Marriage, the Church and the Eucharist by Rebecca Barclay

From the beginning of the book of Genesis to the end of the Bible in the book of Revelation, God chose to use the imagery of marriage to show us the relationship He desires to have with His people. Because the human person has been created as a body-soul unity, God uses the physical realities to reveal to us the deeper meaning behind spiritual realities. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” Romans 1:19-20.

I would like to write specifically about the relation between Marriage, the Church and the Eucharist (the Eucharist according to the beliefs of the Catholic Church). This is an inexhaustible subject and all the time in the world would not be enough to penetrate into the depths of this great Mystery.

Like I said, marriage is what God chose to reveal to us the type of relationship He wants with us. So we must begin by asking what is marriage and what does the word of God show us about marriage? Marriage was established ‘in the beginning’ when man was created:
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:18-24

In this passage we are given the ‘steps’ of marriage: “a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” From this verse we can see 3 chronological steps that occur in the ‘process’ of marriage. The first is a man leaves his father and his mother. The leaving of one’s father and mother shows that there is a certain type of commitment that must take place. Adam did not have a father or a mother, and so this verse has been given for all those after Adam—to us. In the spousal love between a man and a woman there must be a commitment. This committed love is an essential part of spousal love. Leaving one’s own family signifies the commitment to a new family, a new beginning, new life. The second step is ‘cleaves to his wife.’ This is the marriage ceremony. At the marriage ceremony the spouses cleave to each other. They commit themselves to each other by the total and complete gift of self. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The spouses seal their consent to give themselves to each other through the offering of their own lives” (paragraph 1621). The third step is “and they become one flesh.” It is only once there has been the act of commitment and the offering of self, that a man and woman ‘become one flesh’ in the marital embrace. The marital embrace is the consummation of this love. From this moment on, each time the couple again embrace each other in the marital embrace, it is a renewal of their wedding vows. The marital embrace is a re-presentation of the total and complete gift of self offered at the wedding ceremony and fulfilled in the “becoming of one flesh.” It makes present again the offering of the bodies. The union that takes place between the man and woman in the bodies signifies the total and complete gift of self to the other.

And this is the type of relationship God desires to have with us. And Jesus Christ, taking the image that God Himself has given us, brought about and fulfilled the marital union between God and His people. He did this through the Incarnation, His Passion and Cross, and the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

Coming down from Heaven, God is now God-with-us. In Jesus Christ, humanity has been wed to a divine Person and now God is with us. Jesus, leaving his Father, became man for us. And 33 years later, He also left his Mother Mary, for us. Can you imagine the dialogue between Christ and Mary before He left for Jerusalem? The trust that Mary had, knowing that her Son has been destined for “the rise and fall of many” and to be a “sign of contradiction” (Luke 2:33). The depths of Jesus’ love for us, to leave his home, his friends, his family, to embark on a journey of suffering, pain and sin, and death—for us. He who knew not sin came to know sin, for us. In the Garden of Gethsemane we see the free consent and commitment of Christ to us, as He prays only for the Father’s will to be done. Here is the beginning of the wedding ‘process’, the process of total self-giving. Jesus, choosing to give himself to us, unites His will to the Father’s and “moves towards the wedding day and ceremony”. The process of total self-giving reaches its fulfillment on the Cross. When all that could be given had been given, God said “it is consummated”—it is finished. Whenever a man and woman have made this commitment, given themselves to each other, and when the two have become one, God says “it is consummated.” The process of the total giving of self has been finished when the two become one.

When Christ “slept the sleep of death” on the Cross, God brought forth from His side the Church. And this is signified by the blood and water which gushed forth from the pierced heart of Jesus. The water represents the waters of baptism, by which one enters into the Church. And the blood represents the blood of Christ, the blood of the Eucharist, through which we are able to receive Christ’s total gift of self. By Christ’s total gift of self on the Cross, man is able to receive Christ so that the “two may become one.”

Every time a husband and wife become one again through the marital embrace this is what is happening: the husband and wife are making present again the gift of themselves and the gift of their bodies (signifying their total gift) that they presented to God and to each other on their wedding day. Every time the husband and wife become one flesh, the bridegroom gives himself completely to the bride—to be received by the bride; and the bride is completely open to receiving the bridegroom. When the wife receives the husband into her body, she is receiving his love and his very life into her. And he is implanting the very seeds of life which could very well grow until a life is fully formed in her. The two, husband and wife, have become one, and very often bring forth another, a child. The two have become one have become three…it is here that the family of man most fully mirrors the family of God.

