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Fighting for Purity

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St. Josemaria Escriva

“There is need for a crusade of manliness and purity to counteract and nullify the savage work of those who think man is a beast. And that crusade is your work.”- St. Josemaria Escriva

The number one, soul-destroying problem men face is attacks on sexual purity. Immodesty is ubiquitous, pornography is easily accessible, and every form of media, including advertising, is filled with sexualized images. I could cite all kinds of shocking statistics showing the increasing rates of pornography addiction, the number of sexualized images teen boys sees by the age of 18, and much more. But I don’t think I need to do that. We all know it’s a problem that men struggle with, now more than ever in our depraved culture.

I want to discuss this problem briefly, and then offer some rules for combating lust as a Catholic man. First, the tough stuff.

Take it Seriously

“Lust indulged became habit, and habit unresisted became necessity.” – St. Augustine

saint-bernard-of-clairvaux-10

St. Bernard threw himself into an icy pond to preserve his purity.

Because moral standards are so low these days, we become numb to just how bad things have gotten. St. Therese of Lisieux, who lived in the late 1800s, said her father would not let her or her sisters leave the house if the sleeves of their dress were above the elbow. Now, young women regularly attend mass in mini-skirts that leave nothing to the imagination.

Just because standards of modesty are lax now, though, does not mean we should take purity less seriously. Purity is a matter of spiritual life and death. While the world will tell you lust is harmless and natural, it is playing with soul-destroying fire—it is the ultimate slippery slope, the ultimate powder keg waiting to explode.

Entertaining and enjoying a brief thought or glance can very easily lead to doing an internet search for pornography. One little indulgence in pornography can very easily turn into an addiction. And before you know it, your life is spinning out of control and you can never get enough. While it doesn’t happen to everyone, there is a very real danger of becoming the next Ariel Castro.

In short, never just mess around with pornography or even lustful thoughts. It can destroy your marriage, your family, your spiritual life, and ultimately send you to hell.

Don’t Make Excuses

“Don’t say, ‘That’s the way I am—its my character.’ It’s your lack of character. Esto vir!—Be a man!”  – St. Josemaria Escriva

Men, I want to challenge you not to make excuses when it comes to lust. Yes, it is undoubtedly a struggle to maintain purity in the modern world. Yes, the vast majority of women wear next to nothing these days, especially in the summer. Yes, pornography is easily accessible on your smart phone. Yes, almost every movie has a sex scene. But guess what—those things aren’t valid excuses for entertaining lust.

Today’s men are constantly looking to pass the buck on their sexual struggles. The Catholic Gentleman doesn’t make excuses, though. Take responsibility, man up, and confess your sins to a priest when you fail.

The Good News

St. Francis rolled in the snow to preserve his purity.

St. Francis rolled in the snow to preserve his purity.

Now that I’ve beat you over the head, so to speak, there is some good news. And that is that there is a big difference between looking and lusting. While the ideal is perfect custody of the eyes, this is something we have to learn over time. Until we have mastered our eyes, however, we shouldn’t feel guilty about their being drawn to skin. In other words, it is very difficult to keep your eyes from being attracted to a flash of skin as a girl walks past in barely-there shorts. That is our natural concupiscence at work, and it isn’t a sin. What is a sin is that second, lustful glance—that willful choice to entertain and enjoy sinful thoughts.

Other than staring at the floor (maybe that’s a good idea sometimes!), it can be almost impossible to never see any immodesty. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up if you we look and see things we wish we wouldn’t have. Don’t be overly scrupulous about seeing things you can’t control.

A Few Helps

While we all have our own spiritual walks and methods for combating temptation, here are a few time tested methods from the saints.

1. Run away  – “In temptations against chastity, the spiritual masters advise us, not so much to contend with the bad thought, as to turn the mind to some spiritual, or, at least, indifferent object. It is useful to combat other bad thoughts face to face, but not thoughts of impurity.” – St. Alphonsus Liguori

2. Ask for graces to be pure – “Holy Purity is granted by God when it is asked for with humility.” – St. Josemaria Escriva

3. Be humble – ”Humility is the safeguard of chastity. In the matter of purity, there is no greater danger than not fearing the danger. For my part, when I find a man secure of himself and without fear, I give him up for lost I am less alarmed for one who is tempted and who resists by avoiding the occasions, than for one who is not tempted and is not careful to avoid occasions [of sin]. When a person puts himself in an occasion, saying, I shall not fall, it is an almost infallible sign that he will fall, and with great injury to his soul.” – Saint Philip Neri

4. Consecrate yourself to Mary – This is my own suggestion based on the lives of a number of different saints and my own experience. Give your purity our Blessed Lady. Ask her to safeguard it for you. On rising in the morning and before going to bed, say one Hail Mary for purity in your thoughts and choices.

