For you have been purchased at a price… 1 Corinthians 6:20
I have recently been going through Solid Virtue by Rev. Father Bellecius, SJ. I recommend this book to those that are desirous of advancing in virtue, and who are able to stomach this author’s bluntness. Some may be discouraged by this, but I think the information contained is invaluable. It will prove to be a most fruitful medicine for the soul.
Towards the end of the book, Father Bellecius goes into a discussion about how some souls will be lost if they do not attain a high sanctity. Before going into that discussion, he goes through the idea of different ranks in heaven. The idea is that God has destined for each soul a specific rank, or crown, in heaven. Each soul is unique in the type of rank they can achieve. What can happen as a result of not responding to grace, or responding to it imperfectly, can lower the particular rank for which God called you to be. This does not necessarily bar you from heaven, it just means that since we failed to respond perfectly to the graces of God, our rank will be slightly diminished comparatively to what it could have been if we had done all things perfectly. The author highlights, however, that there are some particular souls, who, failing to respond perfectly to God’s grace, and who fail to achieve a high rank of sanctity, will be lost. Let’s unravel this further.
If we were to take that statement at face value, we would cry out, like the Apostles, who can be saved. This is not the intent of the author. Now, when we start to think about these specific souls who are destined only for a high rank of sanctity, Father Bellecius goes on to list the following saints: St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Timothy. When we look at these names, we should be able to draw some conclusions from the author’s statement. We know, very well, that these saints were given something above and beyond the normal means of grace in order to attain a high sanctity. While God had desired them to be of a high rank, He also provided them the means to be able to do this, which is of course grace. Therefore, the souls that the author describes above, who will not enter the kingdom unless they attain a high rank of sanctity, are the ones whom we know have received an abundance of grace from God to be able to fulfill that calling. We see this clearly in scripture:
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more – Luke 12:48
God provides sufficient grace to all souls to be able to manage the great task they were given. It does seem, as Father Bellecius states, that there are particular souls who, because of the great grace that was given, and for the role they would have to play in the Church, anything short of perfection would not do. We see this in St. Paul’s own words:
If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! – 1 Corinthians 9:16
In St. Paul’s case, we see that even though he had received many special graces from God, this was not done so that St. Paul would have to work less. No, as we see in the above passage, this was done because a demanding obligation was imposed on him. He has received a great amount of grace, in order that he could fulfill God’s will. We know how much he had to endure from the Jews, and the Gentiles, in order to spread the Gospel. Yet, the requirement to not fulfill this obligation makes him cry out, “Woe to me if i do not preach it!”
Father Bellecius concludes by saying, since we do not perfectly know whether we are one soul or another, he advises us, wisely, to take the most cautious road. Proceed to orient your life assuming you have been given much grace, and that the Lord demands a high rank of sanctity for you. Is there anything lost by doing this? Hardly. We are simply setting our spiritual bar high. One should not aim for purgatory because such a mentality is reckless and imprudent. It is far more prudent to assume God demands more from you, in order that you take the road to sanctification seriously, and with courage. I find, even for myself, that these demands really muster me up to push myself further, to help me get out of some spiritual rut, and to drive me to do the Lord’s will by the grace given to me. We must approach it in such a manner.
I know many souls may get discouraged and give up the fight because it almost seems like God is unfair and too demanding, but we shouldn’t have such a view. God will give each and everyone of us the graces needed to be saved. All that He asks of us is that we cooperate with His grace. Therefore, instead of worrying about the impossibility of the task at hand, focus more time daily on responding to graces of God, and doing so in the most perfect manner you are able to. In all of this, it is advisable to have a spiritual director, or a pious friend, whom you can share your thoughts to pertaining your spiritual journey. We want to avoid doing anything that can be harmful to us, such as imposing mortifications that are beyond our strength, but we want to make sure we are not falling into our usual blind spots and making excuses for why we are not advancing towards perfection.
The passage I quoted at the beginning was moving for me. To me, it shows that, though at times we may feel that we are wiser, more knowledgeable, and more disciplined than others, we must not be proud of this. For even if this is objectively true, realize that for who more was given, more is expected, and we ought to, as St. Paul says, work out our salvation in fear and trembling. A great price was paid in order that a great reward may be reaped for the glory of God. The one with 10 talents should yield ten talents (or more). As St. Paul says, we should not boast about this, because for us, failure to do the higher demands of God demands us to respond more perfectly than others. Failure to do so may cost us at our judgement.
Blessed Mother, pray for us!