Training to talk about Theology of the body to teenagers
Teenagers have a hunger to be looking for something bigger than what they are. They have a craving for love, a desire for freedom, to be different and to set out their own path. Teenagers are very busy, distracted and media saturated. A teenager who texts is looking for a relationship and a desire to be included, with a fear of being left along. Teenagers are looking for communion, and are uncomfortable being alone or in silence, because they are looking for a relationship. Teenagers are oversexed, under dressed and ready to hear the message of theology of the body.
We all have a desire of communion and a desire for love. The theology of the body is a gift that God gave to the Church exactly what we needed when we needed it. Pope John Paul said, “The most fundamental vocation of every human being is love.” This is great quote that encapsulates what being human is all about. We can’t compartmentalise what it means to be human.
In his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, Pope John Paul said, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate in it intimately.” Many teenagers are searching. They do not know what they want. They are wandering around searching for truth and love and want to experience love. John Paul II takes us back to the origin, how it is connected to life and relationships and finds humanity wandering and looking for who we really are and who we are called to be.
The theology of the body is comprised of 129 talks, 6 more of which were discovered at a later date. It answers the question: who we are by looking at the origin, present and destiny of man. It answers the question of how we are to live by looking at marriage, celibacy, love and fruitfulness. It helps us in different ways to see what it means to be human. Theology of the body answers who is man from the beginning, where are we now, and where are we going. It delivers an adequate anthropology because many of us have lost what it means to be human. It helps us to put Christ at the centre of our lives and to untwist the desires of our hearts, overcoming concupiscence and so that we are not left to our own desires.
It is a bold statement to say that theology of the body is a new delivery system for our faith. John Paul spent 5 years of his life on this important topic and that is how important it is. When we unpack it some authors have said that it will help how we will understand virtually everything in the creed. The theology of the body has some long lasting effects, influencing how we see the Church, the world, freedom and liberation and the vision of life and love. It is well worth studying up on.
Boethius once said that a person is an individual who is a substance of rational nature. Man images God more in communion than in solitude. Everything we do, the way we breathe and move is expressed through the body. Our desire for communion in our sexuality is a beautiful gift. God gave us these desires from the very beginning. In the Catechism, it says that God himself is an eternal exchange of love. Marriage is a foretaste of the eternal communion of heaven. It helps to point us towards heaven. The word sacrament means sign, but also comes from the Greek mysterion meaning mystery. The body is in a sense a sacrament because it reveals to us something of the mystery about God. The body alone can make visible what is invisible. God desires to have a deep and personal relationship with us because he loves us.
Theology of the body: The difference between loving and using
Many stories in our culture are not love stories but lust stories. The use of other people is so prevalent in our culture that at times it is a subconscious way and part of how we live. St Thomas Aquinas said that ‘Love is willing the good of another person.’ John Paul II said that love is not merely a feeling, but an act of the will, preferring the good of another to the good of oneself. Love is not easy.
Many people talk rubbish about love is how you feel, that it should be a cushy, sweet feeling and nothing more. It is so easy to look for love in the wrong places. It is also possible to feel the emptiness of being used, just as we can use others for our own gratification. Love is a constant decision. As a generalisation, guys will give what looks like love to get sex, whereas girls will have sex in order to have an experience of love.
Jeremy Bentham invented the philosophy of utilitarianism. This can be summed up by the rhyme: “Maximising pleasure, minimising pain, using another for someone’s gain.” With this philosophy, it is possible to use another person in order to have the most amount of happiness. The personalistic norm is a standard by which we can all define love and the opposite of love. A person is a subject that must be loved at every moment. The only proper and adequate response to a person is love. Anything less is not treating them well and with respect. We can recognise both the exterior and interior beauty of others.
What is the opposite of love? It is not hate or lust. It is using someone. To use another for my own desire or needs is not loving them. Mother Teresa once said that Satan does not hate us, for it is worse than that: he hates God. He is trying to use us to get back at God.
Pope John Paul defined love in different ways. He talked of love under three definitions: attraction, desire and goodwill. Desire sees the other person as a good for me. Goodwill intuits that we have receive the love of God and now we are able to reciprocate this love.
The theme of gift returns again and again to the theology of the body. To love another person is to make a gift of oneself. John Paul II said “Man cannot find himself apart from making a sincere gift of himself.” This vocation is in essence disinterested love.
Chastity is a word that needs to be rehabilitated. Many people think that chastity is abstinence. Abstinence is simply the lack of activity. If we only have abstinence, it is merely a negation. Chastity is a positive virtue. Chastity is not repression, it is about integration. The stuffing away of our desires through repression can lead to explosions. The holding back of sexual desires can lead to an unhealthy sense of sexuality. Chastity is about learning to channel the energy that we have and saving the fullest expression of sexuality until marriage. In this way we learn how to behave properly with the opposite sex and gives us a greater sense of freedom. The fire of our desires is not a bad, but a good thing.
