The error of thinking we are saintly, and how to avoid it

September 16, 2021 • 3 min

From The Spiritual Combat, page 113

CHAPTER XXX.

Of the mistake of several who think themselves in the way to Perfection.

The enemy being defeated in his first and second attack, will not fail of renewing it a third time.

He endeavours to make us forget the vices and passions we actually labour under, and fills our imagination with vain projects of a chimerical perfection, to which he knows we shall never reach.

By this contrivance we receive frequent and dangerous wounds, without ever thinking how to remedy them. For such imaginary desires and resolutions pass upon us for real effects, and through a secret pride, we value ourselves as great saints.

Thus, at the very time when the least contradiction or affront is insupportable, we amuse ourselves with imagining we are ready to suffer the greatest torments, even the pains of Purgatory, for the love of God.

The deceit lies in this, that our sensitive part, nothing affected with sufferings at a distance, boldly compares itself with those who actually bear the greatest pains with an unwearied patience.

To avoid so dangerous a snare, we must resolve to fight, and actually engage those numerous enemies we have at hand. This will quickly discover whether our resolutions are cowardly or courageous, imaginary or real: and thus we shall advance to perfection through the road the saints have marked out.

As to those enemies who rarely [trouble] us, we need not give ourselves much trouble about them, unless we have reason at some particular time to expect an attack from them. In such a case we must prepare for their reception by a firm resolution to conquer.

But however strenuous our resolutions may be, let us beware of counting upon them as so many victories; even though we should have for some time practised acts of virtue, and made a considerable progress therein. Let humility ever accompany us; let our weakness be always before our eyes, and our confidence placed in God alone; let us frequently beseech him to strengthen us during the fight, and shield us from all danger; to banish in particular from our breasts all presumption and confidence in our own abilities.

In this manner we may aspire to the most sublime perfection; though we may possibly find great difficulty in surmounting some frailties which God is pleased to leave us in order to humble us, that we may not lose the little merit already acquired by our good works.

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