16. As we will later observe, virginal and married love are the two forms in which the person's call to love is fulfilled. In order for both to develop, they require the commitment to live chastity, in conformity with each person's own state of life. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, sexuality "becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and mutual lifelong gift of a man and a woman."27 Insofar as it entails sincere self-giving, it is obvious that growth in love is helped by that discipline of the feelings, passions and emotions which leads us to self-mastery. One cannot give what one does not possess. If the person is not master of self - through the virtues and, in a concrete way, through chastity - he or she lacks that self-possession which makes self-giving possible. Chastity is the spiritual power which frees love from selfishness and aggression. To the degree that a person weakens chastity, his or her love becomes more and more selfish, that is, satisfying a desire for pleasure and no longer self- giving.
Chastity as Self-Giving
17. 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).
18. "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."28 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.
For some who find themselves in situations where chastity is offended against and not valued, living in a chaste way can demand a hard or even a heroic struggle. Nonetheless, with the grace of Christ, flowing from his spousal love for the Church, everyone can live chastely even if they find themselves in unfavourable circumstances.
The very fact that all are called to holiness, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, makes it easier to understand that everyone can be in situations where heroic acts of virtue are indispensable, whether in celibate life or marriage, and that in fact in one way or another this happens to everyone for shorter or longer periods of time.29 Therefore married life also entails a joyous and demanding path to holiness.
21. In order to live chastely, man and woman need the continuous illumination of the Holy Spirit. "At the centre of the spirituality of marriage...lies chastity, not only as a moral virtue (formed by love), but likewise as a virtue connected with the gifts of the Holy Spirit - above all the gift of respect for what comes from God (donum pietatis)...So therefore, the interior order of married life, which enables the 'manifestations of affection' to develop according to their right proportion and meaning, is a fruit not only of the virtue which the couple practise, but also of the gifts of the Holy Spirit with which they cooperate."34
Excerpted and presented by the Catholic Perspectives project at the Caltech Newman Center
See also Chastity? It's for real.