Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How to become a Saint; How to Love God, etc. -- All our daily works “that we do which is not done for the love of God is worthless and will get no reward.”

I have a question, when you do your daily work do you think that you do it for the sake of God and for His love and/or for the sake of the conversion of sinners etc., that is, that you refer the work you do for His sake and that you do not only go and work so to speak without saying and thinking about why you perform your work? I ask because I want to make you aware of that everything you do, you should do it with the thought of God and that you do it with an intention to please Him and for His love sake, as Our Lady of Fatima said:

“And she (Our Lady) continued:
“Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially whenever you make some sacrifice [work or deed]: ‘O Jesus, it is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.’”

This is important, for if you do not think of why and for whom you do whatever you are doing, you will loose all reward and your deeds will be worthless -- unless you think beforehand for whom you do the work and why you are doing it, such as by having consecrated all your works, deeds and actions by an Offering Prayer in the morning and/or during the day. As Fr. Paul O'Sullivan wrote on this subject:

“On the other hand, all that we do which is not done for the love of God is worthless and will get no reward. We may toil for long years and receive great praise and honor for our labors, but if our work is not done for love of God, it is worthless.” (An Easy Way to Become a Saint, by Fr. Paul O'Sullivan, O.P. (E.D.M.))
Also, if one thinks beforehand for whom one will perform the work or deed and that it will give God pleasure and have an eternal reward if one concentrates it to Him, then one will have more courage to take on the work, or to perform the sacrifice for His sake and Love.

I will give the link to his book about how to easily become a Saint (that is how he named it) -- https://isidore.co/calibre/get/epub/An%20Easy%20Way%20to%20Become%20a%20Saint%20-%20O%26%2339%3BSullivan%2C%20Paul%2C%20O.P.%20%28E.D.M.%29_6172.epub -- as it is good and points out, among other things, the importance of what has been said above of doing all of what we are doing with the motive of the Love of God in mind. It is not a long time ago that I myself started to really think about to refer all my works to God and for the Love of God, or as Our Lady of Fatima said one should do; before I never thought about it or did it seldom and hence all my previous years of work has been utterly lost! Now, even though I do not always think of God (as this is hard to do for me), I still try to refer all my deeds and works for His love sake, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary -- before I do any thing. When one performs a corporeal work, such as cleaning or performing a sacrifice, then it is easier to think about one does it for God, but to think like this in all one's deeds and actions, whatever it is, can be exceedingly hard, however.

Fr. Paul O'Sullivan recommends this prayer in order to consecrate all our works and deeds to the Lord to be performed in the morning, and also some similar prayer in the evening before going to bed:

“HOW TO GIVE EVERY ACTION THIS INESTIMABLE VALUE - The first act of every good Christian in the morning is to fall on his knees and make his Morning Offering. It can be done in this wise: “Sacred Heart of Jesus, through the most pure hands of Mary, I offer Thee all the prayers, works and sufferings, all the actions of this day and of all my life, in union with the Masses being offered all over the world, for the intentions of Thy Sacred Heart and for the Apostleship of Prayer. Every breath I draw, every beating of my heart, every glance of my eyes, every step I take, every single act I do, I wish to be an act of love for Thee.”


Saturday, May 27, 2017

God must always come first, and He must be served in Humility

St. Paul, the chosen vessel of God, a former persecutor of Christ worthy of conversion, worthy of praise in the Lord and now one of the great apostles, teaches us in his first letter to the Corinthians how spouses should live in marriage.

1 Corinthians 7:29-35 “This therefore I say, brethren; the time is short; it remaineth, that they also who have wives, be as if they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as if they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as if they used it not: for the fashion of this world passeth away. But I would have you to be without solicitude. He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your profit: not to cast a snare upon you; but for that which is decent, and which may give you power to attend upon the Lord, without impediment.”

What St. Paul is saying here is that even those who are married should not place the love of their family or the pleasures or affections they have from them above God, but consider that all are dust and that One, and One only is to be loved above all else—Our Lord Jesus Christ.

When St. Paul mentions “that they also who have wives, be as if they had none”, he is speaking about how spouses must not place the carnal love they have for each other above their love for the Lord. St. Paul’s words are clear: The spouses must act as though they were not married (within due limits of course) since the married man “is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided.” This division of the married man makes it a great necessity that even married people should consider themselves in their own thought processes as though they are unmarried and chaste, although their external and physical marital duties hinders them from pursuing this endeavor to the fullest. As St. Paul says: “it remaineth, that they also who have wives, be as if they had none”.

One must obviously love all people as much as one can, but one must also remember that most people, however dear or near, often reject God and hinder one’s own spiritual advancement. The only one who will always remain true to us and that we know with a certainty will never become evil, is God, and with God, His angels and Saints in Heaven. But humans, however dear or near, often fall away from the truth and this rejection of God by our family or friends requires us to exclude them from our communion. Our Lord explicitly mentions that such acts are necessary sometimes.

Luke 18:29 “Amen, I say to you, there is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive much more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.”

Luke 14 gives us an even clearer example from the gospel which shows us that we must be able to renounce all association to our family or friends when necessity requires it.

Luke 14:26 “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not carry his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

Douay Rheims Commentary on Luke 14:26: “Hate not: The law of Christ does not allow us to hate even our enemies, much less our parents: but the meaning of the text is, that we must be in that disposition of soul, as to be willing to renounce, and part with every thing, how near or dear soever it may be to us, that would keep us from following Christ.”

Our Lord does not only teach us to follow this principle, but he also practiced what he taught himself. His deepest belonging was to the Father, the Father’s House, the Father’s concerns. This commitment would reverberate at later times, severing ultimate claims on Him of his closest family. In the presence of these and to their hearing, He would ask, “Who is my mother, and who are my brethren? And stretching forth his hand towards his disciples, he said: Behold my mother and my brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father, that is in Heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother.” This, in His own life, was the moral authority to demand the same of all others, “You cannot serve two masters...”

