In this post I would like to suggest seven spiritual weapons that have great effects in the battle against pornography. Here they are, not in any particular order:
1. THE EUCHARIST
My bishop once told me of a conversation he had with a Protestant minister:
“Do you really believe that the Eucharist is Jesus?” Asked the minister, “and not simply a symbol?”
“That’s right,” Said my Bishop, “what do you believe?”
“I think it’s just a symbol. But I’ll tell you one thing, if I did believe that, I’d crawl over broken glass daily to receive him.”
That story has always stuck with me. I confess with my lips that the Eucharist is truly the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, but do I confess that truth with my actions?
Fourth century Church Father St. John Chrysostom once wrote that “the Eucharist is a fire that inflames us, that, like lions breathing fire, we may retire from the altar being made terrible to the devil.” Let us take advantage of that!
In addition to receiving the Eucharist at Mass, begin to spend time before our Blessed Lord in Eucharistic adoration. Instead of staring upon the flesh of pornography, begin staring upon the flesh of God that was crucified to redeem you.
I’ve said elsewhere that lack of time is a poor excuse, let’s be honest, we always find time for that which we love. You probably found time to waste it on social media today. I certainly found it to line up at my favorite coffee shop (3 times‚—don’t judge!).
Mother Teresa once wrote, “Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day, He is there. If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist, come back to that Adoration.”
Our blessed Lord gave his apostles—the first priests and Bishops of the Catholic Church—the ability to forgive sins (John 20:21-23). That charism still resides with our priests today. In the sacrament of confession, not only are we cleansed of our sins, but we are given the grace to resist those sins in the future.
St. Faustina had this to say about this powerful Sacrament:
Tell souls where they are to look for solace; that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy. There the greatest miracles take place [and] are incessantly repeated. . . . Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint, there would be no [hope of ] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full. Oh, how miserable are those who do not take advantage of the miracle of God’s mercy! You will call out in vain, but it will be too late. (Diary 1448)
Though the Church only requires us to receive this sacrament once a year, many Popes and saints have advised us to go more often. The purpose of frequenting this sacrament isn’t to become scrupulous and guild-ridden, (scrupulosity is not a cross the Lord calls us to carry but a scourge of Satan he commands us to renounce!) but, to turn our eyes away from ourselves and toward him. In doing so we begin to live in the freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:21).
3. THE ROSARY
You’d be hard pressed to find a devotion which, after adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, has been so frequently and persistently advocated by the saints. “Among all the devotions approved by the Church,” wrote Pope Pius IX, ”none has been so favored by so many miracles as the devotion of the Most Holy Rosary.”
Sister Lucia dos Santos (one of three children at Fatima who claimed to have witnessed and conversed with the virgin Mary), for example, wrote, ”The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us [or] of our families…that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.”
So What is the Rosary? Simply put, and in the words of Blessed John Paul II, it “is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ.”
To commit to praying the rosary, perhaps even daily, is to commit to spending fifteen to twenty minutes in quiet contemplation. Often those who use pornography habitually say they experience an inner disquiet that can make contemplation seem almost impossible. The rosary is a practical and beautiful way to reverse that problem, to begin quieting our minds and our passions.
The famous words of one bishop, Hugh Doyle, are appropriate here: “No one can live continually in sin and continue to say the Rosary: either they will give up sin or they will give up the rosary.”
In my book, Delivered, I wrote:
In the battle of the flesh, fasting can also be a powerful way to pray. You could say that prayer without fasting is like boxing with one hand tied behind your back, and that fasting without prayer is, well, dieting.
To achieve purity both are needed. “If you are able to fast,” writes St. Francis de Sales, “you will do well to observe some days beyond what are ordered by the Church, for besides the ordinary effect of fasting in raising the mind, subduing the flesh, confirming goodness, and obtaining a heavenly reward, it is also a great matter to be able to control greediness, and to keep the sensual appetites and the whole body subject to the law of the Spirit.”
The vice that often leads to sexual sin is a lack of self-mastery. Fasting from legitimate pleasures, even small ones, builds up that virtue within us. When I get a plate of hot fries I may choose to deny myself salt. When I pour myself a cup of coffee I may choose to deny myself cream or sugar. The regular habit of denying us good things gives us the inner strength to avoid bad ones.
Put it this way: If we can’t say no to a cookie or another slice of pizza, how will we ever say no to the temptation to look at pornography?
You might consider joining E5 men, an online community of thousands of men who fast once a month for their wives (or their future wives). Another idea might be to fast for the men and women we have objectified by using pornography.
5. ST. JOSEPH CORD
The St. Joseph cord (or cincture), like the one priests wear at Mass, is a sign of chastity, and has been since the Church’s beginning—and before. Old Testament priests wore cinctures, consecrated Virgins and religious wear cinctures, and the wearing of cinctures in honor of a particular Saint is ancient, first spoken of in the life of St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine.
The Cord itself is simply a white cord of thread or cotton, knotted in 7 places—one knot for each of the 7 Sorrows of St. Joseph and their related Joys, they being:
Each day one is to recite seven Gloria’s (Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.) while meditating upon the seven sorrows and joys of St. Joseph, and then offer this prayer:
Guardian of virgins, and holy father Joseph, to whose faithful custody Christ Jesus, Innocence itself, and Mary, Virgin of virgins, were committed; I pray and beseech thee, by these dear pledges, Jesus and Mary, that, being preserved from all uncleanness, I may with spotless mind, pure heart, and chaste body, ever serve Jesus and Mary most chastely all the days of my life. Amen.
You can purchase a St. Joseph Cord here.
6. SACRED SCRIPTURE
The Word of God is, as Hebrews 4:12 tells us, “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.” Memorizing Scripture verses that pertain to purity can be of great help in moments of temptation. Here are over twenty Scripture verses for you to look up, reflect upon and memorize:
7. HOLY WATER
Another spiritual weapon you might use in the fight against pornography is holy water. First let me reiterate my great joy in being Catholic. I love how the Church’s sacramentals validate and reinforce the goodness of material world.
What a comfort it is to do something as simple as dip your finger into holy water and trace the cross of Christ across your body. How is this not something that our Protestant brothers and sisters have adopted (or reinstated).
In her autobiography St.Teresa of Avila writes of how holy water is great weapon against Satan and his devils.
“From long experience I have learned that there is nothing like holy water to put devils to flight and prevent them from coming back again. They also flee from the Cross, but return; so holy water must have great virtue. . . . One night . . . I thought the devils were stifling me; and when the nuns had sprinkled a great deal of holy water about I saw a huge crowd of them running away as quickly as though they were about to fling themselves down a steep place.
Let’s be honest; if it’s good enough for Teresa of Avila…
One More Thing
In addition to taking advantage of the Church’s sacraments and sacramentals, it’s vital that we educate ourselves about the destructive nature of pornography. One way pornography affects us is neurologically. I highly recommend this free ebook, Your Brain On Porn, written by my friend and coworker, Luke Gilkerson.
Matt Fradd is the author of the new book Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women who Turned from Porn to Purity.