Superstitious Fears are Not from God

11:11, 666, dreams, certain words or events… these are things that plague the minds of some; they are afraid that it might be some kind of bad “omen.”

God tells us not to fear. ‘Fear not, for I am with thee: turn not aside, for I am thy God…’ (Isaiah 41:10). He created us for eternal life. While we are alive, there is always hope of salvation. God cannot deceive; if He calls us to Himself; if we hear His voice, or feel the touch of His grace – however weak it might seem, then we can have absolute confidence that if we trust in God and love Him, we will be saved.

… Aren’t all these other things superfluous? Besides, God is the Father of Lights; when He communicates with us, His message brings clarity. All these oppresive fears are not the work of God.

If it can be demonstrated that the greatest fear – damnation – is vain and irrational (so long as we desire to do God’s will), then all the lesser fears will hopefully lose their power.

St. Alphonsus does just this. Read his consoling words:

“I wish here to propose a doubt, which may rise in the mind of one who loves God, and strives to conform himself in all things to his blessed will. If it should be ever revealed to such a one that he would be eternally lost, would he be obliged to bow to it with resignation, in order to practise conformity with the will of God? St. Thomas says no; and further, that he would sin by consenting to it, because he would be consenting to live in a state that involves sin, and is contrary to the last end for which God created him; for God did not create souls to hate him in hell, but to love him in heaven: so that he does not wish the death even of the sinner, but that all should be converted and saved. The holy Doctor says that God wishes no one to be damned except through [i.e. as a consequence of] sin; and therefore, a person, by consenting to his damnation, would not be acting in conformity with the will of God, but with the will of sin. But suppose that God, foreseeing the sin of a person, should have decreed his damnation, and that this decree should be
revealed to him, would he be bound to consent to it? In the same passage the saint says, By no means; because such a revelation must not be taken as an irrevocable decree – but made merely by way of communication, as a threat of what would follow if he persists in sin.

But let every one banish such baneful thoughts from his mind, as only calculated to cool his confidence and love. Let us love Jesus Christ as much as possible here below; let us always be sighing to go hence and to behold him in paradise, that we may there love him perfectly; let us make it the grand object of all our hopes, to go thither to love him with all our strength.”

“When you advance in virtue, you give up the imperfection of fear.”

– God to St. Catherine of Siena

**Given that this is my 200th post on Littlest Souls, I would like to sincerely thank every reader, commenter and pray-er (i.e. those who have prayed for me or the “success” of Little Souls).

Thank you and God bless!

Advertisements

Some More Help For Overcoming Scruples.

Although I have only read a part of the book from which the following excerpt is taken, what I have read is excellent!

(Taken from: ‘HOLY ABANDONMENT’ by Dom Vitalis Lehodey, O.C.R.) — The last paragraph is particularly good!

Third Part: ON THE OBJECT OF HOLY ABANDONMENT; Chapter 8 – ON ABANDONMENT IN THE SPIRITUAL VARIETIES OF THE COMMON WAY: FAILURES AND FAULTS; Article 4 – SCRUPULOSITY

Scrupulosity is not delicacy of conscience, but only its counterfeit. A delicate and rightly formed conscience does not confound imperfection with sin, or venial sin with mortal. It passes a sound judgment on all things. But it loves God so much that it fears to displease Him in anything. It has so much zeal for perfection that it wants to avoid even the shadow of evil. It is therefore full of light, love, and generosity. Scrupulosity, on the contrary, is founded on ignorance, error, or defective judgment. It is the fruit of a troubled mind. It exaggerates its obligations and its faults, and even sees them where they do not exist. On the other hand, it may often enough fail to recognise faults and obligations that are very real. One can be scrupulous on certain points to a ridiculous degree, and at the same time be scandalously lax on others.

Scrupulosity is the pest of interior peace. The soul affected by this evil is the slave of a tyrannical master: there can be no longer any question of tranquillity for her. “Her slightest faults,” says De Lombez, “will be magnified to crimes. Her best actions will appear full of evil. She can never validly fulfill her duties: the cruel enemy of her peace will be as much dissatisfied with the hundredth attempt as with the first.” It will pursue her relentlessly in her prayers with the fear of bad thoughts, in her Communions with the aridities inseparable from her violent combats, in her confessions with the fears regarding the integrity or the contrition, in all her spiritual exercises with the fear of performing them badly, in her conversations with the fear of uncharitable remarks, and especially in solitude where she is without counselor support, alone with her thoughts, alone with the tyrant. “Scrupulous persons fear God, but they make of their fear a torment. They love God, but in their love they can find no consolation. They serve Him, too, but in the manner of slaves: they feel themselves crushed under the weight of His yoke which gives comfort and joy to the rest of His children.” In short, they are good souls, often to be envied for their virtues, always to be compassionated for their sufferings.

