"If you wish to learn and appreciate something worth while, then love to be unknown and considered as nothing. Truly to know and despise self is the best and most perfect counsel."

Thomas á Kempis

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"Obedience is a short cut to perfection."

St Philip Neri

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"Try to turn your heart from the love of things visible and bring yourself to things invisible. For they who follow their own evil passions stain their consciences and lose the grace of God. "

Thomas á Kempis

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Venerable Louis of Granada, OP  (1504-1588)

 
 

THE SINNER'S GUIDE

   

By Venerable Louis of Granada, OP

 

Motives for Practising Virtue

 

Ch 29. The First Remedy against Sin: A Firm Resolution not to commit it


It is not sufficient to persuade men to love virtue; we must also teach them how to acquire it. The first condition, a wise man has said, is the absence of vice. We shall therefore first treat of the most common vices and their remedies, and afterwards of the virtues and the means of acquiring them.

Before entering upon this subject, bear in mind that there ; are two principles in which you must be firmly established if you would change your life and give yourself to God. The first is a just appreciation of the importance of the labor you ; are about to undertake; you must be convinced that this is the sole interest, the sole pro it, the sole wisdom in the world. This is what the Holy Ghost Himself teaches us: "Learn where is wisdom, where is strength, where is understanding, that thou mayst know also where is length of days and life, where is the light of the eyes, and peace." (Bar. 3:14). "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, and let not the strong man glory in his strength, and let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me." (Jer. 9:23-24).

The second principle with which you must be imbued is that as this is such a glorious and profitable engagement, you must undertake it with vigor and a firm determination to conquer. Be persuaded that all the dangers which you will encounter will be of little moment compared to the sublime end you have in view. It is a law of nature that nothing great is accomplished without labor and trouble, You will no sooner have resolved to give yourself to God than Hell will send out its forces against you. The flesh, corrupted from its birth by the poison of the serpent, will assail you with its insatiable desires and alluring pleasures. Evil habits as strong as nature itself will fiercely resist this change of life and exaggerate the difficulties which you will encounter.

To turn a river from its course is hardly more laborious than to change a life confirmed by inveterate habits. The world, as powerful as it is cruel, will wage a fierce war against you. Armed with its pleasures and bad examples, it will hasten to compass your downfall. At one time it will seek to captivate your heart with its pomps and vanities. At another time it will strive to entangle you in the net of its ways and maxims. Again it will boldly attack you with ridicule, raillery, and persecution. The devil himself, the arch-deceiver, will renew his warfare and turn all his forces against you. Enraged at your desertion from his party, he will leave nothing undone to ruin you.

Be prepared, therefore, to meet with difficulties. Remember the words of the Wise Man: "Son, when thou comest to the service of God, stand in justice and in fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation." (Ecclus. 2:1). Do not think you are called to enjoyment alone. You must struggle and combat; for, notwithstanding the abundant succor which is offered to us, we must expect hard labor and difficulties in the beginning of our conversion. That you may not be discouraged, bear in mind that the prize for which you are striving is worth more than all you can ever give to purchase it. Remember that you have powerful defenders ever near you. Against the assaults of corrupt nature you have God's grace. Against the snares of the devil you have the almighty power of God. Against the allurements of evil habits you have the force of good habits confirmed by grace. Against a multitude of evil spirits you have numberless angels of light. Against the bad example and persecutions of the world you have the good example and strengthening exhortations of the saints. Against the sinful pleasures and vain joys of the world you have the pure joys and ineffable consolations of the Holy Ghost.

Is it not evident that all that are for you are stronger than all that are against you? Is not God stronger than the devil? Is not grace superior to nature? Are not the good angels more powerful than the fallen legions of Satan? Are not the pure and ineffable joys of the soul far more delightful than the gross pleasures of sense and the vain amusements of the world?

Resting on these two principles, your first determination must be a deep and unshaken resolution never to commit mortal sin, for it can only rob us of the grace and friendship of God. Such a resolution is the basis of a virtuous life. As long as the soul perseveres in it she possesses divine charity, which makes her a child of God, a member of Christ, a temple of the Holy Ghost, and gives her a right to the blessings of the Church here and the kingdom of Heaven hereafter.
In all things we distinguish substance and accidents. The latter may be changed, while the former remains the same; but if the substance fails all is lost.

Thus a house is still called a house though its ornaments are removed, but if the building is destroyed the ornaments perish with it. Now, the very substance, the life of virtue is charity. This remains, and therefore our spiritual edifice stands as long as we maintain our resolution not to commit mortal sin. If this fails, the whole structure is reduced to ruin; we cease to be God's friends; we become His enemies.

