Whoever wishes to make progress in perfection, should use particular diligence in not allowing himself to be led away by his passions, which destroy with one hand the spiritual edifice which is rising by the labors of the other. But to succeed well in this, resistance should be begun while the passions are yet weak; for after they are thoroughly rooted and grown up, there is scarcely any remedy. -St. Vincent de Paul
St. Dorotheus tells us of an old monk, who, walking with one of his disciples in a grove of cypresses, commanded him to pull some of them up, pointing out to him, first, one which was but just beginning to sprout from the ground; after that, another, which had grown into a sapling; and finally, one that was a full-grown tree.
The disciple set himself to the work, and tore up the first with one hand and with all possible ease; the second also with one hand, but with some difficulty; to pull up the third he was obliged to try several times, with both hands and all his strength. But when he arrived at the fourth, he encountered the real difficulty, and though he tried again and again, with all his force, and in every way that his ingenuity could suggest, he was not able to stir it in the least from the spot.
Then the aged Saint said: “Now, my son, it is the same as this with our passions. While they are still small, with a little vigilance and mortification one can easily repress and disable them; but, if we let them take root in our souls, there is no human force sufficient to conquer them; it requires the omnipotent hand of God. Therefore, my son, if you wish to acquire virtue, watch the first irregular movements of your soul, and study to repress them promptly, by contrary acts, at their very birth. Upon this, everything depends.”
Text from A Year With the Saints (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1891).