Most spouses in this world undoubtedly commit a most grievous act of faithlessness against Our Lord when they love their spouse or the carnal love they derive from them more than God. Their treasure is sadly a most vile corpse that will rot and be eaten by worms in the grave. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34)

The Christian servant is one who, “risen with Christ, seeks the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God” and one who “minds the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth. For you are dead; and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ shall appear, who is your life, then you also shall appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, lust, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is the service of idols.” (Colossians 3:1-5)

Luke chapter 18 is another excellent example in the gospels of how Our Lord wants people to think in their own thought processes.

Luke 18:15-17 “And they brought unto him also infants, that he might touch them. Which when the disciples saw, they rebuked them. But Jesus, calling them together, said: Suffer children to come to me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Amen, I say to you: Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a child, shall not enter into it.”

Notice that Our Lord states that those who shall not receive the kingdom of God as a child, shall not be saved: “Amen, I say to you: Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a child, shall not enter into it.” What are the good virtues or characteristics of children that Our Lord refers to in this verse that men must have in order to be saved? There are obviously many virtues that children have but two of the most notable ones are purity, and humility, among many other virtues such as strong faith and trust. The first virtue that children are naturally endowed with is purity, and just like children, men must also be pure and chaste in their own thought processes in accordance with Our Lord’s words, even though some must fulfill their marital duties. All children are also humble in a way since they know that they know nothing compared to grown ups, and that they need to learn more in order to understand different things. Men and women should also think in the same way. They should humbly think that they know nothing, and that they need to learn more in order to understand different things. Until the moment of death, all men can learn more about God, goodness or other things conducive to spiritual growth. Every day is a new day with new opportunities to practice virtues of different kinds, like patience, kindness, purity, love of neighbor and God etc. However, whoever states the contrary, that is, that he already knows all, is a proud liar who attributes to himself God’s perfect knowledge.

Children also love their parents in many ways and desire their presence at all times. Children also frequently tend to express their love for their parents in different ways. For instance, it is not uncommon for children to simply walk up to their parents for no other purpose than to express their love for them, and say they love them. Children also have total childlike faith and confidence in their parents, firmly believing that they know what’s best for them. It is indeed by children that God wishes to teach us how we should act towards Him, and love Him. Even though we are grown ups and not as children, we should still act in our mind towards God as do small, defenseless children towards their own parents; that is, we should have the same desire, love, longing and confidence for Our God and Father in Heaven as do children for their parents. And just like children, we should admit our own utter dependance on Him, seeking His protection and Fatherly care, having childlike trust in Him, firmly believing that He will do what’s best for us and our salvation; and just like children, we are to feel a deep desire and longing for God as do small children for their parents, who simply cannot stop crying until they are embraced by them; and finally, just like children, we are by our prayers, meditations and thoughts to confidently walk up to God and tell Him how much we love Him.

Every one has two lives. The first life (which is the most important life) is the inner life of the soul, consisting for the most part of desires, thoughts and affections. The second life is the outer or external life made up of the daily actions of the visible life. The pitiful state of today’s humanity however, is that most people completely lack the inner life and because of this, they lose their immortal souls. How trivial indeed must not those small trifles and things seem for those lost souls who loved and desired earthly and perishable goods and pleasures more than they loved God when after a billion years in Hell have gone by in the smoke that smothers and suffocates their whole being, while the painful and tormenting fire that will never be quenched however much they plead with Our Lord to alleviate their torment, continues to torment them mercilessly!

Romans 6:3-6; 6:12-23 “Know you not that all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized in his death? For we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin may be destroyed, to the end that we may serve sin no longer.
“… Let no sin therefore reign in your mortal body, so as to obey the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of iniquity unto sin; but present yourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of justice unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are whom you obey, whether it be of sin unto death, or of obedience unto justice.
“But thanks be to God, that you were the servants of sin, but have obeyed from the heart, unto that form of doctrine, into which you have been delivered. Being then freed from sin, we have been made servants of justice. I speak an human thing, because of the infirmity of your flesh. For as you have yielded your members to serve uncleanness and iniquity, unto iniquity; so now yield your members to serve justice, unto sanctification. For when you were the servants of sin, you were free men to justice. What fruit therefore had you then in those things, of which you are now ashamed? For the end of them is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end life everlasting. For the wages of sin is death. But the grace of God, life everlasting, in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Friday, May 26, 2017

Advice to parents on how to have holy children

It’s a fact of history and tradition that holy parents often raise pious and holy children. The reasons behind this is that the children of holy and devout parents often imitate the good and righteous deeds of their parents as much as they are able. In contrast, according to numerous saints and spiritual revelations, sinful and lustful parents influence and affect their children by their bad life and example, inflicting sinful thoughts, impulses and temptations upon their children. Thus, every parent who love their children and their future children should do their utmost to live in holiness, knowing that every act they will ever do can have an effect on their children – for better or for worse. Only in Hell will bad parents understand how their deeds effected their children in a negative way, but then it is sadly too late for them. In St. Bridget’s Revelations, it is described how such evil parents will be damned for their sinful lives.

The Son of God speaks: “Sometimes I let evil parents give birth to good children, but more often, evil children are born of evil parents, since these children imitate the evil and unrighteous deeds of their parents as much as they are able and would imitate it even more if my patience allowed them. Such a married couple will never see my face unless they repent. For there is no sin so heavy or grave that penitence and repentance does not wash it away.” (St. Bridget’s Revelations, Book 1, Chapter 26)

St. Francis de Sales, in his book Introduction to the Devout Life, in the chapter Instructions For Married Persons, gives parents important information about how they are to raise and care for their children:

“St. Monica, being pregnant 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 testifies, saying, that "he had 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 Aquinas, St. Andrew of Fiesola, and many 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 that moment, she loved them with respect as things consecrated to God and entrusted by him to her care. This pious custom was so pleasing to God that her seven children became afterwards eminent for sanctity. 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 devout queen Blanche performed this duty most fervently with regard to St. Lewis [King St. Louis IX], her son. She often said to him, "I would much rather, my dear child, see you die before my eyes, than see you commit only one mortal sin." This caution remained so deeply engraved in his soul that, as he himself related, not one day of his life passed in which be did not remember it, and take all possible care to observe it faithfully. Families and generations are, in our language, called houses; and even the Hebrews called the generations of children the building up of a house; for, 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 possessions, but in the good education of children in the fear of God, and in virtue, in which no pains or labor ought to be spared; for children are the crown of their parents. Thus, St. Monica fought with so much fervor and constancy against the evil inclination 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 his soul, than he had been of her blood, by the generation of his body.”


by Saint Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787)

Saint Alphonsus, founder of the Redemptorist Order, Bishop and Doctor of the Church expounds on the privilege and responsibilities of parenthood as a special vocation from God. The wisdom of this holy man has guided and fortified Catholics for over two hundred years.

