Single…and Ready to Mingle?! by Rebecca Barclay

Many people view the single life in one of two ways.  Either the single life is a torturous means of existence to be endured as bravely (quickly) as possible, or the single life is the time of your life free-from-all-responsibility and lending itself to promiscuity.  Naturally the Catholic Church has some sort of answer for all the questions we face (that’s not to say the answers are clear cut or easy).

The two views mentioned above about the approach to the single life could seem like the “Catholic” approach vs. the “secular” approach.  There’s a lot of hype in the Catholic world about the greatness of theology of the body, NFP, and living out the faith in the context of a Catholic family setting.  There’s also the call to the priesthood or religious life, a mighty high calling indeed.  But what about the single life?  Are people called to the single life?  How are Catholics to approach the single life without treating it like torture or utter freedom?

The truth is that all people are called to the single life at one point or another.  How long each person is called to the single life is another story.  If you’re in this gig (the Church) for saint-making (which we’re all called to), then it’s best to figure out how to handle being single (whether or not you want to mingle).

Being Catholic and trying to grow into the saint God wants you to be has a lot to do with our time and place in history.  It does us no good to try to behave in the world the way Saint Ignatius did in the 1st century or St. Theresa of Avila did in the 15th century.  It’s left to us to be a light to the world and salt to the earth in the 21st century.  And frankly, we’ve got our work cut out for us.  We have technology to take up, creativity to baptize, and discipline to learn.  The work place is in dire need of honest, hard working, and just workers.  The family is in dire need of true love and responsible parenthood. The political realm is in dire need of generous and devoted politicians.

Nowadays it’s very easy for us to get caught up in the romanticized version of married love; it’s easy to get caught up in the modern obsessions with sexualized-thinking because everything is sexualized; it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that ‘being married’ will solve all my problems.

The truth is if you’re single, God wants you to be single right now.  God is calling you to something right now that you will miss if you are too busy looking ahead to other things.  If you’re Catholic and you’re single, and you want to be married, you are being asked to trust that God will fulfill your deepest desires better than you can imagine.  If you’re single and living promiscuously, God is ever awaiting for you to turn to Him with your desires for love and fulfillment.

At times I wish I had been married already, or feel like I am just waiting to meet ‘the one’ and then life can start.  But this isn’t the right attitude to have as a Catholic who proclaims a God who works all things for good and whose Divine Providence guides all my half-heartedly devoted actions and choices (using even my poor choices and half hearted intentions for my good).  The longer I am single, the more I realize what a gift of time this is for me right now.  Had I been married at 22 right out of college I wouldn’t have the formative experiences, the learning, or the adventures of the last 3 years of my life.  I’d be an entirely different person.  As a single person you have a gift from God that you don’t know how long will be yours.  You are given the freedom to learn about yourself in a collage of experiences of which the range and diversity depends completely on your willingness and your desires/choices.  You are given the time free of direct responsibility of another, with which you can invest in hobbies, personal interests, volunteer opportunities, traveling, etc.  You are given time alone with yourself, which is vital and necessary for self-awareness and holiness, for finding out who you are.

The following are three things I would suggest to all those who find themselves single and wanting to live well:

Prayer

Learn how to pray.  Learn how you best communicate with God, your maker and the one who has your plans for happiness.  Discipline yourself in your prayer.  Set aside a certain amount of time daily and stick to it.  Not only will you feel an order to your day, but you’ll also find peace in your choices, joy in your state of life, and the courage to do what God sets before you.

Friendships & Adventures

Get out there and meet people!  Do you have something you’ve always wanted to try?  Go out and try it and find a friend along the way.  Be interested in others who are different from you.  And be willing to go on adventures.  Travel if you can and how you can.  Visit your close friends from college.  Make the time to see your family.  As a single person, you only have to juggle one schedule, so now’s the time to really juggle!  Not only do you make friends and good memories, but you also learn about yourself from going through new experiences and trying new things.

Risks

And be willing to take risks.  Don’t like the job you’re at now?  Don’t settle.  Find a new job.  Go back to school.  Take a risk.  The time you have as a single person is, in the basest sense of the word, the time you’re most free to make a job change, to move, or to change your lifestyle.  Don’t let yourself settle into a mediocre or complacent way of life.  Don’t let the modern work-a-day world rob you of your joy or keep your eyes blind from God’s plan for your life.  Your life as a Christian is an adventure but only if you’re willing to let God lead you.  Have you always wanted to do a mission trip? Plan for it then.  It’s far too easy to get caught up in the practical, financially-guided, modern world when the disinterested, free, and holy adventurous life of following the Son of God is waiting for each of us.  Be willing to place your trust in God every day with the small things and when the big decisions in life come along, His peace will guide you in your choices.