In essence, chastity is vocational formation. It is a virtue that falls under the cardinal virtue of temperance. It is preparing to give yourself away in love. We need to train for this! It is an apprenticeship in self mastery and a training in faithfulness. If we work out at the gym in order to build up our muscles, should we not train spiritually also? In the Catechism #2337 it says that chastity is the successful integration of sexuality, the inner unity of man in his inner being. As a vocation in itself, it is preparing the way to love.
Real love is something that is self-donating not self-seeking. The only proper attitude to other people is love. We can measure the quality of a relationship but how much giving there is as opposed to using. Chastity is a difficult and long term matter. It does entail a ‘no,’ but is a yes to love and brings freedom. It is learning how to avoid manipulating others. To treat another person as a means to an end is not loving them. In the film the Notebook, there is a scene where they agree to have premarital sex. The main characters go to use one another. One good exercise is to rewrite this scene, adding the appropriate words (one example might be: I want to love you like no other guy has love you before).
An examination of conscience helps us to work out exactly where we are at and what my life is really all about. It helps us to consider how to proceed with true love, rather the emptiness that comes from using. Pornography is something that tries to separate the body from the soul. It trains you to look at someone as an object to be used rather than someone who likes to be loved. It is strictly seeing the other person as an object. We no longer see the integration between body and soul. It hurts future marriages and relationships. Love is something that is God’s idea. We have to train to find out what love really is, because it is something that will make us happy. Help others to see the love in your life.
Theology of the Body: Naked without Shame
We do not have to believe that everything is literal in the Bible. It is important not to be hung up on misconceptions like this. What we do have to believe is that God created us, he created us as man and woman and he gave us free will. Genesis as a book portrays profound truths. John Paul II describes the stories in terms of how they are inspired by the Holy Spirit. Many teenagers think they know all about the story of Adam and eve already. They have heard of Original sin, but as teachers it is important to convey the beauty and splendour of this story.
In the beginning, Adam was alone in the visible world as the only human being. This is known as original solitude. He did not see anyone else like himself. He knew that he was created for a relationship with God. Adam is all of humanity’s experience. Women also have a heritage of this original solitude too. The author Scott Hahn says, “God gave Adam an itch that only God could scratch.” God did this through the gift of woman. It might be that God saves the best until last because he created woman last.
The Spousal or nuptial meaning of the body means our capacity to express love. It talks of the meaning and being of our existence. An understanding of the spousal meaning of the body helps us to see the real significance that we are created for union, and that we are meant to be for the other. Our desires are good, and they are for God.
What would society be like if we were not used by other people? Imagine if you could walk down the street naked and that no-one would objectify you. In the beginning, both Adam and Eve had original innocence. This was a state of purity of heart. They did not want to manipulate or use each other. Adam and Eve were able with purity to see God in each other. Adam and Eve were able to love as God loves before original sin.
We cannot tangibly see God as a person. But God draws us to himself through other people. We are all called to make visible the invisible love of God in our lives. My desires ultimately are for God. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that God is there. Man can make woman, just as woman can make man an idol. We are not fully capable of satisfying the deepest desires of each other’s hearts. Only God can do that. We idolise each other if we mistakenly believe that a human relationship can bring complete fulfilment. God is the source and summit of desire in a relationship.
Women can be susceptible to pride. In a culture where men look at women like objects, some girls want to be looked at and become desensitised in this process. Girls can even feel upset if they are not objectified in this way. But, we must be a temple for God to live in and be able to bring other people to God. In the beginning, things were not so messed up. The union of man and woman brought them closer to God. Only after the craziness of original sin that everything became so manipulated.
The story of Genesis in many different ways can be compared to our modern day and age. We see the effects of original sin all around us. The marital sexual union was ordained by God as something that is good. The meaning of our existence can be seen through married sexual union. If married love is one of the least inadequate ways of describing God’s love, then the devil will surely attempt to thwart it. Satan not only is the enemy of God but is also our enemy. Satan cannot create things, but he can twist and damage what has been created. He is at the bottom of sinful acts. God has given and blessed us with desires and he helps us to make free choices in our decisions. God wants us to choose him freely.
Genesis describes the time of original innocence when we were ‘naked without shame.’ This was when mankind was so secure in the love of God that there was no such thing as shame as there was a time when there was only love. However, being ‘naked without shame’ is not the same as being shameless. This is when we don’t see the value of other people and even use our own body as a tool. It could be flaunting, drawing attention to myself or showing off.
Pope John Paul talked about the need for shame. Shame has both a positive and a negative function. It acts as a protection against being devalued. Our media manages to violate a lot of people. In what ways do you think that it promotes a culture of shamelessness?
We all have the capacity to desire good. If we can imagine the beauty and innocence of the garden of Eden we can try to recapture and live this out in our own lives in a state of grace.
“Be strong and take heart, all who hope in the Lord.” Psalms 31:24. How young people find redemption in Christ.
Many teenagers live with a lot of tension in their lives. We live in a fast paced word, with many people living with a great deal of responsibility. There are both external and internal tensions tugging on our hearts. Many teenagers do not have a lot of good models of overcoming concupiscence. MTV is not going to help you overcome the tension of our own hearts.
