THE SPIRITUAL LIFE
A TREATISE ON ASCETICAL AND MYSTICAL THEOLOGY
by the Very Reverend Adolphe Tanquerey, S.S., D.D.
CHAPTER IV: The Struggle against the Capital Sins1
#818. At bottom this struggle is but a species of mortification.
In order to complete the purification of the soul and prevent it from
relapsing into sin, we must set upon the source of the evil in us, which is
the threefold concupiscence. The general characteristics of this we have
already described in numbers 193-209; but being the root of the seven
capital sins, these evil inclinations must be known and attacked. They are
tendencies rather than sins; however, they are called sins, because they
lead to sins; they are termed capital, because they are the fountain-head
or source of other sins.
These tendencies can be referred to the threefold concupiscence in this
way: from pride are born vain-glory, envy, and anger, from the
concupiscence of the flesh issue gluttony, lust, and sloth, lastly, the
concupiscence of the eyes is one with avarice or the inordinate love of
n1. CASSIAN, "De coebiorum institutis," 1. V, e. I, P. L., XLIX, 202 and
foll.; "Collationes," coll. V, c. X, ibid., 621 and foll.; ST. JOHN
CLIMACUS, "Scala Paradisi," XXI I, P. G. LXXXVIII, 948 and foll.; ST.
GREGORY THE GREAT, "Moral.," 1 XXXI, c. XLV,- P, L., LXXVI, 620 and foll.;
ST. THOMAS, I-II, q. 84, a. 3-4; "De Malo," q. 8, a. 1; ST. BONAVENTURE "In
II. Sent.," dist. XLII, dub. III; NOEL ALEXANDRE, "De Peccatis" (Theol.
cursus Migne. XI, 707-1168; ALVAREZ DE PAZ, t. II. Lib. I, P. 2, De
extinctione vitiorum; PHIL. DE LA STE TRINITE, P. I, Tr II, disc. II And
III, De vitiorum eradicatione et passionum mortificatione; CARD. BONA,
"Manuductio ad caelum," cap. III-IX; ALIBERT, "Physiologie des Passions,"
1827; DESCURET, "La Medecine des Passions," Paris, 1860; PAULHAN, "Les
Caracteres," Paris, 1902; LAUMONlER, "La Therapeutique des peches
capitaux," Paris, Alcan 1922.
#819. The struggle against the seven capital sins has always had a
prominent place in Christian spirituality. Cassian treats of it at length
in his "Conferences" and in his "Institutes;"1 he enumerates eight instead
of seven, because he distinguishes pride from vain-glory. St. Gregory the
Great2 clearly distinguishes the seven capital sins, all of which he traces
to pride. St. Thomas also traces them all to pride and shows how they can
be logically classified, if account is taken of the special ends towards
which man is drawn. The will may be drawn towards an object by a twofold
motion, the search for some apparent good, or flight from an apparent evil.
The apparent good sought by the will may be 1) raise or honor, a spiritual
good, pursued in an inordinate manner by persons who are vain; 2) the
preservation of self or of the race, corporal goods, sought after
excessively by gluttonous and impure persons respectively; 3) external
things, loved to excess by such as are avaricious. The apparent evil from
which we flee may consist . 1) in the effort required for the attainment of
good, which effort the slothful evade, 2) in the prospect of lost prestige,
which both the jealous and the irritable dread, though in different ways.
Thus, the differentiation of the seven capital sins is based on the seven
special ends which the sinner has in view.
We shall follow that division which shows the connection between the
capital vices and our threefold concupiscence.
n1. "De coenobiorum institutis," Lib. V, C, I; "Collat.," col. V, e. X.
n2. "Moral.," C. XXXI, c. 45, P. L., LXXVI, 620-622.
ART. I. PRIDE AND THE VICES RELATED THERETO1
#820. Pride is a deviation of that legitimate sentiment which prompts us to
prize what is good in us, and to seek the esteem of others in the measure
in which this is useful. There is no doubt that we can and that we must
prize the good which God has given us, acknowledging that He is its first
principle and last end. This is a sentiment that honors God and makes for
self-respect. We may also desire that others see and appreciate the good
that is in us and that they give glory to God for it, just as we ourselves
must in turn recognize and appreciate their good qualities. This mutual
regard fosters good relations among men.
However, these two tendencies may either go astray, or go beyond due
limits. At times we forget that God is the source of these gifts, and we
attribute them to ourselves. This constitutes a disorder, for it denies, at
least implicitly, that God is our first principle. In like manner we are
tempted to act for self, or to gain the esteem of others, instead of acting
for God, and of referring to Him all the honor. This is again a disorder,
for it denies, at least in the same implicit manner, that God is our last
end. Such is the twofold disorder found in this vice. We can, then, define
pride as an inordinate love of self, which causes us to consider ourselves,
explicitly or implicitly, as our first beginning and last end. It is a
species of idolatry, for we make gods of ourselves, as Bossuet remarks (n.
204). The better to combat pride, we shall expose: (1) the principal forms
it takes, (2) the faults it engenders, (3) its malice, (4) the remedies to
n1. ST. THOMAS, IIa , q. 162, q. 132; "de Malo," q. 8-9: BOSSUET, "Tr. de
la Concupiscence," c. 10-23; "Sermon sur l'Ambition" BOURDALOUE, "Careme,"
Serm. pour le mercredi de la 2e sem.; ALILERT, op. cit., t. I, p. 23-57,
DESCURET, op. cit., t. II, p. 191-240; PAULHAN, "Les Caracteres," p. 167-
BEAUDENOM, "The Path of Humility;" THOMAS, "L'Education des sentiments,"
Paris, Alcan, 1904, p 113-124, 133-148; LAUMONIER, op. cit., C. VII.
I . The Principal Forms of Pride
#821. (1) The first form of pride is to regard oneself, explicitly or
implicitly, as one's own first principle.
A) There are but few who go as far as to consider themselves explicitly as
their own first principle.
a) This is the sin of atheists, who willfully deny God, because they want
no master, "No God, no Master" Of such the Psalmist speaks when he says
"The fool hath said in his heart: there is no God."1 b) This was,
equivalently, the sin of Lucifer, who, desiring to be a rule unto himself,
refused to submit to God; the sin of our first parents, who wishing to be
like God wanted to know of themselves what is good and what is evil, the
sin of heretics, who like Luther refused to acknowledge the authority of
the Church established by God; the sin of rationalists, who in their pride
of intellect refuse to submit their reason to faith. This is also the sin
of certain intellectuals who, too proud to accept the traditional
interpretation of dogmas, attenuate and deform them to make them conform to
their own views.
n1. Ps. XIII, I.
#822. B) A greater number fall into this fault implicitly by acting as if
the natural and supernatural gifts which God has freely bestowed upon them
were in every sense their own. True, they recognize in theory that God is
their first principle, but in practice they esteem themselves beyond
measure, as if they were the source of the qualities they possess.
a) Some there are who delight in their qualities and their worth as if
these were due solely to themselves. "The soul," says Bossuet, "seeing its
own beauty, has delighted in itself and has become absorbed in the
contemplation of its own excellence. It has failed for an instant to refer
all it has to God; it has forgotten its own dependence; it has first
centered upon self and then surrendered to it. But in seeking to free
himself from God and the laws of justice, man has become the slave of his
n1. "Tr. on Concupiscence, C. XI.
#823. b) Graver still is the pride of those who, after the manner of the
Stoics, attribute to themselves the virtues they practice; the pride of
those who imagine that the free gifts of God are the wages due their own
merits, or that their good works are more their own that God's, Who in
reality is their principal cause; the pride of those who look complacently
upon such good works, as if these were wholly their own.1
n1. Ibid., C. XXIII; OLIER, "Introd.," C. VII.
#824. C) By the same principle we exaggerate our personal qualities.
a) We close our eyes to our defects, we look at our good qualities through
magnifying glasses, as it were, and we end by attributing to ourselves
qualities we do not possess or, at least, qualities which have only the
appearance of virtue. Thus, we give alms for show and we believe ourselves
charitable when we are simply proud; we fancy we are saints because we
enjoy sensible consolations, or because we have given expression to
beautiful thoughts, or taken good resolutions, whilst in reality we have
not advanced beyond the first few steps on the way to perfection. Others
pride themselves on being broadminded because they make little of small
practices, wishing to sanctify themselves by doing great things. b) From
this there is but one step to an unjust preference of self to others. We
examine their defects with a microscope, and we are scarcely conscious of
our own, we see the mote in the neighbor's eye, but not the beam in our
own. At times we come, like the Pharisee, to despise our brethren,1 at
other times, without going that far, we unjustly lower them in our
estimation, and we believe ourselves above, whilst in reality we are below
them. It is by the selfsame principle that we seek to lord it over our
brethren and have our superiority over them recognized. e) In relation to
Superiors, this pride takes the form of censure and fault-finding,
prompting us to scrutinize minutely all their acts, all their moves; we
want to pass judgment on all things, to control all things. Thus we render
obedience far more difficult for ourselves; we find it hard to submit to
the authority and the decisions of superiors; to ask their permission
becomes a hardship; we aspire to independence, that is, to be ourselves our
own first principle.
n1. Luke XVIII, 9-14.
#825. (2) The second form of pride consists in consider;ng ourselves,
explicitly or implicitly, as our last end, by performing our actions
without referring them to God, and by desiring to be praised for them as if
they were exclusively our work. This fault proceeds from the first, for
whoever looks upon himself as his own first principle wills also to be his
own last end. Here we must recall the distinctions already made.
A) Hardly any one explicitly considers himself as his own last end, except
an atheist or an unbeliever.
