The Sinner's Guide
Ven. Louis of Granada
With Imprimi Potest and Imprimatur
TAN BOOKS AND PUBLISHERS, INC.
Ch 39. Shorter Remedies
against Sins, Particularly
the Seven Deadly Sins
The means we have already suggested will suffice to strengthen you in virtue and arm you against vice. The following short considerations, however, you can use with advantage at the moment of temptation. They were found among the writings of a man of great sanctity, who had himself experienced their efficacy.
In temptations to pride he would say: When I reflect upon the depth of humility to which the Son of God, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, descended for love of me, I feel that, however profound a contempt men may have for me, I yet deserve to be still more humbled and despised.
When attacked by covetousness he would think: Having once understood that nothing but God can satisfy the heart, I am convinced of the folly of seeking anything but this supreme Good.
In assaults against purity he would
To what a dignity has my body been raised by the reception of the Holy
Eucharist! I tremble, therefore, at the sacrilege I would commit by
with carnal pleasures this temple in which God has chosen to dwell.
Against anger he would defend himself by saying: No injury should be capable of moving me to anger when I reflect upon the outrages I have offered my God.
When assailed by temptations to hatred he would answer the enemy: Knowing the mercy with which God has received me and pardoned my sins, I cannot refuse to forgive my greatest enemy.
When attacked by gluttony he would say: I call to mind the vinegar and gall which were offered to Our Saviour on the cross, and shall I not blush if I do not deny my appetite or endure something for the expiation of my sins?
In temptations to sloth he would
by the thought: Eternal happiness can be purchased by a few years of
here below; shall I, then, shrink from any toil for so great a reward?
In a word which some attribute to St. Augustine, and others to St. Leo, we find similar remedies which are equally efficacious. The author shows us on one side the allurements with which each vice solicits us, and on the other the arguments with which we must resist it.
Pride is the first to address us, in the following deceitful language: You certainly excel others in learning, eloquence, wealth, rank, and many other things. Being so superior, therefore, you have every reason to look down upon them. Humility answers: Remember that you are but dust and ashes, destined, as rottenness and corruption, to become the food of worms; and were you all that you imagine, the greater your dignity the greater should be your humility if you would escape a miserable fall. Does your power equal that of the angels who fell? Do you shine upon earth as Lucifer shone in Heaven? If pride thrust him from such a height of glory to such an abyss of misery, how can you, a slave to the same pride, expect to rise from your wretchedness to the honor from which he fell?
Vainglory speaks thus: Yes, do all the good you can, but publish it, so that the world may regard you as a man of great virtue and treat you with consideration and respect, Fear of God answers: It is great folly to devote to the acquisition of temporal renown that which can obtain for you eternal glory. Endeavor to hide your good actions, and if they appear in spite of your efforts to conceal them it will not be accounted vanity in you when you have no desire to display them.
Hypocrisy counsels: Assume the good qualities you do not possess, and make men think you better than you are, that you may not excite their contempt. Sincerity answers: It is better to be virtuous than to try to appear so. By attempting to deceive others you will only cause your own ruin.
Rebellion and Disobedience argue: Why should you be subject to those who are your inferiors? It is your place to command and theirs to obey, for they are inferior to you in wisdom and virtue. It suffices to obey the laws of God; you have no need to be bound by the commands of man. Submission and Obedience answer: The law of God obliges you to submit to the authority of man. For has not God said, "He that heareth you heareth me, and he that despiseth you despiseth me" (Lk. 10:16)? Nor can you urge that this injunction is only to be observed when he who commands is wise and virtuous, for the Apostle says, "There is no power but from God; and those that are, are ordained of God." (Rom. 13:1). Therefore, your duty is not to criticize those in authority, but to obey them.
Envy whispers: In what are you inferior to such men whom others extol? Why should you not enjoy the same and even greater consideration, for you excel them in many things? It is unjust that they should be ranked as your equals; with much less reason should they be placed above you. Brotherly Love answers: If your virtue exceeds that of others it is safer in obscurity, for the greater the elevation to which a man is raised, the greater is the danger of his fall. If the possessions of others equal or exceed yours, in what does it prejudice you? Remember that by envying others you only liken yourself to him of whom it is written: "By the envy of the devil death came into the world; and they follow him that are of his side." (Wis. 2:24-25).
Hatred says: God cannot oblige you to love one who contradicts and opposes you, who continually speaks ill of you, ridicules you, reproaches you with your past failings, and thwarts you in everything, for he would not thus persecute you if he did not hate you. True Charity answers: We must not, because of these deplorable faults, cease to love the image of God in our fellow creatures.
Did not Jesus Christ love His enemies who nailed Him to the cross? And did not this Divine Master, before leaving the world, exhort us to imitate His example? Drive, then, from your heart the bitterness of hatred and yield to the sweetness of fraternal charity. Independently of your eternal interests, which impose this duty upon you, there is nothing sweeter than love, and nothing more bitter than hatred, which preys like a cancer on the heart of its victim, where it was first engendered.
