Confessions of a Chasti-holic
Here’s something I’ve never told anyone before: I missed the first and only chastity talk at my small Catholic school in fifth grade.
I didn’t hear one until college. By then, I had forgotten the belief of saving sex for marriage that my upbringing had taught me. Thankfully, the Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Miami hosted an eight-week Intro to Theology of the Body (TOB) series by Christopher West on campus. I sat in the back of the University Center activity room scribbling ever word I could into my notebook.
During the small group discussions, I remained quiet, taking everything in and watching to see if the other students in the group heard the same things I was hearing: teachings that challenged everything I had learned about sex and the relationships between men and women in middle school and high school.
After the Intro to TOB series, my mind was ablaze with a passion to learn more. I had only experienced about three months of college hook-up culture, but my heart longed for something different, something more meaningful than Coconut Grove on Friday nights.
The more I researched and listened to Catholic talks about chastity, the more solidified I felt in my faith and the Church’s teaching about saving sex for marriage. Along with the many amazing, truly life-changing blogs and witnesses I heard, there were also some well-meaning but ill-informed speakers whose talks left me confused and questioning my own worth at times.
Certainly not all chastity talks are harmful, but here are three things I wish had known before diving into the dating world with my newfound desire for chastity:
- Beware of chastity talks with an over-emphasis on virginity (and fear). Our purity comes from our creator, not from our own doing. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says chastity is “a gift from God,” that “The Holy Spirit enables one whom the water of Baptism has regenerated to imitate the purity of Christ” (CCC 2345). Purity ≠ virginity, nor is it equated with overall dignity. There is a strong Catholic, feminist argument here too that society tends to value woman’s virginity more than man’s, which then makes a virgin woman some kind of commodity to attain. I’ve learned to reject this logic for what it is: sexist relativism. We are all daughters and sons of the King with an inheritance in Heaven. Chastity is a gift, a grace from God for the purpose of imitating him.
- The unspoken words are as important as the spoken ones. Purity is a lifestyle, not something you lose. While I never heard it explicitly said that losing your purity made you less worthy of authentic, sacrificial love from someone of the opposite sex, sometimes I left chastity talks in college and as a young adult feeling like that. The Culture Project, a missionary organization “set out to restore culture through the experience of virtue,” said it well in a recent Instagram post that ended with, “Your purity is not something that you can lose. It’s something you on-goingly practice and cultivate. Chastity is a lifestyle always ready for our embrace.” These words are inspiring to people in any state of life!
- Frequent confession is for you to forgive yourself, grow in humility and receive the source and summit of our faith—the Eucharist. I used to think that going to confession was for taking away the immense guilt I felt after my boyfriend spent the night. It felt transactional with God. If I had to go to confession two weeks in a row, I felt embarrassed. It wasn’t until I began to pray about the importance of the Eucharist (especially with the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John) that I realized that receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is both the means and the end, our source, and our summit of life. Many of the mysteries of chastity are hidden within the mystery of the Eucharist. I think that’s why I’ve found so much solace kneeling in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
As the Catechism says, growing in chastity “presupposes renewed effort at all stages of life” (CCC 2342). With this realization I have found new hope in my own journey to holiness. I wish I had gone to that chastity talk in fifth grade, but I also know that my struggles trying to live chastely have brought me closer to God.
The Theology of the Body continues to amaze me with its insight into the human person, body and soul, and the way our bodies reveal truths about our Divine Creator. The wisdom that Pope Saint John Paul II shared in 1979 and the early 80s has touched so many lives, and many people have given chastity talks rooted in its truths. Now, during every chastity talk or witness I hear, I ask the Holy Spirit to do the hard work. I pray, Holy Spirit, seal the truth, goodness and beauty that is present in this talk into my mind; and whatever is false or misleading, erase it from my memory so that I may only take away the words you want me to hear.
With that prayer, I would never depend on a chastity talk to affirm my worth, because in praying those words from the heart, whether out of fear or confidence, the Lord reminds me that he affirmed me first. May we all hear God in his witnesses and be inspired to become His witnesses ourselves.
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Renee lives in Arlington, VA, and works for an international development firm in Washington, DC. She loves leading Walking With Purpose Bible studies at her parish and trying new cuisines from local restaurants. She has a Master’s in Latin American Studies from GWU and a Bachelor’s in Communication Studies from the University of Miami.