Healthy (Catholic) Sexuality

Although this short post is entitled “Healthy (Catholic) Sexuality,” I believe that what is described here is what is best for everyone.  The meaning of life is to be happy – it is what everyone strives for, it is the end to every action.  The Catholic Church, following right reason and divine revelation, works toward the mission for all people (catholicity) to be happy with God.

Healthy sexuality can be summed up in the following way:

Healthy sexuality is sexuality that is participated in only by husband and wife and always by husband and wife.

I’m going to leave it at this and unpack the rest later.  These are my own words.  As far as I know, this exact phrasing hasn’t been stated by anyone else.  There are certainly people who think this statement goes too far, and many who think it doesn’t go far enough.

The specific phrases to further explain are 1) participated in, 2) only by, 3) husband and wife, and 4) always by.

This single sentence contains only affirmations of what healthy sexuality is.  The further details will contain more yes-es and do-es, but it will also contain the more infamous no-es and don’ts.

November 27: St. Maximus, Bishop

The saints are models for our lives.  By reflecting on their stories, we grow in sanctity and improve in various aspects.

ST. MAXIMUS was born in Provence, France.  From his earliest years he gave evidence of more than ordinary virtue.  After living a saintly life in the world for some years, he finally retired to the famous monastery of Lerins, where he was kindly received by St. Honoratus, by whom it was governed.  When the latter had become Archbishop of Aries in 426, St. Maximus was chosen second Abbot of Lerins.

The reputation of his sanctity drew crowds to the island, and the monastery prospered under it about seven years when the See of Reiz in Provence became vacant.  Finding that he was wanted to fill it, he fled to the coast of Italy; but he was overtaken, brought back, and forced to accept the new dignity.  In this position, he continued to wear a hair shirt and to observe the monastic rule insofar as his duties allowed.

He assisted at the Council of Riez in 439, the first held in Orange in 441, and at that of Aries in 454.  He died before the year 462.

PRAYER  Almighty and ever-living God, You willed to make Bishop St. Maximus rule over Your people.  Grant by his interceding merits that we may receive the grace of Your mercy.  Amen.

From Lives of the Saints No. 870/22.

“he was overtaken, brought back, and forced to accept the new dignity.”

What a way to put it!  How would we feel if we were given a promotion at work that we really didn’t want, quit our job, moved to another city, only to be brought back and forced to work!  Many of us would resent it.  Most of us would resent it.  St. Maximus was human, so he probably resented it too, until he learned and accepted that he was doing what God willed for him to do.

Here is the key difference between the saint and everyone else: the saint puts aside his resentments for the greater glory of God!

Our stories aren’t as far from St. Maximus as you may think.  Substitute his bishopric with the program.  After I entered the program, I ran from it until God Himself dragged me back to it.  On surrendering to His will for my life, I have learned a new freedom and a new dignity!

If physical diseases were treated like mental illness… (meme)

illness

If physical diseases were treated like mental illness…

To a person sick in bed: “I get that you have food poising and all, but you have to at least make an effort.”

To a woman whose hand is cut off: “You just need to change your frame of mind. Then you’ll feel better.”

To a woman vomiting: “Have you tried… you know… not having the flu?”

To a man injecting himself with insulin: “I don’t think it’s healthy that you have to take medication every day just to feel normal.  Don’t you worry that it’s changing you from who you really are?”

To a man with serious abdomen wound: “It’s like you’re not even trying.”

To a person lying in a hospital bed: “Well, lying in bed obviously isn’t helping you.  You need to try something else.”

Obtained from Reddit.

Own up

Humans have a tendency to want to cover up their mistakes like a cat leaving the litter box.  I say humans because this is not a trait exclusive among addicts, though addicts, especially sex addicts, seem to be the experts at this.  Like the “Private Browsing” feature?  Thank a sex addict who couldn’t remember to clear the history.

Just like the cat, however, when we try to cover  up our mistakes, we’re not fooling anyone.  When we ourselves are wronged, often the most frustrating part is that the other person wouldn’t just up own up to his actions.

It’s a common theme in twelve-step meetings to hear someone admit that the truth would have been easier; there was no benefit to lying, but lying became the normal thing to do.  It’s a habit that’s deleterious on our relationships.

Own up to your actions.  If you make a mistake, be it in your personal or professional life, admit to it.  Face the consequences.  The internet’s way of saying this is TIFU: “Today I F-ed up.”

