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They must be warned that, because of their loftier position, the greater is their fall. The devil finds such souls intolerable in that he perceives that what opposes him is surrounded by weak flesh. 

They must be reminded unceasingly of their eternal reward so they would gladly spurn the toils of temptations which they suffer. The thought of eternal life makes the toil insignificant. 

To such did God promise: "I will give to them in my house and within my walls a place and a name better than sons and daughters." 

John describes them thus: "These are they who were not defiled by women, for they are virgins, and follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth." In heaven they sing a special song to the Lamb. While the rest in heaven can hear their songs, they may not utter it. 

They must be told that though their state is superior to wedlock they must never extol themselves above those who are married. They should esteem virginity in the first place but put themselves last. Thus they will the better keep what they have and so guard from vainly extolling themselves. 

They must be reminded that though they are continent, the good works of sinners in their zeal to return to God can put them to shame. The continent falsely think that the innocence of their lives is sufficient to please God, thus failing to arouse themselves to be fervent in spirit. 

And so it often comes about that the life of one burning with love after having sinned is more pleasing to God than a life of innocence that grows languid in its sense of security. A land cleansed of weeds and bearing much is more loved than clean land with barren harvest. 

Their loftier state is nothing; the way of life is everything. And so in the case of man, there are some who, though of higher rank, are inferior, and others who are in a lower estate are better, because the latter by their good way of life transcend the character of the lower estate, while the former fall short of the merit of their higher estate by not living up to it. 


St. Gregory the Great, Pastoral Care, Chapter XXVIII, Part III





(updated 03-15-02)

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