As long as we live in this world we cannot be fully without temptation, for, as Job says, the life of man upon earth is warfare. Therefore, every man should be well on guard against his temptations, and watch in prayer so that his spiritual enemy, who never sleeps but always goes about seeking whom he may devour, may find no time or place to deceive him.
There is no man so perfect or so holy in this world that he does not sometimes have temptations, and we cannot be fully without them. Though they be for a time very grievous and painful, yet if they are resisted they are very profitable, for by them a man is made more humble and is purified and instructed in various manners which he would never have known save through the experience of such temptations. All the blessed saints who are now crowned in heaven grew and profited by temptations and tribulations; those that could not well bear temptations, but were finally overcome, are held perpetual prisoners in hell.
The Never Ending Story
Again, I confessed the same sins as I did the last time I went, and the same as the time before that. I know this is typical, but it can be frustrating and discouraging. The last time I went to confession, the person ahead of me was in the confessional for a long time. I thought that they must’ve really had a laundry list of sins. When a pious nun emerged from the confessional, I was humbled. How could this saintly nun have more to confess than I did? Didn’t I do a thorough Examination of Conscience? What was I missing?
Tonight I had pretty much the same litany of sins to confess. I’ve gone to this priest before for confession, but not too frequently. He isn’t the priest I had been going to, but lately they keep switching priests at my parish so finding a regular confessor has been a challenge, not that I ever really get more from the priest than my penance and absolution. The problem I have at the confessionals in my parish is that they don’t have solid doors so the priests want you to talk softly so that others standing or kneeling outside don’t over hear your confession. I have hearing loss, mixed in with a bad case of persistent tinnitus, so I can’t hear a darn thing while in the confessional. Tonight I was straining my head so close to the screen to hear Father that I (loudly) bonked right into it, probably stunning Father and making me cringe.
Many people seek to flee temptation and fall the more deeply into it, for by merely fleeing we cannot win the victory, but by humility and patience we may be made stronger than all our enemies. He who merely flees the outward occasions and does not cut away the inordinate desires hidden inwardly in his heart shall gain little; temptation will easily come to him again and grieve him more than it did at first. Little by little, with patience and fortitude, and with the help of God, you will sooner overcome temptations than with your own strength and persistence. In your temptation it is good often to ask counsel. It is good not to be severe on any person who is tempted; rather, be glad to comfort him as you would be glad to be comforted.
The beginning of all evil temptations is inconstancy of mind and too little trust in God. As a ship without a rudder is driven hither and thither by every storm, so an unstable man who soon leaves his good purpose in God is variously tempted. Fire proves gold, and temptation proves the righteous man.
Many times we know not what we can bear, but temptation shows plainly what we are, and what virtue is in us. It is necessary at the beginning of every temptation to be well aware, for the enemy is soon overcome if he is not allowed to enter the heart, but is resisted and shut out as soon as he attempts to enter.
Story of my Life
Oddly, Father said I did a good examination, which might’ve just been his way to end the awkward pause when I lost my train of thought, but I wish the priests would give me a little feedback. I know they are too busy to chit-chat and we have signs up (or used to) that you should confess only sins and omit all unnecessary chatter, but often times I do think mentioning mitigating factors does matter since it speaks to intent/consent. I like the following quote because it helps to remind me to pick myself up again, even though I commit the same sins over and over and over. Seems like it all comes back to humility.
Therefore, we shall not despair when we are tempted, but shall the more fervently pray to God, that of His infinite goodness and fatherly pity He may vouchsafe to help us in every need; and that, according to the saying of St. Paul, He may so go before us with His grace in every temptation that we may be able to bear it. Let us, then, humble ourselves under the strong hand of Almighty God, for He will save and exalt all who are here meek and lowly in spirit.
In temptations and tribulations a man is proved, and how much he has gained is shown, and his merit is thereby the greater in the sight of God, and his virtues the more openly manifest. It is no great marvel if a man is fervent and devout when he feels no grief. But if he can suffer patiently in the time of temptation or other adversity and, despite it, stir himself also to fervor of spirit, it is a token that he will advance greatly thereafter in virtue and grace. Some people are kept from any great temptations, and yet are daily overcome in little and small occasions; that happens because the great goodness and patience of God would keep them in humility, so that they will not trust or presume of themselves, since they see themselves daily overcome so easily and in such little things.