Examine from time to time what are the dominant passions of your
soul, and having ascertained this, mould your life, so that in
thought, word and deed you may as far as possible counteract them.
For instance, if you know that you are disposed to be vain,
reflect often upon the emptiness of this earthly life, call to
mind how burdensome all mere earthly vanities will be to the
conscience at the hour of death, how unworthy of a generous heart,
how puerile and childish, and the like. See that your words have
no tendency to foster your vanity, and even though you may seem to
be doing so but reluctantly, strive to despise it heartily, and to
rank yourself in every way among its enemies. Indeed, by dint of
steady opposition to anything, we teach ourselves to hate even
that which we began by liking.
Do as many lowly, humble deeds as lie in your power, even if
you perform them unwillingly at first; for by this means you will
form a habit of humility, and you will weaken your vanity, so that
when temptation arises, you will be less predisposed to yield, and
stronger to resist. Or if you are given to avarice, think often of
the folly of this sin, which makes us the slave of what was made
only to serve us; remember how when we die we must leave all we
possess to those who come after us, who may squander it, ruin
their own souls by misusing it, and so forth. Speak against
covetousness, commend the abhorrence in which it is held by the
world; and constrain yourself to abundant almsgiving, as also to
not always using opportunities of accumulation.
If you have a tendency to trifle with the affections, often
call to mind what a dangerous amusement it is for yourself and
others; how unworthy a thing it is to use the noblest feelings of
the heart as a mere pastime; and how readily such trifling becomes
mere levity. Let your conversation turn on purity and simplicity
of heart, and strive to frame your actions accordingly, avoiding
all that savours of affectation or flirting.
In a word, let your time of peace,--that is to say, the time
when you are not beset by temptations to sin,--be used in
cultivating the graces most opposed to your natural difficulties,
and if opportunities for their exercise do not arise, go out of
your way to seek them, and by so doing you will strengthen your
heart against future temptations.