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Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Summary of: St. John of the Cross: "Dark Night of the Soul"

As I have written about before, owns and sells a wide variety of Catholic book summaries to both modern written works as well as spiritual classics, like St. John of the Cross' "Dark Night of the Soul."  I wanted to share some of our summary of the "Dark Night of the Soul."

 Chapter 1 : Quotes the verse and begins to discuss the imperfections of beginners

God draws souls through three states to divine union. Beginners are those who practice spiritual meditation. Proficients are those who are already contemplatives. The Perfect are those who are in divine union of the soul with God. Beginners should understand their feebleness of state and take courage that God has placed them in the dark night to strengthen the virtue of their soul to receive the delights of love of God.

God nurtures and caresses the soul who is newly converted to his service as a mother nurtures her child at the breast. As the child grows the mother withholds her caresses and puts the child down so the child may put away childish habits and grow to greater things. At this stage the soul, through no effort of its own, receives great satisfaction in performing spiritual exercises. The soul finds great joy and consolation in the prayers, penances, fasts and sacraments. However, the motivation of the soul is the consolation and satisfaction received from these acts. They have not long practiced virtue so they still possess many faults and imperfections. Their habits are feeble like a weak child.

We will describe, using the seven capital vices, some of the many imperfections beginners commit. The dark night purifies the soul of these childish imperfections.

Chapter 2: Some of the imperfections of pride possessed by beginners.

Beginners feel a secret pride due to their fervor and diligence in their spiritual exercises, so that they become complacent with themselves. They become vain and speak of spiritual things in the presence of others, sometimes instructing, condemning, or criticizing the practice of others, like the Pharisee in Lk. 18-11-12.

The devil uses this growing pride by increasing their fervor and readiness to perform spiritual works. But he does this to negate the worth of these virtues turning them into vices. These beginners will condemn and detract others, seeing the splinter in their brother’s eye, rather than the plank in their own. (Mt. 7:3)

When confessors or spiritual directors disapprove of their spirit and methods, the beginner will say the director does not understand, or will seek a new confessor who will praise them. They will make many resolutions with little result, and will also make public displays of raptures so others will take notice.

Beginners want their confessor to think highly of them, so rather than accuse themselves of their true sins, they will excuse their behavior. Or they might seek out different confessors to confess so that their regular confessor thinks they commit no sins at all. They confess their good behavior. It would be better for them to make light of the good they do and wish no one consider it of any importance at all.

Beginners minimize their faults or become discouraged by them, since they felt they were already saints. They become impatient and angry with themselves, which is another fault. They wish that God would remove all their faults, but it is for personal peace rather than love of God. They don't realize that removal of their faults might make them more proud and presumptuous. They love praise from others, but dislike praising others, like the foolish virgins who had to borrow oil, (Mt. 25:8)

Beginners may have few or many imperfections or tendencies towards them, but all beginners will fall victim to some of these faults.

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