Taken from: HOLY ABANDONMENT
Rt. Rev. Dom Vitalis Lehodey, O.C.R.
Original Pub. 1934, Dublin
ON THE OBJECT OF HOLY ABANDONMENT
ON ABANDONMENT IN THE SPIRITUAL
VARIETIES OF THE COMMON WAY:
PEACE, FEARS, AND SCRUPLES
ARTICLE II.------VARIOUS FEARS
Let us remember, first of all, that the right to peace has its foundation and its measure in good-will, and that to merit a profound peace we must have our wills fully conformed to the will of God. Even then our peace is not absolutely safe from future dangers. Consequently, we have to adopt the necessary precautions of vigilance and prayer.
We address ourselves now exclusively to generous and prudent souls. Many fears will arise to assail them, and threaten to trouble their peace, no matter how solidly established. To reassure them, we shall begin by quoting the following from Grou:
"I. God never troubles a soul that sincerely desires to approach Him. He warns her, He reprimands her, even with severity, but He does not trouble her. She recognises her faults, she repents of them, she makes reparation: all peacefully. Therefore, if such a soul is troubled, the trouble always comes either from herself or from the demon. Hence she must do what she can to get rid of it.
"II. Every thought, every anxiety, which is vague, general, without any fixed and definite object, can be neither from God nor from the conscience, but exclusively from the imagination. We are afraid of not having said all that was necessary in confession, of having insufficiently explained ourselves, of not having had true contrition, of lacking the right dispositions for Communion, and so on, with a thousand other vague fears with which we trouble and torment ourselves. Nothing of this comes from God. If He sometimes reproaches us, His reproaches have in- variably some clear, precise, determinate object. We must consequently despise all such fears and courageously ignore them." 6 But the case would be quite different if our conscience formally accused us of something definite.
We find in De Caussade some very useful instructions with regard to a multitude of fears. As it would be inconvenient to quote them all, we shall content ourselves with the principal.
For example, there is the fear of men. "Whatever they may do or say, they certainly can do nothing except what God wills or permits, nothing that He cannot utilise for the accomplishment of His mysterious purposes. Let us, therefore, banish such fears, and surrender ourselves unreservedly to the guidance of His Providence. He has at His disposal many secret but infallible expedients. He is not less able to accomplish His designs by means in appearance the most contrary than He was to refresh His servants in the midst of a raging furnace or to make them walk upon the waters. We shall experience for ourselves this paternal protection of Divine Providence in the measure in which we trust our all to it with filial abandonment."
There is the fear of the demon and of the snares which he is continually laying for us on all sides, both within and without. But God is always with the soul that watches and prays, and is He not infinitely more powerful than hell? Besides, this very fear, when properly regulated, is one of the graces which help us to frustrate the designs of the evil one. "When to this humble fear we unite an unbounded confidence in God, we are always victorious, except perhaps in certain skirmishes of little importance, where God permits us to suffer slight reverses for our greater good. For such falls serve to keep us always little and confounded before Him, always distrustful of ourselves, always annihilated in our own estimation. As for more serious faults, we shall never commit them so long as we are preoccupied with this fear of displeasing God: The fear itself should suffice to reassure us, for it is a gift of the very hand that invisibly sustains us. It is, on the contrary, when we cease to fear that we have most cause to fear. Every state becomes open to suspicion when it excludes all fear, even that which is called chaste and filial, that is, a gentle, peaceful fear, unattended with disquietude or agitation, on account of the love and confidence which always accompany it."
"For one who loves God, there can be nothing more afflicting than the fear of offending Him, nothing more horrible than to have the mind filled with evil thoughts and to feel the heart drawn away by the force of temptation , despite one's best efforts. But have you never meditated on the numerous passages of Holy Scripture where the Spirit of God teaches us the necessity of temptations and the precious advantages they procure for souls that do not allow themselves to be overcome? Do you not know that temptations are compared to the furnace where clay acquires its firmness and gold its splendour; that they are represented as a subject for joy, as a sign of God's friendship, as lessons indispensable for the acquisition of the science of the saints? If you bore these consoling truths in mind, how could you allow yourself to fall into the gulf of sadness? True, such temptations never come from God, but is it not He Who always permits them for our good? And ought we not to adore these holy permissions in everything, outside of sin which He detests and which we also should detest? Be careful, then, not to let yourself be troubled or disquieted by temptations. That would be much worse than the temptations themselves."
Assuredly, we ought to distrust ourselves, and take all the necessary precautions to avoid temptation. But excessive fear would be an illusion. "Never recoil from the occasions furnished you by God in order that you may acquire merit and practise virtue, under the pitiful pretext that in shirking the combat you are avoiding the danger of committing faults. Is it thus the soldiers of earthly princes behave? And are we not the soldiers of Jesus Christ? Blush for your cowardice! And henceforth, whenever you meet with a contradiction or a humiliation, say to yourself that the moment has arrived to prove to your God the sincerity of your love for Him. Trust in His goodness and in the power of His grace. This confidence will ensure your triumph. And even if you should happen to fall into some faults, the loss can be easily repaired; besides, it will be as nothing compared with the immense advantages you will have gained by your efforts in the combat, by the merit resulting from your final victory, and even by the humiliation caused you by these slight shortcomings. Moreover, the timidity which would cause you to shun the temptations willed for you by God would draw you into others more dangerous with regard to which you do not feel the same diffidence: for what temptation can be more evident and gross than the temptation to discouragement and to the conviction that you will never succeed in your interior life?"
No doubt, we should have a sovereign horror of sin, and exercise the greatest vigilance in our efforts to avoid it. But we must not confound sin with temptation. Even the most persistent assaults, the revolt of the passions, violent repugnances and attractions, imaginations, sensations: all these things may easily be confined to the inferior part of our souls, produced there without any free consent of our wills, and consequently not alone without any sin, but with much merit. When the temptation is only slight, we can be clearly conscious of refusing consent. But the case is very different "when God permits us to be assailed with much vehemence. For then, on account of the very violent but involuntary commotion in the inferior part, the will finds it extremely difficult to perceive its own movements, and hence remains in great fear and perplexity as to whether it has given consent. Nothing more is required to plunge good souls into a terrible agony of pain and remorse, which God permits to try their fidelity. Herein, even more than anywhere else, they must follow blindly the counsels of those charged with their direction. A confessor who judges of their conscience, coolly and calmly, is better qualified than they themselves to discover the truth. He knows their habitual dispositions, their delicacy of conscience, and their manifest generosity; whilst the deep distress they experienced after the temptation, and their excessive fear of having succumbed, are in themselves sufficient to prove that they have given no full and deliberate consent. In truth (it is impossible to pass so quickly from a supreme horror of evil to a free and full acceptance of it, at least without being aware of the transition. And besides) we know from experience that they who do actually succumb to temptation never have such pains or fears. The greater these are, the stronger is the evidence in favour of the tempted soul." 7 For loving souls, the fear of being at enmity with God is a terrible torment. But possibly God wills to keep them in this crucifying agony for their further purification. Consoled for the time being by the assurances of the director, on the first recurrence of the temptation they will fall back into the same perplexities so long as it pleases God to try them in the crucible of affliction. They must only repeat the same submissive fiat with regard to this cruel incertitude as in all other trials, amongst which there is hardly another so useful.
6. Manuel des âmes intr.
7. De Caussade, Abandon, P. II, iv-vi.