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Sunday, 17 February 2013

Part 32 Perfection and St. Thomas Aquinas

I am skipping around in this book of Aquinas in order to highlight the sections which can apply to the laity. If one wants to read the entire book, it is not on line in its completeness. One can most likely find this treatise in a Catholic library of a large university or in a monastery. It is sad that such works are not available easily to the laity, which is why I am doing this series. This particular selection makes the distinction between becoming perfect, and being in the state of perfection.

The idea of counsels may seem strange to some people. These are the guidelines, the insights, the big hints given to us by Christ Himself as to how to be perfect. We have seen these in all of the writings of the saints so far. The "evangelical counsels" are not the same as "precepts". Precepts are the Ten Commandments, the very basic rules we must follow to obtain salvation.  All of us must keep those precepts. The counsels are given to us by Christ Himself, and we have seen in this series those saints who said "yes" to the counsels.  We are free to accept the counsels or not; we must follow the precepts. The three evangelical counsels, as seen in the last several postings on perfection are the free acceptance of holy poverty, chastity or even celibacy depending on one's call in life, and holy obedience.

Pray this Lent where and how God is calling you. Renew your strength, and here is one of my favourite passages from Scripture which may help:

But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 DR

Back to Aquinas..........


What is Required to Constitute the State of Perfection
As we said before, one must keep in mind that perfection does not consist in simply doing a perfect work, but also in the vow to do such a work. A counsel, as we already noted, has been given us in each respect. He therefore who performs a perfect work under a vow attains a twofold perfection. For just as a man who observes continence is practicing one form of perfection, so he who obliges himself by vow to live in continence and who keeps his vow, practices both the perfection of continence and the perfection of a vow. For the perfection that comes from the observance of a vow changes the state and condition of a man as completely as freedom changes the state and condition of a slave

This proposition is established from Gratian, II quaestio IX, where Pope Hadrian says, “If at any time we are called upon for judgment in a capital cause, or in a cause affecting a state of life, we must act at our own discretion, and not depend upon others to examine the case.” For if a man makes a vow to observe chastity, he deprives himself of liberty to marry. But he who simply observes chastity without a vow is not deprived of his liberty. Therefore his condition has not changed, as has that of a man bound by a vow. Again, if one man serves another, his state is not thereby changed, as it is if he enters into an obligation to serve him.

Aquinas is challenging all the young single Catholics, I think....

We must remember, however, that a man may deprive himself of liberty either simply speaking or in a certain respect. If he bind himself, either to God or man, to perform some specific work for some allotted time, he renounces his freedom, not simply speaking but partially, i.e., with regard to the particular matter, about which he has laid himself under an obligation. If, however, he place himself entirely at the disposal of another, reserving to himself no liberty whatsoever, he makes himself a slave simply speaking, and thereby simply speaking alters his condition. Thus, if a person make a vow to God to perform some specified work, such as a pilgrimage or a fast, he does not change his condition entirely, but only partially, i.e., with regard to that particular work which he vows to accomplish. If he dedicate his whole life to serve God in works of perfection he simply speaking embraces the condition or state of perfection.

But, there is hope for all of us laity....we are not in the state of perfection by making vows regarding the evangelical counsels, but, we can still become perfect...Praise God.

But, as some men perform works of perfection without any vow, and others fail to accomplish the works of perfection to which they have vowed their whole lives, it is perfectly possible for persons to be perfect without being in the state of perfection, or to be in a state of perfection without being perfect.

Reading Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas parallels eating Death by Chocolate Cake. 

I shall continue with the Doctors of the Church and Perfection tomorrow.

Goodbye to the Dominicans and hello to the Benedictines..............

The speeding up of time in 2013 and 2012 in review

With all the events in Rome happening so quickly, I must state that time seems to be speeding up for some reason. Scientists may add to this conversation, but so many things seem to be pushing each one of us forward towards our final goal.

My 2012 proved a fast year. I feel like I lived through a lifetime.

I have read tons of books and articles, and written lots of poetry.

I had two marriage proposals while in Ireland twice, both of which I refused.

