By Sean Mulcare
Before I started to learn about the stages that a soul goes through to reach sanctity, I thought the saints were simply people who God particularly blessed with great gifts. We hear about how St. John Vianney lived on one potato a day and could know an individual’s sins in the confessional even if they didn’t tell him, St. Catherine of Siena had incredible visions and encounters with Jesus. St. Padre Pio had the stigmata. It’s no wonder that I thought the saints were destined for greatness and that I was destined for an ordinary life because nothing extraordinary is happening in my life. What I didn’t understand is that, in reality, there wasn’t anything “special” about the saints. They were normal people who desired to love God; and, instead of letting this desire come and fade away, they let this desire consume them to the point that they knew with certitude that nothing could satisfy them but God. By God’s grace, this unquenchable thirst caused them to let go of their attachment to worldly things and pleasures because they saw that these things could do nothing for them. You see, the saints were normal people who were transformed by love of God. He made them into people who knew the only thing that could satisfy them was the love of God. Simply said, union with God is what we were made for, and the saints knew this. God taught them to not let anything stand in the way of this.
We oftentimes hear the words “relationship with God,” but what does that mean? A relationship with God is very similar to our earthly romantic relationships. Like in earthly relationships, there is a natural progression. It starts with meeting the other person. If we don’t know they exist, how can we have a relationship with them? After meeting them, we become friends. We begin to enjoy the time we spend together and we become good friends. Then we start to have a romantic interest and wonder if we could spend our entire lives with them and be happy. Finding that we could, there is an engagement. And finally, a marriage. Union with God is like that. It is knowing God and letting God know us in our brokenness and standing before him with a mutual love so strong that the two, who know each other so well, become one. We were created for union with God, and until we understand that in the depths of our being, we will seek for that love in places that will ultimately leave us empty. The saints recognized this longing for great love and fought for it, and they reached the heights of the spiritual life in their pursuit of it: spiritual marriage with God.
Throughout my posts on Superior Disciple, I will talk about what I have learned about this progression of the spiritual life and will look at ways of describing it, such as the three “stages” of the interior life, the seven “mansions” of St. Teresa of Avila, and the “dark night of the soul” by St. John of the Cross. This will be to inspire you and myself to find out where we are on this spiritual journey and how we can properly prepare ourselves to let God bring us closer to him. By God’s grace and our generous response, perhaps we will fulfill the purpose of our journey on earth: spiritual marriage; union with God; or, in a single word, sanctity.