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YOU: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body

 

For many years, centuries perhaps, the Catholic Church has gotten a bad rap regarding her teachings on sex. Considered prudish by some and demanding by others, her insistence on purity and chastity has been misunderstood, misinterpreted, and ignored by many.

pope-john-paul-iiIn recent years the Church has worked tirelessly to help people understand what Christ, and consequently the Church teaches regarding human dignity, sex, and why it is important to understand how these subjects intertwine. Pope John Paul II began this process with a series of talks that would later be compiled together as the Theology of the Body.

Theology of the Body emphasizes the sacredness of the body and how when we understand the true nature of our bodies- that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that the gift of our bodies have the ability to make visible the invisible mystery of God’s love- we can not only come to know and love God in a manner that is impossible to do in any other fashion, but we can know and love one another in a much deeper and spiritual manner as well.

Continuing Pope John Paul II’s work and as part of the New Evangelization movement, Ascension Press has been active in helping to bring the Theology of the Body to the forefront of Catholic education. Their new program, You: Life, Love, and The Theology of the Body, seeks to remind us that we are worth more than the world says; that we have an inherent dignity that sets us apart and can bring us to happiness, joy, and communion with God and one another.

You: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body

The You program is amazing. With inspirational presenters, captivating visuals, and down to earth advice, You connects with teens and parents alike. The program first builds a firm foundation regarding human nature, love, and responsibility and then tackles the difficult subjects that our teens are faced with today- pornography, masturbation, premarital sex, same sex attraction and marriage, and gender issues. It does this all the while reminding them of Christ’s love for each and every person.

This modern interpretation of age old teachings tie in Scripture references and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in a way that makes sense and that will resound in the hearts and minds of all those who watch the videos and read the books. The program consists of 5 DVDs, an instructor’s guide, a student workbook, and a parent’s guide. It can easily be used by schools, religious education classes, youth groups, a homeschool program, or even within a small group setting. Additionally, this isn’t made simply for teens. Adults who wish to learn more about the Theology of the Body would benefit greatly from this course.

You is not just another chastity program that says, “Don’t have sex! You’ll regret it!” Instead, it reminds us that human beings are created for love and created for communion. Our bodies don’t make sense on their own, but when we view them in the light of chastity, respect, communion, and love, we can see how beautiful and important the human body truly is.

Our society wants us to believe that what we want right now is all that matters. It has taken the words chastity, purity, and sacrifice and given them negative meanings. Chastity frees us from the attitude that it’s ok to use others and to allow ourselves to be used by others and instead opens our hearts to love- both to give love and to receive love. The You program shows us how living a chaste life, as we are all called to live, can bring us not only happiness but true freedom and love.

For those who are nervous to teach on this subject, You provides everything you need to teach the class. The instructor’s guide is broken down by session and provides notes, prayers, ways to engage the students, ice breakers, different activities to connect with the teens, and for those who need it, a complete breakdown of how to run the class including minute by minute instructions. This program can be used for beginners or veteran teachers alike.

The DVDs are simply amazing. Set against beautiful backdrops, well-known Catholic speakers who are vibrant, engaging, and relatable talk to the teens in a way that captivates them. The videos, while varying in length, seem to always last just the right amount of time. Some are longer (about 10 minutes), while others are short (about 3 minutes). But the message they each carry will speak right to the viewer’s heart.

The student workbooks are engaging and informative. They dive into the topics raised within the videos and they help the teens immerse themselves in a very meaningful way. With encouragement to “take it to prayer”, random tidbits and facts throughout, and review questions both at the end of each section and at the end of each chapter, students “will discover the truth about their bodies, their sexuality, and their unique call to love.”

The parent’s guide briefly reviews what the teen will cover in each lesson, provides questions to ask the teens, and family applications to help teens live out the teachings they are learning. The guide is an invaluable source for parents who wish to connect with their teens but may not know how to. .

You impresses upon our teens what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman and why this is important. It reminds us that we are each created not only out of love, but we are created for love. It helps us answer the question “who am I?” It tells us that purity “isn’t being numb to the beauty of God’s creation of masculinity and femininity” but instead that purity allows us to see the beauty of masculinity and femininity the way God wants us to- through a lens of true love and respect.

