For he feared the billows of lust lest they should occasion a grievous shipwreck. … Wherefore I beseech you to do all you can, both that ye be not taken captive by it [evil desire], and that if taken, ye continue not in captivity, but break asunder those hard bonds. For so shall we be able to secure a footing in heaven and to obtain the countless good things; whereunto may all we attain, through the grace and love towards men of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father, with the Holy Ghost, be glory, might, honor, now and for ever, and world without end. Amen.” (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Corinthians, Homily XXII, On Evil Desire)
St. Augustine, On Marriage and Concupiscence, Book I, Chapter 8, A.D. 419: “The Evil of Lust Does Not Take Away the Good of Marriage - Forasmuch, then, as the good of marriage could not be lost by the addition of this evil [lust], some imprudent persons suppose that this is not an added evil, but something which appertains to the original good. A distinction, however, occurs not only to subtle reason, but even to the most ordinary natural judgment, which was both apparent in the case of the first man and woman, and also holds good still in the case of married persons today. What they afterward effected in propagation—that is the good of marriage; but what they first veiled through shame—that is the evil of concupiscence, which everywhere shuns sight, and in its shame seeks privacy.”
God wants all spouses to pray to Him before the marital act to protect them and keep them from sinning
It is clear from the Bible and the Saints that spouses who wish to be perfect should pray to God and ask Him to keep them from sinning during the marital act as well as that He may grant them offspring to the honor and glory of His Holy name, if this is His will; and that He might minimize the amount of pleasure they will feel, so that they may not grow attached to it. God might grant this prayer to a couple if they so desire, but if they are not granted this gift (the minimizing of pleasure or the begetting of children) they should still focus their pleasure and love towards God, and not on themselves. God namely demands of us to not forget about Him during the procreative act. People usually tend to forget about God when they put too much attention on themselves, their spouse, or the pleasure derived from different acts. We can read about this truth in the book of Tobias:
“For they who in such manner receive matrimony, AS TO SHUT OUT GOD FROM THEMSELVES, AND FROM THEIR MIND, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power.” (Tobias 6:17)
Notice the words “from their mind”. All our thoughts and desires exist in the mind (or heart), and God wishes us to have Him there. The best thing then, and which God demands of you, is that you think about Him and love Him during all times, even during the procreative act, and husbands and wives should not be ashamed of doing so. Is not God better or more worthy of being desired or lusted after than a husband or wife will ever be? The more a person loves God, the more will also that person desire to be close to God, during all times.
One of the greatest mistakes many couples undoubtedly commit today is that they strive to know and be close with their loved ones and their spouse rather than with God (who knows everything and sees everything), and that they rather think of pleasing their loved ones and their spouse more than pleasing God (who created them and redeemed them, yes even died for them). This is also the reason for why so many of them commit shameful sexual sins of various sorts; for they know not God nor care to please Him.
Tobias 8:4-5 “Then Tobias exhorted the virgin, and said to her: Sara, arise, and let us pray to God today, and tomorrow, and the next day: because for these three nights we are joined to God: and when the third night is over, we will be in our own wedlock. For we are the children of saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God.”
Some may perhaps object that praying to or thinking about God during the marital act is shameful and that one must pray to or think of God only in those circumstances when one is composed and calm, which a person normally is not during the marital act. This objection however is completely false since there is not a single instance in this life when we cannot pray to God for His help or have Him present in our thought. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself commanded “that we ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). Even when we are in mortal sin, which is infinitely more shameful and evil than the marital act, we are allowed and encouraged to pray and beseech God, since all people need God’s help in order to be saved.
Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, in his work “The Way Of Salvation And Of Perfection,” explains to us the necessity to pray always:
“Let us pray, then, and let us always be asking for grace, if we wish to be saved. Let prayer be our most delightful occupation; let prayer be the exercise of our whole life. And when we are asking for particular graces, let us always pray for the grace to continue to pray for the future; because if we leave off praying we shall be lost. There is nothing easier than prayer. What does it cost us to say, Lord, stand by me! Lord, help me! give me Thy love! and the like? What can be easier than this? But if we do not do so, we cannot be saved. Let us pray, then, and let us always shelter our selves behind the intercession of Mary: “Let us seek for grace, and let us seek it through Mary,” says St. Bernard. And when we recommend ourselves to Mary, let us be sure that she hears us and obtains for us whatever we want. She cannot lack either the power or the will to help us, as the same saint says: “Neither means nor will can be wanting to her.” And St. Augustine addresses her: “Remember, O most pious Lady, that it has never been heard that any one who fled to thy protection was forsaken.” Remember that the case has never occurred of a person having recourse to thee, and having been abandoned. Ah, no, says St. Bonaventure, he who invokes Mary, finds salvation; and therefore he calls her “the salvation of those who invoke her.” Let us, then, in our prayers always invoke Jesus and Mary; and let us never neglect to pray.
