Delve Into The Teachings Of St. Albert The Great On Chastity In The Paradise Of The Soul. Learn How To Uphold This Virtue In A World Filled With Temptation. Seek Guidance And Intercession From The Blessed Virgin Mary For Purity And Perfection.

The Saints’ Guide To Chastity

From St. Albert the Great, one of the greatest Doctors of the Church, this guide from The Paradise of the Soul defines and directs the faithful on the virtue of chastity. His instruction is straightforward, loving, and ever-relevant in our modern age, when more souls than ever are being tempted to mortal sexual sin. As the Lord’s faithful remnant, we must be vigilant to protect this great virtue. In this Month of the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us strive for perfection in chastity with her intercession and example!


What Is Chastity?

Perfect chastity is not only to restrain the body from all acts of impurity but even to keep the soul pure from all lustful desires. An example of this is provided for us in the person of Sarah [in the book of Tobit], who says, “Lord, you know that I have never desired a man, and have kept my soul clean of all lustful impulses.” 

Indeed, chastity calls us to preserve ourselves not only from lustful impulses but even from the occasions which are likely to give rise to them. Hence it is that the same Sarah adds, “Never have I mixed with those who indulge in flippant playfulness, and never have I walked with those given to levity and foolishness.” 

Why Should We Desire Chastity?

The person who has truly embraced the virtue of chastity is the one who chooses this state not for the sake of obtaining grace in the present life or even to gain eternal glory in the world-to-come, but rather simply for the sake of conformity to the beloved example of Jesus Christ. For He chose for Himself this same life of chaste celibacy. 

Our Best Examples

The example of our Lord Jesus Christ, of His most Blessed Mother, and of the virgin saints ought to encourage us to love holy chastity. In the virgin saints, we witness holy souls who were ready to disdain the riches and glories of this present world, and even to lay down their very life in order to conserve their precious chastity for the Lord. 

Consider the noble lives and deaths of Saint Agnes, Saint Catherine [of Alexandria], and Saint Agatha! And there are innumerable other such saints who exemplify perfect chastity. 

Saint Jerome writes extensively of women who have given up their lives for the sake of preserving themselves from violation and dishonor, even amongst the ancient pagans. Again, chastity produces the wonderful fruits of purity and liberty of soul. This also ought to encourage us to cultivate it diligently. 

And finally, Christ Himself promises particular glory to those who persevere in chastity. For He said, “To the one who conquers” (that is, to the one who overcomes the desires of the flesh) “I shall grant to sit with Me on My throne in heaven, just as I Myself have conquered and sit with My Father in His throne.” And Scripture assures us that, “purity makes one close to God.” 

Practices To Cultivate Chastity

Self-Denial

There are several practices that promote and conserve chastity. These are moderate and sparing consumption of food, wearing of simple clothing, an avoidance of physical luxury, and (most of all) to flee from places and situations in which there is immodesty, or where lust is likely to be inflamed, either in oneself or in others. If Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, had observed this last counsel, she would never have been taken captive. For, through curiosity, this Dinah went forth to Shechem to see the women of that city, and so she became the victim of abduction and rape.

Proof of the perfection of the virtue of chastity is to withdraw the five senses from all physical pleasures. The person who has achieved perfect chastity will preserve his heart from all vain thoughts. He will not seek his happiness or satisfaction in the sensations of sight, nor taste, nor smell, nor touch; nor will he crave for the amusement of jokes and flippant conversations. For it is often out of such activities that the lusts of the flesh are spurred on.

A sign of a failure or deficiency in the virtue of charity is greedy over-indulgence in food and drink. Indeed, it was out of over-indulgence in drink that the nudity of Noah came to be exposed, to his shame. And Lot, under the influence of intoxication, was induced to commit horrid acts of incest with his own daughters. Thus it is that the apostle Paul counsels us, “Do not be overtaken by drunkenness, for from this lust arises.”

Prudence Towards Others

Similarly, it is prudent to avoid all persons whose motives and intentions are suspect, and all places which are compromising. Women ought to view all men with a certain degree of caution. And similarly, men ought never to assume naively that the intentions of any woman are entirely pure. This is in accordance with the counsel of Saint Jerome, who says, “If you wish to preserve chastity, avoid the solitary company of women, even those who are of good conduct. Show them love through prayer and moral support, rather than through keeping company with them.”

