for the Expanded Edition of Clean of Heart: Overcoming Habitual Sins Against Purity

This book is for practicing Catholics who accept all the Church’s teachings, yet still struggle with habitual sins against purity. If this describes you, you are not alone. Our sex-saturated society makes the virtue of purity difficult to attain, and the Internet provides millions with a hidden, convenient way to sin.

But take heart; there is hope! Through our Holy Mother the Church, God provides every grace you need to overcome these sins. No matter how long you have indulged in sins of the flesh, Our Lord loves you and can set you free!

Though this program focuses particularly on the solitary sins of pornography and masturbation, the principles it teaches, drawn from the timeless wisdom of the Church, can help one combat other sins of the flesh as well. After all, how many sexual compulsions began with the occasional viewing of indecent images, only to escalate over time to include other types of immorality? So this book strikes at what is often the root of sins against purity.

If you are truly fed up with how vice is affecting your life, and are determined to stop, then this book is for you. These meditations will challenge you; they tell the unpleasant truth of what impurity does to your soul. Yet they will also show you the way out, if you choose to take it. There is no magic formula for overcoming this sin, only the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ. These meditations will teach you a type of self-mastery based on Catholic principles, but it will only work if you ask for His grace to help you to apply them in your life. Apart from Him you can do nothing, but you can do all things in Him Who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13).

Ask God for the grace to persevere, since victory won’t come quickly or easily. It requires a firm resolve and daily battle. If the thought of giving up these sins for the rest of your life seems overwhelming, try to take it "one day at a time," as many addiction recovery programs recommend. Just concentrate on the present, on today, and leave the future in the hands of God: "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow; for tomorrow will have anxieties of its own. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Mt. 6:34).

One way to do this is, every morning when you say your prayers, say to yourself, "I choose this day to be pure and to avoid sins of the flesh." Don’t even give tomorrow a thought, just resolve to be pure today, and ask for the grace to avoid sin for one day. You should reinforce this with daily prayer, such as, "O Mary, my good Mother, keep me from sin this day (or night). Amen" This book is arranged like a daily devotional, so it will fit in well with that daily resolve.

Commit yourself to finish the whole book, reading one meditation per day. Don’t rush ahead; each meditation will have plenty for you to ponder and put into practice for one day. Consider keeping a journal for writing down thoughts and prayers.

For some of those who struggle with this vice, certain words can be an occasion for sin. To minimize temptation, this book uses euphemisms as much as possible. If you come across an unfamiliar term, check the Glossary in back.

It is best that you use this book while under the direction of a Catholic spiritual director or confessor, who can give you personal counseling and help you to avoid scrupulosity while dealing with these habitual sins. It might also be helpful to see a good Christian counselor who is trained in this area. It is preferable that the counselor be Catholic; if not then he or she should be respectful of the Catholic Faith and in agreement with Catholic moral teaching (for instance, some non-Catholic counselors don't even consider masturbation a sin - so be aware of that). Psychological counseling may help you to discover what events in your life or personality traits may be exacerbating your problem. Many people find this very helpful in overcoming sins against purity.

It is very important to avoid committing impure acts while reading this book. This will help you to break old habits and build new ones. It may prove difficult at first, but ask God for the grace to resist. Of course, if you are married you may engage in conjugal relations; this can even serve as a remedy for concupiscence. If you are single, you must remain celibate, as the Church requires. Despite what the world may tell you, you can do this with God’s help!

The chart at the end of each meditation will help you keep track of your progress. If your answers for a) through c) on that chart are ever more than zero, read Meditation 19 immediately. It is recommended that you then start the book all over again the next day with the first Meditation. The aim of this book is to help you learn how to stay pure, so while reading it you must observe chastity with the help of God’s grace. Though you will not have to start over again for having impure thoughts, resist them also as much as possible through prayer and by reading and memorizing Scripture. They should diminish over time as you apply the principles in this book. Also, don’t forget to give thanks to God for every day in which you did not engage in sins of the flesh!

Here are three very important things that you must do if you are serious about overcoming this vice:

1. Get rid of all pornography from your home and cut off all access to it. Any indecent materials in your home or easily accessible to you are near occasions of sin. You will not overcome habitual sin in your life unless you avoid near occasions of sin. So if you are truly serious about this struggle, then you must do all you can to cut off all access to indecent pictures, movies, stories and conversations.

