[This article was published some forty years ago, in a social context different to that obtaining today. Hence some ideas presented may seem dated. Yet I feel that the appeal to the nobler side of young people, coupled with the conviction that such an appeal may work, still has validity. So, in case it may be of use today to some young people, especially girls, I republish it.]
Love stories
Many of our ideas about life come from fiction. A case in point is boy-girl relations. The way many boys and girls relate to one another is largely based on what they read in books or see on TV or internet. So?...
Long ago, but not too long to remember - when I was a teenager - , most boy-girl stories and movies were just plain romance: pretty corny in fact. No deep ideas about love: just everything leading nicely and easily up to a married "happy-ever-after" ending. Sex, in today's sense, practically didn't enter.
Sex has entered today, in a most determined way, into current fiction. And it seems to be entering more and more and strongly into real life.
One gets the impression that young people today are being taught much more about sex than they are being taught about love. They tend to know "all about" sex from their early teens, if not before, while they have only hazy notions about love. This is hardly a very good preparation for life, among other reasons because there isn't really an awful lot to be learned about sex (just a few anatomical and physiological details), while there is an awful lot to be learned about love e.g. that love means giving more than receiving, that love is beautiful but demanding. that love is precisely something to be learned - because love is hard.
In love stories of my teens, the relations between the sexes were soaked in romance, and romance was expected to lead on easily - too easily - to a deep and effortless love. Those stories certainly didn't teach much about real life, though perhaps at least they taught a certain idealism and respect in mutual relations.
And love stories today? Today romance is out, and love-making is in. Two people "making love" almost always means two people having some sort of sexual encounter. And some sort of sexual encounter is expected to be there as part of the relationship, from its very start. Love, even the most incipient love, is held to give the 'right' to sex. And sex is considered a natural way of giving expression to love, and even a normal means of helping love to grow.
This is the approach to love and sex that we would like to consider in the following pages.
Sex is good
"Well" - I hear the objection - "so nowadays you always get a bit of sex between boys and girls? What's so wrong with that? After all, sex is there between them, isn't it? So: what's wrong with sex?"
I wouldn't start by saying there is anything wrong with sex. I would start by defending sex, by saying very emphatically that sex is good.
Sex is good - for the simple reason that it is God's creation, and God doesn't create bad things. God made sex good and He made it for good purposes. God made the two sexes, so that one would complement the other, and so that, through their love and union they would carry on his work of creation, populating and developing the earth (cf. Gen. 1, 27-28 2, 18).
Sex is good. The Church not only accepts but defends the goodness of sex. But to say that sex is good is not the same as saying "there is nothing wrong with sex". That is a very different proposition. It is a proposition that no thinking person can maintain, any more than he can maintain that there is nothing wrong with human nature. Our human nature is good. But there are plenty of things wrong with it. Is there nothing wrong with our instincts of hatred or revenge or jealousy or anger?... No; whatever the reason (Christians say it is Original Sin), many of our instincts, good in themselves, so easily seem to go wrong, even wildly and crazily wrong. Sex is one of them.
Sex, in its proper place, has a noble function to play, and a noble fulfillment in marriage. But sex is not easily kept in its proper place. Its proper place is one subordinated to love, controlled by love. But it takes all the best efforts of love - love for God and human love - to keep sex in its place. The fact is that sex is not easily subordinated to love or to anything. And insubordinate sex tends to be destructive of everything, especially of love.
Sex and love
It can help to see this clearly if one remembers that, contrary to what some people seem to suggest today, sex and love are not the same thing. Far from it. Subordinated to love, as I have just said, sex has a noble role. But sex on its own - sex in isolation - is anything but noble and is in sharp contrast to love. Take a few main contrasts:
Love is generous, sex is selfish
Love seeks to give sex, to take
Love wishes to please sex, to have pleasure
Even physically, love is gentle and tender sex is rough and aggressive
Further contrasts quickly suggest themselves:
Sex can be bought, love cannot
Love laughs, is light-hearted sex is grim and intent.
Love opens a person to the good of others, sex closes him or her in their own selfishness.
An act expressive of love makes a person feel happy and uplifted; a sexual satisfaction (I repeat, I am speaking of sex isolated from love) leaves behind it a sense of sadness and even of degradation.
So, people can be raised up by sex - by the attraction between the sexes - if they see and live it in the context of God's plan for human love and marriage. Or people can be pulled down by sex, can become enslaved in selfish desire, can let themselves become animalised and so close themselves to the possibility of loving truly or of being truly loved.
Which is happening in your life? Which way is sex going for you? Which way is love going for you? When you think of love, do you think of something pure, or of something impure?
Purity? Impurity? Surely... these are old-fashioned terms? Perhaps. But they still have a very clear and important meaning - for our day too, for our day especially.
What is it to love purely? What is it to love impurely? To love purely is to love for the sake of the thing or person loved: for the goodness, and the worth that is there. And to love impurely is to love, something or someone, for one's own sake: for one's own vanity or pride or comfort or pleasure.
A husband and wife, a boy and girl, love each other purely if they love for the other's sake, for the good they find in the other. And with that pure love, there necessarily goes respect and even veneration for the goodness of the other. Where there is no respect for the other, there is no true love.
A husband and wife, a boy and girl, love each other impurely, if they "love" the other for the money or amusement or popularity or pleasure he or she provides. In fact, as one can see, it is not really the other they love, but what the other "provides: amusement, popularity, pleasure...
A question, then, for boys. How do you think of girls? As a man should? Or as an animal would? Do you dream of a pure girl - and of being man enough to respect her and to win her? Or are your thoughts just about 'sex-objects'?
And a question for girls. How do you think of boys? Do you have a boy of your dreams? Someone who will understand, respect and protect you, someone you will want to love and make happy? Or is a boy simply someone you want to attract, to have around you, to show off before other girls? And is sex - your flesh - just a bait you use to attract boys?
Respect is the test
Purity is the condition of love. If purity is not firmly and dominantly present in a boy-girl relationship, love is not likely to be present either or, if it is present at the start, it is not likely to last.
If there is an attraction towards a boy or a girl it should not be difficult to know if that attraction is pure or not. We have already mentioned a main test: respect. Respect for each other, of course. But also respect for the whole mystery of sex.
For sex is a mysterious thing, in the sense of its being a deep reality to which God has given special meaning and purpose. Practically speaking, it is impossible to react towards sex with respect, unless one has a clear idea of its sacredness, of the nature and purpose of the sexual attraction and of the solemnity of the sexual union.
Sex is sacred because it is the way God chose to carry on his work of creation. That is why the sexual power is called the power of procreation. Procreate comes from the latin "pro-creare", which means to create for someone else or on someone else's behalf.
In giving to man and woman the power of sex, God has given them the ability to share in his power to make new life, to carry on creation. By sex they become co-workers with God, co-creators with God. Procreation: - to create with and for God. What a beautiful ideal! What a privilege and power!
Man and woman are drawn to each other therefore not mainly in order to provide each other with pleasure, but to be loving helpmates to one another and to God, and to found together a family, God's unit for building up societies. It is God who has created the sexual urge. But He has created it for married love and procreation. Respect for God's plan makes one see that the sexual union is right only between married people, and that before marriage sex has to be controlled. If a person is not keenly conscious of the sacred God-given nature of sex, then it becomes very hard to live self-control.
Sex outside marriage?
The sexual union is too great and too solemn to be a legitimate expression of love between just any two persons. It is meant to be such an act of self-giving that only a life-union gives it sense. Sexual intercourse is the act of two people who say to one another, "I love you so much that with you, and with you alone, I am prepared to share this great gift, this life-giving power, that God has given me". And I want to share it with you, in accordance with God's plan, in a life-long union.
