Angelic Warfare West

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Matthew 5:8

Logo Icon Flame Parchment

Promoting Chastity and Purity of Heart

Angelic Warfare West is a division of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity — a fellowship of men and women bound to one another in love and prayer, dedicated to pursuing chastity under the patronage of Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

What's A Confraternity?

A confraternity is an officially established association of the Catholic Church, organized around some spiritual or evangelistic work. It may be comprised of lay men and women, religious, or clerics -or any combination of these. Historically there have been a variety of kinds of such associations - older terms used were "pious unions" or "sodalities." The Code of Canon Law (1983) draws all such associations under one umbrella, where members “strive in a common endeavor to foster a more perfect life, to promote public worship or Christian doctrine, or to exercise other works...such as initiatives of evangelization, works of piety or charity, and those which animate the temporal order with a Christian spirit” (CIC 298).

What is the Angelic Warfare Confraternity?

Though its roots go back to the late middle ages, the Angelic Warfare Confraternity was officially established by Pope Benedict XIII in 1727, and put under the direction of the Master General of the Order of Preachers. Its members dedicate themselves to living and promoting the virtue of chastity in the world. To become a member, one must be enrolled in an official register kept by the Order. Such registers are generally connected with Dominican houses, or houses which keep a register for a given region.

Contact the Promoter of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity: awc@opwest.org

1. Order a Membership Packet

You can order your membership packet from New Hope Publications. Be sure to specify which state in the United States you will be inducted into the confraternity in. (This affects the enrollment form New Hope will send you to ensure you are enrolled in the official register proper to your region.)

2. Review All Packet Material

Make sure to review all the catechetical and informational material in the packet.

3. Understand the Commitments

Make sure you understand the commitments of the confraternity:

  • Perpetual wearing of the cord or medal
  • Daily prayers for purity, including 15 Hail Mary’s
  • Resolution to lead a chaste life
  • Commitment to pray for others in the confraternity

4. Enrollment in the Ceremony of Solemn Reception

Find a Domincian priest to enroll you in the ceremony of solemn reception, found in the booklet in the membership packet. If there is no Dominican priest near you, find a priest who is willing to do the ceremony, and have him obtain a delegation from the director of your region.

Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus (California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii)

Province of St. Albert the Great (Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan)

Province of St. Joseph (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Washington DC)

Province of St. Martin de Porres (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina)

5. Fill Out Enrollment Form

After the enrollment ceremony, fill out the enrollment form (from the packet) and send it to the appropriate address. If your packet is missing the Western enrollment form you can download it below.

The Confession of St. Thomas Aquinas

At the end of his remarkable life, Saint Thomas Aquinas made what is called a "general confession" - reviewing his whole life to a priest. G.K. Chesterton relates the incident: "The confessor, who had been with him in the inner chamber, ran forth as if in fear, and whispered that his confession had been that of a child of five."

Aquinas' confessor experienced what numerous souls came to realize during and after the saint's lifetime: here was a man gifted not only with one of the most profound intellects in history, but also with a manner of life that radiated childlike innocence and purity. Indeed, Pope Leo XIII affirmed that the Angelic Doctor's title derives "no less from his genius than from his innocence."

How It All Started

The Angelic Warfare Confraternity arose from one particular incident in the life of the saint. After deciding to become a Dominican at the age of 19, his noble family was distressed at the decision, strongly desiring him to stay nearer to home and become a respected abbot of the local Benedictine monastery. Aquinas remained firm in his decision, and requested that his superiors transfer him to Paris where he could be free from the influence and pressure of his family.

On his way to Paris, his mother sent two of his brothers to intercept him, which they did by force, eventually locking him in a castle. After continued efforts at persuasion by his mother and sisters had no effect, his brothers devised a wicked plot: they introduced a courtesan (a woman of ill-repute), into his cell to try to tempt him out of his vocation.

The young Thomas immediately seized a burning brand from the fire, chased the woman out, and slammed the door while emblazoning a cross on it. Immediately he dropped to his knees and thanked God for preserving his chastity, praying that this gift would endure. He then fell into a kind of mystical sleep, and two angels bestowed upon him a cord which he wore until his dying day. He finally relayed its existence and the whole episode to his deathbed confessor.

The Early Days

First in monasteries, then among the faithful, the custom developed of wearing a cord under the patronage of Saint Thomas as a special sign of one’s resolution to maintain a chaste life. By the 1500’s this practice became more general, as nuns at the convent of St. Margaret in Vercelli — to whom Aquinas’ cord had been entrusted — began to distribute cords to the faithful which had been touched to the miraculous cord. The practice became especially popular among college students seeking help in resisting the temptations of university life.

Fr. Deurwerders is the Dominican generally credited with founding the first Society of Angelic Warfare. In 1649 he made a pilgrimage to Vercelli and gathered all the information on the devotion around the cord he could. He then returned to the Catholic University of Louvain and, with permission of the local bishop, organized a solemn high mass, after which the dean of the faculty prostrated himself to receive the cord. Then, two by two, all the professors and students of the theology faculty did the same. Thousands of souls became members of the confraternity on that first day, a kind of new Pentecost ordered to solidifying chaste living in a chaotic world.