Many of the world’s problems come from the human heart. This is the root of many problems. In Philippians 4:13 it states, “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.” A true change only comes with having an internal spiritual heart transplant. It is not about externals changing. The human heart is called, back to purity and the origins of what we are called for. Everything we do is worthless unless we are the healed by the redemption that Christ offered. Sometimes, teenagers do not understand what redemption is. Sometimes it is good to use a suitable analogy. Christ calls us to offer him our lives, and he gives us a heart that is redeemed and that is more capable of love.
Romans 8:23 says, “we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” We are called to live in eternity with in perfection. If we find our hope and fulfilment in something that is finite we end up empty again. There is a lot of despair and depression in teenagers today. Teenagers are looking for hope. They don’t want negative family experiences or to become miserable statistics. They want to be offered the hope that they desire. They want to receive hope and redemption in Christ, whether they know themselves or not!
We are destined to share in the eternal exchange of love. Marriage on earth points us as a mystery towards marriage in heaven. Many teenagers have a distorted view of marriage. Some can only see the darkness in their own hearts. Some are full of the feeling of guilt and regret. Despair is when we stop caring and desiring the perfect. In heaven, there will not be any blemishes or filth. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you have done. Christianity is not a religion to be hung up about the past. Hope always looks forward to what he has destined us. Suddenly, we have a lifeline and all we have to do is accept it. We need to allow God to pull us towards the safety of heaven. Christ did not come to leave us with a bunch of coping mechanisms. God is omnipotent, the hope of every day. Every day God’s mercies are new. We can overcome evil with good. When we learn to forgive others, we learn to forgive ourselves, we can live in peace. When we say to Jesus, “I am yours, take me and make me new” he offers us hope and healing and loves us where we are. We have a free encounter with God’s mercy and redemption.
God has revealed the whole meaning of our existence through the spousal meaning of the body. We have great dignity because we are made in the image of God. The inestimable worth that we have comes from God alone. No matter how many times we have been trampled on or trampled ourselves, we have that great dignity. We never lose that dignity, because it is innate and inviolable. Christ offers us his love- it is up to us to work out how to live out his love for us.
If there are people who have come from difficult backgrounds and then go on to have a great family, then we can too. We can move from addictions to redemption, absolution and freedom. We have hope to share in the resurrection of the body, a glorified body and in the communion of saints in eternity. Now is the time of invitation to a new heart- transformed by hope by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is this hinge moment that will determine the rest of our lives.
“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32) – Finding truth and freedom for young people today
Young people want freedom. They want to be free from the restraints of their parents. We live in a culture that describes freedom in so many different ways. We desire love more than we desire freedom. Pope John Paul said, “Freedom exists for the sake of love.” If love is to rise up out of our hearts. We must use the freedom we are given to return love. Society tells us that freedom means to do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it. If it feels good for you, it is good for you. But freedom without responsibility is the opposite of love. This is a self centred version of freedom and does not look forward. Love looks towards the good of another person.
Many young people want to be free of the rules, Church and parents. They want to live in freedom as if it meant no rules, no responsibility and no commitment. But the more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. No true freedom exists except in doing good.
We need to bring young people back to the concept of objective truth. Even though we can attain truth from certain subjective experiences, we need a standard of how to be free. Truth is up for grabs in today’s society. People think if it is good for you, it must be true. If something is objectively true, it is true for everybody. Marriage involves a restriction on freedom. Freedom is put at the sake of love. When you are in love, you do not need external constraints. St Paul tells us not to be conformed to this age but be transformed in Christ Jesus. We do not obey laws because we have to, but because we want to.
Jesus Christ is the one who tells us about true freedom. This is because it comes from him. He tells us, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-2). We need to be hungry for the truth. The theology of the body is not a lifting of the rules by saying the law is not important. When our heart is transformed in Christ, we are not constrained any more. We live in the freedom we were supposed to live in. Jesus said that “Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully commits adultery with her in his heart.” it is possible to lust after your own husband or wife. Freedom is seeking the truth and seeking it well. A good way to gauge a relationship is whether you are experiencing true freedom in that relationship. Does it lead another person into greater freedom? Immature love is expressed in an immature way. A new attitude of the heart comes about with redemption.
When we establish that objective truth is possible, this leads us to understand the true definition of freedom. If I try to steal your ipod, you know that this is wrong and I could not justify it under any circumstances. Truth and freedom either go hand in hand or they perish in misery. To live in freedom of the law is to experience purification of heart. To be able to experience the freedom that Christ desires for us is a wondrous thing. We must make sure that we are witnessing to that freedom, otherwise we undercut the witness to Christ that we have with our own lives. The Church does not impose truth. She proposes the truth to us. The Holy Spirit does his work in our hearts, respecting our freedom. Watch with faith to see what God has started in the hearts of others.
