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Delusions the Devil Suggests to Sinners


Let us imagine a young man who has fallen into grievous sins, which he has already confessed, and who is restored to the friendship of God. The devil again tempts him to relapse; the young man resists for a while, but in consequence of the delusions suggested by the enemy, he begins to vacillate. “Tell me, young man,” I say to him, “what will you do? Will you now, for this miserable pleasure, forfeit the grace of God, which you have just acquired, and which is more valuable than the whole world? Will you yourself write the sentence of eternal death, and condemn yourself to burn forever in hell?” “No,” you answer, “I do not wish to damn myself; I wish to he saved; if I commit this sin, I will afterwards confess it.” Behold the TheTemptationOfSaintAnthonyGrunewaldDetailfirst delusion of the devil! Then you say that you will afterwards confess it; but in the meantime you lose your soul. Tell me, if you had a jewel worth a thousand crowns, would you throw it into a river, saying, “I will make a diligent search for it, and hope to find it?” You hold in your hand the precious jewel of your soul, which Jesus Christ has purchased with his blood, and you voluntarily cast it into hell (for in punishment of every mortal sin, you are condemned to eternal fire) and say, “I hope to recover it by a good confession.” But should you not recover it, what shall be the consequence? To recover the divine grace, true repentance, which is the gift of God, is necessary. Should God not give you the grace of repentance, should death overtake you, and not allow you time to go to confession, what shall become of you?

You say that you will go to confession before the lapse of a week. And who promises you that you shall live for a week? You then say that you will go to confession to-morrow. And who promises you to-morrow? St. Augustine says, “God has not promised to-morrow: perhaps he will give it, and perhaps he will not.” Perhaps he will deny it to you, as he has to so many others who have gone to bed in good health, and have been found dead in the morning. How many have been struck dead in the act of sin, and sent to hell! And should the same happen to you, how shall you be able to repair your eternal ruin? Be assured that by this delusion, I will afterwards go to confession, the devil has brought thousands and thousands of Christians to hell. It is difficult to find a sinner so abandoned to despair as to wish for his own damnation. In committing sin, all sinners hope to repent and go to confession; it is thus that so many miserable souls are lost; and now there is no remedy for their damnation.

But you say, “At present I cannot resist this temptation.” Behold the second delusion of the devil, who makes it appear to you that at present you have not strength to resist your passions. First, it is necessary to know that, as the apostle says, “God is faithful, and never permits us to be tempted above our strength” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Moreover, I ask, if you are now unable to resist your passions, how shall you be able to resist them hereafter? After you have yielded to one temptation, the devil shall tempt you to other sins, and by your consent to sin he shall have gained an increase of strength against you, and you shall have become weaker. If, then, you are unable to extinguish the flame of passion, how can you expect to extinguish it when it shall have grown stronger? You say, God will give you his aid. But this aid he gives you at present. Why, then, do you not correspond with his grace and conquer your passion? Perhaps you expect that God will give you more abundant helps and graces after you have multiplied sins. If at present you wish for greater help and strength, why do you not ask them from God? “Ask and it shall be given you” (Matthew 7:7). God cannot violate his promise. Have recourse to him and he will give you the strength which you require in order to resist every temptation. “God does not command impossibilities,” says the Council of Trent, Sess. 6, cap 11; “but by his command he admonishes us to do what we can with the actual aid which he gives us; and when this aid is not sufficient to enable us to resist temptations, he exhorts us to ask additional help, which he gives whenever we pray for it.”

