October 20, 2009

Listen, men! Chastity grows with the practice of mercy.

[This post, from April 19, 2007, has just drawn another comment.]

Looking at pornography and engaging your mind in sexual fantasies is a mental rehearsal of, among other things:
— self-centeredness;
— selfishness towards others;
— using others as servants of your own pleasure and preferences.

Masturbation rewards that mental rehearsal with physical pleasure.

Thus, masturbation is a sin that trains you to sin more and more— not only in actions but also in attitudes.

How might you move in the opposite direction?

First: Stop.

Second: Turn around and MOVE in the opposite direction.


Yes— start DOING GOOD to others. Cultivate the habit of finding ways to be of authentic service to others.

For example, practice the Corporal and the Spiritual Works of Mercy. Be aware that in Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus teaches that the Corporal Works of Mercy are ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS for those who do not want to be banished forever from the kingdom of God.

The Corporal Works of Mercy
Give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty.
Clothe the naked.
Visit the sick and the imprisoned.
Shelter the homeless.
Bury the dead.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy
Admonish sinners.
Instruct the ignorant.
Counsel the doubtful.
Comfort the sorrowful.
Pray for the living and the dead.
Bear wrongs patiently.
Forgive all injuries.
In practicing the Spiritual Works of Mercy, you must be careful not to use the first two to dominate other persons.

The last two Spiritual Works of Mercy are valuable in cultivating the habits that lead away from sexual sins.

Bear in mind that chastity comes under the cardinal virtue of temperance (also called “moderation”). So, you need to be coherent or consistent in practicing temperance (moderation, balance, and proper order) in all matters.

- - - -


"moral life and conduct, moral excellence," vertu, from Anglo-French and Old French vertu, from Latin virtus "moral strength, manliness, valor, excellence, worth," from vir "man" in the masculine sense.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1805, says:
Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called “cardinal”; all the others are grouped around them.
The word “cardinal” comes from the Latin cardo— “pivot” or “hinge.”

[CCC 1806] PRUDENCE is the virtue that disposes practical reason TO DISCERN OUR TRUE GOOD IN EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE AND TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT MEANS OF ACHIEVING IT; "the prudent man looks where he is going." .... Prudence is "right reason in action".... It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); IT GUIDES THE OTHER VIRTUES by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

[CCC 1807] JUSTICE is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the "virtue of religion." Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor....

[CCC 1808] FORTITUDE is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause....

[CCC 1809] TEMPERANCE is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will's mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion.... In the New Testament it is called "moderation" or "sobriety"....

As human virtues, the cardinal virtues are:
... rooted in the theological virtues, which adapt man's faculties for participation in the divine nature: for the theological virtues relate directly to God. They dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity. They have the One and Triune God for their origin, motive, and object. [CCC 1812]


Blogger Innocent said...

This is a most excellent article, Fr. Stephanos!

With love and prayers,

1:07 AM  
Blogger onionboy said...

Throughout my married life I struggled with masturbation. Only on the rare occasion did it involve pornography directly or indirectly however it is just as sinful and debilitating an act without as with visual aid.

There were periods of success where my will was stronger but overall it was a loosing battle.

Over the years I confessed to brother pastors, other peers, and wore the page thin where 1 John 1:9 appears. And, I continued to sin.

When I made my First Confession (I know, the current term is Reconciliation but I prefer the old word for it says it like it is) I had two key things I longed to confess and be free of. One was masturbation. I confessed. I received absolution and did my penance. Since that date early in January of 2005 I have not masturbated once. I have seldom even been tempted and when I have I have returned in my mind to the place and time I received absolution and stood on that truth to remain free and pure.

These are not bragging rights and if they are I brag of the Lord and his graces in the Sacraments of Confession and Eucharist.


