Skip to comments.Catholic Caucus: The Spiritual Combat: Ch 21. THE PROPER USE OF OUR SENSES. HOW THEY MAY HELP US
Posted on 05/27/2009 8:35:05 AM PDT by GonzoII
ONE MUST GIVE great care and constant application to the correct regulation of his senses. The sensitive appetite, the source of all actions of our weakened nature, has an unquenchable thirst for pleasure. Since it cannot satisfy itself, it uses the senses to attract their proper objects and then transmits these images to the mind. Sensual pleasures, consequently, by reason of the union which subsists between body and soul, spread themselves through all the senses capable of pleasure and then seize, like a contagious disease, upon the spiritual faculties. In this way they effect the corruption of the entire man.
You can use the following remedies against this enormous evil. Watch your senses carefully. Use them only for some good purpose, some advantageous motive or real necessity, never for the sake of mere pleasure. If they do go astray, perhaps unnoticed, if they transgress the bounds which reason prescribes, check them immediately. They must be so regulated that, instead of embracing objects for the sake of false pleasure, they become accustomed to draw from the same objects great helps for the sanctification and perfection of the soul. The soul, then, through recollection is able to rise from the knowledge of earthly things to the contemplation of the Divine goodness. This can be done in the following way.
When an agreeable object is presented to the senses, do not become absorbed in its material elements, but let the understanding judge it. If there is anything in it that does please the senses, remember that this is not from the thing itself, but from God, Whose invisible hand created and endowed it with all its goodness and beauty. Rejoice in the thought that this sovereign and independent Being is the sole Author of all the charming qualities that His creatures possess. He Himself possesses them all in a manner infinitely superior to the most excellent created beings.
In contemplating a beautiful work of creation consider that, in itself, it is nothing. Let your thoughts soar to the great Hand that produced it; place all your delight in Him saying: "O my God! Sole Object of my desires! Universal Source of all good things! How delightful it is to consider that the perfections of creatures are but a faint image of Thy glory!"
When you behold the verdant trees or plants and the beauty of flowers, remember that they possess life only through the will of that Divine Wisdom that, unseen by all, gives life to all things. Say to Him: "O Living God! O Sovereign Life! Thou delight of my soul! From Thee, in Thee and through Thee all things on earth live and flourish!"
The sight of animals should lift your mind and heart to the Author of sensibility and motion. Say with respect and love: "Great God, Unmoved Mover of all things, how I rejoice when I consider the eternity of Thy existence, incapable of the slightest change!"
When the beauty of mankind impresses you, you should immediately distinguish what is apparent to the eye from what is seen only by the mind. You must remember that all corporeal beauty flows from an invisible principle, the uncreated beauty of God. You must discern in this an almost imperceptible drop issuing from an endless source, an immense ocean from which numberless perfections continually flow. How my soul is ravished when I consider that Eternal Beauty, the Source of every beautiful thing!
You must also distinguish, when you meet a person who is intelligent, just, affable, or gifted in any other way, just how much is his own and how much he has received from Heaven. Then will you exclaim: "O God of all virtue! I cannot express my joy when I consider that all good comes from Thee, and all the perfections of created beings are nothing when compared with Thee! Thank Thee for this and all good things bestowed on my neighbor or on myself. Have pity on my poverty and be mindful of the great need I have of such virtues!"
When you have performed a good act, recall that God is the author of the act, and you are but His instrument. Lift up your eyes to Him and cry out: "O Sovereign Lord of the universe! It is with the greatest pleasure that I recognize that, without Thee, the First and Principal Cause of all things, I can do nothing."
When you taste anything pleasant, consider that God alone is capable of giving it that taste which is so agreeable to you. Find all your delight in Him and say: "Rejoice, O my soul! Without God there is no true or substantial happiness!"
Do not be satisfied with the pleasure that comes from a pleasant scent. Mount in spirit to Heaven, and rejoice in God from Whom it came. Beg of Him that, being the Author of all sweetness, He will move your soul, freed from all sensual pleasure, to raise itself to Him as a fragrant perfume.
When you hear beautiful music, turn to God and exclaim: "O God! Thy Divine perfections fill my heart with delight; their melodious harmony is infinitely pleasing not only to Thyself, but to Angels, men and all created beings!"
