Spiritual Warfare - My daily battle with the devil and weekly fall from Grace
St. Nicholas of Tolentino (Spiritual Direction)
I'm a sinner.
Through my journey in life, like all men and women, I have to wage spiritual warfare on a daily basis. My cross is heavy and it often seems that it grows in weight as I navigate the week. We all have our cross, some driven by venial or mortal temptations, and I find it imperative for me to share my struggles.
"Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light." - Matthew 11: 28-30
My battle is against mortal sin, of which is a daily struggle and a weekly fall from grace. At times, and in very short periods, my will appears to be as strong as the saints. In those brief moments, I can maintain a beautiful inner silence, curve my passions, adhere to a strict prayer schedule, devote time to spiritual reading, and offer sacrifices of fasting and mortification. These victories are short lived and quickly defeated.
In my experience, the harder I try the greater the struggle and harder the fall. After a good Confession and humble reception of Holy Communion, my will is restored and my spirit has a stronger command of my flesh. Sunday Vespers, Monday, and Tuesday are most often conquered by my spirit and the Sanctifying Grace that the Holy Ghost deigned to give me during the Holy Mass on Sunday. It all ends on Wednesday.
The further I get from my last humble reception of the Holy Eucharist, and the more my venial sins chip away at the graces that God deigned to give me, my will weakens and the temptations increase in frequency and degree. Wednesday was the day that Judas betrayed our Lord, and it is the day that my flesh begins to betray Him.
My cross becomes heavier as I travel into Thursday. Sometimes, I can receive an abundance of grace to help me continue to fight into Friday. More often than not, Thursday is met with my flesh arresting Christ in the garden of Gethsemane and denying Him three times before the cock crows.
Friday, if I have made it that far, is my cross' heaviest moment. By the weight of my sins and that of the devil, I will often crumble under the force. After such a fall from grace, the devil's demons and their temptations will often push me down another two occasions, like our blessed Lord falling three times on the way to cavalry.
If I'm blessed enough to make it to Saturday, it's only because my guardian angel or one of the saints had interceded for me and helped me carry the cross like Simon helped Christ. At that moment, if my fiat will accept the graces from our Lady, she will bring me to Sunday.
This sweat scenario rarely happens. I, like an animal, will submit to my flesh and cast away all the gifts the Holy Ghost had deigned to give me.
Through my weakness and betrayal of the Lord, I have to pray the sorrowful mysteries of the Holy Rosary the most often for penance and reparation. In my failure and mortal sin against God, my actions are no different than Judas in the garden, the Roman soldiers during the scourging at the pillar, the guards who crowned Him with thorns, the people of Jerusalem who blasphemed Him as He carried the cross, and the Sanhedrin who tested Him to come down from the cross.
In consequence, I thank God for allowing my spirit to share guilt with my flesh and bring me back to the foot of the Crucifix, begging for forgiveness. In that guilt, my will is partially restored and I try to limp to Sunday.
As I stated in the beginning, I must rage spiritual warfare on a daily basis to give me the slightest chance of curving my passions and refusing the devil. My greatest success was this past Lent, where I refrained for mortal sin for 17 days. As I travel further in life, I'm discovering that my will is strongest when fasting, adhering to a strict prayer schedule, and attempting to grow in inner silence and meditation.
For almost two years, I have embraced some of the carmelite rules along with my brown scapular. I partially abstain every Wednesday and Saturday, and fully abstain on Fridays. Unfortunately, my body has gotten used to it and it doesn't appear to have the same success in curving my passions as the sacrifice once did. I have recently discovered, as a reparation to the Sacred Heart, that regular fasting throughout the week and partially abstaining is no longer sufficient as well.
My greatest success of 17 days without mortal sin was possible when adhering to the lenten rules of St. Thomas Aquinas during this past Lent. Fast each day, no meat and dairy, and strict prayer and mortification. It was tough, but spiritually rewarding. I only failed, because I gave into the COVID-19 scare and stopped adhering to the lenten rules in order to be "healthy enough" to combat the virus. One can see the irony in that; I quickly gave into my temptations and spiritually died in mortal sin.
I know that strict fasting and mortification gives me a better chance to guard my fiat against decay. But, I'm at a crossroads. Do I fast and abstain from meat and dairy for the rest of my life?
One can easily make the argument that if I loved Jesus Christ and feared the pains of hell enough than I would. My attachment to my flesh and this world is too strong to make that kind of commitment. I don't think I'm strong enough either.
On the contrary, I'm tired of going through this weekly battle of not being able to maintain my daily spiritual readings, praying the Holy Rosary, nightly meditation before the Crucifix, and most of all protecting my soul from mortal sin and egregious offences to God.
In my very soul, I know that I need to make a stronger commitment and give all of myself to Him. My sacrifices are not severe enough and my prayer schedule is not strict enough; until they are, I'll never be able to reach the point where I can take up Christ's light and sweet yoke.
For God's Help
"O Lord God, King of heaven and earth, vouchsafe this day to direct and sanctify, to rule and govern our hearts and our bodies, our thoughts, words, and deeds in Thy law and in the works of Thy commandments, that now and forever we may merit by Thy help to attain salvation and freedom, O Savior of the world, who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen." - Roman Breviary
Petition for Grace
"O my God, Thou knowest my weakness and failings, and that without Thy help I can accomplish nothing for the good of souls, my own or others'. Grant me, therefore, the help of Thy grace. Grant it according to my particular needs this day. Enable me to see the task Thou wilt set before me in the daily routine of my life, and help me to work hard at my appointed tasks. Teach me to bear patiently all the trials of suffering or failure that may come to me today. Amen." - The Prayer Book, Catholic Press, 1954
In Christ Crucified and the Most Victorious Heart of Jesus.