Reading the Bible from The Heart of The Church

The St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology is a non-profit research and educational institute that promotes life-transforming Scripture study in the Catholic tradition. Learn More

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Follow the Path of the Saints


In Ralph Martin’s modern classic, The Fulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook for the Journey to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints, the three stages of spiritual growth are defined as the purgative, illuminative, and unitive.

The purgative stage includes the initial phases of the spiritual life—conversion, turning away from sin, bringing one’s life into conformity with the moral law, initiating the habit of prayer and the practices of piety, and maintaining a relatively stable life in the Church.

The illuminative stage is one of continuing growth. It is characterized by deeper prayer, growth in the virtues, deepening love of neighbor, greater moral stability, more complete surrender to the lordship of Christ, greater detachment from all that is not God, and increasing desire for full union.

The unitive stage is one of deep, habitual union with God, characterized by deep joy, profound humility, freedom from fears of suffering or trials, great desire to serve God, and apostolic fruitfulness.

Each stage leads the pilgrim to his final end: the Beatific Vision, where one knows and loves as he is known and loved.

To embark on your spiritual journey, use The Fulfillment of All Desire as a companion. Its comprehensive collection of wisdom from the saints will be a profound compass as you walk the path to holiness. 

"Ralph Martin gives us a rich and clear description of progress through prayer in union with God, drawing on the wisdom of the saints."—Father Robert Faricy, S. J. 


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