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"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

On the Folly of Impure Desires of Sensual Pleasures

On the Folly of Impure Desires of Sensual Pleasures

Subject: The impure man who seeks to gratify his desire for sensual pleasures finds nothing; for he seeks a pleasure, which 1. Can not be called a pleasure, and, 2. Which should rather be called a pain.

Text: "And they brought to Him one sick of the palsy lying in a bed."--Matth. ix. 2.

Introduction: By the diseases of the body, which we read of in the Gospel, that our Lord cured, are signified the diseases of the soul, the healing of which was the chief reason why the Son of God came down on earth, and became man. And what are those diseases? St. Ambrose in his homily on the Gospel tells briefly what they are: "Our disease is avarice, our disease is ambition, our disease is impurity." There we have according to the testimony of the Apostle St. John, the three chief maladies of the soul, from which all other sins and vices spring. And that is the reason why I have tried to inspire you and myself with a hatred for them. You have already heard enough about ambition and avarice. But there still remains a vice to consider which occasions the eternal death of most men, namely, the vice of impurity. I will follow the order hitherto observed, my dear brethren, and show first the vanity and nothingness of impure pleasures. I have said that an ambitious man who seeks honors, and an avaricious man who seeks riches, find nothing; now in the same way I say:

The impure man who seeks to gratify his desire for sensual pleasures, finds nothing. Why so? Because he seeks a pleasure which cannot be called a pleasure; as I shall show in the first part. He seeks a pleasure which should rather le called a pain; as I shall show in the second part.

Mary, Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and you pure Spirits of heaven, holy angels guardian, one thing I beg of you in such a delicate and dangerous subject, which caused me much hesitation and reflection before venturing to speak of it, place prudent and chaste words in my mouth, that I may not hurt pure hearts and ears by the very means I make use of to inspire myself and others with a fear of that horrible vice.

It is a common saying among philosophers that a little may be regarded as nothing; a short pleasure is looked upon as no pleasure. And such is really the case. Who would consider me a rich man, because I have a penny for a long time, or a thousand dollars for a few minutes? In the first case I should have too little, in the last case my wealth lasts too short a time for me to deserve the name of a rich man. Who would say that he really enjoyed himself because he had spent a day looking at a beautiful picture, or a moment tasting something sweet? The first is too small, the last too short to cause real enjoyment. And what better would that rich man have been, who was buried in hell and who asked Abraham to send Lazarus to him with a drop of water, if his request had been granted.

So it is, my dear brethren, with impurity; the pleasure it gives is so short, that it ends as soon as it has begun; hardly is it tasted when it is gone. Have you ever noticed how eagerly little children run after butterflies in the summer time? They run about for hours and hours; they strive to grasp them in their hands, or to catch them in their hats; and they wonder at what they think to be beautiful birds, with variegated wings. But how short-lived their joy is: for it consists in catching the butterfly after a deal of trouble. And when they have caught it, what have they? Nothing but a nasty worm which soils their hands; so that their pleasure is at an end. Such, it seems to me, is the case with the impure; they are attracted either by beauty, which in reality merely conceals the food of worms; or their own imaginations draw flattering pictures of pleasure for them, and immediately the passions are excited, the mind is agitated, and there is neither rest nor peace until the imaginary pleasure is enjoyed. And when they have gained the object of their desires, what have they beyond the memory of a short lived pleasure?

If I have acquired great riches, I have certainly an empty good, still I can enjoy it for many years, nay, for my whole life, and my only care need be to prevent it from being stolen, or otherwise taken away from me. If I have attained great honors and dignities in the world, I must acknowledge that I have gained nothing but an empty breath of air; still, the vain pleasure I feel lasts as long as I am in an honorable position. Amongst all pleasures the epithet momentary, is especially applicable to impurity. Daily experience confirms this. Acknowledge the truth of it, impure man, who perhaps this very morning have offended God by your sensuality; you have enjoyed that pleasure by consenting to an impure thought, by impure conversation, by unchaste looks, by acts that no one dares to name; say, what have you now of your pleasure? What is left of it? Ah, you must confess, nothing remains of it; it has vanished completely ; and has left behind it only mortal sin!