Detraction exclaims: It is impossible to be silent any longer about the faults of such a one. Is not concealment condoning them and rendering ourselves partakers of them? Charity, which appreciates the duty of fraternal correction, answers: You must neither publish your neighbor's sins nor be accessory to them; but reprove him with mildness and patiently bear with him. Moreover, it is the part of wisdom sometimes to ignore the faults of another until a favorable opportunity occurs for warning him against them.
Anger cries out: How can you bear such affronts? It does not become you to submit calmly to such injuries. If you do not resent them you will be insulted with impunity. Patience answers: Reflect upon the ignominy Our Saviour endured for you, and there is no wrong which you will not bear with meekness. Remember also these words of St. Peter: "Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps. Who, when he was reviled, did not revile; when he suffered, he threatened not." (1 Pet. 2:21,23).
Consider also how trifling are our sufferings compared to the torments He endured for us. He was buffeted, scourged, spat upon, crowned with thorns, covered with ignominy, and nailed to a cross. And, though all these were borne for us, yet how quickly we are enraged by a trifling word or a slight incivility!
Hardness-of-heart urges: It profits nothing to speak kindly to stupid, ignorant men who will probably presume upon your kindness and become insolent. Meekness answers: Do not hearken to such thoughts, but heed the words of the Apostle: "The servant of the Lord must not wrangle, but be mild towards all men." (2Tim. 2:24). Inferiors should endeavor with no less care to bear themselves with meekness and respect towards their superiors, and beware of presuming, as many do, upon the kindness and gentleness of those in authority.
Presumption and Imprudence argue thus: God witnesses your actions; what do you care, then, how they affect others? Prudence answers: You owe a duty of edification to your neighbor, and your actions should furnish him no reason to suspect evil. Beware, therefore, of scandalizing another, even in acts that are good but misunderstood. If the reproofs of your neighbor are well-founded, humbly acknowledge your fault; if you are guiltless, avow your innocence with no less sincere humility.
Sloth and Indolence suggest: If you apply yourself to study, prayer, meditation, and tears you will injure your eyes. If you prolong your vigils and fasts you will weaken your body and unfit yourself for spiritual exercises. Industry and Zeal answer: Who has assured you many years for the performance of these good works? Are you sure of tomorrow, or even of the present moment? Have you forgotten these words of Our Saviour. "Watch ye, therefore, because you know not the day nor the hour" (Matt. 25:13)? Arise, then, and cast aside this indolence which has seized you, for the kingdom of Heaven, which suffers violence, is not for the slothful, but for the violent who will bear it away. (Cf. Matt. 11:12).
Covetousness insinuates: Do not give any of your possessions to strangers, but keep them for yourself and your own. Mercy answers: Remember the lesson of the covetous rich man of the Gospel who was clothed in purple and fine linen; he was not condemned for taking what did not belong to him, but for not giving from his abundance. (Cf. Lk. 16:22). From the depth of Hell he begged for a drop of water to quench his thirst; but it was denied him, because he had refused to the poor man at his gate even the crumbs which fell from his table.
Gluttony urges: God created all these things for us, and he who refuses them despises the benefits of God. Temperance answers: True, God created these things for our maintenance, but He willed that we should use them with moderation, for He has also imposed upon us the duty of sobriety and temperance. It was principally a disregard of these virtues which brought destruction upon the city of Sodom. (Cf. Ezech. 16:49). Therefore, a man, even when enjoying good health, should consult necessity rather than pleasure in the choice of his food. He has perfectly triumphed over this vice who not only limits the quantity of his food, but who denies himself delicacies except when necessity, charity, or politeness prompts him to accept them.
Loquacity tells us: It is no sin to talk much if you say no evil, as, on the contrary, it does not free you from fault to allege that your words are few if what you have said is bad, Discreet Reserve answers: That is true; but great talkers seldom fail to offend with the tongue. Hence the Wise Man says, "In the multitude of words there shall not want sin." (Prov. 10:19). And if you are so fortunate as to avoid injurious words against your neighbor, you will hardly avoid idle words, for which, however, you must render an account on the last day. Be reserved and moderate, therefore, in your speech, that a multiplicity of words may not entangle you in sin.
Impurity counsels thus: Profit now by the pleasures life offers you, for you know not what may happen tomorrow; it is unreasonable to restrict the pleasures of youth, which passes like a dream. If God had not willed us the enjoyment of these pleasures, He never would have created us as we are. Chastity answers: Be not deceived by such illusions. Consider what is prepared for you. If you live pure lives on earth you will be rewarded hereafter with ineffable and eternal joys. But if you abandon yourself to your impure desires you will be punished by torments equally unspeakable and eternal. The more sensible you are of the fleeting nature of these pleasures, the more earnestly you should endeavor to live chastely; for wretched indeed is that hour of gratification which is purchased at the expense of endless suffering.All that we have said in the preceding pages will furnish you with spiritual arms to triumph over your enemies. If you follow these counsels you will take the first step in virtue; that is, you will extirpate your vices. Thus will you defend your soul, the citadel which God has confided to your care, and in which He wills to take up His abode. If you defend it resolutely and faithfully you will enjoy the presence of this heavenly Guest, for the Apostle tells us that "God is charity, and he that abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him." (l Jn. 4:16). Now, he abides in charity who does nothing to destroy this virtue, which perishes only by mortal sin, against which the preceding considerations may be applied as a preventive or remedy.