Chastity Vs. Immodesty
Spirago-Clarke: The Catechism Explained. Section: The Seven Principal Virtues & The Seven Principal Vices p. 500-505.
©Lúcio Mascarenhas, 2005.
©1899, 1921, 1928, Benziger Brothers, USA. Nihil Obstat: Arthur J. Scanlan, S.T.D., Censor Liborum. Imprimatur: Patrick J. Hayes, D.D., Archbishop of New York. New York, May 7, 1927.
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- Chastity consists in preserving the mind and body free from everything that may stain their innocence.
St. Stanislaus Kostka left the room instantly if a single objectionable word was uttered in his presence. St. Aloysius did the same. Many persons have given up all they had, even their life, in order to preserve the virtue of chastity; witness Joseph in Egypt, St. Agnes, St. Agatha, and other saints. Chastity is a superhuman perfection; it is divine in its origin, for God brought it to earth from heaven. Those who practise this virtue are like the lily (Cant. ii. 1). Every tiny insect that rests upon the snowy petals of the lily mars is dazzling whitenss and disfigures its beauty; so the mere thought of evil is a stain upon the mind of the man who lives chastely. Rought handling spoils the fair lily and causes it to wither, so the man who lives chastely suffers from indiscriminate intercourse with those around him. The lily grows upright, straight and slender; so the man who lives chastely must ever look upwards and tend towards heaven. The lily fills the whole house with its fragrance; so the man who lives chastely edifies all with whom he associates by his good example.
Those who lead a chaste life resemble the angels and are most pleasing in God's sight.
Those whose life is pure are angels in human form. Chastity is an angelic virtue; by it men become like the angels. Chaste souls are in fact superior to the angels, because they have the flesh to combat, which the angels have not; they preserve angelic purity in spite of the continued temptations of the devil. What differentiates the angels from men is not their virtue, but their bliss. The purity of the angels is more blissful; that of man is stronger because it is the result of struggle. We learn from the lives of the saints that angels delight in the company of chaste mortals, thus proving that they regard them as their equals. The devils know that through chastity man recovers the angelic dignity which he lost, hence they strive assiduously to instil impure thoughts into his mind. Men who live chastely are extremely peasing to God. Christ when on earth showed a predilection for chaste souls; He chose a pure virgin for His Mother, a man of angelic purity for His foster-father; the Baptist, who was purified in his mother's womb, was His precursor; the chaste John was His favorite disciple, privileged at the Last Supper to rest upon His breast; at the foot of the cross two pure souls stood; and He loved little children because of their innocence. "He that loveth cleanness of heart shall have the King for his friend" (Prov. xxii. 11). God calls the chaste soul by the endearing title of friend, of sister, of spouse (Cant. iv. 6-8). The Son of God so delighted in virginity that He chose to be born of a virgin, and to give to man an example of it in His own person. The pure also enjoy the esteem of their fellow-men in a high degree. Even the heathen respected chastity. The Romans had their vestal virgins, who, during their service in the temple, a period of thirty years, lived in celibacy. When they appeared in the streets, public honor was shown them, and if they chanced to meet a criminal on the way to execution, he was immediately pardoned. If pagans respected those of their daughters who preferred virginity to the married state, ought the Christian to look with contempt on the virgin who from supernatural motives does not marry? "O how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory, for the memory of it is immortal: because it is known both with God and with men" (Wisd. iv. 1).
- Those who lead a life of chastity possess the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit in abundant measure; they will be happy here on earth, and will enjoy special distinction in heaven hereafter.
Purity of heart is health to the soul. It also gives light to the understanding. The chaste are like a crystal without flaw, or a clear, gently-flowing stream, in which the face of heaven is mirrored. Purity of heart, interior brightness and angelic freedom aid to the attainment of wisdom; it imparts knowledge to savants and teachers, to philosophers and theologians. It was through his spotless purity that St. John the Divine penetrated so deeply into the sublime mysteries of the faith, that, in the commencement of his Gospel, he soared as on eagle's pinions, to gaze upon the Godhead. Purity enables a man to gaze undazzled upon the Sun of jusitice. It also endows the soul with heroic courage. Judith, a weak woman, displayed such heroism at the siege of Bethulia, that she went into the enemy's camp and beheaded Holofernes. Holy Scripture says of her, "For thou hast done manfully and thy heart has been strengthened, because thou hast loved chastity" (Judith xv. 11). The pure of heart easily acquire other virtues; they are happly even in this world. Chastity possesses an indescribable attraction and intrinsic sweetness; it affords enjoyments far more delightful than sensual pleasures. Purity is also health to the soul; virginal purity is an earnest and foretaste of the immortality of the glorified body. He who lives chastely generally enjoys better health and lives to an advanced age. Sometimes God in His wise providence withdraws pure souls from earth in their youth; if so, He takes them away lest wickedness shoul alter their understanding or deceit beguile their souls (Wisd. iv. 11). Those who lead a chaste life will enjoy special distinction in heaven. Virginal souls will be near to the throne of God; they will stand around the Lamb and follow Him whithersoever He goeth. They will sing a new canticle that no man could say (Apoc. xiv.). God will crown the chaste souls (Cant. iv. 8), that is, He will confer upon them a special and singular glory. The chaste generation triumpheth forever (Wisd. iv. 2). Virginal souls will have their portion with the Blessed Virgin. Even here on earth God chooses them as the recipients of His revelations, to them He discloses His secrets, to their petitions He turns a gracious ear. Queen Esther obtained from her royal consort all that she asked because of her fidelity and attachment to him; so the heavenly Spouse grants the petitions of all chaste souls.
