Teaching Virtues Through Fiction Series: Chastity

Find out what the Teaching Virtues Through Fiction Series is all about!

The Virtue of Chastity is not an easy one to approach with our teens. However, after discussing modesty last week, it seems fitting that chastity be the next virtue to discuss. To be chaste is to aim to be pure. Next to modesty, chastity is likely the most ignored of the virtues, and not just by teens and young adults.

Chastity is considered one of the seven heavenly virtues in the Catholic faith. And it’s not just about being pure. It’s not even about not having sex. That’s abstinence. Chastity is about seeing our sexual selves in the way that God created us. For the sake of this learning series, I’ll be discussing chastity in unmarried teens and young adults. Although it would certainly relate to all unmarried people.

In our overly sexual culture, promiscuity and deviant sexual interactions is considered cool, and it’s promoted in the media and in our society. It’s become extremely difficult to teach our children Christian values when it comes to relationships. In contrast, being chaste is treated as embarrassing. It’s ridiculed, and those who practice it are led to believe that their convictions are archaic and pathetic.

High school crushes, peer pressure, and hormones are a constant battle against our Lord’s design when He created man and woman. Regardless, scripture is clear about being chaste and pure. So why is it so hard for those who love the Lord to follow His commandments?

Well, it’s time to change that damaging mindset about chastity, and fiction can help. In all the fictional novels that I have written so far, purity is both good and cool.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5

CHASTITY IS PURITY OF THE BODY. This seems pretty obvious when we consider the physical manner in which a person is impure. So, one way to remain chaste through the body is to refrain from all physical aspects of intimacy that often leads to the act itself. This begins with something small such as tempting others.

In The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch, Tommy has a crush on Faden, and vice versa. She is aware of his feelings about purity by the ring that he wears. When they reveal their feelings to each other, they’re alone and share a kiss (p.96). However, when David and Martha find out, they are told that they have to wait until they are older to date (p.137). Teens can easily create romantic moments for themselves in which chastity is quickly forgotten, which is why it’s important to avoid them.

Chaperones are a big thing in Freeing Tanner Rose. Tanner is annoyed by them (p.41) and makes fun of them (p.79), but Gabriel is not embarrassed. However, Tanner’s world is the one that we live in today. When we first meet her, she’s flirting and getting close with Jason Allan (p.2).

Tanner flirts with Gabriel too, but he contrasts her behavior in the way that he is very conscious about not being physical or flirting, (p.55). Even when Natasha flirts with him at the post-show party, and he is obviously attracted to her, he still remains chaste in his actions (p.176).

In Saving Faith, there are many suggestions that Christian and his friends are promiscuous (p.) This is evident also for Maria and her friends (p.71) and the conversations that they have.  At one point, Christian offers to “fix” Gabriel’s virgin status with a “sure thing.” But Gabriel’s response is priceless:

“And then what?” Gabriel looked at him and waited.
“What?”
“And then what?” Gabriel’s expression was serious as he stared back at Christian. “After the sure thing? Then what?”
“I don’t know, man.” Christian laughed. “You really that naive about the ways of the world?”
“No,” Gabriel said. “Just more interested in the will of God.” (p.64)

PURITY IN THE MIND AND IN THE HEART is another aspect of chastity that we ignore. But what we allow into our minds and hearts can easily affect our actions. We can conjure up thoughts about intimacy with a crush, or we can read books that offer all kinds of impure scenarios that lead us to lust. Tanner watching Gabriel on the camping trip is an example (p.46). But impure thoughts won’t lead us closer to God and what He desires for us.

Purity in the mind is often dictated by purity in the heart. It’s a desire instilled within our hearts that solidifies our decision to remain pure. If it’s strong and honest, then it cannot be corrupted easily. But if we say all of this to a teen, it sounds old-fashioned and prudish. Which is why fiction is a better method in teaching virtues. Let teens fall in love with a virtuous character.

PURE AND PROUD. This is what Faden boasts about himself to Tommy in The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch. (p.96) To be truly virtuous, you have to be confident in yourself and unashamed of your convictions. We see this so often with Gabriel. When Tanner and Gabriel are in the limo waiting outside Rick Vonn’s house, she asks him about his purity (p.129). He’s cool and confident in his response and this surprises her. This is the lesson we should teach our children.

The fictional stories offered show how the coolest characters are pure and proud. And those who have been taught otherwise need further educating.