True Love Of God

The greatest guardian of chastity is to take one’s delight in God alone. If you do this, all other possible objects of desire will seem less attractive. The one who has genuinely tasted the joys of the spirit no longer hungers after those of the flesh. The unfortunate converse possibility of this principle is noted by Saint Gregory, when he says, “The person who has been conquered by love of earthly things finds no delight in God.”

For the human soul is never able to be without some desire or source of delight. We can either love those things which are lower or those which are higher. The more the heart aspires to the higher realities, the more detached it becomes from the lower things. And, conversely, the more it burns with desire for earthly things, the more tepid and feeble grow its aspirations for celestial delights. It cannot love both the things of earth and the things of heaven in an equal manner at the same time.

The Pitfalls Of Seeking Validation from Others

Similarly, a lustful or “roving” eye is a manifestation of a lustful heart, as Saint Augustine so wisely observes. In the same way, an impure heart shows itself in immodest and unclean words, an immodest mode of moving, and a constant seeking after conversation with women. This is expressed in the book of Ecclesiasticus, in which it is written, “Many have perished on account of the beauty of women! And because of this beauty, the flame of lust has burned in the heart of many like a fierce fire.”

Injudicious and excessive interactions with persons of the opposite sex can easily imperil the virtue of chastity. This is especially so where people succumb to the dangerous habit of paying excessive attention to the appearance and physical form of members of the opposite sex. Thus it is that Ecclesiasticus warns us, “Do not stare at a young woman, lest her beauty become your downfall.”

All these counsels are of particular relevance to those who are bound by vows of chastity, and should be observed by such persons with particular care.

Prayer To God For Chastity

Lord, subdue in me all the wicked and disordered impulses of my senses. Cleanse my heart from self-will and from every impure thought. 

Grant to me a heart which is clean, pure, and enamored with Your own spirit of chastity, by means of which I shall be able to preserve my body and soul from all stain of corruption. Grant that I may never fall from chastity, and help me to flee zealously even from the occasions of temptation. 

Bestow upon me the virtues of temperance and sobriety, a love of self-denial and penance, and mindfulness of my own fragility. With this fleshly fragility ever before my eyes, may I avoid all contacts and situations where my chastity of mind or body will be imperiled. For, truly, it takes but a single small spark to enkindle a raging fire! 

Above all, O Lord, let my heart be ever fixed upon You, for by experiencing the sweetness of divine contemplation, all other allurements will lose their capacity to enthrall me.

Lord, lead me to appreciate Your immense beauty, generosity, and power, and to direct all my yearnings and desires towards that. O my King, Spouse of my soul, You have taught us to aspire to this noble virtue of chastity. 

Help me to imitate the glorious example of Your immaculate Mother and other virgin saints, who preferred to be parted from mortal life itself than to lose their purity.

But, Lord, I realize that without Your grace, I am utterly incapable of this. You ask of me chastity: firstly grant to me, I beseech You, the grace whereby I may be faithful to this intention—for without Your grace, I can do nothing at all! Amen.

This article is taken from a chapter in The Paradise of the Soul by St. Albert the Great which is available from TAN Books

Share:

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
LinkedIn
Articles

Related Posts

Meditations on Creation

From Saint Francis de Sales’s Introduction to the Devout Life, these meditations illuminate the glory of God’s creation and His purpose for us.  First Meditation

Read More »
Uncover the transformative teachings of Saint Francis de Sales in "Philothea" as he illuminates the path to resisting temptations and nurturing a devout heart. Gain valuable insights on overcoming worldly allurements.

Guarding The Heart Against Temptation

While we remain on earth, we will inevitably encounter temptations. In Philothea or An Introduction to the Devout Life, Saint Francis de Sales has left us with wisdom on how temptation can become sinful, how to remedy them, and how to guard our hearts against temptation.

Read More »
Uncover the essential role of prayer in salvation. God's command to ask and receive underscores its vital nature. Jesus stresses the obligation to pray continuously. The Church asserts that neglecting prayer can lead to grave sin and advises seeking God's help during moments of strong temptation.

Prayer Is Necessary for Salvation

Prayer is not only useful to us, but necessary for salvation. Hence it is that God, because He desires that we should all be saved, has enjoined it on us by a precept. “Ask, and it shall be given you.” (Matthew 7:7). Jesus Christ says, that men “ought always to pray.” (Luke 18:1). He does not say it is useful or benefitting, but that men “ought always to pray.” Wherefore, the Doctors of the Church justly say that a man cannot be excused from grievous [i.e., mortal] sin who neglects to recommend himself to God at least once in a month and whenever he finds himself assaulted by any strong temptation.

Read More »