I was in the convent for two solid months plus a week or two and I decided to come out.

I travelled to four countries within a twelve month period and had amazing experiences, including meeting amazing people.(Thanks to all my generous friends who help me out in these various places. Hug.)

I talked with people about jobs, and worked on a doctoral bibliography and gave up the project with God's insights as to what He really wants me to do. That was hard, as I love study.

I was healed of long standing anxieties and have come to trust in Divine Providence completely.This was easy as it was all grace.

I fell in love with someone who did not fall in love with me -well that was the end of 2011.

I started up my dormant blog again to great success which still amazes me.

I have made at least sixty new, excellent Catholic friends in many places.

I substituted in a great school for a short time.

I met saints.

I saw a friend of mine I had not seen for years. We laughed!

I gave up a book project and had discussions about starting a school. I talked and talked about Montessori.

I cooked and cooked and cooked so many dinners for friends, I lost track.

All in one year.....

And the list goes on.......

In 2013, I visited two countries and stayed with new friends.

I have had discussions on starting a new school, again, with different people.

I have met saints.

I have spent hours in McCafe doing my

I have cooked and cooked and cooked, but not as much as last year.

I have had my real vocation confirmed.

There is more....and it is only February 17th.

The only thing I have wanted to go and do and cannot at this time is paint. I love painting-acrylics and oils.....the year is young.

Pope Benedict XVI: Satan pushes us to a false good!

2013-02-17 Vatican Radio from

(Vatican Radio) Pope Benedict XVI prayed the Angelus with the faithful in St Peter’s Square this Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent. Tens of thousands of pilgrims were on hand, beneath a bright and unseasonably warm Roman sky. Speaking from his window in the Apostolic Palace above the Square ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, the Holy Father placed the Lenten season on which the Church is embarked in the context of the Year of Faith. “In this Year of Faith,” he said, “Lent is a favorable time to rediscover the faith in God as the basic criterion of our life and the life of the Church.” The Pope went on to say that this always involves a struggle – a real spiritual combat – because the spirit of evil that is opposed to our sanctification seeks to throw us off the path that God has set out for us. Noting that it is for this reason that the Church traditionally proclaims the Gospel narrative of Christ’s temptation in the desert on the first Sunday of Lent, Pope Benedict said, “The tempter is subtle: he does not push us directly toward evil, but to a false good.” The Holy Father went on to explain that, ultimately, what is at stake in the temptations is faith. “In the decisive moments of life,” he said, “but, if we look closely, in every moment, we are at a crossroads: do we want to follow the self, or God?” It was a theme to which Pope Benedict returned during his greetings to Pilgrims in English: Listen 
Today we contemplate Christ in the desert, fasting, praying, and being tempted. As we begin our Lenten journey, we join him and we ask him to give us strength to fight our weaknesses. Let me also thank you for the prayers and support you have shown me in these days. May God bless all of you!

Thanks to Rorate Caeli on SSPX status

Interview granted by the Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X (FSSPX / SSPX), Bp. Bernard Fellay, to Nouvelles de France (Feb. 15 edition). No time for a translation now, but he says that for a brief moment following the papal resignation he expected a sign in their favor, but now thinks this is unlikely to happen: "It will probably be necessary to wait for the next pope."

Update: full translation provided by the American District of the SSPX:
Your Excellency, would you appreciate it if the last major act of Benedict XVI’s pontificate could be the reintegration of the Society of St. Pius X?

Bishop Bernard Fellay: For a moment I thought that, with his resignation, Benedict XVI would perhaps make a final gesture in our favor as pope. That being said, I have a hard time seeing how he could do so. We will probably have to wait for the next pope. I will even go so far as to say, at the risk of surprising you, that the Church has more important problems than the Society of St. Pius X, and in a way, it is by resolving these problems that the problem of the Society will be solved.

Part 31 on Perfection and St. Thomas Aquinas--the shortcut to perfection


The Third Way to Perfection, Which is the Denial of Our Own Will
It is not only necessary for the perfection of charity that a man should sacrifice his exterior possessions: he must also, in a certain sense, relinquish himself. Dionysius, in De Divinis Nominibus IV, says that, “divine love causes a man to be out of himself, meaning thereby, that this love suffers him no longer to belong to himself but to Him whom he loves.”