If you have any erotica or pornography around the house – pictures, books, magazines, videos, DVDs, etc. - destroy it all today. Cut off any access to pay-per-view and X-rated web sites. Cut up your adult video store membership card. Cancel your cable or satellite TV, or at least block out all the adult channels. Avoid other questionable television programs; in fact, you may wish to watch less TV while reading this book and spend extra time praying and reading Scripture instead. Stay away from chat rooms and newsgroups; erase bookmarks to adult web sites. Install filtering software or sign up for a filtered ISP or accountability program. Erase any images stored on your computer, purge the cache, clean the hard drive, erase any disks and smash any CD-ROMs containing indecent pictures. Don’t keep any of it around at all! Also, stay away from red light districts; find another route home from work every day in necessary.

If this seems too difficult, ask Our Lord for the grace to do it. It may take some sacrifice, which is not easy, but it is necessary for the sake of your immortal soul. We will discuss this further in Meditation Eight.

2. Repent of sin and resolve to go to Confession as soon as possible. Sins of the flesh are mortal if there is sufficient reflection and full consent of the will. If you have not yet confessed to a priest, you will have to do so before you can receive Holy Communion again.

If you cannot go to Confession right away, resolve to go as soon as possible and make an Act of Perfect Contrition in the meantime. Gaze at a crucifix and consider Who is suffering and why. Make an act of will to turn away from your sins and to love God. Then say the following prayer sincerely:

O my God, I am heartily sorry and beg pardon for all my sins, not so much because these sins bring suffering and Hell to me, but because they have crucified my loving Savior Jesus Christ and offended Thy infinite Goodness. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life.

Memorize this prayer and pray it as soon as possible after committing a mortal sin. Of course, you will still have to go to Confession before receiving Communion.

3. Find an accountability partner who can pray for you and ask you daily how you are doing in your struggle against impurity. This could be a priest, religious, spiritual director or Christian counselor - as long as you can report to him or her every single day while reading this book. If not, then you must find someone else, even if you go to regular Confession and counseling as recommended. You need daily accountability to overcome these sins!

If you are married, it could be your spouse if he or she knows about your habitual sin. Or it could be a trusted, devout friend of the same sex as you. The True Knights Apostolate has a program called True Knights Combat Training, which provides accountability partners for men struggling against habitual sins of the flesh. See the Resources section in back for contact information.

As long as you have at least one other person to encourage you, to hold you responsible daily for your actions and to pray for your success in conquering your bad habits. Knowing that you have to answer personally to someone every single day can be a powerful deterrent to sin. Remember: you have to talk to this person every day, be completely honest, admitting when you’ve fallen, and be willing to be asked personal questions about how your struggle for purity is going.

If you get rid of near occasions of sin and have an accountability partner, that will go a long way to help you to avoid sins against purity. As you read and apply the spiritual truths and disciplines taught herein, you will gain more strength against temptation and sin. So achieving chastity and purity is not as impossible as it may seem, you can gain victory over sins of the flesh by the grace of God!

May Our Lord bless you and grant you victory over habitual sins of the flesh.

Our Lady of Victory, pray for us.

How to Read these Meditations:

  1. Make the Sign of the Cross and place yourself in the Presence of God.
  2. Read both the Scripture passage and opening prayer slowly and prayerfully.
  3. Then read the day’s Meditation in a spirit of prayer and resolve to carry out the Resolution at the end.
  4. Converse with Jesus for a while afterward in your own words.
  5. This would be a good time to read the "list of truths" you will compile after the third Meditation.
  6. Say the following traditional Prayer for Purity as a closing prayer each day:

O my God, thou who hast given me a body to keep pure and clean and healthy for thy service and my eternal happiness, forgive me for all my unfaithfulness in this great responsibility. Forgive me for every mean use which I have made of thy gifts in thought, word or deed since my rebirth as thine own adopted child in Baptism and my registration as a soldier of Jesus on the day of my Confirmation.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and give me a steadfast will that I may be a strength to others around me. Teach me to reverence my body and the bodies of my fellow creatures. Help me to see the glory of perfect manhood in Jesus Christ and of perfect womanhood in Mary Immaculate. Inspire me with such love for the ideals for which our Savior lived and died, that all my passions and energies will be caught up into the enthusiasm of His service and evil things will lose their power. May my body be the servant of my soul, and may both body and soul be Thy servants, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

(Note: On some days, an alternate closing prayer will be proposed at the end of the Meditation. Use that one instead for that day, but return to this one on subsequent days when no alternative is proposed.)

It is also recommended that all who use this program obtain a copy of the book Sex and the Mysteries by John M. Haffert (AMI Press, 1970). This excellent book discusses how devotion to Mary, and particularly praying the Holy Rosary, aids us in attaining purity of heart. It can be read either alongside or after completing the Clean of Heart program.



Update 11 February 2015: The Third Edition of Clean of Heart is available. Still just $17.99. Order now!

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