Growing in Holy Purity

Pope John Paul II, at a homily during a pastoral trip to Sandomierz, Poland in 1999, rhetorically asked what is meant by the phrase “purity of heart.” He answered,

“At this point we touch upon the very essence of man who, by virtue of the grace of the redemption accomplished by Christ, has regained the inner harmony lost in Paradise because of sin. Having a pure heart means being a new person, restored to life in communion with God and with all creation by the redemptive love of Christ, brought back to that communion which is our original destiny.”

The inner harmony Christ won for man is directed toward communion with God, mankind’s original destiny, and is itself perfected by that communion. As the Pope went on to explain, it is by uniting himself to Christ, particularly in the sacraments, that man experiences the triumph of grace in the faculties of his nature: his mind is enlightened, his heart is purified, and his freedom is renewed. In our intellect, the dullness and darkness left by the Fall are healed by the gift of faith, so that now the Christian shares in the mind of Christ (cf. Phil 2:15). In our will grace triumphs through the freedom of love, to the point that the redeemed person seeks to make Christ’s will entirely his own by saying Yes to his personal calling. In our bodies grace triumphs through holy purity, which keeps God in the first place of all our loves. All of our happiness on earth comes through grace, and grace gives us happiness in these three ways: the gift of faith, the gift of our vocation, and the gift of holy purity. They are the greatest gifts God can give to man on earth.

Holy purity is a triumphant affirmation of love. It gives strength to the soul, and, we could say, a kind of lightness to the flesh, so that our hearts can soar to God in love. It is a source of hope for Christians living in the world today, people who know what their souls are worth and who aspire to live in a manner worthy of their calling. It causes one to experience the truth of the teaching that our bodies are meant to be temples of God, where he abides through love.

Holy purity is a gift of God, but he does not ordinarily grant this gift apart from our serious effort. Our struggle to live holy purity both prepares us to receive the gift, and, in some way, constitutes the gift as God wants to give it. Such was the case when God gave David victory over the Philistines: David’s effort to wage the war was blessed by God with success since it was imbued with faith and the desire to do God’s will. With us, our struggle to live holy purity also shows our faith in God, and our desire to be faithful to our Christian vocation. Purity is always a victory – which means that ordinarily it follows battle.

Convictions

The light of faith gives us some clear convictions that guide our struggle to live holy purity:

  1. It is always possible to conquer.

    St Augustine had fallen into despair due to sins against purity, and had thought that purity was impossible; later, he discovered and taught that victory here is always possible once we learn how to pray, and how to fight. This experience echoes the teachings of St Paul, when he tells the Corinthians, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength; but he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13). Commenting on this line, St Cyril of Alexandria writes, “He grants us the ability to endure. But it lies with us how we make use of this power given to us, whether vigorously or feebly. There is no doubt that in every temptation we have the power of enduring, provided that we make proper use of the power thus granted.”

    The faith teaches us that all things are possible for God: and that includes our victories over sin. Though purity is a gift of grace, we can say with certainty that God always gives it to those who humbly ask for it and strive to put it into effect.

  2. The spiritual means are more powerful than the human.

    Pelagius did not seem to struggle with any sins of the flesh; hence he taught that provided one has a good example to follow, only effort was required, and he denied that success was a matter of grace. This, of course, is a heresy. Spiritual progress is primarily a work of grace, even if that progress, when it develops, develops along lines of a human process of maturing.

    The denial of the primacy of grace is seldom put so bluntly by Christians today, but this doesn’t mean that Pelagianism is over. It is a perennial temptation, generally taking the form of an excessively human outlook concerning one’s spiritual life.

    A peculiarly modern way of having excessive human outlook about purity is to treat it as a psychological problem. It is true that irrational behaviors that are repeated due to cravings can be called addictions; this will be discussed more fully later. Still, one should take care not to make every problem a “clinical” one. It is first necessary to see that the spiritual means – piety, prayer and an intense sacramental life, love for God and our Lady – are more powerful than the human means, though the supernatural virtues impel us to use what human means we can.

  3. Pride and impurity go hand in hand – but pride is worse.

    It is easy to see that pride and impurity are closely related. Both can be seen in terms of a desire for selfish gratification: a self-centered love leads one to be excessively concerned with one’s own excellence, and, at the same time, to seek pleasure at the expense of love for God and others.

