Note bene: This blog post includes a quote from the newer translation by Grzegorz Ignatik of Love and Responsibility—this translation is more readable and may be in some ways more faithful to the original, but the blog post author is most familiar with the H.T. Willets translation and that is why it has been used more!
Chastity as Virtue:
Where does chastity fit in the general pursuit of virtue? This is what Wojtyla seeks to answer in this section of Love and Responsibility. Aquinas places chastity under the cardinal virtue of temperance, or moderation, by which reason moderates physical drives (for food, drink, and sex). Thus for Aquinas, chastity, as a sub-virtue of moderation, is having control over one’s sensual desire, such that the person is in a more or less permanent state of control (in the will).
Wojtyla asks, is that really the best way to think about chastity? As self-control? No, he argues, “There is no way to comprehend chastity without the virtue of love.”[i] The virtue of chastity cannot only consist in control over one’s impulses, but rather control of “those centres deep within the human being in which the utilitarian attitude is hatched and grows.”[ii] This is much harder, and much easier, than acquiring chastity as moderation. It’s harder because looking at yourself honestly and working to root out self-centeredness and a tendency to use others is the work of a lifetime. And yet, once you engage in this deeper work you are much less likely to fall into particular sins related to lust or emotional manipulation. A virtue makes doing what is right easy and joyful. It becomes “co-natural” and it is no longer a real question or temptation because the will is solidly grounded in the understanding of the value of the person.
Consider pornography, for example. There will always be external temptations to view pornography, but the man or woman who has internalized and gained the virtue of chastity does not experience these temptations in the same way that someone who does not have the virtue does. He or she knows in their mind that pornography degrades a human being, and has chosen with his or her will, over and over again, to reject it, such that pornography loses much of its power.
The Goodness of the Whole Person:
“To be chaste,” Wojtyla writes, “means to have a ‘transparent’ attitude to a person of the other sex… the desire to ‘enjoy’ is subordinated to a readiness to show loving kindness in every situation.”[iii] Wojtyla reiterates that chastity does not mean “artificially banishing the values of the ‘body’ or more generally the values of sex to the subconscious, of pretending that they do not exist or at any rate have no effect.”[iv] That is not a good idea. As Wojtyla notes, this false idea of chastity lends itself to “explosions” of sexual desire after repression.[v] Such repression happens when one sees chastity only as a negative virtue (a “no”), “whereas it is above all the ‘yes’ of which certain ‘no’s’ are the consequence.”[vi] Chastity’s essence is “quickness to affirm the value of the person in every situation and in raising to the personal level all reactions to the value of ‘the body and sex.’”[vii] It doesn’t push down the value of the body and sex, trying to smother it, but rather seeks to integrate its goodness into the knowledge of the goodness of the whole person. As Wendy Shalit wrote about modesty (a sub-virtue of chastity) in A Return to Modesty:
“Whether she decides to have scores of men or none, promiscuous
and prudish women in some sense embrace the same flippant world view,
which one might call the nothing-fazes-me world view. As types, they rep-
resent two sides of the same unerotic coin, which flips over arrogantly and
announces to the world when it lands, “Ha!—I cannot be moved.” Modesty
is prudery’s true opposite, because it admits that one can be moved and
issues a specific invitation for one man to try.”[viii]
If sexual reactions were always bad or undesirable, how could marriage be considered good or holy? “True chastity does not lead to disdain for the body or to disparagement of matrimony and the sexual life,”[ix] Wojytla writes. “That is the result of false chastity, chastity with a tinge of hypocrisy, or, still more frequently, of unchastity.”[x] A person who has not integrated their sexual reactions into a deeper affirmation of the person will see all sexual reactions as ‘dirty.’ “Thus only the chaste man and the chaste woman are capable of true love.”[xi] Chastity frees a couple from using each other and gives them the ability to love in their marital sexual relationship.[xii] This requires maturity of many kinds, since concupiscence remains. “For this reason, chastity is a difficult, long term matter; one must wait patiently for it to bear fruit.”[xiii]
Finally, Wojytla writes about the “humility of the body,” which he asserts is necessary for love.[xiv] “The human body must ‘humble itself’ in face of the magnitude represented by love… subordinate itself [to love].”[xv] Instead of the person striving to satisfy the body’s desires, the chaste person basically says to the body, “Not so fast! This is a person, and he/she is a child of God, destined for heaven.” Thus the body is subordinated to the ultimate happiness of the person. For, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8).
