Christ said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). Father Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, wrote “That the heart may be pure, a generous mortification is prescribed: ‘If your right eye scandalizes you, pluck it out … If your right hand scandalizes you, cut it off.’ We must particularly watch over purity of intention: for example, not giving alms through ostentation, not praying to draw upon ourselves the esteem of men, but seeking only the approbation of ‘the Father who sees in secret.’ Then will be realized the words of the Master: ‘If your eye be single, your whole body shall be lightsome.’”
Father Adolphe Tanquerey, the author of The Spiritual Life, observed: “Chastity is rightly called the angelic virtue, because it likens us to the angels, who are pure by nature. It is an austere virtue, because we do not succeed in practising it unless we subdue the body and the senses by mortification. It is a frail virtue, tarnished by the least willful failing. On this account it is a difficult virtue, since it cannot be observed except by a generous and constant struggle against the most tyrannical of passions.”
Father Tanquerey listed four “ramparts” or “guardians” of chastity:
1. Humility, which produces self-distrust and prompts to flight from dangerous occasions.
2. Mortification, which by waging war against the love of pleasure, reaches the evil at its roots.
3. Devotion to the duties of state, which protects one from the perils created by idleness.
4. Love for God, which, by filling the heart, prevents it from giving itself over to dangerous affections.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591) is a model of chastity. St. Robert Bellarmine, his confessor, was of the opinion that this young saint never committed a mortal sin in his life.
St. Aloysius combined prayer with mortification. He would meditate for an hour each day and would get up at midnight to pray on the stone floor. He fasted three days a week on bread and water.
He exercised custody of eyes: it was said that he never looked any woman in the face. After he had served the empress as a page for two years, a report was spread that she was coming into Italy, where he happened to be, and some congratulated him on the prospect of seeing the empress again. But he replied: “I shall not recognize her except by her voice, for I do not know her face.”
Some practices of the saints are more for our admiration than imitation, but we are all called to imitate their virtues.
St. John Bosco (1815-1888) urged young people to achieve chastity through frequent Communion, frequent confession, and devotion to Our Lady.
A moral theologian pointed out that the most effective assistance for a young person to be chaste is daily Mass and Communion, for this practice requires both discipline and freedom from mortal sin. This practice also requires anyone who is struggling with mortal sin to have frequent recourse to the sacrament of penance.
Devotion to Our Lady is extremely helpful for the virtue of chastity. Praying the Rosary, wearing the brown scapular, and entrusting oneself to the Immaculate Heart are powerful devotional practices. Father Tanquerey writes, “Her name breathes forth purity, and, it seems, no sooner do we confidently invoke her than temptation is put to flight.”
St. John Bosco said, “Avoid idleness and idle people; carry out your duties. Whenever you are idle you are in serious danger of falling into sin, because idleness teaches us all kinds of vice.”
Many spiritual writers agree that love for study and work fills our mind with wholesome thoughts, whereas daydreaming, idle chatting, and curious use of the media fill our mind with vain fancies, illusions, and dangerous thoughts.
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