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On Mortification of the Eyes

These quotes are taken from the work: The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, by Saint Alphonsus Maria de Ligouri.  Those not otherwise indicated are from Saint Alphonsus himself.  They are arranged in order that they appear in the work.


Because of the difficult nature of these quotations this preface has been added to help their being read with all faith and trust that a faithful Catholic should have in them.


Saint Alphonsus was the Bishop of Saint Agatha of the Goths, Founder of the Redemptorist Order, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church within less than a century after his death (astonishingly fast compared to the other great doctors).  He was in fact specifically proclaimed the Doctor of Moral Theology.

“No ecclesiastical writer has ever received more direct, positive and formal approbation than that accorded by the Holy See to the moral writings of this Doctor of the Church. While still alive, four Popes expressed their admiration of his prudent doctrine. (…) In 1831, Pope Gregory XVI enhanced this approbation when he decreed that professors of theology could safely teach any opinion of St. Alphonsus, and that confessors, without weighting reasons, could safely follow him – simply on the fact that St. Alphonsus said so. Each of the thirteen predecessors of Pius XII in the chair of Peter has in some way or another recommended, approved or exalted the ‘Moral Theology’ of the Patron of confessors. In his Apostolic Brief of April 26, 1950, Pope Pius XII alludes to some of them. «By his learned writings, especially his ‘Moral Theology,’ he dissipated the darkness of error with which Jansenists and unbelievers have cloaked the world» (Blessed Pius IX). He was «the most illustrious and benign of moralists» (Leo XIII). «He illumined obscurity, made doubts plain and clear, and in the maze of over-strict and over-lax theological opinions, he hewed a path which directors of souls can tread in safety» (Blessed Pius IX). To this chorus of pontifical voices, Pope Pius XII felt, he said, constrained to add his own, declaring St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori the celestial Patron of both confessors and moral theologians. For, as the Cardinals and bishops of Spain and Austria declared in their petition for his Doctorate, «the Moral Theology of St. Alphonsus has given back to the Sacred Tribunal of Penance the mercy and the kindness of the Sacred Heart.»” –Homoletic and Pastoral Review: New Patron of Confessors, St. Alphonsus de Liguori, Vol. LI, No. 6, March 1951, Fr. Galvin J. J. C.SS.R., 1951, p. 511

Though this book was written for those in religious life the preface of English edition of The True Spouse of Jesus Christ says the following: “The saint himself tells us that his book is suitable not only to nuns, but also to all members of the religious state, in that which refers to the observance of the vows, regular discipline, and the perfection of their state. As for the practice of Christian virtues, the work will be found highly useful even for seculars.”


“Almost all our rebellious passions spring from unguarded looks; for, generally speaking, it is by the sight that all inordinate affections and desires are excited. Hence, holy Job made a covenant with his eyes, that he would not so much as think upon a virgin. (Job 31:1) Why did he say that he would not so much as think upon a virgin? Should he not have said that he made a covenant with his eyes not to look at a virgin? No; he very properly said that he would not think upon a virgin; because thoughts are so connected with looks, that the former cannot be separated from the latter, and therefore, to escape the molestation of evil imaginations, he resolved never to fix his eyes on a woman.”

“The thought follows the look; delight comes after the thought; and consent after delight.” -Saint Augustine – Bishop of Hippo, Father, and Doctor of the Church


“What is not seen is not desired, and to the desire succeeds the consent.” -Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva and Doctor of the Church


“If Eve had not looked at the forbidden apple, she should not have fallen; but because she saw that it was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and beautiful to behold, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat. (Gen 3:6) The devil first tempts us to look, then to desire, and afterwards to consent.”


“A deliberate glance at a person of a different sex often enkindles an infernal spark, which consumes the soul.”


“Through the eyes the deadly arrows of love enters.” -Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Father and Doctor of the Church, De modo bate viv. s. 23.


“The first dart that wounds and frequently robs chaste souls of life finds admission through the eyes. By them David, the beloved of God, fell. By them was Solomon, once the inspired of the Holy Ghost, drawn into the greatest abominations. Oh! how many are lost by indulging their sight! The eyes must be carefully guarded by all who expect not to be obliged to join in the lamentation of Jeremiah: My eye hath wasted my soul (Lamentations 3:51).”