B) Yet, many behave in practice as if they shared in this error. a) They
want to be praised, to be complimented upon their good works, as if they
were themselves the principal authors, and as if they were responsible only
to themselves. Instead of referring all to God, they expect congratulations
for success, as if all the honor were due to them. b) They are prompted by
egoism, they act for their own ends, caring little for the glory of God,
and still less for the welfare of their neighbor. They even go so far as to
take for granted that others must organize their lives to please and to
serve them; thus they make themselves the center, and so to speak, the end
toward which others are to gravitate. What else is this if not the
unconscious usurpation of the rights of God? c) There are devout persons
who, without going so far seek self in piety: they complain of God when He
does not flood them with consolations; they pine with grief when in the
midst of dryness, and thus form the false idea that the aim of piety is the
enjoyment of consolations, forgetting that the glory of God must be the
supreme end of all our actions, above all, of prayer and spiritual
#826. We must, then, acknowledge the fact that pride, under one form or the
other, is a very common fault, even among those who follow the path of
perfection, a fault that stays with us through all the stages of the
spiritual life and disappears only when we die. Beginners are hardly aware
of it because their study of self does not reach deep enough. Their
attention must be drawn to this point; the more common forms of this fault
must be indicated to them, so that they may make these the subject of their
II. Defects Born of Pride
The chief ones are presumption, ambition, and vain-glory.
#827. (1) Presumption consists in an inordinate desire and hope whereby we
want to do things which are beyond our strength. It proceeds from too high
an opinion of ourselves, of our natural faculties, of our knowledge, of our
strength, of our virtues.
a) From the intellectual point of view we think ourselves capable of
approaching and solving the most difficult questions, or at least of
undertaking studies which are beyond the reach of our talents. We easily
persuade ourselves that we abound in judgment and wisdom, and instead of
learning how to doubt, we settle with finality the most controverted
questions: b) From the moral point of view we fancy that we are possessed
of sufficient light to be our own guides, and that it is hardly profitable
to consult a spiritual director. We convince ourselves that in spite of
past faults we need fear no relapses, and we imprudently walk into
occasions of sin and then we fall. From this come discouragement and
vexation that often result in fresh falls. c) From the spiritual point of
view, we have but little relish for hidden and mortifying virtues,
preferring those that are more brilliant: instead of building upon the
sound foundation of humility, we dream about greatness of soul, about
strength of character, about a magnanimous spirit, about apostolic zeal,
and about the imaginary successes we lay in store for the future. The first
serious temptations, however, make us aware that the will is still weak and
wavering. At times we make little of the ordinary ways of prayer, and of
what are called the little exercises of piety, aspiring to extraordinary
graces while we are still only at the beginning of the spiritual life.
#828. (2) This presumption, added to pride, begets ambition, that is to
say, the inordinate love of honors, of dignities, of authority over others.
Because we presume overmuch on our strength, and because we consider
ourselves superior to others, we want to dominate them, to rule them and
impose upon them our ideas.
This disorder, says St. Thomas,1 may show itself in three ways: 1) One
seeks for undeserved honors, honors which are above one; 2) one seeks them
for oneself, for one's own glory, and not for the glory of God; 3) one
takes delight in honors for their own sake, without making them redound to
the good of others, contrary to the order established by God Who requires
superiors to procure the welfare of those under them.
This ambition invades every sphere of life: 1) the political realm, where
men aspire to rule others, and that ofttimes at the price of so many
meannesses, so many compromises, so many questionable practices, in order
to secure the votes of constituents, 2) the intellectual domain, wherein
men seek stubbornly to impose their ideas on others even with regard to
questions open to free discussion; 3) civil life, where men vie for the
first places,2 high office, and the plaudits of the crowd; 4) even the
ecclesiastical state is not exempt, for as Bossuet3 remarks, "How many
safeguards have not been found necessary, even in ecclesiastical and
religious elections, in order to curb ambition to prevent factions,
intrigues, underhand dealings, and the most criminal pledges and practices,
simoniacal contracts, and other such irregularities too common in these
matters? We cannot boast that these safeguards have uprooted such abuses,
they have hardly done more than to conceal or to restrain them in part."
And, as St. Gregory4 notes, are there not those, even in the ranks of the
clergy, who want to be called doctors, and eagerly seek the first places
and the praise of men? "They seek to appear learned, they long to excel
others, and, as Truth bears witness, they crave the first salutations in
public, the first places at table, the highest seats in councils."
This fault, then, in more general than one would at first sight believe,
and is closely allied with vanity.
n1. "Sum Theol.," IIa IIae, q. 131, a. I.
n2. It is not solely among the learned and the wealthy that this defect is
found Bossuet speaks (Tr. "on Concupiscence", C. XVI) of the country-folk
who peevishly contend for the more honorable places in the churches, going
so far as to say that they will cease to attend divine services unless
their wishes are given heed.
n3. "Tr. on Concupisc.," C. XVI.
n4. "Pastoral," P. I, C. I, P. L, LXXVII. 14.
#829. (3) Vanity is an inordinate love for the esteem of others. It differs
from pride, which is pleasure taken in one's own excellence; it generally
springs from pride. When one has conceived too high an esteem for oneself
one naturally desires the approbation of others.
#830. A) The Malice of Vanity. We may rightfully desire the esteem of
others, if we wish that our qualities, natural or supernatural, be
acknowledged in order that God be glorified and that our influence for good
be extended. Such a desire is not sinful, for it is in order that what is
good should be esteemed, provided we acknowledge God as the author of that
good and that He alone must be given the praise for it.1 The most that can
be said against such desires is that it is dangerous to center our thoughts
upon them, because we run the risk of seeking the esteem of others for
The disorder, then, consists in wanting to be held in esteem for one's own
sake, without referring this honor to God, Who has placed in us whatever
good we possess; it may also consist in wanting to be esteemed for the sake
of vain things, undeserving of praise; or it may consist in seeking the
esteem of those whose judgment is worthless, of worldlings for instance,
who hold in esteem only vain things.
No one has given a better description of this fault than St. Francis de
Sales: "We call that glory vain which we assume to ourselves, either for
what is not in us, or for what is in us, and belongs to us, but deserves
not that we should glory in it. The nobility of our ancestors, the favor of
great men, and popular honor, are things, not in us, but either in our
progenitors, or in the esteem of other men. Some become proud and insolent,
either by riding a good horse, wearing a feather In their hat, or by being
dressed in a fine suit of clothes; but who does not see the folly of this?
for if there be any glory in such things, the glory belongs to the horse,
the bird, and the tailor... Others value themselves for a well-trimmed
beard, for curled locks, or soft hands; or because they can dance, sing or
play, but are not these effeminate men, who seek to raise their reputation
by so frivolous and foolish things? Others, for a little learning, would be
honored and respected by the whole world, as if every one ought to become
their pupil, and account them his masters. These are called pedants. Others
strut like peacocks, contemplating their beauty and think themselves
admired by every one. All this is extremely vain, foolish, and impertinent;
and the glory which is raised on so weak foundations is justly esteemed
vain and frivolus."2
n1. Cf. ST. THOMAS, IIa IIae, q 132, a. I.
n2. "Devout Life," III, C, IV.
#831. B) Faults that spring from vanity. Vanity produces many faults which
are but its outward manifestation. The principal ones are boasting,
ostentation and hypocrisy.
1) Boasting is the habit of speaking of self or of those things that can
redound to our advantage with a view to gaining the esteem of others. There
are those who speak of themselves, of their family, of their success with a
candor that amuses their hearers; others cleverly turn the trend of
conversation to a subject wherein they can display their knowledge, others
timidly speak of their defects, harboring the secret hope that these will
be excused and their good qualities thereby made more apparent.1
2) Ostentation consists in drawing to self the attention of others by a
certain way of acting, by pompous display, and by singularity.
3) Hypocrisy takes on the outward appearance of virtue to cover very real
n1. "Spirit of St. Francis de Sales," c. XIX.
III. The Malice of Pride
To form a right idea of this malice we may consider pride in itself and in
#832. (1) In itself: A) Pride properly so called, that pride which
consciously and willfully usurps, even if implicitly, the rights of God, is
a grievous sin, nay it is the gravest of sins, says St. Thomas,1 because it
is a refusal to submit to God's sovereign will.
a) To want to be independent, to refuse obedience to God or to His lawful
representatives, in a serious matter, constitutes a mortal sin, since one
thereby revolts against God, our rightful Sovereign.
b) To attribute to oneself what evidently comes from God, and especially
the gifts of grace, constitutes likewise a grievous fault, for this is to
deny implicitly that God is the first principle of whatever good is in us.
Some are guilty of this, for example, those who say that they have "made
themselves what they are."
c) One sins gravely, again, when one wants to act for oneself to the
exclusion of God, for this is to deny God His right to be our last end.
#833. B) Mitigated pride, which indeed acknowledges God as the first
principle or last end but does not render Him all that is due to Him, and
implicitly robs Him of a part of His glory, is without doubt a venial
fault. Such is the fault of those who glory in their good qualities or
their virtues, as if they were convinced that all is theirs in their own
right. It is also the fault of the presumptuous, of the vain, of the
ambitious, who, however, do nothing against a divine or a human law in
serious matter. At all events, such sins can become mortal if they lead to
acts that are grievously reprehensible. Thus, vanity, which in itself is
but a venial fault, becomes a grievous one when it causes us to contract
debts which we are unable to pay, or when it seeks to stir in others an
inordinate love. Pride, then, must be examined also in its results.