God knows how to best fulfill our desires.  Time spent as a single person is not meant to be torturous but is meant to be a time of growth and happiness.  Learning how to live well and be holy should never be separated from your present state in life and your everyday living.

Women Speak for Themselves

If you aren’t signed up for Helen Alvare’s emails, sign up. Who is Helen Alvare you ask? Helen is a woman who works to make our voices heard – the voices of women who value religious liberty for all people. She organizes women so that we can proclaim in a unified voice that we deserve better than contraception and abortion. In her emails, she provides excellent talking points and highlights major concerns regarding religious liberty and the well-being of women. You can sign up for these emails on her website called Women Speak for Themselves. Let’s follow Helen’s suit, and make sure that we are doing our part to protect religious liberty! Start by signing up for her emails today.

Men, please continue to stand by us and to help make our voices heard as well. We need your support and strength in this battle. It may be helpful for you to know what’s going on in the Women Speak for Themselves campaign – so feel free to sign up for the emails. For those men and women who are unfamiliar with the HHS Mandate and the serious threats it poses against religious liberty, here is an overview: http://womenspeakforthemselves.com/our-work/talking-points-mandate-and-religious-freedom

Lastly, here is an excellent (but 53 minutes long) talk that Helen Alvare gave regarding Religious Freedom and Sexual Liberationism. It is very relevant to the HHS Mandate issue and our culture as a whole. If you have the time to watch this, it is definitely worth it.

Seat Belts and Contraception – What’s the Difference? by Mark Gonnella

There seems to be an irrational confidence in the use of contraception.  In the modern age, the use of contraception is accompanied by the blithely deluded comfort of ‘Well, at least they are not getting pregnant!’  This achievement, as well as the prevention of most STDs, has contraception being touted as a staple of modern medicine with unremitting alacrity.  It is the preferred alternative–nay, the    only perceived alternative–to unprotected sex.  Abstinence is outdated and oppressive.  We are sexual beings and should be allowed to act according to our own nature.  For the secularist, such statements induce no qualms of conscience; but for the Christian, they should.  There is a reason why prior to 1960, there were only two commonly known sexually transmitted diseases, and now over 25 venereal diseases are identified: people are having sex more frequently and recklessly because contraception promotes such behavior.

Contraception promotes promiscuity because it vilipends the sexual act; it makes the serious act of sex into a causal one. Many sensible and intelligent individuals, like Pope Paul VI, knew what contraception would cause because they knew what contraception promotes: a sexual license.  Paul VI in Humane Vitae remarks on this fact in a compelling paragraph that is worth quoting fully:

Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings — and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation — need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection (HV 17).

It grants the individual all the pleasures of sexual intercourse without the consequences and responsibilities.  It tells the voracious child that he can eat all the candy in the store without getting sick.  But, alas, far off in the distance comes the shrill repartee of the enlightened generation.  They contend that contraception does not promote promiscuity inasmuch as a seat belt does not promote car accidents.  Upon the sound of the final syllable being uttered, laughter fulminates from the enlightened peanut gallery.  The matter thus seems to be settled, for, prima facie, this argument seems solid.  After all, preventive measures do not necessitate that one engage in the action that causes the effects from which the measure prevents.  Bulletproof vests, they will say, do not promote people to shoot each other.  Seemingly, then, this argument settles the dispute.  However, the intuitively conscientious person wants to object to this argument; they know that something is amiss.

The argument that contraception does not promote promiscuity inasmuch as seat belts do not promote car accidents seems sound only because it is deceitful; the argument is not strengthened by logic but by casuistry.  The reason why this argument is false is that it rests on a false analogy.  The intent is to fool the reader to focus on the category of instruments, namely, that both instruments (i.e. seat belts and contraception) act as preventive instruments.  Thus, without further inspection, the argument seems logical because of the congruity of intent of the instruments—each one acts as a preventive measure.  After careful analysis, however, one will immediately see the incongruity of the two acts.  Sexual intercourse and car accidents are qualitatively different experiences. To compare the two in a positive argument (i.e. x does not do this because y does not) presupposes a factual error: that without the preventive measures, both experiences are equal.

