Dear Father Angelo,
First and foremost, thank you for the wonderful service you are offering to this website’s users. This website is for me such a reliable source of advice, and your answers are truly detailed and informative.
I am a 20-year-old young man who has recently rediscovered faith. I am trying to put God’s commandments into practice, waking up from a state of perpetual sin that was destroying me. I am feeling a lot more peaceful and calm now that I live trying to fulfill God’s will, and I notice a huge difference between my former self and who I am now. I now understand that my mind was totally obfuscated and distorted when I used to live in sin, like if sin had taken over a large part of my being, affecting mental clarity. This was especially true everytime I could not resist impurity acts, such as masturbating, or watching pornographic videos. Furthermore, ever since I was a child I have been attracted by… and this makes my situation even worse.
I managed to liberate myself from this sinful condition through hard inner fight and penitence (I was really overwhelmed by sin). I was able to retrieve a relationship with the Divine Love, allowing God to work his plan for my life. Nevertheless, I must admit that it is really hard. Since my reconversion experience started, I have fallen into sin a few times, and I am now aware I must always be vigilant. The Kingdom of Heaven is “taken by force by the violent” [cfr. Matthew 11,12, ndt]. I have started to pray on a daily basis and I am determined to start attending mass daily.
I have a problem: sometimes, when I watch certain people, I feel aroused, almost unwillingly. One glance is enough for me to get aroused. The majority of times I try to ignore this feeling; nevertheless, this condition embarasses me. Here comes my question: is this a mortal sin? Even just watching (sometimes voluntarily)?
I ask for forgiveness every time it happens, but I am not sure that this is enough, even if what happens is mostly out of my control and just talking about it causes me a sudden arousal.
I beg you, father! Suggest me a way to overcome this problem and pray for me, for I need it.
You can publish my question on the website, especially if you think this can help other people.
God bless you
I regret I read only today your letter, which is dated back to the 12th of August. I apologize to you.
1. I am happy you have heard God’s voice calling you to a life of communion with him. Now you realize that there is a difference between living in sin and living in grace. You used to live in sin, and probably you thought it was the best way to live your life. Perhaps, you despited believers, or at least you did not understand them. When God’s light came into your life, you understood by yourself the great difference it makes — even though nobody catechized you.
Now you feel more peaceful. Why? Because God does not ask us to go against our own nature, but instead to follow the most authentic inclinations of the human person. His commandments were written on men’s heart before they have been written on the Tablets of Stone, and they are indelible. God wrote his commandments on the tablets for those who had become so blind that they were no longer able to read them in their hearts.
2. Now you realize how true are the promises that God made through Moses when he delivered the tablets of the covenant: “Be careful, therefore, to do as the LORD, your God, has commanded you, not turning aside to the right or to the left, but following exactly the way prescribed for you by the LORD, your God, that you may live and prosper, and may have long life in the land which you are to occupy”. (Deuteronomy 5, 32-33)
3. That you may live: even from a psychological standpoint you can feel that, when you live a virtuous life, you can say: yes! This is a beautiful life, full of inner satisfaction. And this promise becomes even stronger when you live in grace and feel a Presence that satiates you. Nothing else, not even the most precious things in this world could be compared to his Presence. With his Presence, you understand well what David said once: “You are the Lord, my only source of well-being” (Psalms, 16,2)
4. That you may prosper: Sin gives an immediate, and sometimes intense, satisfaction, but then it leaves you empty. When you start living in communion with God, and you let yourself be invaded by His presence, by His light, and by His comfort, you start experiencing a bit of Paradise. This is the experience David talked about when he said: “you lead me in the path of life. I experience absolute joy in your presence, you always give me sheer delight” (Psalms 16,11)
5. That you may have long life in the land which you are to occupy: everything is safeguarded when you walk in God’s path. Friendship between fiances is safeguarded. Fidelity in marriage is safeguarded. Our life is safeguarded: not only because it is protected by saints, but also because it is defended from “the thief that comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10,10) as the Lord said.
6. You wrote: “Immersed in sin, my mind was totally obfuscated and distorted. It was as if sin had taken over a large part of my being and had affected my clarity of mind. This was especially true everytime I could not resist impurity acts, such as masturbating, or watching pornographic videos”. Prophet Jeremiah says in his Book of Lamentations: “Gone from daughter Zion is all her glory” (Lamentations 1,6). Sin is a stain that spoils the soul just as a stain spoils a dress or a precious object. Someone said that, like a body deprived of the soul becomes rotten, the same happens when a soul is deprived of God’s grace: when it was alive, it could move and feel free, but now it finds itself in chains, prisoner of behaviours that, after all, provoke repugnance and boredom. St. Filippo Neri, who had the special grace to see souls in state of mortal sin, could not refrain from saying aloud that nothing is more disgusting than a soul in state of mortal sin.
You say that your mind was obfuscated, distorted by sin: not only your mind, but also your will, and your soul were.
7. Here is my advice. You say you would like to attend mass on a daily basis. I hope you did not wait for my reply, and that you started to do it already. If you did, you surely noticed that your day and your life have a different taste. I could say, they have a heavenly taste.
8. I also suggest you should pray the Holy Rosary every day, if possible. And I recommend regular and frequent confession, always with the same confessor. This way, you will build your Christian life on solid rock foundation. In future, other things will come, and things will change. But these are the fundamental actions to provide your life with a solid basis.
9. As for the particular problem you refer to, I just say that Non nocet sensus ubi non est consensus: senses do not cause harm (that is to say, there is no sin) if there is no consent. This does not mean that you should not be cautious, since strong emotions jeopardize clarity of mind and behaviour.
While you pray the Holy Rosary, ask the Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of Love, to let you be simpler and purer (mites fac et castos). If you will invoke her, she will grant this to you.
I wish you all the best, I pray for you, and I bless you.