On Bad Thoughts

Temptation of Saint Anthony - by TENIERS, David the Younger - from Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp


And Jesus, seeing their Thoughts, said:
Why do you think Evil in your Hearts? - Matthew 9:4


On Bad Thoughts

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

In the Gospel of this Day, it is Related that a Paralytic was Presented-to Jesus Christ, that He might Heal Him. The Lord Healed not only his Body, but also his Soul, and said to him, "Be of Good Heart, son, thy Sins are Forgiven thee" - Matthew 9:2. Some of the Scribes, as-soon -as they Heard these Words, said in their Hearts: He Blasphemeth. But our Savior soon let them know, that He saw their Evil Thoughts, saying: "Why do you think Evil in your Hearts?" Let us come to the Subject of this Discourse. God sees the most Secret Evil Thoughts-of our Hearts; He Sees and Punishes them. Human Judges Forbid and Chastise only External Crimes; for Men only See what appears Externally. "For Man seeth those things that Appear, but the Lord Beholdeth the Heart" - 1Kings 16:7. God Prohibits and Punishes Bad Thoughts. We shall Examine, in the First (1st) Point, when Bad Thoughts are Sinful; in the Second (2nd), the Great Danger of Bad Thoughts, when Indulged; and in the Third (3rd), the Remedies against Bad Thoughts.





Synopsis of the Bad Thought/Temptation Process

Human Being/Person
(A Unity (1) of Body and Soul)

Body/Inferior Will/
Psychosomatic Powers
Sensory Appetite/

Superior Will/
Infused Knowledge/
(Dominant Partner)

Memory and Imagination reside in the Body.
Intellect and Will reside in the Soul of a Person.
Satan can directly Attack the Faculties of the Body, already Weakened-by Original Sin. However, Satan can only indirectly Affect the Intellect and Will through Natural, Physical, and Psychological causes.
Strength is Manifested in our Control of the Will of the Soul.
Pray! Pray! Pray! Unite your Will to God's Will.



First Point
When Bad Thoughts are Sinful

In Two (2) Ways Men Err regarding Bad Thoughts. Some who have the Fear of God are Scrupulous, and are Afraid that every Bad Thought which Presents itself to the Mind, is a Sin. This is an Error. It is not the Bad Thought, but the Consent-to it, that is Sinful. All the Malice of Mortal Sin, Consists-in a Bad Will, in Giving-to Sin a Perfect Consent, with Full Advertence to the Malice of the Sin. Hence Saint Augustine teaches, that where there is no Consent, there can be no Sin. "Nullo modo sit peccatum, si non sit voluntarium". Though the Temptation, the Rebellion of the Senses, or the Evil Motion-of the Inferior Parts, should be very Violent, there is no Sin, as-long-as there is no Consent. "Non nocet sensus", says Saint Bernard, "ubi non est consensus".

The Temptation of Saint Anthony, Abbot -
by CARRACCI, Annibale -
from National Gallery, London

Even the Saints have been Tormented by Temptations. The Devil Labors Harder to make the Saints Fall, than to-make the Wicked Sin; he Regards the Saints as more-Valuable Prey. The Prophet Habakkuk says that the Saints are the 'Dainty-food' of the Enemy. "Through them, his Portion is made Fat, and his Meat, Dainty" - Habakkuk 1:16. And therefore the Prophet adds, that the Evil One Stretches-out his Net for all, to Deprive them of the Life of Grace; and that he Spares no one. "For this Cause therefore, he Spreadeth his Net, and will not Spare continually to Slay the Nations" - Habakkuk 1:17. Even Saint Paul, after he had been made a Vessel of Election, Groaned under Temptations against Chastity. "There was Given me a Sting of my Flesh, an Angel of Satan, to Buffet me" - 2Corinthians 12:7. He Three (3) Times Prayed to the Lord to Deliver him from these Temptations; but in Answer, the Lord told him, that His Grace was Sufficient-for him. "For which thing, Thrice I Besought the Lord, that it might Depart-from me. And He said to me: My Grace is Sufficient for thee; for Power is made Perfect, in Infirmity" - 2Corinthians 12:8-9. God Permits even His Servants to be Tempted, as well to Try their Fidelity, as to Purify them from their Imperfections. And for the Consolation-of the Timid and Scrupulous Souls, I will here-State, that, According-to the Common Opinion-of Theologians, when a Soul that Fears God and Hates Sin, is in Doubt whether She gave Consent-to a Bad Thought, She is not Bound, as-long-as She is not Certain-of having-given Consent, to Confess it; for it is then Morally Certain, that She has not Consented-to it. Had She really Fallen into Grievous Sin, She would have no Doubt about it; for Mortal Sin is so Horrible a Monster, that it is Impossible for him who Fears God, to Admit it into the Soul, without his Knowledge.

