"Hope and Despair" by Evelyn de Morgan
The Spiritual Combat, by Father Dom Lorenzo Scupoli, is a famous classic on the strategy for achieving Spiritual Perfection and Salvation. First published in 1589, it was the favorite book of the great Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622), Doctor of the Church and Master of the Spiritual Life; he carried a copy in his pocket for 18 years, read from it every day and recommended it to everyone under his direction.
And if, besides this Dryness which makes you almost Insensible to Heavenly Things, you Labor under an Oppressive Cloud of Spiritual Darkness which makes you Fearful, and Ignorant of which way to turn, be not Discouraged. Let nothing separate you from the Cross of Christ, and disdain all Human Consolation, Vain and Wretched as it is.
Be careful, moreover, not to divulge this Affliction to anyone but your Spiritual Director, to whom it should be revealed not with a view to any Alleviation, but in order to learn how to Bear-it in Perfect Resignation to the Divine Will. Offer not your Communions, Prayers, or other Devout Exercises that you may be Free of your Cross, but that you may receive Strength to Exalt that Cross Forever to the Honor and Glory of Jesus Crucified.
And if, from Confusion of Mind, you can neither Pray nor Meditate as usual, yet you must Persist in those Exercises with as little Anxiety as possible, supplying for the Defects of the Mind the Affection of the Will. Employ Vocal Prayer, conversing both with yourself and your Savior. Such a Practice will have surprising effects, and it will afford you great Consolation in your Anxiety.
Call to mind the Pious Sentiments with which God inspired Sara, the Wife of Tobit, in her Affliction, and say with her in Spirit and in Word:
Remember also thy Christ in the Garden and on the Cross, Abandoned by Him Whose Only Beloved Son He was; carry your Cross with Him and say from the Bottom of your Heart: "Not my Will but Thine be done".
Thus by Uniting Patience with Prayer in the voluntary Immolation-of-Self to God, you will become Truly Devout. For, as I have said, True Devotion consists in an Eager and Unswerving Will to follow Christ, and to bear the Cross at whatever Time, in whatever way He shall decide; and it consists too in Loving God because He is Worthy of our Love, and even in Forfeiting the Sweetness of God for the Sake of God.
If the Multitudes of those who profess Piety would measure Advancement in the Spiritual Life by this True Standard, rather than by the Saccharine Effervescences of a purely Sensible Devotion, they would be deceived neither by the Devil nor by themselves; nor would they be so Abominably Ungrateful as to Murmur Against their Lord, and Unjustly Complain of the Gift He bestows upon them. For such Situations in which the Virtue of Patience may be Developed and Strengthened are Truly Gifts. On the contrary, these Multitudes would exert themselves in serving Him with greater Fidelity than ever, being convinced that He permits everything for the Greater Advancement of His Glory and our Salvation.
There is another Dangerous Illusion to which Women especially are frequently subject, detesting Vice as they do and being Sedulously Watchful in avoiding Occasions of Sin. At times, as they are Molested by Impure and Frightful thoughts and even Loathsome Visions, they become Despondent, thinking that God has Forsaken them. They cannot conceive of the Holy Spirit dwelling in a Soul filled with Impure Thoughts, and imagine themselves inevitably Banished from the Divine Presence.
Being thus Disheartened, they are ready to Despair, and Half-Conquered by the Temptation, they think of Forsaking their Exercises of Devotion entirely, and returning to Egypt. Blind as they are, they do not see God's Goodness in permitting them to be Tempted as a Preventive Measure against Human Negligence, and also a Coercive Measure designed to bring Prodigal Man to closer Union with his Loving Father. Actually, therefore, it is most thoughtless for them to Complain of that which should occasion their unceasing Gratitude.
On such occasions, we should consider well the Perverse Propensities of our Wounded Nature. For God, Who knows best what is to our Ultimate Advantage, would make us aware that of ourselves we tend to nothing but Sin, and when Unaided by Him, Fall into Innumerable Miseries.
After this, we must Cultivate within ourselves a Loving Confidence in His Divine Mercy, realizing that since He has been pleased to Open Our Eyes to our Danger, He also wishes to Free us from it and join us to Him in Prayer and Confidence; for this we owe Him our most Humble Thanks.
To advert again to those Vile Thoughts which are involuntary; it is certain that they are Put-to-Flight much sooner by a Patient Resignation to the Anxiety they Occasion, and a Speedy Application of the Mind to Something Else, than by a Tumultuous and Overanxious Resistance.
Prayer of Saint Padre Pio
Padre Pio was Graced by God with the Stigmata. His Shield depicts the Pelican,