Last night, Patty and her husband, the couple who lead RCIA, received a blessing from Fr. George because it was their 41st wedding anniversary. It also happened to be the night we talked about the sacrament of marriage.
My own family background is two Catholics married for life and my five younger siblings (and currently: one dog, three cats). I remember being little and finding such comfort in knowing, that even when my parents fought, they loved each other, they loved their children, and they would never get a divorce. Still, knowing love and being witness to it, I still struggle with what it means to really and truly love another person.
Marriage between a man and a woman is considered a reflection of Christ's love for his Church and a call from God. As Patty said, "[The married couple] become[s] a sign of hope in Christ's power to transform hearts." Just like religious vocations and the single life, marriage is a vocation, which implies a deeper way of living, as married couples serve as both a blessing and a gift to each other and the world.
The Catholic Church has seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Confession, Marriage, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick. The sacraments are an outward sign of an inward grace, which is why people with mortal sins on their soul should not take the Eucharist and why the Church takes very seriously the transgressions of a religious person breaking their vows in any way.
The news of Fr. Alberto Cutie's latest book, Dilemma: A Priest's Struggle with Faith and Love, has caused waves in the Catholic press, especially since the non-Catholic members of the press are playing chief apologists. Fr. Cutie is the Roman Catholic priest from Miami, FL caught on a beach with his girlfriend by a Mexican celebrity magazine one year ago. Two weeks after being publicly exposed, he joined the Episcopalian Church and has since been married to his girlfriend. They now have a baby girl, whom he rightly loves. But his love for his daughter or his wife is not the problem: he broke his vows. He did not wait to be laicized by the Catholic Church. (Which means Fr. Cutie is still a Roman Catholic priest, which means he is living in sin.) The "dilemma" is with him, not the teachings of the Catholic Church. It's like a Graham Greene novel, in real life!
Thomas Pringle recently wrote a wonderful presponse to the book:
"According to the Herald article, Cutié then goes on to make his most erroneous claim in the book. He cites celibacy and the recent clergy sex abuse scandals as the reasons for the dwindling number of vocations in the church. Okay, stop right there! This is where I have my biggest issue with Fr. Alberto.
In the last several years, the number of young men studying at the Archdiocese’s St. John Vianney College Seminary and at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach has been extraordinary! Last year, SJVCS saw numbers it had not seen in 35 years! That’s after the revelations of clergy sexual abuse and with knowledge of the requirement of clerical celibacy. How do I know this?? I was one of the nearly 80 men studying there.
The young men—and sometimes not so young men—who are studying to be priests are in the seminary because they want to make a difference in the world. They want to give everything they have to the Lord. When a young man enters the seminary, he doesn’t know he is going to be a priest. (I’m a perfect example of that.) Young men go to the seminary because they feel a tug on their hearts that they cannot ignore; they desire to serve the Church.
As I have stated before, celibacy is a way to make the Kingdom of God present here on earth. If you read Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, you will see that those who choose celibacy for the Kingdom share the same vocations to love as those who marry, but manifest this vocation in a different manner. Furthermore, celibacy is not a rejection of sexuality, but a living out of the deepest meaning of sexuality–union with Christ and his Church (Ephesians 5:31-32)."
I recently read-- and now must briefly and earnestly recommend-- "Set Free to Love: Lives Changed by the Theology of the Body" by Marcel LeJeune, who works at Texas A&M and blogs at Aggie Catholics. When I read LeJeune's book, I was completely captivated by the slim and easy to read book, composed of 11 testimonies of the faithfulness of God in spiritual turmoil in regards to human love and sexuality. I immediately started re-reading it once I was done with it the first time.
The Theology of the Body (TOB) is a series of 129 lectures given by Pope John Paul II between 1979 and 1984 on the integrated human person (body, soul and spirit), focusing specifically on love, life and human sexuality. It is positively revolutionary in age that sees our bodies as no more than machines to primp, feed and satisfy. The first time I heard about TOB, it was in my sophomore year of college. It helped me more fully understand and perceive humanity though the eyes of God and in the image of God.
