“Ask a Priest: What If I Have Habitual Falls in the Area of Purity?”

Q: I am wondering what I should do about habitual sin. I have gone to confession and adoration and I do OK, but then I will fall again. Some of it is lust/sexual related, which is not easy. I’ve just been trying and attempting to fight it. I ask God for his help. It’s difficult and I feel ashamed of the sin. – E.A.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is good that you are going to confession and to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. You are on the right road

Purity is not an easy virtue, especially at certain times of life. But with the grace of God, anything is possible.

Four words might help here: prayer, planning, prudence, perseverance.

Prayer: You need to drag down the graces of God to help you live in purity. The good thing is that he wants to give you those graces. So make time for prayer each day. Frequent the sacraments. And cultivate a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.Very important in this regard is what is called “mental prayer.” My friend and colleague Father John Bartunek wrote a useful handbook on this essential type of prayer, called A Guide to Christian Meditation.

Planning: Plan what you will consume via the media. You don’t want to feed your mind with risqué TV shows and movies and raunchy music. Dress and speak modestly — that will help the men around you and it will help them treat you with more respect. Be sure to get exercise each day. Program your time well so as to be productive and responsible toward the basic duties of your state in life — don’t leave a vacuum in your schedule. Idle time lets down our defenses and gives the devil an opportunity to trip us up.

Prudence: Be realistic. We have inherited original sin — a damaged human nature that leaves us prone to sin. Don’t be quick to presume that you are “over the problem,” even when you have had a few serene days or weeks. Temptations tend to return with a vengeance. So keep your guard up all the time.

Perseverance: Never give up. If you have a fall, go to confession and start over. Don’t panic! God loves to show us his mercy, and he is never surprised by our weakness. But we can’t give up our own efforts. So don’t let a fall cause you to despair. Despair and discouragement are powerful weapons of the devil.

Also, try to cultivate a love for purity. See it as a way to preserve your integrity and give glory to God. Purity, or chastity, is one of the best preparations for whatever vocation you are called to.

Good books can help, such as The Courage to Be Chaste.

And don’t forget that devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. To cultivate this, you might find useful our free, video retreat guides that touch on that devotion, such as River of WisdomGod Is FaithfulWelcoming the Word, and A Mother’s Tears.

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