Two people are not bound to love one another to that extent. But if they don't, then they should not seek to express their love by means of an act that implies that do love each other so. It would be to live a lie. And that is one of the great criticisms that has to be made about sexual intercourse between two persons who are not joined together as husband and wife: they are simply lying to one another They are being false to each other, they are deceiving one another, for they don't love each other as much as their act implies.
And they are lying to Nature and to God. For God meant their act to be that of two persons who are totally and irrevocably committed to one another; and there is no such total commitment between them. What there is rather a casual union, and sex is not meant for a casual union. There is no life commitment behind their act. They are not showing respect for one another, they are not showing respect for God's plan. They are abusing it. Even if they think their act is an act of love, there is too little love in it and too much selfishness. And that little amount of love is not likely to survive that lot of selfishness.
The meaning and nobility of sex, therefore, is not the sharing of pleasure, but the sharing in love, in a divine plan, as God's partners. To keep this clear is what is implied in purity. If it is not kept clear, two people will find themselves more and more powerless against the urge to pleasure, more and more trapped in selfishness, and eventually with their love destroyed.
Purity - the condition of love
Purity is the condition of love. If the battle for purity is lost, then there is no hope of any true or lasting love. Common sense confirms this right down the line.
A boy may be just 18 or 20 years old now, and marriage is still far off in his mind. But he is old enough to answer this question: "Which sort of girl would you prefer to marry: a virgin, or a girl who has slept around?". 95% - 100% - of those who still have some ideal of love and marriage, answer - a virgin. Of course (Those who say, No, I want an 'experienced' girl, are not thinking of love nor are they looking for a wife. They can easily find what they are looking for it; is a question of simply paying a price).
And the same holds good for girls. No girl in her heart prefers an impure or loose boy. Her heart tells her that he will be loose after marriage too. Those who don't care for purity can never hope to have a happy marriage. A boy in his teens may say he is not interested, he just wants to have a good time. He practices no restraint now, he reads, sees and does 'what he likes' and he uses girls - those who will let themselves be used. A few years pass; five or six years pass quickly. He is now 22 or 23, and is thinking of marriage. Then of course the point drives itself home: no one wants to marry a bad girl. So he looks around for a good one. Let us suppose that he finds a good girl and that, to begin with, she seems to like him. They start going out together. And as he gets to know her better, he finds that he is really falling in love with her. After all, he thinks to himself, she is so different to all those other girls I knew before. She, however, is also getting to know him better. And though he tries to behave with her, to respect her - as he didn't respect all those other girls - there are little things that she notices (a good girl notices such things quickly). And she reflects to herself: "This boy is not as I thought at the start. You can see that he is too much in the grip of sensuality. He won't respect me. He won't make me a good husband. He won't be faithful. I think I can find someone better". And of course she is right: she can find someone better. She deserves someone better; he doesn't deserve someone so good. And so she leaves him. And if he ever marries, it will be a girl as self-centred as himself, and as incapable of love as himself. Is he likely to find happiness in such a marriage?
This makes sense - sad sense. One get what one deserves. If in the years when he should have been maturing, a boy has failed to mature in his understanding of sex and his attitude to it, if he has just used it selfishly, he shouldn't be surprised to find later on that he is incapable of a pure and generous love, incapable of mastering sex and subordinating it to love in a pure and faithful marriage.
If a boy wants a girl to admire him, she must sense that he is strong - first of all in regard to himself. If he is not master of himself, he will simply appear to her as a weak and contemptible person. If he is incapable of controlling himself, he will be incapable of respecting her or of loving her.
Boys have stronger temptations
Some times young people argue, "But I didn't mean anything to happen; it was just that we found ourselves in such a situation..." If you are wise you will foresee those situations and won't get into them. But even if some time, despite precautions, you unexpectedly found yourself in a difficult situation, be convinced that, with firmness and ideals, one can handle it.
I recall from my university days the experience of a good friend of mine. He had a girl-friend of whom he was very fond - just as she was of him. One day they went together to a wedding some twenty or thirty miles out of town. They were driving back rather late when in the midst of a storm the car broke down. No way of fixing it. So they were stuck there for the rest of the night, a night they spent in a barn just off the road. The next day they managed to get the car fixed. As they drove back to the city, she suddenly said to him, "You know, Tom, I've always heard that boys have stronger temptations than girls. Well, judging by the temptations that I had last night, you must have gone through a tough time". She paused, then added, "And that makes me feel that I love you now much more than I did before". When he told me this, he commented, "I can tell you she was right about those temptations. I was praying like mad. And how glad I am that I resisted them".
He had reason to be glad, for they had been landed in a difficult situation. But they had respected God's law. And not only God's law. They had respected each other. And their love grew as a result. They married later on, and it has been a very loving and happy marriage.
What about the girl that is 'flighty'... - and worse? Ask any average - sincere - boy about her. What do you think of So-and-So? Is she the sort of girl you would like to "marry?" - Marry her? Good Lord, no. She's alright for having a good time with. But - marry her? No way". No one buying a car prefers to buy a used one when he can afford a new one. No boy prefers to marry a second-hand girl who has been through the hands of many users...
Only impure boys are forced to marry second-hand girls. And second-hand girls won't have much alternative except to marry impure boys.
But is it not natural for girls to want to be attractive to boys? Yes. But they should be aware of the type of attraction they are exercising: whether their way of dressing or acting is calculated to provoke a reaction of genuine admiration and respect, or simply one of lust. Only a silly girl is unaware of what sort of reaction she is provoking. Only an impure girl doesn't care. We will return to the point.
The silliness of some girls can lead them and the boys they meet into impurity, unless they are lucky to meet someone good and strong enough to help them - to jerk them into their senses, if needed. Here's an example. A boy I knew was at a party in a friend's house. At one moment, as he as dancing with a particular girl, he suddenly stopped and said, "Look. I am not prepared dance with someone who dances like a street-girl. Dance properly or I'll leave you right here on the floor". She wasn't a bad girl - just silly. But she was heading in a bad direction. But he helped her, bluntness and all. He felt the full force of temptation, and reacted strongly, not only to defend himself, but to defend her too. He probably never realized how much good he did her. Friends of hers told me later how shaken up she was and how she changed after that.
Keeping oneself - so as to give
Can we say more about the meaning of purity and virginity in relation to marriage? They mean keeping oneself so as to give: keeping oneself so as to have something to give. Pre-marriage purity shows that one had refused to give one's self before - because one had not met any person to whom such a colossal gift would have made sense. But now one has. That is the joyous affirmation of the virginal gift of self. You are the one I have been waiting for, I have been keeping myself for you... Only if one keeps oneself can the gift of self be total.
The gift of self is carried out by degrees. There are certain expressions of self-giving that are easily given to anyone one cares for: a smile, a handshake... There are further stages of self-giving that commit a person more: a kiss, for instance. A kiss - between a boy and a girl - is not something to be given or accepted lightly (if it is not given purely, it should not be given at all). And then there is the total corporal gift of self: the self-donation of the sexual act.
The gift of the body, to be truly a gift of self - to be more than a merely physical coupling as occurs with animals - must signify and be accompanied by the gift of the heart, of the person, the spirit. To give one's body, without giving one's heart or one's spirit, is not a love-gift.
One doesn't give oneself body and soul to many people - only to one. Any total gift of self is necessarily also total in terms of time. I give myself completely to you, irrevocably for life. This too is what love demands. To give oneself for a day is not to give all of oneself, it is to give very little. "I'll love you today, but not tomorrow"... Is that the way love expresses itself? "I give myself totally to you today but I may take back that gift tomorrow"... is not a total giving. "I am yours today, but tomorrow I may be someone else's", is not the language of love. Love says, "I will love you always". So the total gift of self is necessarily a gift for life.
Moreover, the total gift of self is too big to be given in exchange for anything less than a reciprocal gift - the total self-donation of the other person.
