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Christian Saints Who Went To Extraordinary Lengths To Stay Chaste

Updated January 31, 2020 60.1k views10 items

Because chastity has historically been a cornerstone of Christian faith and devotion, it is appropriate that some of the most celebrated figures in the Christian canon are individuals who went to great lengths to maintain their faith in the face of lust, immorality, and sin. However, since many of the ancient saints have dubious historical origins, much of what they purportedly did (or did not do) must be taken on faith as well. 

  • St. Ignatius Imagined Jesus' Life To Avoid Temptation

    St. Ignatius Imagined Jesus' Life To Avoid Temptation
    Photo: Peter Paul Reubens / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    St. Ignatius was born in the town of Loyola, Spain in the late 15th century. Initially a soldier of the Spanish king, Ignatius's luck took a sharp turn when he was severely hurt while defending Pamplona. During his convalescence, he spent many hours reading spiritual books and came close to dying - a process that caused him to experience a religious conversion. 

    When he had sufficiently recovered, he decided to enter a monastery, took a vow of poverty, and renounced his former worldly, aggressive way of life. With a group of like-minded monks, he established the ascetic and strict order known as the "Society of Jesus," or "Jesuits" as they would eventually be called. The Spiritual Exercises he developed while in convalescence became a central mechanism for eschewing temptations. 

    Because of Ignatius's scholarship and the Jesuit dedication to educating others, he is the patron saint of education.

  • Wild Oxen Couldn't Drag St. Lucy To Sin

    St, Lucy was a late third-century Italian maiden who likely perished as a martyr during an era of Christian persecution. However, there are stories about her life which reveal her virtues.

    In one, she vowed to remain chaste despite a marriage her mother tried to arrange between Lucy and a non-Christian. After Lucy prayed for help, she had a vision of St. Agatha in a dream which convinced her to spurn the marriage and have her mother give her dowry to the poor. Lucy's rejected suitor tried to have her sent her to a brothel for defilement, but the guards could not budge her to take her there, even with a team of oxen pulling. In another story, Lucy's oppressors tried to burn her as they did St. Agatha, but the flames did not harm her. She was ultimately beheaded after numerous attempts to take her life with fire failed.

    Because Agnes is said to have put out her own eyes, rather than encourage her suitor, she is the patron saint of the blind.  

  • St. Cecilia Retained Her Virginity With A Little Help From Her Guardian Angel

    St. Cecilia was a Roman noblewoman from the second or third century CE who, according to legends, was married off by her wealthy family to a non-believer named Valerian despite her vow of virginity. However, when her husband attempted to consummate the marriage, pious Cecilia told him that an angel was watching over her and her angel would punish Valerian if he insisted on violating her. When her husband requested that he be given the chance to see this angel, she suggested that he be baptized. Upon his baptism, Valerian was converted to Christianity and later slain as a martyr. 

    Cecilia - by this point an evangelist who had converted hundreds of pagans - was also sentenced for her Christianity with the punishment of suffocation in the fiery bathhouse. When this failed to stop her, she was sentenced to beheading, but the soldier entrusted with this task was unable to sever her neck; instead, it only wounded her. After three days of suffering, Agnes finally succumbed.

    Agnes is regarded as the patron saint of music as she is said to have heard music in her heart during her marriage ceremony. She is usually depicted with a musical instrument.

  • St. Maria Goretti Would Be Slain Before She Would Succumb To Sex

    St. Maria Goretti Would Be Slain Before She Would Succumb To Sex
    Photo: Giuseppe Brovelli-Soffredini / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    St. Maria Goretti was an eleven-year-old Italian girl living in poverty in the early 20th century. A teenage farmhand named Alessandro Serenelli who lived nearby repeatedly pestered Maria, who was tasked with caring for her younger siblings while her mother worked. Despite Maria's young age, he began demanding to have sex with her, but she refused, invoking God's name and telling Alessandro that it would be a mortal sin.

    On July 5, 1902, Alessandro finally decided that if she would not give in, he would kill her. As Maria tried to fight him off, Alessandro stabbed her multiple times and badly injured her. Though doctors tried to help save the girl, her wounds were too severe. On her deathbed, the young saint forgave Alessandro, expressing hope that someday, he would join her in heaven. Because of his young age, Alessandro avoided execution and eventually repented in prison, becoming a brother in a Capuchin monastery.

    Maria Goretti was canonized in 1950 and became the patron saint of purity.