And is it then worth while for a man to barter a happy eternity for its sake? Poor Jonathan, how you were to be pitied for having against your father's command, merely tasted a few drops of honey; as you yourself complained: "I did but taste pleasure, a little honey with the end of the rod which was in my hand, and behold I must die (I. Kings xiv. 43.);" that short-lived pleasure costs me my life! Unfortunate Esau, who gave up your birth-right for a mess of pottage, in order to satisfy your gluttony, you had reason to regret your folly in resigning your privilege and your father's blessing, and to bewail it bitterly: "And he wept with a loud cry (Gen. xxvii. 34.)!" Oh, how much more you are to be pitied, unhappy sinners, who in order to taste a drop of honey, to enjoy a momentary pleasure, forfeit your heavenly birth-right, and incur the everlasting pains of hell! Filled with compassion at such folly, St. Augustine cries out : "O truly miserable condition, in which the pleasure quickly passes away, and the pain lasts forever." Oh moment! Oh eternity! Oh short joy! Oh long sorrow! Oh impurity, how quickly your pleasure passes! Oh flames of hell how long and how fiercely you burn! Oh miserable mortal who for the sake of the one, expose yourself to the other, how can you be so blind?

And when you have enjoyed this short-lived and vile pleasure, what remains to you? You are like the children who catch the nasty, winged grub in their hands. What a vile enjoyment it is! One feels ashamed even to name it! Even the most impure, when they are in decent company, try to veil their allusions to it under figurative language, lest they should be put to shame; for it is this very vice and almost this alone, which can transform a reasoning being into a mere animal; as we read in the Holy Scriptures, which compare those who indulge in gluttony and impurity, to dogs, swine, wolves, horses and mules. David says in the Psalms: "And man when he was in honor, did not understand; he had been compared to senseless beasts, and is become like to them." Pride is the sin of the angels; envy, and jealousy, and tempting others to offend God, is the sin of the devils; avarice and vindictiveness is proper to man; but impurity belongs to beasts alone.

See what a short and degrading pleasure you indulge in. O impure man, and how you defile the temple of the Holy Ghost, therefore, of which St. Paul says: Know you not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a great price. Glorify and bear God in your body (I Cor. vi. 10, 20. )." From this temple you have driven away God, by your impurity, in order to introduce into it the evil spirit; and you have defiled the members of Jesus Christ, as the same apostle says : " Know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ?" Members which He has united to Himself in baptism, and which He so often feeds with His own Flesh and Blood in the Holy Communion.

Hear this, Christian, and learn there from your great dignity, and also your shameless wickedness in dishonoring Jesus Christ. Your eyes are the eyes of Christ, and you sully them with impure looks; your ears are the ears of Christ, and you allow them to be filled with the filth of impure conversation; your tongue is the tongue of Christ, and you defile it with un chaste discourse; your hands are the hands of Christ, and you use them to offend Him; your heart is the heart of Christ, and you besmear it with foul thoughts and desires; your body belongs to Jesus Christ, but you, like a foul animal, allow it to wallow in the mire of impurity! Wicked Balthasar, men still condemn you when they remember that you profaned the sacred vessels of the temple of Jerusalem, by using them as drinking cups. Godless heretics, all good Christians are horrified at the sacrileges you commit, when you break into Catholic churches and desecrate the sacred chalice and monstrance: although they are merely gold or silver vessels which have only an external holiness. But far more wicked are you Christians, who defile the temple of God and the members of Christ in yourselves by the degrading crime of impurity!

