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Presence of God – O my God, make me understand how necessary it is for the soul to be pure in order to be united to You who are infinite Perfection!


While venial sin always consists in a more or less slight transgression of one of God’s laws, imperfection is the omission of some good act to which we are not obliged by any law, but one which charity invites us to do. To illustrate: when I am aware of the possibility of performing a better act suited to my state, in accord with my actual capabilities, in harmony with my duties, and for the accomplishment of which I may reasonably believe that I am inspired by the Holy Spirit, I cannot deliberately refuse to do it without real actual imperfection. In this case, my refusal to perform a better act cannot be judged to be good, nor can it be justified by the thought that I am free to omit this better action since no law or commandment obliges me. This would be an abuse of that liberty which was given me by God for the sole purpose of making me capable of adhering to the good, uninfluenced by my passions. In fact, in the last analysis, my refusal to perform the better act always implies a lack of generosity, motivated by a little selfishness, laziness, meanness, or fondness for my own comfort, all of which are evidently contrary to perfection.

StJohnOfTheCrossRetratoDeSanJuanDeLaCruz - for Imperfections postViewed from this angle, it is clear that voluntary imperfection can never be conformable to the will of God, and that consequently, like sin, it is contrary to charity which tends to full conformity with the divine will. Hence, it is important for a soul striving for union with God to eliminate from its conduct every voluntary imperfection. In this sense, St. John of the Cross admonishes us: “For the soul to come to unite itself perfectly with God through love and will … it must not intentionally and knowingly consent with the will to imperfections.” Furthermore, he teaches that attachment to even one habitual voluntary imperfection suffices to impede the soul “not only from divine union, but also from progress in perfection” (Saint John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel I, 11,3).


Grant me, I beg You, O my God, a strong, generous charity, capable of destroying my selfishness down to its very roots. Oh! how well I understand that this self-love is the cause of so many of my little infidelities, of so many imperfections into which I habitually fall and which I do not take care to correct, under the pretext that they are not sins!

These faults, however, are not without importance to a soul consecrated to You and bound to strive for perfection, to a soul called by You to sanctity and one whom You invite to complete union with Yourself. How can I pretend to be united to You, infinite Perfection, if I voluntarily commit so many and such great imperfections in my life? How can my will be entirely conformed to Yours, when I desire and love things that You do not desire and absolutely cannot love?

O Lord, I feel the weight of my egoism which drags me down. This self-love would like to possess everything without effort and flees with all its might from fatigue, sacrifice, and complete generous giving! I feel the weight of the flesh which is ever trying to lessen the measure of my giving, which postpones until tomorrow anything that is painful or distasteful, which makes a thousand excuses for avoiding an act of generosity!

I know all that, O Lord, and You know better than I these secret compromises of my self-love. But You also know that I want to love You with my whole heart and to give myself entirely to You. You know that my poor desires are sincere, even if they are not efficacious. Give me a real, effectual love, capable of overcoming all the opposition of self-love, and of demolishing all its plans. You who are infinite charity, consuming fire, kindle in my soul a spark of Your love that will destroy and consume my selfishness. If self-love is the weight which slows my progress toward You, grant that Your love will be a weight still heavier to draw me incessantly to You through a total gift of self, without reserve or limit.


Note from Dan: This post on “Imperfections” is provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contains one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here: Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.

Art: Detalle del grabado de San Juan de la Cruz (Detail of Engraving of Saint John of the Cross [1542-1591]), Francisco Pacheco, circa 1599, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and Divine Intimacy Radio, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, and his newest books Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • TabithaRaised

    This commentary is very valuable to me as I embark on a new adventure of leaving my job to work as a residential volunteer at a Benedictine Monastery for some Sisters. Could I keep doing what I am doing? Working, taking care of a house, my dog, and going to Mass and Adoration as often as possible, then fitting in charitable work? Yes, but it is not the “highest and the best” thing that I can do. I learned this thought in pastoral theology school, and it has stayed with me.

