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.” St. John Paul II, Love & Responsibility
I’ll never forget sitting in the rose garden near my college campus one spring afternoon of my freshman year. I’d often run to this rose garden to marvel at the lush variety of colors contained within and contemplate my life. I remember just around this time, a young woman that I looked up to greatly, a role model of mine, had just gotten married. I remember looking online at her wedding photos through social media and just thinking to myself, she, and her now husband, did it the right way. She was one of the very first witnesses of chastity to me, and how beautifully that decision could bear fruit in someone’s life.
I remember that spring afternoon thinking that I needed to make some changes in my life. I could not live the way the culture was promoting and find a love like she had found. With much reflection about the beauty of all that love could be, I remember firmly deciding that day in the rose garden that I would begin to make different decisions, because I too, wanted a love that was real.
I’ll never forget the power of one bold and beautiful witness to chastity and how that impacted my life. I remember this when I’m confronted with other people who seem to feel hopeless about the place that the young people of our culture are currently in when it comes to sexuality. While we are certainly in a battle, we can rest assured that what this culture offers pales in comparison to the richness of living a life of sexual integrity.
In Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI presents the beauty, joy, and challenges of living an integrated sexuality. It is critical that we are preparing young people for the challenges of married love, Natural Family Planning, and parenthood as they will become the husbands and wives, fathers and mothers of the next generation. We must challenge them now to live the heroic virtue of chastity. Challenging young people to live virtue will be the single greatest way to help them embrace the Church’s teachings contained in Humanae Vitae.
Whether we grew up in the faith or not, we naturally think of chastity as a list of rules that suppress my freedom. In actuality, chastity is, “an apprenticeship in self-mastery, a training in human freedom.” Chastity is the virtue that orders my desires toward love, which actually allows me to say yes to love and all of its demands. This gives me greater freedom, the freedom to say no to use. Chastity gives me the freedom to understand that my sexuality is a good part of my person, and that because of my dignity, I am not made to be used by any distortion of authentic love. The greatest way to reclaim chastity from the grasp of our modern culture is to present the beauty of the lifestyle, that it is actually an affirmation of what we desire most, real love and greatness.
Witness to it
A quote that has always stayed with me is one by Pope Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi. “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it’s because they are witnesses.” Young people need role models. When I think back to what initially made me choose the virtue of chastity for myself, it was not scare tactics, fear of STD’s or an unplanned pregnancy, but the vibrant witness of an older, but still young enough to be relatable, role model. That is why I believe in the power of virtue, practiced in the context of a community and the effect that can have on those we encounter, both young and old. The commitment of one woman on her journey actually had life altering consequences for me. The power of one yes through a person to person encounter can change the culture.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture that does not challenge young people or believe in their potential. In Love & Responsibility, John Paul II says that we must humble ourselves before our own greatness and dignity, that we possess a dignity far beyond what we can imagine or understand. This surpasses greatly the standards set by our culture. My goal when making decisions about my own life and inspiring other young people to choose virtue is not to water anything down! We are made for the truth! We have the dignity and potential for greatness to receive it and integrate it into our lives. It is never too late to begin or begin again.
As Pope Paul VI confers upon the faithful to “take up the great work of education, of progress, and of charity to which we are summoned” we must acknowledge that to reach the youth we must ground them in an understanding of their own dignity and the dignity of those around them. It is essential that we reclaim the reality that, although not without challenge, “chastity is the sure way to happiness.”
Lindsay Fay co-presented with fellow Culture Project Missionary Gian Gamboa at the July 2018 HV50 Celebration: Faithful to God’s Design in Southern California on Sexual Integrity in Young Adults. SEE VIDEO HERE. A 2015 graduate of Santa Clara University with a BA in Religious Studies, Lindsay grew up in California and began ministering to her peers about the faith in high school. Lindsay met The Culture Project while serving as an intern for the Theology of the Body Institute in Philadelphia. As she found such profound healing in the area of sexual integrity, she dreamed of a way to impart these messages to her peers. She then felt a calling to join the mission of The Culture Project. “All it takes is one joyful witness of virtue to change the heart of a young person, and I desire to be that witness.”