If you are looking for a program that will help you to teach the your teen how to live an authentic life of freedom, love, and happiness; if you are looking to guide your teen through confusing and challenging topics such as same sex attraction and marriage, pornography, and gender issues; if you wish to teach your teen that true love involves sacrifice, discipleship, chastity, and charity, then You: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body is the perfect program to try.

If you are interested in this program (and I promise you will love it!), check out Ascension Press’s website. Here you will find this program and many other resources to help you on this journey toward love, respect, chastity, and faith.

created for love

 

I was given this program in return for my honest review. I am not being compensated for this review.

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Understanding the Gift of Human Sexuality: An Interview with Jason Evert

understanding the gift of human sexuality

Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you my interview with Jason Evert who will be a speaker at the Theology of the Body Congress being held in Ontario, California next week. He will speak on homosexuality and the Theology of the Body.

jason-evertJason Evert is a renowned speaker and author known for his talks on chastity. Together with his wife Crystalina, Mr. Evert connects with both the young and the old; the faithful and those of little or no faith, as well as those who are seeking answers to the questions that have been set upon their hearts. Through the Chastity Project, various social media outlets, through seminars and talks, and through a new program entitled YOU, Mr. Evert seeks to empower, educate, and prepare the next generation to share the vision, the knowledge, and the love that comes from understanding God’s gift of human sexuality.

We began our interview talking about the new videos on Theology of the Body for teens entitled YOU: Life, Love, and Theology of the Body (which I will have a review of on Wednesday) and continued to tackle a few hot button topics.  

Once again, I feel that Mr. Evert’s words need to be heard in their entirety and so I present our interview in a question and answer format. I pray that you will be inspired, encouraged, and empowered by the wisdom that he shares today.

Q. You are well known for talking about chastity to teens, how do you think the new videos will reach out to a new generation of teens and young adults as opposed to other ways you have brought chastity talks to them?

The previous generation of Theology of the Body for Teens that we came out with was great at the time 10 years ago. Today teens are struggling with brand new issues that weren’t even on the radar 10 years ago. For example, I was talking to a young woman who wanted to go to college at Stanford and as a part of the application process she had to pick a gender… there were 18 genders to pick from and the two genders that were missing were male and female. They weren’t even an option. This wasn’t on the radar 5 years ago let alone 10.

There are questions like “what is marriage?” What does it mean to be male and female? These are fundamental issues that teens really need to have to have a solid understanding of in order to understand God’s plan for their lives. So this new version is really cutting edge in terms in being able to offer solid guidance, not just to teens but to educators to answer these tough questions.

Q. Is it just for use in schools or catechism programs or would families benefit from it as well?

Whether it is a homeschool family or a child who goes to a public school and the parents want to make sure they are getting a truly authentic education in human sexuality rather than “that’s it”… for home use or you can do it with group study, Ascension Press has a really neat offering that if you only had 4 people who wanted to do the study as a group you can just do the digital videos so you pay for the workbooks and don’t have to buy the dvds- you can get free streaming online of all the digital content.

There are 10 chapters, each chapter is about a half hour long and covers all kinds of content- homosexuality, pornography, modesty, vocations, starting over… it’s not just a chastity program. It goes much deeper into identity and John Paul’s full understanding of what the Theology of the Body is.

Q. At the Congress you will be talking about those who experience same sex attraction. How does TOB give clarity and hope to those who experience same sex attraction?

We need to take a good look at our language when we are talking about this topic. A lot of times people speak, “Oh that’s a gay person” “That’s a lesbian person”, “That’s a straight person.” But this isn’t really a Catholic way to talk about what it means to be a human being. What I mean by that is that there really aren’t like 9 different kinds of people. There are really only three kinds of people according to the Catholic understanding of that word.

A person is a rational being, so how many different types of rational beings are there? Well there are three- the Divine Persons- the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are angelic persons, which are the holy angels and the fallen angels. And then there is the human person made male and female in the image and likeness of God. And that’s it.