None shall be crowned who has not fought well.
2 Tim 2:5.
Taken from the book of the same title by DOM LORENZO SCUPOLI
The Spiritual Combat is known as one of the greatest classics in ascetic theology, along with The Imitation of Christ. In both cases the authors are shrouded in mystery. Several 17th century editions were published under the name of the Spanish Benedictine, John of Castanzia. Some writers of the Society of Jesus have ascribed the book to the Jesuit, Achilles Gagliardi, but most critics however consider Fr. Lawrence Scupoli as the author of this famous treatise. The first known edition was published in Venice in 1589 and contained but 24 chapters; later editions appeared with more chapters, so it is possible that the Theatines or another religious order may have been part of the composition. Whatever may be the solution of the problem of the author, doubt of the actual one or ones, can take nothing away from the value and efficacy of this "golden book" as St. Frances de Sales called it. It was "the favorite, the dear book" of this great master of the spiritual life who, for 18 years, carried in a pocket a copy which he had received from Fr. Scupoli in Padua himself. The Saint read some pages of it every day, entrusted to its supernatural and human wisdom, the guidance of his soul, and recommended it to all under his direction. The purpose of the work is to lead the soul to the summit of spiritual perfection, by means of a constant, courageous struggle against our evil nature, which tends to keep us away from that goal.
The author was a genius, the kind that can only be inspired by the grace of God and his book is a Catholic treasure and one of the greatest gifts God could have given any age, but most especially this benighted age which has lost its appreciation for the kind of simplicity necessary for sanctity.
Chapter One: PRELIMINARY WORDS ON PERFECTION
-- THE FOUR THINGS NECESSARY FOR THIS COMBAT
Chapter Two: DISTRUST OF SELF
Chapter Three: OF TRUST IN GOD
Chapter Four: HOW TO DISCOVER WHETHER WE
DISTRUST OURSELVES AND PLACE OUR CONFIDENCE IN GOD
Chapter Five: THE MISTAKE OF CONSIDERING COWARDICE A VIRTUE
Chapter Six: FURTHER ADVICE ON HOW TO OBTAIN A DISTRUST OF ONESELF AND CONFIDENCE IN GOD
Chapter Seven: THE RIGHT USE OF OUR FACULTIES. THE UNDERSTANDING MUST FIRST BE FREE OF IGNORANCE AND CURIOSITY
Chapter Eight: AN OBSTACLE TO FORMING A CORRECT JUDGMENT. AN AID TO THE FORMATION OF A CORRECT JUDGMENT
Chapter Nine: ANOTHER METHOD TO PREVENT DECEPTION OF THE UNDERSTANDING
Chapter Ten: THE EXERCISE OF THE WILL. THE END TO WHICH ALL OF OUR ACTIONS, INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR, SHOULD BE DIRECTED
Chapter Eleven: SOME CONSIDERATIONS WHICH WILL INCLINE THE WILL TO SEEK ONLY WHAT IS PLEASING TO GOD
Chapter Twelve: THE OPPOSITION WITHIN MAN'S TWOFOLD NATURE
Chapter Thirteen: HOW WE ARE TO ENCOUNTER SENSUALITY. WHAT THE WILL MUST DO TO ACQUIRE VIRTUOUS HABITS
Chapter Fourteen: WHAT TO DO WHEN THE WILL IS APPARENTLY OVERPOWERED
Chapter Fifteen: FURTHER ADVICE ON HOW TO FIGHT SKILLFULLY. THE ENEMIES WE ARE TO ENGAGE, AND THE COURAGE NECESSARY TO FIGHT THEM
Chapter Sixteen: THE SOLDIER OF CHRIST MUST PREPARE EARLY FOR THE BATTLE
Chapter Seventeen: THE METHOD OF FIGHTING YOUR PASSIONS AND VICES
Chapter Eighteen: HOW TO CURB THE SUDDEN IMPULSES OF YOUR PASSIONS
Chapter Nineteen: HOW WE ARE TO FIGHT AGAINST IMPURITY
Chapter Twenty: HOW TO COMBAT SLOTH
Complete title: THE PROPER USE OF OUR SENSES. HOW THEY MAY HELP US TO CONTEMPLATE DIVINE THINGS