Chastity begins at home




Many parents dread having to give their once-babies-now-teenagers-with-raging-hormones the talk. I asked a friend if she could share tips on how she used to talk to her grown kids about sex when they were teenagers: “Huh?! I’ve blocked out those awkward memories!” she exclaimed. Another friend quickly switched topics in a panic to distract her nine-year-old who wanted to know how babies are made. And so we end up dodging these sensitive and awkward questions putting them off indefinitely… leaving it to the school teachers or catechists to answer those questions. Or worse, letting the kids go find out on their own!

Why do we feel so awkward and inadequate when it comes to talking to our children about sex and the virtue of chastity? After all, preparing them for adult life is our ultimate duty as their parents.

More than just The Birds and the Bees

Chastity and virginity – once upheld and protected by the general culture and the greater part of society – has, in a steady course of moral degeneration, become grounds for shaming among peers, at best. We can’t seem to get a handle on this sophisticated and prematurely “advanced” generation of youngsters. We are plagued with self-defeating questions as we broach the topic with our juniors: Are we being too “Catholic”? Too permissive? Too inhibited? Too open? Too old-fashioned? Too pushy? Are we telling them too much? Too little? How much do they already know?? Where do we start???

As a mother of two young girls puts it, “The danger of making the topic taboo is that they may go under and carry enormous guilt all their life, never feeling comfortable in their skin about their sexuality… and who knows where that could end up…”

Stewardship of a precious and rich gift of love

Yet in the context of the Church, sexuality education is so much more than just The Birds and the Bees. It goes beyond merely just the biological, concerning the “intimate nucleus of the person” and is ordered towards chastity (The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, 1996). St John Paul the Great explains, “the virtue of chastity is found within temperance and is not to be understood as a repressive attitude but as the purity and temporary stewardship of a precious and rich gift of love, in the view of the self-giving realised in each person’s specific vocation, and is thus that spiritual energy capable of defending love from the perils of selfishness and aggressiveness, and able to advance it towards its full realisation.” (FC, #33)

But how and where do we begin?

It Starts AT HOME

In his Letter to Families issued in 1994, Pope John Paul II wrote, “Parents are the first and most important educators of their own children.” This point has since been affirmed by both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

Instilling chastity in children begins with the incorporation of the preceding virtues of temperance, fortitude and prudence. Chastity cannot exist as a virtue without the capacity to renounce self, to make sacrifices and to wait. “In giving life, parents cooperate with the creative power of God and receive the gift of a new responsibility – not only to feed their children and satisfy their material and cultural needs, but above all to pass on to them the lived truth of the faith and to educate them in love of God and neighbour. This is the parents’ first duty in the heart of the “domestic church”.”

Children who exist in an atmosphere permeated with that love for God that makes an authentic reciprocal gift possible are better disposed to the moral truths that they see practised in their parents’ life. They will have confidence in them, learn that love overcomes fears and that “nothing moves us to love more than knowing that we are loved”. (TMHS, #52)

Be role models – you are the benchmark

Get it right first, and walk the talk. How else can you model Christ’s love for them and others?
Work on your marriage and make it solid – that is the very first step in making your home a warm and safe haven for all its inhabitants. Exemplify in your spousal relationship, unconditional respect and enduring love that is total, self-giving, patient and kind. It sets the tone for the wellbeing and happiness of your kids – they will thrive in it and instinctively radiate the same to others. Live out Christian virtues in your daily family life and walk the talk – how and where else will they learn them? You are the benchmark against which they will measure their prospective spouses - make sure you set the standards high!

Build them up

Build them up emotionally – affirm and validate them every chance you get. Lovingly instruct, don’t criticise, shame, tear down or put them on guilt-trips. Positive reinforcement does so much for the development of children and negative reinforcement achieves the exact opposite. Children need all the security and stability they can get at home in order to weather the challenges of life and develop strong self-identities that will help them appreciate their unique gifts and qualities.

Don’t underestimate the power of the human touch. Cuddle them often… be playful and affectionate with them… make your love for them incarnate. If they are getting all the love they need at home, they have no reason to look for it elsewhere.

Teach them to love the Father

Pray as a family and instil deep piety in them, again by your good example. Teach them to pray and to turn to God’s word in time of sorrow and need. Imbue them with God’s promises of love to them. No one loves them better than He does. Help them fall in love with Him and experience His infinite and enduring love for them. When your kids are in love with God, they will live their lives in love and service for Him and their neighbours, and will be less likely to walk down paths that sadden or offend Him.

Theology of the Body

Between 1979 to 1984, Pope St John Paul II presented an in depth biblical explanation of the meaning and vocation of the human person, elucidating the beauty of sexuality, marriage and celibacy for the Kingdom. Delivered over 129 General Audiences, this collection has been collectively known as the “Theology of the Body”.
Get acquainted with it and the workings of human sexuality in the context of the church –you can’t teach your kids what you don’t know. If reading is not your thing, watch Fr David Garcia’s series of video talks which has him breaking down theories from the Theology of the Body. You can find these talks on the ACF website at catholicfamily.org.sg/tobgarcia. Fr Garcia is a Dominican and the Spiritual Director of Family Life Society. He presents his material with wonderful anecdotes and interesting analogies, and he is witty to boot.

