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Chapter 33. Ninth Commandment: Practice Purity of Heart • 441


The heart is the seat of moral personality: “Out of the

heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication”

(Mt 15:19). The struggle against carnal covetousness

entails purifying the heart and practicing temperance.

—CCC, no. 2517

We experience tensions between spiritual and physical desires. This

struggle belongs to the heritage of sin. This does not mean that we are to

despise the body and emotions that, with the soul, constitute our nature.

It does make us realize that we will face a daily spiritual struggle to

acquire virtues that help us obey the saving action of the Holy Spirit and

overcome vices that cause us to resist him.

The grace of Baptism purifies us from sins, but a certain tendency

to sin remains. We must struggle against disordered desires by practic-

ing purity of mind, heart, and body with daily vigilance. To do this, we

need to examine our motives as well as our deeds, so that we always

seek God’s will. This will cause us to discipline our feelings and imagina-

tion. Finally, since purity is a gift of God, we need to pray for it, as St.

Augustine did:

I thought that continence arose from one’s own powers, which

I did not recognize in myself. I was foolish enough not to know

. . . that no one can be continent unless you grant it. For you

surely would have granted it if my inner groaning had reached

your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares on you. (



, bk. 6, chap. 11, no. 20)


Modesty is a virtue necessary for purity. It flows out of the virtues of

temperance, chastity, and self-control. A modest person dresses, speaks,

and acts in a manner that supports and encourages purity and chas-

tity, and not in as manner that would tempt or encourage sinful sexual

behavior. Modesty protects the mystery of the person in order to avoid