Dear Father Angelo, I do not know if you remember me: I am the same guy who asked you the question titled «Why not use other terms instead of speaking about God as Being and Substance?» I thank you once more for the answer. Just to introduce myself with more information, my name is… a and I am now 18 years old.
I write to you to report a profound crisis that I am experiencing right now, after I passed the period that I could define the most beautiful of my life (so far at least). But let’s go step by step.
As I already briefly mentioned to you in the previous email, I became a Christian a little over a year ago. My life before this moment (from 11 to 17 years old) was studded with sins of impurity and practiced homosexuality, from which the Lord raised me after making me experience the bitterness of sin. I can say, with what little certainty I have left, that I have never experienced greater slavery than that.
Because of the ugliness I felt in those acts (March 2018), I began to be interested at Christianity, passing first through Protestantism, and finally reaching Catholicism. The impetus that philosophy (above all Platonism, Aristotelianism, Stoicism, and Existentialism) gave me was fundamental: in it, I felt a lack that only Christianity could fill. It is also for this reason that I was pushed to write the previous email.
I would have liked to send you another email to tell you about the beauty of those moments: reading the Bible, the first Rosaries, the lives of the Saints, Christian philosophy, etc, but I cannot, because of events that happened recently.
The Lord granted me in those moments the virtue of chastity, like this, suddenly, on an ordinary day, and you cannot imagine the sense of liberation! I felt reborn, light as air. In December 2018, I had a further experience: after saying the Rosary, my heart began to beat fast, and tears were almost falling from my eyes. I felt the Lord being close to me: I could not stop praising Jesus and declaring my gratitude to him for having saved me from sin. It was a moment full of joy and intoxication. I dare to say the word “intoxication”, because I felt totally filled with the sweetness of Our Lord.
Before this event, the idea of a vocation, whatever it may be, did not even cross my mind. After it, I started to evaluate this possibility.
From that moment until this June (2019), I lived my faith with normality and happiness, spending a “happy and holy” Easter (your wish).
But from June onwards, suddenly everything started to fall apart. I relapsed into masturbation: true, less frequently, but still a mortal sin remains. But the most serious problem is that I no longer feel the presence of the Lord. Even after I confess and no longer commit the act of solitary vice, I am struggling because of what I previously believed with firm certainty. In short: I am experiencing a crisis of faith.
At the beginning of this sudden fall, it seemed impossible to me; but sadly I have to admit that this is my current state. It is terrible to say: I feel I am on the verge of pantheistic atheism. Temptations against purity and temptations against faith are my daily bread.
I admit: I miss my conversion. I do not know what to do. Why does the Lord allow this? If only I could feel a little of his Love that I tasted before, I would be able to resist even impurities.
Please Father, have patience with this poor sinner. I feel like a rag.
I ask you in the most humble way I can to help me.
You do not have to answer me right away. I understand that other people, even more than me, need your help. I also kindly ask you to conceal my name and safeguard my privacy.
I thank you for everything you will write to me. Since you liked the previous blessing, I bless you in the name of God and I offer a Rosary for you.
Response of the priest
1. First of all, I thank you for waiting seven months for my answer.
Even more, I thank you for the contents of your email, of which I would like to highlight two events, which have been and still are full of meaning for your life, for better or for worse.
2. The first concerns the grace of chastity, which you were given suddenly, and made you feel light and free as air. It was a great gift from God that rained down on a land capable of welcoming it. In fact, this gift was granted you at a time when you enjoyed the presence of God. You still remember “the beauty of those moments: reading the Bible, the first Rosaries, the lives of the Saints, Christian philosophy, etc”. In one sentence, you were surrounded by another spirit, different from that of the world.
More clearly, you were enveloped in the Holy Spirit.
The gift of chastity was the most beautiful fruit of those unforgettable moments of your life. God did not give it to you while you were dragging yourself into sin, or while you were torn apart by the lash of passions. God gave it to you while you were living a particular experience of grace.
3. Among the various gifts that God certainly grants to us, there is also chastity.
But normally he grants it only if there is land capable of welcoming it, that is, a soul filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit.
4. That chastity can be a gift that comes from above, within the fruits of the Holy Spirit, is explained by Saint Paul in Galatians 5:22. It is the last of these fruits. The ancient greek term for this particular fruit of the Holy Spirit is enkrateia, which means “self-control”.
In the biblical translation of the Vulgate, enkrateia is expressed by three virtues: modesty, continence, and chastity.
