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
In assaults against purity he would
reflect: 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
profaning 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?
temptations to sloth he would arouse himself by the
thought: Eternal happiness can be purchased by a few
years of labor 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
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.
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
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
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." (1Pet. 2:21,23).
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.
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
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.
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
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