A description of the soul's journey to full union with God

The Unitive Way of the Perfect


Ch 39 : The Effects of the Passive Purification of the Spirit in Relation Especially to the Three Theological Virtues

Having described and explained the passive purification of the spirit and pointed out the rules of direction which should be followed, we shall now set forth its effects on the soul when borne with generosity.

These effects show the end for which God thus purifies His servants. He does so that the higher part of the soul may be supernaturalized and prepared for divine union, as the sensible part must be spiritualized or wholly subjected to the spirit. Among these effects some are negative, consisting in the suppression of defects; others are positive and are profound especially in the perfection they give to the virtues in the elevated part of the soul, principally humility and the theological virtues.


These effects are visible in the progressive disappearance of distractions, dullness of spirit, and the need of external dissipation or of finding consolation. Self-love or subtle egoism gradually disappears. The result is that the soul is less subject to illusions, for it lives increasingly by its higher part, into which the enemy cannot penetrate. God alone penetrates the innermost depths of the heart and spirit. Doubtless the devil still multiplies his temptations, but if the soul takes refuge in its center, where God dwells, the enemy cannot harm it and even cannot know but can only conjecture what is taking place in it; the intimate secrets of hearts escape him.(1)

This purification removes many other defects in our relations with our neighbor or in respect to our duties of state: a certain natural rudeness, which leads to impatience; an a most unconscious secret ambition, the cause of many disorders and divisions among people; and also a lack of interest in the occasionally great needs of our afflicted neighbor who turns to us for help. It is in this state that those who have the duty of caring devotedly for others, possess a deeper understanding of Christ's words: "The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep and flieth; and the wolf catcheth and scattereth the sheep." (2) To profit by these words, we should ask the Lord to give us an increase of true zeal, the patient, gentle, disinterested zeal which draws life from God to give it in greater measure to our neighbor.

In connection with this subject, it should be noted that there are also at times collective purifications, like persecutions, from which the soul must know how to draw profit. On such occasions the heroic degree of the virtues becomes necessary; one is in the happy necessity of becoming a saint in order not to be lost. Those who seem fairly good in prosperity are often weak and cowardly in these great difficulties; others, on the contrary, reveal their true character on these occasions. These grave moments should lead us to make the following salutary reflection: true sanctity does not require a lesser purification in outwardly calm periods than in periods troubled by persecution. The saints who lived in the calmest periods of the life of the Church had their interior trials, without which their souls would not have attained to the perfect purity which God willed to see in them.

In no period, however calm it may be, can anyone become a saint without carrying his cross, without being configured to Christ crucified. In troubled times, however, man often faces the urgent necessity of sanctifying himself completely in order not to lose his soul; he must then be heroically faithful in order not to fall back. In other calmer periods, this urgent necessity does not make itself thus felt, but even then, carrying his cross he must follow our Lord. Nothing unclean can enter heaven; one must be purified either before death, like the martyrs, or after it, like the souls in purgatory.

Lastly, there are other collective trials which demand great uprightness of will: for example, when in the society in which we live some exceptional event occurs that obliges us, though at the cost of great sacrifices, to declare ourselves for God. Such events are visits from the Lord; in them are distinguished His true servants, who, instead of being merely good, must become excellent. With this meaning, the aged Simeon said of the coming of the Child Jesus into the world: "Behold this Child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; . . . that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed." (3) In other words, Christ, who had come for the salvation of all, was to be an occasion of fall for many. Refusing to recognize the Savior in Him, they have fallen into infidelity. Thus the secret thoughts of the Pharisees were revealed, whereas they would have remained partly hidden had the Pharisees lived two centuries earlier. Something similar occurs when there is a great supernatural event, like the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin at Lourdes, an event about which the good and the bad are divided. There is, as Pascal says, sufficient light for those who wish to see and sufficient obscurity for those who do not wish to see. These great events, persecutions, or exceptional visits of the Lord, on the occasion of which the good and the tepid are profoundly divided, throw light on what we are saying here of the passive purification of the soul. In periods when the life of society is not marked by anything exceptionally bad or good, no less a purification is needed to reach sanctity than in periods of social upheaval.

