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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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  • THE TENTH (NINTH) COMMANDMENT: "Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Wife."
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We must realize that the avoidance of concupiscence demands much labor, for

it is based on something within us. It is as hard as trying to capture an

enemy in one's own household. However, this desire can be overcome in four



Firstly, by fleeing the external occasions such as, for instance, bad

company; and in fact whatever may be an occasion for this sin: "Gaze not

upon a maiden lest her beauty be a stumbling-block to thee. . . . Look not

around about thee in the ways of the city, nor wander up and down in the

streets thereof. Turn away thy face from a woman dressed up, and gaze not

about upon another's beauty. For many have perished by the beauty of a

woman, and hereby lust is enkindled as a fire."12 And again: "Can a man

hide fire in his bosom, and his garments not burn?"13 And thus Lot was

commanded to flee, "neither stay thou in all the country about."14


The second way is by not giving an opening to thoughts which of themselves

are the occasion of lustful desires. And this must be done by mortification

of the flesh: "I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection."15 The

third way is perseverance in prayer: "Unless the Lord build the house, they

labor in vain who build it."16 And also: "I knew that I could not otherwise

be continent, except God gave it."17 Again: "This kind is not cast out save

by prayer and fasting."18 All this is not unlike to a fight between two

persons, one of whom you desire to win, the other to lose. You must sustain

the one and withdraw all support from the other. So also between the spirit

and the flesh there is a continual combat. Now, if you wish the spirit to

win, you must assist it by prayer, and likewise you must resist the flesh

by such means as fasting; for by fasting the flesh is weakened.


The fourth way is to keep oneself busy with wholesome occupations:

"Idleness hath taught much evil."19 Again: "This was the iniquity of Sodom

thy sister, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance, and the idleness of

her."20 St. Jerome says: "Be always busy in doing something good, so that

the devil may find you ever occupied." Now, study of the Scriptures is the

best of all occupations, as St. Jerome tells us: "Love to study the

Scriptures and you will not love the vices of the flesh."21







12. Ecclus., ix. 5-9.


13. Prov., vi. 27.


14. Gen., xix. 17.


15. Cor., ix. 27.


16. Ps. cxxvi. 1.


17. Wis., viii. 21.


18. Matt., xvii. 20.


19. Ecclus., xxxiii. 29.


20. Ezech., xvi. 49.


21. "Ad Paulin."

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