We made it! We got to the joy of Easter, despite our struggles and temptations. Our Lenten journey, whether or not we did all that we said we were going to do, got us here.
Part of that journey included abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and the Fridays of Lent, among other things. Have you ever thought about why we do all this preparation for Easter?
Since Jesus sacrificed his flesh for us on Good Friday, we abstain from eating flesh meat in his honor. Just think of all that he went through for us. So, in turn, we prepare for the glory of Easter by making our own small sacrifices. By temporarily denying ourselves, we show our desire to grow in holiness and atone for our sins and wrongdoings. Our abstinence from meat or other things we “give up” prepares us to fully enter the Easter feast and celebrate the risen Christ.
Other forms of abstinence
The discipline of abstinence, however, can be practiced in many other ways outside of Lent. One form of abstinence we are asked to participate in is abstaining from sex outside of marriage.
Just as abstaining from meat prepares us for the joys of Easter, abstaining from premarital sex helps us to participate more deeply in the joy and beauty of the sacrament of matrimony. In this way, we sacrifice an immediate gratification to honor the sanctity of the most intimate form of sexual expression — an act that can only find its full meaning in the bond of marriage.
When abstaining from sex outside of marriage, however, we need to see the big picture. Abstaining from sex is more than repressing sexual urges: It is actually about properly ordering our sexuality so we can use our sexuality to love, not use. This integration of our sexuality is called chastity.
The sexual act is a profound way for a husband and wife to make a gift of themselves to one another. So when we are saying no to sex outside of marriage, we are doing more than just suppressing a strong human desire; we are denying ourselves immediate pleasure out of love for our future spouse. In this way, we are properly ordering our sexuality to make a gift of ourselves.
The church beautifully teaches that we are all called to live chastely regardless of our state in life.
The virtue of chastity, in its definition, deeply holds that sexual expression is reserved only for a husband and wife in the bond of marriage. So, chastity is not about saying “no” to sex, but instead is saying “yes” to God’s plan for our sexuality. No matter where we are in our lives, a chaste person masters his or her sexual feelings and expresses them only when it is proper.
Only when we understand what sex is for, and how it affects our bodies and souls, can we truly know how to love others in a way that leads us to be fulfilled, finding true happiness by following Christ. It is preparing for the joy awaiting us in the sacrament of marriage. While this path may be hard, it is well worth the wait.
Special role of parents
As parents, it is our job to instill this virtue in our children — modeling it for them, sharing our desire for their happiness, the importance of following Christ, and discussing with them how, even when this becomes difficult, the sacrifice is worth it. Most important, we want our sons and daughters to know they are worth the very best and shouldn’t settle for the seduction the world has to offer, which only leads to emptiness.
Dads, you have a special role in this for your daughters. Building your relationship with her, teaching her how she should be treated by other men, and showing how she should be honored and respected can help her understand the gift that she is as a child of God.
The simple things you say like, “You are beautiful,” “I am proud of you,” “I will always be there for you” and “I love you,” are words she will never forget and will influence her as she enters adulthood and makes decisions throughout her life.
Mothers, the same goes for you. Our relationship with our sons will teach them how to treat a woman and how he, too, should be respected.
Our job is never over. No matter what age our children and grandchildren are, we can instill in them how to live a virtuous life.
Want to learn more? On Saturday, April 16, the Office of Marriage and Family is hosting a Purity Ball for fathers (or significant male role models) and their daughter(s) age 13 and up.
Not only will it be a fun evening with your daughter but also an opportunity to learn more about chastity, modesty, the love God has for us, his divine graces, a few dance steps and enjoy a wonderful meal. Registration deadline is Monday, April 11. To register, go to http://omf.stcdio.org/th_event/purity-ball-2.
Chris Codden is director of the Office of Marriage and Family of the Diocese of St. Cloud. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.