ON THE PREDOMINANT PASSION – St. Alphonsus

“For he was at the point of death. Lord, come down before that my son die.” JOHN iv. 47, 49.

OUR passions are not of themselves bad nor hurtful, when regulated according to the dictates of reason and prudence, they do us no injury, but are, on the contrary, profitable to the soul; but, when disorderly, they are productive of irreparable mischief to those who obey them; for, when any passion takes possession of the heart, it obscures the truth, and makes the soul incapable of distinguishing between good and evil. Ecclesiasticus implored the Lord to deliver him from a mind under the sway of passion. “Give me not over to a shameless and foolish mind.” (Eccl. xxiii. 6.)

Let us, then, be careful not to allow any bad passion to rule over us. In this day’s gospel it is related that a certain ruler, whose son was at the point of death (incipiebat enim mori), knowing that Jesus Christ had come into Galilee, went in search of him, and entreated him to come and cure his son. “Come down before that my son die.” The same may be said of him who begins to submit to the tyranny of any passion. ”He is at the point of death”of the soul, which should be dreaded far more than the death of the body. Hence, if he wishes to preserve spiritual life, he ought to ask the Lord to deliver him as soon as possible from that passion Lord, come down before my soul die; if he do not, he shall be miserably lost.

I intend Today to show the great danger of damnation to which all who submit to the domination of any bad passions are exposed.

1. ”Only this,” said Solomon, ”I found, that God made man right, and he hath entangled himself with an infinity of questions.” (Eccl. vii. 30.)”God created man right” that is, in the state of justice; but, by giving ear to the serpent, man exposed himself to temptations, and was conquered. He rebelled against God, and his passions rebelled against himself. These are the passions which, according to St. Paul, cause a continual war between the flesh and the spirit. ”For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.” (Gal. v. 17.)

However, with the aid of divine grace, it is in man’s power to resist these passions, and not to allow them to rule over him. It is, as the Lord told Cain, even in the power of man to rule over them, and to bring them into subjection to reason. ”But the lust thereof shall be under thee, and thou shalt have dominion over it.” (Gen. iv. 7.) Let the assaults of the flesh and of the devil, to make us abandon the way of God, be ever so violent, Jesus Christ has said: ”Lo! the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke xvii. 21.) Within us he has established a kingdom, in which the will is the queen that ought to rule over all the senses and passions. And what greater honour or glory can a man have, than to be the master of his passions?

2. The proper regulation of the motions of the mind constitutes the interior mortification so much recommended by spiritual masters, and secures the salvation of the soul. The health of the body depends on the regulation of the humours: if one of them predominate to excess it causes death. But the health of the soul consists in the proper control of the passions by reason. But, when any passion rules over reason, it first enslaves, and then kills the soul.

3. Many pay great attention to their external conduct; they endeavour to appear modest and respectful; but, at the same time, they cherish in their hearts sinful affections against justice, charity, humility, and chastity. For them is prepared the chastisement with which the Saviour threatened the Scribes and Pharisees, who were careful to have their cups and dishes clean, but nourished within unjust and unclean thoughts. ”Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees hypocrites; because you make clean the outside of the cup and of the dish; but, within you are full of rapine and uncleanness.” (Matt, xxiii. 25.) The Royal Prophet says, that all the beauty of a soul that is the true daughter of God consists in an interior good will. “All the glory of the king‟s daughter is within.” (Ps. xliv. 14.)

Of what use, then, says St. Jerome, is it to abstain from food, and at the same time to allow the mind to swell with pride? or to abstain from wine, and to indulge in the drunkenness of anger?”Quid prodest tenuari abstinentia, si animus superbia intumescit? quid vinum non bibere, et odio inebriari ?” Christians who act in this manner do not lay aside their vices; they only cover them with the mantle of devotion. A man, then, must divest himself of all bad passions; otherwise he will not be the king, but the slave of his affections, and in opposition to the command of the Apostle sin shall reign in his heart. “Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, so as to obey the lusts thereof.” (Rom. vi. 12.)

Man, then, is, as St. Thomas says, the king of himself when he regulates his body and his carnal affections according to reason. ”Rex est homo per rationem, quia per cam regit totum corpus et affectus ejus.” (In Joan, iv.) But, according to St. Jerome, ”when the soul serves vice she loses the honour of a kingdom.” (In Thren., ii. 7.) She loses the honour of a queen, and becomes, as St. John teaches, the slave of sin. ”Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” (John viii. 34.)

4. St. James exhorts us to treat the body and its lusts as we would treat a horse. “We put a bridle in the mouth of a horse, and we bring him wherever we please. “We put bits in the mouths of horses, that they may obey us, and we turn about their whole body.” (St. James iii. 3.) Hence, as soon as we feel the cravings of any bad passion, we must restrain it with the bridle of reason; for, if we yield to its demands, it will bring us to the level of brute animals, that obey not the dictates of reason, but the impulse of their beastly appetites. ”And man, when he was in honour, did not understand: he is compared to senseless beasts, and is become like to them.” (Ps. xlviii. 13.)

”It is worse,” says St, John Chrysostom, “to become like, than to be born, a senseless beast; for, to be naturally without reason is tolerable.” The saint says, that to want reason by nature is not disgraceful; but, to be born with the gift of reason, and afterwards to live like a beast, obeying the lusts of the flesh, is degrading to man, and makes him worse than a senseless brute.

What would you say if you saw a man who would, of his own accord, live in a stable with horses, feed with them on hay and oats, and sleep, as they do, on dung? The man who submits to the tyranny of any passion, does what is far worse in the eyes of God.

5. It was thus the Gentiles lived, who, because the darkness of their understanding prevented them from discerning between good and evil, went wherever their sensual appetite led them. ”That you walk not,” says St. Paul, ”as also the Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having their understanding darkened.” (Ephes. iv. 17, 18.)

Hence they were abandoned to their vices to impurity and avarice, and blindly obeyed the commands of their passions. ”Who, despairing, have given themselves up to lasciviousness, unto the working of all uncleanness, unto covetousness.” (verse 19.) To this miserable state are reduced all Christians who, despising reason and God, follow the dictates of passion.

In punishment of their sins God abandons them, as he abandoned the Gentiles, to their own wicked desires. ”Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their own heart.” (Rom. i. 24.) This is the greatest of all chastisements.

6. St. Augustine writes, that two cities may be built up in the heart of a Christian; one by the love of God, the other by self-love. ”Cœlestem (civitatem) ædificat amor Dei usque ad contemptum sui; terrestrem ædificat amor sui usque ad contemptum Dei.” (Lib. li, de Civ., cap. xxviii.) Thus, if the love of God reign within us, we will despise ourselves: if self-love reign, we will despise God. But, in conquering self-love consists the victory to which shall be given a crown of eternal glory.

This was the great maxim which St. Francis Xavier always inculcated to his disciples: ”Conquer yourself; conquer yourself.” All the thoughts and feelings of man, says the Scripture, are inclined to evil from his boyhood. ”The imagination and thought of man‟s heart are prone to evil from his youth.” (Gen. viii. 21.)

Hence we must, during our whole life, zealously combat and conquer the evil inclinations which continually rise within us, as noxious weeds spring up in our gardens. Some will ask how they can free themselves from bad passions, and how they can prevent them from starting up within them. St. Gregory gives the answer: ”It is one thing to look at these heasts, and another to keep them within the den of the heart.” (Mor. lib. 6, cap. xvi.)

It is one thing, says the saint, to look at these beasts, or bad passions, when they are outside, and another to harbour them in the heart. As long as they are outside they can do us no harm; but if we admit them into the soul they devour us.

7. All bad passions spring from self-love. This is, as Jesus Christ teaches all who wish to follow him, the principal enemy which we have to contend with; and this enemy we must conquer by self-denial. ”If anyone shall come after me let him deny himself.” (Matt. xvi. 24.)”Non intrat in te, amor Dei,” says Thomas a Kempis, ”nisi exulet amor tui.” Unless we banish self- love from the heart the love of God cannot enter. Blessed Angela of Foligno used to say, that she was more afraid of self-love than of the devil, because self-love has greater power than the devil to draw us into sin. St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi used to say the same, as we read in her life: ”Self-love is the greatest traitor we have to guard against.

Like Judas, it betrays us with a kiss. He who conquers it conquers all enemies; he who dees not conquer it is lost.” The saint then adds: ”If you cannot kill it with a single stroke give it poison.” She meant, that since we are not able to destroy this accursed enemy, which, according to St. Francis de Sales, dies only with our latest breath, we must at least labour to weaken it as much as possible; for when strong it kills us. Death, says St. Basil, is the reward which selflove gives its followers. The wages of self-love is death; it is the beginning of every evil. ”Stipendium amoris proprii mors est, initium omnis mali.” (S. Bas. Apud Lyreum, lib. 2.)

Self-love seeks not what is just and honourable, but what is agreeable to the senses. Hence Jesus Christ has said: ”He that loveth his life” that is, his sensual appetite or self-will”shall lose it.” (John xii. 25.) He who truly loves himself, and wishes to save his soul, should refuse to the senses whatever God has forbidden; otherwise he shall lose God and himself.

8. There are two passions which reign within us: the concupiscible and irascible appetites that is, love and hatred. I have said, two principal passions; for each of them, when vicious, draws in its train many other bad passions. The concupiscible appetite brings with it temerity, ambition, greediness, avarice, jealousy, scandal.