In this temple, you have sullied that beautiful image, your soul, which is made to the likeness of God, and which is so beautiful, that it attracted the love and admiration, not merely of men, but of the angels, of the Mother of God, and even of Our Lord Himself; whose beauty led the Almighty God, to give up His Only begotten Son to become incarnate, and to suffer extreme poverty, and a painful and shameful death; whose beauty forces even the demons to perform the lowest services for men, and to give them the whole world, if they could, in order to gain one soul. This beautiful soul you have so disgraced by your shameful lust, that it is now an abomination to God and His angels, and would be intolerable to all creatures, if they could only see it. Disgraced? That is too weak a word; for every mortal sin does that. You have completely blotted out that image.

Take a beautiful picture, and cut it here and there with a knife; it is spoiled; but still the main features may be traced in it; but throw it into the fire, and you will utterly destroy it. It is true that every mortal sin defiles the soul; still there are some lineaments of the former likeness left; it is the fire of impurity alone that completely blots out that image, turns it into that of a beast, and burns it up, so that there is nothing divine left in it. "My Spirit shall not remain in man forever, because he is flesh (Gen. vi. 3)." and lives according to the flesh; such are the words of God Himself.

By your own acts, unchaste man, you testify to the deformity of the vice of impurity, for you dare not gratify your desires, unless in private, so that you must be ashamed even of yourself, if you are not dead to all shame! And it is to a thing of this kind that you give the name of pleasure and enjoyment! Is that what men seek with so much trouble and anxiety? Alas, it is; and for such a short-lived, detestable, and disgraceful pleasure, the human heart allows itself to become so infatuated and blinded, that honor and good name, and one's mortal soul, and the riches and eternal joys of Heaven, and God Himself, the Highest Good, are all sacrificed so that hell alone remains as the lot of the impure man for eternity! Why should it be called pleasure? Is it not rather a bitter pain? It is so in reality, my dear brethren, for the unchaste find the very contrary of that which they seek; as I shall now prove.

Second Part

Cardanus writes that Queen Fennella gave King Kenneth of Scotland, a golden apple, which was so constructed, that when it was held in the hand for a certain time, it sent forth sharp arrows which inflicted a mortal wound; the king, ignorant of the danger, took the apple and lost his life by it. Impure and sensual desires offer a similar dangerous gift to men. St. Gregory of Nyssa says that "Lust is a cruel and tyrannical mistress, that always pierces the souls of its slaves with sharp arrows. And is it not true? With how many arrows is not the heart pierced, before the unchaste man is able to gratify his desires? Oh! cries out St. Bernard, how many uneasy and anxious thoughts, how many plans and contrivances, how many abasements and humiliations are required by that passion! If the impure man has still some thought and fear of God left, what uneasiness and terror he has in his conscience! All the principles of faith and right reason are against him; the all-seeing Eye of God, that is looking at him; the severe justice of the Almighty Judge, that he has to expect; the terrible uncertainty of death, that he has to fear in the very moment of his guilt; the miserable eternity that awaits him; the fire of hell that he deserves; the loss of heaven, that he has incurred; what frightful phantoms those are that haunt him! His conscience, if it is not deadened, cries out to him; Ah, unhappy man, what are you about to do? Where is your shame? What about your soul? Where is your God? He is present with you; He goes with you to the very place in which you intend to commit your abominations! What if He were to avenge Himself on you in the very moment of your crime? What if death surprised you then, and your soul were hurled down to hell? Can that be called a pleasure which in the very moment of enjoyment, fills the soul with such bitter thoughts? Is not that torment of the conscience enough to terrify any reasonable man, and to keep him from committing such a dreadful sin?

