St. Ambrose on Chastity

By Daniel Mattson

Recently I was reading some of the letters of St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan who helped bring St. Augustine back into the church.

His writings are filled with pithy wisdom, like this short sentence on chastity:

Chastity is increased by its own sacrifices.

What more can be added to that? No matter where we are in our journey towards chastity, the little efforts that we are able to make build up the strength of that virtue like exercising builds the muscles of the body.

Sometimes all we can do is a little bit. But over time, those little bits add up to big bits. By the grace of God the virtue of chastity can be built up in us , one little sacrifice at a time.

The key is to keep trying. As so many of the saints have said before, God doesn’t put a premium on success. Any success we have in building any virtue is by his grace alone, but he wants us to at least want to grow in virtue, and to keep trying the rest of our lives, with a firm intention to try to overcome whatever weaknesses we have. Where we fall short, he delights in giving us the strength to overcome.

It’s good to remember that God is pleased with even the “widow’s mite.”

Maybe someone reading this is addicted to porn–even choosing not to turn on the computer for one evening is a sacrifice that leads to chastity. Perhaps someone reading this is caught up in the thrill of hooking up each weekend. Even one weekend of not hooking up is a sacrifice God is pleased with, and it is a sacrifice that leads to chastity, and to freedom and peace.

St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, who famously said, “give me chastity–but not yet, Lord!”, pray for us.

June 15, 2014


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