By Paul Kokoski
Special to The B.C. Catholic
At Fatima our Blessed Mother told Bl. Jacinta Marto, "More souls go to Hell for the sins of the flesh than for any other reason."
Today we are living in an extremely sexually permissive society. Temptations to sins of the flesh are everywhere: from billboards, art, advertising, newspapers, television, music and the Internet to the way people dress.
Even human law encourages sexual depravity and lust with its legalization of contraceptives, prostitution, swingers clubs, homosexual behaviour, and "same-sex marriage."
After abortion, pornography is perhaps the most pressing issue of our age. It is a big business that victimizes everyone, including those who market and sell it.
The Internet especially makes it possible for pornography to enter every home with its potential of corrupting whole families, including children. It is degrading, ruins family relations, and leads to everything from incest, adultery, prostitution, and violence to human trafficking and murder.
In order to conquer these temptations to hedonism and reach heaven we must be constantly on guard to repel and overcome our tendencies toward lust.
What is the nature of lust? Just as God has willed to attach pleasure to our nutritive appetites for the purpose of man's self-preservation so He has attached a special pleasure to the act of sex for the propagation of the human species. This pleasure is only permissible within marriage.
Unfortunately we have a tendency to abuse this desire. This tendency, more violent in some than others, is called lust and is condemned by both the 6th and 9th commandments: "Thou shall not commit adultery" and "Thou shall not covet thy neighbour's wife."
These commandments not only prohibit external actions but internal fancies, thoughts, and desires. Why? When we dwell on impure thoughts and desires the senses become excited and can be a prelude to actions against purity.
Thus Christ warned: "Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:28).
Sins against impurity are often grave. To seek and to directly will evil pleasure is a mortal sin.
Acts that are unnecessary and which give rise to pleasure, such as dangerous reading, shows, conversations, lewd dancing, etc., are sins of imprudence. They are more or less grave according to the gravity of the disorder produced and of the danger of consent to the evil pleasure.
If pleasure indirectly follows from actions that are good, and one does not consent to them, there is no guilt.
We are all called to perfection. Impure acts lead to tyrannical habits and incline the will further toward debasing pleasure. They dry up one's love for prayer and virtue and make one prey to selfishness. The mind too becomes dull and weak because the vital forces are used up by the senses.
Soon a taste for serious study is lost; the imagination gravitates toward lower things; the heart gradually withers, hardens, and is attracted only by degrading pleasures. Even physical attributes, like the nervous system, are affected.
To withstand the dangerous passion of lust we need deep conviction, protection against dangerous occasions of sin, mortification, and prayer.
Deep convictions about the risk of eternal punishment are necessary to combat this vice. In light of our own frailty, we also need to avoid the occasions of lust. This is especially true with unnecessary occasions. When these occasions cannot be avoided, we must strengthen the will by interior dispositions that make the danger more remote.
St. Francis de Sales declared that if dances cannot be avoided they should at least be indulged in with modesty, self-respect, and good intentions. How much more necessary is this today, when so many indecent dances are in vogue!
Occasions that we cannot avoid in our daily encounters can be overcome only by mortification. The eyes, for example, should be especially guarded, for imprudent glances enkindle desires which in turn entice the will. Hence Our Lord declared: "If your right eye is an occasion of sin it must be plucked out" (Mt 5:29).
The sense of touch is fraught with even more danger. Hence one should abstain from any bodily contact or caress that cannot but excite the passions.
The heart also must be mortified by struggling against whatever may be sentimental, sensual, or dangerous in the domain of friendship. Love must remain chaste and supernatural.
Another form of mortification concerns the fulfillment of our duties of state, the various states of Christian life being the lay state (single or married), the religious state, and the priesthood. Work and the avoidance of idleness keeps our imagination, mind, and heart away from dangers.
Almost everyone, even those in the holy state of marriage, experiences difficulties with regard to chastity and purity. To overcome these, frequent prayer or oft-repeated elevations of the soul toward God, and consideration of the great truths of religion, are necessary.
To these must be joined frequent reception of the sacraments, especially confession and Communion. In confession we receive counsel and the grace of absolution to strengthen the will against temptation. Holy Communion cools the fires of concupiscence, awakens the soul to the reality of spiritual goods, and thus withdraws it from attachments to degrading pleasures.
Getting to heaven is not easy today, because of the onslaught of sexual permissiveness. Defence against this requires courage, earnestness, and repeated effort, but with prayer, the sacraments, and a determined will we can surmount all obstacles.
Paul Kokoski is a Hamilton, Ont., freelance writer.