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Chastity: the path to true freedom

Jeff Cormier, More Truth

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Preface from the Chancellor

STM is a Catholic institution of learning, owned by 12 Catholic Churches in our City.   The School exists for one primary purpose – to teach, wrapped in the truths of the Catholic Faith.   I have always believed that one should never “put down” other religions. Such an approach is weak and trite. Yet, at the same time, neither should Catholics feel we have to apologize for what we believe. The Catholic Church has something beautiful to offer the world. And, in its history, has given to the world some of the greatest men and women who have ever lived. Have there been those “others”?   Of course!   But we never judge something by those who don’t live it, but by those who do.

I have asked the Religion Administrator to put together a series of articles on some of the more “debated” and “controversial” issues of our day.   It’s actually a “follow-up” to the catechetical homilies I introduced last year at the STM Masses. It is wrong for the Church to insist and expect her children to live up to her teachings without explaining “why” she teaches them.   And certainly, in a Catholic institution of learning, we are charged to do so all the more.

The series of articles that will appear in this periodical will address issues of sexual morality. Why? Because this is THE moral issue teens struggle with in our culture. The articles are not meant to judge, to condemn, or to put down.   Rather, they are meant primarily to AFFIRM what the Church teaches, to CLARIFY why she teaches them, and to help FORM our students to live the truths of the Gospel and holiness of life.   To those who may argue that such subject matter is a bit too sensitive for our ninth or tenth graders, my answer is that perhaps in years past. But today, even pre-teens are bombarded by images and messages that shout out to them another way. It is never too early to equip and to teach the holier way, the more virtuous way, the way rooted in Gospel values.

In the debate that will no doubt follow, and in the struggles we each have to live up to these truths (Administration, Faculty, Students and Chancellor), we dare to do what we are called to do as a Catholic School –to teach the truths of our Faith with charity and love.   Why? Because we believe that what we have to say to the world brings happiness and fulfillment.

With gratitude to Mr. Jeff Cormier for writing the articles, enjoy the read…and the “conversations” that will no doubt follow.

In His Love, Rev. Michael J. Russo, Chancellor

Chastity – the Path to True Freedom             

What is Chastity?

Chastity is the appropriate use of a person’s sexuality. For single people, it means being sexually abstinent.  In marriage, chastity is fidelity to one’s spouse. “Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being” (Catechism # 2337).  To live chastely does not only mean avoiding sexual sins, but also promoting the virtue of chastity through the way we think, speak, act, and dress.  This good habit is called modesty.  Three of the greatest fruits of practicing chastity are freedom, friendship, and clarity of mind for vocational discernment.

Freedom and Peace of Heart

Chastity enables a person to live in freedom from all the guilt and stress that accompanies sexual promiscuity. The individual is free from worrying about troublesome questions like What does God think of this sinful lifestyle?, Am I pregnant?, Does s/he really love me or am I being used?, How can I trust him/her to be faithful to me, especially since no public commitment has been made?, What if I have an STD?, How will this lifestyle affect my relationship with my family if it becomes known?, etc. The choice for chastity leads to freedom from this type of fear and guilt.

Practicing chastity also strengthens a person in the discipline of self-control and true love, because there is no true love without true freedom.  Love can’t be forced, coerced, or manipulated. “The key to love is chastity, because it is only through chastity that we can learn to love one another as God loves us. That kind of love does not depend upon what another does for us. We love others because God gave us the ability to do so, and it is in doing so that we fulfill our destiny as His children… In non-marital sex, your body says, ‘I give myself to you completely,’ while your heart says, ‘nope,’ ‘maybe,’ or ‘hope so.’ The dichotomy between what is done and what is felt is spiritually damaging, because what you do with your body affects your soul”.[1]

“Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy” (Catechism # 2339).

Friendship

“The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship… it leads to spiritual communion” (Catechism # 2347). It’s impossible to have true spiritual communion with someone if the relationship is based on sin.  A right relationship with God must come first, which in turn allows us to love other things properly.  Several years ago, I heard one young woman describing the pain of her promiscuous teenage years.  She wanted love and friendship, but after a while she realized she was only being used.  She realized the guys she was having sex with did not really want to spend quality time with her, but only with her body.  The popular trend to have “friends with benefits” (that is, a person with which to have sexual intercourse on a regular basis with no other strings attached) is emotionally scarring and does not lead to friendship at all. Consider the following account: “A girl named Heather, for instance, has succumbed to an intense bout of depression. The doctor presses her to think of possible causes. She can’t think of anything. Then she says: ‘Well, I can think of one thing: since Thanksgiving, I’ve had a “friend with benefits”. And actually I’m kind of confused about that… I want to spend more time with him, and do stuff like go shopping or see a movie. That would make it a friendship for me. But he says no, because if we do those things, then in his opinion we’d have a relationship — and that’s more than he wants. And I’m confused, because it seems like I don’t get the “friend” part, but he still gets the “benefits”… I’m really unhappy about that. It’s hard to be with him and then go home and be alone'”[2]

Most of us have seen pictures of starving people in the world who are forced to dig through garbage cans and garbage dumps for food.  Spiritual starvation can leave us to resort to running to garbage as well, trying to satisfy our desire for love and inter-personal communion with very unhealthy activities.  Only reconciliation with God and the self-enlightenment that accompanies it brings the healing and wholeness for which we long.

Clarity for Discernment

Discerning a vocation in life can be a very difficult process. Most young people do not feel strongly called to only one vocation but usually find many different options attractive. It is difficult to choose when several good options are in front of you. Peace and clarity of mind are essential for adequate and honest discernment. Pre-marital sexual activity will obviously make discerning the celibate lifestyle associated with the priesthood or consecrated religious life very difficult. It also makes marriage and marriage partners difficult to discern because of the instability caused by the strong emotional bond that has been created with someone to which you are not ready to make a permanent commitment. “Before taking marriage vows, the best way to practice for married love is by not having sex. That’s because most of marriage is not having sex. It’s a lesson that many couples learn too late… couples have not learned, before their marriage, to communicate effectively and to make sacrifices for the good of the other. A major reason for this is often that they have skipped steps to intimacy, using sex to create a false bond while failing to make necessary efforts to deepen their relationship”1. The single-life years of young adulthood are meant to be times for self-discovery, making friends and experiencing all sorts of personality types. It is not meant to be wasted on heartache caused by sexual mistakes. “The time that God gives for the single life is precious — and not merely because you have more freedom to do what you want to do when you want to do it… it’s precious because it provides a unique opportunity to bring all your spiritual graces into full flower — and to do so in ways that will bear fruit for the rest of your life”1.

Your Future Spouse

If you plan on being married one day, (and most of you will be married one day), fidelity to your spouse (and yourself) begins now. Consider this, if you are to be married one day, chances are, your future spouse is alive on this earth somewhere. You can begin praying for your future spouse and choosing fidelity to your future spouse today. It is a strong possibility that the individual you may be presently dating is not going to be your future spouse. So many things change in a young life from year to year! Therefore, you are very likely dating the future spouse of someone else. This person deserves to be treated with respect, the same respect you want shown to your future spouse by the person that may be presently dating him/her. Be the kind of person you would want to marry.

 

 

[1] See online article by Dawn Eden – “10 ½ Reasons to be Chaste”

[2] See online article by Danielle Crittenden – “Unprotected”

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