In regard to the visits of the Lord, we must also remember that they often differ appreciably. There are visits of consolation, like the apparitions of Lourdes; but if people do not profit by them, the Lord comes to chastise; and if they do not profit by this divine correction, He may come to condemn.(4)

All that we have said shows what profit we should reap from the trials which the Lord sends us, particularly in this prolonged period of spiritual aridity of which we are speaking. If we bear it generously, many defects, which arrest the growth of the divine life in us, will be uprooted forever. Conquered self-love will then give place to the true love of God, to zeal for His glory and the salvation of souls.


The positive effects of the dark night of the soul consist chiefly in a great increase in the virtues of the elevated part of the soul, principally in humility, piety, and the theological virtues. These higher virtues come forth greatly purified from all human alloy, in the sense that their formal supernatural motive is brought into strong relief above every secondary or accessory motive which sometimes leads man to practice them in too human a manner. (5) At this stage especially the formal motive of each of the three theological virtues stands out with increasing clearness: namely, the first revealing truth, the motive of faith; helpful omnipotence, the motive of hope; the divine goodness infinitely more lovable in itself than every created gift, the motive of charity.

But there is first a similar purification of humility. Humility is commonly said to be the fundamental virtue which removes pride, the source of every sin. St. Augustine and St. Thomas for this reason compare it to the excavation that must be dug for the construction of a building, an excavation that needs to be so much deeper as the building is to be higher. Consequently, to deepen humility it does not suffice to scratch the soil a little, it is not sufficient that we ourselves dig, as we do in a thorough examination of conscience. To drive out pride, the Lord Himself must intervene through the special inspirations of the gifts of knowledge and understanding. He then shows the soul the hitherto unsuspected degree of its profound indigence and wretchedness and throws light on the hidden folds of conscience in which lie the seeds of death. Thus a ray of sunlight shining into a dark room shows all the dust, held in suspension in the air and previously imperceptible. Under the purifying divine light, as under a powerful projector, the soul sees in itself a multitude of defects it had never noticed; confounded by the sight, it cannot bear this light. It sees at times that by its repeated sins it has placed itself in a miserable state, a state of abjection. St. Paul, strongly tempted, felt his frailty keenly. Blessed Angela of Foligno seemed to herself an abyss of sin and wished to declare her state to everyone. St. Benedict Joseph Labre one day began his confession by saying: "Have pity on me, Father, I am a great sinner." The confessor, finding nothing seriously reprehensible in his accusation, said to him: "I see that you do not know how to go to confession." He then questioned the saint on the grossest sins, but obtained such humble answers so full of the spirit of faith, that he understood that his penitent, who confessed in this manner, was a saint.

Such is indeed the purification of humility, which is no longer only exterior, no longer the pouting or sad humility of one who holds aloof because people do not approve of him. It becomes true humility of heart, which loves to be nothing that God may be all; it bows profoundly before the infinite majesty of the Most High and before what is divine in every creature.

This true humility then reveals to us the profound meaning of Christ's words: "Without Me you can do nothing." It enables us to understand far better what St. Paul says: "What hast thou that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" (6) The soul then recognizes experimentally that by its natural powers alone it is absolutely incapable of the least salutary and meritorious supernatural act. It sees the grandeur of the doctrine of the Church which teaches, against semi-Pelagianism, that the beginning of salvation, the beginning of salutary good will, can come only from grace, and that man needs a special gift to persevere to the end. The soul thus purified sees why, according to St. Augustine, St. Thomas, and their disciples, grace is efficacious of itself; far from being rendered efficacious by our good consent, it is grace that gives rise to our consent, it is truly "God who worketh in you, both to will an to accomplish," as St. Paul says.(7) In this period of painful purification, at grips with strong temptations to discouragement, the soul indeed needs to believe in this divine efficacy of grace, which lifts up the weak man, makes him fulfill the precepts, and transforms him.(8)