Let us unpack this argument further.  The sexual act has two primary negative consequences: unwanted pregnancy and unwanted STDs.  Car accidents have many negative consequences, but two primary ones, assuming that you are driving alone, are serious injury and death.  Clearly, the severity of the consequences of each respective act differs greatly, but the real qualitative difference is what precedes the consequences.  As mentioned above, the sexual act is a pleasurable and desirable act, while car accidents are not.  Whether the preventive measures exist, the former will still be a pleasurable and desirable act and the latter will not. The absence of the preventive measure will not make the sexual act any less pleasurable or desirable.  In contrast, without seat belts car accidents are still undesirable and painful.  Nothing changes with the addition of the preventive measure.  The seat belt may prevent the person from being ejected from the vehicle, but the car accident itself, with or without the seat belt, is still painful and undesirable.  The difference, then, between the two acts (the sexual act and a car accident) is that the experience of the sexual act does change with the addition of contraception–for contraception drastically limits the possibility of the two negatives consequences from occurring.  The car accident is still painful, there is still a high probability of injury to the person(s) in the car, and the damaged car is still a burden to the person involved, even if he was not severely harmed in the accident.

To put it simply, seat belts mitigates the negative effects from an undesirable act (a car accident); contraception greatly decreases the negative effects from an otherwise desirable act (the sexual act).   Therefore, one may argue, that the sexual act becomes more pleasurable and much more desirable with contraception, while a car accident does not become more pleasurable or desirable with seat belts.  The vulnerability of the sexual act is removed, for the person using contraception feels like he is in control of the act.  By greatly decreasing the chances of potential negative consequences, i.e. venereal diseases or unwanted pregnancy, the person believes that he can reap all the pleasurable benefits of the sexual act.  However, it is clear that contraception does not always work.  The issue, though, is not whether it objectively removes the potential negative consequences of sex, but rather it makes people think it does.  This is why it promotes promiscuity because it promotes an inflated confidence in contraception, that one can have the thrills without the dangers, and this illusory feeling of invincibility makes one more inclined to have sex and to have it abundantly.  In contrast, seat belts do not precipitate reckless driving, for the seat belt does not remove all the negative consequences of a car accident, and thus it does not invoke a sense of invincibility; the driver is still vulnerable to injury.  At the very least, the car accident is a large inconvenience for the individual even if severe injuries are avoided.

Clearly, you can see how the comparison between the sexual act and car accidents is a foolish one to make.  The only way that this argument would work is if the two experiences were similar.  If car accidents were comparable sensationally to having sex, but still had the consequences of headaches and whiplash, then the invention of seat belts would make many car mechanics quite wealthy.  However, the fact remains that car accidents and sex are not sensationally comparable, and thus they cannot be compared.

Cardinal Dolan: The Witness of Marriage

Enjoy this delightful, joyful and sincere address given by our very own Cardinal Dolan to the Knights of Columbus in Anaheim. Que viva Cristo Rey!

States Dinner Address Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan Archbishop of New York President, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Anaheim, California, August 7, 2012

Supreme Knight and Mrs. Anderson; Past Supreme Knight and Mrs. Dechant; my brother knights and beloved wives;

My brother cardinals; Bishop Brown, Archbishop Viganó, my brother bishops, priests, and deacons; our consecrated women and men religious; seminarians, guests, friends one and all . . .

Que viva Cristo Rey!

To anyone who claims the Church is lackluster;

To anyone who thinks the Church has lost the dare given us by Jesus to “cast out to the deep!”

To anyone who doubts the solidarity between God’s people and His priests and bishops;

To anyone who contends that Catholics are beaten down by constant attacks on faith, the Church, our values, and our God-given freedom of religion . . .

I say, “Let them come to the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus!”

As we anticipate the Year of Faith, I thank you, brother knights, for 130 years of vibrant, salt-of-the-earth-light-to-the-world Catholic witness!

As we prepare for the upcoming Synod of Bishops in Rome on the New Evangelization, I congratulate you, brother knights, for taking that ball and running with it, in the same missionary spirit that characterized Christopher Columbus.

It’s good to be in California; they love us here in Anaheim. Heads up, though: one of the bell boys here at the hotel did complain to me that we knights don’t tip that well. “We love these Knights of Columbus,” he said, “but, they arrive with the Ten Commandments and a ten dollar bill . . . and leave without breaking either!”

Carl, thanks for giving me the “honeymoon suite.” I was a bit surprised. Let me assure you that’s the first time that’s ever happened!

