Moments of Love with Mary
– The Spiritual Letter Box –
The Noonday Devil
I am bringing to you a moral problem with the hope of finding a solution to it with the help of Mary.
When I was between 12 and 13, my brother led me into an immoral habit. I was a sickly girl, timorous, fearful, and he missed no occasion to take advantage of my naivete and ignorance. After each fall I would be stricken by remorse, with an uncertain feeling that I might be offending God, but my brother would tell me that I was just being scrupulous. He frightened me so much. Each time I would think of Maria Goretti whom I did not have the courage to imitate.
I was brought up very strictly but I concealed my trial because I did not want to hurt my parents who had great faith in my brother and expected great things of him. I went to confession regularly, but, out of human respect, I was afraid to speak of my problem. This game went on until I was 18, when my brother got married. This, I thought, would bring me deliverance. Unfortunately, alone, I continued to fall. Ever so timidly I revealed these sins in confession.
I prayed fervently, I implored God; what moral suffering I underwent! Hungry to love God and to expiate my sins for a better life, I asked, after a general confession, to be allowed to pronounce the vow of chastity. But my soul was still troubled. Often I would fall into my sin again in spite of all my resistance. At the age of 36, a sudden illness plunged me into despair. How many rosaries I recited in the hope that Mary would not remain deaf to my pleading. I suffered unspeakably. Then one day I met a priest of a religious order. I told him of my problem. He was so kind that I got up the courage to tell him the complete story of my life, which for me was finished since I felt I could never again live in the grace of the Lord.
For a while I experienced a profound peace. But here I am now at the critical age and the demon of impurity is relentlessly attacking me. I have had to fight terribly not to give in. I have cried out my suffering to the Father of mercies, and have pleaded with the Blessed Virgin for her protection. Since August I have been going to bed holding in my hands, for protection, a little crucifix and a rosary. My soul was racked with anguish but I never succumbed, thanks to God’s grace.
The tempest is calming somewhat, but how my soul suffered! Will I have to engage in this battle all my life? If I have come to you, it is in the hope of having a reply which will help me to live through those difficult moments in peace and in the love of God. How can I forget the past? How can I continue accepting this wasting struggle – which only someone who has experienced it can understand – with any hope that I will not give in, my nature being so weak?
No doubt this calm will not last; and I would so like to live in peace!
After reading your letter attentively, I do not think I have ever so clearly realized the anguish of a soul torn between the ideal of a peaceful, virtuous life, and the actuality of continual turmoil due to constant falling, voluntarily or involuntarily.
If you do not mind, we shall immediately cast a veil over the sins of the past since they have been wiped away by your general confession. I beg you not to look back on the past unless it is to better appreciate the goodness of a merciful Lord for a tormented soul, and to deepen your humility the better to love Him. And plunged in this cleansing humility, bare your misery to the Lord knowing that through the avowal of your faults He will hear your cry of regret.
Let us rather dwell on this painful phase through which you are presently passing. You are going through this difficult period of the “noonday devil” which affects men and women (lay and religious alike) around their forties.
The “noonday devil”, like a veritable cancer of impurity, gnaws at them day and night. He holds his prey in a state of acute eroticism, so much so that the mind is constantly taken by the single thought of concupiscence (sensuality); the invitation to impurity under all its forms haunts one’s thoughts despite all the efforts to banish it. Quite simply, the devil is attacking “all out”.
Has not Saint Paul said: “Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body doomed to death?” (Rom 7:24) In his letters to his director, Father Pio related (cf. “Les mystères du Père Pio”) his keen suffering when he was immersed totally in that “dark night of the spirit”, and, in addition, subjected to this diabolical phase. “I have the impression,” he wrote, “that I am possessed solely by the ‘Beast’.”
It is a terrible battle that goes on without respite. If a man or woman have not mastered these impulsions, if they have not subjected their body to the spirit so that it is the spirit which rules over it, they cannot hope to pass through this period without falling. They may even become completely unbalanced.
When the soul is made hardy by the struggle, sustained by Mass and Communion (daily, if possible), it can win; the more arduous the fight, the stronger the soul becomes and the sweeter is the ultimate victory.
You have said that you are “holding a little crucifix and a rosary” in your hands, at night, in a heroic resistance without succumbing to temptation during this critical time; this proves how helpful are religious objects. Also use holy water, which is so little resorted to at such times when it would be so necessary.
It sometimes happens that men and women of religious communities, not aware of this particularly trying period of life, and appalled by the ferocity of these erotic assaults, come to believe that they have chosen the wrong vocation. What ensues is almost a tragedy. They are wrenched by a terrible anguish and they require wise and enlightened spiritual guidance if they are to emerge from this conflict victorious, happier than ever in their vocation, happier also for having overcome these diabolic pitfalls. Everything passes… the storm dies down and the soul resumes its normal tenor of life, but it ascends more rapidly because it is more purified.
We could go into details concerning the situation for married couples, for they too suffer this torture, for the “noonday devil” perturbs the normal course of their life. But then you do not seem to be in this group for you speak of having “pronounced the vow of chastity”.
Put all your confidence in Mary and cling to your ideal. Offer up each moment of heroic fight in reparation for the numberless defections in our poor world. Remember that God is good and merciful, and that He inclines towards those who call upon Him with love. He hears your appeals even when the attacks go on and on; but the more difficult the victory, the greater His reward. You will appreciate more the calm, peace and sweetness of belonging to Him.
You have opened your soul completely in the hope of finding a salutary solution which will help you in this last stage. You may be sure that your humility will benefit others who will read these lines. It is a form of apostolate like any other. Your courage and fidelity are inspiring. I congratulate you for your sincerity, for your courage which you will maintain at the level of your ideal – which is my wish.
May you continue to win the battles, for purity makes the soul like crystal and brings it so much closer to the God of Love who warms and enlightens it.
Know well that those long hours of unceasing struggle which you have undergone are transformed by the Lord, once you have triumphed, into a hymn to His glory. Be courageous always; never despair. After the storm comes the beneficial calm.
(Review, “The Army of Mary”, volume I, no. 4)