Catechesis on the Confraternity
What is a Confraternity?
A Confraternity is a supernatural brotherhood or fellowship of men and women who make a sacred pact to pursue some good together in the Church. A Confraternity is a bond of love serving some good and holy purpose, and reflecting the communion of the Holy Trinity.
Why make such a pact?
Because some goods are easier to pursue together rather than alone.
Does the Church recognize such a pact and brotherhood?
Yes, a Confraternity is an organization officially recognized by the Church.
Who is in on the pact?
Both heaven and earth are in on it. The Church has the authority to establish special, supernatural bonds between people on earth and Saints in heaven (traditionally known as “patronage”).
What is the Angelic Warfare Confraternity?
The Angelic Warfare Confraternity is supernatural brotherhood or fellowship of men and women bound to one another in love and dedicated to pursuing and promoting chastity together under the powerful patronage St. Thomas Aquinas and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Is St. Thomas Aquinas a powerful patron for those who pursue chastity?
Yes. He is an extremely powerful patron for those seeking to live a chaste life.
Why is St. Thomas Aquinas so powerful when it comes to pursuing chastity?
St. Thomas Aquinas is powerful because in his own life he received a special grace of chastity and purity and is ready now in heaven to share it with others. St. Thomas Aquinas was born in 1226 as the youngest son of a noble family in Italy. His parents wanted him to become a Benedictine so that he might one day secure the prestigious title of abbot. But at the age of eighteen he instead joined the Dominicans – a group that at the time was new and had no social prestige. His parents so vehemently opposed his decision to become a Dominican that they had him arrested and jailed in one of the family castles. They would not release him until he relented, and many times attempted to persuade him to change his mind. For a full year he refused to relent, and instead quietly studied the bible. Finally, after becoming tired of waiting, the brothers of St. Thomas conceived one last plan. They were certain that physical temptation would drive him to break his vow of chastity, after which he would surely abandon his religious vocation.
So one night, the brothers introduced a scantily clad prostitute into the room where St. Thomas was being held. The plan did not work as intended. Immediately, St. Thomas snatched a burning brand from the hearth, drove the woman out of the room, slammed the door behind her, and emblazoned the sign of the cross on the door with the red-hot brand. He then fell to his knees with tears of thanksgiving and prayed to be preserved in his chastity, purity, and intention to live the religious life.
According to the records of his canonization, Thomas at once fell into a mystical sleep and had a vision. Two angels came to him from heaven and bound a cord around his waist, saying, “On God’s behalf, we gird you with the girdle of chastity, a girdle which no attack will ever destroy.” In the records of his canonization, many different witnesses who knew St. Thomas at different points in his life remarked about his evidently high degree of purity and chastity. The angels’ gift preserved St. Thomas from sexual temptation and bestowed upon him an enduring purity that ennobled all his thoughts and actions. Pope Pius XI wrote: “If St. Thomas had not been victorious when his chastity was in peril, it is very probable that the Church would never have had her Angelic Doctor.”
Over his lifetime, St. Thomas’s conduct revealed that he had indeed received a special grace of chastity and purity – a grace that he is now ready to share with others through the communion of saints.
Why is this Confraternity called the “Angelic Warfare”?
It is called by this title in honor of St. Thomas being girded by the angels. But the name is also appropriate because the pursuit of chastity is often a fierce struggle with the world, the flesh, and the devil. The world, the flesh, and the devil all work together to destroy chastity. The Holy Spirit, the good angels, and the Confraternity work together to build up chastity.
When was the Confraternity founded?
The Confraternity began to grow in different parts of Europe in the 1400′s, and was officially founded for the whole Church in 1727 by Pope Benedict XII. It is one of the ancient Confraternities of the Dominican Order.
Have any Saints or Blesseds belonged to this Confraternity?
Various Saints and Blesseds, such as St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, Blessed Columba Rieti and Blessed Stephana Quinzan (who actively promoted the Confraternity among women), have belonged to this Confraternity.
In this warfare, what are the three essential practices of the Confraternity?
The three essential practices are:
i. Enrollment and Registration. In the enrollment ceremony, a Dominican priest confers the blessing upon the cord and medal of St. Thomas Aquinas and the person who will wear it. The name of the person enrolled and place of the enrollment ceremony goes into the official Register.
ii. Wearing either the blessed cord of St. Thomas or blessed medal of St. Thomas (or both) as continuously as one reasonably can for the rest of one’s life.
iii. Daily prayers for purity for oneself and all the members of the Confraternity. The daily prayers consist of two special prayers for chastity and fifteen Hail Mary’s.
What is the cord of St. Thomas?
The cord of St. Thomas is a thin cord with fifteen knots in it and blessed by a Dominican priest. It is worn around the waist underneath one’s clothing.
Is there also a medal of St. Thomas?
Yes, the medal has on one side it has the image of St. Thomas being girded by the angels, and on the other side it has the image of Our Lady of the Rosary. It too is blessed by a Dominican priest. It is worn like any other medal.
Can only a Dominican priest bless the cord and medal of St. Thomas?
