Friday, March 16, 2012

The Treasure of Chastity

Contrary to what many believe, chastity is not the “absence” of something. “Chastity, so often considered ‘negative’ or ‘repressive,’ is supremely positive and liberating. It’s the virtue that liberates sexual desire from ‘the utilitarian attitude,’ from the tendency to use others for our own gratification.” (TOB)

Chastity provides for us an undistorted lens through which we can see God’s gift of sexuality as it is really meant to be:  an opportunity for holiness, and a treasure so precious that God uses it to seal our marriage covenants and bring forth new life.   It is precisely because human sexuality is noble and holy that we make a grave mistake when we trivialize it, or when we cooperate with the distortion, commercialization, or profanation of this gift.  

Every one of us - whether we are married, single, or celibate for the kingdom of God - is called to practice the virtue of chastity.  “All Christ’s faithful are called to lead a chaste life in keeping with their particular states of life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2348, emphasis mine).

The best material on chastity I have personally encountered is Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” and an ideal introduction to this topic is a book entitled Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West.  This little volume has opened my eyes in a deeper way to the richness of God’s plan for humanity, and to the harm we inflict upon ourselves when we allow the devil to rob us of the treasure of chastity. “God created sexual desire ‘in the beginning,’”explains West (citing the Holy Father) “to be the very power to love as he loves - in a free, sincere, and total gift of self.” “If we want to know what’s most sacred in this world, all we need to do is look for what is most violently profaned.”  (TOB) 

"Brace yourself! If we take in what the Holy Father is saying in his Theology of the Body, we will never view ourselves, view others, view the Church, the Sacraments, grace, God, heaven, marriage, the celibate vocation...we will never view the world the same way again."  (Christopher West, emphasis mine, because I have personally never viewed the world the same after encountering this eye-opening, beautiful, inspired point of view.  To find excellent articles on the Theology of the Body, click on this line) (I particularly like the article you can get to by clicking here).  

For prayer and reflection:  

“As for lewd conduct or promiscuousness or lust of any sort, let them not even be mentioned among you…. nor should there be any obscene, silly, or suggestive talk…” (Ephesians 5:3-4)

"Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom.  The alternative is clear:  either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2339)

“Be exceedingly quick to turn yourself from every form of lewdness and its allurements.  This evil works insensibly and from small beginnings it advances to great troubles.  These are always more easy to avoid than to cure.”  (St. Francis de Sales) 

“How many … think that because certain forms of behavior are socially accepted they are therefore morally right?”  (Pope John Paul II, 1995)

Married, single and celibate forms of chastity are very clearly defined for us in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2331-2400.  Pertinent Scriptures (in addition to those quoted above) can be found in  Ephesians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 6:15-20; and Matthew 5:27-28.   

If I compare Christ’s teachings with the “everybody’s doing it, everybody’s watching or reading or listening to it” view of sexuality, I just might find myself at a crossroads…. 

Which view will I follow?