“… But before concluding, I cannot help saying how grieved I feel when I see that though the Holy Scriptures and the Fathers so often recommend the practice of prayer, yet so few other religious writers, or confessors, or preachers, ever speak of it; or if they do speak of it, just touch upon it in a cursory way, and leave it. But I, seeing the necessity of prayer, say, that the great lesson which all spiritual books should inculcate on their readers, all preachers on their hearers, and all confessors on their penitents, is this, to pray always; thus they should admonish them to pray; pray, and never give up praying. If you pray, you will be certainly saved; if you do not pray, you will be certainly damned.” (St. Alphonsus, The Way Of Salvation And Of Perfection, The Ascetical Works. Vol. II)
All people need God’s grace in order to be saved, and it is a heresy to say otherwise. It is indeed very true that a person cannot, by his own power or without God’s help, save himself or avoid even committing a slight venial sin. This is true even with pagans, who do not know or believe in God. God helps even them and gives them strength to do good. That is why only those people who have neglected God’s presence and prayer (which is the same as talking with God everyday as with a real person, supplicating Him for help and giving Him glory) have been lost.
St. Alphonsus Liguori continues to expound on the necessity of prayer in his “Short Treatise on Prayer,” Chapter IV, that speaks “Of the Humility of with Which We Ought to Pray”:
“The Lord regards the prayers of His servants who are humble: ‘He hath had regard to the prayers of the humble.’ (Ps. 101:18). But to the prayers of the proud He does not attend; no, He rejects them with disdain: ‘God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.’ (St. James 4:6). The Almighty does not hear the supplications of the proud who trust in their own strength, but leaves them to their own weakness and misery, which, when they are abandoned by divine grace, will infallibly lead them to perdition. ‘Before I was humbled,’ said holy David, ‘I offended.’ (Ps. 118:67), as if he said, I have sinned because I have not been humble. A similar misfortune befell St. Peter. When this apostle was admonished by Jesus Christ, that on the night of His passion all the disciples should abandon Him their Lord and Master, instead of acknowledging his own weakness, and asking strength from above to remain faithful, he trusted in his own power, and exclaimed, ‘Although all shall be scandalized in thee, I will never be scandalized.’ (St. Matt. 26:33). Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee that in this night before the cock crow, thou wilt deny me thrice; Peter confiding in his own courage, rejoined boastingly, ‘Yea, though I should die with thee, I will not deny thee.’ (ver. 35). And what was the result? Scarce had Peter entered the house of the high priest, when he three times denied the charge of being a disciple of Jesus, and to his denial added the solemnity of an oath. And again he denied with an oath, that ‘I know not the man.’ (Matt. 26:72). Had Peter been humble, and had asked of God the gift of constancy, he would not have denied his master.
“Each one should consider that he is, as it were, on the top of a lofty mountain, suspended over the abyss of all sins, and supported only by the thread of God’s grace; if this thread give way he shall infallibly fall into the abyss, and shall perpetrate the most enormous crimes. ‘Unless the Lord had been my helper, my soul had almost dwelt in hell.’ (Psalm 43:17). If God had not succoured me, I would have fallen into numberless sins, and should now be buried in hell. Such, were the sentiments of the Psalmist, and such should be the sentiments of each one of us. It was from a conviction of his own nothingness and misery, that St. Francis used to say, that he was the greatest sinner in the world. His companion, on one occasion, said to him, ‘Father, what you say cannot be true, surely, there are many greater sinners than you.’ ‘What I have said,’ replied the saint, ‘is too true, for if God had not preserved me, I would have committed sins of every kind.’
“It is of faith, that without the assistance of grace we cannot perform any good work, or even have a good thought. ‘Without grace,’ says St. Augustine, ‘men do nothing whatever either by thought or action.’--S. Augus. de Corr. et Grat. cap 2. ‘As the eye cannot see without light,’ said the saint, ‘so we can do nothing without grace.’ ‘Not,’ says the apostle, ‘that we are sufficient to think any thing of ourselves, as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God.’ (1 Cor 3:5). And the royal prophet says, ‘Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.’ (Ps. 126:1). In vain does a man labor to sanctify himself unless God assist him. ‘Unless,’ he says in the same Psalm, ‘the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it.’ (Ibid). If God does not guard the soul from sin, in vain will man by his own strength endeavor to preserve her from its stain. Hence the Psalmist says, ‘For I will not trust in my bow.’ (Ps. 43:7). I will not confide in my own arms, but in God, who is able to save me.
