Of all these we will, with the Divine assistance, treat briefly and plainly. And let this be well impressed upon your mind; for our corrupt nature too easily inclines us to a false estimate of ourselves; so that, being really nothing, we account ourselves to be something, and presume, without the slightest foundation, upon our own strength. This is a fault not easily discerned by us, but very displeasing in the sight of God. For He desires and loves to see in us a frank and true recognition of this most certain truth, that all the virtue and grace which is within us is derived from Him alone, Who is the fountain of all good, and that nothing good can proceed from us, no, not even a thought which can find acceptance in His sight. And although this very important self-distrust is itself the work of His Divine Hand, and is bestowed upon His beloved, now by means of holy inspirations, now by sharp chastisements and violent and almost irresistible temptations, and by other means which we ourselves do not understand; still it is His will that we on our part should do all in our power to attain it.
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Of all these we will, with the Divine assistance, treat briefly and plainly. And let this be well impressed upon your mind; for our corrupt nature too easily inclines us to a false estimate of ourselves; so that, being really nothing, we account ourselves to be something, and presume, without the slightest foundation, upon our own strength.
This is a fault not easily discerned by us, but very displeasing in the sight of God. For He desires and loves to see in us a frank and true recognition of this most certain truth, that all the virtue and grace which is within us is derived from Him alone, Who is the fountain of all good, and that nothing good can proceed from us, no, not even a thought which can find acceptance in His sight. And although this very important self-distrust is itself the work of His Divine Hand, and is bestowed upon His beloved, now by means of holy inspirations, now by sharp chastisements and violent and almost irresistible temptations, and by other means which we ourselves do not understand; still it is His will that we on our part should do all in our power to attain it.
I therefore set before you four methods, by the use of which, in dependence always on Divine grace, you may acquire this gift. The first is, to know and consider your own vileness and nothingness, and your inability of yourself to do any good, by which to merit an entrance into the kingdom of heaven. The second, continually to ask it of the Lord in fervent and humble prayer; for it is His gift.
And in order to reach its attainment we must look upon ourselves not only as destitute thereof, but as of ourselves incapable of acquiring it. Present yourself, therefore, continually before the Divine Majesty, with an assured faith that He is willing of His great goodness to grant your petition; wait patiently all the time which His Providence appoints, and without doubt you shalt obtain it.
The third is, to stand in fear of your own judgment about yourself, of your strong inclination to sin, of the countless hosts of enemies against whom you are incapable of making the slightest resistance, of their long practice in open warfare and secret stratagem, of their transformations into angels of light, and of the innumerable arts and stares which they secretly spread for us even in the very way of holiness.
The fourth is, whenever you art overtaken by any fault, to look more deeply into yourself, and more keenly feel your absolute and utter weakness; for to this end did God permit your fall, that, warned by His inspiration and illumined by a clearer light than before, you may come to know yourself, and learn to despise yourself as a thing unutterably vile, and be therefore also willing to be so accounted and despised by others.
For without this willingness there can be no holy self-distrust, which is founded on true humility and experimental self-knowledge. This self-knowledge is clearly needful to all who desire to be united to the Supreme Light and Uncreated Truth; and the Divine Clemency often makes use of the fall of proud and presumptuous men to lead to It; justly suffering them to fall into some faults which they trusted to avoid by their own strength, that they may learn to know and absolutely distrust themselves.
Our Lord is not, however, wont to use so severe a method, until those more gracious means of which we have before spoken have failed to work the cure designed by His Divine Mercy. He permits a man to fall more or less deeply in proportion to his pride and self-esteem; so that if there were no presumption as in the case of the Blessed Virgin Mary , there would be no fall. Therefore, whenever you shall fall, take refuge at once in humble self-knowledge, and beseech the Lord with urgent entreaties to give you light truly to know yourself, and entire self-distrust, lest you should fall again.
Unless we would be put to flight, or remain helpless and vanquished in the hands of our enemies, we must add to it perfect trust in God, and expect from Him alone succor and victory.
For as we, who are nothing, can look for nothing from ourselves but falls, and therefore should utterly distrust ourselves; so from our Lord may we assuredly expect complete victory in every conflict.
To obtain His help, let us therefore arm ourselves with a lively confidence in Him. And this also may be accomplished in four ways: First, by asking it of God. Secondly, by gazing with the eye of faith at the infinite wisdom and omnipotence of God, to which nothing is impossible or difficult, and confiding in His unbounded goodness and unspeakable willingness to give, hour-by-hour and moment-by-moment, all things needful for the spiritual life, and perfect victory over ourselves, if we will but throw ourselves with confidence into His Arms.