Faith sees this when she compares Gabriel and Christian. She has to come to a decision in Saving Faith. She realizes that her actions have led her to a point in her relationship with Christian:

There was no doubt that she liked him, but to like him meant to compromise her convictions more than she already had,  because it was evident now that he would accept nothing less.  (SF p.132)

Faith’s actions have consequences. As did Christian’s. But what she is considering a consequence, for him is the icing on the cake. “It doesn’t take much,” Faith says to her brother about how a person’s life can be destroyed in an instant. Yet, she is neglecting to realize that in the same way, it doesn’t take much to give the gift of virginity away in a moment of unchaste passion. It’s one act, yes. But it’s one that changes everything. And like her first kiss, it’s something she cannot get back.

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The books referenced in this post were The Destiny of Sunshine RanchFreeing Tanner Rose and Saving Faith from my Faith & Kung Fu Series. Free discussion questions are available for both:

The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch
Freeing Tanner Rose Discussion Questions
Saving Faith Discussion Questions

For more Catholic fiction reflecting this theme, check out the comments below!

Join the discussion!
Call out to Catholic authors of fiction for teens and young adults. Have you written a Catholic novel that encompasses the subject of chastity and purity? Please share in the comments below, listing the titles and including a brief description of how it’s presented in your fiction.

For more on the titles listed in this post and others, as well as their educational themes, visit Catholic Teen Books For Teachers 

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Teaching Virtues Through Fiction Series: Modesty

Find out what the Teaching Virtues Through Fiction Series is all about!

The virtue of modesty plays a huge role in my novels. Before we start, let’s be clear that modestly is a close relative to humility, but they are not the same. Ironically, modesty is very much understated in our world today, yet immodesty is overly defended by those with a “If you have it, flaunt it” attitude. And not just in reference to clothing.

In the first book of my Faith & Kung Fu series, Freeing Tanner Rose, the subject of modesty is most evident; although the virtue is carried through to the second book, and likely will continue throughout the series. Gabriel is the main protagonist in this book series, and he is the epitome of modesty.

A boy? I hear you ask. Isn’t modesty reserved for girls? Well let’s find out!

MODESTY IN APPEARANCE. Let me explain something here. Gabriel is gorgeous. He’s got dark hair that falls into his crystal blue eyes. He has a face that takes your breath away, and a smile that quickens the heartbeat. And he has an athletic physique. He’s an expert in kung fu, after all. But what makes him the most attractive? His amazing modesty. He knows that God gave him his face and his physique, and so he takes no credit for it. Faith and Tanner discuss this on page 48 of Freeing Tanner Rose. Faith says, “Personality is what really defines a person, and even a beautiful person can be ugly if they’re horrible inside, and vice versa.”

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Dressing modestly. This isn’t just reflected in the fact that Gabriel doesn’t go around showing off his abs or flexing his biceps (FTR p. 47), and you know he could if he wanted to. And it’s not because he’s ashamed of his body. He just doesn’t want girls ogling at him and conjuring up lustful thoughts about him, and yes, girls do that too! Gabriel knows that when God created man, He made something good; something beautiful. And we can’t take that creation and flaunt it or allow it to be lusted after. Tanner comes to realize this later in the story when she returns to the city and poses for a photo shoot, (FTR p. 156) .

Gabriel knows that his body is a temple of God and that he carries the Lord within him. He knows that in carrying Jesus on the inside, he should reflect Jesus on the outside. Let’s be clear, in dressing modestly, we’re not hiding ourselves from people. Instead, we’re presenting ourselves in a dignified way so that people see us for who we are in our hearts, and are not distracted by our physical selves. In essence, modesty means asking ourselves how much we’re willing to reveal for the sake of our dignity. Miss Ruth explains it to Tanner when she says, “I have noticed that you’re not a spinster, Tanner. Just be careful about what you are saying about yourself.” (FTR p. 27)

MODESTY MEANS REFRAINING FROM FLAUNTING our wealth or possessions. When we’re focused on our wealth and we live for the latest trend or fashion, -and Tanner evidently does- we create for ourselves a false god. We live for something outside of God. We define ourselves by our wealth. Additionally, when we flaunt our wealth, we put focus on ourselves, and that is the opposite of modesty. Tanner does this on page 31 of Freeing Tanner Rose when she “pulls out a wad” of money trying to impress the sales ladies at the malls following a senseless shopping spree (FTR p.29). Flaunting is also the same as flirting, and again we see this with Tanner. We also see this with her friend Emma (FTR p.87-88), and later with Natasha (FTR p.176).

“Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; 4 rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

MODESTY IS REFLECTED IN SPEECH. Gabriel is quiet and reserved, and sure he gets frustrated and raises his voice sometimes or says something mean, but he knows when he’s wrong and he apologizes for it (FTR-p.77). He is dignified in his speech. Tanner is the opposite. She’s loud and obnoxious (FTR p.21-at the fair), and she is often rude without apology (FTR p53-camping and p.81-in the limo). In the second book in my Faith & Kung Fu series, Saving Faith, you meet Christian. And this character is also the opposite of Gabriel. He often speaks immodestly. “You know what they say about Maria,” Christian says to his friends on page 71. He’s clearly talking about a girl they are all familiar with and causing scandal in his discussions about her. Modest speech does not cause scandal. Gossip is also considered immodest speech.

MODESTY IS BEING DIGNIFIED in your demeanor. Gabriel is not a show off. He has a lot of reason to be one according to the world’s standards. But he’s not. In fact, his humility is evident when his mother or Tanner praise him and he doesn’t relish upon it (FTR p.35, p.146). He’s modest in his successes. He doesn’t boast. He doesn’t flirt or make a dramatic entrance. He does not try to be the center of attention. Again, Tanner in contrast elevates herself to a very height and self centered degree (FTR p.14, p.61, p.94). And then there’s the beginning of chapter 23 of Freeing Tanner Rose with Natasha who is brought back to earth by Gabriel’s modesty and his recognition of it’s adversary.

When we speak and act modestly, we are in turn treating people in a modest manner. We’re treating them respectfully. We’re not putting them down or making them feel bad about themselves. We’re lifting them with our words and our deeds, even if we’re not aware of it. There are many examples of this in Freeing Tanner Rose and Saving Faith, but more predominantly in the latter when you look at the difference between Christian and Gabriel. It all begins in the first tournament at the end of chapter 1 and the beginning of chapter 2. The fighting styles between the two are reflective of their personalities in general, and more specifically in how Gabriel is more modest than Christian.

MODESTY IS BEING CONSCIOUS about what we expose ourselves to. The shows or movies we watch, the books we read, and the places we go.  It’s what we allow into our minds. Tanner’s favorite place to go is Rick Vonn’s house where all forms of immodesty present themselves. But when she tries to share the experience with Gabriel, he doesn’t understand it (FTR p.74). If we see, read, or surround ourselves with immodesty in a manner in which it is celebrated and promoted, we become immune to it.

In all its ways, modesty is about self-control. Controlling ourselves in the way we act and in the things that we do, even in tiny instances that don’t seem to matter. An example of this is a moment between Gabriel and Tanner in Freeing Tanner Rose:

Gabriel moved toward her and bent down to retrieve the paper, and as he did, he glanced discreetly at Tanner’s black patent stiletto shoes. She wore a thin gold chain on her left ankle. He stood up quickly and turned away, denying his eyes their natural tendency to gaze up. (FTR p. 12)

Modesty is about stepping back and putting the focus on God. It’s about living the way the Son did and pleasing the Father. It’s about giving Him the glory instead of yourself. The Son of God was born in a manger in a barn. He lived a very modest life. And we should do the same by living for Him and not ourselves. When people see us, they should see Him.

“Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23-24

LET’S BE CLEAR! Modesty is NOT about putting ourselves down or staying quiet in the corner of a room. It’s not about believing you’re inconsequential or nothing special. On the contrary; modesty shows that you have confidence in yourself, you’re strong, and you’re not pressured by your peers or by current worldly fashions. Gabriel clearly proves this. It means that you don’t have to put yourself above others of push others down in order to be relevant. You already know that you are a jewel like everyone else, because God said so.

So you see, modesty is not a girl thing; it’s a virtue that we instill within ourselves as Christians, and it should reflect all aspects of our being and our lives.  And so modesty is everything we as Christians should strive for.

 

***

The books referenced in this post were Freeing Tanner Rose and Saving Faith from my Faith & Kung Fu Series. Free discussion questions are available for both:
Freeing Tanner Rose Discussion Questions
Saving Faith Discussion Questions

For more Catholic fiction reflecting this theme, check out the comments below!

Join the discussion!
Call out to Catholic authors of fiction for teens and young adults. Have you written a Catholic novel that encompasses the subject of modesty? Please share in the comments below, listing the titles and including a brief description of how it’s presented in your fiction.