And how does this happen between Christ and His Church? “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is a profound one, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church…” (Ephesians 5:31-32). This is where the heart of the Mass, the Eucharistic celebration, comes into play.

Mass is re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. It is not a re-sacrificing—the sacrifice is not repeated, rather the celebration of the sacrifice is repeated. That is why it is said that a priest celebrates Mass. During Mass, the priest, along with the whole Church (this includes all the members of the body of Christ, not simply the ones present), brings before the Father the sacrifice of Christ that was made 2000 years ago. The priest presents again to the Father the gift of self that Christ made years ago. The Eucharistic celebration is a re-presentation of a past event and this re-presentation makes present the event being recalled—Christ’s gift, our “wedding day”. Each time we receive Jesus Christ (body, blood, soul and divinity) in the Eucharist, the two become one. The bridegroom, Christ, gives himself completely to his bride and the bride is completely open to receiving the bridegroom. The bridegroom gives to us His life and His love. Christ himself said “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day…” (John 6:54). Christ, through the Eucharist, plants the seeds of eternal life in us.

Advertisements

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.

Why do the Bishops and Other Catholics Oppose the HHS Mandate? by Ashlie Dill

On July 19th the Huffington Post published an article entitled Catholic Bishops Promote ‘Natural’ Family Planning Amid Battle Over Contraception Mandate.”  While I certainly have issues with the content of this article, I will choose to focus on the title because I believe that the title is misleading. It is true that the Bishops and many Catholic writers have taken the opportunity to write about and discuss Natural Family Planning (NFP). However, this is not simply a battle between NFP and contraception. While that conversation is one worth having, the Bishops’ (and other religious) opposition to the HHS Mandate goes far beyond the immorality contraception.

Targeting the Bishops’ stance on contraception is a way to distract Americans from the real problem that the Bishops have with the mandate. The true issue here is that our government is requiring that all employers provide health plans that include hormonal contraception, early abortifacient drugs and sterilization. These services must be provided by employers even if they have a religious objection to these services. Requiring that they provide these services violates their First Amendment right to the freedom of religion. Those who are opposed to the mandate are not trying to diminish existing access to contraception, even if they are morally opposed to the use of contraception.

In addition to having their religious liberty violated, the institutions that do not comply with the mandate will be subjected to heavy fines. These fines are not simply the coverage cost for birth control and other services, but an exorbitant amount. Here are the words directly from the CRS Report:

A group health plan that fails to comply with the pertinent requirements in the IRC may be subject to a tax of $100 for each day in the noncompliance period with respect to each individual to whom such failure relates. However, if failures are not corrected before a notice of examination for tax liability is sent to the employer, and these failures occur or continue during the period under examination, the penalty will not be less than $2,500. Where violations are considered to be more than de minimis, the amount will not be less than $15,000.

Yes. You read that right. That’s $100, per day per employee (from my understanding this only applies to women, since these “preventative services” are for women). That’s alot of money. Say you have 25 employees. Violation of the Mandate for just ONE day would cost $2,500. That’s not the end of it… There’s more in the press release from the Energy and Commerce Committee:

 Consequently, for example, if a self-insured religious charity or hospital with 100 employees chooses to exercise its religious rights instead of complying with the Obamacare mandate, it could be subject to a $3.65 million annual fine.

So, the reason the HHS department wants this Mandate is because they believe that a woman should have access to free birth control regardless of who her employer is. But if her employer chooses to exercise his/her religious freedom and does not comply with mandate, women (and men) will be losing their jobs because these institutions do not have the annual 3.65 million dollars to pay the government.  How is this really helping and protecting women? How is this bringing more jobs to the American economy?

