“St. Paul often distinguishes between desires of the flesh and desires of the spirit, between those desires that entangle us with sin and those that draw us to God. These are at war within us, such that often we feel like St. Paul, who says “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Rom 7:19). Despite our repeated failures to do the good, our felt need to “seek peace and pursue it” (Ps 34:14) spurs us to look for some sort of resolution.
John Cassian, whose Conferences were among St. Dominic’s favorite reading, writes that we can pursue this interior peace by becoming spiritually ambidextrous. What does he mean? He writes in the sixth conference that “our inner man consists in two parts, or as I might say, two hands.” The right hand refers to “his spiritual achievements.” His left hand refers to “when he is involved in the turmoil of trials; when the desires of his flesh are inflamed by seething emotions and impulses.” (Sorry, lefties!)
While it might seem that the right hand has to overpower the left hand in order for us to be at peace, Cassian argues that we have to learn how to use the left hand as a right hand—we have to become spiritually ambidextrous.
“No holy person can be without what we call the left hand, but perfect virtue is discerned in the fact that by proper use he turns both into a right hand … He seizes the arms of patience from adversity for the sake of exercising his virtue, uses both hands as right hands, and, having triumphed in both respects, snatches the palm of victory from the left as much as from the right.”
We cannot help but experience temptation. Cassian suggests, however, that moments of temptation can be as beneficial to our movement towards God as moments of consolation and obvious grace. God allows temptation and offers consolation for the same reason—that we may be saved.
Our many temptations to sin can become opportunities for victory in the ongoing spiritual battle by which we participate in God’s redemption of us. If we rest in our spiritual achievements alone—in the gifts and virtues we have received—then we will soon grow complacent and slack. If we focus exclusively on our sin and weakness, we will soon despair of change. But wielding both hands, right and left, in the practice of patience and desire for God, we grow stronger and more resolute in our pursuit of Him.”
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom