Compunction involves a moment of awakening, the first
glimmer of enlightenment, the dawning of a new day lived against a different
horizon. St. John Cassian, one of Benedict’s principal sources, defines
compunction as whatever can by God’s grace waken our lukewarm and sleepy souls
(Conferences 9:26)

This definition seems to envisage us living our spiritual
lives in a slumberous state of half-wakefulness. The grace of compunction is
the transition to a state of fuller awareness.
The great difference between the
saints and the rest of us is that they were spiritually awake more of the time
than we are; they were alert to possibilities. It is because they went through
life in a state of greater consciousness that they were more conscientious in
doing good and avoiding evil.
We who stumble through life with many mistakes
and omissions admire their saintly deeds but without necessarily realizing that
perhaps we could imitate them more closely if our spiritual senses were not so
Michael Casey, OCSO
The Road to Eternal Life