"And Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil"
Humble Spirit of Prayer
However sublime your contemplation may be, make it a point to begin and end your prayer with the realization of your nothingness. Continue always to walk in fear. If your prayer is from God, you will very often, in spite of yourself, reflect upon your own unworthiness, and you will have no need of this counsel. Such prayer engenders humility and always gives us greater light to perceive our nothingness. I shall not insist further, as you can consult many books on this matter. I have spoken about it because I have personally encountered these temptations, and have often suffered great anguish from them. I merely add that nothing that one might say is sufficient to insure us complete security.
Need of Constant Protection Against Wiles of Satan
O Eternal Father, since things are so, what can we do but have recourse to Thee, and beg Thee not to permit our enemies to lead us into temptations? If only they would attack us openly! Then we could more easily free ourselves with Thy help. But, who, O my God, will unmask their secret schemes? We have constant need of Thy protection. Speak, O Lord, some word that will enlighten and assure us. Thou knowest full well that those who travel the way of prayer are not numerous. And there will be even fewer, if, as one attempts to advance, one is beset with so many fears.
Sinners Under the Dominion of Satan
It is indeed a curious fact that the world seems to think that Satan never tempts those who fail to follow the way of prayer. Hence, it is more astounding to see one single soul, though striving for perfection, fall into some illusion, than it is to view a hundred thousand other persons, living publicly in sin and deceived by Satan. It requires little effort to determine whether these latter are in a good or bad state, for one can clearly see at a thousand leagues away, that they are under the domination of Satan.
Astonishment Caused by Fall of Prayerful Soul
In truth, the world is right to manifest this astonishment. After all, it has reason to be surprised and to consider it as something novel and rare, when Satan does succeed in ensnaring a soul that recites with fervor the Pater Noster. Usually, one pays little heed to ordinary happenings, but one is astounded by rare and exceptional incidents. That is why the demons themselves encourage this surprise in the worldly minded, for Satan finds that this astonishment works to his advantage; whereas a single soul reaching perfection deprives him of many others.
Protection Assured to Prayerful Souls
I am in no way surprised that the world is amazed at these falls; for such illusions are rare. If a person follows the way of prayer and remains even moderately watchful, such a one is incomparably safer than those following another way. Such a person is like a spectator seated in the elevated balcony at a bullfight, for he is far better protected than those risking the perils of the animal's horns in the arena. This comparison, which I have heard, seems to be literally exact.
Do not fear to follow the ways of prayer. They are numerous. Some find profit in one way, as I have explained; others, in another. But the course is a safe one. You will be freed more readily from temptation by being near our Lord than by remaining at a distance. Beg Him, entreat Him, to grant you this grace, as you repeatedly do each day in reciting the Pater Noster.
Gift of Love and of Fear
O good Master, deign to give us something that will enable us to live without torment in the midst of such dangerous encounters. His Majesty puts a gift at our disposal, the gifts of love and fear. Love will quicken our pace; fear will make us careful on this our journey, which is so beset with dangers. Certainly if we use this gift, we shall not become victims of illusion.
Signs Indicating Presence of Virtues
Perhaps you will ask me: By what sign can we know that we really possess these two virtues of such great worth? You are right in seeking a sign, for you know that we shall never have an absolutely sure and infallible proof. If we had the assurance that we possessed charity, we should also be certain that we were in the state of grace. Nevertheless, there are some indications of the presence of these virtues which are so obvious that even the blind can see them. And these signs manifest themselves with such persistence and emphasis that one has no choice but to take notice of them. They are the more noticeable, because there are so few persons who possess them in all their perfection.
Can one imagine anything greater than the love and fear of God? They are like two fortresses, whence the soul sallies forth to wage war on the world and the demons. Those who truly love God, love all that is good; favor all that is good; praise all that is good; and cooperate in the support and defense of the good. In a word, they love nothing else but the good and the true, that which is worthy to be loved.
Incompatibility of Love of God and of Vanities of the World
Do you think it is possible for one who truly loves God, to love vanities at the same time? Can you imagine such a one doing it? Of course not! For he who loves God, loves neither riches, nor the pleasures of this world, nor its honors. He has a horror of disputes and envy. His sole ambition is to please the Beloved. His longing to be loved by God exhausts his whole strength, and spurs him to spend his life in seeking means of pleasing Him better. Now how could such love of God be completely hidden? True love can never be concealed.
St. Paul and St. Mary Magdalen
Consider the examples of St. Paul and St. Mary Magdalen. After three days, St. Paul began to show signs that he languished from love, as St. Mary Magdalen did from the very first day. Surely their love was evident enough! Undoubtedly, there are degrees of love, and according to its intensity love manifests itself more or less clearly. But whether it be feeble or strong, if it is genuinely true love, it shows itself outwardly.
Ardent Love of Contemplatives
Since we are speaking of contemplatives who are exposed to the snares and deceits of Satan, I would add that their love is not feeble. On the contrary, it is always extremely ardent, for they would not be true contemplatives, unless it were. This love manifests itself openly and in many ways. It is a most vehement fire, and hence it must burn brightly. If it does not glow thus, the contemplative should distrust herself, and realize that she has serious reason to fear. She should endeavor to discover what is wrong and pray and beg our Lord to protect her from falling into temptation.