Jason Evert LIVE at the 2017 Chastity Conference

Finally, make sure you don’t miss the upcoming Chastity Conference in January where renowned speaker, Jason Evert, will be speaking to teenagers, young adults and parents on Chastity. These separate talks will all be held on Saturday, Jan 14. For details, visit catholicfamily.org.sg/jasonevert.

By Jeanette Alexander




 
The Vatican issued Pope Francis’ latest Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) in April, following the Synods on the Family held in 2014 and 2015. Amoris Laetitia essentially discusses the various aspects of fam
ily life, including the joys and challenges. We reproduce an excerpt from the document, which reinforces the role of the family as the first Church.

The complexity of today’s society and the challenges faced by the family require a great­er effort on the part 
of the whole Christian com­munity in preparing those who are about to be married. The importance of the virtues needs to be included. Among these, chastity proves invaluable for the genuine growth of love be­tween persons. In this regard, the Synod Fathers agreed on the need to involve the entire commu­nity more extensively by stressing the witness of families themselves and by grounding marriage preparation in the process of Christian initiation by bringing out the connection between mar­riage, baptism and the other sacraments.”  Photo by CTS Books
- Pope Francis (Amoris Laetitia, 206)

To read the full document, visit catholicfamily.org.sg/amoris.



In this monthly column, we feature Catholic personalities and their favourite memories of being ‘family’. In this issue, seminarian Brother Justin Yip shares why his family is special to him…


Br Justin, with his parents and younger sister at the 2015 Seminary feast day celebrations.

One of my earliest memories of family was that of going to Bishan Park together on the weekends. We would spend the evenings there together – my mom and sister cycling around, while my dad and I would play football. I look upon those days with much nostalgia and wistfulness. Things were simpler then and there was something pure and joyful about being able to dribble the ball past my father. Today, I know that those occasions were courtesy of my father’s charity.

Still, they were good memories; of the family spending time together, engaging in common activities and then going for a simple but sumptuous meal.

Till this day, having a meal together – whether at home, at a coffee shop or in some fancy restaurant – remains part of the family ritual and one of my most treasured times where we can share and talk about our lives. To be sure, not every meal is a joyous affair. Growing up, I was quite rebellious and there were times when I could not wait to finish my meal and escape to my room. But there is a quiet power in the ordinary act of eating together as a family. Regardless of how angry and frustrated we were with one another, eating together meant that we had to be in the same space, sharing the same food and living distinct, yet closely-entwined lives. It was what transformed a house into a home, four separate individuals into a family.

With regards to entering the seminary, my family took some time to warm up to the idea. Being the eldest and only son, it was not easy for them to accept that God could be calling me to the priesthood. Yet, they eventually gave their blessings and they continue to support me in my vocation. When I encounter struggles, they encourage me and their love gives me the strength to carry on and to remain faithful. More importantly, their acceptance of me in my totality – my strengths, my weakness, my vocation, my doubts – gives me the courage to remain true to the person that God has called me to be. What more can a man ask for?



Catholic singer-songwriter Corrinne May shares her thoughts on various family moments and matters being a daughter, sister, wife and mother in Singapore and Los Angeles in this monthly column.

The Rosary


Claire’s rosary

I have a confession to make. I used to think that praying the Rosary was the most boring thing in the world and that all those little old ladies who would pray before the Blessed Sacrament with their rosaries were most misinformed because I thought that they should be praying directly to Our Lord. Why the need to go through Mary when our Lord was just there in front of them?

Now, I get it. And I am constantly carrying my precious rosary wherever I go. I even sleep with it sometimes. It is the one prayer that gives me much comfort. When I pray the rosary, I feel as if I am holding Mary’s gentle hand and she is praying along with me, turning my heart to contemplate the face of her Son. When I was in labour during Claire’s birth, praying the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary gave me much peace and the strength as I offered up my pangs in union with the sufferings of Our Lord.

How did the change occur from skeptic to devotee? The first time I found myself drawn to pray the rosary was when someone told me that the rosary is not so much about the repetition of the ‘Hail Mary’s as it is about the contemplation and meditation on the scenes of Our Lord’s life. “Think about it as if it were a movie of our Lord’s life playing in your mind. The Hail Mary’s are just supposed to be in the background”, she explained. The timing could not have been better.

I had just finished reading an inspiring book about the Power of the Rosary and how the rosary had helped to win many spiritual and physical battles throughout history. I had also felt drawn to the rosary through Pope (Saint) John Paul II’s devotion to the prayer. In reading St. Louis De Montfort’s ‘True Devotion to Mary’, I had also discovered that Marian devotion was absolutely Christocentric.

Claire now knows that she has two mothers. Mary and myself. She made a little wooden rosary in her preschool back when she was four, but only lately have we begun to pray the rosary as a family together.

I am very proud of my little one. She is now able to lead our little family through a decade of the rosary while she counts each bead off with her fingers and asks “Is it three more left?” when she forgets which bead she is on. I am also happy that my husband Kavin has started to memorise the ‘Hail Holy Queen’ prayer at the end of the rosary.

Through the family rosary, we are growing in love for Our Lord and for Our Lady. Thanks be to God!

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