Dom Lorenzo Scupoli’s The
Spiritual Combat was recommended to me by a friend many years ago, when I
was first looking into my patron saint Francis de Sales’s spiritual classic An Introduction to the Devout Life. First
published in 1589, Fr. Scupoli’s book was required reading for those whom St. Francis de Sales advised, and he reportedly carried in his pocket a copy given
to him by Fr. Scupoli himself.
Over the past several months, I’ve been reading and
reflecting on The Spiritual Combat
during adoration. I will warn you up front: It is not an easy read. The
language and structure are archaic and complex at times, and Fr. Scupoli takes
sin, Satan, and the possibility of Hell uncomfortably seriously (as we should,
too). Take your time; read a section and reflect on it. Re-read if necessary. This
is a book the rewards patience and prayer.
I believe it will reward repeated reading, as well. Each “chapter”
reads like a short reflection building upon the previous. I have read all of these
reflections now, but find that, in my own spiritual life, I’m still focused on
the first few reflections. Early in the book, Fr. Scupoli insists that in the
battle for souls, we must fight or die—but victory can only come from
recognizing our own spiritual weakness and putting no trust in ourselves and our
own abilities. We must recognize our overwhelming tendency to fall and put all our
confidence in a loving and merciful God, without whom we can do no good, but
with whom we cannot fail.
I don’t live like that. Most days I still try to get by on
my own steam and get frustrated when I stumble or fail. So in terms of
spiritual combat, most days I’m still reminding myself of my weakness and
striving to distrust me and trust Him instead. When this becomes habitual, it
may be time to read this book again!
My edition ends with a shorter work also attributed to Fr.
Scupoli, A Treatise on Peace in the Soul.
This is another old fashioned, hard-hitting, and practical work, much shorter
than The Spiritual Combat, and for
me, much easier to apply as a whole to my day-to-day life. The overarching
theme is the importance of maintaining peace in the soul and responding
immediately to worries, anxieties, and fears that disturb us, recognizing that
these are tools the Enemy uses to separate us from God. I read this part in about two sittings and found myself
much refreshed and with much to think about and apply, even as a raw recruit to
the spiritual combat.
* * * * *
Blogger’s Note: The
cover on my edition is the one pictured. As a former wrestler and father of
wrestlers, this image of Jacob wrestling the angel alone is worth the price of
the book! Also: toward the end of the post at the following link is my brief reflection on Introduction to the Devout Life, another great spiritual book.
Labels: books, conversion, cross, Devil, discipleship, faith, grace, mercy, saints, sin, wrestling