Dear Father Angelo, greetings.
My name is … and I am a young woman aged … I would need to ask you a few questions concerning a topic that is very painful and embarassing to me, that is to say masturbation; in the hop of receiving elucidations from you.
I have always been a well-behaved girl, paying attention to both what I say (for instance, refraining from swearwords) and what I do (respecting myself and my body).
For reasons that I would rather overlook here, once in a while I fall in the sin of masturbation, although a long time passes between one fall and the other. Nonetheless, when this happens, I feel extremely bad, as if I were devoured by a sense of guilt and by the fear to drift apart from God irremediably (my greatest fear). I highly value my faith and God’s judgement, therefore this situation really distresses me.
I am aware that masturbation is a mortal sin, hence I wonder whether or not it is possible to be fully delivered from this sin without leaving it as a mark on my soul. Above all, I wonder how I could draw near to Christ again without feeling ashamed. Sometimes I think I am not even worthy to be a Christian and to pray.
I hope I have been as clear as possible and I am looking forward to your reply.
God bless you!
The priest’s answer
- Firstly, my apologies for the late reply. Unfortunately, I have come to read your email only today.
- Coming to the heart of the matter: it is possible to proceed to a life of purity without letting our past life mark our souls on one condition: to be confirmed in grace.
- Confirmation in grace consists in a certain impeccability deriving from a high degree of love for the Lord and also from a particular divine assistance.
- Some Saints received this gift. But generally they did not acquire it suddenly, moving from a state of impurity to a life of perfect chastity. It was the crowning of a chaste life.
This is, for instance, Saint Faustina Kowalska’s case. The Lord assured her that in her former life she had never sinned gravely against this virtue.
Another example is what happened to Blessed Catherine of Racconigi, a dominican. I am glad to quote a passage of her biography written by no less than Saint John Bosco. Although the language is nineteenth-century Italian, it is fully understandable .
[Catherine] had been praying and sighing when Jesus appeared to her in a benevolent attitude, and He said to her: «Do not be afraid, because I am with you». Hearing this, Catherine felt better and, full of holy happiness, she threw herself at His feet saying: «Oh my Hope, greatest solace of my soul, why have you left me for such a long time in so many dangers and in such anxiety? Just a little time ago I felt as if I was in the middle of a stormy sea with no sail and no oar. Alas, I am afraid I might have fallen in some sin». Upon which, the very benign Saviour replied: «Cheer up, because you have not fallen. I, who get you to call me your hope, have never abandoned you, but rather dwelt in the bottom of your heart, confirming your will in the holy purpose of remaining virgin». Catherine cried of happiness and said: «O my hope, thank you for not allowing me to fall, because I did not succeed because of my virtue: it was a gift of yours. I plead with you that from now on you will rather send me death or any affliction instead of allowing me commit mortal sin deliberately. Furthermore, my Lord, I beg you to deliver me from this horrible temptation». Jesus replied: «Pin all your hopes on me, and I will rescue you from any danger, both those that threaten your soul and those that threaten your body».
While Jesus was talking, behold! Two angels appeared and tied a heavenly white belt around her waist, saying: «We have been sent by God to gird you with the belt of chastity that will never be untied». From then on she was never molested by any carnal urge, nor was she mentally disquieted for this reason. On the contrary, she seemed to spread the gift of chastity to all those who were so lucky to talk to her. Feeling that she was not liable to fall, she willingly lingered with those who needed her help the most. (Giovanni Bosco, Opere edite, XIV, pp. 56–58).The dominican theologian Royo Marin, whose authoritativeness is unquestionable, maintains that we can go so far as to practice perfect purity only «by constant vigilance and unrelenting struggle» (Cf. A. ROYO MARIN O.P., J. AUMANN O.P., The Theology of Christian Perfection, Priory Press, Dubuque, Iowa, 1962, p. 546).
5. Beforehand, he had expounded the remedies against impurity.
6. I will summarise them for you briefly and refrain from going into detail as he does:
- To mortify oneself in things that are lawful
- To cultivate a love of suffering and the Cross
- To combat sloth
- To flee dangerous occasions
- To consider the dignity of the Christian
- To consider the punishment of sin
- The remembrance of the Passion of Christ
- Humble and persevering prayer
- Devotion to Mary
- Reception of the sacraments
7) As far the latter remedy is concerned, this is how Royo Marin expounds it:
This is the most certain and efficacious remedy against all types of sin, but especially against the attacks of concupiscence. The sacrament of penance not only erases our past sins, but it gives us strength to protect ourselves from future sins. The soul that is enslaved by the vices of the flesh should approach this fountain of purification and should regulate the frequency of confession according to the strength it needs in order not to fall again. The practice of waiting until one has fallen and then approach confession simply to rise again is a mistaken one, because in this way the individual will never completely uproot the vicious habit. Rather, the habit will become more deeply rooted by the repetition of acts.
It is necessary to anticipate possible falls and to approach the sacrament of penance when one notes that he is weakening and is losing strength. In this way he can regain his strength and thereby avoid the fall which threatened him. If it is necessary at the beginning to go to confession two or three times a week in order to achieve this result, one should not hesitate to do so. Even the greatest diligence is little enough when it is a question of freeing oneself from this type of slavery and of beginning to breathe the pure air of the glorious liberty of the sons of God. It will also prove helpful to have a definite confessor to whom one can reveal his soul completely and from whom he can receive the necessary advice. If one must give an account of his soul to a particular confessor, that very fact will bind the wings of his imagination and will act as a brake on the impetus of the passions.Holy Communion has a supreme efficacy against the concupiscence of the flesh. In it we receive the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. He diffuses over us the graces of fortitude and resistance against the power of the passions. His most pure flesh is placed in contact with our sinful flesh to spiritualize and divinize it. It is not in vain that the Eucharist has been called the Bread of Angels. The young especially need this divine remedy to counteract the ardor of their passions. Experience in the direction of souls shows clearly that there is nothing so powerful and efficacious for keeping a young person in temperance and chastity as frequent or daily Communion.
(Ibidem, p. 222).
I suggest you start with this remedy, that sooner or later will end up bringing about the others as well.
I assure you my prayers for you and I bless you.