Half of Men’s Confessions:
Fulton Sheen once said that a man must pray and reason to purity. Grace is the anecdote but human cooperation is required. Without God’s help sexual pleasure can easily be isolated and pursued for its own sake. But when it is sought as an end in itself, lust can turn on him and enslave him.
A local bishop once told me that over half of the confessions he hears has something to do with pornography. The consumption of porn and the indulgence of lust are widespread but yet it is hardly ever discussed in many Catholic parishes. Some refer to it as the “silent sin.” Although this sin is silent, in so far as it is done in secret and rarely talked about, it does destroy marriages. Worse yet, it destroys souls as well.
Man’s Greatest Strength:
Man’s greatest strength is his greatest weakness. He can relentlessly pursue a goal with a tunnel-like vision regardless of the hazards. For instance, discovering the New World in the 1400’s and 1500’s and flying to the moon in 1969 were great enterprises conceived and carried out by men. The loss of lives was a distinct possibility in each venture but the ambition of the explorers and astronauts remained. But what can be used to achieve noble ends can also be leveraged against man’s greatest good; namely, his own soul. Women sometimes have a hard time understanding that men are visual. He can lock into an image. One glance of a woman immodestly dressed can cast an image in his mind, an image that may linger in the company of his thoughts for a long time if it goes unchallenged.
Love Chastity: Hate Lust
Proverbs 13:19 states: “Lust indulged starves the soul, but fools hate to turn from evil.” Why does lust starve the soul? Because this particular vice thrives on self-satisfaction. It compels men to get and not to give. Lust can be so strong in a man that he his capable, in a worst case scenario, of having sex with a woman he hates and enjoy it. And in ordinary circumstances, it can insinuate itself in subtle ways. Men do not realize that they can cease to value other attributes of a woman because of lust. Her personality and her needs as a person may fall outside his radar screen. If a man can depersonalize a woman in sexual pleasure, he is much more likely to do so in anger. A woman may please a porn addict or lustful man in bed but if she becomes disagreeable to him elsewhere in the house, she may get hurt. This is why porn stars and prostitutes have a high mortality rate. Often, they are exploited and then dispensed with. Indeed, the so-called sexual liberation of the 1960’s is really a kind of slavery for many men and women.
Due to the power of sexual sin, Jesus speaks in such aggressive terms when teaching about lust and adultery. He said that it wasn’t enough to abstain from adultery. Men are to refrain from deliberately thinking about it and desiring it. With this, Our Lord went on to mandate a kind of spiritual and moral violence against oneself. He said if an eye causes you to sin- pluck it out! If a hand causes you to sin- cut it off! Here, he uses graphic imagery to convey the need to hate sin, particularly lust. It is not enough to love virtue and moral purity. One must hate lust, hate premarital sex, and hate adultery; so much so that the follower of Christ must be willing to sacrifice even those good things in his life that may occasion sin.
1. First, there must be an incentive to make hate sin and make the necessary sacrifices to attain sexual purity. A man must come to reflect on the benefit and value of fidelity and chastity. He must furthermore trace out in his mind the logical conclusion or outcome of his capitulation to lust. Whether it be an immodest image of a woman or a woman in real life that has become a source of temptation, thinking things through and considering the impact of one’s infidelity or lust is a must. Too often men do not ponder enough that sexual sin is a dead-end road, a road that involves much pain for other family members too; the damage of which can take years to undo.
2. Secondly, and even more important, men seldom consider how offensive sexual infidelity can be to God. With every lustful thought or sexual indulgence outside of marriage, his soul is blemished and stained. And if he wishes to enter into God’s kingdom, that sin must be purged. Such purgation always involves suffering. St. Paul even reminds the Corinthians not to deceive themselves, no fornicator will inherit the kingdom of God. Or as St. Bonaventure said, to commit mortal sin is to make your soul God's grave. We can forfeit eternal life if we so choose. We must think about this.
3. This leads to our third consideration: During the temptation, be severe with yourself. As stated above, remind yourself of the cost of lust and its false promises. Keep in mind that lust or sexual temptation promises more than it can deliver. Other than female slaves and prostitutes, there is not a respectable woman in the world who is willing to cooperate with every sexual desire or whim a man might have. For most men- even married men, easy access to sex is forever out of reach. The appetite of hunger, on the other hand, can be much more easily satisfied. When a McDonald’s commercial stimulates hunger, a man can drive down to the nearest McDonald’s and buy some cheap food. But when sexually explicit images awaken a man’s libido, it cannot be readily satisfied. This is why discipline is needed. With that said, if you fall from grace by giving into lust- in whatever way –do not berate yourself. Peacefully pick yourself up, confess your sins and make the proper amends not to do it again. Remember God’s mercy is greater than your sin.
4. Fourth, frequent the Sacrament of Confession a few times a month. God’s strength is to be found there. And if you should know the priest in the confessional booth, and you have to face him time and time again, such humiliations are good for the soul.
5. Fifth, remember you are a priest of God. When tempted, offer that sexual inclination on the altar of your heart. There must be a context to the pain of self-denial. Either unite yourself mystically to the Mass or assist with the Mass in person so that Christ can absorb it in His Holy Sacrifice. Sexual thoughts cannot be wished away. They have to be crowded out with something to replace them. Use your priestly calling. Slay the lamb and offer it up!
6. Sixth, and related to the previous consideration, meditate on the Passion of Christ. This is a great source of strength and it will help you “crucify” your own flesh, so to speak. Remember what St. Paul said: “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13) Unite yourself to Christ’s Passion in your daily meditation. Your self-denial can be a pleasing form of worship to the Lord. Again, to quote St. Paul: “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.”
7. Lastly, invoke the Blessed Virgin who exudes purity even from heaven. Ask her to share her virginal purity with you. She will be more than happy to help a son or daughter overcome a sin that snatches so many souls from her Son. Ask her to guard your purity. In fact, I would argue she is the shortcut to sexual purity. With her on your side, the devil will be put to flight.