Oct 2, 2012

Purity of Heart

Pillar Focus The Commandments "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife"

What the Church requires of us with regards to sexuality can seem pretty grand, especially in the context of our culture. The Church is rightfully against adultery, rape, incest, pedophilia, and other "major offenses" against sexuality, but she is also against practices that many would consider minor or non-offensive. These include pornography, masturbation, willful lustful thoughts, and sodomy. In fact, this culture teaches that these latter things are acceptable, harmless, healthy, and in some cases should even be promoted. This is especially evident in popular culture such as seen in the mass media.

So why would anyone want to follow the Church with regards to sexuality if it meant having to contradict one's culture? Why follow anything the Church teaches? Is it because the teaching makes complete sense and is agreeable to us, or is it because we recognize this teaching as truth itself- from God himself? Hopefully, the answer is both! But sometimes that's not the case. Sometimes we have to struggle with what the Church teaches (see "Magisterium" tab above).

If we do trust in what the Church teaches, believing God is speaking through her, we pursue what may be a difficult path. We choose, through our own free will, to comply, to struggle, to even suffer for the sake of truth, for the sake of hope, for the sake of love.

So what is required of the IX Commandment?

To be pure of heart.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Mt 5:8 
What the 6th Commandment forbids in action, the 9th forbids in thought and desire

The Catechism titles the process of purifying the heart as "The Battle for Purity." In other words, it's not easy, especially in our culture and time. Here is the advice given in paragraph 2520 of the CCC as to how to fight this battle: 
  • By the virtue and gift of chastity. This virtue is the "positive integration of sexuality within the person (Compendium #488)." It involves an "apprenticeship in self-mastery (Compendium #489)." In other words, we learn over time to manage our sexuality properly, ordering it towards love. 
  • By purity of intention. We seek the true end of man. Do we know what our true end is? 
  • By purity of vision. We work towards the goal of purity (i.e. through discipline and the rejection of impure thoughts) . 
  • By prayer. This is the primary way in which we fight this battle. 
"I thought that continence arose from one's own powers, which I did not recognize in myself. I was foolish enough not to know . . . that no one can be continent unless you grant it. For you would surely have granted it if my inner groaning had reached your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares on you." -St. Augustine.
Study the Catechism
part 3, section 2, chapter 2, article 9
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