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 EVIL ONE even uses virtue to tempt us to sin, inflating our egos with exaggerated self-esteem and complacency to the point where we succumb to vainglory. Thus we must be ceaselessly vigilant, cognizant of our own nothingness, our sinfulness, our appalling inadequacy, and ever mindful that we deserve nothing but eternal perdition. Let this remembrance be to us as a sword with which we defend ourselves from the insidious attacks of presumption and vanity; and let us fight with the vigor of a man struggling for his very life.

If, however, we desire a more perfect self-knowledge, let us distinguish between what we owe to the grace of God, and what we have merited our. selves. Let us recall the benevolence of God in endowing us with being, the mercy of God which sustains us, and the power of God which constantly preserves us. Unquestionably, therefore, those things which we truly merit of our own power are scarcely worthy of self-esteem, let alone the esteem of others. For our glories can be traced to heaven, but our sinfulness can be traced to ourselves.

Were we actually to compute the nature, number, and frequency of our offenses-----let alone the possible commission of faults prevented by the grace of God-----we would find that cumulatively our vices are innumerable and our guilt equal to that of devils. Such considerations ought daily to bring to us the increasing realization of our own lowliness, and the gratitude we owe to Divine goodness.

We must also be cautious to avoid vainglory, adhering strictly to the facts in self-scrutiny and self-judgment. For, although we are conscious of our wretchedness, if we wish the world to look upon us as Saints, we deserve a criminal's punishment.

In order that you may be fortified against vainglory and rendered pleasing to Him Who is humility itself, it does not suffice that you have a lowly opinion of yourself, thinking yourself unworthy of good but deserving evil. Rather you must be willing to be despised, loath to accept praise, and eager to accept contempt, being certain, however, that true humility and not a stubborn haughtiness be your real motive. For subtle arrogance masquerades as Christian courage, despising the wisdom of the world and its judgment.

If anyone should show affection for you or commend your God-given qualifications, you must immediately be mindful of truth and justice, saying in your heart with all sincerity: "May I never, O Lord, attempt to rob Thee of Thy glory by attributing to myself that which is entirely owing to Thy holy grace! May honor and praise be Thine; may shame and confusion be mine!"

Regarding him who has praised you, be careful to scrutinize his motives, wondering what perfection he can discern in you. For God alone is good, and His works alone are laudable. Why indeed should man attempt to rest in a stolen glory?

Similarly, if you are lulled into a vain complacency by the remembrance of a good work, remember it was the grace of God in you bringing good out of your worthlessness. God alone is the author; God alone is deserving of praise.

Next consider, not the objective accomplishment of a good work, but the proportion between the grace given to perform that task and the result. Perhaps besides the innate deficiencies of the seemingly good work, a lack of fervor and deficiencies of intention and diligence further vitiate the act itself. Rather than bask in self-adulation, you should be grieved at your inadequate use of so much grace.

If you would compare your action to the saints, you would blush at the difference; if you compare your actions to the sublime immolation on Calvary's hill, they fade into utter insignificance. For Christ's life was a cross, the constant sacrifice of infinite dignity to human indignities, and the offering of purest love for those who gave Him naught but hate.

Lastly, if you raise your eyes to Heaven and contemplate the majesty of God, then your puny deeds should make you ever fearful rather than proud, and make you utter in your heart with profound humility: "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner."

Be not prone to publish the favors received from God, as this is generally displeasing to Him, as might be seen from the following example. Appearing one day to a great Saint in the guise of an infant, Christ was asked to recite the Hail Mary, and immediately started it. But having said "Blessed art thou amongst women" He was reluctant to sound His own praises, and when persuaded to do so, He disappeared. The devout soul, replenished with consolation, forever treasured this Divine example of the importance of humility.

We must constantly endeavor, moreover, to humble ourselves in all of our actions which are but representations to the world of our nothingness. For in this humility is found the basis of innumerable other virtues. Just as God created our first parents out of nothing, so He continues to build our spiritual lives on our realization of the truth that we are nothing. Therefore the lower we humble ourselves, the higher the edifice rises; and in proportion to our progression into the depths of humility does the sovereign architect erect the structure to the heights of holiness. We can never too strongly emphasize this quest for self-abasement. O Heavenly knowledge which gladdens us now and glorifies us hereafter! O admirable light piercing the darkness to enlighten our souls and raise our hearts to God! O precious but unknown jewel which gleams through the shadows of our sins!

This is an inexhaustible subject which could be developed to endless length. Whoever desires to honor the Divine Majesty must rid himself of self-esteem and the desire of the esteem of others. Humble yourself before everyone, casting yourself at the feet of mankind if you sincerely wish God to be glorified in you and you in Him. To unite yourself with Him you must flee all grandeur, as He flees from those who constantly extol themselves. Choose the lowest place if you would have Him step down from the highest to embrace you with greater love. Choose the neglect of men that you may have the love of God.

Always render due thanks to Him, Who came to be despised on earth that you may be loved in heaven. Your thanks must go also to them who persecute you and are hostile to you, and you must be careful not to complain against them.

But if, despite all of these considerations, through the malice of Satan, lack of self-knowledge, or a propensity to arrogance, you are inflated with a supposed superiority, you must humble yourself the more as it is indicative of the little progress you have actually made, and the difficulty of overcoming the habit of pride. For humility will take the sting from the bite, change the poison to antidote, the evil into its proper remedy.


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