The Spiritual Combat

Chapter 25:

To fight one's enemies well,
Christ's soldier must flee with all speed
disturbance and
disquiet of the heart

If we have lost peace of heart, we need to do everything possible to recover it. Thus you must know that no event possible in this world can justify losing or even disturbing peace of heart. It is true that we must regret our sins, but with a peaceful sorrow in the manner that I have shown above in several places. When disquiet is absent from one's spirit, one can with the pious affection of charity pity every other sinner; and can weep for one's sin, at least interiorly.

As for other important and wearisome events, such as infirmity, wounds, the deaths of our closest relatives, plagues, wars, fires and similar evils: it is true that worldly people resist them as troublesome to human nature. Nevertheless, with divine grace we can not only desire them, but beyond this we can hold them dear as just penalties for the wicked and even as occasions of virtue for the good. Our Lord God pleases [to send them] for these very reasons, and if we second his will, we will pass with a quiet and tranquil spirit through all the bitterness and and setbacks of this life. And take certainty also that our every disquiet is displeasing to his divine eyes, regardless of its source, because disquiet is always accompanied by imperfection, and it always proceeds from some wicked root of self-love.

For this reason, keep a guard ever ready. As soon as it discovers something that can disturb and disquiet you, it will warn you to take up arms in your defense. This weapon will be the consideration that all those evils, and many others similar to them, are not true evils, nor can they take away true goods, regardless of their external appearance. Keep in mind that God ordains or permits all things for the above-mentioned right ends, or for others unknown to us, but doubtless very just and holy. So, when the spirit remains tranquil and peaceful regardless of the event, no matter how damaging, one can do much good; otherwise, any exercise bears little or no fruit.

In addition, it needs to be said that while the heart is disquieted, it remains exposed to the various blows of the enemy; in addition, we cannot make out the right path and the secure way of virtue while we remain in such a state.

This peace serves as the place where the spirit of God resides to perform great things. Our enemy abhors this very much, and often employs a friendly flag in his attempt to dislodge it, making use of various desires that have the appearance of good. However, one can recognize their deceptive nature by the fact that they take away the quiet in our heart (and other signs besides). When the sentinel warns you of each new desire, besides taking refuge from a great deal of damage, you should not open the door of your heart unless you first present it to God free from every sense of ownership and desire. Confessing your blindness and ignorance, pray insistently that he make you see with his light if it comes from him or from the adversary. When you can, take recourse in the judgment of your spiritual father as well.

Now, suppose this desire should come from God. Before realizing this desire, try to mortify your excessive zeal. When preceded by such a mortification, the task will certainly be more pleasing to him than if it were done with the eagerness of nature. Indeed, many times this mortification will please him more than the task itself. Thus, by removing from yourself those desires that are not good, and by not effecting even the good desires unless you have first repressed any natural influences, you will hold the fortress of your heart in peace and and security.

To maintain it completely peaceful, you also need to defend and keep it from certain interior reproaches and remorses made against yourself. On many occasions, these are from the demon, although they seem to come from God because they accuse you of some failing. By their fruits, you will know their origin: If they humble you, then they make you diligent in doing good and they do not take away your confidence in God, from whom you should receive them with thanksgiving. But if they confuse you and make you cowardly, distrustful, lazy and slow to do good, you can be certain that they come from the adversary. You must not heed them; continue your exercise.

Beyond that which I have told you, disquiet is more commonly born in our heart on account of things that oppose it. For this, you have two courses of action.

One course of action consists in considering and seeing what those actions contradict: the spirit, self-love, or our own wants. If they contradict our own wants and self-love — your foremost and principal enemy — you must not name them your opponents. Rather, you must consider them favors and helps from the most high God, and you must receive them with a joyful heart and with thanksgiving. If instead they be contrary to the spirit, you must not lose your peace of heart for this. I will acquaint you with this more thoroughly in the following chapter.

The other course of action consists in raising the mind to God, accepting everything with closed eyes, without desiring to know anything else. Raise these things to God as if they come from the merciful hand of divine Providence, full of various goods, which you do not for the moment recognize.

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By their fruits, you will know their origin: compare this with the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 7.

humble: literally, Scupoli writes, if they bring you down.