The gospel tells us, that a good plant cannot produce bad fruit, and that a bad one cannot produce good fruit. We learn from this, that a good father brings up good children. But, if the parents are wicked, how can the children be virtuous? Our Lord says, in the same gospel, "Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?" (Matt. 7:16). So, it is impossible, or rather very difficult, to find children virtuous, who are brought up by immoral parents. Fathers and mothers, be attentive to this sermon, which is of great importance to the eternal salvation of yourselves and of your children. Be attentive, young men and young women, who have not as yet chosen a state in life. If you wish to marry, learn the obligations which you contract with regard to the education of your children, and learn also, that if you do not fulfill them, you shall bring yourselves and all your children to damnation. I shall divide this into two points. In the first, I shall show how important it is to bring up children in habits of virtue; and, in the second, I shall show with what care and diligence a parent ought to labor to bring them up well.

A father owes two obligations to his children; he is bound to provide for their corporal wants, and to educate them in the habits of virtue. It is not necessary to say anything else about the first obligation, than, there are some fathers more cruel than the most ferocious of wild beasts, for these squander away in eating, drinking, and pleasure, all their property, or all the fruits of their industry, and allow their children to die of hunger. Let us discuss education, which is the subject of this article.

It is certain that a child's future good or bad conduct depends on his being brought up well or poorly. Nature itself teaches every parent to attend to the education of his offspring. God gives children to parents, not that they may assist the family, but that they may be brought up in the fear of God, and be directed in the way of eternal salvation. "We have," says Saint John Chrysostom, "a great deposit in children, let us attend to them with great care." Children have not been given to parents as a present, which they may dispose of as they please, but as a trust, for which, if lost through their negligence; they must render an account to God.

One of the great Fathers says that on the day of judgment, parents will have to render an account for all the sins of their children. So, he who teaches his son to live well, shall die a happy and tranquil death. "He that teaches his son...when he died, he was not sorrowful, neither was he confounded before his enemies" (Eccl. 30: 3,5). And he will save his soul by means of his children, that is, by the virtuous education which he has given them. "She shall be saved through childbearing" (I Tim. 2:15).

But, on the other hand, a very uneasy and unhappy death will be the lot of those who have labored only to increase the possessions, or to multiply the honors of their family, or who have sought only to lead a life of ease and pleasure, but have not watched over the morals of their children. Saint Paul says that such parents are worse than infidels. "But if any man have not care of his own, and especially of those of his house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel" (I Tim. 5:8).

Were fathers or mothers to lead a life of piety and continual prayer, and to communicate every day, they should be damned if they neglected the care of their children.

If all fathers fulfilled their duty of watching over the education of their children, we should have but few crimes. By the bad education which parents give to their offspring, they cause their children, says Saint John Chrysostom, to rush into many grievous vices; and thus they deliver them up to the hands of the executioner. So it was, in one town, a parent, who was the cause of all the irregularities of his children, was justly punished for his crimes with greater severity than the children themselves. Great indeed is the misfortune of the child that has vicious parents, who are incapable of bringing up their children in the fear of God, and who, when they see their children engage in dangerous friendships and in quarrels, instead of correcting and chastising them, they take compassion on them, and say, "What can I do? They are young; hopefully they will grow out of it." What wicked words, what a cruel education! Do you hope that when your children grow up, they will become saints? Listen to what Solomon says, "A young man, according to his way, even when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). A young man who has contracted a habit of sin, will not abandon it even in his old age. "His bones," says holy Job, "will be filled with the vices of his youth, and they will sleep with him in the dust" (Job 20:11). When a young person has lived in evil habits, his bones will be filled with the vices of his youth, so that he will carry them to the grave, and the impurities, blasphemies, and hatred to which he was accustomed in his youth, will accompany him to the grave, and will sleep with him after his bones are reduced to dust and ashes. It is very easy, when they are small, to train children to habits of virtue, but, when they have come to manhood, it is equally difficult to correct them, if they have learned habits of vice.

Let us come to the second point, that is, to the means of bringing up children in the practice of virtue. I beg you, fathers and mothers, to remember what I now say to you, from on it depends the eternal salvation of your own souls, and of the souls of your children.

Saint Paul teaches sufficiently, in a few words, in what the proper education of children consists. He says that it consists in discipline and correction. "And you, fathers, provoke not your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and correction of the Lord" (Ephes. 5:4). Discipline, which is the same as the religious regulation of the morals of children, implies an obligation of educating them in habits of virtue by word and example. First, by words: a good father should often assemble his children, and instill into them the holy fear of God. It was in this manner that Tobias brought up his little son. The father taught him from his childhood to fear the Lord and to fly from sin. "And from infancy he taught him to fear God and abstain from sin" (Tobias 1:10). The wise man says, that a well educated son is the support and consolation of his father. "Instruct your son, and he will refresh you, and will give delight to your soul" (Prov. 29:17). But, as a well instructed son is the delight of his father's soul, so an ignorant child is a source of sorrow to a father's heart, for the ignorance of his obligations as a Christian is always accompanied with a bad life.

It was related that, in the year 1248, an ignorant priest was commanded, in a certain synod, to make a discourse. He was greatly agitated by the command and the Devil appearing to him, instructed him to say, "The rectors of infernal darkness salute the rectors of parishes, and thank them for their negligence in instructing the people; because from ignorance proceeds the misconduct and the damnation of many."