The irascible brings with it revenge, injustice, slander, envy. St. Augustine advises us, in our combat with the passions, not to endeavour to beat them all down in a single conflict. ”Calca jacentem, conflige cum resistente.” (In cap. viii. Rom.) We must trample on the passion which we have cast to the ground, so that it may be no longer able to contend with us, and then we must endeavour to subdue the other passions which resist our efforts.

9. But we must endeavour above all to find out our predominant passion. He who conquers this conquers all his passions; he who allows himself to be overcome by it is lost. God commanded Saul to destroy all the Amalecites, along with all their animals and all their property. He destroyed everything that was vile, but spared the life of King Agag, and preserved all that was valuable and beautiful. ”And Saul and the people spared Agag and the rest of the flocks of sheep …. and all that was beautiful, and would not destroy them; but everything that was vile and good for nothing, that they destroyed.” (1 Kings xv. 9.)

In this Saul was afterwards imitated by the Scribes and Pharisees, to whom our Lord said: ”Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, because you tithe mint, and anise, and cummin, and have left the weightier things of the law, judgment, and mercy, and faith.” (Matt, xxiii. 23.) They were careful to pay the tithe of things of least value, and neglected the more important things of the law: such as justice, charity to their neighbour, and faith in God.

Some persons act in a similar manner; they abstain from certain defects of minor importance, and, at the same time, allow themselves to be ruled by their predominant passions; but if they do not destroy this passion, they never shall gain the victory of salvation.  The King of Syria commanded the captains of his cavalry to kill the King of Israel only, and not to mind the others. ”Fight ye not with small or great, but with the King of Israel only.” (2 Paral. xviii. 30.) They obeyed the order, slew King Achab, and gained the victory.

10. We must imitate the captains of Syria: unless we kill the king that is, the predominant passion we shall never be able to obtain salvation. The passion which brings man under its sway, first blinds him and prevents him from seeing his danger. Now, how can a blind man, led by a blind guide, such as passion, which follows not reason, but sensual pleasures, possibly avoid falling into some abyss?”If the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit.” (Matt. xv. 14.)

St. Gregory says that it is a common artifice of the devil to inflame daily more and more our predominant passion, and thus he brings us into many horrible excesses. Through passion for a kingdom, Herod spilled the blood of so many innocent infants. Through love for a woman, Henry the Eighth was the cause of so many frightful spiritual evils, put to death several most worthy individuals, and, in the end, lost the faith.

No wonder: for he who is under the domination of any passion no longer sees what he does. Therefore he disregards corrections, excommunications, and even his own damnation: he seeks only his own pleasures, and says: ”Come what will, I must satisfy this passion. And, as eminent virtue is accompanied by other virtues, so an enormous vice brings in its train other vices. ”In catena iniquitatis,” says St. Lawrence Justinian, ”foederata sunt vitia.”

11. It is necessary, then, as soon as we perceive any passion beginning to reign within us, to beat it down instantly, before it acquires strength. ”Let cupidity gain strength,” says St. Augustine, ”strike it down while it is small.” (In Ps. cxxxvi.) St. Ephrem gives the same advice: ”Unless you quickly destroy passions, they cause an ulcer.” (De Perfect.) A wound, if it be not closed up, will soon become an incurable ulcer. To illustrate this by an example, a certain monk, as St. Dorotheus relates (Serm. xi.), commanded one of his disciples to pluck up a small cypress.

The disciple obeyed, and drew it up with a slight effort. The monk then ordered him to pull up another tree, which was somewhat larger. He succeeded in the task; but not without a good deal of labour. The disciple was then told to pluck up a tree which had taken deep root; but all his efforts were ineffectual. The monk then said to him: Thus it is, my son, with our passions; when they have taken deep root in the heart, we shall not be able to extirpate them. Dearly beloved brethren, keep always before your eyes this maxim: that either the spirit must trample on the flesh, or the flesh shall trample on the spirit.

12. Cassian has laid down an excellent rule for conquering our passions. Let us endeavour, he says, to change the object of our passions; and thus from being vicious they shall become holy. Some are prone to anger against all who treat them with disrespect. Such persons ought to change the object of their passions, and turn their indignation into a hatred of sin, which is more injurious to them than all the devils in hell.

Others are inclined to love every one who possesses amiable qualities: they should fix all their affections on God, who is infinitely amiable. But, to recommend ourselves to God, and to beg of him to deliver us from our passions, is the best remedy against them. And, when any passion becomes very violent, we must multiply prayers. Reasoning and reflections are then of little use; for passion obscures our faculties; and the more we reflect the more delightful the object of passion appears.

Hence, there is no other remedy than to have recourse to Jesus and to most holy Mary, saying with tears and sighs: ”Lord, save us, or we perish: do not permit us to be ever separated from thee. “We fly to thy protection, holy mother of God.” O souls created to love God, let us raise ourselves above the earth; let us cease to fix our thoughts and affections on the miserable things of this world; let us cease to love dross and smoke and dung; let us endeavour with all our strength to love the Supreme Infinite Good, our most amiable God, who has made us for himself, and expects us in heaven to make us happy, and to make us enjoy the very glory which he enjoys for eternity.

ON THE PAIN OF LOSS WHICH THE DAMNED SUFFER IN HELL – St. Alphonsus

” Cast him into the exterior darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” MATT. xxii. 13.

ACCORDING to all laws, divine and human, the punishment of crime should be proportioned to its grievousness. “According to the measure of the sin shall the measure also of the stripes be.” (Deut. xxv. 2.) Now, the principal injury which sinners do to God by mortal sin, consists in turning their back upon their Creator and their sovereign good. St. Thomas defines mortal sin to be”a turning away from the immutable good” (p. 1, qu. 24, art. 4).

Of this injury the Lord complains in the following words: ”Thou hast forsaken me, saith the Lord; thou hast gone backward. ” (Jer. xv. 6.) Since, then, the greatest guilt of the sinner consists in deliberately consenting to lose God, the loss of God shall constitute his greatest punishment in hell.

”There shall be weeping.” In hell there is continual weeping; but what is the object of the bitterest tears of the unhappy damned? It is the thought af having lost God through their own fault. This shall be the subject of the present discourse.

Be attentive, brethren.

1. No! dearly beloved Christians! the goods of the earth are not the end for which God has placed you in the world; the end for which he has created you is the attainment of eternal life. ”And the end life eternal.” (Rom. vi. 22.) Eternal life consists in loving God, and possessing him for eternity. Whosoever attains this end shall be for ever happy; but he who, through his own fault, does not attain it, loses God; he shall be miserable for eternity, and shall weep for ever, saying: ”My end is perished.” (Lamen. iii. 18.)

2. The pain produced by loss is proportioned to the value of what has been lost. If a person lose a jewel a diamond worth a hundred crowns, he feels great pain; if the diamond were worth two hundred crowns, the pain is double; if worth four hundred, the pain is still greater. Now, I ask, what is the good which a damned soul has lost? She has lost God; she has lost an infinite good. The pain, then, arising from the loss of God is an infinite pain.

”The pain of the damned,” says St. Thomas, ”is infinite, because it is the loss of an infinite good.” (1. 2, qu. 87, a. 4.) Such, too, is the doctrine of St. Bernard, who says, that the value of the loss of the damned is measured from the infinitude of God the supreme good.

Hence, hell does not consist in its devouring fire, nor in its intolerable stench, nor in the unceasing shrieks and bowlings of the damned, nor in the terrific sight of the devils, nor in the narrowness of that pit of torments, in which the damned are thrown one over the other: the pain which constitutes hell is the loss of God. In comparison of this pain, all the other torments of hell are trifling.

The reward of God’s faithful servants in heaven is, as he said to Abraham, God himself. ”I am thy reward, exceeding great.” (Gen. xv. 1.) Hence, as God is the reward of the blessed in heaven, so the loss of God is the punishment of the damned in hell.

3. Hence, St. Bruno has truly said, that how great soever the torments which may be inflicted on the damned, they never can equal the great pain of being deprived of God. Add torments to torments, but do not deprive them of God. ”Addantur tormenta tormentis, et Deo non priventur.” (Serm. de Jud. Fin.) According to St. Chrysostom, a thousand hells are not equal to this pain. Speaking of the loss of God, he said: ”Si mille dixeris gehennas, nihil par dices illius doloris.” (Hom, xlix., ad Pop.) God is so lovely that he deserves infinite love.

He is so amiable that the saints in heaven are so replenished with joy, and so absorbed in divine love, that they desire nothing but to love God, and think only of loving him with all their strength. At present, sinners, for the sake of their vile pleasures, shut their eyes, and neither know God nor the love which he deserves; but in hell they shall, in punishment of their sins, be made to know that God is an infinite good and infinitely amiable. ”The Lord shall be known when he executeth judgment.” (Ps. ix. 17.)

The sinner, drowned in sensual pleasures, scarcely knows God: he sees him only in the dark, and therefore he disregards the loss of God. But in hell he shall know God, and shall be tormented for ever by the thought of having voluntarily lost his infinite good. A certain Parisian doctor appeared after death to his bishop, and said that he was damned. His bishop asked him if he remembered the sciences in which he was so well versed in this life. He answered, that in hell the damned think only of the pain of having lost God.

4. ”Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire. ” (Matt. xxv. 41.) “Depart from me.” This command constitutes the hell of the damned. Begone from me; you shall be no longer mine, and I shall be no longer yours. ”You are not my people, and I will not be yours.” (Osee i. 9.)

At present this punishment is, as St. Augustine says, dreaded only by the saints. ”Hæc amantibus non contemnentibus pœna est.” It is a punishment which affrights the soul that loves God more than all the torments of hell; but it does not terrify sinners, who are immersed in the darkness of sin. But at death they shall, for their greater chastisement, understand the infinite good which they have lost through their own fault.