The Church has reserved the blessing of the cord and medal of St. Thomas to the Dominican Order. Therefore, only Dominican priests, or priests with authorization from the Director of the Confraternity, can give this blessing.
How can a non-Dominican priest obtain authorization to confer the blessing of the cord and medal of St. Thomas?
By contacting the Director of the Confraternity: firstname.lastname@example.org
Do members commit to wearing the blessed cord or medal of St. Thomas continuously for the rest of their life?
Yes, all Confraternity members wear the blessed cord or medal as continuously as reasonably possible for the rest of their lives. The cord or medal or both are also worn while bathing and sleeping.
Can I ever take off the cord or medal?
Confraternity members use their common sense and prudence. Sometimes, there are circumstances that require one to remove the cord or medal, e.g. during surgery, during athletic events, perhaps during intimate moments in marriage, etc.. When such circumstances pass, the members put the cord or medal back on. Experience reveals the advantages of wearing the blessed cord or medal as continuously as possible.
What is so special about the blessed cord and medal of St. Thomas?
The blessing of a cord and medal of St. Thomas is special because it is, in effect, a blessing of one’s human sexuality.
Please explain how the Church can bless my human sexuality.
One’s human sexuality consists of all those natural and personal instincts, desires, and emotions that tend toward love, relationships, marriage, and the procreation and education of children. This intimate structure within each of us is naturally a source of joy and new life for human beings. But on account of the wounds of original sin there is also a disturbance in our human sexuality. We are weak, vulnerable to temptation, and are prone to act on sexual impulses outside of the right time and place rather than to act in accord with wisdom and seek the higher good. When the priest blesses the cord and medal of St. Thomas, the priest says: “may all who wear these cords and medals be purified from all uncleanness of mind and body” and later on: “May the Lord gird you with the cincture of purity and by the merits of St. Thomas extinguish within you every evil desire…” Through the priest’s words of blessing, the Spirit of Christ comes not only upon the cord and medal, but also to the person who will wear them. The Spirit comes to address the wounds of original sin as they afflict the man or woman’s human sexuality. The Spirit comes to move the whole person down the often long road of healing, liberation, and growth in chastity.
What do you mean by the long road of healing, liberation, and growth in chastity?
Chastity, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is a quality of one’s being. It is an abiding orderliness among all of one’s sexual instincts, emotions, thoughts, and aims. As a result of having this abiding inner orderliness, one’s sexual impulses do not control the person but the person controls his or her sexual impulses with ease and joy. The chaste person is thus free to live out his or her sexuality in a way that leads to true happiness and avoids counterfeit happiness. Chastity comes from grace and the practice of self-control. Without it, people tend to fall into sexual sin and contract still further physical, psychological, and spiritual wounds. These wounds conspire to make self-control still harder. Chastity is often, therefore, something one arrives at over time. There is a road to chastity. It can be a hard road with many falls and frequent repentance. But it is a road that gradually frees the person from enslavement to sexual impulses and leads a man or woman to a happy self-mastery.
Does joining the Confraternity bring healing for the wounds of past sexual sin?
Yes, but not without one’s cooperation. The Holy Spirit moves in the Confraternity to heal members of the wounds of their sexual sins. One of the daily prayers says: “if I have ever imagined or felt anything that can stain my chastity and purity, blot it out, Supreme Lord of my powers, that I may advance with a pure heart…” This is a prayer for inner healing, and so members daily pray for the healing of wounds of sexual sin. Experience has proven that this prayer works, but not in a way that one might imagine at first hearing it. Rather than all the memories and wounds of past sin simply vanishing, the Holy Spirit gradually works a deep and very personal process of inner renewal and renovation of the heart. There is such a thing as a new innocence.
What are the two special prayers for chastity that members say daily?
The Prayer to St. Thomas for Purity
Chosen lily of innocence, pure St. Thomas,
who kept chaste the robe of baptism
and became an angel in the flesh after being girded by two angels,
I implore you to commend me to Jesus, the Spotless Lamb,
and to Mary, the Queen of Virgins.
Gentle protector of my purity, ask them that I,
who wear the holy sign of your victory over the flesh,
may also share your purity,
and after imitating you on earth
may at last come to be crowned with you among the angels. Amen.
The Prayer of St. Thomas for Purity
Dear Jesus,I know that every perfect gift,
and especially that of chastity,
depends on the power of Your providence.
Without You a mere creature can do nothing.
Therefore, I beg You to defend by Your grace
the chastity and purity of my body and soul.
And if I have ever sensed or imagined anything
that could stain my chastity and purity,
blot it out, Supreme Lord of my powers,
that I may advance with a pure heart in Your love and service,
offering myself on the most pure altar of Your divinity
all the days of my life. Amen.
What other prayers do Confraternity members say on a daily basis?
In honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, they say fifteen Hail Mary’s for chastity for themselves and all the members of the Confraternity.
If I already say a Rosary every day, then do I have to say fifteen Hail Mary’s in addition to my Rosary?
No. It is sufficient to dedicate fifteen of the Hail Mary’s of the Rosary as being “for the Confraternity.” However, to say fifteen additional Hail Mary’s with attention and fervor would be a great work of love for other members of the Confraternity, and would add to the graces that others receive.