The same is true of negligent parents. In the first place, a parent ought to instruct his children in the truths of the Faith, and particularly in the four principle mysteries. First, that there is but One God, the Creator and Lord of all things; secondly, that this God is a remunerator, Who, in the next life, will reward the good with the eternal glory of Paradise, and will punish the wicked with the everlasting torments of Hell; thirdly, the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, that is, that in God there are Three Persons, Who are only One God, because They have but One Essence; fourthly, the mystery of the Incarnation of the Divine Word, the Son of God, and True God, Who became man in the womb of Mary, and suffered and died for our salvation.

Should a father or mother say, "I myself do not know these mysteries," can such an excuse be admitted? Can one sin excuse another? If you are ignorant of these mysteries, you are obliged to learn them, and afterwards to teach them to your children. At least, send your children to a worthy catechist. What a miserable thing to see so many fathers and mothers, who are unable to instruct their children in the most necessary truths of the Faith, and who, instead of sending their sons and daughters to Christian doctrine, employ them in occupations of little account, and when they are grown up, they do not know what is meant by mortal sin, by Hell, or eternity. They do not even know the Creed, the Our Father, or the Hail Mary, which every Christian is bound to learn under pain of mortal sin.

Religious parents not only instruct their children in these things, which are the most important, but they also teach them the acts which ought to be made every morning after rising. They teach them first, to thank God for having preserved their life during the night, secondly to offer to God all their good actions which they will perform, and all the pains which they will suffer during the day, thirdly, to implore of Jesus Christ and Our Most Holy Mother Mary to preserve them from all sin during the day. They teach them to make, every evening, an examination of conscience and an act of contrition. They also teach them to make every day, the acts of Faith, Hope and Charity, to recite the Rosary, and to visit the Blessed Sacrament. Some good fathers of families are careful to get a book of meditations to read, and to have mental prayer in common for half an hour every day. This is what the Holy Ghost exhorts you to practice. "Do you have children? Instruct them and bow down their neck from their childhood" (Eccl. 7:25). Endeavor to train them from their infancy to these religious habits, and when they grow up, they will persevere in them. Accustom them also to go to confession and communion every week.

It is also very useful to infuse good maxims into the infant minds of children. What ruin is brought upon children by their father who teaches them worldly maxims! "You must," some parents say to their children, "seek the esteem and applause of the world. God is merciful; He takes compassion on certain sins." How miserable the young man is who sins in obedience to such maxims. Good parents teach very different maxims to their children. Queen Blanche, the mother of Saint Louis, King of France, used to say to him, "My son, I would rather see you dead in my arms, than in the state of sin." So then, let it be your practice also to infuse into your children certain maxims of salvation, such as, What will it profit us to gain the whole world, if we lose our own souls? Everything on this earth has an end, but eternity never ends. Let all be lost, provided God is not lost. One of these maxims well impressed on the mind of a young person, will preserve him always in the grace of God.

But parents are obliged to instruct their children in the practice of virtue, not only by words, but still more by example. If you give your children bad example, how can you expect that they will lead good lives? When a dissolute young man is corrected for a fault, he answers, "Why do you censure me, when my father does worse?" "The children will complain of an ungodly father, because for his sake they are in reproach" (Eccl. 41:10). How is it possible for a son to be moral and religious, when he has had the example of a father who uttered blasphemies and obscenities, who spent the entire day in the tavern, in games and drunkenness, who was in the habit of frequenting houses of bad fame, and of defrauding his neighbor? Do you expect your son to go frequently to confession, when you yourself approach the confessional scarcely once a year?

It is related in a fable, that a crab one day rebuked its young for walking crookedly. They replied, "Father, let us see you walk." The father walked before them more crookedly than they did. This is what happens to the parent who gives bad example. Hence, he has not even courage to correct his children for the sins which he himself commits.

According to Saint Thomas, scandalous parents compel, in a certain manner, their children to lead a bad life. "They are not," says Saint Bernard, "fathers, but murderers, they kill, not the bodies, but the souls of their children." It is useless for parents to say: "My children have been born with bad dispositions." This is not true, for, Seneca says, "You err, if you think that vices are born with us; they have been engrafted." Vices are not born with your children, but have been communicated to them by the bad example of the parents. If you had given good example to your sons, they would not be so vicious as they are. So parents, frequent the Sacraments, learn from the sermons, recite the Rosary every day, abstain from all obscene language, from detraction, and from quarrels, and you will see that your children follow your example. It is particularly necessary to train children to virtue in their infancy, Bow down their neck from their childhood, for when they have grown up, and contracted bad habits, it will be very difficult for you to produce, by words, any amendment in their lives.

To bring up children in the discipline of the Lord, it is also necessary to take away from them the occasion of doing evil. A father must forbid his children to go out at night, or to go to a house in which their virtue might be exposed to danger, or to keep bad company. "Cast out," said Sarah to Abraham, "this bondswoman and her son" (Gen. 21:10). She wished to have Ismael, the son of Agar the bondswoman, banished from her house, that her son Isaac might not learn his vicious habits. Bad companions are the ruin of young persons. A father should not only remove the evil which he witnesses, but he is also bound to inquire after the conduct of his children, and to seek information from family and from outsiders regarding the places which his children frequent when they leave home, regarding their occupations and companions. A father ought to forbid his children ever to bring into his house stolen goods. When Tobias heard the bleating of a goat in his house, he said, "Take care, perhaps it is stolen, go, restore it to its owners" (Tobias 2:21).

Parents should prohibit their children from all games, which bring destruction on their families and on their own souls, and also dances, suggestive entertainment, and certain dangerous conversations and parties of pleasures. A father should remove from his house [all media and] books of romances, which pervert young persons, and all bad books which contain pernicious maxims, tales of obscenity, or of profane love. [and neither should you let your children surf the internet ungoverned or without ad blockers or image blockers.] He should not permit his daughters to be alone with men, whether young or old. But some will say, "But this man tutors my daughter; he is a saint." The saints are in Heaven, but the saints that are on earth are flesh, and by proximate occasions, they may become devils.