5. It is necessary to know that men have been created for God, and that nature draws them to love him. In this life, the darkness of sin, and the earthly affections which reign in their hearts, stifle their natural tendency and inclination to a union with God, their sovereign good; and therefore the thought of being separated from him does not produce much pain. But when the soul leaves the body, and is freed from the senses, which keeps her in darkness, she then clearly sees that she has been created for God, and that he is the only good which can make her happy.

”But,” says St. Antonine, ”the soul separated from the body understands that God is her sovereign good, and that she has been created for him.” Hence, as soon as she is loosed from the bondage of the body, she rushes forward to embrace her supreme good: but because she is in sin, and his enemy, God will cast her off. Though driven back and chased away, she retains her invincible tendency and inclination to a union with God; and her hell shall consist in seeing herself always drawn to God, and always banished from him.

6. If a dog see a hare, what effort does he not make to break his chain and seize his prey! Thus, at her separation from the body, the natural inclinations of the soul draw her to God, while at the same time sin separates her from him, and drags her with it into hell. Sin, says the prophet, like a wall of immense thickness, is placed between the soul and God, and separates her from him. ”But your iniquities have divided between you and your God.” (Isa. lix. 2.)

Hence, the unhappy soul, confined in the prison of hell, at a distance from God, shall weep for ever, saying: Then, my God, I shall be no longer thine, and thou wilt be no longer mine. I shall love thee no more, and thou will never again love me. This separation from God terrified David, when he said: ”Will God, then, cast off for ever? or will he never be more favourable again ?” (Ps. Ixxvi. 8.) How great, he says, would be my misery if God should cast me from him, and never again be merciful to me! But this misery every damned soul in hell suffers, and shall suffer for eternity. As long as he remained in sin, David felt his conscience reproaching him, and asking, ”Where is thy God ?”

David, where is thy God, who once loved thee? Thou hast lost him; he is no longer thine. David was so afflicted at the loss of his God that he wept night and day. ”My tears have been my bread day and night, whilst it has been said to me daily: Where is thy God ?” (Ps. xli. 4.) Thus, even the devils will say to the damned: Where is your God? By his tears David appeased and recovered his God; but the damned shall shed an immense sea of tears, and shall never appease nor recover their God.

7. St. Augustine says, that if the damned saw the beauty of God, “they should feel no pain, and hell itself would be converted into a Paradise.” (Lib. de Trip. Hab.) But the damned shall never see God. When David forbade his son Absalom to appear in his presence, the sorrow of Absalom was so great, that he entreated Joab to tell his father that he would rather be put to death than never more be permitted to see his face. ”I beseech thee, therefore, that I may see the face of the king; and if he be mindful of my iniquity, let him kill me.” (2 Kings xiv. <32.)

To a certain grandee, who acted irreverently in the church, Philip the Second said: ”Do not dare ever to appear again in my presence.” So intense was the pain which the nobleman felt, that after having returned home, he died of grief. What then must be the feelings of the reprobate at the hour of death, when God shall say to them: Begone; let me never see you again: you shall never more see my face!”I will hide my face from them; all evils and afflictions shall find them.” (Deut. xxxi. 17.)

What sentiments of pity should we feel at seeing a son who was always united with his father, who always eat and slept with him, weeping over a parent whom he loved so tenderly, and saying: My father, I have lost you; I shall never see you more. Ah! if we saw a damned soul weeping bitterly, and asked her the cause of her wailing, she would answer: I weep because I have lost God, and shall never see him again.

8. The pain of the reprobate shall be increased by the knowledge of the glory which the saints enjoy in Paradise, and from which they see, and shall for ever see, themselves excluded. How great would be the pain which a person should feel if, after being invited by his sovereign to his own theatre, to be present at the singing, dancing, and other amusements, he should be excluded in punishment of some fault!

How bitter should be his anger and disappointment when, from without, he should hear the shouts of joy and applause within! At present sinners despise heaven, and lose it for trifles, after Jesus Christ shed the last drop of his blood to make them worthy of entering into that happy kingdom. But when they shall be confined in hell, the knowledge of the glory of heaven shall be the greatest of all their torments. St. John Chrysostom says, that to see themselves banished from that land of joy, shall be to the damned a torment ten thousand times as great as the hell which they suffer. ”Decem mille quis pœnat gehennas, nihil tale dicet quale est a beata gloria excidere.” (S. Joan. Chry. ap. 8. Thorn. Suppl, qu. 98, art. 9.)

Oh! that I had at least the hope, the damned will say, that after a thousand, or even a million of ages, I could recover the divine grace, and become worthy of entering into heaven, there to see God! But, no! he shall be told, ”When the wicked man is dead, there shall be no hope any more. ” (Prov. xi. 7.) When he was in this life he could have saved his soul; but because he has died in sin his loss is irreparable. Hence, with tears of despair, he shall say: “I shall not see the Lord God in the land of the living.” (Isa. xxxviii. 11.)

9. The thought of having lost God and Paradise, solely through their own fault, shall increase the torture of the damned. Every damned soul shall say: It was in my power to have led a life of happiness on earth by loving God, and to have acquired boundless happiness for eternity; but, in consequence of having loved my vices, I must remain in this place of torments as long as God shall be God. She will then exclaim in the words of Job: “Who will grant me that I might be according to the months past, according to the days in which God kept me ?” (Job xxxix. 2.)

Oh! that I were allowed to go back to the time I lived on earth, when God watched over me, that I might not fall into this fire! I did not live among the savages, the Indians, or the Chinese. I was not left without the sacraments, sermons, or masters to instruct me. I was born in the bosom of the true Church, and have been well instructed and frequently admonished by preachers and confessors.

To this prison I have not been dragged by the devils; I have come of my own accord. The chains by which I am bound and kept at a distance from God, I have forged with my own will. How often has God spoken to my heart, and said to me: Amend, and return to me. Beware, lest the time should come when thou shalt not be able to prevent thy destruction. Alas! this time has come; the sentence has been already passed; I am damned; and for my damnation there neither is, nor shall be, any remedy for all eternity. But if the damned soul has lost God, and shall never see him, perhaps she can at least love him?! No; she has been abandoned by grace, and thus she is made the slave of her sins, and compelled to hate him.

The damned see that God is their adversary on account of their contempt for him during life, and are therefore always in despair. ”Why hast thou set me opposite to thee, and I am become burthensome to myself.” (Job vii. 20.) Hence, because the damned see that they are enemies of God, whom they at the same time know to be worthy of infinite love, they are to themselves objects of the greatest horror. The greatest of all the punishments which God shall inflict on them, will consist in seeing that God is so amiable, and that they are so deformed, and the enemies of this God. “I will set before thy face.” (Ps. xlix. 21.)

10. The sight of all that God has done for the damned shall above all increase their torture. “The wicked shall see and shall be angry.” (Ps. cxi. 10.) They shall see all the benefits which God bestowed upon them all the lights and calls which he gave them and the patience with which he waited for them. They shall, above all, see how much Jesus Christ has loved them, and how much he has suffered for the love of them; and after all his love and all his sufferings, they shall see that they are now objects of his hatred, and shall be no longer objects of his love.

According to St. Chrysostom, a thousand hells are nothing compared with the thought of being hateful to Christ. ”Si mille quis ponat, gehennas, nihil tale dicturus est, quale est exosum esse Christo.” (Hom xiv. in Matt.) Then the damned shall say: My Redeemer, who, through compassion for me, sweated blood, suffered an agony in the garden, and died on the cross bereft of all consolation, has now no pity on me! I weep, I cry out; but he no longer hears or looks to me! He is utterly forgetful of me. He once loved me; but now he hates and justly hates me; for I have ungratefully refused to love him.

David says, that the reprobate are thrown into the pit of death. “Thou shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction.” (Ps. liv. 24.) Hence St. Augustine has said: ”The pit shall be closed on top, it shall be opened at the bottom, it shall be expanded downwards; and they who refuse to know  God shall be no longer known by him.”“Puteus claudetur sursum, aperietur deorsum, dilatatibur in profundum: et ultra nescientur a Deo qui Deum scire noluerunt.” (Hom, xvi., cap 50.)

11. Thus the damned see that God deserves infinite love, and that they cannot love him. St. Catherine of Genoa being one day assailed by the devil, asked him. who he was. He answered with tears: I am that wicked one who is deprived of the love of God. I am that miserable being that can never more love God. They not only cannot love God, but, abandoned in their sins, they are forced to hate him: their hell consists in hating God, whom they at the same time know to be infinitely amiable.

They love him intensely as their sovereign good, and hate him as the avenger of their sins. ”Res miserrima,” says a learned author, ”amare vehementer, et amatum simul odisse.” (Magnotius Medit.) Their natural love draws them continually to God; but their hatred drags them away from him. These two contrary passions, like two ferocious wild beasts, incessantly tear in pieces the hearts of the damned, and cause, and shall for all eternity cause, them to live in a continual death.

The reprobate then shall hate and curse all the benefits which God has bestowed upon them. They shall hate the benefits of creation, redemption, and the sacraments. But they shall hate in a particular manner the sacrament of baptism, by which they have, on account of their sins, been made more guilty in the sight of God; the sacrament of penance, by which, if they wished, they could have so easily saved their souls; and, above all, the most holy sacrament of the altar, in which God had given himself entirely to them.

They shall consequently hate all the other means which have been helps to their salvation. Hence, they shall hate and curse all the angels and saints. But they shall curse particularly their guardian angels their special advocates and, above all, the divine mother Mary. They shall curse the three divine persons the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; but particularly Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, who suffered so much, and died for their salvation.

