Call it Virtue. Call it Chastity. Call it Continence.
Whatever you want to call it, our society loves to tell us that it can’t be lived, is weird to try, and an attraction to it probably means that you’re all neurotic and hung-up, provincial and you know, like, so lame.
In an era where city governments are celebrating the creation of iphone apps that can take you to your
leader nearest free condom (because when sex is just a bodily function, free condoms are the answer to many questions) and one night stands and “hook-ups” have been rendered as ordinary as a belly-scratch, we are told that nobody (outside of some Southern and Mid-Western tent-revivalists) actually takes virtue seriously, anymore!
Except that people still do. Even some (gasp!) grown-up, well-educated, urban-dwelling, culturally-aware sophisticates manage to seriously contemplate continence and attempt the discipline of self-control and self-denial. They submit to the staggering idea that such a discipline can be a noble thing, and that some things are worth living context, and delay.
One such fellow is Patheos’ own Tim Muldoon, a Catholic theologian, writer and spiritual director who often writes about the theology of desire (in the main and the abstract). At The Holy Desire he writes with great candor about this issue of continence and “red hot Catholic love” here and here, and he touches on the wisdom of Natural Family Planning, as well:
Natural family planning was wonderful because it allowed us to talk about sex and then enjoy it. It allowed us to name our desires and then discern which of them were healthiest for our married life, and which were perhaps more rooted in unhealthy attitudes or (for lack of a better term) external turn-ons. It allowed us to know each other without needing any sort of technology. It kept our focus on a deep yet still distant desire, for children. We later learned that NFP also enabled us to almost immediately diagnose infertility. And much later we have come to understand that the periodic abstinence required by NFP was excellent practice for the child-raising years, during which time periodic abstinence becomes rather a necessity, due to small children running into our bedroom to sleep.
We read quite a lot in mass media about Catholics rejecting church teachings on chastity and on artificial contraception, and rather less on Catholics who embrace the teachings with open minds, and find them to be life-enhancing, rather than restricting. I think it’s very cool to read an erudite professor sing the praises of discipline over immediate gratification.
Also very cool, Tony Rossi’s article about an engaged couple speaking freely about their own commitment to virtuous courtship:
As their relationship now proceeds toward the sacrament of marriage, God and their Catholic faith remain the glue that hold Abby and Simon together. She said, “Separate, we are two complete individuals. Together with God and by His grace, we are one complete unit. He is our glue, our bond, our wingman. Especially in moments when we fall and sin, God is there with us and He gives us the grace to encourage the other to go to Confession, to attend Mass, to pray more, and to read Scripture together. God gives us the grace to lead each other to heaven.”
These folks are taking an anything-but-casual approach to love, or to life, or to sex within their love and their lives. Doesn’t it seem more refreshing, and more worth reading-about, and perhaps worth living, than the thoughtless and easy lowering of every sexual urge and thought to our lowest common denominators?
I call it refreshing, anyway. And challenging, inspiring, and courageous witness.