According to Pope Benedict XVI, with God’s help, the evangelical virtues forge character.
The ten evangelical virtues are derived from a combination of the human, moral, cardinal and theological virtues, described to us in the Catechism. They are actual qualities of Mary, the Mother of God who by her example is the epitome of evangelization: chastity, prudence, humility, faith, devotion, obedience, poverty, patience, mercy and sorrow.
In this year of faith, efforts to increase in virtue are a worthy exercise. We are called to evangelize with virtue in a variety of vocations, as a mother, a daughter, a sister, an employee, a wife. Modeling our behavior on the Blessed Virgin is an excellent way to bring others to Christ. Who more than Mary has brought more of us to her son?
The first Evangelical Virtue of Mary is Chastity.
Then Mary said to the Angel, “How shall this be done, since I do not know man?” Luke 1:34
The word “chastity” is difficult to pronounce in the modern world, hardly evident except within religious circles. Our children are exposed to all sorts of immodest dress and behaviors through media and through their companions. How can we teach our children the importance of being chaste? Why is this important?
Instilling the virtue of chastity in our children must start first with taking a look at it in ourselves.
Are we chaste? Do we follow the Church teachings on artificial birth control? Are we careful with the way we dress? Do we “like” immodest posts on Facebook? Do we “share” celebrity relationship gossip through our social media channels? Did we read Shades of Grey and recommend it to others?
Are we careful not to have friendships with men outside of our marriage, no matter how “innocent?” Is there a male colleague we text outside our marriage because, “it’s harmless, he’s just a friend?” Do we drink to excess, therefore putting ourselves into positions where our reason and desires are mixed?
We mothers of boys must be extra vigilant in praying for the virtue of chastity for our children. New media and technology devices make pornography easily accessible to our boys, warping their minds to conform to the world’s ideas of sexuality.
To the world, chastity means “abstaining from sexual activity.” This reduces the virtue of chastity to just another technique for efficiently avoiding sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, or unwanted emotional entanglements.
It is much more than that. Chastity is a virtue, a part of our character, or not. It’s not a thing we do. It’s part of who we are.
Pope John Paul II challenged the world’s understanding of chastity in his Theology of the Body. He insisted chastity is a virtue, a personal excellence, a habit of character that disposes one to have the right kind of sexual urges. As a virtue, chastity makes a person good by shaping desires, affections, moral vision and relationships in light of the truth.
He proposes chastity will lead us away from the culture of death. He urges us to transform our lives into “a genuine and responsible acceptance of the gift of life and a heartfelt song of praise and gratitude to God who has given us this gift.”
Pope John Paul II specifically mentioned mothers. Despite the influence of the media and the many cultural models that discourage motherhood, mothers must live their lives understanding the importance of “fidelity, chastity, and sacrifice” (EV 86).
Chastity is the virtue of wholeness, the virtue that prevents us from being reduced to a mere appetite. Satisfying our appetite may bring about temporary pleasure, but it cannot bring about permanent joy, which is the experience of the whole person. The chaste person does not sacrifice joy for pleasure.
What are the chief dangers to the virtue of chastity? We can be on the lookout for sinful curiosity, the company of immoral friends or co-workers, drinking too much, dressing to arouse—immodest dress, reading indecent books or watching indecent movies. When we take special care to avoid these unnecessary dangers to the virtue of chastity our children will follow our example.
Patron Saints: Virgin martyrs are wonderful saints to ask to intercede for us to increase in the virtue of chastity. Saint Maria Goretti, Saint Agnes and Saint Philomena make great patrons. And Saint Joseph, who was a model for chastity within his marriage to our Blessed Mother.
Prayer to St. Joseph
Holy St. Joseph, father and protector of virgins, to whose faithful keeping Christ Jesus and Mary, the virgin of virgins, were committed, by these dearest pledges, Jesus and Mary, I beseech and conjure you that I may always serve Jesus and Mary in perfect chastity with a spotless mind, a clean heart, and a chaste body. Amen
One way to integrate these virtues into your life is by praying the Chaplet to the Ten Evangelical Virtues of Mary.
Copyright 2013 Regina Gulick