They shall curse the wounds of Jesus Christ, the blood of Jesus Christ, and the death of Jesus Christ. Behold the end to which accursed sin leads the souls which Jesus Christ has dearly bought.

ON BAD THOUGHTS – St. Alphonsus

” And Jesus seeing their thoughts, said: Why do you think evil in your hearts.” MATT. ix. 4. 

IN the gospel of this day it is related that a paralytic was presented to Jesus Christ that he might heal him. The Lord healed not only his body, but also his soul, and said to him: ”Be of good heart, son; thy sins are forgiven thee” (verse 2). Some of the Scribes, as soon as they heard these words, said in their hearts: He blasphemeth. But our Saviour soon let them know that he saw their evil thoughts, saying: “Why do you think evil in your hearts. ” Let us come to the subject of this discourse.

God sees the most secret evil thoughts of our hearts; he sees and punishes them. Human judges forbid and chastise only external crimes; for men only see what appears externally. ”Men seeth those things that appear; but the Lord beholdeth the heart.” (1 Kings xvi. 7.) God prohibits and punishes bad thoughts. We shall examine, in the  first point, when bad thoughts are sinful; in the second, the great danger of bad thoughts when indulged; and in the third, the remedies against bad thoughts.

First Point. – When bad thoughts are sinful.

1. In two ways men err regarding bad thoughts. Some who have the fear of God, are scrupulous, and are afraid that every bad thought that presents itself to the mind is a sin. This is an error. It is not the bad thought, but the consent to it, that is sinful. All the malice of mortal sin consists in a bad will, in giving to a sin a perfect consent, with full advertence to the malice of the sin.

Hence St. Augustine teaches, that where there is no consent there can be no sin. ”Nullo modo sit peccatum, si non sit voluntarium.” (De Vera Rel, cap. xiv.) Though the temptation, the rebellion of the senses, or the evil motion of the inferior parts, should be very violent, there is no sin, as long as there is no consent. ”Non nocet sensus,” says St. Bernard, ”ubi non est consensus.” (De Inter. Domo., cap. xix.)

2. Even the saints have been tormented by temptations. The devil labours harder to make the saints fall, than to make the wicked sin: he regards the saints as more valuable prey. The Prophet Habacuc says, that the saints are the dainty food of the enemy. ”Through them his portion is made fat, and his meat dainty.” (Hab. i. 16.) And therefore, the prophet adds, that the evil one stretches out his net for all, to deprive them of the life of grace: and that he spares no one. “For this cause, therefore, he spreadeth out his net, and will not spare continually to slay the nations. ”(Ibid., v. 17.)

Even St. Paul, after he had been made a vessel of election, groaned under temptations against chastity. ”There was,” said he, “given me a sting of the flesh, an angel of Satan to afflict me.” (2 Cor. xii. 7.) He three times prayed to the Lord, to deliver him from these temptations; but in answer the Lord told him, that his grace was sufficient for him. ”For which thing thrice I besought the Lord, that it might depart from me. And he said: My grace is sufficient for thee.” (ver. 8, 9.) God permits even his servants to be tempted, as well to try their fidelity, as to purify them from their imperfections.

And, for the consolation of timid and scrupulous souls, I will here state that, according to the common opinion of theologians, when a soul that fears God and hates sin is in doubt whether she gave consent to a bad thought, she is not bound, as long as she is not certain of having given consent, to confess it: for it is then morally certain that she has not consented to it. Had she really fallen into grevious sin she would have no doubt about it; for mortal sin is so horrible a monster, that it is impossible for him who fears God to admit it into the soul without his knowledge.

3. Others, who are not scrupulous, but are ignorant, and have lax consciences, think that evil thoughts, though wilfully indulged, are not mortal sins, unless the act is consummated. This is an error worse than the former. What we cannot lawfully do, we cannot lawfully desire. Hence it is, that a bad thought to which a person consents, has the same malice as the bad act. As sinful works separate us from God, so also do sinful thoughts. ”Perverse thoughts separate us from God.” (Wis. i. 3.) And as all bad actions are known to God, so also he sees all evil thoughts, and will condemn and punish them. ”The Lord is a God of all knowledge, and to him are thoughts prepared.” (1 Kings ii. 3.)

4. However, all bad thoughts are not equally sinful: nor have all those that are sinful equal malice. In a bad thought we may consider three things: the suggestion, the delectation, and the consent. The suggestion is the first bad thought that is presented to the mind: this is no sin, but, when rejected is an occasion of merit. ”As often,” says St. Antonine, ”as you resist, you are crowned.”

The delectation takes place when the person stops, as it were, to look at the bad thought, which by its pleasing appearance, causes delight. Unless the will consents to it, this delectation is not a mortal sin; but it is a venial sin, and, if not resisted, the soul is in danger of consenting to it: but, when this danger is not proximate, the sin is only venial. But it is necessary to remark, that, when the thought which excites the delight is against chastity, we are, according to the common opinion of theologians, bound under pain of mortal sin to give a positive resistance to the delectation caused by the thought; because, if not resisted, the delight easily obtains the consent of the will. ”Unless a person repel delectations,” says St. Anselm, ”the delight passes to consent, and kills the soul.” (S. Ans. Simil., c. xl.)

Hence, though a person should not consent to the sin, if he delight in the obscene object, and do not endeavour to resist the delectation, he is guilty of a mortal sin, by exposing himself to the proximate danger of consent. ”How long shall hurtful thoughts abide in thee.” (Jer. iv. 14.) Why, says the Prophet, do you allow hurtful thoughts to remain in the mind? Why do you not make an effort to banish them from the heart? God wishes us to watch over the heart with great care; because on the heart that is, the will our life depends. ”With all watchfulness keep thy heart, because life issueth out from it.” (Prov. iv. 23.) Finally, the consent, which is the cause of mortal sin, takes place when the person clearly knows that the object is mortally sinful, and embraces it perfectly with the will.

5. A person may sin grievously by thought in two ways; by desire, and by complacency. A person sins by desire when he wishes to do the bad act which he desires, or would wish to do it if he had the opportunity: the desire is a mortal or a venial sin, according as the act which he desires to do is mortally or venially sinful. However, in practice, the commission of the external act always increases the malice of the will, either because it ordinarily increases the complacency which the will indulges, or causes it to continue for a longer time. Hence, if the act followed, it is necessary to mention it in confession. A person sins by complacency, when he does not desire to commit the sinful act, but delights in it as if he had committed it.

This complacency is called morose delectation. It is called morose, not because the complacency in the thought of the unchaste acts lasts for a considerable time, but because the will dwells with delight on the thought. Hence, the sin of complacency may, as St. Thomas teaches, be committed in a moment. ”Dicitur morosa,” says the holy doctor, ”non ex mora temporis, sed ex eo quod ratio deliberans circa earn immoratur revolvens libenter quoo statim respui debuerent.” (1, 2, qu. 74, a 1 ad. 3.) He says”libenter”(wilfully) to remove scruples from persons of timorous conscience, who suffer against their will certain carnal motions and delights, although they do all in their power to banish them. Though the inferior part should feel a certain delight, as long as the will does not consent, there is no sin, at least no mortal sin. I repeat with St. Augustine, that what is not voluntary is by no means sinful. ”Malum nullo modo sit peccatum, si non sit voluntarium.” (De Vera Rel., c. xiv.) In temptations against chastity, the spiritual masters advise us, not so much to contend with the bad thought, as to turn the mind to some spiritual, or, at least, indifferent object. It is useful to combat other bad thoughts face to face, but not thoughts of impurity.

Second Point – The great danger of bad thoughts

6. It is necessary to guard with all possible caution against all bad thoughts, which are an abomination to God. ”Evil thoughts are an abomination to the Lord. ” (Prov. xv. 26.) They are called “an abomination to the Lord,” because, as the holy Council of Trent says, bad thoughts, particularly thoughts against the ninth and tenth commandments, sometimes inflict on the soul a deeper wound, and are more dangerous than external acts. ”Nonnunquam animam gravius sauciant, et periculosiora sunt iis quæ in manifesto admittuntur.” (Sess. 14, de Pæna, cap. v.)

They are more dangerous on many accounts; first, because sins of thought are more easily committed than sins of action. The occasions of sinful acts are frequently wanting; but sins of thought are committed without the occasion. When a soul has turned her back on God, the heart is continually intent on evil, which causes delight, and thus multiplies sins without number. ”All the thought of their heart was bent upon evil at all times.” (Gen. vi. 5.)

7. Secondly, at the hour of death sinful actions cannot be committed; but we may then be guilty of sins of thought; and he who has had a habit of consenting to bad thoughts during life, will be in danger of indulging them at death; for then the temptations of the devil are most violent, Knowing that he has but little time to gain the soul he makes great efforts to bring her into sin. ”The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time. ” (Apoc. xii. 12.)

Being in danger of death, St. Eleazar, as Surius relates, was so severely tempted with bad thoughts, that, after his recovery, he said: ”Oh! how great is the power of the devils at the hour of death!” The saint conquered the temptations, because he was accustomed to reject bad thoughts. But miserable the man that has contracted the habit of committing them. Father Segneri relates that a certain sinner indulged evil thoughts during life.

At death he made a sincere confession of all his sins, and was truly sorry for them; but, after death, he appeared to a person and said he was damned. He stated, that his confession was valid, and that God had pardoned all his sins: that, before death, the devil represented to him, that should he recover from his illness, it would be an act of ingratitude to forsake a certain woman who had a great affection for him. He banished the first temptation: a second came, which he also rejected; but having continued to think on it for a little, he was tempted a third time, yielded to the temptation, and thus he was lost.