When it cries to Him piteously for help, will He not hear, and laying it upon His Divine Shoulders, call upon His friends and all the angels of heaven to rejoice with Him? For if our Lord ceased not to search most diligently for the blind and deaf sinner, the lost drachma of the gospel, till He found him; can He abandon him who, like a lost sheep, cries and calls piteously upon his Shepherd?
And if God knocks continually at the heart of man, desiring to enter in and sup there, and to communicate to it His gifts, who can believe that when that heart opens and invites Him to enter, He will turn a deaf ear to the invitation, and refuse to come in?
Thirdly, the third way to acquire this holy confidence is, to call to mind that truth so plainly taught in Holy Scripture, that no one who trusted in God has ever been confounded. The fourth, which will serve at once towards the attainment of self-distrust and of trust in God, is this: when any duty presents itself to be done, any struggle with self to be made, any victory over self to be attempted, before proposing or resolving upon it, think first upon your own weakness; next turn, full of self-distrust, to the wisdom, the power, and the goodness of God; and in reliance upon these, resolve to labor and to fight generously.
Then, with these weapons in your hands, and with the help of prayer of which we shall speak in its proper place , set yourself to labor and to strive. Unless you observe this order, though you may seem to yourself to be doing all things in reliance upon God, you will too often find yourself mistaken; for so common is a presumptuous self-confidence, and so subtle are the forms it assumes, that it lurks almost always even under an imagined self-distrust and fancied confidence in God.
And this will be made clear to thee by the effect produced on thy mind by a fall. If thou art so saddened and disquieted thereby as to be tempted to despair of making progress or doing good, it is a sure sign that thy trust is in self and not in God.
For he who has any large measure of self-distrust and trust in God feels neither surprise, nor despondency, nor bitterness, when he falls; for he knows that this has arisen from his own weakness and want of trust in God. On the contrary, being, rendered thereby more distrustful of self, more humbly confident in God, detesting above all things his fault and the unruly passions which have occasioned it, and mourning with a quiet, deep, and patient sorrow over his offense against God, he pursues his enterprise, and follows after his enemies, even to the death, with a spirit more resolute and undaunted than before.
I would that these things were well considered by certain persons so called spiritual, who cannot and will not be at rest when they have fallen into any fault. They rush to their spiritual father, rather to get rid of the anxiety and uneasiness which spring from wounded self-love than for that purpose which should be their chief end in seeking him, to purify themselves from the stain of sin, and to fortify themselves against its power by means of the most Holy Sacrament of Penance.
Chapter V Of the Error of Many, Who Mistake Pusillanimity for a Virtue Many also deceive themselves in this way, they mistake the fear and uneasiness which follow after sin for virtuous emotions; and know not that these painful feelings spring from wounded pride, and a presumption which rests upon confidence in themselves and their own strength.
They have accounted themselves to be something, and relied unduly upon their own powers. Their fall proves to them the vanity of this self-dependence, and they are immediately troubled and astonished as at some strange thing, and are disheartened at seeing the prop to which they trusted suddenly give way. This can never befall the humble man, who trusts in his God alone, and in nothing presumes upon himself.
Though grieved when he falls into a fault, he is neither surprised nor disquieted; for he knows that his own misery and weakness, already clearly manifest to himself by the light of truth, have brought all this upon him. Chapter VI Further directions how to attain self-Distrust and Trust in God Since our whole power to subdue our enemies arises principally from self-distrust and trust in God, I will give you some further directions to enable you, by the Divine Assistance, to acquire it.
Know, then, for a certain truth, that neither all gifts, natural or acquired, nor all graces given gratis, nor the knowledge of all Scripture, nor long habitual exercise in the service of God, will enable us to do His will, unless in every good and acceptable work to be performed, in every temptation to be overcome, in every peril to be avoided, in every Cross to be borne in conformity to His will, our heart be sustained and up-borne by an especial aid from Him, and His hand be outstretched to help us.
We must, then, bear this in mind all our life long, every day, every hour, every moment, that we may never indulge so much as a thought of self-confidence. And as to confidence in God, know that it is as easy to Him to conquer many enemies as few; the old and experienced as the weak and young. Therefore we will suppose a soul to be heavy-laden with sins, to have every possible fault and every imaginable defect, and to have tried, by every possible means and every kind of Spiritual Exercise, to forsake sin and to practice holiness.
