PATIENCE UNDER TEMPTATION
MEANS OF CONQUERING
There are some temptations which we should conquer by contrary acts. For example, temptations to take revenge must be overcome by seeking to do good to those who have offended us; temptations to vanity by humbling ourselves; to envy by rejoicing at the good of others; similar temptations must be conquered in the same manner. But it is better to resist other temptations, such as those against Faith, or against chastity, or to blasphemy, by despising them, and by making good acts directly opposed to the temptations, such as acts of confidence, of contrition, of charity. St. John Climacus relates that a certain monk was greatly tormented with blasphemous temptations. The miserable man was all in confusion: he went to a good Father, and told him all the execrable blasphemies that passed through his mind. Have confidence, said the Father, I take on myself all these sins; do not think of them any more. The monk followed the advice, and his peace of mind was restored. But with regard to temptations against chastity, it is not advisable for timorous souls to contend directly with the bad thought, saying and repeating: I will not do it; I will not consent. For by endeavouring to make these contrary acts, the image of the bad objects presented to the mind becomes more vivid, and thus the struggle is longer and more severe. It is better to renew, in general, the purpose of dying a thousand times rather than offend God, and turn at once to God for help, making acts of hope and love, as has been already said, and frequently invoking the most holy Names of Jesus and Mary.
The most dangerous temptations are those that come under the appearance of good, so that a soul, without perceiving it, may find that she has fallen over some precipice. This may easily happen to spiritual persons in particular. “A good man,” says St. Bernard, “is never deceived except by the similitude of good.” The devil deceives souls that have a good intention only by the appearance of good. St. Bonaventure relates that there was a brother so attached to silence that he would not speak even in Confession, but wished to explain his sins by signs. The Minister-General, in presence of St. Francis, bestowed great praise on the brother for his exact observance of silence. But the Saint said; My Father, you deceive yourself; command him to confess his sins twice a week. The Minister imposed the precept, but the brother refused to obey, and became so obstinate on this point, that on account of his disobedience he in the end abandoned the Religious state.
To overcome temptations there are many excellent means, but the first, and the one that is absolutely necessary, is to have recourse to God by prayer that He may give us light and strength to conquer. Without the Divine aid, it is impossible to overcome temptations; and if we ask it we shall certainly be victorious. Praising, I will call upon the Lord; and I shall be saved from my enemies (Ps. xvii. 4).
Ah, my God, I will no longer resist the love Thou dost entertain for me. This love made Thee bear with me so patiently when I offended Thee. Ah, my Jesus, through Thy merits do not permit me ever more to offend Thee. O make me cease to be ungrateful to Thee, or let me cease to live. I see that Thou dost wish me to be saved, and I wish to be saved, that I may go to sing Thy mercies for eternity in Heaven. Lord, do not abandon me. I know that Thou wilt never abandon me if I do not first abandon Thee, but past experience makes me afraid of my weakness. Ah! through the painful death that Thou didst one day suffer for me on the Cross, give me strength in my temptations, and especially the grace to have immediate recourse to Thee. I love Thee, O Infinite Goodness, and I hope to love Thee always. Ah! bind me with the sweet chains of Thy love, that my soul may never more be separated from Thee.
O Mary, thou art called the Mother of Perseverance; this great gift is dispensed through thee; thee I ask to obtain it for me; through thy intercession I certainly hope for it.