Lust is an inordinate desire of unlawful pleasures.
It is a vice most widely spread in the world; one
that is most violent in its attacks, most insatiable
in its cravings. Hence St. Augustine says that the
severest warfare which a Christian has to maintain is
that in defense of chastity, for such combats are
frequent, and victories rare.
Whenever you are
assailed by this shameful vice resist it with the
following considerations: Remember, first, that this
disorder not only stains your soul, purified by the
Blood of Christ, but defiles your body, in which the
thrice Holy Body of Christ has been placed, as in a
shrine. If it be a sacrilege to defile a material
temple dedicated to God's service, what must it be to
profane this living temple, which God has chosen for
His dwelling? For this reason the Apostle tells us:
"Fly fornication. Every sin that a man doth is
without the body, but he that committeth fornication
sinneth against his own body." (1Cor. 6:18).
Consider, secondly, that this deplorable vice
necessarily involves scandal to numerous souls and
the spiritual ruin of all who participate in your
crime. This thought will cause the sinner to suffer
the greatest remorse at the hour of death; for if in
the Old Law God required a life for a life, an eye
for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (Cf. Ex. 21:23-24),
what satisfaction can be offered Him for the
destruction of so many souls, purchased at the price
of His Blood?
This treacherous vice begins in
pleasure, but ends in an abyss of bitterness and
remorse. There is nothing into which man is more
easily drawn, but nothing from which he is with more
difficulty freed. Hence the Wise Man compares an
impure woman to a deep ditch, a narrow pit, to show
how easily souls fall into this vice, but with what
difficulty they are extricated. Man is first allured
by its flattering aspect, but when he has assumed the
sinful yoke, and particularly when he has cast aside
all shame, it requires almost a miracle of grace to
deliver him from his degrading bondage. For this
reason it is justly compared to a fisherman's net,
which the fish easily enter, but from which they
rarely escape. Learn, too, how many sins spring from
this one vice; for during this long captivity of the
soul how often is God offended by thoughts, words,
and desires, if not by actions?
The evils which it brings in its train are no less
numerous than the sins it occasions. It robs man of
his reputation-his most important possession, for
there is no vice more degrading or more shameful. It
rapidly undermines the strength, exhausts the energy,
and withers the beauty of its victim, bringing upon
him the most foul and loathsome diseases. It robs
youth of its freshness, and hurries it into a
premature and dishonorable old age. It penetrates
even to the sanctuary of the soul, darkening the
understanding, obscuring the memory, and weakening
the will. It turns man from every noble and honorable
work, burying him so deeply in the mire of his
impurities that he can neither think nor speak of
anything but what is vile.
Nor are the ravages of
this vice confined only to man himself. They extend
to all his possessions. There is no revenue so great
that the exactions and follies of impurity will not
exhaust; for it is closely allied to gluttony, and
these two vices combine to ruin their victim. Men
given to impurity are generally addicted to
intemperance, and squander their substance in rich
apparel and sumptuous living. Moreover, their impure
idols are insatiable in their demands for costly
jewels, rich adornments, rare perfumes, which gifts
they love much better than they love the donors,
their unfortunate victims. The example of the
prodigal son, exhausting his inheritance in these
pleasures, shows how terrible is such a passion.
Consider, further, that the more you indulge in these
infamous gratifications, the more insatiable will be
your desire for them, the less they will satisfy you.
It is the nature of these pleasures to excite the
appetite rather than appease it. If you consider how
fleeting is the pleasure and how enduring its
punishment, you will not for a moment's enjoyment
sacrifice the unspeakable treasure of a good
conscience in this life and the eternal happiness of
Heaven in the next. St. Gregory, therefore, has truly
said that the pleasure is momentary, but the
suffering is eternal. (Moral. 9,44).
the nobility and the value of virginal purity, which
this vice destroys. Virgins begin here below to live
as angels, for the beauty of these glorious spirits
is reflected in the splendor of their chastity.
"Living in the flesh," says St. Bernard, "and
despising its allurements is more angelic than
human." (In Nat. Virg.).
"Virginity," says St.
Jerome, "is the virtue which, amid the corruption of
this mortal life, best represents the perfection of
immortal glory. It brings before us the happy
condition of the celestial City, where there is no
marrying, and gives us a foretaste of eternal joy."
(De Virginitatis Laude). Hence virginity is specially
rewarded in Heaven. St. John tells us that virgins
follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. (Cf. Apoc.
14:4). They have risen above their fellow men in
their imitation of Christ. They will therefore be
more closely united to Him for all eternity, and will
find in the spotless purity of their bodies a source
of ineffable joy.
Virginity not only renders man
like unto Christ, but makes him the temple of the
Holy Spirit. For this Divine Lover of purity abhors
whatever is defiled, and delights to dwell in chaste
souls. The Son of God, who was conceived of the Holy
Ghost, so loved purity that He wrought His greatest
miracle to preserve the purity of His Virgin Mother.
If you have suffered the loss of this beautiful
virtue, learn from the temptations which wrought the
evil to guard against a second fall.
If you have
not preserved the gift of chastity in the perfection
in which God gave it to you, endeavor to restore the
beauty of the Creator's work by giving yourself to
His service with a zeal and fervor born of deep
gratitude for forgiven sin, and with an ardent desire
to repair the past. "It often happens," says St.
Gregory, "that one who was tepid and indifferent
before his fall becomes, through repentance, a strong
and fervent soldier of Christ." (Past., p1). Finally,
since God continued to preserve your life after you
had so basely offended Him, profit by this benefit to
serve Him and make reparation for your sins, lest
another fall should be irremediable.