Our personhood, our identity, the deepest truth of that is that you are either a son of God or a daughter of God. Our sexual attractions are not the defining factor of our human identity and if we make our sexual attractions the core of who we are, then we will think that our life and our identity is being stifled and we can’t act out on those attractions.

An attraction is something I experience; your personhood is that you are a son of God or a daughter of God. And typically our behavior will flow from our identity. And so if we can first understand foremost who we are as beloved children of God, then our behavior will flow from that. John Paul provides an adequate anthropology, a sufficient understanding of what it means to be a human person. The only adequate response to another person is love. Not only to give that love but also to receive that love.

Q. In trailer I found a quote that was perfect for this conversation, “Being you is not all about you; you are a gift to the world when you love as God loves you.” How does this tie into the Congress and how will you bring this ideology to the Congress?

One challenge with this generation of young people is there is so much centered on myself- I’ve got my Instagram, I’ve got my Facebook, I’ve got my Twitter and I need to tell everyone what I am doing and share the picture of me when I look the best. There is a bit of an overemphasis on me and what I feel. Even with the gender issue of today, what I feel is who I am… regardless of what my body parts are, what I truly am is who I think I am. What the TOB does is call us to step outside of that and say “you are more than just your feeling; you have been created to make a gift of yourself. Stamped into your body is not just parts that you can do away with; stamped into your body is the sign of complementarity that you’ve been created to make a gift of yourself.” That might come within marriage, it might come with priesthood or religious life, or it might come within serving in your community, by making a gift of yourself and by giving of yourself that’s how you truly find yourself.

Q. Our kids are bombarded by society telling them that they should do what makes them feel good and to do what they want and that the Church’s teachings on the sacredness of sex and love are not important. How do we combat this ideology when the world’s voice is so much louder than our own?

There is a lot that we can do. And what we have in our favor is that their minds are made for the truth, their hearts are made for love, and the Church’s teaching on human sexuality truly offer them both.

John Paul II was asked, “If you could only keep one passage from scripture and all the rest had to be gotten rid of, what would it be?” He said, “The truth can set you free.” The truth is that the Church’s teaching on human sexuality is not just a litany of rules, regulations, and prohibitions. The Church’s teaching on human sexuality is really what the human heart longs for. Do we really want a love that is forced or conditional or temporary or lifeless? No, we want a love that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful.

It’s not that the Vatican is imposing these things on us; this is what the human heart truly wants. Unfortunately our world has sold young people this false notion of freedom- that in order to be free you just got to do whatever you want. Sometimes true freedom isn’t doing whatever you want; sometimes freedom is having the ability to do what you do not want in order to do what’s best for another person. The Church teaches that your freedom is best measured by your capacity to love. Anything that inhibits your ability to love- lust, selfishness, pride, ego- those things limit my ability to love to that extent I’m not free.

This language of John Paul II doesn’t argue from the outside in- these are all the rules that you have to follow; instead it argues from the inside out- what is it that you really long for? As a result, even though the world may be louder, the Church’s teachings really resound within the hearts of the young people when they are proclaimed in their fullness.

Q. How can parents incorporate TOB into their family lives so that when they talk to their children their kids won’t just tune them out but will want to listen and want to be responsive?

One thing you could do is study it within your own family. If you’ve got middle school students Ascension Press has a program called Theology of the Body for Teens, Middle School Addition-for 6, 7, 8th graders. For the High school addition not only do they have the dvds that you can watch a home, but they also have the parent guide that you can follow.

The nice thing with TOB is that you can start really young with some of these teachings about what it means to make a gift of yourself. Affirming them when they are young- “Dear Jesus thank you for making little Mike a boy and for making little Sarah a girl and for making Mommy a girl and daddy a boy.” These understandings of what it means to be male and female that we may have taken for granted 10 years ago, need to be affirmed in the young people.

And just starting them with this idea of the gift of self and that you really find yourself by giving of yourself- what are ways that Mommy can give herself to Daddy and ways that Sally can give herself to Joe in our family to love one another. Whether it’s by surprising someone by doing the laundry or doing the dishes without being asked, now, what do you feel after making that gift of yourself?

It’s starting them when they are really young with the principles of the gift of self, of modesty, of the goodness of being male and female in the image and likeness of God.

Parents need to get over any insecurity they have when it comes to talking about human sexuality. Some parents are scared to death, “What if they ask me if I was a virgin?” “What about this?” You need to get over it. If you don’t talk to your kids about the meaning of human sexuality, the world is very happy to fill that void of your silence with a very contradictory message. I don’t care if your parents never talked to you about it or if you feel awkward; sometimes awkwardness is part of the authenticity of it.

Q. What is the most important concept you hope that the Congress goers will come away with from the Congress in general or from your talk?

I hope they will be empowered to take this message to the masses- whether it be in a religion class, their young adult bible study, CCD classes… whatever it is… we need an army of people proclaiming this message of TOB. It’s really a treasure that the Church has been entrusted with. My open prayer is that people will leave this conference feeling empowered and educated and equipped to go forth with these new tools that the Church has been given… that people will feel ready and excited to take this message to others.

Please keep Mr. Evert and all those who are sharing the gift of Theology of the Body in your prayers. He asks that we particularly pray for the fruitfulness of the program.

If you are interested in learning more about the Theology of the Body Congress, please visit their website. The Congress runs from September 23-25th in Ontario, CA. You can read more about it here as well.

If you are interested in learning more about Ascension Press’s new Theology of the Body program entitled YOU: Life, Love, and Theology of the Body, please visit their website (and come back on Wednesday when I review the complete program!)

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Theology of the Body Congress: Hope for a Broken World

 

theology of the body congress

There is no denying that our world is broken. We only have to turn on the television or read the news online or in print to know that our world is hurting. As a result of this brokenness, we see our society seeking to change what it means to be a family. As concerned parents we have to wonder how we can prepare our families to remain faithful to God’s vision and hope for the family.

Between 1979 and 1984 St. Pope John Paul II began giving Wednesday audiences known as “Theology of the Body”. In his talks he spoke of the beauty and dignity of the human body. He reminded the Church that each person was made in the image and likeness of God and that the human body therefore had a specific meaning- it made visible an invisible reality. Instead of being made simply for personal pleasure or gain, the body was capable of answering fundamental questions about life but also was able to give us the means to love others in the way that God loves us. It is through the God-given gift of our human bodies, made both male and female, that we are able to find true happiness and fulfillment.

TOB for every bodyTheology of the Body is not simply for married couples or for those wishing to teach their teens how to stay chaste. These of course are wonderful reasons to study Theology of the Body, but TOB is made for all people. It is for those who are single, those who are married, for the anxious teen, the celibate priest or religious, for those who are in relationships, those who wish to instruct others, and most importantly it is for families. TOB reaches into each and every facet of our lives and helps to educate us all on the beauty and the sacredness of the human body.

This coming September in Southern California The Theology of the Body Institute will host a Congress to bring St. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body to all those who wish to discover the joy and freedom that comes from understanding the sacred gift of the human body.

The Institute’s mission reads, “…the 2016 TOB Congress will propose a powerful vision of sexual complementarity that reaches the core of what it means to be human, made in the image of the God Who truly is a Family – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Through presentations from experts in the field of TOB, participants will encounter God’s plan for fruitful, self-giving love, which lies at the very heart of what the family is meant be, as well as ways of ministering to the human family on the spiritual, emotional, intellectual and sociological level.”

TOB

The three day Congress will be led by over 30 powerhouse Theology of the Body experts and enthusiasts including Greg and Julie Alexander, Christopher West, Jason Evert, Dr. Pia De Solenni, Bill Donaghy, Dr. Angela Franks, Matt Fradd, Fr. Sean Kilcawley, Sr. Regina Marie Gorman, O.C.D., as well as many more amazing men and women dedicated to sharing the joy and freedom that comes from understanding God’s intent for the human body.