Affections and Prayers

Then, my God, why hast thou been so bountiful to me, and I so ungrateful to thee? We have been engaged in a mutual contest. I fled away from thee, and thou didst seek after me. Thou didst confer benefits on me, I offered insults to thee. Ah Lord! The goodness alone which thou hast shown me ought to enamor me of thee; for, when I multiplied sins, thou didst multiply thy graces. And, when have I merited the light which thou now givest me? My Lord, I thank thee for it with my whole heart, and I hope to thank thee for it eternally in heaven. I hope in thy blood for eternal salvation, and I hope for it with certainty, since thou hast treated me with so much mercy. I hope that thou wilt give me grace never more to betray thee. I purpose, with thy grace, to die a thousand times rather than ever again offend thee. I have offended thee sufficiently. During the remainder of my life I wish to love thee. And how can I but love a God who, after having died for me, has waited for me with so much patience, in spite of the numberless injuries I have done him? O God of my soul, I repent of all my sins with my whole heart; I would wish to die of sorrow for them. But if I have hitherto turned my back upon thee, I now love thee above all things; I love thee more than myself. Eternal Father, through the merits of Jesus Christ, assist a miserable sinner, who wishes to love thee. Mary, my hope, assist me; obtain for me the grace always to have recourse to thy Son and to thee, as often as the devil shall tempt me to offend God again.

Editor’s Note: This meditation is from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “Preparation for Death” (1758).

Art: Detail from The Temptation of Saint Anthony, Mathias Grünewald, 1515, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Patrick wilkie

    Dan can I ask you a question

  • Patrick wilkie

    A guy I know passed away recently, he was a caretaker of a school, and developed cancer of the bones just before he retired, I think he was about , 62, anyway, spent most of his life in the pub, and I don’t think he ever gave God a second thought,with the cancer and all , he was heavily drugged up with morphine, but just before he died, he was swearing conctantly , and got very angry, would you have any idea why he was like that,I though that when you die , there is a sence of peace, I read some where that when the soul meets God it either is estatic and euphoric of finally meeting God, or because it is sinful it blasphemes , is there any truth in this Dan.

    • Patrick – I am not a big fan of speculation when it comes to theology and the human soul. So, the following is just my ignorant opinion. The soul at peace with God would generally maintain that peace (barring unusual temptations from the enemy) as they near their death. Those who are at enmity with God would naturally feel less peaceful as they head to their unhappy end.

  • Anonymous

    What happened to forgiveness by perfect contrition, with the intention of getting to confession ASAP?

    • LizEst

      St. Alphonsus is not denying this.

      He is saying that if you intend to sin BECAUSE you can confess it later, you are deadly wrong. You are presuming on the mercy of God. And, that itself is a serious sin. It’s like someone stealing because they know they can get away with it. The intention St Alphonsus is getting at is the intention of getting away with something. That’s preseumption. And, presumption is a serious sin.

      If, however, you sin (out of weakness, provocation, or some other human failing) and then you have perfect contrition and have the intention of confessing it as soon as possible, that’s a whole different story.

      • Anonymous

        Catholics who mortally sin, out of whatever, know God will forgive them. Even to sin BECAUSE they know they will be forgiven is a weakness and a human failing in and of itself, no?

        • LizEst

          You’re right. To sin because they know they will be forgiven is a weakness and human failing…but the difference is that it is a very calculated sin. And, that makes it very, very serious. It’s like the difference between killing someone in a jealous rage as opposed to plotting murder. Both are very serious. But, plotting murder is even more so because the mind, the will, and the understanding are all involved.

      • Anonymous

        I’m not trying to dispute the good saint but to understand him. I thought all sin, mortal sin included, was a result of a human weakness or failing and no sin is not beyond God’s mercy. One can be tempted to fall into sin, know it is wrong and that God will forgive them, and proceed anyway – out of weakness, and perhaps with a little defiance towards God because that is what sin is.

        • LizEst

          No sin is beyond God’s mercy (the refusal to accept God’s mercy is the so-called “unforgivable sin”. See our recent post on that here: ). Yes, God will forgive you if you do sin this way, with the intent of knowing you will be forgiven…but, God knows our hearts. He will know if you are truly repentant. If you go to confession and have true contrition for your sins, you will receive absolution. God will know if you are truly repentant and truly trying to avoid the sin.