#834. (2) In its effects: A) Unrestrained pride produces at times
disastrous effects. How many wars have been started through the pride of
rulers and sometimes through the pride of nations themselves!1 Without
going that far, how many family discussions, how many personal hatreds are
not due to this vice? The Fathers rightly teach that it is the root of all
other vices and that it vitiates many a virtuous act, since it causes men
to perform them from selfish motives.2
n1. ST. CHRYSOSTOM, "im Ep. II ad. Thess.," C. I, homil. I, n. 2, P. G.,
n2. ST. GREGORY, "Moral.," I, XXXIV, c. 33, n. 48, P. L., LXXVI, 744.
#835. B) Taking the point of view of perfection, the one with which we are
concerned, we can say that pride is the archenemy of perfection because it
creates in the soul a barren waste and is the source of numerous sins. a)
It deprives us of many graces and much merit:
1) It deprives us of many graces, because God Who is bountiful with His
grace to the humble, withholds it from the proud: "God resisteth the proud
and giveth grace to the humble."1 Let us weigh well these words: God
resisteth the proud, "Because", says Father Olier, 2 "the proud man,
challenging God to His face, is resisted by the Almighty in his insolent
and horrible pretensions; and, since God wills to remain what He is, He
lays low and destroys such as rise up against Him."
2) It deprives us of much merit. One of the essential conditions for
meriting is purity of intention. But the proud man acts for self or in
order to please men, instead of acting for God, and thus deserves the
reproach addressed to the Pharisees, who paraded their good works before
men and who for this reason could expect no recompense from God: "Take heed
that you do not your justice before men to be seen by men: otherwise you
shall not have reward of your Father who is in heaven.... Amen, I say to
you, they have received their reward."3
n1. James, IV, 6.
2. "Introduction," c. VI.
n3. Matt., VI, 1-2.
#836. b) Pride is likewise a source of many faults: 1) Personal faults:
through presumption one exposes oneself to danger and falls; through pride
one fails to ask earnestly for the graces one needs and likewise falls;
then come discouragement and the temptation to conceal sins in confession.
2) Faults against the neighbor: through pride one is unwilling to yield,
even when in the wrong; one is caustic in speech; one indulges in harsh and
heated discussions which bring dissension and discord; hence, acrimonious
words, even unjust ones, against one's rivals in order to belittle them;
hence, bitter criticism against Superiors and refusal to obey their orders.
#837. c) Finally, pride is a source of unhappiness to those habitually
given to it. Because we want to excel in all things and lord it over
others, we have neither peace nor contentment, for we know no rest as long
as we have not succeeded in vanquishing our antagonists and, since this is
never fully accomplished, we are troubled, ill at ease and unhappy.
IV. The Remedies against Pride
#838. We have already said (n. 207) that the great remedy against pride is
the acknowledgment of the fact that God is the Author of all good, and that
therefore to Him alone belongs all honor and glory. Of ourselves we are but
nothingness and sin, and hence merit nothing but forgetfulness and contempt
#839. (1) We are but nothingness. Beginners must form this conviction
through meditation by pondering leisurely the following thoughts: I am
nothing, I can do nothing, I am worth nothing.
A) I am nothing.--True, it has pleased the divine goodness to choose me out
of millions of possible beings, to give me my existence, to endow me with
life, with a spiritual and immortal soul, and for this I am bound to thank
Him daily. Yet, a) I came from nothing, and by the very force of my being I
tend towards nothingness, whereto I should surely return were it not for
the abiding action of my Maker which sustains me. My being, then, is not
mine, but is wholly God's, and it is to Him that I must render homage.
b) This being God has given me is a living reality, a great boon for which
I shall never be able to return Him due thanks. Yet, wondrous as this being
of mine is, side by side with the God-head it is as mere nothingness: "And
my substance is as nothing before Thee,"1 for it is so imperfect. 1) This
being is a contingent being, which could well cease to exist without
detracting anything from the world's perfection. 2) It is a borrowed being,
given to me on the explicit condition of remaining under the sway of God's
supreme dominion. 3) It is a frail being, unable to subsist of itself, a
being that ever needs the unceasing sustaining power of its Maker. Such
being is, therefore, essentially dependent upon God, and has no other
reason for its existence than that of giving glory to its Creator. To
forget this dependence, to act as if our good qualities were absolutely our
own and to boast of them, is an error hard to conceive; it is madness and
n1. Ps. XXXVIII, 6.
#840. What we say of man considered in the order of nature is even truer of
him in the order of grace, whereby we share in the life of God, wherefrom
issue all our worth and all our grandeur, that grace which is essentially a
free gift of God and of Jesus Christ, which we cannot for long keep without
the help of God, and wherein we cannot grow without His supernatural
concurrence (n. 126-128). For this especially we must say: "Thanks be to
God for His unspeakable gift."1 What ingratitude and injustice to attribute
to self the least part of that gift essentially divine! "What hast thou
that thou hast not received? And if thou hast received, why dost thou
glory, as if thou hadst not received it?"2
n1. II Cor., IX, 15.
n2. I Cor., IV, 7.
#841. B) Of myself I can do nothing. True, I have received from God
wondrous powers that enable me to know and love truth and goodness. These
faculties have been perfected by the supernatural virtues and the gifts of
the Holy Ghost. These gifts of nature and of grace blending so harmoniously
and complementing one another so perfectly surpass all wonder. Yet, of
myself, of my own accord, I can do nothing to set them in motion to work
out their perfection. I can do nothing in the natural order without the
concurrence of God; I can do nothing in the supernatural order without
actual grace, not even conceive a good thought unto salvation, nor a desire
supernaturally good. Knowing this, could I take pride in those natural and
supernatural powers as if they were entirely my own? Here again there would
be ingratitude and madness and injustice.
842. C) I am worth nothing. In truth, if I consider what God has placed
within me, what He works in me through His grace, I am worth a great deal,
I am beyond price: "For you are bought with a great price "1 .... You are
worth what God is worth." I am worth the price which was paid for me and
the price paid for me was the blood of God Himself i Does the glory of my
redemption and of my sanctification belong to me or to the Almighty? There
can be no uncertain answer to such question. But still, urges my vanquished
self-love, I have something that is my own, something that invests me with
greatness, my free co-operation with God's concurrence and His grace.
Indeed, we have therein our share, yet not the principal share. That free
consent is the mere exercise of faculties freely bestowed on us by God, and
at the very moment we give it, God is working within us as its principal
cause: "For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish."2
Besides, for the one time that we agree to follow the impulse of grace, how
many times are there when we resist grace or co-operate only half-
heartedly? Truly, there is nothing wherein we should glory; rather there is
cause for humiliation.
When a great artist creates a masterpiece, it is to him that we attribute
it and not to the third or fourth rate artists who have been his
collaborators. With far greater reason must we give to God the credit for
our merits as their first and principal cause, since God, as the Church
says with St. Augustine, but "crowns His own gifts when he crowns our
Therefore, from whatever point of view we see ourselves, whether we
consider the great worth of the gifts wherewith we have been endowed, or
the great value of our merits themselves, we find no cause for boasting,
but cause for paying tribute to God and for thanking Him from our inmost
heart. Moreover, we find that we have to beg His pardon for the bad use we
have made of His gifts.
n1. I Cor., VI, 20.
n2. Phil., II, 13.
#843. (2) I am a sinner, and as such I merit contempt, all the contempt
which it may please God to heap upon me. To convince ourselves of this, it
suffices to recall what we have said about mortal and venial sin.
A) If I have committed but a single mortal sin, I have merited eternal
humiliation, since I have merited hell. True, I entertain the hope that God
has pardoned me, yet it remains none the less true that I have criminally
assailed the majesty of God, that I have attempted a species of deicide,
perpetrated a sort of spiritual suicide (n. 719), and that in order to
atone to the Divine Majesty for that offense, I must be ready to accept,
nay, even to wish for every possible humiliation, every slander, every
calumny, every injury, every insult. All this is far below the just deserts
of him who has offended a single time the infinite majesty of God. And if I
have offended against it a great many times, what must be my resignation,
nay, my joy when the occasion offers to expiate my sins by enduring a shame
that lasts but for a short time!
#844. B) We have all committed venial sins and, no doubt, deliberate ones,
thus making a willing choice in favor of our own wills and our own pleasure
as against the will and the glory of the Almighty. This, we have said, (n.
715) constitutes an affront to the Divine Majesty, an offense meriting such
abject humiliations, that, should we spend the whole of our lives in the
exercise of humility, we should never be able of ourselves to give back to
God the glory that we have unjustly taken from Him. If this way of speaking
seems to us an exaggeration, let us recall the tears and the austerities
which the Saints, who had been guilty of but venial faults, thought always
insufficient for the cleansing of their souls and inadequate to repair the
outrages offered to the majesty of God. These Saints saw this in a clearer
light than we do, and if we think otherwise it is because we are blinded by
As sinners, therefore, far from seeking the esteem of others, we must
despise ourselves and accept all the humiliations that God may see fit to
#845. Envy is at once a passion and one of the capital sins. As a passion
it consists in a sort of deep sadness experienced in the sensitive part of
our nature because of the good we see in others. This sensitive impression
is accompanied by a contraction of the heart, slowing the activity of this
organ and producing a feeling of anguish.
Here we are mainly concerned with envy inasmuch as it is a capital sin, and
we shall explain: (1) its nature, (2) its malice, (3) its remedies.
n1. ST. CYPRIAN, "De zelo et livore," P. L., IV, 637-652; ST. GREGORY,
"Moral.," 1. V, c. 46, P. L., LXXV, 727-730; ST. THOMAS, II-II, q. 36; "De
Malo," q. 10; ALIBERT, op. cit., t. I, p. 331-340; DESCURET, t. II, p. 241-
274; LAUMONIER, op. cit., C. V.
