“Ask a Priest: Filth, Filth Everywhere, Where’s a Soul to Flee?”

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Q: I have been thinking a lot lately about today’s age and how it has been getting worse. My question is, how am I supposed to flee from sexual immorality? This immorality is especially large in the United States as it is everywhere. This immorality is on television, magazines, restaurants — literally everywhere you go there is sexual immorality. Thanks, and God bless. – B.G.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: You touch on a huge problem in our culture today. Modesty and purity aren’t respected or promoted much in the media or public life. In fact, these virtues are often ridiculed.

Perhaps a few points will help.

First, this problem isn’t new. The ancient Romans and other pagan societies weren’t bastions of purity. Yet the early Christians persevered and grew. So there is precedent for hope.

Second, purity and modesty require a lot of discipline and prayer. These virtues can be achieved, with the help of God’s grace.

To help the Holy Spirit’s working in your life, it might be good to consider some radical moves, namely:

— Severely restricting your intake of TV and movies, etc. Most people wouldn’t think to invite a guest into their home who was lewd, foul-mouthed and scantily dressed. So why allow TV shows that flaunt the same kind of behavior? Even many of the ads are awful, I’m told. Historians of the future might look back on this culture and shake their heads and wonder how it was that so many millions of families allowed such a constant flow of filth into their homes.

— Developing a program of alternative entertainment and pastimes. For instance, cultivate the habit of reading solid books. You might check out Father John Hardon’s The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan. There are lots of fine Catholic publishers (Ignatius Press, OSV and Ascension, to name a few) whose books could keep you busy for years.

— Cultivating a love of purity through prayer, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and frequent recourse to the sacraments.

— Housecleaning your own belongings. Get rid of anything that might compromise you or send the wrong signals to others. This includes everything from dicey videos to immodest clothes. Perhaps this isn’t a problem with you; I mention it just for the record.

— Networking with other faithful people and looking for ways to cultivate a mini culture of modesty and purity. This can be through conversations or reading of books of the lives of the saints (Maria Goretti, for one).

(For related reading see Taming the Media Monster and an article from a Washington Archdiocesan priest here.)

These are just a few ideas. With a solid prayer life, the Holy Spirit could inspire you in other ways.

Whatever you do, be prepared to be countercultural! You are going against the tide. But then, all real Christians have always done that.

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