    In contrast, humility disposes one to focus one’s attention outside of oneself, and so makes one able to respond more generously to the promptings of charity. As one learns to love God and others more effectively, one discovers the joy that genuine self-giving brings with it. Holy purity is both a seal of authenticity and a safeguard for one’s gift of self.

Sincerity

One effect of pride in the soul is to make it ashamed of acknowledging its difficulties; and, conversely, one of the best ways to grow in humility is to grow in the virtue of sincerity. St. Josemaría spoke of “the dumb devil,” taking this phrase from the Gospels (cf. Mark 9:16) to identify that most difficult of devils to expel, one whose company is to be avoided above all. He makes his presence known by our silence. Persons afflicted by the dumb devil don’t speak about their problems: they may think that if they ignore the problem, it will go away. St. Josemaría would go so far as to say that if we conquer the dumb devil, our victory is assured; so when people asked him how to grow in purity, he always insisted: be sincere!

Sincerity with oneself

One must learn to be sincere with oneself before one can be sincere with God and others. Difficulties in purity often have in them an element of self-deception. For example, one may “innocently” enter a situation associated with previous falls, though the situation was avoidable — and even though one could have predicted in a reliable way that future problems would also occur there. These situations, called occasions of sin, are easily discerned if one is able to be sincere with oneself. For instance, one could ask oneself, “When and where have past falls occurred?” If one is sincere, one can often find that there is a common theme, some avoidable circumstance — this is the occasion of sin.

If one is sincere with oneself, one can also notice warning signs that temptations are gaining in strength: it may become difficult to work; one may feel clouded; one thinks of reasons to enter into an occasion of sin; one tries to ensure privacy or isolation; and so on. Sincerity with oneself at this stage is already a major victory, for if one knows to prepare for the struggle — for instance, by putting possible occasions of sin even more remote for a time — one’s victory is more assured.

Sincerity with God and others

Since the earliest days of the Church, Christians seeking perfection have found it useful to receive spiritual guidance from a priest or another trusted person of proven soundness. Having regular spiritual guidance is the fastest way to make progress in holy purity, for it allows one to live fully the virtue of sincerity. Difficulties can be acknowledged; problems can be foreseen; plans can be made with the advice, and the prayers, of the other person to help.

This help is particularly effective if one learns to make use of spiritual guidance “on time.” While it is never to late to be sincere, the earlier one is able to be sincere, the more effective spiritual guidance can be. If a fall occurs, confession restores one to grace, which cannot happen too soon. Prompt confession and the seeking of spiritual guidance also can stop a single lapse from turning into a full-fledged “relapse,” and can often show how decisively a person is seeking to win.

What does it mean to live a complete sincerity in spiritual direction? It is helpful to be complete, within the confines of good manners, without unnecessarily getting into details. Some important questions are:

Was the fall alone? In an isolated place? At night? If it involves the Internet, was one using the Net without a filter? Did one begin to use it without a purpose? While seeking entertainment? In a place associated with previous falls? How explicit was the material? How much time was spent viewing it? Did it lead to further sins? What was the quality of my struggle against the temptation, and at what point did the decision to commit the impurity occur?

Temptations

What exactly is a temptation against purity? Everyone has experienced thoughts about sexual matters. We have also all actively engaged in thinking about sexual matters, reading about them – for instance, what one is doing right now. None of this need constitute a temptation in any way.

A temptation is an impulse to sin, in which something appeals to our desire contrary to our good. The necessary element in temptation is desire. If a thought that is bizarre or explicit crosses our minds but does not appeal to our desires, or if it instead rouses disgust or anxiety, it does not really constitute a temptation. Action follows desire; temptations appeal to our desires and thus moves us to act.

When trying to grow in holy purity, people often focus on the nature of the sexual thoughts or images that beset them: their content, frequency, how vivid they are, and so on. This can be unhelpful – particularly in the time of temptation, when one is better off not letting one’s attention be fixed on these thoughts or images. Rather, what really matters is the state of our desires: how frequently certain cravings beset us, how intense they are, how long they last – since this is what would lead us to action. The thoughts or images we experience do not necessarily say anything about ourselves; what is most revealing of the core of the person is the state of the will: how inclined to act we were, whether we took steps to resist the temptation, what we did in the face of a particular temptation, and so on.