Another obligation of parents is to correct the faults of the family. "Bring them up in the discipline and correction of the Lord." There are fathers and mothers who witness faults in the family and remain silent. Through fear of displeasing their children, some fathers neglect to correct them, but if you saw your child falling into a pool of water, and in danger of being drowned, would it not be savage cruelty not to catch him by the hair, and save his life? "He that spares the rod hates his son" (Prov. 13:24). If you love your children, correct them, and while they are growing up, chastise them, even with the rod, as often as it may be necessary.

I say, with the rod, but not with a stick; for you must correct them like a father, and not like a prison guard. You must be careful not to beat them when you are in a passion, for you will then be in danger of beating them with too much severity, and the correction will be without fruit, for then they believe that the chastisement is the effect of anger, and not of a desire on your part to see them amend their lives. I have also said, that you should correct them while they are growing up, for when they arrive at manhood, your correction will be of little use. You must then abstain from correcting them with the hand; otherwise, they will become more perverse, and will lose their respect for you. What use is it to correct children with injurious words and with imprecations? Deprive them of some part of their meals, of certain articles of dress, or shut them up in their room. I have said enough. Draw from this discourse the conclusion, that he who has brought up his children badly, will be severely punished, and that he who has trained them in the habits of virtue, will receive a great reward.


Saints Suffer

Though he does not counsel marriage except for the case of need, and while he does allow licit contraction of marriage for reasons extrinsic to the sacrament itself, Alphonsus nonetheless is optimistic about the ultimate end of married Christians. He finds reason to think that saints may be made of all spouses: “God wants all of us to be saints, and each one according to his or her state of life: the religious as a religious, laypeople as laypeople, the priest as a priest, the married person as married, the merchant as merchant, the soldier as a soldier, and so on, in every other state of life.” (Liguori, The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, trans. Peter Heinegg, intro. J. Robert Fenili, C.Ss.R. (Liguori, Mo.: Liguori, 1997), 76)

For Alphonsus, this holiness is a life of virtue and prayer, but also a life that nonetheless grows amidst the worldly demands of marriage. Obedience to life’s duties themselves does not determine salvation; whether the events and duties of life are born in virtue or vice marks the difference between a saint’s life and a sinner’s. Chief among the virtues and the source of holiness for all people is love, the love of Jesus Christ given by grace and manifested by the imitation of his life. This excerpt from a letter to Father Tannoia on January 28, 1762, summarizes his notion of the love of Jesus that brings people to salvation:

“Bind yourselves, then, ever more and more with love to Jesus Christ. Love is that golden chain which attaches souls to God and binds them so closely that it appears they are no longer able to separate themselves from Him. Always, therefore, I pray you, make acts of love in your meditations, Communions, in the visits to the Blessed Sacrament, during reading, in your cells, in the refectory, in the wood, in all places at all times. He who loves Jesus Christ from his heart has no fear of losing Him, and is content to suffer every pain, all contempt and all poverty for His love.” (A portion of the letter is transcribed in D.F. Miller, Saint Alphonsus, 225-26)

Although this letter explicitly treats the holiness of Alphonsus’ confreres, the sufferings of “pain, all contempt and all poverty for His love” link the passage directly to the kind of sufferings we have seen Alphonsus describe in the married life. Recall that the wife’s lot is more difficult than that of the religious on account of the “throes of childbirth,” the abuses, insults, and illtreatment of husbands and relatives, and the wants of the household (poverty) that continual toil never seems to assuage (Liguori, “Discourse to Pious Maidens,” 478). It seems, then, that — given recourse to the love of Christ — spouses stand to become as great of saints as any.

We learn of parents’ responsibilities to their children in Alphonsus’s exposition of the fourth commandment in his Theologia Moralis, his Istruzione al popolo, and also in a sermon composed for the seventh Sunday after Pentecost. This sermon, “On the Education of Children,” is preached for the Gospel of Matthew, 7:18, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit.” The mission of parenthood is to produce good fruit, that is, saints. Nowhere does Liguori make this more explicit than when he says parents, with Queen Blanche, the mother of St. Louis, ought to teach their children this maxim: “My son, I would rather see you dead in my arms, than in a state of sin.” (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 275) Fathers who neglect their children’s souls “are not, says St. Bernard, fathers, but murderers; they kill, not the bodies, but the souls of their children.” (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 276) Alphonsus notes, though, that the task of raising Christian children depends first and foremost on the parents’ holiness (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 269). In order to have zeal for the souls of their children, spouses must energetically pursue the salvation of their own souls. “But if parents be wicked, how can the children be virtuous?” (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 269, 275-76) “Children are like apes; they do what they see their parents do… scandalous parents compel, in a certain manner, their children to lead a bad life.”

As I said above, parents can only lead their children to Christ in as much as they have solicitude for their own souls; at the same time, though, responsible parenthood itself constitutes a path to sanctification for Liguori. Liguori relies on Sirach 30:5 and 1 Timothy 2:15 for this conclusion. “Hence, he who teaches his son to live well, shall die a happy and tranquil death… And he shall save his soul by means of his children; that is, by the virtuous education which he has given them. ‘She shall be saved through child-bearing.’” (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 271)

Commitment to a child’s education in virtue and faith also comes from a proper understanding the child’s place in the family and the nature of the parents’ relationship to the child. Spouses must know that “God gives children to parents, not that they may assist the family, but that they may be brought up in the fear of God, and be directed in the way of eternal salvation.” (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 270) “‘We have’, says St. Chrysostom, ‘a great deposit in children; let us attend to them with great care’ hom. ix., in I. ad Tit. Children have not been given to parents as a present or possession, which they may dispose of as they please, but as a trust, for which, if lost through their negligence, they must render an account to God.” (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 270) What a stirring critique of modern commodification of children in marriage, and, as we see below, the attendant personification of pets and property. “Would to God,” Alphonsus writes, “that certain parents paid as much attention to their children as they do to their horses! How careful are they to see that their horses are fed and well trained! And they take no pains to make their children attend at catechism, hear mass, or go to confession. ‘We take more care’, says St. Chrysostom, ‘of our asses and horses, than of our children’ hom. x., in Matt.” (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 271) It seems that love of things and animals more than children is as old a phenomenon as parenting itself.