I am reminded of the story told by the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Seems as if he, too, was offered the “honeymoon suite” at a hotel where he was to give a talk. It was in a southern city, at that time unfamiliar with Catholics. As Archbishop Sheen was leaving his honeymoon suite for supper, the housekeeping attendant asked if she could turn down the bed, and the archbishop told her he would appreciate such service. When he returned later that evening, sure enough, the bed was turned down, and there was a mint on both pillows. On one side of the bed was the archbishop’s pajamas laid out; on the other, apparently for Mrs. Sheen, was his beautiful lace alb he wore for Mass!

Which brings me to my topic: Marriage.

Usually, at this State’s Dinner, thousands of our knights look up in admiration to this dais, the head table, to this “crimson tide” of bishops and cardinals.

Tonight, I’m going to literally “turn the tables” as we up here look out with awe, admiration, and deep appreciation upon you, our knights and their wives, united in marriage.

For this evening, I want to salute marriage. . . and it would be tough to find anyone who has done more to defend, strengthen, and promote marriage than you, Knights of Columbus, and your cherished wives and families. In fact, as you are aware, one of the driving motives of the Venerable Father Michael McGivney in founding the Knights was to assist men better fulfill their vocation as husbands and dads.

We Catholics are hopeless romantics, you know, when it comes to married love . . .

Against all odds, we still believe that, when a man and woman vow that they’ll love and honor each other, “for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, until death do us part,” they really do mean it;

We still hold fast to the teaching of the Bible that God so esteems marriage that He compared His personal, passionate, eternal love for Israel to that between a husband and a wife; that Saint Paul tells us that the love of Jesus for us, His Church, is just like that of a groom for His bride;

We still have in our gut the Church’s timeless “Valentine’s Day card,” that the love between a husband and a wife has the same characteristics as does that of God for us: it is faithful; it is forever; it brings about new life in children.

We are such hopeless romantics that we contend the best way to get a hint of how God loves us now, and in eternity, is to look at how you, married couples, love one another. “The love of a man and woman is made holy in the sacrament of marriage, and becomes the mirror of your everlasting love . . . ,” chants the Preface in the Nuptial Mass.

You see why we, mostly celibates up here, look out upon you married couples with awe? We gaze out now at thousands of icons, reflections, mirrors of the way God loves us.

Now, you are, we are, the first to acknowledge that this romantic, poetic, lofty, divine lustre of marriage can at times be tarnished a bit in the day-in-day-out challenges of lifelong, life-giving, faithful love.

For example, I recently had the golden jubilee of a wonderful couple I’ve known for decades.

“What’s the secret to the success of your fifty years of marriage? I asked Pat.

“Well, you know Eileen and I are both of Irish background, so, for our 25th anniversary, I took her back to Ireland.”

“Pat, how thoughtful,” I remarked.

“Yeah and then, for our 50th, I went back to get her! There’s the key to our success!”

Tension, trial, temptation, turmoil – – they come indeed, but – – just as Jesus worked His first miracle, at the request of His blessed Mother, for a newly married couple at Cana by turning water into wine – – so does Jesus transform those choppy waters of tension, trial, temptation, and turmoil, into a vintage wine of tried-and-true-trust in marriage.

So, brother knights and wives, I thank you for being such metaphors of God’s love; and I exhort you, please, to continue, now, more than ever, to be so. Why, now more than ever! Let me give you a few reasons.

When I was Archbishop of Milwaukee, at an archdiocesan pastoral council meeting, we were discussing ways to increase vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life . . . yet another project, by the way, you Knights have vigorously promoted.

Well, Jan Ruidl, one of the members, commented:

“Archbishop Dolan, in talking about an increase in vocations for priests, sisters, and brothers, I think you’re barking-up-the-wrong-tree!”

Uh-oh, here it comes, I thought, buckling my bullet-proof vest, figuring Jan would begin arguing for an end to celibacy or to the male-only-priesthood.

But Jan continued:…

Please read the rest at the Knights of Columbus website.

So, This is Crazy, but Pray for me Maybe? by Rachel Knebelsberger

My hand flops through the air and, with a mind of its own, starts pawing at my nightstand. BEEP, BEEP, BEEP is playing in the background, and I can’t figure out what is going on. Finally, my hand finds my alarm and stops the horrible beeping sound. Groggily I open my eyes; why oh why is my alarm going off this early? The sun peaks through my window trying to remind me that I’m waking up for a reason. Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I remember that I’m supposed to meet a friend for daily mass, which happens to be at 6:30am. Waking up early isn’t the easiest thing and pressing the snooze button can be very tempting, but knowing that my friend will be waiting for me gives me the extra incentive I need to pop out of bed… err roll out of bed.