This is an important distinction since, as one progresses in virtue, the random sexual thoughts and images themselves still generally occur – even in the state of perfect virtue – but they become progressively less arousing (though they always can, particularly when involving touch and sight). The appeal of the impulse greatly diminishes — one could say that impure stimuli no longer “resonate” in the flesh, at least not to the degree they did before.

This is the distinction between sexual continence and holy purity: with the former, sexual thoughts and images arouse strong desires against right reason; with the latter, they do not.

Holy Purity Surpasses Continence

Continence is the virtue in the will whereby it contains the impulse of the passions. It is a state of tension that can be compared to keeping a lion on a leash. If one has heroic continence, the leash becomes a chain of steel, which can contain the lion even when he’s at his raging worst.

One must take care, however, not to think that continence is the only form of virtue regulating the passions, in which case becoming more virtuous would simply mean that the chains are becoming stronger and stronger. In reality, we are capable of much more than that. The ultimate goal is not for the lion to be chained, but for the lion to be tamed. When chained, its strength is useless to the master — indeed, all the master’s strength may be used in working the chains.

This state of tension, with its energies divided and lost, must be seen as only a middle ground. The goal is to have the lion seek of its own accord and with its full native strength the ends presented by the master. Chains would no longer be needed: the two would form a team. This is the state of holy purity regarding sexual desire.

This proper understanding of holy purity is uncommon in today’s culture. People typically confuse holy purity with continence — it is as if they had forgotten that the lion could be tamed. They think of purity as a burden, and see celibacy as a life spent gritting one’s teeth and repressing one’s cravings. Many despair of living purity, perhaps without even knowing it, and for this reason many fail to achieve the generosity that could have gained them the hundredfold.
If only they knew that holy purity is far greater, more accessible, and less burdensome than the sad virtue they imagined.

Holy purity is possible for everyone. It is not the last step a saint reaches on earth before having raptures, nor is it reserved for a few uncommon heroes. It is the ordinary state of Christians who live in response to their faith and vocation. Holy purity is a state of peace — relative peace, since there is no perfect peace on earth, for the soul here can still lose the goods it possesses — but abiding peace, nonetheless. The continent soul is at war with itself, and thus its energies are conflicted and dispersed. In holy purity, all the strength of the soul is channeled at the good one seeks. For this reason purity is far removed from the false peace of passivity. As a handmaid to hope, purity disposes one to noble actions and high ideals.

Growing in holy purity means learning to reshape our own desires until our desires are conformed to reason; and through reason, to faith; and through faith, to God.

Victory

“To defend his purity, St Francis of Assisi rolled in the snow, St Benedict threw himself into a thorn bush, St Bernard plunged into an icy pond… You…, what have you done?”

“You, a doctor-apostle, write to me: ‘We all know by experience that we can be chaste, living vigilantly, frequenting the sacraments, and stamping out the first sparks of passion before the fire can spread.’”

-St Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 143, 124

The second quotation clarifies the first: the saints knew how to stamp out the first sparks of passion before the fire spread. By doing so, they continually conquered in holy purity, to a heroic degree. The greater our love for God, the more we react to whatever could take us away from him. As said before, holy purity is not a virtue of the passive — it requires action.

The first act that purity requires is to not make our wayward passions stronger by acting on them. This is obvious; the more you give the passions what they want, they more insistently they ask the next time you say No. If we persevere in not acting on our wayward passions, they will necessarily readjust themselves. This is dramatically demonstrated in the whining of a spoiled child: if you take it shopping you will witness how its whining grows, reaches a fevered pitch, then withdraws in despair if not satisfied.

If one has had much dealings with a spoiled child, one probably knows that while it is impossible to prevent all whining, there are definite triggers that provoke more – such as going to a toy store. Parents who are unsure of whether they can withstand more whining must take care in such occasions. They may have to pay the price!

The same is true in the case of one’s own passions. With purity, we are dealing with matters of sin and eternal life; the stakes are high; we cannot foolishly expose ourselves to situations that could lead to sin, even if these situations are safe for others.

Serious falls in purity are preventable, to some extent, by managing the occasions in which they typically arise. The more routine or “automatic” the sinful habit has become, the more effort it will take to remain one step ahead of it. Avoiding the occasions of sin can thus give the person some time to consolidate their struggle, especially by strengthening the resolve of the will to resist the sinful habit.

The Internet, A Particular Challenge

Today, the ease of access to pornographic materials poses a particular challenge to living holy purity. In the past people were assisted somewhat by the shame pursuing this material would entail. This was for many, no doubt, a powerful deterrent.

