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Ensure a Pure Heart and Mind

by Catherine Frakas 19 Apr 2021

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor 10:13)
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20 Steps to Ensure a Pure Heart and Mind

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20 Steps to Ensure a Pure Heart and Mind
by CSGSAR Secretary » Tue Jan 12, 2010 9:09 pm

These twenty steps are not theory, but have been proven useful and successful with many people seeking a devout life. This is not to suggest that these steps will be easy. We must persevere in the faith and persevere in our attempts to overcome our pride, ego, self-centeredness and all the things that impede us from living a devout life..In addition to these steps individual psychological counseling and/or perhaps deliverance counseling may be needed.So how do we do this? How do we keep our hearts and minds pure? How do we break the cycle? Our 12-Steps are Twenty Steps that will lead us to freedom:

Christian Resignation as a Prerequisite to Freedom
Sacrament of Confession
The Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
Daily Prayer
Living a Devotional Life
Receive the Church's official blessing for those suffering from addiction
Spiritual Warfare Prayers
Exercise Self-Discipline

Avoid the Near Occasion of Sin
Guard your Senses
Destroy all Pornographic Material and Other Triggers
Bouncing the Eyes
Starve the Eyes
Your Sword and Shield
Keep Passing Open Windows
Practice Modesty

Correct Thinking Errors
Avoid Stress and Fatigue
Avoid Isolation
Seek an Accountability Partner
Seek a Support Group and Other Resources
Volunteer and Stay Active
Practice Good Computer Hygiene
Eat Properly and Exercise
Seek Medical Help
Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer
Perseverance, Perseverance, and More Perseverance

1) Christian Resignation as a Prerequisite to Freedom:

Our Heavenly Father, as a perfect father, wants his children to experience the freedom that can only come from knowing the Truth, the deliverance that frees us from bondages, and the holiness that brings us victory in Christ in our lives and to the perfection to which we are all called. The first and critical step to attain this freedom, deliverance, and holiness is to resign ourselves to the will of God. All the other steps are methods to accomplish this Resignation to the Will of God and to the pursuit of perfection.Of all the psychological factors that play a part in our spiritual life, a prominent place must be given to the sincere desire for attaining perfection. It is said that when St. Thomas Aquinas was asked by one of his sisters what she should do to reach sanctity, he answered her in one brief sentence: Will it.The desire for perfection is an act of the will, under the influence of grace, which aspires unceasingly to spiritual growth until one reaches sanctity. It is under the influence of grace because such a desire is manifestly supernatural and surpasses the exigencies and tendencies of pure nature. It must be constant in its aspiration for ever greater perfection, and it must not stop at any intermediate degree but must aspire to the heights of sanctity.Sanctity is the supreme good we can attain in this life. By its very nature it is something infinitely desirable, but since it is also an arduous and difficult good, it is impossible to tend toward it efficaciously without the strong impulse of a will that is determined to attain it at any cost. St. Teresa of Avila considers it of decisive importance to have a great and very determined resolve not to stop until one reaches it, without reckoning the difficulties along the way, the criticism of those around us, the lack of health, or the disdain of the world. Therefore, only resolute and energetic souls, with the help of divine grace, will scale the heights of perfection.We offer a meditation and prayers to help you find this resignation and abandonment to God that will lead you to freedom.2) Sacrament of Confession:

This Sacrament is the way to be properly disposed and to be reconciled to God and His Church. A soul in a State of Grace receives the fullness of God's grace to persevere in the faith, to practice the faith, to avoid temptation, and to live above sin and despair. One should never be embarrassed to seek Confession, even if one must go to confession every week to confess the same sin over and over.We can make a good confession. When we enter the confessional we bring to our Lord the sins we have committed up to that moment, not the sins that we may commit in the future. Even if we are relatively sure we may sin again within hours of receiving absolution, we can still make a good confession.A good confession requires the penitent to perform five actions:(1) Examination of Conscience (admitting to our sins and not holding anything back) (CCC 1456)(2) Contrition (sorrow for having offended God) also called repentance (CCC 1451-1454)(3) Firm purpose of amendment (a resolution and intention to not sin again) (CCC 1451)(4) Confession of our all sins since last Confession (CCC 1455-1458)(5) Performing assigned penance (CCC 1459-1460)The step of firm purpose of amendment is where many people with habitual sins get confused. We say to ourselves, How can I genuinely offer a firm purpose of amendment when I know from experience that I will do it again, maybe even hours after confessing?We can offer a genuine purpose of amendment. Ask ourselves these questions?

at this moment (in the confessional) do I want to stop sinning?
at this moment (in the confessional) do I resolve to try to stop sinning, even though I may fail again?
at this moment (in the confessional) am I willing to do the things necessary, or at least to try to do the things necessary to avoid sinning
am I entering the confessional with the intention to keep sinning, lying to the priest about a being sorry for sins and/or about a firm purpose of amendment (Am I deliberately planning to sin again)?

No one but God knows the future. We actually do not absolutely know that we will sin the same sin again. We may recognize that there is a high probability for sinning that sin again, but we cannot actually know since we cannot know the future.If we can say yes to the first three questions, and no to the last question, then we can make a good confession.If we commit a sexual sin again, even it is just hours after confession, that is a brand new incident of sin. As a new incidence of sin, a new confession is required, thus we go back to Confession at our next opportunity.Perfect Act of Contrition: It is important to keep our souls in a State of Grace in-between Confessions. We can do that by offering a Perfect Act of Contrition as soon as possible after we sin. When we do this our sin is actually forgiven on the spot immediately and our souls restored to a State of Grace. Doing this, however, comes with a proviso: we must receive the formal Sacrament of Confession at our next opportunity and although we are in a State of Grace we may not receive the Eucharist until we receive the Sacrament of Confession.God is merciful. He does not want us to remain in a sinful state all week until Saturday Confession. He does not want us to risk our souls to hell because we died before Saturday Confession. Thus, He gives us this opportunity to be forgiven for grave sins right away and thus restored to Grace right away through an Act of Perfect Contrition, even when that Act is offered minutes after our sin.What is an Act of Perfect Contrition? There are two types of Contrition:

Imperfect Contrition is when we are sorry for our sins because we fear going to hell. [CCC 1453]

Perfect Contrition is when we are sorry for our sins because we love God and are sorry that we disappointed and displeased Him who is our heavenly daddy. [CCC 1452]

To offer a Perfect Act of Contrition pray this or a similar prayer with the sorrow of displeasing God because you love Him:
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against You, whom I should love above all. Through the merits of Your Precious Blood, wash away from my soul all stain of sin, so that cleansed in body and soul, I may love You more. Therefore, I firmly intend and resolve, with the help of Your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, to amend my life, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
3) The Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist:

Our Lord has given us the Sacraments as instruments of His grace. We need to receive the Blessed Sacrament as often as we can, daily if possible, making sure we are properly disposed first.In those times in which we are not properly disposed we need to be sure to celebrate Mass anyway, just do not receive the Blessed Sacrament. The Sunday obligation and Holy Days of Obligation still apply even if we are not able to receive the Eucharist. It is also prudent to attend Daily Mass even if one cannot receive.The reason it is beneficial to celebrate Mass even when we are not properly disposed and cannot receive is that the Mass itself gives us a blessing, a grace, and strength. Those suffering from addiction need all the help they can get to cope with and to continue the journey to freedom.4) Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament:

We need to go before our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist in Adoration at least one hour per week or more, if possible. Even if the Eucharist is not exposed in one's parish, it does not matter -- go sit in front of the Tabernacle where the Eucharist is reserved.The Eucharist is like a radioactive substance; it radiates the grace and love of our Lord bathing all who are around with His divine presence.When in Adoration, tell God your problems and difficulties with this addiction. Then, for at least 20 minutes sit quietly and bathe in the rays of the Son. Sometimes we pray so much that God cannot get a word in edgewise. Just sit there and bathe in our Lord's love and let God speak to you.5) Daily Prayer:

(a) Petition God: As St. Augustine teaches us: no one can be continent (meaning sexual self-restraint, chastity) as in the ability to overcome this compulsion unless You (God) grant it. For you would surely have granted it if my inner groaning had reached your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares on you.St. James tells us that we have not because we ask not, and that we ask and do not have because we ask wrongly (James 4:2b-3). We need to ask for freedom and healing from our lusts and addictions and we need to pray with humility and desire to please God in our members.(b) Pray the Little Office:This little volume, called the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary allows the laity to participate in a small way in the Official Prayer of the Church, the Divine Office. We highly recommend this daily prayer and devotion. If one wishes to participate in other versions of the Divine Office, like the Shorter Christian Prayer or the one-volumes editions of the Office, or the full Divine Office, links to those volumes are found here.(c) The Rosary:The Divine Office outranks the Rosary because the Rosary is a personal devotional prayer. The Rosary, however, is the most powerful of the personal devotional prayers. There is no greater intercessor than our Blessed Mother. Indeed, the Rosary is powerful. Even wars have been won due to the Rosary. Christians defeated the invading hordes of Muslims at the the Battle of Lepanto through the power of the Rosary. The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7th commemorates this victory and the glorious power of Our Lady's intercessions.(d) Prayer to the Saints:Develop a devotion to saints who may assist you in this particular problem. These patron saints of sexual problems include: St. Augustine, St. Dymphna, and others. Here is a list of other saints who are patrons of sexual temptations.6) Living a Devotional Life:

In addition to devotion to saints who are patrons concerning problems of sexual temptations, it is also critically important to live an overall good devotional Catholic life. One needs to be a good, loyal, obedient, and devout Catholic always continuing to grow in faith and in intimacy with God.(a) Resources to help in the devotional life: We highly recommend the following books:Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation by St. Alphonsus LiguoriBack to Virtue: Traditional Moral Wisdom for Modern Moral Confusion by Peter KreeftThe above books concern devotion as a Christian in general (which we all need to practice). A particularly effective devotion and religious exercise, however, specially written for those with problems of sexual compulsions is the book, Clean of Heart: Overcoming Habitual Sins Against Purity by Rosemarie Scott. This book is highly recommended and a critical tool in working toward freedom and healing.(b) Spiritual Director to assist in growing the Christ-Life:To help in growing into the Christ-Life a Spiritual Director is advised. We recommend each person buy the book by Father Thomas Dubay, Seeking Spiritual Direction: How to Grow the Divine Life Within. Father teaches us the definition of spiritual direction, what to look for in a spiritual direction, and what to do if a director cannot be found.(c) Gaining Partial Indulgences:It seems we often forget about the Treasury of Indulgences that God, through His Church, grants to us to help us in the Christian life. Performing the good and holy works to which Indulgences are attached can be a powerful aid in overcoming our compulsions. We should not neglect this treasure given to us by the Church. The Norms on Indulgences explains:

An indulgence is the remission before God of the temporal punishment due for sins already forgiven as far as their guilt is concerned. This remission the faithful with the proper dispositions and under certain determined conditions acquire through the intervention of the Church which, as minister of the Redemption, authoritatively dispenses and applies the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the Saints.

This means that the consequences of sins that have been forgiven in the Sacrament are remitted. This not only decreases our time in purgatory, but also gives a grace to assist us in living not only a life forgiven of our sins but a victorious Christ-Life.There are two kinds of Indulgences: Plenary and Partial. Plenary removes all temporal punishment due to sin. Partial removes part of the punishment. In the old days this was expressed in days in purgatory. Plenary gets if out of purgatory altogether, partial took off a certain number of days from purgatory. The reason for the determination of days goes back to the early Church when people were given penance for a certain number of days. Indulgences took off days from their penance. From a realistic theology, however, there are no days in purgatory since time and space are constructs of the material world, not of the spiritual realm.Unfortunately, we will not be able to gain a plenary indulgence because to qualify for that we must be free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin. But, acts to which plenary indulgences are attached, when performed by those who do not met the requirements, gives a partial indulgence.Even though acts attached to Plenary Indulgences will not count as Plenary to us, we ought to perform the other requirements anyway. We will receive Partial Indulgence for these acts of devotion.The three conditions required, other than the absence from all attachment to sin, are:

sacramental confession
Eucharistic Communion
prayer for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff

The Norms state: The three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the prescribed work; it is, however, fitting that Communion be received and the prayer for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff be said on the same day the work is performed.For list of works that qualify for an Indulgence, see the List of Plenary Indulgences.For a list of all Indulgences, Plenary and those specific to Partial Indulgence, see the List of Indulgences and Pious Invocations.Do not neglect the holy devotion of gaining Indulgences. These treasures of the Church can help you heal.7) Receive the Church's official blessing for those suffering from addiction:

The Church offers an official blessing for healing and another blessing for those Addicted.You can ask your priest to do this for you--the blessing is found in the Book of Blessings. If that is not possible for whatever reasons, or you need the blessing more often than your priest can schedule, we can offer you this blessing ourselves. Most official blessings must be performed by a priest or deacon, but this particular blessing is one of the few that laity are allowed to do for others.We have an entire Healing Service that includes homily on Sexual Sins and the Custody of the Eyes, the Official Church prayer blessing, a priestly deliverance prayer, and two anointed songs.Healing Service for those Addicted to Sexual Sin
8) Spiritual Warfare Prayers:

The marital embrace is actually a holy act. It is an image of the relationship of Christ and His Bride, the Church. This is a prime reason why sexual sins are a favorite of Satan.Sexual sins also damage the image of God that is the family. While each of us are made in the image of God, the family is the more perfect image. God, Himself, is family -- God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.Thus, Satan will encourage anything that will damage that image of God found in His creatures. He does this through pornography, masturbation, incest, molesting, fornication, adultery, concubinage (living to together as if married), contraception, all other sexual sins, as well as divorce, domestic violence, etc.Satan loves us to commit sexual sins. Because of this Satan wages a spiritual war against us. We must fight back, we must defend ourselves. Thus, in seeking freedom from our lusts and compulsions we cannot ignore the spiritual warfare element.St. Peter, our first Pope, teaches us, Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9)St. James gives similar advice, Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7)That resistance begins by putting on the Armor of God. Each day when we awake, we dress before leaving the house for work and errands. If we didn't we would be vulnerable and arrested. We also need to put on our spiritual clothes. St. Paul explains (Ephesians 6:10-18):

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance...

