- Chapter 1: Conversation and Solitude
- Chapter 2: How we must speak of God
- Chapter 3: Concerning evil and frivolous friendships
- Chapter 4: Concerning sensual friendships
- Chapter 5: Concerning true friendship
- Chapter 6: True vs vain friendships
- Chapter 7: Remedies against evil friendships
- Chapter 8: More advice on friendship
- Chapter 9: The Purity of St. Joseph
- Chapter 10: The Chastity of Mary
- Chapter 11: The Necessity of Chastity
- Chapter 12: How to preserve Chastity
- Chapter 13: Instructions for Married People
- Chapter 14: The Perpetual Virginity of St. Joseph
- Chapter 15: The Exercise of Exterior Mortification
Friendship, Love, and Marriage
An anthology of the Saints
Last updated: Jun 16th, 2021
Last changes: Added two chapters to beginning
Chapter 1: Conversation and Solitude
Conversation and Solitude.
To seek and to avoid conversation are two blamable extremes in the devotion of those that live in the world, which is that of which we are now treating. To shun all conversation savours of disdain and contempt of our neighbours; and to be fond of it is a mark of sloth and idleness. We must love our neighbours as ourselves, and to show that we love them we must not fly their company; and to testify that we love ourselves, we must stay with ourselves, when we are only by ourselves. “Think first of thyself,” says St. Bernard, “and then of others.” If, then, nothing presses you to go abroad into company, or to receive company at home, stay in yourself, and entertain yourself with your own heart; but if company visit you, or any just cause invite you into company, go, in God’s name, Philothea, and see your neighbour with a benevolent heart and a kindly eye.
We call those conversations evil which are carried on with some evil intention, or when the company is vicious, indiscreet, and dissolute: such as these we must avoid, as much as bees shun the company of wasps and hornets. For, as when persons are bitten by mad dogs, their perspiration, their breath, and their spittle become infectious, so vicious and dissolute persons cannot be visited without the utmost risk and danger, more especially by those whose devotion is as yet but young and tender.
There are some unprofitable conversations held merely to recreate and divert us from our serious occupations to which we must not be too much addicted, although we allow them to occupy the leisure destined for recreation. Other conversations have politeness for their object, as in the case of mutual visits and certain assemblies brought together to do honour to our neighbour. With respect to these, as we ought to be most cautious in the practice of them, so neither must we be uncivil in condemning them, but modestly comply with our duty in their regard, to the end that we may equally avoid both ill-breeding and levity.
It remains that we should speak of the profitable conversation of devout and virtuous persons. To converse frequently, Philothea, with such as these, will be to you of the utmost benefit. As the vine that is planted among the olive-trees bears oily grapes, which have the taste of olives, so the soul which is often in the company of virtuous poopie cannot but partake of their qualities. As drones alone cannot make honey, but make it with the help of the other bees, so it is of great advantage to us in the exercise of devotion to converse with those that are devout.
In all conversations, sincerity, simplicity, meekness, and modesty, are to be ever preserved. There are a sort of people who make gestures and motions with so much affectation that they cause trouble to the company; and as he who could never walk but by counting his steps, nor speak but by singing, would be troublesome to the rest of mankind, so they who affect an artificial carriage, and do nothing but with airs, are very disagreeable in conversation, for in such there is always some kind of presumption. Let a moderate cheerfulness be ordinarily predominant in our conversation. St. Romuald and St. Anthony are highly commended for having always, notwithstanding their austerities, both their countenance and their discourse adorned with joy, gaiety, and courtesy; “Rejoice with them that rejoice” (Rom. xii. 15). And again I say to you with the Apostle. “Rejoice always but in the Lord. Let your modesty be known to all men” (Phil. iv. 4). To rejoice in our Lord, the subject of your joy must not only be lawful, but also decent; and this I say, because there are some things lawful which yet are not decent; and to the end that your modesty may be known to all, keep yourself free from insolence, which is always reprehensible. To cause one of the company to fall down, to blacken another’s face, to prick or pinch a third, to hurt a fool, are foolish and insolent merriments.
But still, besides that mental solitude to which you may retreat, even amidst the greatest conversations, as I have hitherto observed (Ps. ii. 12), you ought also to love local and real solitude: not that I expect you should go into the desert, as St. Mary of Egypt, St. Paul, St. Antony, St. Arsenius, and the other ancient solitaries did, but to be for some time alone by yourself in your chamber or garden, or in some other place where you may at leisure withdraw your spirit into your heart and recreate your soul with pious meditations, holy thoughts, or spiritual reading. St. Gregory Nazianzen, speaking of himself, says: “I walked, myself with myself, about sunset, and passed the time on the seashore; for I am accustomed to use this recreation to refresh myself, and to shake off a little my ordinary troubles;” and afterwards he relates the pious reflections he made, which I have already mentioned elsewhere. St. Augustine relates that often going into the chamber of St. Ambrose, who never denied entrance to anyone, he always found him reading, and that after staying awhile, for fear of interrupting him, he departed again without speaking a word, thinking that the little time that remained to that great pastor for recreating his spirit, after the hurry of so many affairs as he had upon his hands, ought not to be taken from him. And when the Apostles one day had told our Lord how they had preached, and how much they had done, he said to them: “Come ye apart into a desert place and rest a little” (Mark, vi. 13).
Chapter 2: How we must speak of God
How we must speak of God.
As physicians discover the health or sickness of a man by looking on his tongue, so our words are true indications of the quality of our souls. Our Saviour says: “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matt. xii. 37). We readily move our hand to the pain that we feel, and the tongue to the love that we entertain.
If, then, Philothea, you love God, you will often speak of Him in your familiar conversation, with the members of your household, your friends, and your neighbours: “For the mouth of the just will meditate on wisdom, and his tongue will speak judgment.” (Ps. xxxvi. 30). As bees with their little mouths sip nothing but honey, so should your tongue be always sweetened with God, and find no greater pleasure than in the sweet praises and blessings of his name flowing between your lips, like St. Francis, who used to suck and lick his lips after pronouncing the holy name of the Lord, to draw as it were from thence the greatest sweetness in the world.
But speak always of God, as of God; that is, reverently and devoutly; not with ostentation or affectation, but with a spirit of meekness, charity, and humility, distilling, as much as you can, as is said of the Spouse in the Canticle (Cant. iv. 11), of the delicious honey of devotion, and of the things of God, drop by drop, into the ears sometimes of one and sometimes of another, praying to God in secret, that it may please Him to make this holy dew sink deep into the hearts of those that hear you.
Above all things, this angelic office must be done meekly and swiftly; not by way of correction, but inspiration: for it is surprising how powerfully a sweet and amiable manner of proposing good things attracts the hearts of hearers.
Never, therefore, speak of God or of devotion in a light and thoughtless manner, or for talk-sake, but rather with the utmost attention and reverence. I give you this advice, that you may avoid that remarkable vanity which is found in many false devotees, who upon every occasion speak words of piety and godliness, by way of entertainment, without ever thinking of what they say, and afterwards falsely imagine themselves to be such as their words imply.
Chapter 3: Concerning evil and frivolous friendships
From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 145:
Friendship: and, first, concerning that which is evil and frivolous.
Love holds the first place among the several passions of the soul; it is the sovereign of all the emotions of the heart, and directs all the rest towards it, and makes us such as are the objects of its love. Be careful then, Philothea, to entertain no evil love, for if you do you will presently become evil. Now friendship is the most dangerous love of all; because other loves may be without communication, but friendship, being wholly grounded upon it, we can hardly have close friendship for any person without partaking of his qualities.
All love is not friendship; for when one loves without being again beloved, then there is love but not friendship; because friendship is intercommunication of love, therefore where love is not mutual there can be no friendship. Nor is it enough that it be mutual, the parties that love each other must besides know of their mutual affection; for if they know it not they have love but not friendship. There must be also some kind of communication between them, so as to form the ground of friendship. Now, according to the diversity of the communications, the friendship also differs, and the communications are different according to the variety of the good things they communicate to each other; if they are false and vain, the friendship is also false and vain; if they are true the friendship is likewise true; and the more excellent the goods may be, the more excellent also is the friendship. For as that honey is best which is gathered from the most exquisite flowers, so also that friendship is best which is founded upon the most exquisite communication. And as there is honey in Heraclea which is poisonous, and makes those mad that eat it, because it is gathered from poisonous plants which abound in that country; even so, friendship grounded upon false and vicious communications is also false and vicious.
Communications founded on sensual pleasures is so gross that it does not merit the name of friendship among men; and if there were no other communication in marriage, there would be no friendship in it; but because, besides that, there is a communication in marriage, of life, of industry, of goods, of affections, and of an indissoluble fidelity, therefore the friendship of matrimony is a true and holy friendship. Such is also friendship that is grounded on accomplishments which are frivolous and vain, because these also depend on the senses. I call those pleasures sensual which are immediately and principally annexed to the exterior senses: such as the pleasures to behold a beautiful person, to hear a sweet voice, and the like. I call certain vain endowments and qualities frivolous accomplishments which weak minds call virtues and perfections. Observe how the greater part of silly girls, women, and young people talk: they hesitate not to say, Such a gentleman has many virtues and perfections, for he dances gracefully, he plays well at all sorts of games, he dresses fashionably, he sings delightfully, speaks eloquently, and looks well; it is thus that mountebanks esteem those in their way the most virtuous who are the greatest buffoons.
But as all these things regard the senses, so the friendships which proceed from them are termed sensual, vain, and frivolous, and deserve rather the name of foolish fondness than of friendship: such are the ordinary friendships of young people, which are grounded on curled locks, a fine head of hair, smiling glances, fine clothes, affected countenances, and idle talk—a friendship suited to the age of those lovers whose virtue is, as yet, only in the blossom, and whose judgment is only in the bud; and, indeed, such friendships, being but transitory, melt away like snow in the sun.
