The Spiritual Combat – Chapter 25 – Resolved to Fight – avoid loss of peace of mind
Spiritual Combat – Scupoli
THE SOLDIER OF CHRIST, RESOLVED TO FIGHT AND CONQUER HIS ENEMIES, MUST AVOID, AS FAR AS POSSIBLE, ANYTHING THAT INTRUDES UPON HIS PEACE OF MIND
OUR PEACE OF MIND when lost demands every possible exertion for its recovery. We actually never can lose it or cause it to be disturbed except through our own fault.
We must be sorry for our sins. But this sorrow must be calm and moderate. Our compassion for sinners and sadness at their destruction must be free of vexation and trouble, as it springs from a purely charitable motive.
The countless trials that crowd this life—–sickness, wounds, death, the loss of friends and relatives, plagues, war, fire, etc., which men, naturally averse to suffering, dread—–all these, through God’s grace, may not only be received submissively from the hand of God, but can become occasions of joy. This is true if we view them as just punishments, inflicted on sinners, or as opportunities given the just to obtain merits.
These trials and events occur at the design of our Master; the severest tribulations of this life bring His will to our aid, so that we can march with a calm and tranquil soul. Any disquiet on our part is displeasing to God. For of whatever nature it may be it is always accompanied by some imperfection, and it always has a tendency towards self-love in one form or another.
Let there always be a vigilant sentinel in your soul which will discover anything that might trouble or disturb your conscience. At its first alarm, seize your weapons to defend yourself. Remember that all these evils, and a great many others, no matter how formidable their appearance, are but imaginary for they cannot deprive you of any real good. Consider this fact. Whether God decrees or permits these things for the reasons given above, or for others which we should certainly consider equitable, they are hidden from our comprehension.
You will find it greatly advantageous to preserve a calm mind through all the events in your life. Without it, your pious exercises will be fruitless.
I am convinced that, if the heart is troubled, the enemy is ever able to strike us, and as much as he wishes. Moreover, in that state we are not capable of discerning the true path to follow, the snares that must be avoided to attain virtue.
The enemy detests this peace. For he knows that this is the place where the spirit of God dwells, and that God now desires to accomplish great things in us. Consequently he employs his most devilish means to destroy this peace. He suggests various things that apparently are good. It is a trap; you will soon discover that these desires will destroy the peace of your heart.
As a remedy for this dangerous attack we must be on guard against any new desire seeking entrance into our heart. Never permit its entrance until you have completely submerged your self-love in offering this to God. Confess your ignorance and beg God to clarify the matter and show you whether this desire comes from Him or our enemy. If possible, you should have recourse to your spiritual director.
Even when we are convinced that this action is prompted by the Holy Spirit we should, nevertheless, defer its execution until our eagerness to do this has been mortified. Preceded by such a mortification a good work is more pleasing to God than when it is pursued too impetuously. It frequently happens that the performance of the act brings less merit than the mortification.
Through the rejection of evil desires, and the suspension of even the good ones until we have suppressed the motivations of self-love, we shall preserve perfect tranquillity of mind.
It is also necessary to overcome a certain interior regret. Apparently coming from God, under the guise of remorse of conscience for past sins, it is, without doubt, the work of the devil. The following test will clearly point this out.
Whenever this regret produces greater humility, when it increases our fervor in doing good works and our confidence in the Divine Mercy, we must receive it in a spirit of gratitude as a gift from Heaven. But when it occasions anxiety, when it makes us disconsolate, slothful, fearful and slow to do our duty, we may certainly conclude that it has been suggested by the enemy, and should be disregarded.
It frequently happens, moreover, that our anxieties arise from the trials of this life. There are two preservatives against them.
First. The consequences of these trials must be considered. They may completely destroy our desire of attaining perfection, or they may destroy our self-love. The diminution of self-love, one of our greatest enemies, gives no cause for complaint. Such trials should be received with joyful thanksgiving as favors bestowed by God. If they incline us to swerve from the path of perfection, and make virtue repugnant, we must not be downhearted and lose our peace of mind. This will be considered later. Second. Let us raise our hearts to God. Whatever He wills, without exception, should be received with the firm persuasion that every cross He wills to send shall prove an endless source of blessing, a treasure whose value one may not appreciate at the moment.