In light of yet another story I read this week on the devastation caused by the liberal understanding of the idea of "freedom" in our over-sexed culture, our faith facts will emphasize the importance of purity and chastity. It is essential that we live these virtues ourselves -- not do as I say, not as I do -- and teach them by example to our children. The following faith facts have been taken from a document issued by the Pontifical Council for the Family on 8 December 1995 entitled, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality.
The challenges raised today by the mentality and social environment should not discourage parents. In fact it is worth recalling that Christians have had to face up to similar challenges of materialistic hedonism from the time of the first evangelization. Moreover, "This kind of critical reflection should lead our society, which certainly contains many positive aspects on the material and cultural level, to realize that, from various points of view, it is a society which is sick and is creating profound distortions in man. Why is this happening? The reason is that our society has broken away from the full truth about man, from the truth about what man and woman really are as persons. Thus it cannot adequately comprehend the real meaning of the gift of persons in marriage, responsible love at the service of fatherhood and motherhood, and the true grandeur of procreation and education". (TMHS, 6)
Chastity is the joyous affirmation of someone who knows how to live self-giving, free from any form of self-centred slavery. This presupposes that the person has learnt how to accept other people, to relate with them, while respecting their dignity in diversity. The chaste person is not self-centred, not involved in selfish relationships with other people. Chastity makes the personality harmonious. It matures it and fills it with inner peace. This purity of mind and body helps develop true self-respect and at the same time makes one capable of respecting others, because it makes one see in them persons to reverence, insofar as they are created in the image of God and through grace are children of God, re-created by Christ who "called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9) (TMHS, 17)
"Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy". Every person knows, by experience, that chastity requires rejecting certain thoughts, words and sinful actions, as Saint Paul was careful to clarify and point out (cf. Romans 1:18; 6: 12-14; 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11; 2 Corinthians 7: 1; Galatians 5: 16-23; Ephesians 4: 17-24; 5: 3-13; Colossians 3: 5-8; 1 Thessalonians 4: 1-18; 1 Timothy 1: 8-11; 4: 12). To achieve this requires ability and an attitude of self-mastery which are signs of inner freedom, of responsibility towards oneself and others. At the same time, these signs bear witness to a faithful conscience. Such self-mastery involves both avoiding occasions which might provoke or encourage sin as well as knowing how to overcome one's own natural instinctive impulses.
When the family is providing real educational support and encouraging the exercise of all the virtues, education for chastity is made easy and lacks inner conflicts, even if at certain times young people can experience particularly delicate situations. (TMHS, 18-19)
Parental example is indispensable. Children will value what the parents value; if they do balk, at least the seeds will be firmly planted. Many of us have made mistakes that we hope to avoid for our own children. Be not afraid -- assess your life and your behavior now and make a positive change to a life of virtue. It will make all the difference to your children to help them avoid similar mistakes, as well as to help them see that they are loved when and if they do sin against chastity.
We have to be careful as parents to not be seen as "enforcers" of chastity, but rather "exemplars" of this virtue. Our role is to teach, and teaching requires time, knowledge and love. If we give these things to our children they will learn to respect the words of the Act of Contrition: sin no more and avoid the near occasion of sin. However, we must recognize that all of us sin. There are just some situations that will get past even the best of parents. If we are committed to doing our jobs as living examples of the virtues, even those whose temperaments will lead them into harms way will have the courage to come home because they will find comfort and forgiveness there -- just as the prodigal son did. Understanding the reality of our culture -- that its aim is not to assist us in the virtue formation of our children -- it is more important still to teach chastity. It is a virtue and a skill that will preserve their mortal and their eternal life.
God bless you.