The following ten points are a game plan for purity.
Without them, I do not know how any of us will succeed. But with them, all things are possible.
1. Admit the problem and set the goal
By nature, men do not like to admit their problems. When it comes to impurity, we must pray for the humility to see the state of our souls. We all struggle in this area, and we need God's grace to change.
As for the goal, the Bible tells us that there should not be even a hint of immorality among us (Eph. 5:3). This is certainly difficult, but all men like a good challenge.
If you struggle with porn or masturbation, you may have become so entrenched in these habits that giving them up for years seems impossible. Do not give in to discouragement. Instead, set reachable goals for yourself, such as, "I'm not going to do it for two days, for a week, or for some period of time that I know I can reach." You will gain confidence in your ability to be pure if you focus on the next twenty-four hours instead of the next ten years. God asks only that you be pure one day at a time.
2. Remove the temptation
If we are serious about living a pure life, we need to take an honest look at when and where we fall. For many guys, it's at home when they're alone and bored after school or work or when they're at their girl-friend's house.
Regardless of the time or place, if you wish to make purity easier, avoid the situations that are an occasion of sin. Avoid relationships with girls who will only bring out the worst in you. Instead, date a woman with high standards, someone you can see yourself marrying. Talking about standards of purity can be awkward if you hardly know the girl. That's why it's so important to have a solid friendship with a girl before you commit to her.
We all need solid friends. As Proverbs 27:17 says, "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." Seek out friendships that will make you stronger, not weaker. I recently met a young man who said it was difficult to stay pure. His friends would get him drunk and then try to get him to lose his virginity to a girl he hardly knew. With friends like this, who needs enemies?
Lastly, get rid of any impure things you own. Without one last look, trash them. If you struggle with Internet porn, get a filter for your computer (filter review) or take advantage of an accountability site like Covenanteyes.com. If you take these steps, your temptations will gradually weaken. Imagine your desires if you haven't seen porn in a year. The memories will begin o fade, and the soul will regain its strength.
3. Go to confession
One way to replace your bad habits with good ones is to go to the sacrament of reconciliation at least once a month. By receiving the sacrament, you not only get your sins removed, you get abundant graces to avoid those sins in the future. Find a good priest who can be your spiritual director, and be open and honest with him. In the words of Pope John Paul II, "In order to see Jesus, we first need to let him look at us."
4. Receive the Eucharist
Never abandon the Mass. It is the fountain of purity. When Elijah was about to embark on a long journey, an angel said to him, "Arise and eat, else the journey will be too great for you" (1 kings 19:7). In the same way, we need the grace that comes from the Eucharist to persevere in purity.
St. John Chrysostom said, "The Eucharist is a fire that inflames us, that, like lions breathing fire, we may retire from the altar being made terrible to the devil." In the Eucharist, we find every grace that is needed for us to live as angels. If you are able, go to daily Mass. This practice is for those who have nothing better to do — which, in my eyes, is all of us.
It is also good to spend time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Pope John Paul II called it "the school of the Eucharist" where Jesus truly reveals the meaning of manhood.
Understandably, many young men find it hard to relate to Jesus. Christian art so often portrays him with such femininity that he looks as if he'd smell like rose petals if you ever met him. When we hear, "Be like Jesus," it does not appeal to us. It's about as inspiring as being told, "Be a nice boy." But look at a realistic crucifix with Christ's wide-open wounds, with his naked body scourged beyond recognition. This is the price he paid so "that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27). He suffered so that his bride, the Church, would be pure, and he calls us to do the same. His example of "This is my body, given up for you" is the antidote to our tendency to look at girls and think, "This is your body, taken by me."
If you have an adoration chapel at your church or a chapel at your school, spend time there. It will help to purify your eyes and your memory. Be generous with your time. Consider that the average American spends a decade of his life watching TV! I'm inviting you not only to spend a few minutes in front of the tabernacle but to spend years of your life in adoration!
5. Use personal prayer
In the words of one young man, "The way one treats a woman corresponds to the way one lives with God." We will live as we pray, so if your prayer lives are weak, we will lack the strength to be pure. We may complain that purity is difficult, but how often do we ask God for the gift of purity? Especially when we feel tempted, we must have recourse to prayer. In the words of Pope John Paul II, "Love….is victorious because it prays."
Please pray for everyone who reads this booklet. Perhaps you can use a petition like that of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who asked a friend, "I beg you to pray for me a little, that God may give me an iron will that does not bend and does not fail in his projects." By praying for each other in this way, we can form an army of men interceding for each other to grow in the love of God. To the degree that we love God and women, we will be pure.
6. Ask the saints for help
I do not know of any man who lives a pure life without the help of others. We should take advantage of some of our greatest helpers: those who are in heaven. For starters, take up a greater devotion to your guardian angel. When you feel weak, ask your guardian angel for strength. He's not the overweight winged toddler you see on a Christian greeting card. He's a supernatural creature with immeasurable power to assist you. Unfortunately, we are all oblivious to our angels most of the time.
Take up a devotion to St. Joseph. Considering that the Church honors him as "Guardian of the Virgin" and "terror of Demons," he's the ideal saint for young men.
Most important is a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is essential as a Christian to have a personal relationship with Christ, but the Lord also wants us to get to know his mother. There is a desire in every guy to have our masculinity affirmed by a woman. The more we feel drawn to a woman, the more we seek her approval. We want to please her, and we want to be seen as a man by her. There is one woman whose beauty surpasses all others, women who is the very essence of femininity. God himself chose her to be His mother, and gave her to be the wife of the greatest male saint, Joseph. She is our Lady, the Virgin Mary.