Perfect Candor With Confessor
In fact, if a contemplative did not possess this sign of special love, I should fear that she had fallen into temptation. But I repeat, if she is genuinely humble and seeks to know her true condition by opening her soul to a confessor with perfect candor and docility, in spite of all the flattering deceits of Satan, she will receive life instead of the spiritual death the demon so conceitedly planned for her.
Docility As Protection Against Satan
Our Lord is faithful to His promises. Rest assured that if your intention is upright, and you experience no sentiments of pride, what Satan intended for your destruction will give you life. Only be docile to the teachings of the Church, and you need not fear the illusions and deceptions of Satan. Your love of God will not be slow in manifesting itself anew.
Satan's Desire to Disquiet Souls
You may rejoice and be at peace if you experience the love of God, which I have described, and the fear that I am now going to discuss. Satan would like to disquiet you and prevent your enjoying favors so sublime. This is why, either personally or through others, he attempts to arouse vain fears. Since he cannot win you to his cause, he tries at least to deprive you of something. Thus he seeks to harm souls who desire to advance rapidly, and who would really do so if they would but realize that God is the One Who actually grants extraordinary graces, and that He can likewise richly endow with His gifts such unworthy creatures as we are. At times we even seem to go so far as to be unmindful of His great mercies in the past.
Satan's Method of Disquieting Souls
Do you think it matters little to Satan to be able to fill us with fear? No indeed! Quite on the contrary, it is of considerable importance to him, because through it he harms us particularly in two ways. First, he terrifies those souls who have heard about the illusions of contemplatives, by making them believe that they likewise would be victims of deception. Secondly, he diminishes the number of those who desire to draw closer to God, and who would actually do so if they only realized the immensity of His goodness, which can communicate itself in such an intimate way to poor sinners like us.
Helpfulness of Knowledge of the Divine Goodness
Certainly the knowledge of such Divine goodness would arouse in them, and rightly, a longing for a share in these great favors. Personally, I know several persons encouraged by this consideration. They devoted themselves to prayer, and in a short time they attained to contemplation and received special graces. Hence, O devoted friends of Christ, thank our Lord fervently when you see one of your own thus favored by Him. But do not think that such a Sister enjoys complete security. Aid her by praying all the more for her; for no one, surrounded by the perils of this tempestuous sea, can be secure while living on this earth.
Manifestations of Genuine Love
You cannot then fail to recognize this love, wherever it may exist. In fact, I cannot understand how it could possibly be concealed. They say the love that one creature bears toward another cannot be concealed, and still so inferior is this love that it hardly merits the name love, because it is founded on mere nothingness. How then could this other love, so ardent and transcendent, remain effectively hidden? Notice on the one hand, how it constantly goes on increasing, for nothing can hinder it; and on the other, how it rests on the intimate certainty that it is repaid by a like unfailing love. Was not this unfailing love proved by an incomparable manifestations that is, by the endurance of all forms of sorrows and trials, by the shedding of blood and finally by the surest proof of all, namely the sacrifice of life?
Final Reliance on Divine Love
O great God! What a vast difference the soul that has tried both loves must see between the two! May His Majesty, before He takes us from this life, deign to bestow on us His Divine love. For it will be an ineffable source of assurance to us at the hour of death to realize that we are going to be judged by Him Whom we have loved above all else. Convinced that our debts are paid, we shall be filled with confidence when we appear before His judgment seat. We shall not be going to a foreign country, but to our home, where He resides Whom we love so ardently, and Who bears us such great love.
Terrible Lot of Lost Souls
Consider now the great benefits of this love; but realize, at the same time, what an irreparable loss it is to be deprived of it. In that case, the soul would be handed over to the tormentor, delivered into those hands so cruel and hostile to all good, and so partial to all evil. What a terrible fate for the poor soul, who after passing through the pains and dreadful anguish of death, falls immediately into the hands of Satan! And what a frightful form of repose it will find in that abode where it enters! See how it is torn to pieces as it sinks into Hell. What a brood of loathsome serpents of every kind! What an appalling place! What must be the feelings of this unfortunate soul! What a terrible abode for the devotees of bodily comfort, who find it indeed a torture to spend a single night in a miserable inn! And yet these are the very ones destined to inhabit Hell. What will they think of the lodgings of Hell, where they must remain throughout all eternity?
Beginning of Life of Glory and Avoidance of Purgatory
Seek not the joys of this world. We are well enough off here. After all, we must spend but a single night in an uncomfortable inn. Let us praise God and force ourselves to do penance in this life. How comforting death will be to the person who will escape Purgatory, because he will have already made reparation for all his sins! Even here on earth he can begin to enjoy the life of glory, for he can live in perfect peace, without any reason for fear.
Sufferings of Purgatory
Perhaps we shall not reach this state. If we must suffer pain after death, let us beg God to place us in that abode where the hope of final deliverance may aid us to endure our sufferings willingly, and where we shall forfeit neither His friendship nor His grace. Entreat Him also to grant us in this life the grace never blindly to enter into an occasion of temptation.
taken from "The Pater Noster" by Saint Teresa of Avila
Translated and Adapted by Monsignor William J Doheny, C.S.C. Imprimatur, 1942
Image taken from Wikimedia Commons
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