Why do there exist these times called “dark nights of the soul”? The answer of Saint John of the Cross is given at length throughout the Ascent and Dark Night: we are imperfect and, if the road leads to union of will with God, taking us from the very first seed of grace into a really “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15), where all the parts are transformed, there will be pain and darkness. The light is strong; it blinds us. The interior is not arranged properly; moving heavy furniture and taking down unnecessary walls hurts the house.
Of course, the Doctors of the Church teach substantial agreement on the process of transformation in Christ. When Saint Catherine of Siena gives a reason why there are purifications, she says the same. In her Dialogue, she has God the Father say of those who reach a union-in-will with God,
To these souls, I give the grace of a consciousness of My continual presence… These souls are plunged into the burning flames of My charity, purified of everything that is not I, stripped of all self-will and consumed with love of Me.
If there is going to be room for “consciousness of God’s continual presence”, then the things that get in the way must be removed. It might hurt. After all, it’s a “burning flame” we’re talking about; learning to live inside a fire isn’t going to be a walk in the park. These purifications either happen in the Church of Purgatory or in this life. Much better in this life. We’re of greater use to our neighbours that way.
Some related posts:
- The Necessary Logic of Dark Nights According to Saint Alphonsus
- The Ascension and Pentecost for Catherine of Siena
- Retreat to the House!
- Francis de Sales Describes the Dark Night of the Spirit