According to Fr. Lorenzo Scupoli, if you can overcome this one sin, you will be well on the way to holiness.
In the spiritual life, as in every area of life, it’s easy to lose focus on what’s truly important. Unfortunately, we can delude ourselves into thinking that we live a virtuous life, when in fact we are far from it. (The devil does his best to keep us in the dark!)
Italian priest Fr. Lorenzo Scupoli tried to get to the heart of the spiritual life. He explained in his spiritual classic, The Spiritual Combat, what he thought was the single most important sin to purge from a person’s soul.
Scupoli describes how spiritual pride can be the most dangerous sin, preventing a soul from uniting with God. A person with spiritual pride will “fancy they have made great progress therein, if they say many vocal prayers, hear many Masses … frequent many churches, [and] receive many communions.”
Furthermore, they believe that these actions have made them perfect and as a result, “they desire to be preferred and placed above others; they are wedded to their own opinion, and obstinate in their own will; and blind to their own faults, they are busy and diligent observers and critics of the deeds and words of others.”
Unfortunately, those with such spiritual pride “attribute to themselves a very high degree of perfection; and thus puffed up with pride they pass judgment upon others, while a very extraordinary degree of God’s assisting grace is needed to convert themselves.”
Scupoli goes on to boldly say, “the open sinner is more easily converted and restored to God than the man who shrouds himself under the cloak of seeming virtue.”
This observation of Scupoli is reminiscent of the Gospel story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)
Let us remember the words of the psalmist, “My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn” (Psalm 51:19).