Embracing Chastity with Body & Soul

chastity

Everyone is called to chastity. Not everyone is called to abstinence, but all people are called to embrace chastity. What is chastity? An orientation towards God, His divine plan, and the good of the other by practicing a chaste love in the actions of our body and a purity of the heart, mind, and soul. Chastity can include abstinence (refraining from marital sexual behavior outside of marriage.) However, chastity must be practiced within a marital relationship too.

Marriage is NOT the fulfillment of lust. Marriage is NOT the fulfillment of pornography. Marriage IS the fulfillment of love- Christ’s love for us. Marriage mirrors Christ’s relationship with us and His love for the Church. Marriage and the marital embrace between a man and woman mirrors the eternal exchange of love between the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity: God the Father. God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. A love that is self-giving and self-sacrificial. A love that lasts. A love that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful.

Hannah, I’m not married. Well, neither am I. Chastity isn’t solely a sexual ethic or a list of dos and donts. Instead, chastity is an ethos- a change of the heart which transforms and animates our very being and behaviors stemming from Our Love of God and the recognition that we ourselves and others are created in the image and likeliness of God.

This week my accountability partner and I are embracing the virtue of chastity and turning away from lust. To practice chastity involves self-discipline and self-denial. Turn towards God, Our Lady, the angels and Saints in times of weakness and temptation. Denying yourself the entertainment of lustful thoughts and temptations is the beginning. With spiritual maturity, you must pray for, intercede for, and even fast for those that awaken lustful thoughts and habits. We must first transform ourselves and move outwards. How many women or men in sexually provocative or exploitative situations are being prayed for, interceded for, and fasted for? Not enough.

Speaking from personal experience chastity has always been my goal. Not always attained but always the ideal. When I have fallen away from chastity, I experience fear, shame, hopelessness, despair, disappointment, division, pride, etc. In past relationships, I’ve felt the insidious pressure of having my morals slowly stripped away followed by a sinking feeling in my heart and rising fear of exploitation. I’ve experienced when the person who “cares” for you enters the room and internally feeling, “what part of my soul will die today?” (by the way, if you are in this position, run far far away towards God, don’t look back, and take the time to heal.) My dating and relationship legacy is minimal. But it doesn’t take long for lust and objectifying behavior to creep in.

Whenever I practice chastity whether as an individual or in a relationship, I feel free. A freedom that requires taking responsibility for my actions and the impact of my actions gave on others (including my relationship with God.) Chastity opens me to love not lust or the byproduct of lust- fear. I feel capable of expressing and receiving love instead of dishing out a hearty dosage of fear and objectification. Lust is suffocating and enslaving. The worries or anxieties fade away. The constant battle between God, myself, and the other subsides. The room clears snd makes space to learn and experience authentic love. My body, soul, and heart no longer feel divided, in constant turmoil, and filled with uncertainty. Instead of feeling divided, my heart, soul, and body unite more closely with God and His plan. A fullness and richness (a warmth and light) replaces the bleak yet fleeting pleasures that fill the void of lust.

Where do I start?

  1. If you are Catholic, go to reconciliation. Experience authentic love within the confessional. Christ wants to share His love with you (His healing and forgiveness.)
  2. Sin no more! Resolve to sin no more and amend your life. Surround yourself in a culture of chastity (friends, media, entertainment, dialogue, etc.)
  3. Develop a daily prayer life. Learn to dialogue with God. Call on Our Lady’s powerful intercession. Meditate on the lives of the Saints. Read scripture.
  4. Identify areas of temptation (near occasions of sin). Know thyself. Know your limitations and weaknesses. Don’t play with fire. Don’t even strike the match.
  5. Fast- whether from food or other pleasures or enjoyments. Fasting develops spiritual muscles. Fasting allows you to rely on God more than yourself. Self-denial and discipline counteracts lust and pride.
  6.  Offer moments of temptation to Our Lady and/or God. Pray for yourself and the untwisting of your heart. Pray for the awareness of the gift of authentic sexuality. Praise God for this gift! Pray for the victim of your lust. Recognize their God-given dignity.
  7. Love- practice authentic love in your thoughts, words, deeds, and actions. Let people witness Christ’s love through you. Put the good of the other before your own desires and passions.

