None shall be crowned who has not fought well.

                                                                           ------- 2 Tim. 2: 5

Taken from the book of the same title by DOM LORENZO SCUPOLI
With Imprimatur
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THE FOURTH ARTIFICE which the devil employs on those who are advancing in the way of perfection is to fill them with ill-timed resolutions which in different circumstances would be quite commendable, but in the existing condition only engender vicious habits.

For example: a sick person bears his illness with such resignation that the enemy fears he will acquire habitual patience, and suggests to the victim the many creditable works he might do were he in a state of health. The victim is persuaded that his would be a service to God, humanity, and to his own soul were he physically well, and soon the enemy contrives to make him desirous of health and uneasy under his burden. The more earnest the wish, the greater the disappointment, and patience at length gives way to impatience under a burden that is viewed as hindering the accomplishment of works most acceptable to God.

Once the enemy has gained his point, the grand designs vanish gradually, and the patient is left with a gnawing dissatisfaction, and all the attendant evils arising from an impatient desire to cast off a yoke. Thus, what once promised to be a source of habitual virtue has become a source of a lamentable vice.

Such a delusion can be dispelled by exercising caution in the formation of pious designs incompatible with the state of suffering with which you are visited. For here ambition overreaches itself and leaves only anxiety and vexation.

Be mindful, in humility and resignation, that all of the benevolent aims you now have may not be carried out for want of courage once God has made you equal to their execution. At least you must consider the possibility of God's denying you the satisfaction of doing a good work, either by a hidden disposition of Divine Providence, or as an atonement for past offenses; perhaps in His wisdom, He wishes to see your human will attuned to His Divine will, and see you humbled in spirit before omnipotence itself.

Show the same resignation when, either under the direction of your confessor, or for some other reason, you are obliged to refrain for a time from Holy Communion. Rather than be disturbed by this loss, you should say within your heart: "Were I not guilty of some failing or shortcoming before the Lord I would not be thus deprived of receiving Him; blessed be the name of Him Who has revealed to me my true unworthiness. I know, O Lord, that in all the trials of my life I need do nothing but bear them patiently in the hope of pleasing Thee, offering to Thee a heart conformable to Thy holy will. I know that in giving my heart to Thee it will be nourished in Divine consolation and fortified from the ever-threatening powers of Hell. O Creator and Redeemer! Do with me as thou wilt-----may Thy will be my strength, now and forever! All I ask is a cleansed and virtuous soul, worthy of receiving Thee, and desirous of executing Thy every wish!"

Those who assiduously follow these counsels may be assured that, although they undertake a work of piety far beyond their capacities, they will nevertheless advance in the way of salvation and in the way of serving God in the most acceptable manner. This is true devotion. Even though the motivation in this case be a device of the devil to breed repugnance for virtue, or inspired by heaven to test obedience, it still can prove ultimately beneficial to the soul.

We must exercise considerable caution, however, in employing certain means utilized by the saints for eliminating troublesome infirmities, as we are often too eager for the success of these measures. Again, we must be utterly resigned, proposing nothing to ourselves but the holy will of God. For who of us can read in the mind of God His solution to our individual problems? If you rashly presume to improve on the Divine plan, you will be the sufferer. For impatience will follow your consequent disappointment, and even if you do not actually manifest impatience, you have already lost that resignation that renders your acts meritorious in the sight of God.

One cannot overlook at this point, a secret artifice of self-love which adroitly camouflages, as it were, even the most blatant imperfections. A sick person, for instance, believes that his impatience springs from a just cause; that is, rather than impatience properly speaking, his uneasiness is to him a commendable regret for his faults which incurred the punishment of illness, or a just regret for the inconvenience he causes those who tend

The ambitious man who laments his failure to obtain a cherished position behaves similarly. He would be shocked were one to attribute his lamentations to vanity, and he protests his commendable motive, which he well knows would influence him little in different circumstances.

Likewise the sick man who pretends so much uneasiness on account of the inconvenience caused those who tend him is no sooner well than he loses his solicitude for the suffering of his attendants at the hands of others. Obviously his impatience is not a glowing tribute to his sympathy for others, but rather an actual indictment of his love for himself.

And thus we advert again to the patient acceptance of the crosses of life which like a thread must be woven into the fabric of our spiritual lives.


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