Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 4, Chapter 12

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CHAPTER XII. Of Sadness and Sorrow.

S. PAUL says that “godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to
be repented of, but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” [187] So we
see that sorrow may be good or bad according to the several results it
produces in us. And indeed there are more bad than good results arising
from it, for the only good ones are mercy and repentance; whereas there
are six evil results, namely, anguish, sloth, indignation, jealousy,
envy and impatience. The Wise Man says that “sorrow hath killed many,
and there is no profit therein,” [188] and that because for the two
good streams which flow from the spring of sadness, there are these six
which are downright evil.

The Enemy makes use of sadness to try good men with his
temptations:–just as he tries to make bad men merry in their sin, so
he seeks to make the good sorrowful amid their works of piety; and
while making sin attractive so as to draw men to it, he strives to turn
them from holiness by making it disagreeable. The Evil One delights in
sadness and melancholy, because they are his own characteristics. He
will be in sadness and sorrow through all Eternity, and he would fain
have all others the same.

The “sorrow of the world” disturbs the heart, plunges it into anxiety,
stirs up unreasonable fears, disgusts it with prayer, overwhelms and
stupefies the brain, deprives the soul of wisdom, judgment, resolution
and courage, weakening all its powers; in a word, it is like a hard
winter, blasting all the earth’s beauty, and numbing all animal life;
for it deprives the soul of sweetness and power in every faculty.

Should you, my daughter, ever be attacked by this evil spirit of
sadness, make use of the following remedies. “Is any among you
afflicted?” says S. James, “let him pray.” [189] Prayer is a sovereign
remedy, it lifts the mind to God, Who is our only Joy and Consolation.
But when you pray let your words and affections, whether interior or
exterior, all tend to love and trust in God. “O God of Mercy, most
Loving Lord, Sweet Saviour, Lord of my heart, my Joy, my Hope, my
Beloved, my Bridegroom.”

Vigorously resist all tendencies to melancholy, and although all you do
may seem to be done coldly, wearily and indifferently, do not give in.
The Enemy strives to make us languid in doing good by depression, but
when he sees that we do not cease our efforts to work, and that those
efforts become all the more earnest by reason of their being made in
resistance to him, he leaves off troubling us.

Make use of hymns and spiritual songs; they have often frustrated the
Evil One in his operations, as was the case when the evil spirit which
possessed Saul was driven forth by music and psalmody. It is well also
to occupy yourself in external works, and that with as much variety as
may lead us to divert the mind from the subject which oppresses it, and
to cheer and kindle it, for depression generally makes us dry and cold.
Use external acts of fervour, even though they are tasteless at the
time; embrace your crucifix, clasp it to your breast, kiss the Feet and
Hands of your Dear Lord, raise hands and eyes to Heaven, and cry out to
God in loving, trustful ejaculations: “My Beloved is mine, and I am
His. 1 [190] A bundle of myrrh is my Well-beloved, He shall lie within
my breast. Mine eyes long sore for Thy Word, O when wilt Thou comfort
me! [191] O Jesus, be Thou my Saviour, and my soul shall live. Who
shall separate me from the Love of Christ?” [192] etc.

Moderate bodily discipline is useful in resisting depression, because
it rouses the mind from dwelling on itself; and frequent Communion is
specially valuable; the Bread of Life strengthens the heart and
gladdens the spirits.

Lay bare all the feelings, thoughts and longings which are the result
of your depression to your confessor or director, in all humility and
faithfulness; seek the society of spiritually-minded people, and
frequent such as far as possible while you are suffering. And, finally,
resign yourself into God’s Hands, endeavouring to bear this harassing
depression patiently, as a just punishment for past idle mirth. Above
all, never doubt but that, after He has tried you sufficiently, God
will deliver you from the trial.
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[187] 2 Cor. vii. 10.

[188] “Multos enim occidit tristitia, et non est utilitas in illa.”
Ecclus. xxx. 25.

[189] S. James v. 13.

[190] Cant. ii. 16.

[191] Ps. cxix. 82.

[192] Rom. viii 35.
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