A virginal gift. A reciprocal gift. A gift for life. Anyone who understands sex sees that the gift of self in sex is meant to be so. Again we are brought back to the clear plan of God. He designed the marital sexual union to be the means by which a couple in love are enriched with the glory of parenthood. In other words, the gift of self in sex is meant for marriage, and for marriage alone. It makes no sense - it is a clear violation of our human reason as well as a violation of a divine order - if given outside marriage.
Giving oneself cheaply
Perhaps we could express the same thing in a slightly different way, if we say that the girl who sleeps with a boy, after knowing him just for a few weeks, is giving herself cheaply (she is, literally, cheapening herself).
What then is a fair price, a fair exchange, for the gift of the body? Only a reciprocal gift, that is clear. But - a reciprocal gift just of the body alone? Body for body - is that love? Could that not be just prostitution? No. The only fair exchange in this matter is body and soul given for body and soul, given without reserve and without conditions, the whole of one's own self given for the whole self of the other. That precisely is what marriage is about. Only in marriage, with a life-long total commitment, is there really a fair exchange.
Besides (it is an important point) only the commitment to marriage ensures that both parties intend to give themselves totally. But... many people today don't believe in marriage. If they believe in love, they should.
Nevertheless, suppose a girl says: I don't care about marriage. I care about love. And this - with my boy-friend - is real love. I am giving myself fully.
She doesn't think much about God or his law, that is clear. However, let us suppose she does sincerely think she is giving herself fully, giving the whole of herself. But how does she know that the boy is doing the same? What is he giving? How much does he intend to give? Perhaps very little. Perhaps he intends to take all he can. But what is he giving in exchange: himself? - or just a passing affection or pleasure?
It is important not only to hear a person's words, but also to know his intentions. It is important that he himself knows and lives up to his intentions. If he is not prepared to formulate the intention of giving himself totally and irrevocably - i.e. the intention of marrying - he does not intend to make more than a partial and passing gift of himself: and that, at best. He may not exclude giving some sort of love as well; but in any case it is a poor and calculating love, wanting to get, but not wanting to give.
It is the same clear lesson. If the will to commit oneself is not there, the will to love, sincerely to love, is not there either.
The struggle for purity
Purity is the condition of love. Therefore, if one wants to find the happiness of real love, it is essential to struggle to live purity. To struggle to live it. Yes, for of course purity is difficult; it has to be fought for. And it is a win-all or lose-all battle. The stakes are high: freedom or slavery. Purity frees freedom to love. Impurity means slavery in selfishness. The stakes are high. And it is easy to get the impression that the odds are also too high - against us. Around us, a world filled with impurity. And, inside us, our own nature that tugs so strongly in the direction of sensuality, and also seems to say "why not?".
But, no, no. Our nature doesn't argue just in favour of impurity. Our nature isn't just that. There is something, but not everything wrong, with our nature. It is part of our nature to be drawn by impurity. But it is also part of our nature to want to be pure. Our same human nature has a hunger for noble human things, and urges us powerfully upwards. The very disgust that we feel with ourselves if we follow our lower impulses, is a sign that we are made for higher things.
But... it's natural to feel sexual temptations... Of course it is and so what? It is also natural to want to resist But... it's natural to want to get pleasure out of a person... Is it? It is far more natural to want to treat persons as persons, to be respected - and not as pleasure-objects, to be exploited.
Those who treat purity as a negative battle, those who "regret' the Sixth Commandment, are already turning a deaf ear to the noble side of their nature and are fighting what is almost certainly a losing battle. Those who listen to the more noble side of nature readily understand Josemaría Escrivá's words when he describes purity as a "joyful affirmation". That is precisely what it is: a joyful affirmation, a joyful struggle that reaffirms one's belief in youth, in strength, in love.
A bit of cowardice... or a bit of courage...
Young people are said to be particularly rebellious today. Good. That is what is needed: a strong rebellion, a violent one if necessary. If you want "protests", here is something to protest about.
Feel rebellious; rebel against those whose aim is to manipulate and enslave you. What a good image in the Press recently of the strong young people - 100.000 boys and girls, high school and university students - , who marched down the Champs Elysées in Paris, protesting against pornography, against the brutal sexual aggression and exploitation of which they were the prime objects.
But you have to be courageous in battle. It is not enough to be convinced that purity is a positive struggle. You must have the courage of your convictions. That means particularly that you have to be prepared to stand up for Christian principles even if other people around you are behaving in the most aggressively pagan fashion. Think of St. Paul's proud cry, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel". Keep in mind what Our Lord says: "If anyone is ashamed of me and of my doctrine, in this sinful and adulterous generation, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in his glory". That means, for instance, that you may often have to refuse to see a film or video even though your friends are going to see it, and sneer at you if you don't. Don't worry about their sneers or jeers. In their hearts, they know that you are the better man or woman: freer and stronger. Life may well present you with many occasions where, with a bit of cowardice, you can accompany others into sin or, with a bit of courage, you can avoid sin for yourself and perhaps for them too.
Some years back a friend of mine, a South-American engineer, was on a plane bound for Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as a member of his country's five man delegation to a meeting of oil-producing countries. Their plane was over the Mediterranean, about two hour's flight from destination, when one of the others, a rather self-assertive and loud-mouthed type, remarked, "By the way, I see that none of you fellows have been in Riyadh before. Well, I have. I know the city well. Now since our business sessions end at 5 o'clock, we have the whole of the evening free. If you like, I can arrange a plan for you. I know where we can pick up some girls. We can have a real good time. OK?" There was a murmur of approval from the others, a murmur which probably lasted half a second because Eduardo - my friend's name - is quiet-spoken but firm and quick in his interventions. "Just a moment," he said. "Shouldn't we think a bit about this? I don't' know if we re all practicing Catholics or not. But we come from a country considered Catholic and we are visiting a Moslem one. The Moslems are going to judge our religion by how they see us behave. I think we've got to be loyal. Besides, we are all married men and we have left our wives and children back home. There too, are we going to be unfaithful?"
He said no more. No more was needed. That was the last mention of the plan. But that evening in Riyadh hotel where they were staying, the others came one by one to Eduardo's room. Each had much the same to say: "Look, I want to thank you because you got me out of something that I'm afraid I would have gone along with, and would have been so ashamed of afterwards. The thing is I'm a coward. I hadn't the guts to speak up as you did". Twenty four hours later the loud-mouth also came to see him: "Look, I was furious with you yesterday because you put me in such bad light. But I have been thinking about it, and you are right. But... it takes a man to say what you said"...
It takes a man... It takes a woman.... It takes a Christian, to walk out of a film show they thought would be decent, but turns out not to be, or to walk out of a dance hall or a theatre or a restaurant where the floor-show begins to degenerate.
But, if everyone does it...
"But", I hear someone object, "surely this is exaggerated? I mean, if everyone else goes to such places, and sees such films and so on... well, it can't be so bad to do the same..."
You think everyone else sees or does such things? Everyone? I know plenty of people who do not. "Ah but" you may reply, "they are exceptions in modern society". No doubt. But surely that is the question: do you want to be an exception? Do you see reasons to be an exception? Have you got the firmness to be an exception or not? Are you too weak - perhaps because you are too thoughtless - to be an exception?
Suppose a cholera epidemic breaks out. Would you be likely to reason, "Everyone else has it, so it can't matter very much if I catch it"? I don't think so. You would be thinking just the opposite. "If so many people have it, then I'm going to take every precaution to make sure I don't get it, because I don't want to be a cholera victim. I want to be an exception". And for that you would gladly - eagerly - follow all the health authorities indications: no water that has not been boiled, no fresh green vegetables, no this, no that. Happy to know what you should or should not do in order to keep your health, to keep alive.
"I don't want restrictions. I want to be free. I want to do my own thing - just what I like". OK. But is doing what you like likely to make you free? You cannot say, unless you know what are the consequences of doing what you like.