Here are some of the passages which reveal the height of holiness reached by St. Paul. Only a person in the Illuminative State can say that Christ is taking over one's entire being.

This is a state of union which may also indicate the Unitive State. And, how did Paul get there? Through  suffering and purification...As seen below, St. Thomas notes the high degree of perfection attained by St. Paul.

St. Paul has been dismissed by feminists and liberal priests in the past 30 years, when in reality, we should be looking to him on our journey towards perfection. Do not allow prejudice to interfere with your ability to see the excellence of this writing.

St. Paul, writing to the Galatians, illustrates this state by his own example, saying, “I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20), as if he did not count his life as his own, but as belonging to Christ, and as if he spurned all that he possessed, in order to cleave to Him. He further shows that this state reaches perfection in certain souls; for he says to the Colossians, “For you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). Again, he exhorts others to the same sublimity of love, in his second Epistle to the Corinthians, “And Christ died for all, that they also who live, may not now live to themselves, but unto Him who died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor 5:15). Therefore, when our Lord had said, “If any man comes to me, and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters,” He added something greater than all these, saying, “yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). He teaches the same thing in the Gospel of St. Matthew when He says, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mat 16:24).

This practice of salutary self-abnegation, and charitable self-hatred, is, in part, necessary for all men in order to salvation, and is, partly, a point of perfection. As we have already seen from the words of Dionysius quoted above, it is in the nature of divine love that he who loves should belong, not to himself, but, to the one beloved. 

This idea should be understandable to those who love someone. 

You want to be with that person all the time and be part of their lives. 

One desires to be one with the beloved.

This relationship with God is no different. And, if we are in love, we do not want to cross that person's will.

In fact, a sign of love is deference to the other. This is the beauty of love.

Why a woman who really loves a man does not mind deferring to him is because she loves him

This is easy when one is in love. It is easy to defer.

It is necessary, therefore, that self-abnegation and self-hatred be proportionate to the degree of divine love existing in an individual soul. It is essential to salvation that a man should love God to such a degree, as to make Him his end, and to do nothing which be believes to be opposed to the Divine love. 

Consequently, self-hatred and self-denial are necessary for salvation. Hence St. Gregory says, in his Homily, “We relinquish and deny ourselves when we avoid what we were wont (through the old man dwelling in us) to be, and when we strive after that to which (by the new man) we are called.” In another homily he likewise says, “We hate our own life when we do not condescend to carnal desires, but resist the appetites and pleasures of the flesh.”

But in order to attain perfection, we must further, for the love of God, sacrifice what we might lawfully use, in order, thus to be more free to devote ourselves to Him. 

This is key.  We can sacrifice even those things which are normal for most people. 

It follows, therefore, that self-hatred, and self-denial, pertain to perfection. We see that our Lord speaks of them as if they belonged to it. For, just as in the Gospel of St. Matthew he says, “If you would be perfect, go, sell all that you have and give to the poor,” (Mat 19:21) but does not lay any necessity on us to do so, leaving it to our own will, so He likewise says, “if any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). 

St. Chrysostom thus explains these words, “Christ does not make his saying compulsory; He does not say, ‘whether you like it or not, you must bear these things.’” In the same manner, when He says: “If any man will come after Me and hate not his father” etc. (Luke 14:28), He immediately asks, “Which of you having a mind to build a tower, does not first sit down, and reckon the charges that are necessary, whether) he have enough to finish it?” St. Gregory in his Homily thus expounds these words, “The precepts which Christ gives are sublime, and, therefore, the comparison between them and the building of a high tower shortly follows them.” And he says again, “That young man could not have had enough to finish his tower who, when he heard the counsel to leave all things, went away sad.” We may hence understand, that these words of our Lord refer, in a certain manner, to a counsel of perfection.

Do not be sad. Do not go away sad. Accept the call to perfection. It will bring much more joy than having things and story up things.