Through keynote speakers, break-out sessions, and panel discussions Congress goers will have the opportunity to hear how TOB relates to numerous topics that affect our lives- pornography, teenage sexuality, infertility, same sex attraction, the struggles of married life, the struggles of family life, teens in a digital age, TOB for singles, TOB for feminists, divorce, and many other issues.

In the coming weeks here at Catholic Sistas we will be featuring interviews with a few of the keynote speakers from the Congress. We are honored to be able to share with our readers the insights these amazing individuals have gained through study, through prayer, and through their everyday lives. Not only have they dedicated their lives to learning about the sacredness and beauty of the human body and how it relates to love of self, love of others, and most importantly love of God, but they also seek to live their lives embracing these tenets as well.

We hope that you will be inspired by their stories and encouraged by their advice. We hope that they will bring hope to you in a time where hope often seems to be lacking.

 

male and femaleOur human bodies are sacred and wonderful. They are fearfully and wonderfully made. They can lead us into a fuller and deeper relationship with not only one another but ultimately with God. It is through our humanity that we can come to know God. Theology of the Body gives us the insights and the tools we need to grow closer to one another and to our Father.

If you are interested in attending the Theology of the Body Congress in Ontario, CA from September 23-25, 2016, please check out the TOB Congress website here. You can read about their mission, you can view the complete lineup of speakers and their topics, and you can register for the Congress.

If you are interested in learning more about the Theology of the Body but can’t attend the Congress, check out the Theology of the Body Institute website here. “The Theology of the Body Institute spreads the life-giving message of Theology of the Body through graduate level courses, on-site speaker programs and clergy enrichment training. Theology of the Body Institue seeks to penetrate and permeate the culture with a vision of true sexuality that appeals to the deepest yearnings of the human heart for love and union.”

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for interviews with some of these amazing speakers! I promise you will not only learn about the importance of the Theology of the Body in all aspects of your life but you will also be inspired and entertained!

tob pope john paul II

 

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Being Vulnerable for the Sake of Her Soul

Being Vulnerable for the Sake of Her SoulA week ago, I shared with my 14-year-old daughter that I live with same-sex attraction (SSA).

Why? Because despite receiving thorough catechesis on sex and marriage (we’ve studied John Paul II’s “theology of the body” for years), she was still struggling to accept that people attracted to their own sex ought to be chaste. While she understood the what and even the why of the Church’s teaching on sexuality, the knowledge was academic for her. (As it should be at that age.)

Years ago, I was sure I’d take this information to my grave. I imagined my adult children finding my journals, articles, and emails after I’d died, and being surprised to learn that their mother had struggled with homosexuality. More importantly, I hoped they see beyond the struggle to its outcome–that through Christ, I had won the battle for chastity. 

Then I witnessed the widespread celebration of the Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage, with rainbows being touted not just from secularists and (bizarrely) corporations, but from self-proclaimed Christians and even churchgoing Catholics. I saw the vitriol directed at social scientist Mark Regnerus when he published a study showing that children raised by same-sex parents did show negative psychological effects over those raised by a mother and father. I’ve seen states trample the religious liberties of Christian citizens by enacting legislation that makes it discriminatory NOT to participate in gay marriages as a photographer, baker, or civil servant. 

I’ve gradually watched the chilling effect of political correctness that arose in my own Generation X evolve into what can only be called ideological despotism, with pro-gay marriage supporters willing to virtually crucify anyone who even thinks it’s wrong. And I know it’s only going to get worse as her generation takes up more positions of authority in society, as nearly half of Millennials believe the government should have the power to stop people from saying offensive things about minority groups, according to a disturbing Pew Research Center study. 

I prayed about whether to share such information with my daughter for a long time. I talked to my husband, and sought the counsel of a dozen close Catholic friends. Though a few believed telling her at 14 was unnecessary or premature, it was the words of a seasoned mother of adult children whose hard-won wisdom articulated my own deep fears and motivations:

My husband and I have found that the outside world becomes much louder than our quiet voices when it comes to matters like this. We’ve always taught our children that homosexuality is not a sin in itself. but when acted upon is a sin. Then our oldest children went into the world and others began telling them how wrong we are, some pointing out that they are living a homosexual lifestyle and they are “just fine.” Because we weren’t very vocal, nor did we have the experience to back up what we were saying, our oldest children don’t believe the Truth about homosexuality. The reality is, if the world gets to your daughter first, she may shut out your experiences because she will have a plethora of others telling her differently. 