5. Be radical – “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” – Jesus (An example from my life: I chose to stop going to the beach due to the immodesty everywhere.)

Conclusion

Every man struggles with purity, and it is harder than ever in our overly sexualized culture. The last thing we should do is be lax about it—it is far too serious a matter to take lightly. It’s literally a matter of spiritual life and death.

While we shouldn’t drive ourselves to despair with scrupulosity, we should strive to maintain our purity with everything we have. How do you combat lust? Do you take it seriously in your own life? 

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Written by

Sam Guzman

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29 People Replies to “Fighting for Purity”

  1. James

    Thank you for your work Sam! I want to add another aid that could help with our sins of chastity, I suggest reading “Theology of the Body” by Pope John Paul II, it depicts why people just find it so hard to resist lust, that there’s actually a theological mystery behind it, and this is why satan so persistently uses this in this world. If you are short of time, you can watch Christopher West’s talks in Youtube which are beautifully summaries of that book.

  2. Hi Sam may I ask Permission to use this article as discussion topic for our cell group. Thanks and God Bless

  3. Bob

    Wow, I have been struggling with this for years. The suggestions on how to deal with problem are great. I don’t blame anyone but my self for this sin I can’t seem to let go of. The culture of this day has moved away from many Christian values. It amazes me what has become the norm for what we wear to Mass. Not only women, but men too. Shorts, tee shirts and sandles. We are not going to a picnic!!!! We are visiting the house of God. Sorry I went off on a tangent. Thanks for the great article.

  4. Marcus

    I suppose prayers of the rosary helps in areas of modesty and sexual morality. It is something am having to struggle through as well.

  5. John

    Wow this is an active thread right when I was searching for help for the umpteenth time. AMDG May I never wish to give up this fight.

  6. Anastasie

    Ps also prayer for others that are struggling with lust is a very important help, to others and yourself. Lets pray for one antother!

  7. Anastasie

    Fasting is another powerful tool. Also, don’t forget that TRUE CHRISTIANITY includes ASCETISM. without controlling the passions you never reach CONTEMPLATION, TRUE LOVE

  8. Austin

    To John:
    A few things that I hope will help. First, it sounds like you might have scrupulosity. It is recognized by the Church as something that some people struggle with. Basically, it is a form of OCD in which someone believes just about everything is a sin. People who struggle with scrupulosity mistakenly think that a venial sin – or even something that is not sinful – is a mortal sin. Hence, scrupulous people may feel a constant need to go to confession. My advice is find a priest who can help you figure out if you are scrupulous and who can help you through the journey if you are. Not all priests feel comfortable or capable to guide someone through the struggle with scrupulosity. If you are scrupulous, you might also want to see a psychologist to help just because scrupulosity is often a result of OCD.
    Second, we are human beings. God created us man and woman. The attraction we feel to persons of the opposite sex is not evil; when God introduced Eve to Adam, Adam exclaimed with joy, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (GEN 2:23). Our bodies are a part of our human being, and thus the desire we have had for sexual intimacy from the beginning of our creation is a gift from God. The goal of purity and chastity is not to rid people of our desire for sexual intimacy, but to deepen it into a more mature desire that gives it purpose. Marriage is a sacramental sign pointing to the relationship Christ has with his Church, so our longing for sexual intimacy is a good thing – if used in the right way – because it can lead us to be more Christ-like. And what does it mean to be Christ to other people? It means being their friend; it means loving no matter how much we’ve been hurt; it means forgiving regardless of the unworthiness of the perpetrator; it means protecting all people. This is what it means to have an intimate relationship with another: it is true friendship, not merely sexual arousal. So when we see someone we are attracted to physically, it might be helpful to remind ourselves that this sexual desire is just pointing us to the fact that our first and higher call is to bring them God’s love in a way that makes them feel like they are cared for. In short, our sexual attraction can either be used to isolate both us and the woman we see (lust), or we can rejoice in the fact that God is reminding us that we are made for deep and profound relationships with others that leads us to be true friends (love). If we keep that in mind, we don’t see a woman’s individual features that narrow our view of her, but instead we can appreciate her as a whole human being that we are called to protect and serve and be a friend to. So my advice is to remember this and to just pray for God’s grace.
    And third, do not let modern fashion tear you apart. The yoga pant and lack-of-clothes culture certainly makes it harder to practice chastity, but here is a pivotal mark of Catholic manhood: we let it break our hearts because women do not see their value, but then we invite God’s love to make our hearts more full as we spread his love to these women who dress immodestly, and then to rejoice with these women (even if they don’t change) because WE still can see so much goodness inside of them and they are our friends.
    My prayers are with you, and remember that God’s love reaches further than the horizons can ever boast. And if you find out you are scrupulous, it does not keep you from being holy. Saints like St. Ignatius, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Alphonsus struggled with scrupulosity too. Ask for their prayers and always remember that being helpless is different from being hopeless! Helpless means we have to rely on God and trust he will do his will in his time, and with God’s help, we are NEVER EVER hopeless! Peace and may God bless you always brother!!