 If you need a little refresher, the cardinal virtues are the four “big” virtues, under which other virtues fall. They are prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude.
 This is one of the reasons that early exposure to pornography is so harmful to the person—it snatches away, if you will, the innocent period of time when a child sees everyone as a human person first and only later as a sexual body, and makes it that much harder to develop chastity and a proper view of the human person.
[i] Karol Wojtyla. Love and Responsibility (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2013), p. 154.
[ii] Wojtyla, Karol. Love and Responsibility (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), p. 170.
[iii] Ibid, p. 170.
[iv] Ibid, p. 170.
[v] Ibid, p. 170.
[vi] Ibid, p. 170.
[vii] Ibid, p. 171.
[viii] Wendy Shalit. A Return to Modesty (New York: Touchstone, 1999), p. 182.
[ix] Ibid, p. 171.
[x] Ibid, p. 171.
[xi] Ibid, p. 171.
[xii] Ibid, p. 171.
[xiii] Ibid, p. 172.
[xiv] Ibid, p. 172.
[xv] Ibid, p. 172.
Integration of Love:
In this section of Love and Responsibility, Wojtyla analyzes what concupiscence is and what it’s not. It’s not a sin, but it is a challenge to the growth of mature love between a man and a woman. “Concupiscence is a consistent tendency to see persons of the other sex through the prism of sexuality alone, as ‘objects of potential enjoyment.’” Wojtyla points out that overcoming this tendency does not mean becoming “a-sexual” or “blind to the value of ‘the body and sex,’” but rather that it is integrated into love of the person, the whole person, which includes his or her body. (There’s a sweet song about this kind of integration called “You Wouldn’t Mind” by Colleen Nixon.)
Wojtyla writes that this integration is a struggle within every person, a battle between the tendency to “enjoy” and the call to love. He emphasizes again that concupiscence is only the “germ of sin,” not sin itself, since it is not a choice. Our reactions toward one another are “muddied” because of original sin, so that “it is not altogether safe to put one’s trust in the reactions of the senses” or emotions. That is hard! We want to just relax and go with our desires and feelings, but that’s not always a good plan.
Concupiscence vs. Lust:
Wojtyla points out that because of original sin, human beings tend to desire others sexually even if they don’t “love” them at all—concupiscence pushes people in that direction. Therefore, for concupiscence to become lust, “passive acquiescence suffices.” In other words, if one does not actively guard against lust (the sin), one will most likely lose the battle. Concupiscence will win. At the same time, one shouldn’t mistake concupiscence for the sin of lust. It’s the will that determines whether we sin or not. “As soon as the will consents,” Wojtyla writes, the desire becomes something that the person is “actively doing” rather than something that is “happening to” him or her.
Some people (perhaps all!) have a hard time finding that boundary between what is just happening in them and what they are choosing. Wojtyla says that since concupiscence pushes the human being toward lust, the person may mistake this push for the choice. But just because a person feels something doesn’t mean they will or choose it. In fact, “an act of the will directed against a sensual impulse does not generally produce any immediate result… [the sexual reaction] generally runs its full course even if it meets emphatic opposition in the sphere of the will.” If you didn’t choose it, it’s not a sin.
So far in this section, Wojtyla has been focused on sensual reactions, but now he turns to emotions. He reiterates that love cannot be reduced to emotion and that sin comes when “the will puts emotion before the person.” He notes that, “Authenticity of feeling is quite often inimical to truth in behavior.” In the footnote to this statement, Wojtyla notes that one should treat one’s feelings, “with a certain distrust,” noting that often, someone’s being “true to their feelings” is used to justify bad actions, like leaving one’s spouse for another. “The particular danger of ‘sinful love’ [lust] consists in a fiction: immediately, and before reflection, it is not felt to be ‘sinful,’ but is, above all, felt to be love… it makes the sin more dangerous.”
Lust is dangerous because it is not experienced as what it is: wrong, a sin. The persons justify it by a false idea of love as emotion. Instead, the will must “demand of reason a correct vision of love and of the happiness which love can bring to a woman and a man.” It is the will that guards the person against a “sinful love” and if the will guards one person, it simultaneously protects the other.