“Hence, whosoever had done good, or has abstained from great sins, should say with St. Paul, ‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’ (1 Cor 15:10), and ought to tremble, lest on the first occasion he should fall. ‘Wherefore he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall.’ (1 Cor 10:12). By these words the apostle insinuates that he who considers himself secure, is in very great danger of falling. For in another place he says, ‘if any man think himself to be something, whereas he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.’ (Gal. 6:3). Hence St. Augustine wisely observes, ‘The presumption of stability renders many unstable; no one will be so strong as he who feels his own weakness.’ (Ser. 13 de verb. Dom). Whosoever says that he entertains no fear of being lost, betrays a pernicious self-confidence and security by which he deceives himself. For, confiding in his own strength, he ceases to tremble, and being free from fear, he neglects to recommend himself to God, and left to his own weakness, he infallibly falls. For the same reason, every one should be careful to abstain from indulging vain glory at not having committed the sins into which others have fallen; and should even esteem himself worse than them, saying, Lord if you had not assisted me, I would have been guilty of much more grievous transgressions. But if any one glory in his own works, and prefer himself before others, the Almighty, in chastisement of his pride, will permit him to fall into the most grievous and horrible crimes. The apostle says, ‘With fear and trebling work out your salvation.’ (Phil. 2:12). The timid distrust their own powers, and placing all their confidence in God fly to His protection in all dangers. He will enable them to overcome the temptations to which they are exposed, and they shall be saved. St. Philip Neri walking one day through Rome, was heard frequently to say, ‘I despair.’ Being corrected by a religious, he replied; ‘Father, I despair of being saved by myself, but trust in God.’ We should continually distrust ourselves, and thus we shall imitate St. Philip, who was accustomed to say every morning as soon as he awoke. ‘Lord preserve me this day, otherwise I will betray you.’
“We may then conclude with St. Augustine, that the great science of a Christian is to know that he is nothing, and that he can do nothing. ‘This is the great science, to know that man is nothing.’ A Christian who is convinced of his own nothingness will constantly seek and obtain from God by humble prayer, the strength which he does not possess, without which he cannot resist temptation or do good, and with which he can do all things. ‘The prayer of him that humbleth himself, shall pierce the clouds: and he will not depart till the most high behold.’ (Eccles. 35:21). The prayer of a humble soul penetrates the heavens, and ascending to the throne of God, will not depart till it is regarded with complacency by the Almighty: and however enormous the sins of such a soul may be, the supplications of a humble heart cannot be rejected: ‘A contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.’ (Ps 50:19). ‘God resisteth the proud and gives His grace to the humble.’ (St. James 4:6). God treats the proud with scorn and refuses their demands; but to the humble He is sweet and liberal. This is precisely the sentiment which Jesus Christ one day expressed to St. Catherine of Sienna: ‘Be assured, my child, that a soul who perseveres in humble prayer obtains every virtue.’ (Ap. Blos. In. Con. Cap. 3)
“I shall here insert the beautiful observations addressed to those who aspire to perfection, by the learned and pious Palafox, Bishop of Osma, in a note on the 18th letter of St. Teresa. In that letter the saint gives to her confessor, a detailed account of all the degrees of supernatural prayer with which she had been favored. The bishop, in his remarks on the letter, observes that these supernatural graces which God deigned to bestow on St. Teresa and other saints, are not necessary for the attainment of sanctity; since without them, many are arrived at a high degree of perfection, and obtained eternal life, while many enjoyed them, and were afterwards damned. He says that the practice of the gospel virtues, and particularly of the love of God, being the true and only way to sanctity, it is superfluous and even presumptuous to desire and seek such extraordinary gifts. These virtues are acquired by prayer, and by corresponding with the lights and helps of God, who ardently desires our sanctification.’ (Thess. 4:3)
“Speaking of the degrees of supernatural prayer described by St. Teresa, the holy bishop wisely observes, that as to the prayer of quiet, we should only desire and beg of God, to free us from all attachment and affection to worldly goods, which, instead of giving peace to the soul, fills it with inquietude and affliction. Solomon justly called them, ‘vanity of vanities, and vexation of spirit.’ (Eccl. 1:14) The heart of man can never enjoy true peace till it is divested of all that is not God, and entirely devoted to His holy love, to the exclusion of every object from the soul. But man of himself cannot arrive at this perfect consecration of his being to God; he can only obtain it by constant prayer. As to the sleep of suspension of the powers, we should entreat the Almighty to keep them in a profound sleep with regard to all temporal affairs, and awake only to meditate on His Divine goodness, and to seek divine love and eternal goods. For, all sanctity and the perfection of charity, consists in the union of our will with the holy will of God. As to the union of the powers, we should only pray that God may teach us by his grace, not to think or seek, or wish any thing but what He wills.