Chapter 4: Concerning sensual friendships
From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 147:
When these foolish friendships are kept up between persons of different sex, without intention of marriage, being but phantoms of friendship, they deserve not the name either of true friendship or true love by reason of their excessive vanity and imperfection. Now, by means of these fondnesses the hearts of men and of women are caught and entangled with each other in vain and foolish affections, founded upon these frivolous communications, and wretched complacencies, of which I have been just speaking.
And although these dangerous loves, commonly speaking, terminate at last in downright immorality, yet that is not the first design or intention of the persons between whom they are carried on, otherwise they would not be merely sensual friendships, but absolute impurity. Sometimes even many years pass before anything directly contrary to chastity happens between them, whilst they content themselves by giving to their hearts the pleasures of wishes, sighs, and such like foolish vanities.
Some have no other design than to satisfy a natural desire of affection; and these regard nothing in the choice of the objects of their love but their own taste and instinct; so that, at the first meeting with an agreeable person, without examining his interior or comportment, they begin this fond communication, and entangle themselves in these wretched nets, out of which afterwards they find great difficulty in disengaging themselves. Others suffer themselves to be carried on by the vanity of esteeming it no small glory to conquer hearts by love. Now these, aiming at glory in the choice they make, set their net and lay their snares in high, rare, and illustrious places. Others are led away at the same time, both by their amorous inclination and by vanity; for though their hearts are altogether inclined to love, nevertheless they will not engage themselves in it without some advantage of glory. Such affections are all criminal, foolish, and vain: criminal, because they usually terminate in great sin, and because they rob God, the wife, or the husband of that love, and consequently of that heart which belonged to them; foolish, because they have neither foundation nor reason; vain, because they yield neither profit, honour, nor content; on the contrary, they are attended by loss of time, are prejudicial to honour, and bring no other pleasure than that of an eagerness in pretending and hoping, without knowing what they would have, or what they would pretend to. For these wretched and weak minds still imagine they have something, they know not what to hope for, from the testimonies given them of reciprocal love, and yet they cannot tell what this is; the desire of which can never end, but goes on continually, oppressing their hearts with perpetual distrusts, jealousies, and inquietudes.
St. Gregory Nazianzen, in his discourse addressed, indeed, to vain women, yet also suitable for men, says: “Thy natural beauty is sufficient for thy husband; but if it be for many men, like a net spread out for a flock of birds, what will be the consequence? He shall be pleasing to thee who shall please himself with thy beauty; thou wilt return him glance for glance, look for look; presently will follow smiles and little amorous words, dropping by stealth at the beginning, but soon after becoming more familiar, and passing on to open courtship. Take heed, oh, my talking tongue, of telling what will follow; yet, will I say this one truth: nothing of all those things which young men and women say and do together in these foolish complacencies is exempted from grievous stings. All the links of wanton loves hold one to another, as one piece of iron touched by the loadstone draws divers others after it.”
Oh, how wisely has this great bishop spoken? What is it you think to do? To give love? No; for no one gives love voluntarily that does not receive it necessarily. He that catches in this chase is likewise caught himself. Our hearts, as soon as they see a soul inflamed with love for them, are presently set on fire with love for it. But someone will say, I am willing to entertain some of this love, but not too much. Alas! you deceive yourself, the fire of love is more active and penetrating than you imagine; you think to receive but a spark, and will wonder to see it in a moment take possession of your whole heart, reduce all your resolutions to ashes, and your reputation to smoke. “Who will have pity on a charmer struck by a serpent?” (Eccles. xii. 13). And I also, like unto the wise man, cry out, Oh foolish and senseless people, think you to charm love in such a manner as to be able to manage it at your pleasure? You would play with it, but it will sting and torment you cruelly; and do you not know that everyone will laugh at and deride you for attempting to charm or tie down love, and on a false pretence put into your bosom a dangerous serpent which has undermined and destroyed both your soul and your honour.
Good God! what blindness is this, to play away thus at hazard against such frivolous stakes, the principal power of our soul? Yes, Philothea, for God regards man only for his soul; his soul only for his will; his will only for his love. Alas! we have not nearly as much love as we stand in need of—I mean to say that we fall infinitely short of having sufficient wherewith to love God; and yet, wretches as we are, we lavish it foolishly on vain and frivolous things, as if we had some to spare. Ah! this great God, who hath reserved to Himself the whole love of our souls in acknowledgment of our creation, preservation, and redemption, will exact a most strict account of all these criminal deductions we make from it; for, if He will examine so rigorously into our idle words, how strictly will He not examine into our impertinent, foolish, and pernicious loves?
The walnut-tree is very prejudicial to the vines and fields wherein it is planted; because, being so large, it attracts all the moisture of the surrounding earth, and renders it incapable of nourishing the other plants; the leaves are also so thick that they make a large and close shade; and, lastly, it allures passers-by to it who, to beat down the fruit, spoil and trample upon all about it. These sensual friendships cause the same injury to the soul, for they possess her in such a manner, and so strongly draw her emotions to themselves, that she has no strength left to produce good works; the leaves, that is, idle talk, amusements, and dalliance, are so frequent, that all leisure time is squandered away on them; and, finally, they beget so many temptations, distractions, suspicions, and other evil consequences, that the whole heart is trampled down and destroyed by them. In a word, these sensual friendships not only banish heavenly love, but also the fear of God from the soul; they waste the spirit, and ruin the reputation; they are the sport of the world and the plague of hearts.
Chapter 5: Concerning true friendship
From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 151:
Love everyone, Philothea, with a great love of charity, but have no friendship except for those that communicate unto you the things of virtue; and the more exquisite the virtues are, which shall be the matter of your communications, the more perfect shall your friendship also be. If this communication be in the sciences, the friendship is certainly very commendable, but still more so if it be in the moral virtues—in prudence, discretion, fortitude, and justice. But should your reciprocal communication relate to charity, devotion, and Christian perfection, how precious will friendship be! It will be excellent, because it comes from God, excellent because it shall last eternally in God. Oh, how good it is to love on earth as they love in heaven, to learn to cherish each other in this world as we shall do eternally in the next.
I speak not here of that simple love of charity which we must have for all men, but of that spiritual friendship by which two, three, or more souls communicate one to another their devotion and spiritual affections, and make themselves all but one spirit. Such happy souls may justly sing: “Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Ps. cxxxi. 1); for the delicious balm of devotion distils out of one heart into another by so continual a participation, that it may be said that God has poured out upon this friendship his blessing and life everlasting. I consider all other friendships as but so many shadows in comparison with this, and that their bonds are but chains of glass or of jet in comparison with that bond of holy devotion which is more precious than gold.
Form no other kind of friendship than this. I speak of such friends as you choose yourself; but you must not, therefore, forsake or neglect the friendships which nature or former duties oblige you to cultivate with your parents, kindred, benefactors, neighbours, and others.
Many perhaps may say: “We should have no kind of particular affection and friendship, because it occupies the heart, distracts the mind, and begets envy;” but they are mistaken, because having seen, in the writings of many devout authors, that particular friendships and extraordinary affections are of infinite prejudice to religious persons, they therefore imagine that it is the same with regard to the rest of the world; there is, however, a material difference; for as in a well-ordered monastery, the common design of all tends to true devotion, it is not requisite to make these particular communications of friendship, lest by seeking among individuals for that which is common to the whole, they should fall from particularities to partialities; but for such as dwell among worldlings and desire to embrace true virtue, it is necessary for them to unite themselves together by a holy and sacred friendship, since by this means they encourage, assist, and conduct each other to good; for as they that walk on level ground need not lend each other a hand, whilst they that are on a rugged and slippery road hold one by the other to walk more securely, so they that are in religious orders stand in no want of particular friendships, but they that are in the world have need of them to secure and assist each other amidst the many dangerous passages through which they are to pass. In the world all are not directed by the same views, nor actuated by the same spirit; we must therefore separate ourselves, and contract friendships according to our several pretensions. This particularity begets, indeed, a partiality; but it is a holy partiality, which creates no other division but that which, of necessity, should always exist between good and evil.
No one surely can deny but that our Lord loved St. John, Lazarus, Martha, and Magdalen, with a sweet and special friendship. We know that St. Peter tenderly cherished St. Mark and St. Petronilla, as St. Paul did Timothy and St. Thecla. St. Gregory Nazianzen boasts, a hundred times, of the incomparable friendship he had with the great St. Basil, and describes it in this manner: “it seemed that in the one and the other of us there was but one soul dwelling in two bodies; and if those are not to be believed, who say that all things are in all things, yet of us two you may believe that we were both in each of us, and one in the other: we had each of us only one pretension to cultivate virtue, and to accommodate all the designs of our life to future hopes; going in this manner out of this mortal earth, before we died in it.” St. Augustine testifies that St. Ambrose loved St. Monica entirely, for the real virtues he saw in her, and that she reciprocally loved him as an angel of God. But I am to blame in detaining you so long on this very clear subject. St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Gregory, St. Bernard, and all the greatest servants of God have had very particular friendships, without prejudice to their perfection. St. Paul, reproaching the disorders of the Gentiles, accuses them of being people without affection, that is to say, that they had no true friendship. And St. Thomas, with all the wisest philosophers, acknowledges that friendship is a virtue; and he speaks of particular friendship, since, as he says, “Perfect friendship cannot be extended to a great many persons.” Perfection therefore consists, not in having no friendship, but in having none but with such as are good, saint-like, and holy.
Chapter 6: True vs vain friendships
From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 154:
The difference between true and vain Friendships.
Observe, Philothea, this important admonition. As the poisonous honey of Heraclea is so like the other that is wholesome, that there is great danger of mistaking the one for the other, or of taking them mixed together (for the goodness of the one cannot destroy the poison of the other), so he must stand upon his guard, who would not be deceived in friendships, particularly when contracted between persons of different sexes, under any pretext whatsoever. The devil often effects a change in those that love: they begin with virtuous love, which if not attended by the utmost discretion, sensual love will begin to mingle, and afterwards carnal love; yes, there is even danger in spiritual love, if we are not extremely upon our guard: though in this it is more difficult to be imposed upon, because its purity and whiteness make the spots and stains which Satan seeks to mingle with it more apparent, and, therefore, when he takes this in hand he does it more craftily, and endeavours to slip in impurities by almost insensible degrees.
You may distinguish worldly friendship from that which is holy and virtuous as the poisonous honey of Heraclea is known from the other; for, as the honey of Heraclea is sweeter to the tongue than the ordinary honey, because of the juice of the deadly nightshade which gives it additional sweetness, so worldly friendship ordinarily produces a great profusion of sweet words, passionate expressions, together with admiration of beauty, behaviour, and other sensual qualities, whereas, holy friendship speaks a plain and sincere language, and commends nothing but virtue and the grace of God, the only foundations on which it subsists. As the honey of Heraclea when swallowed occasions a giddiness, so false friendship breeds a vertigo in the mind, which makes persons stagger in chastity and devotion, hurrying them on to affected and immodest looks and caresses, inordinate sighs, and ridiculous complaints of not being beloved; to a studied and enticing demeanour, to gallantries, to kisses, and other familiarities, the certain and unquestionable signs of the approaching ruin of chastity. But holy friendship has no looks but what are simple and modest, no caresses but pure and sincere ones, no sighs but for heaven, no familiarities but spiritual, no complaints but when God is not beloved—infallible marks of purity. As the honey of Heraclea is troublesome to the sight, so this worldly friendship dazzles the judgment to such a degree that they who are infected therewith think they do well when they do ill, and believe their excuses and pretexts for two reasons: they fear the light and love darkness. But holy friendship is clear-sighted and never hides itself, but appears willingly before such as are good. In fine, the honey of Heraclea leaves a great bitterness in the mouth; so false friendships change into lewd and carnal words and demands; or, in case of refusal, into injuries, slanders, impostures, sadness, confusion, and jealousies, which often terminate in downright madness. But chaste friendship is as equally honest, civil, and amiable, and never changes except into a more perfect and pure union of spirits—a lively image of the blessed friendship which exists in heaven.
St. Gregory Nazianzen says, that as the cry of the peacock, when he struts and spreads his tail, attracts the peahen; so when we see a man dressed in his best approach to flatter, cajole, and whisper in the ears of women or girls, without pretention to lawful marriage, then, no doubt, it is but to win them away from virtue; and every virtuous woman will stop her ears against the voice of such an enchanter who seeks thus craftily to charm her; but should she hearken to him, good God! what an ill presage is it of her future downfall.
Persons who use gestures, glances, and caresses, or speak words in which they would not willingly be surprised by their fathers, mothers, husbands, wives or confessors, testify thereby that they are treating of something contrary to honour and conscience. Our Blessed Lady was troubled when she saw an angel in the shape of a man, because she was alone, and that he gave her extraordinary though heavenly praises. O Saviour of the world! if purity itself was afraid of an angel in the shape of a man, why should not a weak woman fear a man, even though he should come in the shape of an angel, more especially when he praises her with sensual and earthly commendations?
Chapter 7: Remedies against evil friendships
From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 156:
Advice and remedies against evil Friendships.
But what remedies must we take against those foolish and evil friendships? As soon as you feel their first touch turn suddenly away with an absolute horror and detestation of them; run to the cross of your Saviour, and take the crown of thorns to put it about your heart, to the end that these little foxes may not come near it. Take good heed of coming to any kind of compromise with this enemy; do not say, I will hearken to him, but will do nothing of what he may say to me; I will lend him my ears, but will refuse him my heart. Oh, no, Philothea, for God’s sake, be resolute on these occasions: the heart and the ears correspond with each other, and as it is impossible to stop a torrent that descends a mountain, so it is hard to prevent the love which has entered in at the ear from falling suddenly into the heart.
Alcmæon pretended that goats breathe by the ears and not by the nostrils, which Aristotle of course denied; but this I know, that our heart breathes by the ear, and as it sends forth its own thoughts by the tongue, so it draws in the thoughts of others by the ear. Let us then keep a diligent guard upon our ears, that we may not draw in the corrupt air of filthy words, for otherwise our hearts will soon be infected. Hearken to no conversation of this kind under what pretext soever.
Remember that you have dedicated your heart to God, and, that being so, it would be a sacrilege to alienate the least part of it from Him. Rather dedicate it to Him anew, by a thousand resolutions and protestations; and keeping yourself close within them, as a deer within its thicket, call upon God, and He will help you, and his love will take yours under its protection. that it may live for Him alone.
But if you are already caught in the meshes of such evil friendships, how difficult will it be to extricate yourself from them! Place yourself before the Divine Majesty, acknowledging, in his presence, the excess of your misery, frailty, and vanity. Then, with the greatest effort of which your heart is capable, detest them; renounce all the promises received, and, with the greatest and most absolute resolution, determine in your heart never to permit them to occupy your thoughts in the slightest degree for the remainder of your life.
If you could withdraw yourself to a distance from the object, I know of no better remedy, for change of place contributes very much to calm the excess and pain either of grief or of love. The youth of whom St. Ambrose speaks, in his Second Book of Penance, having made a long journey, returned home altogether freed from the vain love he had formerly entertained, and so much changed that his foolish mistress meeting him, and saying: Dost thou not know me? am I not the same that I was? Yes, answered he; but I am not the same that I was. Absence had wrought in him this happy change. Thus St. Augustine relates, that to mitigate the grief he suffered for the death of his friend he quitted Tagasta, the place where his friend died, and went to Carthage.
But what must he do who cannot withdraw himself? Let him absolutely give up all private familiarity and conversation, amorous looks, smiles, and in general all kinds of intercourse which may nourish the impure fire; or, if he must speak to the other party, let it be only to declare with a bold, short, and serious protestation, the eternal divorce which he has sworn. I cry aloud to everyone who has fallen into these wretched snares: Cut them, break them, tear them; you must not amuse yourself in unravelling these criminal friendships: you must tear and rend them asunder; wait not to untie the knots, but break them or cut them, so that the cords and strings may be worth nothing; we must not stand on ceremony with love which is contrary to the love of God.
But after I have thus broken the chains of this infamous bondage, there will still remain some feelings: the marks and prints of the iron will still be imprinted in my feet, that is to say, in my affections. No, Philothea, they will not, provided you have conceived as great a detestation of the evil as it deserves: you shall now be excited with no other feeling but that of an extreme horror of this infamous love and of all that relates to it; and you shall remain free from all other affection towards the forsaken object, except that of a most pure charity, for God’s sake.
But if, through the imperfection of your repentance, there should yet remain in you any evil inclinations, seek a mental solitude for your soul, according to what I have taught you before, and retire into it as often as you can, and, by a thousand reiterated ejaculations of the spirit, renounce all your criminal inclinations, and reject them with your whole strength. Read pious and holy books with a more than ordinary application; go to confession, and communicate more frequently; humbly and sincerely consult your director, or some prudent, faithful friend, concerning all the suggestions and temptations of this kind which may come upon you, and doubt not but that God will deliver you from those criminal passions, provided you continue faithfully in such good exercises. And, you will ask, will it not be ingratitude to break off a friendship so unmercifully? Oh, how happy is that ingratitude which makes us pleasing to God! But no, Philothea, I tell you, in the name of God, that this will be no ingratitude, but a great benefit which you shall do to your lover; for in breaking your own bonds asunder, you shall also break his, since they were common to you both; and though, for the present, he may not be sensible of his happiness, yet he will acknowledge it soon after, and jointly sing with you in thanksgiving: ‘O Lord, thou hast broken my bonds; I will sacrifice to thee a sacrifice of praise, and call upon thy holy name.” (Ps. cxv.)
Chapter 8: More advice on friendship
From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 159:
More Advice on Friendship.
I have another important piece of advice to give you on this subject.
Friendship requires great communication between friends, otherwise it can neither grow nor subsist. Therefore it often happens that, with this communication of friendship, divers other communications insensibly glide from one heart to another, by a mutual infusion and reciprocal intercourse of affections, inclinations, and impressions.
But this happens especially when we have a high esteem for him whom we love; for then we open our heart in such a manner to his friendship that, together with it, his inclinations and impressions enter rapidly in their full stream, be they good or bad.
Certainly the bees that gather the honey of Heraclea seek nothing but honey; but yet, with the honey they insensibly suck the poisonous qualities of the aconite, from which they gather it.
On these occasions, Philothea, we must carefully put in practice what the Saviour of our souls was accustomed to say: “Be ye good bankers, or changers of money:” that is to say, “Receive not bad money with the good, nor base gold with the fine;” separate that which is precious from that which is vile; for there is scarcely any person that has not some imperfection.
For why should we receive promiscuously the faults and imperfections of a friend, together with his friendship? We must love him indeed, notwithstanding his imperfections, but we must neither love nor receive his imperfections; for friendship requires a communication of good, not of evil.
Therefore, as they that draw gravel out of the river Tagus separate the gold which they find to carry it away and leave the sand on the banks, so they who have the intercommunication of some good friendship ought to separate from it the sand of imperfections, and not suffer it to enter into their souls.