Besides these general remedies there are others more
special, and perhaps more efficacious. The first of
these is vigorously to resist the first attacks of
this vice. If we do not resist it in the beginning,
it rapidly acquires strength and gains an entrance to
our souls. "When a taste for sinful pleasures," says
St. Gregory, "takes possession of a heart, it thinks
of nothing but how to gratify its inordinate
desires." (Moral. 21,7). We must, then, struggle
against it from the beginning by repelling every bad
thought, for by such fuel is the flame of impurity
fed. As wood nourishes fire, so our thoughts nourish
our desires; and, consequently, if the former be
good, charity will burn in our breast – but if they
are bad, the fire of lust will certainly be kindled.
In the second place, we must carefully guard our
senses, particularly the eyes, that they may not rest
upon anything capable of exciting sinful desires. A
man may inflict a deep wound upon his soul by
inconsiderately turning his eyes upon a dangerous
object. Prudently guard your eyes in your intercourse
with the other sex, for such glances weaken virtue.
Hence we are told by the Holy Ghost: "Look not round
about thee in the ways of the city. Turn away thy
face from a woman dressed up, and gaze not upon
another's beauty." (Ecclus. 9:7-8). Think of Job,
that great servant of God, of such tried virtue, who
kept so vigilant a guard over his senses that, in the
expressive language of Scripture, he made a covenant
with his eyes not so much as to think upon a virgin.
(Cf. Job 31:1). Behold also the example of David,
who, though declared by God to have been a man after
His own Heart, yet fell into three grievous crimes by
inconsiderately looking upon a woman.
Be no less watchful in protecting your ears from
impure discourses. If unbecoming words are uttered in
your presence, testify your displeasure by at least a
grave and serious countenance; for what we hear with
pleasure we learn to do with complacency. Guard with
equal care your tongue. Let no immodest words escape
you; for "evil communications," says the Apostle,
"corrupt good morals." (1Cor. 15:33). A man's
conversation discovers his inclination, for, to quote
the words of the Gospel, from the abundance of the
heart the mouth speaketh.
Endeavor to keep your
mind occupied with good thoughts and your body
employed in some profitable exercise, "for the
devil," says St. Bernard, "fills idle souls with bad
thoughts, so that they may be thinking of evil if
they do not actually commit it."
temptations, but particularly in temptations against
purity, remember the presence of your guardian angel
and of the devil, your accuser, for they both witness
all your actions, and will render an account of them
to Him who sees and judges all things. If you follow
this counsel, how can you, before your accuser, your
defender, and your Judge, commit a base sin, for
which you would blush before the lowest of men?
Remember also the terrible tribunal of God's judgment
and the eternal flames of Hell; for as a greater pain
makes us insensible to a less, so the thought of the
inexhaustible fire of Hell will render us insensible
to the fire of concupiscence.
In addition to all
this, be very guarded in your intercourse with women,
and beware of continuing alone with one for any
length of time; for, according to St. Chrysostom, the
enemy attacks men and women more vigorously when he
finds them alone. He is bolder when there are no
witnesses present to thwart his artifices. Avoid the
society of women who are not above suspicion, for
their words inflame the heart, their glances wound
the soul, and everything about them is a snare to
those who visit them with imprudent familiarity. Be
mindful of the example of the elders (Cf. Dan. 13),
and let not old age render you less prudent. Do not
trust to your own strength; and let not a habit of
virtue inspire you with presumptuous confidence. Let
there be no improper interchange of presents, visits,
or letters, for these are so many snares which
entangle us and reawaken dangerous affections. If you
experience any friendship for a virtuous woman let
your intercourse be marked by grave respect, and
avoid seeing her too often or conversing too
familiarly with her. But, as one of the most
important remedies is avoiding dangerous occasions,
we. shall give an example from the Dialogues of St.
Gregory to show you with what prudence holy souls
guard this angelic virtue.
There lived in the
province of Mysia a holy priest who was filled with
the fear of God, and who governed his church with
zeal and wisdom. A very virtuous woman had charge of
the altar and church furniture. This holy soul the
priest loved as a sister, but he was as guarded in
his intercourse with her as if she were his enemy. He
never permitted her to approach him or converse
familiarly with him, or enter his dwelling, thus
removing all occasions of familiarity; for the saints
not only reject unlawful gratifications, but forbid
themselves even innocent pleasures when there is the
slightest indication of danger to the soul. For this
reason the good priest would never allow her to
minister to him, even in his extreme necessities.
At an advanced age, after he had been 40 years in the
sacred ministry, he fell gravely ill, and was soon
almost at the point of death. As he lay in this
condition, the good woman, wishing to discover
whether he still lived, bent over him and put her ear
to his mouth to listen to his breathing. The dying
man, perceiving her, indignantly exclaimed, "Get thee
hence, woman! Get thee hence! The fire still glows in
the embers. Beware of kindling it with straw!" As she
withdrew he seemed to gain new strength, and raising
his eyes, he cried out with a loud voice, "Oh! Happy
hour! Welcome, my lords, welcome! I thank you for
deigning to visit so poor a servant. I come! I come!"
He repeated these words several times, and when they
who were present asked him to whom he spoke, he said
with astonishment, "Do you not see the glorious
Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul?" And, raising his
eyes, he again cried, "I come! I come!" and as he
uttered these words he gave up his soul to God.
end so glorious was the result of a prudent vigilance
which cannot be too highly extolled; and such
confidence at the hour of death seemed a fitting
reward for one who during life had been filled with a
holy fear of God. (Dial. 4,11).