Thus humility grows, according to the seven degrees enumerated by St. Anselm: "(1) to acknowledge ourselves contemptible; (2) to grieve on account of this; (3) to admit that we are so; (4) to wish our neighbor to believe it; (5) to endure with patience people saying it; (6) to be willing to be treated as a person worthy of contempt; (7) to love to be treated in this way," (9) and, like St. Francis of Assisi, to find a holy joy in this treatment. This is, in fact, heroic humility. Such virtue presupposes a special inspiration of the Holy Ghost and the passive purification of the spirit. Besides, it is clearly in the normal way of sanctity; full Christian perfection cannot exist without it. As a matter of fact, all the saints possessed great humility; it presupposes the contemplation of two great truths: we have been created out of nothing by God, who freely preserves us in existence; and without the help of His grace we could not perform any salutary and meritorious act.

The soul then attains a quasi-experiential knowledge of the gratuity and efficacy of grace, without which it would not advance, but would certainly fall back. Humility thus purified tells the glory of God more than do the stars in the heavens.

In this stage there is a similar purification of true piety, or the virtue of religion toward God. Substantial devotion, the promptness of the will in the service of the Lord, should, in fact, subsist here in spite of the absence of sensible devotion and spiritual consolation over a period of months and sometimes of years. The inspirations of the gift of piety then come greatly to the aid of the virtue of religion, bestowing on the soul perseverance in prayer in spite of the greatest spiritual aridity.(10) The fruit of this deep piety is meekness, which corresponds, says St. Augustine, to the beatitude of the meek.


Just as our Lord Himself teaches His friends to become meek and humble of heart, He also purifies their faith from all alloy.(11)

Faith is an infused virtue by which we believe firmly all that God has revealed, because He has revealed it and as the Church proposes it. All the faithful doubtless believe in what God has revealed, but many live very little by the supernatural mysteries which are the principal object of faith. They think more often of the truths of religion that reason can attain - the existence of God, His Providence, the immortality of the soul - or they go no farther than the outward, sensible aspect of Christian worship. Often our faith is still too weak to make us truly live by the mysteries of the Blessed Trinity, the Incarnation, the redemption, the Eucharist, the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in our souls. These are holy formulas, often repeated with veneration, but they are pale and lifeless, and their object is, as it were, lost in the depths of the heavens. These supernatural mysteries have not sufficiently become for us the light of life, the orientation point of our judgments, the habitual norm of our thoughts.

Likewise, the motive for our belief in these mysteries is undoubtedly the fact that God has revealed them, but we dwell excessively on several secondary motives which aid us: first, these mysteries are the rather generally accepted belief of our family and our country; next, we see a certain harmony between supernatural dogmas and the natural truths accessible to reason; lastly, we have some slight experience of God's action in our souls, and this helps us to believe.

But let us suppose that God were suddenly to take away from us all these secondary motives which facilitate the act of faith and on which we perhaps dwell too much. Let us suppose that in spiritual aridity prolonged for months and years, we no longer experience in ourselves the consoling action of God and no longer see the harmony between supernatural mysteries and natural truths; then the act of faith will become difficult for us. This is true especially if the purifying divine light illumines in these mysteries what is loftiest and apparently least conformable to reason: for example, infinite justice on the one hand, and the gratuity of predestination on the other. Besides, in this trial the devil seeks to make our judgment deviate, to show us that there is severity in inexorable divine justice, as if the damned sought pardon without being able to obtain it, whereas in reality they never ask pardon. The enemy seeks also to make us interpret the judgments of the divine good pleasure as arbitrary, despotic, and capricious, adding that an infinitely good and omnipotent God could not permit all the evil that happens in the world; the evil spirit increases this evil in order to draw an additional objection from it. He sounds a false note to trouble the superior harmony of the mysteries of faith. At times he wishes to persuade the soul that there is nothing after death, and he puts forth every effort to give this negation the appearance of an icy evidence which imposes itself absolutely.(12)

The question may then be put under the form of a temptation against faith: Does the supernatural world exist? The soul finds itself between two opposing influences: that of the purifying divine light which casts the intellect into the unsuspected depths of mysteries, as if one were thrown into the sea before knowing how to swim; and on the other hand, the influence of the devil, who tries to cause the effect of the divine light to deviate.

