Ten Hindrances to Devotion by St. Peter of Alcantara January 24, 2017Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, Domestic Church, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, Interior Life, mortification, priests, reading, Saints, sanctity, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.
Part two, as promised in yesterday’s post, which provided aids to developing a rich interior life. Today’s post covers those things that tend to inhibit the development of a strong practice of devotion to Our Lord and Lady. From Treatise on Prayer and Meditation pp. 128-131:
Just as there are certain things which help with devotion, so there are others which impede it. Among the latter:
1] Sin is the first, and not merely mortal sin, but venial sins also; for these, although they do not deprive us of charity, diminish the fervor of charity, which is practically the same thing as devotion. Consequently, we should be very much on our guard against them, not so much for the evil they work in us as for th egreat good of which they despoil us.
2] A second hindrance is the remorse of conscience, when it is excessive, which proceeds from these sins, for it disturbs and casts down the soul, frightens it and makes it unfit for every good work. [Excessive lamentations or remorse can also be a sign of pride, as in thinking one too good to have done X or Y. Just something to keep in mind. We certainly should have remorse for our sins, but that remorse should lead to humility and an understanding of our total need for God’s Grace, and not deep depression or other disturbances of our interior life]
3] Scruples, for the same reason, constitute another hindrance. They are like thorns, allowing the soul no rest, so that it can neither repose in God nor enjoy true peace. [Being afflicted with scruples can be a truly hellish experience, and one almost always self-inflicted. I have a daughter that is struggling with certain scruples, please pray for her.]
4] Every kind of bitterness and sourness of heart and unreasoning depression are also hindrances, for then one can hardly relish the taste and sweetness of a good conscience and of spiritual joy.
5] Overmuch worry is a further hindrance. Cares are like the flies of Egypt, which distress the soul and prevent it from enjoying that spiritual rest which is experienced in prayer. It is precisely then, more than at other times, that they disturb the soul and turn it away from this exercise. [A trend should be discernible – anything that tends to rob the soul of peace for long periods are detrimental to the interior life. Something to consider when we get exercised over the state of things in the Church and world today. A certain level of knowledge is of course beneficial and even necessary, but if reading news begins to seriously affect our peace of soul or derail our practice of the Faith – or even, God forbid, tempts us to fall away – then we need to retract from whatever is causing us to lose peace and focus on other, happier things, at least for a while]
6] Too many occupations are also a hindrance, for they take up much time, stifle the soul, and leave a man without leisure or heart for divine things. [Recreation is necessary. So are distractions, at times.]
7] Pleasure and worldly consolations, if indulged in to excess, hinder a man from prayer. “He who devotes himself overmuch to the delights of the world,” says St. Bernard, “does not deserve those of the Holy Ghost.”
8] Delicacy and abundance in food and drink form another hindrance, and especially long-drawn-out meals. These are a very bad foundation for spiritual exercises and devout watching. When the body is weighed down and charged in excess with food, the soul is very unfitted to soar aloft.
9] The vice of curiosity in the senses and in the intellect is a hindrance too. Seeking to hear and see all sorts of things, wishing to have about oneself things that are pretty or quaint…..all this takes up time, embarrasses the senses, disturbs the soul and diverts it in every direction, and thus impedes devotion. [We must be very careful in what we allow ourselves, and our families, to be exposed to. Everyone has their own needs, their own limits, and their own weaknesses. The best way to proceed is experientially, paying attention to how we feel and how we behave, internally and externally, to see if new or changed levels of stimuli produce a positive or negative effect in our spiritual lives. Anything that tends towards the negative must be eliminated or sharply curtailed.]
10] Finally, any interruption of the holy exercises, unless for a good and pious reason, is a hindrance, for as a learned writer said, the spirit of devotion is something very delicate, and once it goes, it either does not return at all, or at least only after much difficulty. [While St. Peter was originally writing primarily for religious, thus the seriousness of an interruption of the exercises religious are required under duty and obedience to perform, we can still take from this an understanding that we should try to develop a regular prayer regimen for ourselves, to the extent possible, and not deviate from it. We should not allow our concentration to be interrupted during prayer time by needless distractions. Prayers said mechanically are unworthy of significant grace. Strive to grow in focus during periods of prayer and meditation]
Thank you for the kind comments to the previous post on St. Peter of Alcantara. His book is excellent. He’s been hard to excerpt, but these two short chapters were perfect for a blog. I’ll certainly share anything else I can that is not too onerous for online reading.