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Good morning, Father Angelo. 

For the past few years I’ve been struggling with purity: sometimes I depart from it through  images and acts, but then I turn back, I go to confession and start up again. It’s an endless and strenuous battle. 

When I’m going through difficult times, I always manage to practice purity, but when I’m  untroubled I tend to relapse. 

When I have a problem, I ask Heaven for help, I swear I’ll be good, but when the problem 

is resolved “…once on shore, one prays no more…”. 

Everything is clear up to this point. 

But here’s my question. 

When there’s some problem troubling me I don’t sin, but not just because I’m trying to obtain some grace; on the contrary, during those times, I don’t feel the desire to sin at all  and, without desire, it’s easy not to sin! 

Once the problem is resolved, then the desire to sin comes back with a vengeance and I  don’t always come out on top. 

How can I eliminate the desire to sin? If I didn’t have the desire to sin I would absolutely  stay pure. 

I’m waiting for your advice. 

Many thanks. 


Priest’s answer 

Dear Nicola,  

1. It is true that, when there’s some grace that we want to ask for, we try to walk the  straight and narrow path in order to be deserving of the Lord’s benevolence. But it’s also true that when we are untroubled it’s easy to be slothful or disengaged. And sloth, as we know, it’s the father of vices. 

It is for this reason that Saint Thomas, among the various means to keep oneself pure,  cited always being occupied with something. 

Staying busy was also one of the preventative means recommended by Saint John Bosco. It is known that, when young people have some goal to strive for and are always busy,  they rarely fall into personal impurity. We would say: “They have other things to think  about”. 

2. In De perfectione vitae spiritualis, Saint Thomas recommends five ways to avoid falling  into impurity. 

Here they are: 

The first and main remedy is to keep the mind occupied in the contemplation of  divine things and in mental prayer

For this reason the Apostle says: “And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery,  but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another [in] psalms and hymns and spiritual  songs” (Eph 5:18), which seems to refer to contemplation; “singing and playing to the Lord  in your hearts”, which seems to refer to prayer. Our Lord says the same thing through the  Prophet: “For the sake of my renown I hold it back from you, lest I destroy you” (Isa 18:9).  Praising the Lord does indeed constitute a restraint, because it prevents the soul from  falling into sin. 

The second remedy is the study of Sacred Scripture, according to what Jerome writes  to Rufinus the Monk: “Love the study of Scripture and you won’t love the vices of the  flesh”. This is why when the Apostle said: “Set an example for those who believe, in  speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity” (1 Tim 4:12), he immediately added “Until I arrive, 

attend to the reading”. 

The third remedy consists in filling the soul with some virtuous thoughts. This is the reason why Chrysostom says that the amputation of the genitals doesn’t take  away temptation and doesn’t bring about peacefulness as much as reigning in our  thoughts (Super Matth.). Therefore the Apostle says: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true,  whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is  gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about  these things” (Phil 4:8). 

The fourth remedy is for man to abandon idleness and busy himself with physical work as well. Sirach 33:29 says “for idleness teaches much mischief”. Idleness, in particular,  incentivizes vice, as Ezekiel says: “Now look at the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her  daughters were proud, sated with food, complacent in prosperity. They did not give any  help to the poor and needy” (16:49). And for the same reason, in writing to Rufinus the  Monk, Jerome says: “Take up some work, so that the devil may always find you busy”. The fifth remedy which is used against concupiscence of the flesh consists also in certain  disturbances of the soul

In the same letter to Rufinus the Monk, Jerome reports that in a certain monastery there  was an adolescent who was unable to extinguish the flame of the flesh through abstinence  or through good works, however great. 

Therefore, the abbey of the monastery saved him, who was in danger of falling, with this  trick: he commanded an older man to persecute him with arguments and offenses and  then, after having offended him, to come forward to complain about it. Witnesses were  called, and they testified in favor of the man who had insulted him. 

The father of the monastery was the only one who defended him, so that his brother would  not be overcome with sadness. This went on for a year, at the end of which, when asked  about his previous [impure] thoughts, the adolescent answered: “Father, how can I find  pleasure in fornicating if I’m not even allowed to live?” (Saint Thomas, Opuscula  theologica, II, pp. 588-593, ed. Marietti). 

3. There’s a common thread among these remedies which is to busy oneself with other  thoughts and other desires. 

If we’re not busy, our adversary has free reign to do what he wants. 

So try to always be busy in the Christian life and in sanctification, without wasting time. 

I bless you, I will remember you in my prayers and I wish you well. 

Father Angelo