It’s a scary world out there. The world, the flesh, the devil is constantly pulling at us, trying to suck us in. Everywhere we look there is promiscuity, immoral values, etc. It almost makes one swing to an extreme….an extreme where there is no good in the world left and everything becomes a sin. An easy trap to fall into?
If the devil can’t get us one way, he will try another, won’t he?
This excerpt is from the wonderful book Achieving Peace of Heart, written over 50 years ago. The author is a Catholic priest. His book is the product of years of experience both as a priest and as a practicing psychologist. It is a book, therefore, written out of knowledge and charity. How much Fr. Irala’s wise words are needed today:
From Achieving Peace of Heart, Father Narciso Iirala, S.J.
The obsessing insecurity of scruples can find expression in profane matters, as in the case of one who goes out of his house and is worried whether he put out the lights, turned off the faucet, or locked the door.
This kind of obsession also, and frequently, finds expression in religious or moral affairs. A religious scruple is a torturing but unfounded fear of sinning or having sinned.
It is an error or anguishing doubt caused by a strong fear which inhibits or disturbs the reason. Scruples are the source of anxiety or sadness, of many organic ailments, bashfulness, and many personality disturbances. If not controlled in time, scruples can become the occasion of despair, moral relapses, and even moral perversion.
The predisposing causes of scruples are the same as those indicated above for exaggerated impressionability or exaggerated emotions in general, such as organic weakness and nervous exhaustion.
Another cause is a temperament that tends to look upon the negative side of things. Or it may be one or more of the following: a residue of insecurity because of not having taken action against previous unreasonable fears; an uncontrolled and exaggerated imagination; an excessively strict education; much dealing with scrupulous people; an anxious desire for excessive certitude; or fear of responsibility.
A scruple may also be a temptation of the devil. When it is very prolonged, it is almost always an indication of psychoneurosis and sometimes of psychosis.
In other words, a scruple can be one of many symptoms of mental illness, but of itself it does not indicate an evil moral life or lack of faith.
Remedies for Scruples:
1. Before all else make sure that it is really a scruple and not merely ignorance or a passing test prompted by God. This judgment should be made by the director or adviser and not by the person himself.
2. Then admit what is scientifically proven, that is, that scruples are a mental and not a moral illness. He should recall what we said about the “degrees of fear.” Whenever the fear is great (and there is no greater fear than that caused by the idea of “eternal damnation”), this not only inhibits and disturbs his muscles, but also his mind and feelings. The emotion of fear is so disturbing to the scrupulous person that it makes him see danger where there is none, or see grave sin where there is only an imperfection or a venial fault.
3. Fight the battle on the proper terrain. Do not pretend to destroy this mental and natural enemy with means that are spiritual or supernatural such as absolution. What should we say to someone who comes up to a priest and keeps saying, “Father, save me. I have such a toothache I know I am going to hell.”
The answer should be: “Go see a dentist, but do not think you are lost because of a reason like that.” The scrupulous person must be told something similar. “Do not give an eternal dimension to what is only an emotional disturbance.”
4. Recognize, then, that emotion disturbs the judgment so much that it makes one see what does not exist. This often happens when timid persons think they see apparitions at night. They forget it when they discover the phantasm, or appearance, is really something that they know very well. But they run away in terror if the fear gets control of them.
Once upon a time there was a blind man, led along by a guide, who all of a sudden, stopped and said, “I can’t go another step; I see a deep pit in front of me. Of course, being blind, he could not see what was really not there, but he had something in his imagination.
Something like this happens in the case of the scrupulous man when, despite his confessor’s judgment, he sees sin and sacrilege in receiving Communion. We should insist that he receive Communion, but, instead of losing time examining his conscience over and over again weighing the “sacrilege” that he thinks he sees, he should repeat acts of love and confidence. Such faith and obedience, which relinquish one’s own judgement for God’s sake, are heroic. And each such act of love itself gives or increases grace.
Prepare now for Advent and Christmas! This little Maglet (magazine/booklet) is full of inspiration and devotions for your Advent and Christmas Season! Check it out here.