"I can read anything. I can see anything". And you claim the things you read or see have no effect on you? How little you know human nature. How little therefore you know yourself. Nothing affects me. Nothing can harm me. What sensible person reasons that way in ordinary life? Take the example that Josemaría Escrivá often used. Someone walks into a chemist's shop. There is no one around, so he decides to help himself to whatever attracts him. "Oh, what nice-looking pills: blue, green, bright-red, yellow... I think I'll try the lot. In they go (nothing can harm me)..." Result: one more corpse for the city morgue, because one more thoughtless individual held to the rule that nothing could harm him.
No, no. Many things can take away the health of the body, destroy its powers and even kill it. And many things can take away the health of the spirit, destroy its powers (especially its freedom and its power to love), and leave the soul quite dead.
I am not very keen on State censorship. Nor do I think it is very effective. The only type of censorship that can be truly effective is self-censorship. And that I am very keen on indeed. The practical point here is that each one needs to be his own censor: to have the clarity of mind to realize what works can deform or degrade him, and the sincerity and strength of will to avoid them.
If you don't know what can harm your self - body or soul - or if you can't say No to it, you have too little knowledge in your mind and too little strength in your will for survival in life. You probably won't survive. But let us return to our main theme...
A word for girls. A word especially for girls. You want to be loved? You like to receive affection? Then, learn to know what love or affection is.
Practise giving affection to your brothers and sisters at home and you will soon realize that affection takes an effort. Then you will be better placed to size up the worth of a boy's affection if you seem to have attracted it.
If you sense that the affection a boy is giving you is not a generous affection, that he in fact wants to take more than to give, if he tends to insist on physical expressions of 'affection', then what he is giving you is worth little. He doesn't consider you worth the effort of affection. What exists between the two of you, at least on his part, is not really affection.
You also like to be admired. Alright. But, again, learn what sort of admiration you are attracting or exciting. Do you want to attract attention just to your body? Is your body all of you that is attractive? Is there nothing attractive about your person? I am sure there is. But if you flaunt your body at boys, you are making it hard for them to discover your person, and harder still to admire it or respect it.
Ask yourself: do I want boys to look on me with respect? Then, do you, by your way of dressing or behaving, provoke boys to look on you not with love but with lust? not to admire but to desire? Remember, that is exactly what prostitutes do. They dress and behave in a way deliberately calculated to draw "customers", willing and ready to pay for what they have to offer. They don't offer love, they offer their body. They don't expect love. They know enough about life to realize that is one thing they will never get. They don't want respect, they don t want love, they want money.
If the main thing you put on display is your sex, if you deliberately act or dress in a way that is sexually provocative, is there any great difference between you and a prostitute?
If the main thing you seem to offer is sex, those who mainly want sex will be attracted to you. You will have drawn them to you. And those who are looking for a girl they can love and respect will be repelled. You will have driven them away from you.
Most boys are capable of love and want to love. But they - like you - find it difficult to rise to love. They are also capable of being overwhelmed by lust. It is a constant struggle for them not to lose their freedom and their soul in the surrender to sex. Are you the sort of girl who helps them rise, or the sort that drags them down?
One further word on this. If you can't realize what it is in a girl that draws out the best in boys, and what it is that draws out the worst, then you know very little about love, about sex, about boys, and even about girls.
Naked and unashamed?
At times one comes across statements like this: "But it would be much more natural if we all went around naked..."
Adam and Eve - husband and wife, mind you - stood naked before each other; and the Bible makes a point of saying that they were not ashamed. Before the Fall, there was of course an attraction between them, a bodily attraction too. But this bodily attraction was completely subordinate to the love between their persons. There could be no desire or movement of the body independently of the deep love and esteem they had for each other as husband and wife.
After the Fall, they realized that something in them was now threatening their mutual love and respect. Sex had suddenly become an independent and rebellious force in their lives, and they realized that unless they restrained it, it could destroy their love. Sex had abruptly taken on a selfish aspect.
What did they do? Their reaction - their natural reaction - in order to protect their love, was to clothe themselves. They clothed themselves because they valued their love and did not want it to be spoiled by selfish lust. Shame had entered their relationship as a protective factor toward love.
Shame. A person feels shame when he cannot cope with a situation, when he has done, or is in danger of doing, something wrong or foolish, of letting other people down, of not living up to their expectations or to his own ideals, of losing a battle he could and should have won. His shame is usually all the stronger if his discomfiture is witnessed by others, and more so still if he is in the presence of someone he loves.
Adam and Eve now realized that the relationship between them was no longer one just of admiration, joy, tenderness and respect. Physical desire. had suddenly seemed to go wild. Lust had made its appearance and the upheaval with which they now regarded each other's naked body made them realize that their love for each other would perish unless they lessened the stimuli to lust. So they clothed themselves.
They clothed themselves also out of respect for one another. I wonder did Eve already realize that the woman has a special responsibility in this matter, for a woman's lack of modesty can make life particularly difficult for men, make them want and desire her indeed, but make it impossible for them to love or respect her.
That is why the woman who does not live modesty is showing a lack of respect for men, and well as a lack of respect for herself. Modesty in a woman is essentially a sign of her determination to be treated as a person, not to be reduced to the level of an object. Modesty therefore is her defence, a natural ally and guard of her desire to love, to be lovable, to be loved. And every normal woman has a natural sense of modesty. A girl can feel pleased and thrilled, without embarrassment, when she feels that men's admiring looks are being drawn by a pretty dress, and more so if it is her feminine grace, her bearing, her gentleness, her smile, her warmth, her reserve... that they admire.
Lucky the girl who does not even realize the attraction her grace and feminine ways and qualities are exercising. Then she is more attractive still, because she is more natural and less tempted to vanity (that great spoiling defect).
Even if it is her pretty face that men admire she does not necessarily have to feel embarrassed, although, significantly, that is the point where many girls begin to blush. A good thing too, that blush. The blush is a sign of awareness of danger. When a normal girl realizes that men's eyes are going mainly to her body, part of her (her vanity) may still feel pleased, but another part (her deeper respect for herself) feels embarrassed. Because whatever about her vanity, her feminine self-respect does not want to be "admired" just for body-parts.
The more a girl feels she has to rely on her body to make an impression on men - because she feels she has few attractive points of character and spirit - the poorer and weaker she is becoming as a person, and the more she is placing her whole relations with men in danger.
But the girl who never blushes, who does not want to get away from the look of eyes that have a wrong look about them, who rather adopts a more provocative stance or walk, is no longer a normal girl.
What a difference there is between a pretty and attractive dress, and an immodest and indecent dress. And what a mess those are in who cannot see the difference. What goes for a dress goes equally for attitudes, gestures, ways of speaking or smiling.
It is true that modern society exercises strong pressures on girls and women to make them violate their natural sense of modesty. If a girl is not independent and strong enough to stand against certain fashions, she may make herself a partner to this self-violation and self-degradation; e.g. by venturing out with certain "daring" ways of dress. To the extent that she is still a normal woman with normal feminine reactions, she will have to overcome a clear embarrassment at dressing so. That embarrassment is a good thing. It is her feminine sense and her conscience telling her that she is degrading herself, parading her sex just a street-girl does. But if she chooses to ignore those reactions, if she deliberately suppresses her own natural sense of modesty, she can end up shameless and denaturalized - the type of woman men may desire but will always despise. And of course she sins, and sins seriously. She sins in the first place because she consciously and deliberately rejects the voice of her conscience, God's voice speaking to her through her sense of modesty. She also sins, just as seriously, because she deliberately causes scandal, that is, she chooses to make herself a cause of temptation to men.
Modesty... But doesn't the very word sound old-fashioned? Old or new, it is the fashion of femininity, of women who appreciate being women. It is the fashion of respect. It is the fashion of love.
Then, is modesty important? If one is more interested in love than in sex, yes. If on is more interested in sex than in love, no.