This is all fine, some might say, but do parents today not already care about the spiritual wellbeing of their children? What does Alphonsus really add to a Christian understanding of the mission of parenthood? What Alphonsus offers is a complete reprioritization of the tasks of parenthood. Solicitude for the child’s salvation by growth in virtue and knowledge of the faith holds the primary position, far above their education in letters, sciences, and/or trade. Mothers are to teach their children the maxim, “What will it profit us to gain the whole world, if we lose our own souls? Everything on this Earth has an end; but eternity never ends. Let all be lost, provided God is not lost.” (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 275-76) Liguori is not just emphasizing a focus on salvation, but he is drastically prioritizing it over other ends. “On the day of judgment,” he writes, “parents shall have to render an account for all the sins of their children.” (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 271) Liguori’s approach serves to remind modern parents that saving their child’s soul is more important than saving for their child’s college education. In a culture where middle-class parents spend more hours at work than at home so that they can afford luxuries for their children, Alphonsus’ vision of parenting as a spiritual, moral mission, rather than as primarily an economic one, offers refreshing and liberating alternatives for spouses bogged down by a society telling parents that what their children have is more important then what they are and what they become. Liguori exhorts parents to be concerned most with what God intends their children to become “saints” and his advice for doing so is not merely to be an eco-friendly consumer or resist materialism by a moderate, generous life, but rather he counsels a life of radical piety (sacrificing the supermarket and the soccer league for the sake of Eucharistic adoration and spiritual reading).

Toward a Livable Christian Family Life for Yesterday and Today

A true missionary and a gentle moral theologian, Liguori does not simply lay these demands on the shoulders of parents and then walk away; he is most interested in giving parents real, bearable solutions to the challenges of the moral life in conjugal life and raising children. His suggestions for how to live the moral life proclaimed in the gospel can be divided into three sections: 1) pious practice; 2) propositional knowledge of the faith; and 3) growth in virtue.

First, he treats the teaching of pious practice. For the gospel to be successfully preached, it must be practicable. It must truly be good news, a truly better way of life. This notion would not be lost on Alphonsus. He does not burden spouses with impossible yokes of odious pious practice in the realm of child-rearing, but offers simple, clear practices that are as relevant today as in the 18th century. Alphonsus gives families a “rule of life” drastically abridged from the rule of the Redemptorists. He includes abridged or revised versions of this rule in many of his spiritual books and in some sermons. (A version of the rule appears also in Liguori, The Way of Salvation and Perfection, 502-510; and The Christian Virtues, 335-371, 392-402.) The rule given in the sermon on parenting is even more abbreviated than those found in spiritual treatises for a more general audience, which suggests a special care that his counsel to families be approachable. The rule typically has two parts: 1) things to be done daily, and 2) general counsels for Christian living. The daily acts frame the day in terms of worship. On rising, members of the family are “first, to thank God for having preserved their life during the night; secondly, to offer to God all the good actions which they will perform, and all the pains which they shall suffer during the day; thirdly, to implore of Jesus Christ and the most holy Mary to preserve them from all sin during the day.” (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 274. In “Rule of Life,” in The Way of Salvation and of Perfection, vol. 2, 502-10, at 502). Liguori adds the option that a person could also recite the Our Father, a hail Mary, the Creed, and 3 more hail Marys in honor of her purity. At the end of the day, each person should perform an examination of conscience and an act of contrition (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 274. In “Rule of Life,” 505). He adds that a person might perform the “Christian acts” at this time. At some point each day, “good fathers of families are careful to get a book of meditations read, and to have mental prayer in common for half an hour every day. This is what the Holy Ghost exhorts you to practice.” (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 274. In “Rule of Life,” 505). Another half-hour of spiritual reading is suggested in addition to the half-hour of meditation. Alphonsus also provides detailed description of how to perform these meditations (503-04).
Additionally, “teach them [children] to make, every day, the acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity, to recite the Rosary, and to visit the blessed sacrament.” (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 274). In “Rule of Life,” Alphonsus describes in greater detail the practice of visiting the blessed sacrament (505). Liguori also wrote a best-selling book to aid people in visits to the blessed sacrament (Visits to the Blessed Sacrament and our Lady). Again, Alphonsus abridges the abridged “rule of life” here, leaving out the visits to our Lady (Liguori, “Rule of Life,” 505). Liguori also leaves out of this double-abridged version the advice to hear as many sermons as possible, to make a one-day retreat once a month, and to make an 8-day retreat annually (508). It also seems that here, unlike in the “rule of life,” the acts of Faith, Hope, and Charity are to be made daily, while the practice of reciting the rosary and visiting the sacrament are to be taught but need not be made every day. [People should definitely pray the Rosary everyday. See How to Pray the Rosary.] Parents ought weekly to avail their children of the sacraments of confession (beginning at 7 years old) and communion (beginning at 10 years old) as well; they should have their children confirmed at the age of reason (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 274). In “Rule of Life,” 504-06, Alphonsus suggests, in consultation with a spiritual director, hearing mass daily and receiving communion multiple times a week. One ought to, if possible, spend a half-hour in preparation to receive communion and a half-hour in thanksgiving after receiving the sacrament as well. He also suggests spending a half an hour visiting our Lady.

Parents are not only morally obligated to teach their children authentic practices of piety, but they must also teach and pass on to them the content of the faith. Again, as a missionary to the abandoned rustics, typically uneducated in the faith, Alphonsus is sensitive to parents’ own lack of knowledge in this regard. So, once again, he makes the moral obligation to pass on the faith an easier yoke to bear. Alphonsus simplifies the faith down to four “mysteries” that parents should teach their children:

“First, that there is but one God, the Creator and Lord of all things; secondly, that this God is a remunerator, who, in the next life, shall reward the good with the eternal glory of Paradise, and shall punish the wicked with the everlasting torments of Hell; thirdly, the mystery of the most holy Trinity,—that is, that in God there are Three Persons, who are only one God, because they have but one essence; fourthly, the mystery of the incarnation of the Divine Word—the Son of God, and true God, who became man in the womb of Mary, and suffered and died for our salvation… If you are ignorant of these mysteries, you are obliged to learn them, and afterwards to teach them to your children.” (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 273-74)

Parents are responsible for the propositional knowledge that there is one God who is of one essence but three persons, who is creator, judge, and redeemer through his incarnate Son, who was born of a virgin and suffered and died for our salvation. Given they have the opportunity to learn these truths, parents are morally culpable for their children’s ignorance of them.