The martyrs carried out this counsel of perfection most perfectly. Of them St. Augustine says (in his sermon De martyribus, that “none sacrifice so much as those who sacrifice themselves.” The martyrs of Christ, denying themselves, did, in a certain manner, hate their lives, for the love of Christ. St. Chrysostom, again, says, writing on the Gospel of St. Matthew, “He who denies another, be it his brother, or his servant, or whomsoever it may be, will not assist him if he sees him suffering from the scourge or any other torture. And we, in like manner, ought to have so little regard for our body, that, if men should scourge, or in any other way maltreat, us, we ought not to spare ourselves.”

Here is a point which I made in another post. The way of the martyrs is like instant perfection, as it is SO hard.

St. Thomas More knew this when he saw the Charterhouse monks singing on their way to Tyburn, getting muddied and spat at while tied to their hurdles.

This type of grace came after years of being monks and following the way of perfection and More noted this. Thankfully, God gave him time in prison to prepare for such a death as beheading.

Our Lord would not have us to think that we are to deny ourselves, only so far as to endure insults and hard words. He shows us that we are to deny ourselves unto death, even unto the shameful death of the cross. For He says: “Let him take up his cross and follow Me.”  

I fail at this daily. And, I am asking God for help in this regard. To endure insults is a great grace.

We, therefore, say that the martyrs did a most perfect work; for they renounced, for the love of God, life itself, which others hold so dear, that, for its sake, they are content to part with all temporal goods, and are willing to purchase it by any sacrifice whatsoever. For a man will prefer to lose friends and wealth, and to suffer sickness, or even slavery, rather than to be deprived of life. Conquerors will grant to their defeated foes the privilege of life, in order that they may keep them subject to them in slavery. Satan said to the Lord, “Skin for skin, and all that a man has he will give for life” (Job 2:4), i.e. to preserve his body.

Now, the more dearly a thing is loved according to nature, the more perfect it is to despise it, for the sake of Christ. Nothing is dearer to any man than the freedom of his will, whereby he is lord of others, can use what he pleases, can enjoy what he wills, and is master of his own actions. Just, therefore, as a person who relinquishes his wealth, and leaves those to whom be is bound by natural ties, denies these things and persons; so, he who renounces his own will, which makes him master, does truly deny himself. Nothing is so repugnant to human nature as slavery; and, therefore, there is no greater sacrifice (except that of life), which one man can make for another, than to give himself up to bondage for the sake of, that other. Hence, the younger Tobias said to the angel, “if I should give myself to be your servant, I should not make a worthy return for your care” (Tobit 9:2).

Some men deprive themselves, for the love of God, of some particular use of their free will, binding themselves by vow, to do, or not to do, some specific thing. A vow imposes a certain obligation on him that makes it; so that, for the future, he is not at liberty to do, or not to do, what was formerly permissible to him; for he is bound to accomplish his vow. Thus, we read in Ps. 65. 13, “I will pay you my vows which my lips have uttered,”and again, “If you have vowed anything to God, defer not to pay it; for an unfaithful and foolish promise displeases him” (Eccles. 5:3).

Others there are, however, who make a complete sacrifice of their own will, for the love of God, submitting themselves to another by the vow of obedience, of which virtue Christ has given us a sublime example.  

This is what I want, to be in obedience, as it is the short-cut to perfection. A short-cut, young ones...please listen..............

For, as we read in the Epistle to the Romans, “As by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners; so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just” (Rom 5:19). Now this obedience consists in the denial of our own will. Hence, our Lord said, “Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). Again He said, “I came down from Heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). By these words He shows us, that, as He renounced His own will, submitting it to the Divine will, so we ought wholly to subject our will to God, and to those whom He has set over us as His ministers. To quote the words of St. Paul, "obey your prelates and be subject to them" (Heb. 13:17).

Part Thirty on Perfection and Thomas Aquinas

I am putting two chapters together on chastity for your perusal. 

I am writing this for all the single Catholics out in blog land. Please read carefully what the Greatest Doctor of all has to say.

Singles, do not settle for less...............


