IMPORTANT INSTRUCTIONS FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO MORTIFY THEIR PASSIONS AND ATTAIN THE NECESSARY VIRTUES
1. If you desire to attain solid virtue and complete mastery over self, dividing the exercise of different virtues so as to assign particular virtues to particular days is to be avoided, resulting as it does in a state of perpetual vicissitude. The method that should be adopted seeks to root out the most predominant passions, striving the while to cultivate to an eminent degree the contrary virtue. For being once possessed of so essential a virtue, the rest may be acquired with less difficulty, as but few acts will be required for that end. And indeed so integral is the connection of one virtue with another, that whoever possesses one in its entirety, possesses all.
2. You must never set a definite time for the acquisition of anyone virtue, specifying so many days, weeks, or years; rather like a vigorous soldier combating an unseen enemy, you must fight without ceasing until by a complete victory, the way to perfection is won. Every moment should be an
advance on the way to Heaven, and everyone who stops, rather than gaining breath and rest, loses both ground and courage. The advice to advance continually is meant to safeguard you from imagining you have reached the height of perfections, to encourage you to seize every opportunity to exercise new acts of virtue, and to preserve to the highest degree, a horror for sin.
In order that this may be accomplished, every duty must be performed with the greatest fervor and exactness, and you must on all occasions be habituated to the practice of every virtue. Embrace, therefore, any opportunity of advancing towards perfection and sanctity, especially such as are difficult; for such efforts are most effective in forming virtuous habits in the soul within a short time. And love those who furnish you with such opportunities, exercising caution at the same time as regards that which may be in the least prejudicial to chastity.
3. Considerable prudence and moderation are to be practiced in regard to the exercise of certain virtue which may prove deleterious to health. Such are severe discipline, hair shirts, fasting, long meditations and similar indiscreet penitential works. Rather than to be pursued too eagerly, the practice of exterior virtues must be a step by step process. On the other hand, the interior virtues such as the love of God, a hatred of the world, self-contempt, contrition for sin, mildness and patience, charity for enemies, know no bounds and should be practiced in the most eminent degree.
4. Let the culmination of all your plans and endeavors be the submission of the passion with which you are engaged, regarding such a victory as of the greatest consequence to you and the most acceptable to God. Eating or fasting, working or resting, at home or abroad, contemplative or active, let your aim be the conquest of that predominant passion and the acquisition of the contrary virtue.
5. Shun the luxuries and pleasures of life and the attacks of vice will be enfeebled, their force being drawn from the love of pleasure. But if you indulge in one sensual satisfaction while shunning another, if your war is against but one vice, be assured that although your wounds may not be grievous, the encounter will be sharp and the victory doubtful.
Keep, therefore, the words of Holy Scripture before your eyes: "He who loves his life, loses it; and he who hates his life in this world, keeps it unto life everlasting" [John 12, 25]. "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, that we should live according to the flesh, for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the flesh, you will live" [Rom. 8, 12].
6. I conclude with a parting admonition to make what, if not necessary, is most salutary, viz., a general confession, with the requisite dispositions, that you may secure a perfect reconciliation with God, the Source of all graces, the Giver of victories, and the Dispenser of crowns.