“As to ecstasy or rapture let us ask the Lord to eradicate from our hearts inordinate love of ourselves and of creatures and to draw us entirely to Himself to the flight of the Spirit, we will merely implore the grace of perfect detachment from the world, that, like the bird which never rests on the earth, and feeds in its flight, we may never fix the heart on any sensual enjoyment, but by attending towards heaven, employ things of this world only for the support thereof. As to the impulse of Spirit, let us ask God courage and strength to do the violence to ourselves which may be necessary to resist the attacks of the enemy, to over come our passions, or to embrace suffering even in the midst of spiritual dryness and desolation. Finally, as to the wound as the remembrance of a wound is constantly kept alive by the pain it inflicts, we should supplicate the Lord to fill our hearts with His holy love to such a degree, that we may be always reminded of His goodness and affection towards us and thus we may devote our lives to love, and please Him by our works and affections. These graces will not be obtained without prayer; but by humble, confident, and persevering prayer, all God’s gifts may be procured.” (St. Alphonsus, A Short Treatise on Prayer, Chapter IV, “Of the Humility of with Which We Ought to Pray”)
The necessity of praying before coming together in the marital act
Jesus tells us of the necessity of praying always (Luke 18:1). We are never to cease praying (1 Thess. 5:17). Thus, Christian married couples will always have marital relations in the context of prayer. Tobias’ prayer before marital relations with his wife is an example of this (Tobit 8:4-8). In prayer, we express our weakness and God’s power (2 Cor. 12:9) to rectify problems in marital relations.
Praying the Rosary before, during and after marital relations is highly recommended since it is the most powerful prayer ever given to mankind. Praying the Rosary will undoubtedly give countless of graces that diminishes sinful inclinations, thoughts and temptations that constantly plague people. Granted, it might be hard to pray during or right before the marital act, at least in a worthy and proper manner, but spouses should do their best to at least silently acknowledge the presence of God Almighty and His Mother, by loving Them deeply during the act, expressing loving words towards God and His Blessed Mother, supplicating Them for Their Help to resist sinful inclinations. And husband and wife should not be ashamed of having recourse to Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin during intercourse. In contrast, what better thing can there possibly be for a couple than to always have God and the thought of loving God in their minds during all times?
Sister Lucy of Fatima, regarding the Holy Rosary, said the following words to Fr. Augustin Fuentes on December 26, 1957:
“Look, Father, the Most Holy Virgin, in these last times in which we live, has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Rosary. She has given this efficacy to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations, that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.”
We highly recommend that all 15 decades of the Rosary be prayed daily. Our Lady repeatedly emphasized the importance of praying the Rosary each day in her messages at Fatima. She even said that Francisco would have to pray ‘many rosaries’ before he could go to Heaven. You should prioritize reading the word of God (Catholic books and the Catholic Bible) and praying before other activities to grow in the spirit. Praying all 15 decades of the Rosary each day can be accomplished in a variety of ways. However, for many it is best accomplished by praying a part of the Rosary at different times of the day, for example, the joyful mysteries in the morning, sorrowful mysteries at midday, and glorious mysteries in the evening. ‘Salve Regina’ only needs to be prayed at the end of the entire day’s rosary. An essential part of the Rosary is meditation on the mysteries, episodes in the life of Our Lord and Our Lady. This means thinking about them, visualizing them, considering the graces and merits displayed in them, and using them for inspiration to better know and love God. It is also common to focus on a particular virtue with each mystery.
