The Spiritual Life has three distinct stages, the Purgative Way, the Illuminative Way and the Unitive Way. The goal of the Christian life is to reach union with God, and ultimately heaven where we will enjoy Jesus forever.
Most people however, are still beginners. These are the faithful, good, and pious souls who are still battling their vices and sins and learning to grow in virtue. The way is called Purgative because the soul is being purged of impurity and growing in holiness in what is called ‘active purgations’. These are the practices you do regularly including good catholic spiritual reading, bible study, attendance at mass weekly or daily, adoration, regular confession, acts of charity or virtue, etc. These are what you can do on your own to become a holier and more faithful person.
However to go from the Purgative Way to the Illuminative Way, where the focus is more on acquiring virtue rather than rooting out sin and where you are infused with supernatural lights and knowledge, one must pass through what is called the “night of the senses” where there is much dryness or aridity in prayer, or one doesn’t “feel” that they are getting anywhere with all their faithful and pious practices anymore as they did in the beginning. However, the key to advancing is to keep persevering and prove that you love God just the same – that you don’t simply love Him for the feelings you get while you are in prayer, or the sensible consolations. In the Illuminative Way, a soul grows in love for God as either a fervent soul or relatively perfect soul, and only venial sins or imperfections are committed.
Next is the Unitive Way, which is reached by another “night”, this time the dark night of the soul in which one feels very far from God, almost forsaken. However, at this stage the soul is very advanced in the spiritual life. After persevering again, the soul is in the Unitive Way where your actions, thoughts, desires, are closely united with the Divine Will. These are the heroic souls and the souls that reach sanctity.
A Princess of God should be always advancing in the spiritual life – it is important not so much to measure yourself against other souls who may be doing better or worse than you are, but to measure yourself against what you were previously and to always improve. It is for everyone’s benefit that each soul becomes the best, the holiest that they can possibly be – so cheer on others in their progress and growth as if it were your own and maintain the most essential virtue, that of humility, as you progress, desiring that “others become holier provided that you become as holy as you should be.”