#846. (1) The Nature of Envy. A) Envy is a tendency to be saddened by
another's good as if that good constituted an affront to our own
superiority. Often it coincides with a desire of seeing the neighbor
deprived of the particular good that offends us.
This vice proceeds from pride, which can bear neither superior nor rival.
When we are persuaded of our own superiority, we are saddened to see others
better gifted than we are or, with no greater gifts than ours, succeeding
better than we do. The object of envy is chiefly some brilliant quality;
yet, with men of a serious turn of mind envy bears also upon solid
qualities and even upon virtue.
This fault manifests itself in the pain we experience upon hearing the
praises of others, and in the subsequent attempt we make to depreciate this
good opinion by criticizing those that are thus commended.
#847. B) Envy is often confounded with jealousy. They differ, however, in
that the latter consists in an excessive love of our own good accompanied
by the fear lest we be deprived of it by others. A student holding the
first place in class, upon noting the progress made by a classmate, becomes
jealous of him because he fears the latter may take away his rank. If we
enjoy the affection of a friend and we fear his affection may be alienated
by a rival friend, we become jealous of him. A man who has a large
clientele, fearing lest it be reduced by a competitor, may likewise become
jealous. Hence arises the jealousy at times abounding among professionals,
among writers, and sometimes even among priests. The difference between
envy and jealousy, to put it briefly, is this: we are envious of another's
good, and jealous of our own.
C) There is also a difference between envy and emulation. The latter is a
praiseworthy sentiment, urging us to imitate, to equal, and, if possible,
to surpass the good qualities of others, but always by means that are fair.
#848. (2) Malice of Envy. We can make a study of this malice in itself and
in its effects.
A) In itself, envy is by nature a mortal sin, because it is directly
opposed to the virtue of charity which requires us to rejoice in the good
fortune of others. The more important the good we envy, the graver is our
sin. Thus, says St. Thomas,1 to make envy bear upon the spiritual goods of
the neighbor, to be saddened at his spiritual progress or his apostolic
success is a very grave sin. This is true only when these envious impulses
are fully consented to, however, often they are mere emotional impressions,
or at most, feelings in which there is but little reflection and will.
These latter constitute only a venial fault.
n1. "Sum. Theol.," IIa IIae, q. 36, a. 4, ad z.
#849. B) In its effects envy is at times very culpable:
a) It stirs within us sentiments of hatred: we run the risk of conceiving a
hatred for those whom we envy or of whom we feel jealous and, as a result,
of speaking ill of them, of blackening their character, of calumniating
them, of wishing them evil.
b) It tends to sow discord, not only between strangers, but between related
families, and even among members of the same family. We need only to recall
the history of Joseph and his brothers. These dissensions may go very far
towards creating enmities and scandals. At times envy divides the Catholics
of a given region to the great detriment of the Church.
c) It urges men on to the immoderate quest for riches and for honors: in
order to surpass those whom we envy, we indulge in overtaxing work, take
steps of a more or less questionable nature, by which we sin against
loyalty and even against justice.
d) It disturbs our peace of soul: we know no peace nor tranquillity as long
as we do not succeed in eclipsing, in subjugating our rivals, and since
this happens but seldom, we live in perpetual anguish.
#850. (3) The Remedies For Envy. They are negative or positive.
A) The negative means consist: a) in scorning the very first intimations of
envy and of jealousy that arise in the heart, in crushing such sentiments
as something vile, as one would crush a viper; b) in distracting the mind,
by occupying ourselves with any other thing, and when calm returns by
constantly bearing in mind that the good qualities of our neighbor do not
lessen ours, but are a stimulus to imitation.
#851. B) Among the positive means, two are especially important.
a) The first is drawn from the fact of our incorporation into Christ: we
are all brethren, members of a mystical body the head of which is Christ;
the good qualities and the attainments of one member redound to all the
others. Instead, then, of being saddened at the superiority of our brethren
we must rejoice, according to the teaching of St. Paul,1 since their
superiority contributes to the common good and to our own particular
welfare. If it be the virtues of another that we envy, "instead of bearing
them envy and jealousy on account of those virtues, as occurs often through
the suggestion of the evil one and of self-love, you should unite to the
Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, honoring, in Him the
source of those virtues, and begging of Him the grace to share and partake
therein. You will see how useful and how profitable such practice is to
n.1 Rom.,.XII, 15, 16.
n2. OLIER, "Cat. for Int. Life," II, Lesson XIII.
#852. b) The second means consists in cultivating that noble and Christian
sentiment of emulation, which prompts us to imitate and even surpass the
virtues of our neighbor, with the help of God's grace.
In order that emulation be good and remain free from envy, it must be: 1)
right in its object, that is to say, it must bear not on the successes, but
the virtues of others, and this in order to imitate them. 2) It must be
worthy in its motives, seeking not to vanquish others, humiliate them,
bring them under subjection, but to make us better, in order that God may
receive greater honor and the Church greater prestige. 3) It must be fair
in the means it employs to attain its ends not intrigue, not subterfuge nor
any other unlawful proceedings; but effort, labor, the right use of the
Thus understood, emulation is an effective remedy against envy, since it
works harm to no one and is at the same time an excellent stimulus. For to
consider as models the best among our brethren in order to follow in their
steps or to go even further than they do, is in reality to acknowledge our
own imperfections and to seek to remedy them by profiting by the example of
those around us. It is to imitate St. Paul, who invited his disciples to be
imitators of himself as he was of Christ;1 it is to follow the same
Apostle's advice to the Christians: "Let us consider one another to provoke
unto charity and to good works;"2 it is to enter into the spirit of the
Church, which, in proposing to us the Saints for our imitation, provokes us
to a high and hallowed emulation. Thus, what would have been envy, proves
to be an occasion for the cultivation of virtue.
n1. I Cor., XI, 1.
n2. Hebr., X, 24.
The vice of anger is a perversion of that instinctive feeling that prompts
us, upon attack, to resist force with force. We shall speak of: (1) its
nature, (2) its malice, (3) its remedies.
n1. ST. GREGORY, "Moral.," 1. V, c. 45, P. L., LXXV, 727-730; ST. THOM.,
IIa IIae, q. 158; "De Malo," q. 12; DESCURET, op. cit., t. II, 1-57;
THOMAS, op. cit., ch. IX, p. 94-103; LAUMONIER, op. cit., ch VI.
I. The nature of Anger
#853. There is a passion of anger and a sentiment of anger.
(1) Anger considered as a passion is a violent need of reaction caused by
physical or moral suffering or annoyance. This vexation excites a violent
emotion which arouses our energies to overcome the difficulty. We are then
prone to vent our anger upon persons, animals and things.
There are two principal forms of anger: the redruge of the strong, and the
white rage of the weak. In the first kind of anger the heart throbs
violently and pushes the blood to the surface; breathing becomes rapid, the
face reddens, the neck swells, the veins expand under the skin, the hair
stands on end, the eyes sparkle and bulge out of their sockets, the
nostrils widen and speech becomes raucous and halting, the muscles gather
strength, the whole bodily frame is set for the onslaught and an
irresistible motion strikes, breaks, or violently brushes aside the
obstacle. White rage causes the heart to contract; breathing becomes
difficult, the face assumes a death-like pallor, a cold sweat oozes from
the brow, the jaws clench, and the person keeps an ominous silence.
However, such pent up agitation ends by bursting forth into a rage and
finds an outlet in the discharge of violent blows.
#854. (2) Anger as a sentiment consists in a vehement desire to repel and
punish an aggressor.
A) There is a lawful sentiment of anger, a righteous indignation, which is
the ardent, but rational desire to visit upon the guilty a just
retribution. Thus it was that Our Lord was roused to anger against the
money-changers whose traffic defiled His Father's house,1 whilst on the
other hand Heli, the high-priest, was severely reproved for not having
curbed the shameful conduct of his sons.
That anger be legitimate, it must be: a) just as to its object, seeking to
punish only those that deserve punishment, and only in the measure in which
they have merited it; b) tempered by moderation in its execution, going no
further than the offense demands and adhering to the requirements of
justice, C) animated by motives of charity, not degenerating into
sentiments of hatred, but aiming solely at the restoration of order and the
amendment of the guilty. If any of these conditions are lacking, there is
moral guilt. Lawful anger belongs chiefly to those in authority, like
parents and superiors, yet it is at times the right and the duty of those
in the ranks to resort to it in order to defend their common interests and
prevent the ascendancy of the wicked, for there are men whom kindness fails
to move and whom the fear of punishment alone can touch.
n1. John, II, 13-17.
#855. B) Anger as a capital vice is a violent and inordinate desire of
punishing others, regardless of the three conditions we have noted. Often
anger is accompanied by hatred, which seeks not merely to repel aggression
but to take revenge. Such a sentiment is more deliberate, more lasting, and
has, therefore, more serious consequences.
#856. (3) There are degrees of intensity in anger: a) at first, it consists
in a mere impulse of impatience; the least annoyance, the least failure
elicits a show of temper. b) This is followed by agitation which produces
undue irritation and which manifests dissatisfaction by uncontrolled
gestures. c) At times anger reaches the stage of violence, culminating not
only in words but even in blows. d) It can develop into fury, which is
temporary insanity: in this stage one is no longer master of self, one
breaks forth into incoherent speech and into such wild gesticulation that
it would seem real insanity. e) Lastly, anger at times degenerates into
implacable hatred, breathing vengeance, and going so far as to desire death
to the adversary. It is important to discern these degrees of anger in
order to estimate its malice.
II. The Malice of Anger
It may be considered in itself and in its effects.