Others, who are not Scrupulous, but are Ignorant, and have Lax Consciences, think that Evil Thoughts, though Willfully Indulged, are not Mortal Sins, unless the Act is Consummated. This is an Error worse-than the Former. What we can not Lawfully-do, we can not Lawfully-Desire. Hence it is, that a Bad Thought, to which a Person 'Consents', has the same Malice as the Bad Act. As Sinful 'Works' separate us from God, so also do Sinful 'Thoughts'. "For Perverse Thoughts separate from God" -Wisdom 1:3. And as all Bad Actions are Known-to God, so also, He Sees all Evil Thoughts, and will Condemn and Punish them. "For the Lord is a God of all Knowledge, and to Him are Thoughts Prepared" - 1Kings 2:3.

However, all Bad Thoughts are not Equally Sinful; nor have all those that are Sinful, Equal Malice. In a Bad Thought we may consider Three (3) Things: the 'Suggestion', the 'Delectation', and the 'Consent'. The Suggestion is the First (1st) Bad Thought that is Presented-to the Mind; this is no Sin, but when Rejected, is an Occasion-of Merit. "As often", says Saint Antonine, "as you Resist, you are Crowned". The Delectation takes-place when the Person stops, as-it-were, to Look-at the Bad Thought, which, by its Pleasing Appearance, causes Delight. Unless the Will Consent-to it, this Delectation is not a Mortal Sin; but it is a Venial Sin, and if not Resisted, the Soul is in Danger-of Consenting-to it; but, when this Danger is not Proximate, the Sin is only Venial. But, it is Necessary-to Remark, that when the Thought which Excites the Delight is against Chastity, we are, according-to the common-opinion-of Theologians, bound-under Pain-of Mortal Sin, to give a Positive Resistance-to the Delectation caused-by the Thought; because, if not Resisted, the Delight easily-obtains the Consent-of the Will. "Unless a Person repel Delectations", says Saint Anselm, "the Delight passes-to Consent, and Kills the Soul". Hence, though a Person, should not Consent-to the Sin, if he Delight-at the Obscene Object, and does not Endeavor-to Resist the Delectation, he is Guilty-of a Mortal Sin, by Exposing himself to the Proximate Danger-of Consent. "How long shall Hurtful Thoughts, Abide-in thee?" - Jeremiah 4:14. Why, says the Prophet, do you allow Hurtful Thoughts to remain-in the Mind? Why do you not make an Effort-to Banish them, from the Heart? God Wishes us to Watch-over the Heart with Great Care; because on the Heart, that is the Will, our Life depends. "With all Watchfulness keep thy Heart, because Life issueth-out from it" - Proverbs 4:23. Finally, the Consent, which is the Cause-of Mortal Sin, takes place when the Person clearly Knows when the Object is Mortally Sinful, and Embraces it Perfectly-with the Will.

