Monday, 10 June 2013

The Spiritual Combat - Advice for Conquering Impurity

St. Thomas receives the mystical
belt of chastity.

This passage is taken from Dom Lorenzo Scupoli's The Spiritual Combat.

We come to an examination of the actual time of temptation. In the first place, we must determine whether the cause of the temptation is exterior or interior.

By an exterior cause is meant curiosity of the eyes or ears to the point where decency suffers, vanity in one's dress, too tender friendships, and indiscreet familiarities. Modesty and decency are the proper remedies for this evil; they shut the eyes and ears to those things that cloud the imagination. The real remedy, as we have said, is to run away from all such occasions of sin.

Interior causes proceed from a pampered body, from many bad thoughts that come from evil habits or the suggestions of the devil. When the body has been pampered too much, it must be mortified by fasting, discipline, and other austerities which, however, must always be regulated by discretion and obedience.

From whatever source unchaste thoughts may arise, we can drive them away by serious application to our proper duties, and by prayer and meditation.

Your prayer should be conducted in the following manner. When you see these thoughts present themselves and attempt to make an impression, recollect yourself and speak to Christ crucified saying: "Sweet Jesus, come to my rescue, that I may not fall a victim to my enemies." On certain occasions you may embrace a Crucifix representing your dying Savior, kiss the marks of the Sacred Wounds on His feet and say with great confidence and affection: "O adorable, thrice holy Wounds! Imprint your figure on my heart which is filled with evil, and preserve me from consenting to sin."

In your meditations I am not of the opinion [as several authors are] that, when the temptation is most violent, you should consider the degrading and insatiable nature of these sins in order to establish a hatred for impurity, that you should consider how they are followed by disgust, remorse and anxiety, even by the loss of one's fortune, health, life, honor, etc. These considerations are not appropriate to the situation and, instead of freeing us from the danger, they frequently only increase it. If the understanding drives away evil thoughts, these reflections naturally call them back.

The best way to become free of these is to remove not only the thoughts themselves, but also the reflections directly contrary to them. In attempting to dissipate them by their contraries, we merely renew the impure ideas and unconsciously imprint them still deeper. Be satisfied with meditation on the life and death of our Savior. If, while you are doing this, the same thoughts should return, even more disturbing than before, as may possibly happen, do not be discouraged or abandon your meditation, do not exert yourself in driving them away. Ignore and despise these miserable deceits of the devil and persist, with all possible attention, in your meditation on the death of our Savior. Nothing can be more effective in putting your enemy to flight, despite his determination to resist.

Conclude your meditation with some prayer such as the following: "O My Creator and Redeemer, save me from my enemies through Thy infinite goodness and the merits of Thy bitter passion." But remember, when you say this do not think about the particular vice from which you are endeavoring to free yourself. The least reflection on it may be dangerous. Above all, do not waste any time disputing with yourself about how much you may have yielded to the temptation. Such scrutiny is an invention of the enemy, who under the deceiving appearance of an imaginary duty, attempts to renew the attack, or at least hopes to make some impression with the bad thoughts he had poured into your mind. When, therefore, it is evident that you have consented to the evil, let it suffice to tell your spiritual director in a few words just what has occurred. Do just as he advises, and do not trouble yourself further with it.

You must be sure, however, not to conceal anything because of shame or any other reason. If humility is necessary to conquer our common enemies, it is infinitely more so in this case because this vice is, for the most part, a just punishment for pride.

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