You can easily accomplish praying the fifteen decades of the Rosary each day by dividing it up to small sections during the day. For example, you can make a habit to go down on your knees and pray 1 to 10 Hail Marys every time you enter or exit your room. The best time for prayer is in the morning, since the mind is more clear from the thoughts and discussions of the world, so we advise you to always dedicate time in the morning for the Rosary. The Rosary is the most powerful weapon in existence against the Devil and those who neglect it will indeed be eternally sorry for refusing to honor our Lady as she deserves! Think and reflect upon what greatness it is to be able to speak with the God of the whole creation and His Mother whenever we want. It is almost impossible for a man to be able to speak with a king or queen of this world, and yet the King of kings and his beloved Mother hear your every word. In truth, I tell you, that even one good word of prayer has more worth than all gold and jewels and an infinite amount of universes, for they will all perish, but God’s words will never perish. Think about how much you would concentrate and fight against distracting thoughts if someone were to tell you that you could have 10,000 dollars or a new car if you prayed a Rosary with full concentration and without yielding to distracting thoughts. This example should shame us all since we humans are, by our very nature, wicked at heart and are inclined to search for filth rather than gold (worldly things rather than heavenly ones). Everyone should try to remember this example, and then we will all be able to pray better which will bring us an everlasting, heavenly reward! The devils concentrate exceedingly much on getting a person to despise prayer in these ways: either they try to make you bored by it, or to have a difficulty in concentrating when praying, or to pray a little; for they know that prayer is the only way to salvation.
Indeed, St. Alphonsus, in his book “The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection,” in the section “On the Necessity and Power of Prayer”, explains that “the devil is never more busy to distract us with the thoughts of worldly cares than when he perceives us praying and asking God for grace”:
“On this point, then, we have to fix all our attention, namely, to pray with confidence, feeling sure that by prayer all the treasures of heaven are thrown open to us. “Let us attend to this,” says St. Chrysostom, “and we shall open heaven to ourselves.” Prayer is a treasure; he who prays most receives most. St. Bonaventure says that every time a man has recourse to God by fervent prayer, he gains good things that are of more value than the whole world: “Any day a man gains more by devout prayer than the whole world is worth.” Some devout souls spend a great deal of time in reading and in meditating, but pay but little attention to prayer. There is no doubt that spiritual reading, and meditation on the eternal truths, are very useful things; “but,” says St. Augustine, “it is of much more use to pray.” By reading and meditating we learn our duty; but by prayer we obtain the grace to do it. “It is better to pray than to read: by reading we know what we ought to do; by prayer we receive what we ask.” What is the use of knowing our duty, and then not doing it, but to make us more guilty in God’s sight? Read and meditate as we like, we shall never satisfy our obligations, unless we ask of God the grace to fulfill them.
“And, therefore, as St. Isidore observes, the devil is never more busy to distract us with the thoughts of worldly cares than when he perceives us praying and asking God for grace: “Then mostly does the devil insinuate thoughts, when he sees a man praying.” And why? Because the enemy sees that at no other time do we gain so many treasures of heavenly goods as when we pray. This is the chief fruit of mental prayer, to ask God for the graces which we need for perseverance and for eternal salvation; and chiefly for this reason it is that mental prayer is morally necessary for the soul, to enable it to preserve itself in the grace of God. For if a person does not remember in the time of meditation to ask for the help necessary for perseverance, he will not do so at any other time; for without meditation he will not think of asking for it, and will not even think of the necessity for asking it. On the other hand, he who makes his meditation every day will easily see the needs of his soul, its dangers, and the necessity of his prayer; and so he, will pray, and will obtain the graces which will enable him to persevere and save his soul. Father Segneri said of himself, that when he began to meditate, he aimed rather at exciting affections than at making prayers. But when he came to know the necessity and the immense utility of prayer, he more and more applied himself, in his long mental prayer, to making petitions.” (St. Alphonsus, The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection, “On the Necessity and Power of Prayer”)
In truth, the devil knows that mental prayer and prayer from the heart is very effective in weakening and destroying his hold and power over us, and that is also why he tries to get people to leave it off completely, telling them that it’s useless when it in fact is one of the best ways, if not the best way to use in order to conquer the might of the Devil and his temptations:
“Some one may say, I do not make mental prayer [from the heart], but I say many vocal prayers [with the tongue]. But it is necessary to know, as St. Augustine remarks, that to obtain the divine grace it is not enough to pray with the tongue: it is necessary also to pray with the heart. On the words of David: “I cried to the Lord with my voice,” the holy Doctor [Augustine] says: “Many cry not with their own voice (that is, not with the interior voice of the soul), but with that of the body. Your thoughts are a cry to the Lord. Cry with in, where God hears.” This is what the Apostle inculcates. Praying at all times in the spirit. In general, vocal prayers are said distractedly [through mere habit] with the voice of the body, but not of the heart [as in mental prayer], especially when they are long, and still more especially when said by a person who does not make mental prayer [from the heart]; and therefore God seldom hears them, and seldom grants the graces asked [since they only pray by habit or custom and thus lack the real disposition of a true purpose, love, faith and desire required in order to be heard]. Many say the Rosary, the Office of the Blessed Virgin, and perform other works of devotion;