Take up our Lady's weapon, the rosary. Always keep one in your pocket, and pray it daily. Ask her to teach you how to look at women. Ask her how she would have you treat her daughters. In the words of Pope John Paul II: My desire is for the young people of the entire world to come closer to Mary….. May young people have increasing confidence in her, and may they entrust the life just opening before them to her.
Develop a true devotion to our Lady. You will make more progress under her protection than you would in years without her. Every single day, beg our Lady to grant you grace of purity, and you will see why the saints have boundless confidence in her intercession. Especially during moments of temptation, turn your eyes toward her. Entrust yourself to her, and you will see that nothing inspires masculinity as much as being in the presence of true femininity.
St. Josemaria Escriva said that, "gluttony is the forerunner of impurity." If we can learn to control our appetites when it comes to food, we will be better able to control our sexual desires. Instead of the desires of the body dominating the soul, the soul will control the body. As Pope John Paul II said, "The satisfaction of the passions is one thing, and the joy that man finds in mastering himself more fully is another thing."
Consider the pain people put themselves through to have perfect bodies, including workouts, diets, and plastic surgery. Yet we resist the idea of suffering to perfect our souls.
But fasting is not only a tool to help gain self-master; it is a powerful spiritual weapon. During an exorcism, Jesus said, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting" (Mark 9:29). Praying for purity without fasting for it is like boxing with one arm tied behind your back. This verse also tells us that the graces that come from fasting can be offered up for others.
Our sexual urge is a source of energy; it cannot be repressed, but it must be channeled somewhere. An effective way to deal with temptation is to replace it with a task. For example, offer up a fast for women. A great resource to help you do this is www.e5men.org, where you can join thousands of other men making the same sacrifice.
If you are unsure about how to fast, talk to a holy priest. His wisdom will guide your generous efforts.
8. Do something
"Flee idleness," St. Robert Bellarmine warned, "for no one is more exposed to such temptations than he who has nothing to do." It is important that we keep busy and not get bored and feel sorry for ourselves. Practice a sport, go out with friends, and serve the Church. Do something. As St. Francis of Assisi said, "Always be doing something worthwhile, then the devil will always find you busy."
9. Control your eyes and words
The eyes are the windows to the soul, and they are constantly challenged. The book of Sirach tells us: Turn away your eyes from a shapely woman, and do not look intently at beauty belonging to another; many have been misled by a woman's beauty, and by it passion is kindled like a fire. (Sir. 9:8)
Looking away is not our final goal. The reason for looking away is not that the woman's body is bad but that we're weak. It gives us time to reconsider what is valuable in a woman. Christ did not die for us so that we could spend the rest of our lives avoiding the sight of beautiful women. He came to transform our hearts so that we would be able to see her as God sees her. If his redemption of our hearts were not real, the Christian life would be unbearable. But with a real change of heart, we will, for example, feel pity for prostitutes instead of lust. Our sexual desires will not disappear. They will be elevated.
With this inner transformation, we will not only look at women differently, we will change the way we speak of them. Pure words flow from a pure heart and disclose the thoughts of a pure mind.
Having pure speech does not mean always talking about chastity. More often than not, it means holding back a crude joke or a comment about a women passing by. Perhaps St. John Vianney said it best when he described a man of impure speech as a "person whose lips are but an opening and a supply pipe that hell uses to vomit its impurities upon the earth."
Being a gentleman is not an act you play when you're in the presence of a woman. No matter how charming and polite you are around girls, if you sound like Howard Stern when you're with the guys, then you are no gentleman. In the words of the book of Sirach, "A man who has the habit of abusive language will never mature in character as long as he lives" (Sir. 23:15, NAB). If you don't control your words, you'll never control your body.
10. Exercise patient perseverance
Imagine being the baseball player who holds the record for having struck out the most times or the basketball player who missed 9,000 shots in his career, twenty-six of them potential game-winners. It sounds like these guys are losers, but these are the stats of Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan. They knew that the more you practice a particular sport, the easier the skills to succeed become. The same is true of purity. With practice, virtue becomes easier to live.
This is why St. Paul assured us that "in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us" (Rom. 8:37, NAB). There is no need to give in to discouragement or despair if you fall. Be patient with yourself. Pope John Paul II said that "chastity is a difficult, long term matter; one must wait patiently for it to bear fruit, for the happiness of loving kindness that it must bring. But at the same time, chastity is the sure way to happiness." If you think that's a bold promise, test his words for yourself.
"Do not imagine that you will overwhelm the demon of fornication by entering into an argument. Nature is on his side and he has the best of the argument. So the man who decides to struggle against his flesh and to overcome it by his own efforts is fighting in vain. The truth is that unless the Lord overturns the house of the flesh and builds the house of the soul, the man wishing to overcome it has watched and fasted for nothing. Offer up to the Lord the weakness of your nature. Admit your incapacity and, without your knowing it, you will win for yourself the gift of chastity." - St. John Climacus
Jason Evert. "How do you stay pure?" excerpted from Pure Manhood (Chastity Project, 2007).
Reprinted with permission of Chastity Project.
Jason Evert has spoken about the Catholic faith to more than one million people on six continents, and is the author of more than a dozen books, including Saint John Paul The Great: His Five Loves, Pure Manhood, If You Really Loved Me, Pure Faith, Theology of the Body for Teens, and How to Find Your Soulmate without Losing Your Soul. He and his wife Crystalina run the website chastityproject.com and live in Colorado with their children.Copyright © 2007 Chastity Project
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