Some people may say, “Well, women NEED birth control.” I disagree with such sentiments, but regardless of what I think on the subject the fact is that contraception is already widely available. State and federal governments devote hundreds of millions of dollars in annual funds to provide free or low-cost contraception to American women. 4,000 Title X clinics have provided contraceptives since 1970— 69% of clients fall below the poverty line. Over $300 million is annually given to PlannedParenthood and community health centers that provide contraceptives at low costs or free (Elise Kulik, presentation at the University of Michigan). Contraception is not scarce, and one who needs financial assistance can get it for very cheap, if not free. Why strip religious individuals and groups of their rights – rights that are supposed to be protected by the Constitution of the United States of America – to provide women these services that are easily accessible? In the video below, Representative Gowdy challenges Kathleen Sebelius (lady in charge of the Mandate) on whether she actually used the Constitutional Balance while drafting this Mandate and the ensuing “compromises” made for religious individuals and groups.

 

As the Bishops and others oppose the Mandate, please keep in mind that they are not necessarily seeking to reduce the access described above. They are not trying to make birth control illegal. They are begging the Administration to create an exemption that allows religious employers to act according to the beliefs of their faith – and in this case, that means not purchasing and providing birth control, abortifacient drugs, and sterilizations.

Many Catholics support universal healthcare, even some of the Bishops. But we cannot support this piece of it because it is in violation of our conscience and our Church’s teaching (a well known and well documented teaching, at that). When the government asks us to choose between our religion and the law, we will choose to obey God and the Church. Unfortunately, this likely means the closing of many Catholic and other religious charities, adoption agencies, hospitals and non-profit organizations. And as mentioned, this means the loss of jobs for both American men and women.

Please do more reading as I have only provided a very brief summary on this issue. Here are some links to helpful websites. Also, check out this video in which Helen Alvare addresses some of the issues regarding contraception, the government, religious liberty and the well-being of women.

Theology of the Body 101 by Andrew Hammer

I suppose that TOB 101 is probably not the best term to use.  After all, a college-level course would be much longer and more in depth that a short article could possibly cover.  To summarize Pope John Paul the Great’s 129 addresses* in a simple blog would be the height of arrogance, and probably not very readable anyway.  Nonetheless, any topic about human sexuality from the Catholic perspective in the third millennia would falter if we did not broach this subject.  So let us dip our toes into this ocean of enlightenment.  Perhaps we can, at the least, establish some ground rules and cover some basic concepts.

First ground rule: Catholics do not hate sex.  In fact we ought to be the ones expounding how great it is!  True, we do have priests and nuns who stay celibate all their lives.  But that isn’t because we hate sex, but because we love it so much!!  Who sacrifices something that isn’t worthwhile?  I told my wife I was going to give up Brussel sprouts one Lent but she just gave me one of those looks…you know, the one you get when you are trying to pull the wool over somebody eyes and they aren’t falling for it.  Arms crossed and eyes rolling back.  You know the look.  Anyway, Catholic religious give up what they value the most.  Not because they are weird but because they love God so much that they are willing to offer  this integral part of who we are as humans in order to bring Him glory.  No matter the vocation, celibate, single or married, our bodies and our sexuality point to God.  Personally, I get all kinds of looks when people find out I have 8 kids and they ask me, “Do you know what causes that?”  As If I could live in 21st century America and make it through the checkout aisle at the grocery store without figuring that one out!  But rather than be rude back to them, I simply respond, “Yes: a good marriage.”  (I can’t take credit for coming up with that answer but I like it the best, so I am going to steal it)  You see, one of the things that make marriage so wonderful and kids such a blessing is that when you live out Catholic theology in your life, your marriage is a good one…and your kids are a blessing rather than a burden.

But still, you may wonder what anything of this has to do with understanding God. So let’s bring this back to the Theology of the Body and begin by asking a question. How on earth can I be living out Catholic theology in my life as far as my body is concerned?  Or to phrase the question differently, how can my body be a theology, a study of God?

Blessed John Paul the Great

JP2 explored this concept in the talks he gave at the beginning of his pontificate.  His thesis statement was essentially this, “The body, in fact, and it alone is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and divine.  It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus to be a sign of it.” (Feb 20, 1980)  God is divine; we are human.  God is perfect and we are not.  That is a pretty big gap!  But Christianity is the religion which believes that God overcame that gap by becoming human; the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  This isn’t like “Men In Black” where the big bug comes down and disguises itself using a human form and then breaks out of that human form to reveal itself as a big cockroach (ew)!  This is God taking on our form totally and completely but retaining all His divinity to establish a connection, a bridge, for us to communicate with Him.  Remember that “sign” that JP2 referred to?  We humans communicate with signs: our words, body language, name tags, street signs, even the billboards on the interstate that we try not to read but feel compelled (probably because we still hear our first grade English teacher’s voice telling us not to skip over words but to read them all.)  Those signs are how we communicate with each other.