The Second Way to Perfection, Which is the Renunciation of Fleshly Affection and of Marriage
To better manifest the second way to perfection, we should consider the words of St. Augustine which he says in De Trinitate 12: “The less a man loves what is his, the more closely will he cleave to God.” Hence, according to the order of a man's goods that he gives up for God's sake, will be the order of those things by which he arrives at perfectly clinging to God.

The things that occur first to be given up, are those which are least closely united to ourselves. Hence, those aiming towards perfection are to first give up exterior goods, which are extrinsic to our nature. The next objects to be given up are those which are united to our nature by a certain communion and necessary affinity. Hence, the Lord says, "If any man comes to me, and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).

Nothing should come between us in our search for God. If one is in a relationship which takes one away from God, leave that person's company, unless you can bring them to Christ by your holiness.

We must develop and ask for the grace of objectivity in our relationships. Only by laying aside subjectivity can we enter into the process of perfection

But, as St. Gregory says, “It is permissible to inquire how we can be commanded to hate our parents and kinsfolk, when we are bidden to love even our enemies? If, however, we carefully consider this precept, we shall be able to obey it by means of discretion. For, when we refuse to listen to one who, savoring earthly things, suggests to us to do what is wrong, we at the same time love him and hate him. Thus we must bear this discreet hatred towards our kinsfolk, loving in them what they are in themselves, and hating them when they hinder our progress towards God. For, whosoever desires eternal life must, for the love of God, be independent of father and mother, of wife, children, and relations, yea, detached from self, in order that he may the better know God, for whose sake he loses sight of every other. For it is but too clear, that earthly affections warp the mind, and blunt its keenness.”

Many people do not understand that each one of us is responsible for our own walk towards God. How many times have I heard men say that they want a "good woman" to marry without working on their own souls.

Anyone, any person can come between us and God.

This is the lesson of Christ Himself, the Son of God-His words to be listened to and pondered.

Now amongst all relationships, conjugal affection engrosses men’s hearts more than another other, so that our first parent said: “A man leaves father and mother, and clings to his wife” (Gen. 2:24). Hence, they who are aiming at perfection, must, above all things, avoid the bond of marriage, since it, in a pre-eminent degree, entangles man in secular concerns. This is the reason St. Paul gives for his counsel concerning continence. “The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife” (1 Cor. 7:32-33).

But, unmarried is not enough. That state can merely be a way to selfishness and narcissism. God is the reason for singleness. And, if you find yourself single, turn to God with your whole heart and soul.

Therefore, the second way to perfection, by which a man may be more free to devote himself to God, and to cling more perfectly to him, is the observance of perpetual chastity. But continence has the further benefit of giving a particular facility for acquiring perfection. For the soul is hindered from free devotion to God, not only by the love of exterior things, but much more by the impulse of interior passions. And among these passions, the lust of the flesh especially absorbs the reason. 

Continence is needed in marriage as well, but this message is for those who are not married.

Hence in Soliloquies (lib. 1) St. Augustine says, “I know nothing which doth more cast a manly soul down from the tower of its strength, than do the caresses of a woman, and the physical contact essential to marriage.” Therefore continence is a most necessary way to perfection, and is a way counseled by St. Paul, “Now concerning the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy” (1 Cor. 7:25).

Those who are not married have much more time for the building of the Kingdom of God directly. But, pursue holiness and not merely good works.

Do not merely remain single, but make vows, as do the members of the order of the  Consecrated Virgins. 

Do not settle for less.

The advantage of virginity is also shown in St. Matthew (19:10-11), when the disciples said to the Lord, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry,” He answered, “Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given.” In this way he showed the hardness of this way, and that the normal strength of men is insufficient to follow this way of life, and that one attains it only by a gift of God. Hence it is said in the Book of Wisdom (8:21), “I knew that I could not otherwise be continent unless God gave it; and this also was supreme wisdom, to know whose gift it was.” This saying is also in harmony with what the Apstole says (1 Cor. 7:7), “I wish that all were as I myself am” (i.e. living a life of continence), “but each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” Here he clearly explains continence as a gift of God.


