Spiritual Combat by Lorenzo Scupoli

Fr. Lorenzo Scupoli in Spiritual Combat, writes a direct and personal “do-it-yourself” book that allows the reader to put the truths of Christian spiritual warfare  into practice on a daily basis.

I have also used the following 2 books that are commentaries on Scupoli’s classic.

51DVKMHQZGL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Spiritual Classic Revisited by Fr. Jonathan Robinson

36524x_w185Unseen Warefare by Theophane the Recluse


1. Fight daily!

– Prepare for battle in the morning

– Realize how great an opportunity you have each day to wage war

– Know the devil will always distract you from waging war today

2. Take on 1 battle at a time

– Love what is most difficult

– Develop a counter habit of holiness

3. Distrust yourself & Trust God

– Say NO to yourself

– Say YES to God


1. You must wage continual warfare against yourself to attain the highest degree of perfection. 

  • “None shall be crowned who has not fought well” – 2 Timothy 2:5
  • Vatican 2 — The whole of man’s history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity.
  • Spiritual combat is not an end, but a means to the end of perfection. This is spiritual combat undertaken as a response to the grace of Christ, and not as an exercise in self-realization. Christ is not a means to an end. It is a way of life, but for the love of Him Crucified and with a desire to follow and imitate Him. CCC 2015 — The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle (cf. 2 Tim 4). The goal of spiritual combat to be intimately united to Christ, conformed to Him and be perfect.
  • We want a new life, but that new life demands an effort on our part, and it is an effort in which we are reluctant to engage. St Paul sports analogy — 1 Cor 9:24-26 —> but its more than just a game; it is a real battle against everything that will pull the Christian soldier away from God, who is our true and only real happiness.
  • Employ your whole strength to demolish each vicious inclination however trivial.
  • Far greater to mortify even the smallest matters than let some inclinations stay unmortified & practice great penance, or convert thousands.
  • No one loses this battle be he who ceases to fight and trust in God.
  • Must wage war against ourselves! This is why so few reach perfection b/c they stop waging war after the main battle is fought (mortal sins) and they forget small sins. And these small enemies can possess the hear.
  • “No more world, no more sin!” — St Catherine of Genoa

Understand that war is going on —> Understand your enemy

  • But woe to you earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great fury, for he knows he has but a short time” – Revelation 12:12
  • God has called us to engage in battle.
  • God lets us fight this battle b/c it’s in our best interest.
  • We have a divided heart: one part wants God and another wants the world & the flesh.
  • Never think you are done with attacks. Our evil passions are never dead in this life, this battle will end when life on earth ends, there is no escape.
  • Our enemies have an everlasting hatred for us. There is no possibility for a truce taking who our enemies are.
  • There is no escape from this battle, for not to fight is to be taken prisoner or be slain.
  • The devil seeks nothing but our ruin and has many strategies.

Fight Daily

  • to gain a quicker & easier conquest over your enemies, it is necessary that you fight daily.
  • Fight valiantly and never give up, regardless of how many wounds you may have.
  • If you did not battle today, you lost!
  • Everyday life is the school of each person’s sanctity.
  • Everyday life is the arena of spiritual combat.
  • 3 Common tricks of the devil in the daily fight:
    • 1. The devil will inspire great desires in us that are not within our reach to create despair. Beware of any desires for task you cannot carry into effect now. Like getting caught up in a summer retreat day after day instead of waging war today.
    • 2. The devil will instil lofty and curious ideas to persuade you into thinking you are pleasing God to subvert you from cleansing your heart & acquiring self knowledge & true mortification. Like reading another book instead of applying this one through meditation.
    • 3. The devil will persuade you to take up this battle tomorrow, or in the new year, or another time… constantly delaying the fight until you get caught up with something else.
  • Never stand still in the battle thinking you defeated the enemy.
  • Never miss an opportunity to exercise a virtue.
  • Report for duty at each time of day during prayer.
  • Arm yourself like Christ” – 1 Peter 4:1

