I. In resisting our enemies in our spiritual combats it is of the very greatest benefit to anticipate them in our meditations, by preparing ourselves to do violence to them to our utmost power, on all occasions when they may suddenly come upon us. Thus the Saints have been able to preserve the greatest mildness, or at least not to reply by a single word, and not to be disturbed, when they met with a great trial, a violent persecution, a severe pang in body or in mind, the loss of property of great value, the death of a much-loved relative. Such victories are ordinarily not acquired by anyone without the aid of long discipline, without frequenting Sacraments, and a continual exercise of Meditation, Spiritual Reading, and Prayer. Therefore these victories are with difficulty obtained by those who have not taken great heed to avoid dangerous occasions, or who are attached to the vanities or pleasures of the world, and practise very little mortification of the senses; by those, in a word, who live a soft and easy life. St. Augustine says that in the spiritual life, "first pleasures are to be conquered, then pains"; meaning that a person who is given to seeking the pleasures of the senses will scarcely resist a strong passion or a temptation which assails him; a man who loves the esteem of the world will scarcely endure a grave affront without losing the grace of God.
It is true that we must look for all our strength to live sinless lives, and to do good works, not from ourselves, but from the grace of Jesus Christ; but we must take great care not to make ourselves weaker than we are by nature, through our own fault. The defects of which we take no account will cause the Divine light to fail, and the devil will become stronger against us. For example, a desire to make a parade of our learning or our rank, or vanity in dress; the seeking of any superfluous pleasure; resentment at every inattentive word or action; a wish to please everyone though to our spiritual loss; neglect of works of piety through the fear of man; little acts of disobedience towards our Superiors; little murmurings; trifling but cherished aversions; trivial falsehoods; slight attacks upon our neighbour; loss of time in gossip; or the indulgence of curiosity — in a word, every attachment to earthly things, and every act of inordinate self-love, can help our enemy to drag us over some precipice; or, at least deprive us of that abundance of Divine help without which we may find ourselves in utter spiritual ruin.
II. We grieve when we find ourselves so dry in spirit and desolate in prayer, in our Communions, and in all our devout exercises; but how can God give us to enjoy His presence and loving visits while we are niggardly and inattentive to Him? He that sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly (2 Cor. ix. 6). If we cause Him so much displeasure, how can we expect to enjoy His heavenly consolations? If we do not detach ourselves from everything earthly, we shall never wholly belong to Jesus Christ, and where shall we look for protection? Jesus, by His humility, merited for us the grace of conquering pride; and by His poverty He merited strength for us to despise earthly goods; and by His patience, constancy in overcoming slights and injuries. "What pride," writes St. Augustine, "could have been healed, if not healed by the humility of the Son of God? What avarice, except by the poverty of Christ? What anger, except by the Saviour's patience?" But if we are cold in the love of Jesus Christ, and neglect to pray continually to Him to help us, and nourish in our hearts any earthly affection, with difficulty shall we persevere in a holy life. Let us pray. Let us pray always. With prayer we shall obtain everything.
O Saviour of the world, Thou art my only hope! By the merits of Thy Passion, deliver me from every impure desire which may hinder me from loving Thee as I ought. May I be stripped of all desires that savour of the world; grant that the only object of my desires may be Thyself, Who art the sovereign Good, and the only Good that is worthy of love. By Thy sacred Wounds heal my infirmities; give me grace to keep far from my heart every love which is not for Thee Who deservest all my love. O Jesus, my Love, Thou art my hope! O sweet words! sweet consolation — Jesus, my Love! Thou art my hope!
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