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We must avoid temptation big and small



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We continue our series with Part IV, Chapter 4 “Encouragement for the Tempted Soul. from An Introduction to the Devout Life. Here Saint Francis gives us encouragement that no temptation is beyond the power of God.

God never permits such grievous temptations and assaults to try any, save those souls whom He designs to lead on to His own living, highest love, but nevertheless it does not follow as a natural consequence that they are certain to attain thereto. Indeed, it has often happened that those who had been stedfast under violent assaults, failing to correspond faithfully to Divine Grace, have yielded under the pressure of very trifling temptations. I would warn you of this, my child, so that, should you ever be tried by great temptations, you may know that God is showing special favour to you, thereby proving that He means to exalt you in His Sight; but that at the same time you may ever be humble and full of holy fear, not overconfident in your power to resist lesser temptations because you have overcome those that were greater, unless by means of a most stedfast faithfulness to God.

Come what may in the shape of temptation, attended by whatsoever of delectation,–so long as your will refuses consent, not merely to the temptation itself, but also to the delectation, you need have no fear,–God is not offended. When any one has swooned away, and gives no sign of life, we put our hand to his heart, and if we find the slightest fluttering there, we conclude that he still lives, and that, with the help of stimulants and counter-irritants, we may restore consciousness and power. Even so, sometimes amid the violence of temptation the soul seems altogether to faint away, and to lose all spiritual life and action. But if you would be sure how it really is, put your hand on the heart. See whether heart and will yet have any spiritual motion; that is to say, whether they fulfil their own special duty in refusing consent to and acceptance of temptation and its gratification; for so long as the power to refuse exists within the soul, we may be sure that Love, the life of the soul, is there, and that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, is within, although, it may be, hidden; and that by means of stedfast perseverance in prayer, and the Sacraments, and confidence in God, strength will be restored, and the soul will live with a full and joyous life.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What do you make of the distinction between temptation and its delectation? Why does Saint Francis distinguish between temptation itself and the enjoyment of temptation?
  2. Most often we hear that avoiding the smaller temptations we face prepares us and strengthens us to avoid the big temptations when they come. However, Saint Francis throws a wrench in all this and warns us that those who are able to avoid big temptations should still be humble enough to still be aware of the dangers of small temptations. What do you think about this? Why do you think he emphasized this?
  3. Reflect on 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” How does this verse shed light on the above reflection?

Our Sunday Visitor Features article on St Francis de Sales

Entitled The Four Stages of Loving by Oblate Father John Crossin, you can read the article here: