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.
THE CHASTE GENERATION TRIUMPHS...........
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 help....do 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, lovely.....................do 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........................................