On the road to holiness, we are met with many obstacles: an inability to overcome a habitual sin, an unwillingness to be docile to the inner workings of the Holy Spirit, or our own pride. St. Augustine knew many of these obstacles and I think of his prayer, “Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you.”
St. John of the Cross wrote: “However spiritual a soul may be there always remains, until she reaches this state of perfection [spiritual marriage], some little herd of appetites, satisfactions, and other imperfections, natural or spiritual, after which she follows to pasture and satisfy it.” [i] St. Therese wrote: “I no longer tend the herd, nor have I any other work now that my every act is love.”[ii]
Putting down our stones and tending to these obstacles is hard work. When we start to live a life of virtue, follow the moral law, habitual prayer, and frequent reception of the Sacraments we begin restoration to our spiritual sight. Josef Pieper states: “To be open to the truth of real things and to live by perceived truth: these constitute the essence of the moral person. Only one who sees and affirms this objective reality is also able to recognize how deeply the ruin penetrates that an unchaste heart allows to happen within itself.”[iii]
If you struggle with purity of heart, if you find yourself holding stones, do not let your heart grow hard as Pharaohs did in the desert but listen to the words from Joel 2:13:
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God,
For he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love,
and relenting in punishment
[i] John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle, stanza26, nos. 18-19, p. 580.
[ii] Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul, Chapter VIII, pp 178-179.
[iii] Josef Pieper, A Brief Reader On the Virtues of the Human Heart, p. 42-43.