Editor’s note: With the release of Bishop Robert J. Baker’s pastoral letter, “The Redemption of Our Bodies,” seminarian Jeffrey Kirby interviewed Catholic college students around the state to get their perspective on chastity.
BY JEFFREY KIRBY
SPECIAL TO THE MISCELLANY
How are youth and young adults to find the means and reasons for perseverance in a life of purity?
Many facets in American society make youth and young adult chastity appear abnormal and even impossible. Parents are hesitant to discuss the topic with their teenagers. College-age young adults are in an environment which seems to give, at the least, an implicit permission to engage in sexual activities. These realities support the popular assertions, “Do it!” and “It’s all part of growing up.”
“Unfortunately, in today’s society we are not given much support to live a chaste life,” said Stephanie Grainger, a junior at the University of South Carolina. “We are thrown advertisements and commercials that market sex as if it were a new clothes fad — something to try on and see if you like it for a little while.”
Grainger said that movies and television show many cases of premarital and extramarital sex, while rarely showing a healthy relationship between husband and wife.
Alex Juncu, a junior at the College of Charleston, argued that instead of encouraging chastity, society propagates the anti-chastity ideal, and influences in negative ways those who try to uphold chastity.
“The culture we are exposed to so often in this age makes it very easy to not be chaste, and explains away any reasons for being chaste as frivolous or even ‘immature,’ ” said Rhett Williams, a junior at Furman University. “Years ago, sleeping around was seen as immature. Now, the present state of mind is, ‘Why not …?’ ”
In response to this way of thinking, Bishop Robert J. Baker wrote in his recent pastoral letter, “The Redemption of Our Bodies,” that it is the “responsibility of every parent and every parish” to assist families in their formation of young people in the virtue of chastity.
“It is becoming clear that chastity and abstinence training for our children as well as adults is vital for the future of holiness in our diocese,” he wrote.
Fornication, adultery, pornography, homosexual acts, masturbation, prostitution — the list of possible sexual sins against chastity could go on. How are youth and young adults to find the means and reasons for perseverance in a life of purity?
Bishop Baker presents Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” grounded on faith in Jesus Christ, as the answer to the many problems associated with chastity.
Grainger agreed. “Faith gives me the strength to be chaste,” she said. “God created sexuality with a purpose, and when it’s expressed according to that purpose, it’s a good and holy thing.”
Williams posed an important question. “Why else be chaste, if not for faith?” he asked. “Why else stay away from all those things that feel so ‘right,’ if not for the fact that our faith teaches us their right time and place, as well as how to love and order things towards a greater good that lasts?
“Faith helps to see beyond the intense moments,” he said. “It’s all about belief and right action.”
“Faith and chastity go hand-in-hand because with faith one is able to more easily practice chastity,” Juncu said. “Faith teaches me a respect for my body and for my dignity as a child of God.”
Grainger admitted that dating is difficult. From her experience at college, she has observed that guys see a lot of images of girls giving themselves to them.
“A lot of them seem to expect the same out of every girl they may date,” she said. “It’s hard to be chaste because you want to be wanted.”
How does faith give young people a means of perseverance in these and similar moments?
Faith shows them who ultimately wants and loves them. This realization is given in prayer.
“Prayer is the main support of chastity; it helps to keep our minds in line with our faith,” Williams said. He also encourages frequent use of the Sacrament of Confession.
“Through prayer I know who really cares about me and who truly loves me,” Grainger said. She also expressed gratitude for her friends, who support and care about her.
Juncu said that being open to other people and their care helped him, too.
As Bishop Baker wrote, youth and young adult chastity is essential to the growth in discipleship and holiness. Families, parishes, parents, and friends must begin to know of our mutual obligation to teach and encourage youth and young adults in the virtue of chastity.
Need more information?
Visit the Family Honor Web site at www.familyhonor.org . Family Honor assists in chastity education.