Scrupulosity is one of the worst plagues of the spiritual life, but it has varying degrees of evil. First of all, it is an obstacle to prayer. The soul enslaved to it turns her attention upon herself; she examines, examines again, is never done examining. And all this time she elicits no acts of adoration or thanksgiving. Does she even think of making an act of contrition or of imploring the grace of amendment? Not she. Too busily occupied with herself, she has no time to speak to God. Consequently, she does not pray at all; or if she does, it is only in a very imperfect manner. For her scrupulosity excites a commotion prejudicial to interior silence and to the attention demanded by prayer. It plunges her in sadness and fear, and thus destroys her love and confidence. It would even induce her to avoid God. At least it prevents all heart-to-heart colloquies with Him and the joys of intimate intercourse. It will go so far as to render painful, and perhaps insupportable, confession, Holy Communion, and prayer: the strength and consolation of pious souls. Outside of prayer, the interior life demands that we should be watchful over ourselves and constantly attentive to suppress the movements of nature and to foster the inspirations of grace. For the accomplishments of this double task, so difficult and delicate, scrupulosity puts us in a very unfavorable position, because it agitates and depresses us. The troubled mind can no longer see its way clearly. Too preoccupied with certain duties, it will perhaps allow itself to be wholly absorbed by them and forget others. The will, exhausted after so many struggles, may relax, lose courage, and even abandon its resolution in order, more’s the pity! to seek rest and consolation amongst creatures. At any rate, if scrupulosity does not quite put a stop to the work of our sanctification, it often retards and always injures it. Is that perfect faith, which shuts its eyes to the mercy of God and wants to see only His justice, and distorts even that? Is that perfect hope, which, in spite of the most sincere good-will, hardly dares aspire to heaven and grace, is always trembling with fear, and has never any confidence? Is that perfect charity, which, although loving God, yet dreads to appear in His presence, never pours out its heart to Him, and feels nothing but terror for a Lord infinitely good? Is that contrition well ordered, which confuses the intelligence, depresses the courage, and unsettles a soul of good-will? Is that true humility, true virtue, which banishes filial trust and degenerates into cowardice?

No, no! Scrupulosity is not a proof of ardent love, or a sign of a sensitive conscience. Is it a subtle form of self-love, a spiritual egoism, too much preoccupied with self, and not enough with God? Or is it a sincerely good will that has wandered out of the way? At all events, it is a real malady of the soul which threatens the spiritual life in its very existence, and seriously interferes with its functions. Thus, whilst others march forward, run, fly, in the paths of perfection, their hearts dilated with confidence and their souls rejoicing in peace; the poor victim of scruples, though possessing perhaps not less generosity but ill-regulated, wearies himself in vain, makes hardly any progress, if indeed he does not go back, and suffers agonies, because “he wastes his precious time tormenting himself about his duties, weighing atoms, and making mountains of mole-hills.” He persecutes his confessors, saddens the Holy Spirit, ruins his health, and wearies his brain. He dares not undertake anything for himself, and can be of hardly any use to others. Indeed, he might only injure those with whom he comes into contact, by communicating his malady, or by rendering piety repulsive and ridiculous. Scrupulosity, if yielded to, is therefore, in varying degrees, a real pest of the spiritual life.

It is assuredly the signified will of God that we should combat it on account of its disastrous effects. On this point all theologians and masters of the spiritual life are in perfect accord. They mark out in detail the course we should follow. Let it suffice for us to say here that, in order to conquer this terrible enemy, we must pray much, suppress voluntary causes, and above all practise blind obedience. The scrupulous person may be well instructed, very experienced, and even very prudent in all other matters: but in what concerns his scruples, his malady deranges his mind. It would therefore be folly to attempt to guide himself. Childlike obedience to his confessor, who diagnoses the disease and prescribes the remedy, is his best wisdom and his only hope of relief. This, nevertheless, is no easy matter. He must pray, therefore, with all instance, and implore the grace to renounce his own ideas, and to practise obedience even against his own inclinations. For his conscience being false, he has to rectify it by conforming to the judgment of his spiritual guide.

It is also the good-Pleasure of God that we should patiently support the affliction of scrupulosity so long as it pleases Him. We can always combat the evil. Sometimes times we shall succeed in banishing it altogether; sometimes only in lessening it; and sometimes, by the permission of Providence, it will persist in full vigour despite our best efforts. For it can come from very different causes, of which some depend upon our own wills, but many may be beyond our control.

