Holy Chastity in our Lives
by Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Many people, men and women have enormous difficulty remaining chaste in today’s culture. “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.” (quoted from CCC 2339)
“Whoever wants to remain faithful to his baptismal promises and resist temptations will want to adopt the means for doing so: self-knowledge, practice of an ascesis adapted to the situations that confront him, obedience to God's commandments, exercise of the moral virtues, and fidelity to prayer. "Indeed, it is through chastity that we are gathered together and led back to the unity from which we were fragmented into multiplicity." (CCC2340)
In his letter to all the faithful, Saint Francis emphasized the greatest commandment of all. He requests that we must love God... and our neighbor as ourselves. We, Franciscans, walk the way of the Cross in imitation of Jesus Christ.
We cannot love God if we exalt the "self" rather than adore God's Glory. "Francis' special concern is the Divine Glory and man's refusal to let it shine through his person. Vanity, arrogance, extravagant self-esteem, jealousy, envy, hatred, wrong self-assertion, deceitfulness, untruthfulness, exercising excessive control over others, these are vices that go against the glory of God. Saint Francis, in his Order and as an example for the world to see, made self-denial an absolute condition for reflecting the glory of God. In the 21st Century, most people have lost recognition of the need for self-denial and have even lost the knowledge of right vs. wrong. "The remedy for sin is to carry the cross of Jesus Christ instead of crucifying Him by sin. One carries the cross rather than inflects it, by recognizing the real enemy, the flesh."
A friar, Fr. Sergius, states: "Sin has one root: the inordinate love of self ― that tendency of the human ego to concentrate all its attention upon its own maintenance and the furtherance of its own private ends. Jesus did not aim at the elimination of this self-love but at its complete subordination to the love of God and man."
Saint Francis had a living faith in the Eucharist, and he regarded this as a special grace. This is evident from his own words: "We adore you, O Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all the churches which are in the whole world and we praise you because by your holy cross you redeemed the world." Saint Francis attended the Lateran Council of 1215 and it was at Francis' insistence that certain rules were established pertaining to the Blessed Sacrament kept in the Tabernacles in churches, because until then there were no standards of cleanliness and decoration of the Sanctuary.
Francis was "keenly aware of the triple-faceted richness of the Eucharist: 1) as sacrifice, 2) as a Sacrament, and 3) as Presence. In his writings he describes the "Real Presence." Francis noted that he "saw a prolongation of the Incarnation and how the abiding Eucharistic presence makes the Incarnate Word humanly accessible to believers of all ages."
"Adoration holds an important place in the spirituality of Saint Francis. God alone deserves adoration because He alone is good. We should praise the Trinity through the mediator Christ, that is, through the Eucharistic sacrifice." (cf. Rule of 1221)
In order for us to praise and adore God through Jesus Christ, it is first necessary to repent and confess our sins or shortcomings. Then we continue our pilgrimage of the Cross, to deny the flesh and thus only adore Jesus Christ in the way of Saint Francis. Change my Heart, O God. My life is for you, Lord. May I adore You and praise You with my actions, that are possible only with Your Grace, as charity toward brothers and sisters. As Franciscans, we have been given a clear picture of what Francis had in mind for us, our Rule, Constitutions and Statutes.
For those reading this, who are not Franciscans... If you wish to follow Jesus Christ as Roman Catholics, you too have an obligation to control the flesh, keeping in mind that falling in love is actually something beautiful, and love God deeply as His Son Jesus did. We all have a spiritual intercessor in Heaven and that is Mary, the Mother of us all.
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Written while in religious life,
Chastity - the following notes were published in our monthly bulletin, "The Canticle" August 2005
Secular Franciscans are to love - love God, love their spouse if they are married, love the brothers and sisters in their fraternities, love the Church and its ministers, love all people, and love all creation. This is basically a challenge to love as God loves, with a pure heart and mind. What a tremendous challenge!
I've highlighted, bolded and italicized some sentences to emphasize some of the aspects of living in Chastity. We are all obligated to live a chaste life. Secular Franciscans take this very seriously. Aside from those commitments, I've also made a private vow of Obedience and Chastity (2002). That's not what the SFO intends but in that year I exited out of Religious Life and my level of zeal may have gone a little overboard. In retrospect I am glad I made this commitment to the Lord. Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Following from: The Evangelical Counsels and the Secular Franciscan Order by Fr. Michael J. Higgins, TOR (Ciofs 11:21 (2005 May IV)
Apart from the mention of the vow in the first chapter of the Rule for the First Order, St. Francis does not mention chastity in his other writings. Rather, he focuses on the need for the brothers to seek for the kingdom of God and to have a pure mind and spirit.
In several of his exhortations he stresses that God seeks, or desires, people who, with pure heart and mind, are willing to serve, love, honor, and adore him. In the Rule of 1221 he writes:
I beg all my brothers, both the ministers and the others, after overcoming every impediment and putting aside every care and anxiety, to serve, love, honor and adore the Lord God with a pure heart and a pure mind in whatever they are best able to do, for that is what He wants above all things… And let us adore Him with a pure heart. (ER XXII: 26, 29)
St. Francis repeats this challenge in the Second Letter to the Faithful, a document addressed to the tertiaries and most likely written during the time that the Saint was writing the Early Rule for the friars. He states:
Let us love God, therefore, and adore Him with a pure heart and a pure mind, because He Who seeks this above all things has said: True adorers adore the Father in Spirit and Truth. (2LtF: 19)
According to Francis, the only appropriate response to God is adoration, love, and a focusing of one’s attention on the Divine will.
In Admonition XVI, after quoting from Mt 5: 8, “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God,” he writes:
The truly clean of heart are those who look down upon earthly things, seek those of heaven, and, with a clean heart and spirit, never cease adoring and seeing the Lord God living and true. (Adm XVI: 2)
For St. Francis, every relationship should be based on a love and adoration of God and guided by a pure mind and spirit. This is basis for a life of chastity, a life that should make one more loving.
Following the Saint’s lead, the Rule of the SFO does not specifically deal with chastity. It does, however, echo his exhortation to the friars and to penitents to love and adore God and to allow that love to flow out to others. Article 12 states,
Witnessing to the good yet to come and obliged to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.
As Article 17 points out, the first place this love should take root is in the family. It states that,
In their family they should cultivate the Franciscan spirit of peace, fidelity, and respect for life, striving to make of it a sign of a world already renewed in Christ. By living the grace of matrimony, husbands and wives in particular should bear witness in the world to the love of Christ for his Church. They should joyfully accompany their children on their human and spiritual journey by providing a simple and open Christian education and being attentive to the vocation of each child.
The General Constitutions are even more specific - it points out that secular Franciscans “should love and practice purity of heart, the source of true fraternity.” And, in their families they, should concern themselves with respect for all life in every situation from conception until death. Married couples find in the Rule of the SFO an effective aid in their own journey of Christian life, aware that, in the sacrament of matrimony, their love shares in the love that Christ has for his Church. The way spouses love each other and affirm the value of fidelity is a profound witness for their own family, the Church, and the world.
Both the Rule and the Constitutions challenge Secular Franciscans to love - love God, love their spouse if they are married, love the brothers and sisters in their fraternities, love the Church and its ministers, love all people, and love all creation. This is basically a challenge to love as God loves, with a pure heart and mind. What a tremendous challenge!
Of course, for the married brothers and sisters of the Order, one of the distinguishing characteristics of the secular embrace of the Franciscan vocation is more properly called conjugal chastity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church points that, Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter - appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility. In a word it is a question of the normal characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance which not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the extent of making them the expression of specifically Christian values.
The Pontifical Council for the Family put it this way:
Human sexuality is thus a good, part of that created gift which God saw as being “very good,” when he created the human person in his image and likeness, and “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). Insofar as it is a way of relating and being open to others, sexuality has love as its intrinsic end, more precisely, love as donation and acceptance, love as giving and receiving. The relationship between a man and a woman is essentially a relationship of love: “Sexuality, oriented, elevated and integrated by love acquires a truly human quality.” When such love exists in marriage, self-giving expresses, through the body, the complementarity and totality of the gift. Married love thus becomes a power which enriches persons and makes them grow and, at the same time, it contributes to building up the civilization of love.
The document goes on to state that without this love men and women become objects and children become a hindrance. It is only through respectful love that human sexuality can find its fulfillment. For this reason, an active and mutually respectful sex life can be seen and embraced as an essential element of conjugal chastity.
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
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