CHAPLAIN AND CAMPUS MINISTRY OFFICE
Virtue of the Month of October: Chastity
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
A short anecdote
A monk and his disciple reached a river bank. They had to cross it to reach their monastery. The river was full and the flow heavy. But they could walk across the river.
A young woman was on the bank. She had to cross the river but could not cross it alone. She sought the help of the monk. He immediately picked her up and carried her on his back, across the river. When they reached the other side of the river, he lowered her to the ground. She thanked him. They went in different directions.
The disciple was tremendously shocked to see the monk carry a woman on his back. He believed that it was against their vow of chastity to touch a woman. But he did not dare to question his teacher. He was constantly being disturbed by the incident and after three months, one day he asked the teacher why he had broken the vows of chastity and celibacy. The monk laughed and remarked, “I carried her across the river and left her at the bank. You have been carrying that burden for three months!” Clearly the sage had kept his vow but the disciple had been breaking the vow of chastity in his mind all those days!
The story teaches that the merit of an action is determined by our attitude. The saintly and scholarly sage had done an act of charity without affecting his vow of chastity. We must do our duty without caring for reward or recognition or ridicule. It is said, “Do your duty. That is your beauty.”
“Happy are those who are merciful to others; God will be merciful to them! Happy are the pure in heart; they will see God!” (Matthew 5: 7, 8).
I. WHAT DOES THE SCRIPTURE SAY ABOUT CHASTITY?
Sanctity of the body
St. Paul affirms that a person’s body is a temple of God. He says, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). He further says in his First Letter to the Thessalonians, “God wants you to be holy and completely free from sexual immorality” (1 Thes. :3). “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5).
Purity of the heart
Purity of heart is a work in progress in which both God and man share responsibility. King David, after falling into sin of the flesh with Bathsheba, prayed hard to God for a purity of his heart. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). In the Bible, the heart stands for the seat, source, reservoir, and instigator of our thoughts, attitudes, desires, character, and motivation. It is synonymous with our modern use of “mind,” since the mind is where we hold knowledge, attitudes, motivations, affections, desires, etc. Proverbs 4:23 reads, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Ezekiel explains this process: “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:25-27).
In the gospel, Jesus underscores this when he says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28. Hence, Jesus declares, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Chastity is associated with the beatitude. The pure of heart (chaste) have the treasure of seeing God—the greatest gift of all. God loves purity of heart, because He can exist fully in a heart that is pure.
Chastity as Self-Control
St. Paul reveals the wisdom of living a chaste life, that which is to obey God’s will. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from immorality, that each of you know how to control his [or her] own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust…” (1 Thes. 4:3). Paul, in instructing the entire church—both male and female, married and single—shows it is the duty of all to preserve purity with regard to relationships. “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). “Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy” (Romans 13:13).However, he advises, “But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion”(1 Corinthians 7:9).
This teaching of “self-control” seems ambiguous. In the mind of Christ, self-control means self-denial. It is nothing less than mastering the most assertive part of our created nature, which is to be absolutely independent. “If anyone who wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Our part in striving to maintain the purity is to follow Christ’s teaching and example. For a Christian, chastity must be more than self-mastery or the control of our innate passion of lust. It is the virtue of selfless, reproductive love.
II. CATHOLIC TEACHING ON CHASTITY
The word “Chastity” comes from the Latin root castus; meaning, “morally pure”, “unstained”. Chastity is a subjective cardinal virtue of Temperance that moderates the desire for sexual pleasure according to the principles of faith and right reason (CCC #2341). It is a virtue that moderates and regulates a person’s touch, sight and sexual acts.
“Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality remains “personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman” (CCC 2337).
In many Christian traditions, chastity is synonymous with sexual purity. It means not having any sexual relations before marriage. It also means fidelity to husband or wife during marriage. Chastity, therefore, does not require the renunciation of sexuality, but the right use of it. According to St. John Chrysostom, “Chastity is self-restrain.”
Contrary to chastity is lust. There are 9 kinds of lust: fornication, rape, abduction, adultery, incest, sacrilege, desecration, sexual delinquency, and brutality. Virginity is adjunct to chastity by which a person keeps a firm proposal to keep the body and the soul pure from all sexual acts, be it licit or illicit.
What are the effects of lust? Ignorance-insensibility, indifference, haste, inconstancy, selfishness, conceit, hatred of God, attachment to the present age and horror of the future.
III. SOME PRACTICAL WAYS TO GROW IN CHASTITY
- Dress Modestly: Examine your closet. Do the clothes you wear emphasize the sacredness of your body? Do your clothes encourage others to look at you and maintain their purity and yours, or do your clothes encourage others to look at you with lust? Make adjustments if necessary.
- Examine your relationships, grow in Charity. Relationships with your boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé, spouse: Does your relationship with your loved one uphold the dignity of both of you? How can you change things so that both of you maintain chastity and, as a result, have an opportunity to live with the freedom and love that God has in store for both of you?
- Fast: from gadgets, favorite food, engaging in social media Not only does it strengthen your prayer, it gives you mastery over your body. The more you’re able to deny your body what it needs, the more you’re able to deny it what it wants. If you’re really struggling with chastity, it’s good to pick one day a week to skip a meal or from engaging in social media, etc. Learn to self-control and ask the Lord to strengthen your love of purity in thoughts, and in deeds.
- Frequent reception of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession: Look to Jesus as the Model of a chaste life. Make the decision to live a chaste life and earnestly seek God’s help. The grace we receive from the sacraments of God’s mercy help us realize what our Lord meant, that we are His disciples in the measure that we love others as He has loved us. We need to grow in charity.
- Set boundaries. There’s more to chastity than just avoiding intercourse before marriage. Take little steps each day to rid yourself of disordered or sinful passions. Lust does not ask questions. It works just as blindly as our temper and just as instinctively as our fears.
IV. PRAYER FOR PURITY
Jesus, Model of Chastity, I earnestly wish to be pure in thought, word and deed in imitation of your own holy purity. Obtain for me, then, a deep sense of modesty which will be reflected in my external conduct. Protect my eyes and other senses from being defiled by the wiles of the enemy. Heart of Jesus, Fount of all purity, have mercy on us. Amen.