Wednesday 16 February 2022

Spiritual Combat According to St Benedict - Father Bernard Ducruet, OSB

Spiritual Combat According to St Benedict
Father Bernard Ducruet, OSB
Giles Conacher, OSB (Translator)
ISBN 9781784697419
eISBN 9781784696979
CTS Booklet PA65

This was one of 6 new books announced for publication in 2022 that really grabbed my attention. The first three released on January 7th, and I picked them up immediately, or as soon as the eBooks were available across the pond. This was the first that I have read. As the very end of this book is this piece:

“Fr Bernard Ducruet (1927-2020) entered the Benedictine Abbey of St-Benoît-sur-Loire as a monk in 1946. He was Abbot of the community and led it from 1971-1991, and died 4th April 2020. He was author of half a dozen other titles in this series.”

I am uncertain if all the books are being translated into English and released by the Catholic Truth Society, but based on this first volume I certainly hope so. There is one other title planned for release in March, Peace of Heart: According to St Benedict. But back to this book. It is an absolutely wonderful volume. The booklet is listed at 48 pages and I highlighted 16 passages my first time through. The description of this book is:

“Spiritual combat may seem off-putting, but no one is exempt from it. Discover the essential facts about spiritual combat in this book, and learn why it is, above all, a source of growth in charity.

Spiritual combat is the lot of every one of Christ’s Disciples. Too often, the idea seems off-putting, and a good number of Christians think that it has little to do with them. However, no one is exempt from it. To help us discover its merits, Fr Bernard Ducruet, OSB offers us some of the essential facts about spiritual combat. He shows us how this combat is, above all, a source of growth in charity. This simple, profound, and enlightening teaching will be of great benefit to everyone who prays and seeks greater union with Christ.”

When I was in university and involved in non-denominational Campus Ministry groups, in the 90’s and early 2000’s spiritual warfare was all the rage. But looking back with older, and hopefully more mature eyes, it was often extremism, from the works of Neil T. Anderson, Derek Prince, and Mark I. Bubeck to name a few. This volume on the other hand is practical. It is based in scripture, church history and of course the writings of Saint Benedict. The chapters in this volume are:

Spiritual Combat: Translator’s Introduction
Introduction: St Benedict
The Spiritual Combat
Conditions Which Worsen the Spiritual Combat
Place of the Spiritual Combat
Main Principles of Spiritual Combat
Chief Means of Spiritual Combat
Conclusion: Filial Spirit

Some of the passages I highlighted during my reading of this volume were:

“Christian spiritual combat goes back to the very beginning, when “Michael, the prince of the heavenly host” did battle with the devil and his angels. In the last book of the Bible – Revelation, or The Apocalypse – the devil, the great red dragon, opposes the Woman clothed with the sun, crowned with twelve stars – Mary, Mother of God, and also of the Church. Still today the devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour, opposing God and trying to subvert his Kingdom, tempting us and trying to prevent our reaching eternal happiness with God.”

“The Book of Job says that our life “is a soldiery on this earth” (Jb 7:1). St Paul tells the Ephesians, and us, “We are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, the powers, the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ep 6:12).”

“If you want to win, whether in war or athletics, you need discipline and sacrifice. Think of the almost obsessive efforts required of a top athlete, hours in the gym, the pool and on the track, endless exercises, careful diet, constant coaching – all for maybe ten seconds of glory… It’s the same for soldiers: all that boring, repetitive training, relentlessly obeying orders, submitting to discipline, learning teamwork, trusting others, mutually supporting each other.”

“Spiritual combat demands that we renounce this idolatrous “me” in order to seek the true God. The whole Gospel invites us, following Jesus, to crucify this swollen false relationship so that we may rediscover the wisdom of love. We have to lose ourselves so as to win ourselves, to go beyond ourselves to love, to renounce self in order to go to the other.”

“This de-centring of desire is a Passover. We must die to the desire that is proud, grasping and vain, to open ourselves to the life-giving dynamism of charity, to the humble desire detached from self, which is the gift of the Spirit.”

“Thus, it is by sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ that we can die to carnal desire and open ourselves to desire of the Spirit. This Passover is then “a passage from love of self and things, even to despising God, to love of God, even to despising self.” It is the crossing over from illusion to true existence, from desire to possess God to accepting being possessed by him.”

“These wounds may arise from our family situation in our childhood or from events in the course of life which have, as it were, damaged our sensitivity. This has as a result become weakened and sickened, incapable of that watchful attention which is, as we shall see, essential for redirecting our desires.”

“Often temptation arouses us through struggle to a greater faith and greater trust in God, upon whom we fervently call in prayer. But we know, as St Paul says, that God never allows us to be tried beyond our strength. Through prayer, we ask him to chain the adversary to the foot of the Cross of Jesus, whose Name alone is enough to terrify hell.”

“Thus spiritual combat has medical, social, political and educational aspects. We must constantly say “no” to suffering in order to relieve it, to sickness in order to cure it, to every kind of sorrow, in order to offer consolation.”

“A Battle of the Church Lastly, we need always to be convinced that this combat is of the Church. The devil wants us to despair, by isolating us in silence and trying to persuade us that since we are on our own, we are bound to be overcome by our trials. But our combat is always in solidarity with, united to, every combatant in the Church. We are in communion with those who are undergoing the same trial. We suffer trial and temptation with and for the Church. We are cured in the Church, by her and for her. We do battle for, with and within the Church.”

“Further, the Church’s holy liturgy is an effective way of purifying our thoughts, as Simone Weil, like so many others, was happy to demonstrate. The whole of Tradition agrees that psalmody is a means for this combat. This prayer needs to be bodily – in other words, said aloud, not merely mentally – and to be accompanied by actions – prostrations, deep bows, fasting – because spiritual combat is also physical.”

“Spiritual combat has as its most important result the rediscovery of that filial trust in God which grows ever more complete. St Benedict expresses this from the very beginning of the Prologue of his Rule:”

I hope those few samples will inspire you to pick up this volume and give it a read. I know I will reread this book again and likely again many times over. I already plan to reread it before the next volume in the series releases. Over the last few years I have read over 250 books and booklets from the Catholic Truth Society. Many amazing biographies, prayer and devotional booklets, books on Catholic teachings and thought.  I have been so blessed by the books and booklets from the CTS and have recommended so many to others. This book is an amazing read in a new series and I strongly urge you to give it a read. I have read almost 50 books in the last month and this is the one I would recommend most! So please pick up a physical copy or the eBook and give it a read, it will be life changing!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Father Bernard Ducruet, OSB:

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