Effective Pastoral Counseling

There was an old man who had a disciple, and when the brother was attacked by lust the old man would encourage him, saying, ‘Endure, child, for the assault is from the enemy.’ And the disciple said to him, ‘I can endure no longer, abba, unless I actually commit the deed.’ The old man dissembled and said to him, ‘I too am attacked, child, so let us go together and commit the deed, and then return to our cell.’ The old man had a coin and he took it with him. As they went towards the place, the old man said to this disciple, ‘Stay outside; let me go in first, and then you later.’ The old man went in, gave the coin to the prostitute, and implored her, saying, ‘Do not pollute this brother.’ And the prostitute promised the old man not to pollute the brother. The old man went out and told the brother to go in. As soon as he went in, the prostitute said to him, ‘Wait, brother, for though I am a sinner, we have a rule and we must fulfil it first.’ Therefore she commanded him to stand beside her and to make fifty prostrations, and she at his side did the same. After the brother made twenty or thirty prostrations, he was struck with contrition and said to himself, ‘How can I pray to God while thinking about committing this filth?’ And immediately he went out, unpolluted, and God, having seen the old man’s labour, took away the attack from the brother and they returned to their cell giving glory to God.

The World of the Desert Fathers, tr. by Columba Stewart, OSB (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1986), 3-4.


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