In order to believe, there is left only this sole motive: God has revealed it; every secondary motive has momentarily disappeared. The soul should then ask for the actual grace that enables it to make the act of faith; the grace that makes it overcome, rise above the temptation, instead of reasoning against it; the grace that makes it adhere to the divine revealing Truth: to the authority of God revealing, above the excessively superficial and narrow conceptions it had of the divine perfections.(13) Then the soul gradually "finds shelter in the immutable," in the first Truth, in the uncreated and revealing word, which makes it clearly understand that infinite justice is free from any cruelty, that it is identical in God with the most tender mercy. It also makes the soul see distinctly that, far from being capricious, the divine good pleasure is infinitely wise, and that the divine permission of the greatest evils is holy, for it has in view a higher good of which God alone is the judge and which the soul shall one day contemplate. This superior good is at times dimly seen on earth in the night of the spirit. (14)

Faith is then purified from all alloy and no longer dwells on secondary motives which facilitated its act; they have momentarily disappeared. It no longer dwells on the sensible aspect of the mysteries of the Incarnation, the redemption, the Eucharist; it enters into the depths of divine revelation.

Thus the faith of the apostles was purified during the painful trial of the Passion, in which Jesus, whom three of them had contemplated on Tabor, appeared humiliated and crushed. They had to believe that in spite of this annihilation He was the Son of God made flesh, who would rise on the third day. The Blessed Virgin, St. John, and Magdalen remained firm in faith on Calvary. Likewise after the Ascension, the apostles, henceforth deprived of the sight of the risen Christ, had to live in the obscurity of faith; from Pentecost on, they preached this faith with the most absolute certitude, even to martyrdom.

The saints have known the same kind of trials. St. Vincent de Paul was tormented for four years by a temptation against faith. For ten years Blessed Henry Suso had a similar temptation.

At the end of such a trial, faith is considerably increased, tenfold and even more. The night of the spirit then becomes a starlit night in which one sees dimly the depths of the firmament; that this might be so, the sun had to hide. To glimpse the splendor of supernatural mysteries, reason must have made its sacrifice; it must have renounced seeing by its own light, and must have humbly received the divine light. Similarly, if he is deeply Christian, a deposed king, like Louis XVI, glimpses at the moment of his trial the beauty of the kingdom of God, which is infinitely superior to every earthly kingdom.

At the end of this purification, the soul is deeply convinced that the only reality that counts is supernatural life, and it then asks itself whether it will be able to persevere in this life. At this stage the effects of the purification of hope begin to make themselves felt. This is the third conversion, where we find again, as in the first, the acts of the three theological virtues, but in a far superior manner. (15) The Lord plows the same furrow more deeply that the seed placed in the earth may produce not only ten or thirtyfold, but even sixty and a hundredfold, as we read in the Gospel.(16)

At this time there begins in the soul a more intimate contemplation of God, which tends to become continuous and like an uninterrupted conversation with Him. Then one grasps increasingly better what is said in the Book of Wisdom about the value of wisdom itself: "I preferred her before kingdoms and thrones, and esteemed riches nothing in comparison of her. Neither did I compare unto her any precious stone: for all gold in comparison of her is as a little sand, and silver in respect to her shall be counted as clay." (17) This wisdom is the "pearl of great price" mentioned in the Gospel; a man sells all that he has to buy it.(18)


After the effects of the purification of faith, the purification of hope begins to make itself felt. The soul, now convinced that the one thing necessary is sanctification and salvation, asks itself at times whether, in the midst of the great difficulties it is in, it will persevere to the end.

Hope is the theological virtue by which we tend toward God, as toward our beatitude, relying, in order to reach Him, on His mercy and His helpful omnipotence. The first object of hope is God to be possessed eternally; the formal motive of this theological virtue is God our Helper, Deus auxilians, as the formal motive of faith is God revealing: Veritas prima revelans.

