Arleen Spenceley‘s book is a book I wish I had in high school.
It’s a book I wish every person had to read in high school.
Catholics have a notoriously bad habit of equating chastity with abstinence and that is a problem because chastity is more than just not having sex until you are married. Chastity, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the “successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.”
Chastity helps a person develop self-control. People are not their desires. People are bigger and better than their sex drives. Chastity isn’t a no. It’s a yes. A yes to a fuller and more complete existence. To paraphrase the catechism, a person can govern their passion and find peace or is governed by their passion and learns unhappiness. (CCC 2339)
I’m not as eloquent or as well-educated on the topic of chastity as Arleen is. I have 10 years of catholic education under my belt and the entire time I was in high school I was taught about not having sex until marriage because, pregnancy and STIs (although, they were still diseases and not infections when I was in school), but I was never taught any theology of the body or chastity. Heck, we didn’t even have a class set of Catechisms.
So ultimately, I’m just sad that Arleen’s book wasn’t around when I was in high school or university. Her book is a perfect balance between anecdotes and truth bombs. Chastity leads to more fulfilling relationships. It builds friendships based on virtue and common goals.
I really liked the discussion on virtuous friendships in the book. I had never heard of this concept before and it was kind of earth shattering. Friendships and relationships are not about what you can get from the other person, which I knew, and I knew the purpose of a marriage (a true marriage) is to bring your spouse closer to God, but it never dawned on me that this can be true for all of our friendships and each of our vocations.
I listened to a great podcast today with Arleen over at Fountains of Carrots and I’m not a podcast listener but I’m an unashamed Arleen Spenceley fangirl so I listened to this one, and during it she dropped this line and I just loved it:
Chastity teaches us self-control. Vocations, when we follow God’s will in our life, teaches us self-giving and giving our lives back to God. Our lives are not our own, we were created with infinite value and specific purpose. Chastity helps to drown all of the noise and static to focus on the good and the important so we can know our true calling and purpose.
Chastity is the reason that some of us, even in our late 20s, are okay being single. Chastity is the reason that not being in a relationship is not a problem. I’ve met people my age or older who don’t know how to exist when not in a relationship and their entire life purpose is finding a boyfriend or “getting laid” and don’t understand why I don’t have the same desperation. Chastity makes your life more than just your sex drive. It helps you find a life that fills you, it helps you develop deep, intimate friendships, it helps you build a community.
More importantly, chastity, like modesty, help men and women be friends without expectations. Romantic relationships can grow out of chaste friendships but chastity is more than sex. Chastity is about life-affirming, life-sustaining, life-giving love. And in the society we live today, it’s a message more women and men need to hear.
Chastity is a message that more people need to hear and that is why I’m so happy this book exists and I’m so glad it’s accessible to everyone. It’s not lofty or condescending, it’s a quick and easy read (took me less than 24 hours to read it) but it doesn’t sugar coat or hide the truth and that’s why it is important.