    Here are some resources:
    • Homily by Fr. Mike Schmitz – https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-HgOvleGE86T2dFaEIwdnY1Qms/view
    • Desire for Intimacy talk by Fr. Mike Schmitz – https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LwwiIkrLxTM
    • Jason Evert talk – http://chastityproject.com/qa/mens-session-jason-evert/

  9. Joseph Sheppard

    Here are some personal observations. Never stop going to confession from embarrassment over confessing a sin, even if the sin appears chronic. Most of us have a primary weakness that more easily leads to sin, and the sacrament of Penance exists for such a reason. A good confessor knows these things and will never make light of one’s struggles. After Confession receive Holy Communion, asking Our Lord for the vigilence and strength to immediately reject temptations toward impurity. Do not confuse a sinful tendency or temptation with a sin. We all have temptations, it is what we do about them that counts. Consecrating ourselves to Our Lady is an excellent and important first step toward successfully combating impurity. Also pray to your guardian angel, wear the brown scapular, carry a rosary and follow the instructions of Our Lady of Fatima (on First Saturday devotions) who warned us specifically about immodest fashions and their consequences. It would be impossible to make use of every holy weapon at our disposal constantly, and one should not become overwhelmed if they cannot find the time to do all these suggested actions But truly do the best one can. Our Lord may allow us to be tested to make us humble, but will never abandon the souls he loves so much. Remember that the more the Devil attempts to have you sin and despair, the more you may be assured of God personal love, of which Satan and his demons are jealous. Remember this life is infinitesimally small when compared to a joyous eternity in Heaven, free of the sorrow of our current vale of tears.

  10. May

    So it is OK for a man to look at another woman with or with out lust even if he is married ? And even when he is in the company of his wife? What is the point of marriage and fidelity? Should it not be monogamous? By looking at other woman even without lust when you are married still feels like a betrayal!!

  11. Antonio

    The Lord in the reception of daily Holy Eucharist helped me against impurity. He gave me a broader view of things, His View of things. To see life not only among the healthy and beautiful and strong is not to see the whole of creation because in the world there are the frail and dying, the sick, the poor and deprived, the outcasts and the suffering. And when you see these latter people in need and keep yourself in their company, the demon of self-gratification finds no enticement in them.

    He taught me how to set a guard on my eyes, the “lamp of the body,” the first line of defence, by blinding myself of certain sights so as not to displease him. And for those who have fallen, to do violence to our sensual body by abstinence is the way to prove to our Lord we truly are repentant and in continual grief because of His great Love for us.

  12. Chuck M

    To: Mr. Page, “exposing the body” not in this Age but in the Garden of Eden to come and things will be back to where God wanted them. The “lady in the miniskirt” and your at Mass and can’t physically change where you are. Well I do believe your in a mental fight for the next hour, but “your morals are not in question”. An analogy, suppose you are swimming on a raft and start to see large fins appear? Would you not accept and acknowledge the danger, get on the raft and slowly make it to shore? Finally, report it and provide protection and safety to all swimmers young and old alike. No one really likes to be shark food.