- It is the bounden duty of every man to preserve chastity inviolate until he embraces the married state.
This is enjoined by God in the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue. Among the Jews a breach of chastity was punished by stoning (Deut. xxii. 21). The Romans buried alive any vestal virgin who violated the vow of virginity. See how severe the alw of Jews and pagans inflicted upon those who outraged chastity!
- The following means should be employed for the preservation of chastity:
- We should be temperate,
- Accustom ourselves to exercise self-control,
- Receive the sacraments frequently,
- Pray devoutly to the Mother of God,
- Love to meditate upon the truths of relgion, especially upon the presence of God and the Four Last Things,
- Finally, we should observe moderation in frequenting the ballroom and the theatre, and be guarded in our intercourse with persons of the opposite sex.
St. Augustine declares that the preservation of chastity is the greatest victory achieved by the Christian, and requires the hardest struggle. The Fathers of the Church call it a martyrdom; a bloodless martyrdom, it is true, but not on that account the less sublime. For the martyr's agony is short, and admits him immediately to celestial glory; whereas the safe-guarding of chastity demands a prolonged, a lifelong conflict. Self-control has been enlarged upon under the head of the means of attaining perfection in general. We may particularise the necessity of bridling the tongue and observing custody of the eyes. St. Augustine says that tattlers and busy-bodies are in great danger of losing their purity. Death comes up into the soul through the window of the eyes (Jer. ix. 21). The lion is said to be tamed by blindfolding him; so we can subdue our evil proclivities by strict custody of the eyes. Fasting is another aid to the preservation of purity; the flesh is tamed, just as animals are, by depriving them of food. "Be not drunk with wine," says the Apostle, "wherein is luxury" (Eph. v. 18). "Feasting fosters fleshly lusts," says St. Ambrose, "and wine heats the blood and inflames the passions of young men." Prayer and the sacraments are means of grace without which it is impossible to conquer one's self. "It is a mistake," says St. John Chrysostom, "to imagine that one can in one's own strength vanquish concupiscence and preserve purity; by God's mercy alone can the passions of nature be controlled." No man can otherwise by continent, unless God give it him (Wisd. viii. 21). Through confession and communion the will is strengthened and man is enabled to avoid sin. The Adorable Sacrament of the Altar is the corn of the elect, and a wine springing forth virgins (Zach. ix. 17). The wine of earth is prejudicial to purity, the wine of heaven produces purity. Devotion to the Mother of God is also most efficacious; to how many young people has it proved the means of maintaining themselves in innocence, like the angels. Segneri speaks of a dissolute youth whom a priest in the confessional told to recite three Ave Marias every morning in honor of the immaculate purity of Our Lady; after some years the young man returned to the priest, and informed him that to this practice he owed his complete conversion. Meditation upon the truths of religion destroys the taste for sensual pleasures. "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh" (Gal. v. 16). Those who delight themselves in God care for no other joys; after tasting spiritual joys, those of earth are insipid and even abhorrent. He who remembers that God is present everywhoere and sees everything will not do what is displeasing in His sight. Witness the conduct of Joseph (Gen. xxxix. 9), and Susanna (Dan. xiii. 35). Do not deceive yourself with the hope that your sin will remain hidden, for God is omnipresent, and from Him nothing can be concealed. "In all thy works remember your last end and you shall never sin" (Ecclus. vii. 40). If the flame of impurity blazes up within you, think of the eternal fire, and that thought will quench it. St. Martinian, a hermit in Palestine, when tormented by temptations, thrust his feet into the fire; and when he screamed with the pain, he asked himself, since he could not bear that feeble flame, how could he endure the everlasting buring of hell-fire? The subject of dancing and theatre-going has already been treated of. Unrestrained and famiiar intercourse with persons of the opposite sex is to many a source of danger. Undue familiarity between young men and women is as likely to inflame the passions as straw is to blaze up when brought into contact with fire. One cannot be too careful in this respect. Love your own fireside. "If the candle is to be kept alight," says St. Thomas Aquinas, "it must be put into a lantern; so if you mean to live chastely, beware of going too much abroad."
