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Paul Hayden

Purity: A Virtue To Strive For

January 17, 2022

Purity is one of the seven virtues that are rarely found in the post-modern world. We should all strive, however, every day of our lives to measure up.

In the American Heritage College Dictionary, Third Edition, (circa 1993), the word Purity is defined as “Freedom from sin or guilt, innocence; chastity, and the absence in speech or writing of elements deemed inappropriate to good style.” Whereas in the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, (circa 2014), the same word is defined as “The quality or state of being pure.”

To what could we attribute this rather stark dichotomy in definitions of the word Purity? Could it be the more recent dictionary just ran out of space, or could it be a clear indication of what appears to be a dramatic shift in moral values and conventional standards involving matters of faith and virtue in an ever-devolving culture? And yes, the old standard paper-type dictionary is still a mainstay; I use one often.  

You may be wondering by now what this is all about. Recently I came across several instances where certain people in the political class and media felt it appropriate to use this profound member of the lexicon to describe an individual or group; such as, “his or her intentions were pure.” Although some might disagree, I think it ridiculous and a stretch to consider anyone, especially in this day and age, as deserving. We’re all sinners and less than perfect. Come to think of it, there is only one being to have ever walked this earth that I can think of, and who was Purity incarnate and without sin, and He was crucified over two thousand years ago. 

These instances I speak of brought to mind information I had received a while back from a news source that reports on matters of faith. It wasn’t so much an article; it was more a compendium of source books on the subject of, among other virtues, Purity. Included in this condensed information were quotes from various saints and mortals. I thought it appropriate to list some of these thoughts from the minds of the wise and gifted. 

St. Matthew: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (5.8) 

Mahatma Gandhi: “Always aim at complete harmony of thought, word, and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts, and everything will be well.” 

St. John Bosco: “Holy Purity, the queen of virtues, the angelic virtue is a jewel so precious that those who possess it become like the angels of God in heaven, even though clothed in mortal flesh.”  

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre: “And it is you, spirit - with will and energy, and virtue and purity - that I want, not alone with your brittle frame.” 

George Gordon (Lord) Byron: “The light of love, the purity of grace, / the mind, the Music breathing from her face, / the heart whose softness harmonized the whole. / And, oh! That eye was in itself a Soul.” 

St. Peter Julian Eymard: “We must be pure. I do not speak merely of purity of the senses. We must observe great Purity in our will, in our intentions, in all our actions.” 

James Baldwin: “No more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure of heart; for his Purity, by definition, is unassailable.” 

St Lucy: “Those whose hearts are pure are temples of the Holy Spirit.” 

St. Augustine: “God bestows more consideration on the Purity of the intention with which our actions are performed than on the actions themselves.” 

These are but a few. Now can you think of anyone today who can live up to the standards that Purity demands of an individual? 

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