Keep sober and alert for the schemes of the devil for he is looking to trap you. Put on the Armor of God to protect you against the flaming arrows of the Enemy. Pray spiritual warfare prayers. Remember that though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).Here is a prayer to put on the Armor of God:

I choose to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Eph. 6:10). I put no confidence in the flesh (Phil. 3:3) for the weapons of warfare are not of the flesh (2 Cor. 10:4). I put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20), and I resolve to stand firm in my faith and to resist the evil one. (Ja. 4:7).I now put on God’s armor so as to be able to resist the devil’s tactics. I stand my ground with truth buckled around my waist, and integrity for a breastplate… I carry the shield of faith to put out the burning arrows of the evil one… I accept salvation from God to be my helmet and receive the word of God from the Spirit to use as a sword. (Eph 6:10, 11, 14, 17) Amen.Lord Jesus Christ, I belong only to you from now on. I want to be free from the dominion of darkness and the rule of Satan, and I want to enter the Kingdom and be part of your people. I will turn away from all sin, and I will avoid everything that leads me to sin and wrongdoing. I thank you for your forgiveness of my sins. Come into my heart as my Savior and Lord. I offer my life to you, and I promise to obey you as my Lord and Master. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit. Amen.

We have prepared other spiritual warfare prayers {link forthcoming} to help you fight the battle and to quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.9) Exercise Self-Discipline:

The Catechism states that we must exercise the discipline of feelings and imagination; by refusing all complicity in impure thoughts that incline us to turn aside from the path of God's commandments. We must take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor 10:5). How do we do this?(a) Avoid the Near Occasion of Sin:Avoid anything, in as much as is possible, that may trigger lustful thoughts and temptations. Be careful of the TV shows and movies you watch, the music you listen to, the books you read, the games you play, the people you associate with.Return to the old-fashioned dating where physical intimacy is reserved for marriage. Making out lends itself to lust and unchastity.Be very circumspect around the opposite sex. There is a story told of a very old priest lying on his death bed. The housekeeping came into the priest's room and thought he was dead. To be sure, she bent over the priest and placed her cheek close to his mouth to see if he was breathing. At that moment the priest woke up and yelled, Get thee hence woman, the fire still burns! He died moments later.This priest was circumspect, guarding his senses, guarding against the near occasion of sin, even though he would be dead in a few moments.Do not risk your soul for carelessness and lack of circumspection in dealings with the opposite sex.Avoid swimming pools and the beach and any other place were women can be found with little clothing. Avoid nightclubs and any place where women may dress provocatively.In Mass, come early and sit in the front pew so that you do not have to see any women dressed improperly who are sitting behind you; then leave Mass after others have gone. In coming early and leaving late, spend that time in prayer.Jesus said, But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:28-30)This passage teaches us that we need to make whatever changes that are necessary to our lifestyle or daily routines to avoid these near occasions and triggers. It is better to make even radical changes in our lives than to go to hell.(b) Guard your Senses: While looking at a woman's face and eyes may have its own temptation sometimes, it is better than looking elsewhere. Force yourself to look upon her eyes, or at least her nose or her mouth, but avoid looking down to where you may be tempted by her figure.St. Peter of Alcantara in his book, A Golden Treatise of Mental Prayer, said Guard your senses, especially your eyes, ears and tongue.Pope Paul VI in a message to Religious remarked, It is this same faith which assures us beyond doubt that, with the help of divine grace, we can preserve unsullied, the flower of chastity. To obtain this blessed objective, it is, of course, necessary to practice Christian mortification with more courageous zeal, and also to guard the senses with more diligent care.St. Ignatius of Loyola in his Constitutions wisely teaches:

All should take care to guard with great diligence the gates of their senses (especially the eyes, ears, and tongue) from all disorder, to preserve themselves in peace and true humility of their souls, and to give an indication of it by silence when it should be kept and, when they must speak, by the discretion and edification of their words, the modesty of their countenance, the maturity of their walk, and all their movements, without giving any sign of impatience or pride. In everything they should try and desire to give the advantage to the others, esteeming them all in their hearts as better than themselves (Phil 2:3) and showing exteriorly, in an unassuming and simple religious manner, the respect and reverence befitting each one’s state, in such a way that by observing one another they grow in devotion and praise God our Lord, whom each one should endeavor to

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