More "natural' to be naked? Look: we made the point before, but it is worth repeating. Sex is natural. So is love. Physical desire to enjoy a person of the opposite sex is natural. But so is the desire to respect that person. The point, as we saw earlier, is that our nature, our fallen nature, is full of contradictions. It is natural to be mean, to think of Number One, and just to want to take care of oneself. But it is equally natural to want to be generous, and to help and serve others. It is natural to lose one's temper. It a loving relationship it is natural to want to control one's temper. Similarly, while sex is natural, it is natural also to want to control sex. It is most natural to be aware of and want to face up to the dangers of uncontrolled sex, for uncontrolled sex is selfishness of the worst kind, which means that it is the direct enemy of love.
Who cares if I'm unhappy at 35 or 40? (you should)
You are just 16 or 18 now, and you want to be happy (or do you just want to "enjoy yourself"?: there is a difference. I hope you know it). You want to be happy now. And... 40 seems so far away
It is not so far away as you think. But I wonder if there at the back of your mind there might not possibly be an objection that you need to drag out into the light and examine. The objection, present in many young minds, is: "If I start bothering about happiness at 40, I'll never be happy now". But do you not realize that this objection is nonsense? The fact of the matter is the other way round. If you don't bother about happiness now, you will never be happy - neither now nor at 40.
Yes, you can be happy now, at 15 or 18. But you have to bother about it. You have to learn how to be happy. You have to learn what makes for happiness and what destroys it (selfishness being the main destroyer). You have, in a word, to learn the rules of happiness. Purity is one of these rules, because it is one of the conditions of love, and happiness is not possible without love. Josemaría Escrivá used to say that "the happiness of Heaven is for those who have learned how to be happy on earth". Are you learning? If only you had a good boy to help you how much easier it would be to be good, pure, happy. If only one could meet the right person. You can - if you yourself make up your mind also to be a right person.
More and more today, boys don't trust girls... And girls don't trust boys. It is one of the saddest aspects of our modern civilization, this deep mistrust between the sexes. And yet I see many signs that this situation could be quickly reversed.
"It's so hard today to find a good girl", many boys complain to me. But, then, many girls also make a similar complaint, "It's so hard to find a good boy". Put the two comments together, and you come to an evident conclusion: nowadays there are many good boys looking for good girls, and good girls looking for good boys. Why then don't they meet more often?
Perhaps they do. But when the do, they often don't give the impression of being good, they give the opposite impression. They don't give the impression of being pure or generous or someone to be trusted, they give the opposite impression.
In their hearts they don't want to be bad, nor are they bad - yet. But they have such little independence of mind, such little grasp of life, so many complexes about what others (though not God) may think of them, such a weak will, that these boys and girls - who "want" to be good, who complain about not being able to meet good girls or boys - easily adopt the behaviour of those who are bad, and easily end up themselves by becoming bad.
You want to be good now (which, as we have said, means you also want to be happy). But you have to want a lot. Otherwise in 15 years time you may not be good and if so you will certainly not be happy. If you don"t learn to love, and learn to defend your ability to love against its enemies - especially against selfishness and sensuality - you will be neither good nor happy.
Learning to love
Everyone has the capacity for love. Not everyone develops or retains this capacity. At 16 or 18 a girl is beginning to be able to love, to learn to love. How your capacity should grow over the subsequent years of your early womanhood Don't spoil it. Don't choke it or throw it away.
It is normal that a girl from her late teens until marriage should go out with different boys. Later on in life, she will probably have forgotten all of them - all of them but one.
One can imagine her remembering, vaguely... Oh yes, there was Tom and Dick and Harry (or was it Larry?)... But above all, there was Jim. You see, I married him. There he is out in the garden playing with the kids. The others remain as "was-es" in her life. Jim is, a mighty important "is".
In our imagination we looked forward for a moment to see her looking back - from the age of 35 or 45 (and it is important to be happy at the age of 45 too). But right now she is still only 18, and she hasn't yet met Jim. It is now, before she has met Jim, and is going out with Larry (or Harry) that she has to keep Jim in mind. He is the only one who should really matter to her, for he will be her husband. He matters and certain things about him and her matter. For instance, how much will he love her? How lovable will he be? How lovable will she be? How capable of loving him will she be? The answers to all these questions lie in the future - but are shaped by the present.
At present she is going out with Larry. And is 18. And he is 18 too; and after all he is very attractive. And in any case how is she to know if she is going to marry, or who she will marry, or if she will even be happy? To unravel things, it can help if one keeps in mind some elementary facts of sex psychology.
Between two persons of the opposite sex, there is the possibility of love. There is also the fact of sex. Sex is between any boy and girl. And it is there from the start of their relationship. Love is between a particular boy and a particular girl, and is seldom there from the start. The possibility of it may indeed be there but that possibility must be let grow. It doesn't grow automatically or easily; not everything helps it to grow. Sex, uncontrolled sex, is one of the things that can not only stop it growing but kill it.
Don't be so immature as to confuse liking and love. You will meet many boys you can like, without knowing them too well. In God's plans, there is just one you can really love - when you know him very well. You need to be mature enough to realize that a relationship of liking can grow into one of love - but only if it is given the chance.
Love comes slowly
When loves comes it will be a gradual revelation. But it only comes slowly. There is no such thing as instant love. When it begins one can find oneself surprised by joy. But the fullness of that joy is a discovery that comes at the end of more demanding journey. Love, we repeat, is one of those things that has to let down deep roots, because it is meant to last. If it finds the conditions to grow so, it can find the strength that God intended. So it can unite two people together in happiness for life, and united each of them with God in happiness for eternity.
As we have said before, sex, in its place in God's plans, is meant to be the servant of love. Controlled by love, it is a natural and noble reality. But it is one of those things in our nature which least wants to be controlled. It wants to assert itself on its own terms; if allowed to do so, it destroys love.
Love has no greater enemy than uncontrolled sex
If a boy and girl going out together are not determined to keep sex in its place, it can quickly take over and dominate their relationship. It can form a sort of bond between them which they can mistake for love, while it is in fact scarcely more than shared selfishness. After a "passionate" courtship perhaps they marry, thinking they are deeply in love. And a year or so later they break up. Their preparation for marriage had been too poor. They had not built the foundation of respect ad restraint that love needs if it is to stand and last.
In current language, two people "making love" almost always means two people engaging in some sort of physical sex. Two people making love in this sense before marriage, marry: and then discover that what they had done was in fact to "un-make love". Perhaps at the start there was some beginning of love between them, but they never let it grow. What there was drawing them together was no more than physical attraction. Unrestrained, it choked the growth of real love, and destroyed any possibility that their initial liking might become a true and deep bond between the two of them.
Purity is the only framework within which love can grow. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (cf. 1 Jn 5:3). And they shall see love. Pure eyes are needed to see love when it is there, and to see when it is not there, when it is simply something else that is there.
I like this boy. But, no... I don't love him. She sees it clearly, because she has kept clear eyes to see with. She's a nice girl, a very nice one. I like her, I like her a lot. But not enough to marry. Clear-sightedness is needed to be able to distinguish not just sex from love but also liking - pure liking - from love. Liking a person is not enough for married life. Only committed love, with God's grace, is enough.
But surely a boy and a girl who are fond of each other can show their affection for one another, even if they do mean to marry? Of course they can, provided the expressions of affection are in true harmony with their affection.
Let us recall something we touched on earlier. There are stages or degrees in the physical expressions of affection; and they only truly express affection if they also express respect: for each other and for God.
Do I like this boy? Do I feel sentimental about him? Do I love him? One may be quite sure in giving an affirmative answer to the first two questions, and remain doubtful about the third. Well graduate your relationship and your way of living it to what you are sure about it. If your relationship is a mere matter of sentimentality, then treat it so. Holding hands may be a simple expression of sentiment, and no more. However, some things are an expression of much more than mere sentiment. A kiss, for instance.
