Tuesday, August 01, 2006

On Chastity

As the Church celebrates the memorial of two great saints, St Ignatius of Loyola (July 31st) and St Alphonsus Liguori (August 1st), I found some articles which helped me contemplate this virtue of chastity.

I had a harrowing experience recently, which led me to this contemplation. The Church's teaching on Chastity, often misunderstood and deeply maligned, is beautifully summarized by the Cathechism:

The Integrity of the Person

2338 The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech.

2339 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. "Man's dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end."

In an epoch where one can get embarrassed (if not downright ridiculed) if he or she is found out to live a chaste life, or worse, a self-proclaimed virgin, it is useful to analyze why and how the world came to resent this virtue of chastity.

While some would argue that to the choice to live chastely (ie: celibate if one is not married) is partly upbringing, partly cultural, and partly natural; most would need intellectual and perhaps even supernatural insight to rediscover the importance of this virtue.

Fr. John Hardon, in his article on Chastity and Eternal Life mentioned that St Alphonsus Liguori has written that in his judgment, most of the souls in hell are there because of unrepentant sins against chastity, and that St Ignatius converted from his former unchaste life largely due to his fear of losing his soul.

The Church reminds her children that chastity is important because chastity protects our love from our concupiscence, and love as we all know, is what we need to practice in order to gain eternal life.

2346 Charity is the form of all the virtues. Under its influence, chastity appears as a school of the gift of the person. Self-mastery is ordered to the gift of self. Chastity leads him who practices it to become a witness to his neighbor of God's fidelity and loving kindness.

2347 The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality.

Lastly, I am reminded that our fallen nature made us so susceptible to self-love. Thus chastity is a virtue we can pray for and ask from God, especially through the intercession of Christ's Holy Mother Most Chaste.

2345 Chastity is a moral virtue. It is also a gift from God, a grace, a fruit of spiritual effort. The Holy Spirit enables one whom the water of Baptism has regenerated to imitate the purity of Christ.

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