But, lest on the other hand, anyone should neglect to make his own efforts to obtain this gift, the Lord exhorts to it. He does so first by way of example, saying, “There are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs”; “not,”as St. Chrysostom explains, “by mutilation, but by resisting evil thoughts.” Then Christ goes on to invite all men to follow this example, for the sake of its reward, saying, “there are some who have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven.” The Book of Wisdom also says (4:2), “The chaste generation triumphs, crowned for ever, winning the reward of undefiled conflicts.” Finally the Lord expressly exhorts men to continence, saying “He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.” “This,” says St. Jerome, “is the voice of the Lord encouraging his soldiers to win the prize of chastity. It is as if He said: he that can fight, let him fight and conquer.”

Do not ignore the above words of the Lord Himself..........

If anyone should raise as an objection the example of Abraham, and of other just men of old, who were perfect without refraining from matrimony, the answer is evident from what Augustine says in his book, On the Good of Marriage, “The continence that is a virtue is that of the mind, not of the body. And virtue is sometimes revealed in deeds, and sometimes lies disguised as a habit. The patience of John who did not suffer martyrdom was equal in merit to that of Peter who was slain; and Abraham who fathered sons, was equal in continence to the virgin John. The marriage of the one and the celibacy of the other fought, each in their season, for Christ. Therefore, any one of the faithful who observes continence may say, “I am certainly no better than Abraham; but the chastity of celibacy is superior to the chastity of married life. Abraham practiced the one actually, the other habitually. For he lived chastely as a husband, and could have lived continently had he been unmarried. The latter state, however, did not befit the time at which he lived. It is easier for me not to marry at all, (although Abraham married) than to live such a married life as he lived. Therefore, am I better than they, who could not, by continence of heart, do what I do; but I am not better than they, who, on account of the different time at which they lived, did not what I do. Had it been fitting, they, in their time, would have accomplished far better than I, that which I now do; but I, even were it now required, could not do what they achieved.”

Do not be presumptuous in ignoring the words of Christ Himself...................

This solution of Augustine is in harmony with what was said above about poverty. For Abraham had so great spiritual perfection in virtue, that his spirit did not fall short of perfect love for God on account either of temporal possessions or of married life. But if another man who does not have the same spiritual virtues  strives to attain perfection, while retaining riches and entering into marriage, his error in presuming to treat Our Lord’s words as of small account will soon be demonstrated.


Helps for Preserving Chastity
Since chastity is so difficult a virtue that, in Our Lord’s words, not all men “take it,” but those only “to whom it is given,” it is necessary for those who desire to live a life of continence, so to conduct themselves as to avoid all that might prove an obstacle in the prosecution of their design. Now there are three principal hindrances to continence. The first arises from the body. The second from the mind. The third from external circumstances, whether they be of persons or of things.
The body is an obstacle to continence. 

Fasting in Lent and purposeful penances not pass up opportunities for learning discipline.

As St. Paul says, “The flesh lusts against the Spirit” (Gal. 5:17), and “the works of the flesh are fornication, uncleanness, unchastity and the like.” Concupiscence is that law of the flesh, of which, in his epistle to the Romans, St. Paul says, “I see another law in my members fighting against the law of my mind” (Rom. 7:23). Now the more the flesh is pampered, by superabundance of food, and by effeminacy of life, the more will its concupiscence increase. For, as St. Jerome says, “A man heated with wine will quickly give the rein to lust.” The book of Proverbs warns us against wine as “a luxurious thing” (Prov. 20:1). Job, again, tells us that Behemoth (by whom Satan is signified) “sleeps under the shadow, in the covert of the reed and in moist places” (chap. 40:16). St. Gregory (33 Moral.) thus interprets this passage. “Moist places,” he says, “betoken voluptuous works. We do not slip on dry ground; but, we have no sure foothold on slippery soil. Hence, those men pursue the journey of this present life in moist places, who cannot hold themselves upright in justice.” He, then, who desires to undertake a life of continence, must chastise his flesh, by abstention from pleasure, and by fasts, vigils, and such like exercises.

I know this is a hard word for most singles, but the pursuit of the good life may not lead you to God.