Official Approval

Pope Benedict XIII gave the confraternity official ecclesial approval in 1727, and numerous souls — even many saints — have become members of this confraternity through the years. Saint Aloysius, Saint John Calasanctius and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati are just some examples. Pius XI in Studiorum Ducem (1923) gave one of more recent papal exhortations, writing that “inasmuch as we see the majority of young people caught in the quicksands of passion, jettisoning holy purity and abandoning themselves to sensual pleasures, we exhort you to propagate everywhere…the society of Angelic Warfare, founded under the patronage of Thomas for the preservation and maintenance of holy chastity.”

Benedict also granted permission to wear, instead of the traditional cord, a medal inscribed on one side with an image of Our Lady of the Rosary, and on the other with Saint Thomas being girded by the angels. Various indulgences have been attached to membership and its practices.

The Confraternity in Modern Times

It is not an accident that the devotion of the cord sprang up in the Church precisely when Europe and Christian civilization was becoming more influential, urbanized and commercial. The medieval cities to which the original Dominicans were sent to preach tended to be hotbeds of political intrigue, economic ferment and moral temptation and vice. Our own age too — far more technologically and commercially developed than any medieval could have imagined — has seemed to take special delight in throwing traditional morality to the winds, especially in the area of chastity.

The well-known sexual revolution of the 1960s has sown widespread confusion in relationships, marriages and the social and moral development of young people. The sons and daughters of the Church today, no less than in previous ages, need every help possible to lead strong, chaste lives. The Angelic Warfare Confraternity continues to offer such help under the powerful patronage of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Prayers & Observances of the Confraternity

Members of the confraternity commit themselves to the following observances for the rest of their lives:

1. Perpetual Wearing Either the Blessed Cord or Medal

Prudence governs particular times where it may be temporarily removed, for example various kinds of sporting events, surgery, intimate moments of marriage, etc.

2. Daily prayers for purity.

  • 15 Hail Mary’s for oneself and other members, for the intention of living a more chaste life. One may include the Hail Mary’s within one’s daily Rosary. An ancient practice was to dedicate each Hail Mary to the purification of various faculties of the soul—the five senses, memory, imagination, intellect, will, etc. The Angelic Warfare Confraternity packet details how a version of this may be done today.
  • Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Prayer for Purity: Dear Jesus, I know that every perfect gift, and especially that of chastity depends on the power of Your providence, and 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 ever I have imagined or sensed anything that could stain my chastity or 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.
  • Prayer to Saint Thomas Aquinas for Purity: Chosen lily of innocence, pure Saint. 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.

3. Commitment to living a chaste life and praying for other members of the confraternity.

Popes have made special indulgences available to members of the confraternity. A plenary indulgence may be gained: on the day of enrollment; and every year on the feasts of Saint Thomas Aquinas (January 28), the Annunciation (March 25), Easter Sunday, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15), All Saints’ Day (November 1), and Christmas (December 25).

A plenary indulgence remits all temporal suffering due to forgiven sin under the following conditions: (a) reception of Holy Communion and sacramental penance within eight days before or after the day; (b) praying for the intentions of the Holy Father — typically one Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be; (c) detachment from sin and recommitment to living according to the Confraternity’s observances.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law."

- Gal 5.22-25

Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach. Photo by Jim Forest. Photo used under Creative Commons License Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The creation story of Genesis teaches us that all human beings are a unity of body and soul, matter and spirit, “earth” and “heaven” (Gen. 2.7). Our bodies share in the lot common to all animals God has created: we experience the world through our senses; we are easily energized by feelings of pleasure and elation, and wounded by pain and disappointment; and each of us experiences a desire for food and sex, instincts God has placed within us for our survival as individuals and as a species. In the Garden of Eden, all this sensory and emotional life was in perfect harmony with the mind’s perception of what was good in God’s eyes and plan. When sin entered the world at the Fall, however, a dark presence invaded the cosmos, rupturing man’s relationship with God, weakening his capacity to see what is good and love it, and introducing doubt, fear, and disharmony into his life.

The virtue of chastity is one among many virtues which reestablishes that inner-harmony which our first parents possessed, and God desires to renew in us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines chastity as “the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.” This unity of body and spirit bears the marvelous fruit of peace and self-control, made possible through the action of God’s grace extended to us in the Cross of Christ.

Today’s world presents challenges to chastity on a level perhaps never seen before in human history. From the frenetic busy-ness of modern life, which can strain relationships, produce occasions of seeming anonymity, and cause loneliness; to the seemingly ever-lowering standards of decency fed by a media culture which spurns religious values; to the ready availability of online pornography: many today find themselves battling to live chaste lives as if swimming against a tidal wave of currents going in the opposite direction.

The Angelic Warfare Confraternity bears witness that there is hope, grace, and renewal ever at hand: that God’s mercy can never be exhausted, and continues to call each Christian to live healthy, pure and joyful lives before our God and Savior.

Since chastity is one virtue among many, it takes root in the same soil which nourishes the other virtues. The resources below, therefore, deal with various elements that assist chastity: foundational habits for the spiritual life; catechesis on the virtues, and on chastity in particular; how a balanced lifestyle contributes to psychological and emotional health; resources for overcoming compulsions and addictions to pornography.

It is the hope and prayer of Angelic Warfare West that you may be strengthened in your intentions to live chastity, to live out and discover the peace that comes by walking “in the Spirit,” and so truly learn the strength and peace that arise from chastity, growing into the person Christ desires you to be.

Video Catechesis Series

Pure Truth: Strengthening the Body