Rosemarie of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, OCDS over at Spirit Singing has a wonderful post about false peace and the importance of self-knowledge that St. Teresa of Jesus so often emphasizes. Check out what she wrote here.
Our own sensuality and the world can give us peace. The riches we have can be a source of great peace, and our downfall. These riches are not our own but are given to us by God. As His good stewards they are to be shared among the poor. Instead we often store up our treasures or gather stuff into our barns “while delaying and putting off the poor who are suffering”. What St. Teresa stresses to her “daughters” in this matter is that they “be content with little”. She tells them that if they don’t “you will find yourselves frustrated because God is not going to give you more, and you will be unhappy.” (Meditations on the Song of Songs, 2,10)
Another false peace that St. Teresa says the world gives is through honors. She begins by mentioning that “the poor are never honored very much.” Praise can do great harm because “once it starts it never ends – if you are not careful” and humble yourself afterward. So she cautions that we are never to seek peace for ourselves through words of praise because “little by little they could do you harm and make you believe that the truth was spoken”. Her counsel is then to never let words of praise pass without waging war interiorly.
“Remember your sins, and if in some matters people speak the truth in praising you, note that the virtue is not yours and that you are obliged to serve more. Awaken fear in your soul so that you do not rest in the kiss of this false peace given by the world; think that it is a kiss from Judas. Although some do not praise you with such an intention, the devil is watching to see how he can take away the spoils if you do not defend yourself against him. Believe that you have to stand here with sword in the hand of your thoughts. Although you think the praise does you no harm, do not trust it. Remember how many were at the top and are now at the bottom. There is no security while we are alive. For love of God, Sisters, always wage an interior war against these praises, for thus you will come away from them with the gain of humility, and the devil and the world who are on the lookout for you will be abashed.” (Meditations on the Song of Songs, 2, 13)
Another false peace comes from seeking one’s peace in comforts. This, too, is very dangerous. St. Teresa brings to mind Our Lord and His life which was far from a life of comfort. He suffered many trials. “Who has told us that comfortable living is good?”, she asks. “The body grows fat and the soul weakens.” Herein lies the danger, that the peace in comforts keeps us from thinking of the care of our soul. She gives examples of the harm that comes, without being aware of it that the craving of comforts give. Our bodies are fickle. One day “it will hurt you to take the discipline and eight days later perhaps not. Another day or number of days you will be unable to bear the coarse tunics, but this won’t be permanent. Some days eating fish may hurt you, but once your stomach gets used to it, it will not harm you.” What she is trying to tell us is to not grow lax and to keep in mind that the flesh is “deceptive and that we need to understand it”.
To sum up her thoughts on “false peace” we must remember that peace does not come without war. So let’s take up the battle, armed with God’s grace, and manfully attack the enemies or our souls: the world, the devil and the flesh.
In St. Teresa’s Meditations on the Song of Songs she outlines the kinds of false peace that comes from the world, devil and flesh. False peace is the kind of peace that worldly people have, and this is the kind of peace that brings perpetual war. These people are quiet, yet go about living in serious sin. They have made peace with their vices. Their consciences are undisturbed and they do not feel any remorse about anything. Such is the state of souls in mortal sin. Having made friends with the devil, he leaves them alone. However, the devil could offer the friends of God peace in small things. St. Teresa tells us that we should greatly fear this kind of peace.
St. Teresa explains that we can begin to grow lax in small matters and persist in them without any prick in our conscience, which will result in peace – a bad kind of peace.
St. Teresa give some examples of the small matters that the devil can draw a soul into: “an infraction of something in the constitutions, which in itself would not be a sin, or being careless, even though without malice, about what the bishop commands (in fact he stands in God’s place, and it is good always- for this reason we have come here – to consider what he desires), and many other little things that come along which in themselves do not appear to be sins. In sum, there are faults and always will be, for we are miserable creatures.” (Meditations on the Song of Songs, 2, 2)
Basically, she is telling us that when we commit some fault we should feel it and understand that it was a fault.
If we don’t feel that a fault has been committed then we can be sure that the devil is rejoicing. “He will go further”, she says, and we should “for love of God be very careful. There must be war in this life.” We cannot just sit idle; we must be about the battle.
Our saint does not wish to instill a sense of scrupulosity in souls. Her main point is summed up in this counsel: “ Always fear when some fault you commit does not grieve you. For in regard to sin, even venial, you already know that the soul must feel deep sorrow.” We don’t want venial sins, those faults that are committed habitually without any attention to them, to become so much a part of our lives that we never feel them.