The body speaks a language
The body communicates a language without words. In the theology of the body we are finding an adequate anthropology of who are are. Then after this, we find out how to live when we know who we are. First we find our identity. Then we go out to find our mission. Now it is time to look into greater specifics: what does a good relationship look like? Non verbal communication is very important in communication according to experts. It can give over 50% of meaning. There are over 500,000 different gestures that the body can speak. The body can also speak the truth of Christ’s love. The body therefore can also speak a lie. The body can be prophetic. We have to distinguish between true and false prophets. Judas gives Jesus a kiss in the Gospels at the moment that he betrays him. We have to understand what the body is actually saying.
The total gift of self is when the body says, “I give you all that I have and everything that I am.” When we start to look at the body we seem to think it is not connected to the person. When we make the total gift of self to another, my words that I use should be reflected in my body. This helps teenagers to understand the ‘why’ of Church rules.
Many people have not been told the beauty of the Church’s teaching on contraception. This deals with how the body is meant to express love. Contraception takes the gift of fertility out of the gift of self. Our fertility is a huge part of who we are as men and women. There is a sense of hypocrisy in the language of the body if it is telling a lie. Pornography constitutes a lie with the body. Pornography is very widespread with young people. It is something that undercuts marriage as a training in infidelity rather than faithfulness. It is an issue where one needs to be sensitive but very direct. There is no need to apologise over an issue that hurts many young people as it is a lie with the body. In pornography, we are pretending that there is a gift going on, but there is no gift at all. There is only money involved. In some ways it is prostitution. It is all about taking and not giving. The body is a gift. In pornography, the body is being revealed but the person is being obscured. It trains people in unfaithfulness.
What is the difference between sex between a married couple and two unmarried teenagers? After all, it is the same act? The difference is that one is an act of consummation, the other a lie is being lived. I might say something with my body, but I lied with my whole act. A fake priest can go through the motions, but if he said Mass it would be sacrilegious. I cannot offer someone one million pounds if I only have 4 pounds in my bank account. If I only have one apple, I can only give it to one person. Part of the apple is for the other person. IF you try to give the gift to more than one person, it is incomplete and ruins the relationship (e.g. adultery).
A truthful sigh is when the truth in reality corresponds with the truth in my heart. When you ask someone, how are you? Sometimes they don’t always answer truthfully. When girls go dancing they can communicate with their bodies that they want to be used. They dance with sexual motions that make men only see their bodies. Perhaps the woman doesn’t realise what she is doing in her head. Later, when she is used, perhaps she still does not understand. She thinks maybe she should lose more weight. What she is communicating with her body does not correspond with the truth in her heart.
Pope John Paul wrote a commentary on the Song of Songs. The grooms calls to the bride: she is a garden enclosed and a fountain sealed. This is a suitable analogy of how women can express themselves by their bodies. The dignity women have is worth protecting and preserving. The woman is the mastery of her own mystery. If every single girl set the standard high, guarded her heart and did not have premarital sex, boys would set their standards higher. If women set their standards high, the other sex will recognise their own dignity and worth. Rather than being hung up one issue, they would realise the standard of dignity is the cross. This is how to speak the truth with the body!
The legacy that has been left to us with the cross is a message with the body. What is the sign going to be with my body? Will I imitate Christ or Mary with my life? How will we set our own course? It is great to get teenagers to implement some of these ideas.
The body has a capacity to speak a language. If the body can speak the truth, it can also speak lies. Teenagers can learn to judge the truthfulness of sexual behaviour. Anything that is not the truth will lead to bad relationships. The best language of the body is a language of love. Contraception disorders the sexual act. I don’t give or receive all of you. With premarital sex, adultery or pornography, the body speaks a lie. Teenagers hate to be lied to. What would motivate you to tell a lie with the body to another person? How do you feel when someone lies to you with his or her body? St Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words.” Try to speak a language without using any words at all.
Pope John Paul also talks of the difference between nudity in art and pornography. He talks of the ethos of the image and the ethos in seeing. There is a responsibility of the artist to uphold the dignity in the way he portrays the art. The ethos of seeing calls for responsibility of the viewer to have purity of heart. We are capable of looking on an image with purity. Sometimes we can watch a film in silence in order to ascertain who was speaking the truth and who was lying. Sometimes, a person can be obscured because of a lie with the body. With your own body, make sure that you are living in truth and love. When we do, we speak the language of the Gospel in our own way.
Love that is free, faithful, total, fruitful.
It is very important to apply morality to typical day-to-day life. When we apply the theology of the body to real life, we can see its application and do not just to let it remain in the theoretical sphere. Sometimes it is easy to get away from what is really happening in a relationship. Teenagers do not like counterfeits. It is important to get people to think about relationships, as to what is Christ like and what is not Christ like. Nobody openly and deliberately offers someone love which is partial, coercive, sterile and lacking commitment at the same time. Sometimes people are not able to recognise the counterfeits. At other times they end up falling for it anyway. John Paul II said that in some relationships there are elements of truth and this makes it harder for people to decipher the true nature of a relationship.
St Augustine said “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” We have with this method of discernment a better way to discern what is full and true. God is the ultimate good and is what we have the biggest desire for. If we take the message of the theology of the body to heart, we will not end up in relationships that leave us empty and bankrupt.
