Evening Meditations for the Twenty-second Monday After Pentecost~ St Alphonsus Liguori

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Evening Meditation



Father Wigandt says that the scrupulous soul should obey the Confessor in all cases where the command is not plainly a sin, and this is the general and undoubted decision among the Doctors of the spiritual life. St. Ignatius Loyola says: “There must be obedience in all things in which no sin is perceived — that is, in which there is no manifest sin.” Blessed Humbert, General of the Friar Preachers says: “Unless the command be plainly evil, it is to be received as though enjoined by God.” Blessed Denis the Carthusian says: “In things doubtful as to whether or not they are against the Divine precept, one must stand by the precept of the superior; because, although it should be against the precept of God, yet, in virtue of obedience, the person under direction sins not.” St. Bonaventure teaches the same.

“The scrupulous are to act against their scruples,” says Gerson, “and plant their feet firmly in resisting. We cannot set scruples at rest better than by despising them; and, as a general rule, not without the advice of another, and especially our Superior. Otherwise, either ill-regulated fear or over-presumption will be our ruin.” The remedy St. Philip Neri gave the scrupulous was, to make them despise their scruples. It is told in his Life that, besides the general remedy of committing one’s self altogether and for everything to the judgment of the confessor, the Saint gave another: his penitents should despise their scruples. Hence he forbade such persons to confess often; and when, in Confession, they entered upon their scruples, he used to send them to Communion without hearing them.


In conclusion, then, scrupulous persons should take obedience to heart and look upon their fears as vain, and so act with freedom. It is not required that in each particular act he should expressly determine that the thing is a scruple and that he ought to obey the confessor in despising it, for it is enough if he just act against it in virtue of a judgment made beforehand, since the same judgment resides in his conscience habitually or virtually though dim and confused. Hence if the scrupulous person be unable, in the midst of darkness, to lay aside the scruple at once, or even call to mind the obedience laid upon him, he should act, and though in acting there be even a positive fear of sinning, that will be no sin … Gerson says that a person sins by acting in a state of practical doubt, when the doubt proceeds from a formed conscience. This formed conscience exists when, after examining the circumstances, he deliberately judges and decides what he is obliged to do, and what he is forbidden; and to act against such a conscience is a sin. But when the mind is doubtful and wavering, and yet would not do anything displeasing to God — this, says Gerson, is not a true state of doubt, but a vain fear, which should as much as possible be cast away and despised. So that when the scrupulous person has the habitual will not to offend God, it is to be taken for granted that while he acts in uncertainty he does not sin, since there is no true doubt, though he may consider it such, for it is only a vain fear. For the commission of mortal sin there is certainly required a full perception on the part of the reason, and complete deliberate consent on the part of the will to will something which grievously offends God. This doctrine is not to be doubted, and is the common teaching of all theologians, even the most rigid.

Let scrupulous souls, then, carry their cross with resignation, and not worry themselves in the midst of the great distresses of conscience which God may send or permit. It is all for their profit, to the end that they may be humble, and more on their guard against such occasions as are undoubtedly serious dangers, and also, that they may commend themselves oftener to God and put more complete trust in the Divine Goodness. Meanwhile, let them have recourse to the most holy Virgin Mary, who is called, and is in truth, the Mother of Mercy, and comforter of the afflicted. Let them, indeed, fear to offend God, wherever they discern what will really offend Him; but if only they are steadfast in resolving rather to die a thousand times than lose the grace of God, then their only fear need be lest they fall in obedience to their directors. As long as they blindly obey, they may assure themselves of not being abandoned by that Lord Who will have all men to be saved, and Who, loving good-will as He does, never suffers a really obedient soul to perish.

No one hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded (Ecclus. ii. 11).

Casting all your care upon him, for he hath care of you (1 Peter v. 7).

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? (Ps. xxvi. 1).

In peace in the self same I will sleep and I will rest; for thou, O Lord, singularly hast settled me in hope (Ps. iv. 9, 10).

In thee, O Lord, have I hoped; let me never be confounded (Ps. xxx. 2).

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