The Sixth and Ninth Commandments
and Consecrated Chastity
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Our meditation is again on the sixth and the
ninth commandment of the Decalogue and more specifically on consecrated chastity.
In our last meditation we saw how Christ our
Lord elevated, to quote His own words, fulfilled this commandment. The bi-fold
commandment of chastity forbidding adultery lascivious or unchaste thought
or desires. Christ fulfilled these two precepts. In five ways:
- First, by raising the observance of the sixth and ninth commandment
from the practice of justice in not stealing another persons spouse, to the
practice of chastity and charity. We may say that the virtue of chastity came
into existence with the coming of Christianity.
- Secondly, Christ elevated these two precepts by forbidding the
experience, indulgence in sexual pleasure outside of marriage. Unlike the
old law which allowed divorce and remarriage, with emphasis polygamy.
- Thirdly, Christ elevated these precepts by prescribing interior
chastity or in the language of the Church continence in interior chastity
in the mind and heart and that also outside of marriage.
- Fourth, Christ elevated these precepts by making marriage what
it had been before the fall of the human race. Namely by restoring monogamy,
that is lifetime fidelity between one husband and one wife until the death
of either spouse.
- And finally and our focus, Christ elevated
these precepts by providing for the lifetime practice of consecrated chastity
and the sacrifice of marriage in His own words for the Kingdom of God.
Our present reflections therefore are on Consecrated
Chastity. And our bases for our reflections are the teachings of the Second
Vatican Council. (Just a word of preliminary comment). The extensive teaching
of the Second Vatican council on Consecrated Chastity is absolutely unique
in the Churchs two thousand years of the Churchs councilor history. For
the first time ever has a general council spoken and spoken at length on Consecrated
Chastity. There is nothing like it in all the previous councils of the Church.
You might ask why? One reason that I like to repeat; having been privileged
to assist with the broadcasting of the canonization of Saint Maria Goretti.
In 1950, Pope Pius XII in his homily after the canonization predicted
that the enemies of the Church would use sex pleasure to destroy the faith
of millions of believing Christians. As he said without chastity, Christianity
cannot survive. Everything that he predicted has been fulfilled beyond his
own, the Popes wildest, might I say, nightmares. There is a worldwide mania
called sexual promiscuity.
With very few exceptions the whole science
of psychology and its subsidiaries teaches in one volume after another to
restrain ones sexual desires is repression and is dangerous and can be destructive
even of the human mind.
Oh how specific I could be, how specific I
could be, even in institutions for the rehabilitation of priests who have
difficulty in their priesthood. They are taught not to restrain or control
their sexual desires. Oh how specific I could be, how geographically specific
I could be.
Another reason for the Second Vatican Councils
extensive teaching on consecrated chastity is that even as consecrated life
it is necessary for the universal well being of the Church.
Oh, the Church can survive but she will not
thrive; she will if you wish, barely exist without consecrated life. And within
that consecrated life, the single most demanding expectation of consecrated
men and women is the practice of Consecrated Chastity. In other words says
the council, Consecrated Chastity is necessary for the preservation of Christian
Consecrated Chastity is necessary for the
preservation of Christian chastity, for the faithful, and before this meditation
is over, it is not only giving a good example, it is being an indispensable
source of grace for the practice of chastity by all the followers of Jesus
Our scope of reflection in this meditation
will be on what the Second Vatican Council teaches on Consecrated Chastity.
The text from which I will quote is from Perfecti
Veritatis. It comes in three paragraphs but it should be without apology,
the text quoted in full.
Chastity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven,
which religious profess, must be esteemed an exceptional gift of grace. It
uniquely frees the heart of man so that he becomes more fervent for God and
for all men. For this reason it is a special symbol of heavenly benefit and
for religious it is a most effective means of dedicating themselves whole
heartedly to the divine service and the works of the apostolate. Thus for
all Christ's faithful religious recall that wonderful marriage made by God
which will be fully manifested in the future age and in which the Church has
Christ for her only spouse.
Religious therefore at pains to be faithful
to what they have professed should believe Our Lords words and relying on
God's help, they should not presume on their own strength, they should practice
mortification and custody of the senses. Nor should they neglect the natural
means that promote health of mind and body. Thus they should not be influenced
by the false doctrines which allege that perfect countenance is impossible
or inimical to human development and that kind of spiritual instinct they
should reject whatever endangers chastity. Further that all and especially
superiors remember that chastity is preserved more securely when the members
live a common life in true fraternal charity.
The observance of perfect continence teaches
and touches on intimately the deeper inclination of human nature. For this
reason, candidates should not go forward nor should they even be admitted
to the profession of chastity except after adequate testing and unless they
are sufficiently mature psychologically and effectively. Not only should they
be warned against the dangers to chastity which they may encounter, they should
be taught to see that the celibacy that they have dedicated to God is beneficial
to their own personality. Unquote Vatican II on Consecrated Chastity.
We should remind ourselves that there are
two documents of the Second Vatican Council on Consecrated Chastity. There
is the document called the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium.
And there is the decree from which we quoted Perfecti Veritatis.