Third Point – On the remedies against had thoughts

8. The Prophet Isaias says, that to be freed from bad thoughts, we must take away the evil of our thoughts. ”Take away the evil of our devices.” (Isa. i. 16.) What does he mean by taking away the evil of our devices? He means that we should take away the occasions of evil thoughts, avoid dangerous occasions, and keep at a distance from bad company.

I knew a young man who was an angel; but, in consequence of a word which he heard from a bad companion he had an evil thought, and consented to it. He was of opinion that this was the only grievous sin which he committed in his whole life; for he afterwards became a religious, and, after some years, died a holy death. Thus, it is also necessary to abstain from reading books that are obscene, or other wise bad. You must, moreover, avoid dances with females and profane comedies: at least when the dances or comedies are immodest.

9. Some young men will ask: Father, is it sinful to make love? I say: I cannot assert that of itself it is a mortal sin; but persons who do so are often in the proximate occasion of mortal sin; and experience shows that few of them are found free from grievous faults. It is useless for them to say that they neither had a bad motive nor bad thoughts.

This is an illusion of the devil; in the beginning he does not suggest bad thoughts; but when, by frequent conversations together, and by frequently speaking of love, the affection of these lovers has become strong, the devil will make them blind to the danger and sinfulness of their conduct, and they shall find that, without knowing how, they have lost their souls and God by many sins of impurity and scandal.

Oh! how many young persons of both sexes does the devil gain in this way! And of all those sins of scandal God will demand an account of fathers and mothers, who are bound, but neglect, to prevent these dangerous conversations. Hence, they are the cause of all these evils, and shall be severely chastised by God for them.

10. Above all, in order to avoid bad thoughts, men must abstain from looking at women, and females must be careful not to look at men. I repeat the words of Job which I have frequently quoted: ”I made a covenant with my eyes, that I should not so much as think upon a virgin.” (Job xxxi. 1.) He says that he made a covenant with his eyes that he would not think. What have the eyes to do with thinking? The eyes do not think; the mind alone thinks.

But he had just reason to say that he made a covenant with his eyes that he would not think on women; for St. Bernard says, that through the eyes the darts of impure love, which kills the soul, enter into the mind. ”Per oculos intrat in mentem sagitta impuri amoris.” Hence the Holy Ghost says: “Turn away thy face from a woman dressed up.” (Eccl. ix. 8.) It is always dangerous to look at young persons elegantly dressed; and to look at them purposely, and without a just cause, is, at least, a venial sin.

11. When thoughts against chastity, which often occur without any immediate occasion, present themselves, it is, as I have said, necessary to banish them at once, without beginning to argue with the temptation. The instant you perceive the thought reject it, without giving ear to it, or examining what it says or represents to you. It is related in the book of the sentences of the fathers, (4), that St. Pachomius one day saw a devil boasting that he often made a certain monk fall into sin; because, when tempted, the monk, instead of turning to God, listened to his suggestions, and began to reason with the temptations.

But the saint heard another devil complaining, that he could gain nothing from the monk whom he tempted; because the monk immediately had recourse to God for help, and thus he was always victorious. This is the advice of St. Jerome: As soon as lust shall suggest evil, let us exclaim: The Lord is my helper. ”Statim ut libido titillaverit sensum, erumpamus in vocem: Domine auxiliator meus.” (Epist. 22, ad Eustoch.)

12. Should the temptation continue it will be very useful to make it known to your confessor. St Philip Neri used to say, that”a temptation disclosed is half conquered.” In assaults of impurity, some saints have had recourse to very severe mortifications. St. Benedict rolled his naked body among thorns. St. Peter of Alcantara threw himself into a frozen pool. But I consider the best means of overcoming these temptations to be, to have recourse to God, who will certainly give us the victory. ”Praising, I will call on the Lord,” said David, ”and I shall be saved from my enemies.” (Ps. xvii. 4.)

And when, after asking aid from God, the temptation continues, we must not cease to pray, but must multiply prayers: we must sigh and groan before the most holy sacrament in the chapel, or before a crucifix in our own room, or before some image of most holy Mary, who is the mother of purity. It is true, all our efforts are useless unless God sustains us by his own hand; but he sometimes requires these efforts on our part, that he may supply our deficiency, and secure to us the victory. In such combats with hell, it is useful in the beginning to renew our purpose never to offend God, and to forfeit life rather than lose his grace; and then, we must make repeated petitions to him, saying: Lord give me strength to resist this temptation: do not permit me to be separated from thee: deprive me of life rather than allow me to lose thee.

ON THE LOVE OF GOD – St. Alphonsus

SERMON XLVI. SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST. – ON THE LOVE OF GOD.

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart.” MATT. xxii. 37.  

 ” BUT one thing is necessary.” (Luke x. 42.)

What is this one thing necessary? It is not necessary to acquire riches, nor to obtain dignities, nor to gain a great name. The only thing necessary is to love God. Whatever is not done for the love of God is lost. This is the greatest and the first commandment of the divine law.

To the Pharisee who asked what is the greatest commandment of the law, Jesus Christ answered: ”Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart …. This is the greatest and first commandment.” (Matt. xxii. 37, 38.) But this, which is the greatest of the commandments, is the most despised by men: there are few who fulfill it. The greater part of men love their relatives, their friends, and even brute animals, but do not love God. Of these St. John says that they have not life that they are dead. ”He that loveth not, abideth in death.” (I John iii. 14.)

St. Bernard writes, that the reward of a soul is estimated by the measure of her love for God. ”Quan-titas animæ æstimatur de mensura charitatis quam habet.” (Serm. xxvii., in Cant.) Let us consider today, in the first point, how dear this command of loving God with our whole heart ought to be to us; and, in the second, what we ought to do in order to love God with our whole heart.

First Point – How dear this command of loving God with our whole heart ought to be to us. 

1. What object more noble, more magnificent, more powerful, more rich, more beautiful, more bountiful, more merciful, more grateful, more amiable, or more loving, than himself, could God give us to love? Who more noble than God? Some boast of the nobility of their family for five hundred or a thousand years; but the nobility of God is eternal. He is the Lord of all. Before God all the angels in heaven or all the nobles on earth are but as a drop of water or a grain of dust. ”Behold the Gentiles are as a drop of a bucket behold the islands are as a little dust. ” (Isa. xl. 15.)

Who more powerful than God? He can do whatsoever he wills. By an act of his will he has created this world, and by another act he can destroy it when he pleases. Who more wealthy? He possesses all the riches of heaven and earth. Who more beautiful? Before the beauty of God all the beauties of creatures disappear. Who more bountiful? St. Augustine says, that God has a greater desire to do good to us than we have to receive it. Who more merciful? If the most impious sinner on earth humble himself before God, and repent of his sins, God instantly pardons and embraces him.

Who more grateful? He does not leave unrewarded the smallest act we perform for his sake. Who more amiable? God is so amiable that, by barely seeing and loving him in heaven, the saints feel a joy which makes them perfectly happy and content for all eternity. The greatest of the torments of the damned arise from knowing that this God is so amiable, and that they cannot love him.

2. Finally, who more loving than God? In the Old Law, men might doubt whether God loved them with a tender love; but, after seeing him die on a cross for us, how can we doubt of the tenderness and the ardent affection with which he loves us? Let us raise our eyes and look at Jesus, the true Son of God, fastened with nails to a gibbet, and let us consider the intensity of the ove which he bears us.

The cross, the wounds, says St. Bernard, cry out, and proclaim to us that he truly loves us. “Clamat crux, clamat vulnus, quod ipse vere dilexit.” And what more could he do to convince us of his great love than to lead a life of sorrow for thirty- three years, and afterwards die in torments on the infamous tree of the cross, in order to wash away our sins with his own blood?”Christ also hath loved us, and hath delivered himself up for us.” (Eph. v. 2.)”Who hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” (Apoc. i. 5.)”How,” says St. Philip Neri, ”is it possible for him who believes in God to love anything but God ?”

Contemplating God’s love towards men, St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi began one day to ring the bell, saying that she wished to invite all the nations of the earth to love so loving a God. St. Francis de Sales used to say with tears: “To love our God it would be necessary to have an infinite love; and we throw away our love on vain, contemptible things.”

3. O! inestimable value of divine love, which makes us rich before God! It is the treasure by which we gain his friendship. “he is an infinite treasure to men, which they that use become the friends of God.” (Wis. vii. 14.) The only thing we ought to fear, says St. Gregory of Nyssa  (de Vita Moysis), is the loss of God‟s friendship; and the only object of our desires should be its attainment. ”Unum terribile, arbitror, ab amicitia Dei repelli: unum solum expectibile, amicitia Dei.” It is love that obtains the friendship of God. Hence, according to St. Lawrence Justinian, by love the poor become rich, and without love the rich are poor. ”No greater riches than to have charity. In charity the poor man is rich, and without charity the rich man is poor.” (S. Laur. Just, in Matt. xiii. 44.)

How great is the joy which a person feels in thinking that he is loved by a man of exalted rank! But how much greater must be the consolation which a soul derives from the conviction that God loves her!”I love them that love me.” (Prov. viii. 17.) In a soul that loves God the Three Persons of the Adorable Trinity dwell. ”If any one love me he will keep my word; and my Father will love him; and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him.” (John xiv. 23.) St. Bernard writes, that among all the virtues charity is the one that unites us to God. Charitas est virtus conjungens nos Deo.” St. Catherine of Bologna used to say, that love is the golden chain that binds the soul to God.