Are there any indulgences available for those who join?
The Popes have heaped many indulgences upon the Confraternity as a sign that they want people to join. All the members are eligible to receive a plenary indulgence:
▪ Once on the day of enrollment
▪ Every year on the feasts of Christmas, Easter, St. Thomas (Jan. 28), the Annunciation (March 25), the Assumption of the B.V.M. (Aug. 15), and All Saints Day (Nov. 1)
Members gain a plenary indulgence on these days given the following four conditions:
i. Receive Holy Communion on that day with the intention of gaining the indulgence
ii. Go to the Sacrament of Penance within eight days before or after that day
iii. Pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Apostle’s Creed for the intentions of the Holy Father
iv. Renew privately the intention to live according to the practices and Statute of the Confraternity.
Are the enrollment ceremony and blessing powerful?
The blessing is supernatural dynamite. Many people who go through ceremony and wear the blessed cord or medal testify to experiencing great relief from temptations and greater strength in resisting temptations. As St. Paul says, “the kingdom of God does not consist in talk, but in power” (1 Cor. 4:20).
Are there other supernatural effects of enrollment in the Confraternity?
St. Thomas Aquinas becomes an official personal patron of each Confraternity member, the treasure chest of graces merited by the Dominican Order is opened up to all in the Confraternity to draw upon, and the prayers of thousands of other members of the Confraternity come to the aid of all the other members every day. People often say they no longer feel isolated in the pursuit of chastity but tied to others in the same pursuit. They often say they feel stronger and more equipped for the struggle.
Have people’s lives been transformed by joining the Confraternity?
Yes. Many people testify to a noticeable and sometimes great difference in their lives after joining.
Do some people still fall into sins against chastity after joining the Confraternity?
Yes. Some people who join the Confraternity still fall into sexual sin. But even those who fall again still feel better off for having joined. The Confraternity is not a magic wand. The point of joining is not to find an instant solution to sin, but to find help in growing in chastity over time. And large numbers of people find that help in the Confraternity.
If I join the Confraternity and then fall into sins of impurity, is the sin worse than if I had never joined?
No. There is no additional gravity added to sexual sin because one is a member of the Confraternity. Members make no promise to succeed at chastity. They promise only to strive for chastity. The point of the Confraternity is to assist members in their striving rather than to shame them for their failures.
As a member am I required to tell the priest in Confession that I belong to the Confraternity?
No. Since membership adds no gravity to sins committed, it is irrelevant to confession.
Do the three essential practices of the Confraternity (enrollment, wearing the cord or medal, and daily prayers) bind under pain of sin? If I join, and fail to say my prayers one day, do I sin?
No. The Church has decreed that in no Confraternity does a person commit sin by failing to observe any of its practices. Members should wear the cord or medal and say the daily prayers more out of love for one another than out of fear of sin.
May people who have always led a chaste life join the Confraternity?
Yes. The Confraternity is not just for those who have fallen into sexual sin or who struggle with it. Many people who have led a basically chaste life join the Confraternity in order to preserve their chastity in the future and to be of help to others through prayer.
If I am not struggling with chastity but know someone else who is, can I join the Confraternity and give the grace to the person who is struggling?
One can join the Confraternity and petition the Lord to give the graces to someone else outside the Confraternity, and our Lord is known to hear such generous prayers when they are made with humility, confidence, and perseverance. Through special petitions, another person might thus benefit from one’s membership, but not in the same way as if he or she were a full member who intentionally seeks chastity and wears the blessed cord or medal.
May Catholics of the Eastern rites join the Confraternity?
May Christians who are not Catholics join the Confraternity?
Since the Confraternity is an officially established Public Association of the Faithful, and members are deputed by the Church for the promotion of chastity, membership in the Confraternity is limited to those who are Baptized, Confirmed, and in full communion with the Catholic Church. Acknowledging that we share a great deal with our separated brothers and sisters in Christ, those Christians who are not Catholics are welcome to join us in receiving the blessing, wearing the blessed cord and medal, and saying the daily prayers. But their names cannot be inscribed in the Register as official members.
What is the minimum age for enrollment? Can a child be enrolled?
Membership in the Confraternity requires that one make a free and lifelong commitment to wearing the blessed cord and medal of St. Thomas. The law of the Church does not recognize those under seven years of age as being able to make such a free choice. Furthermore, membership presupposes the grace of Confirmation. Since the current practice of the Church generally (though not universally) is to Confirm people who are in the eighth grade and older, most Catholics younger than high school students are not eligible to be enrolled. For those Catholics who are in junior high and already Confirmed, the question remains of how maturely the person grasps the Church’s teaching on sexuality and chastity.
What if a child in junior high or younger shows signs of interest and desire in joining the Confraternity?
For such children, it is good for the child to wear a blessed medal of St. Thomas, to learn the daily prayers, and to look forward to full enrollment in the Confraternity at a more mature age. Such a time of waiting can be looked upon as a period of formation and preparation for membership as the child learns the meaning of human sexuality and chastity.