A Person may Sin Grievously by Thought, in Two (2) Ways; by 'Desire', and by 'Complacency'. A Person Sins by Desire, when he Wishes-to do the Bad Act, which he Desires, or would Wish-to do it, if he had the Opportunity. The Desire is a Mortal or Venial Sin, according as the Act which he Desires to do, is Mortally or Venially Sinful. However, in Practice, the Commission-of the External Act, always Increases the Malice of the Will; either because it Ordinarily Increases the Complacency which the Will Indulges, or Causes it to Continue-for a Longer Time. Hence, if the Act followed, it is Necessary-to mention it, in Confession. A Person Sins by Complacency, when he does not Desire-to Commit the Sinful Act, but Delights-in it, as if he had Committed it. This Complacency is called Morose Delectation. It is called Morose, not because the Complacency in the Thought-of the Unchaste Act, Lasts-for a Considerable Time, but, because the Will Dwells-with-Delight, on the Thought. Hence the Sin of Complacency may, as Saint Thomas teaches, be Committed-in a Moment. "Dicitur morosa", says the Holy Doctor, "non ex moratemporis, sed ex eo quod ratio deliberans circa eam immoratur revolvens libenter quae statim respui debuerunt" - Summa Theologica. He says Libenter (Willfully), to Remove Scruples from Persons of Timorous Conscience, who Suffer against their Will, certain Carnal Motions and Delights, although they do all in their Power to Banish them. Though the Inferior Part should Feel a certain Delight, as-long-as the Will does not Consent, there is no Sin, at least no Mortal Sin. I repeat with Saint Augustine, that what is not Voluntary, is by no means Sinful. "Malum nullo modo sit peccatum, si non sit voluntarium". In Temptations against Chastity, the Spiritual Masters advise us, not so-much-to Contend-with the Bad Thought, as to Turn the Mind to some Spiritual, or at least, Indifferent Object. It is useful to Combat other Bad Thoughts, face-to-face, but not Thoughts-of Impurity.


Second Point
The Great Danger of Bad Thoughts

It is Necessary-to Guard with all Possible Caution, against Bad Thoughts, which are an Abomination to God. "Evil Thoughts are an Abomination to the Lord" - Proverbs 15:26. They are called an Abomination to the Lord, because, as the Holy-Council-of-Trent says, Bad Thoughts, particularly Thoughts-against the Ninth (9th) and Tenth (10th) Commandments, sometimes Inflict-on the Soul a Deeper Wound, and are more Dangerous than External Acts. "Nonnumquam animam gravius sauciant, et periculosiora sunt iis quae in manifesto admittuntur". They are more Dangerous on many Accounts; First (1st), because Sins of Thought are more-easily Committed, than Sins of Action. The Occasions-of Sinful Acts are frequently Wanting; but Sins of Thought are Committed without the Occasion. When a Soul has Turned Her Back on God, the Heart is Continually Intent-on Evil, which causes Delight, and thus Multiplies Sins without Number. "All the Thought of their Heart was bent upon Evil, at all Times" - Genesis 6:5.

Secondly (2nd), at the Hour of Death, Sinful Actions cannot be Committed; but we may then be Guilty-of Sins-of Thought; and he who has had a Habit-of Consenting-to Bad Thoughts during Life, will be in Danger of Indulging them at Death; for then the Temptations of the Devil are most Violent. Knowing that he has but little Time to-gain the Soul, he makes Great Efforts to bring Her into Sin. "The Devil is come down unto you, having Great Wrath, knowing that he hath but a Short Time" - Revelation 12:12. Being in Danger of Death, Saint Eleazar, as Surius relates, was so Severely Tempted with Bad Thoughts, that, after his Recovery, he said: Oh! how Great is the Power of the Devils at the Hour of Death! The Saint Conquered the Temptations, because he was Accustomed-to Reject Bad Thoughts. But Miserable the Man, that has Contracted the Habit-of Committing them. Father Segneri relates, that a certain Sinner, Indulged Evil Thoughts during Life. At Death, he made a Sincere Confession of all his Sins, and was Truly Sorry for them; but, after Death, he appeared-to a Person, and said he was Damned. He stated that his Confession was Valid, and that God had Pardoned all his Sins; that before Death, the Devil represented-to him, that should he Recover-from his Illness, it would be an Act-of Ingratitude, to Forsake a certain Woman, who had a Great Affection for him. He Banished the First (1st) Temptation; a Second (2nd) came, which he also Rejected; but having Continued-to Think-on it, for a little, he was Tempted a Third (3rd) Time, Yielded-to the Temptation, and thus he was Lost.


Third Point
On the Remedies against Bad Thoughts

The Prophet Isaiah says that to be Freed-from Bad Thoughts, we must Take-away the Evil of our Thoughts. "Take away the Evil of your Devices" - Isaiah 1:16. What does he Mean-by Taking-away the Evil of our Devices? He means that we should Take-away the Occasions-of Evil Thoughts, Avoid Dangerous Occasions, and Keep-at a Distance-from Bad Company. I knew a Young Man who was an Angel; but in Consequence-of a Word which he Heard-from a Bad Companion, he had an Evil Thought, and Consented-to it. He was of Opinion, that this was the only Grievous Sin which he Committed-in his Whole Life; for he afterwards became a Religious, and, after some Years, Died a Holy Death. Thus, it is also Necessary-to Abstain-from Reading Books that are Obscene, or otherwise Bad. You must, moreover, avoid Dances-with Females, and Profane Comedies; at least when the Dances or Comedies are Immodest.