Wage war against your worst passion —> battle 1 evil passion at a time

  • Don’t randomly practice virtues, rather wage war against your worst passions & practice the opposite virtue.
  • Take on one battle at a time and fight with full confidence of God as your Helper.
  • Don’t set a fixed time for a virtue, but rather fight your way like a solider to the summit of perfection.
  • Embrace the hardest, b/c those will most quickly & firmly establish a habit — love those opportunities. Love those who give you the biggest fights.
  • Your whole mind, heart, desire must be set upon victory over the evil passion & to form the counter habit of holiness.
  • Be the foe of all earthly pleasures.
  • Each morning resolve to work on it & examine it throughout the day.
  • Apply the saints, the Bible, and life of Christ to that virtue.
  • Perform very contrary interior & exterior acts to lead to faster progress.
  • 2 wars for each virtue —> interior & exterior
  • Beware of indulging in one pleasure as you fight off another.
  • Easier to remember and learn new ways to cultivate virtue. Keep in mind that when one virtue grows, the rest grow also.
  • We must build up a network of Christlike responses to temptations.

As soon as you wake up —> The Battle before your Battle!

  • First words of the morning – “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me”.
  • Then retreat to the arena of your heart. Know that on the left is the devil and his angels are there to entice you & on the right is Jesus, Mary, His angels and saints are there to help you. Call upon the Lord! He is far greater than your enemies. Take up the armour of distrust in self and trust in God. Fight with open resistance & acts of opposite virtue, wounding it with repeated & deadly blows. Our Lord and His Church Triumphant is watching you in battle!
  • What battle is going on? What’s my position in the field of battle?
  • Forsee your battles coming up for the day, see what type of battle, be aware where you can be taken out.
  • “The Lord shall fight for you” – Exodus 14:14
  • “Deliver me not unto the will of my enemies” – Psalm 37:12
  • Go directly to the Lord first thing, for He will supply you with the weapons you need!

The Duty of Self Denial

  • And be sure of this: that if He has any love for you, if He sees aught of good in your soul, He will afflict you, if you will not afflict yourself. He will not let you escape” — JH Newman
  • The very notion of being religious implies self-denial, because by nature we do not love religion” – JH Newman
  • The harder self denial is, the more I need to do it!
  • sloth is the secret poison and blinds us. Avoid all earthly attachments & never give in for even the smallest. One act of self denial and praise of God is worth more than all the treasures in the world.
  • appetite is the captain of our corrupt nature – it is madly bent on seeking pleasure. Don’t let your senses wander. Separate the object’s spiritual & material substance. Look at it from realization that God made it and turn your delight to God alone. It is God who makes food & drink pleasant to you – rejoice in Him alone. Because no true satisfaction but in God. In all apparent pleasures & joys, turn your focus to God alone.
  • The willsaying NO to ourselves is essential in the spiritual battle. Say no to the bad, but also what makes us spiritually soft. Sports training analogy —> no exercise, out of shape.
  • Desire for comfort = huge issue to physical & spiritual wellbeing. Comfort corrupts our hearts b/c we become dependent upon what pleases us. Same in spiritual life. Do you do a spiritual exercise b/c you enjoy it? Or will of God? When you do it b/c you enjoy it, you’ll stop when pleasure stops…

The Sacrament of the Present Moment

  • fix your mind on the Lord at all times —> learn how to sacramentalize everything.
  • we all have a tendency to limit our spiritual life to specific times of prayer. That’s good but we need God to be a part of all aspects of our lives.
  • Continually see God’s power and love through all creation.
  • Hungry = think of Jesus’ fast for 40 days.
  • look at objects as existing due to God and direct your mind to the Life of Christ.
  • Examples:
    • Each step 1 closer to death and the carrying of the Cross, rain = God’s grace or Jesus shedding his blood, while dressing = Jesus clothed in humanity, etc.