So I decided to tell her. I waited for the Holy Spirit to provide the right time and then it arrived one night when the two of us were alone in her room, having good conversations over tea, with hours ahead of us before bedtime. Even though my daughter is one of the kindest souls I know, my heart still beat painfully as I prepared to tell her.

I was surprised by how difficult it was for me to talk about this part of myself with her. Not because I carry shame about it; I’ve long since accepted that my SSA is simply the wound God allows to keep me close to Him. But I’ve listened to straight Catholics who don’t know about my homosexuality talk about “those people” with obvious disgust. They see diabolical agents of Satan where I see wounded souls. I’m discriminating about who I tell and so far, everyone has responded kindly. (Eventually, it’s a non-issue because mature Catholics understand that everyone is broken in some way.)

But this was my daughter, the beautiful child I’d loved as soon as I’d known she existed. I’m blessed to have a close, loving relationship with her (yes, even at 14) and I was scared she would see me differently and that closeness would be damaged. This was a bell I couldn’t unring. But I’d decided that shoring up her faith was worth the risk to me personally. Finally, I just told her:

“I need you to know something important about me. You know I treasure your father and we have a wonderful marriage. But if he died tomorrow and I was single again, I would probably define myself as a gay Catholic woman.”

Her eyes got round with surprise. She cocked her head to the side. “Does Dad know?”

I almost laughed. No, I’ve hidden this from your father–my best friend–for 20 years. I thought I’d share it with my teenage daughter first! But instead I just said, “Of course.”

It ended up being a beautiful, heartfelt conversation, as those orchestrated by the Holy Spirit usually are. She asked me about when, and how long, and who. And if I’m still tempted. And why. 

“Yes,” I said. “But not as strongly or as often anymore.” I explained that the strongest temptation comes when I neglect my relationship with God. “When I rely on Jesus to give me the grace to remain chaste and faithful to my marriage, it’s just a teeny tiny struggle for me,” I said. “That’s one important reason I try to stay so close to Him.”

After many tears (mine) and much discussion, she looked at me with a dawning awareness. “I get it, Mom…you don’t expect anyone else to do something you aren’t living out yourself. Even if they choose not to, you prove that it’s possible to be chaste.” I could almost see the Truth sink from her head down into her heart and take root there. Then my tears were happy ones, as I realized why God had prompted me to take such an intimate, scary risk. (For the record, things are still normal between us.)

My daughter is young; there’s no guarantee she’ll remain faithful to the Lord for the rest of her life. She may move away and reject the Church’s teaching out of a misguided attempt to avoid hurting her gay friends. If that happens, I’ll have peace that I did all I could to help her accept the truth about human sexuality. I’ll have hope, too, that one day the seeds of Truth I planted the night I chose to be vulnerable for her sake can still one day bloom into a sincere and lasting faith. 

 

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I’m Catholic. I’m Gay. Now What? (Part 1)

This is the first in a 2-part series. The second part will be published next Thursday, May 10.

Fleshing out the teachings of the Catholic Church is like turning around an aircraft carrier: it’s done slowly and methodically, taking considerable time and care. And she typically only takes on that task when her teachings are under attack. Take contraception, for example…for nearly 2,000 years, “Contraception is immoral” was sufficient for most Catholics to eschew it.

Then the Pill offered couples easy, reliable family planning and suddenly, the Church’s teaching seemed inadequate. Especially when compared to secular feminism and humanism, which touted contraception as the enlightened path to equality for women, more satisfying marriages, and stronger families.

The Church caught up–eventually–with God giving us the profoundly beautiful teachings about conjugal love through John Paul II’s “theology of the body,” as well as modern natural family planning methods that are scientifically proven to be as effective as the best hormonal contraception. Catholic couples today are blessed that they have not only the means to be faithful to Christ, but plenty of compelling reasons to be, too.