Getting into the habit of praying on a daily basis can be challenging. Because of this, I like to think of prayer as exercising our spiritual muscles. Similar to going to the gym, the first few training sessions may seem overwhelming and you may need the help of a workout buddy to get through them. This can also be the case in our spiritual lives. The thought of sitting quietly or not knowing what to say may be intimidating. Remember, it’s about building up your spiritual muscles; start small. Having friends and family members that will serve as a source of accountability can be very effective in helping us to live out and strengthen our faith.

You may be wondering why prayer is so important. Well, I’m glad you asked. It’s through prayer that we are given the strength to resist temptation and remain faithful to our baptismal promises (CC2340).  In addition to this, when we begin to incorporate prayer into our friendships, we establish deeper bonds of solidarity, the fellowship arising from common interests or responsibilities. In this case, the common interest is growing in our faith. When friends begin to act as witnesses to one another, it fosters the sharing of spiritual goods even more than material ones (CC1948).

As these spiritual goods develop, we are granted grace and are made more aware of God’s presence in ourselves and those around us. When we recognize God in others, we begin to see one another in a new light (man, it just keeps getting better and better!). The human person is no longer the object that society tells us it is. Instead of viewing one another from a utilitarian standpoint, as something to be used rather than valued, God’s grace enables us to recognize the true beauty within one another. And it’s through this grace that the dignity of the human person is restored. Only when the true value of the human person is recognized will we stop looking at one another with eyes of jealousy and lust. In turn we will begin to view those around us as people worthy of respect. When we see one another with this perspective, we are able to form authentic friendships. Authentic friendships recognize the unique gifts each one of us has been blessed with and, in turn, help to build up the kingdom of God here on earth.

 

 

C.S. Lewis’ Reflections on the Sexual Appetite by Mark Gonnella

Sex is an odd thing to discuss during war.  Yet it was precisely this topic that was discussed on October 11, 1942—in the midst of the turmoil of World War II.  The discussion was a BBC broadcast given by C.S. Lewis in which he discussed the matter of sexual morality in the Christian tradition.  I highly doubt that a man of his genius would broach a subject he deemed to be irrelevant to the times.  For Lewis, the ongoing physical struggle of World War II did not supersede the ongoing spiritual struggle for the soul of England—a struggle unremitting since the Fall.  Today we lack a systematic physical war, but we most certainly do not lack a spiritual war.  Sex is still important. It is still something that needs to be discussed, only I fear that I may not be the one capable of discussing it.  So, I hope you will allow me to stand upon the shoulders of Lewis and rebroadcast his incisive discussion on sexual morality and what this means for us today.

Lewis is no sanguine Christian; he knows the condition of man, and he knows the difficulty of modern day ‘sex-talk.’  Not a man to typically mince words, Lewis plainly asserts that “Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues” (Lewis 95).  The reason for such unpopularity is that it seems substantively contrary to our nature: the most ‘natural’ inclination to modern man is his sexual inclination, and anything to the contrary seems oppressive, counter-intuitive, and Victorian.  Lewis is aware of this disposition and he thus approaches the problem logically—he proposes the only two tenable answers left to this quandary: either Christianity is mistaken in its sexual morality or our instinct has gone amiss.  Clearly, Lewis argues that it is the latter that is in error and he proceeds to delineate his argument by appealing to nature itself:

The biological purpose of sex is children, just as the biological purpose of eating is to repair the body.  Now if we eat whenever we feel inclined and just as much as we want, it is quite true most of us will eat too much: but not terrifically too much.  One man may eat enough for two, but he does not eat enough for ten.  The appetite goes a little beyond its biological purpose, but not enormously.  But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined, and if each act produced a baby, then in ten years he might easily populate a small village.  This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.

Lewis is appealing to the Natural Law, the law inscribed on our hearts and which is a reflection of the eternal law.  In other words, Lewis is arguing that we are directed to a particular end and therefore our nature reflects the means by which we obtain that end.  Lewis is essentially saying that just because we have natural appetites does not mean that they are under our whim.  Complex things come with instruction manuals, and there is no doubt that sex is a complex thing.  It has a few purposes, but Lewis just focuses on its biological purpose, which is procreation.  But the question Lewis is concerned with is whether we should indulge in something simply because it is there, and if there is such a thing as too much indulgence.  Lewis affirms that there is such a thing, and modern man’s indulgence in his sexual appetite has reached the level of excessive.