The “Free, faithful, total, fruitful” principles come from Humanae Vitae #9 where the key characteristics of married love are charted out. In the twentieth century, contraception became easy to obtain. At the same time false notions of freedom were spread about sexual morality. This lead to changes in how and why we approached sexuality. There were some people in the Church who wanted the Church to modernise and become with the times. They said that the Church needed to modernise in order to be up to date. Pope Paul VI set up the Birth control commission in order to discern whether contraception was consistent with God’s plan?
Contraception is not a part of God’s plan. It obstructs the love of donation. A total gift of self means that in marriage sexual intercourse should be open to life. How does the marital act image the love of God? Contraception robs the sexual life of the giving act of God’s love. How does contraception compare with Christ’s love on the cross? Inside a marital relationship needs to be free. In a relationship, sexual love can be expected or coerced when there is no communication. If sexual love is a total gift, we must also make the gift of fertility. Contraception refuses to give this part. Contraception compromises on faithfulness: it can rob us of the gift of motherhood or fatherhood and helps to make infidelity easier. Contraception restricts the fruitfulness of married love because the person says that they do not desire life to come from this act. God’s love is always life giving and fruitful.
It is impossible for pre marital sex to mirror free, total, faithful and fruitful love. These aspects are not automatic even in marriage. Jesus and Mary are the best models of how to love to the full. The salvation of the world came through the faithful and fruitful gift of the yes of Mary and Jesus. The culmination of Christ’s love is that he gave us his body. Comparing our love to his is a great practical way to do theology of the body. It is important to differentiate between self-giving and self-seeking love. We end up saying, “This is my body, taken for me.” Mary’s love was possible because she was willing to receive God’s love as Mary did. Marriage is a prerequisite for sex. Christ did not call us just to sex, but to love. When we try to mirror God’s love in all that we do, our lives begin to change.
Paul VI made some prophetic statements in Humanae Vitae. He said that if contraception became widespread there would be general lowering of morality, would be further degraded and the body would be seen as a commodity, to be used as a tool Mankind would look on the body as if he was God (in an anything goes, super superiority). Paul VI was a true prophet. Today we are reaping the consequences of these problems.
The theology of the body is most beautifully brought to life when we seek to live it out and bring this good news to others. When with interact with challenging material and wrestle with the ideas ourselves, we learn to love as God loves.
Exploring the gift of Marriage
Many young people have had negative thoughts about marriage. They have had hurts along the way from their experience of divorce and live ins. Our culture is feeding them a misleading message that a man can live with a man. Pope John Paul II wants us to see the profound dignity of marriage. The one flesh union of marriage images the love of God and the 3 persons in the trinity. Marriage is a sacrament that points us towards the marriage of the Lamb. It means to love another person with a full commitment. Faithful, married love breaks through difficultly, trial and suffering to look for the good of another. We cannot do things always on our own. We are called to a union that is so tight that life shines through the union. We exhibit this love in our love for each other.
In Ephesians 5, we read, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church.” According to Pope John Paul II, Ephesians 5 is the crowning of the Biblical analogy of spousal love. It represents the glory of love. It is the glory of what marriage is supposed to be: a complementary relationship. This passage of Ephesians is a real challenge. This is what we are called to live out. A woman is called to trust and man and submit to his love. Woman is the archetype of humanity. A woman’s body reveals receptivity to the initiating love of God. There is a beautiful glory when it is lived out with God’s love. This is a powerful witness and changes the world. Imagine if this was lived out in all marriages! How different would the world be if people were loving each other in the way the sacrament was intended!
God does not depend on us. God calls us to imitate the communion of persons in the trinity. If we are able to live that out, then we can be married. Our understanding of God as love is important. To use an inadequate analogy, God wants to marry us. When we are receptive to the love of God we can live this out. We need to stay focused on marriage as God created it. The disparity of what we see everyday in our culture, we can forget the possibility of live and love that is possible in our hearts. No woman wants to find a man that is going to use and abuse her. They want a beautiful life giving love. Some girls despair and settle for something less. We need to encourage teenagers to become their spouses that they are looking for.
In the Scriptures, marriage is used as an analogy of God’s love for us. Marriages are under attack today, because they show forth the love of God. Everybody wants a glorious love story. Teenagers are scared of marriages. Looking at the statistics, maybe they should be scared! But marriage is the primordial sacrament. God calls us to be a part of that beautiful marriage in heaven.
Sex is something that was created by God to be holy, beautiful and good. If we can understand this well, we can understand the whole faith and the other sacraments really well. It reveals the meaning of our existence. The two become one flesh and become one subject. Sex is the wedding vows coming to life. Christ’s teaching on adultery means that adultery is possible within marriage.
Some people think that marriage is about finding the perfect person. There is an element of idealism with youth. Actually, it is about choosing to love and imperfect person. We must learn to love an imperfect spouse. We must choose to love in good times or bad. We must choose to love and choose to image God, choose to love in spite of faults. This is how God loves us. God loves us in spite of our faults.
