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Praeceptum

3.

1. Do not let your clothing be remarkable; and do not seek to please by what you wear, but by what you are.

2. When you go out of doors, walk together; when you arrive at your destination, stay together.

3. Walking, standing, whatever movement you make, do nothing to offend anyone who sees you' but let everything befit your holy way of life.

4. Even if your eyes do fall upon some women, fix them on none. It is not that when you go out of doors you are forbidden to catch sight of women; but to desire them, or to want to be desired by them, is a grave sin. The desire for women is stirred, and stirs, not only by touching and by inviting glances, but even by looking. You cannot say that you have shamefast minds if you have shameless eyes, for a shameless eye is the messenger of a shameless heart. And if people, even when their tongues are silent, exchange glances that tell of their shameless hearts, and with their ardor give each other pleasure as the flesh desires, though they may never touch each other's bodies impurely, true chastity has gone from their lives.

5. Nor should anyone, fixing his eyes on a woman and enjoying hers fixed on him, imagine that others do not see what he is doing. Those he thinks are not noticing can see well enough. But even if this activity is concealed and seen by no man, what of Him who looks down from on high, from whom nothing can be concealed? Are we to suppose that He does not see, just because His patience is as great as His knowledge? Thus a holy man should fear to displease God (Prov. 24:18); nor should he wish to please a woman wrongfully. Let him reflect that God sees everything, and he will not wish to sin by looking at women. For in this matter the fear of God was commended, when it was written: "A fixed gaze is an abomination to the Lord."

6. So when you are together in church, and anywhere else where women are also present, guard each other's chastity; for God, who lives within you, will in this way protect you through yourselves.

7. And if you become aware of what I am talking about, this roving eye, in anyone else among you, warn him at once, so that he does not go from bad to worse, but is corrected by his neighbor.

8. But if after a second warning or on some later occasion you see him doing the same thing, whoever finds this out should treat him as a man already injured who must be healed; but first it should be made known to one or two others, so that what two or three have to say to him may convince him, when they warn him with suitable severity. And do not think yourselves ill-disposed when you point this out. You would be doing more harm if you let your brothers go to ruin by your silence, when you could rescue them through speaking to them. If you brother had a wound in his body which he wanted to hide because he is afraid of the surgeon's knife, would it not be cruel if you said nothing, merciful if you told about it? Then how much more should you make it known, in case a more perilous gangrene should grown in his heart?

9. But before making this known to others, by whom he would be condemned if he denies it, you should first tell your superior, if your brother has been warned and has failed to men his ways, so that he may perhaps be privately admonished and his fault not be made known to anyone else. But if he rejects this, the foolish man must be confronted with others, so that he may now in front of everyone be shown to be guilty by two or three persons, and not accused merely by a single witness. When he has been condemned, the superior, or the priest who has charge of these matters, should impose a corrective punishment; and if he refuses to perform it, he should be expelled from your community, if he has not left of his own accord. This is to be done, not out of vindictiveness, but in mercy, lest he destroy others with his contagion.

10. And what I have said about not letting your eyes rove should be diligently and faithfully applied to other sins, which should be uncovered, prohibited, made known, condemned, and punished; and this is to be done out of love for men and hatred of vices.

11. But if anyone is so far gone in his evil ways that he is secretly receiving letters or tokens from some woman, let him be spared and prayed for if he confesses it freely; but if, however, he is caught in the act and found guilty, the superior or the priest should decide on some heavy punishment.

Next page: Praeceptum, continued.

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