TOB tells us that our body is that sign by which we communicate with God.  As Catholics we already know some of this.  We fold our hands and bow our heads to pray.  We talk, we play music, we sing for Him.  We make the sign of the cross with our hand on our forehead, chest, and shoulders (this covers our minds, our hearts, and our burden-bearing limbs).  We kneel for worship, stand at attention, or sit to listen.  We can’t help but use our body to express ourselves to God because that is how we are made to communicate.  God on the other hand, desires to communicate with us by showing us Himself through our bodies; He reveals His mystery hidden since the beginning.  We can certainly read the story of God’s mystery in the bible, but God does not stop there; He does not rely on words alone.  He tells us that if His disciples were quiet, the very rocks and trees would call out His glory.  In other words, God reveals Himself through physical means: He makes the spiritual known through the physical.

TOB shows us that it is through our physical bodies that God is teaching us about Himself, primarily as He exists in a Trinity.  Like God, we belong to a trinity of our own, starting off our lives as children of a mother and father, a three-entity unit called a family.  Whether it is intact or broken, in a life-long relationship or through a one night stand, or even through highly scientific methods of extraction and implantation, our very existence is as a life formed as a product of the union of a man and a woman.  We all share the same beginning as a child.  When we grow up and experience a family of our own, our understanding of this becomes more profound.  Our bodies as man and woman (hopefully reserving this as husband and wife), acting in conjunction, produce a third person.  Our love for one another, expressed through the pinnacle of physical passion, is so real that it can produce a third person.  The male essence and the female essence come together in such a miraculous event that it causes another life to come into existence in a new act of creation.  We then share in the begetting of another soul that will grow into spiritual equity with ourselves.  For all of eternity, that child will be one part of the family trinity started with a physical expression of love.   How awesome a power is that?  And how solemn it should be… Our sexual expression, coming together in union as male and female, reflects the very nature of the Trinity. In other words, marital union is a direct reflection of the Triune love!

Our acts of our sexuality, therefore, should not be something that we parade about and put on display at the checkout line.  As Catholics, we should embrace the fullness of what TOB teaches us: that our sexuality is the most sacred thing that we have, because it is a representation, a sign of God’s abundant love. To be sexual is to be human.  And to be human is to be striving to be worthy of the divine.  For that is why we were made.

*     John Paul II gave 129 talks between September 1979 and November of 1984 which have become known as the Theology of the Body.  Quotes by JP2 are referenced by the date of the talk

What the Devil Happened? By Rebecca Barclay

Most Christians, and a lot of non-Christians, are familiar with the story of original sin.  Adam and Eve were created.  They were told not to eat of that one tree.  They did, after being beguiled by the Devil, in the form of a serpent, and boom: the rest of mankind shall suffer the consequences of sin in the world.  It’s hard for us to imagine life before the Fall and before sin entered creation.

Even though we are familiar with this part of the story, I think that the consequences part is a bit hazy at times for us.  Before the Fall there wasn’t just no sin in the world.  There was a harmony that existed in all of creation—between God and man, within man himself, between man and other men, and between man and nature.  After sin entered the picture, all of these areas are adversely affected.

Now it is difficult for man to come before God sincerely and honestly.  We see in the Bible that after Adam and Eve sinned they hid from God.  We do this in countless ways still when we ignore our consciences, when we don’t make time to pray, and when we don’t ‘own up’ to the sins we commit.  This leads right into the second effect: man also suffers discord within himself.  It’s no longer easy for a man to know himself, to turn to God in his heart, or to choose what is good.  Catholics call this concupiscence—when we are inclined to choose evil.  All of our days we will toil to choose what is good and what we know is good.