We cannot have a sacramental marriage without Christ being at the centre of marriage. Sacramental marriage is the earthly foreshadowing of marriage in heaven. Sacrament marriages points towards heaven. This marriage is imaged on how Christ loved the Church. It is also based on how man loves woman and woman loves man. We need to honour God’s plan for the world. When we have a cord of three- man, woman and God- this cord is not easily broken. Find a spiritual bouquet to offer your future spouse.
Marriage is a building block of society. It is most beautifully lived out in mutual submission and selfless love. If marriages break apart, our society breaks apart. Marriage is the primordial sacrament by which grace comes to us. If we have 15 characteristics that we want our spouses to have, these are the characteristics that we ourselves must have. If you are looking for the perfect person, then become that perfect person and they will find you. Even when things are really hard, God gives us the grace in order to live out his will.
Sexual intercourse outside of marriage can confuse and obstruct clear thinking. Oxytocin is released in men and women during sexual intercourse from the pituitary gland. This can impair critical thinking and makes things cloudy. Relationships can become abusive if oxytocin is released in a relationship that is not committed. This hormone helps unite a couple. This great gift is abused when it is used in the wrong context. Science and faith can complement each other beautifully. This is one example of how science points towards the beautiful teachings of faith.
Many teenagers thing that celibacy is weird. It is something that many people do not understand. In fact they find it mystifying. We struggle with things that we do not understand. Celibacy is about gift and sacrifice. Celibacy is a radical life. It is to free choice not to be married and point everyone toward Christ and the Church in heaven. Celibacy speaks volumes about the spousal meaning of the body. The presence of a celibate religious helps one to think about things that are connected to God. We cannot look at a sister wearing her habit and not think about Godly things.
We need to remember that many people are receiving almost a daily message that continues to tell them that sexual exploration is going to lead to happiness. Films, newspapers and magazines continue to fill young people with this distortion of the truth. What can they possibly think when they encounter a celibate person who is joyful? Young people presume that celibacy is boring because they can’t have any excitement according to this model. Celibates that are connected with the Kingdom of God are joyful! There is only a problem if the celibate is not joyful.
Sexuality is something that is not only expressed through intercourse. Celibates are not ignoring sexuality. They are channelling their desires in a beautiful and fruitful way to live. They are forsaking marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Teenagers see Priests as people who are not happy because they are not having sex. I know a lot of people who are having sex and who are miserable. If people are not living their lives in the vocation as God calls them to, it makes it more likely they will be unhappy.
Sex is not synonymous with joy. Sex does not equal love. Love is synonymous with joy. Many people think that celibacy is an act of repression. But celibacy for the kingdom has acquired a meaning of an act of spousal love. Celibacy fulfils the spousal meaning of the body. When our sexuality is offered to God, it is always a life giving gift that brings forth fruit. Spiritual fatherhood and motherhood brings forth great fruit for the celibate. Celibacy is the superior vocation: an objectively higher vocation according to the Church. It is higher than the sacrament of marriage because it more closely participates in the marriage of the lamb. Celibacy more closely embraces the life of Christ and takes on elements of poverty, chastity and obedience. Celibacy is a gift, just as poverty is a gift.
Subjectively speaking, the right vocation for us is the one God calls us to. We become most holy in the vocation that God calls us to. In the New Testament, the term Eunuch is used. This is someone who is incapable of having sex. But Jesus talks about eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven: that it they choose not to engage in sexual intercourse. These people skip the earthly sacrament to point directly towards the heavenly marriage.
Many young people think that the only two options for a celibate is repression or indulgence. To be pure of heart is to allow chastity in both celibacy or marriage. When we allow Christ to redeem us, Eros needs to be infused with Agape. All of our love needs to be infused with God’s love. Marriage is a calling from God. Marriage is something that points towards our ultimate union with God in the heavenly marriage of the Lamb.
The ministerial priesthood is reserved to men. Men and women in many different ways complement each other. The spousal analogy is not an arbitrary decision of discrimination by the Church. It is following the design God made in creation. Christ is the initiator of the gift to the Church. The priest acts in persona Christi (the person of Christ). A woman cannot be a ministerial priest just as a man cannot have a baby. Masculinity and femininity are stamped into our bodies. We are called to communion and no one is called to be alone. Celibacy is not a calling to be lonely but a fruit to be lived to the full.
When we allow God to break open our hearts we can discover what our vocation really is. Sometime this can be a call within a call. Often we assume we know everything about ourselves. We can even assume that we know a lot about who we are spending our lives with. In new circumstances, our personality and habits can mature and develop and we can surprise ourselves.
Young people today need to be put in touch with people with religious who are living in a wonderful and holy way. Celibacy is like a marriage to Christ and the Church. Most priests and religious were invited by someone to consider their religious vocation. Anyone can be called to the priesthood- Do you know where God calls you yet? Perhaps God is calling you to religious life. Young people want to live radical lives and for the great part of life. So we pray to the Lord to send more labourers into the harvest, for the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers few.