#857. (1) In order to determine the exact malice of anger considered in
itself we must make important distinctions:--
A) When anger simply consists in a transient impulse of passion, it is of
itself a venial sin, because it exceeds proper measure, but it is only a
venial sin because, as we presuppose, there is no violation of the great
virtues of justice or charity. However, there are instances when anger is
so intense that self-control is lost and grave insult is offered to the
neighbor. If these impulses, even though born of passion, are deliberate
and willful they constitute a grievous fault; but often this is not the
#858. B) Anger that goes as far as hatred and rancor, when deliberate and
willful, is of itself a mortal sin, for it grievously violates charity and
often justice. It is in this sense that Our Lord says: "But I say to you
that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the
judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger
of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of
hell fire."1 Still, if this impulse of hatred is not fully deliberate, the
fault will only be venial.
n1. Matth., V, 22.
#859. (2) The effects of anger when not repressed are at times terrible.
A) Seneca has described them in expressive words. He attributes to anger
treasons, murders, poisonings, divisions in families, dissensions and civil
wars with all their horrible aftermath.1 Even when anger does not reach
such extremes, it is the source of a great number of faults, because it
disturbs the peace of families and gives rise to fearful enmities.
n1. "De ira," 1. I, n. 2.
860. B) From the point of view of perfection, it is, St. Gregory1 tells us,
a great obstacle to spiritual progress, for if it is not curbed it makes us
lose: 1) good Judgment, mental poise; 2) gentleness which is the charm of
social relations; 3) the sense of Justice, for passion blinds us to the
rights of others; 4) the spirit of recollection, so indispensable to an
intimate union with God, to peace of soul, to a ready compliance with the
inspirations of grace.
n1. "Moral.," 1. c., P. L, LXXV, 724.
III. Remedies against Anger
These must attack the passion of anger and the sentiment of hatred which it
at times engenders.
#861. (1) We must make use of every means at our disposal in order to
overcome the passion of anger.
A) Physical hygiene offers some means that combine to prevent or to soothe
anger, such as correct diet, lukewarm baths, abstention from stimulants and
particularly from intoxicants. Such hygienic measures have importance in
this matter because of the close union that exists between body and soul.
However, account must be taken of temperament and health, and therefore
prudence demands the advice of a physician.1
n1. Cf. DESCURET, "La Medecine des Passions;" J. LAUMONIER, "La
therapeutique... p. 167-174.
#862. B) Withal, moral hygiene is even better. a) A good preventive of
anger is to acquire the habit of reflecting before acting so as not to
allow ourselves to be swept away by the first assaults of passion. This is
uphill work, but most effective. b) When despite all, this passion has
taken our heart by surprise, "it is better to drive it away speedily than
enter into a parley; for, if we give it ever so little leisure, it will
become mistress of the place, like the serpent, who easily draws in his
whole body where he can once get in his bead.... You must at the first
alarm, speedily muster your forces; not violently, not tumultuously, but
mildly, and yet seriously."1 Otherwise, whilst trying to repress anger with
impetuosity we should but add to our perturbation. c) The better to check
anger, it is useful to divert the mind, that is to say, to turn our
thoughts to anything except the one thing liable to excite it. Therefore,
we must banish all thought of past injuries, all suspicion, etc. d) "We
must invoke the assistance of God when we find ourselves excited to wrath,
in imitation of the Apostles when they were tossed by the wind and the
storm upon the waters; for He will command our passions to cease, and a
great calm shall ensue."2
n1. ST. FRANCIS DE SALES, "Introd. to a Devout Life," P. III, C. VIII.
n2. ST. FR. DE SALES, loc. cit.
#863. (2) When anger gives rise to sentiments of hatred, of rancor, or of
vengeance, we can uproot these only by charity based on the love of God. At
such times we must remind ourselves that we are all children of the same
heavenly Father, all incorporated into the same Christ, all called to the
same eternal happiness, and that these great truths exclude every sentiment
of hatred. Therefore: a) we should recall the words of the Lord's Prayer:
"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,"
and since we crave divine pardon, we should more willingly pardon our
enemies. b) We should not lose sight of the example of Our Lord, still
calling Judas His friend in the very moment of his treason, praying on the
Cross for His executioners, and we should ask Him to give us the strength
we need to forgive and forget. c) We should avoid all thoughts of injuries
received and of what relates to them. Perfect souls pray for the conversion
of those who have hurt them, and in this prayer they find a wonderful balm
for the wounds of their souls.
Such are the chief means given us to triumph over the first three capital
sins, pride, envy and anger. We now turn to consider the faults that have
their source in sensuality: gluttony, lust, and sloth.
ART. II. SINS THAT PROCEED FROM SENSUALITY
Gluttony is the abuse of that legitimate pleasure God has attached to
eating and drinking, which are necessary means of self-preservation. We
shall explain: (1) its nature, (2) its malice, and (3) the remedies against
n1. ST. THOMAS, IIa IIae, q. 148; "de Malo," q. 14; JAUGEY, "De quatuor
virtut. cardin., 1876, p. 569-579; LAUMONIER, op. cit., ch. II.
#864. (1) The Nature of Gluttony. Gluttony is an inordinate love of the
pleasures of the table. The disorder lies in pursuing this satisfaction for
its own sake, in considering it, either explicitly or implicitly, as an end
in itself, as do those "whose God is their belly;"1 or in pursuing the said
delight to excess, at times even to the detriment of health, by
disregarding the rules of sobriety.
n1. "Philip, III, 19.
#865. Theologians point out four different ways in which we may violate
1) Eating when there is no need, eating between meals, and for no other
reason than that of indulging our greed.
2) Seeking delicacies or daintily prepared meats, the more to enjoy their
3) Going beyond either appetite or need, gorging oneself with food or drink
with danger to health.
4) Eating with avidity, with greed, after the manner of certain animals.
This fashion of eating is considered ill-mannered by the world.
#866. (2) The Malice of gluttony comes from the fact that it makes the soul
a slave to the body, it brutalizes man, weakens his intellectual and moral
life, and insensibly paves the way to voluptuous pleasure, which at bottom
is one in kind with it. To determine the malice of gluttony we must make a
A) Gluttony is a grievous fault: a) when it goes to such lengths that for a
notable space of time it incapacitates us for the fulfillment of our duties
of state or for the compliance with divine or ecclesiastical laws, for
example, when it injures our health, when it is the cause of useless
expenditures which endanger the interests of our home, when it makes us
violate the laws of fast or abstinence. b) It is also a grave fault when it
is the cause of other grievous faults.
By way of example: " Excess in eating and drinking" says Father Janvier,1
"paves the way to unchastity, the offspring of gluttony, the lust of the
eyes and ears demanding to be fed with unwholesome shows and licentious
songs, the lust of the imagination and the memory, which search in the past
for impressions apt to enkindle the fire of concupiscence; the lust of the
mind, which, going astray, fastens itself upon unlawful objects, the lust
of the heart, which longs after carnal affections; the lust of the will,
which surrenders to be a slave to sense.... Intemperance at the table leads
to intemperance in speech. How many are the faults committed by the tongue
in the course of those sumptuous and protracted feasts! How many
improprieties....! How many indiscretions! We betray secrets we had pledged
ourselves to keep, professional secrets, sacred trusts, and we deliver to
evil tongues the good name of husband wife and mother, the honor of a
family, and perhaps the future welfare of a nation. How many faults against
justice and against charity are not thus committed! Back-biting calumny and
slander reveal themselves with dismal frankness in their most indefensible
forms.... How many imprudences are committed! We become entangled in
situations in which we cannot remain without outrage to all the laws of
n1. "Careme," 1921, Retraite pascale, Exces de table.
#867. B) Gluttony is a venial fault when one yields to the pleasure of
eating and drinking in an immoderate manner, yet without falling into grave
excess, and without exposing oneself to violate a grave precept. Thus it
would be venially sinful to eat or drink more than is proper in order to
show one's appreciation of a fine repast, or in order to please a friend.
#868. C) From the point of view of perfection, gluttony constitutes a
serious obstacle: 1) It fosters a spirit of immortification, which weakens
the will, whilst it develops a love for sensual pleasure predisposing the
soul to dangerous surrenders. 2) It becomes the source of many faults, by
exciting excessive mirth which leads to dissipation, garrulousness, jokes
of a doubtful character, to lack of restraint and of propriety, and thus
lays the soul bare to the attacks of the evil one. Hence, it is important
that we should combat this vice.
#869. (3) Remedies. Our guiding principle in the struggle against gluttony
is that pleasure is not an end but a means, and that therefore it must be
subjected to right reason enlightened by faith, (n. 193). Faith, however,
tells us that the pleasure of eating and drinking must be sanctified by
purity of intention, moderation and mortification.
1) First of all, we must take our repasts with a right and supernatural
intention, not like the animal that merely seeks its pleasure, not like the
philosopher who goes not beyond a naturally good intention, but as
Christians the better to work for God's glory; in a spirit of gratitude
towards God, Who in His goodness deigns to give us our daily bread; in a
spirit of humility, saying, like St. Vincent de Paul, that we do not
deserve the bread we eat; in a spirit of love, placing our renewed strength
at the service of God and of souls. Thereby we comply with the advice of
St. Paul to the first Christians, an advice recalled in many communities at
the beginning of meals: "Whether you eat or drink... do all to the glory of
n1. I Cor., X, 31.
#870. 2) This purity of intention will make us observe the rules of
sobriety, for wanting to take our food in order to acquire the strength
needed for the fulfillment of our duties of state, we shall avoid all
excess that might compromise our health. Health experts tell us that
"sobriety (or frugality) is the essential condition of physical and moral
vigor. Since we eat to live, we must eat sanely in order to live sanely.
