A modern examination of conscience. (But not too modern… we’re loyal to the teachings of the Catholic Church here!) This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Chastity and modesty. Two virtues that are necessary for bridging the gap between the physical and the spiritual. They’re necessary for living as a fully alive, integrated human being. And they’re all about authentic love.
Chastity helps us authentically live our sexuality. It helps us know ourselves, body and soul. The Catechism says it’s both an “apprenticeship in self-mastery” and a “school of the gift of the person.”
We come to know ourselves, to order our appetites, and to be able to give ourselves to each other in perfect love.
Chastity is the foundation of relationship, of spiritual communion. And it finds particular growth and beauty in friendship.
Chastity is for everyone – single, married, engaged. This month, we’ll explore chastity beyond the context of having-or-not-having-sex.
Modesty is the virtue that helps us moderate our appetites, behaviors, and desires. It turns our eyes and hearts away from self-absorption and towards God.
Modesty helps each of us authentically be ourselves. It helps us seek and desire to portray the truth in all we are, all we say and do.
Fr. Hardon’s dictionary gives four aspects of modesty: humility, studiousness, dress, and behavior. Read my article Real Modesty is for Everyone to learn more about what modesty means in each of these contexts.
This month, we’ll strive to be complete images of God. We’ll aim to grow in authenticity and love. We’ll strengthen the integration between body and soul. And we’ll do it all through God’s grace, as we pray for and practice chastity and modesty.
Chastity is both a personal task and a cultural effort. Each of us is called to practice chastity in the particular state of life we’re living, and to uphold a culture of chastity in the world around us.
- For the single
Chastity provides an opportunity for beautiful friendship. I want to say this without being preachy and bossy, so let me tell you about my experience in college. I was living a life of chastity, of abstinence. I was a virgin in a culture where it seemed like everyone else… wasn’t. I didn’t publicize it, but somehow people just seemed to know: my heart and my body belonged to God. That opened the door for more deep and authentic friendships with the dudes in my life. I can’t count the number of times I wanted to advise jealous girlfriends: “Stop sleeping with him. Find yourself in God. Insist on saving sex for marriage, and you’ll discover myriads of ways to give and receive love. The love of friendship, companionship, mutual respect.” There, I said it. Ladies, don’t sacrifice friendship for sex outside of marriage.
- For the married
Conjugal love is an expression of chastity. In sex, a husband and wife should each express a total self-gift, and their physical union should mirror their spiritual communion. Chastity in marriage means sex can’t be separated from the way we treat each other the rest of the day. Instead, it should be a culmination of the love we’ve shown each other, the sacrifices we’ve made for each other, the way we’ve served each other all day long. It should reflect a prevalent spirit of charity in our lives. And it should be rooted in love for God. Make prayer part of sex. It doesn’t have to be long and awkward. My husband and I pray a quick call and response:
R: Holy Spirit fill us with Your love, V: And grant us holy union.
You can steal our prayer or make your own. For more in-depth reading, I recommend Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak’s book, Holy Sex.
- For the engaged
The catechism calls engagement a “time of testing,” and that’s no joke. What could be more intense than waiting to be fully united to the one you love? Than knowing you’re going to give your entire self to your beloved in marriage, but… not yet. I’m not going to lie, that was one the toughest season of life for me to hold on to the virtue of chastity. It was a time of intense growth in self-knowledge, self-mastery, and communication. If you’re recently engaged, know that chastity will be difficult, and it should be. Be patient with yourself. Learn from your mistakes. Forgive yourself when you fall. And adjust your actions to do better next time – to avoid occasions of sin. But above all, work your butt off to keep Christ first in your relationship, and to grow in love of Him as you prepare for the lifelong sacrament of marriage.
- Promote a culture of chastity
If you’ve got the personal aspect of chastity mastered, you’re not off the hook for this challenge. We also need to contribute to a culture of chastity. It doesn’t take much looking around to see the entire concept of self-sacrificing love is under attack. We can see that the culture is trying to separate the bodily from the spiritual. Divorce is rampant, marriage is being “redefined,” homosexuality is applauded, and gender is… fluid? It’s time to remind the world that our bodies express the truth of our sexual identity and that we will not deny it. We’re made in God’s image, with a perfect plan for the way to show our love for each other, and we will honor and live up to that image.
I hope you’ll read my post on modesty in full. I’m not going to rewrite it here, but I’ll briefly highlight our key responsibilities in each of the four aspects of modesty.
Temper your desire to set yourself up as your own idol. We must humbly be aware of our strengths and weaknesses, thanking God for giving us all that’s good in us, and asking Him to change all that’s bad. We need to know our faults and accept correction gratefully. In the face of our weaknesses, we can’t hide in shame of falling short. Instead, humility as part of modesty motivates us to have peace as we seek change to become more like Jesus.
Surprised much? Modesty “moderates” our natural curiosity. Practice studiousness this month. Spend a little less time browsing the news and a little more time browsing your Catechism or Bible. A little less time fishing for gossip, and a little more time fishing for kind things to say. A little less time studying every Facebook post, and a little more time studying the voice of God speaking in your heart.
- Modesty in dress
Make sure the way you dress is reflective of who you are inside – a beautiful image of God with a unique purpose in this world. Are you a body for sale? A billboard for a certain clothing company? A character from the Hunger Games? No? Then don’t dress like one. Please remember the definition of a “modest outfit” varies greatly in cultures. And that one’s desire or ability to dress modestly is affected by the disposition of heart towards Jesus. Try to address this matter with all prayer and humility, and devoid of personal judgement.
- Modesty in behavior
Be discerning in your choice of companions. Be loving in your speech and actions. Avoid giving scandal at all costs. And don’t be afraid to speak the truth, even if it offends people. (Which is different from declaring your offensive opinion “because it’s true.”) Don’t put on airs, or hide who you are. Rather, be genuine in all your interactions.
Take the Challenge:
Are you ready to grow in chastity and modesty? Let’s get started! Here’s what you need to do:
- Prepare. If you haven’t already, read the chastity post carefully and reflect on what it means in your life. Print out your materials and place them in convenient places in your home. Join the Virtue Challenge Team on Facebook.
- Every morning, start the day with prayer (find it on your Nightstand Guide).
- Throughout the day, use your Fridge Guide to help integrate fortitude and eliminate fear from your life. Your Fridge guide has brief reminders, and some bonus extras (like an indulgenced prayer – woot!).
- Every evening, pray the nightly Examen (find it on your Nightstand Guide). This is a step-by-step review of your day, including praying for forgiveness, and resolving to do better tomorrow.
- Before confession (or weekly at least), prayerfully read the Examination of Conscience. Reflect, not only on your sins and failings, but also on how God has blessed you with growth in virtue!
This Virtue Challenge is going to change your life! I pray God gives each of you (and me too, I need this) the grace you need to grow in chastity and modesty and to become the saint He’s calling you to be.
Take the Chastity/Modesty Virtue Challenge now! Grab some cardstock, print your printables, and get ready for a grace-filled, growth-filled month.
Created in conjunction with Momsters Raising Monsters