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Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi
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CHAPTER VIII


OF HOLY CHASTITY


Our frail and miserable flesh is like to the swine, that loves to wallow in the mire, and find its delight therein. Our flesh is the devil’s knight; for it resists and fights against all those things which are pleasing to God and profitable for our salvation. A certain friar said to Brother Giles: “Father, teach me how to preserve myself from sins of the flesh.” And Brother Giles answered him: “My brother, he who wishes to move a large stone, or any other great weight, and carry it to any other place, must try to move it rather by ingenuity than by force. And so, if we desire to overcome the vice of impurity and to acquire the virtue of chastity, we must set to work rather by the way of humility and by a good and discreet method of spiritual discipline than by a rash penance and presumptuous austerity. Every vice troubles and obscures the fair glory of holy chastity; for it is like a bright mirror which is clouded and darkened, not only by contact with impure and defiling things, but even by the mere breath of man. It is impossible for a man to attain to any spiritual grace, so long as he is inclined to carnal concupiscence; and therefore, whithersoever thou turn thyself, thou shalt never be able to attain to spiritual grace until thou canst master all the vices of the flesh. Wherefore, fight valiantly against thy frail and sensual flesh, thine own worst enemy, which wages war against thee day and night. And know that he who shall overcome this mortal enemy of ours has most certainly defeated and discomfited all his other enemies, and shall attain to spiritual grace, and every degree of virtue and perfection.”

Said Brother Giles: “Amongst all other virtues, I would set the virtue of chastity first, because sweet chastity containeth all perfection in itself; but there is no other virtue which can be perfect without chastity.”

A friar asked Brother Giles, saying: “Father, is not the virtue of charity greater and more excellent than that of chastity?” And Brother Giles said: “Tell me, brother, what is there in this world more chaste than holy charity?”

Brother Giles often sang this sonnet:

O holy chastity, how good art thou!

Truly precious art thou and thy savour is sweet!

They who have not tasted thee know thee not;

Wherefore the foolish understand not thy worth.

A friar said once to Brother Giles: “Father, thou dost so often commend the virtue of chastity, that I would fain ask of thee what it is?” And Brother Giles answered: “My brother, chastity is, in very truth, the careful and continual custody of our corporal and spiritual senses, in order to preserve them pure and unstained for God alone.”


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