We will suppose this soul to have done all this, and yet to have failed in making the smallest advance in holiness, nay, on the contrary, to have been borne the more strongly towards evil. For all this she must not lose her trust in God, nor give over her spiritual conflict and lay down her arms, but still fight on resolutely, knowing that none is vanquished in this spiritual combat but he who ceases to struggle and loses confidence in God, whose succor never fails His soldiers, though He sometimes permits them to be wounded.
Fight on, then, valiantly; for on this depends the whole issue of the strife; for there is a ready and effectual remedy for the wounds of all combatants who look confidently to God and to His aid for help; and when they least expect it they shall see their enemies dead at their feet. Chapter VII Of Spiritual Exercises, and first of the Exercise of the Understanding, which must be kept guarded against ignorance and curiosity If in this warfare we are provided with no weapons except self-distrust and trust in God, needful as both these are, we shall not only fail to gain the victory over ourselves, but shall fall into many evils.
To these, therefore, we must add the use of Spiritual Exercises, the third weapon named above. And these relate chiefly to the Understanding and the Will. As regards the Understanding, we must guard against two things which are apt to obscure it. One is ignorance, which darkens it and impedes it in acquiring the knowledge of truth, the proper object of the understanding. Therefore it must be made clear and bright by exercise, that so it may be able to see and discern plainly all that is needful to purify the soul from disorderly passions, and to adorn it with saintly virtues.
This light may be obtained in two ways. The first and most important is prayer, imploring the Holy Ghost to pour it into our hearts. This He will not fail to do, if we in truth seek God alone and the fulfillment of His holy will, and if in all things we submit our Judgment to that of our spiritual father.
The other is, to exercise ourselves continually in a true and deep consideration of all things, to discover whether they be good or evil, according to the teaching of the Holy Ghost, and not according to their outward appearance, as they impress the senses or are judged of by the world. This consideration, if rightly exercised will teach us to regard as falsehood and vanity all which the blind and corrupt world in so many various ways loves, desires, and seeks after.
It will show us plainly that the honors and pleasures of earth are but vanity and vexation of spirit; that injury and infamy inflicted on us by the world bring true glory, and tribulations contentment; that to pardon our enemies and to do them good is true magnanimity, and an act which likens us most nearly to God; that to despise the world is better than to rule it; that voluntary obedience for the love of God to the meanest of His creatures is greater and nobler than to command mighty princes; and that the mortification and subjugation of our most trifling appetite is more glorious than the reduction of strong cities, the defeat of mighty armies, the working of miracles, or the raising of the dead.
CHAPTER VIII Of the hindrances to a Right Discernment of Things, and of the method to be adopted in order to understand them properly The cause of our not rightly discerning all these things and many others is, that we conceive a love or hatred of them at first sight.
Our understanding is thus darkened, so that it cannot judge of them correctly. Lest you fall into this delusion, take all possible care to keep your will pure and free from inordinate affection for any thing whatsoever. When any object, then, is presented to you, view it with your understanding; and consider it maturely before you are moved by hatred to reject it, if it be a thing contrary to your inclinations, or by love to desire it, if it be pleasing to them.
For thus the understanding, being unclouded by passion, will be free and clear, and able to perceive the truth, and to discern the evil which lurks behind delusive pleasure and the good which is veiled under the appearance of evil.
But if the will be first inclined to love or hate any thing, the understanding will be unable to exercise a right judgment upon it. For the affection which has thus intruded itself so obscures the understanding, that it views the object as other than it is, and by thus representing it to the will, influences that faculty, in contradiction to every law and rule of reason, to love or hate it inordinately. The understanding is gradually darkened more and more, and in this deepening obscurity the object appears more and more hateful or lovely to the will.
Hence, if this most important rule be not observed, these two faculties, the understanding and the will, noble and excellent as they are, will soon sink in a miserable descent from darkness into thicker darkness, and from error into deeper error.
Guard yourself most vigilantly, then, from all inordinate affection for anything whatever, until you have first tested it by the light of the understanding, and chiefly by that of grace and prayer, and by the judgment of your spiritual father. And this is to be observed most carefully with regard to such outward works as are good and holy, because the danger is greatest here of delusion and indiscretion.
Hence you may here receive serious injury from some circumstance of time, or place, or degree, or regarding obedience; as has been proved by many, who have incurred great danger in the performance of commendable and holy exercises. CHAPTER IX Of another danger from which the Understanding must be guarded in order that it may exercise a True Discernment The second thing from which the understanding must be guarded is curiosity; for by filling it with hurtful, vain, and impertinent thoughts we incapacitate and disable it from apprehending that which most nearly affects our true mortification and perfection.