- Unchastity consists in thoughts, words or deeds, which are destructive of innocence.
If the chaste resemble the lily, the unchaste resemble a thorn-bush, which tears one to pieces. It was in order to expiate sins of impurity that the Redeemer of the world suffered Himself to be cruelly scourged, and crowned with thorns.
Unchaste persons are like the brute beasts; they are unlike God and displeasing to Him, and are regarded with contempt by man.
Impurity degrades man to the level of the brute beast. The unchaste prefer the gratification of their lusts to the joys of paradise. To them the words of the Psalmist may be applied: "Man when he was in honor did not understand: he hath been compared to senseless beasts, and makde like to them" (Ps. xlviii. 21). Pride is the sin of angels, avarice is the sin of man, and lasciviousness that of the brute. It is most degrading to humanity, which is brought so near to the Deity by the Incarnation of the Son of God, to be unduly subject to any dominion but that of God. By unchastity man loses his likeness to God. Through his sin man defiles the image of God in which he was created and commits a grievous offence against the Most High. It is because no other sin defiles a man as this does, that it is called by the name of impurity, or uncleanness. The unchaste are extremely displeasing to God. In primitive times, when mankind fell into various sins, even that of idolatry, God bore with them patiently; but when they fell into impurity and sank even deeper in that vice, their wickedness was so abhorrent to Him, that it repented Him that He had made man upon the earth (Gen. vi. 6). St. Philip Neri possessed the gift of discerning the chaste from the unchaste by the sense of smell; to the former a sweet odor attached, whereas the latter stank in his nostrils. Those who violate their chastity are thus spoken of by the prophet Jeremias: "How is the gold become dim, the finest color changed. The noble sons of Sion, they were clothed with the best gold, now they are esteemed as earthen vessels. They that were fed delicately have died in the streets" (Lam. iv. 1,2,5). The unchaste lose the esteem of their fellow-men: "they are trodden upon as dung in the way" (Ecclus. ix. 10).
- Unchaste persons do not possess the sanctifying grace of the Holy Ghost, they are severely chastised by God in this life, and after death are condemned to eternal perdition.
The indulgence of evil lusts is a bait the devil throws out, and those who swallow the alluring morsel are drawn by him to destruction. The end of this sin is bitter as wormwood, and sharp as a two-edged sword (Prov. v. 4). St. Jerome declares that the fruits of this sin are more bitter than gall. Since the unchaste are without the light of the Holy Spirit, their understanding is completely darkened. When man descends to the level of the beasts, he loses that intelligence which distinguished him from the brute; he becomes like the horse and mule, which have no understanding (Ps. xxxi. 9). "The sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God: (1 Cor. ii. 14). Through yielding to this sin, King Solomon lost his wisdom, and was so blinded by folly that he turned aside to follow the gods of the heathen (3 Kingds xi.). The will is weakened by the sin of impurity; it creates a sort of paralysis in regard to good works, and thus amendment is rendered most difficult. The unchaste is a prisoner who has forged iron fetters for himself. Impurity is the snare of the devil, and those who are caught in this net can hardly escape ever from its meshes. It leads moreover into many other sins; Jealousy, hatred, murder, etc. The terrible consequences of this sin are seen in the case of Henry VIII; it was the cause of his rupture with Rome, and the apostasy of the English people. Unchastity is severely punished in this life; peace of mind is lost, the bodily health is impaired. "Every sin that a mna doth is without the body, but he that committeth fornication, sinneth against his own body" (1 Cor. vi. 18). The voluptuary soon loses the bloom of youth, and becomes prematurely aged. Special chastisements, moreover, overtake those who violate chastity; the Deluge was sent on the earth on account of that sin (Gen. vi. 7), and the Lord rained down brimstone and fire upon Sodom and Gomorrha because the transgressions of the inhabitants in the same respect had become exceedingly grievous (Gen. xviii. 20). And if in the present day God does not visit impurity with the same condign punishment, it is because an infinitely fiercer fire, an infinitely more rigorous chastisement, is reserved for sinners of our own time. Fornicators, we are told, shall not possess the kingdom of God (1 Cor. vi. 9). "Neither fornicators nor unclean hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God" (Eph. v. 5). Of the heavenly Jerusalem it is said there shall not enter into it anything defiled (Apoc. xxi. 27). The soul of the fornicator shall be taken away out of the number (Ecclus. xix. 3). If you live according to the flesh you shall die (Rom. viii. 13). The gratification is temporary, the penalty is eternal.
- The best means of avoiding the sin of impurity is flight.
Remember how Joseph acted (Gen. xxxix.). There are other means of avoiding this sin, such as the reception of the sacraments, devotion to the Mother of God; yet the best of all is instant flight from temptation. The Apostle says that we ought to resist all temptations to sin, but from impurity he bids us fleefly fornication (1 Cor. vi. 18). In battling with sensual temptations cowards gain the victory; they seek safety in flight.
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