The malady may owe its origin to excess in work or austerities, to the reading of books that are over-severe, to intercourse with scrupulous persons, or to the habit of seeing in God the terrible Judge rather than the Father of infinite goodness. Or it may have originated in the ignorance which exaggerates our obligations, or confounds temptation with sin, the sensation with the consent. In these, and such-like cases, it depends upon ourselves to remove the causes. Then, the source being suppressed, we shall soon see the end of our troubles.

But it often arises from a melancholy disposition, from a fearful and suspicious character, weakness of the head, or certain conditions of health. All these causes depend more upon the Divine good-pleasure than upon our wills. And in such cases, the scrupulosity usually lasts a long time and manifests itself even in profane employments.

The demon is not seldom the author of the evil. He avails himself of our imprudences, he exploits our predispositions, he works on our senses and imagination, in order to excite or intensify scrupulosity. If he sees a soul inclined to be somewhat lax, he pushes her on to greater laxity. But when he encounters one that is timid, his endeavour is to make her extravagantly fearful, to fill her with trouble and anxiety, in the hope that she will end by abandoning God, prayer, and the Sacraments. His purpose is to render virtue insupportable, to engender weariness, discouragement, and despair.

God will never be directly the author of scrupulosity. It can only come from our fallen nature or from the demon, since it is founded on error and is a real malady of the soul. But He permits it; He even employs it occasionally as a transient means of sanctification; and in this case, He controls and directs it with His infinite wisdom, in such a manner as to make us derive from it the spiritual advantage which He has in view. He inspires the soul with a great fear of sin, in order that she may rid herself more completely of her past transgressions, and by redoubling her zeal prevent a relapse. He humbles her so that she may no longer venture to rely on her own judgment, but submit herself entirely to her spiritual father. If there is question of a soul already well advanced, He uses scrupulosity to complete her purification, her detachment, her annihilation, so as to prepare her for, the reception of very special graces. It is thus the Saints have been put through this trial, some of them, as St. Ignatius of Loyola, at the time of their conversion; others, like St. Alphonsus de’ Liguori, when they had attained to the consummation of their sanctity. There may, then, be many immediate causes of scrupulosity. But there is only one supreme Cause, without Whom nature and the demon can do nothing. Even if we ourselves have been the authors of our malady, we required at least the permissive will of God. Consequently, we must recognise here, as elsewhere, the hand of Divine Providence. God does not love the disorder of scrupulosity, but He may will that we should support it as a cross. His signified will calls upon us to struggle against the evil, and His good-pleasure to endure the trial. So long as it continues we must struggle and endure. God grant we may be able to do so with an abandonment full of confidence!

“In conclusion,” says St. Alphonsus, “I repeat: Obey, obey! And I beg of you: cease to regard God as a cruel tyrant. No doubt, He hates sin. But He cannot hate a soul that sincerely detests and laments her faults.”

‘You seek Me, indeed,’ He once said to St. Margaret of Cortona, ‘but know that, however ardently you seek Me, I seek you more ardently still. And it is your fears that prevent your progress in Divine love.’ Tormented with scruples, but always submissive, St. Catherine of Bologna feared to approach the Holy Table. A sign from her confessor was enough. Immediately she vanquished her fears and calmly communicated. In order to encourage her to the constant practice of obedience in this matter, Our Lord appeared to her one day and said: ‘Rejoice, My daughter, because your obedience is very pleasing to Me.’ He likewise appeared to the Dominicaness, Blessed Stephanie of Soncino, and addressed these words to her: ‘Because you have placed your will in the hands of your confessor, as if in My Own: ask of Me whatever you please, and you shall have it.’ ‘Lord,’ she replied, ‘I want nothing but Thyself.’ At the beginning of his conversion, St. Ignatius of Loyola was so continually troubled with doubts and disquietudes that he could not enjoy a moment’s repose. But being a man of faith, full of confidence in the words of the Divine Master: ‘He that heareth you, heareth Me,’* he cried out: ‘Lord, show me the way I ought to follow. Although I should have only a dog to guide me, I promise to obey faithfully.’ And in fact he showed such obedience to his directors that he was soon freed from his scruples and became an admirable master of the spiritual life. . . . Once again I repeat: be obedient to your confessor in everything, have faith in obedience. ‘This,’ said St. Philip, ‘is the surest way to escape from the toils of the demon; as, on the other hand, there is nothing more dangerous than to desire to conduct oneself according to one’s own judgment.’ In all your prayers, implore this grace, the great grace of obedience, and be sure that in obeying you will infallibly save and sanctify yourself.”

* St. Francis de Sales and St. Faustina remind us that God is very pleased with those who place their trust in their confessor; God rewards our humble faith and obedience with spiritual insights that He will communicate to us through the priest. In the Old Testament, God spoke to Balaam through an ass (Numbers 22:28); how much more, then, can we hope for God to speak to us through the mouth of one of his ministers! 

