On another occasion, he saw a boy playing with a little bird by the roadside. The bird had its foot tied to a string, and now and then, when it was allowed a little freedom, it tried to fly away, hoping to succour itself by flight. But the boy holding the string pulled it back and brought it down beside him. This gave him enormous pleasure, and he did it again and again. When the Father saw this, he was sorry for the wretched bird, and hoped that it would break the string and regain its freedom. And suddenly the string did break; the bird flew off: the boy wept; and the Father rejoiced. Then he called to us and said “Did you notice the game the boy was playing? When we admitted that we had done so, he said “Consider likewise how the devil plays with many men, whom he catches in his toils and drags into various vices at his pleasure. For instance some men are consumed by the flames of avarice or lust or such-like things, and are chained to them by evil habit. Sometimes it happens to them that, when they consider what they are doing, they weep over it and promise themselves that they will leave off such things in the future. So, like the bird, they think they can fly away free. But, being enmeshed by evil habits, they are held by the enemy, who pulls them back into the same vices, as they fly away. This happens time and again, and they are never entirely set free unless, by a great effort and by the operation of God’s grace, the cord of evil custom is broken.
* This excerpt is from “The Life of St. Anselm” by Eadmer