TIFU at work.  Ten thousand excuses went through my head.  What should I say? What should I do?  In the end, I simply stated, “I messed up.”  I didn’t give an excuse.  I didn’t rationalize my actions.  I didn’t defend myself.  I simply owned up and confessed my mistake.

This vulnerability is frightening because we don’t want to face the consequences.  But we will face them regardless.  Lying only increases the consequences.  Remember, too, that people in general lie so much that the other person almost always expects a fight.  It often disarms them to let your guard down and admit your mistake.

Do we need to work the steps in numerical order?

Q: It seems to me that the steps to should be worked in numerical order, but I know of others who jump around.  Which is the correct way to work the steps?

A: Regardless of the fellowship you’re in, the “correct” way to work the steps is with your sponsor.  You should find a person who is relatable and is someone you can work with.  This doesn’t mean it should be your best friend.  You need a sponsor who will push you and call you out on your bullshit from time to time.

Every sponsor has a different style.  Typically, sponsors tend to work the steps with their sponsees in the same way their sponsor taught them, combined with various things they’ve learned along the way, either from fellow addicts or trial and error.

Some sponsors are radically different from others.  It’s OK to “fire” your sponsor if you don’t like him or her.  It’s OK to find someone else.  This is especially true when sponsors are controlling and tell you that there way is the only way that works.  The unfortunate reality is that some sponsors would make good cult leaders.  Your Higher Power is God, not your sponsor.  Don’t replace God with your sponsor.

Specifically to your question, I feel the steps are in the order they are for a reason.  Start with Step One, end with Step Twelve.  This does not mean, however, that the steps should be worked strictly from 1 – 12.  In many cases, it would be wrong to say, “I can’t make amends to you because I’m only on step one.”  This is especially true for a “Step Ten” mistake — where you have a quick turnaround on making amends to a recent wrong.  Step Nine is more for the amends while you were acting out (eg. cheating on wife, neglecting kids to go to strip clubs), whereas Step Ten is focused on continual amends (eg, “I’m sorry I yelled at you this morning.”)

Likewise, at the time of writing this I am still working on Steps Six and Seven, but I’ve had to go back and work Steps One – Five, at least in an informal way, when I start to rely too much on myself rather than God.  The steps are linear, but they’re also cyclical.  You work them, but then you keep working them.

TL;DR: In short, work the steps in order with your sponsor, but don’t be so rigid that you end up hurting yourself or others.

Advice from confessors

The confessional is the tool that Christ gave us to obtain forgiveness of our sins.  It is not a miracle clinic.  Going to confession gives us a new beginning and a clean slate, but it doesn’t remove all of our inclination toward sin.  We didn’t become addicts in a day, so don’t expect to recover in a day.

That being said, I would like to share the good advice I’ve received from confessors over the years:

When preparing for confession

  • Begin with a prayer that God will enlighten your heart and mind.  These can be found in most general prayer books, missals, and misalettes.
  • Examine your conscience.  There are many good ones online, but if these are not available, run through the Ten Commandments in your head.
  • Be on time or early.  If the scheduled confessional time is 5:00 – 6:00, don’t show up at 5:45, or even 5:15.  Show up at 5:00 or 4:45.  If there’s a long line, you may not have your confession heard before father has to vest for Mass.  If there is no line, and father has been waiting alone for 15 minutes or more, he may assume that no one is coming and take care of other duties.  Emergencies also arise.  Be respectful of the priest’s schedule and needs.

When in confession

  • List all your mortal sins, in kind and number (it makes a difference if you did something once over a month versus daily)
  • Don’t list your tendencies, just your sins.
  • Don’t explain why you did it, just say what you did.  You can’t shock the priest.  Don’t try to rationalize your sins.
  • Keep your voice down.  People outside the confessional are not bound by the seal.
  • Have an act of contrition in front of you, or have one memorized.
  • Do the penance that’s assigned.  If the penance is vague (“think happy thoughts”) or indefinite (“pray the rosary daily for the rest of your life”) or time constrained (“Mass starts in 5 minutes. Pray 100 Hail Marys before then.”), ask for a difference penance.

