Monday, July 02, 2007

Work of Holy Spirit

I had occasion and need to sniff around the Arlington Diocese's Web site just now, looking for when I could go to confession tomorrow morning. I came across a well-fitting and nearby time at Holy Spirit, and then began looking around the site.

One of the parochial vicars there, Father James Searby (a JP2-generation priest), has his own Web site where I found a couple of items, apparently written by himself informally, of potential broader interest, on sexual impurity generally and masturbation in particular. The items can be downloaded as Mac Word files, but so as not to link directly to the download command, I advise interested persons to go to this page on Father's site and look on the menu at the right for "Some Practical Steps for Overcoming Impurity" and "Overcoming Addiction to Masturbation and Pornography." For people without Microsoft Word (I am one of them at home), I have also copied the texts and repost them at my "Articles" blog as "Practical Steps" and "Addiction."

This struck me as the most-insightful part, including the explanation for why every time you do it, it leaves you numb.
Masturbation, you could say, is the 'lonely problem.' At its core it seems to fulfill a desire but it ends up leaving a man lonely, dulled and unable to really love himself properly and therefore, anyone else. If sexuality is made to unite a man and woman in love and self gift, then masturbation is the opposite. When we take self giving to another and make it a solo act where there is no self giving then the action has the trappings of something good but it is used wrongly. It is a turning in on oneself rather than a giving out of oneself. That is why there is such a let down and so much guilt after the act is completed. When it becomes a habit it can be safe to assume that the problem is not the actual masturbating but a need for love. This need for love, for meaning, and for wholeness is a deeper problem and requires a deeper answer. ...

The pleasure glosses over the deeper need for love, friendship and a hunger for God. It is an easy, predictable way to find what you long for on a deeper level but it always comes up short. That is why, when it is all said and done, there is usually a vow of some sort where one says, “That’s it! That is the last time! I’m tired of this!” and that lasts for a little while until the temptation arises again and the cycle starts again. ...

Then one of two things happen:
You have become numb to it and you don’t care that it happened. You still feel guilty but you say, “well, I already sinned, I might as well keep going for a while until I can get to confession”
Or, you make the vow: you ask God for forgiveness and promise that this was the last time - you’ve had enough, no more!” And you move on and get to confession quickly.
Then, unless the cycle is broken - it all eventually begins again.
I have masturbated "for the last time" a hundred times over. And I have done it again "because there's no reason not to" more often than that. To be honest, I don't think I've had any other reaction more than a couple of times. Only in some recent weeks have I really been able to face up to why that is.


Dad29 said...


I once read (in Homiletic/Pastoral Review) a criticism of John XXIII's reduction of the Communion fast to only 1 hour.

The criticism was from a man who liked the longer fast--particularly the 'from midnight' version, because it gave a sinner a very handy excuse for NOT going to Communion (in the cases where getting to Confession was impossible...)

Can't decide whether his criticism was motivated by 'pastoral concern'/common sense, or whether to mask Pride.

Anonymous said...


I've commented a few times on your blog previously, but for obvious reasons, I wish to remain anonymous here.

Thanks very, very much for posting Father Searby's insights on overcoming desires to masturbate.

I'm a married man (of six years) who has had intermittent struggles in this area (which, since the late '90s, usually also involved desires to look at pornography) since long before I was married.

Thanks to a regimen of frequent Mass and frequent confession (for me, frequent means usually weekly, sometimes bi-weekly), I've gotten progressively better at keeping these temptations at bay, and -- praise God -- it's been over a year since I've deliberately sought out pornography on the Internet and masturbated.

I haven't been able to get to confession in nearly three weeks, however, and I've felt very tempted as of late to resume these dark old habits.

And since I won't be able to get to confession until this coming weekend, in the meantime reading Father Searby's advice is exactly what I needed to prevent me from falling.

So again, a sincere THANK YOU for posting this.