Ignatius on Chastity (1556)

Emerio de Bonis was a twenty-five-year-old scholastic strongly troubled by temptations against chastity. He had been in the Society for five years and felt overly uncertain about himself. He revealed his state of soul to Ignatius. De Bonis received the following reply from Ignatius, written on his behalf by Juan Alfonso de Polanco. Ignatius calls for the young man to “defend yourself” with prayer, even offering that the young man not look at “anyone fixed in the face who might cause you uneasiness in spirit.” He is to look at all people “as the image of the Most Holy Trinity, as a member of Christ and bathed in blood” and to generally keep God present in his life. De Bonis later became a renowned spiritual director and writer.

For more sources from Ignatius, please visit the Letters of Ignatius of Loyola.




The peace of Christ.

My dear Master Emerio in Christ:

Our Father has understood what you wrote. And while you show a good spirit in overcoming by God’s grace the enemy that up to the present has harassed but not vanquished you, nevertheless, judging that it would be to your greater consolation, he leaves it up to you to decide whether to come to Rome next September, stay in Padua, or move to some other college where you would have charge of the first class, as you do there.

In the meantime, with God’s help, defend yourself. Besides prayer, make it a point not to look anyone fixedly in the face who might cause you uneasiness of spirit. In general, when you deal with the neighbor, let your eyes be lowered and try not to think of this person or that as being good-looking or ugly, but rather as the image of the Most Holy Trinity, as a member of Christ and bathed in his blood. Moreover, do not become familiar with anyone. It will be enough in the colleges if you fulfill the teacher’s duties out of pure charity and obedience. Always deal with them in public and not in private or secluded places—extern students should not be walking through the house except with the rector’s dispensation in particular cases. If you do this, and attend to your growth in God’s service and the way of perfection, God will help you as he has in the past, and even more.

Be on your guard also in those times and situations where you are usually assailed, raising your mind somewhat towards God. Above all, make an effort to keep him present, recalling frequently that your whole heart and outward man is in the sight of his infinite wisdom.

There will be no need to multiply remedies if these are properly used and if you do not forget the first one, about the eyes, so that you will never lament with him who says, “My eye has wasted my soul.”

Our Father and all of us commend ourselves to your prayers.


Rome, May 23, 1556




Original Source (English translation):

Ignatius of Loyola: Letters and Instructions, ed. John W. Padberg, et al. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996, “To Emerio de Bonis, by commission, Rome, May 23, 1556,” pg. 670–671.

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