Arrow prayers

Come Holy Spirit”

“Blood of Christ drench me”

“Mary protect me”

“The Father is my hope, the Son is my refuge, the Holy Spirit is my protection”

O Lord make haste to help me

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner

Rule The Tongue —> The Battle of the Tongue

  • The mover of the tongue is the heart: what fills the heart is poured through the tongue. And conversely, when feeling is poured out of the heart by the tongue, it becomes strengthened and firmly rooted in the heart. Therefore, the tongue is one of the chief factors in building up our inner disposition.
  • Good feelings are silent. The feelings which seek expression in words are mostly egotistical.
  • Pride is at the root of much talk. This empty talk is an ugly habit.
  • If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body” – James 3:2
  • Never speak of yourself or your doings unless necessary, then only brief and reserved.
  • If others talk much, view it in a favourable light.
  • Only speak of your neighbour if there’s good to say.
  • Think before you speak —> for much you have said would have been better not spoken.
  • Silence = sure pledge of victory in spiritual battle.
  • Silence is a great weapon in our unseen battle and is a wonderful help to attain virtues.
  • Silence is the guardian to the spirit of prayer.
  • Even practice silence from time to time when you should speak.

The Battle of Peace

  • devil hates our peace.
  • He will present fake goods to rob us from our peace.
  • When our heart is agitated, we become exposed to new assaults from the devil and our vision is blurred for what to do.

The Battle of your thoughts

  • wage war against the poisonous thoughts that creep into your mind. Don’t just let them come and go.

The Battle of loving your neighbour

  • The devil is always there to help us spot and exaggerate the faults of others.
  • We don’t have the right to judge.
  • Best remedy = be attentive to your own heart, then you will see the great work left in yourself and you won’t bother to think about other’s issues. Also, see the same evil in your heart and root it out. how dare I judge others when I am guilty of the same and more. —> And thus the weapons which, when aimed at others and would have wounded yourself, being used against yourself, bring healing to your wounds.

After you fall

  • turn to God and say “what else can I do on my own but fall O Lord” .
  • repent and beg God to not sin again.
  • attach your vicious passions
  • thank God for protection from worse

Spiritual Weapon #1 – Distrust of Self

  • – meditate upon & recognize my own vileness & nothingness & that I can do nothing to deserve Heaven.
  • – this is a gift from God so pray for it.
  • – after any fall, enter more deeply into your own weakness
  • – more pride = more falls needed

– if you despair after a fall & complain you can make no progress, you must be trusting in yourself and not in God. You should not be surprised at your fall. Should not lose peace either.

  • this is a real attitude that must affect our conduct.
  • we have an inability to avoid mortal sin without God’s grace.
  • we cannot save ourselves.

“He alone knows himself in the best way possible who thinks of himself as being nothing” – St John Chrysostom

Spiritual Weapon #2 – Trust in God

“First of all it must know that, if the soul is seeking God, its beloved is seeking it much more” — St John of the Cross.

– pray for it

“The Beatitudes reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts: God calls us to his own beatitude” — CCC 1719.

This approach is responding to God’s grace to us, not our attempts to reach God.

– 1st step is humility (distrust of self), 2nd step is hope (trust in God). This is a permanent attitude.

– we must try not only to do God’s will, but to will it!

– meditate upon God’s unbounded goodness to help with our spiritual needs.

  • go to the Bible and see how no one who trusted in God was brought to confusion
  • we need an infinite power to lead us to the infinite good!
  • The only reason I exist is because God from all eternity wants me to share eternal happiness with Him.
  • Discipline your will — all actions must be directed to please God. When anything appears to be in accordance with the will of God, first bring it to God to see if you will it b/c He does or not, with sole object to please Him. Never choose or refuse anything unless you feel yourself moved and drawn to that course by the pure and simple will of God. Also be sure to renew this throughout the decision, so we don’t unconsciously change. Are you attached to the pleasures from your action for God? B/c if the plan fails & you become frustrated, your motive was for yourself and not for God. —> The soul that only aims at pleasing God does not wish for this more than that; nor to have anything unless God wills it, nor to have it except in the way and form the time He appoints: such a soul is equally contended, whether having or not having. For in either case it obtains its purpose, and its wish is fulfilled, which was nothing else but the good pleasure of God —> be diligent to direct all your actions to this perfect end. Rule = remove your desires from every object, only look to the will of God.
  • test — what is the effect on us when we sin? Despair is bad b/c we trusted ourselves and not God. A fall should teach us to recognize our own weakness and distrust ourselves and place more trust in God. We must place our energy on hating the sin & resolve to fight more.

