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Kempis on: Resisting Temptation

1 Peter 5:8

Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.


Temptation! This is one of those subjects that makes me think of my past and recall just how weak I once was. Am I where I need to be? Not until I get to heaven. The devil is relentless.

In my last post, Kempis on: The Value of Adversity, I wrote about how, as Catholic Christians, we need to advance in our faith. Adversity is much like weight training, which I spent 30 plus years doing. Muscle growth will not occur without resistance. With adversity comes temptation. Temptation is the resistance that helps us grow in the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity.

Temptation comes in many sizes and colors. I can be baited, enticed, attracted to, tantalized, seduced and coaxed... if I allowed it. Even little temptations are invitations from demons to sin... perhaps venial, but sins none the less. Mock a silly neighbor? Temptation. Get upset in traffic? Temptation.

Thomas Kempis, in his thirteenth chapter of Imitation of Christ , spent many pages on the topic. Below are the notes I took, verbatim (as always), from that chapter.


We cannot escape suffering and temptation.
No one is so perfect or so holy but he is sometimes tempted; man cannot be altogether free from temptation. Yet temptations, though troublesome and severe, are often useful to a man, for in them he is humbled, purified, and instructed.
There is no state so holy, no place so secret that temptations and trials will not come. Man is never safe from them as long as he lives, for they come from within us--in sin we were born.
We cannot conquer simply by fleeing, but by patience and true humility we become stronger than all our enemies. The man who only shuns temptations outwardly and does not uproot them will make little progress; indeed they will quickly return, more violent than before.
We will overcome them, by the help of God rather than by severity and your own rash ways. Do not be harsh with others who are tempted, but console them as you yourself would wish to be consoled.
The beginning of all temptation lies in a wavering mind and little trust in God, we must be especially alert against the beginnings of temptation, for the enemy is more easily conquered if he is refused admittance to the mind and is met beyond the threshold "Resist the beginnings; remedies come too late, when by long delay the evil has gained strength."
We should not despair, therefore, when we are tempted, but pray to God the more fervently that He may see fit to help us, for according to the word of Paul, in temptations and trials the progress of a man is measured; in them opportunity for merit and virtue is made more manifest. (my emphasis)

On the day of my epiphany, that wonderful day in March, 2012, when I came to understand God's Love and put my complete faith and trust in Him, I felt temptation dramatically decrease and it was easier to say NO to the devil. Still, it remains a work in progress.

I learned, and remained convinced, that once we truly understand and accept God's Love, we will never wish to disappoint Him. I recall the words of St. Maria Goretti when Alessandro (Sandrino) was attempting to rape her and eventually stabbed her to death. While being choked she said to her assailant,“No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” She was being murdered but would not succumb to the brutality of the attack. She was only 12 years old, but demonstrated the bravery most men I've known would like to have possessed.

James 1:12-15

Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him. No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death

For me, there is not a better feeling in the world than when I am tempted and I say no. I'm very competitive in life, so to borrow an old sports axiom I can describe temptation this way: "I hate losing more than I love winning!" In the case of allurement, of doing something remotely evil, I want to please God by saying NO! I want the demon to know he lost. I want him to know that he can't have me as I belong to my Father. I want to be strong like Jesus Christ. This is the way I choose to win... to win my salvation.

Each day I thank my Father in Heaven for my Catholicism and the Sacraments.


God Bless you

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Sep 07, 2023

I'm starting to think (after reading your articles) that aside from Scriptures, if a Catholic read only one spiritual classic, they might do best by reading Thomas a Kempis's Imitation of Christ.

Student of Kempis
Student of Kempis
Sep 07, 2023
Replying to

Thank you Father. I agree with you. It's as if the book was kind of a Gospel by itself. How to live and imitate Jesus. God Bless.

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