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Chastity: The First Evangelical Virtue

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By Marc Massery

Last month, we talked about how the Rule of the 10 Evangelical Virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary has shaped the spirituality of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception since the late 17th century. In this article, we'll reflect on the first of the Blessed Mother's Evangelical Virtues: chastity.

The first of the 10 Evangelical Virtues of the Blessed Mother mentioned in the Gospel is chastity:

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. (Lk 1:26)

Practicing the virtue of chastity is a little different for each of us, depending on our state in life. Nevertheless, everyone is called to chastity. Chastity means moderating one's desire for sexual pleasure through right reason and according to the teachings of the Church.

The Blessed Virgin Mary had a calling unlike few others: to wed, yet at the same time to remain a virgin. When the Archangel Gabriel came to her, Mary had already promised to remain a perpetual virgin. That's why she was troubled at first when God told her she would bear a child (Lk 1:26-35).

For those of us called to marriage, God wills that we "be fruitful and increase in number" (Gen 1:28). Catholic author and speaker, Christopher West, says that our sexuality is meant to reflect Christ's love:

[I]f sexual love is meant to express Christ's love, we must properly understand the "language" of this love. Christ gives his body freely ("No one takes my life from me, I lay it down of my own accord," Jn 10:18). He gives his body totally — without reservation, condition, or selfish calculation ("He loved them to the last," Jn 13:1). He gives his body faithfully ("I am with you always," Mt 28:20). And he gives his body fruitfully ("I came that they may have life," Jn 10:10).

Chaste love is always free, meaning that we aren't controlled by impulses. Chaste love is always total, meaning that couples give themselves entirely, body and soul, to one another. Chaste love is always faithful, meaning that couples who wed promise to remain true to each other until death. Finally, chaste love is always fruitful, meaning that couples are open to life at each encounter.

Though Mary remained a virgin, her vocation contained all the same elements needed for a holy marriage. Her choice was free: God didn't force her to say "yes" to His plan of salvation. Her choice was total — no one gave herself more completely to God than Mary; her choice was faithful, meaning that even during difficult times, she remained faithful to God's will; her choice was fruitful — through her "yes," she became the spiritual mother of the entire world!

Whether we're called to the married life, single life, or the consecrated life, the following quote from Pope John Paul II applies to us: "Chastity is a difficult, long-term matter; one must wait patiently for it to bear fruit, for the happiness of loving kindness which it must bring. But at the same time, chastity is the sure way to happiness."

Striving for chastity isn't always easy, but with the grace of God, with the intercession of the Blessed Mother, God will give us the strength we need to do His will. If we rely on Him, we will come to see our call to chastity as a blessing through which God can work many wonders.

Next month, we'll reflect on the second of the Blessed Virgin Mary's 10 Evangelical Virtues: prudence.

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