St. Augustine says, that”love is a joint connecting the lover with the beloved.” Hence, were God not immense, where should he be found? Find a soul that loves God, and there God is certainly found. Of this St. John assures us. “He that abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him.” (1 John iv. 16.) A poor man loves riches, but he does not therefore enjoy them; he may love a throne, but he does not therefore possess a kingdom. But the man that loves God possesses God. ”He abideth in God, and God in him. ”

4. Besides, St. Thomas says (Tr. de Virt, art. 3), that love draws in its train all other virtues, and directs them all to unite us more closely to God. Hence, because from charity all virtues are born, St. Lawrence Justinian called it the mother of virtues. Hence, St. Augustine used to say: ”Love, and do what you wish.”

He that loves God can only do what is good; if he does evil, he shows that he has ceased to love God. And when he ceases to love him, all things can profit him nothing. If, said the Apostle, I give all my possessions to the poor, and my body to the flames, and have not charity, I am nothing. ”And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1 Cor. xiii. 3.)

5. Love also prevents us from feeling the pains of this life. St. Bonaventure says, that the love of God is like honey; it sweetens things the most bitter. And what more sweet to a soul that loves God than to suffer for him? She knows that by cheerfully embracing sufferings she pleases God, and that her pains shall be the brightest jewels in her crown in Paradise. And who is there that will not willingly suffer and die in imitation of Jesus Christ, who has gone before us, carrying his cross, to offer himself in sacrifice for the love of us, and inviting us to follow his example? “If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt. xvi. 24.) For this purpose he has condescended to humble himself to death, and to the opprobrious death of the cross, for the love of us. ”He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.” (Phil. ii. 8.)

Second Point – What we ought to do in order to love God with our whole heart.

6. St. Teresa used to say, that in calling a soul to his love, God bestows upon her an exceedingly great favour. Since, then, most beloved brethren, God calls us all to his love, let us thank and love him with our whole heart. Because he loves us intensely, he wishes to he tenderly loved by us. ”When, ” says St. Bernard, ”God loves, he desires nothing else than to  he loved; for he loves only that he may be loved.” (Serm. lxiii., in Cant.)

It was to inflame us with his divine love that the Eternal Word descended from heaven. So he himself has declared; adding, that he only desires to see this fire lighted up in our hearts. ”I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled?” (Luke xii. 49.) Let us now see what means we ought to adopt in order to love God.

7. In the first place, we ought to guard against every sin, whether mortal or venial. ”If, ” says Jesus Christ, ”any one love me, he will keep my word.” (John xiv. 23.) The first mark of love is to endeavour not to give the smallest displeasure to the beloved.

How can he be said to love God with his whole heart, who is not afraid to commit deliberate venial offences against God? St. Teresa used to say to her spiritual children: ”From deliberate sin, however small, may God deliver you.” But some will say: Venial sin is a small evil. Is it a small evil to displease a God who is so good, and who loves us so tenderly?

8. In the second place, to love God with the whole heart, it is necessary to have a great desire to love him. Holy desires are the wings with which we fly to God; for, as St. Lawrence Justinian says, a good desire gives us strength to go forward, and lightens the labour of walking in the way of God. ”Vires subministrat, posnam exhibet leviorem.”

According to the spiritual masters, he that does not advance in the way of the Lord goes back; but, on the other hand, God cheerfully gives himself to those who seek after him. ”The Lord is good to the soul that seeketh him.” (Lamen. iii. 25.) He fills with his own good things all who desire him through love. ”He hath filled the hungry with good things.” (Luke i. 53.)

9. In the third place, it is necessary to resolve courageously, to arrive at the perfect love of God. Some persons desire to belong entirely to God, but do not resolve to adopt the means. It is of them the Wise Man says, ”Desires kill the soul.” (Prov. xxi. 25.) I would wish, they say, to become a saint; but still, with all their desires, they never advance a single step. St. Teresa used to say, that”of these irresolute souls the devil is never afraid.”

Because, if they do not resolve sincerely to give themselves to God without reserve, they shall always continue in the same imperfections. But, on the other hand, the saint says, that God wishes only from us a true resolution to become saints; he himself will do the rest. If, then, we wish to love God with our whole heart, we must resolve to do without reserve what is most pleasing to him, and to begin at once to put our hands to the work. ”Whatsoever thy hand is able to do, do it earnestly.” (Eccl. ix. 10.)

What you can do Today do not put off till to-morrow; do it as soon as possible. A certain nun in the convent of Tori degli Speechi, in Rome, led a tepid life; but, being called by God, in a retreat, to his perfect love, she resolved to correspond immediately to the divine call, and said to her director, with a sincere resolution: ”Father, I wish to become a saint, and to become one immediately.” And from that moment, with the aid of God’s grace, she lived and died a saint. We must, then, resolve to acquire the perfect love of God, and must immediately adopt the means of becoming saints.

10. The first means is, to detach the heart from all creatures, and to banish from the soul every affection which is not for God. The first question which the ancient fathers of the desert put to every one who sought admission into their society was: “Do you bring an empty heart, that the Holy Ghost may be able to fill it ?” If the world be not expelled from the heart, God cannot enter it.

St. Teresa used to say: “Detach the heart from creatures; seek God, and you shall find him.” St. Augustine writes, that the Romans worshipped thirty thousand gods; but,  among these gods the Roman Senate refused to admit Jesus Christ. Because, said they, he is a proud God, who requires that he alone should be adored. This they had reason to say; for our God wishes to possess our whole souls.

He is, as St. Jerome says, a jealous God. ”Zelotypus est Jesus.” And therefore lie will have no rival in the affections of our heart. Hence, the Spouse in the Canticles is called “an enclosed garden.” “My sister, my spouse is an enclosed garden.” (Cant. iv. 12.) The soul, then, that wishes to belong entirely to God, must be shut against all love which is not for God.

11. Hence the Divine Spouse is said to be wounded by one of the eyes of his eyes. ”Thou hast wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast wounded my heart with one of thy eyes.” (Cant. iv. 9.) One of her eyes signifies, that in all her thoughts and actions the only end of the spouse is to please God; while, in their devout exercises, worldlings propose to themselves different objects sometimes their own interest, sometimes to please their friends, and sometimes to please themselves. But the saints seek only to please God, to whom they turn, and say: ”What have I in heaven? and, besides thee, what do I desire upon earth? Thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion for ever.” (Ps. Ixxii. 25, 26.)

We should do the same if we wished to be saints. If, says St. Chrysostom, we do some things pleasing to God, what else but his pleasure do we seek? “Si dignus fueris agere aliquid, quod Deo placet, aliam præter id mercedem requiris ?” (Lib. 2, de Compunct. Cord.) What greater reward can a creature obtain than to please its Creator? Hence, in all we desire or do, we should seek nothing but God. A certain solitary, called Zeno, walking through the desert, absorbed in thought, met the Emperor Macedonius going to hunt. The emperor asked him what he was doing. In answer, the solitary said: You go in quest of animals, and I seek God alone. St. Francis de Sales used to say, that the pure love of God consumes all that is not God.

12. Moreover, to love God with our whole heart, it is necessary tolove him without reserve. Hence we must love him with a love of preference. We must prefer him before every other good, and must be resolved to lose a thousand lives, rather than forfeit his friendship. We must say with St. Paul: Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God.” (Rom. viii. 38, 39.)

We must also love him with a love of benevolence, desiring to see him loved by all: and therefore, if we love God, we should seek as much as possible to kindle in others the fire of his love, or, at least, should pray for the conversion of all who do not love him. We must love him with a love of sorrow, regretting every offence offered to him more than every evil which we could suffer. We must love him with a love of conformity to the divine will.

The principal office of love is to unite the will of lovers, and to make the soul say: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts ix. 6.) Lord, tell me what thou dost wish from me; I desire to do it. I wish for nothing; I wish only what thou wiliest. Hence, we ought frequently to offer ourselves to God without reserve, that he may do with us, and with all we have, whatever he pleases. We must love God with a love of patience. This is that strong love by which true lovers are known. ”Love is strong as death.” (Cant. viii. 6.) “There is nothing too difficult,” says St. Augustine, ”to be conquered by the fire of love.” (Lib. De Mor. Eccl, c. xxii.) For, adds the saint, in doing what we love, labour is not felt, or, if it be felt, the very labour is loved. “In eo quod arnatur, aut non laboratur, aut labor amatur.” St. Vincent of Paul used to say, that love is measured by the desire of the soul to suffer and be humbled, in order to please God. Let God be pleased, though it should cost us the loss of our life and of all things. To gain all, it is necessary to leave all. All for all, said Thomas a Kempis.

The reason we do not become saints is, as St. Teresa says, because, as we do not give God all our affections, so he does not give us his perfect love. We must then say with tbe spouse in the Canticles: “My beloved to me, and I to him.” (Cant. ii. 1 6.) My beloved has given himself entirely to me: it is but just that I give myself without reserve to him. St. John Chrysostom says, that when a soul has given herself entirely to God, she no longer cares for ignominies and sufferings; she loses the desire of all things; and not finding repose in any creature, she is always in search cf her beloved; her sole concern is to find her beloved.

13. To obtain and to preserve divine love, three things are necessary: meditation, communion, and prayer. First, meditation is necessary. He who thinks but little on God, loves him but little. “In my meditation, ” says David, “a fire shall flame out.” (Ps. xxxviii. 4.) Meditation, and particularly meditation on the passion of Jesus Christ, is the blessed furnace in which the love of God is kindled and fanned. “He brought me into the wine cellar; he set in order charity in me. ” (Cant. ii. 4.) The souls that are introduced into this heavenly cellar, by a single glance of Jesus Christ crucified and dying for the love of us, are wounded and inebriated with holy love.