  13. Richard Page

    What harm is there is exposing the body God gave us.
    The sin is in the mind of the observer, not in the flesh of the observed.
    If you cannot look at a lady in a miniskirt while conducting your mass without sexual thoughts then it is your morals in question, not hers.

    1. But she commits sin for not dressing modest and creating the temptation of lust.

  14. So important… thanks for sharing this….

  15. TC

    I’m so tired of hearing about the anatomy of woman. Give me a break already. If men truly understood what it’s really about they wouldnt give it a second look

  16. rodrigo

    So far these things are gone: pornography, pictures of girls on computer or phone,masturbation, avoiding t.v/ movies with expilict material, removing nasty songs from ipod, stop “checking” out girls,stopping sexual objectification and practice chastity. Most guys will probably say, that its unmanly. i know i did at first until i learned about the truth.Hope it helps.

  17. It has been a tough battle, combating lust in our age and sometimes preaching modesty makes one appear like a lunatic in this our age. Even the younger generation, no longer see what is abnormal in immodest dressings. May Our blessed Mother assist us in this struggle. I like your posts, they are practicable.

  18. I’ve to help you confess which i sometimes secure bored to educate yourself about everything however there’s no doubt that you’ll get to add various value. Bravo!

  19. John

    Great post I struggle with this sin so much there is immodesty all around. Today I was grocery shopping and some wore bare-shorts I confessed an hour earlier and I already failed 🙁

    I don’t have a problem living like a hermit… its the moment when I go grocery shopping or anywhere out for that matter there lust and impurity all around.

    I don’t even know what to do today I told myself I can’t keep confessing the same thing.. abusing god’s mercy is the worst sin of all.

    I even though I will abstain from the Eucharist I can’t receive the lord I’m really not worthy to receive him. I keep sinning and can’t strive for perfection.

    I’ve had my struggles in past I gave all of that up now its to deal with immodest / lustful fashions of the world and I can’t find a cure for this

    1. Anon

      You may want to look for a Pure Desire group in your area. First and foremost all praise honor glory and strength are from our Lord Savior Christ Jesus.
      Pure Desire groups offer a safe place for men to share their battle with sexual sin free of shame. And offer practical and biblically based strategies for overcoming sexual sin. You can be set free by the renewing of your mind through the power of the Holy Spirit. Our Father loves you. You are his son by the redemptive blood of his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. The fight for purity is a good fight. And you will find men willing to go into spiritual battle with you in the group.
      In Christ Jesus name, God bless you. And go get em.

      1. SP

        This info was an answer to prayers, thank you.

    2. mary

      My suggestion is that you keep goin to confession to receive the graces need to overcome it and never stop taking the Eucharist because that is your strength and without it you are more vulnerable to be enslaved to it. I suggest you never stop praying and if you can add the fasting it will help you rebuke it.
      Remember what Christ told his disciples that only with fasting were they able to rebuke the bad spirit. Ask God to bless you with people that will walk with you in spirtuality and pray together. I have done all this and consecrated to our Blessed Mother for the salvation of my husband. His addiction caused numerous infidelitties and almost divorced. The lies the women the way he used his wk was so bad he didn’t realize it till he would be caught. I held on to my faith and asked God to help me forgive him and help me get him to heaven. I didn’t want to see our family destroyed again and fought with the desire to save my family. This happens 2013 and today we serve the Lord and he tries his best to stay focused on service to keep occupied and pure. Spend time also in adoration. Me blessings to you for trying to be pure for Jesus.

  20. I have been a member of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity for nearly three years and can attest to the power of the prayers along with the wearing of the St. Thomas medal/cord. Enrolling in the confraternity has been a tremendous weapon in my fight for Holy Purity!

    As far as enrollment goes it’s a fairly easy process. You can read the catechesis on the confraternity here: http://www.angelicwarfareconfraternity.org/about/

    All the other information regarding enrollment can be found here: http://www.angelicwarfareconfraternity.org/enrollment/

  21. Rob

    Another great tool is the Confraternity of Angelic Warfare, an apostolate of the Dominican friars. Here’s their site – http://www.angelicwarfareconfraternity.org/
    Its a dedicated patronage to St. Thomas Aquinas and to Momma Mary.
    Definitely not for the faint of heart…

    1. Can you share more about this? I’ve heard of it, but I’m not sure what’s involved. It looks like some catechesis along with certain other commitments.


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