A Year with the Saints – 18 March


The principal thing upon which we have to turn our attention, that we may mortify it and eradicate it from our hearts, is the predominant passion – that is, the affection, inclination, vice, or bad habit, which reigns most in us, which makes us its captive, which brings us into greatest danger, and most frequently causes us to fall into grave transgressions. When the king is taken, the battle is won. And until we do this, we shall make no great advance in perfection. – Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez

An event of the kind upon which Rodriguez founds his comparison occurred, as Holy Scripture narrates, in the war between the King of Syria and the King of Israel. The latter commanded all his captains to attack no one in the hostile army except the king himself, wisely judging that if the king should be conquered, the whole army would be overcome. This happened in fact, for when King Achab was struck down, the battle ended.

Saint Ignatius once had a novice of a fiery disposition, to whom he often said: “My son, conquer this temperament of yours, and you will have in Heaven a more resplendent crown than many who are gentle by nature.” One day, the Father in charge accused this young man to him as intractable. “Not so,” answered the Saint; “for I believe he has made more improvement in a few months, than such a one, who is naturally gentle, in a year.” The same Saint was himself of a bilious, sanguine temperament. But he took his predominant passion so steadily in hand, and so conquered and changed himself by the grace of God, that he was considered by all, even by physicians, to be phlegmatic.

Saint Francis de Sales confessed that the dominant passions he had most difficulty in subduing were love and anger, and that he had conquered the former by stratagem, the latter by open force; that is, he had conquered love by diverting his mind, and proposing to himself another object of love; for he said that as the human soul cannot exist without some love, the whole secret lies in giving to it only what is good, pure, and holy. Anger, on the other hand, he had subdued by attacking it in front, and never yielding to it at all. Whence it happened that though he was naturally passionate, he was thought to be of a gentle temper.

MLA Citation