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Posted May 20, 2003

Book: Spiritual Combat Revisited
Author: Jonathan Robinson of the Oratory
Ignatius Press, San Francisco


Excerpt from the Jacket:

Fr. Jonathan Robinson has done a great service in revitalizing Lorenzo Scupoli's once well-known book Spiritual Combat so that contemporary Catholics can rediscover this rich work that has served many generations of Catholics but, lamentably, fallen into disuse in the past half-century.

This book is about the life of prayer and personal reform and renewal. It fits squarely into the tradition of the "great masters" of the spiritual life as well as to the line of contemporary modern writers on spirituality . . .

This is a work of particular relevance in that it confronts modern culture with the tough-minded, deeply authentic challenge of spiritual combat.

In introducing Scupoli's main points, Father Robinson has retained the original book's appeal to the ordinary Catholic reader through a conversational style, short chapters, and familiar examples form everyday life. In covering the basic difficulties of daily prayer and of obstacles to living the virtues, Scupoli and Robinson test the mettle of Catholics by calling them to live an interior life for and with God.

Excerpt from the Book:

Perfection and Beatitude

Working for perfection is an essential part of Christian living, but unless we remind ourselves that spiritual combat is undertaken because we desire to be united with Christ, then things will go wrong with us in a least two ways. In the first place, forgetting about beatitude leads to focus on spiritual combat that distorts asceticism itself. Secondly, if we ignore the purpose of asceticism, we will not persevere.

When the spiritual combat becomes an end in itself, it degenerates into a refined sort of selfishness with all the emphasis on the fact that it is my own perfection that is being worked for with little concern either for other people or often, so it would seem, even for God. The safeguard against this danger is to remember that we seek perfection because Christ has told us to, and he has told us to so that, with his grace, we may become united with him. . . . .We must always remember the words of Cassian that "it is for the sake of purity of heart that everything is to be done and desired so that we may be able to ascend to the perfection of love.

Secondly, if we forget the purpose of spiritual combat, we will not persevere in a struggle that is often painful, in which there is a large element of failure, and which at times seems pointless. Catholic morality knows nothing of Kant's "duty for duty's sake", but it does require the effort to be faithful to principles that at times make harsh demands on us. The obvious examples are those involved with the Christian imperatives about chastity, but these are by no means the ones. Forgiveness in the face of a real wrong, fidelity to serious commitments when they are no longer to our obvious advantage, courage to hold on and not give way to despair in the face of a fatal disease or the death of those we love, all these sorts of experience require something more than a concern for our own perfection if we are going to go on trying to live a Christian life. . . .

Table of Contents:

Part one Spiritual Combat

1. First principles
2. Self-distrust and humility
3. Hope in God
4. Spiritual exercises
5. Working for holiness
6. Spiritual exercises and chastity
7. Prayer as a weapon


Part two The Development of Prayer

8. Prayer in Context
9. The practice of prayer


Part three "What is Very Plain"

10. Christ's call and the divided heart
11. The hardest of all struggles
12. Perfection, beatitude and immortality

Epilogue: "And that is meant for me"