The following is a continuation of a previous post which can be read here.
The Necessity of Purity of Heart
The shortest and surest way of attaining to perfection is to study purity of heart rather than the exercise of virtues, because God is ready to bestow all manner of graces upon us, provided we put no obstacles in their way. Now it is by purifying our heart that we clear away everything which hinders the work of God. When all impediments are removed, it is inconceivable what wonderful effects God produces in the soul. St. Ignatius used to say that even saints put great obstacles in the way of God’s graces.
Without an abundant supply of grace, we shall never do any excellent acts of virtue; and we shall never obtain this abundant supply until we have thoroughly purged our heart. But when once we have reached this perfect purity of heart, we shall practice those virtues, an opportunity for which is furnished us; and with respect to others, an opportunity for which may not occur, we shall possess the spirit, and so to say, the essence of them, which is what God principally requires; for it is very possible to perform an act of some particular virtue without possessing its spirit and essence.
Of all the exercises of the spiritual life, there is none against which the devil directs more opposition than the study of purity of heart. He will let us perform some exterior acts of virtue, accuse ourselves publicly of our faults, serve in the kitchen, visit the hospitals and prisons, because we sometimes content ourselves with all this, and it serves to flatter us and to prevent interior remorse of conscience; but he cannot endure that we should look into our own heart, examine its disorders, and apply ourselves to their correction. The heart itself recoils from nothing so much as this search and scrutiny, which makes it see and feel its own miseries. All the powers of our soul are disordered beyond measure and we do not wish to know it because the knowledge is humiliating to us.
Note: God can do inconceivably amazing things with even the most crude of instruments. A man whose natural abilities are the equivalent of a grain of sand can, under the influence of God’s grace, be made like unto Mount Everest. Similarly, a man whose natural talents are the equivalent of Mount Everest can, due to habitual placement of obstacles to God’s grace and the operation thereof, render himself more or less useless to God, other people and himself. We are all loaded with different kinds and degrees of gifts, but none of them produces the intended results unless and until we purify and humble our hearts, letting God direct and use us for His designs, which are always better than our own and have the power to make us truly happy.