THE moralist is usually severe, and the quality of his censure is

merciless, when he attempts to treat the unwholesome theme of moral

deformity; and all his efforts are mere attempts, for no human language

can do full justice to such a theme, or fully express the contempt such

excesses deserve. It is just, then, that, when he stands in the

presence of the moral leper who blushes not for his degradation, he

flay with th
whip of scorn and contempt, scourge with anathema and

brand him with every stigma of infamy, in order that the load of

opprobrium thus heaped upon his guilty head may at least deter the

clean from such defilement.

But, if guilt is always guilt, the quality of guilt is varied. Just as

all virtue is not equally meritorious, so to other sources than

personal unworthiness may often be traced moral debility that strives

against natural causes, necessary conditions of environment and an

ever-present and ever-active influence for evil. A fall does not always

betoken profound degradation nor a stain, acute perversity of the will.

Those therefore who wrestle manfully with the effects of regretted

lapses or weaknesses, who fight down, sometimes perhaps unsuccessfully,

the strong tendencies of a too exuberant animal nature, who strive to

neutralize an influence that unduly oppresses them,--against these,

guilty though they may have been, is not directed the moralist's

unmeasured censure. His reproaches in such cases tend less to condemn

than to awake to a sense of moral responsibility; earnestness in

pointing out remedy and safeguards takes the place of severity against

wilfulness. For he knows that not a few sentences of condemnation

Christ writes on the sands, as He did in a celebrated case, and many an

over-zealous accuser he has confounded, like the villainous Pharisees

whom He challenged to show a hand white enough to be worthy to cast the

first stone.

Evidently such pity and commiseration should not serve to make vice

less unlovely and thus undo the very work it is intended to perform. It

should not have the characteristics of certain books and plays that

pretend to teach morality by exposing vice in all its seductiveness.

Over-sensitive and maudlin sympathy is as ridiculous as it is

unhealthy; its tendency is principally to encourage and spoil. But a

judicious, discreet and measured sympathy will lift up the fallen,

strengthen the weak and help the timorous over many a difficulty. It

will suggest, too, the means best calculated to insure freedom from

slavery of the passions.

The first of these is self-denial, which is the inseparable companion

of chastity; when they are not found together, seldom does either

exist. And by self-denial is here meant the destruction of that eternal

r reference for self, that is at the bottom of all uncleanness, that

makes all things, however sacred, subservient to one's own pleasures,

that considers nothing unlawful but what goes against the grain of

natural impulse and natural appetites. There may be other causes, but

this self-love is a primary one. Say what you will, but one does not

fall from his own level; the moral world is like the physical; if you

are raised aloft in disregard for the laws of truth, you are going to

come down with a thud. If you imagine all the pleasures of life made

for you, and become lawful because your nature craves for them, you are

taking a too high estimate of yourself; you are going before a fall He

who takes a correct measure of himself, gets his bearings in relation

to God, comes to realize his own weak points and several deficiencies,

and acknowledges the obligations such a state of affairs places upon

him, that one may sin, but he will not go far.

He may fall, because he is human, because strength sufficient to guard

us against the assaults of impurity is not from us, but from God. The

spirit of humility, therefore, which makes known to him his own

insufficiency, must be fortified with the spirit of faith which makes

him ask for support through prayer. It is faith that makes prayer

possible, and living faith, the spirit of faith, that makes us pray

aright. This kind of prayer need not express itself in words; it may be

a habit, a long drawn out desire, an habitual longing for help coupled

with firm confidence in God's mercy to grant our request. No state of

soul however disordered can long resist such a power, and no habit of

evil but in time will be annihilated by it.

The man or woman who undertakes to keep himself or herself pure, or to

rise out of a habit of sin without the liberal use of divine

supplication has in hand a very ungrateful task, and he or she will

realize it before going far. And unless that prayer is sincere and

heartfelt, a prayer full of faith that will not entertain the thought

of failure, every effort will be barren of results. You must speak to

God as to one near you, and remember that He is near you all the time.

Then there are the sacraments to repair every breach and to heal every

wound. Penance will cleanse you, communion will adorn and equip you

anew. Confession will give you a better knowledge of yourself every

time you go; the Food of God will strengthen every fibre of your soul

and steel you against the seductions that otherwise would make you a

ready victim. Don't go once a year, go ten, twenty times and more, if

necessary, go until you feel that you own yourself, that you can

command and be obeyed. Then you will not have to be told to stop; you

will be safe.