Holy Chastity

Our miserable and weak human flesh is like unto the hog which ever delighteth to lie down in the mud and to befoul itself therewith, deeming the mud its great delight. Our flesh is the devil's knight; because it wars against and resists all those things which are according to the will of God and for our salvation. A friar inquired of Friar Giles and said unto him: "Father, teach me in what manner we may keep ourselves from carnal sin". Whereto Friar Giles made answer: "My brother, he who would stir any great weight or any great rock and move it into another place should study to move it more by skill than by strength. And so we, in like manner, if we would conquer carnal sins and obtain the virtues of chastity, may better obtain them by humility and by good and wise spiritual regimen than by our presumptuous austerity and violence of penance. Every sin troubles and obscures holy and resplendent chastity; for chastity is like unto a bright mirror which is obscured and bedimmed, not only by the touch of filthy things, but even by the breath of man. It is impossible for man to attain unto any spiritual grace as long as he continues to be disposed to carnal concupiscence, and therefore, turn and turn thyself again as thou wilt, never shalt thou find any other means whereby to attain to spiritual grace save only by subduing every carnal sin. Therefore fight valiantly against thy weak and sensual flesh, thy proper enemy, which would ever thwart thee by day and by night. He who shall conquer our mortal enemy, the flesh, may be certain that he hath conquered and discomfited all his enemies, and that he will soon attain to spiritual grace, and to every good state of virtue and of perfection." Friar Giles was wont to say: "Among all the other virtues I would give the first place to the virtue of chastity, for most sweet chastity path in itself alone some perfection; whereas there is not any other virtue which can be perfect without chastity" . A friar asked Friar Giles, saying: "Father, is not the virtue of charity greater and more excellent than that of chastity? " And Friar Giles said: "Tell me, brother, what thing in this world is there to be found more chaste than holy charity?" Oftentimes Friar Giles sang this song, to wit: O holy chastity, lo! how great is thy goodness! Verily thou art precious, and such and so sweet is thy fragrance, that he who savoureth thee not, knoweth not how rare it is. Therefore the foolish know not thy worth. A friar asked Friar Giles, saying: "Father, thou that so greatly commendest the virtue of chastity, I beseech thee declare unto me what is chastity" ; whereto Friar Giles replied: "My brother, I tell thee that that which is correctly called chastity is diligent care and continual watching of the bodily and spiritual senses to preserve them pure and immaculate for God alone".

Excerpted from a collection of legends about St. Francis (1181-1226)


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