Hence, we must not exceed in food or in drink.... We must leave the table
with a wholesome sensation of sprightliness and vigor, and with our
appetite not completely satiated, thus avoiding the heaviness that comes
from an excess of rich fare."1
We must, however, note that the measure is not the same for all. Some need,
in order to escape tuberculosis, a more abundant diet; others, on the
contrary, to escape arterio sclerosis. must check their appetite. With
regard, then, to the quantity of food one must abide by the advice of a
n1. CAUSTIER, "La Vie et la Sante," p. 115.
#871. The Christian must add to sobriety certain practices of
mortification. A) since it is easy to overstep the mark and to yield too
much to sensuality, we must at times forego certain foods we relish, and
which, though useful, are not necessary. We thereby acquire a certain
ascendancy over sensuality, we free the spirit from slavery to the senses,
and give it more leisure for prayer and study, and we avoid many dangerous
B) An excellent practice is that of accustoming oneself to take no meal
without some element of mortification. Such privations have the advantage
of strengthening the will without injury to health, and are for this reason
generally preferable to greater mortifications which we perform but rarely.
Generous souls add a motive of charity, setting aside a part of their food
for the poor and therefore for Christ living in them. St. Vincent Ferrer1
points out that what we thus set aside must not be waste-matter, but some
choice morsel, no matter how small. Another good practice is the habit of
eating a little of something we dislike.
n1. "La Vie Spirtuelle," IIe Part., ch. III.
#872. C) Among the most beneficial practices of mortification, we place
those that relate to intoxicating beverages. Let us recall the principles
that bear on this matter:
a) In itself the moderate use of alcoholic drinks is not sinful.
b) To abstain from them in a spirit of mortification, or for the sake of
good example, is assuredly most praiseworthy. There are priests and laymen
belonging to social organizations who forego entirely the use of liquor,
the more easily to deter others from its abuse.
C) There are cases when such abstinence is morally necessary to avoid
excess. 1) When through heredity one has a certain inclination towards
intoxicants; for in this case the mere use can develop an almost
irresistible propensity, just as but a spark is needed to set inflammable
matter afire. 2) When one has had the misfortune of contracting the
inveterate habit of drinking to excess; then the only effective remedy will
consist in total abstinence.
#873. (1) The Nature of Lust. Just as God has willed to attach sense-
pleasure to the nutritive functions in order to help man's self-
preservation, so He has attached a special pleasure to the acts whereby the
propagation of the human species is secured.
This pleasure is permissible to married people, provided they use it for
the purpose for which marriage was instituted; outside of this it is
strictly forbidden. In spite of this prohibition, there is in us an
unfortunate tendency, more or less violent, especially from the age of
puberty or adolescence, to indulge in this pleasure even out of lawful
wedlock. This is the tendency that is called lust and which is condemned by
the sixth and ninth commandments:
"Thou shalt not commit adultery. "
"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife."
It is not merely exterior actions that are prohibited, but also interior
acts, fancies, thoughts, desires. And this rightly so, for if one
deliberately dwells upon impure imaginations or thoughts, upon evil
desires, the senses become excited, whilst an organic disturbance is
produced, which is too often but the prelude to actions against purity.
Therefore, if we wish to avoid such acts, we must fight against dangerous
thoughts and fancies.
n1. St. THOM., IIa IIae, q. 153-154; S. ALPHONSUS, 1. III, n. 412-485;
CAPELMAN, "Medicina pastoralis;", ANTONELLI, "Medicina pastoralis," Romae,
1905; SURBLED, "Vit de jeune homme," Paris, 1900; "Vie de jeune fille,"
Paris, 1903; FONSSAGRIVES, "Conseils aux parents et aux maitres sur
l'education de la purete;" MARTINDALE, S.J., "The Difficult Commandment;"
GUIBERT, "Purity;" FOERSTER, "Marriage and the sex problem;" CATTERER-KRUS-
VAN DER DONCKT, "Educating to Purity;" Mgr. DUGOURG, "Sixieme et neuvieme
commandements; Apres la vingtieme annee."
#874. (2) Gravity of faults against purity. A) When one seeks and directly
wills the evil pleasure, there is always mortal sin, for to endanger the
preservation and propagation of the human race is a grave disorder. Now,
were the principle to be admitted that one may seek voluptuous pleasure in
thoughts, in words, or in actions otherwise than in the right use of
marriage, it would be impossible to restrain this passion, the demands of
which increase with the satisfactions accorded, and soon the purpose of the
Creator would be frustrated. This is what experience shows: there are but
too many young people who render themselves incapable of transmitting life,
because they have abused their bodies. Hence, as regards evil pleasure
directly willed, there is no lightness of matter.
B) There are cases in which this pleasure is not directly sought; it may
follow from certain actions otherwise good or at least indifferent. If one
does not consent to this pleasure, and has, besides, a reason sufficient to
justify the performance of the action, there is no guilt and no cause for
alarm. If, on the other hand the actions that give rise to such sensations
are neither necessary, nor really useful, like dangerous readings, shows,
conversations, lewd dancing, then it is evident that to perform such
actions is a sin of imprudence, more or less grave, in proportion to the
gravity of the disorder thus produced and of the danger of consent to the
#875 . C) From the point of view of perfection, there is, next to pride, no
greater obstacle to spiritual growth than the vice of impurity. a) When it
is question of solitary acts or of faults committed with others, it is not
long before tyrannical habits are formed which thwart every impulse towards
perfection, and incline the will towards debasing pleasures. Relish for
prayer disappears, as does love for austere virtue, while noble and
unselfish aspirations vanish. b) The soul becomes a prey to selfishness.
The love once borne to parents and friends gradually dies out; there is but
the desire which becomes a real obsession to indulge at any cost in evil
pleasures. c) The balance of the faculties is destroyed: it is the body, it
is lust that takes command; the will becomes the slave of this shameful
passion and soon rebels against God, Who forbids and punishes these unholy
d) The sad effects of this surrender of the will are soon apparent: the
mind becomes dull and weak because the vital forces are used up by the
senses: taste for serious studies is lost; the imagination gravitates
towards lower things; the heart gradually withers, hardens, and is
attracted only by degrading pleasures. e) In some cases the physical frame
itself is deeply affected: the nervous system, over-excited by such abuses,
becomes irritated, weakened, and "incapable of fulfilling its mission of
regulation and defence;"1 the various bodily organs function but
imperfectly; nutrition is improperly accomplished, strength is undermined
and the danger of consumption threatens.
Evidently, a soul that has thus lost its balance, no longer thinks of
perfection. It recedes from it daily, considering itself fortunate if it
can gain control over itself at least in time to insure its salvation!
n1. LAUMONIER, op. cit., p. III.
#876. (3) The Remedies. To withstand so dangerous a passion, we need deep
convictions, protection against dangerous occasions, mortification and
A) Deep convictions bearing at once upon the necessity of combating this
vice and upon the possibility of succeeding in the struggle.
a) What we have said about the gravity of the sin of lust shows how
necessary it is to avoid it in order not to run the risk of everlasting
punishment. To this we may add two motives furnished by St. Paul:1 1) We
are the living temples of the Holy Trinity, temples hallowed by the
presence of an all-holy God, and by a participation in the divine life (97,
106). Nothing so defiles this temple as the vice of impurity which
desecrates both the body and the soul of the Christian. 2) We are the
members of Jesus Christ, into Whom we have been incorporated by Baptism. We
must, therefore, honor our body even as Christ's own body. And we would
profane it by acts contrary to purity! Would not this be a sort of
sacrilege? And to think that we would perpetrate it just to relish a vulgar
pleasure which lowers us to the level of the brute!
n1. I Cor., III, 16; VI, 15-20.
#877. b) Many say that continence is impossible. So thought St. Augustine
before his conversion, but once converted to God and sustained by the
example of the Saints and the grace of the Sacraments he realized that all
things are possible once we know how to pray and how to fight. The truth is
that of ourselves we are so weak and the evil at times so alluring, that we
would finally yield; but as long as we lean upon divine grace and make
earnest efforts, we emerge victorious from the severest temptations. Let no
one assert that continence in youth is detrimental to health. Honorable and
notable physicians have refuted this in the resolutions of the Brussels
International Congress:1 "Young men must above all, be taught that chastity
and continence are not only not harmful, but even commendable from a purely
medical and hygienic point of view." As a matter of fact, there is no known
disease resulting from the practice of continence whilst many are found to
originate in the opposite vice.
n1. IIe Congres de la Conf. internationale, 1902. Examine many other
testimonials in "Le probleme de la chastete au point de vue scientifique"
by F. ESCLANDE, 1919, p. 122-136.
#878. B) Avoidance of the occasions. That chastity is preserved chiefly by
fleeing dangerous occasions is an axiom with spiritual writers. When we
realize our frailty, we do not run useless risks. As long as such occasions
are not necessary they must be carefully avoided: "He that loveth the
danger shall perish in it."1 When it is question of readings, visits,
meetings, dangerous entertainments from which we can exempt ourselves
without any considerable inconvenience, there is no reason for hesitation;
instead of looking for these we must flee from them as we would from a
dangerous reptile. When these occasions cannot be avoided, then we must
strengthen the will by interior dispositions that make the danger more
remote. Thus St. Francis de Sales declares that if dances cannot be avoided
they should at least be indulged in with modesty, self-respect, and good
intentions.2 How much more necessary is this today, when so many indecent
dances are in vogue!
n1. Eccli. III, 27.
n2. "Intro. to A Devout Life," III P., C. XXXIII.