For St. Paul says, that Jesus Christ died for us all, that each of us may live only to love him. ”And Christ died for all, that they also may not now live to themselves, but unto him who died for them. ” (2 Cor. v. 15.) The communion is another holy furnace, in which we are inflamed with divine love. ”The holy eucharist, ” says St. Chrysostom, ”is a fire which inflames us, that, like lions breathing fire, we may retire from the holy table, being made terrible to the devil. ” (Hom, xli., ad Pop.)

Above all, prayer (the prayer of petition) is necessary. It is by means of prayer that God dispenses all his favours, but particularly the great gift of divine love. To make us ask this love, meditation is a great help. “Without meditation we shall ask little or nothing from God. “We must, then, always, every day, and several times in the day, ask God to give us the grace to love him with our whole heart. St. Gregory says, that God wishes to be compelled and importuned by our petitions to bestow upon us his graces. ”God wishes to be entreated to be compelled: he wishes in a certain manner to be overcome by importunity.”

Let us, then, continually ask of Jesus Christ his holy love; and let us ask his divine mother Mary, who is the treasurer of all his graces, to obtain it for us. Thesauraria gratiarum (Idiota). She is called by St. Bernardino, the dispensatrix of God’s graces. ”All graces are dispensed through her hands.” t is through her intercession that we must obtain the great gift of divine love.

ON IMPURITY – St. Alphonsus

SERMON XLV. SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST. – ON IMPURITY. “And behold, there was a certain man before him, who had the dropsy.” LUKE xiv. 2.

THE man who indulges in impurity is like a person labouring under the dropsy. The latter is so much tormented by thirst, that the more he drinks the more thirsty he becomes. Such, too, is the nature of the accursed vice of impurity; it is never satiated. “As,” says St. Thomas of Villanova , ”the more the dropsical man abounds in moisture, the more he thirsts; so, too, is it with the waves of eternal pleasures.” I will speak Today of the vice of impurity, and will show, in the first point, the delusion of those who say that this vice is but a small evil; and, in the second, the delusion of those who say, that God takes pity on this sin, and that he does not punish it.

First Point – Delusion of those who say that sins against purity are not a great evil.

1. The unchaste, then, say that sins contrary to purity are but a small evil. Like”the sow wallowing in the mire” (” Sus lota in volutabro luti – 2 Pet. ii. 22), they are immersed in their own filth, so that they do not see the malice of their actions; and therefore they neither feel nor abhor the stench of their impurities, which excite disgust and horror in all others. Can you, who say that the vice of impurity is but a small evil can you, I ask, deny that it is a mortal sin?

If you deny it, you are a heretic; for as St. Paul says: “Do not err. Neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, etc., shall possess the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. vi. 9.) It is a mortal sin; it cannot be a small evil. It is more sinful than theft, or detraction, or the violation of the fast. How then can you say that it is not a great evil? Perhaps mortal sin appears to you to be a small evil? Is it a small evil to despise the grace of God, to turn your back upon him, and to lose his friendship, for a transitory, beastly pleasure?

2. St. Thomas teaches, that mortal sin, because it is an insult offered to an infinite God, contains a certain infinitude of malice. “A sin committed against God has a certain infinitude, on account of the infinitude of the Divine Majesty.” (S. Thom., 3 p., q. 1, art. 2, ad. 2.) Is mortal sin a small evil? It is so great an evil, that if all the angels and all the saints, the apostles, martyrs, and even the Mother of God, offered all their merits to atone for a single mortal sin, the oblation would not be sufficient. No; for that atonement or satisfaction would be finite; but the debt contracted by mortal sin is infinite, on account of the infinite Majesty of God which has been offended.

The hatred which God bears to sins against purity is great beyond measure. If a lady find her plate soiled she is disgusted, and cannot eat. Now, with what disgust and indignation must God, who is Purity itself, behold the filthy impurities by which his law is violated? He loves purity with an infinite love; and consequently he has an infinite hatred for the sensuality which the lewd, voluptuous man calls a small evil. Even the devils who held a high rank in heaven before their fall disdain to tempt men to sins of the flesh.

3. St. Thomas says (lib. 5, de Erud. Princ., c. li.), that Lucifer, who is supposed to have been the devil that tempted Jesus Christ in the desert, tempted him to commit other sins, but scorned to tempt him to offend against chastity. Is this sin a small evil? Is it, then, a small evil to see a man endowed with a rational soul, and enriched with so many divine graces, bring himself by the sin of impurity to the level of a brute?”Fornication and pleasure,” says St. Jerome, ”pervert the understanding, and change men into beasts.” (In Oseam., c. iv.) In the voluptuous and unchaste are literally verified the words of David: ”And man, when he was in honour, did not understand: he is compared to senseless beasts, and is become like to them.” (Ps. xlviii. 13.)

St. Jerome says, that there is nothing more vile or degrading than to allow oneself to be conquered by the flesh. ”Nihil vilius quam vinci a carne.” Is it a small evil to forget God, and to banish him from the soul, for the sake of giving the body a vile satisfaction, of which, when it is over, you feel ashamed? Of this the Lord complains by the Prophet Ezechiel: ”Thus saith the Lord God: Because thou hast forgotten me, and has cast me off behind thy back”(xxiii. 35.) St. Thomas says, that by every vice, but particularly by the vice of impurity, men are removed far from God. ”Per luxuriant maxime recedit a Deo.” (In Job cap. xxxi.)

4. Moreover, sins of impurity, on account of their great number, are an immense evil. A blasphemer does not always blaspheme, but only when he is drunk or provoked to anger. The assassin, whose trade is to murder others, does not, at the most, commit more than eight or ten homicides. But the unchaste are guilty of an unceasing torrent of sins, by thoughts, by words, by looks, by complacencies, and by touches; so that, when they go to confession they find it impossible to tell the number of the sins they have committed against purity.

Even in their sleep the devil represents to them obscene objects, that, on awakening, they may take delight in them; and because they are made the slaves of the enemy, they obey and consent to his suggestions; for it is easy to contract a habit of this sin. To other sins, such as blasphemy, detraction, and murder, men are not prone; but to this vice nature inclines them. Hence St. Thomas says, that there is no sinner so ready to offend God as the votary of lust is, on every occasion that occurs to him. ”Nullus ad Dei contemptum promptior.”

The sin of impurity brings in its train the sins of defamation, of theft, hatred, and of boasting of its own filthy abominations. Besides, it ordinarily involves the malice of scandal. Other sins, such as blasphemy, perjury, and murder, excite horror in those who witness them; but this sin excites and draws others, who are flesh, to commit it, or, at least, to commit it with less horror.

5. ”Totum hominem,” says St. Cyprian, ”agit in triumphum libidinis.” (Lib. de bono pudic.) By lust the evil triumphs over the entire man, over his body and over his soul; over his memory, filling it with the remembrance of unchaste delights, in order to make him take complacency in them; over his intellect, to make him desire occasions of committing sin; over the will, by making it love its impurities as his last end, and as if there were no God. “I made,” said Job, “a covenant with my eyes, that I would not so much as think upon a virgin. For what part should God from above have in me?” (xxxi. 1, 2.)

Job was afraid to look at a virgin, because he knew that if he consented to a bad thought God should have no part in him. According to St. Gregory, from impurity arises blindness of understanding, destruction, hatred of God, and despair of eternal life. ”De luxuria cœcitas mentis præcipitatio, odium Dei, desperatio futuri sæculi generantur.” (S. Greg., Mor., lib. 13.) St. Augustine says, though the unchaste may grow old, the vice of impurity does not grow old in them. Hence St. Thomas says, that there is no sin in which the devil delights so much as in this sin; because there is no other sin to which nature clings with so much tenacity.

To the vice of impurity it adheres so firmly, that the appetite for carnal pleasures becomes insatiable. ”Diabolus dicitur gaudere maxime de peccato luxuriæ, quia est maximæ adhœrentia: et difficile ab eo homo eripi potest; insatiabilis est enim delectabilis appetitus.” (1, 2, qu. 73, a. 5, ad. 2.) Go now, and say that the sin of impurity is but a small evil. At the hour of death you shall not say so; every sin of that kind shall then appear to you a monster of hell. Much less shall you say so before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ, who will tell you what the Apostle has already told you: “No fornicator, or unclean, hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Eph. v. 5.) The man who has lived like a brnte does not deserve to sit with the angels.

6. Most beloved brethren, let us continue to pray to God to deliver us from this vice: if we do not, we shall lose our souls. The sin of impurity brings with it blindness and obstinacy. Every vice produces darkness of understanding; but impurity produces it in a greater degree than all other sins. ”Fornication, and wine, and drunkenness take away the understanding.” (Osee iv. 11.) Wine deprives us of understanding and reason; so does impurity. Hence St. Thomas says, that the man who indulges in unchaste pleasures, does not live according to reason. ”In nullo procedit secundum judicium rationis.”

Now, if the unchaste are deprived of light, and no longer see the evil which they do, how can they abhor it and amend their lives? The Prophet Osee says, that being blinded by their own mire, they do not even think of returning to God; because their impurities take away from them all knowledge of God. ”They will not set their thought to return to their God; for the spirit of fornication is in the midst of them, and they have not known the Lord.” (Osee v. 4.) Hence St. Lawrence Justinian writes, that this sin makes men forget God. ”Delights of the flesh induced forgetfulness of God.” And St. John Damascene teaches that”the carnal man cannot look at the light of truth.”

