Our faith takes with joyful seriousness the mystery of the Incarnation: that the Son of God took flesh for our salvation. Jesus' body scourged, crucified and risen for us, tells us that God uses the human body to make his love present in our world. The body is our doorway to salvation, and so how we treat it matters.
Sexuality is a gift from God and a fundamental part of what makes us human. Each of us is called to acknowledge this gift and the One who gave it.
Our sexuality and our spiritual life are intimately linked. The chaste person integrates sexuality within the personality and thus expresses his or her inner unity as a bodily and spiritual being. The chaste person has the capacity to relate to others in a truly human way, reflecting a person's state in life: single, married or consecrated celibacy.
Living the virtue of chastity means placing our desire for sexual pleasure under the guidance of reason and faith. It is one of the cornerstones of the temple of our body, a necessary pillar of right living. It leads to wholeness and unity, for individuals, married couples and society.
The virtue of chastity involves the integration of the powers of love and life placed in us. This integrity ensures the unity of the person and is opposed to any behavior that would distort it.
Living chastity is no easy business in the sex_saturated world of contemporary Western culture. It's impossible to walk through a shopping mall, turn on a computer or television, glance at an advertisement or browse through a bookstore without being bombarded by sexual imagery of every kind. The challenge of living chastely in these circumstances is difficult for everyone.
Pornography has never been more widespread, reaching almost epidemic proportions. It denigrates authentic sexual expression and encourages masturbation, sexual intimacy outside of marriage and the separation of the life giving and love giving meaning of sexual relations.
If we wish to remain faithful to our baptismal promises and resist temptations, we need to develop strategies that will help us live in holiness and freedom. Here are a few suggestions:
- Remove from your home or workplace any pornographic literature, magazines, video, CD, DVD or games that are source of temptation.
- Develop the practice of going online only for legitimate purposes. Don't visit pornographic web sites
- Create accountability measures, e.g. move the computer to an open location, the living room or family room is preferable to the bedroom
- Install accountability software, with the goal of filtering out undesirable material.
- In some cases it might help to join an accountability or support group, e.g. Sexaholics Anonymous.
- Try to identify the weaknesses or shortcomings which give an opening to lustful temptations. When beginning to fantasize ask yourself some important questions: what does this fantasy mean? What am I feeling? Am I sad, lonely, afraid,, hurting, or what?
- Beware of excessive fatigue. Make time for rest. Defenses and coping skills decline with too little sleep/high levels of stress.
- Healthy leisure is critical. Especially physical exercise.
- Take responsibility for problems ; blaming others is a cop-out.
- Get involved in apostolic work.
- Seek out and be honest with a spiritual director, confessor, formator, chaplain or counselor.
- Celebrate the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist frequently. Such celebrations move us into greater union with God, separates us form our sinfulness and strengthens our spirits.
- Develop a daily plan of life which integrates ascetical practices. Grow in self-control and self-discipline and form the will.
- Cultivate simple practices such as custody of the eyes, prudent selection of reading material, attention to the duty of the present moment, indifference to distractions, not dwelling on past injuries, remembering the blessings of God, fasting and abstinence, and spiritual reading.
- Learn how to establish healthy boundaries and relationships. Develop friendships that strive for mutual growth in Christian virtue.
- Exhibit genuine modesty in matters of dress and behaviour.
- Daily reading and reflecting with the Scriptures, the rosary, prayer for forgiveness and protection. Inviting Jesus into our hearts as the Lord of our lives and renouncing evil spirits and commanding them to leave in his name.
- Growth requires persistence and resolve to stop giving into lustful thoughts. Developing spiritual muscles requires repetition. Set realistic goals. Never give up but keep striving!
☩ Frederick Henry