Lucky for me, I found the book of JPII's TOB lecture series in my parents' house and have since hoarded it away in my room, reading it slowly. It is extremely rich in Biblical text and while the language is not difficult, per se, it is dense, as JPII uses the phenomenological approach. In true Catholic teaching, Pope John Paul II said, “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”
I read C.S. Lewis this past summer, who beautifully said, "You do not have a soul, you are a soul-- you have a body." I just love the "you are a soul" part, but my friend Anna rightly quibbled with me. "The human person is a dynamic unity of body and soul, not an embodied soul or an ensouled body," said she.
The beauty of Theology of the Body is its inherent focus on the dignity of humanity, which is so often disregarded, disrespected and apathetically accepted today, leading to a demise of self-evident rights-- because if a person cannot see dignity in their own worth, how are they expected to appreciate it in others? We, humans, are made for more and are more than our desires. We must never forget that each of us has the Logos within us, the eternal spark of God, which leads us in that universal call to holiness.
LeJeune writes in his little book on "sex, chastity, married life, celibacy, Trinitarian love, human dignity, the differences between men and women, and our ultimate purpose in life."
The people forever changed include a priest who realized he was called to die: "I realized, as the Second Vatican Council Fathers said, as St. Edith Stein had delineated, and as the pope had spent his life articulating, that we are each called to give our lives in service to and as gifts to another... Just as the body reveals the person, and as our bodies were made to be gifts to others by marriage or celibate virginity, so am I called to die to myself and live now completely and forever for others."
Then there was the young man who struggles with same-sex attraction. When he asked Christopher West (renowned TOB author and speaker) how best to "deal" with it, West said, "First and foremost, you are a man." (Wow. What a great response!) This young man would later find further grace through the sacraments of the Church: "I started attending daily Mass and receiving the Eucharist day in and day out. I realized this was what I had been looking for all along! If I really wanted to learn what it meant to be a man, how much further did I need to look than the Sacrament of the greatest man who ever lived?"
My favorite part of the book came from a woman scholar: "Jesus had to learn what it meant to be a body-person, and so do we. As I tried to mine the truths of the theology of the body, such as "the language of the body" and being aware of the "movements" of my heart, I pondered what these words might mean, while asking Our Lady for her help. We are not to be afraid of, disregard, or elevate our bodies: rather we ought to embrace them for what they are: "sacraments" of persons. Our bodies reveal our inner life; our bodies reveal us, just as Jesus in his own incarnate body revealed himself."
"Set Free to Love" really helped further develop my understanding of true love. It also made me think of one of the most widely quoted lines from the Bible, 1 John 4: 8 -- "God is love." The line before that, however, strikes me more: "love is of God" (4:7). In Latin, "of" is translated using the genitive case, which means it is possessive, partitive, participates in the action, or is the origin. This would mean that God possesses love, love is part of God, God is the action of love, God is the origin of love.
Love is a mystery, and a delight; it is a daily taking up of one's cross, and a burden joyfully carried. It is patient, like my parents. It is kind, like my siblings. It is not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. In the past few months, I've come to an understanding about Colossians 3:18, the Bible verse about wives being submissive to their husbands. I've always struggled with that concept, especially since the Catholic Church teaches of the inherent and complementary equality of the sexes. Why would God say this?
Unless submission is an action of love. If obedience is a freely-given gift the wife can give to the husband, then it actively says she loves him, she respects him and she trusts him. It is not a weakening of will, or a sign of subservience. Rather, it is as we should all be in accordance to the Church and her teachings. We obey the Church because we love God in Three, the vessel through which we worship and draw closer to him; we respect the Magisterium instituted by St. Peter, because Christ Jesus ordained it; we pray to and trust in the Holy Spirit to guide The Church's leaders and members to truth and life. As it is written in the Gospel of Matthew, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
Blessings on your Tuesday, gentle readers.
Set Free to Love: Lives Changed by Theology of the Body
By Marcel LeJeune
St. Anthony's Press, 88 pages, $11.99 (and now available on Kindle!)
More reading: "Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan" by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops