Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Custody of the Eyes

(Pacific Coast Hwy in December)
This is going to be one of my more unpopular posts but something that deserves discussion since it's an area of moral weakness for most men, and perhaps a few women as well. The summer always exacerbates it and I no longer choose to vacation at the beach because of my failure to master it.

Yeah, I'm talking about taking custody of our eyes. At some point long ago in my Christian life, I gave up trying and had given myself over to doing the "second look" routine (you guys all know what I am talking about). I just figured "I am wired this way" and gave up the battle to be chaste in my viewing of the fairer sex. I would say a quick prayer of "I'm sorry" but invariably would find myself continually repeating the same sin. Even despite a conversion experience in my young teen years and all the teachings on lust and lusting, etc etc, I still developed the inability to take custody of my eyes from an early time in my life. I am not talking about lecherous staring necessarily, but that second look back in the rear view mirror after driving past a comely young women, created in the image of God. Was I really interested in those nice shoes she was wearing? One sin leads to another and eventually you are not even aware that you can't look at a woman "wholly" without evaluating her "parts" individually. I'm sorry to be so frank folks, but I'm just being real with you here.

Even despite being a devout Christian, this is a sin that takes root and begins to deceive until the point where you are no longer aware that you are sinning anymore. Eventually you just give up, give yourself over to it and the possibility of living a chaste life eludes you. At least it did me. Being married didn't make it easier. I found it made it worse! (you know longer had to imagine)

Over the past three years, I have developed a real sense of how the sin of unchastity, (lusting with the eyes) can really foul up my relationship with God as well as my spouse. I am not being scrupulous either! Some may say: "Oh, he's Catholic now so he has that guilt thing going." No, actually, I am trying to get as close to Jesus as possible and His word tells me that looking after women with a lustful eye is not the wisest or quickest route to heaven. Is it a serious sin? Well, Jesus said it would be better to go to heaven missing one eye than to go to hell with both, if it is your eye that causes you to sin. Even before Jesus walked the earth, He spoke through His servant Job in these words:
Job 31:1 – “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I look upon a virgin?” King David's roving eye towards Bathsheba led to his moral collapse.
Christians throughout the past two millennium have taken His words seriously and have committed themselves to purity and "custody of their eyes." The term itself is from one of the Church Fathers and makes me realize that the Church has always meant business when it came to moral purity/chastity*. So why did I think I could just give up because: "I am just wired this way?" St. Augustine, no stranger to issues of chastity, made a rule for priests that has been followed by certain religious orders for 1600 years.

"Although your eyes may perhaps fall on a woman, they must never be fixed on her. For in passing here and there, you are not forbidden to see women, but to desire them or wish to be desired by them is wicked. On either side bad passions are stirred up, and that not merely by touch or by thought, but by sight alone. And say not that your minds are pure if your eyes are not kept in modest restraint, for the immodest eye is the messenger of the impure heart. And when such hearts exchange thoughts by looks though without words and by fleshly concupiscence allure each other with evil desires, then chastity flies from the soul, even though the body is free from outward stain. And when a man fixes his eye on a woman, or takes pleasure in being locked on by her, let him not imagine that his sin will pass unnoticed."


I have found tremendous grace and strength over this sin through sacramental confession and frequent reception of the Eucharist (though I still stumble). I can't explain it exactly, but I have a renewed desire to have a pure heart towards God and others.(On more days than I used to anyways) Also through the teachings of JP2's Theology of the Body, I have become acutely aware of how I rob women of their God-given dignity when I unrobe them with my gaze. The thought now pains me when I realize how long I had disobeyed God to the point of no longer even being aware of it.
I don't watch R rated movies or most TV programs because it's nearly impossible (at least for me) to not sin against my wife by looking at other unclothed women. Are there any guys out there who can go home from the movies and not have those images in their minds during private moments with their spouse? (I think Jesus called this adultery. Matt 5:28-29)

Either single or married, same sex attraction or heterosexual. It doesn't matter. God has called us to walk in chastity and has given us the power and grace to do it! I close with this quote from a member of Courage, a Catholic ministry to Christians with same-sex attraction but it applies to all of us.

"It takes courage to be chaste, and still more courage to be a witness to chastity so that others who struggle will not struggle alone. But though it takes more courage to walk the steep and narrow road to Heaven than to take the broad and easy road to Hell, it will be much more pleasant to enjoy the banquet of heaven with the saints than to endure the torments of Hell. And so, though the way to sanctity is hard and I may stumble ten thousand times before I reach the top, it is the only road for me." R. Belgau

*Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.126 "Man's dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end."127 Catechism of the Catholic Church

16 Comments:

Blogger The Spirit's Vehicle said...