Anyone who reads Lewis knows that he has a penchant for images, so it is no surprise that Lewis buttresses his original claim, that our sexual instinct is perverted, by employing a thought-provoking analogy:

Now suppose you come to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us? (Lewis 96)

Lewis responds trenchantly to the objection that, perhaps, if such a world existed, it would only reveal a societal state of starvation—that the preoccupation with sex is not due to corruption but to starvation.  However, given the number of abortions each year, the sales revenue for the contraceptive industry, and the degree of sexual saturation in our media, it is quite difficult to argue that we suffer from sexual starvation.  Another invocation that this image renders is the fact that many, I would hope, who came across such a civilization would instantly know that something has gone wrong with the appetite to eat. If not pornography but films of steak and eggs littered our internet, if magazine covers proliferated with photos of sandwiches and salads, if men spent hours each day looking at videos of women making roast-beef sandwiches, there is no doubt that it would become clear to everyone that there is a pandemic of a perverted appetite for food.  If this would be the case, then why is it so difficult to discern that our sexual instincts have suffered the same fate? Lewis’ answer will most undoubtedly perturb the modern mind: “Contraceptives have made sexual indulgence far less costly within marriage and far safer outside it than ever before” (Lewis 97).  Perhaps, in addition to spiritual decay, the reason why the sexual instincts perversion is so hard to detect is that we now have means to make such detection difficult. If means were created to mitigate the effects of obesity or, even, eradicate them altogether, and if there were machines that would reproduce food to avoid famine, then the perversion of our instinct to eat would be quite difficult to detect as well.

Another reason for this difficulty, Lewis argues, is the fact that “for the last twenty years, we have been fed all day long on good solid lies about sex” (Lewis 97). In contrast, the reason why food obsession is more obvious than sex obsession is because we have not been inundated with lies concerning food, and thus we all know the consequences of food obsession, such as obesity, gluttony, and using up precious resources.  There is no propaganda extolling us to eat as much as we want when we want to, or that it is “natural” to eat profusely.  However, lies about our sexual appetite have been proliferating for centuries, with more complexity and vigor than ever before.  The consequence of such proliferation is inflation.  The sexual appetite, like any other appetite, grows by indulgence, and the underpinnings of such growth, of our actions, is a false ideology—an ideology that says the problem is not active sexual appetites but inactive ones, that the reason for the present mess, if it is indeed still called a mess, is our many years of repression.  Freud wanted to liberate our sexual appetite from its societal coma, but what he really liberated was our ability to reason and our reliance on our conscience, which in turn enslaved us to pop psychology as a means to solve the mystery of human nature.  Lewis responds with the simple observation:

They tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up. But for the last twenty years it has not been. It has been chattered about all day long. Yet it is still a mess.  If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, ventilation would have set it right.  But it has not. I think it is the other way round. I think the human race originally hushed it up because it had become such a mess.

The reason why Christianity is not looked to as a repository for sexual instruction and edification is because people, quite falsely, assume that Christianity has nothing to offer to the discussion, that, in fact, Christianity is the cause of such hatred of sex and that the religion is antithetical to one’s sexual appetite.  However, Lewis contends that when people encourage others to not be ashamed of sex because of the act itself or the pleasure that it induces, Christianity follows the same script, and may even have wrote it:

The old Christian teachers said that if man had never fallen, sexual pleasure, instead of being less than it is not, would actually have been greater….Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body—which believes that matter is good, that God Himself once took on a human body, that some kind of body is going to be given to us in Heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness..” (98).

However, the problem is when they mean that we should not be ashamed of the present state of the sexual instinct.  As Lewis argues, “If half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips…” then there is something of which we should be ashamed (99).  There is nothing natural about the present manifestation of our sexual instinct; the oddest contradiction in our modern culture is that moderation is encouraged in almost every facet of life except in one’s sexual life.  If the present state of our sexual instinct were what is natural, then the natural course of action would have been gradual decimation of our species: for the sexual appetite is no longer life giving but soul-destroying.

