None shall be crowned who has not fought well.
------- 2 Tim. 2: 5
Taken from the
of the same title by DOM LORENZO SCUPOLI
$14.50 US $23.26 CDN
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: HOW WE ARE TO ENCOUNTER SENSUALITY. WHAT THE WILL MUST DO TO ACQUIRE VIRTUOUS HABITS
WHEN OUR CREATOR and sensuality struggle for possession of our hearts, victory will follow the side of Heaven, if we use the following tactics.
1. The first impulses of the sensual appetite that oppose reason must be carefully checked, that the will should not give its consent to them.
2. After this is done, they may be released in order to give them a greater setback.
3. A third trial may be given in order to steel ourselves to repulse them with generous contempt. It is necessary to observe that these methods of arousing the passions are not to be used where chastity is involved. We shall speak of this later.
4. Lastly, it is extremely important to perform acts of those virtues which are opposed to the vicious inclinations we encounter. The following example will place this in a clear light.
You are, it may be supposed, subject to impatience. Recollect yourself------examine what is passing through your mind. You will observe that the trouble which first arose in the lower appetite attempts to control the will and the higher faculties.
Here, as I mentioned previously, you
stop it, and prevent it from prevailing on the will. Do not leave the
until your enemy is entirely subdued, and reduced in proper subjection
But you see the cleverness of the tempter! If he finds out that you courageously overcome impetuous passion, he not only ceases to light it in your heart, but even assists in banking the fire for the present. His plan is to prevent the attainment of the contrary virtue by a steady resistance, and to inflate you with the vanity of thinking you are a great soldier for having defeated your enemy in such a short time.
You must renew this procedure. Bring to mind what first moved you to impatience. When you recognize the same emotion rising in your lower appetite, mobilize the entire force of your will to suppress it.
It frequently happens that after the most strenuous engagements with the enemy, which have been motivated by the desire of fulfilling our duty and pleasing God, we are not entirely out of the danger of defeat by a third attack. We must once more fight the passion we combated, and arouse not only hatred, but also contempt and horror of it.
Briefly, if you want to equip your soul with virtue and acquire habitual sanctity, it is necessary to practice frequent acts of the virtue which is contrary to your vicious inclinations.
For example, if you want to acquire a high degree of patience, you must not consider it sufficient to employ the three types of weapon that have been mentioned in order to overcome all the impatience occasioned by the contempt you endure from others. You must proceed even to an affection for the contempt itself; to wish for its repetition, even from the same persons; to resolve to endure patiently even greater insults.
The reason we must form acts which are directly contrary to our failings, if we desire to attain perfection, is this------other acts of virtue, however efficacious and frequent, do not strike directly at the root of the evil.
To continue the example------although you do not give consent to impulses of anger, but deal with them in the ways described, yet be certain of this. Unless you accustom yourself to enjoy contempt and be happy in it, you will never entirely root out the vice of impatience, for it springs up from a dread of contempt and a fondness for the applause of men.
As long as the root of this weed is not torn out, it will sprout again, and your virtue will perish. In time, you may discover that you are stripped of good habits and in continual danger of falling back into your former disorders. Never hope to acquire solid virtue unless you destroy your own particular failings by performing frequent acts which are directly opposed to them.
I say frequent acts------for frequent acts are necessary to build a virtuous habit, just as many sins are required to confirm oneself in a vicious habit. In fact, a greater number of acts must be performed in the former instance, because our weakened nature resists the one side as much as it assists the other.
You will observe that certain virtues cannot be acquired without performing external acts corresponding to the interior dispositions. This is true with regard to patience. You must not only speak with great charity and mildness to those who have injured you, no matter how great the offense, but even help them to the limit of your abilities.
Although these acts, whether external or internal, may seem insignificant, and even greatly repugnant, do not omit them. However small they may seem, they will certainly support you in the struggle and will greatly contribute to your victory.
Guard your mind, therefore, and do not be content to restrain the most violent surges of passion; resist the most minute. They generally lead to the greater and pave the way to deeply vicious habits.
Does not experience teach us that many who neglect to mortify their passions in trivialities, although they show courage in heroic trials, are unexpectedly trapped, and viciously attacked by enemies that had never been entirely destroyed?
There is another thing most sincerely recommended. Mortify your inclinations, even when the object in itself is lawful, but not necessary. It will facilitate victory on other occasions; you will gain experience and strength against temptation, and present yourself as acceptable to your Savior.
This is sincere advice. Do not fail to exert yourself in the practices mentioned. They are absolutely requisite for the perfect formation of your soul. You will quickly gain a great victory over yourself. You will advance rapidly on the path of virtue. Your life will become spiritual, not only in appearance, but in reality.
If you follow other methods, however excellent you consider them, though you taste the greatest spiritual delights, though you imagine yourself intimately united to God, you can depend on this; you will never acquire solid virtue, nor know what true spirituality is. This does not, as has been shown in the first chapter, consist in acts that are agreeable or pleasant to our nature, but in those that crucify it and all its irregular attractions.
In this way, man, renewed by his acquired virtues, unites himself completely to his Creator and crucified Savior. It is certain that vicious habits are contracted by several acts of the will which yield to sensual appetites. In the same way, Evangelical perfection is attained by repeated acts of the will conforming itself to the will of God, Who moves it to practice different virtues at different times.
The will incurs no guilt unless it gives consent to an act, even if the entire force of the lower appetite is exerted towards a guilty end. On the other hand, the will cannot be sanctified and united to God, however strong the grace attracting it, unless it co-operates with that grace by interior acts, and, if requisite, by exterior acts.