I was raised Catholic and knew about the saints. I knew that they were holy people that loved God, did heroic deeds, and that I should try to be like them. The End.
Thankfully, The Fulfillment of All Desire by Dr. Ralph Martin crossed my path in the fall of 2011.
I didn’t even know how badly I wanted to read what he had to say. In his book, Dr. Martin consolidates some of the greatest wisdom from St. Augustine, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and other great saints and plugs their insights in as aids to journeying the Path of Perfection. For me, his style was completely understandable and consumable.
I had never heard of the Path of Perfection!
I had no idea that our spiritual journey to sainthood could be broken down, identified in stages of growth in holiness, each stage replete with its own temptations and graces, trails and triumphs. Why had I never heard of this?! I know, I know…. all in God’s perfect timing. But, seriously!
Dr. Martin divides his book into three parts, each part corresponding to one of the stages of the Path of Perfection.
Part I covers the Purgative Way, where our transformation begins and our senses are purified. Turning away from sin, growth toward consistency in prayer, and frequent reception of the sacraments start to take root.
Part II covers the Illuminative Way. Here, we have reached Christian stability but are being led to something more. We begin to grow more deeply in knowledge of God and self, in mental prayer and in faith, hope, and charity. Our thoughts and desires are more fully purified so as to better reflect God’s thoughts and desires.
Part III covers the Unitive Way, where constant awareness of God’s presence and further purification of our will towards an habitual conformity to God’s will continue to grow. Deep joy and profound humility, contemplative prayer, as well as freedom from fear of suffering and a strong desire to participate in redemptive suffering also characterize this stage.
Progression isn’t necessarily linear as aspects of all three stages can be present simultaneously in one’s soul.
Each soul is unique, and no two paths are exactly alike.
Although, if we are making progress, everyone from Abraham to present day saints-in-the-making will have experiences that increasing mirror the spiritual characteristics of these stages as described by the saints.
If, like me, you need a starting point to get to know this Way, check out Dr. Martin’s book. You won’t be disappointed!