The Illuminative Way
Ignatian Spiritual Exercises
In Meditation 6, in "The Pains of Hell" in this issue, we learned that the spiritual masters divide the materials of the meditations into three orders, according to the three states of those meditating. Some are sinners who want to get away from their sins, and they walk on the road called the "Purgative Way." The aim of this road is to purify from the soul all its vices, sins, and faults.
Others go further and increase in virtue and walk on the road called the "Illuminative Way," whose aim is to enlighten the soul with the splendor of the many virtues and increase significantly in them. We print here Meditation 28 on the Illuminative Way. This is the step preparing us for the Unitive Way. For more information about these very special meditations, see the introduction in "The Pains of Hell" in this issue of The Fatima Crusader.
by St. Anthony Mary Claret
Composition of Place:
Imagine you see Jesus on Calvary, nailed to the Cross, and on Mount Tabor transfigured, and you hear the Eternal Father's Voice saying, "... This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased: hear ye Him." (Mt. 17:5).
— O my Jesus, I beg Thee to fulfill in me all that Thou art teaching me by word and example.
Truths one must keep before oneself
Now, my soul, we have already reached the most important point on which depends your whole welfare in the spiritual life. The point is that one must tread in the footsteps which Jesus Christ left before us, and keeping Him faithful company, patiently bear the desolation and affliction in one's spirit, pain and hardships in one's body, outrages, injuries, ill-will and persecution from whatever source they come. One who has no willingness to walk this road will never find God, and much less will he come to a pure and perfect love for Him — which is the object of these spiritual exercises and for which we must adjust our whole life. Consider the following truths; then, with attentive reflection and determination, resolve once and for all to enter with generous heart on this road with your Crucified Redeemer and to continue on it as long as it pleases Him.
The road of suffering is the noblest road that a soul can take. There were two purposes for which the only-begotten Son of God came down from Heaven. The first was to offer His Heavenly Father a sacrifice whereby He would be paid a supreme honor, and which would both be worthy of His Father's Infinite Greatness and serve as a just satisfaction for the sins of the world. In this way Christ fulfilled the role of Redeemer. The second purpose was to give man an example of that Perfect holiness for which one should strive. What was the road Jesus picked to carry out these two purposes? No other than the road of suffering — a suffering that started from the first instant of His Incarnation within His Mother, and did not end until His death. One rightly says, then, that either this is the noblest road, or that Jesus Christ has not given men an example of the most perfect holiness.
The road of suffering is the most profitable one a soul can walk. One cannot explain in a few words the very precious fruits one gains on the road of suffering. I will mention only two. Whenever God wants to admit a soul to union with Him and make it share the sweetness of His holy love, He requires chiefly two things of it. These are perfect purity of heart and perfect possession of the virtues. Now, for gaining these two things, no other way better suited can be found than that of suffering. As for the purity of heart, it appears impossible to doubt that by this road one may obtain it; for as the soul finds on it nothing to satisfy itself but God alone and His Divine good pleasure, little by little it learns detachment from creatures, it learns to disesteem all creatural satisfaction and consolation, and to turn all the affections of the heart to the Supreme Good in Whom alone it can find all that can content one's desires ...
By this same road one also arrives at perfect possession of the virtues; for as the soul cannot fulfill all its duty in time of suffering without exerting extraordinary and heroic effort, thereby overcoming all the perverse inclinations opposing the virtues, these virtues become more deeply rooted in the heart and gain new lustre and perfection. Thus souls which are led along the road of suffering, more quickly reach an intimate union and familiarity with God.
The road of suffering is the most secure one that a soul can walk. There have been persons favored by God with very sublime lights imparted to their minds and lofty consolations given their spirit, who seemed to touch the summit of holiness, and who led a life more angelic than human; but as they were not well enough proved and established in virtue, especially in humility, they became puffed up over their favors, and fell headlong from the heights where they stood, into the depths of total ruin. One should fear none of this for a soul that (for the love of God) travels the road of suffering. It is always profitable, always safe. For on it the most perfect virtue is practiced — humility, submission, meekness, charity, resignation to the Divine good pleasure; and with these a solid foundation is laid upon which can then be built the greatest graces and most sublime holiness. This is the true imitation of Jesus Christ, and the way He has taught us by His doctrine and example; and it never fails.
After you have reflected well on these truths, my soul, learn the practices you must observe along the road of suffering.
Using the power of prayer, impress deeply upon your mind certain maxims and truths which can lift up our hearts in time of suffering ... These, for example, can be:
1. I can never suffer enough to pay a fair price for gaining
God; for though I suffered all imaginable pains for a
thousand years, this would be nothing in comparison with
2. I can never suffer as much as I deserve for my sins; and
no matter how much I suffer, it will never be a Hell of
suffering, though that is what my guilt deserves.
It is good to meditate on these truths very often and with enough attention for them to be thoroughly familiar to us so that we may keep them before us in every situation that may arise.
Suffer in silence little day by day troubles, and in this way gather courage and be prepared to endure other greater things. On these occasions it is well to do the following:
1. Call to mind one or other of the maxims given here.
2. Keep perfect silence. Do no grumbling, no matter what the
During your greater and lengthier misfortunes, offer yourself to God as a victim. To carry this out, you need to do these things:
1. Start off in the morning submitting perfectly to God's Will
and to all that God provides, and confirm this submission
during the day.
2. Every hour offer to God with the pure intention of pleasing
Him and with earnest love, the sufferings you are
3. Never grumble about God's arrangements nor about
4. As you practice these acts with humble patience and
childlike confidence in God, patiently await the time He has
appointed to deliver you.
These practices, O my soul, lead to the eminent virtues in which lie the true imitation of Jesus Christ and which open the way to intimate union with God. If you choose to practise them without delay, offer yourself humbly to your Lord and tell Him earnestly:
O Jesus! O my dear Jesus! What a scene is presented to me when I see Thee hanging on the Cross! One Who is by nature Joy and Blessedness, is afflicted unto death! One Who is Innocence and Infinite Holiness is condemned to die! One Who is Infinite Majesty, is placed on a cross in company with two notorious criminals! ... He Who is Immense Love, is hated! ... And Thou didst suffer all this for me! For my sake there is that Blood that flows in torrents from Thine Innocent Body! For my sake are all those aches, torments, and insults which Thou suffered ... I believe all this, O my Jesus. And yet — alas! oh, the detestable mischief in my heart! — and yet I still fail to love Thee. Ah, I know quite well the tragic cause of this. It all comes from my great self-love, my unwillingness to do any violence to myself, my unwillingness to suffer. When I love myself this way, no room remains in my heart to love Thee.
O my soul, will you forever persist in this condition? Will you not ever die to your selfishness? Will you not, O my soul, resolve to bear your sufferings for your Crucified Lover? O my God, how tragic and shameful my life would be for me if I did not so resolve! I have deserved to burn in eternal fire; and am unwilling to suffer a small hardship; I have deserved to live in eternal despair down in Hell, and I am unwilling to bear a little desolation of spirit. I have deserved to be forever hated by creatures, and I am unwilling to suffer a little contempt. I have deserved to dwell forever in company with demons and damned souls, and I am unwilling to put up with frailty in my neighbor, even when perhaps he is blameless. How shameful this is of me! At the same time, what ingratitude this is toward Thee, O my Jesus! But may Thou be blessed! For now, enlightened by Thy Grace, I know the evil of my ways up to now. I call on Heaven to witness my sorrow for my lukewarm past and the resolution I now take to faithfully follow in Thy Footsteps, O my Jesus! Do Thou strengthen me.
Our Father. Hail Mary.Table of Contents