1. Chastity consists in preserving the mind and body free from everything that might 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 practice this virtue are like the lily (Cant. ii. 1). Every tiny insect that rests upon the snowy petals of the lily mars its dazzling whiteness and disfigures its beauty; so the mere thought of evil is a stain upon the mind of the man who lives chastely. Rough 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 continual 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 pleasing 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).
2. 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 here after.
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 justice. 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 Holoferaes. 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 happy.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 body; 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 should 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.
3. 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 a penalty the law of Jews and pagans inflicted upon those who outraged chastity!
4. 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 religion, 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 blood less 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 particularize 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 in flames 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 be 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 everywhere 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 thy last end and thou shalt 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 burning of hell-fire? The subject of dancing and theatre-going has already been treated of. Unrestrained and familiar 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.”
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