Some Young Men will ask: Father, is it Sinful to make Love? I say: I cannot assert, that of itself, it is a Mortal Sin, but Persons who do so, are often in the Proximate Occasion of Mortal Sin, and Experience shows that few of them are found Free from Grievous Faults. It is useless for them to say, that they neither had a Bad Motive, nor Bad Thoughts. This is an Illusion-of the Devil; in the Beginning, he does not suggest Bad Thoughts, but when by Frequent Conversations together, and by Frequent Speaking-of Love, the Affection-of these Lovers has become Strong, the Devil will make them Blind to the Danger and Sinfulness of their Conduct, and they shall find that, without Knowing how, they have Lost their Souls and God, by many Sins of Impurity and Scandal. Oh! how many Young Persons, of both Sexes, does the Devil Gain in this Way! And of all those Sins of Scandal, God will Demand an Account-of Fathers and Mothers, who are Bound, but Neglect, to-Prevent these Dangerous Conversations. Hence they are the Cause-of all these Evils, and shall be Severely Chastised by God, for them.

Nota Bene

Man does not Think, Reason, Judge, with his Brain; he does these things with the Supra-Organic Faculty of Mind or Intellect , a Soul-Faculty.

Above all, in-order-to Avoid Bad Thoughts, Men must Abstain-from looking-at Women, and Females must be Careful, not to look-at Men. I repeat the Words-of Job, which I have frequently-Quoted, "I made a Covenant with my Eyes, that I would not so much as Think upon a Virgin" - Job 31:1. He says that he made a Covenant-with his Eyes that he would not Think. What have the Eyes to do with Thinking? The Eyes do not Think; the Mind alone Thinks. But he had Reason to say, that he made a Covenant-with his Eyes that he would not Think on Women; for Saint Bernard says, that through the Eyes, the Darts-of, Impure Love, which Kills the Soul, enter-into the Mind. "Per oculos intrat in mentem sagitta impuri amoris". Hence, the Holy Ghost says, "Turn away thy Face from a Woman dressed up, and Gaze not about upon another's Beauty - Ecclesiasticus 9:8. It is always Dangerous to Look-at Young Persons, Elegantly-dressed; and to Look-at them Purposely, and without a Just Cause, is at-least a Venial Sin.

When Thoughts-against Chastity, which often occur without any Immediate Occasion, present themselves, it is, as I have said, Necessary-to Banish them, at-once, without Beginning-to Argue-with the Temptation. The Instant you Perceive the Thought, Reject it, without giving Ear to it, or Examining what it Says or Represents to you. It is related-in the Book-of-the-Sentences-of-the-Fathers, 4, that Saint Pachomius one day saw a Devil, boasting-that he often made a certain Monk Fall into Sin, because when Tempted, the Monk, instead-of turning-to God, listened-to his Suggestions, and began to Reason with the Temptations. But the Saint heard another Devil complaining, that he could Gain-nothing from the Monk whom he Tempted, because the Monk Immediately had Recourse-to God for Help, and thus he was always Victorious. This is the Advice of Saint Jerome: As-soon-as Lust shall suggest Evil, let us Exclaim: The Lord is my Helper. "Statim ut libido titillaverat sensum, erumpamus in vocem: Domine Auxiliator meus" - Epistle 22.

