious Mother and the apostles bore."
5. L'Amour de Dieu et la croix de Jesus (1919), II, 625-31, 814-23.
6. Lettere, edited by Father Amedeo, Rome, 1914, 4 vols. See also the first biography of the saint by Blessed V. Strambi, 1786.
7. Museum Lessianum, Louvain, 1930.
8. Cf. Father Cajetan, op. cit., p. 8.
9. Op.cit., p. 12.
10. Ibid., p. 15.
11. Ibid., p. 19.
12. Ibid., pp. 41-63.
13. Ibid., p. 55.
14. Ibid., pp. 57-73.
15. Ibid., p. 57.
16. Ibid., p. 62.
17. Ibid., pp. 85-97.
18 Ibid., pp. 2, 115-77.
19.Ibid., p. 2.
20. Ibid., p. 96.
21. Summary of the Process, I, 317, 64.
22. Ibid., I, 324, 103.
23. Ibid., I, 324, 105.
24. Luke 18: 1.
25. Father Cajetan, op. cit., p. 167.
27. L'Amour de Dieu et la croix de Jesus, II, 549-656.
28. Cf. I Cor. 2:10.
29. As far as we are acquainted with the life of Father Surin, we think that he underwent this passive purification and acquired great merits in it.
30. Rom. 8: 17. Moreover, even when the night of the spirit is chiefly purificatory and precedes the transforming union, often there exists in it to some degree the other character of reparation for one's neighbor. This statement can be verified in Bk. III, chap. 11, sect. I of the Life of St. Vincent de Paul by Abelly (cf. Revue d'ascetique et mystique, 1932, pp. 398 ff.), where the author says that St. Vincent accepted to suffer for a doctor of the Sorbonne who was greatly tormented by temptations against faith. Then for four years St. Vincent de Paul himself had to resist such strong temptations against this virtue that he kept asking himself whether or not he consented to them. A this time he wrote the Credo on a sheet of paper which he placed over his heart, and when the temptation was most violent, he would press the Credo against his heart to give himself an exterior sign of his fidelity. At the end of these four years, St. Vincent de Paul's faith was notably increased by all the heroic acts he had had to make while passing through this tunnel. We believe that the same observation must be made in regard to the greatest interior sufferings of the holy Cure of Ars and also in regard to the passive purification of the spirit which St. Teresa of the Child Jesus underwent toward the end of her life (cf. Histoire d'une ame, 1923, chaps. 9, 12). What she wrote at this time is quite revealing and should be reread.
Cf. also L. Reypens, "La nuit de l'esprit chez Ruusbroec" (Etudes carmelitaines, October, 1938, p. 78) on the summit of the mystical life in emptiness and abandonment.
The night of the spirit seems also to have been prolonged after the transforming union in the life of Venerable Mary of the Incarnation, Ursuline of Tours and Quebec. Cf. P. J. Klein, M.S.C., L'Itineraire mystique de la venerable Mere Marie de l'Incarnation, Paris, 1937. The conclusions of this author's thesis are, however, very debatable on several points. Cf. Ami du clerge, February 16, 1939, pp. 98-100.
To conclude we shall quote from a Sermon for the Monday before Palm Sunday (transl. Hugueny, 1, 265-69) by Tauler, a great spiritual writer whom St. Paul of the Cross often read. This is how Tauler describes the divine union in the higher faculties: "The spirit is then ravished above all its faculties, in a desolate desert of which no one can speak, in the secret darkness of the good without determined mode. There the spirit is introduced into the unity of Unity, simple and without determined mode, so profoundly that it loses the feeling of every distinction. . . . But when these men return to themselves, they discern all things in joy and perfection, as no one can do. This discernment is born in simple Unity. Thus they discern with clarity and truth all the articles of pure faith. . . . No one understands true discernment better than those who attain to Unity. It is called, and it truly is, ineffable darkness, and yet it is the essential light. It is also called a desert desolate beyond all expression; no one can find a road or anything definite in it: it is superior to every mode.
"This is how this darkness must be understood: It is a light which no created intellect can naturally attain or comprehend. And it is a savage place, because it has no (natural) way of access. When the spirit is introduced here, it is above itself. . . . Man should then in great humility keep himself submissive to God's will. God then demands from man a greater detachment than ever. . . , more purity, more simplicity . . . , profound humility, and all the virtues which develop in the lower faculties. It is thus that man becomes the familiar of God and thence is born a divine man." St. Paul of the Cross, who often read Tauler, must have read this page, which seems to explain in part the reparatory night in which he lived for so long a time after having been raised to the transforming union.
Reginald Garrigou Lagrange, O.P.
Three Ages of the Interior Life