If you’ve ever seen commercials that feature jewelry, you’ve probably seen the advertisements that feature gold and heard its different grades: 14 karats, 18 karats, 22 karats, etc. As you may know, 24 karats is the highest grade and it signifies that the gold is pure with no traces of other metals in it. Because of its purity and rarity, 24 karat gold is generally the most expensive. We see how much it’s coveted in pop culture references, movies, and TV shows. It’s pure, beautiful, and difficult to come by.
Those are three words that also describe the ideas of purity and chastity. In an age where people are objectified more than ever, chastity has become a rarity. Some parts of society encourage behaviors that diminish the value of a human person when instead we should cherish our bodies and souls, even more than 24 karat gold.
Josh Raymond welcomed Father Eric Nielsen onto The Inner Life to discuss this forgotten virtue and how vital it is to maintaining a holy and vibrant spiritual life.
To begin the conversation, Josh asked Father to define the two main terms that would be addressed, purity and chastity, and distinguish how they are different yet related.
Purity, as Father Eric explained, is the virtue that gives us the ability to see things as they truly are, with a pure heart. Purity, while certainly violated by sexually impure things, also touches other facets of our morals. You can do things with impure motives even if it doesn’t revolve around a sexual issue. Attending an event not to make the host happy but to show off your new suit would be an action done with impure motives.
Chastity is the ability to regulate our sexual desires so that they are always used appropriately. A married man only engages in relations with his wife only at appropriate times and in a way that is beneficial to him, his wife, and his family, potential or actual. For a single person, chastity would involve abstinence from sexual relations until they have fallen in love and gotten married within the church. Those who have chosen a life of celibacy, whether a priest or layperson, might go a step further to pursue chastity and remove themselves from all opportunities or occasions where temptation might even potentially arise.
Josh emphasized Father Eric’s point that at no point in a person’s life should they stop striving for chastity. It is a virtue that is worth striving for at all stages of life, whether you are single, married, or celibate. The devil uses sins of impurity in many different forms, whether that be the temptation to commit adultery, fornication, or carry on with some other scandalous affair.
“We’re all called to live chastely, regardless of whether we’re married, we’re single, we’re young, we’re old. We all need to live out this virtue.”
Father Eric said that the main reason chastity is so scarce among single people these days is that it first broke down among married couples. The introduction of contraception, the explosion of pornography, and the rise in the divorce rate are all related sins of impurity and they all contributed to the effects that were passed down to today’s youth. The youth won’t follow what you say. They’ll follow what you do. And once couples with weak moral foundations were introduced to contraception, there was nothing to stop them from needing to control their sexual desires. They weren’t considering the example they were setting, the effects of their actions, or the moral consequences.
Chastity at this point has evolved into, “Do what you want. Just don’t get pregnant.” That’s the only caveat. Pregnancy is seen as a disease, and the only cures are contraceptives and abortion. Rather, pregnancy should be seen as a beautiful thing, whether the result of weakness or chaste marital relations. Every life is a blessing, but if an unplanned pregnancy outside of wedlock is to be avoided, don’t rely on birth control or Planned Parenthood. Rely on the virtue of chastity.
Tune in to The Inner Life weekdays at 11am CT