Now the question remains: what are we to do with this mess?  Lewis offers an incremental solution to combating the immense sexual perversion of our society.  First, he wisely asserts that in order to be cured, we must want to be cured.  Physicians, much to their chagrin, must respect our wills.  The Grandest Physician must as well, for God cannot contradict Himself and thus He cannot break his promises.  He cannot grant us free will and then revoke it because we are too foolish to know how to use it.  The difficulty, Lewis argues, is that such a desire cannot rest solely on a verbal commitment, but that it must entail our whole being, for it is our whole being, not our language faculties, that is affected.  Lewis uses the case of St. Augustine to demonstrate this fact: St. Augustine, as you may know, wanted chastity and incessantly asked for it; however, chastity did not come so easily for St. Augustine, and this is because his heart contradicted his mouth.  As Augustine’s mouth begged for chastity, his heart silently asked for more time.

Lewis acknowledges the difficultly of praying for and seeking chastity, for he knows that everything in culture urges you to give up the inane quest and to stop resisting what is “natural.”  The issue, Lewis asserts, is not that Christianity’s demand for chastity outside of marriage is unnatural, but that it is perfectly in accord with what is natural and it is other principles which attempt to control nature that are artificial.  For example, the principle to indulge in one’s sexual appetites whenever one feels inclined is an artificial principle; it is influential because it is based on truth—the truth that the sexual act, in and of itself, is good and natural.  This truth becomes falsified when one adds, “whenever and however one wants.”  Lewis, however, is not unrealistic and is fully aware of the extent of our natural ability to overcome falsehood.  He knows the propagandistic culture, the fecundity of exposure to it, and the burnishing market for its display:

In the first place our warped natures, the devils who tempt us, and all the contemporary propaganda for lust, combine to make us feel that the desires we are resisting are so ‘natural’, so ‘healthy,’ and so reasonable, that it is almost perverse and abnormal to resist them. Poster after poster, film after film, novel after novel, associate the idea of sexual indulgence with the ideas of health, normality, youth, frankness, and good humour (100). 

With this in mind, Lewis remains consistent with his Christian realism: he does not pretend that we are capable of achieving chastity on our own, but that it is only with God’s help that this virtue may be realized.  Realizing still the difficultly of this, Lewis offers some consolation in the reality of our failure: “After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again” (101).  Trying for chastity, when one realizes the essential nature of it, is not voluntary—rather it is necessitated by our very nature and by the world we live in. One cannot remain moderately chaste, for there is no such thing, and to attempt a middle ground approach in this world will result in a groundless approach; the ground upon which we stand is ever shifting and moving to perdition—to stand idly on it will only move you in the same direction.  Lewis is aware of what imprudence posing an ‘optional question’ to a self-disparaging student would be, namely, that faced with an optional question, one does not consider how one does it but whether one can even do it at all.  Faced with a compulsory question, the student is forced to answer it: the answer may be wrong, but the attempt alone will procure some points; you will doubtlessly get no points for leaving the question blank.  Lewis profoundly contends that “virtue—even attempted virtue—brings light; indulgence brings fog” (102).

Thus, as a Catholic, we cannot avoid the tension of attempting to be who we were created to be while attempting it in such an aversive and counter-virtuous world.  We must remember, “the Lord God is my strength; he will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills” (Hab 3:19).  The temptation to do otherwise may seem stronger, much stronger than your will, but it must always be remembered that being is stronger than non-being, life is stronger than death, and truth is stronger than falsehood.  The fact that temptations seem so immensely tempting is part of the lie that it is built upon.  St. Paul reminds us that God will never allow temptation to fully crush your will (1 Cor. 10:13), and that God will always provide the means by which we resist the temptation. The Church teaches that “human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance  ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace” (CCC 1810).  Lewis’ wisdom reflects the wisdom of the Church in this regard.  Attempting virtue is always preferential to not attempting inasmuch as swimming to the coast is always preferential to allowing yourself to drown because the coastline seems too far.  We must not worry about our failure either, for failure in attempting to be like Christ will only remind us how much we need Him: “the only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection,” Lewis writes (102).  Perfection may seem like a foolish mark at which to aim, but this very mark is not a mark set by man but by God (Lev. 20:26), and God never breaks His promises.

“Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate and Think About Marrying”

Here is a link to an interesting book review, Sexual Economics, that explores the “sexual script” that young Americans act out and how it affects the “sexual economy” of America. Worth the read!  Has anyone read Premarital Sex in America? Please share your thoughts on the book and the review.