Prayer for Chastity

Lord, help me to accept and receive my sexuality as a gift from you. Grant me the grace to resist the many lies that distort this divine gift and help me to live my sexuality according to the truth of self-giving love. Grant me purity of heart so that I might see the image of your glory in the beauty of others, and one day see you face to face. Amen.

 

 

Who’s On First? Reclaiming the Kiss

courtney carmody-Flickr
Photo Credit: Courtney Carmody/Flickr

Most individuals can hardly imagine a world where couples save their first kiss for their wedding day. Others find the sentiment sweet but unreasonable. Others mock the awkwardness or imperfectness of a public first kiss.

Deep down, I think those people are unsatisfied, restless, possibly jealous, because they desire something greater, whether they realize it or not. Deep in the fiber of our created being made in the image and likeness of God, we are hardwired for something greater, purer, and more loving. Not just earthly love but a reflection of Trinitarian love. When ladies {& men,} including myself, fall away from our divine purpose, a restlessness develops.

I’m not condemning people who kiss before they marry nor advocating waiting until your wedding day. A couple that waits for their wedding day to share their first kiss is no less holy or holier than a couple that shares in that intimacy before marriage. Love is a choice. How we love or fail to love is a choice too. 1 Corinthians 6:19: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you . . . you are not your own.” Reminding ourselves that we are tabernacles of the Holy Spirit provides ample guidance in sexual morality for now.

And I certainly agree kisses are given away far too liberally today, even for free. It’s a first date? Kiss him. It’s not even a date? Kiss him. I don’t know if he is the “right” one? Kiss him. Because I kissed him I know he isn’t the right one because where was the magic, the spark, the Joie de vivre! When in doubt, our culture says, kiss him!

Instead, I challenge, when in doubt, don’t kiss him. When not in doubt, consider waiting with him.

God created our capacity and desire to kiss on the lips. Since it’s a gateway intimacy, kissing can lead to babies and bonding. Kissing isn’t evil, but certainly can be a near occasion for sin. Every moment of our day is watched, guided, and protected by the Holy Trinity and Mother Mary. When you and I share certain intimacies, a whole celestial audience roots for us. Thank goodness, they remain beside us when we need grace and mercy too. There are many ways to express affection. Sometimes, those intimate expressions feel more satisfying, loving, and purer than a kiss on the lips. My personal favorite is a simple kiss on the forehead. I’m a hopeless romantic, but in my defense, a simple forehead kiss expresses respect, dignity, security, intimacy, hope, etc. The list goes on.

Each couple is unique. Respect and challenge each other to find creative alternatives to kissing on the lips, making out on the couch, etc. In my experience, you both will develop a broader capacity for expressing affection and love that will engender greater dignity and respect for each other.

I once desired to save my first kiss for the man I married on our wedding day. Will the first kiss I ever participated in be saved for my future husband? No. But can I still respect myself and the men in my lives? Yes. Someday, I may find a man I’ll share a first kiss that is pure, simple, and loving because deep down, in my heavenly core, I will know he respects me and I him enough to bring each other closer to Christ out of love and not fear or objectification until death do us part. Together he and I will make a choice. But I leave that in Christ, Mother Mary, and St. Joseph’s capable hands. Until then, I chose to be renewed in Christ.

Nowadays, I reserve my kisses. The kissing bank is shut until a further trust and commitment deposit is made!

Ladies {& Men,} remember your dignity and his dignity the next time you consider sharing a kiss on the lips. This intimate gesture should draw you closer to Christ and your vocation. If not, remember your kiss deserves no less!

St. Joseph, pray for us!