Coming across sensual or pornographic images is almost inevitable if one spends time regularly on the Internet. One can inadvertently see something by misspelling a common web address, or by clicking on an innocuous-appearing ad that takes one to a pornographic site; adware can put pornographic advertisements on one’s computer. News and shopping sites often have lewd advertisements or pictures posted on them. Given the ubiquity of such material on the web, it is necessary to consider how one can use the Internet with prudence.

For those who have never had difficulty with pornography, the main consideration is whether one should install a filter. If the Internet is used regularly, this is certainly the safest option, even if it is not an absolute moral norm. A small spark of impure desire can quickly turn into a conflagration; the attraction to pornographic materials can develop rapidly, and is unpredictable. Those who have never had problems with the Internet still need caution in using it.

The Internet is like an old neighborhood that has turned bad; there may be certain shops there that are high quality, and which justify making a trip there; but one wouldn’t spend time hanging out there unnecessarily. Accordingly, the Internet should be used briefly, and always for specific purposes – especially for necessary professional work and email. Surfing the Web, or using it excessively for gathering news or information, can easily engender a frivolous attitude. Just as frivolous conversations if prolonged can easily turn impure, so unnecessary web browing if prolonged can easily take a carnal turn. Curiosity can be a sign of a healthy mind, and can be useful when properly directed; but it is similar to bodily appetites in that if it is not given a little less than it desires, it turns traitor. Many difficulties are prevented by habitually using the Internet only with a specific plan in mind, and not for prolonged periods of time.

The question of prudent use of the Internet changes somewhat when it has become an occasion of sin, i.e., after a person has developed an attraction to sin. Filters are more necessary in these cases, though they are not foolproof, and thus cannot be relied upon. It is extremely difficult to prevent an adult from accomplishing an evil that he is intent on accomplishing. Even so, a filter can limit the ease of access to perhaps the worst materials should a fall occur; some also have a means of informing another person, which can facilitate honesty and a greater commitment to change.

Not all sins against purity are equally problematic. According to St Thomas Aquinas, the strength of a habit depends on the intensity of the acts that create it, along with their duration or repetition (cf. ST, I-II, q52, art 3). Regarding impurity and the Internet, this suggests several factors that would be associated with more habitual, impulsive problems:

  1. The degree of explicitness in the material viewed (e.g., sensual images, “soft porn” nudity, “hard porn” – i.e., pornography as it is defined in CCC 2354);
  2. The time spent viewing them;
  3. Whether it leads to further sins against purity.

Given the possible dangers involved should an attraction develop, steps should be taken to safeguard oneself beyond the use of filters. It is always advisable that the Internet be used in an open, non-secretive setting – even if there have never been problems. Ideally, this would mean using it in a public place; or, at least, having one’s door open if at home or at work. For some, this also means not using the Internet at night, or when traveling.

If problems with the Internet have occurred exclusively in a given setting, this occasion may need particular care. The more decisive a person is in giving up these unnecessary risks, the more progress they will make. Whether these restrictions will need to be permanent – or even require a change in one’s work or studies – or whether they can take effect with special care until the person has grown in their ability to resist urges, depends on each individual.

Ultimately, the struggle to live holy purity cannot be confined to avoiding occasions of sin. While it is always necessary to avoid these occasions if they are unnecessary and proximate occasions of serious sin, care must be taken that the person struggling with these issues doesn’t develop a “siege” mentality. One must recognize that there are sensual images everywhere in today’s world; a complete avoidance of all of them is impossible. Because of this impossibility, one must learn to have dominion over one’s desires – which means learning to put out sparks whenever they occur, before the fire can spread.

Breaking the “Tunnel Vision”

Frequently people describe what happens to them when temptations to impurity grow strong as getting “tunnel vision.” It becomes difficult to think of anything else, and reasons to resist (especially spiritual reasons!) disappear from their awareness. Once this tunnel vision sets in, it seems that a fall becomes inevitable; some describe being on “autopilot.” This scenario can bring on a considerable sense of despair about ever persevering in purity.

