St. Pius V Corner: The Concupiscence Of The Digidestined

St. Pius V Corner: The Concupiscence Of The Digidestined

It is likewise a matter of common experience that the passions are a source of many temptations and sins. Often they are antecedent (not premeditated or willed), as when they arise from bodily states over which one has no control or from imaginations strongly fixed in the mind, and at the same time tend to that which is not according to right reason, rebelling against the law of the mind. Thus, a person whose health is bad is easily dispirited, and this feeling occasions temptations to despair; one whose memory is haunted with the image of a lost parent becomes a prey to sadness, which makes it difficult to perform duties with zest and diligence.

Frs. John A. McHugh / Charles Callan, Moral Theology, #126C

Since watching Digimon Adventure in the winter of 2016, one thing that has always stood out to me was its character writing. Though a show aimed at teenagers, beneath its 54-episode adventure against the powers of darkness across the Internet, it taught a great deal about the virtues of faith, hope, and charity as well as self-confidence, responsibility, and overcoming one’s imperfections. Unlike Pokemon, it builds like a personal journey, combining great story, captivating battles and relatable characters to make a pinnacle epic that warms my heart to this day, especially if someone cosplays a character from that series.

Digimon Adventure 02, however, was a disappointing follow-up. It had almost no semblance of continuity with the former’s amazing characterization. All but one of the Digidestined were treated as stock heroes with singular personalities and old habits that never seem to die out. New episodes consisted of monster battles after monster battles with irrelevant subplots leaving little room to connect with the characters and react other than “Yay, they won again!”. Remember those crests from Digimon Adventure that acted as a spiritual guide with a virtue that the characters could focus on emboldening? It’s reduced to a basic power-up tool. And don’t even get me started on its totally underdeveloped ending. Near the end of the series the creators attempted to revive this spirit in two ways:

  • Episodes 32-47, through the character of BlackWarGreymon, who suffers an existential crisis after facing battle after battle, and loses heart quickly. In episode 32, he converses with Agumon confiding his lack of vision in life, and subsequently with characters like Iori’s grandfather, Veemon and Wormmon who explain to him what it means to be human (or in this case, alive). He experiences a profound change from the mindless, subservient soldier to someone with a rightly-formed conscience, striving to do good to fellow neighbour.
  • Episode 49, which chronicles the battle between the Digidestined and the ultimate villain, BelialVamdemon. Just as the group is on the verge of victory he launches an attack known as “Mind Illusion”, which as its name states, entraps the individuals in the confines of their ideal world free to enjoy all the pleasures they wished for in their life.

In the case of the second, we explored the ideas of the nature and origin of temptation, teaching us to be on guard against thoughts, no matter how innocuous they seem, which could lessen our resistance to that which will hinder our progress in the Christian spiritual life.

The War From Within

St. Thomas Aquinas, 5 seconds after chasing a harlot out of his room with a burning stick

Spiritual warfare against temptation has a special place in Scripture, mentioned in the Gospels through the final words of the Lord’s Prayer (St. Matthew 6:9-13, St. Luke 11:2-4) when Christ tells the multitudes, to ask God for the grace to not fall into temptation or be mired by sinful ways – “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”. St. Paul reminds the Ephesians: “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.” (Ephesians 6:12), and St. Peter emphasizes the importance of guarding our senses against any aspersion to evil – “Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist ye, strong in faith: knowing that the same affliction befalls your brethren who are in the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)

The fall of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis imputed on humanity original sin, and though its effects are remitted in baptism, there still remains impulses which commonly lead us to inclinations towards sinful things. No human, therefore, will be free from facing these contrary urges, or having to resist them inwardly. The term given to these is concupiscence, which the Council of Trent defines as:

But this holy synod confesses… that in the baptized there remains concupiscence, or an incentive to sin; which, whereas it is left for our exercise, cannot injure those who consent not, but resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ; yea, he who shall have striven lawfully shall be crowned. This… which the apostle sometimes calls sin, the… Catholic Church has never understood it to be called sin, as being truly and properly sin in those born again, but because it is of sin, and inclines to sin.

Council of Trent, Session 5.5

Three forms of concupiscence are recognized, according to St. John the Apostle:

  • The flesh, commonly known as hedonism, pertains to an excessive want for personal pleasure, like food, recreation, love, or sleep.
  • The eyes, also known as covetousness, which asks for self-aggrandizement through monetary or materialistic means; the more, the better according to this.
  • Pride of life, or vainglory, is the unhealthy obsession of self-validation, at the expense of their or our well-being.