“Why do you fear death?” – Jesus to Sr. Mary

“Why do you fear death? Do you doubt Me?

(1) For your sins: see here is My mercy.

(2)For your cares, your anxieties, your desires: here is My Providence.

(3) For your weakness: here is My Omnipotence.

(4) It is My joy to give you hour by hour sufficient strength, to have you entirely dependent on My love.”

– Jesus to Sr. Mary of the Trinity

(I have inserted the numbers)

(1) St. John Vianney (Taken from his Catechism): “Some say, ‘I have done too much evil; the good God cannot pardon me.’ My children, this is a great blasphemy; it is putting a limit to the mercy of God, which has no limit – it is infinite. You may have done evil enough to lose the souls of a whole parish, and if you confess, if you are sorry for having done this evil, and resolve not to do it again, the good God will have pardoned you.”

“My mercy for fallen souls is limitless.” – Jesus to Sr. Josefa

(2) Garrigou-Lagrange (Taken from ‘The Three Ages of the Interior Life’): “We read of the just in the Book of Wisdom: ‘Though in the sight of men they suffered torments, their hope is full of immortality. Afflicted in few things, in many they shall be well rewarded: because God hath tried them, and found them worthy of Himself. As gold in the furnace He hath proved them, and as a victim of a holocaust He hath received them.’ Thus trial causes hope to grow, and hope does not deceive us, for God does not abandon those who trust Him. ‘No one hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded.’ It is evident that the Lord will not refuse Himself to those who love Him, to those to whom He has already given His Son. . . . He has prepared eternal beatitude for those who love Him above all else.”

(3) “And when the enemy represents to us our weakness, let us say with the Apostle, ‘I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me’ (Phil. 4:13). Of myself I can do nothing; but I trust in God, that, by His grace, I shall be able to do all things…” – St. Alphonsus

 “The only way to make rapid progress along the path of divine love is to remain very little and put all our trust in almighty God.” -St. Therese

(4) “O My daughter, how many would have abandoned Me if they had not been crucified. The cross is a gift too precious, and from it come many virtues.”

Jesus to St. Gemma Galgani (Born: March 12, 1878; Died: April 11, 1903)

 

An Infallible Cure for Scrupulosity

Scrupulosity can be a great burden; I have experienced this first–hand. There was a time when I was terribly scrupulous; my spiritual life was dominated by minute examinations of conscience, endless self–reflection, fear, doubt, anxiety, discouragement, frustration and uneasiness. I did not possess peace, nor could I; for I was too preoccupied with my own desires, my own will.

I may now say, with great gratitude to Almighty God, that I have found many powerful means for overcoming scruples. By God’s grace, I have been extricated from the web of scrupulosity. Of course, this does not mean that I am exempt from doubts and uncertainty etc.

I say these things not to boast, but to encourage others. Scruples can be overcome! How? Please read on. I assure you that these remedies have worked for me.

** Keep in mind that this article will not be exhaustive; it would be impossible to explain every scrupulous doubt and state of mind. Rather, this article will provide several tips for overcoming scruples in general.  

THREE NECESSARY WEAPONS

#1: OBEDIENCE

Obey God; obey His Church; and obey your confessor. From disobedience springs chaos, unhappiness and spiritual blindness. One fruit of spiritual blindness, says a holy author, is the inability to distinguish between venial sin and mortal sin. 

“It is a secret pride,” says St. Francis de Sales, “that entertains and nourishes scruples, for the scrupulous person adheres to his opinion and inquietude in spite of his director’s advice to the contrary. He always persuades himself in justification of his disobedience that some new and unforeseen circumstance has occurred to which this advice cannot be applicable. But submit without other reasoning than this: I SHOULD OBEY, AND YOU WILL BE DELIVERED FROM THIS LAMENTABLE MALADY.”

Here is some excellent, necessary and consoling advice from St. Alphonsus in relation to obedience:

https://littlestsouls.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/consolation-for-scrupulous-souls-some-advice-from-st-alphonsus/ 

#2: HUMILITY

Humility (i.e. “the sister of obedience” – revelation to St. Catherine of Siena) is necessary for salvation. Humility attracts an abundance of grace. We should ask God frequently for everything we need, including humility, knowing that He will infallibly grant us what is necessary to become holy.

“I possess humility for your pride.” – Our Lord to SG. Sr. Josefa Menendez

“Humility is truth” (St. Teresa, St. Padre Pio and others). The humble soul knows what they are and what God is. Consequently, they are ever at peace; trials are recognised as gifts of love from God’s Providence, which seeks only to purify us on earth so that we might avoid Purgatory and receive a greater reward in Heaven; imperfections are seen as occasions for humbling oneself; and the soul places all its confidence in God, Who desires that we entrust ourselves to Him like little children.  To be humble is to obey God lovingly, calling to mind the truth that God’s will is the best possible thing for us; it is rely on Almighty God for everything; it is to believe that the only good we can ever hope to achieve or possess is a gift from God’s bounty.

