When a man reads about the crisis in the Church, he is often disturbed within himself. He may be agitated, anxious, or wrathful. His emotions are disturbed, which can affect his intellect and will. He can be tempted to pusillanimity—which is failure to do what lies in your power (ST II-II q133 a1)—or despair, which is conforming your emotions to a denial of God’s goodness and power (ST II-II q20, a1, 3). Both of these vices are related to sloth and effeminacy of which we have spoken in another place. Hence a man must first understand that these disordered emotions lead him to vice and sin and are thus tools of the Devil to destroy his soul. Then he must fight against them manfully.
Now peace is defined as “tranquility of order” in which “all the appetitive (emotional) movements in one man are set at rest together” (ST II-II q29 a1). And whereas the former vices are a result of sloth, peace is the result of charity which is union with God (Ibid., a3). When we advance in charity to God, our emotional life is quieted because our soul is properly ordered, with reason and will governing our emotional life so that it is properly expressed. Thus our reason guides us to become angry when anger is proper, but it also moderates the pleasures of wrath by meekness, so that we seek a just vindication, not an excess of cruelty (cf. ST II-II q158 a1). And if we have a virtuous anger, it is with utter tranquility of heart and peace of mind. Since your peace is proportionate to your charity, any lack of peace is evidence of a lack of charity and holiness. So pick up your cross.
Keeping your Peace
Dom Scupoli states that “The whole and principle business of your life must consist in continually quieting your heart, and never letting it go astray.” For truly when a heart is perfected in charity, there is nothing which can disquiet it because it is united to the One Uncreated and Unmoved. As it is written, Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee (Is. xxvi. 3) and again
Our God is our refuge and strength. Therefore we will not fear, when the earth shall be troubled; and the mountains shall be removed into the heart of the sea (Ps. xlv. 2-3).
All the spiritual writers say that the way in which we must obtain this peace is through rejecting every created consolation—even spiritual consolation—and clinging to God alone. Thus we embrace suffering because it blesses us with the detachment needed to achieve inner peace. Scupoli:
You must toil and make every effort, especially at the beginning, to embrace tribulation and adversity as your dear sisters—desiring to be despised by all, and to have no one who entertains a favorable opinion of you, or brings you comfort, but your God.
You must continually embrace suffering until you come to a place where you actually desire it because you know what great help it is to charity and union with God.
It is thus that we must approach this crisis in the Church—with a great desire to suffer. Let a man examine himself and see whether his peace is disturbed by reading the news or investigating controversy. If he is disturbed, let him drop everything and come back to the Lord, fighting strenuously against the temptations toward effeminacy and embracing the cross. It is unwise to enter battle before one is properly prepared to fight and overcome. Therefore attend to your soul, lest it be lost on the Day of Judgment. Abide in charity with God and acquire peace and detachment before you engage with these lesser matters.
Timothy S. Flanders
Lorenzo Scupoli, Of Interior Peace or the Path to Paradise contained within The Spiritual Combat (Scriptoria Books: 2012), 163