Moral theologians further divide it to two types: a good one, which leads towards laudable acts like love, delight, hope or bravery and a bad one which tends towards excess, bitterness, jealousy, or despair. The second type is the definition most commonly referred to, but regardless of the classification, it is imperative that we control them so that we do not lend ourselves easily to temptation.

An Illusion Named Desire

BelialVamdemon, a monstrous form of former villain Vamdemon, exposes himself as the true progenitor of all the evil acts that the final arc. With the help of Yukio Oikawa, a former friend of Iori’s father, possessing him and manipulating his wish to see the Digital World, he organizes the kidnapping, brainwashing and hostage of children so as to open a portal to spread evil in that realm. He kills two of his Digimon servants, paralyzing the Digidestined in fear. Only Daisuke, courageous and determined, stands ready with his partner Veemon (in his stronger form as X-Veemon) to fight him. He gains an upper hand early, but their progress is stalled when their adversary launches his attack, “Mind Illusion”. No sooner than this attack is launched that the rest of the Digidestined get absorbed into a liminal space of their ideal world, catapulting the metaphysical battle that preludes the physical one.

  • Takeru sees a vision of his brother Yamato, as well as his father and mother seated at his apartment, ready to have dinner together. It should be noted that his parents are divorced.
  • Miyako has a barrage of sweets right in front of her, and gleams in joy. In reality, she is the youngest in a family of four siblings, thus never getting things to herself.
  • Iori is seen with his deceased father in the Digital World.
  • Hikari is surrounded by hundreds of other children with their own Digimon partners, overjoyed that the two species can live together in harmony.
  • In a morbid twist, Ken’s only desire is to see himself flagellated in atonement for his past sins as the dictatorial Digimon Emperor from the first half.

The purpose of these is to make them lose the heart and will to overcome BelialVamdemon’s iniquity. Daisuke is the only one whose temptation is never seen (it is implied it is a vision of his future commercial success), but we do know he is the first to reject it. By breaking free and releasing them from his clutches, this renews their fighting resolve, ultimately overpowering BelialVamdemon once and for all with the light of hope, restoring harmony between Earth and the Digital World in the process.

With The Will To Save Ourselves

BelialVamdemon: Daisuke… tell me, how were you able to see through my technique and not be touched by it? Have you no worries or wish to be better?

Daisuke: You’re right, I don’t care about those! I’m happy the way I am right now. With my family, friends, and the Digimon, everything’s the way I want it to be!

BelialVamdemon: Really? What of the other children that aren’t like you? What do you have to say for them?

Daisuke: And what of it? It’s normal to have doubts, or worries of any kind. Sometimes, it’s good to have these because they drive you to become better. What’s inexcusable is you tampering that with your dark powers! All I want at this moment… is to defeat you, BelialVamdemon!

Daisuke rejects his concupiscence’s will and overcomes those impulses

BelialVamdemon’s power preyed on the Digidestined members’ biggest concupiscences that induce them to such temptations: Takeru and Iori despair over a lack of family, Miyako and Hikari selfishly seeking a perfect world for themselves, Ken a disordered pleasure through pain and humiliation to satisfy his guilt. Only their Digimon, serving as battle partners and guides of conscience, by pleading against such with their human partners, stop them from consenting to such excessive pleasures. As soon as this seed of doubt is instilled, these devilish delusions dissipate. With the falsehood in picture, they rise victorious and more zealous in the resistance against BelialVamdemon’s toying of their hearts, and ultimately, comprise his fall.

Their collective triumph over BelialVamdemon’s machinations parallels the process of overcoming concupiscence and temptation from a traditional Catholic perspective. First, they see a folly behind that hedonistic vision before them. They know happiness can’t be gained by giving up their souls to blindly act upon emotional waverings, or by choosing a life of pleasure over hardship, forestalling that interruption of their goal, which is to banish evil within and around them. It is followed by shutting down those powerful tendencies, subjugating it for a higher, elevated purpose, and concludes with an inward thankfulness to the influences that prevented this slip-up. Daisuke in particular excels most prominently in this, being the first to emerge from BelialVamdemon’s illusion mentally unscathed, rescuing his friends, and strongly rebuking him in the above quote, where he proudly proclaims how he is content with life, and that nothing means more to him than saving others from a doomsday of sorts. Say what you want about the poor writing of Digimon Adventure 02‘s characters, but I will say this moment stands as Daisuke’s finest hour as a character!

