The Spiritual Combat

Chapter 20:

Battling negligence

Negligence will not only impede your path to perfection, but it will deliver you to the hands of your enemies. In order not to fall into this miserable slavery, you must fly from every earthly curiosity and attachment, and from every occupation unnecessary to your status. Then, you must make an effort to respond to each good inspiration and to every command from your superiors, doing everything when, and how, they please.

Do not hesitate even for a second, for that first hesitation brings a second and third, and the others. The senses, being already nourished and held by the pleasure which it has tasted, collapse and surrender before these latter hesitations more quickly than to the first. Because of this, either you begin the activity too late, or it becomes repugnant and you abandon it. In this way, bit by bit, you acquire the habit of negligence. It grows within you so much that, at the very moment it binds us fast, we blush at our slavery and resolve to be solicitous and diligent, even though we have to this point been very negligent.

This negligence flows everywhere. Its poison not only infects our will, making it abhor the work; it blinds the intellect as well. The intellect does not realize how vain and ill-founded are our resolutions to follow quickly and diligently through the task we must complete immediately; it does not see that we abandon the entire affair willfully, or we postpone it. Nor will it suffice to complete the required task quickly. Rather, you need to do it in that very time requested; it needs to meet the quality and essence necessary, so that it might have every possible perfection.
    It is, in fact, not diligence, but pure negligence to hurry and complete the task in advance if it is not done well. Why? Quietly, we hand ourselves over to slothful rest, to which our thoughts were attached while we hurried to complete the task. All this great evil comes about because we do not value a job well done  at the proper time, because we do not want to do battle with a resolute spirit against fatigue and difficulty, which negligence presents to beginners.

As a result, you must consider frequently that raising your mind to God even once, and bending your knee in God's honor even once,1 is more valuable than all the treasure in the world. Remember that every time we do violence to ourselves and our vicious passions, the angels carry from heaven to our soul a crown of glorious victory. Reflect that from the negligent, God takes away, piece by piece, the graces he has conceded them, and to the diligent he increases them, until he leads them into joy. If you, when you begin a task, are not forceful enough to proceed generously when fatigued and in difficulty, you must hide your fatigue and difficulty in such a way that they seem less than they are judged by the negligent.

Let us further admit that your exercise requires many, many deeds, and a long-lasting fatigue to acquire even one virtue, and that the enemies you wish to expel appear numerous, and strong. Nevertheless, start to produce deeds, even if you accomplish few, and they weary you several days; fight against each enemy as if you had no others to fight — but with great confidence that, with God's help, your are stronger than they.
    Behaving in this manner, negligence will weaken and prepare itself in such a way that the contrary virtue will slowly come into you.

I say the same about prayer. Just as your exercise requires an hour of prayer, and this appears burdensome to your negligence: immerse yourself in prayer as if you wish to pray for an eighth of an hour, because you will pass quickly to the next eighth, and from this to the next one remaining. If, now in the second or in the other eighths, you feel repugnance and too violent a difficulty, interrupt the exercise in order not to lose patience. However, take the exercise up again shortly thereafter.
    You must also observe this method in your exterior works, when it happens that you must do more things which disturb you because they appear numerous and difficult to your negligence. Begin one courageously and tranquilly, as if you had nothing else to do. Proceeding with diligence in this manner, you will manage to complete them all with much less fatigue than your negligence predicted. If you do not proceed in this manner, and you do not confront the fatigue and difficulty that present themselves to you, the vice of negligence will so prevail on you that this fatigue and difficulty, which the exercise of virtue first bring, will keep you anxious and anguished not only when they are present, but also when they are absent. In fact, you will fear constantly the torment and assault of enemies, and you will see at your shoulders someone who imposes tasks on you. Because of this, you will know disquiet even at times of tranquility.

Know, daughter, that this vice of negligence, with its hidden poison, will not only rot the first small roots that virtuous habits ought to produce; it will also rot the very habits you have acquired! As the termite behaves in wood, so negligence proceeds secretly, gnawing and consuming the essence of the spiritual life. Using this method, the demon lays traps and snares for everyone, but especially with the spiritual.

Watch, therefore, praying well and working well, and do not wait to weave the cloth for the wedding dress until it is time to meet your spouse (see Matthew 25.6-10). And remember each day that the one who gives you the morning does not promise you the evening, and even if he grants you the evening, he does not promise the morning. Therefore, spend each moment of the day according to God's will, just as if no more time was left to you, and more, because you will have to give the most detailed account for every moment.

I will conclude by warning you to regard as wasted the day in which, even though you have accomplished many tasks, no have not obtained numerous victories against your wicked inclinations and against your self-will. Nor will you have thanked your Lord for his benefits, and particularly for the sorrowful passion he suffered for you, nor the sweet paternal chastisement when he has considered you worthy of the the inestimable treasure of a few tribulations.

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1The literal Italian is una sola genuflessione fatta in sua onore: only one genuflection made in his honor.