#879. C) There are, however, occasions that cannot be avoided. They are
those we daily encounter, whether in ourselves or in our surroundings, and
which we can overcome only by mortification. We have already said in what
this virtue consists, and how it is to be practiced, n. 754-815. We can but
recall a few points connected more directly with the virtue of chastity.
a) The eyes should be especially guarded, for imprudent glances enkindle
desires and these in turn entice the will. This is why Our Lord declares
that "Whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her has already
committed adultery with her in his heart;"1 and He adds that if our right
eye is to us an occasion of scandal it must be plucked out,2 that is to
say, forcefully withdrawn from the object that scandalizes us. This modesty
of the eyes becomes more imperative than ever today, since one is more
liable to meet almost everywhere with persons and things apt to be a source
b) The sense of touch is fraught with even more danger, for it provokes
sensual impressions which easily tend towards illicit pleasure. Hence, one
must abstain from such bodily contact or caresses as cannot but excite the
C) As regards the imagination and the memory, let one follow the rules laid
down in n. 781. As to the will, the task is to strengthen this faculty by a
virile education according to the principles explained in n. 811-816.
n1. Matth. V, 28.
n2. Matth. V, 29.
#880. d) The heart also must be mortified by struggling against whatever
may be sentimental or dangerous in the domain of friendship (n. 600-604).
Of course, a time comes when those looking forward to married life first
fall in love. This love is lawful, but it must ever remain chaste and
supernatural. Even engaged persons, then, should avoid all signs of
affection that are not according to the rules of propriety and should bear
in mind that their love, to be blessed by God, must be pure.
With regard to those who are as yet too young to think of marriage, they
must be on their guard against that sentimental and sensual affection,
which, whilst enervating the heart, prepares for dangerous surrenders. One
cannot play with fire and not be scorched. Besides, if one expects that the
heart pledged in marriage be pure, must one not offer a heart equally pure?
#881. e) Lastly, one of the most profitable forms of mortification is a
constant and earnest application to the fulfillment of our duties of state.
Idleness is an evil counselor; work, on the contrary, by engaging the whole
of our activity keeps our imagination, our mind, and our heart away from
dangerous objects. We shall speak of this again in n. 887.
#882. D) Prayer. a) The Council of Trent tells us that God does not command
the impossible, but that He requires us to do what in our power lies and to
pray in order to obtain the grace of accomplishing that which, of
ourselves, we are incapable of performing.1 This injunction holds
particularly in matters of chastity, with regard to which most persons,
even those in the holy state of marriage, encounter special difficulties.
To overcome these, frequent prayer and the consideration of the great
truths of religion are necessary. Such oft-repeated elevations of the soul
towards God gradually wean us away from sensual pleasures and make us rise
to joys that are pure and holy.
b) To prayer must be joined the frequent reception of the Sacraments. 1)
When we approach frequently the tribunal of penance, making a frank avowal
of faults and imprudences against purity, the grace of absolution, together
with the counsels we receive, strengthen the will against temptation. 2)
This grace is further increased through frequent Communion. The intimate
union with Him Who is the God of all holiness cools the fires of
concupiscence, awakens the soul to the reality of spiritual goods, and thus
withdraws it from attachments to degrading pleasures. It was through
frequent Confession and Communion that St. Philip Neri reclaimed youths
addicted to the vice of impurity, and even to this day there is no more
efficacious remedy either to preserve or to strengthen this virtue. If so
many young men and young women escape contagion from vice, it is due to the
fact that they find in religious practices an antidote to the temptations
that surround them. No doubt, the use of these means of defense requires
courage, earnestness and repeated effort, but with prayer, the Sacraments,
and a determined will we can surmount all obstacles.
n1. Sess. VI, De Justificatione, C. XI.
#883. Sloth is connected with sensuality, for it proceeds from love of
pleasure, inasmuch as it inclines us to avoid effort and hardship. There is
in all of us a tendency to follow the line of least resistance, which
paralyzes or lessens our activity. We shall explain: (1) the nature of
sloth; (2) its malice; (3) its remedies.
n1. St. THOM., IIa IIae, q. 35; "de Malo," q. 11; NOEL ALEXANDRE, op. cit.,
p. 1148-1170, MELCHIOR CANO "Victoire sur soi-meme, ch. X, FABER, "Growth
in holiness," XIV; LAUMONIER, op. cit., Ch. III, VUILLERMET, "Soyez des
hommes," Paris, 1908, XI, p. 185.
#884. (1) Nature of sloth. A) Sloth is an inclination to idleness or at
least to aimlessness, to apathy in action. At times this is a morbid
disposition due to poor condition of health. More frequently it is a
disease of the will, which fears effort and recoils from it. The slothful
want to escape all exertion, whatever might interfere with their comfort or
involve fatigue. Like the real parasite, they live on others to whatever
extent they can. Tractable and submissive as long as no one interferes with
them, they become surly and peevish when one would rouse them from their
B) There are various degrees of sloth. a) The indolent man takes up his
task reluctantly, and indifferently, what he does, he does badly. b) The
sluggard does not absolutely refuse to work, but he delays and postpones
indefinitely the accepted task. c) The truly lazy man wants to do nothing
that proves irksome and shows a distinct aversion to all real work, whether
physical or mental.
C) When sloth bears upon spiritual exercises it is called spiritual sloth.
This consists in a species of dislike for things spiritual, which tends to
make us negligent in the performance of our exercises of piety, causes us
to shorten them or to omit them altogether for vain excuses. This is the
foster-parent of lukewarmness, of which we shall speak when treating of the
#885. (2) Malice of sloth. A) To understand the malice of sloth we have to
remember that man was made to labor. When God created our first parents, he
placed them in a garden of delights, "to dress it and to keep it."1 This is
because man, unlike God, is not a perfect being, having many faculties
which must act in order to be perfected. Hence, it is a necessity of man's
nature that he should labor to cultivate his powers, to provide for his
physical and spiritual wants and thus tend towards his goal. The law of
work, therefore, is antecedent to original sin. But because man sinned,
work has become for him not merely a law of nature, but also a punishment,
in, the sense that work has become burdensome and a means of repairing sin;
it is in the sweat of our brow that we must eat our bread, the food of the
mind as well as that of the body.2
The slothful man fails in this twofold obligation imposed both by natural
and positive law; he sins more or less grievously according to the gravity
of the duties he neglects. a) When he goes so far as to neglect the
religious duties necessary to his salvation or sanctification, there is
grievous fault, and so also when he willfully neglects, in matters of
importance, any of his duties of state. b) As long as this torpor causes
him to fail in civil or religious duties of lesser moment, the sin is but
venial. However, the downward grade is slippery, and if we do not struggle
against sloth it soon becomes more dangerous, more baneful and more
n1. Gen., II, 15.
n2. Gen., III, 19.
#886. B) Because of its baneful consequences, spiritual sloth constitutes
one of the most serious obstacles to perfection.
a) It makes life more or less barren. One can well apply to the soul what
the Scripture says of the field of the slothful man:
"I passed by the field of the slothful man, and by the vineyard of the
foolish man: And behold it was filled with nettles, and thorns had covered
the face thereof, and the stone wall was broken down....... Thou wilt sleep
a little, said I, Thou wilt slumber a little; Thou wilt fold thy hands a
little to rest: And poverty shall come to thee as a runner: And beggary as
an armed man."1
Indeed, this is what one finds in the soul of the slothful man: instead of
virtues, vices thrive there, and the walls which mortification had raised
to protect virtue, crumble little by little, and open a breach for the
enemy, sin, to enter in.
n1. Prov., XXIV, 30-34.
#887. b) Temptations soon become more importunate and more besetting: "For
idleness hath taught much evil."1 It was idleness and pride that brought
Sodom low: "Behold this was the iniquity of Sodom thy sister, pride,
fullness of bread and abundance and the idleness of her and of her
daughters."2 Man's heart and man's mind cannot for long remain inactive;
unless they be engaged by study or other work, they are soon filled with a
host of fancies, thoughts, desires and emotions. In the state of fallen
nature, what has full sway within us when we do not react against it, is
the threefold concupiscence. Sensual, ambitious, proud, egotistical,
selfish thoughts then gain the upper hand and expose us to sin.3
n1. Ecclus., XXXIII, 29.
n2. Ezech. XVI, 49.
n3. MELCHIOR CANO, "La Victoire sur soi-meme, ch. X.
#888. C) Our eternal salvation therefore and not merely our perfection is
here at stake; for besides the actual faults into which idleness causes us
to fall, the mere fact of failing to fulfill important duties incumbent
upon us, is sufficient cause for reprobation. We have been created to serve
God and to fulfill our duties of state. We are laborers sent by God to work
in His vineyard; but an employer does not ask his employees simply to
abstain from doing harm; he wants them to work. Therefore, if without doing
anything positive against the divine law, we fold our arms instead of
working, will not the Master upbraid our slothfulness? "Why stand ye all
the day idle?"1 The barren tree, by the mere fact that it bears no fruit,
deserves to be cut down and thrown into the flames: "Every tree therefore
that doth not yield good fruit, shall be cut down and cast into the fire."2
n1. Matth., XX, 6.
n2. Matth., III, 10.
#889. Remedies. A) To reclaim the slothful it is necessary first of all to
form in them strong convictions concerning the necessity of work; to make
them understand that both the rich and the poor come under this law, and
that its infringement may involve eternal damnation. This is the lesson
given us by Our Lord in the parable of the barren fig-tree: for three years
the owner came seeking fruit from it, and finding none, he ordered it to be
cut down: "Cut it down therefore. Why cumbereth it the ground?"1
Let no one say: I am rich, I need not work. If you are not obliged to work
for yourself, you must do it for others. God, your Lord and Master commands
you; if He has given you strength, brains, a good mind, resources, it is in
order that you may employ them for His glory and the welfare of your
brethren. And, indeed, the opportunities are not lacking: how many poor
need aid, how many ignorant need instruction, how many broken hearts are
there to be comforted, what openings are offered for the carrying out of
projects that would give work and daily bread to those who have neither!
