Monday, 28 May 2018

Chartres 2018: Meditations (3)

Saint Joseph: A Chaste Husband


Dear pilgrim,

What could St. Joseph look like? To tell the truth, the Scripture does not tell us anything about it... One tradition, however, represents him as an old, gray-headed man. But Saint Teresa of Avila, who accompanies us today on the road, protests against such a representation: No,” she exclaims, “Saint Joseph was certainly on the contrary a young and solid fellow, the protective and loving force that Mary needed.”

Here we find our chaste Joseph, object of this meditation! Yes, Mary and Joseph lived a truly passionate love, an incredible adventure at the service of the Incarnation. Only the perfect chastity of Joseph could always find the exact attitude, the just and delicate distance at which Mary expected to be loved, respected, protected.

This is masculine chastity, supported by a beautiful virility and ordered to love!

And yes, chastity is not a discount from love, not a brake on love; chastity is not the fear of love, it is not a suspicious look on tenderness and affection; chastity is not for the weak, but for truly male men, for truly female women, and for truly loving love.

Major ideas
  • Chastity, why? The body at the service of true love.
  • Chastity of the spouses.
  • Chastity of betrothed.
  • Chastity of consecrated persons; priests, religious men and women.
  • Concrete applications: let’s do it!
  • Chastity of the gaze.
  • Chastity of the garment.
  • Chastity for God, our guardian angels, and our neighbour!


Definition and riches of chastity

But if chastity is none of these clichés, what is it? I propose a definition that, if not academic, seems fair, simple and practical: Chastity is the art of putting our bodies at the service of love, to signify it, to nourish it and to make it grow. It is the beautiful vocation of the body, which makes the love that is hidden in our hearts tangible, while strengthening it!

Let’s say: signify—nurturegrow love. Let us look at all these more closely.

Dear married couple, on the beautiful day of your wedding you gave yourself, totally and definitively. This is what you express, signify, with the language of your bodies, following the commandment of Genesis: They will become one flesh.This union is therefore in itself pure and chaste. But as you have experienced, it will be fully chaste only if it nurtures the same love we are talking about, and to do this, it will be necessary to pay attention to each other and to correspond to a life of daily self-giving. Without that, you know that the most beautiful embraces can leave one’s heart in solitude. Moreover, it will happen that the circumstances of life do not allow such an intimate union; then those spouses who will discover and deploy in these trying times small gestures that, being most modest, will reassure and comfort the hearts, they will be chaste.

And you, dear betrothed, you understand that if you wanted to become one flesh when in fact you are not yet fully united before God and men, you would be objectively lying, your bodies expressing a link that you have not yet contracted. Now, you are young, and youth loves what is true and authentic. Chastity is truth and coherence. In fact, premature unions often disappoint. And what sadness, what frustration, on the evening of your wedding, if you no longer have an absolutely new body language to say to you “I love you in a new, total and definitive way.” For all that, you want to nurture your nascent love and to make it grow. You are right. But rather than crush your still fragile love under the weight of a gesture so full, discover all the small gestures and great attentions that will tell you where you really are and will lead you little by little but surely where you want to go. What are these gestures? This is not the place to detail them but here are some simple criteria: if you feel lonely, it is because you have not done enough, or you have done so in a selfish way. If you feel dirty, you may have done too much. Talk to each other. Chastity also demands this dialogue. And this dialogue builds love, conjugality. Chastity is also prudence, anticipation, because sometimes a misleading exaltation leaves behind a bitter taste. But if on the contrary you feel lasting peace in your heart and in your body, and so does your fiancé, then you have judged it correctly.

There is still a third category of lovers on the road to Chartres, they are the consecrated— priests, religious and nuns. They, too, reveal their love by their body, by their “habit” which signifies their love, their total and definitive gift to God and to the Churchfor the priest is like Christ, husband of the Church. We see them offering their lips to the Church by reciting the breviary, a hymn of love to the Creator and Redeemer, offering their hands to bless, absolve and consecrate, finally offering by celibacy their entire body, thereby signifying the exclusive gift of their hearts to the Lord and his Church.

Concrete applications

Yes, you have understood now, chastity is a marvel because it is the container of love, its expression, its womb. But like everything that is beautiful, great and noble, it requires work, effort, asceticism. What fiancé did not one day find himself sad to be unable to love his fiancée's beauty as delicately as he would have liked, for lack of self-control? So, I propose a challenge: take advantage of this pilgrimage, from this moment, to experience this magnificent virtue, win a victory in this area, by helping each other.

First, look chastely: If your eye is pure, all your body will be pure,says the Gospel. The modesty of our gaze on others is an elevation of our soul: what do we look at first? If the person is beautiful? If she is well-built? Or if there is clarity in her gaze? Let us think of Jesus’ gaze on us, which never reduces us to the body, but seeks out the essentials. Let’s look at Jesus’ view of Mary Magdalene... Whenever our gaze rests on somebody, let us remember that we are called, like Saint Joseph, to serve this person chastely:  for she is put in our way by the Lord: what can I do for her? If only to entrust her soul to God?

Secondly, chastity of dress: do my language, my way of dressing and my manners immediately reveal what I am within, the love to which I aspire deeply? Am I beautiful enough to lift the hearts of others? Am I decent enough for a boy to look me in the eye with a genuine frankness, without that look being fatally diverted further down? Do my beauty and decency help pilgrims to love and pray?

Last but not least, do my beauty and decency please God? Do they accord with the Holy Spirit of which I am the Temple? During Mass, do I upset the angels of God? Or am I making them happy? Let us remember that we, the laity, contribute to the beauty of the liturgy by our dress, and our prayerful attitude!


And yes, chastity really takes us that far, even as far as to God Himself; and perhaps this is its most beautiful fruit: Blessed are the pure of heart: for they shall see God! What if we experience this during this pilgrimage? Let us ask Saint Joseph to give us the delicacy of his love and the virility which we, man or woman, need to become chaste. Let us also ask this grace of St. Teresa of Avila, who knew how to use her great beauty not to seduce her neighbour, that is, to lead him to herself only, but to lead him to God. What a wonderful programme! Let’s use the silence that follows this meditation to reflect on the meaning of love and the role of our body. And do not be afraid to be true and concrete, to change our outfits and our attitudes on this road. We will not be disappointed with the result.

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