have to fight the vice of the flesh in a particular manner, different
from the others. For this reason, you need to observe three different
periods in order to fight in an orderly fashion:
- before temptation
- during temptation
- after temptation
your battle is against those causes that usually cause the temptation.
Before all else
, you need to
fight without coming face-to-face with this vice, but flying as fast as
possible from any person or circumstance from whom even the smallest
danger may greet you. And needing to do this sometimes, do it quickly,
with a modest and serious face; your words need to have a sour flavor
rather than a loving and affable sweetness.
Don't trust the fact that you neither feel excited
, nor have felt
excited for many years.
This execrable vice accomplishes in one hour that which it has not
attempted for many years, and frequently hatches its plots secretly.
While it pretends to be innocuous and gives you no reason to suspect
it, it does even more damage and leaves incurable wounds.
And many times, as experience has shown before and shows even now,
there is even more reason to fear where habit is extended under the
pretext of licit behavior, as from blood ties or the debt of service or
even from some virtue in the beloved. In fact, with excessive and
imprudent acquaintance, the poisonous love of sense mixes itself.
Oozing unnoticed little by little and penetrating as far as the soul's
essence, it darkens reason in such a way that reason fails to see the
danger in loving glances, sweet words from one to another, and the
delights of conversation. So, going from one side to the other, one
brings oneself to fall into ruin, or at least into some painful
temptation difficult to overcome.
I tell you anew: fly from this vice,
because you are straw. Do not trust in the fact that you have been
bathed and are soaked in the water of a good and strong will, resolute
and ready rather to die than to give offense to God. With frequent
acquaintance, fire with its heat will dry, little by little, the water
of good will. When you are not even thinking of it, it will attack you
in such away that it will respect neither your family nor your friends;
it will not fear God, nor respect honor, nor life, nor all the pains of
Hell. For this reason I say, fly,
if you truly wish not to be captured suddenly, taken and killed.
. Fly from idleness
, and stay vigilant
and ready with thoughts and activities proper to your state in life.
. Never resist your superiors,
obey them promptly, performing your duties readily. Do willingly those
activities that humiliate you and go more strongly against your will
and natural inclination.
. Never make a rash judgment on your
neighbor, especially as regards this vice.
If he has indeed
fallen, have compassion, and do not disdain him; do not sneer, but draw
from this fall the fruit of humility and understanding of yourself,
knowing that your are dust and nothing more. Bring yourself before God
with prayer and fly more than ever those occasions where even the
shadow of danger may lie. If you should be quick to judge and disdain
others, your God will unwillingly correct you, allowing you to fall
into the same defect, so as to make you aware of your pride and
humbled, to put a remedy to both these vices. Neither falling nor
changing your thought, know all the same that it does you well to doubt
your state of grace.
, and last. Notice well
that, finding yourself with some gift, and some taste for spiritual
delights, you do not take some vain
pleasure in yourself,
persuading yourself to be something, and
your enemies will no longer make war on you. You ought to watch
them with nausea, horror and hatred. If you are careless in this, you
will fall easily.
the hour of temptation,
consider if this temptation
proceeds from an internal or an external cause. By an external cause, I
mean the eyes' curiosity, the ears, excessively fine dress, familiarity
and conversations that incite this vice. In these cases the remedy is
honesty, modesty, desiring neither to see nor to hear things that
incite us to this vice, and flight, as I wrote above. An intrinsic
cause proceeds either from the energy of the body, or from thoughts of
the mind that come to us from our bad habits or from the demon's
suggestion. We need to mortify the sensuality of the body with fasts,
discipline, hair shirts, vigils
other similar hardships, as discretion and obedience teach us. As to
our thoughts, whatever their origin, the remedies are these: to remain
occupied in various exercises convenient to our state, in prayer and in
The prayer should be of this sort: when you begin to notice, even a
little, not just these thoughts but their first tendencies, retire
quickly with your mind into the cross, saying: My Jesus, my sweet Jesus, come quickly to
my aid, so that this enemy will not take me.
repeatedly the cross from which your Lord hangs, kiss the wounds of his
sacred feet many times, saying with affection: Beautiful wounds, chaste wounds, holy
wounds, wound now this miserable and impure heart, liberating me from
the danger of offending you.
At the hour in
which the temptations to carnal pleasure abandon you,
not want you to base your meditation on the points proposed by many
books to remedy this temptation. For example, they suggest that you
consider the vileness of this vice, its insatiability, its
molestations, the hardships that follow it, the dangers and the loss of
goods, of life, of honor and of such things. This is not always a sure
means of conquering temptation; indeed it can bring one to damnation:
if in fact the intellect drives these thoughts away along one path,
along the other it offers occasion and danger of taking pleasure and
giving consent to the pleasure. For this reason, the true remedy is to
fly completely, not only from these, but also from everything that
represents them, even if it be their opposite. For this reason your
meditation, oriented to this end, should focus on the the suffering of
Christ Crucified. If, during meditation, these same thoughts should
appear against your will, and molest you more than usual, as will
happen frequently, you must not for this reason become dismayed, nor
abandon meditation nor turn yourself to resist these thoughts. Instead,
follow your meditation as intensely as possible, not paying attention
to such thoughts, as if they were not even yours. There is no better
manner to oppose them than this, even if they continue to make war on
You will then conclude your meditation with this, or a similar,
request: Liberate me, my Creator
and Redeemer, from my enemies, in honor of your passion and your
ineffable good will.
Do not turn your mind to this vice, since
the mere memory of it is not without danger. And do not waste time on
the similar temptation of deciding whether you consented or not. Under
the appearance of good, this is a deception of the devil to disquiet
you and render you doubtful and pusillanimous, or even so that, by
keeping you occupied in such thoughts, he hopes to make you fall into
some pleasure. For this reason, when it is not clear that you consent
to this temptation, it is good enough to confess it all with brevity to
your spiritual father, resting then tranquil with his judgment, without
thinking anything else of it. Do this in order to reveal faithfully to
him your every thought; never hold back any respect or shame. If, with
all our enemies, we need the virtue of humility to conquer them, we
ought to humiliate ourselves more before this temptation than in the
others, since this temptation is almost always the punishment for pride.
When the time of
temptation has passed,
what you ought to do is keep your mind
far from those little things that brought you to temptation, even
though you seem to be free and completely secure. Although you may feel
the desire to do otherwise, whether for the goal of virtue or some
other good, this is in fact the deception of our impure
nature and a
trap of our clever adversary, who transforms into an angel of light so
that he can lead us into the shadows.
actual Italian phrase
is rather more vivid: Do not trust in the fact that you do not feel,
nor have felt during the experience of many, many years, carnal stimulation
... (Non ti fidare del fatto che tu non senta
né abbia in tanti e tanti anni di esperienza sentito stimoli
(veglie) Scupoli means the
monastic practice of remaining awake in
prayer during the night and avoiding sleep.