Should the Temptation continue, it will be very useful to make it Known-to your Confessor. Saint Philip Neri used to say, that a Temptation Disclosed, is half-Conquered. In Assaults-of Impurity, some Saints have had Recourse-to very Severe Mortifications. Saint Benedict rolled his Naked Body among Thorns. Saint Peter of Aleantara threw himself into a Frozen Pool. But I consider the Best-means of Overcoming these Temptations to be, to have Recourse-to God, Who will certainly Give us Victory. "Praising, I will Call upon the Lord", said David, "and I shall be Saved from my Enemies" - Psalm 17:4. And when, after Asking Aid from God, the Temptation continues, we must not Cease-to Pray, but must Multiply Prayers; we must Sigh and Groan before the Most Holy Sacrament in the Chapel, or before a Crucifix in our own Room, or before some Image-of most-Holy Mary, who is the Mother of Purity. It is True, all our Efforts are useless, unless God Sustains-us by His Own Hand; but He sometimes Requires these Efforts on our Part, that He may Supply our Deficiency, and Secure to us the Victory. In such Combats with Hell, it is useful in the beginning to Renew our Purpose, never to Offend God, and to Forfeit Life, rather than Lose His Grace; and then, we must make Repeated Petitions to Him, saying, Lord, give me Strength to Resist this Temptation; do not Permit me to be Separated from Thee; Deprive me of Life, rather than Allow me to Lose Thee.


- End of Liguori Sermon -


Prayer for the Graces Necessary for Salvation

Eternal Father, Your Son has Promised that You will Grant us all the Graces which we ask for in His Name. In the Name and Merits of Jesus Christ, I ask the following Graces for myself and for all Mankind. Please give me a Lively Faith in all that the Church Teaches. Enlighten me, that I may know the Vanity of the Goods of this World, and the Immensity of the Infinite Good that You are. Make me also see the Deformity of the Sins I have Committed, that I may Humble myself and Detest them as I should.

Give me a Firm Confidence of Receiving Pardon for my Sins, Holy Perseverance, and the Glory of Heaven, through the Merits of Jesus Christ, and the Intercession of Mary. Give me a Great Love for You, that will Detach me from the Love of this World, and of myself, so that I may Love none other, but You.

I Beg of You a Perfect Resignation to Your Will. I Offer myself entirely to You, that You might do with me, and all that belongs to me, as You Please.

I Beg of You a Great Sorrow for my Sins.

I ask You to give me the Spirit of True Humility and Meekness, that I may Accept with Peace, and even with Joy, all the Contempt, Ingratitude and Ill-treatment I may receive. At the same time, I also ask You to give me Perfect Charity, which shall make me wish well to those who have done Evil to me.

Give me Love for the Virtue of Mortification, by which I may Chastise my Rebellious Senses and oppose my Self-Love. Give me a Great Confidence in the Passion of Jesus Christ and in the Intercession of Mary Immaculate. Give me a Great Love for the Blessed Sacrament, and a Tender Devotion and Love to Your Holy Mother. Give me, above all, Holy Perseverance, and the Grace always to Pray for it, especially in Time-of Temptation, and at the Hour-of Death.

Finally, I recommend to You the Holy Souls of Purgatory, my Relatives and Benefactors, and in a special manner I recommend to You all those who Hate me or who have in any way Offended me; I Beg You to Render them Good, for the Evil they have done or may wish to do me. Grant that, by Your Goodness, I may come One Day to sing Your Mercies in Heaven; for my Hope is in the Merits of Your Blood and in the Patronage of Mary. Mary, Mother of God, Pray to Jesus for me.



Ancient Miraculous Prayer to Saint Joseph
Patron of Departing Souls

This Prayer was found in the Fiftieth Year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In 1505 it was sent from the Pope to Emperor Charles, when he was going into Battle. Whoever shall Read this Prayer, or Hear it, or Keep it about themselves, shall never Die a Sudden Death, or be Drowned, nor shall Poison take-effect on them; neither shall they Fall into the Hands of the Enemy, nor shall they be Burned in any Fire, nor shall they be Overpowered in Battle.

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O Saint Joseph, whose Protection is so Great, so Strong, so Prompt before the Throne of God, I Place in you, all my Interests and Desires.

O Saint Joseph, do Assist me by your Powerful Intercession, and Obtain for me from your Divine Son, all Spiritual Blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having Engaged here below your Heavenly Power, I may Offer my Thanksgiving and Homage to the most Loving of Fathers.

O Saint Joseph, I never Weary Contemplating you and Jesus Asleep in your Arms; I dare not approach while He Reposes near your Heart. Press Him in my name and Kiss His Fine Head for me, and ask Him to Return the Kiss when I Draw my Dying Breath, Saint Joseph, Patron of Departing Souls, Pray for us.


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Many Miracles have been attributed to this Daily Prayer.
Make this Prayer known everywhere . . .


Consecration to God thru Mary