"Love One Another!" 18/2011 → True Love Waits - Pure Hearts
My story begins with my early high school days. My friends began telling me about their “first experiences” — experiences that precipitate adolescent children into that seductive world reserved “For Adults Only.”
I found their stories hard to resist. Something that had been closed to me was suddenly within my reach. I had no idea pornography and masturbation would become a problem with which I would have to wage such a long, unequal struggle.
My final year of high school brought many challenges. My father died suddenly. We were left with the difficult task of closing his affairs, taking care of mother, and stabilizing the family after the sudden loss of the head of the family. In my case the event prompted a religious awakening. Until then I had been an immature Sunday Catholic and shown little interest in the life of the Church. My older brother used to take me now and then to Catholic youth meetings and registered me in summer spiritual retreats, but I never took these events seriously and made no lasting contacts with the people I met there.
The situation changed when at one of these youth meetings I met a girl I rather liked. Since I did not take her phone number, I began going to church every day in the hope of seeing her again. I kept this up until it dawned on me one day that I had quite forgotten the girl. At the same time, I realized my relationship with God had grown deeper.
Our church was then holding an eight-week-long cycle of meetings, called the “Faith Seminar” — the result of an explosion of prayer in the wake of the death of John Paul II in April of 2005. The aim of the Seminar was to inaugurate a School of the New Evangelization. My curiosity piqued, I decided to attend the conferences. I found them very interesting. Many of the witness talks moved me deeply. I learned the meaning of personal prayer and how to talk to God freely and spontaneously. I also learned that with God nothing was impossible. The Seminar concluded with spontaneous prayers for an outpouring of gifts of the Holy Spirit. The participants broke up into small groups and the leaders prayed over those seeking prayers. Many things happened. People received the gift of prophecy and spoke in tongues. Many were “slain in the Holy Spirit.” I decided to go up and ask for prayers for my intention. What I heard struck me dumb. The group leader said, “I know what your problem is. You want God to free your heart from impurity.” The group prayed over me. Earlier I had been struck by another prophecy. A man had had a vision of someone pulling himself up a steep rock face by a rope. Despite utter exhaustion, the person gritted his teeth and persevered, finally to reach his goal. Someone else assured me that sooner or later whatever was troubling me would pass, though not at once. “Don’t struggle on your own,” he told me. “Be patient! In time God will lead you to real love and remove whatever troubles you.”
I accepted what they told me, though I kept asking myself the same question: In time? In time? But how could God want me to remain in sin and not mind? In my habitual impatience I wanted to break with this sin at once! I prayed. I fasted. I recited the rosary and chaplet every day. I went to healing prayers. I tried to resist the temptations; I strove with them, but to no avail. I failed every time; and with every failure I felt more disgusted with myself. At such times I
began to wonder if all that talk about nothing being impossible for God were not just a pie-in-the-sky fable. But then again there might be something in this talk of patience. So I resolved to persevere.
Two years passed. In the meantime, I had become more active in the Catholic youth movement and even became a group animator. Yet still I could not free myself from this sin. By this time I had given up trying, and this was causing me intense suffering. Then one day during a pilgrimage I heard about the Movement of Pure Hearts. A priest attending one the meetings talked about chastity and recommended the movement. I knew such a community would do me good. But then what was the use, I said to myself. What was the point of continuing the struggle? I would only fail again, and feel worse as a result. But just then, thanks to a group companion, I met Veronica. We exchanged phone numbers and began seeing each other upon our return from the pilgrimage. Veronica told me a lot about living a chaste life and how important it was for married life. (We often joke now that I learned about chastity by correspondence.) Knowing how difficult — if not impossible — it was for me to be chaste, I remained skeptical. But then I was so impressed by Veronica. I was struck not only by her beauty, sensitivity, and tenderness, but also by the strength of the principles by which she lived.
We are a couple now. As a member of the MPH community, I have at last come to understand how important it is to live by sound principles and avoid sexual intimacy before marriage. Every day Veronica and I learn something new about each other. We see the effect we have on each other and how we are changing for the better. (If you had known me as I was two years ago, you would not recognize me now.) Together we have seen spiritual growth in action — how God can pull a person out of the foulest mire and cleanse his heart. God has kept His word and conquered what I, with so much pain and effort, had been unable to conquer on my own. I never imagined how beautiful it was to look at a woman not as a sexual object but as a fellow human being. Nor had I supposed that striving for another person and thinking about her needs could bring greater fruits than trying to gratify my own desires.
Looking back on the events of my life, I can see how faithfully God has guided me through it all. Mine is the story of how easy it is to blunder into a mire and how God can draw one out of it. He achieves this in a way that is best for us. If He had wanted to, He could easily have purified me on the spot; but, then, would I have understood all this and desired purity with such an eager heart? I do not think so. In my case this process of learning was a gradual one. It became noticeable only in hindsight.
At midnight, during the 2009 Winter Retreat of the Movement of Pure Hearts, on my twenty-first birthday, I knelt down before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and recited the Prayer of Pure Hearts. I felt I had begun a new chapter in my life. That experience will remain one of the most beautiful memories of my life. Before me was God, who kept His word and conquered my sin through His love, and beside me was the Woman, who bestows her love upon me every day. With her, I taste the fruits of pure and authentic love — once but an unimaginable abstraction, today a reality and my surest investment in happiness.
The article was published with the permission from "Love One Another!" in August 2016.
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