What is temptation ? Temptation is the action of Satan to drag you to Hell . And Satan can read you like a book and play you like a piano. You do not have to exaggerate its power, but do not even underestimate it.
Some of its subtlest actions are implemented in the field of religious observance, where it can very easily disguise itselfusing the lamb’s devotional skin, but, as it is in reality, it distorts it, either by excess or by default, thus destroying you. with what is good. Beware of what some spiritual writers call “the pious pit”.
Let’s take a few examples:
You may be discouraged about prayer by saying, “If you only prayed a little longer, God would give you what you are looking for.” But the deception is that even if we can pray a little more, we will never have prayed enough. Even if we pray, then, we only feel guilty and inadequate. And since we can never have prayed “enough”, prayer becomes more and more a heavy task; God becomes a cruel tyrant who asks for longer and more precise prayers, and prayer becomes a superstitious effort that we control in some way the result with the length and type of our prayers. Jesus tells us that the Father knows what we need and that we should not think that only multiple words and pious actions are necessary. We may need to persevere in prayer over time, but God is not a cruel tyrant who requires infinite spells.
Satan can take the splendid practice of reciting the Rosary or attending daily Mass or other devotions and slowly insinuate in us a feeling of smug superiority, elitism or pride. Gradually, one begins to think that others are less devoted, even wrong, because they do not or do not observe what is optional or encouraged but not required. What is beautiful and holy is then used to incite a growing pride and cynicism. An extreme form of this comes from those who take the beautiful and powerful devotion to Our Lady of Fatima and allow Satan to turn against the Pope and all the bishops of the world by stating that they have failed to consecrate Russia properly. And so one of our most beautiful and instructive apparitions can arouse in some people distrust of the Church and disunity towards it, of many popes and even of the same Sister Lucy. It is a surprisingly cunning action of the evil one to take what is good and religious and to corrupt it in the minds of some people.
Satan can also take what is required to transform it into a kind of religious minimalism , a way of keeping God at a distance. And so tempts some souls with the notion that Sunday Mass and a few hurried prayers are the end of religion rather than its beginning. This observance becomes a way to “tick” the list and stay in place with God for the whole week, rather than a base on which to build a beautiful and ever deeper relationship of love with Him. These minimal practices become a way of ” divine control “for those who suffer this temptation; it’s like saying “I did what I had to do, now God and the Church must leave me alone. God now must also take care of me since I did what I was asked to do. “ And so the beautiful laws of the Church and the rules that describe the fundamental duties or the basis of a deeper relationship with God become a sort of “separation agreement”, which insists on very rigid visiting hours and specifies who gets what.
Satan can take religious zeal and bribe him in a rigid and non-charitable attitude. It can take the love for the beauty of the liturgy , old or new, and turn it into a fussy insistence on the right ingredients , at the expense of charity and at the cost of ridiculousness, false superiority and division . And so, putting love aside, we say: “Be sure to celebrate the liturgy in the way I like it. Anyone who does not love what I like is ancient, a rascal or a rough troglodyte and must obviously hate the Church that I love so much “. Satan can take the beautiful love for the poor and bribe him in a enslaving paternalism that encloses them in dependence, or does not meet their spiritual needs by speaking respectfully of their sins or does not seek to deepen their spiritual and family life. And so the beautiful corporal works of mercy or are divorced from spiritual works of mercy or are considered adequate in themselves. Satan can send many to serve the poor, armed with half-truths and approaches that are limited to covering deeper wounds without facing them.
In a sense, every virtue is needed. Satan can use each of them and will try to bribe them all , including religious ones.No one is exempt from his tempting work; his goal is to drag us to hell.
What makes this work of corruption so virtuous insidious is the subtlety of his work, because he takes something that is intrinsically positive and tries to corrupt it, by excess or defect, or to turn it into a sort of caricature of himself.
Virtues, of course, must work in combination with other virtues that balance them. For example, charity should be balanced by truth, and truth by charity. Without charity, the truth can be constrictive; without truth, charity can become harmful, paternalistic. Charity and truth must balance each other and work together with other virtues in a delicate interaction.
One of Satan’s tactics is to take a virtue and isolate it from others. Attention to these subtle tactics of Satan, who camouflages well in the garments of virtue. But they are detached virtues, without balance and proportion.
Beware of the pious traps .
Of Mons. Charles Pope
Link to the original article on Aleteia