We read in the Bollandists an account taken from Caesarius, of a person living in a religious house, who was so blinded by impure desires, that he made up his mind to go back into the world and there gratify his passions. Acting on this determination, he was on the point of going out at the door of the church when a crucifix placed itself in his way; nothing daunted, he proceeded to another door and there was met by a picture of the crucified Saviour; he was somewhat frightened at this but not converted, so he went on, and again encountered the same picture, which looked at him threateningly, as if to warn him from carrying out his design. (All Christians, my dear brethren, should keep Jesus crucified before their eyes when they are tempted to impurity; one look at the cross should more than suffice to keep them from yielding to sin, and to lead them back to the way of virtue. For the thought must suggest itself: this head was crowned with thorns for me, those feet and hands were pierced with nails for me, this whole body was scourged and covered with wounds and blood for me. Why then do I not take a scourge and chastise myself, that I may do something for the love of Him who so loved me? At least, God, do not allow me to insult Thee by committing this vile sin before Thy very eyes. So should each one think, when tempted to impurity.) Ought not that person to have entered into himself, after having been three times warned by Christ Himself in such a remarkable manner? But no; notwithstanding all that, he went to the side door, saying: How much trouble it takes for me to enjoy myself only once in my whole life! With these words he passed a marble statue of the Blessed Virgin, which stretched out its arm and dealt him such a terrible blow, that he lay half dead on the floor. He spent the night in a state of the greatest alarm, and from that moment had such a horror of impurity, that he would rather undergo death itself than do the least thing contrary to chastity.

All men whose consciences are not hardened have the same fear and dread to experience, although not in a miraculous manner, when they make up their minds to commit a sin of impurity. But even if the unchaste man has hardened his conscience, and forgotten God, he must still carefuliy hide his excesses from the eyes of men; he must have recourse to a hundred contrivances to keep his sin concealed, and he must condescend to the most slavish and degrading actions, before he succeeds in gaining his end; he must bear all his fears and labors alone.

But if all this trouble is in vain, and he fails in inducing the other party to consent to his sinful proposals, he is despised and enjoyment looked down upon (and how justly do not all servants of God treat such infamous proposals with the contempt they deserve, instead of listening to them; repelling them even with violence if necessary). And what a disgrace that is to him! What hatred and rage he feels at it! And to what a pitch of desperation it drives him to have to hate the person whom he wished to love, and by whom he wished to be loved! Consider, says St. John Chrysostom, how the unchaste wife of Potiphar became the slave of her inordinate desires; she who was mistress of her house, threw herself at the feet of her servant, and spared no effort to win his love. Would she not have been a thousand times happier if she had never allowed her desires to get the better of her? Joseph, who feared God more than he did his mistress, took to flight and left his mantle behind him. How great the rage of the slighted woman, when she saw herself rejected in that manner! Hatred filled her heart instead of love, and forced her to accuse Joseph falsely and have him cast into prison. Consider how Ammon fared, when he became a victim to his incestuous passion. He faded away and looked like a dead man, so that every one who saw him asked: "Why dost thou grow so lean from day to day, son of the king?" Is that to be called a pleasure, I ask again, which, before it is enjoyed, fills the heart with such bitter cares?

And suppose the unchaste man succeeds in his attempt; does not the gratification of his passion, which he so much longed for, torture and afflict him? What sharp thorns pierce his heart! His wicked desires are like so many executioners that torture causes him; nay, we might say that if all the pain and sorrow that the other passions cause one to feel, were put together, they would not equal the tyranny with which the impure passion treats the heart it has mastered. Nor does that passion give to its votaries the joy and pleasure that the other passions sometimes bring with them. All the care and anxiety of the miser in keeping and increasing his store; all the uneasiness and jealousy of the ambitious man in seeking for honors; all the bitterness of the vindictive man against his enemy; all the venom that gnaws at the heart of the envious man; all the chagrin and discomfort that torments the impatient man, and drives him to cursing, swearing, and blasphemy; all these things together must the impure man bear in the prosecution of his evil designs.