Even if tunnel vision sets in, however, it is still breakable if one understands what is happening. Passions are a passive response to a perceived object. If we let our attention focus on a sexual object, predictably our desires will be aroused; and the more our desires are aroused, the more our attention becomes fixed on the object of the passion; and so there is a loop, in which the passion grows, and the attention paid grows, which feeds the passion, which feeds the attention – hence, the “tunnel” effect. The object could be something external, but is often something internal: an image or a thought (particularly the thought of engaging in an impure act). As one’s attention becomes fixed on the object, one’s ability to reason becomes clouded; one’s ability to remember reasons not to engage in the behavior fails; one’s ability to plan, to find a way out of the cycle, fails.

The human means to victory over impurity – the “learning how to fight” that St. Augustine described – involve breaking this tunnel vision.

Tunnel vision is a self-intensifying confluence of attention, desire, and an object of desire. Since our desires in themselves do not respond fully to voluntary commands, the process cannot be stopped by simply willing to not desire. Attention, however, is an active power of the soul, and so is under voluntary control to a much higher degree. To stop the cycle of escalation, the attention must be wrested from the object of the passion; depending on the strength of the passion, this may involve great effort – but it can always be done.

Mindfulness is the art of identifying the object of one’s attention, intentionally re-applying it to a neutral object, and then fixing it in place. With the practice of mindfulness (such as those found here), one can free one’s behavior from the pull of one’s passions. It gives one space to think, and to carry out the next step.

First, one needs to have reasons for not consenting very clear in one’s mind.

The passions confuse the reason, making it difficult to think of or remember anything that goes contrary to them; still, even in this enfeebled state, reason can recognize truth if it is presented to it – for example, by reading something one has written out in a moment of clarity. It can be extraordinarily difficult for reason to reason in the moment against the passion, and so it yields its consent; simply having reasons written out can prevent this collapse.

Another way of strengthening one’s reasons to not consent is to make the enjoyment of something positive contingent on living holy purity well. For instance, if one enjoys coffee, one can make this contingent on having lived purity well for the past week. The reverse side is that if one gives in to temptations against purity, one will refrain from this enjoyment for a week. Behaviorally, this approach is proven to reinforce desired behaviors; spiritually, one can offer the privation, should it occur, as a penance (cf. St. Josemaría, The Forge, 207).

Conversely, one can also strengthen one’s reasons for not consenting by making a sincere account of the “reasons” one uses when giving oneself permission to commit the impure act; typical examples would be, “I won’t be able to sleep [or work, or think clearly] until I just give in and get it over with;” or “This will be the last time I do this;” or “This isn’t really going to hurt anyone.” These “permissive thoughts” should be written down, either when they occur, or anytime one can recall them, for the very process of writing them down takes much of their convincing power away. After writing them all down, one should work through them, writing out arguments against them that highlight their fallacies. Having these counter-arguments written out and well-rehearsed can be of great help in the next time of trial.

Second, one needs to buy time.

Every minute one is caught in a strong passion, in which one does not act on the passion, is a victory. If these little minute victories are multiplied, the battle is won. No passion, whether desire, or fear, or anger, can remain intense without some reinforcement. Not even physical hunger remains intense if one does not act on it by eating, but rather quickly subsides. If one refuses to act on the passion, it will – it absolutely must – diminish. This process is called habituation.

Perhaps the most ordinary, and frequent, way this is done is by simply putting one’s attention into one’s work or studies; the virtue of industriousness is indispensable for governing one’s imagination. Since solitude can amplify memory and imagination, one can sometimes break the cycle by being sure to stay in the presence of others (either in person, or by phone). Physical activity rivets the attention outside of ourselves, and can be effective means to break the cycle. For more minor escalations, getting up and walking around can clear one’s mind. For more major ones, one can engage in exercise or menial tasks.

If a person has habitually committed sins against purity, they will need to pass through a time of enduring more intense cravings; but these eventually fatigue. One must weather them; they will gather strength, peak, and diminish. Provided one does not act on them, the desires diminish in strength until they substantially subside. In future skirmishes – which necessarily occur, though usually of less intensity – the person will have learned to fight humbly against them, and will be much less likely to despair and give in.

The road to freedom and self-mastery can be difficult. As one makes progress — especially in the first two weeks to two months — one may experience feelings of restlessness and irritability; one may feel more sad or anxious, and may find it more difficult to sleep. These are symptoms of withdrawal, and they are no call for alarm. During the time of withdrawal it is also common to have occasional surges in desire, which may feel overwhelming. These can be disconcerting if one doesn’t see them for what they are: signs of progress, part of a necessary stage to victory.