8:40 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

1 John 1:9
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Owen! Wonderful to hear this from you!

When we confess our sins before a priest, he is a sacramental witness and an advocate [parákletos] who joins in pleading our cause. We go before a priest, and tell God, "I chose to do what was sinful; and I choose now to do otherwise." A renewal of covenant! God is in it, for the priest -- wielding the authority of the Risen Christ who gave apostolic priests the authority to forgive sins -- the priest voices the authority of God in saying, "I absolve you...."

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Father for posting this!! I truly appreciate it.


11:19 AM  
Blogger beez said...

Fr. Stephanos,

Great insights and very true. The Most Rev. Paul Loverde of Arlington wrote an amazing Pastoral Letter called "Bought with a Price" that covers this topic well.

I myself have discovered that, when you stop trying to "force" yourself to be chaste and ask God to help make you chaste, the problems seem to go away.

Frequent prayer helps too!

12:40 PM  
Blogger Mark Cephas Tan said...

A good post.. good guide.. bravo father..

10:10 PM  
Blogger Vincent said...

Thank you Fr. Stephanos. It's a great post. This is my first time here and definitely not my last.

1:16 AM  
Anonymous Jeron said...

Fr. Stephanos, I think this is my favorite post of yours to date. I'd like to print & use at my weekly *Courage* meeting this week. May I?

11:02 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Print and use!

11:06 AM  
Anonymous JV said...

Father, I was just thinking that. I have to print this out. I think a lot of people, priests included, are a little timid when approaching this topic - so I thank you for your boldness and for sharing your wisdom.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous naptown said...

Well said, Father.

This has been a constant struggle for me, but thanks be to God and His grace, I'm making progress.

Any man who wishes to overcome this vice needs to adopt an integrated approach:

First, pray. Ask God to give you a chaste heart.

Practice virtue, as Father has outlined here.


Receive the sacraments frequently and regularly.


And then pray some more.

Think of it as spiritual chemotherapy. Adopt the same take-no-prisoners attitude as you would toward fighting cancer.

And then pray some more. :-)

Saint Maria Goretti, pray for us!

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems to me that it is helpful not to beat yoruself up too much about masturbation. As another commenter annotated, that is a grace that god decides to grant one. In the meantime, it is hardwired into our created nature and god is forgiving of that. One opinion to share, I think that it is far less sinful to use one's own imagination or ponder one's spouse and so forth rather than use pornography. Just an opinion. Pornography tends to numb shock value and inherently pays other people to lose their souls like prostitution.

6:20 AM  
Blogger Father Stephanos, O.S.B. said...

Hardwired? That's absolutely wrong from the perspective of Scripture and Church teaching.

What is hardwired into us is that creation, including the body, is good.

Sin, however, has damaged and distorted the hardwiring. The capacity for lust and masturbation is damage and distortion. It is not the nature of the hardwirding itself.

Yes, the virtue of chastity is a grace that God offers to every single person. However, accepting that grace and choosing to cooperate with it is something that not everyone chooses to do.

God forgives us if we repent. He never wants us to capitulate to the damage and distortion, and he wants us to stop.

It is work. Yes.

7:39 AM  
Anonymous Brother Francis, West Haven, CT said...

As I am gaining knowledge, I am also shedding ignorance. When acquiring new skills and training, I eliminate old habits and behaviors.
In my life (until I felt the call) I have been driven by sexual desire and overwhelmed by what I perceived as "need".
Now, I spend my days in peaceful contemplation, and rarely experience the pre-waking tumescence which I once accepted as an indication that masturbation was required.
Engaging in other activities which enlighten and cause me to be physically tired help me to maintain a spiritual strength. I turned 50 and am a better man now than ever.
When temptation rears, which it does, I find that working or exercising will reduce the temptation and the community helps eliminate such as I concentrate on my help to those in need.

Thank you, Father, for your work. We see temples falling around us daily, through disrepair, neglect or ignorance. I will use your example to help bring the word to those who would hear it.

Brother Francis

11:02 PM  

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