A spiritual author wrote, “Chastity is rightly called the angelic virtue, because it likens us to the angels, who are pure by nature. It is an austere virtue, because we do not succeed in practising it unless we subdue the body and the senses by mortification.
“It is a frail virtue, tarnished by the least wilful failing. On this account it is a difficult virtue, since it cannot be observed except by a generous and constant struggle against the most tyrannical of passions.”
There are two kinds of chastity: continence proper to the unmarried, and conjugal chastity proper to persons living in lawful wedlock.
Regarding the first kind of chastity, St. Francis de Sales wrote, “The unmarried need a very simple sensitive purity which will drive away all over-curious thoughts and teach them to despise all merely sensual satisfactions.
“The young are apt to imagine that of which they are ignorant to be wondrous sweet, and as the foolish moth hovers around a light, and, persisting in coming too near, perishes in its inquisitive folly, so they perish through their unwise approach to forbidden pleasures.”
Regarding the second kind, the saint pointed out that conjugal chastity “lies not in total abstinence from carnal pleasures, but in self-control amid pleasures.”
Both kinds of chastity are on the path of love of God. Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote, “God has two kinds of lovers: those who go directly to the ultimate, such as the celibate, and those who go mediately through marriage.”
Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen wrote, “One who embraces the married state becomes a collaborator with God in the transmission of life to others; one who consecrates himself to God by a vow of chastity becomes his collaborator in the transmission of the life of grace to others.
“The person who is consecrated to God sacrifices material fecundity for a far superior, spiritual fecundity, natural paternity or maternity for supernatural paternity or maternity.”
Purity of heart
St. Francis de Sales said, “Chastity of body is common enough even among unbelievers and persons addicted to other vices. But very few can say truthfully, ‘My heart is chaste.'”
The saint defined chastity of heart as a complete renunciation of all illicit affections. The other aspect of chastity of heart consists in the purity of intention of seeing God in all things and all things in God.
Prayer and work help the heart to be pure. St. John Bosco urged young people to avoid idleness. When we are absorbed in study or work, our mind can be filled with wholesome thoughts.
St. Jerome wrote, “Love the knowledge of Scripture, and you will no longer love the sins of the flesh…. Always have some work on hand, that the devil may find you busy.”
Frequent confession, love for the Holy Eucharist, and devotion to Our Lady fill our heart with love and devotion. They are effective means for the preservation of chastity.
Flight from dangers
St. Francis de Sales wrote, “Be exceedingly quick in turning aside from the slightest thing leading to impurity, for it is an evil which approaches stealthily, and in which the very smallest beginnings are apt to grow rapidly. It is always easier to fly from such evils than to cure them.”
“Do not associate with immodest persons…. On the contrary, associate with chaste and virtuous persons.”
Mortification of the senses is a guardian of chastity. Holy Scripture carefully recommends the guarding of the eyes: “Gaze not upon a maiden: lest her beauty be a stumbling block to you…. Turn away your face from a woman dressed up; and gaze not about upon another’s beauty.”
Mortification of the heart is also very important. The saints exhort us to mortify the imagination and to abandon useless day-dreaming.
“In loving you, O Christ, I am chaste; in touching you, I am pure; in possessing you, I am a virgin!” said St. Agnes.