Charity and Chastity Together

From the monks of Silverstream Priory, Ireland:

St Joseph, paradigm of charity and chastity, with the Infant Jesus

St Joseph, paradigm of charity and chastity, with the Infant Jesus

Charity and chastity are not virtues reserved to monks, but monks are to practice these virtues in such a way as to encourage those who, living in the midst of the world with all its temptations, are tempted to be unforgiving, hard–hearted, and unchaste. The monastic life bears witness to the one way that leads to peace of heart: the way of a charity that compels a man to forgive all, to let go of the past, and to pray even for his abusers and persecutors. The monastic life also bears witness to the one way to a deep, abiding, happiness, and that is the way of chastity by which a man struggles against the temptations of the flesh which can be in every way as hot as the flames that licked at the body of Saint Laurence and caused him unspeakable torments.

In the Epistle (Ephesians 5:1–9), Saint Paul speaks both of charity and of chastity. He presents the perfection of charity as nothing less than a sacrificial victimhood, a participation in the oblation of Christ, the Lamb of God:

Be ye therefore followers of God, as most dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath delivered himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness. (Ephesians 5:1–2).

Saint Paul also speaks clearly of the demands of chastity:

But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints: Or obscenity, or foolish talking, or scurrility, which is to no purpose; but rather giving of thanks. For know you this and understand, that no fornicator, or unclean, or covetous person (which is a serving of idols), hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:3–5)

The Gospel shows us that the work of Christ is to cast out of souls the bitter, dark, and poisonous things that make a man hateful and unforgiving, selfish and unchaste. Our Lord does this by the Finger of God, that is, by the Holy Ghost. Wheresoever the Holy Ghost enters, there will be charity and chastity. There will be peace of heart, and gladness, and ceaseless thanksgiving.

The fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences.If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22–25)

When a man forces himself by means of his own striving to practice virtue, he places himself in a dangerous predicament. The counterfeit virtue that a man acquires, not by grace but by sheer application of the will, is both fragile and exhausting. Such a man may think that he has cleaned his house of filth, but it remains cold and uninhabited. Quickly the original devil returns, bringing others with him.

And when he is come, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then he goeth and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entering in they dwell there. And the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. (Luke 11:25–26)

When a man begins to practice virtue by the grace of Christ and by the inner strengthening of the Holy Ghost, then his charity is supernatural, it is the life of God in him; his chastity is bright and lovely, a source of joy and «a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness» (Ephesians 5:2).

It is noteworthy that, in Latin, as in English, there is but a difference of two letters between caritas and castitas, between charity and chastity. This suggests that we are, all of us according to our state in life, called to a chaste charity, that is, a rightly–ordered love, and to a charitable chastity, that is a chastity that is warm, not cold, and tender, not harsh. Such is the Benedictine ideal set forth in the Holy Rule:

As there is an evil zeal of bitterness, which separateth from God, and leads to hell, so there is a good zeal, which keepeth us from vice, and leadeth to God and to life everlasting. Let monks, therefore, exert this zeal with most fervent love; that is, “in honour preferring one another.” Let them most patiently endure one another’s infirmities, whether of body or of mind. Let them vie with one another in obedience. Let no one follow what he thinketh good for himself, but rather what seemeth good for another. Let them cherish fraternal charity with chaste love, fear God, love their Abbot with sincere and humble affection, and prefer nothing whatever to Christ. And may He bring us all alike to life everlasting. (Rule of Saint Benedict, Chapter LXXII)

One who lives in a family — or in a cloister — made beautiful by caritas and castitas, by charity and chastity, will find himself singing, again and again:

The sparrow hath found herself a house, and the turtle a nest for herself where she may lay her young ones: Thy altars, O Lord of hosts, my king and my God. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord: they shall praise thee for ever and ever. (Psalm 83:4–5)

[The above has been excerpted from a post on Vultus Christi.]


purity-300x300Prayer to Saint Joseph for Chastity

Saint Joseph, father and guardian of virgins, to whose faithful keeping Christ Jesus, innocence itself, and Mary, the virgin of virgins was entrusted, I pray and beseech you by that twofold and most precious charge, by Jesus and Mary, to save me from all uncleanness, to keep my mind untainted, my heart pure, and my body chaste; and to help me always to serve Jesus and Mary in perfect chastity. Amen.

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2 Responses to Charity and Chastity Together

  1. Pingback: Charity and Chastity Together | Solutio Problematis Omnes (aka "The Catholic Linker")

  2. Pingback: Charity and Chastity Together – sanctusdominusdeus

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