To avoid sin in the future (particularly sexual sins)

  • Pray the Rosary daily
  • Pray three Hail Marys for purity when you wake up in the morning
  • Devote at least 15 minutes a day for prayerful reading of scripture.  Start with the daily Mass readings (Extraordinary FormOrdinary Form)
  • Fast.  All Fridays of Lent and Ash Wednesday are days of abstinence from meat.  In most countries, Fridays outside of Lent are optional abstinence days, but you are supposed to replace it with some other penance.
  • For sexual sins, it is good to deny some physical pleasure.  This makes fasting from meat on Fridays (and other days) a good option.
  • From time-to-time, deny your body some other physical pleasure.  It can be small things like foregoing dessert or taking a cold shower.
  • End your day by reflecting on the good and the bad you’ve done.  Ask God for forgiveness, thank God for any blessings, and petition God for grace for the next day.
  • Go to confession whenever you need to, but the “best practice” is to go at least once a month.

Go to confession!

 

Some time ago we had occasion to come face to face with a striking example of spiritual pride.  One of the members of [an A.A. group] was condemning certain ones for their failure to do what he thought they ought to do.  Then, “Take me for example, I go to Communion every morning, I teach my children Catechism — in fact I have arrived at a point where anything I make up my mind to do I can do it.” Strewing incense at his own shrine.  Stupidly glorifying himself.  The sequel? He’s still drunk.

-Fr. John Doe (aka Fr. Ralph Pfau)

Quoted from:

The following is taken from Volume 5 of Radio Replies by Frs. Leslie Rumble and Charles Carty.

513. Last year [1971] a visiting non-Catholic American professor of philosophy, Mortimer J. Adler, said government must be based on the natural law, not on positive laws only. What did he mean by that? [N.b.: Adler was received into the Church in 1999.]

By positive laws only he meant legislation made by men merely because they happen to have political power to make laws, as if there were no higher laws than those they choose to make. Granted such an idea, men in power could impose any laws they pleased upon others. Might would be right. On the other hand, by natural law Dr. Adler meant the Will of the Creator who has not only endowed man with intellectual as well as physical gifts, but obliges him in conscience to live in accordance with his true nature and with natural moral principles. This means that there are certain rights and duties not originated by men themselves, which men cannot abolish, and which all men are obliged to observe. Might is not right. It must be subordinated to right and used only to maintain and defend it.

514. Does this natural moral law apply to non-Christians?

It applies to all human beings. Dr. Adler himself is a Jew, not a Christian. Even the Roman philosopher Cicero, who died 43 B.C., and knew nothing of the Christian religion, wrote in his book “De Republica,” 3:22, “True law is right reason in agreement with nature. It is of universal application, unchanging, everlasting. We cannot be freed from it by Senate or people. This law is not one thing at Rome and another at Athens, but is eternal and immutable, valid for all nations and for all times. God is the Author of it, its promulgator, and its enforcing judge. Whoever is disobedient to it is abandoning his true self and denying his own nature.” Observation shows us that every creature in the universe has been given its own nature by the Creator, in accordance with which it is intended to act. Irrational animals obey the laws of their nature by instincts which the Creator has implanted in them. Whether or not, in God’s providence, this came about by means of an evolutionary process is of no importance here. As contrasted with lower animals, human beings are endowed with reason and free will. Men are moral beings who, even if they are not Christians, are obliged to conform their lives voluntarily to the natural law of God as manifested by their own intelligence and dictated by their conscience. When they do anything which is wrong of its very nature, it is because they either have warped ideas or are acting against their natural conscience through sheer bad will.

St. Paul’s List of Character Defects to the Galatians

If you need a starting place with recognizing your character defects (vices), or if you are having a hard time with your list, take a look at Galatians 5:16-25.  This was the epistle reading from the extra-ordinary form of the Mass (Traditional Latin Mass), today, the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

[16] I say then, walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. [17] For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would. [18] But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law. [19] Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, [20] Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects,

[21] Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God. [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, [23] Mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law. [24] And they that are Christ’s, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences. [25] If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Some of the things here may sound foreign to you, but I bet most hit close to home: fornication? Check. Uncleanness (impurity)? Check. Luxury (also translated as “lustfulness” or “debauchery” or “sensuality”)? Check. Quarrels? Check Dissensions? Check. Envies? Check. Drunkeness? Check.  I can put a check aside most of those things.

These are things I can add to my list of defects, and help me with Step 8 and 9.  Whom did I envy?  Who did I hurt through my wrath and quarrels?

In contrast with these vices, St. Paul gives us the fruits of the spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity (kindness), goodness, longanimity (long-suffering, forbearance, generosity), mildness (gentleness), faith, modesty, continency (self-control), chastity.

In asking God to remove our character defects, we out to ask for the fruits of the Holy Spirit as well.  When we fill our hearts with these virtues, there will be less and less room for the vices.