St. Gregory Nazianzen testifies, that many, loving and admiring St. Basil, were brought insensibly to imitate him, even in his outward imperfections, as in his slow speech, his abstracted and pensive spirit, the fashion of his beard, and in his gait.
And we often see husbands, wives, children, and friends, who, having a great esteem for their friends, parents, husbands, and wives, get, either by condescension or imitation, a thousand little bad habits, which they have one with another.
Now, this ought by no means to be so, for everyone has evil inclinations enough of his own, without charging himself with those of others; and friendship is so far from requiring it that, on the contrary, it obliges us mutually to aid and assist one another, with a view to our being freed from all kinds of imperfections.
We must indeed meekly bear with our friend in his imperfections, but we must not lead him into imperfections, much less imitate his imperfections ourselves.
But I speak only of imperfections; for as to sins, we must neither occasion them, nor tolerate them in our friends. It is either a weak or a wicked friendship to behold our friend perish and not to help him; to see him die of an abscess, and not to dare to open it with a lancet of correction, to save his life. True and living friendship cannot subsist in the midst of sin.
It is said that the salamander extinguishes the fire in which he lies, so sin destroys the friendship in which it lodges. If it be but a transient sin, friendship will presently put it to flight by correction; but if it be habitual, and take up a permanent abode, friendship immediately perishes, for it cannot exist but upon the solid foundation of virtue.
We must never, then, commit sin for friendship’s sake. A friend becomes an enemy when he would lead us to sin; and he deserves to lose his friend when he would destroy his soul.
It is an infallible mark of false friendship to see it exercised towards a vicious person, whatsoever kind his sins may be; for if he whom we love is vicious, without doubt our friendship is also vicious; since, seeing that it cannot respect true virtue, it must needs be grounded on some frivolous virtue, or sensual quality.
Society formed for trade purposes among merchants is but a shadow of true friendship, since it is not made for the love of the persons, but for the love of gain.
Finally, the two following divine sentences are the two main pillars to secure a Christian life; the one is that of the wise man: “He that fears God shall likewise have a good friendship;” the other is that of the Apostle St. James: “The friendship of this world is the enemy of God.”
Chapter 9: The Purity of St. Joseph
From St. Joseph’s Life, Virtues, Privileges, Power, page 203:
The purity of St. Joseph.
St. Stephen, the first martyr, was canonised by the Holy Ghost. “And they stoned Stephen,” says the sacred text, “invoking and saying: Lord Jesus receive my spirit. And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep in the Lord” (Acts, vii. 58). The same Divine Spirit of truth and wisdom pronounces on the sanctity of St. Joseph, by styling him a “just man” (Matt. i. 19). The word “just” comprehends all virtues in the most eminent degree. St. John Chrysostom says: “Just, here means perfect in every virtue.” 1 “No description,” writes a client of our Saint, “can be more honourable, no eulogy more comprehensive; because this word just, according to commentators on Holy Writ, means that St. Joseph possessed all virtues in the degree of perfection” (Vallejo, p. 276).
St. Francis of Sales writes: “If the lily, by being exposed for a few days only to the heat of the sun, acquires its dazzling whiteness, who can conceive the extraordinary degree of purity to which St. Joseph was exalted, by being exposed, as he was, day and night, for so many years to the rays of the Sun of Justice, and of that mystical moon which derives all her splendour from Him?” We are at a loss to know what virtue to begin with, but the above suggests the purity of St. Joseph.
In the Old and New Testament we have countless texts and examples to show how dear purity is to God. Saints excelled in different virtues; but purity is common to all. No soul shall ever enter heaven until she is purer than the sunbeam, and whiter than the virgin snow. Precious in the sight of God is the lily of holy purity. “No price is worthy of a continent soul” (Ecclus. xxv. 20). The chaste Susanna is held up to the admiration of the world; she preferred to die rather than sin in the sight of the Lord. The chaste souls are likened to the Angels. “At the resurrection,” says our Blessed Lord, “they shall neither marry nor be married; but shall be as the Angels of God in heaven” (Matt. xxii. 30). The Angels are pure by nature; but the chaste are pure by grace. Hence, St. Bernard asserts, that a chaste man differs from an Angel only in felicity, but not in virtue.
Our Divine Lord loves the chaste souls, and feeds among the lilies, the emblems of purity. “I am the flower of the field and the lily of the valley. As the lily among the thorns, so my love among the daughters. … My beloved to me, and I to him, who feedeth among the lilies.” (Cant, ii.)
The mystery of the Incarnation, and all its surroundings, prove to demonstration how dear to Jesus is the holy virtue of purity. St. John the Baptist, the Precursor of our Blessed Lord, was a chaste virgin. St. Peter was head of the Church; yet the favourite disciple, the “disciple whom Jesus loved,” was St. John the Evangelist. This virgin disciple was privileged, at the Last Supper, to recline his head on the bosom of his Divine Saviour. “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter, therefore, beckoned to him, and said to him: Who is it of whom he speaketh? He, therefore, leaning on the breast of Jesus, saith to him: Lord, who is it?” (John, xiii. 23.) When dying upon the cross, to whom did our Blessed Lord entrust what was dearest to Him on earth—His Blessed Mother? He gave charge of His Virgin Mother to the virgin disciple, St. John the Evangelist. “Now,” says the Gospel, “there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to his disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour the disciple took her to his own” (John, xix. 25).
St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and other Fathers, assign virgin purity as the cause of this special love of Jesus for St. John. This can hardly be doubted; for the Church, in the Divine Office on the Feast of St. John, says that “Jesus loved him more tenderly than the other Apostles; for his special prerogative of chastity made him worthy of this preference, because when called to the Apostolate he was a virgin, and a virgin he remained all his life.”
The confessors are high in heaven; they wore chains on earth for the love of Jesus. The martyrs, with the palm branch in their hands, are higher still; they washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb; they sealed their faith with their blood; they sacrificed their lives for the love of Jesus. Higher and higher still, is another band or choir of Saints. Who are they? They are the spotless virgins! In heaven above, the Saints sing various hymns and canticles in praise of the Almighty. There is one special canticle which confessors or martyrs dare not pronounce, and which virgin lips alone are privileged to sing. Let us cite the inspired words of the Evangelist: “I saw the Lamb upon Mount Sion, and one hundred and forty-four thousand with him, singing, as it were, a new song, and which none else can sing but only these hundred and forty-four thousand which he had redeemed from the earth. These are such as were never defiled with women; they are virgins who follow the Lamb wheresoever he goes” (Apoc. xiv. 1-3). Such and so great are the special privileges awarded by God in heaven above to the pure and chaste. “Blessed,” says the Redeemer, “are the clean of heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. v. 8).
But the example of the Blessed Virgin preaches far more eloquently than the examples we have adduced, how dear and precious in the sight of God is the holy virtue of purity. The purity of the Blessed Virgin is as high above any Saint, or that of all the Saints put together, as the heavens are above the earth. 2 Not only did Mary, countless times, carry in her arms, and as many times more fondly press to her bosom, the Infant Saviour. Not only did Mary bear in her chaste womb for nine months the Incarnate Son of God, but the very blood, out of which the Sacred Body of Jesus was formed by the Holy Ghost, the Precious Blood, by which all mankind was redeemed on Mount Calvary, had its source in the Heart of Mary Immaculate. Such being the relation between Mary and Jesus, the relation of a mother to a son, no wonder that her privileges should be unique that she should be conceived without sin, and that the smallest stain of actual sin should never sully her soul. No wonder that she should be the purest, the most perfect, the most immaculate, the most holy soul, that the Almighty has ever created, or ever will create: of course we do not include the soul of our Blessed Saviour. When Mary Immaculate stood before her Maker, radiant in beauty, purity, and perfection, God, pleased, so to speak, with the work of His hands, deigned to salute her, saying: “Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is no spot in thee” (Can. iv. 7). “Thou art beautiful, O my love, sweet and comely as Jerusalem. … One is my dove, my perfect one is but one. She is the only one.” (Can. vi.)
The Blessed Virgin, as we have said above, was the purest, the most perfect, the most immaculate soul the Almighty ever created. Next to Mary in purity, dignity, and sanctity, is St. Joseph. In the first place, St. Joseph was chosen by heaven to be the spouse of the Blessed Virgin. Now God was so jealous of Mary’s purity, that He would give no one to her as a real husband, as Joseph was, but the purest and holiest of men. From among all the sons of Israel, God chose St. Joseph to be the guardian and protector of the virtue of the Immaculate Mother of the Redeemer of the world; and hence, for this end, the Almighty showered upon him the choicest, the richest, and the most precious graces of heaven. To be chosen, and to be worthy to be the husband of Mary Immaculate, is in itself sufficient to prove the supereminent virtue and purity of our Saint. The title, “husband of Mary,” fades away into insignificance compared to the title, “reputed father” of Jesus. The gleam of purity shining upon St. Joseph, from his relation with Mary, is lost in the meridian splendour of the virtue necessary for him from his relation with Jesus, the Eternal Son of Justice, Purity, and Sanctity itself. None but the clean and pure of heart can see God. St. Joseph not only saw his God, but lived, walked, and worked in His visible Divine presence. If purity obtained for St. John the Evangelist the privilege of reclining his head on the bosom of his Saviour, what must be the purity of St. Joseph, who countless times bore in his arms the Saviour of the world, and pressed to his bosom the Divine Babe? If one ray of God’s pure love is sufficient, as it is, to purify and sanctify the soul of man, what must be the purity of St. Joseph, upon whose soul shone for years, in their full effulgence, the rays of the Eternal Sun of Justice? Let the honeyed pen of St. Francis of Sales express it. “St. Joseph,” says the Saint, “surpassed the Angels and Saints in purity. For if, being exposed for a few days only to the heat of the material sun, the lily acquires its dazzling whiteness, who can conceive the extraordinary degree of purity to which St. Joseph was exalted, exposed as he was, day and night, for so many years to the rays of the Sun of Justice, and of that mystical Moon which derives her splendours from Him?”