And, does not the rearing of a large family entail labor and toil if the
future of the children is to be safeguarded? Let us keep in mind the
universal law of Christian fellowship whereby the toil of each is the
service of all, whilst sloth is detrimental to the common weal and to our
n1. Luke, XIII, 7.
#890. B) Besides having convictions, it is necessary to make a sustained
and intelligent effort in accordance with the rules laid down, n. 812, for
the training of the will. Since the slothful instinctively shrink from
effort, they must be shown that in point of fact there is no creature more
wretched than the idle man; not knowing how to employ, or as he himself
says, how to kill time, he is a burden to himself, all things bore him, and
he becomes wearied of life itself. Is it not preferable to exert ourselves,
to become useful, and secure some real contentment by striving to make
those around us happy?
Among the slothful there are those that do expend a certain amount of
activity at play, sport, and worldly gatherings. These must be reminded of
the serious side of life and of the duty incumbent upon them of making
themselves useful in order that they may turn their activities into
worthier fields of action, and conceive a horror of being mere parasites.
Christian marriage with its attendant obligations frequently proves an
excellent remedy for sloth. Parents realize the necessity of working for
their offspring and the inadvisability of entrusting to strangers the care
of their interests.
What one must constantly bear in mind is the end of life: we are here below
in order to attain, through work and virtue, a place in heaven. God is ever
addressing to us these words:" Why stand you here all the day idle?..Go you
also into my vineyard."1
n1. Matth., XX, 6, 7.
ART. III, AVARICE1
Avarice is related to the concupiscence of the eyes, of which we have
spoken in n. 199. We shall explain: (1) its nature, (2) its malice, (3) its
n1. St. THOMAS, IIa IIae, q. 118; "de Malo," q. 113; MELCHIOR CANO, op.
cit., ch. XII-XIII, MASSILLON, "Discours synodaux, De l'avarice des
pretres; MONSA BRE, "Retraites pascales," 1892-1894: Les idoles, la
richesse; LAUMONIER, op. cit., ch. VIII.
#891. (1) Nature of Avarice. Avarice is the inordinate love of earthly
goods. To point out wherein the disorder lies, we must first recall the end
for which God has given man temporal goods.
A) God's purpose is twofold: our own personal benefit and that of our
a) Earthly goods are given us to minister to our temporal needs of body and
soul, to preserve our life and the life of those dependent upon us, and to
procure the means of cultivating our mind and developing our other
Among these goods: 1) some are necessary for the present or the future: it
is our duty to acquire them through honest work, 2) others are useful in
order that we may gradually increase our resources, safeguard our welfare
or that of others, contribute to the common good by promoting the arts or
sciences. It is not at all forbidden to desire these for a good purpose, so
long as we give a due share to the poor and to good works.
b) These goods are also given us that we may aid those of our brethren who
are in need. We are, therefore, in a measure God's stewards, and should use
our superfluous goods for the relief of the poor.
#892. B) Now we can more easily show wherein lies the disorder in the love
of earthly goods.
a) At times it lies in the intention: we desire wealth for its own sake, as
an end in itself, or for other purposes which we ourselves set up as our
ultimate end, for instance, to seek pleasures or honors. If we stop there
and do not see in riches means to higher ends, then we are guilty of a sort
of idolatry; we worship the golden calf; we live but for money.
b) The disorder further manifests itself in the manner of seeking riches:
we pursue them with eagerness, by all kinds of means, regardless of the
rights of others, to the detriment of our health or that of our employees,
by hazardous speculation at the risk of losing all our savings.
C) The disorder likewise shows itself in the way we use money: 1) we spend
it reluctantly and in a niggardly manner, because we wish to accumulate it
in order to feel more secure, or to wield the influence that comes with
riches. 2) We give little or nothing to the poor and to good works. To
increase our capital becomes the supreme end of life. 3) Some reach the
point where they love their money as an idol, they love to hoard it, to
feel it: this is the classical type known as the miser.
#893. C) Avarice is not generally a vice of youth, which as yet thoughtless
and improvident, does not dream of hoarding money. There are, however,
exceptions found among young people who are by character gloomy, worrisome,
crafty. But it is rather in middle life or old age that this fault shows
itself, for it is then that the fear of want develops, based sometimes upon
the thought of sickness or accidents that might incapacitate for work.
Bachelors and spinsters are particularly exposed to avarice, because they
have no offspring to care for them m their old age.
#894. D) Modern civilization has developed another form of this insatiable
love of riches, plutocracy, the hankering thirst for becoming millionaires
or multi-millionaires, not in order to safeguard one's future or that of
one's family, but to attain the power and control which money gives. Vast
sums at one's command secure a vast influence, a power oftimes more
effective than that of governments. Iron-, steel-, oil-magnates, money-
kings, rule sovereigns as well as peoples. This reign of gold often
degenerates into intolerable tyranny.
#895. (2) The Malice of Avarice. A) Avarice is a sign of mistrust in God,
Who has promised to watch over us with the care of a father, and not to
allow us to lack the things we need, provided we trust in Him. He would
have us consider "the birds of the air that sow not nor do they reap, nor
gather into barns, and the lilies of the field that labor not, neither do
they spin."1 This is not to encourage us to sloth, but to calm our
anxieties and urge us to place our confidence in our Heavenly Father.2 But
the avaricious man instead of putting his trust in God, puts it in the
abundance of his riches, and insults God by distrusting Him: "Behold the
man that made not God his helper: But trusted in the abundance of his
riches and prevailed in his vanity."3 This lack of confidence in God is
accompanied by too great a confidence in self and personal efforts; man
wants to be his own providence and thus he falls into a species of idolatry
making money his god. Now, no man can serve two masters, God and Wealth:
"You cannot serve God and mammon."4
This sin is of itself grave for the reasons just adduced. It is likewise
grave when it causes one to infringe upon important rights of others
through the employment of fraudulent means to obtain and retain wealth; to
sin against charity by omitting necessary almsgiving, or to fail against
religion, by allowing oneself to become so absorbed in business that one
disregards religious duties. It constitutes but a venial sin when it does
not cause one to fail in any of the great Christian virtues, duties to God
n1. Matth., VI, 26-28.
n2. Matth.. VII, 24-34.
n3. Ps. LI, 9.
n4. Matth., VI, 24.
#896. B) With regard to perfection, the inordinate love of riches is a very
a) It is a passion that tends to supplant God in the human heart. That
heart which is God's temple is crowded with all sorts of desires bent upon
the things of earth, filled with all sorts of anxieties and distracting
preoccupations. Yet, to effect our union with God, we must empty our heart
of all creatures, of all worldly cares; for God wants "the whole soul, the
whole heart, the whole time, the whole activity of his wretched
creatures."1 We must, above all, empty the heart of all pride; but
attachment to riches develops pride, since we place greater confidence in
our riches than in our God.
To fasten our heart on riches is to hinder the love of God, for where our
heart is there is also our treasure.2 To detach the heart from riches is to
lay it open to God. A soul despoiled of riches has God for its possessions;
its wealth is the wealth of God Himself.
b) Avarice also leads to lack of mortification and to sensuality, for when
we have money and love it, we either wish to enjoy the pleasures that money
can procure, or if we forego these pleasures, our heart clings to the money
itself. In either case money becomes an idol that makes us turn away from
n1. OLIER, "Introd. aux vertus," c. 11.
n2. Matth., VI, 21.
#897. 30Remedies of Avarice. A)The great remedy is the profound conviction,
resting upon reason and faith, that wealth is not an end, but a means given
us by Providence to provide for our needs and those of our brethren; that
God ever remains the Sovereign Master of all; that we are in truth but
administrators who must one day render an account to the Sovereign Judge.
Riches moreover are goods that pass away with time, goods we cannot take
along with us into the next world. If we are wise, we shall lay up
treasures not for this world but for eternity. "Lay not up to yourselves
treasures on earth: where the rust and moth consume and where thieves break
through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven where
neither the rust nor the moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break
through nor steal."1
B) The most effective way of detaching ourselves from riches is to invest
our wealth in the bank of heaven by giving generously to the poor and to
good works. A gift to the poor is a loan to God; it yields a hundred -fold
even in this world, in the joys which come to us from giving happiness to
those around us. But above all, it yields a hundredfold for heaven, where
Christ, considering as given to Himself what we have bestowed upon the
least of His children, will take care to give us imperishable goods in
exchange for those we sacrificed for Him. The truly wise, therefore, are
those who exchange the treasures of this earth for those of glory. To seek
God and holiness is the sum-total of Christian prudence: "Seek ye therefore
first the kingdom of God and His justice: and all these things shall be
added unto you."2
n1. Matth., VI, 19-20.
n2. Matth., VI, 33.
#898. C) Perfect souls go further: they sell all to give to the poor, or
they renounce all ownership by the religious vow of poverty, or they retain
their capital but use the income only according to the advice of a wise
spiritual director, and thus while they remain in the state in which God's
providence has placed them, they live in the practice of detachment of mind
#899. Thus the struggle against the seven capital sins uproots the
inordinate tendencies of the threefold concupiscence. No doubt, there will
always remain in us some of those tendencies to try our patience and to
remind us of our weakness, but they will prove less dangerous, and, aided
by God's grace, we shall overcome them more easily. In spite of our efforts
temptations will arise in the soul but it will be to give us occasions of
gaining new victories.