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Chastity


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The Sixth and Ninth Commandments
and Consecrated Chastity

(Transcription)

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 person’s 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 Church’s two thousand years of the Church’s 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 Council’s 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 monogamy”.

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 Christ.

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 Lord’s 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 Church’s 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 one’s spouse and given to and returned by one’s 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 one’s 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 let’s 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. “What’s 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 to sanctity.

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






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