We see the same thing happening today with same-sex attraction (SSA). Until now, the Church’s concise teaching was enough: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” (CCC 2357).

The Church also says that “This inclination…constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” But for many people, the call to compassion is hollow. Why? Because this is what they really hear the Church saying:  

We’re sorry you aren’t attracted to the opposite sex. We’ll pray for you to conquer these filthy desires. Sure, you’ll be lonely and miserable for the rest of your life if you’re celibate, but what’s a little suffering to gain heaven in the end?

Then there’s the secular world, which for the most part accepts and even celebrates SSA, claiming the orientation is so innate that it’s analogous to skin color. (And what kind of unenlightened bigot could fault a person for simply being who they are?) The world says homosexual acts are just another normal expression of human sexuality. These messages are more palatable to folks, especially to those who actually struggle with SSA and its stigma. The secular world seems so much more, well, loving and compassionate than the Church does on this issue…so much more enlightened. It’s not, but it’s the perception that’s killing us.

I understand this better than most because I’m a practicing Catholic and I live with same-sex attraction. I’ve known and loved many souls who struggle with it, too. Some of whom are trying to live as faithful Christians and others who live an openly and unapologetically gay life. If what the world says is true, then it’s easy to understand why so many with SSA reject the Church’s teachings. Who wants to be celibate–and thus, alone and miserable–for the rest of their life? 

If living a lonely and miserable life was the only way a person with SSA could be a faithful Catholic, I’d probably have jumped ship long ago. But that’s not God’s plan for us. Instead, God’s plan is so simple, so elegant, that it escapes the notice of even most Christians:

Intimacy.

God wants nothing less than the deepest, most profound communion with his creatures. But for a culture that thinks almost exclusively in physical terms, the only relationship worth seeking is the one that ends in sexual union.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, though. We seek the physical union because we hope it’s the means by which we’ll achieve the spiritual union. We intuitively know that the most sublime joy we can experience is spiritual, not physical. Would any of us suggest that a mother’s overwhelming joy at seeing her new baby for the first time is on par with savoring a good steak dinner? Or imagine that any sensory pleasure could compare to a father’s happiness at seeing the son again that he thought had died in the war, alive and well before him instead? The same is true of marriage. We don’t marry because we want a sex partner at the ready for the rest of our days; we marry because we want to share our soul with another soul. The physical part of the relationship–in healthy marriages, anyway–is simply the most intimate way we express that spiritual connection.

What every human person seeks–regardless of sexual orientation–is spiritual intimacy. We want to love and be loved by the other unconditionally, with such intensity that it scorches the soul. We want this: 

Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved you! You were within me, and I was outside; and I sought you outside and in my loneliness fell upon those lovely things that you have made. You were with me, but I was not with you…. You called me and cried to me and broke open my deafness; you sent forth your beams and shone upon me and chased away my blindness; you breathed your fragrance upon me, and I drew in my breath and now I pant for you; I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for you; you touched me, and I burn for your peace.

Would you be surprised to know that St. Augustine wrote this about God more than 1500 years ago? Most people are. God, of course, desires this intimacy even more than we do, which is why he pursues us so relentlessly, no matter how many times we reject him. Even those of us who love God and are engaged in vibrant friendships with him can only dimly comprehend the depths of his love for us:

Is it a small thing in your eyes to be loved by God…to be the son, the spouse, the love, the delight of the King of glory? Christian, believe this, and think about it: you will be eternally embraced in the arms of the love which was from everlasting, and will extend to everlasting, of the love which brought the Son of God’s love from heaven to earth, from earth to the cross, from the cross to the grave, from the grave to glory, that love which was weary, hungry, tempted, scorned, scourged, buffeted, spat upon, crucified, pierced…which fasted, prayed, taught, healed, wept, sweated, bled, died. That love will eternally embrace you. (English poet Richard Baxter)

The person with SSA yearns for love because he is made for love; we all are. But the love God plans for those of us who suffer SSA looks nothing like the world imagines it to be.

Please join us next Thursday for Part 2, in which I explain why same-sex attraction is a sign of God’s special favor.