Thank you Reader for your encouraging words and I do not take your questions as criticism, but as a complement that you did read and reflect on what I wrote. I am going to try and answer your questions as best I can and give you some practical tips on working towards a mature purity; but I would first like to say I am not an expert in theology as far as having a degree or anything, I give advice based on my own religious study and experiences.
“Jesus, I Trust In You”
Before I answer your first question I want to post two links that discuss the stages of spiritual development and mature purity:
A simple description of the stages of spiritual development.
A great article by Christopher West, in the form of a response to critics, explaining the journey to a mature purity and the “pearl” of TOB.
After reading these articles you can see that working towards a mature purity is really about deepening our relationship with the Lord.
As to what mature purity or positive purity looks like, or, what it is, I think a simple way of describing it is as follows: mature purity is about practicing the virtues of chastity, piety etc., where they become less like rules you have to remember to follow, and more like good books you can’t wait to read each day.
And this isn’t to say a person of mature purity has reached a point that they no longer need to ask for God’s graces, (graces will always come from God and they should be asked for daily), or that a person of mature purity can’t be tempted with impure temptations. What can be said is this: the person of mature purity will find it easier to say no to impure temptations than a person practicing negative purity, and will be able to love more deeply, because of a change of heart.
Mature purity is a transformation of “heart” which comes from a deeper understanding of the fact that we were made in the image and likeness of God and should direct all our thoughts, actions and desires towards upholding that dignity (TOBforTeens36, chastityproject.com/products/category/curriculum).
This understanding of the value of the person takes time to develop, with no thanks to any lustful habits we have established and the surplus of stimuli around us which constantly try to persuade us that people should be used for pleasure.
Working towards a mature purity is about: coming to a stronger understanding of the reverence we should give the human person, (which is a form of the gift of the Holy Spirit: Piety); allowing the Lord to purify our impure thoughts, desires and attractions in prayer; and asking Him for an increase in the graces of self-control, modesty, modesty of the feelings, chastity, piety, charity etc. that will help us grow in purity.
Ultimately, we will only reach a mature purity if we allow the Lord to teach us how to love. Like you said, prayer, going to mass, confession and visiting the Blessed Sacrament, are all practices we should already be employing in our lives if we are to grow in holiness as Catholics, but I made sure to mention them in my paper as a way of emphasizing their importance. Without God, holiness is unattainable.
So, embrace the sacraments. Go to confession often, especially if you are struggling with serious sins. Pray for the graces I mentioned and make a habit of praying daily. Try to spend one hour a week in holy adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Part of what will increase growth in purity is also doing good works. Focus on helping those around you and working on selfless acts. This will work as a counter to lustful temptations as lust is really a selfish act.
While you are frequenting the sacraments, doing good works, (the desire to do so should spring forth from within you as you fill up internally with graces), and working on a daily prayer life, you also need to adamantly work on avoiding the near occasion of sin. If you consistently place yourself in the near occasion of sin, especially as you seriously begin your journey to practice chastity, you will always be re-confronted with the same temptations and will most likely fall. Avoiding the near occasion of sin gives you spiritual breathing room per say.
How can you grow in purity, especially at the beginning of your journey, if you keep going back to where you easily fall? If this means temptations online, get a filter (covenanteyes.com). If it means temptations with a specific place, avoid it. If it’s temptations in thought, work on lifting those thoughts up to God and ask Him to purify them and give you strength; also try and physically do something to distract yourself.
Now, avoiding near occasion of sin can be a struggle, but that is why we don’t simply try to avoid near occasion of sin by our own willpower. We would fail if we tried that. So that’s why we work on establishing habits of daily prayer and frequenting the sacraments; as these habits stay strong, your ability to avoid the near occasion of sin will improve.
But what I will really emphasize now, along with avoiding the near occasion of sin and the ultimate importance of the sacraments, daily prayer and good works, is the necessity to learn more about the dignity of the person. As I mentioned before, piety is the virtue that means to have a “reverence for God’s designs” (TOB Explained 272, ascensionpress.com/theology-of-the-body-explained), including the human person.
It is through the lens of piety that we practice chastity, modesty and self-control. If we don’t have a strong understanding of the dignity of the human person, we miss out on the reason that we should practice any of the virtues, and that is from our desire to love authentically and be loved authentically. God loves us perfectly and He calls us to return that love, but we need help to do so. Just as God loves us, He calls us to love each other and this is the only just way we should act toward one another. St. John Paul the Great calls this the “Personalistic Norm”, which is “The principle that recognizes that the only proper and adequate attitude towards human persons is love” (TOBforTeens, 36).
By studying St. John Paul the Great’s Theology of the Body we can learn about the dignity of the person and grow in our understanding of our value as persons, which can spark in us our desire to love authentically and encourage us to continue working towards a mature purity because of a deeper understanding or self-knowledge of the human person.
There are aspects of St. John Paul the Great’s writings which have helped me tremendously and I still constantly refer to them: free, total, faithful and fruitful love; language of the body; the freedom to love; the spousal meaning of the body; the stance of receiving or grasping; the gift of self; the personalistic norm; the inherent dignity of the body and giving vs. using.
All of these topics helped me to grow in my understanding of the value of the human person and gave me a stronger understanding of why I would want to practice chastity in the first place. Most of all though, the Theology of the Body gave me a desire to continue to strive against impurity because I learned only an authentic love can ever be satisfying. Love tainted with lust can never satisfy.
To summarize and conclude, here are, what I consider, the three keys to practicing Chastity:
1 Avoid the near occasion
1 We must first work on seriously avoiding the near occasion of sin, if we do not, we can’t really establish new habits. 2 Daily prayer and the sacraments are essential as purity is a gift from God. 3 It also helps us greatly to know “Why” we are practicing the virtue of chastity and the Theology of the Body has great insight into the “Why?” question.
The Theology of the Body is certainly not the only way we can grow in our understanding of the value of the human person, but seeing as its intended purpose is to give us insight into just that subject, I feel that it is essential reading in growing towards a mature purity.
Working towards a mature purity is something that takes time, but it is a journey we are all called to and with God’s help, nothing is impossible.
I hope this helps Reader!
“Jesus, I Trust In You”