Kissing is wrong?
But - what is wrong with a kiss?..." I didn't say there is anything wrong with it. How often I have been asked, "Is a kiss a sin?" and answered, "It depends. In itself, no. Who will say that a kiss between a brother and sister is a sin? "Alright. Alright. You know that's not I was thinking about. How about a boy and a girl? If they are fond of each other, what is wrong with their kissing? It is just an expression of affection. If it is JUST an expression of affection, and no more, ten clearly it is not a sin. But... is it always just an expression of affection? Is it easily just an expression of affection? Given human nature, is it not likely that the expression of affection, if it is there, be quickly submerged in self-seeking?
If it is the briefest of kisses, a mere peck, then perhaps there is no problem. But if a kiss is slightly prolonged, then what began, maybe, as a simple expression of affection, can quickly become an expression of self-seeking, and, yes, a sin. For a kiss can easily arouse sexual passion, and a prolonged kiss is almost certain to arouse it, quickly and strongly. And it is against God's law and the law of love, deliberately to arouse sexual passion outside marriage.
Analyze the situation. Know what is happening, and what can happen. What began perhaps as something tender and gentle, can if prolonged rapidly become rough, possessive, aggressive. What does this mean? It means that love is being pushed out by sex. Then unless that is what you want, get out of the situation, quickly.
Girls probably have the greater responsibility in this matter. They know, they certainly should know, that boys are aroused by kissing much more quickly and vehemently than girls. A girl might tell herself (fool herself?) that as far as she is concerned, those goodnight kisses, even if a bit prolonged, are mere expressions of sentiment. But what are they for the boy? She should know, she should be able to judge. Certainly she should care. If she doesn't know or can't judge, she is very thoughtless or very immature. If she doesn't care, then what she doesn't care about is leading him into sin (and therefore of course going into sin herself with him). She neither really care about him or about herself.
I recall a scene from a war movie, A GI was taking leave of his girl before going overseas. They kissed. It vas a tender kiss, but then a bit prolonged. The girl suddenly broke away from him. He wasn't annoyed. He didn't reproach her for not letting him express his love. He begged her forgiveness, and told her that he loved her and wanted to respect her more than anyone in the world, and that he was sorry... Sorry for having placed their love in danger. She had realized it first, he a little latter: realized that their kiss had begun to have more of self-seeking taking than of self-donation. They were a normal couple, but they cared for each other, truly and deeply, and quickly woke up to the threat that sensuality posed to their love.
The girl in control
The girl is in control in these situations. If she doesn't want, nothing will go wrong. "But - boys expect you to let him kiss you..." What sort of boy expects that? And of what sort of girl?... - "But a boy will say that if you don't let him kiss you, you are not letting him show his love". Why can't I show him I love him?
Keep thinking. What sort of relationship do you have with that boy? If you say that you gave way really just to please him, is he worth pleasing? Or more precisely, is that particular desire of his worth pleasing? You say you care for him. Did your yielding show care: care for his worth as a man, for his battle for self-control, care for his friendship with God?
What sort of boy are we talking about? One who can love you? One who wants to give to you, to respect you, to admire you, look up to you, protect you? Or one who, when all is said and done, wants to take what he can get from you; and then dump you?
Any kiss between a boy and a girl who really care for each other, will be filled with respect and restraint, and will seldom be allowed - and never when they realize (as they should) that the atmosphere between them is not one mainly of respect but mainly of temptation.
But I don't want to lose his interest in me. And if I don't give way, he is going to think badly of me... - And if you do give way? What do you really think he is going to think if you do yield? No idea? - I'll tell you: he will think you are easy to have, and he will take as much as you give. He will also think that as you are with him so you will have been, or will be, with other boys or men. And he will despise you.
Positive purity
If you have a negative idea of the virtue of purity, get rid of it. Purity is a most positive virtue, a condition of love and of being able to love. Purity means keeping oneself - body and heart and soul - so as to give, so as to have something to give. The girl kissed by many (even if she hasn't slept with any), the girl who has given too much of herself too easily to many, is incapable of giving all of herself to any. She no longer possesses all of herself. Having tossed off bits of her heart here and there, she is left with a heart that is used and worn, and that, even if her body were still intact.
That girl will have little to give in marriage because she has kept little. She is not likely to find happiness in marriage if only, we repeat, because she is not likely to find a pure boy to marry. In marriage, as in most things, one gets what one deserves.
When two people have prepared purely for marriage, what a great thing their pure self-giving in marriage is! What a great mutual gift, when on their wedding night they know it is the first time that each has made and accepted that total gift of self. How much it means to each to know that the other has never given himself or herself to someone before. Two conclusions - of utmost importance for their married life and happiness - impress themselves on their minds:
-1) he or she was waiting for the "right person". He or she was waiting for me. I am their "right person". They feel unique in their partner's eyes, and their partner in theirs.
-2) he or she never gave themselves in sex before (though no doubt they had their temptations and opportunities) because they realized that sex is for marriage and becomes sacred in marriage. Therefore he or she will have that same reverence in the future for the sacredness of our marriage. He or she will be faithful.
How important it is for happiness in marriage that each one can say to the other on marrying. "I never met anyone like you before", and that their deeds prove it to be true.
I recall an episode from an American novel. A young couple fall in love. The girl is truly pure and good. The man is good but there has been something in his background... Their love grows. It seems an ideal love. In the end he proposes and she accepts. Then, seeing her look of ecstatic happiness, he realizes he cannot meet her ideals, however much he would like to. He feels unworthy and that he has to tell her what is on his conscience. The next day as they drive out of New York together, he makes his confession - that he is not a virgin (yes, men too should come to marriage as virgins)... She listens. She says nothing. They marry. Were they happy? Yes, in a sort of a way, the writer suggests. But he makes the man reflect with deep regret that he never again saw on her face that look of inexpressible happiness that had lit it up when he had first proposed. She loved him, and continued to love. But he could never be for her the ideal man she had first thought she was marrying. His past conduct had shattered that ideal.
Is it better then not to tell the other if one has lost one's virginity?... It is better, far better, not to lose it.
God is on your side
Live purity. Don't mortgage your future. Don't walk straight into a bankrupt marriage.
Remember: you are not alone in this battle for purity. Many people like you are struggling to live this virtue. You are not alone above all because God is with you.
God is on your side - on that noble side of your human nature that wants to overcome selfishness, and that wants to love and respect someone else, and to give yourself seriously so as to make him or her happy.
By yourself, it is true, you will be too weak for the battle. Many people lose the battle because they remain by themselves.
You are not alone. Don't remain just with your own strength. It is not sufficient.
It is the Bible that tells us: "since I knew I could not otherwise be chaste unless God gave it to me - and this also was a point of wisdom to know whose the gift was - I went to the Lord and besought him" (cf. Wisdom 8, 2) Therefore: Pray!
PRAYER. That is the first means of obtaining purity. "Holy purity is given by God when it is asked for with humility" (The Way, 118)
THE SACRAMENTS. Frequent Confession. Never fooling yourself. Never pretending that something is not serious when your conscience tells you it is. If you are in doubt, ask. Frequent Confession is one of the great means of finding the strength for purity. Moreover frequent Confession is a guarantee for getting to Heaven. For if a person goes frequently to the Sacrament of God's Mercy, they receive that mercy now; and at the moment of their death they will also seek that mercy and find it. That is why it is not possible that someone who goes to Confession regularly and frequently should be lost. The devil too knows this. Indeed this explains his carrying on such a campaign to make of Confession the neglected sacrament..
Frequent Communion. I am weak, therefore I must strengthen myself. Feed. If a person goes to Communion once every few months, how can he or she expect to have sufficient strength for the daily battles of life? If you ate one meal a month, or even one a week, would it be surprising if your body were too weak to resist all those microbes we are in daily contact with? Well, we need a fit and well-nourished soul to be spiritually healthy in the face of all the spiritual weaknesses that surround us.
