Tuesday, April 20, 2010

St. Vincent Ferrer, The Spiritual Life


How to escape the snares and temptations of the devil

He who would escape the snares and temptations of the devil, particularly at the close of his life, should convince himself of two things. First, let him consider himself a corpse, full of worms, and a prey to corruption, a corpse from which those who approach it turn with disgust from the sight of so loathsome an object, and strive not to encounter the stench that exhales from it. It is thus, my dear brother, that you and I should always esteem ourselves; but I ought still more than you to be convinced of this, for I feel with truth that I am nothing but corruption of body and soul; that there is nothing in me but the stench of my sins and iniquity, which inspire horror; and what is still more trying, I feel, from day to day, this corruption renewed and increased within me.

The faithful soul should have this opinion of herself. It behooves her, to humble herself in the presence of God, Who beholds all things, and to regard Him as a severe judge, Who will demand of her an exact and rigorous account of her whole conduct. She will not then experience too great a sorrow for having offended Him, and for having lost the grace which He bestowed on her in baptism, wherein she was washed and purified in the very Blood of Jesus Christ.

It is not enough that the soul should acknowledge her corruption before God, and that she should herself be persuaded of it; it is besides requisite that she should be willing to afford this spectacle not only to the angels and saints, but to all mankind; and consequently ready to accept their contempt of her, their separation from her as from an offensive object, and her own exclusion from among them as one who is dead, with whom they have no wish to associate, who is no longer of their society, and who is to them something more loathsome than a leper; and this as long as it shall please God.

She ought, moreover, to be persuaded that men do her no wrong in this, but treat her as she deserves, even should they pluck out the eyes, cut off the hands, and inflict every species of evil on a body which has served to offend the God who created it.

The second thing is to desire to be humbled and despised, and to suffer not only with patience, but even with great joy, calumnies, injuries, ignominy - in a word, all that is most painful and humiliating.

It is, besides, necessary to have a great distrust of herself, of the virtuous acts she has performed, and of her whole past conduct; to turn herself wholly to Jesus Christ; to cast herself into the arms of this Divine Savior, Who reduced Himself to extreme poverty, Who suffered every species of opprobrium, contempt, and humiliation, and a most cruel death for love of us.

Die, then, to every human sentiment and affection, that Jesus Christ crucified may live in you, and that being transformed and, as it were, transfigured, you may have no other feeling in your heart, you may no longer hear or see any object but your Lord attached to the Cross, and dying for you, following in this the example of the Blessed Virgin; so that, being entirely dead to the world, your soul may breathe no other life than that of faith, thus, waiting that happy resurrection, when the Lord will fill you with spiritual joy and the gifts of the Holy Ghost; you, I say, and all mankind in whose conduct the fervor of the apostolic age should be renewed. Be attentive, then, to prayer, meditation, and pious affections, that you may obtain the gifts and graces of God.

Our dispositions towards God may be reduced to seven, which are:

First, to love Him with an active and ardent love;

Second, to fear Him above all things;

Third, to render to Him the honor and respect which are due to Him;

Fourth, to have a persevering zeal in His service. Joined to these are,

Fifth, thanksgiving;

Sixth, a prompt and fervent obedience in all that He commands us, and in as far as we are able;

Seventh, a relish for heavenly things, saying to Him incessantly,

"Lord Jesus, grant that by Thy grace my mind, my heart and even the very marrow of my bones, may be penetrated with fear and respect for Thee; that I may burn with an ardent zeal for whatever concerns Thy glory; that this zeal, O my God, may inspire me with a lively horror for all the outrages that have been offered to Thee; and let this horror increase in me, seeing that I have been so unhappy as to insult Thee, or that others have done so on my account. Grant that I, Thy creature, may adore Thee with profound humility, as my God and Sovereign Lord. Let me be penetrated with gratitude for all the graces and numberless benefits which Thy mercy has bestowed upon me, and let me be unceasing in my thanksgiving to Thee. Vouchsafe that I may for ever praise and bless Thee with a heart overflowing with joy, and that, obedient to Thee in all things, I may one day taste of the infinite sweetness of Thy eternal banquet, in company with the Angels, the Apostles, and all Thy Saints, however unworthy I am of so great a favor by reason of my ingratitude."

Having shown you what ought to be your dispositions in regard to God, I shall point out seven others, which intimately concern yourself.

The first is, to humble yourself at the sight of your faults and imperfections;

Second, to weep with bitter sorrow over the sins you have committed, and by which you have unhappily offended God, and defiled your soul;

Third, to long to be despised, humbled, and trodden under foot by all mankind, as the most miserable and corrupt of creatures;

Fourth, to subject your body to the most rigorous mortifications, and to desire to inflict on it still greater austerities, if possible, regarding it as sin itself or, if I may use the expression, a sink or sepulcher which encloses within it every species of horror;

Fifth, to bear an irreconcilable hatred to sin, and the sources and evil inclinations from which it springs;

Sixth, to watch unceasingly over your senses, all your actions, and the powers of your soul, that you may be always disposed to virtue and good works, without ever losing this attention and vigilance;

Seventh, to observe in all things the rules of that perfect moderation which knows how to discriminate between excess and defect, too much and too little; to retrench what is superfluous without encroaching upon what is necessary, so that there may be nothing but what is in accordance with propriety and order.

What Must You Do To Get to Heaven?

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