Saint Paul exhorts us: “Glorify God in your bodies… your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor 6:19-20) Saint Peter builds on this all-important concept by expressing the value of our person and our eternal salvation with these words: “You were redeemed (bought back) not by silver or gold, nor by the blood of animals, but by the precious Blood of Christ.” (1 Pet 1:18-19) With these words of Saint Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, and those of Saint Peter, we come to a keen and penetrating awareness as to the dignity of the human person, as well as his eternal destiny—to be with God forever in heaven.
Therefore, let us delve into this all-important topic of purity, of the virtue of chastity, and offer means by which we can acquire this virtue so that we will be able to contemplate the beauty of the Face of God in time and for all eternity! In a real sense we are soldiers of Jesus and Mary and must compose a concrete strategy or plan so as to win, to conquer, the virtue of purity, keenly aware of the words of Jesus Himself who declared: “Nothing is impossible with God!” (Mt 29:26)
1. BEGGARS BEFORE GOD. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church is quoted the great Saint Augustine who struggled into his early thirties to acquire the virtue of purity, and this great saint states that “we are all beggars before God.” This being the case, first and foremost, we must beg God with humility and persistence for the virtue of purity. Jesus encourages us with these words: “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. For whoever asks receives; whoever seeks finds; and whoever knocks, the door will be opened.” (Mt 7: 7-8)
2. FERVENT PRAYER. Saint Teresa of Avila teaches us that prayer can attain all. Most specifically, if we beg the Lord in prayer for the virtue of purity He will grant it to us, if we imitate the example of the insistent widow who prays and begs, day and night, with persistence and perseverance. All graces and gifts come to us and are received through humble, patient, persistent, and persevering prayer.
3. CURATIVE AND PREVENTIVE MEDICINE. As followers of Christ, within the context of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, we are blessed and endowed with extraordinary graces and one of these is the Sacrament of Confession. Regarding the virtue of purity, Sacramental Confession or Reconciliation serves as a means to heal us if we have fallen into any sin, but for the purpose of this article, sins against purity. But Confession also serves as a means to prevent sins, including sins against purity. If you will, it is like preventive medicine. Why get a flu-shot? Why take Vitamin C? Why take one or two tablets of Airborne? The response: as preventive medicine so as to prevent the flu, the cold, these sicknesses!
4. CUSTODY OF THE SENSES: MOST ESPECIALLY THE EYES. How true the saying: “The eyes are the mirror of the soul.” The dynamic and sequence is the following: What goes into the eyes reaches the mind, from the mind—the emotions, and then from the emotions—the heart. From the heart, the seat of willing and decision-making, come actions; actions transform into habits—good habits are called virtues, bad habits are called vices. Finally, these habits, good or bad, form the personality of the individual and then his eternal destiny! Allowing bad images can wreak havoc in our total being; contrariwise, a strict vigilance over our senses, most especially the eyes, can safeguard the virtue of purity and help us to live pure, holy, and noble lives. Never forget the sin of David! It started with David’s lack of custody over his eyes, allowing his eyes to wander over the beautiful Bathsheba, and ended in adultery and the killing of an innocent man! Let us learn from this powerful Biblical lesson!
5. AVOID THE CAPITAL SIN OF LAZINESS. Often one sin can easily open up the door to another. Not only for children and teens but even for adults, we must not allow ourselves to be dominated by the Capital Sin of Laziness. How true the saying: “Idleness is the Mother of all sins.” If we do not have anything to do, the devil will give us plenty to do, often related to temptations and opportunities to fall into the sin of impurity. An idle mind and a lazy body are an invitation to enter into the vice of impurity! May our days be replete with wholesome and constructive activities!
6. DESOLATION AND SADNESS. There is a universal principle in the spiritual life, so very well explained by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises and Rules for Discernment of Spirits, and it is the reality of the STATE OF DESOLATION! What is desolation? It is a state that we all go through and experience at times in our spiritual life. Feelings of sadness, discouragement, loneliness, depression, hopelessness, lack of faith, hope, and charity—all of these are signs and manifestations of the STATE OF DESOLATION. While in this state, the devil lifts his fiery darts, especially of impurity, against us and shoots for the kill. Therefore, as valiant soldiers of Jesus and Mary, let us be aware of this state of soul that we all pass through and ward off the many temptations, often against purity, that the devil levels against us.
7. PRACTICE OF PRAYER AND PENANCE. It is in the Holy Season of Lent that we contemplate our Model who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the desert. While there for forty days and forty nights, Jesus practiced the vigorous discipline of fasting—going this long period of time without eating and drinking. Most likely we cannot go forty days without food and drink. However, all of us can and must get into the habit of frequent self-denial, penance, the ascetical life of discipline. Point blank Jesus stated: “Some devils can be cast out only by prayer and fasting.” (Mt 17:21) Among these devils are those of impurity! By saying NO to small things, we build up our spirit and will-power so as to resist the imperious and constant demands of the flesh. Saint Paul reminds us: “The flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.” (Gal 5:17) Either we conquer the flesh by the grace of God and our collaboration, or we become slaves of the flesh and our imperious passions. It is up to us; it is our choice!
8. THE HOLY EUCHARIST: BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST. All of our human efforts cannot be compared with the infinite graces that flow from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Therefore, in our pursuit of the angelic virtue of purity, the faithful, frequent, and fervent reception of Holy Communion, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, is without a doubt the most efficacious pathway and means to holiness and the virtue of purity. In all truth, the Precious Blood of Jesus surges through your veins and arteries, and into your heart, and it permeates and imbues the entirety of your body and all of your senses. So that you can say with Saint Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20) To the young, who at times were dominated by those passions and desires of the flesh, Saint John Bosco encouraged both frequent Confession and frequent reception of Holy Communion so as to win the battle for purity.
9. A WELL-ORDERED PHYSICAL LIFE. God has created the human person as a composite being—both body and soul. Up to this point we have focused on the most important aspect in attaining purity—a deep relationship with Jesus through a fervent Sacramental life and an authentic prayer life. Jesus reminds us: “Without me you can do nothing… I am the Vine and you are the branches.” (Jn. 15:5). However, of great importance is a well-ordered life with respect to the maintenance and proper use of our body in general. By this is meant that we should all strive for adequate rest every night. Also, we should have a proper and constant diet. Finally, physical exercise for the body has an important role to play. When the body is run down due to a disorder in one or two, or all of these areas, then temptations in many areas, including temptations against the virtue of purity, can skyrocket. Any Doctor or Medical Personnel will insist on rest, proper eating, and established periods of physical exercise. In the Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius of Loyola insists on ordering the disorder in our lives so as to seek and carry out the will of God in our lives.
10. A FILIAL AND DYNAMIC DEVOTION TO MARY. The saints in heaven, who were able to live heroic virtue and attain sanctity, are unanimous in their love and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Virgin Most Pure, the Queen of the angels and saints. Saint Faustina Kowalska encountered Jesus, who placed a sash around her waist granting her the gift of perfect chastity. Faustina said that she had been begging for this grace of perfect chastity from the Blessed Virgin Mary for a long time. So must we follow and walk in the footsteps of the saints, love the Blessed Virgin Mary and beg her for this great gift, and she in turn will bless and grace us with chastity, with the virtue of purity, so that one day after having lived out the Beatitude, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God” (Mt 5:8), we will contemplate the Face of God in Heaven for all eternity. May Our Lady be always at our side, in our mind, and in our heart!
In sum, we hope that through prayer, meditation, and the study of these short ten suggestions, we will compose our own spiritual strategy so that we can fight the good fight, run the good race, and so merit the crown of the glory that God gives to all His valiant and faithful soldiers!