Prayer and the sacraments are essential means so as gradually to gain the strength you need to guard your sight, to say No to the temptation of that film or magazine, to avoid places or persons that can lead you into sin. Each time you are firm, each time you reject a temptation, each time you say NO to sin, you are saying Yes to God, Yes to love, Yes to happiness.
But... I do pray and I go frequently to Confession and Communion. And I still have falls. Don't be discouraged. Get up each time and start again. Time and again. Never tire of turning back to God. God doesn't tire of forgiving you and me. Let us not tire of asking him for forgiveness. Besides, remember: an act of contrition is an act of love (after all, you only say I'm sorry to someone you care for).
Don't be discouraged thinking of your defeats. There is all the difference in the world between the soldier who has come through many defeats, but still fights, and the soldier who surrenders. Don't give up the battle. Don't stop fighting. Don't surrender.
But perhaps you still have falls because you are neglecting two other means we need to live purity: one is mortification, the other is spiritual guidance.
MORTIFICATION. Small sacrifices. Also of the body. There is no point in saying, "Yes, I want to be good, I want to live purity, I want to be free", if at the same time you are too soft with your body, even if it is in things that are legitimate in themselves. If you give your body all that it seeks in terms of food, drink, sleep, rest, you should not be surprised that you find it difficult to control on its demands for satisfaction in the area of sex.
"One has to give the body a little bit less than its due. Otherwise it turns traitor" (The Way, 196). "Get used to saying No" (ib. 5). Say No to that tendency to eat between meals. And in meals, as St. Josemaría often put it, eat a little bit less of what you like more, and a little bit more of what you like less. Postpone that glass of water for half an hour. Take a Fanta instead of a Coke (or vice-versa). Leave the most comfortable chair to someone else. Don't take that afternoon doze. Get up early and at a fixed time, on the dot. Stick to a time-table. Study or work hard, despite tiredness. And you will become more master of your body and of your self.
SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE. Have regular spiritual guidance, and be very sincere with your spiritual director or counsellor ("brutally sincere", if necessary, in words of St. Josemaría). "Why are you so reluctant to see yourself and to let your Director see you as you really are? You will have won a great battle if you lose that fear of letting yourself be known" (The Way, 65). A temptation revealed is a temptation already more than half conquered... "God resists the proud and he gives his grace to the humble", says St. James (Ja 4:6). Sincerity in spiritual guidance is one of the best expressions of humility, and therefore a way of keeping our hearts wide open to God's grace.
Two more things: devotion to the Guardian Angels and to our Blessed Lady.
The Guardian Angels. We are never alone. We are always in God's presence. And as a special expression of how personal is his love for each he has given each an Angel to be with us, and to inspire and protect us.
In a get-together for students in 1972, a 21 year old young man asked the founder of Opus Dei about how to live purity in his relations with his fiancee. "Father, how can I have more devotion to the Guardian Angel of my fiancee?" The Father, as he was familiarly known to those close to him, looked at him for a few seconds and remarked, "I like your question. I see that you are a practical man". Then he gave him this very simple advice: "Have a lot of devotion to Our Lady, think of your fiancee as, if God wills it, the mother of your children in a few years time, and finally tell her to have a couple of smart slaps ready for you if some day you don't know how to behave"...
A practical young man. And a normal one. He loved his fiancee. And being normal he felt how temptations were threatening his love. Then he thought of the Guardian Angels. God has given her an angel to protect her. Maybe if I got to know that angel better, he could help me to love and respect her always despite my weaknesses. And so his question.
Devotion to our Blessed Lady. A lot of devotion to our Blessed Mother. Of all the women of the world, she is the moot beautiful, the most feminine, the most attractive, and at the same time the one who has inspired most purity, and has most obtained the grace of purity for boys and girls, men and women, married and single, young and old.
She is the Mother of Fair Love: in other words, of love that is true, tender, strong, loyal, ever-present, and always faithful, even unto death and beyond death.
"Before, by yourself, you couldn't. Now, you have turned to our Lady, and, with her, how easy it is!" (The Way, 513).
"Mother! Call her again and again. She is listening, she sees you in danger perhaps, and with her Son's grace she, your holy Mother Mary, offers you the refuge of her arms, the tenderness of her embrace. Call her, and you will find yourself with added strength for the new struggle" (ib. 516).
"Mary, teacher of prayer. See how she asks her Son, at Cana. And how she insists, confidently, with perseverance. And how she succeeds. Learn from her" (ib. 502).
Pray together
A final bit of advice. Don't just pray on your own. Pray together. Each time you go out, suggest to your girl-friend or boy-friend: Let's say a prayer together. Do so right from the very first time: just a Hail Mary or an Our Father, or the habit of a brief visit to the Blessed Sacrament in a nearby Church before you go to the movies.
You'd feel embarrassed? Embarrassed to show your faith? It's not a very good sign, is it?
But - they might be surprised... Agreeably surprised, let us hope. For if it is the sort of boy or girl you are looking for, there will be thi echo in his or her heart: this is the sort of girl or boy I am looking for.
But if they do say No, if they really don't want to pray with you, it is good for you to learn this right away. If they don't feel comfortable because you bring God into your relationship, if they want to keep God out, then is it likely to be a good relationship?
I know many young people who never fail to say some prayer when they are together. Between them there is a special atmosphere of respect and admiration. And a special joy: the joy that God gives to people who trust in him more than they trust in themselves, who entrust to him their friendship, their ideals, their love and their hopes of happiness.
"There is need for a crusade of manliness and purity to counteract and undo the savage work of those who think that man is a beast. And that crusade is a matter for you" (The Way, 121)
Man is not a beast, he is not just an animal. His nature is part animal and part spiritual. He is a combination of body and soul, a mixture of spiritual powers and needs (knowledge and love, especially) and of bodily powers and animal instincts.
Man is not an animal, mainly because he can get to know truth and choose to love goodness, because in the end he is made to know and love and possess God; above all because he is, by grace, a son of God.
Man is not an animal, but he is capable of being reduced to the animal level, and of living like a beast, living for his lowest instincts, losing God, throwing away his temporal and eternal happiness, destroying his soul.
You don't want that to happen to you. How about those around you? What do you want for them?
I have spoken to you of what is at stake in your life, in terms of both your earthly happiness and your soul. If it was not clear before, I hope it is clearer now - that you have to fight, so as to defend yourself, so as to survive, so as to win.
But don't be content just to defend yourself: your own purity alone. Defend purity in others. Love purity in others. Proclaim purity to others. Ally others to the cause of purity.
It is not so difficult. You don't want to be an animal. Neither do others, despite first impressions - they are not all that different from you deep down in their hearts. You don't want to be a solitary and miserable bundle of uncontrolled instincts and selfish desires. Neither do others. You realize that to yield to impurity means to lose your ability to love and to isolate yourself in selfishness. So do others. You and I - and they also - know the truth expressed in that point of The Way: "When you have sought the company of a sensual satisfaction, what loneliness afterwards!" (The Way, 136).
So don't let yourself be put off by appearances, thinking, "what can I do to help others in this matter - they don't care"... Oh, but they do care. What happens is that they are discouraged, and they need someone - the words and above all the example of someone - to encourage them. Someone like you.
It is true that there is a lot of pessimism today about sex. Don't give way to it. It is true that there is a lot of pessimism about marriage, about faithfulness, about love, about happiness. Don't yield to it.
So many young people around you - though they talk about happiness and at times pretend to be happy - are sad and pessimistic at heart. It is as if the devil were casting a spell on them, hypnotising them so that their senses are awake to pleasure, but their minds are dulled to truth, and their wills too weak to love. The devil, the "father of lies" (Jn 8: 44), lying to them, telling them, "come this way, this is the way to happiness"; and they follow him - though, deep down in their hearts they know that it is a lie, that happiness is not to be found that way, that going that way they are letting themselves be robbed of all chances of happiness.