Every good Christian has this infused virtue, united to charity; and it is indeed God whom he hopes for when he asks for the grace necessary for salvation. But often our hope lacks elevation, in the sense that we excessively desire certain temporal goods, which may seem useful to us for our salvation and yet are not. We may even too greatly desire certain human goods which would be harmful to us and would impede the higher goods that come from detachment and humility. From this point of view, our hope lacks life; it does not rise directly enough toward God.

Moreover, there is often some alloy in the motive inspiring our hope. Doubtless we count on the help of God, but we also rely, and occasionally too much so, on inferior motives that are much less sure. We may have too much confidence in ourselves, in our tact, energy, virtues, in various human helps within our reach, just as we may pass through moments of discouragement when we do not succeed and human helps fail us.

If God, wishing to purify our hope of all alloy, should suddenly take away from us the temporal goods which we hope for and also the secondary motives which sustain our trust, - the sympathy and help of our friends, the encouragement and esteem of superiors ­ if at the same time He should show us our frailty in a hitherto unsuspected degree, if He were to permit calumnies, tenacious contradictions against us, and, with all of that, illness, would we still hope "against all human hope" for this sole motive, that no matter what happens God remains infinitely helpful?

This is the time to say: "The Lord is compassionate and merciful, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy"; (19) "God never commands the impossible"; (20) He never permits us to be tempted above our strength, aided by grace.(21) The divine help is always offered to us for salvation; God does not abandon us unless we first abandon Him; He is always willing to raise us up from our sins when we cry to Him.

Speaking through Isaias, the Lord says: "For the mountains shall be moved, and the hills shall tremble; but My mercy shall not depart from thee, and the covenant of My peace shall hot be moved: said the Lord that hath mercy on thee." (22)

The Psalmist writes: "For He hath hidden me in His tabernacle; in the day of evils, He hath protected me in the secret place of His tabernacle. He hath exalted me upon a rock. . . . Thy face, O Lord, will I still seek. . . . Be Thou my helper, forsake me not; do not Thou despise me, O God my Savior. For my father and my mother have left me; but the Lord hath taken me up." (23)

The saints hoped thus in the hours of their great trials. In his Lamentations, Jeremias lets the following cry of anguish escape: "My end and my hope is perished from the Lord," but immediately after he cries out: "Remember my poverty, and transgression, the wormwood and the gall. . . . The mercies of the Lord that we are not consumed: because His commiserations have not failed. . . For the Lord will not cast off forever. For if He hath cast off, He will also have mercy, according to the multitude of His mercies. For He hath not willingly afflicted, nor cast off the children of men." (24)

In his prison St. John the Baptist hoped in this manner when he saw all that was opposed to the kingdom of God, whose coming he had announced. So too the apostles remained firm even to martyrdom. We find another example of heroic hope in St. John of the Cross, who continued to hope in his prison cell when all seemed leagued against the reform of Carmel. In the same way St. Alphonsus Liguori heroically placed his trust in God when the religious family that he had founded seemed on the point of perishing. At times the sacrifice of Isaac is again demanded of the true servants of God, that they may labor at the task entrusted to them, no longer as if it were theirs, but as the work of Almighty God, who can overcome all obstacles and who will infallibly overcome them if He has decreed from all eternity that the work in question should be established.

Then, above every inferior motive of trust, will increasingly appear the formal motive of Christian hope: Deus auxilians, God our Helper, His helpful omnipotence, and the infinite merits of Christ; and the soul will be moved to utter the prayer of Esther: "O my Lord, who alone art our King, help me a desolate woman, and who have no other helper but Thee. My danger is in my hands. . . . Give not, O Lord, Thy scepter to them that are not. . . . Remember, O Lord, and show Thyself to us in the time of our tribulation, and give me boldness. . . . O God, who art mighty above, all hear the voice of them that have no other hope, and deliver us from the hand of the wicked, and deliver me from my fear." (25)

Hope is here transformed into perfect abandonment, whether in regard to a divine work to be accomplished on earth or to our eternal salvation. This trusting abandonment rests on the divine will not yet manifested; but that it may rest on it in this way, presupposes constant fidelity to the divine will already signified by the duty of the present moment. The more our will conforms through obedience to the signified divine will, the more it can abandon itself with confidence to the divine will of good pleasure not yet manifested, on which our future and eternity depend. The same holds true for the dying, and should be kept in mind when we are assisting them in their agony. We should beg God to grant them this trust, united to perfect abandonment, that, being conformed to His signified divine will, they may with more perfect trust accept death, that leap into the unknown, which is nothing else than abandonment to the divine good pleasure not yet manifested. In this way the soul rises above the obscurity from beneath, which comes from matter, error, and sin, that it may lose itself in the obscurity from on high, which is that of the intimate life of God and of His love for each of us.(26)

At the end of this purification of hope, this virtue is freed from self-love which mingled in it, from the more or less inordinate desire of consolation, and it becomes much stronger in its purity. Hope is the desire for God, to possess Him Himself, above His gifts; and yet God does not show Himself, does not make His presence felt. At this time the soul begins to experience the effect of the passive purification of charity.



1. St. Thomas, Ia, q.57, a. 4.

2 John 10: II f.

3. Luke2:34 f.

4.  Cf. St. Thomas, In Isaiam, chap. 24: "The visitation of the Lord is multiple; of consolation. . . of correction. . . and at times of condemnation.

5. Some persons, for example, go to Mass daily and receive Holy Communion because, without doubt, it is essentially better and more profitable for the soul to do so, but also because it is the custom in the circle in which they move. If this custom disappeared, they too would perhaps cease to go to Mass and to receive Holy Communion daily. The virtues must be increasingly practiced for love of God, independently of these inferior, wholly accessory motives.

6. Cf. I Cor. 4:7.

7. Phil. 2:13.

8. Thus at Mass we say before Communion: "Fac me tuis semper inhaerere mandatis et a te nunquam separari permittas."

9. Lib. de similitudinibus, chaps. 100 f.

10. A very pious person asked the Lord to make her know her nothingness; sometime later she had to spend a night in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. As a rule she had facility in her prayer, which seemed to be the prayer of quiet; but at the beginning of this night of adoration, she experienced a complete void in herself, an absolute coldness, and she heard these words: "You asked Me to make you know your nothingness: behold it."

11. We treated this question of the passive purification of faith, hope, and charity, in L'Amour de Dieu et la croix de Jesus, II, 575-632. We ourselves understood as never before the meaning and import of the teaching of St. John of the Cross on this point on reading La petite vie de sainte Therese de l'Enfant-Jesus, especially chapter nine, where the author speaks of the dark night and the tunnel through which the saint had to pass in order to reach the transforming union. The idea came to us then to compare the teaching of St. John of the Cross on the passive purification of the spirit with what St. Thomas says of the formal motive of the theological virtues. It is marvellous how mutually illuminating are the teachings of these two great masters.

12. A person who was very much tried wrote us on this subject: "These last days a thick and somber veil covered my poor soul. . . . I walked gropingly, forcing myself to remember, in order to direct myself, the truths of faith to which I would have wished to cling; but I was like a shipwrecked person, who, to save himself, struggles madly toward a rock and, when he seems to reach it, is thrown back by the waves; thus my soul could not grasp the certitude of what one must believe. . . . A single conviction seemed to impose itself on me: the nothingness of everything supernatural, and, with a sort of certitude, the negation of eternal life. All this imposed itself on my spirit in spite of me, with, as it were, indisputable evidence to which I had inevitably to resign myself. . . . It was like the crumbling away of my beloved faith, which for so long a time had guided my life. . . . However, occasionally the thought struck me: If I should acquiesce in these invitations, I would doubt the words of our Lord, who is too holy to be able to lie, and I felt as an imperious duty the necessity of being faithful to Him for the honor of our mutual love, for we had given each other all that we are. And then I was able
to say: Lord, I believe, I will to believe, but increase my faith." We recounted at greater length the struggles of this valiant soul in the story of her life: Mere Francoise de ]esus, fondatrice de la Compagnie de la Vierge (Desclee de Brouwer, 1937), pp. 43-65.

