In modern times is chastity out of style?

February 13, 2018

Recent news has featured several stories of victims of sexual harassment and abuse. Hundreds of men and women of every background and socioeconomic status from the migrant worker to the wealthy celebrity have been grievously hurt by those who sought out their own pleasure rather than willing the good of another in love. It is timely then to reflect on our own call to live out the virtue of chastity.

In their statement, “Create in Me a Clean Heart,” our bishops tell us that chastity is the attainment of self-mastery in the sexual arena of human action. This virtue opposes lust, which uses another person and fosters a genuine love for the whole person. Each of us, regardless of our state of life — married, single, or religious — is called to live chastely, to orient our desires in order to act out of sacrificial love.

St. John Paul II affirms that chastity “by no means signifies rejection of human sexuality or lack of esteem for it: rather it signifies spiritual energy capable of defending love from the perils of selfishness and aggressiveness, and able to advance it towards its full realization” (Familiaris Consortio, 33).

In recognizing the goodness of the body and the gift of our sexuality, we come to understand chastity as more than saying no. It is about saying yes to the true freedom and peace we find when we are able to control our passions rather than letting them control us. Living chastely does not mean we will never experience impure thoughts or an attraction to someone other than our spouse.

However, it does mean setting those things aside and overcoming them with God’s grace. Armed with prayer and self-knowledge, we can love faithfully and affirm the goodness and dignity of every human being.

As parents, we can cultivate the virtue of chastity in our family in the following ways:
1. Lead by example. Model sacrificial love in your marriage and avoid pornography, occasions of sin and unhealthy relationships.
2. Go beyond telling your child what not to do. Help your child to see how all that we do and refrain from doing fits into a grander vision of love and freedom.
3. Seize every opportunity to speak with your child about authentic love regardless of their age. Movies and TV shows your child watches, songs they listen to, and conversations about friendships can be great conversation starters.
4. Be approachable! Respond frankly to questions, give real life examples (even sharing your own experiences as appropriate), and proceed calmly when addressing specific situations.
5. Embrace your child with unconditional love. Your son or daughter will learn to recognize genuine disinterested love and healthy male-female relationships when that is what they experience at home.

You and I are called to live chastity; “love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being!” (Familiaris Consortio, 11) 

Deacon Arturo Monterrubio is the director of the Archdiocesan Office of Family Life Ministry.