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/07/sexual-economics

A Knight Worth Waiting For by Shaina Colucci

To Begin…

Tangled

I may or may not be listening to the Tangled soundtrack as I write this…and I may or may not be listening to the same song from that soundtrack over and over again…I could (and have in fact) gush(ed) endlessly about how this Disney movie contains the essential elements of Christian anthropology and Catholic teaching – including but not limited to: original solitude, original unity, authentic masculinity, the beauty of the feminine genius, the relationship between suffering and love, the call to die to ourselves, the fruitfulness that can only be born of self gift, etc, etc. The main characters – Rapunzel and Eugene “Flynn Rider”Fitzherbert – have an absolute dignity about them as they allow love to awaken them to the true, the good and the beautiful – to the ache in every human heart (Redemptor Hominis 10, Gaudium et Spes 24, Familiaris Consortio 11*). My favorite line comes at the very end – Eugene observes: “At last, Rapunzel was home and she finally had a real family. She was a princess worth waiting for. Beloved by all, she led her kingdom with all the grace and wisdom that her parents did before her.” Of all the wonderful topics this movie inspires, I want to focus on authentic masculinity – specifically – modifying the words of Eugene, I shall write about “a knight worth waiting for.”

I used to have a long list of the qualities I believed a guy needed to have to be worthy of respect (I wanted a Eucharist-loving, guitar-playing, Knight of Columbus, song-writing, sports-loving, rugged, foreign, cleans up well but also can rock a beard, empathetic, generous, solid man…). I have slightly adapted this list to:

  • A man of deep, abiding faith
  • A man of integrity
  • A man who embodies authentic masculinity*

*If he could be all these three and also leave me in stitches with his sense of humor, that would be awesome, or as some might say, phenomenal.

Though Flynn Rider does come to embody these qualities, I’d like to turn to three other examples from popular culture of authentic masculinity…

1. The Fighter – James Braddock in Cinderella Man

Cinderella Man

Though Tangled certainly gave this movie a run for its money, it maintains its position as my #1 favorite movie. How is it possible that a girl could love a movie centered around boxing and blood? Because fighting and bleeding is part of life – and James Braddock willingly does this for his family. He knows what he’s fighting for; he willingly and with an endearing joy sacrifices his body (boxing and working on the docks with a broken hand), his dignity (returning to his former colleagues to beg for money so that he can keep his promise to his children that they will stay together as a family no matter what) and his passion (focusing his strength on being a good husband and father). I can’t think of a more Christ-like figure, nor one who so embodies the call of men outlined in Ephesians 5 in any other movie – and the best part – it’s all based on a real man. 

the Incredibles

2. The Hero – Mr. Incredible (Bob Parr) in The Incredibles

I’m not usually one to go for buff blonds, but Mr. Incredible has a place in my heart. Though he gets caught up in the usual temptations left to men by original sin (compensating pride, misdirected hankerings for reckless adventure and leadership that excludes others), he gets it. He gets that his wife and family are the greatest adventure and gift. Sometimes that adventure includes loving his family by willingly sitting in a 4 x 4 cubicle thriving on Dunkin Donuts coffee with a micro-managing boss. Sometimes it means risking his life to save his family from the grips of a fallen world. Regardless, he approaches his mission with courage, integrity and humble strength.

3. The Family Man – George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life

I think men such as “It’s A Wonderful Life’s” George Bailey too often get overlooked or cast aside in conversations about authentic masculinity. Could that be because it’s no longer cool to be a husband and father who continuously puts others first, sacrificing the dreams of his heart to help bring to fruition the dreams of others? We live in a culture used to having it all – the perfect job, beautiful wife, well-behaved 1.5 child/ren, etc, etc. Father Walter J. Ong, in “Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality and Consciousness,” writes: “The typical self-giving of men is the performance of valiant exploits for others, women and other men.” George Bailey – though he is not traversing Middle Earth like Aragorn, nor challenging the tyrannical English like William Wallace – is absolutely living out his authentic masculinity as he fights for a more just and loving society.

In Conclusion…

To all my brother knights out there, I thank God for you and I leave you with these words reminding you that your authentic masculinity is caught up in the fact that you are made for relationship, “It is not good for man to be alone and his home and his fruitfulness are in woman, his glory.” – Hans Urs von Balthasar. Whether you are called to be married to a beautiful princess here on earth or to the most perfect woman of all – Holy Mother Church – I pray for you and the battles you most surely will face. Ad majorem Dei gloriam!

*“Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.” –RH 10

“Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” – GS 24

“God created man in His own image and likeness: calling him to existence through love, He called him at the same time for love… Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.” – FC 11