Gluttony is an inordinate love of eating and drinking. Our Saviour warns us against this vice, saying, “Take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life.” (Lk. 21:34).
When you feel the promptings of this shameful disorder, subdue them by the following considerations:
Call to mind that it was a sin of gluttony which brought death into the world, and that it is the first and most important passion to be conquered, for upon the subjugation of this vice depends your victory over all others. We cannot successfully battle with enemies abroad when the forces within us are in a state of rebellion. Thus we see that the devil first tempted Our Saviour to gluttony, wishing to make himself master of the avenue through which all other vices find an easy entrance.
Consider also Our Saviour’s extraordinary fast in the desert and the many other rigorous mortification which He imposed upon His Sacred Body, not only to expiate our excesses, but to give us a salutary example. How, then, can you call yourself a follower of Christ, if, when He fasts, you abandon yourself to the gross pleasures of the table? He refuses no labor, no suffering, to redeem you, and you will do nothing for your own salvation!
If you find abstinence difficult, think of the gall and vinegar which were given to Our Saviour on the cross; for as St. Bernard tells us, there is no food so unpleasant that it may not be made palatable by mingling it with this bitter draught. Frequently reflect upon the terrible austerities and wonderful fasts observed by the Fathers of the desert; how they fled from the world to remote solitude, where, after the example of Christ, they crucified their flesh with all its irregular appetites, and, sustained by God’s grace, subsisted for many years on no other food but roots and herbs. Behold how these men imitated their Divine Model; behold what they thought necessary to reach Heaven. How can you gain this same Heaven by the path of gross and sensual pleasures? Think of the innumerable poor who are in need of bread; and at the sight of God’s liberality to you, blush to make the gifts of His bounty instruments of gluttony. Consider, again, how often the Sacred Host has rested upon your tongue, and do not permit death to enter by that gate through which life is conveyed to your soul.
We may say of gluttony what we have said of impurity, that its pleasures are equally restricted and fleeting. Yet earth, sea, and air seem unable to gratify this passion, for many crimes are perpetrated, the poor are defrauded and oppressed, and little ones compelled to suffer hunger, to satisfy the sensuality of the great. It is deplorable to think that for the gratification of one sense man condemns himself body and soul to eternal suffering. What incomprehensible folly to flatter with such delicate care a body which is destined to be the food of worms! For this miserable body you neglect your soul, which will appear before the tribunal of God as poor in virtues as its earthly companion is rich in sensual pleasures. Nor will the body escape the punishment to which the soul will be condemned. Having been created for the soul, it will share its sufferings. Thus by neglecting the nobler part of your being to devote yourself to the inferior, you lose both and become your own executioner.
To excite in your heart a salutary fear of this vice, recall to mind what is related in the Gospel of Lazarus, of his poverty, of his hunger which craved the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table, and how he was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom; while the rich man, who fed upon delicacies and was clothed in purple and me linen, was buried in the depths of Hell. Moderation and gluttony, temperance and excess, will not reap the same fruit in the next world. To patient suffering will succeed ineffable happiness, and sensual pleasures will be followed by eternal misery. What remains to you now of the pleasures of your guilty excesses? Nothing but remorse of conscience, which will be the principal torture of the life to come. All that you have lavished upon your ungoverned appetite you have irrevocably lost, but that which you have given away to the poor is still yours, for its merit is laid up in the kingdom of Heaven.
That you may not be deceived by the snares of this vice disguised as necessities, govern your appetite by reason, not by inclination. Remember that your soul can never rule the flesh, if it be not itself submissive to God. This submission will be the rule and foundation of its empire. Let God command our reason; let reason direct the soul, and the soul will be able to govern the body. By observing this wise order decreed by the Creator, the whole man will be reformed. But when the soul rebels against reason, and reason against God, the body will soon rebel against the soul.
If tempted by gluttony, remember that you have already tasted its pleasures and that they endured but a moment. They passed like a dream, except that while the light of day dispels the images of the night, the remorse for gluttony remains long after its pleasure has departed. But overcome this enemy, and you will experience consolation and peace. Therefore, the following wise saying has justly become celebrated: “If you find difficulty in the performance of a virtuous action, the trouble is soon past and the virtue remains; but if you take pleasure in committing a base action, its pleasure disappears, but its shame continues with you.” (Aul. Gel., Noct. Attic. 8,15).
(The Sinners Guide- St. Louis of Granada)