Naturally, man’s relationships with other men suffer as well as a result of sin.  We struggle to treat others justly and to be generous.  We struggle to listen to others and to believe them.  We struggle not to use others for our own ends or to get things we want.  As a general rule, now instead of delightfully skipping along the smooth path to the Kingdom together people have become saint makers.*

And finally creation itself is affected by sin.  God didn’t intend for there to be natural disasters, cancer, or children born with deformities.  There are countless examples we can see in the world itself.  And looking at this shows us the real meaning behind St. Paul’s words, “All of creation has been groaning …” Romans 8:22?

Original sin is perhaps the easiest of Catholic doctrines to defend because deep down we know that things aren’t as they ought to be.

But what does this have to do with Catholic Sexpectations?

This means that as Catholics we can expect there to be disharmony in the sexual realm as well.  And it could be looked at in the same fourfold manner mentioned above.

Man and God

How many times have you heard the phrase (whether on TV, in jokes, or after a sermon or homily), “Keep your religion out of the bedroom!”  Keep God out of the bedroom.  Keep God out because we can hardly imagine God being with us while we are doing what we do in the bedroom.  We can’t imagine God because God doesn’t have a body.  The Catechism tells us that God cannot be defined as male or female.  And sex has been so twisted and degraded that it’s hard for us to not be ashamed of sex even though sex is good and holy.  Sin affects us in this way—that we separate this and want to hide it from God, the Author of Life and Creator Himself.

Man and Himself

We also struggle on our own, in our own hearts, with lustful thoughts, with objectifying, with disordered desires.  There is a great discord within man.  Even in the most loving of marriages, there is still the task for each spouse to accept that his sexual desire for the other is still limited by his natural, larger desire for eternal union with Love itself.  People struggle with sexual confusion because of past hurts and wounds.  Sexual desire is a gift given to man from God.  After sin entered the picture, we got confused about how to use this gift given to us.  And like with all gifts, if you use a gift improperly it doesn’t function as it is supposed to.  This is true for sex as well.

Man and Others

We struggle to treat others as persons.  In Love and Responsibility Blessed John Paul II writes that the proper response to a human person is love.  And love is willing the highest good for the other; love is treating someone as if they are some one—a separate one, individual person, with a good end for himself apart from yourself.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states “All Christian faithful are called to lead a chaste life” (CCC?).  Chastity is the virtue that directs our sexual desires towards the good of the person.  All of us—priests, singles, married, monks, women, men—are called to live out chastity.  We are called to be chaste—not just to be refraining from certain actions or to be abstinent for a certain period of time; we are called to treat other persons with the love that is proper to being a human person.

Man and Nature

I don’t believe there are scientific studies that show that there is a certain same-sex attraction gene, but even if there were, I don’t think that I could honestly be surprised.  The disharmony that entered the world after the Fall has effects that will reverberate through the whole history of mankind and while we tend to associate sin with only having spiritual effects, there is no reason why sin doesn’t also affect the physical realm.  But as with the examples mentioned earlier, about cancer, natural disasters and being born with deformities, we know these to be unnatural.   We don’t say that it’s normal to live without an arm to a child that is born without an arm.  We teach them how to live as normally as possible without the proper health and function of the missing arm.  The same goes for unnatural sexual tendencies—same sex attractions, sexual confusion, gender disorientation. None of these are natural, even if experienced from very early on in life, and therefore should not be deemed as the standard for a healthy, wholesome life.  Calling these things natural, or accepting them as healthy for the human person, doesn’t result in them being any more natural than they are already.  All of us are called to be chaste—and for each and every single one of us that will look different.  Each of us is given the opportunity to glorify God with our bodies, and for each of us this will look different.**

As Catholics, as Christians, we can expect this.  We can also expect the redemption won by the Blood of Christ to cover all aspects of our sexuality.  It is only when we expect, and beg and plead, for the redemption won by Christ to wash over our sexuality as well that we can experience the true freedom that is appropriate for the Sons and Daughters of God.

* Saint Maker: that one person that God gave the gift and talent of rubbing you the wrong way consistently to, thereby, making you choose between vice and virtue.  Choose wisely and become a saint.