"If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into fiery Gehenna." (Matthew 18:9)

July 24, 2007 11:17 PM  
Blogger Joab said...

I told a priest in confession:

"I thought getting married in the Church would solve my lust problem. Then, when we learned NFP I thought that would finally solve the problem and I wouldn't struggle with it anymore."

He looked at me, (he was a 70 year old man), and said:

"Oh, you'll never get rid of lust. That never goes away."

July 25, 2007 11:31 AM  
Anonymous Not a Purtitan but trying to be respectful said...

Thank you very much for your commentary on this topic. I have often struggled to explain to others how much I enjoy the colder months of Fall and Winter, here in Minnesota, namely because I find myself in difficult predicaments during the Spring and Summer months. Your quote from Augustine summarizes the struggle beautifully.

July 25, 2007 12:15 PM  
Blogger Matthew Kelley said...

this is good quality post i must say.

ryc:
i wasnt completly enamored with it. i enjoyed it, but it wasnt like "i have to come back here always" i want to go back to a latin high mass because i think i would understand what is going on a bit more.

one of my friends who had gone to a latin mass before was kind enough to tell me to not try and follow in the missalette the first time. lol.

i was more impressed by the reverence shown by the people there then the service itself

July 25, 2007 12:52 PM  
Anonymous theo said...

Great article TJ.

Over which, I wonder, is it most difficult to take custody: ears, eyes, mind or that rascal tongue?

Regardless, I'm grateful that Matt 18:9 is not a verse we are to practice literally. I'd long be deaf, mute, blind, limbless and lobatamized.

With fear and love of Jesus who judges all, I remain by His mercy your brother in Christ,
--Theo

July 25, 2007 4:18 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Susie from RECON blog said:
"Women, too, need help with 'custody of the eyes.' Though not "wired the same" we're definitely not immune from that "silent sin" either.

Thanks for your brutal honesty. It's given me much to ponder today and to be thankful for the sting of cleansing salty tears that can fall at my Lord's feet. Although my hair isn't long enough to dry those blessed feet, as was Mary's, I find he bends to forgive and says "your faith has healed you, go in peace and sin no more."

Do I still sin? Yep! I sure do! But the thing is, the more I fall in love with Jesus, as did Mary, the more "He catches my eye"...my heart...my mind and one day, after a what will be no doubt a long purgatorial pause, I pray to be made so pure of heart as to gaze in the eyes of him who made us all and love and be loved by my Lord...after rising from those blessed feet...and who knows, maybe even with long, blond hair once again, dampened by tears of joy?

PAX,
susie"

July 25, 2007 4:59 PM  
Blogger tara said...

TJ:
St. Augustine, suffered with the sin of lust--he would not remain in a room alone with a woman he was attracted towards--he did not want to continue in sin. He acknowledged his weakness and avoided all occasions of sin.

I think it's great that you avoid watching movies that are sexually explicit--there is no way that you can watch these images without them affecting you.

You can grow in holiness each and every time you avoid the sin. Also, the more you go to Confession, the more you go to Mass, the more you purposefully avoid sin--your heart will grow pure--over time, you will find yourself thinking differently. God WILL create a clean heart in you.

July 25, 2007 7:49 PM  
Blogger St. Jimbob of the Apokalypse said...

Custody of the eyes is difficult in a culture that uses sex to sell everything. I went to a golf website to check up on the fallout from the British Open, and lo and behold: a young, ex-tennis player in a swimsuit is on the front page. Why?

The ubiquitous web ads for dating services border on pornography.

I think that the Carthusians are onto something...

Thanks for the post and encouragement, TJ.

July 25, 2007 8:02 PM  
Blogger TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Great post. Very difficult subject. Ehh maybe not the most appropriate time to mention it but... you've been tagged.

July 25, 2007 9:06 PM  
Blogger MMajor Fan said...

Great post tiber! So thoughtful and heartfelt. You do a great service in speaking truthfully on this subject, because nowadays it is not only glazed over, it's part of the orchestrated downfall of modern man. I have a lot of sympathy for men because many women have been totally complicit in encouraging the sin and temptation.

Good for you and God bless, my friend!

July 25, 2007 11:11 PM  
Blogger Joyful Catholics said...

The two most evil, powerfully destructive words that Satan will use on us are these:

"Give up!"

TJ...I just reread this and had to blab a little more ; )

To "give up" is to remain a pawn of the Evil One... on the broad road to our destruction. To fight the good fight in any area of our lives, is to take up the sword of Truth, and gird ourselves in the armor of God and be the real man or real woman God has created us and calls us to be. It's harder than most ever think it will be, especially those in the "Jesus did it all so I don't have to" mentality.

