The Great Escape
Whenever the going is tough, I always remember
abba Isidore. The story goes that a monk
was finding it hard to resist temptation.
His passions were all alive. Unable to stay
any longer in his cell, he went to find abba
Isidore and told him that lust was just too
much for him.
Abba Isidore calmly exhorted him to go back
to his cell, reassuring him that the grace
of God is able to conquer all. The monk however
could not take it any more. "No, abba,
I cannot. I will fall into sin definitely."
So abba Isidore took the monk out in the
desert and after walking for some time, he
asked him look towards the west. Giving him
the special grace of seeing the invisible
world, he was able to see hordes of demons
all ready to launch an attack. He was horrified.
"These are the demons God has permitted
to attack you", abba Isidore said calmly.
The monk was now at his pits.
They kept walking until Abba Isidore asked
him to look this time towards the east. The
monk did just that. There he saw an innumerable
multitude of holy angels all in shining armor
ready fight back the enemies on the left.
"You see," abba Isidore was saying.
"These are the angels God has sent to
defend you. They are more in number and their
weapons are more lethal than the ones of
the enemy. They will easily subdue your demons."
The monk went back to his cell, giving thanks
to God. His courage has been restored.
Temptation is everywhere. On the old TV show
"Hee Haw," Doc Campbell is confronted
by a patient who said he broke his arm in
two places. The doc replied, "Well then,
stay out of them places!" That is certainly
good advice. But sometimes them-places are
It starts slowly, with a thought or a desire
or a look… The fatal step is the next step
- the moment you give weight to the thought
or desire and start pondering on it… 'Why
did he tell me that word?' 'Isn't she attractive?'
'Why is that money lying around?' I look.
I see. I brood over. I want. And I'm on the
downward path. As someone put it, Eve… Listened,
was Lured, Lied, Looked, Lusted, Lost. 6
Many times yes, we lose. But this is not
inevitable. There is a way out. Writing to
the Church in Corinth, Greece, Saint Paul
outlines three basic attitudes that can become
our defense strategy. First of all he says
that "No temptation has seized you except
what is common to man." Everyone has
temptations. Even Jesus Christ had them.
The famous Kempis says that as "fire
tries iron, so temptation tries a just man."
So do not feel alone in the battle.
Then Paul adds that God is faithful, and
He "will not allow you to be tempted
beyond what you are able." We will never
be swept away by an uncontrollable temptation.
We are never put in a can't-handle-it situation.
A very popular book in the protestant literature
was John Bunyan's Pilgrim Progress. It is
an allegorical plot about a "Christian"
journeying towards salvation. In one of the
scenes, Christian is led to a wall where
fire is blazing from a grate. A man is trying
to douse the fire with water. Christian looks
beyond the wall and is surprised to see that
on the other side there is another man secretly
pouring oil on the fire to keep it ablaze.
Satan tries to quench faith, but Christ keeps
it alive. Satan is powerful and smart. Jesus
Christ is a billion-billion-billion times
more powerful and smarter than Satan.
The third attitude is perhaps the most important.
"With the temptation, God will provide
the way of escape also." When a temptation
hits you, look for the open window. Look
for the lifeboat that God will certainly
send to help you find a way out.
One other desert father used to say, "Just
as no one can cause harm to someone who is
close to a king, so no more can Satan do
anything to us if our souls are close to
God for he said truly, 'Draw near to me and
I will be near to you'. But since we often
exalt ourselves, the enemy has no difficulty
in drawing our souls towards shameful passions."
This is perhaps the basic problem. Our pride.
This is why God sometimes lifts His hand
from us so that He can deflate our ego.
So be smart. We have all the props that we
need. The only thing that we are asked to
is to 'avoid the occasions of sin' as the
Catechism teaches. What surroundings are
you in when you fall? Avoid them. What supports
do you have that sustain your sin? Eliminate
them. What people are you usually with? Avoid
And … one last fling. Do not believe the
devil when he tells you that … 'Just once
won't hurt'. Or when he tries to insinuate
that … 'Now that you have ruined your life,
you are beyond God's assistance, and might
as well continue sinning'. He is a liar by
"Resist the devil, and he will flee
from you." He is also a coward.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
hereby granted for any non-commercial
provided that the content is unaltered
its original state, if this copyright