During a vision she received in 1929, Our Lord bestowed a mystical cincture of purity on St. Faustina Kowalska:
During Holy Mass, before Communion, we had the renewal of vows. When we had left our kneelers and had started to recite the formula for the vows, Jesus appeared suddenly at my side clad in a white garment with a golden girdle around His waist, and He said to me, I give you eternal love that your purity may be untarnished and as a sign that you will never be subject to temptations against purity. Jesus took off His golden cincture and tied it around my waist.
Since then I have never experienced any attacks against this virtue, either in my heart or in my mind. I later understood that this was one of the greatest graces which the Most Holy Virgin Mary had obtained for me, as for many years I had been asking this grace of Her.
-from Diary, 40
When I was a twelve-year-old in Adoration, this paragraph took me strongly aback, and now, nearly a decade later, it strikes me all the more. To never even be subject to temptations to the sin of impurity! It was the first time I had ever read anything to do with a cincture being mystically bestowed on a saint for the preservation of their chastity and purity. However, thanks to God’s goodness, it wasn’t to be the last.
The raging of spiritual warfare goes largely unseen, and yet, of course, it is all too real. For the vast majority of Church Militant, we’re embroiled in a fight to preserve our chastity and purity, no matter our life situation: daily combating temptations left and right, thanks to the perversions of our culture and our own concupiscence.
“More souls go to hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.”
-Our Lady of Fatima
Almost ten years passed after I first read that paragraph from St. Faustina. And then a new, yet similar, story befell me. My fourteen-year-old brother, who took St. Thomas Aquinas for his Confirmation patron last February, was the one who informed us of, and drew us all into, a special Confraternity, established for the protection of chastity and purity. And now, for well over a year, I’ve belonged to the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, along with the rest of my family.
The Confraternity’s website relates its origins through the story of St. Thomas Aquinas (you can find the full story by following the link):
Immediately, St. Thomas snatched a burning brand from the hearth, drove the woman [his brothers had brought to him] out of the room, slammed the door behind her, and emblazoned the sign of the cross on the door with the red-hot brand. He then fell to his knees with tears of thanksgiving and prayed to be preserved in his chastity, purity, and intention to live the religious life.
According to the records of his canonization, Thomas fell at once into a mystical sleep and had a vision. Two angels came to him from heaven and bound a cord around his waist, saying, “On God’s behalf, we gird you with the girdle of chastity, a girdle which no attack will ever destroy.” In the records of his canonization, many different witnesses who knew St. Thomas at different points in his life remarked about his evidently high degree of purity and chastity. The angels’ gift preserved St. Thomas from sexual temptation and bestowed upon him an enduring purity that ennobled all his thoughts and actions. Pope Pius XI wrote: “If St. Thomas had not been victorious when his chastity was in peril, it is very probable that the Church would never have had her Angelic Doctor.”
Over his lifetime, St. Thomas’s conduct revealed that he had indeed received a special grace of chastity and purity – a grace that he is now ready to share with others through the communion of saints.
Here, again, was the story of a saint being bestowed with a supernatural gift from God towards the preservation of chastity and purity!
“Behold, we gird thee by the command of God with the girdle of chastity, which henceforth will never be imperiled. What human strength can not obtain, is now bestowed upon thee as a celestial gift.”
–The angels to St. Thomas Aquinas
And this is the foundation of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity: that its members, enrolled by a priest with the necessary faculties (which means not every priest can enroll), gird themselves with a blessed and knotted cord (or medal) for life, and promise to pray specific prayers, every day, for the grace of being preserved from all sins against chastity and purity in thought, word or action. They ask for this grace, both for themselves and all members of the Confraternity.
These prayers, namely, are fifteen Hail Marys, offered for diverse intentions relating to chastity and purity:
- For our social and cultural climate
- For our relationships
- For modesty in dress and movements
- For our five senses
- For our sensuality
- For our imagination
- For our memory
- For our power of estimation
- For our affectivity
- For our intellect
- For our will
- For our conscience
- For our hearts
- For self-surrender
- For love
as well as two beautiful prayers, one addressed to Our Lord, the other to St. Thomas Aquinas:
I know that every perfect gift,
and especially that of chastity,
depends on the power of Your providence.
Without You a mere creature can do nothing.
Therefore, I beg You to defend by Your grace
the chastity and purity of my body and soul.
And if I have ever sensed or imagined anything
that could stain my chastity and purity,
blot it out, Supreme Lord of my powers,
that I may advance with a pure heart in Your love and service,
offering myself on the most pure altar of Your divinity
all the days of my life. Amen.
Chosen lily of innocence, pure St. Thomas,
who kept chaste the robe of baptism,
and became an angel in the flesh after being girded by two angels,
I implore you to commend me to Jesus, the Spotless Lamb,
and to Mary, the Queen of Virgins.
Gentle protector of my purity, ask them that I,
who wear the holy sign of your victory over the flesh,
may also share your purity,
and after imitating you on earth
may at last come to be crowned with you among the angels. Amen.
Chastity, according to one’s state in life, is every Christian’s battle. If, as Our Lady of Fatima said, more souls are damned because of the sin of impurity than for any other reason, then in that context, surely it’s against these temptations that we need the most aid here on earth!
This devotion of both the blessed cord and the prayers has been a great source of strength and protection for me, and yet, largely, an invisible and subtle one. Apart from when I’m offering the prayers with my family, I rarely think about the devotion itself (such as, I’m being tempted! Let me call on the graces of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity right now!). But rather, I think I’ve been gradually blessed with a greater clarity of perspective towards the virtue purity, and a quicker reaction, a sharpened self-preservation instinct against temptation: a hasty, but calm, flight towards Our Lord and Our Lady, or St. Joseph. I often look back on the past year and am filled with gratitude and peace for the many times I’ve been preserved, and how it has become easier to combat temptation, thanks to the graces of this Confraternity which all members benefit from. Also, I think it is safe to say that I’ve received strong desires for a pure and holy courtship, at least in part, from the graces of this Confraternity!
While it’s ideal to pray the devotion separately from any other devotions, currently, our family (because of time) offers the first fifteen Hail Marys of our daily Rosary for the intentions of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, mentioning each of the fifteen intentions for chastity and purity before beginning the Rosary. Immediately after the Rosary, we offer the other two Confraternity prayers. It is a beautiful thing for our whole family to be members of this Confraternity, and for us to be praying for one another and aiding one another–along with thousands of others–in the daily battle for chastity and purity. The thanks goes to my brother for that!
God is a discerner of our heart, Whom we must reverence with all our hearts wheresoever we are, and walk pure in His presence as do the angels.
–The Imitation of Christ, Chapter 19
For more information on the history and purpose of the Confraternity and how to be enrolled, visit the Angelic Warfare Confraternity’s website 🙂 Have a blessed Monday!