About 10+ years ago, I was friends with a woman who had no self control in the art of 'custody of the eyes' and you can imagine where that led us. It wasn't I that lifted her up, though I tried but not hard enough...dirty water finds the easiest route to the sea of sin... I went right down the broad road with her. It started with complaining and then thinking the grass was greener on the other side of the proverbial fence. Without custody of the eyes, the mind quickly engaged in the thoughts and the thoughts then lead to action. Praise God for his mercy and the Hound of Heaven for his relentless pursuit of this prodigal daughter on the 'road to perdition.'

It is IMPERATIVE that we have solid, stalwart in the faith friends, mentors, perhaps older and wiser brothers and sisters in the Church to be our "keepers" and help us not to stray off that narrow, brutal bloody painful, holy path. Spiritual directors and confession! What gifts of grace given to us by our loving Father and Holy Mother Church!

TJ this is probably one of your best if not your very best post. It's something that needs to be heard, read, discussed and prayed about in all honesty. Not only on blogs, but from the pulpit, too!

I'm sure there are some discreet but powerful homilies, (just like this post) out there in the hearts of our priests. I've heard a few on the radio, Fr. Larry Richards for one, and Fr. Corapi for two, but I pray to hear some "live" too.

We need to encourage our priests to be courageous and 'tell it like it is" no matter the PC lunacy that abounds in some folks. If they can't take the truth, they might leave and that's hard, but the Hound of Heaven will be after them, too. They'll be back or they won't. It's up to them.

Two powerful and hopeful words St. Paul writes are these: "Press on..."

We need the BRUTAL TRUTH even if it hurts...like hell.

Thank you so much! I really didn't mean to ramble on and on. sorry.

PAX,
susie

July 26, 2007 7:40 AM  
Anonymous churchlady said...

Hi TJ: I will be more serious in another comment, but my 18 yr old daughter was watching "The Waking of Ned Devine" a wonderful Irish movie with my mother, and during the movie an 80 year old man was riding a motorcycle naked. She turned to my mother and said...."I really don't think I should be watching this." What a laugh we all got, the sight was pretty bad. I thought you would enjoy the humor.

July 26, 2007 8:57 AM  
Blogger Jeff Baker said...

First time visiting your blog and I must say, I'm impressed!

Kudos to you for addressing a common sin among we males.

I'm as guilty as anyone despite the fact I am in love with and am terribly devoted to my wife!

Keep up the good work, and God Bless!

JB
defendusinbattle.org

July 28, 2007 5:20 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks Jeff, for the honest comment.
You have quite an excellent blog yourself there!
God bless

July 28, 2007 5:47 PM  
Anonymous churchlady said...

Hi TJ: I was lucky this summer to attend a course along with a Sister originally from Peru, now teaching Junior High in a Catholic school outside of Boston. We talked about her life in Peru, and the thing she disliked the most about her religious life there was that everyone in her diocese practiced "custody of the eyes." If she walked into a rectory the priests would answer the door and not look at her. During meetings the men sit on one side of the room and the women on the other, no conversation taking place between them. Sister felt that she was not a person, and that anything she said was not taken seriously. This sister is a very conservative Catholic, but a very bright and intelligent woman. I would hate it if a male friend of mine could not look past my gender and see the child of God that I am, because of my sex. There is a difference between appreciating someone who is beautiful because they are God's creation and disrobing them. I think it would be wrong to avoid a person because they were attractive for fear that there "might" possibly be a sexual attraction. Maybe I am naive. I believe in chastity, modesty and self-control. I also believe that God gives us many gifts. I would hate it if my daughters could not be taken seriously by members of my church and not be allowed to participate as Eucharistic Ministers, lectors or cantors because even though they dress modestly they would be too beautiful to participate at Mass or associate with because of men's fears of temptation.

July 30, 2007 4:46 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

"I would hate it if a male friend of mine could not look past my gender and see the child of God that I am, because of my sex. There is a difference between appreciating someone who is beautiful because they are God's creation and disrobing them."
Thanks for the comments.
I should clarify that most of us men would agree we don't have an issue looking at an attractive women and noticing the attractiveness. that's the first look, that's not sin. The problem is the second and the third look!
Also, I didn't want to blame women but the fashions of the present culture and the way some, not all, women dress make it hard for me to drive down the street and look at women. I don't need to disrobe them with my eyes. They are already undressed!!! That's why I dont watch TV, it aint worth it.
Thanks for the post , God bless.

July 30, 2007 8:02 PM  

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