** This topic is massive and will be covered in a future post separately

Check out Rebecca Barclay’s other posts

Modesty & Freedom by Katie Krouchick

Once upon a time, modesty was a code of conduct that was simply assumed and put into action. Society today, however, seems to have waged an unspoken war on modesty. A common definition for modesty is “freedom from conceit or vanity” and “propriety in dress, speech, and conduct”. Dress, speech, and conduct – three core elements of a person’s decorum, with each holding incredible importance. While of similar value, though, there’s one that catches our attention before the other two, and it’s the one that attracts us visually – dress. As the definition states, modesty is supposedly rooted in freedom. Seems odd, right? Having to cover up and hide beautiful parts of our bodies is “freeing”? Some modern feminists might call this restricting, oppressive, violating…anything but freeing.

As a rebuttal to the oppressive notion of modesty, women have resorted to saving on fabric while revealing more of themselves than ever before. Yet there are still women, of all backgrounds and beliefs, who believe in a modest lifestyle. Despite it being out of fashion (and out of stores), why do these women spend more time and effort on searching for ways to cover up? Is it that we’re ashamed of our bodies? Is it that we enjoy looking frumpy with no shape? Is it that we’re afraid of showing off the way God created us? …NO! Edith Head has a great quote saying, “A dress should be tight enough to show you’re a woman, and loose enough to prove you’re a lady.” We, as authentic women, certainly do NOT want to hide our beauty. We don’t even want to diminish it – we desire to be seen as beautiful, as that’s how the Lord made us! What we do not want, however, is to show off our bodies for our own glory or self-gratification, and even further, to lead ourselves and/or others into sin. And that is what immodesty often does, even if it is not the intent.

St. John Crystendom says, “You allege that you never invited others to sin. You did not, indeed, by your words, but you have done so by your dress and your deportment. … When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent?” The crazy thing about immodesty is that it may not produce any directly sinful actions. It may not have any visible, harmful effects. But when a women dresses to reveal something more than what is proper, she is giving off the okay for men to look, to imagine, and then, if the moment allows, to act. It is so easy for us to blame men entirely for this, and to not even give a thought as to how we contribute to this issue. So often we hear women saying, “It’s his problem if he’s impure. It’s his own fault if he can’t keep his mind off sex. He only ever wants one thing.” Maybe, just maybe, those impure thoughts are not simply his own, but a working combination of both a man’s natural desire and a woman’s lack of respect for that desire. It is indeed wrong for a man to treat a woman as a physical object, but it is just as wrong for a woman to entice a man with her body and then accuse him for taking notice.

We all desire to be loved, but a great temptation we face, as women, is to think that the only way to find that love is by exploiting our bodies for the world to see and admire. We need to stop blaming men for desiring what we make visible, and take charge of our own dignity. It is only then that we will gain the respect that we know we deserve. And once that mutual respect exists between man and woman, true love that goes beyond the physical can begin to take place.

It’s hard living a modest lifestyle when the media bombards us with images that contradict this, but the fruits of living this way far outweigh the temporal pleasures of not. What the Church teaches on modesty is so intertwined with teachings on chastity, and the Church’s teachings on chastity (aside from being the truth) are a direct way of exercising freedom in this world. By dressing, speaking, and acting in a modest fashion, it helps us keep our dignity as beloved daughters of God.

Two Kinds of Rules by Mark Gonnella

As a result of the recent birth control controversy, much ado has been made about the Church’s teachings on morality, particularly sexual morality.  Often the charge that is leveled against the Church concerns her ‘rules,’ which are seen as archaic and oppressive.  It has been my experience, however, that those who kvetch about the rules only do so because they do not agree with them. The reason why rules are satirized and scoffed at is that they are either misunderstood or understood clearly.  Either the purpose of the rules are unknown and thus are confused for something we do not need, or they are clearly understood and believed to be needless and thus discarded accordingly.  Thus, in responding to the charge that the Church enforces needless rules, which become most troublesome when they are made by Christians, one is required to reveal the foundation of such ‘rules.’  Revealing the foundations of the Church’s teachings on morality may illuminate the rules as not being superfluous additions to the faith, but necessary conclusions from the preordained doctrines of the faith.  However, in order to determine the usefulness or the uselessness of the Church’s teaching on morality, it may be important to establish two kinds of rules: 1) rules that are external to the object and thus artificial, or 2) rules that are intrinsically found within the object itself.

