The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

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The Life of Virtue - Chastity

Wednesday, September 09, 2009
When chastity is spoken of in these times most people simply associate it with the edict of ‘not having sex outside of marriage’. Whilst this is not wholly untrue there is a lot more to chastity than one, or even a list, of prohibited actions. Chastity is above all a way of living our lives aright before God in accordance with right reason, living according to the example and teachings of Christ and being courageous enough to separate ourselves from the crowd and not bow to the mores of secular society.

Chastity has as its Latin root the adjective castus, meaning pure and we must remember that this purity for which we aim is not only bodily but it must stem from a purity of the heart and mind. We must strive to be pure as God is pure. This is why in striving for the virtue of chastity we must be aware that it really is an attitude to life, an approach that should govern not simply our physical actions but our thoughts and our words the very way we live before God and our neighbour.

Thomas Aquinas identifies for us two ways in which we can view chastity, the first he terms ‘properly’ and the second ‘metaphorically’ (Summa theologiae II.II 151, 2). The former relates to chastity as “a special virtue having a special matter, namely the concupiscences relating to venereal pleasures” and we can thus identify lust as the vice contrary to chastity. The second approach states that the “spiritual union of the mind with certain things conduces to a pleasure which is the matter of a spiritual chastity.” In other words, the human mind delights in a union with the things of God but when we stray and unite our minds to sinful pleasures we commit, in effect, spiritual fornication.

Society, of course, increasingly makes the possibility of straying sinfully in our minds all the easier. We are daily faced with a barrage of propaganda on a whole host of issues – particularly ‘lifestyle’ issues – which would draw us away from the example of Christ. To stray in thought is often a precursor to straying in deed. It is certain then that we must be watchful and brace ourselves against the many temptations which daily cross our paths. We must be mindful of the words of St Paul, "but among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving" (Ephesians 5:3).

As the Church teaches, “the virtue of chastity comes under the cardinal virtue of temperance, which seeks to permeate the passions and appetites of the senses with reason" (Catechism of the Catholic Church §2341). Self-mastery over our unruly passions is vital if we are to be truly free and fulfilled and the choice is clear, “either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy” (CCC §2339). This is no easy thing and we must all learn to persevere. If we fall we must try to pick ourselves up again as quickly as we can and seek God’s forgiveness. His mercy is abundant and we must put all our trust in Him because without Him we can make little progress. As Aquinas states “chastity consists principally in charity and the other theological virtues, whereby the human mind is united to God” (Summa theologiae II.II 151, 2). Charity then, the love of God for us and our love for Him must be our guide: if we can unite ourselves to Christ in prayer and persevere in this, His grace will allow us to flourish and to cultivate this most important virtue of chastity

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The Life of Virtue - Sobriety

Monday, September 07, 2009
At first sight the notion of sobriety as a virtue might seem rather dull, or even worse, puritanical, but St. Thomas is careful to make clear that this is not at all what he has in mind by this virtue of moderation in drink. Like all virtues, sobriety is a good and useful habit that is essential for those who are in the pursuit of a happy and peaceable life. The scriptures are full of exhortations and encouragements that counsel us always to show restraint when drinking, so as to avoid drunkenness, a state that is the cause of so much strife, violence and unnecessary heartache in our society: “wine drunk to excess is bitterness of soul, with provocation and stumbling” (Sirach 31:29). The need to know one’s limit in drinking and the harmful consequences of disregarding it can be plainly in any of our city centres on a Saturday night, where anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related fights are an all too frequent occurrence. Read more

The Life of Virtue - Virtue in Sport?

Saturday, September 05, 2009
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The Life of Virtue - Fasting

Thursday, September 03, 2009
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The Life of Virtue - Honesty

Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I met an old lady once who had given her life to the 'care of the well body'. This was how she described her subject and as far as I remember she was the first person in the United States to have a teaching position in it. She was not a medical person nor was she simply a beautician. Her task was to encourage people to keep well, and to present themselves well, with proper self-esteem and with the dignity appropriate to a human person. The life of virtue ought to move us towards this, a self-regard that is neither arrogant nor selfish, a humility and graciousness that are neither self-deprecating nor irritating.
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The Life of Virtue - Comments & Questions I

Tuesday, August 25, 2009
The Life of Virtue Read more

The Life of Virtue - Diffidence

Sunday, August 23, 2009
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The Life of Virtue - Temperance

Friday, August 21, 2009
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The Life of Virtue - Perseverance

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

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The Life of Virtue - Patience

Tuesday, August 18, 2009
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