    As a single person, I have flexibility to do a higher and better thing then to just work and fit in apostolic work as extracurricular time allows. People say, “you can be holy just in the workplace”, “yes”, but it is not the highest and best thing that I can do because God has given me the ability to do more. I want to work for God full-time. God does not give you moral desires that are not in keeping with His will.

    I have sold my house and have to find a temporary home for my pet companion. It is not easy to give up these attachments, but I believe the actions of the saints that have gone before me, who gave up these attachments, that it is something beautiful to do for God. For those who have a family, that is their vocation. For single people, they have the flexibility, if they are without children they may have the skills to serve the Church in a greater capacity. From what Fr. Pacheco writes, it would be a grave imperfection if I did not do this “higher and better” thing to serve the people of God rather than the bottom line of a corporation. This is a very clear teaching:

    “To illustrate: when I am aware of the possibility of performing a better act suited to my state, in accord with my actual capabilities, in harmony with my duties, and for the accomplishment of which I may reasonably believe that I am inspired by the Holy Spirit, I cannot deliberately refuse to do it without real actual imperfection. In this case, my refusal to perform a better act cannot be judged to be good, nor can it be justified by the thought that I am free to omit this better action since no law or commandment obliges me.”

    Jesus I trust in you.

    • LizEst

      Thanks for your witness TabithaRaised. May God reward you abundantly as you seek to do His will in an even greater manner!

    • Patricia

      I agree with all.that you say, especially your reference to the desires of our heart, placed there by God. It is His marvelous love that He places in our hearts (Psalm 16) to begin with, as well as the desire to do His work. It is wonderful to read about someone acting on their faith and call. Thanks for your witness! God will be will you!

    • Estefanía

      That is great TabithaRaised! Thank you, this encourages me. I have been wondering about a desire in my heart to homeschool my children and why it never seems to leave my mind. They are not even school age but I guess it’s more of a desire to be the primary educator/influence in their life, a higher degree of what I am doing right now as you express. Pray for me! God bless!

  • Estefanía

    This makes sense to me but I still have a question, at what point are we not being selfish anymore but are simply just exhausted from having two small children, work, chores, etc? Are we still being selfish if we omit a good deed we could have done better if we are sleep deprived and so on? I’m not trying to play devil’s advocate or play the victim. I’m just trying to get a better understanding.
    Is there ever a time when it’s ok to not do something you could have done or would these just be excuses? Thank you and God bless!

    • LizEst

      Your question brings up some points:

      ~ First of all: Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, the author of this reflection, was writing for religious. What he wrote also applies to laypeople, only differently. When you have two small children, work, chores, etc. it is important to take care of yourself in order to take care of them. The love you have is like a pitcher of water. You pour and pour and pour it out. Unlike God, who is infinite, we are not. So, you do have to refill your pitcher from time to time in order to be able to pour it out for others. My director once spoke of benign neglect, of letting something go which “needs” to get done, but would not suffer from it. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know what that would be. But, with practice, we can come to understand what can be let go in order that we might be physically refreshed…so that we can be there for others. As St Paul said, “… your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). We have to be good stewards of this temple God has given us. And, sleep deprivation can have some real health consequences over the long haul.

      ~ Secondly: I am not suggesting or implying that you don’t do this, but, for the sake of emphasis, it is important to begin your day with God and end it with God. Make a morning offering, if you don’t already do this. Join yourself and your efforts to Christ. Look to Him during the day, even if it only to say to Him “I love you Jesus”. When you say your night prayers, make an examination of conscience. Figuring out where one failed, where one sinned, during the day helps us improve going forward. When we draw from the fountain of living water, the fountain of eternal life which is Christ Himself, this everlasting Water refreshes and invigorates us. God truly delights when we look to Him and talk to Him, during our day.

      ~ Third: If you do not already have a spiritual director, I recommend you find one (Dan’s book “Navigating the Interior Life” [available in Spanish as “Navegando la Vida Interior”] has some great “how-to” instructions for that). A good director helps one see blind spots that may hamper our spiritual progress. He/she can also assist in keeping us focused on Christ, having a good prayer life, etc.

      Anyway, those are some thoughts. God bless you, Estefania. Hope this helps!

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