“It is only by the measure of thy humility that thou canst hope to please God and save thyself, because it is certain that God ‘will save the humble of spirit.’ (Ps. 33:19– page 60) – Fr. Cajetan

“There is no way that conducts more directly, more securely, more swiftly, and more sweetly to God than humility. But it is the humility studied in the Gospel, humility learned in My Life, humility profoundly taught in the Holy Eucharist. If thou seek humility in these three sources, thou wilt ever find it.”

– Our Lord to SG. Sr. Benigna Consolata Ferrero 

#3: ABANDONMENT

The term “abandonment” has many meanings in the spiritual life, but here it refers to abandoning one’s will (i.e. making of it a gift) to God, as well as one’s problems. If we are to overcome any vice, imperfection, or struggle, it is certain that we can do so only with God’s help. He loves it when we trust in Him; that way He receives the glory.

++++++++++

Obedience, humility and abandonment: these three things will help us to conquer scrupulosity. What has been said so far is fairly general. The following pieces of advice are more specific.

1. Have confidence in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not upon thy own prudence’ (Prov. 3:5)

The scrupulous soul is inclined to excessive reflection and introspection. God does not demand this; He does not will it; it is useless! Consequently, it can never give us peace.

What is the fruit of continually examining and analysing fleeting thoughts, imperfections, sins, spiritual advice, and a host of other things? Quite simply it is this: the mind grows weary; the will loses focus of its proper object (God); and the soul lacks the courage and strength to persevere.

What is the remedy? For starters – and this should go without say – we should ask God humbly for the grace to trust in Him.

What else? We must get used to reasoning (and perhaps praying) as follows: ‘Dear Lord, my mind is perplexed; nevertheless, I will not seek to understand my troubles; this will not bring me peace. Instead, I will follow St. Augustine’s advice and believe in you, so that I may understand. Only you can deliver me from my doubts. It is only reasonable, then, that I trust in you entirely.  Forgive me for relying on my own strength, which is really nothing but an illusion. I confess, dear God, that all light comes from you – all wisdom, all knowledge and all truth. I resolve, therefore, to rely on you for all the knowledge that I need to overcome the Evil One and his lies. Although he is a fallen angel, his intellect is far superior to mine. Help me to avoid dialogue with him. When I encounter his snares, or any evil whatsoever, inspire me to call on you for help. From you alone do I hope for salvation; from you alone do I hope for the graces necessary to overcome my scruples.  Reasoning alone cannot deliver me from my fear; and if it could, this would still be a grace from you. In temptation, in distress, in hardship, let me fly to you, Who are the Source of all goodness. Let me not turn away from you, trusting in my own understanding – I can understand nothing without you. Without your illumination I walk in darkness. You are Light (1 Jn. 1:5); guide me.’

2. Casting all your care upon him, for he hath care of you’ (1 Pt. 5:7)

We cannot care for ourselves. Without God, we can only damn ourselves. Without self–will, says St. Bernard, there would be no Hell! This is a profound truth. Ponder this truth often and you will grow in distrust of self as well as confidence in God. This is necessary for salvation, writes St. Alphonsus; and Our Lord confirmed to SG. Sr. Benigna Consolata that this is the key to sanctity!

No one loves us more than God. Any love that we possess, including the desire that we have for our own salvation, is a gift from God! Surely, then, we should trust in God’s all-powerful love.

Furthermore, no one knows us better than God; He knows our weaknesses, our needs… everything! He is also the only One capable of saving us. All grace comes from Him. Surely we can make the following prayer: ‘Dear God, you created me for Heaven; your only desire is that I be happy and holy. I cannot do this without you. In fact, the more I rely on myself, the more certain I am of failure. “Take me from myself and give me all to you.” Then I will rest secure in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.’

3. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity’ (1 Jn. 1:9)

God’s mercy is inexhaustible to those who repent with contrite hearts. A contrite heart is not necessarily one that feels great sorrow. Contrition is in the will; sorrow is merely an effect of contrition.

As soon as the soul desires to turn from sin to God, she is pardoned, provided that love – not fear – is the mainspring. This is perfect contrition. It is not too difficult to attain if only we ask God regularly for this grace. He is more eager to grant it than we can ever be to desire it.