Another thing this episode conveys is: we are our own obstacle to spiritual progress and we must know how to transform our thoughts appropriately for love of God. True, it may be as one cultivates this and advances in the spiritual life, beckoning to “hate that which is evil, and cleave to that which is good” (Romans 12:9), these attacks will become intensified, as the Devil attempts to use our emotions against us, that we may stumble harder and relapse into our old, sinful ways. Discouraging as it seems, we should not falter! The grace of God will enable us to perform works in His name and counter these intrusions, for more pleasant works, ideas and actions.

True Spiritual Fathers Speak

If we wish to conquer our emotions and push back from anything that can pull us away from attaining Heaven, look no further than the advice of great Catholic spiritual authors, who have some excellent advice and various methods they suggested to achieve this purpose. Since I do not feel qualified to explain them in my own words, I will simply let these masters speak for themselves.

  1. Frequently fill your mind with wholesome things, and flee from occasions of sin.
    • St. Alphonsus Liguori: Everyone born in this world enters into the midst of snares… But if, instead of withdrawing from them, a Christian approaches to them, how can he avoid being caught by them? Hence, after having with so much loss learned the danger of exposing himself to the danger of sin, David said that, to continue faithful to God, he kept at a distance from every occasion which could lead him to relapse. “I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep thy words.” (Psalms 118:101) He does not say from every sin, but from every evil way which conducts to sin… If, then, we do not fly from the external occasions, how can we resist temptation and avoid sin? (Sermon On Avoiding Occasions Of Sin)
    • Fr. Francis X. Lasance: As soon as you become conscious of impure thoughts, images and impulses, strive at once to concentrate your thoughts upon something else, upon the work in which you are engaged, or anything else which is harmless and calculated to engross your attention. And in case you are alone, seek, if you possibly can, some companionship which is not dangerous. (The Young Man’s Guide , pg. 359)
  2. Embrace the practice of self-denial, to not be dependent only on materialistic pleasure.
    • St. John Of The Cross: Strive always to prefer: not that which is easiest, but that which is most difficult; not that which is most delectable, but that which is most unpleasing; not that which gives most pleasure, but rather that which gives least; not that which is restful, but that which is wearisome; not that which is consolation, but rather that which is disconsolateness; not that which is greatest, but that which is least; not that which is loftiest and most precious, but that which is lowest and most despised; not that which is a desire for anything, but that which is a desire for nothing. Strive to go about seeking not the best of temporal things, but the worst. Strive thus to desire to enter into complete detachment and emptiness and poverty, with respect to everything that is in the world, for Christ’s sake. (Ascent Of Mount Carmel, Part 1.13)
    • Fr. Adolphe Tanquerey: The remedy for (concupiscence) is found in the mortification of the senses… those channels that put us in contact with things about us and stir within us dangerous desires… In order to obtain a complete victory, it does not suffice to renounce evil pleasures (this we are strictly bound to do), but we must, in order to be on the safe side, sacrifice all dangerous ones, for these almost invariably lead us to sin: “He who loves danger shall perish in it.” (Ecclesiastes 3:26) Besides, we must deprive ourselves of some lawful pleasures in order to strengthen our wills against the lure of forbidden ones. In fact, whoever indulges without restraint in all lawful pleasures, is in proximate danger of falling into those that are sinful. (The Spiritual Life, pg. 103-104)
  3. Call upon the assistance of God; ask Him to deliver you from these afflictions.
    • St. Francis De Sales: If, nevertheless, the temptation persists or increases, hasten in spirit to embrace the holy Cross, as though you beheld Jesus Christ Crucified actually Present. Make firm protests against consenting, and ask His Help thereto; and, so long as the temptation lasts, do you persist in making acts of non-consent. But while making these acts and these protests, do not fix your eyes on the temptation; look solely on Our Lord, for if you dwell on the temptation, especially when it is strong, your courage may be shaken. (Introduction To The Devout Life, Part 4.7)
    • Fr. Thomas A Kempis: So long as we live in the world, we cannot be without trouble and trial. Wherefore it is written in Job, The life of man upon the earth is a trial… Therefore we ought not to despair when we are tempted, but the more fervently should cry unto God, that He will vouchsafe to help us in all our tribulation; and that He will, as St. Paul says, with the temptation make a way to escape that we may be able to bear it. Let us therefore humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God in all temptation and trouble, for He will save and exalt such as are of an humble spirit. (Imitation of Christ, chapter 13.1, 7)
  4. Consider how the vice presented is unnecessary, and detrimental both spiritually and realistically – just as one avoids criminal acts to avoid a prison sentence. (in my opinion, this method is the best and most practical)
    • Fr. Lorenzo Scupoli: The most effective remedy against evil is purity of heart. Everyone engaged in the spiritual combat must be armed with it, discarding the old man and putting on the new. The remedy is applied in this way. In everything that we undertake, pursue, or reject, we divest ourselves of all human considerations, and do only what is conformable to the will of God. (The Spiritual Combat, chapter 10)
    • St. Philip Neri: Do not grieve over the temptations you suffer. When the Lord intends to bestow a particular virtue on us, He often permits us first to be tempted by the opposite vice. Therefore, look upon every temptation as an invitation to grow in a particular virtue and a promise by God that you will be successful, if only you stand fast.
    • Antonio Cardinal Bacci: Remember that every mortal sin means death to the soul, for it robs it of the supernatural life of grace, making it incapable of every good action and deserving of hell. If you committed one mortal sin, God could tire of you, as if you were an unproductive tree and put an end to your life, without giving you time to repent! Then, you would be lost for all eternity. This thought should never leave your mind, particularly in time of temptation. At such a time, turn to God with confidence, tell Him that you love Him and do not wish to offend Him at any price. Face death rather than sin. (Daily Meditations – 26 March)
  5. Seek to build up a life of grace by reception of the Sacraments; reinforce this barrier through holy devotions and spiritual reading.
    • St. Ambrose Of Milan: Spiritual reading is the food of the soul, which renders it dauntless and strong against all temptation, which prompts it with holy thoughts and ardent desire for heaven, which enlightens the mind, strengthens the will and gives comfort in all afflictions, which in conclusion, procures that true and holy joy which is found in God alone.
    • St. Pio of Pietrelcina: Confession is the soul’s bath. You must go at least once a week. I do not want souls to stay away from confession more than a week. Even a clean and unoccupied room gathers dust; return after a week and you will see that it needs dusting again!
    • Fr. Michael Muller: Do you ask how the Blessed Sacrament preserves us from mortal sin? I reply: in two ways, by weakening our passions and by protecting us against the assaults of the devil. Everyone has some besetting sin, some passion which is excited in his heart more easily and more frequently than any other and which is the cause of the greater part of his faults. In some it is anger; in others, envy; in others, pride; in others, sensuality and impurity. Now, however weak one may be, and by whatsoever passion he may be agitated, let him frequently receive the Body of Christ, and his soul will become tranquil and strong. (The Blessed Eucharist – Our Greatest Treasure, chapter 8)


