Part II in the series of excerpts from Dom Lorenzo Scupoli’s “Treatise on Peace of Soul”,
Chapter Two: THE CARE TO BE EXERCISED BY THE SOUL IN THE ACQUISITION OF PERFECT TRANQUILITY
The mild, peaceful, constant attention to the feelings of the heart will produce wonderful results; for we shall not only pray and act with great facility and peace, but shall even suffer without lamenting the disturbing elements of contempt and injuries themselves.
It is necessary, however, to undergo much toil before we acquire this serenity, for our inexperience inevitably exposes us to the assaults of powerful enemies. But once acquired, this peace will bring untold consolation to our souls in their fight against the disquieting elements of the world, and daily we shall perfect the art of quieting the turmoil of the spirit.
Acquiring peace of soul takes time, effort, and sacrifice – like anything else worthwhile doing, whether it be exercising to get in shape, learning a musical instrument or foreign language, becoming proficient in a sport. With one big difference: our adversaries. Peace of soul opposes the world, the flesh, and the devil, and Satan especially detests a peaceful soul because such a soul is close to God. This battle is primarily spiritual rather than physical, psychological, or mental, though it can involve those other aspects. So it shouldn’t surprise us that achieving peace of soul is a monumental struggle, and we need to be prepared for it.
We ought not be discouraged that it takes a long time – perhaps an entire lifetime. But it is possible, for with God all things are possible.
If at time you are in such confusion of mind that you seem totally incapable of calming yourself, have immediate recourse to prayer. And persevere in it in imitation of Christ, Our Lord, Who prayed three times in the garden to show mankind that only in conversation with God can afflicted souls find haven and refuge.
Spiritual warfare demands spiritual weapons, and prayer is the most powerful of them all. And notice that Scupoli doesn’t say that conversation with God results in being saved from our circumstances, but only that we will find peace in those circumstances.
Let us pray without ceasing that repose may replace the chaos in our hearts, and that a humble submissiveness to God’s will may bring our soul to its former tranquility.
As I said… And finally:
Our principal intention, a continual awareness of God’s holy presence, and an unchanging desire to please Him, should preside over all our actions. And if we permit any other consideration to interfere, our souls will soon abound with fear and anxiety; we shall often fall, and the difficulty of recovering will convince us that our evils proceed invariably from acting in compliance with our own will and inclination.
When we’ve attained peace of soul, we are constantly aware of God’s presence and seek to do His will. When acting according to our whims and desires rather than His, we run into all sorts of trouble. We’ve all been there, and most of us struggle to this day. It is difficult to be in the world but not of the world, given how social media and the Internet shoves political, social, and cultural issues down our throats and practically forces us to notice, demands that we care. Scupoli and his audience didn’t face that problem in the 16th century. Can his advice and counsel apply to the 21st century Catholic?
I believe it can, and is critically necessary in our day and age. Fear and anxiety are on overload everywhere you look, and Scupoli’s wisdom provides the solution so we can be beacons of hope in a seemingly hopeless world.
Stay tuned for Part III.
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