Today we find ourselves 17 days into the Easter Season. The joy of Easter Sunday, the Octave of Easter, and the celebration of Pope John Paul II’s beatification and Mercy Sunday have passed. The next big feast, the Ascension, the hinge between Easter and Pentecost, falls on June 2. We continue the season with a bit less punctuation, and if you’re like me, with a bit less focus.
Having been exhausted and rather crabby over the past few days, I’m searching for a way to reorient my view, enabling me to regain the spiritual clarity I had during Lent. The goal is Heaven. The path is love. The obstacle is sin. Love conquers sin, and sin starts with temptation. To love as required, I must address my temptations. To achieve that end, I thought it wise to seek assistance from one of the most influential spiritual minds of the Church and one of my favorite Saints, St. Francis de Sales, using his greatest work, An Introduction to the Devout Life.
As I read, I ventured a guess that others might benefit from the wisdom of this Doctor of the Church. So, for the next few posts, I will excerpt from An Introduction to the Devout Life in the hopes that you, too, will find encouragement and practical ways to keep the season alive in the ordinariness of your day.
Alleluia! Alleluia! He is Risen! Anne
How to resist Minor Temptations
Book IV, Chapter VIII
WHILE it is right to resist great temptations with invincible courage, and all such victories will be most valuable, still there is perhaps more absolute profit to our souls in resisting little ones. For although the greater temptations exceed in power, there are so infinitely more in number of little temptations, that a victory over them is fully as important as over the greater but rarer ones. No one will question but that wolves and bears are more dangerous than flies, but they do not worry and annoy us, or try our patience as these do. While is not a hard thing to abstain from murder, but it is very difficult to avoid all passing fits of anger, which assail us at every moment. A man or woman can easily keep from adultery, but it is less easy to abstain from all words and glances which are disloyal. While is easy to keep from stealing another man’s goods, but often difficult to resist coveting them; easy to avoid bearing false witness in direct judgment, difficult to be perfectly truthful in conversation; easy to refrain from getting drunk, difficult to be absolutely sober; easy not to wish for a neighbor’s death, difficult not to wish anything contrary to his interests; easy to keep from slander, difficult to avoid all contempt.
In short, all these minor temptations to anger, suspicion, jealousy, envy, levity, vanity, duplicity, affectation, foolish thoughts, and the like, are a perpetual trial even to those who are most devout and most resolute; and therefore, my daughter, we ought carefully and diligently to prepare for this warfare. Be assured that every victory won over these little foes is as a precious stone in the crown of glory which God prepares for us in Paradise. So, while awaiting and making ready for a steadfast and brave resistance to great temptations should they come, let us not fail diligently to fight against these meaner, weaker foes.
How remedy Minor Temptations
Book IV, Chapter IX
NOW as to all these trifling temptations of vanity, suspicion, vexation, jealousy, envy, and the like, which flit around one like flies or gnats, now settling on one’s nose,—anon stinging one’s cheek,—as it is wholly impossible altogether to free one’s-self from their importunity; the best resistance one can make is not to be fretted by them. All these things may worry one, but they cannot really harm us, so long as our wills are firmly resolved to serve God.
Therefore despise all these trivial onslaughts, and do not even deign to think about them; but let them buzz about your ears as much as they please, and flit hither and thither just as you tolerate flies;—even if they sting you, and strive to light within your heart, do no more than simply remove them, not fighting with them, or arguing, but simply doing that which is precisely contrary to their suggestions, and specially making acts of the Love of God. If you will take my advice, you will not toil on obstinately in resisting them by exercising the contrary virtue, for that would become a sort of struggle with the foe;—but, after making an act of this directly contrary virtue (always supposing you have time to recognize what the definite temptation is), simply turn with your whole heart towards Jesus Christ Crucified, and lovingly kiss His Sacred Feet. This is the best way to conquer the Enemy, whether in small or great temptations; for inasmuch as the Love of God contains the perfection of every virtue, and that more excellently than the very virtues themselves; it is also the most sovereign remedy against all vice, and if you accustom your mind under all manner of temptation to have recourse to this safety-place, you will not be constrained to enter upon a worryingly minute investigation of your temptations, but, so soon as you are anywise troubled, your mind will turn naturally to its one sovereign remedy. Moreover, this way of dealing with temptation is so offensive to the Evil One, that, finding he does but provoke souls to an increased love of God by his assaults, he discontinues them.
In short, you may be sure that if you dally with your minor, oft-recurring temptations, and examine too closely into them in detail, you will simply stupefy yourself to no purpose.