November 19, 2011

Chastity in Community

Many times in my life as a Christian a comment or conversation that didn't strike me much at the time will come back to me later as helpful and important. I believe this is one of the many ways the Holy Spirit tutors our thoughts. Lately a word from my academic adviser from over a year ago has been coming back into my reflection.

I was just beginning the doctoral program and discerning which courses to take. In my shallowness I was doing so by thinking about networking and allegiances and that sort of thing. My adviser cut through my false discernment with this comment: "Professors so-and-so and I have as our only concern your salvation." I had been thinking about developing relationships with my teachers in worldly terms, without realizing that they saw their care for me as Christian ministry.

I've been thinking lately about how good it is to adopt such a practice of trying to look upon others in terms of their salvation. Specifically, I've been thinking about how it could be a means to learning chastity in community. To arrive at bodily chastity according to one's state in life is nothing to be discounted; it can be very difficult and requires much prayer and concerted ascesis. Nevertheless, such is only the beginning of chastity as a positive virtue. Chastity is the virtue by which we are able to perceive and interact with other persons as the discrete, unique, and unrepeatable creations that they are, with all of the dignity thus implied. Chastity is the means by which we are able to let go of all possessiveness, manipulation, the over-investment of our own fears and frustrations in others, and all of the many ways, both subtle and glaring, that we treat others not as persons in their own right, but as the dramatis personae in the drama of our own interior issues, anxieties, and disordered preoccupations. Chastity frees us from the instrumentalizing and commodification of others that derives from our own fears and interior injuries.

By trying to consider the salvation of others as the end of our relationships with them, we can free ourselves for chaste relationships. Here is the place where chastity and charity coincide; by trying to conform my relating to another to the unique and unrepeatable grace built on nature that God wills for him or her, I come to be truly loving because I am willing only the best happiness for him or her.


Mindy Goorchenko said...

Thank you so much for writing this so succinctly. It ministered to me in a specific way.

JPII's concept of "reciprocal appropriation" as being the cultural norm is so eye-opening.

God bless you, and thank you for sharing.

Andrew Regan said...

Thank you for your writing on chastity in community. You made think about it in a way I hadn't before. The salvation of others should be at the core of our relationship to others. It blends well with what I am reading from this Sunday's Gospel, on what happens if we do or do not treat others in a Christlike manner in our lives. Great Post

Judy said...

Thank you so much for this thoughtful reflection and reminder of the true meaning of chastity. Praying your studies and ministry are pulling you to your salvation. God bless you.

Barb, sfo said...

That is not something I ever considered before--that our ultimate concern should always be the salvation of others.
Thank you! Much to pray & think about there!

Jordan said...

The reclamation of others. . . outstanding. God Bless you for the seeds of truth you've planted in others. We're blessed to have you. Thanks Fr Charles

Judy Kallmeyer said...

I find a particular verse of Scripture helpful also: "I have been crucified with Christ and the life I live now is not my own, but Christ lives in me." And my question has to be "How am I living His life?" He is the model of chastity! Am I really living as He lived?

Faith said...

I have a different take. Of course, what you say is very true. But when I read your second paragraph, I thought that if someone said that to me, I would have been hurt.
I took it as meaning, "We don't want to be your friend, we're only interested in your salvation."
In fact, I may use that expression to get rid of someone who has become annoying.

Cloister said...

Thank you for this. It is very helpful to me in my current circumstances. I appreciate your truth and your honesty. Thank you again.