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Spiritual Weeds

Header-Pulling nasty spiritual weeds from the soul

 

Modern man has a certain understanding of the virtues. When asked about them, meekness and kindness, even justice and fortitude immediately come to mind. However, there is one virtue which is almost entirely unknown. This virtue, which "…comprehends the rest, or supplies for all that may be wanting in them,"1 is vigilance.

The word vigilance means a close and alert watchfulness against danger. When applied to the spiritual life, it signifies the virtue whereby man directs this watchfulness against the three fetters pulling him towards damnation: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Like an army with no sentry, the man who lacks vigilance is defenseless against the continual assaults unleashed by the devil. In the Garden of Olives, Our Lord warned the apostles to this end, "Watch ye: and pray that ye enter not into temptation." (Matthew 26:41)

 

Three Steps to Vigilance

To better understand vigilance, and therefore simplify its practice, the great Catholic thinker, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira divided it into three main steps: suspicion, watchfulness and pugnacity.

 

1. Suspicion

Attempting to destroy the notions of good and evil in man, the Revolution2 denies the existence of Original Sin. As a result, modern man is not concerned about falling into sin and immerses himself in a world of immodest fashions, pornography and many other occasions of sin.

On the other hand, the Church teaches that after Original Sin man's inclinations are so corrupt and his passions so disordered that he is incapable of maintaining a friendship with God without the continual help of grace. Saint Paul calls men "bodies of sin" (Rom. 6:6) and speaking of the soul, Saint Louis de Montfort wrote:

We are naturally prouder than peacocks, more groveling than toads, more vile than unclean animals, more envious than serpents, more gluttonous than hogs, more furious than tigers, lazier than tortoises, weaker than reeds, and more capricious than weathercocks. We have within ourselves nothing but nothingness and sin, and we deserve nothing but the anger of God and everlasting Hell.3

Saint Louis also notes that man's "best actions are ordinarily stained and corrupted by…[his] corrupt nature."4

Understanding this corruption leads one to see all one's ideas, thoughts and tendencies with the utmost suspicion. This is the first step to vigilance.

 

2. Watchfulness

Suspicion gives rise to watchfulness. The vigilant soul, mindful of his corrupt nature and the lengths to which the devil will go in his unholy struggle, is constantly on the look-out. "Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour." (1 Peter 5:8)

Pointing out the addictive nature of vice, the Catholic Encyclopedia classifies it as "a habit inclining one to sin."5 Through watchfulness, the vigilant soul identifies his defects before they become habits and is therefore much more likely to overcome them.

 

3. Pugnacity

In a generic sense, pugnacity is the practice of utterly destroying one's enemies whenever, wherever and however they exist. Pugnacity applies to vigilance when it is interiorly exercised against one's defects.

Defects, like weeds left unchecked, will grow out of control and take over the garden of the soul. Also like weeds, once uprooted, any part left in the soil will soon grow back stronger than before.

The pugnacious soul, like a good gardener, spares no effort in uprooting and completely overcoming defects as soon as they appear. History is full of examples of pugnacious saints doing violence to themselves to conquer their defects.

Saint Francis of Assisi, for example, while plagued with impure thoughts, reportedly threw himself out of a window to take his mind off them.

Our Lord Himself preached this same pugnacity. And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than thy whole body be cast into hell.

And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)

 

Vigilance and Confidence

Realizing that his neighbor has the same bad inclinations that he has, the vigilant soul regards him with the same suspicion he regards himself. This is not to say that he is overly critical and unfriendly, but rather that he puts none of his confidence in mere creatures which Saint Theresa called, "dry branches that break under the first pressure."6

Like the wise man who built his house on rock (Matthew 7:24-27), the vigilant man possesses that special confidence which is anchored only in the firm rock of God, His Divine Church and His Holy Mother. Satan may unleash tempests and floods of fury, and his secure house will not succumb.

 

Vigilance, the Key to Counter-Revolutionary Living

In his book Revolution and Counter Revolution, Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira insightfully pointed out how the Revolution makes use of the tendencies of man to reach its insidious goals.7 It introduces temptations and obstacles inside culture contrary to the practice of Christian virtue. Because of this all-encompassing influence, vigilance is essential to identify and destroy these evils.

For this reason, anyone aspiring to a Counter-revolutionary life must especially consider this virtue in developing his spiritual life. Through this virtue, the ever-present assistance of Our Lady will give him the eyes to see and the power to overcome all adversity and attain sanctity to which all men are called.

 

Our Lady of Vigilance, pray for us.

 


(Originally published under the title: Vigilance, A Counter Revolutionary Virtue, by Michael Whitcraft)

Footnotes:
1. Ven. Louis of Granada, The Sinner's Guide, Chapter 47, https://www.ewtn.com/library/SPIRIT/granada40-48.htm. [back to text]
2. The Revolution here refers to the anti-Christian, five hundred year-old process, described by Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in the book Revolution and Counter-Revolution.
[back to text]

3. St. Louis De Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, translated by Fr. Frederick William Faber, D.D., Tan Books and Publishers Inc., Rockford Ill. 1941, p. 49. [back to text]
4. Ibid. p. 48. [back to text]
5. The Catholic Encyclopedia, https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15403c.htm [back to text]
6. Quoted by Fr. Thomas de Saint Laurent, The Book of Confidence, p. 26, America Needs Fatima, Crompond, NY, 1989. [back to text]
7. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, Revolution and Counter-Revolution, Chapter 5. [back to text]


 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 18, 2019

Better a few staunch and sincere Catholics, than many compli...

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November 18

 

Better a few staunch and sincere Catholics,
than many compliant with the enemies of the Church
and conformed to the foes of our Faith.

St. Peter Canisius


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

During the French Revolution, the Sisters of the Visitation...

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St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

Born on August 29, 1769 in the French city of Grenoble, Rose Philippine was baptized in the Church of St. Louis. She was educated at the Convent of the Visitation of Ste. Marie d'en Haut and, against her father’s wishes, became a novice there when she was eighteen years old. However, the French Revolution caused much disruption for the nuns, and when the Sisters of the Visitation were expelled from their convents, Rose returned home.

She cared for the sick and the poor, helped fugitive priests, visited prisons, and taught children. Some time after the Revolution ended, she unsuccessfully tried to reestablish the Visitation community, and ultimately gave the convent to St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and joined the Order. When the Bishop of New Orleans, William Du Bourg, requested nuns for his thriving diocese in Louisiana, Rose and four other nuns made the trip to America in 1818.

Rose and the nuns were sent to Missouri, pioneers of the New World. There, as well in neighboring states, they established multiple schools, built a convent, an orphanage, a mission school for Indian girls, a boarding academy and a novitiate for her Order. However, the strenuous and difficult regime of work for her apostolate took its toll on her body. She died in St. Charles, Missouri in 1852 after spending more than 30 years as a pioneer in the evangelization of the New World. She was canonized in 1988. Rose was truly devoted to God, and prayed in her every spare moment. Because of this, the Indians began to call her “Quah-kah-ka-num-ad,” or "Woman-Who-Prays-Always."

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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