Parents are not only invested teaching piety and the articles of faith to their children, but they “are obliged to instruct their children in the practice of virtue, not only by words, but still more by example.” (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 275). The practices of piety and the propositional knowledge of Christian mysteries are of little good without virtue. There are two pieces to the pedagogy of virtue for Liguori: shunning the occasion for sin, and correcting faults in the progress of virtue. Elsewhere, Liguori states the role of the father in governing the good of the family in general as two-fold: to rid the home of all evil and vice, and to promote the growth of virtue in the home. As to the first, parents must take every caution to spare their children from occasions of sin (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 276). For, as Alphonsus commonly puts it, if one does not avoid voluntary occasions of sin, how can one possibly hope to resist involuntary occasions? (Liguori, “Rule of Life,” 507). The second is to train children in developing the habits of virtue through discipline, actively correcting faults (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 277-78). This discipline will fail if hypocritical or done in anger. It must be gentle, reasonable, and only rarely corporal (Liguori, “Sermon 36,” 275-78). Finally, as they develop in virtue and move toward choosing a state in life, the parents must not interfere with the choice, for more often than not, when they do, they cannot help but seek their own or the family’s interest. “The will of the parents is not a sign of vocation to the priesthood, as parents induce their children to embrace the priesthood are not looking into the good of their children’s souls but only the interest and good of the family.” At the same time, though, Alphonsus warns against the danger of being drawn away from a true vocation to religious or priestly life by parents who desire otherwise (Theologia Moralis I, 603,and II, 496).

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Love is necessary for Salvation – On Loving God with one's whole Heart

For a person to be Saved, the word of God teaches that one must love his God with “his whole heart, and with his whole soul, and with all his strength, and with all his mind” (Luke 10:27). If any person fails to do this, that is, if he chooses to love something more than he loves God, whatever it may be or however small it may be, he will not be Saved. Consequently, it is of the greatest importance that all people who desires their salvation must do everything in their power to acquire and foster the love of God in their own hearts, soul, mind and body, by loving Him very deeply and at all times, and by praying to Him for help in loving Him worthily. Indeed, if a person can grow a deep love and attachment for their husband or wife or their children and have a fervent desire for them constantly, then, likewise, a person should have no problem in growing an even greater love and longing for God in his own heart, if he only so wish and desire: “For to Christians this rule of life is given, that we should love the Lord Our God with all the heart, with all the soul, and with all the mind, and our neighbor as ourselves… God alone, to find whom is the happiest life, must be worshiped in perfect purity and chastity… in chaste and faithful obedience, not to gratify passion, but for the propagation of offspring, and for domestic society.” (St. Augustine, On the Morals of the Catholic Church, Chapter 30, Section 62, A.D. 388)

Jesus Christ in the Revelations of St. Bridget gives us a perfect description of how good spouses in the spiritual marriage are to love and desire God above all else.

The Son of God speaks to St. Bridget: “For that reason, I wish to turn to the spiritual marriage, the kind that is appropriate for God to have with a chaste soul and chaste body. There are seven good things in it opposed to the evils mentioned above: First, there is no desire for beauty of form or bodily beauty or lustful sights, but only for the sight and love of God. Second, there is no desire to possess anything else than what is needed to survive, and just the necessities with nothing in excess. Third, they avoid vain and frivolous talk. Fourth, they do not care about seeing friends or relatives, but I am their love and desire. Fifth, they desire to keep the humility inwardly in their conscience and outwardly in the way they dress. Sixth, they never have any will of leading lustful lives. Seventh, they beget sons and daughters for their God through their good behavior and good example and through the preaching of spiritual words.
“They preserve their faith undefiled when they stand outside the doors of my church where they give me their consent and I give them mine. They go up to my altar when they enjoy the spiritual delight of my Body and Blood in which delight they wish to be of one heart and one body and one will with me, and I, true God and man, mighty in heaven and on earth, shall be as the third with them and will fill their hearts. The worldly spouses begin their marriage in lustful desires like brute beasts, and even worse than brute beasts! But these spiritual spouses begin in love and fear of God and do not bother to please anyone but me. The evil spirit fills and incites those in the worldly marriage to carnal lust where there is nothing but unclean stench, but those in the spiritual marriage are filled with my Spirit and inflamed with the fire of my love that will never fail them.” (St. Bridget’s Revelations, Book 1, Chapter 26)

In contrast to the seven good fruits of the holy marriage described by Jesus Christ above, this is how Our Lord describes the seven evil fruits of the evil and worldly marriage:

“But people in this age are joined in marriage for seven [evil] reasons: First, because of facial beauty. Second, because of wealth. Third, because of the despicable pleasure and indecent joy they get out of their impure intercourse. Fourth, because of feasts with friends and uncontrolled gluttony. Fifth, because of vanity in clothing and eating, in joking and entertainment and games and other vanities. Sixth, for the sake of procreating children but not to raise them for the honor of God or good works but for worldly riches and honor. Seventh, they come together for the sake of lust and they are like brute beasts in their lustful desires. … Such a married couple will never see my face unless they repent. For there is no sin so heavy or grave that penitence and repentance does not wash it away.” (St. Bridget’s Revelations, Book 1, Chapter 26)

In truth, only the ungodly or idolatrous couple would want to join in marriage to gratify carnal pleasures and evil desires or be working so selfishly in pleasing only themselves rather than pleasing God, who created them and even died for them. God must always come first! and He is always present in Spirit in every action, deed or move we will ever make. Let’s get this saving concept imprinted on our minds: “I am one God in three Persons, and one in Divinity with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Just as it is impossible for the Father to be separated from the Son and the Holy Spirit to be separated from them both, and as it is impossible for warmth to be separated from fire, so it is impossible for these spiritual spouses to be separated from me; I am always as the third with them. Once my body was ravaged and died in torments, but it will never more be hurt or die. Likewise, those who are incorporated into me with a true faith and a perfect will shall never die away from me; for wherever they stand or sit or walk, I am always as the third with them.” (St. Bridget’s Revelations, Book 1, Chapter 26)

Jesus infallibly over and over again demands of us that we are to love Him even more than we love ourselves, our wife or even our children.