The artificiality of rules can readily be seen when one examines whether the rules that he is asked to abide by have any consequences to the state of his being. In other words, if it makes any internal difference whether one follows the rules or disobeys them.  Rules of etiquette are such rules in that they are manmade and artificial.  The fork going on the left instead of the right of the plate makes no difference to your being; you will only offend the arid sensibilities of aristocrats if you choose to rebel against the ‘proper’ placement of eating utensils.  Thus, practically most rules of politeness are of the external variety, namely, that they do not make any difference to your being; they do not internally affect you if you do not abide by them.  The rules of baseball are arbitrary and do not reflect the nature of baseball players or the baseballs that they hit.  The rules are their because someone thought it convenient to construct a game based on those particular rules—changing them will not damage the nature of the balls, bats, or batgirls; they may infuriate the fans and the players, but such an infuriation is simply due to inconvenience, not because of some violation of their nature.  These rules are asked to be followed because it would be either kind to do so or convenient; they can be altered, disobeyed or even discarded without any consequence to your nature, to what it means to be human

The second kind of rules is rules that matter and make a difference to your being; they are the rules that are intrinsically bound to the very nature of the object.  In other words, they are the rules that are necessitated by the very nature of the object.  “Cows do not eat meat” is necessitated by the very nature of a cow—the cow’s nature necessitates that it eats plants, not meat. These rules are fixed and cannot be altered or changed; they can be ignored, but doing so has consequences.  The rule that man cannot live underwater without an external apparatus is necessitated by the fact that his nature does not allow him to breathe underwater.  You cannot change this rule but only ignore it. Now, the question is whether the Church’s ‘rules’ on morality are an example of category number one or two.

Whether the Church constructs artificial rules of morality or serves as a repository for all the necessary rules can be seen if one considers our beginning and our end.  God is our source of life; He is our Creator (Gen. 1:27) and we move and find our being in him.  Thus, as the painting has an imprint of the artist on it, we are imprinted with the desire to know and love God.  The Church’s ‘rules’ are founded upon the principle that man is made in the image of God, and thus man is made with a definitive nature—a nature constituted with inherent truths, truths that cannot be avoided inasmuch a man stranded in the desert can avoid the heat by wishing that he was in the shade. Our nature is ineradicable and fixed. We were made one way and not another way, and thus we must respect the Author’s decision to create us in the way that we were created.  We can rebel against it, but alas, we would be rebelling against our own nature. We are made by God and for God, which means we find our destiny and fulfillment in God.  Therefore, if God was our beginning, then He most certainly is our end.  Experience continuously tells us that we desire happiness, and the Christian must ask himself if happiness exists apart from God.  If an animal was made for the ocean, will it ever be satisfied until it finds it?  Similarly, if we are made by God, then we are made for God.  And if we were made this way and not that way, then we have to live according to the way that we were made.

Simply put, we ought to live a certain way.  That way is not random, but is preordained from necessity; it is the only way to reach our end and to achieve our fulfillment in God.  The Church, if we believe the Church to be what she claims to be, has been given the guide to life everlasting.  It is important to note that in regards to faith and morals, the Church never creates but only receives.  In this case, she has received the map to eternal life and this manifests itself in her teachings.  In this regard, her ‘rules’ no longer appear as rules, but rather they appear as reminders.  We are dignified sons and daughters of God, and we were made for a certain purpose, a purpose that cannot be paralleled by anything else, for it is the purpose, under which all purposes are subsumed.  We are to live and act a certain way, for we were created for something that requires us to do so: eternal joy.  Thus, the Church lays out the path on which we are to follow in order to reach that end, the end for which we were made.  This trail is not arbitrary but preordained, and it was not designed to restrict us but rather to set us free.  Freedom is always freedom from something, and in this case since God is the source of life, living as God designed us to live, and not living contrary to our nature and thus against God, is freedom from death.   These rules that the Church is criticized for “creating” are what ultimately set us free; they are what ultimately prevent us from death since they are instructing us on how to live in accord with our nature.  Adherence to these rules grants us life everlasting.  To complain about and challenge the teachings of the Church is similar to the child complaining to his mother that the medicine she requires him to take does not please him.  He would rather try something sweeter.  Little does he know, however, is that the sweetness of the alternative is temporary and only makes his illness worse.  How foolish are we who regard the Church’s teaching on morality equally distasteful because we want something sweeter, and how absurd of us to ignore the fact that it only makes our illness worse.