St. Catherine of Siena, a visionary and a virgin for Christ

While concupiscence is intrinsically not a sin, how we respond to it is key. By continually seeking God’s help and resisting it and subsequent temptations, we gain a small victory of virtue, but a giant leap towards holiness. On top of that, we become mature individuals; gaining mental fortitude and a balanced, well-regulated self-control over our feelings, interests, and character, preventing us from going over the deep end of chasing after everything we see without logic or reason. But the longer we dwell on, and invite them to our hearts, succumbing to our excessive wants, their stranglehold will – like attempted with the Digidestined – distract us from seeing God and reignung with Him and the justified He has redeemed. Many a great Catholic saint experienced frequent bouts of these, which they expelled most vigorously. One that comes into mind is that of the lay Dominican mystic, St. Catherine of Siena, who is known for her closeness to Christ and her strong sense of charity.

As she grew in devotion, it was said that she experienced powerful mental assaults from the Devil, which grieved her sternly, but nevertheless was able to fend off. After, she conversed with Christ, who confirmed that His presence in her life was what allowed her to achieve such a feat, and emboldened her more to live what Christ marked as the motto of personal holiness: “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (St. Matthew 5:48) Hopefully, we too can reach that state of life.

Who, thinkest thou, was it that caused thee to be thus grieved, save I Myself, hidden within thy soul? Believe Me, My child, had I not been there, these evil thoughts which swarmed around thy soul, and which thou couldst not banish, would speedily have overpowered it, and entering in, thy free will would have accepted them, and so death had struck that soul; but inasmuch as I was there, I filled thy heart with reluctance and resistance, so that it set itself steadfastly against the temptation, and finding itself unable to contend as vigorously as it desired, it did but experience a yet more vehement abhorrence of sin and of itself. Thus these very troubles became a great merit again to thee, and a great accession of virtue and strength to thy soul.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, speaking to St. Catherine of Siena

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