By modesty, we mean a behavior that flows naturally from a soul enveloped by the Holy Spirit, like the fruit from the flower (as you were in your previous experience). It leads to the capacity of being restrained in words and bearing.
By continence, we mean a behavior marked by the presence of the Holy Spirit whereby a person does not let himself be overwhelmed by the internal movements of the soul, instead mastering them perfectly.
By chastity, we mean self-control or chastity that comes from the presence of God in us, by which a person expresses himself in an orderly and beautiful way, without being overwhelmed by the motions of concupiscence and lust.
5. Some Saints have excellently enjoyed this gift, even receiving such a great strength that it confirmed them in purity.
They enjoyed a state of crystalline purity throughout their lives, without any temptation. Among them, I like to remember St. Thomas Aquinas, who was able to enjoy doctrinal purity precisely because of his interior purity. I also like to remember Saint Faustina Kowalska. Her almost continuous conversation with the Lord found fertile ground precisely in the gift of purity that was singularly communicated to her, as she herself writes in her Diary.
6. The Lord had not given you the gift of purity as he did for these two Saints. But he certainly had given you a good dose of it, enough for you to stand up.
Perhaps, feeling too safe, you let your guard down, forgetting that “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour.” (1 Pet 5,8).
When the enemy came, you could not resist him. You did not oppose his temptations with the will to express your love for the Lord at your best.
7. Since the moment you opened the door to our common adversary again, you somehow placed yourself under his lordship, and now, as you say, “temptations against purity and temptations against faith are your daily bread”.
We could say: ad quid perditio haec? (what good is this perdition?). No gain, only ruin and desolation.
8. Now you feel a great dryness despite the confession and the desire to return to the fervor of before. You admit that you miss your conversion. Nostalgia for conversion is undoubtedly a good thing. But it is not enough. Just as nostalgia for holiness is not enough to be holy. You have to go back on the same path and carry out a reconstruction.
Above all, you have to undertake something that perhaps you have not yet begun to do and of which unfortunately little is said today, but which is indispensable for the Christian life.
This thing is called mortification.
We forget that we have inherited original sin which, although canceled with Baptism, has left a disorder in our inclinations.
9. Once again, St. Paul recalls the need for this fight when he says: “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9,24-27)
10. The Lord allowed you to taste heavenly realities. You felt like you touched the sky with your finger. And so it was. You felt almost like a saint because of the interior peace you enjoyed and the absence of sin. But the virtues were not yet deeply rooted in you. You could not fight.
“That you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth. Otherwise no renewal takes place and the new man is not clothed”. (Eph 4,23-24)
11. We cannot forget what St. Paul says:
“For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.
For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if (I) do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand.
For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” (Rm 7,18-23).
12. The disorder of inclinations due to original sin is fueled by our personal sins.
In addition to serious sins, which we must always repudiate, we have to mortify the vain glory, which leads to the need to always have the last word, the desire to appear, to feel the first of the class in everything, the lack of humility (what an euphemism!) in receiving observations, corrections, the need to always go counter to advice…
We have to mortify envy, slander, curiosity, the feeling of enjoying other people being in pain, jealousy for other people’s successes, the inclination to gossip…
We have to mortify those impulses that push us to act in an unbalanced way, like outbursts of anger, or impure thoughts and fantasies.
We have to mortify our gluttony, exaggerate loquaciousness (which never comes without sin), attachment to money, laziness, incapacity to sit still in silence and meditation, etc.
Along with these, we must nourish the desire to follow Jesus Christ who said: “Then he said to all ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’” (Lk 9,23-24).
13. We have the duty to prolong the Passion of Jesus in our members in a spirit of charity towards our neighbor, “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body(…). So death is at work in us, but life in you” (2Cor 4,10.12).
And we also have the duty to carry our crosses with Jesus’ feelings for “now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Col 1,24).
The Sufferings of Christ are perfect and sufficient. But our participation is required to bring the redemptive grace they have produced to us and to the others.
14. Here is what you need to add to the very beautiful practices you did before: you have to add mortification.
You have to do it for two reasons: first, to uproot the old man in you and put on the new one; second, to follow Christ even more, and complete in your flesh what His sufferings miss in favor of the Church.
There is no other way to gain souls for Christ. This is the path that he himself has taken first.
I thank you for the Holy Rosary you said for me, I gladly reciprocate. Meanwhile, I bless you.
Translated by Emanuele Menchiari
Proof edited by Sara Bellei