13. The contemplative soul then receives, as St. John of the Cross explains (The Dark Night, Bk. II, chaps. 5, 8 f.), a supernatural light, that of he gift of understanding, which, revealing the spirit of the word of God, obliges the soul to go beyond the letter and its inferior habits of conceiving of the divine perfections. This infused light illumines the wholly supernatural heights of the mysteries of infinite justice, infinite mercy, predestination, the passion of Christ, the salvation of souls. Then the petty conceptions to which the soul was accustomed, shine forth, as it were. The soul is in astonishment in this spiritual night. In reality, there is here an excessive light for eyes that are still too weak to bear it. But the soul emerges from the crucible with a far higher and firmer knowledge of the truths of faith, passing beyond dogmatic formulas that it may believe profoundly in the mysteries expressed by these formulas, and henceforth ive continually by them.

14. We explained the foundations of this doctrine in Christian Perfection and Contemplation, pp. 74 ff.

15. The Council of Trent, Sess.VI, chap. 6 (Denzinger, no. 798) enumerates among the acts that dispose the sinner to conversion or justification: the act of faith united to the fear of God, the act of hope, and the initial love of God, the Source of all justice, which inclines the soul to hatred of sin.

St. Thomas (Ia IIae, q. 113, a. 3-5) explains at greater length how faith, hope, and charity concur in the conversion of the soul to God. In the second conversion, the passive purification of the senses, and in the third, the night of the spirit, there is something similar, but more lofty and more profound. In the third conversion the soul turns definitively toward God in order to reach that transforming union and confirmation in grace which was granted on Pentecost to the apostles, when since the Ascension they had been deprived of the sight of Christ's humanity.

16. Cf. Mark 4:8: "And some fell upon good ground and brought forth fruit that grew up and increased and yielded, one thirty, another sixty, and another a hundred."

17. Wisd. 7:8 f.

18. Matt. 13:46.

19. Ps. 102:8. Cf. Lam. 3:11: "His commiserations have not failed."

20. "God never commands the impossible, but in commanding warns us to do what we are able and to ask for grace to accomplish what we cannot do." Council of Trent, Sess. VI, chap. II (Denzinger, no. 804). This quotation is taken from St. Augustine, De natura et gratia, chap. 43, no. 50.

21. Cf. 1 Cor. 10: 13: "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able; but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it."

22. Isa. 54: 10.

23. Ps. 26:5, 6, 8-10.

24. Lam. 3:18-22, 31-33. We have established the fact that this page of Jeremias has restored hope to greatly tried souls that believed themselves on the point of saying, like the Prophet: "My end and my hope is perished from the Lord." It is a question here of hoping against all hope, as St. Paul says in Romans 4: 18.

25. Esther 14:3 f., II f., 19.

26. Cf. The Interior Castle, sixth mansion, chap. I. At this stage it is not rare for the soul to be tempted in regard to the mystery of predestination, as St. Catherine of Siena was by the devil, who said to her: 'What is the use of these mortifications if you are not predestined? And if you are, you will be saved without them." To which the saint replied: "If I am predestined, what is the use of your efforts to destroy me? And if I am not, why take so much trouble? "

Predestination, like Providence, bears not only on the end, but on the means to attain it. And as in the natural order the harvest is obtained only by seed, in the order of grace, salvation is obtained only by prayer and the practice of the virtues.

We must also tell ourselves that the certitude of hope is not precisely that of  attaining our end; to have such a certitude, we would need a special revelation of our predestination; it is rather a certitude of tendency, as St. Thomas says so well (IIa IIae, q.18, a. 4): "Hope tends to its end with certainty, as though sharing in the certainty of faith." The certitude of hope is that of a tendency which, under the light of faith, is infallibly in the true direction of end to be attained. It is confidence in God who is infinitely helpful and in His promises. Thus when we have taken at Paris the train that goes to Rome, we firmly hope to reach the end of the journey; we tend surely toward it.