First of all, I would like to thank you for your work : you, Dominican Fathers, are God’s grace because by your websites (www.amicidomenicani.it) you bring back light to those who got lost in this world full of prejudices and false idols.
Please, do not ever stop answering the questions you receive by email because the comfort that you give brings God’s light to those who do not have the courage or cannot find a way, neither have time to talk to a Priest. You spread the faith to everyone giving the courage to the ones who are living without God to change their lives.
Now, I would like to ask you some questions:
Since impurity sins (sex in general, and , autoeroticism) are the most widespread and latent sins in our society, we tend to underrate their gravity by not considering them as a problem for Christians. Being Christian is a commitment but we all tend to commit the same sins repeatedly no matter if we are single or married, so that what is considered a sin for the Church ( thus, for God) becomes a way to relieve our stress periodically.
How can I try to avoid temptation in the flesh? Even if I pray intensely, I commit the same sins because I am unable to control my instincts. How can I avoid sin? Are there any practical mental exercises to strengthen my will that can help me change my way of thinking so that I can stay away from sins? Is there a way to control my instincts?
I apologize for writing so much. I hope you will be patient with me.
I am looking forward to receiving your advice.
Thanks a lot, father.
The Priest’s reply
- Firstly , I would like to thank you for your encouragement. Knowing that our work and our efforts are not vain helps us to go on.
2. St. Thomas Aquinas seems to think about you when, in the “De perfectione vitae spiritualis”, He suggests five remedies for obstacles that come from the soul (that is from our impure thoughts, whims and desires).
Here is the text:
“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 (v. 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 (xlviii. 9), the Lord says, «For by my praise I will bridle you, lest you should perish.» For the divine praise is, as it were, a bridle on the soul, checking it from sin.” (Chapter IX)2. In order to move from theory to practice, I suggest you to have half an hour of silent contemplation every day.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says about contemplation as follows: “Contemplative prayer is the simple expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, an attentiveness to the Word of God, a silent love. It achieves real union with the prayer of Christ to the extent that it makes us share in his mystery.” (CCC2724)
If you think that half an hour is too much, I would like to tell you that Carmelites usually have two hours of contemplation every day.
Taking into account that they are friars while you are a layman instead, I think half an hour would be fine. This would be your daily spiritual nourishment.
3. “The second remedy against lust is the study of Holy Scriptures. «Love the study of Holy Writ,»says St. Jerome to monk Rusticus, «and you will not love the vices of the flesh.»” And St. Paul in his exhortation to Timothy (1 Tim. iv12) 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.» (Chapter IX) 4. You can combine or interchange contemplation with the reading of Holy Scripture.
Personally I am convinced that “those who have once been enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift and shared in the holy Spirit and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Heb 6:4-5) have the power not only to overcome temptations but also to keep them away.
We immediately notice that they come to steal the most beautiful and precious things we have in our personal life.
“Jacob then gave him some bread and the lentil stew; and Esau ate, drank, got up, and went his way. Esau cared little for his birthright. (Gen. 25: 34)
5. “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 (iv. 8), «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.»” (Chapter IX)
This is just what you are looking for.
It is easy to find it in what you contemplate early in the morning to serve you faithfully and to nourish you throughout the whole day.
6. “The fourth help to chastity is to shun idleness, and to engage in bodily toil. We read in the book of Sirach (xxxiii. 29), «Idleness has taught much evil.» Idleness is pre-eminently an incentive to sins of the flesh. Hence Ezechiel says (xvi. 49), «Behold, this was the iniquity of Sodom your sister, pride, fulness of bread, abundance, and idleness.» St. Jerome likewise writes, in his letter to Monk Rusticus, «Do some work, that so the devil may always find you employed.»” (Chapter IX) Trying to be engaged in study as in pastime or in prayer, as well as in the various services required by family or ecclesial life is also the secret of Don Bosco’s preventive method to avoid idleness.
I believe it is necessary to have our whole day scheduled and set a timetable for everything, otherwise
we become prey to our opponent (the devil).
7. “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?»” (Chapter IX)
Perhaps we should not care about this latter remedy because others will opt for it in our place in due time. In any case, misunderstandings as well as life’s trials and tribulations and also diabolical vexations should be taken into account because the devils, although involuntarily, become ministers of God to help us exercise our virtues.
I wish you take St. Thomas Aquinas’ advice to heart as, by making a few adjustments, it remains valid throughout time. I wish you all the best, I entrust you to the Lord and I bless you.
Translated by : Martina Bimbi