Hence the constancy with which the martyrs endured such cruel torments. Rather than be deprived of God's grace by mortal sin they submitted to be burned, to have their flesh torn with heated irons, and to suffer every torture which the cruelty of men could invent. They knew that had they sinned they could, if time were given them, repent and obtain forgiveness, as Peter did immediately after denying his Master; yet the most terrible torments were more tolerable to them than the momentary deprivation of God's favor and grace.

Holy Scripture gives us a glorious example of this constancy in the mother of the seven sons, whom she exhorted to die manfully, and whose martyrdom she heroically witnessed before she gave up her own life for the law.(Cf. 2Mac. 7). Equally sublime was the fortitude of Felicitas and Symphorosa, who lived in the early age of the Church, and who had also seven sons each. These intrepid soldiers of Christ were present at the martyrdom of their children, and in accents of sublime courage besought them to endure their tortures with constancy. They had the heavenly consolation of seeing them die for Christ, and then, with a heroism born only of faith, they yielded their own lives to complete the sacrifice.

In his Life of St. Paul, the first hermit, St. Jerome tells of a young man whom, after the tyrants had vainly used many means to force him to sin, they finally bound him in so helpless a condition that he could not escape from the wretched creature whom they brought to him to tempt him. Yet his courage failed him not, but, biting off his tongue, which they could not bind, he spat it into the face of his tempter, who fled in dismay. In this he was doubtlessly inspired by the Holy Ghost, as were so many of the saints, who by every kind of bodily suffering subdued the violence of passions which would lead them to offend God.

He who desires to walk resolutely in the same path must strive to imitate them by fixing this resolution deep in his soul. Appreciating things at their true value, he must prefer the friendship of God to all the treasures of earth; he must unhesitatingly sacrifice perishable joys for delights that will be eternal. To accomplish this must be the end of all his actions; the object of all his prayers; the fruit he seeks in frequenting the sacraments; the profit he derives from sermons and pious reading; the lesson he should learn from the beauty and harmony of the world, and from all creatures. This will be the happy result of Our Saviour's Passion and all the other works of love which He unceasingly performs. They will inspire him with a horror of offending the good Master who has done so much for him. Finally, this holy fear and firm resolution will be the mark of his progress in virtue.

Take a lesson from the carpenter, who, when he wishes to drive a large nail, is not satisfied with giving it a few strokes, but continues hammering until he is sure it is firmly fastened. You must imitate him, if you would firmly implant this resolution in your soul. Be not satisfied with renewing it from time to time, but daily take advantage of all the opportunities afforded you in meditation, in reading, in what you see or hear, to fix this horror of sin more deeply in your soul.

If all the calamities which have existed in the world since the creation, and all the sufferings of Hell, were put into one side of a scale, and but one mortal sin into the other, it would outweigh all these evils, for it is incomparably greater. This is a truth which must be strongly felt and constantly remembered. I know that the world judges differently, but the darkness which reigns in this second Egypt cannot change the real character of sin. Is it astonishing that the blind do not see an evil, however great, or that the dead do not feel the pain of a mortal wound?

We shall treat, therefore, not only of mortal but of venial sin; not that the latter destroys the life of the soul, but because it weakens us and disposes us to mortal sin, which is death. We shall first speak of the seven deadly sins, the source of all the others. These sins are not always mortal, but they can easily become so, particularly when they violate a commandment of God or of the Church, or destroy charity.
In the Memorial of a Christian Life we treated of this subject, and gave a number of remedies against sin in general, Our intention at present is to give special remedies applicable to particular sins, such as pride, covetousness, anger, or revenge. By this means we hope to supply each one with the medicine necessary for his infirmities, and with arms suitable for engaging in this warfare. Before entering upon this subject, it is important to observe that in this spiritual combat we have more need of eyes than of hands and feet. The eyes, which signify vigilance, are the principal weapons to be used in this war, which is waged, not against flesh and blood, but against the malice of the evil spirits.

The reason for this is because the first source of sin is error in the understanding, which is the natural guide and counselor of the will. Consequently, the chief endeavor of the devil is to darken the understanding, and thus draw the will into the same error. Thus he clothes evil with the appearance of good, and presents vice under the mask of virtue, that we may regard it as a counsel of reason rather than a temptation of the enemy. When we are tempted to pride, anger, ambition, or revenge, he strives to make us believe that our desire is just, and that not to follow it is to act against the dictates of reason. Man, therefore, must have eyes to perceive the perfidious hook which is concealed beneath the tempting bait, that he may not be misled by vain appearances.

This clearness of mental vision is also necessary to enable the Christian to appreciate the malice and hideousness of sin, and the dangers to which it will expose us. Seeing the evil, we must restrain our appetites and fear to taste the poison which will immediately cause death. We also gather this lesson from that passage in Holy Scripture (Cf. Ezech. 1:18) which speaks of those mysterious creatures, figures of the just, which had eyes all over their bodies, for in them we find a striking symbol of that watchful vigilance which the Christian must constantly exercise to avoid the snares of vice.