“The eyes, because they draw us to sin, must be depressed. He that looks at a dangerous object begins to will what he wills not.”  -Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Father and Doctor of the Church, Mor. J. 21, c. 2.


“Gaze not about, says the Holy Ghost, upon anothers beauty; . . . hereby lust is enkindled as a fire.” -Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 9:8-9


“To avoid the sight of dangerous objects, the saints were accustomed to keep their eyes almost continually fixed on the earth, and to abstain even from looking at innocent objects. After being a novice for a year, St. Bernard could not tell whether his cell was vaulted.…St. Peter of Alcantara kept his eyes constantly cast down, so that he did not know the brothers with whom he conversed….The saints were particularly cautious not to look at persons of a different sex. St. Hugh, bishop, when compelled to speak with women, never looked at them in the face.  St. Clare would never fix her eyes on the face of a man. She was greatly afflicted because, when raising her eyes at the elevation to see the consecrated host, she once involuntarily saw the countenance of the priest. St. Aloysius never looked at his own mother in the face.”


“St. Gregory states (Dialogues: Book 2, Ch.2) that the temptation, to conquer which St. Benedict rolled himself in thorns, arose from one incautious glance at a woman.”


“St. Jerome, (Ep. ad Eustoch) though living in a cave at Bethlehem, in continual prayer and macerations of the flesh, was terribly molested by the remembrance of ladies whom he had long before seen in Rome. Why should not similar molestations be the lot of the religious who wilfully and without reserve fixes her eyes on persons of a different sex?”


“It is not the seeing of objects so much as the fixing of our eyes upon them that proves most pernicious.”  -Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva and Doctor of the Church


“If, our eyes should by chance fall upon others, let us take care never to fix them upon any one.”  -Saint Augustine – Bishop of Hippo, Father, and Doctor of the Church;Reg. ad serv. D. n. 6.


“It is not lawful to behold what it is not lawful to covet.”   -Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Father and Doctor of the Church


“The evil thought that proceeds from looks, though it should be rejected, never fails to leave a stain upon the soul. Brother Roger, a Franciscan of singular purity, being once asked why he was so reserved in his intercourse with women, replied, that when men avoid the occasions of sin, God preserves them; but when they expose themselves to danger, they are justly abandoned by the Lord, and easily fall into some grievous transgressions.”


“Where Christ is, there modesty is found.”  -Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Father and Doctor of the Church, Ep. ad Dioclem.


“I do not mean to say that the eyes should never be raised or never fixed on any object. No; but they ought to be directed only to what inspires devotion, to sacred images, and to the beauty of creation, which elevate the soul to the contemplation of the divinity.”


“St. Francis of Assisi once said to his companion, that he was going out to preach. After walking through the town, with his eyes fixed on the ground, he returned to the convent. His companion asked him when he would preach the sermon. We have, replied the saint, by the modesty of our looks, given an excellent instruction to all who saw us.”


“It is related of St. Aloysius, that when he walked through Rome the students would stand in the streets to observe and admire his great modesty.”


“When Innocent II visited St. Bernard at Clairvaux, such was the exterior modesty of the saint and of his monks, that the Pope and his cardinals were moved to tears of devotion.”


“Surius relates a very extraordinary fact of St. Lucian, a monk and martyr. By his modesty he induced so many pagans to embrace the faith, that the Emperor Maximian fearing that he should be converted to Christianity by the appearance of the saint, would not allow the holy man to be brought within his view, but spoke to him from behind a screen.”


That our Redeemer was the first who taught, by his example, modesty of the eyes, may, as a learned author remarks, be inferred from the holy evangelists, who say that on some occasion he raised his eyes. And he, lifting up his eyes on his disciples (Luke 6:20) When Jesus therefore had lifted up his eyes. (John 6:5) From these passages we may conclude that the Redeemer ordinarily kept his eyes cast down. Hence the Apostle, praising the modesty of the Saviour, says: I beseech you, by the mildness and modesty of Christ. (2 Cor. 10:1)”


“If, my children, we desire to raise the soul towards heaven, let us direct the eyes towards the earth.”  -Saint Basil the Great – Bishop of Caesarea, Father, and Doctor of the Church,  Serm. de Ascesi.


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