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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WHEN THE DEVIL, that subtle serpent, perceives us courageously advancing towards Heaven, and sees all our desires tending to God alone, fortified against ordinary satanic delusions, he transforms himself into an angel of light; he urges us to attain perfection, hurrying us on blindly and without the least regard to our own weakness.

He fills our head with devout thoughts, seconding them with passages of holy Scripture and examples drawn from the greatest Saints, that he might provoke us into some shameful misstep through an indiscreet and precipitous fervor.

For example: he persuades us to chastise our bodies with excessive fasting, discipline, and similar mortifications, that, having persuaded us that we have worked wonders, he may have us fall prey to vanity, as is frequently the case in the weaker sex.

Or he hopes that we, dispirited with such penitential works as exceed our strength, may be incapable. of performing any exercises of devotion; or perhaps he hopes that we, unable any longer to undergo such severities, and tiring of the practice of virtue, may return with greater fondness than ever to the vanities of the world.

Who can count the multitudes that have perished in this manner? Presumption has so blinded them that, carried away by an indiscreet zeal for suffering, they fall into the snare they themselves have helped to contrive, and they become the scorn of devils.

All of this might have been prevented had they but considered that moderation, as well as a strict regard to personal ability, must be observed in all such mortification, however commendable in themselves or however productive of excellent fruit.

For everyone is not capable of practicing the austerities of the Saints, and yet every one may imitate them in many things. They may form ardent and efficacious desires of sharing in all the glorious crowns, won by the faithful soldiers of Jesus Christ in their combats; they may imitate the Saints in self contempt and disdain for the world, in their silence and retirement, in their humility and charity to all men, in their patient endurance of the greatest injuries, in rendering good for the evil of their worst enemies, and in their care to avoid the smallest faults. All of these things are infinitely more meritorious in the sight of God, than all the corporal severities we could possibly exercise.

It must be similarly observed that at first it is advisable to use moderation in external penances, for it is better that we have room to increase them if necessary, rather than endanger our capacity for performing any by imprudent zeal. I mention this because I am willing to believe that you do not succumb to the gross error of making an idol of your health. This type is ever in dread of the least irregularity, and its entire study and conversation is devoted to the means of avoiding sickness. Extremely fastidious as regards eating, such people, rather than strengthening, often ruin their stomachs by the constant use of choice foods, and yet they would have the world believe that they have no other view than the preservation of themselves for the glory of God.

Thus do they cloak their sensuality, while their actual design is the union of two irreconcilable enemies, the flesh and the spirit. Such an attitude inevitably results in ruin of both health and devotion, both of which suffer in this delusion. Consequently, those who make the greatest and surest advances in devotion are those who live in a plain, unpretentious manner.

In all things, however, discretion must be used, and due regard had for the exigencies of different constitutions which are not all similarly fitted for the same exercises. This is to be understood, not only of exterior mortifications, but even of mental disciplines, as has been discussed previously in treating of the method of gradual acquisition of the loftiest virtues.


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