Chastity: Appreciating An Underappreciated Virtue

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged” (John 19: 1)

The visions of the 19th century German mystic, Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, vividly depict the flagellation of Christ. All in all very few realize that the fact that the body of our Lord was torn to shreds and looked like one wound, was not coincidental but the atonement for the sins of the flesh. When we delve deeper into the Diary of St. Faustina we encounter the following words “And Jesus gave me to know for what sins He subjected Himself to the scourging: these are sins of impurity” (Diary 445)

From Emmerich:

Two fresh executioners took the places of the last mentioned, who were beginning to flag; their scourges were composed of small chains, or straps covered with iron hooks, which penetrated to the bone, and tore off large pieces of flesh at every blow. What word, alas! could describe this terrible—this heartrending scene!” (The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ,  Ch.  XXII, 208)

Those who do not find this short  extract of the book convincing may go back to the blood-curdling  epic film – The Passion of the Christ  by Mel Gibson. Regrettably, many Australians would bewail the cruel fate of koalas, penguins or sharks rather than express their sympathy for ”a mythical Jesus.”

Almost half of Australian high school senior students report that they are sexually active — according to the 6th National Survey of Secondary Students and Sexual Health that was conducted in 2018, most students in Years 11 and 12 have engaged in some form of sexual activity, from deep kissing (74.4%) to sexual intercourse (46.6%). Sexually active students (46.6%) were largely having sex in their homes (75.8%) with a boyfriend or girlfriend (64.6%) who was about the same age as they (85.5%). Sadly, committing such sins deliberately, especially when those sins are mortal ones, they were unaware of applying the lash to Jesus.

Moreover, some parts of a new book ”Raising Girls who like themselves” which has been widely promoted in the Antipodes, prove highly controversial. Even sadder is that, this is not an isolated case in which harmful contents make their evil mark upon the souls of our children and grandchildren.

And, as if all that weren’t enough, Dr Jacqueline Hendriks, Lecturer at Curtin University of Western Australia, regrets that sex education curriculum is too heteronormative and it needs some kind of ‘refresh’. She also claims that the pleasure aspect is quite a large reason for young people having sex, but, in her opinion, it is insufficient. She goes on to opine that sex education should encompass a more holistic view of sex inclusive of  respect, intimacy, relationships and consent. Since Australian sex education can vary depending on the student’s state or territory, school, or even teacher, it ought  to be harmonized at national level, concludes Dr. Hendriks.

Yet, chastity is part of God’s plan for all of us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the vocation to chastity this way:

Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.” (CCC 2337)

The bitter enemies of the Church hold widely differing view on this subject, claiming that ”there are no prescriptions for chastity in the gospels”. This  shows rather blissful ignorance of the Bible since there is quite a number of relevant verses: Matthew 15:19; 1 Corinthians 10:8; Revelation 2:14; Revelation 9:21; Romans 13:13; Acts 15:19-20; 1 Corinthians 6:18; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20; Mark 10:2-12; Leviticus 18:20; Leviticus 20:10; Matthew 5:27-28; Galatians 5:19-21 Deuteronomy 5:18 and many more.

Saint Joseph is the epitome of a holy man innocent and chaste. Not only did he not have conjugal relations with his spouse Holy Mary, but was also chaste throughout his marriage, teaching us in this special way  the possibility of  abstinence from any type of sexual activity.

Even though we are tired and numb and despairing in the face of relentless bad news, we must not remain indifferent to teaching given to kids at schools in the phase of childhood and adolescence.

Parents should…consider any attack on the virtue and chastity of their children as an offense against the life of faith itself that threatens and impoverishes their own communion of life and grace.” (Ep 6:12) (PCF, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education Within the Family, December 8, 1995, #22)

Alone, without God’s help, there is very little we can do. A Christian who seeks to live in purity, first and foremost must see one’s own helplessness, and await everything from the merciful God, and until then he or she can experience the infinite power and grace  of the sacraments.

If children and young people experience the effects of God’s grace and mercy in the sacraments, they will be capable of living chastity well, as a gift of God, for his glory and in order to love him and other people.” (PCF, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education Within the Family, December 8, 1995,#74 )

Instead of maintaining a low profile, the Shepherds of the local church are expected to vocalize this sensitive issue so that children could be better protected from sexualization.

In 1958, the Venerable Servant of God, Primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński,  expressing deep  concern about the threat to the dignity of a woman directed a famous letter to Polish girls which is still pertinent today.

Purity is your treasure. To family, engagement, marriage you will primarily bring yourself … Your heart. What you will bring will be the way you are: pure and innocent, or defiled… To have a happy engagement and marriage depends on yourself. If you enter an engagement pure, your marriage will be pure. The doorstep of your house will be holy, children will be born from a pure mother. If you enter defiled then everything will be defiled. […] You also know well, to preserve and guard purity you must hold it very dear and stay awake in order not to lose it because of recklessness or carelessness. How can you repair a valuable crystal when it falls and shatters into pieces? How can you repair the crystal of your heart and body? Sadly flaws will remain, and the crystal will lose its value. Therefore one should be careful and keenly aware to protect one’s heart and preserve one’s purity and dignity.”

On June 12, 1999, in Sandomierz, Poland, Pope John Paul II addressed  the gathered young people: ”Proclaim before the world “the Good News” of purity of heart, and by the example of your lives pass on the message of the civilization of love. I know how sensitive you are to truth and beauty. Today the culture of death sets before you, among other things, so-called “free love”. In this sort of disfigurement of love we reach the profanation of one of the most cherished and sacred values, for promiscuity is neither love nor freedom.”

In our sex saturated society where impurity appears the norm rather than the exception, the virgin martyrs represent the true wealth of the Church retelling the victory of the Cross.

St. Maria Goretti (†1902), was only 11 years old when was she was fatally stabbed 14 times while resisting her would-be rapist. Notably, on her deathbed, she forgave her assailant and said she wanted to see him in Heaven with her.

Blessed Karolina Kozka (†1914), was a sixteen-year old Polish peasant, ardent devotee of Our Lady, when a Russian soldier inflicted multiple knife wounds on her while attempting to rape. The cult of Karolina as virgin martyr by the local people developed almost immediately after her death.

Blessed Fernando Saperas (†1936), was a Spanish member of the Claretian Order. While being forced by the Left militia to hetero and homosexual acts he kept screaming ”Kill me if you want, kill me, kill me but do not do that.” Before his death, he asked to speak to his captors: “Forgive them, Lord, they know not what they do. I forgive you; I forgive you. Long live Christ the King! Long live religion!”

Blessed Anna Kolesárová (†1944), was a 16-year-old Slovak peasant girl who was shot in front of her family by a drunken Soviet soldier for defending chastity. During her lifetime she regularly received sacraments, prayed the Rosary and approached God through good works.

Servant of God Jan Gruba (†1944) was a Polish slave labourer in a farm, in Ramsowo, East Prussia. He was falsely accused of child sexual abuse by the farmer’s wife because he refused to have  sexual intercourse with her. As a result the German SS men hanged him on a tree by the side of a road.

According to researchers multiple bushfires as well as the Covid-19 crisis have led many Australians to reassess their life priorities. For some, long periods of isolation were conducive to reading the Bible, prayer and reconnection with God. Therefore one can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps, in this Lenten time a few more will rediscover the sobering words uttered by Our Lady in Fatima ”The sins which cause most souls to go to hell are the sins of the flesh” and finally reach for the  Rosary.

the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit (Ga 6:8).