“You ask me how you can make your act of contrition in a short time. I answer that scarcely any time at all is needed to do it thoroughly well, since all that has to be done is to prostrate oneself in a humble spirit before God, and regret having offended Him. To exercise an act of the will is a wonderful power that God has bestowed upon us, and in consequence of that you have contrition by the very fact that you desire to have it. You do not feel it – perhaps not. The fire that is under the ashes is neither seen nor felt, but the fire is there nevertheless.”

– St. Francis de Sales

Look at a crucifix and imagine that Our Lord were right before your eyes. Better yet, go to Mass, where Our Lord truly is right before your eyes (though only visible with the eyes of faith)! This is a powerful means for achieving true sorrow for our sins, which is always accompanied by a firm purpose of amendment. In other words, we must make a strong resolution to avoid all serious sin (at the very least) and the occasions of sin (e.g. movies with sexually explicit content).

‘Why are you tormenting yourself? Do what lies in your power: I will supply whatever is wanting in you. Moreover, in this sacrament [of Confession] I only require a contrite and humble heart, with sincere will never to offend Me again, and sincere confession. In that case I forgive without delay, and thence comes a perfect amendment.’ 

– Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary

 “Take care of your soul and DO NOT CONFESS SCRUPLES OR FIRST MOVEMENTS OR IMAGININGS IN WHICH THE SOUL DOES NOT DESIRE TO BE DETAINED. Look after your health, and do not fail to pray when you can.”

– St. John of the Cross

++++++++++

About 3/4 of following words were in the original post. Some further quotes etc., have been added.

Some Helpful Resources

+ ‘Confession: A Little Book for the Reluctant’by Msgr. Louis Gaston de Segur (deals indirectly with scrupulosity by answering objections, such as: ‘I can’t remember all my sins’, ‘My sins are too grave to be forgiven’, ‘I am just going to fall back into sin, anyway’ etc.)

+ ‘Scruples and Their Treatment’by Fr. William Doyle (available for free online): http://fatherdoyle.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/scruples-and-their-treatment.pdf

++++++++++

You might also like to read some other posts on this site, many of which are aimed at encouraging souls to trust in God. Posts tagged with ‘scruples’ or ‘scrupulosity’ might be particularly helpful.

Side note: For those who fear that they cannot be forgiven, rest assured that you can:https://littlestsouls.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/the-seemingly-unforgivable-sin/
For a simple explanation of certain sins that typically trouble scrupulous individuals (e.g. lust/impurity, blasphemy, gluttony), try here:https://littlestsouls.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/clarity-for-scrupulous-souls-simple-explanations-of-grey-sins/

++++++++++

Keep in mind, dear friend, that Our Lord desires your love more than you desire to love Him. Pray the Holy Rosary well, and Mary, the Mother of Mercy, will obtain for you the grace to acknowledge and remove the source of your scruples. To pray the Rosary well, remember that it is an extremely powerful prayer (search ‘Rosary’), and a great gift, granted to relatively few to know and love; furthermore, we are talking to the most tender of mothers, who is no less attentive to our prayers than she was to St. Bernadette at Lourdes, or the three little shepherds at Fatima. Prayer is a great privilege! Our sins merit terrible punishment, but if- and only if- we exercise the virtue of humility, we will receive not what our sins merit, but what Jesus has merited for us through His Passion, Death and Resurrection. Do not wallow in distrust, which stems from pride and brings only misery, spiritual blindness and a decrease in grace. Trust blindly (if need be) in God’s grace and you will eventually experience the truth of the words of Our Lord to St. Gertrude:

Contemplate now, My beloved, the hidden secrets of My Heart, and consider attentively with what fidelity I have ordered all that you have ever desired of Me for your benefit and the salvation of your soul; and see if you can accuse Me of unfaithfulness to you, even by a single word.” 

The merit for even a single act of faith is immeasurable!

“In the first place it should be known that if anyone is seeking God, the Beloved is seeking that person much more.”

– St. John of the Cross

Various Pieces of Advice

+ (Taken from a website that I cannot recall): “St. Philip Neri suggests that the best remedy for scruples is to treat them with contempt. In his life it is recorded that as well as advising the accepted remedy of total submission in everything to the judgment of one’s confessor, he also advised his penitents to treat scruples with disdain and contempt. His practice with scrupulous persons was to forbid them to confess frequently. And when they did confess to him and mentioned their scruples he ordered them to go to Holy Communion without listening further to their scruples.”

