“Though I tried to understand all this, it was too difficult for me,
Till I entered the sanctuary of God and came to understand their end”
Earlier this week I participated in a Facebook exchange. The exchange followed an article on the CatholicVote.org website. One person objected to her very clear explanation of the Church’s teaching on marriage, love and life. Let us call this person Sue. Sue shared that she just had a molar pregnancy and her doctor had recommended she not get pregnant for one year. So, Sue and her husband started using some form of contraception although it was not the birth control pill.
Sue feels the topic of contraception is ‘complex’ and she doesn’t like being judged for using contraception in her very special circumstance. She was indignant that others would want her and her husband to go one year without the marital embrace. And she really did not like being thought of as a ‘bad’ Catholic for using contraception in her very special circumstance. She had even checked with her priest who gave her the green light to contracept.
Singles Must But Marrieds Are Not Required?
I chimed in with the perspective that single people who follow the Church’s teaching on Chastity go year after year after year after year without any embrace in sight. I questioned why we expect them to be able to do this yet a married couple, for the sake of health, obedience and life, are not expected to be able to do this?
The poor logic behind this thinking is rooted in the contraceptive mentality. But, it is also a result of the abstinence mentality. The abstinence philosophy goes something like, ‘Hey all you single people, don’t have sex! We married people, on the other hand, will do whatever we want because we have been granted the right to have sex even when we don’t want kids. Oh, you single people want to have sex but you don’t want kids too? Nope. Sorry. That is a sin.”
That is why I am a big proponent of teaching Chastity to everyone rather than abstinence. Chastity is a life-long virtue. It is to be practiced before marriage and it is expected in marriage. And, because the virtue is required of all of us, it helps make single people feel like they are not alone in their struggle.
Don’t confuse marital Chastity with abstinence. I am not saying that the marital embrace is not good or encouraged by the Catholic Church. I mean, my goodness, it is highly encouraged by the Church!
But, marital Chastity includes remaining open to life with the knowledge that the marital embrace has a purpose. Besides being a renewal of our wedding vows, the purpose of the marital embrace, simply put, is bonding and babies. To separate the marital act from its purpose is a sin. That is the teaching of the Church and it is brilliantly explained by Dr. Janet Smith here. In addition, marital Chastity results in Superabundance!
But some marrieds want to believe that their contraceptive sex is somehow okay yet sex outside of marriage is a sin. But both are sins because both misuse and deny the beautiful purpose; bonding and babies.
It Is Possible
When I was pregnant with our miracle child, we were not able to participate in the marital embrace (Dr.’s orders) due to fear of another miscarriage. We did this for nine months followed by a C-section recovery period. Was it hard? Yes. Is it possible for love’s sake? Yes. Were we stronger afterwards? Yes.
You see, we had experienced the loss of two babies. So, the requirement put upon us was a light burden because obeying it meant the possibility of embracing our healthy baby in the future.
Also, my husband and I, like today’s chaste singles, had many years of being single without an embrace in sight. So, the thought of waiting nine plus months was possible for us because we had already strengthened our ‘delayed gratification’ muscle.
The Marshmallow Experiment
“A marshmallow was offered to each child. If the child could resist eating the marshmallow, he was promised two instead of one. The scientists analyzed how long each child resisted the temptation of eating the marshmallow, and whether or not doing so was correlated with future success. Although the experiment has been repeated many times since, the original study at Stanford has been considered “one of the most successful behavioral experiments”.
It gets more difficult to be obedient and faithful to the teachings of the Church when there is no reward in sight. And, that is my point about the heroic virtue demonstrated by our single brothers and sisters who are living out the Church’s teaching on Chastity. Given their ongoing challenge, it is almost an insult for us marrieds to act like marital Chastity is a major burden.
For these chaste singles, the marshmallow is set before them and they resist the temptation. They resist even with the knowledge that they may never get to enjoy that marshmallow let alone be given a second one.
But, God is faithful. There will always be fruit and rewards for our obedience in this life and in the everlasting life with Christ Jesus. It is very empowering to know that obedience keeps us in God’s will. Our hope rests in Him alone.
We are all called to the virtue of Chastity. Single folks, married couples and yes, even those with a missed vocation. This doesn’t make sense to a world in which Chastity is not understood and sex is mostly for pleasure both outside of and within marriage.
Hopefully, my Veil theory along with the information in this blog and in my book will fortify you in your pursuit of holiness through hope, obedience, the Sacraments and delayed gratification. Most of all, may they help prevent you from missing God’s will for your life.