It is not a list of prohibitions, but a path that leads to the joy of true love.
Alex Deschênes discovered St. John Paul II’s theology of the body when he was 20 years old, and it revolutionized his life. In turn, has made the late holy pontiff’s reflections his own, and shares his vision of the body and sexuality in an accessible language.
In particular, he describes chastity not as a sum of prohibitions, but as a path—an admittedly arduous one—that leads to the joy of true love.
“Chastity is a difficult virtue, and its acquisition requires time; one must wait for its fruits and for the joy of loving that it should bring. But it is the infallible path to joy,” wrote St. John Paul II.
To shed light on this notion of chastity, Alex Deschênes dispels a number of misconceptions:
Chastity is not reducible to “not having sexual relations.” Chastity means “speaking the truth with your body in all circumstances.”
As John Paul II said, chastity “is the transparency of love.” It’s a way of loving authentically, being the master of your own body and not being dominated by your desires.
Chastity does not mean being “pinned down.” It means refusing to make the other person an object for your own pleasure.
If one person in a relationship aspires to be chaste and the other does not, the latter is called to love the other as he or she is, with his or her faith, values, and choices, and to respect his or her journey. This is “a proof of love that brings out the best in a person,” says Alex Deschêne.
“Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice,” warned John Paul II.
Chastity is not limited to premarital relationships. Married couples are also called to live chastity in marriage, by giving themselves bodily in a sincere and total way.
Chastity does not mean no longer feeling desires. “Someone who no longer has any desire of any kind is not pure … he is dead!”
Desire is a gift from God. God puts desire in our hearts. He does not want to suppress our desires, he wants to “inflame” them, so that they are stronger but also purified by fire.
The purpose of chastity is not to deprive us, but to lead us to give. It’s normal in a loving relationship to have strong desires for physical intimacy, and it’s a real challenge to choose to wait. However, it’s also “a way of nourishing a treasure,” a treasure all the more beautiful if it is wanted and waited for.
Alex Deschêne compares it to climbing a mountain; you enjoy the view differently depending on whether you’ve climbed on foot or gone up by cable car. If it doesn’t take any effort, “we look at the view and we go back down,” without really being aware of the gift that is being given to us.
Chastity is not a “no.” It’s primarily a “yes” (to the dignity of the other) from which several “no’s” flow. “It means choosing the entire person at the sacrifice of everything else.”
Chastity is not contempt for the body and for sexuality. It consists in “integrating your desires to make them a force of love: a love that is free, unconditional, fruitful and total.”