Deep down in their hearts, they know... The trouble is that they don't look deep into their hearts - most often because they are afraid to. If they are afraid to admit that they are unhappy it is because they don't realize there is a way to happiness, or a way out of the unhappiness they find already threatening them. They are not even sure there is a way to happiness. Someone has to teach them. You have to teach them.
They are hypnotised and under a spell. The spell has to be broken. What can break it is precisely the sight of companions of theirs, boys and girls, who are living purity - fighting to live it - and happy in consequence. When they see that the most joyous young people around them are those who live purity (and that is the way it is: purity gives joy, impurity creates sadness), then they will come awake and become alive (oh no, they are not really living. That is not living). They will shake off that bad spell, they will begin to think again and realize that pleasure and happiness are not the same thing, that their hearts are made for happiness but, to find it, their hearts and bodies must be free. They will want to learn to cleanse their hearts and keep them clean. They will begin to believe that there is such a thing as happiness and that there is a way to it - because those who are freer will have shown it to them.
Remember too: there are some persons today very interested in stopping you young people from thinking, in suggesting to you that you have never been so free - though in fact seldom have so many been in such danger of slavery. They don't want you to think, because they want you to be their slaves. They want to exploit you; they want your money.., and behind them is the one who wants your soul.
What should people threatened with slavery do? Rebel. Fight for your freedom. Do not surrender. You may lose some battles. But you do not have to lose the war. For that you must keep fighting, knowing who is the enemy, where and when at times you do lose some battles, what you must do to avoid that, where you can get more strength, who are your allies.
Rebels need clear battle-cries, and a clear plan of action.
- we will not let ourselves be exploited;
- we will not put chains on ourselves by buying those magazines, seeing those films, going to those places;
- we'll help each other. And for that we will understand and respect one another;
- we want to be free. We want the world to be free. For love;
- we will overcome.. With God's help;
And your plan of campaign? - Clean videos. Campaign for clean films. Clean bookshops. Protest. Get the members of your family to protest: your parents and relatives. Don't underestimate the power of public opinion once it is organized. Be one of those who organize it: person by person, family by family. Many city authorities all over the world are waiting to have proof that a sizeable body of citizens object to pornographic news-stands and film theatres, in order to take action. You and your friends, stirring your families into action, can begin to create that sizeable body.
Boycott places that show or sell dirty material. Don't go to them, even to buy decent things. Remember that profit is the main motive behind the pornography trade. When owners of bookshops, for instance, realize that their sales are falling, that people just won't buy anything from them as long as they keep stocking dirty books, then, if only out of sheer self-interest, they will end up by getting rid of their dirty stocks.
Many bookstore or theatre owners will turn out to be more noble-minded. A simple approach from a delegation of young people, or a group of parents, will often help them reflect, to realize more clearly the harm they are causing, and to make up their minds to be contributors to a better, not a worse, world.
Write letters of protest to the papers. And make it clear in those letters that you are 16 or 18 year old, and that you are protesting the violation of your rights, claiming your right not to be exploited.
It is important that you write and get your friends to write. If the only voices heard protesting against pornography are those of older people, it may appear (and it will certainly be suggested) that the anti-pornography protests are just the prim voices of old busy-bodies who want to impose their views of life on young people, but that young people themselves just don't care, that they in fact really prefer to have pornography around.
If you care - say so. If you dislike pornography (though you feel its attraction), if you really would prefer not to have it around, if you feel you could breathe more freely and joyously if it were removed from the streets and banned from films and videos, then campaign for its removal, insist that it be banned. It is your democratic right, isn't it? Citizens have the right that city streets be kept clean from physical dirt, and the right therefore to insist that the authorities fulfil their duty to clear away the garbage if there is too much of it being left around.
So many ecological groups today (composed mainly of young people) are protesting the pollution of our natural environment. The pollution of our moral environment - this progressive and calculated destruction of freedom to love - is far worse than any pollution of city or countryside. It makes life, your life, far more unlivable.
Then form your own ecological movement, so that the endangered realities of love and freedom do not become extinct.
Groups and laughter
Another major point. Among yourselves, create an atmosphere of clean and noble friendship. I know many groups of boys and girls who are real friends together. Being friends, they don't let each other down or take advantage of one another. The atmosphere among them is one of respect. When they laugh - and one hears them laugh often - it is clear and clean laughter, filled with real joy.
The wisest of the group realize that such a good atmosphere and such a clean friendship are easily spoiled. So they talk things over, and come to an understanding - the clearer the agreement the better - that they will avoid certain conversations and places and film and videos... and that if some boy or girl in the group is thoughtless in his or her behaviour, one of the others will tell them.
You girls: Yes, again I'm talking especially to you. If you want to be lucky enough to be part of such a group (and remain part), remember what we said about ways of acting and dressing. Don't be slaves of fashion. Set a fashion! Don't follow other girls' fashions. Be more independent. Follow your own fashion. Be a fashion-setter, a trend-setter.
Dress well but with a woman's sense of life. And more boys will admire you. And more girls will follow you. Because other girls too will admire you and sense that you are the sort of person they would wish to be like.
Then, all of you - boys and girls - will be able to move in such a group as we have been describing. It is there - not in a bar or a disco - that you will find a real boy-friend or girl-friend: the sort of one who will care for you and whom you can care for, the sort of one you would eventually like to marry.
I know of many such groups. If you don't know of any, make one. Talk with two or three boys and girls whom you think can understand what is at stake in all this (they all can; but start with the more likely ones), and you will see how a group forms. But be clear and firm from the start.
I know many such groups. And I contrast them with other groups one sees - perhaps coming out of theatres or discos, or sitting around at soda-fountains - with dulled eyes and tired looks on their faces, with an underlying air of sadness which surface wisecracks don't quite hide, with a constant flow of smart gibes and cutting remarks that show how distant they are from one another, how little they really respect or like or trust one another, how little they really enjoy one another's company, how basically and terribly alone each one is...
They form a group, but not a group of friends. Friendship, liking, love are things strange to their lives, and becoming stranger.
Positive, strong, free and joyful
The apostolate on this matter is so positive. It is not that Christians are against sex or love. On the contrary, they are the ones most in favour of love and sex - seen in harmony, brought into harmony, the harmony of God's plan where sex is the servant of human love.
If purity, in that phrase of St. Josemaría is a "joyful affirmation" this is because it is mainly composed not of 'Nos' to instinct, but of 'Yeses' to love and ideals: to life, to generosity, to happiness.
That is why Josemaría often repeated that he never spoke of impurity, but of purity - the virtue of men and women "who know the value of their souls" (The Way, 131).
A crusade of purity is needed. A crusade of manliness and of womanliness. A powerful and joyful crusade. A strong crusade carried out by strong crusaders. Crusaders need to be strong. Chastity precisely gives strength: for oneself and for others. The strength to be a leader. Leaders need to be strong, and for that they need to be free. "You have told me that you want to be a leader and what good is a leader in chains?'" (The Way, 31). No. No. With God's grace you will break those chains. For God too wants you to be a leader, so that you will not be forced to follow the easy but miserable way of so many others, but will be able to lead others to follow your difficult but happy way
I was struck when I first heard the motto of the city of Sao Paolo in Brazil: "Non ducor duco". "I am not led, I lead". I am not a sheep or a puppet or a plaything or a slave - just following others and being used by them. I go my own road. And since it is a clear road, uphill, but with marvellous horizons, a road that climbs towards the sun, others will follow...
Charity gives joy. In a pleasure-mad world that is becoming joyless, the joy of pure young people will stand out, the joy of people who are in love with life, in love with love (and prepared to defend it), in love with freedom (and prepared to fight for it), in love with God.