Unfortunate man, says St. John Chrysostom. how you are to be petied. Show me one hour out of the twenty-four in which you really enjoy peace and rest; count the numberless desires that unceasingly torment you, when the object of your sinful passion is absent; count the sleepless nights, the disquieting dreams that break your sleep; the cares that plague you; the trouble and anxiety, the despair that takes possession of you, if anything occurs to prevent you seeing the object of your passion; count the uneasy thoughts that assail you when that object is present, knowing that your love is unlawful and cannot last; the very consolation of those who love each other unlawfully consists in the sighs which testify to their mutual anxiety; count the suspicious and jealous thoughts that fill the mind; the envy, rage, hatred and vindictiveness, if there is the least cause given for jealousy; consider the pain caused by the very object of the unlawful love, the least sign of neglect or forgetfulness, a change of manner, a look, a word, even silence itself is enough to fill the heart with melancholy, sorrow, and even despair; the revenge on the favored rival is nothing but an increase of the secret and intolerable torment; if anything happens adversely to either of the guilty parties, the other feels it just as keenly.

All this you must acknowledge, impure man; you sing of it in your love-songs, and you declare openly that there is no greater torment than a sinful passion. It is experienced even by those who have sworn constant fidelity to each other in the holy sacrament of matrimony, and who therefore, are bound to love each other. How much more, then, must that torment be felt by those whose love is unlawful, and forbidden by God under the penalty of eternal damnation! "Oh, how bitter are the fruits of of lust," says St. Jerome, "they are more bitter than gall, more cruel than the sword!"

Since impure love re-unites all the pains and bitterness of the other passions, it can enjoy none of their sweets and comforts. The proud and ambitious man, after all the trouble and care he has, can enjoy the position he has gained; the avaricious man although he plagues himself immensely, has a pleasure in his riches: the revengeful man, although he is tormented with bitter thoughts, has some satisfaction in avenging himself; the glutton has pleasure in eating and drinking ; and all these pleasures may be had together, but there is nothing of the kind in unchaste love; for there is no satisfaction in money or honors, creating or drinking when the beloved person is absent; this absence alone turns every joy into a sorrow. You may talk to the impure man hundreds and thousands of times of the eternal joys of Heaven, he will not feel the least desire for them. He would willingly give them up, if he could satisfy all his wishes on earth. He cannot even imagine a joy which does not consist in impure love. He is inclined sometimes to envy the beast of the field, and to wish that he had neither reason nor freedom, that he might gratify his passions without shame, or the fear of eternal damnation. So that he has lost all pleasure in, and taste for everything; nay, his ruling passion itself gives him no content, because his desires increase more and more, and the greater they are, the harder it is to satisfy them.

According to Peter of Celle, "the impure man becomes more full of desire the more he gratifies himself, and with the desire the torment he has to suffer increases also." I no longer wonder at the teaching of St. Augustine; just as the tyrants in former times, he says, urged on the executioners to torture the martyrs of Christ, so also the devil makes use of impure desires to torture his martyrs. He himself had to acknowledge, that before his conversion his experience taught him that "the unchaste man is more tortured by his passion, than the martyrs were by shedding their blood." And this he said while he was still given to impurity.

When the enjoyment is passed, and the occasion of it is taken away by death or other separation, what happens then? Disgrace before the world, shame of one's self, gnawing remorse, which according to St. Augustine, is almost like the pain of hell; such are the fruits of impurity; bitter repentance follows on satiety. I have sinned! All the pleasure is gone! My honor, my innocence, my soul, my God, Heaven, all is lost! If I were to die now? If the earth would open and swallow me up after I have fallen into the hands of the devil? Such are the cries of conscience that the impure man hears day and night. And besides this, there is another torment, namely that of having to tell his sin with all its circumstances in confession, a thing that appears most difficult, nay, impossible to some; so that they prefer to remain for ten, twenty, thirty years at enmity with God, and making sacrilegious confessions and communions, nay, they sometimes actually choose to go to hell, rather than disclose their shame to one unknown man, who is bound to the strictest secrecy; or else if they get an extraordinary grace and resolve to tell their sins, they have to disclose all their past sinful lives, to their ten-fold confusion, because all their former confessions were bad. See, there you have the fruits of that short, shameful and bitter pleasure!