Finding your calling in life
Many people have trouble believing that God loves them. Others think that God is not going to call them. Do I listen to the voice of the Lord in my life? The sheep of the shepherd hear his voice and follow him. God speaks to us in silence. We need to learn to be comfortable in the silence. God says “Be still and know that I am God.” When we cultivate a voice of prayer, we learn that we are worthy of love, for God created us. We all have a general call to holiness, as recognised by the Second Vatican Council. But we also have a specific call. When we make a total and irrevocable gift of ourselves, this leads to major fruits. This is a free and total gift of myself. There are demands on us to carry this out. We might not have that many great role models of how to carry this out. People have good desires, and then things go astray. Our specific vocation goes astray when our general vocation goes astray. Sometimes there might be something that is obstructing a way of receiving God’s love. The reality of sin in the world means that we must receive God’s gift of love before we give it away. The Blessed Virgin Mary made a free, total and irrevocable gift of herself. We can contemplate Christ at the school of Mary. Mary’s yes effects entire generations to come. If we say yes to our vocation, it will change the whole Church. We find clarity when we meet Christ in the sacraments.
Pope John Paul said, “Confidently open your most intimate aspirations to the love of Christ who waits for you in the Eucharist. You will receive the answer to all your worries and you will see with joy that the consistency of your life which he asks of you is the door to fulfil the noblest dreams of your youth.” We cannot find ourselves apart from the gift of self. The gift of oneself takes work. Our vocation does not come naturally. We must actively work at it. We must root out selfishness from within ourselves. It is a training in faithfulness. When we are then called to that vocation of love, then we are ready for it.
To train for faithfulness is to allow Christ to perfect our hearts. It is to be able to listen to God’s call. When we live a sacramental life and have good mentors, this is what preparing a vocation is all about. Sometimes we cannot hear a vocation from God is there is something over our ears. The Sacrament of reconciliation lifts things out of the way. In silent time we learn to pray and listen. If we have a journal this can help us to hear God’s voice. We can write things that they feel God is saying to us. If we have a wise spiritual mentor, he can point us in the right direction.
When we look at the desires in our hearts, if they are faithful, God can grant them. In Psalm 37:4 it states, “Find your delight in the Lord who will give you your heart’s desire.” This does not mean if I scratch God’s back he will scratch mine.
How can adults help teenagers discern and listen to their vocation? When we create a culture of vocation, we give them space to discuss God’s plan for their life. Every teenager has a vocation. Vocation is a scary word for teenagers. Some think that it just means Priests or nuns. They need to know that vocation is a gift. God has given them a gift and it is important to recognise that dignity.
Once, Brian Butler took his pupils on a mystery trip. They needed trust on this trip, as they were not given any information on where they were going. They were in a perpetual state of wonder and awe. The teenagers trusted him that they were going to take them somewhere cool. This taught them about their vocational journey. God reveals piece by piece. When we have confidence in Christ, who is the centre of every vocation, I can go everywhere he calls me.
Every person is a unique and unrepeatable human person. God’s call is unique. We are created to know, love and serve God. A vocation might be marriage, or it could be to live a celibate life. The sacramental life is key to knowing how to serve God, to be aided in the yes of every day. We need to inspire young people on a daily basis to discern and live their vocation. The great gifts that we have been given need to be used and offered to some greater purpose.
Silence is needed to help find a vocation. John Paul II said, “A discovery of the importance of silence is one of the secrets of practicing contemplation and meditation. One drawback of a society dominated by technology and the mass media is the fact that silence becomes increasingly difficult to achieve.” Christ calls us to a mysterious life that he will reveal along the way. Listening, prayer and silence will help us find the insights needed for our vocation.
One lie is that if you say yes to the vocation God is calling us to, then we cannot be happy. Happiness does not come in spite of our vocation. The Lord of the Rings is a great example of how we are to fight the good fight. In one scene, the main character is called to “Put aside the ranger and become who you were born to be.” You can watch that here on youtube.
Ideas for helping to discern vocations: 1. Go to Eucharistic adoration 2. Create a poster to make a way that you can encourage others to live out their vocation. 3. Listen to their thoughts. Do they have any misconceptions or good insight? 4. Find out why John Paul II became a Priest. 5. Get teenagers to write a letter to Christ about their vocation.
Dating and Courtship
The first paragraph of the section on morality in the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God.” (St. Leo the Great, Sermo 22 in nat. Dom., 3:PL 54,192C).
We have all been called home. This is a high and difficult calling. It takes a lot of effort and prayer. This is something that we can do by God’s grace. Chastity is not the norm in our culture and society. God loves us the way we are but not enough to let us stay that way. We do not have to conform to the spirit of our age, as what is being normalized by the culture. The modern dating system is only about 100 years old. The invention of the car changed what was courtship into dating. Courtship is a way of learning about the other person. Courtship is rooted in the family of the person: you don’t just get to know the person on their own. A young man had to pursue a woman and it was clear what his true intentions were. When courtship was the norm, it was easy to get to know somebody well. The film pride and prejudice is a classic example of this method of courtship.
Dating is something that can be pure, beautiful and slow. When purpose in dating becomes cloudy, problems can come along. Every decision we make has an effect on our life. The purpose of dating
is to find a spouse. In dating we are trying to find a wife. It is not wise to date someone that you could not see yourself possibly marrying. We need to be intentional with the person we are dating to look through the lens of truth. Dating with purpose and purity is what relationships are all about.