Venerable Maria of Jesus of Agreda writes: “In the virtue of purity, he was more elevated than the highest Seraphim. … By this perfection and by his angelic integrity, he was prepared to be the spouse of the purest of creatures and to live in her society.”
O Jesus, make us pure and chaste. O Jesus, help us when tempted against holy purity. O Mary Immaculate! obtain for us purity of body and soul.
“Guardian of virgins, and holy father Joseph, to whose faithful care Jesus Christ, innocence itself, and Mary, Virgin of virgins, were committed, I pray and beseech thee, by these dear privileges, Jesus and Mary, that being preserved from all uncleanness, I may, with a spotless mind, pure heart, and chaste body, ever most chastely serve Jesus and Mary all the days of my life.”
1 Justum hic in omni virtute dicit perfectum. (Hom, xii. n. Matt. i. 19).
2 Suarez, Tomus xix., Ques. xxxviii., Art. iv., Sec. iv.
Chapter 10: The Chastity of Mary
OF THE CHASTITY OF MARY.
Since the fall of Adam the flesh being rebellious against reason, the virtue of chastity is the most difficult for men to practise. Of all combats, says St. Augustine, those of chastity are the most severe, for the battle is daily and the victory rare. 1
But eternal praise to the Lord who has given us in Mary a great example of this virtue. With justice says blessed Albertus Magnus, is Mary called the Virgin of virgins, for she being the first who offered her virginity to God, without the counsel or example of others, has brought to him all virgins who imitate her. 2 As David had already predicted: After her virgins shall be brought to the temple of the king: “Adducentur virgines post eam in templum regis.” 3
Without counsel or example; yes, for St. Bernard exclaims: Oh Virgin, who has taught thee to please God by virginity, and on earth to lead the life of an angel? 4 Ah! answers Sophronius, it is for this God has chosen this most pure Virgin for his mother, that she may be an example of chastity to all. 5 Hence St. Ambrose has called Mary the standard-bearer of chastity: “Quae signum Virginitatis extulit.”
By reason of this her purity the blessed Virgin was also called by the holy Spirit: Beautiful as the turtle-dove: Thy cheeks are beautiful as the turtle-dove s: “Pulchrae sunt genae tuae sicut turturis.” 6 Mary, says St. Aponius, is a most chaste turtle: “Turtur pudicissima Maria.”
And therefore she has also been called a lily: As the lily among the thorns, so is my love among the daughters: “Sicut lilium inter spinas, sic amica mea inter filias.” 7 St. Denis the Carthusian, commenting on this passage, says, that she has been called a lily among thorns because all other virgins were thorns either to themselves or others; but the blessed Virgin has never been one to her self or others. 8
For by her presence alone she infused into all, thoughts and affections of purity: “Intuentium corda ad castitatem invitabat.” 9 And this is confirmed by St. Thomas, who says that the beauty of the blessed Virgin encouraged chastity in all who beheld her: “Pulchritudo B. Virginis intuentes ad castitatem excitabat.” 10
St. Jerome declares himself of the opinion that St. Joseph preserved his virginity by the society of Mary, for the saint thus writes against the heretic Helvidius, who denied the virginity of Mary: Thou sayest that Mary did not remain a virgin; I take it upon myself to maintain more than that, even that Joseph himself preserved his virginity through Mary. 11
A certain author says that the blessed Virgin so loved this virtue that to preserve it, she would have been ready to renounce even the dignity of mother of God. This we may learn from her own answer to the archangel: “How shall this be done, because I know not man?” 12 and from the words she afterwards added: Be it done to me according to thy word: “Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum;” signifying by this that she gave her consent on the condition of which the angel had assured her, namely, that she should become a mother by means of the Holy Spirit alone.
St. Ambrose says: He who has preserved chastity is an angel, he who has lost it is a devil. 13 According to the words of our Lord: “They shall be as the angels of God in heaven.” 14 But the unchaste become odius to God as the devils. And St. Remigius said that the greater number of adults are lost through this vice.
The victory over this vice is rare, as has been said in the words of St. Augustine at the beginning of this section; but why is it rare? Because the means for conquering it are not put in use. The means are three according to Bellarmine, and the masters of the spiritual life: Fasting, avoiding dangerous occasions, and prayer: “Jejuniun, periculorum evitatio, et oratio.”
By fasting is meant mortification, particularly of the eyes and of the appetite. The most holy Mary, although she was full of divine grace, was so mortified with her eyes that she kept them always cast down, as St. Epiphanius and St. John Damascene inform us, and never fixed them on any one; they say that from her childhood she was so modest that she was the wonder of all. And hence St. Luke remarks, that in going to visit St. Elizabeth: She went with haste: “Abiit cum festinatione,” that she might not be long seen in public.
Philibert relates with regard to her food, that it was revealed to a hermit named Felix, that the infant Mary took milk only once a day. And St. Gregory of Tours asserts that, during her whole life, she fasted always: “Nullo tempore Maria non jejunavit;” and St. Bonaventure adds, that Mary would never have found so much grace unless she had been temperate in food, for grace and gluttony can not subsist together. 15 In a word, Mary practised mortification in every thing, so that of her it was said: My hands dropped with myrrh: “Manus meae stillaverunt myrrham.” 16
The second means is to fly the occasions of sin. He that is aware of the snares shall be secure: “Qui autem cavet laqueos, securus erit.” 17 Hence St. Philip Neri said, that in this warfare cowards conquer; that is, those who avoid dangerous occasions. Mary shunned as much as possible the sight of men; and therefore St. Luke says that in her visit to St. Elizabeth, she went with haste into the hill country: “Abiit in montana cum festinatione” And a certain author remarks that the Virgin left Elizabeth before the birth of the Baptist, as we learn from the Gospel itself, in which it is said that “Mary abode with her about three months; and she returned to her own house. Now Elizabeth’s full time of being delivered was come, and she brought forth a son.” 18 And why did she not wait till his birth? In order to avoid the conversation and visits which would follow that event.
The third means is prayer. “And as I knew,” said the wise man, “that I could not otherwise be continent except God gave it …, I went to the Lord and besought him.” 19 And the blessed Virgin revealed to St. Elisabeth, a Benedictine nun, that she had not acquired any virtue without effort and continual prayer. 20 St. John Damascene says that Mary is pure and a lover of purity: “Pura est et puritatem amans,” and therefore she cannot endure the impure. But whoever has recourse to her will certainly be delivered from this vice by only pronouncing her name with confidence. And the venerable John of Avila says that many temptations against chastity have been overcome solely by devotion to the immaculate Virgin.
Oh Mary, oh most pure dove, how many are in hell through the vice of impurity! Oh Lady, obtain for us that always in our temptations we may have recourse to thee, and invoke thee, saying: Mary, Mary, help us. Amen.
1 Inter omnia certamina duriora sunt praelia castitatis, ubi quotidiana est pugna et rara victoria.
2 Virgo virginum, quae sine consilio, sine exemplo munus virginitatis Deo obtulit, et per sui imitationem omnes virgines germinavit. Mar. p. 29.
3 Psal. lxiv. 15.
4 O Virgo quis te docuit Deo placere virginitate, et in terris angelicam ducere vitam. Hom. 4. Sup. Miss.
5 Christus matrem virginem elegit, ut ipsa omnibus esset exemplum castitatis. Ap. Parav. p. 2, c. 1.
6 Cant. i. 9.
7 Cant. ii. 2.
8 Omnes aliae virgines spinae fuerunt vel sibi vel aliis; B. Virgo nec sibi, nec aliis.
9 Id. S. Dio.
10 Ap. Par. loc. cit.
11 Tu dicis Mariam virginem non permansisse? Ego mihi plus vindico, etiam ipsum Joseph virginem fuisse per Mariam. L. adv. Helvid.
12 Quomodo fiet istud, quoniam virum non cognosco. Luc. i. 34.
13 Qui castitatem servavit, angelus est, qui perdidit, diabolus.
14 Matth. xxii.
15 Nunquam Maria tantam gratiam invenissit, nisi cibo temperatissima fuisset; non enim se compatiuntur gratia et gula.
16 Cant. v. 5.
17 Prov. xi. 15.
18 Mansit autem Maria cum ilia quasi mensibus tribus; et reversa est in domum suam. Elisabeth autem impletum est tempus pariendi, et peperit filium. Cap. i. 56.
19 Et ut scivi quoniam aliter non possem esse continens nisi Deus det … aii Dominum, et deprecatus sum illum. Sap. viii. 21.
20 Ap. S. Bon. de Vit. Chr. c. 3.
Chapter 11: The Necessity of Chastity
From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 131:
The Necessity of Chastity.
For the first degree of that virtue never voluntarily permit anything which is forbidden with regard to chastity.
For the second degree, limit as far as you can all superfluous and useless pleasures, although they may be harmless and permitted to you.
For the third degree, do not attach your affections to those which may be necessary and even imposed on you.
St. Augustin admired in his dear Alipius the admirable purity which had entirely freed him from the sentiments, and even from the remembrance of former disorders. Indeed everyone knows that it is easy to preserve for a long time fruits which are still whole; but however little they may be tainted or broken they can only be preserved in sirups, I say that we have several means for preserving safely our chastity whilst it remains in its full integrity; but when it has once lost it, nothing can preserve it but a solid devotion, the sweetness of which I have often compared with that of honey.
