Danger of Discouragement About Past Sins
Let us be on our guard against a certain type of false humility that Satan suggests to us. He seeks to cast us into a state of anguish about the gravity of our sins. This is one point on which he disturbs souls in different ways. He even goes so far as to persuade them, on the plea of their unworthiness, not to receive Holy Communion and in particular, not to pray. If they approach the Sacred Table to receive Holy Communion, they wonder whether or not they are well prepared, and in this way they waste the time that should have been employed in drawing fruit from their graces. The anguish of these souls is so great at time, that they imagine that God has abandoned them because of their unworthiness. They almost doubt His mercy. Everything seems full of danger. Their good works, excellent though they may be in themselves, they consider useless. Discouragement so enfeebles them that they consider themselves incapable of any good, because they fancy that all that is praiseworthy in others, is evil in them.
Disquieting Effect of False Humility
Consider attentively what I am about to say. It sometimes happens that a profound conviction of your own misery may be an act of humility and genuine virtue. At other times, however, this conviction may be a very subtle temptation. I know, I have passed through this state. Genuine humility, not matter how profound it may be, never disquiets, never disturbs the soul. Rather it is accompanied by peace, joy, and calm.
Difference Between Genuine and False Humility
Undoubtedly, the sight of its misery afflicts the soul and clearly shows it that it merits hell. It feels, too, that in justice, all mankind should abhor it; and so it scarcely dares to beg for mercy. But when humility is genuine, this pain fills the soul with such sweetness and joy, that we would be sad without it. Genuine humility does not distress, nor does it contract the soul; on the contrary, it dilates the soul and renders it more capable of serving God. Such is not the effect of false humility. This latter troubles and distresses the soul, and completely upsets it in every way. It likewise fills one with bitterness. In my opinion, Satan's ruse is to destroy our confidence in God by making us believe that we have humility.
We should value humility when it brings us the knowledge of our lowliness, accompanied, nevertheless, by true peace, joy, and consolation. If, on the contrary, the sense of our wretchedness troubles, disquiets, and contracts the soul, and hinders the intelligence from finding true peace, look upon it as a temptation of Satan. Do not, in that case, consider yourselves as genuinely humble. Such humility does not come from God.
Thoughts of Mercy of God During Trials
When you find yourself under such a trial, divert your thoughts as quickly as possible from the consideration of your own wretchedness. Fix your attention on the mercy of God, on the love of which He bears for us. If there is a real temptation, perhaps you may not succeed in doing this, for Satan will not leave your spirit in peace, but will bother you with things designed to weary you even more. In fact, it will indeed be a great deal if you even recognize such a state of temptation.
False Sense of Security
Another very treacherous temptation of Satan is that of a false sense of security. It consists in a certain confident conviction that we could never return to our former faults, or to worldly pleasures. We seem convinced of the nothingness of the world, and of its fleeting character, and we imagine that our sole delight is the service of God. This temptation is particularly dangerous when it appears at the beginning of the spiritual life, because the soul, blinded by this sense of security, takes no precautions against the occasions of sin, and so succumbs to them. God grant that this second fall be not worse than the first!! Because Satan recognizes the harm this soul can do him, and the use it can be to others, he loses no opportunity effectively to frustrate its efforts to regain its former meritorious state. Never permit yourselves, then, no matter what consolations and pledges of love you may have received from our Lord, to be lulled into such a false sense of security that you will not fear relapses into sin. Always be on your guard against dangerous occasions of sin.
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 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 best with so many fears.