Nov 18, 2009

Seminary Memoirs: Salesian Purity and 'Delicatezza'

St. John Bosco emphasized chastity as the hallmark of his religious society.  If the Jesuits are renowned for their obedience, the Franciscans for their poverty, then the Salesians (of St. John Bosco) will be distinguished by their chastity.  He was prophetic in insisting that those working with boys should excel in this virtue because they will be in grave danger.

When I was in the college seminary back in Asia, we slept in dorms where there are around 50 beds in one big enclosure.  Whenever we changed or went for showers, we wrapped a towel around our waist.  That was one of our practices of  'delicatezza'  - translated as a mix of of refinement, sensitivity, modesty, purity and chastity.  We even washed our own underwear even if we had a laundry service.  Whenever we talked to women, we look at the entire face and not in the eyes.  We don't tell green jokes and we controlled our curiosity or practiced custody of the senses.

When I went to the States, I met religious brothers who talked about mooning others during summer camp.  I know what mooning is and I was shocked that men with vows of chastity would drop trou just  for the fun of it.  But I did not react.  It must be an American thing, I thought.  Then I met others who talked about nude beaches in California.  I guess I have to be realistic because the kids know about these too.  Then there were others who talked about how they look when wearing spandex trunks.  I must have stood out that someone said that a women can be raped in front of me and I would not know about it.  I just let that one pass.

Then, there was this professor at Catholic U who was teaching a form of sexual morality that is not in conformity with Catholic ethos and morals.  So, he got canned.  But he was there for a few years teaching his lunacy.  How many clerics bought his venom?

How much of this is cultural?  And even if this were so, Christianity is counter-cultural.  It is not of this world.  Looking back, I know that the strict 'delicatezza' way of preserving purity is the way to go.

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