Spiritual Reading for Sunday – Twenty-first Week After Pentecost

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Spiritual Reading

II. MORTIFICATION OF THE EYES

The Saints were particularly cautious not to look at persons of a different sex. St. Hugh, bishop, when compelled to speak with women, never looked at them in the face. St. Clare would never fix her eyes on the face of a man. She was greatly afflicted because, when raising her eyes at the elevation to see the consecrated Host, she once involuntarily saw the countenance of the priest. St. Aloysius never looked his own mother in the face. It is related of St. Arsenius, that a noble lady went to visit him in the desert, to beg of him to recommend her to God. When the Saint perceived that his visitor was a woman, he turned away from her. She then said to him: “Arsenius, since you will neither see nor hear me, at least remember me in your prayers.” “No,” replied the Saint, “but I will beg of God to make me forget you, and never more think of you.”

From these examples may be seen the folly and temerity of those who, though they have not the sanctity of a St. Clare, still gaze around upon every object that presents itself, even on persons of a different sex. And notwithstanding their unguarded looks, they expect to be free from temptations and from the danger of sin. For having once looked deliberately at a woman, the Abbot Pastor was tormented for forty years by temptations against chastity. St. Gregory states that the temptation, to conquer which St. Benedict rolled himself in thorns, arose from one incautious glance at a woman. St. Jerome, though living in a cave at Bethlehem, in continual prayer and macerations of the flesh, was terribly molested by the remembrance of ladies whom he had long before seen in Rome. Why should not similar molestations be the lot of those who wilfully and without reserve fix their eyes on persons of a different sex?

“It is not,” says St. Francis de Sales, “the seeing of objects so much as the fixing of our eyes upon them that proves most pernicious.” “If,” says St. Augustine, our eyes should by chance fall upon others, let us take care never to fix them upon any one.” Father Manareo, when taking leave of St. Ignatius for a distant place, looked steadfastly in his face: for this look he was corrected by the Saint. From the conduct of St. Ignatius on this occasion, we learn that it is not becoming in those who aspire to sanctity, to fix their eyes on the countenance of a person even of the same sex, particularly if the person is young. But I do not see how looks at young persons of a different sex can be excused from the guilt of a venial fault, or even from mortal sin, when there is proximate danger of criminal consent. “It is not lawful,” says St. Gregory, “to behold what it is not lawful to covet.” The evil thought that proceeds from looks, though it should be rejected, never fails to leave a stain upon the soul. Brother Roger, a Franciscan of singular purity, being once asked why he was so reserved in his intercourse with women, replied, that when men avoid the occasions of sin, God preserves them; but when they expose themselves to danger, they are justly abandoned by the Lord, and easily fall into some grievous transgressions.

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