The trap of falsely pious desires, and how to avoid it

September 17, 2021 • 4 min

From The Spiritual Combat, page 115
By Dom Lorenzo Scupoli


The artifices employed by the Devil, to make us forsake the path of Virtue.

The fourth artifice, which, as I have said, the Devil employs to impose on those who are advancing in the way to perfection, is to put them upon ill-timed designs, though otherwise commendable, to the end that desisting from such exercises of virtue as are requisite, he may engage them insensibly in vicious habits.

For example: a sick person bears his illness with great resignation; the enemy, dreading lest he acquire an habitual patience, puts in his head many pious works he might perform if in health; he persuades the sick man, that then he would not fail to do great service to God, his neighbour and his own soul: when the fiend has gained so far as to make him desirous of health, he contrives to make him uneasy under the disappointment, and the more earnest the wishes, the greater the solicitude.

The enemy does not stop here, but urges him to great impatience in his sickness, which is represented as an obstacle to those chimerical designs the sick man passionately affects as the more acceptable to God.

This point being gained, the good designs are effaced by degrees, and nothing left but a criminal solicitude to be freed from sickness, which is soon attended with all the evils arising from vexation and impatience. And thus instead of the practice of an habitual virtue, the very opposite vice takes place.

The means of preventing this illusion, is to beware of forming any pious designs, incompatible with the state of suffering with which you are visited; for, incapable as you are of executing them, the only consequence will be anxiety and vexation.

Be persuaded with great humility and resignation, that when God shall please to lift you up again, all these good desires, which you now form, very likely may prove ineffectual for want of courage to put them in execution.

At least, imagine that God, by a secret disposition of Providence, or in punishment of past offences, denies you the satisfaction of performing such a good work, and chooses to behold you resigned to his will, and humbled under his all-powerful hand.

Behave in the same manner, when, either by the direction of your Ghostly Father, or for some other reason, you are obliged to refrain for a time from the holy communion. Be not cast down by uneasiness, but renounce your own will and conform yourself to that of Heaven, saying:

Did not God, the searcher of hearts, see in me some failing or ingratitude, I should not be thus deprived from approaching him. Let his name be ever blessed who thus discovers to me my unworthiness.

I am fully persuaded, O Lord, that in all the trials thou art pleased to appoint, thou requirest nothing of me but that bearing them with patience and a desire of pleasing thee, I may offer to thee a heart ever conformable to thy will; that taking up thy habitation there, it may be replenished with divine consolations, and secured against the power of Hell, which would ravish it from thee.

O my Creator and Redeemer, dispose of me as to thee seemeth good! May thy divine will be now and evermore my strength and support!

All I demand is, that my soul being cleansed from every thing displeasing to thee, and adorned with all virtues, may be in a condition not only to receive thee, but to comply with whatever thou art pleased to appoint.

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