THOSE WHO ARE MOST TEMPTED & THOSE WHO ARE FRIENDS OF THE DEVIL
The folllowing is excerpted from a sermon by the Cure d' Ars, St. John Vianney.
"[T]emptation is necessary for us, because it teaches us to know ourselves.
“Now what does God do to bring us to a knowledge of ourselves, to make us conscious of our unworthiness? He allows the devil to approach us....O my brethren, how little are we, and how wrong it is for us to rely upon our fine resolutions!”
“[T]emptation is necessary to convince our mind of our unworthiness, and to prevent pride from becoming master over us. Now, you may think that the people who are the most tempted, are the drunkards, the slanderers, the unchaste, who wallow in the mire of their shame, or perhaps the misers. No my brethren, these are not the people who are tempted the most. On the contrary, the devil may even try to restrain them, for fear that they may not live long enough to do evil and help cast souls into hell by their bad example. St Augustine teaches us that the devil does not tempt such people particularly: he rather despises and neglects them.
“But, you will say, who is it that is most tempted? I will tell you and please give me your whole attention. It is those who are willing, with the grace of God, to sacrifice everything for their poor soul, who are willing to renounce all those things which are generally striven for with great eagerness in this world.
“The first temptation, my brethren, which the devil prepares for those who have begun to be more zealous in the service of God is the fear of man. They are afraid to show themselves. They shun those persons whose society they formerly frequented. If they are told that they have changed very much, they are ashamed! The question “What will be said of me?” haunts them so, that they have no more courage to do good before the world.
“If the devil is unable to win them over through fear of man, he excites in them extraordinary scruples. They are afraid that their confessions were not good; that their confessor does not understand them; that they are working in vain; that they will be lost anyhow; that they will gain just as much if they did not take any trouble.”
“Why...is a person not tempted as long as he lives in sin and never thinks of his soul’s salvation, while, on the other hand, as soon as he changes his life...hell is let loose upon him? Listen to St Augustine: This is the behavior of the devil toward a sinner: He acts like a jailer who has several prisoners shut up in his prison. He leaves them quietly alone, because he has the key in his pocket, and he is convinced that they cannot break out. He does not trouble himself to tempt them.
“[H]e lets them live in peace, if one in mortal sin can have any peace. He hides their condition from them...But a person who has decided to change his way of living, and to give himself to God that is quite another matter.”
“While St Augustine lived in a state of sin, he hardly knew what it was to be tempted. He thought he was in peace, as he relates of himself; but, from the moment that he wanted to turn his back on the devil, he had to struggle with the devil until he nearly lost his breath.... ‘I struggled with him in my imprisonment. At one moment I thought I was victorious; the next day I was defeated. This cruel and stubborn fight lasted five years . Then God gave me the grace to triumph over my enemy.’
“These are the struggles which God permits his saints to undergo....how much are we to be pitied when we are not violently tempted by the devil! According to all appearances, we are friends of the devil. He lets us live in a false peace. He lets us slumber under the pretense that we have accomplished so much good, that we have given alms, and that we have practiced less wickedness than others. ....This is the worst of all temptations: Not to be tempted; that is the state of the soul which the devil has prepared for hell.
“[A]n old sinner who has...been wallowing in sin ...will tell you he is not tempted. Well, ...so much the worse for you! That fact alone ought to make you pause, that you do not know what it is to be tempted; for to say that you are not tempted is as good as to say there is no longer a devil, or he has lost his power over Christians.