Men: A Break from Sex?
Be not afraid!
by Rev. T. G. Morrow
Suzanne was attracted to George, because he seemed committed to his faith and even went to weekday Mass and communion. However, although he never tried anything, she got the impression that he was a bit too concerned with sex. So, she stopped going out with him.
Several months later she saw George at a dance, and he introduced her to his fiancé. When the latter went to the ladies’ room he told Sue, “She’s a wonderful woman and she’s really great in bed!” Suzanne wasn’t shocked, but she called him aside and told him to be very careful about living in mortal sin, and going to communion as well, thereby adding insult to injury. I hope he heard her.
I knew another young man who often came to weekday Mass, would never miss a Sunday Mass—or communion—and who even attended the stations of the Cross during Lent. He was constantly involved in volunteer work in the parish. When he went out with one of our dedicated Catholic women, he told her on their third date, “I want you to know that I believe in premarital sex.” “Well,” said she, “I want you to know that I don’t,” and that was their last date. (Bravo!)
These are not isolated cases. There are many more such stories, of young men, Catholic and Protestant, who essentially “block out” the whole issue of sexual morality and pretend to live the faith as if all is well. What could be more hypocritical?
And, “If they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Lk 23:31). What of those who are not such great Christians, or who are not even believers? One need not be a social scientist to know that many, if not most, American men live a life of perpetual adolescence regarding sexuality. They act like little boys, smiling knowingly at their suggestive talk and their sexual triumphs, as if they had discovered some little secret. And, their marriages often suffer as a result.
I bring all this up, not to denigrate men (I happen to be one), but to honestly identify a problem and to propose a solution. What can be done for these Christian and non-Christian men who seem bent on spiritual and marital self-destruction? Certainly we priests need to speak out more about the virtue of chastity. But we also need more of our young men of faith, single and married to take up the gauntlet and be witnesses for the truth. There are many young single men, men who are very alive and successful, who would like to live the Catholic faith in its fullness. To these men, I propose, Live the virtue of chastity, and have the courage to give witness to it!
“Come on, Father, give us a break!” some may respond.
Gentlemen, what I propose is a break, an eternal one.
First of all, I know a number of Catholic men—some, very sharp and very “cool”—who are honest enough to realize they must live chastity in order to be a good Catholic. They are trying to be chaste and they are succeeding. I’m deeply impressed by these men, but for some, more is needed. More witnessing is needed to other men and women who do not even realize that pre-marital chastity is possible and, in fact, extremely important for a good marriage.
First, how are these men able to live chastely in our oversexed culture? They begin with prayer, often the daily rosary; then they get into frequent weekday Mass attendance, if not daily; then they read the lives and writings of the saints; then they find out exactly what the Church teaches about chastity (try http://slsociety.org/is-chastity-possible to see my two page summary on this); and, finally, they choose their dates carefully. They make it clear that they are trying to live the Catholic faith without compromise, and if any young woman finds that unacceptable, she is politely invited to find someone else.
Any young man who hopes to be saved should realize that chastity is an integral part of the Christian life, no matter what the culture, the media, or the hypocrites might say. There is simply no way around this.
Some say, either implicitly or explicitly, “Well, when I get married I’ll live chastely, but it’s too difficult now. Nobody lives this teaching.” Satan jumps for joy when he hears this.
What’s wrong with it? First, it’s wimpish. Basically they are saying, “I can’t handle gospel morality. I’m too weak. I have to compromise with the world.” If they lived in early Rome, they’d have said, “I can’t deal with these lions. Let me worship the false gods until the persecution is over, and then I’ll be a great Catholic.” But everyone knows that the only real Christians are those who go right to the Cross with Christ. “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me…” (Mt. 10:38) They are saying they want Christ without the Cross. Wimps!
The second problem here is this: even if a man gets married and lives chastely, he is only at peace with God if he can say honestly, “If I were single again tomorrow, I would try to live celibate chastity for as long as I remained single.” If he can’t say that, how can he be reconciled with God? How many married men are living chastely, but only because they are married, and in fact wink at single men who are not living chastely? This is an unconverted heart (with frightening implications). Marriage is not what saves a man; it takes conversion!
Further, what kind of a person says to God, “I’ll love you when I’m older, after I’ve had my fun and played out my youth”? Someone who doesn’t know the meaning of love. Love is a lifelong task, not something just for those too old to sin. Happy the man who loves God in the midst of battle, not just in the good times. Then too, the one who says those words thinks sin brings happiness. It doesn’t. This sin brings pleasure, a pleasure that degrades two people and a sacred, covenantal act, but it doesn’t bring happiness. The moral law is not some arbitrary test to see if we will obey God; it is the manufacturer’s operating instructions. It is the blueprint for real, lasting happiness. Those who live it without resentment know this. This is why reading about the saints is so important. Especially important in this area are the lives of St. Augustine and St. Margaret of Cortona. Both lived with their lovers for many years. Both freed themselves from their “cruel slavery to lust,” and found the peace and joy of living for Christ. “How late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new… I rushed headlong after those beauties which you have made… They kept me far from you, those fair things which, were they not in you, would not exist at all… You have sent forth fragrance, and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant for you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you. You have touched me and I burn for your peace,” cried St. Augustine (Confessions, Bk. 10, Chap. 27). This is a man who knew both ways, that of lust, and that of God. He chose the better.
And, it’s not enough for a man to simply go along with his Catholic girlfriend on chastity. Christ expects men to be convinced of his teaching and speak it to others. No one should be embarrassed by a teaching he knows to be true. If you’re embarrassed by the truth, you’ll be embarrassed by Christ, who is the truth. (“He who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God” Lk. 12:9) No, going along with a virtuous woman is not enough. We need men who will take leadership roles on this issue, who will witness to the truth, in season and out of season. Will you be ridiculed for it? Of course you will. “Blessed are you when they persecute you on my account…” (Mt. 5:11, 12). But as long as you keep a sense of humor you’ll still get the point across, and plant a seed of decency.
“Well, Father, what about the women?” you say? Sure, the women have to get with this too, and when I speak to them I stress it, but I’m talking to men now, with their own unique difficulties. Furthermore, it’s easier for the women. Many women, when they hear the truth, simply go and live it. Men, on the other hand, have more of a struggle. The men need to know they don’t have to surrender to the culture, they can change it—or at least their little corner of it— with the help of God.
The Promise Keepers are way ahead of us on this. They are encouraging men to be good Christians regarding sexuality (promise # 3: “A Promise Keeper is committed to practicing spiritual, moral, ethical, and sexual purity.”). So is A. C. Green, the basketball pro who encourages young people to follow his example by waiting til marriage to have sex. He’s ahead of his time.
Give me a man who knows the meaning of Christian chastity, who is not too weak to live it, and who is willing to stand up to the world for the truth. Give me a man who will say to other Christians when the opportunity arises (without being totally obnoxious), “Don’t be a hypocrite. You know what the Gospel teaches. If I can live this, so can you.” And, to non-believers, “I’m not having sex ‘til I get married because I know this is the way to build a good, lasting marriage.”
Give me such a man, and I’ll give you a man on the road to sanctity. Give me twelve such men, and I’ll give you the beginning of a Christian revolution.