In the 1980's, an insecure, troubled and depressed 11-year-old girl sat by a fire at a Christian summer Bible camp as a group of other girls her age went forward to accept a “promise ring.” As they solemnly hummed praise songs about purity and hope, she felt an inner strength arise in her heart. It was a strength that came to her from on high; a strength that would serve as a fortress, guarding her chastity for years to come. It was a telling moment – one of profound decisiveness, and in a sense, heroic virtue. She said “yes” to Our Lord as He called her to put a promise ring on her own finger. As she slipped it on, she promised Jesus that her virginity would always be held sacred, and kept as a prize for her well-deserving future husband. Holy Purity had called her long-lost name, and she held out her heart.
Although the next 15 years of her life were turbulent, including years of serious drug and alcohol addiction, dangerous relationships with numerous abusive and manipulative men, suicidal behavior and other life situations that ravaged her poor heart, she still kept her promise to Jesus. The ring lasted only a year or two on her finger, but the promise stayed strong in her soul over time. God's divine grace jealously guarded her promise, and gave her the courage to embrace Holy Purity no matter what life threw at her.
Her story is beautiful – but sadly, it is very rare. According to recent statistics gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average age Americans lose their virginity is 17.1 for both men and women. The CDC also reports that virgins make up 12.3 percent of females and 14.3 percent of males aged 20 to 24. Their findings also revealed that the U.S. saw a record number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases in 2017, marking the fourth straight year of sharp increases in gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia.
These days, for a young person trying to keep their head above water in the murky swamps of the American culture of death, keeping one's chastity can be a form of white martyrdom. As St. Teresa of Calcutta once said, “To be pure, to remain pure, can only come at a price, the price of knowing God and loving him enough to do his will. He will always give us the strength we need to keep purity as something as beautiful for him.”
This being said, what can we do to help our precious children keep their innocence and freedom of heart? How can we accompany them on their journey, helping them embrace a culture of life, purity and joy? By sharing with them some of the most illuminative and inspiring statements that the Church and her leaders had to share on this topic, we will strengthen their resolve.
St. John Paul II once said, “Deep within yourself, listen to your conscience which calls you to be pure . . . a home is not warmed by the fire of pleasure which burns quickly like a pile of withered grass. Passing encounters are only a caricature of love; they injure hearts and mock God's plan.”
He also said, “[God] has assigned as a duty to every man the dignity of every woman.”
As loving parents, we must be relentlessly cautious as to what kind of forms of media we allow into our “domestic church,” our haven of grace, our home. One of the main ways that Satan corrupts the souls of the young is through the media – bad music, bad movies, bad internet experiences, and bad screen time. We have a moral obligation to use the best internet filters possible, and to severely limit our child's ability to surf the internet or use a personal cell phone. A saintly priest once said that having the internet in one’s home is, on the moral level, equivalent to having an atomic bomb just sitting around, waiting to blow.
Although these comments may sound overly dramatic, in light of Our Lady's frequent pleas to her children to safeguard their purity, they are not. As Our Lady of Fatima revealed to Blessed Jacinta, “More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.” If impurity is the greatest cause for the loss of souls, shouldn't avoiding it be the greatest cause of our concern as well?
Filling their inquisitive minds with sacred and wholesome images, stories and sounds will naturally turn them to love Holy Purity, and befriend the God who created them. Catholic music can be a regular source of inspiration in our homes, and Catholic or Christian movies can be the preferred option. We live during an age where evil abounds, but grace abounds all the more, especially in the way of faith-based resources. Helpful options are online homilies; Catholic books sold by Ignatius Press, St. Augustine Academy Press or Seton Educational Media; Mass on EWTN or LiveMass.org; movies on PureFlix or Formed.org; traditional Catholic favorites offered through Prime Music; and amazing audio books and Saint stories from the Augustine Institute and Regina Martyrum Productions. Helping our children find complimentary but truly modest clothing will help protect their inner person.
By keeping a genuine, open friendship with each one of our children, they will learn to turn to us for advice when tempted by the sin of impurity. By God's grace, they will feel free to open their hearts to us and know we will understand their trials.
Purity is such a beautiful, beautiful gift to offer to Christ Crucified. How it must console Him in His thirst and anguish to see the sweet souls of our children remaining untarnished, and to listen to their voices resound with chastity and liberty.
Mater Castissima, ora pro nobis!