Spiritual Weapon # 3 – Spiritual Exercises

  • Spiritual exercises are necessary b/c we must root out all evil.
  • Train yourself in godliness” – 1 Tim 4:7-8
  • This training is a struggle against our wounded human nature. This training is not the addition of virtuous acts, but the transformation of the whole being. Gal 2:20 crucified with Christ.
  • Lovers of self choose spiritual exercises that feel good for them. You must cherish a love for that which is painful & difficult, for such things will bring you victory over self  —> Love the toil & hardship more than the victory & virtue.
  • Our spiritual exercises cannot be pleasing to us and conformable to our nature! But must nail that nature with all its works to the Cross to be united to Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
  • Must develop a counter-habit of holiness by removing the repeated acts of sin by repeating acts of the opposite virtue.
  • Better to take on a few spiritual exercises to wage war on your 1 vice than many b/c devil can cause you to slowly drop them one by one.

Spiritual Weapon #4 — Prayer

  • When attacked during prayer, make sure to persevere b/c devil is trying to stop you. Even add more prayer time in return.
  • Prayer is most important b/c it’s how we obtain all good things from God.
  • Purpose of prayer = union with God.
  • If you don’t pray, you’ll be a foreigner in the sight of God one day.
  • “By prayer, well used, thou wilt put a sword into the hand of God wherewith to fight and conquer for thee” — P 113
  • The ladder to God —> 4 rungs: reading, meditating, prayer, contemplation.
    • “Reading without meditation is sterile, meditation without reading is liable to error, prayer without meditation is lukewarm, meditation without prayer is unfruitful, prayer when fervent wins contemplation, but to obtain contemplation without prayer is a miracle” — Ladder quote

  • —> If I don’t meditate on what I read = pointless and no effect on my life.
  • We cannot just empty our minds and wait for God to do His work, we need to feed our minds with good material rather than bad.
  • And short arrow prayers to heaven.
  • “We pray only to the extent we desire, and we desire only to the extent we love.”
  • The progress of the soul consists not in much thinking but in loving a great deal.
  • Know that you are in the presence of God (sacrament of present moment).
  • Pray may lead to contemplation, but this presupposes reading and meditation.
  • Often there is no real correspondance between the experience of your prayer and its value.
  • There is no technique or method to find God.
  • It is so simple to love God.
  • “He who prays fervently knows not whether he prays or not, for he is not thinking of the prayer which he makes but the God to whom he makes it” – St FdS
  • Aids to improve your habit of prayer: [1] Keep your body strictly disciplined in food, sleep, and rest. Do not give it anything simply because it wants it

Spiritual Weapon #5 — Eucharist

  • Know of God’s great pleasure of dwelling in you and His burning hatred for sin. Thus He wants union with you to destroy your enemies. Meditate on the great love shown in the Eucharist. And how Jesus gives His whole self in the Eucharist so that we may be changed into Him.

Spiritual Weapon — Spiritual Communion 

  • We can receive our Lord spiritually every moment. Start with a short examination, repent, then with faith and humility ask our  Lord to enter into your heart to heal your wounds and destroy your enemies. Every mortification should prepare my heart for our Lord’s coming into my heart. Challenge to do it every hour.

Spiritual Weapon — Examination of Conscience

  • Consider the falls of the day, the cause of them, your energy and vigor which you are maintaing in your war against them and in acquiring the contrary virtue.
  • 3 types of examinations: [1] review day in full.  [2] focus on the 1 virtue you are working on and analyze it.  [3] where’s my heart? look at inclinations & dispositions. 3rd one most important —> search your heart for worst desires & then wage war.


  1. Lisa Bowden says:

    I just wanted to tell you how helpful your book summaries are! Thank you so much!

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