Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Our Passions

1. Our passions are not essentially sinful. They can open the way to evil, but they can also lead us towards perfection. Every­thing depends on how we control and direct them. They are impulses which are at the same time valuable and dangerous.

Human nature was wounded as a result of original sin. The soul was disobedient to God, and the lower faculties rebelled against right reason. Hence the disturbance of our passions. What should our attitude be in regard to this problem? Should we suppress or obliterate our passions, as some of the Stoics would have done a It is, in fact, impossible to do this, for our passions are innate natural forces which cannot be destroyed. What we should do is guide and control them. If the dykes are burst, a strongly flowing river can cause havoc, but if its course is wisely directed it irrigates the soil and makes it fertile. It is the same with our natural inclinations, which "can be used to form a saint, but can also make a brigand." (Cordovani, Breviario Spirituale, p. 66)

A man with a fiery and aggressive temperament can use his natural impulses under God's guidance to combat vice in himself and in others. One who is haughty and ambitious by nature can convert his ambition into a quest for the true and lasting glory of Heaven. Finally, a passionate man who feels the need to love and to be loved can find a partial remedy in Christian friendship. Most of all, however, he can find repose in the love of God.

2. It is a hard thing to control and to direct our natural inclinations. It requires perseverance, sacrifice, and the grace of God, for which we should always pray.

Often this struggle will last a lifetime, and we can still fall even after many years of combat. It is important, however, never to give up. If a man accepts defeat and quietly submits to the tyranny of sinful passion, he is lost for ever. It is a poor outlook also for a Christian who ends up by being satisfied with a life of worthless mediocrity. We must fight hard, pray fervently, and value nothing higher than the love of Christ. When we are finally victorious, our joy will be greater than any happiness which the world can give.

3. Let us be vigilant in the control of our passions. As soon as they tempt us to do anything contrary to right reason and the divine law, let us renew our resolutions and implore the help of God. "O God," let us pray, "I wish to love You above all things. I wish neither to contemplate nor intend nor do any­thing which could offend You in any way." This is the only way in which we shall find peace and an easy conscience for, as The Imitation of Christ says, "whenever a man desireth any thing inordinately, straightaway he is disquieted within himself." (Imit. of Christ, Bk. 1, c. 6) "It is by resisting the passions," it continues, "and not by serving them, that true peace of heart is to be found." (Ibid.)