Questo articolo è disponibile anche in: Italian English Spanish Portuguese

Question

Dear Father Bellon,

I am writing to you things that I have experienced personally, as in my life I have been and still am a great sinner. Today I  feel honored to wear with love  the blessed cord that you sent to me yourself through my wife [T.N.: The writer refers to the blessed cord of Saint Thomas, worn by members of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, which is a supernatural brotherhood of men and women linked to each other through charity and dedicated to pursuing and promoting chastity together under the powerful patronage of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Blessed Virgin Mary]. 

Today, I am deeply convinced that purity and chastity are truly fundamental values. I now declare this after having been one of those who hate this teaching of the Church. As a matter of fact, I ended up distancing myself from religion for this reason. Moreover, I used to see marriage as a kind of licence to do whatever I wanted from a sexual standpoint (and not only). Using this sacrament like this slowly induced me to sin in the flesh, seeking increasingly more pleasure, until I ended up watching online pornography. I used to enjoy that and I was happy about my situation. For this reason, I used to look for things that could kindle my passion and give me pleasure, filling my brain with pornographic images that I would then implement in my marriage. Nonetheless, deep down I used to feel strangely uneasy and in my heart I used to say to myself: “I am not really like this”. At the same time, I had fallen into this bad habit so dramatically that I did not want to give it up. It was as if I was living a second life, parallel to my marriage, in which I used to abandon myself to pornography. This happened in the beginning of the internet age, but online pornography was already available. 

Then, one night something happened that changed my life altogether. While browsing the internet looking for pornography, like by then I had gotten accostumed to do every night, I came by chance upon a webiste that displayed pictures of minors. Firstly I decided to ignore them, because I was aware that those things were not normal, but out of curiosity I visualized a couple of those terrible pictures. Fortunately, I backed out immediately, but one night the police turned up on my doorstep unexpectedly, and all hell broke loose. Luckily, I was completely exonerated from the charge after thirty days, because I had not saved nor kept any picture of that sort. But from that night on, my life has changed. 

Blessed be that day, because I immediately realized that I had to revise my life thoroughly; my conversion started there. It has not been easy; on the contrary, it has been very hard. Getting rid of pornography addiction is much more difficult than overcoming smoke or drug addiction. It is an incessant struggle that involves asking God relentlessly to preclude you from making wrong decisions. Sometimes I have fallen, and then picked myself up again through confession, but I felt I was a loser. This behaviour of mine severely damaged my family and my spouse, who later supported me in my conversion and has never left me alone. I have cried so many times upon my sins, grieving over my past mistakes. Sometimes I still happen to shed tears when I think back to what I have done. Saint Paul’s words often echo in my mind: to the unmarried and to widows, the Apostle says it is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as he does, but if they cannot exercise self-control they should marry, for it is better to marry than to be on fire. 

Never was a truer word spoken.

After a life of failure, I can now affirm that, if someone is not pure and chaste, he cannot have charity, because all saints were pure before being charitable. If you are “dirty”, you can do nothing good. You cannot help the poor, because everything annoys you, because you are selfish to the point of taking advantage of your own wife. If you are impure, you cannot teach anything to your children, because if you try to tell them that something is wrong, they will reply that you have not set a good example for them. You cannot give assistance to immigrants, as the Pope rightly urges us to do, unless you do that in order to show off, because in your heart everything is phoney, everything annoys you. 

Now that I am old, sick and likely to be close to the end of my life, I plead with Saint Thomas Aquinas daily to help me to regain my lost chastity. I also try to warn everyone against the bad habits that are so widespread nowadays. 

I always keep far away from everything that might remind me of my former mistakes and in my prayers I always beg forgiveness of the Lord instead of healing. I ask Him to have mercy upon me and upon my mistakes. I know I will have to atone for my faults in Purgatory for a long time; I just hope I will not be sent to Hell. Sometimes I fear that God will not forgive these shameful things. Sometimes by night I suddenly wake up, frightened at the idea of His judgement. 

Recently I have heard things that were painful for me, considering how much sexuality has hurt me. Satan revels in this field, persuading people that everything is lawful and preventing them from taking saints as examples. All saints kept distant from sexual sins, but those who were married were particularly careful to avoid any fall, practicing abstinence and self-control, training themselves to live a correct sexuality, remaining open to life and refusing to use contraception. With regard to the Synod, I expected young people to be given examples such as Louis and Zélie Martin, parents of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. For this reason, I was surprised to hear that sex is a gift from God, since this may lead to seeing sexuality as passion and no taboos: exactly the things that ruined me. I do not mean to judge recklessly and rashly, but my experience taught me to be careful in this field and to fear God. The devastating effects of modern laxity are evident for everyone. 

Thank you for your kind attention. As I highly appreciate your courageous apostolate on this subject I would be grateful if I could receive a short reply from you. Please feel free to publish my reflections if you think it is fitting.

E.


The priest’s answer

Dear E.,

  1. Only today I have read your letter and I am writing a brief reply. Your words are full of wisdom gained through the experience of your mistakes and through the painful consequences you have undergone personally. 
  2. I will restrict myself to one remark: you are right when you say that chastity is a prerequisite, or at any rate it walks along with charity. For the avoidance of doubt, charity does not consist of giving handouts to the needy, although giving handouts to the needy is an act of charity if it is done out of love for God. 
  3. Charity is an inner attitude infused by God in our hearts that makes us want to give others not only good things, but rather the greatest good, that is God Himself. 
  4. Today we often mistake charity, that is a theological virtue, with volunteering or altruism. Volunteering and altruism are very beautiful attitudes and in a way they prepare a path for charity. But in themselves they do not identify with charity. 
  5. Here is what Saint Augustine says about charity: “I mean by charity that affection of the mind which aims at the enjoyment of God for His own sake, and the enjoyment of oneself and one’s neighbour in subordination to God” (De Doctrina christiana, III, 10, 16). 
  6. And Saint Thomas: “Now the aspect under which our neighbor is to be loved, is God, since what we ought to love in our neighbor is that he may be in God” (Summa Theologiae, II-II, 25,1). 
  7. Before Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas, it is the Sacred Scripture that reminds us that not every love is charity. Here is what it says: “If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1Cor 13:3). 
  8. Charity and chastity are two virtues that go at the same pace and both must be asked for in prayer to God, even though chastity in itself is not a theological virtue, but a moral one. Yet, it is indeed true what we read in the Book of Wisdom, 8:21, in a verse that the Church has always applied to chastity: “I could not otherwise possess her except God gave it” (Cf. Reading, Third Hour, Common of Virgins).

Thank you for your beautiful testimony, I wish a good journey of Advent (2019), I remember you to the Lord and I bless you.

Father Angelo


Translated by: Alessandra N.