Some maxims to help with scrupulosity:

Bad thoughts are only sinful if we consent to them. As St. Francis de Sales says: “Do not be disturbed about bad thoughts; it is one thing to have them and quite another to consent to them.” Our thoughts are not always free. Various thoughts enter our minds throughout the day; some that even enter our minds subconsciously, without us realising it. Furthermore, our brain forms connections (neural pathways) between certain thoughts or experiences; for example, if someone says the word “sponge”, I immediately think “bob.” I cannot control this, and if “bob” was hypothetically a sinful word, this would not be a sin because I do not will/desire the thought, nor would I let it disturb me. Why? Because that would only increase the thoughts and create a vicious cycle. There were saints, such as St. Faustina, St. Padre Pio, and St. Anthony Mary, who experienced severe blasphemous thoughts. Their remedy was abandonment to the will of God, and trust in His mercy. An excessive fear of offending God, particularly when we desire to please Him in all things, offends His tender goodness. Our Lord consoled Sr. Consolata Betrone by reminding her that He would not consider any thoughts that she had dwelled on involuntarily.

The Law of Presumptions: “Let us consider the question of impure thoughts. It is morally impossible for a person who is habitually careful about purity to give full consent to impure thoughts without being fairly certain of it. When the will is habitually set against impurity, full consent to impure thoughts implies a somersault of the will, a volte-face, a turning round from North to South Pole. It is impossible for such a complete change to take place in the will without the mind being pretty certain about it. Uncertainty is, therefore, a clear sign that there was no full consent. In this matter we should go by what the theologians call “the law of presumptions.” If a person regularly gives way to sins of impurity, in case of doubt it is probable that there was sin. If a person never or hardly ever gives way to sins of impurity, in case of doubt it is morally impossible that there was serious sin, for the reason just given.” (Fr. Wilson)

+ “Peace to men of good-will” (Lk. 2:14)

Good-will comes from God. This extends to all good-will – even the atheist’s good-will. Without actual grace, we cannot so much as think a good thought (2 Cor. 3:5).

When God gives us the desire to repent or to keep His commandments, it is as if He made a pledge with us; it is as if He said: ‘My child, I love you. Receive this gift of my grace. Trust in Me and I will give you grace in abundance. Be faithful and I will protect you.’

We must not anticipate falls and sins. God knows that we are weak and imperfect; He asks only for our trust and fidelity.

“Do not fear, my child, Jesus asks only for your good will.”

– Our Lady to Sr. Josefa Menendez

+ Probabilism

“When a precept is susceptible of a twofold interpretation — one strict and the other more gentle — other things being equal, this latter must be preferred. The reason is because the commands of God and the Church have not been framed so as to destroy all spiritual sweetness, which must inevitably disappear under a too narrow and fearsome interpretation. The intention of God and His Church is not to prescribe the impossible, because, according to the law of justice, ‘no one can be bound to that which he cannot perform.” – St. Antoninus (who was far from a liberal theologian!)

To read more about ‘probabilism’, see this link: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12441a.htm

Our consent or responsibility for sin is diminished by fear and anxiety: Fear and anxiety in particular have the tendency to cloud judgement, exacerbate unwanted thoughts and weaken the will. Fear multiplies the number and intensity of unwanted thoughts. We should ask God to remove this fear, and keep in mind that what we fear is a phantom; it cannot harm us. We must recognise that even the most hideous thoughts (if not consented to) are morally neutral; they are neither good (deserving of reward) nor bad (deserving of punishment), and should therefore be ignored.

“Anxiety is a temptation in itself and also the source from and by which other temptations come.” (St. Francis de Sales). Anxiety that results from distrust, as opposed to the feeling of anxiety, inevitably leads to other sins, because we must trust in God, without Whom we can do nothing. Avoid things that make you anxious, and reflect upon the mercies God has granted you. If He has pardoned us so many times when we were careless and sinful, we can be assured that He is more than willing to assist us when our desire is to love Him. Do not be proud and let past failures discourage us. Pray fervently for humility and trust, and don’t “combat” anxiety. We might think that our weaknesses cause us to fall into sin very easily. This is not so. This mistaken thinking might be the reason we become discouraged so easily.

Likewise, discouragement is a temptation in itself and also the source from and by which other temptations come. “Discouragement is the enemy of your perseverance. If you don’t fight against your discouragement, you will become pessimistic first and lukewarm afterwards. Be an optimist.” (St. Josémaria Escriva). “He (the devil) is overcome by unlimited confidence in Jesus; the more frequent the falls, the more should confidence grow in the divine Mercy” (Jesus to Sr. Benigna). If we are so weak, we are most likely “little souls.” The doctrine of St. Therese on “little souls” (found in her biography and in the book, ‘My Sister, Saint Therese’) is most consoling.