Many young people want to know: ‘how far is too far?’ They want to know the specifics. They feel it is an important question that they deserve to have answered. Many people get lost in specific dynamics by talking about body parts when answering this question. What is most important is the ethos of redemption. When we give Christ our heart, the question should not be how far can I go away from Christ, but how far can I go towards Christ. If I don’t marry my girlfriend, it would be good to have no regrets, having helped her to be a better woman and having been a good influence along the way. If you really love someone, you are not going to lead them onto a cliff in the hope that they do not fall.
To have a relationship with others can mean that we are helping them find their call. This can even be applied to friendship. We are continually looking for the good of others in this way. When young people can find support and love in the pursuit of truth and purity they can go towards future vocations healthy and intact.
Our sexuality is about who we are, not what we do. If we can redirect our sexual energy we can find the life that God has planned for us. God has a specific time and place for sexual intercourse: within marriage. The fire of sexuality is not the problem; it is the correct place of the fire that is most important.
To build relationships on friendship first is the most important thing. In the book of the Song of Songs it says, “You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride.” (4:9) Christian friendship is of great importance as a building block in a relationship. Great marriages can come about when we learn to love women as sisters. It takes a lot of discipline. Either we learn to control our passions or our passions control us. If you don’t learn how to be able to say, our yes is going to mean nothing.
Purity starts with prayer. A life of prayer can purify life on a daily basis. When we spend time with Jesus we can have a heart that will continue to be pure. Time in the sun changes the colour of the skin. Time with Jesus changes our hearts to be purer. Pope John Paul II said that chastity is a difficult and long term matter, but a sure way to happiness. Chastity makes us free to love. We are able to live out this calling.
It is important to remind teenagers that they are walking tabernacles. They are creations of God and temples of the Holy Spirit. In this way they will be less likely to desecrate the temple. We can learn the love to treat each other with by the love that God has for us. Our call is to love as God loves.
We can take a lot of good elements of courtship such as getting to know the other person in friendship and getting to know her family. If a teenager can express chastity fully, later in life it will be easy. Relationships need to be built on friendship rather than sex because this is proper hierarchy or roadmap for a relationship. The gift of sex is not something to be repressed or indulged in a dating relationship.
We need to live radical lives for Christ. We need to aggressively purse the vocation that God has for us. Purity in a relationship helps to bring each other closer to Christ. Our purpose for life is to love like Christ. When we stay in the life of prayer, we look forward in love to the good of the other.
Living for Greatness
God created us in his own image and likeness. He created our bodies and sexuality as things that are
good. Our bodies reveal the mystery of God. The creature reveals something of the creator. Our bodies make visible what is invisible. How do we explain our sexual desires? All our desires are a desire for God. G.K. Chesterton once said that ‘At the door of every brothel is a man looking for God.’ All our desires are for God. Our desires were at the beginning given to us by God. The call to love is nurtured and fostered through our parents. We are called to a pure love to prepare for our destiny that is with God in heaven. In the present age, where we are living now, we struggle with sin. But, we have a heritage of redemption in Christ. Christ does not leave us to our own devices, but calls us to bring us back to the purity of our origins. We have hope in Christ.
Our destiny is to be with God forever. We are to join in the marriage in heave. Christ is the bridegroom, the Church is the bride. We are called to love as God loves. St Theresa of Lisieux said, “My vocation is love.” We all have a specific vocation, and a general vocation. Our love is within the framework of something that is free, total, faithful and fruitful. In the battlefields of our hearts, we must decide whether lust is going to win, or love is going to be victorious. Lust is trying to experience love without the author of love. If we include God with what he has given us, we are never going to be taking from others, because we will be orientated towards the gift of self- donation.
The family is the school of love. Many young people are sceptical about family life, especially if they have had a negative experience of it personally. Freedom exists for the sake of love, according to John Paul. As I lay my life down in every way, I speak the truth in this way, in the way I behave and treat my friends. We can aid others in many small and beautiful ways. We need to lift up heroes to aid others in a practical way to show that family life is possible. Many vocations come from role models earlier in life. When we look at the lives of the saints, we realise that many vocations were the fruit of another vocation. When we learn how to share God’s love and testimony and we can come to realise how God is sharing and working in all of our own lives. The Gospel does not change but we can be part of the new evangelisation. There are new ways of evangelisation as we have the power to bring the Gospel to the edges of the earth. Teenagers can join in this noble task. When teenagers use their own creativity and genius they are truly free.
We do not need to be afraid of the future and for other desires. We must be confident in the life that God has for us. To follow that life that Christ has for us, we need to have an integrated life. We need to place Christ at the centre of not only our minds but also our hearts. When we live life authentically we can evangelise with acts of service.
Christ comes to us where we are. It does not matter where we have been or what we have done in the past. The purpose of the body is good and sexuality is a gift from God. God is the author of life and love. Some men plant. Others water, but God gives the growth.