St. Paul sets before us his own conduct as an example in this respect, “Every one who strives for mastery, refrains himself from all things... I chastise my body and bring it into subjection, lest, perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway” (1 Cor. 9:25), What the Apostle practiced in deed, he taught in word. In his Epistle to the Romans, after his warning against “chambering and impurities,” he concludes, “make no provision for the flesh in its concupiscences” (Rom 13:14) He rightly lays stress upon the concupiscences of the flesh, i.e. its desire for pleasure; for it is incumbent on us to make provision for what is necessary for our body, and St. Paul himself says, “No man ever hated his own flesh, but he nourishes and cherishes it.” (Eph. 5:29)
An obstacle to continence arises also from the mind, if we dwell on unchaste thoughts. The Lord says by His prophet, “Take away the evil of your devices from my eyes” (Isa. 1:16). For, evil thoughts often lead to evil deeds. Hence the Prophet Micah says, “Woe to you who devise that which is unprofitable,” and he immediately continues, “and work evil in your beds” (Micah 2:1). Amongst all evil thoughts, those which most powerfully incline unto sin, are thoughts concerning carnal gratification. Philosophers assign two reasons for this fact. First, they say, that as concupiscence is innate in man, and grows with him from youth upwards, he is easily carried away by it, when his imagination sets it before him. Hence Aristotle says, that “we cannot easily judge of pleasure, unless we enjoy it.” (Ethics II) The second reason is given by the same philosopher, “Pleasure is more voluntary in particular cases than in general” (Ethics III). It is clear that by dallying with a thought we descend to particulars; hence, by daily thoughts we are incited to lust. On this account St. Paul warns us to “Flee from fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18); for, as the Gloss says, 

It is permissible to await a conflict with other vices; but this one must be shunned; for in no other means can it be overcome.”

But, as there are many obstacles in the way of chastity,
there are also many remedies against such obstacles.

One cannot wait to overcome chastity...

 The first and chief remedy is to keep the mind busied in prayer and in the contemplation of Divine things. This lesson is taught us in St. Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians (Eph 5:18), wherein he says, “Be not drunk with wine wherein is luxury; but be filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles” (which pertain to contemplation), “singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord” (whereby prayer is implied). Hence in Isaiah, the Lord says, “For by my praise I will bridle you, lest you should perish” (Isa 48:9). For the divine praise is, as it were, a bridle on the soul, checking it from sin.

If we ignore a life of chastity, we ignore Christ's call...

And, as seen below, the Lectio Divina is a way to discipline and chastity.

The second remedy against lust is the study of the Scriptures. “Love the study of Holy Writ,”says St. Jerome to the monk Rusticus, “and you will not love the vices of the flesh.”’ And St. Paul in his exhortation to Timothy says, Be an example of the faithful in word, in conversation, in charity, in faith, in chastity,” immediately adding, “Till I come, attend unto reading” (1 Tim. iv. 12).
The third preservative against concupiscence, is to occupy the mind with good thoughts. St. Chrysostom, in his commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew, says that, “physical mutilation is not such a curb to temptation, and such a source of peace to the mind, as is a habit of bridling the thoughts.” St. Paul also says to the Philippians, “For the rest, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline, think on these things” (Phil 4:8).

This pericope is one of my favourites from the Scriptures.

Whatever is true, holy, modest, just, it, seek it, find God.

The fourth help to chastity is to shun idleness, and to engage in bodily toil. We read in the book of Sirach, “Idleness has taught much evil.” (Sir 33:29) Idleness is pre-eminently an incentive to sins of the flesh. Hence Ezechiel says, “Behold, this was the iniquity of Sodom your sister, pride, fullness of bread, abundance, and idleness.” (16:49) St. Jerome likewise writes, in his letter to the monk Rusticus, “Do some work, that so the devil may always find you employed.”