The editors of ImmaculataLibrary.com would like to mention here that having lost chastity is no cause to despair, for St. Augustine lost his chastity completely, and for many years did not have this virtue, yet regained it and lived many more years in an eminent degree of chastity and purity, becoming dearly pleasing to Our Lord. So if you, dear reader, have lost the precious virtue of chastity, do not be afraid, there is still hope to recover it and increase it more than ever before!
In the state of virginity, chastity demands great simplicity of soul, and great delicacy of conscience, in order to keep at a distance all kinds of curious thoughts, and to raise itself above all sensual pleasures by means of an absolute and entire contempt of everything which man has in common with the beasts, and which they have even more than he. Let these pure souls never doubt in any way that chastity is not incomparably better than anything which is incompatible with perfection. “For,” as St. Jerome says, “the demon not being able to endure that salutary ignorance of pleasure, desires at least to excite the desire of it in those souls, and gives them, therefore, ideas of it, so seductive, although false, that they remain very much troubled, because,” adds that holy Father, “by degrees they go on to esteem more and more that which they have been ignorant of.” It is thus that so many young persons, surprised by a false and foolish esteem for the pleasures of the senses, and by a sensual and restless curiosity, give themselves up to them, and compromise their temporal and eternal interests, like unto butterflies, which believing the flame to be as pleasant as it appears beautiful, foolishly burn themselves in it.
You know how necessary chastity is: “Seek peace with all and holiness,” says the Apostle, “without which no one shall see God” (Hebrews 12:14). Now remark that by holiness he means chastity, according to the interpretation of Ss. Jerome and Chrysostom. No; no person shall see God without chastity: no person shall inhabit his holy tabernacles if he has not a pure heart; as our Saviour says, “Dogs and the impure shall be banished from it.” Also, “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
Chapter 12: How to preserve Chastity
From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 133:
How to preserve Chastity.
Keep always a great guard over yourself in order to drive away promptly everything which might tempt to impurity; for it is an evil which develops itself by insensible degrees, weak in the beginning, but their progress very rapid. In a word, it is more easy to fly from it than to cure it.
Chastity is a treasure which, according to St. Paul, “we keep in fragile vessels; and in truth it has much of the fragility of those vases which break by knocking against each other.” The freshest water, when we try to preserve it in a vessel, quickly loses its freshness if any animal touches it. Never permit yourself, Philothea, to practise, and preserve yourself from, those external liberties, equally contrary to Christian modesty and to the respect you owe yourself; for, although one may preserve an absolutely chaste heart in spite of actions which arise rather from want of thought than from malice, and which are not usually practised, nevertheless, chastity always receives from them some lamentable injury. You sufficiently understand that I do not speak here of what virtually ruins chastity.
Chastity takes its origin in the heart, and its exterior practice consists in regulating and purifying the senses; this is why it is lost by means of all the external senses, as well as by the thoughts of the mind, and the desires of the heart. Thus, every sensation which we allow ourselves regarding an immodest object, or with a spirit of immodesty, is really an unchaste act, and the Apostle recommended the first Christians not even to mention the vice amongst them. Bees not only do not touch a body in a state of putrefaction, but they fly from the bad smell which it exhales. Remark, I beseech you, what holy Scripture tells us of the Spouse of the Canticles. Everything is mysterious in them. Myrrh distils from her hands, and you know that this liquor preserves from corruption; her lips are bordered by a red riband, and that teaches us that modesty blushes at words, even when they are ever so little indecent; her eyes are compared to the eyes of the dove, on account of their purity; she wears earrings of gold, and that metal is also a symbol of purity; her nose is compared to a cedar of Lebanon, the odour of which is exquisite, and its wood incorruptible. What does all that mean? That the soul should be, in all its senses, devout, chaste, open, pure, and honourable.
Chastity can be lost in so many ways that there are kinds of indecencies, which, according as they are great or small, weaken it or dangerously wound it, or even destroy it entirely. There are certain indiscreet and vulgar liberties which, properly speaking, do not violate chastity; but which weaken and dim its brightness. There are other liberties not only indiscreet, hut vicious; not only vulgar, but immodest and sensual, which wound it mortally. There are others again which destroy it entirely.
Never be intimate with persons whose manners you know to be corrupt, especially when impudence is joined with impurity, which is almost always the case.
It is said that he-goats, touching the sweet almond tree with their tongues, make them become bitter, so these corrupted souls and infected hearts, scarcely speak to any person, either of the same or a different sex, but they cause them, to, fall in some degree from purity: they have poison in their eyes and in their breath like basilisks. On the contrary, keep company with the chaste and virtuous; often meditate upon and read about holy things; for the Word of God is chaste, and makes those also chaste that delight in it; this made David compare it to the topaz, a precious stone, which is said to have the property of cooling the heat of concupiscence.
A word here from the editor of ImmaculataLibrary.com: it is strongly recommended, if you have strong need of repairing or preserving chastity, to take the above mentioned advice of St. Francis de Sales to the next level, and put on the dramatized audio New Testament in the background of your daily tasks, if possible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It will do astounding things to the life of your soul in every way, but especially to your purity and chastity.
Keep yourself always near to Jesus Christ crucified, both spiritually by meditation and really by the Holy Communion. For as they who lie on the herb called agnus castus become chaste and modest, so you, laying down your heart to rest upon our Lord, who is the true, chaste, and immaculate Lamb, shall find that your soul and your heart shall soon be cleansed from all the defilements of impurity.
Chapter 13: Instructions for Married People
Instructions for Married People.
“Matrimony is a great sacrament, but I speak in Christ, and in the Church.” (Eph. v. 32). It is honourable to all, in all, and through all: that is, in all its parts to all; because even virgins ought to honour it with humility; in all, because it is equally holy in the rich and poor; through all, because its origin, its end, its advantages, its form, and its matter, are all holy. It is the nursery of Christianity, that supplies the earth with fruitful souls, to complete the number of the elect in heaven; in a word, the conservation of marriage is of the last importance to the commonwealth, for it is the origin and source of all its streams.
Above all things, I exhort married people to that mutual love which the Holy Ghost so much recommends in the Scriptures. Oh, you that are married, it is unnecessary to tell you to love each other with a mutual love, like turtle doves; nor to say, love one another with a human love like heathens; but I say to you, after the great Apostle: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ has loved his Church. And you, wives, love your husbands, as the Church loveth her Saviour.” (Eph. v.) It was God that brought Eve to our first father Adam, and gave her to him as his wife; it is also God, O my friends, who with his invisible hand, has tied the knot of the holy bond of your marriage, and given you to one another; why do you not then cherish each other with a holy, sacred, and divine love?
The first effect of this love is an indissoluble union of your hearts. Two pieces of fir glued together, if the glue be good, cleave so fast one to the other, that you may sooner break the piece in any other place than that wherein they are joined. But God joins the husband to the wife with his own blood; for which cause this union is so strong that the soul must sooner separate from the body of the one or the other than the husband from the wife. Now this union is not understood principally of the body, but of the heart, and of the affections.
The second effect of this love ought to be the inviolable fidelity of the one to the other party. Seals were anciently graven upon rings worn on the fingers, as the Holy Scripture itself testifies. Behold, then, the mystery of this ceremony in marriage. The Church, which by the hand of the priest, blesses a ring, and giving it first to the man, testifies that she puts a seal upon his heart by this sacrament, to the end that henceforward neither the name nor the love of any other woman may enter therein so long as she shall live, who has been given to him; afterwards the bridegroom puts the ring on the hand of the bride that she reciprocally may understand that her heart must never admit an affection for any other man, so long as he shall live upon earth, whom our Lord here gives to her as a husband.
The third fruit of marriage is the lawful production and education of children. It is a great honour to you that are married, that God, designing to multiply souls, which may bless and praise Him to all eternity, makes you co-operate with Him in so noble a work, by the production of the bodies into which He infuses immortal souls, like heavenly drops, as He creates them.
Preserve, then, O husbands, a tender, constant, and heartfelt love for your wives; for the woman was taken from that side of the first man which was nearest to his heart, to the end she might be loved tenderly by him. The weaknesses and infirmities of your wives, whether in body or mind, ought never to provoke you to any kind of disdain, but rather to a sweet and an affectionate compassion; since God has created them such, to the end that, depending upon you, you should receive from them more honour and respect, and that you should have them in such a manner for your companions, that nevertheless, you should be their heads and superiors.
And you, O wives, love the husbands whom God has given you tenderly and cordially, but with a respectful love, and full of reverence, tor therefore, indeed, did God create them of a sex more vigorous and predominant; and was pleased to ordain that the woman should depend upon the man, being a bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh, and that she should be made of a rib taken from under his arm, to show that she ought to be under the hand and guidance of her husband. The holy Scripture, which strictly recommends to you this subjection, renders it also pleasant, not only by prescribing that you should accommodate yourselves to it with love, but also by commanding your husbands to exercise it over you with charity, tenderness, and complacency: “Husbands,” says St. Peter, “behave yourselves discreetly towards wives, as the weaker vessels, giving honour to them” (1 Epist. iii. 7).
But while I exhort you to advance more and more in this mutual love which you owe to one another, beware lest it degenerate into any kind of jealousy; for it often happens, that as the worm is bred in the apple which is most delicate and ripe, so jealousy grows in that love of married people, which is the most ardent and exacting, but of which, nevertheless, it spoils and corrupts the substance; breeding, by insensible degrees, strifes, dissensions, and separations. But jealousy never comes where the friendship on both sides is grounded on solid virtue, and therefore where it enters, it is an infallible mark that the love is in some degree sensual and gross, and has fallen upon a subject where it has met with but an imperfect and inconstant virtue, subject to distrust. It is then a stupid ostentation of friendship to try to exalt it by jealousy; for jealousy may be a sign of the greatness and grossness of the friendship, but never of its goodness, purity, and perfection; since the perfection of friendship presupposes an assurance of the virtue of those whom we love, and jealousy a doubt of it.
