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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

On Temptations

One of two parts....

Re-reading St. Ignatius cleans the cobwebs out of the mind. One point I want to emphasize today is how to overcome temptations. As Father Chad Ripperger and St. Ignatius remind us, the demons watch our every move and listen to us, finding out our weaknesses in order to destroy us.

They cannot read our minds, but they can put ideas into our minds through evil suggestions.

St. Ignatius helps us by reminding us that there are patterns to our temptations. If we pause and reflect on these patterns, we can avoid sin. How can we do this?

When we are being tempted, we should be alert and pay attention to how this temptation proceeds. Even if we do not, gratefully, fall into sin, we should follow the pattern of the temptation. Each one of us is capable of falling away even at the end of our lives.

Let me give some keen and some subtle examples.

An obvious example would be if one is tempted to sin against chastity. If one notices that every time one is with a certain group of friends who talk about their unchaste lives, one is tempted, one must avoid those people and conversations. Or, if one is tempted to impatience and anger, one can avoid being on the Internet and getting into scrapes on line. One can see a pattern.

I was getting impatience at Mass and now I immediately have to check my critical tendencies. Here is what happens.

Two things-first, the Irish do not know how to queue up for Communion, so daily, someone cuts in front of one and so on. Secondly, daily, and I have watched this in several parishes, people do not go back to their same places in the pew after Communion. One goes back to one's place and someone is there. Very odd custom.

So, now, as I saw a pattern of irritation and impatience, I say a little prayer immediately and bless the persons cutting in front and taking my place in the pew. I now know, after so many months, I cannot expect anything different and therefore, just pray a little prayer.

Also, I do not judge the people, but assume they have some sort of feeling which pushes them to act rudely. Maybe they have arthritis or pains or troubles which would make them not go back to their places.

So, I now see a pattern and attack the bad tendencies replacing irritation with understanding, prayer and even resignation.

Subtle temptations are much harder to pinpoint and understand. Subtle temptations are connected to our predominant fault, about which I have written many times. If we know what are main fault is, we can catch the temptations and stop the process which leads to sin.

Satan, as St. Ignatius notes, sometimes tempts us in noisy and violent ways, when one is seriously sinning. But, when one is working on venial sins and imperfections, the temptations become more subtle and quieter.

Again, two examples might help. If one has pride for a predominant fault, one will see a pattern of temptation to interrupt people in discussions or to want to talk about one's self.

If one has vainglory for a predominant fault, one may want to always have new clothes, and follow fashions too much, or shop too much.

Again, the remedies for sin lie is paying attention to the patterns of the temptations.

If one is tempted to pride, let the other people speak more. Be quieter. Wait on others.

As to vainglory, avoid shopping unless absolutely necessary. Avoid malls; do not look at catalogs or websites and so on. If you have friends who shop until they drop, start suggesting other things to do.

The predominant fault is the hardest habitual imperfection one has and the demons know what it is.

All this reflection takes a bit of time and one cannot just be running around doing things all the time. An examination of conscience helps.

To be continued...