A fifth remedy for concupiscence lies in certain kinds of mental disquietude. St. Jerome relates, in the epistle quoted above, that, in a congregation of cenobites there dwelt a young man who could not, by means of fasting or any laborious work, free himself from temptations of the flesh. The superior of the monastery, seeing that the youth was on the point of yielding, adopted the following means for his relief. He commanded one of the most discreet among the fathers to constantly upbraid the young man, to load him with insults and reproach, and, after treating him thus, to lodge complaints against him with the Superior. Witnesses were called, who all took the senior father’s part, This treatment was continued for a year. At the end of that time, the superior questioned the youth about his old train of thought. “Father,”was the reply, “I am scarcely permitted to live. How, in such straits, shall I be inclined to sin?”

Good old custody of the eyes.........................

A great obstacle to continence arises from extrinsic circumstances, such as constant intercourse with women. We read in Sirach, “Many have perished by the beauty of a woman, and hereby lust is enkindled as a fire..., for her conversation burns as fire.” (Sir 9:9) And, in the same chapter, the following safeguard is proposed against these dangers: “Do not look upon a woman who has a mind for many, lest you fall into her snares. Do not frequent the company of a dancer, and do not listen to her lest you perish by the force of her charms.” Again, “Do not gaze on everybody’s beauty; and do not tarry among women. For from garments comes a moth, and from a woman the iniquity of a man” (Sir 42:12). St. Jerome, in his book against Vigilantius, writes that a monk, knowing his own frailty, and how fragile is the vessel which he carries, will fear to slip or stumble, lest he fall and be broken. Hence, he will chiefly avoid gazing at women, and especially at young ones, lest he be caught by the eyes of a harlot, and lest beauty of form lead him on to unlawful embraces.

We do not become perfect without trial and work....if we ignore the work of perfection, it will not happen, as we must cooperate with grace............

Abbot Moses, in his conferences to the fathers, says that, in order to preserve purity of heart, “we ought to seek solitude and to practice fasting, watching, and bodily labor: to wear scant clothing; and to attend to reading; in order, by these means, to be able to keep our heart uncontaminated by passion, and to ascend to a high degree of charity.” It is for this reason, that such exercises are practiced in the religious life. Perfection does not consist in them; but they are, so to speak, instruments whereby perfection is acquired. Abbot Moses, therefore, continues, “Fasting, vigils, hunger, meditation on the scriptures, nakedness, and the privation of all possessions, are not themselves perfection; but they are the instruments of perfection. The end of discipline does not lie in them ; but, by their means we arrive at the end.”

The Bridegroom is no longer with us and like the Bride in the Song of Songs, we must seek Him....

But, perchance, someone may object, that it is possible to acquire perfection without fasting or vigils or the like, for we read that “the Son of Man came eating and drinking” (Matt. 11:19), nor did His disciples fast, as did the Pharisees, and the followers of St. John. To this argument we find in the Gloss the following answer: “John drank no wine nor strong drink; for abstinence increases merit, though nature has no power to do so. But, why should the Lord, to Whom it belongs to forgive sin, turn away from sinners who feast, when he is able to make them more righteous than those who fast?” The disciples and Christ had no need to fast; for the presence of the Bridegroom gave them more strength than the followers of John gained by fasting. Hence our Lord says (Matt. 9:15), “But the days will come when the Bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall fast.” St. Chrysostom makes the following comment on these words, “Fasting is not naturally grievous, save to those whose weakness is indisposed to it. They who desire to contemplate heavenly wisdom rejoice in fasting. Now, as when our Lord spoke the words we have just quoted, the disciples were still weak in virtue, it was not the fitting season to bring sadness upon them. It was more meet to wait until they were strengthened in faith. They were dispensed from fasting, not by reason of their gluttony, but by a certain privilege.”

Be patient, but seek until you find Him....

St. Paul, however, writing to the Corinthians, expressly shows how fasting enables men to avoid sin, and to acquire perfection. He says, “Giving no offense to any man, that our ministry be not blamed; but in all things let us exhibit ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in tribulation, in necessities, in distress, in stripes, in prisons, in seditions, in labors, in watchings, in fastings, in chastity” (2 Cor 6:3).

To be continued........................................

Just because it is Lent, I am thinking of Bendicks chocolate today....

chocolate and marzipan....sigh..haven't had these in years....

OK, got this out of my system....back to work.