With reason did Demosthenes say to a lewd woman, who tried to tempt him, and every Christian should make the same answer when similarly tempted: "I do not wish to buy repentance at so dear a rate; away with you; I am not so foolish as to expose myself to bitter suffering for such a short pleasure! Some time ago, outside confession, as otherwise I could not say anything about it, and in another place, a person acknowledged to me that he had lived for some years in unlawful intercourse, and that he was so infatuated, that if he had seen hell open before his eyes, he still would refuse to be converted; now the occasion of sin was taken away, and he was freed from his passion, and, said to me, in a most impressive manner: "Father, if this bowl (alluding to one he was holding) were filled with money and it was all to be given to me on condition, of my allowing myself to be enslaved by such a passion, even if it were not forbidden by God, I would not consent, solely on account of the continual torment that I should have to suffer. Now since I have done penance, I can live contentedly; before, my life was like a hell on earth. So it is, says St. Augustine: "Thou hast commanded, Lord, and therefore, every inordinate desire punishes itself." "I will go after my lovers (Osee ii. 5)," says the lewd woman in the Book of Osee; thinking perhaps, that she will have much enjoyment; but the Lord says: "Wherefore I will hedge up thy way with thorns;" I will overwhelm you with such bitterness that it will utterly poison the short joy you seek.

Nevertheless, such is the infatuation produced by this passion, that unless the occasion is taken from them by violence, those who are infected with it, like the person I have spoken of, find from that it almost impossible to be converted. They are to my mind like the bear that belonged to a certain prince ; the prince one day caused a pot full of boiling honey to be placed before the bear which rushed at it eagerly, but the scalding honey burned the animal's mouth, and made him retreat from the pot, growling fiercely; still he did not forget the sweet taste, and he came back again with the same result as before, and repeated this three or four times, until the scalding honey was too much for him, and he fell down dead at last. That is a true picture of the impure man; like a madman, he swallows down poisoned draughts of pleasure, until his heart, his mind, his conscience, his honor all are gone, and still he cherishes his fatal passion until death puts an end to it, or some other violent means takes away the occasion of it. See what they gain who seek impure pleasure! They look for joy and find sorrow.

Oh, certainly they are martyrs of the devil! Accursed sin, what misfortune thou causest! Accursed lust, thou art the pestilence that has infected the souls of most men, and for the sake of a few moments of vile pleasure, hast given them over to beg of God the torments of hell! Ah, I should rather weep bitter tears for those unfortunates, than speak to them, for words will do them no good! Mercy, God, mercy! Pity so many of Thy creatures who are made to Thy image and likeness, and whom Thou hast redeemed by Thy blood, but who are so blinded by shameful lust, that they cannot see their misery, so that they become an easy prey to the devil! How long, Lord, how long wilt Thou permit the loss of so many souls? Ah, even one drop of Thy blood is enough to extinguish the fire of passion in us all! Holy angels, save from this vice the innocent children intrusted to your care, that they may not hear or see anything to scandalize them! And you who are still innocent, guard your senses if you wish to preserve your purity; call every day upon the Blessed Virgin and your guardian angels, to save you from all dangerous occasions, and to inspire you with a lasting horror of even the least impure thought. Think and say in all temptations with the chaste youth, Casimir: I would rather die than commit such a sin; I will serve my God in purity of heart and soul, and I will love Him above all things in time and eternity. Amen.


Prayers for the Grace of Purity

To thee, O Virgin Mother, who was never touched by any spot of original or actual sin, I commend and entrust the purity of my heart.

(Indulgence of 300 days)

O Mary, thou didst enter the world without stain; do thou obtain for me from God, that I may leave it without sin.

(Indulgence of 300 days)

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

(Indulgence of 300 days)

Lord, burn our reins and our hearts with the fire of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may serve Thee with chaste bodies and pure minds. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

(Indulgence of 3 years)

Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty and everlasting God, that we may attain to purity of mind and body through the inviolate virginity of the most pure Virgin Mary. Amen

(Indulgence of 500 days)

Act of Contrition

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.