For more on the titles listed in this post and others, as well as their educational themes, visit Catholic Teen Books For Teachers 

In Recognition of National Foster Care Month: Overcoming Adversity in “The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch”

     Previously published in Catholicmom.com August 6, 2012

“Then why are we here?” Eva asked.
“You are here…” he began to say, and then wondered how much should really be said.
“You are here because God sent you to me.”
“Oh David!” Benedict protested and was about to walk away.
“It’s true,” David insisted, looking back at the boys. “Your mothers and fathers, for some reason or another, couldn’t do it right.”
“Do what right?” Tommy asked.
“Take care of you…they just didn’t have it in them. They weren’t strong enough.”
“Smart enough,” Tommy muttered.
“Sober enough,” Sebastian said.
“Stop,” David said gently. “Don’t do that.”
“Don’t do what? Be mad at them?” Benedict asked. He could feel his face reddening.
“No…no, you can be mad at them,” David said. “You can be mad all you want, but at some point, you need to let it go. You need to tell yourself that it doesn’t matter anymore. You need to forgive them for what they did and did not do, and you need to move on.”
“What if I can’t do that?” Tommy asked.
David thought a moment before answering. “If you can’t forgive and move on, then your feelings will grow and fester and they will eat you alive.” (The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch)

This is a snippet of the dialogue in a pivotal scene from my novel, The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch. It comes in the middle of the book and is between David and five of his foster-children, Sebastian, Eva, Tommy, Benedict, and Micah.

It was a heart-wrenching scene to write, and I confess that I cried a little as it played itself out. But it needed to happen. Recognizing the children’s cynicism is essential to the story. My hope is that young readers find the exchange emotionally stirring, although tears are optional.

Equally, I hope readers share the feelings of anguish and sorrow as each character expresses these sentiments. Why? Because if they allow themselves to feel the depths of hurt, then the opposite feelings of hope and exhilaration will be enhanced in all the moments of joy and love and relief.

My desire in this novel and future books is to capture the hearts and minds of all my readers, especially those who have experienced past adversity or those currently dealing with it. In The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch, I had to offer feelings they can relate to. And tweens and teens experience so many emotions as they transition from child to adult. Imagine the additional torment that a foster child experiences, or a child dealing with loss or abuse or neglect.

It’s possible that many of my readers will recognize themselves, or a fraction of themselves, in one or all of the characters. If they’re able to form such a relationship, they can tag along as each character journeys through the trials and tribulations that eventually deliver them to God and His unconditional love.

I’m an advocate for overcoming adversity. It’s not an easy endeavor, even in the least extreme circumstances. But nothing is impossible with God. And the premise of this novel is based on, Philippians 4:12-13, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”

My prayer is that The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch is an inspirational read and that each young reader gets from it what they need. So far, I’ve had positive feedback. One reviewer, author, Holly Michael recently wrote:

“This heartwarming novel leads readers, along with the characters, on a route toward God, toward His love, and toward healing and the hope of living a fulfilled life. And for those already rooted in Christ, the novel will surely be a faith-strengthener.” (Writingstraight.com)

Another reviewer, homeschool mom, and blogger, Catherine wrote that this novel has worthy teachable moments. I concurred in a post titled, The Many Teachable Moments in “The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch,” and listed them out. They include finding strength in God, staying pure in love, and accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Catherine added:

“In addition to a delightful read, there are a few uplifting messages revealed in these pages.  For me, the most important was that faith is the only sure anecdote for anxiety.  Coming in closely behind were the ideas that God waits – and that where there is life, there is hope.” (Ourvillageisalittledifferent.com)

One thing I didn’t expect when writing this novel was that it would be inspiring to adults. I’d intended the story to be for tween, teens, and young adults, but grandparents and parents alike have voiced their positive feedback. Additionally, homeschooling parents have praised the book.

I had many hopes, prayers, and dreams when writing The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch, and I believe that the final story exceeds my ultimate expectations. This was primarily because many of the scenes, although inspired by me, came to life and directed themselves. I didn’t know the whole story until it was written. I didn’t know the characters until they introduced themselves to me. I didn’t even know how God would make His appearance within the story, until He revealed Himself in my words.
It was a pleasure to write this novel, and I hope that it’s as much a pleasure to read.

If you loved this, then you’re sure to like…

“Saving Faith” Featured on Catholicmom.com Book Notes

Catholicmom.com: Sharing Christ’s Way in a Sexualized Culture, One Novel at a Time

The Many Teachable Moments in “The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch”

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