Thus, the lewd and voluptuous no longer understand what is meant by the grace of God, by judgment, hell, and eternity. ”Fire hath fallen upon them, and they shall not see the sun.” (Ps. Ivii. 9.) Some of these blind miscreants go so far as to say, that fornication is not in itself sinful. They say, that it was not forbidden in the Old Law; and in support of this execrable doctrine they adduce the words of the Lord to Osee: ”Go, take thee a wife of fornication, and have of her children of fornication.” (Osee i. 2.) In answer I say, that God did not permit Osee to commit fornication; but wished him to take for his wife a woman who had been guilty of fornication: and the children of this marriage were called children of fornication, because the mother had been guilty of that crime.

This is, according to St. Jerome, the meaning of the words of the Lord to Osee. ”Ideirco,” says the holy doctor, ”Fornicationis appelandi sunt filii, quod sunt de meretrice generati.” But fornication was always forbidden, under pain of mortal sin, in the Old, as well as in the New Law. St. Paul says: ”No fornicator or unclean, hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Eph. v. 5.) Behold the impiety to which the blindness of such sinners carry them! From this blindness it arises, that though they go to the sacraments, their confessions are null for want of true contrition; for how is it possible for them to have true sorrow, when they neither know nor abhor their sins?

7. The vice of impurity also brings with it obstinacy. To conquer temptations, particularly against chastity, continual prayer is necessary. ”Watch ye, and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” (Mark xiv. 38.) But how will the unchaste, who are always seeking to be tempted, pray to God to deliver them from temptation? They sometimes, as St. Augustine confessed of himself, even abstain from prayer, through fear of being heard and cured of the disease, which they wish to continue. “I feared,” said the saint, “that you would soon hear and heal the disease of concupiscence, which I wished to be satiated, rather than extinguished.” (Conf., lib. 8, cap. vii.)

St. Peter calls this vice an unceasing sin. ”Having eyes full of adultery and sin that ceaseth not.” (2 Pet. ii. 14.) Impurity is called an unceasing sin on account of the obstinacy which it induces. Some person addicted to this vice says: I always confess the sin. So much the worse; for since you always relapse into sin, these confessions serve to make you persevere in the sin. The fear of punishment is diminished by saying: I always confess the sin. If you felt that this sin certainly merits hell, you would scarcely say: I will not give it up; I do not care if I am damned.

But the devil deceives you. Commit this sin, he says; for you afterwards confess it. But, to make a good confession of your sins, you must have true sorrow of the heart, and a firm purpose to sin no more. Where are this sorrow and this firm purpose of amendment, when you always return to the vomit? If you had had these dispositions, and had received sanctifying grace at your confessions, you should not have relapsed, or at least you should have abstained for a considerable time from relapsing.

You have always fallen back into sin in eight or ten days, and perhaps in a shorter time, after confession. What sign is this? It is a sign that you were always in enmity with God. If a sick man instantly vomits the medicine which he takes, it is a sign that his disease is incurable.

8. St. Jerome says, that the vice of impurity, when habitual, will cease when the unhappy man who indulges in it is cast into the fire of hell. ”infernal fire, lust, whose fuel is gluttony, whose sparks are brief conversations, whose end is hell.” The unchaste be come like the vulture that waits to be killed by the fowler, rather than abandon the rottenness of the dead bodies on which it feeds. This is what happened to a young female, who, after having lived in the habit of sin with a young man, fell sick, and appeared to be converted. At the hour of death she asked leave of her confessor to send for the young man, in order to exhort him to change his life at the sight of her death. The confessor very imprudently gave the permission, and taught her what she should say to her accomplice in sin.

But listen to what happened. As soon as she saw him, she forgot her promise to the confessor and the exhortation she was to give to the young man. And what did she do? She raised herself up, sat in bed, stretched her arms to him, and said: Friend, I have always loved you, and even now, at the end of my life, I love you: I see that, on your account, I shall go to hell: but I do not care: I am willing, for the love of you, to be damned. After these words she fell back on the bed and expired. These facts are related by Father Segneri (Christ. Istr. Bag., xxiv., n. 10.)

Oh! how difficult is it for a person who has contracted a habit of this vice, to amend his life and return sincerely to God! O how difficult is it for him not to terminate this habit in hell, like the unfortunate young woman of whom I have just spoken.

Second Point – Illusion of those who say that God takes pity on this sin.

9. The votaries of lust say that God takes pity on this sin; but such is not the language of St. Thomas of Villanova . He says, that in the sacred Scriptures we do not read of any sin so severely chastised as the sin of impurity. ”Luxuriæ facinus præ aliis punitum legimus.” (Serm. iv., Dom. 1, Quadrag.) We find in the Scriptures, that in punishment of this sin, a deluge of fire descended from heaven on four cities, and, in an instant, consumed not only the inhabitants, but even the very stones. “And the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he destroyed these cities, and all things that spring from the earth.” (Gen. xix. 24.) St. Peter Damian relates, that a man and a woman who had sinned against impurity, were found burnt and black as a cinder.

10. Salvian writes, that it was in punishment of the sin of impurity that God sent on the earth the universal deluge, which was caused by continued rain for forty days and forty nights. In this deluge the waters rose fifteen cubits above the tops of the highest mountains; and only eight persons along with Noah were saved in the ark. The rest of the inhabitants of the earth, who were more numerous then than at present, were punished with death in chastisement of the vice of impurity.

Mark the words of the Lord in speaking of this chastisement which he inflicted on that sin: ”My spirit shall not remain in man for ever; because he is flesh.” (Gen. vi. 3.) “That is,” says Liranus, “too deeply involved in carnal sins.” The Lord added: ”For it repenteth me that I made man.” (Gen. vi. 7.) The indignation of God is not like ours, which clouds the mind, and drives us into excesses: his wrath is a judgment perfectly just and tranquil, by which God punishes and repairs the disorders of sin. But to make us understand the intensity of his hatred for the sin of impurity, he represents himself as if sorry for having created man, who offended him so grievously by this vice.

We, at the present day, see more severe temporal punishment inflicted on this than on any other sin. Go into the hospitals, and listen to the shrieks of so many young men, who, in punishment of their impurities, are obliged to submit to the severest treatment and to the most painful operations, and who, if they escape death, are, according to the divine threat, feeble, and subject to the most excruciating pain for the remainder of their lives. ”Thou hast cast me off behind thy back; bear thou also thy wickedness and thy fornications.” (Ezec. xxiii. 35.)

11. St. Remigius writes that, if children.be excepted, the number of adults that are saved is few, on account of the sins of the flesh. ”Exceptis parvulis ex adultis propter vitiam carnis pauci salvantur.” (Apud S. Cypr. de bono pudic.) In conformity with this doctrine, it was revealed to a holy soul, that as pride has filled hell with devils, so impurity fills it with men. (Col., disp. ix., ex. 192.) St. Isidore assigns the reason. He says that there is no vice which so much enslaves men to the devil as impurity. ”Magis per luxuriam, humanum genus subditur diabolo, quam per aliquod aliud.” (S. Isid., lib. 2, c. xxxix.) Hence, St. Augustine says, that with regard to this sin, ”the combat is common and the victory rare.” Hence it is, that on account of this sin hell is filled with souls.

12. All that I have said on this subject has been said, not that any one present, who has been addicted to the vice of impurity, may be driven to despair, but that such persons may be cured. Let us, then, come to the remedies. These are two great remedies prayer, and the flight of dangerous occasions. Prayer, says St. Gregory of Nyssa, is the safeguard of chastity. “Oratio pudicitiæ præsidium et tutamen est.” (De Orat.) And before him, Solomon, speaking of himself, said the same. “And as I knew that I could not otherwise be continent, except God gave it… I went to the Lord, and besought him.” (Wis. viii. 21.)

Thus, it is impossible for us to conquer this vice without God’s assistance. Hence, as soon as temptation against chastity presents itself, the remedy is, to turn instantly to God for help, and to repeat several times the most holy names of Jesus and Mary, which have a special virtue to banish bad thoughts of that kind. I have said immediately, without listening to, or beginning to argue with the temptation. When a bad thought occurs to the mind, it is necessary to shake it off instantly, as you would a spark that flies from the fire, and instantly to invoke aid from Jesus and Mary.

13. As to the flight of dangerous occasions, St. Philip Neri used to say that cowards that is, they who fly from the occasions gain the victory. Hence you must, in the first place, keep a restraint on the eyes, and must abstain from looking at young females. Otherwise, says St. Thomas, you can scarcely avoid the sin. ”Luxuria vitari vix protest nisi vitatur aspectus mulieris pulchræ.” (S. Thom. 1, 2, qu. 167, a. 2.) Hence Job said: ”I made a covenant with my eyes, that I would not so much as think upon a virgin” (xxxi. 1). He was afraid to look at a virgin; because from looks it is easy to pass to desires, and from desires to acts. St. Francis de Sales used to say, that to look at a woman does not do so much evil as to look at her a second time.

If the devil has not gained a victory the first, he will gain the second time. And if it be necessary to abstain from looking at females, it is much more necessary to avoid conversation with them. “Tarry not among women.” (Eccl. xlii. 12.) We should be persuaded that, in avoiding occasions of this sin, no caution can be too great. Hence we must be always fearful, and fly from them. ”A wise man feareth and declineth from evil; a fool is confident.” (Prov. xiv. 16.) A wise man is timid, and flies away; a fool is confident, and falls.