To this end, you must be as one dead to all needless investigation of even lawful earthly things. Always restrain your intellect as much as possible, and love to keep it low. Let the news and the changes of the world, whether great or small, be to you as though, they were not; and should they intrude themselves, reject and drive them from you.
Be sober and humble even in the desire to understand heavenly things, wishing to know nothing but Christ crucified, His life, His death, and what He requires of thee. Cast all other things far from you, and so shall you be very pleasing unto God. For He loves and delights in those who desire and seek of Him such things alone as serve to the love of His divine goodness and the fulfillment of His will.
All other petitions and inquiries belong to self-love, pride, and the snares of the devil. By following these instructions you will avoid many dangers; for when the wily serpent sees the will of those who are aiming at the spiritual life to be strong and resolute, he attacks their understanding, that so he may master both the one and the other. He often, therefore, infuses lofty and curious speculations into their minds, especially if they be of an acute and intellectual order, and easily inflated with pride; and he does this in order that they may busy themselves in the enjoyment and discussion of such subjects, wherein, as they falsely persuade themselves, they enjoy God, and meanwhile neglect to purify their hearts and to apply themselves to self-knowledge and true mortification.
So, falling into the snare of pride, they make an idol of their own understanding. Hence, being already accustomed to have recourse in all circumstances to their own judgment, they come gradually and imperceptibly to believe that they have no need of advice or control from others.
This is a most perilous case, and very hard to cure, the pride of the understanding being more dangerous than that of the will; for when the pride of the will is once perceived by the understanding, it may in course of time be easily remedied by submission to those to whom it owes obedience.
But how, or by whom, can he be cured, who obstinately believes his own opinion to be worth more than that of others? The understanding is the eye of the soul, by which the wound of the proud will should be discovered and cleansed; if that eye, then, itself be weak and blind and swollen with pride, by whom shall it be healed? And if the light become darkness, and the rule faulty, what will become of the rest? Therefore resist this dangerous pride betimes, before it penetrate into the marrow of your bones.
Blunt the acuteness of your intellect, willingly submit your own opinion to that of others, become a fool for the love of God, and you shall be wiser than Solomon. CHAPTER X Of the Exercise of the Will, and the end to which all our actions, whether Interior or Exterior, should tend Besides this necessary exercise of the understanding, you must so regulate your will that it may not be left to follow its own desires, but may be in all things conformed to the Divine pleasure.
And remember, that it is not enough only to strive after those things which are most pleasing to God; but you must so will them, and so do them, as moved thereto by Him, and with a view to please Him alone. In this exercise of the will, even more than in that of the understanding, we shall meet with strong opposition from nature, which seeks itself and its own ease and pleasure in all things; but especially in such as are holy and spiritual.
It delights itself in these, feeding greedily upon them as upon wholesome food. As soon, therefore, as they are presented to us we look wistfully upon them, and desire them, not because such is the will of God, nor with the sole view to please Him, but for the sake of the satisfaction and benefit to be derived from willing those things which God wills.
This delusion is the more subtle from the very excellence of the thing desired. Hence, even in the desire after God Himself, we are exposed to the delusions of self-love, which often leads us to look more to our own interests, and to the benefits we expect from God, than to His will, which is, that we should love, and desire and obey Him for His own glory alone. I will now show you a way to avoid this way, which would impede you in the path of perfection, and to accustom yourself to will and to do all things as moved by the Spirit of God, and with the pure intention of honoring and pleasing Him alone, Who desires to be the one End and Principle of our every word and action.
When any thing presents itself to you as if willed by God, do not permit yourself to will it till you have first raised your thoughts to Him to discover whether He wills you to will it, and because He so wills it, and to please Him alone.
The Spiritual Combat apparently had quite an influence on St Francis de Sales, so the similarities do not surprise me. The book itself is at once very practical but also centred entirely on advancement in the spiritual life. Scupoli gives great practical advice on day-to-day conduct to build up virtue and root out vices, as well as on prayer. Everything is presented in short little chapters on specific topics; not a few of them focus on how to counter the attacks of the devil. Francis de Sales recommended this as a regular reading companion for the spiritual life. This is not something I recommend attempting to read quickly, but rather reading slowly, prayerfully, intentionally. The chapters are all broken up into small bite-size chunks that offer a powerful punch with plenty of content to reflect upon.
Lorenzo Scupoli Quotes
Life[ edit ] Scupoli was from Otranto in Apulia. At baptism, he received the name Francesco Francis. Being already at a mature age in , he joined the Theatines. He took Holy Orders exceptionally fast, after eight years. In he was accused of breaking the rule. He was arrested for a year and deprived of the priestly faculties.
The Spiritual Combat