The Dogmatic Constitution tells us what the
constitution calls the dogma of Consecrated Chastity; what it is and what
we believe. And Perfecti Veritatis tells us how it is to be lived and
the two go together. Consecrated chastity can not be practiced except by those
who have a deep, and I mean deep, enlightened faith. Either we understand
what Consecrated Chastity as an article of faith means or our wills will not
be provided the strength to live the humanly impossible life of Consecrated
Chastity. Now what I call the explanation of the Churchs teaching of what
we have just read.
Consecrated Chastity is entered as a lifetime
commitment for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven and that's what the vow of
chastity means. It is a lifetime commitment. It is a life that is better,
and we have to use that word better, than its contrary or omission. It is
a defined article of the Catholic faith that Consecrated Chastity is more
pleasing to God and objectively higher therefore than even Christian marriage
and why; because it demands the sacrifice of marriage and family life.
The Council quotes indirectly from Christ's
own statement. He used the words in the Gospel of Matthew when the disciples
were scandalized, that Christ even said that no more divorce or remarriage,
in fact our lord told them. You haven't heard anything yet, let me tell you.
If you are scandalized by what I've said you will be shocked to, let me tell
you, the grace that I will give my followers some of them to forgo marriage
I cannot repeat too often the essence of Consecrated Chastity is the sacrifice
of marriage. And the legitimate joys of marriage are not only, dear God, are
not only sexual experience.
Of all the joys that are in a good marriage,
as we know, come from having a lifetime companion. The joys that come from
bringing children into the world and loving them. I read a story recently;
a mother describing she was doing some work at night, she was dead tired,
and the work had to be done. Her baby started crying, she went over said some
nice things to the baby and put the baby down. While holding the baby the
crying stopped, put the baby down the crying resumed. Said the mother, Lord
I think you want me to hold onto the baby, but in the meantime, the work
that I have to do wasn't being done. Finally at long last the baby fell asleep.
Then by that time it was after midnight, she said,I went back to my work.
Dead tired but the love of parents, the enduring love of a mother for her
children is one of the great joys of marriage. And that, shall I use the first
person plural, we sacrifice the love given and the love returned by ones
spouse and given to and returned by ones children. When the Council says
that Consecrated Chastity quoting the Savior is undertaken for the Kingdom
of Heaven this means two things, there is an assurance of our own reaching
the Kingdom of Heaven through our faithful life of Consecrated Chastity that
is part of God's revelation.
God is not outdone in generosity. The generosity
we make in sacrificing marriage and all of its wonderful blessings, God, He
promises to reward us with our own heavenly beatitude. But secondly for the
sake of the Kingdom of Heaven means uniquely two thousand years of Christian
history proves it. Uniquely the most effective apostolic work of winning souls
to Christ and for Christ is done, has been done, for twenty centuries by those
who had consecrated their chastity to the virginal Christ.
We go on explaining the second Vatican Council
teaching. Consecrated Chastity is an exceptional gift of Christ. Not everyone
receives this gift and the most important thing in discerning ones vocation
is to know whether I have got the grace and secondly, and I'd better discern
this too, whether I have got the generosity of responding to that grace. Only
God knows but I believe in our modern world many, many more receive the grace
than are willing to respond and accept and live the grace of Consecrated Chastity.
In other words a lifetime of Consecrated Chastity is beyond, not only beyond
the powers of nature, but beyond the powers of ordinary grace.
Third, Consecrated Chastity the Church tells
us uniquely frees the human heart. Frees the human heart from lets call them
the responsibilities of married life. Those responsibilities only married
people can really know. They are many, they are deep and they are most demanding.
Consecrated Chastity, still number two, frees
the human heart for the exclusive task of worshipping God and laboring for
the salvation and sanctification of souls. As Saint Paul says the wife is
necessarily concerned with her husband to please him and the consequent duty
she has. Not just as a wife but with children, her offspring. The husband
the same thing, I like to keep repeating this. I would often take long drives
with married men. One was two hundred miles. We stopped on the express way.
Whats the emergency?" Oh Father I can see you are not married; wives
want to be attended to. What's the emergency? There is no emergency, it's
my wife and I have to call her up to reassure her and whatever he says I don't
listen. He is away and though he is away in body, he loves her. And I'm not
really sure in marriage who needs more love from whom. Whether the wife from
the husband or the husband from his wife.
Those living a life of Consecrated Chastity
are free, but notice what a terrible mistake of thinking of liberation of
being free from something. Oh it's that indeed, but liberation means of course
being free from something but mainly being freed for - for the work of the
Lord and that my friends is a grave obligation of those living a consecrated
life to give themselves because they are thus liberated whole heartedly to
the worship of God and the salvation and sanctification of souls.
Fourth, Consecrated Chastity enables a person
to be exceptionally dedicated to the works of the apostolate where the apostolate
is that of contemplation or the apostolate is contemplation along with active
works of mercy. This is not mere liberation it is dedication in other words,
Consecrated Chastity not only liberates the heart but also frees the mind
so I can think of what God wants me to do to bring souls either back to Him
or convert them from infidelity to the faith or convert them from tepidity
Five, Consecrated Chastity is a witness to
all the faithful, of the primary merit which God has instituted. Where do
we begin? We believe that God has revealed mysteries about Himself about His
relationship to us and about our relationship to His Mysteries. Why, why did
God institute the sacrament of Marriage between men and women? Why? First
reason, in order, and He knows and He knew from all eternity, to fill the
halls of the New Jerusalem.
Copyright © 1999 by Inter Mirifica