If you desire, O husbands, that your wives should be faithful to you, give them a lesson by your example. “With what face,” says St. Gregory of Nazianzen, “can you exact purity from your wives when you yourselves live in impurity? How can you require of them that which you give them not? If you would have them chaste, behave yourselves chastely towards them.” And, as St. Paul says: “Let every man know how to possess his own vessel in holiness.” But if, on the contrary, you yourselves teach them not to be virtuous, it is no wonder if you are disgraced by their fall.
But you, O wives, whose honour is inseparably joined with purity and modesty, be zealous to preserve this your glory, and suffer no kind of loose behaviour to tarnish the whiteness of your reputation. Fear all kinds of assaults, be they ever so small; never suffer any wanton address to come near you: whosoever praises your beauty, or your genteel behaviour, ought to be suspected, for he who praises the ware which he cannot buy is strongly tempted to steal it; but if to your praise he adds the dispraise of your husband, he offers you a heinous injury; for it is evident that he not only has a mind to ruin you, but accounts you already half lost, since the bargain is half made with the second merchant, when one is disgusted with the first.
Ladies, formerly as well as now, were accustomed to wear a number of pearls on their ears, for the pleasure, says Pliny, of the jingling which they make in touching one another. But for my part, as I know that the great friend of God, Isaac, sent earrings as the first earnest of his love to the chaste Rebecca, I believe that this mysterious ornament signifies, that the first part of his wife which a husband should take possession of, and which his wife should faithfully keep for him, is her ears; to the end that no language or noise should enter there, but the sweet and amiable music of chaste and pure words, which are the Oriental pearls of the Gospel; for we must always remember that souls are poisoned by the ear, as the body is by the mouth.
Love and fidelity joined together, beget always familiarity and confidence: and therefore the saints have used many reciprocal caresses in their marriage, but always pure, tender, and sincere. Thus Isaac and Rebecca, the most chaste married couple of ancient times, were seen through a window caressing one another (Gen. xxvi. 8), in such a manner that, although there was no immodesty, Abimelech was convinced that they could be no other than man and wife. The great St. Louis, equally rigorous to his own flesh, and tender in the love of his wife, was almost blamed for the abundance of caresses, though, indeed, he rather deserved praise for being able to bring his martial and courageous spirit to stoop to these little offices, requisite to the conservation of conjugal love; for, although these little demonstrations of pure and free affection bind not their hearts, yet they bring them near one another, and serve for an agreeable disposition of mutual conversation.
St. Monica, before the birth of the great St. Augustine, dedicated him by frequent oblations to the Christian religion, and to the service and glory of God, as he himself witnesses, saying: “That he hath already tasted the salt of God in his mother’s womb.” This is a great lesson for Christian women to offer up to his Divine Majesty the fruit of their wombs, even before they come into the world; for God, who accepts the offerings of an humble and willing heart, commonly at that time seconds the affections of mothers; witness Samuel, St. Thomas of Aquin, St. Andrew of Fiesola, and divers others. The mother of St. Bernard, a mother worthy of such a son, as soon as her children were born, took them in her arms, and offered them up to Jesus Christ, and from thenceforward loved them with respect, as things consecrated and entrusted to her by God; which succeeded so happily to her, that in the end the whole seven became very holy.
But when children begin to have the use of reason both their fathers and mothers ought to take great care to imprint the fear of God in their hearts. The good Queen Blanche performed this office fervently with regard to the king, St. Louis her son; she often said to him: I had much rather, my dear child, see you die before my eyes, than see you commit even one mortal sin; which caution remained so deeply engraved on his soul, that, as he himself related, not one day of his life passed in which he did not remember it, and take all possible care strictly to observe it.
Families and generations in our language, are called houses; and even the Hebrews called the generations of children the building up of a house; for it is in this sense it is said that God built houses for the midwives of Egypt. Now, this is to show that the raising of a house or family, consists not in storing up a quantity of worldly goods, but in the good education of children in the fear of God, and in virtue, in which no pains or labours ought to be spared, for children are the crown of their parents. Thus, St. Monica, with so much fervour and constancy, fought against the evil inclinations of her son, St. Augustine, that having followed him by sea and land, she made him more happily the child of her tears, by the conversion of soul, than he had been of her blood by the generation of his body.
St. Paul leaves to wives the care of the household, as their portion; for which reason many think, with truth, that their devotion is more profitable to the family than that of the husband, who, not residing so constantly amongst the domestics, cannot consequently so easily frame them to virtue. On this consideration Solomon (Prov. xxxi.), makes the happiness of the whole household to depend on the care and industry of the valiant woman whom he describes.
It is said in Genesis (chap. xxv. 21), that Isaac seeing his wife Rebecca barren, prayed to the Lord for her, or, according to the Hebrew, prayed to the Lord over against her, because the one prayed on the one side of the oratory, and the other on the other; so the prayer of the husband, made in this manner, was heard. Such union as this of the husband and wife, in holy devotion, is the greatest and most fruitful of all; and to this they ought mutually to encourage and to draw each other.
There are fruits like the quince, which on account of the harshness of their juice, are not agreeable except when they are preserved with sugar; there are others, which, because of their tenderness cannot be long kept, unless they are preserved in like manner, such as cherries and apricots; thus wives ought to wish that their husbands should be preserved with the sugar of devotion; for a man without devotion is a kind of animal, severe, harsh, and rough. And husbands ought to wish that their wives should be devout, because without devotion a woman is very frail, and subject to fall from, or to become weak in virtue.
St. Paul says: “That the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife by the believing husband;” because, in this strict alliance of marriage, the one may draw the other to virtue; but what a blessing is it, when the man and wife being both believers, sanctify each other in the true fear of God.
As to the rest: the mutual bearing with one another ought to be so great, that they should never be both angry with each other at the same time, nor suddenly, to the end that there should never be a division or contention seen between them. Bees cannot stay in a place where there are echoes, loud sounds, or voices: nor can the Holy Ghost remain in a house where there are sounds of clamour, strife, and contradictions.
St. Gregory Nazianzen relates that in his time married people made a feast on the anniversary day of their wedding. For my part, I should approve of introducing this custom, provided it were not attended with worldly and sensual recreations; but that the husband and wife should confess and communicate on that day, and recommend to God with more than ordinary fervour the happy progress of their marriage; renewing their good purposes to sanctify it still more an more by mutual love and fidelity, and recovering breath, as it were, in our Lord, for the better supporting the burdens of their calling.
Chapter 14: The Perpetual Virginity of St. Joseph
The perpetual Virginity of St. Joseph.
That St. Joseph lived and died a pure virgin, like his Immaculate spouse, though not of faith, is absolutely certain. Reason, and the ancient and constant Tradition of the Church, prove it beyond doubt.
In the preceding section, we have seen how God loves purity, how dear to the Almighty is chastity, and with what jealous care God watched over the purity of Mary in honour of the Incarnation. From this we may conclude that God Almighty would never choose, from among the sons of men, a guardian and spouse for the Immaculate Mother of God, and a foster-father for His beloved and eternal Son Jesus Christ, any but a pure and perpetual virgin; this guardian and spouse of Mary, this foster-father of Jesus, is St. Joseph: therefore, St. Joseph lived and died a pure virgin.
We shall select only a few out of the many authorities before us, in almost every age of the Church, in favour of the perpetual Virginity of St. Joseph.
St. Jerome, writing against the heresiaroh, Helvidius, who impiously denied the perpetual virginity of our Blessed Lady, says: “Thou sayest that Mary did not remain a virgin. I not only maintain it, but aver that Joseph, too, was a virgin, through Mary; so that a Virgin Son might be born of this virgin marriage. It does not appear that Joseph had ever before contracted marriage. Of the Mother of God, he was rather a guardian than a husband: hence we must believe that he lived with Mary as a virgin, and so deserved to be called the Father of the Lord.”
St. Augustine and St. Thomas maintain the same doctrine; and hence the learned Cardinal Baronius, summing up the proofs, writes: “All the Catholic writers of the Latin Church, who have flourished since the days of St. Jerome, have followed his opinion as to the perpetual virginity of St. Joseph; so much so that St. Peter Damian, the ablest writer of his day, says, with great satisfaction, that the faith of the Church is, that St. Joseph was a virgin like his most pure spouse (meaning by faith, as the accurate Suarez explains, the pious belief of the Church). And surely, so far as we are allowed to have recourse to probable conjectures, who will believe that God would not select a virgin spouse for His Mother, when, after He became man, and was dying on the cross, He confided her to one who was a virgin?” 1
The learned John Gerson, preaching before the Council of Constance, said: “As it became Mary to shine forth with the greatest purity, so was it becoming for her to have a most pious spouse, who would remain before and after in perpetual virginity.” 2
The Bollandists say, that “since the days of St. Jerome the whole Latin Church has unanimously adopted the opinion of the perpetual virginity of St. Joseph.”
We shall cite only one more authority.