Do not take an active approach to dispelling unwanted thoughts: It is quite useless, of course, to try and rid ourselves of these thoughts by thinking about them. Rather, the scrupulous person must recognise their habits, and proceed to go about their daily lives, regardless of the intrusiveness of their thoughts, which in time will lose their power. Our Lord has compassion for our weaknesses; we must therefore have full confidence in His grace, the advice of our confessor, and any other remedy that His Providence places before us. The book ‘The Doubting Disease’ (by Joseph Ciarrochi) is a helpful tool for recognising and overcoming obsessions and compulsions of all sorts. The author, however, is not a theologian. The author says that Jesus did not tell us what “the sin that will not be pardoned” is. That is true in some sense, but elsewhere in Scripture we are given to understand the context for this Scripture: God the Father draws us to His Son for pardon, and the Precious Blood of Jesus washes away all our sins “without exception”, as St. Ambrose says. Search ‘The SEEMINGLY unforgivable sin’ and you will be assured that God is willing to pardon every sin, but He cannot pardon those who are so blind and hardened that they neither recognise nor accept God’s mercy (which can always be accepted in this life).

+ Jesus Himself, though sinless, experienced the temptations and suggestions of Satan (Mark 1:13; Matthew 4:8). This should encouraged us, as the grace to conquer such temptations is made available to all by “the Lord thy healer”, the “Counsellor”, “The Prince of Peace” (Exodus 15:26; Isaiah 9:6).

“Keep your hearts well under control, beware of over-anxiety. Place your confidence in the providence of our Lord. Be fully convinced that heaven and earth shall pass away rather than that our Lord shall fail to protect you while you are his obedient daughter, or, at least, desirous to obey Him.”
– St. Francis de Sales

+ St. Mechtilde also recommends (as does St. Francis de Sales) that we should bear patiently with our imperfections; we should not struggle to free ourselves from sin. This will only make matters worse. Instead, we should humble ourselves, have compassion for our lower nature (as God most certainly does) and place all our confidence in God. Here are the exact words from ‘The Love of the Sacred Heart’ based on St. Mechtilde’s recommendation “which ought to be received gratefully by scrupulous souls”: “Man should be careful not to wash his stains with too much eagerness- that is, without considering the divine goodness; for by effacing them too eagerly he might easily injure rather than heal, his soul.”

+ Fr. Giovanni Battista Scaramelli: “[Compulsions] Scruples are not grounded on true reasons…. Consequently, to act in despite of them…is not to act against reason but against a fantastic shadow; hence it cannot be said that such an action is unreasonable, and therefore it cannot possibly be sinful. Nay, more, it is necessary to act in this manner, else we could never get rid of these foolish fears and groundless anxieties…. When a man first goes to sea, he is afraid of the violence of the waves, he fears the rocks and dreads the storms; on his next voyage he is less afraid; and if he continues to go to sea, he loses all fear, as, by acting against his alarms, he has conquered and overcome them…. So, too, the scrupulous man, if he act in contempt of his fears and whimsical notions, rises above them and at length conquers them, and by this means gets rid of the toils wherein his scruples, with their countless nonsensical fancies, had entangled him. But if, withheld by empty fears, he abstain from acting, they will begin to master him, to make him a very slave, and to leave him no longer the least liberty of following the dictates of right reason…

[Obsessions] Other temptations there are which are not dangerous, as they are abhorrent…. Such are temptations to blasphemy, certain abominable thoughts and words against God, the saints, and holy images…. Now, with such temptations it is by no means prudent or wise to struggle or to enter on a hand-to-hand fight, saying “I will not consent; I detest, I abhor them”: both because, on account of there being no danger of yielding them consent, there is no need to offer resistance and because, by resisting, the person subjects himself to a slavery, by conceiving such an intense abhorrence of them, as most frequently only stirs them to activity and imprints them more deeply on the fancy….Not a few persons are timorous, and of so delicate a conscience, that they feel great abhorrence of all impurity, and of every action in which a grievous sin may lurk. When an image or a feeling contrary to purity presents itself to such as these, they fall into great fear and feel intense pain; they arm themselves against such thoughts…. And what is the result? The more these thoughts are driven away the more they return to the mind…. [A]s I have already observed, nothing is so apt to awaken such thoughts, or to fix them in the mind, as excessive fear. The reason of which is obvious. Fear excites the fancy and impresses it with the dreaded object.”

On top of this, I recommend that every individual reads the following book (regardless of whether or not you are scrupulous): ‘Love, Peace and Joy: A month of devotion to the Sacred Heart according to St. Gertrude’ by Andre Prevot. This book is certain to fill you with confidence, hope, love, peace and joy if you read it prayerfully. You can access this book legally online – for free – (as it was printed before 1923):

http://archive.org/stream/lovepeaceandjoya00prevuoft#page/n1/mode/2up

 “It is not those who commit the least faults who are most holy, but those who have the greatest courage, the greatest generosity, the greatest love, who make the boldest efforts to overcome themselves, and are not immoderately apprehensive of tripping.”

– St. Francis de Sales