“We are surprised at falling: an evident mark that we scarcely know ourselves. We ought, on the contrary, to be surprised at not falling more frequently, and into more grievous faults, and to return thanks to God for the dangers from which He preserves us. We are troubled every time that we are beguiled into some fault, lose interior peace, are agitated, and spend hours, even days, thinking of it.
We should never be troubled; but when we find ourselves on the ground, arise tranquilly, return to God with love, ask His forgiveness, and reflect no more on what has occurred, unless when it is necessary to accuse ourselves of it [in Confession].
“The persons for whom I write are those only who are determined not to commit any fault deliberately, but who may stumble through surprise, inadvertence, and weakness, notwithstanding their resolution.
We have a false shame for our faults; we can hardly venture to discover them to our confessor. “What idea will he have of me after so many promises, so many assurances, I have given him?”
If you declare your faults simply and humbly, he will have more esteem for you. If you have a difficulty in telling them to him, his confidence in you will diminish on account of your want of sincerity.
But the worst of all is that we are vexed at being vexed, and impatient at being impatient. What a misery! Should we not see that this is pride, that we are humbled on finding ourselves less holy than we had imagined, that we aspire to be exempt from imperfections and faults only in order to applaud and congratulate ourselves on having spent one day or week without much matter of reproach?
In fine, we become discouraged; we abandon our spiritual meditations one by one; we give up prayer; we regard perfection as impossible, and despair of arriving at any such height. What will this constraint, we say, this continual watching over oneself, this struggle after recollection and mortification, avail us, since we correct nothing, fall incessantly, and never become better?
There is not a craftier snare of the demon than this. Would you wish to be protected from it? Never be discouraged, and no matter what fault you happen to commit, say: Though I should fall twenty times, or a hundred times, a day, I will arise at every fall, and pursue my course. What does it amount to, after all, that you should have met with some accidents on the way, provided you safely reach the journey’s end? God will not reproach you after your recovery.”
— From Consoling Thoughts on Trials of an Interior Life by St. Francis de Sales
— Carlo Carretto on the Pain of Failing
— The Christian May Never Despair
— St. Francis de Sales on The First Purification
John Paul II: “To do penance means, above all, to re-establish the balance and harmony broken by sin, to change directions at the cost of sacrifice” —-Reconciliation and Penance, 26, emphasis added
We immerse ourselves daily in news, in reports, in never-ending drama and events. We see or hear the sins of many, many others, endlessly; but do we neglect our own souls, our own need for healing?
Thomas a Kempis teaches, “Rest from the inordinate desire of knowledge, for therein is found much distraction and deceit. Many things there are to know which profiteth little or nothing to the soul. And foolish out of measure is he who attendeth upon other things rather than those which serve to his soul’s health. Many words satisfy not the soul, but a good life refresheth the mind, and a pure conscience giveth great confidence towards God.” — the Imitation of Christ