Canisius writes: “Bede and Alcuin clearly confess the perpetual virginity of St. Joseph. … Hugh Victorinus, called in his time a second St. Augustine, and other theologians, especially St. Thomas and Gerson, not to mention moderns, maintain, with solid authorities, that Joseph and Mary, by mutual consent, consecrated themselves to God by a vow of perpetual virginity. … St. Peter Damian, an enlightened divine, warmly holds that the faith of the Church is, that not only the Mother of God, but Joseph, His reputed father, was a virgin.” 3
Hence, for the greater glory of our Saint, we are glad to repeat the heading of this section, that it is absolutely certain that our Great Patriarch, St. Joseph, lived and died, like his immaculate spouse, a pure and spotless virgin. O most chaste St. Joseph, pray for us.
1 Vallejo, p. 97.
2 Serm, de Nat. Mariæ, etc.
3 Vallejo, p. 98.
Chapter 15: The Exercise of Exterior Mortification
This chapter is included for its usefulness in describing:
- The reason mortifications are often very much ineffective
- How to truly purify one’s heart from impure affections
- That spouses should avoid excessive self-mortification
- When and how to use exterior mortifications with profit
The Exercise of Exterior Mortification.
Old writers on agriculture and country affairs tell us that if any word be written upon a sound almond, and it is again enclosed in the shell and planted, all the fruit upon the tree growing from it will have the same word engraven upon it. For my part, Philothea, I could never approve of the method of those who, to reform a man begin with his exterior, such as his gestures, his dress, or his hair. On the contrary, I think we ought to begin with his interior: “Be converted to me, with your whole heart” (Joel, ii.) “Son, give me thine heart.” (Prov. xxiii.) For the heart being the genuine source of our actions, our works will be always such as our heart is. The Divine Spouse inviting the soul: “Put me as a seal upon thy heart, as a seal upon thy arm.” (Cantic. v.) Yes, truly; for whosoever has Jesus Christ in his heart will quickly show Him in all his exterior actions. I desire, therefore, dear Philothea, above all things to engrave upon your heart this sacred motto, “Live Jesus;” being assured that your life, which proceeds from the heart, as an almond-tree from an almond, will afterwards bring forth the same words of salvation written upon all your actions; for, as this sweet Jesus lives within your heart, so will He also live in your exterior, in your eyes, your mouth, your hands, and even the hair on your head; so that you will be able to say with St. Paul: “I live, no, not I, but Christ liveth in me.” In a word, he that has gained the heart has gained the whole man; but even this heart, by which we would begin, requires to be instructed how it ought to frame its outward behaviour, to the end that men may not only behold holy devotion therein, but also wisdom and discretion; for this reason I crave your serious attention to the following short admonitions:
If you are able to endure fasting, you would do well to fast some days besides those which are commanded by the Church; for, besides the usual effects of fasting, viz., to elevate the spirit, to keep the flesh in subjection, to exercise virtue, and to acquire a greater reward in heaven, it is a great means to restrain gluttony, and keep the sensual appetites and the body subject to the law of the spirit: and although we may not fast much, yet the enemy fears us when he knows we know how to fast. Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are the days on which the ancient Christians exercised themselves most in abstinence; choose, then, some one of those days to fast on, as far as your devotion and the discretion of your director shall advise you.
I would willingly say to you, as St. Jerome said to the good Lady Leta: “Long and immoderate fastings displease me much, especially in those that are yet in their tender age.” I have learned by experience that the young ass, being weary in his journey, seeks to go off from the straight road: that is to say, that young people, being brought into infirmities through excess of fasting, easily turn to a delicate and luxurious way of living. Deer cannot run well under two circumstances—when they are either too fat or too lean. We are greatly exposed to temptations, both when our body is too much pampered, and when it is too much weakened; for the one makes it insolent with ease, and the other desperate with affliction; and as we cannot bear it when it is too fat, so it cannot bear us when it is too lean. The want of this moderation in the use of fasting, discipline, hair-shirts, and other austerities, renders the best years of many unprofitable in the service of charity, as it did even in the case of St. Bernard, who repented that he had used overmuch austerity; and the more they exceeded in the ill-treatment of their bodies in the beginning, the more they were constrained to favour them in the end. Would they not have done better to have mortified their bodies moderately, and in proportion to the offices and labours to which their condition obliged them?
Labour, as well as fasting, serves to mortify and subdue the flesh. Now, provided the labour you undertake contributes to the glory of God and your own welfare, I had rather you would suffer the pain of the labour than that of fasting. This is the sense of the Church, since, on account of such labours as contribute to the service of God and our neighbour dispenses persons engaged in them, even from the fasts commanded. Some find it painful to fast; others to serve the sick or visit prisoners; others to hear confessions, to preach, pray, and perform such like exercises. These latter kind of pains are of more value than the former; for, besides subduing the body, they produce fruits much more desirable, and therefore, generally speaking, it is better to preserve our bodily strength more than may be necessary than to weaken it too much; for we can always decrease it when we will, but we cannot always repair it when we would desire to do so.
We should attend with great reverence to the admonition given by our Blessed Saviour to his disciples: “Eat the things that are set before you” (Luke, x. 9). It is, in my opinion, a greater virtue to eat without choice that which is laid before you, and in the same order as it is presented, whether it be more or less agreeable to your taste, than to always choose the worst; for although this latter way of living seems more austere, yet the former has, notwithstanding, more resignation, since by it we renounce not only our own taste, but even our own choice; and it is no small mortification to accommodate one’s taste to every kind of meat, and keep it in subjection to all occurrences. Besides, this kind of mortification makes no parade, gives no trouble to anyone, and is happily adapted to civil life. To set one kind of meat aside to take another, to pick and scrape off every dish, to think nothing well dressed or sufficiently nice, and make a mystery of every morsel, bespeaks a heart over-nice, and too much attached to eating and drinking. I esteem more St. Bernard’s drinking oil instead of water or wine than if he had drank wormwood water purposely; for it was a plain sign that he thought not of what he drank; and in this indifference respecting our food consists the perfection of the practice of the sacred rule: “Eat that which is set before you.” I except, however, such meats as may prejudice the health, or incommode the spirit, such as hot or high-seasoned meats: as also certain occasions in which nature requires recreation and assistance, in order to be able to support some labour for the glory of God. A continual and moderate sobriety is preferable to violent abstinence, practised by fits and followed by intemperance.
A moderate use of discipline awakens the fervour of devotion. The hair-shirt mortifies the flesh exceedingly, but the use of it, generally speaking, is not proper either for married persons or tender complexions, or for such as have other great pains to support. However, on some remarkable days of penance, it may be used with advice of a discreet confessor.
We must dedicate the night to sleep, everyone as much as his constitution requires, in order to enable him to watch and spend the day profitably; and also because the Holy Scripture, the examples of the saints, and natural reason, strenuously recommend the morning to us as the most useful portion of the day, and that our Lord Himself is named the Rising Sun, and our Blessed Lady the dawning of the day. I think it a point of virtue to take care to go to rest early in the evening, that we may be enabled to awake and arise early in the morning, which is certainly of all other times the most favourable to piety and to the health, the most agreeable, and that which least disposes to disturbance and distractions; when the very birds invite us to awake and praise God; so that early rising is equally serviceable to health and holiness.
Balaam, mounted on his ass, was going to King Balak, but because he had not a right intention, the angel waited for him on the way, with a sword in his hand to kill him. The ass, on seeing the angel, stood still three several times, and became restive; Balaam, in the meantime, beat it cruelly with his staff to make it advance, until the beast, at the third time, falling down under Balaam, by an extraordinary miracle, spoke to him: “What have I done to thee? why strikest thou me, lo! now this third time?” (Numb. xxii. 28). But soon after Balaam’s eyes were opened and he saw the angel, who said to him: “Why beatest thou thy ass? If she had not turned out of the way, giving place to me, I had slain thee, and she should have lived.” Then Balaam said to the angel: “I have sinned, not knowing that thou didst stand against me.” Behold, Philothea, although Balaam is the cause of the evil, yet he strikes and beats his poor ass that could not prevent it. It is often the same case with us; for example, a woman sees her husband or child sick, and presently betakes herself to fasting, haircloth, and such discipline, as David did on the like occasion. Alas! my dear friend, you beat the poor ass, you afflict your body, but it cannot remedy the evil, nor is it on that account that God’s sword is drawn against you: correct your heart, which is an idolator of your husband, and which has permitted a thousand vices in your child; has encouraged it on to pride, vanity, and ambition. Again, a man perceives that he frequently relapses in a shameful manner into the sin of impurity; an inward remorse comes, sword in hand, against his conscience, to pierce it through with a holy fear; and presently, his heart returning to itself, he says: “Ah, wicked flesh! ah, treacherous body! thou hast betrayed me;” and immediately he lays great blows on his flesh, with immoderate fasting, excessive disciplining, and unsupportable hair-shirts. Oh, poor soul, if thy flesh could speak, as Balaam’s ass did, it would say to thee: “Why, O wretch, dost thou strike me?” It is against thee, O soul, that God arms his vengeance; it is thou that art the criminal: why dost thou lead me into bad company? why dost thou employ mine eyes, my hands and my lips in wantonness? why dost thou trouble me with impure imaginations? Cherish thou good thoughts, and I shall have no evil impulses; keep company with such as are modest and chaste, and I shall not be provoked to impurity. It is thou, alas! that throwest me into the fire, and yet thou would not have me burn; thou castest smoke into my eyes, and yet wouldst not have them inflamed. And God, without doubt, says to you in these cases: Beat, break, bend, and crush your hearts to pieces, for it is against them principally that my anger is excited. As to cure diseases of the skin it is not so necessary to wash or bathe the body as it is to purify the blood and strengthen the liver; so to cure our vices, although it may be good to mortify the flesh, yet it is, above all, necessary to purify our affections, and to refresh our hearts effectually. But in and through all, let us be sure never to undertake corporal austerities, but with the advice of our spiritual guide.