Tomorrow is Feb. 2—the Feast of the Purification, and my memory brought me back to Feb. 2, 1965. I had entered the convent the August before as a postulant. In July 1965, I would become a novice, receiving the full habit, yet with a white rather than a black veil. The year of the postulancy was a year of asking, seeking, probing—did I really desire this life? The Feast of the Purification marked an intensification of this probe, for now I must have purity of intention, having put doubts and other options completely aside.
The occasion would be marked by a little white collar added to the black capes which we wore over our long black dresses and a simple black veil. (Upon entering, we did not yet wear a veil except for a simple white one when we attended chapel.) This white collar symbolized purity of intention.
I wonder today what was in my 18 year old mind then. Sister Lelia began serious teaching about purity of intention at least 2-3 weeks before the feast. It was for us to apply that teaching to our own hearts to be ready for that day.
The term is well known in the spiritual life. Father John Nicholas Grou, S.J. , 1731-1803, devotes an entire section to it in his SPIRITUAL MAXIMS, “Seventh Maxim: Purity of intention, simplicity and uprightness.”
He analyses this “means to devotion” in varied ways:
“What, then, is purity of intention? Purity of intention is having God alone as our object, free from all self-interest.”
“Our self-love endeavours studiously to hide our intentions from ourselves. It does so with a view to its own interests, and succeeds only too well. We deceive ourselves in a multitude of things, and although we do so simply because we want to, it is all so subtle that we are hardly aware of it. There are very few persons who are completely honest with themselves, and self should be the very first thing we mistrust. We must always, therefore, be on our guard against the devices of self-love….”
“If we are to know ourselves really, we must discern the true motive of our actions, and that is not an easy matter, seeing how twisted our nature is, and how blind we are to it. True knowledge of self is very rare.”
“Simplicity is identical with purity of intention.” [http://www.catholictreasury.info/books/spiritual_maxims/mx7.php]
We see that intention is tied to motive, and that in our sinfulness and imperfection, our self-love—to which we are blind—sullies all that we do. Consequently, purity of intention requires an attitude of humility, vigilance, and a continuous struggle for self-knowledge.
Then I remembered this teaching in THE SIMPLE PATH TO UNION WITH GOD, # 148: [Before going into battle with Goliath, David selected five smooth stones.] “You each must also approach the battle with five stones. First, the stone of humility, possessing the perfect knowledge of your nothingness and My power and majesty. Second, the stone of purity, purity of mind, heart, intention, word, desire… Third, simplicity, detached from all, most especially your ego. Fourth, trust, perfectly abandoned to My will. Fifth, courage, courage rooted in love of Me to be perfectly obedient to My commands. These stones are your weapons for battle….” The Simple Path, p.406, http://lovecrucified.com/path/simple_path.html ]
In May 2016, Love Crucified community reflected deeply on community prophecies on the Storm, on the battle, and on our weapons, the five stones. I wrote then:
“The weapons are so rich: the stone of humility emerges from the victim’s struggle for knowledge of self and knowledge of God.
“The stone of purity belongs to the single-hearted, those with purity of intention and desire for God and His Will alone. Reading St. Albert the Great today, I found: “Earnestly apply your mind to seek constant purity of heart, clarity of mind, and calm of the senses. Gather up your heart’s desire and fix it continually on the Lord God above.”
“The third stone of simplicity is the weapon of being One, in Union with Love Crucified, undivided, with a single, intense focus on God, not on self-will.
“Fourth, the stone of trust, perfect abandonment to God in the sacrament of every moment.
“Fifth, the stone of courage comes from the other four stones, in the victim soul’s obedience to the Will of God regardless of consequences.”
As I followed my memories and reflected more deeply, a saying of my beloved St. Albert the Great, c.1193-1280, (and I believe I love him solely for this one line!): “Simplify your heart with all care.” [https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/soul-food-talk-6-simplify-your-heart-with-all-care/]
Yes, he is definitely talking about purity of intention. I wrote two years ago as I reflected on St. Albert: “WHAT IS SIMPLICITY? One. Complexity rules where an item is divided or made up of many parts. The closer to one that we can get, the simpler we are. One God. One desire. A heart focused and centered on God. One Will. Simplicity of heart is virtually the same as purity of heart.”
As the storm rages about us, let us remember that light overcomes darkness. Confusion will not reign. Enter the simplicity of your heart, “a heart focused and centered on God. One Will.” With purity of intention. In a recent post, Mark Mallet reminded us: “Our Lady is calling us, right now, to intense prayer… prayer of the heart.” [http://www.markmallett.com/blog/a-matter-of-the-heart/#more-25834]
Ven. Archbishop Luis Martinez led me a couple of years ago to use his words in this simple prayer: “O my Jesus, simplify everything in the unity of Your Sacred Heart in order to plunge the whole universe into the bosom of the Trinity that God be All in all.”
[See also St. Albert’s book: CLEAVING TO GOD, http://www.catholictreasury.info/books/cleaving_to_God/clv7.php
and my first post here, IN THE FIRE: THIRSTING FOR GOD, https://soulfoodministries.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/258/