          It’s important to understand that when you receive absolution, you must have a firm purpose of amending your life. If you don’t have a firm purpose, or intent, of amending your life, a firm purpose of avoiding this sin and the occasions (the circumstances and temptations) that lead you into this sin, you are really making a mockery out of the sacrament of confession.

          If we are committing a sin over and over and over again, going to confession, receiving absolution, and going right back to committing this sin, how sorry are we really? If we are doing nothing to stop it, how sorry are we really? If it is an addiction of some sort, we might need to seek professional to help us overcome it.

  • Patricia

    James 4:7
    Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

    Bible reveals that we must surrender our lives to God and live as new creations. God wants us to live in freedom from sin and temptation. Our only hope for freedom from sin and temptation is to trust Jesus.

    St. Therese’s spirituality of imperfection shows us that by simply admitting that in spite of our best efforts, we all fall short. But as long as the heart is intent on loving, our failures are not the issue. God is a consuming fire. We are a spark of God. If we but surrender ourselves, God will consume all, even our imperfections, in the fire of Divine Love. The point is that our heart be free to love.

  • El_Tigre_Loco

    Not ALL sins are forgiveable.
    Mark 3:29
    “but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—

    • LizEst

      You’re right. We just did a post on this in March: …and have done others as well.

      The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the rejection of the forgiveness that God offers for all sin. But, if a person doesn’t accept that forgiveness, then how can one be forgiven? That’s the crux of the issue. God bless you El Tigre Loco (quite a name you have there!). Blessed, Holy and Joyous Easter to you and yours.

  • Teresa

    Thank you for this very good reflection ; the danger in the sin of presumption , ( which likely plays a big part in sins against life ) a sin against the Holy Spirit of God’s love and power He wants to grant us ,might very well be that one gets into the blasphemy against The Spirit whereby , it can become that much harder to accept God’s forgiveness and mercy for oneself and others , for the peace that it brings .
    The danger of not resisting temptation , thus falling into habitual sins , not dealing with same as occasions to grow in grace , not for arguments and hurtful words , by reliving such occasions from the past , instead handing over the tongue ,as a living sacrifice , in prayer of silence or healing words that build up, convey forgiveness, the mind that can get aggravated at the deceitful or manipulative ways of others , instead to get directed to occasions when one has not kept the promise esp. at every Eucharist , to forgive all, on account of the love and mercy in the Sacred Head and Heart – may The Risen Lord have mercy on us all and help us to make our bodies as living sacrifices !

  • Teresa

    Dealing with envy and related greed , esp. from family members who too are blessed enough , yet , being alienated from own at the heart level, thus desiring to deceitfully confuse boundaries and try , in dhimmy style, to bring controlling relationships – these too are often areas one has to deal with , contributed to ,
    at times , by similar debts of sin , in family lines and which the enemy wants to use , to bring bitterness , aggravation and alienation , in one’s own closest family ties – thus , the need to often unite at the heart level, to plead for mercy , for all in one’s life, even when others seem engaged in seemingly ‘innocent ‘ past times such as gambling .
    The demon of greed that is being invited in , into their lives can pretty soon manifest at one’s own door steps, in the form of distorted and unjust expectations , thus the need to be the keepers of the brethren, often uniting with them, in spirit , pleading – ‘have mercy on us ‘ , that all get delivered into right and honest paths !

  • Teresa

    The hidden and real danger in the aggressive promotion of homosexuality is in similar realms – envy against women as life bearer , brought out as contempt towards the dignity and identity of women ( and men as well, in the related evil in women ) – ‘ who needs women , when we can take on similar roles ‘ , as an indication of how perverse and vile the comparison that the enemy has brought in, into the darkened minds and hearts !
    Let us hope and pray that the tears of The Mother ,at the foot of The Cross , would bring in the grace to be dead to all such sinful attitudes and ways , instead bring in the light of truth of His love and power ,to accept with joy , in gratitude , how precious and loved we are , to live in accordance !

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