A surge in desire cannot last long: either one acts on it, or one conquers it. If one acts on the desire, the surge will diminish, perhaps for weeks, but will certainly come back, and will likely be even stronger (psychologists refer to this phenomenon when they speak of how intermittent reinforcement increases cravings). A common thought that leads to a fall during a surge is, “I might as well get this over with.” This thought is false: acting on the desires will certainly not lead one to getting over them, but rather to having them recur again and again. If one does not act on the impulse, it will dissipate; gradually the surges will be fewer and further between. After weeks or months, the passions will have been reshaped.

The key to defeating a surge in desire is to outlast it, using whatever means one has. These surges do not, indeed they cannot, last long. Falls are never inevitable. Should a fall seem to be inevitable, one should simply reason that this is the cunning of concupiscence, trying to persuade one to give in. Sometimes in these moments people find it useful to set a timer, e.g., for three or five minutes, and resolve with all their strength to resist for that time. When the five minutes are up, they are repeated; the more desperate the desire seems, the closer it is to collapsing; and as the desire subsides, the time can be extended for longer, up to a half hour. The desires do always recede if not acted upon.

The Heart’s True Desire

“The heart has been created to love, do not doubt it. Let us therefore bring our Lord Jesus Christ into the love that we feel. Otherwise, the empty heart takes revenge and fills itself with the most despicable vileness.”

-St. Josemaría Escrivá, Furrow, 800

Problems with purity can in some cases be thought of as the reaction the heart takes when it is not being filled in its deepest need for intimacy and self-giving; the person is unfulfilled, and tends to become self-centered.

Although we have discussed ways of growing in purity by avoiding acting on impure desires, there is another way of growing in purity that is even more direct. If what has been mentioned above is similar to King David’s struggle against the Philistines, the “direct way” of growing in purity is like Hezekiah’s “victory” over the Assyrians (cf. 4 Kings 19). This king did not pick up arms, for he could not: instead he turned to God, who slew one hundred and eighty-five thousand invaders in one night on Israel’s behalf.

A similar transformation in the soul’s fortunes occurs when the soul sets its attention wholly on God and learns to place all of its trust in him. Turning one’s affection to God in the moment of temptation, and doing so through the surest path, a tender love for the Virgin Mary, is the most powerful means the soul has for conquering. As a supernatural means, one obtains from God the necessary grace to win; as a human means, this practice leads the heart to desires and affections that are incompatible with impurity.

As the soul learns to love God, it discovers the remarkable power love has to turn everything into itself. Burdens are made light when borne with love, for they become a way of showing love. Self-denial and sacrifice likewise become another way of loving God. As the desire for God grows in the soul, the soul’s energy remaining for other desires wanes; and its desire for things that goes against God’s love changes to a holy aversion as its love for him grows. Love for God directly produces holy purity in the soul.

The soul can facilitate this work of love by learning to make sacrifices for God. In a way similar to turning one’s affection to God and our Lady, the practice of mortification is simultaneously a supernatural means of winning grace and a human means of acquiring dominion. It is not important what is sacrificed, or how great the sacrifice is; it suffices that the soul offer the denial of what it desires for the love of God. The point is not to produce pain, but rather to accustom oneself to keeping one’s desire for God in the forefront while letting other competing desires, even the most innocuous, take second place. When done for the sake of being free to love God more, this practice leads the soul to a new height of freedom in which the soul rejoices in being master of its urges, and finds itself able to love God with more affection than ever before.

Purity grows in tandem with the affection we have for our Lord. Developing a phrase from St Paul (Rom. 12:21), St. Josemaría used to say that we must “drown evil in an abundance of good.” To have one’s desires fixed on our Lord, it is not enough to make a few tepid acts of love for God. One must make an abundance of acts, filling the heart until the competing love is drowned. As the saints commonly taught, contemplating our Lord’s passion and death, his presence of the Eucharist, and the love of his most holy mother Mary greatly facilitates the growth of affection and devotion in the soul. By this contemplation, the soul grows in compassion for our Lord, and develops a strong personal sense of loyalty to him — both of which serve to make sin repugnant to it.

The love that overflows into and orders rival passions must be ardent, the kind of love that one is said to “fall into.” It is how St. Josemaría finished his first work, The Way:

“And what is the secret of perseverance? Love. Fall in Love, and you will not leave him.”

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }