In the timeless Broadway classic “Les Miserables,” character Fantine wraps up Victor Hugo’s epic saga with one golden line: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Hugo’s words greatly echo Saint Pope John Paul II’s extremely popular lecture series called the “Theology of the Body,” a title which literally translates to “the study of God in the body.” In these 129 General Audience talks, Saint Pope John Paul II describes how the human person is made in the image and likeness of God and how God selflessly loves every person for his or her own intrinsic good, and not just for Himself!
St. Pope John Paul II would agree with Victor Hugo: truly loving another person entails seeing God’s image and likeness in him or her. St. Pope John Paul II would even take it a step further and say that true love also entails being able to see God in your own body and soul. Chastity is rooted in this vision of love: with purity of heart, seeing God’s very image in others and in self. In fact, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the simplest definition of “chastity” is “to love as God loves.” And what is “love”? Again according to the Catechism, love is simply “willing the good of the other.” Living a chaste life, then, equals “willing the good” of yourself and others as God would will it. Chastity equals no easy task!
Yet living a chaste life is an exhilarating challenge and it surely has its rewards. When you commit yourself to chastity, an abundance of graces will flood into your life. Listed below are just ten positive things that will happen if you decide to begin on this journey:
1. Your confidence boosts.
Christ bestows on you all of the necessary graces to overcome temptations to sexual sin. When you learn to use your willpower to relinquish your inner battle against sexual temptation into the hands of Christ, your confidence soars. Why? Because Christ is King, and He is always victorious. When you falter, He always turns you back from darkness into light, especially via the Sacrament of Confession. Through Christ, you have the power to channel your sexual drive into a conduit of grace rather than sin. What freedom! It will likely begin to feel easier to conquer other temptations, bad habits, and addictions in your life- and set positive new life goals!- as well
2. You will be able to eat, exercise, and sleep better. And pay better attention at Mass.
Once you commit to keeping your body chaste, you kindle a newfound respect for your body. You begin to better understand how your body reflects Christ to the world much in the same way that a monstrance displays the Eucharist to the world. You will become energized to take better care of your body, and may find yourself eating healthier food, sticking to a workout regime better, and being more disciplined about sleeping well. Feeling better about your body, you’ll start to feel better about your soul, and you’ll likely be able to be more engaged at Mass and, overall, a more Eucharistic person and disciple to the world!
3. Your prayer life grows abundantly.
As you allow the Holy Spirit to purify your body, He will also powerfully begin to purify your soul on an even deeper level. Your new level of honesty with God, such as during times of sexual temptation, allows you to be more open to the Holy Spirit and to His promptings in your heart to do his will, to pray more, and to draw closer to Him. You will find yourself increasingly speaking to the LORD throughout the day, in times of struggle, joy, and everything in between. In fact, you’ll probably slowly grow closer to Our Blessed Mother, Queen of Purity, as well as a whole throng of saints who you may learn about and will just know are also cheering you on!
4. You begin to more deeply understand the mysterious Trinitarian nature of God and how it relates to marriage!
When we look to the Trinity, we see how God the Father and God the Son love each other so intensely that God the Holy Spirit exists as an incarnation of their love. As Catholics, we believe that a man and a woman in Holy Matrimony are meant to mirror the Trinity, too: with their free, total, faithful, and fruitful spousal love, a child may come to exist as an incarnation of their love. What beauty in this purpose of human sexuality! With this new association of God and marriage/sex, you will begin to see how bodies and human sexuality were made for the sacred and to love as God loves.
5. You start to see your significant other with God’s eyes.
A certain saying goes: “People love things and use people, when they should love people and use things.” Along the lines of “loving versus using,” you will begin to see your beloved as someone who is a son or daughter of God– someone who possesses an inherent dignity with which you do not want to meddle and which is deserving of genuine love. When you commit to chastity, you will begin to respect your significant other, boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance/fiancee or spouse, on a profoundly deeper level. It’s not just how she or he can make you feel, but how you can help him or her to become a person of virtue and ultimately, a saint.
6. You start to see yourself with God’s eyes.
Along the lines of “loving versus using,” you also will begin to see YOURSELF as a son or daughter of God– someone who possesses an inherent dignity with which you do not want to meddle and which is deserving of genuine love. You will begin to respect YOURSELF on a profoundly deeper level. It’s not just how your significant other (or pornography, masturbation, dwelling on impure thoughts, etc.) can make you feel, but how you can help YOURSELF to become a person of virtue and ultimately, a saint.
7. You start to see EVERYONE with God’s eyes!
Once you start practicing the whole “chastity is loving as God loves” habit, it’s hard not to see others with clear eyes. Not just people you are attracted to, but literally every person! You will gain a sense of wonder and awe for God’s creation that you may have never possessed. You will see people as people to be loved purely, not with sinful purposes in mind, nor merely for their “uses” that they might bring to you or to the world. God loves them for who they are, because they are inherently worth being loved. You will find yourself admiring others’ positive aspects or attractive features more easily– and getting annoyed by or judging others’ negative or unattractive aspects less easily (a.k.a. being more merciful like Our LORD!).
8. You less easily fall into unhealthy anger and dark moods.
When you commit to living a chaste life, you will slowly break free from the bonds of sexual sin and experience what the noble use of your free will tastes like (hint: it tastes very liberating!). You will experience genuine freedom, and the soul that is free is the soul that is at peace. And when the soul is at peace, it is far more difficult to get carried away by one’s temper and to be tempted into unhealthy anger, dark moods, and even violence. It is so easy to fall into these spiritual traps when we live unchaste lives.
9. You more strongly understand how human sexuality is actually a big, beautiful, highly spiritual deal– not “animalistic” at all!
When you commit your life to chastity, you slowly see how every man and woman is called to live out the spousal meaning of his or her body, whether through the vocation of single, married, or religious life. You will begin to understand better how the ultimate wedding feast is that between Christ the groom and His bride the Church– and you will become even more inspired and determined to listen to God’s vocational call for your own life. Nothing is more enthralling than living life intentionally and with a sacred sense of meaning and purpose.
10. Joy. Pure and utter joy.
When you find purpose in your body and your soul, and grow closer to God, and start to feel better, live better, and love better– the biggest reward of all, after freedom and peace, is JOY. Pure joy! Utter joy! Joy in knowing that you are a beloved son or daughter of God, and that God, in His love, thought you up before the world even existed. Joy in knowing that you are meant to set the world on fire with God’s love in your own unique vocation and in your own unique way. When you live out the spousal meaning of your body according to God’s Holy Will, it is impossible not to radiate joy to all the world. If you’re called to marriage, that radiant joy may actually attract your future spouse! Though the truth is, joy is both a gift and a necessity to live out one’s vocational calling – marriage or otherwise – to the fullest.
Chastity is not only about waiting until we are married before we have sex. It is a virtue that we must foster all of our life and even enrich our marriage.