Matthew 10:37-39 “He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me, shall find it.”

Haydock Commentary adds: “Ver. 39. But if he continues moderately happy as to temporal concerns till death, and places his affections on them, he hath found life here, but shall lose it in the next world. But he that shall, for the sake of Christ, deprive himself of the pleasures of this life, shall receive the reward of a hundred fold in the next.”

And in St. Bridget’s Revelations, Our Lord spoke these words describing how Adam and Eve’s love for God was perfect before the fall, saying: “but I alone was all their good and pleasure and perfect delight.” (The Revelations of St. Bridget, Book 1, Chapter 26)

The meaning of the above words, “but I alone was all their good and pleasure and perfect delight,” isn’t that a person can’t delight in or feel pleasure in/from God anymore after the fall, but rather that before the fall, God was the only delight and pleasure man ever felt and desired. Before the fall, man did all in God and for God, and no selfish love existed as it does now. After the fall, however, God had to compete for man’s love with human concupiscence and fleshly lusts. God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5), and He wants us to love and desire Him above everything else. So to love God during all times, even during intercourse, is an advice to those couples who wish to be perfect, as Adam and Eve were perfect, and for those who ardently longs and desires to be united with God through love.

St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 3, Chapter 39, Of The Sanctity Of The Marriage Bed: “Now, excess in eating consists not only in eating too much, but also in the time and manner of eating. It is surprising, dear Philothea [to whom the book was written], that honey, which is so proper and wholesome a food for bees, may, nevertheless, become so hurtful to them as sometimes to make them sick: for in the spring, when they eat too much of it, being overcharged with it in the forepart of their head and wings, they become sick, and frequently die. In like manner, nuptial commerce... is, nevertheless, in certain cases dangerous to those that exercise it; for it frequently debilitates the soul with venial sin, as in cases of mere and simple excess; and sometimes it kills it effectually by mortal sin, as when the order appointed for the procreation of children is violated and perverted; in which case according as one departs more or less from it, the sins are more or less abominable, but always mortal: for the procreation of children being the principal end of marriage one may never lawfully depart from the order which that end requires; though, on account of some accident or circumstance, it cannot at that time be brought about, as it happens when barrenness... prevents generation.
“In these occurrences corporal commerce may still be just... provided the rules of generation be followed: no accident whatsoever being able to prejudice the law which the principal end of marriage has imposed. Certainly the infamous and the execrable action of Onan in his marriage was detestable in the sight of God, as the holy text of the 38th chapter of Genesis testifies: for although certain heretics of our days, much more blamable than the Cynics, of whom St. Jerome speaks in his commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians, have been pleased to say it was the perverse intention only of that wicked man which displeased God, the Scripture positively asserts the contrary, and assures us that the act itself which he committed was detestable and abominable in the sight of God.
“It is a certain mark of a base and abject spirit to think of eating before meal time, and, still more, to amuse ourselves afterwards with the pleasure which we took in eating, keeping it alive in our words and imagination, and delighting in the recollection of the sensual satisfaction we had in swallowing down those morsels; as men do who before dinner have their minds fixed on the spit, and after dinner on the dishes; men worthy to be "scullions" of a kitchen, "who," as St. Paul says, "make a god of their belly." Persons of honor never think of eating but at sitting down at table, and after dinner wash their hands and their mouth, that they may neither retain the taste nor the scent of what they have been eating.
“The elephant, although a gross beast, is yet the most decent and most sensible of any other upon earth. I will give you a specimen of his chastity: although he never changes his female, and hath so tender a love for her whom he hath chosen, yet he never couples with her but at the end of every three years, and then only for the space of five days, but so privately that he is never seen in the act. On the sixth day afterwards, when he makes his appearance, the first thing he does is to go directly to some river, where he washes his body entirely, being unwilling to return to the herd till he is quite purified. May not these modest dispositions in such an animal serve as lessons to married people, not to keep their affections engaged in those sensual and carnal pleasures which, according to their vocation, they have exercised; but when they are past to wash their heart and affection, and purify themselves from them as soon as possible, that afterwards, with freedom of mind, they may practice other actions more pure and elevated.
“In his advice consists the perfect practice of that excellent doctrine of St. Paul to the Corinthians. "The time is short," said he; "it remaineth that they who have wives be as though they have none." For, according to St. Gregory, that man has a wife as if he had none, who takes corporal satisfaction with her in such a manner as not to be diverted from spiritual exercises. Now, what is said of the husband is understood reciprocally of the wife. "Let those that use the world," says the same apostle, "be as though they used it not." Let every one, then, use this world according to his calling, but in such manner that, not engaging his affection in it, he may be as free and ready to serve God as if he used it not. "It is the great evil of man," says St. Augustine, "to desire to enjoy the things which he should only use." We should enjoy spiritual things, and only use corporal, of which when the use is turned into enjoyment, our rational soul is also changed into a brutish and beastly soul. I think I have said all that I would say to make myself understood, without saying that which I would not say.”

Indeed, the Holy Scripture makes it clear that when Christians, the children and offspring of God, are reborn in the Spirit, and serve Our Lord in the newness of the Spirit, we cannot allow our passions and sensual selfishness to rule our hearts and lives: “For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members, to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are loosed from the law of death, wherein we were detained; so that we should serve in newness of spirit...” (Romans 7:5-6)

For those who want to read and learn a lot more on sexual ethics, I can recommend the following interesting and informative article that is absolutely packed with quotes from the popes, saints and fathers of the Church:

Sexual Pleasure, the Various Sexual Acts, and Procreation