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Catholic Life | Tag Archive | Theology of the Body
Tag Archives: Theology of the Body

Saintly Marriage: Why it Matters

The ideal of celibate marriage is not one that should be accepted by most couples in the form of renunciation of conjugal intercourse. Instead it should properly be understood as a challenge to examine one’s love for one’s spouse in comparison to one’s love for God.

Sexual activity isn’t what really matters. Love is. What is the honest answer to the question of whom one loves? It should be God. And then when someone asks about one’s love for one’s spouse or children, the answer should be a declaration that obviously one loves them appropriately since one loves God. Yet in comparison to one’s love for God, one’s love for one’s spouse must look like hatred.

The greatest challenge of marriage for me so far has been to learn to love my husband more than myself, and yet still less than I love God.

This week has been a great reminder of how very far I am from that. On Monday night I set the alarm so that I could get up in time to go to Mass before work. On Tuesday morning I turned the alarm off and stayed in bed for another half hour. It was lovely to be there listening to my husband’s breathing. Prior to getting married I could make myself get out of a cozy bed while it was still dark in order to go to Mass. But now the hard floor is too wonderful to leave when my husband is there beside me.

Thankfully God loves me more than I love God and I got the unexpected opportunity to go to Mass later in the day. But there could not have been a clearer indication that my love for Josh won out over my love for God. Yes, there are times in marriage when one needs to put service of spouse above spiritual practice, but it was not as if my sleeping husband cared whether I was there beside him. It was all about me.

Today I walked into a Mass that had started two minutes early. As I checked to insure that my cell phone was silenced I noticed that I had new voicemail from three missed calls. I did not check to see whose calls I had missed even though it was unusual to have new voicemail from the morning.

Then suddenly during consecration I realized that it could have been that something was wrong with Josh. I hadn’t seen him online in the morning. I had assumed that meant that he had closed Gmail in order to work without interruption, but it also could have been a sign of something wrong. Perhaps he was locked out of the apartment and his only way of contacting me was the cell phone which I ignore while at work.

I realized that I was being silly. I also realized that the priest had finished the prayer while I had been thinking about Josh rather than God. Unlike earlier in the week, I had not consciously chosen Josh over God, but Saint Paul might as well have been standing beside me with an “I told you so” look.

Marriage is a great gift and beautiful path of salvation. But it is also one of the most alluring temptations of damnation. Women in particular are especially vulnerable to spiritual damage in marriage because many of us are naturally inclined–and all of us our taught–to pour ourselves entirely into marriage. And the harder we work on our relationships, the more we give ourselves to our spouses, and the better our marriages are, the less we are drawn to the Triune God. For our energy is directed to our spouses and we are satisfied with something wonderful; something dreadfully less than God alone.

One obvious help for many married women Saints was wretched husbands who drove their wives constantly back to the arms of God for solace. That is not exactly the sort of aid to salvation that I desire!

And yet as I look at my life it is clear that I am constantly in danger of damning myself through “love” of my spouse! I am not worthy to be the disciple of Jesus Christ. Yes, I continually pray “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word…” but so often I am not really aware of how unworthy I am. For I am too busy loving my husband to notice that I hate my God.

This is why I must look to the ideal example of Our Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph and all the Saints who followed after them in the most perfect of marriages. It is not that sexual intercourse is bad, but rather that forgoing it for the glory of God is emblematic of the pure devotion to God which characterizes all the Saints. And the great love for God which makes spousal love seem like hatred by comparison is precisely what I lack.

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The Theology of the Body Fostered the Sex Abuse Crisis

Or at least you’d think so if you read Eugene Cullen Kennedy’s “Rigali’s new old time religion: The theology of the body or how to keep catholics feeling guilty.”

At Vatican II the church rediscovered its traditions of understanding rather than over-controlling the human person. The notion that this Rigali endorsed movement will bring back the old days is the scary part for it means a return to the constricted and repressive attitudes toward human sexuality that caused so much suffering for so long for so many good people. That world of confused thinking about human sexuality was also the incubator for the sex abuse crisis from which so many still suffer.

Which is strikes me as odd because one of the things that I noticed most about people who learn the theology of the body via Christopher West is how very new they think it is. Meaning that John Paul II’s theology of the body is so very different from the “old time religion” with its supposed endless list of “don’ts.”

But the part of the article that really got me was  where Kennedy described John Paul II’s view that “Love can, as it were, keep company with desire as long as the latter is subordinated to the former and does not do what healthy human passion does: ‘overwhelm all else.'” Does any adult really want a sexual passion which “overwhelms all else” in their relationship? And if they do, do they really want a religion to teach them that they should pursue an overwhelming sexual passion? Thus saith the LORD, passion, and nothing else shall save you!

If that is the case, then there has got to be a more appropriate religion than Catholicism. If you want overwhelming sexual passion to be your standard of healthy relationships, then you don’t just need a new Catholicism, you need a new religion.

So can we please return to a more sensible discussion of the Church’s teaching on sex and human reality? Because dramatically misconstruing John Paul II’s take on human sexuality is not going to provide any clarity or consensus. It is certainly possible that John Paul II’s particular approach will not resonate in 100 years, and that the current popularized version is quite off-base. But there is no point in talking about either if we are not going to at least understand what is actually going on. And insinuating that John Paul II somehow went against Vatican II isn’t going to help any more than implying that the theology of the body was the cause of the sex abuse crisis!

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Please Answer: Sex and Marriage

“Sex is marriage and marriage is sex.”

I will post on this after Easter, but for now I would love to have your view.

Do you agree or disagree?

Do you identify as a member of any religion?

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