 Wojtyla, Karol. Love and Responsibility (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), p. 159.
 Ibid, p. 159.
 Ibid, p. 160.
 Ibid, p. 161.
 Ibid, p. 161.
 Ibid, p. 162.
 Ibid, p. 162.
 Ibid, p. 163.
 Ibid, p. 163.
 Ibid, p. 302.
 Ibid, p. 165.
 Ibid, p. 166.
What is Carnal Concupiscence?
Wojtyla begins this section on carnal concupiscence (Definition: the tendency toward sin in the area of sexuality) in Love and Responsibility by noting that, in the relationship between man and woman, the subject of an action is a person of one sex and the object is the other sex, and “only love blurs this relationship,”[i]—i.e. the two persons see each other as “another self,” and therefore not a totally separate individuals. Even if the two persons really do feel like a “we,” a joint, single subject, “This feeling, however, does nothing to alter the objective fact that they are in reality two different beings and two different subjects of action,”[ii] Wojtyla writes. Often the actions of each person affect the other in a way that is more intense than in friendship or other more casual relationships. Wojtyla uses the word “actions” here to include thoughts and feelings which are “internal actions” only known to the person him- or herself.
Wojtyla turns to the Ten Commandments, pointing out that the two Commandments that have to do specifically with the relationship of the sexes cover both external actions (“Thou shalt not commit adultery”) and internal actions (“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife”). In both cases, the object of the action is a person of the other sex. Carnal concupiscence, Wojtyla writes, is closely related to sensuality but it is not the same. Sensuality is the first reaction to a body of the other sex, as a possible “object of enjoyment,” but this reaction is not a sin. Concupiscence, like lust, is in the second movement—the movement of the will—to actively seek enjoyment out of the other person. The “obvious ease”[iii] by which a person moves from a reaction to this choice “is the source of great tensions in the inner life of the person,”[iv] Wojtyla writes.
Does Sex always = Love?
Sensuality easily turns into concupiscence or lust; the body’s reaction pushes the person in that direction. Wojtyla turns here to the famous philosopher and theologian St. Thomas Aquinas, who distinguishes these two movements of the soul as desire and the urge to act. Our feelings tend toward one or the other (thirst is an example of desire, anger of an urge to act). When sexual desire, focused solely on a body, is taken into the will and embraced, that is lust. The lustful person seeks bodily pleasure without regard to the person. In such a case, as soon as this person achieves the bodily release that he or she craves, his or her attitude toward the other person changes completely. Consider one night stands as one clear way that this plays out in people’s lives. If Harry and Sally meet at a bar and “hook up,” it’s likely that Harry and Sally will look at each other very differently the next morning (or even just a short time later). “Sensuality is ‘expended’ in concupiscence,”[v] Wojtyla writes. If bodily desires are the only thing bringing two people together, and those desires are satisfied (at least temporarily) by the sexual act, then the two persons no longer have any reason to be together afterwards. This is normal in the animal world but a serious moral problem for human beings.
Lust, or carnal love, substitutes the body and sex for the person. The person is reduced to an object for use. The persons may feel love because of it— they may experience a powerful feeling of closeness and intimacy that comes from the release of hormones during sex—but this is a trick of nature. Lust drives people to have sex but it does not unite them as persons. Casual sex is not love but its opposite. It may even damage people’s capacity to love, since it teaches them to use others, to have a “consumer” attitude; to use and discard another human being.
Wojtyla notes that emotion (sentimentality) can act as one safeguard against carnal concupiscence or lust but it is not enough—the virtue of chastity is the only real security against being used and using others.
[i] Wojtyla, Karol. Love and Responsibility (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), p. 147.
[ii] Ibid, p. 147.
[iii] Ibid, p. 148.
[iv] Ibid, p. 148.
[v] Ibid, p. 149.
Mature Love is Learned:
Young people may scoff, Wojtyla notes in this section of Love and Responsibility, at the idea that love must be educated, or learned. But the love that a scoffer is are thinking of is the psychological aspect of love, its emotions and desires, not the mature love on which a marriage should be based. Desire and emotion are not learned, but just happen; Mature love is learned and worked on. “For love is never something ready made, something merely ‘given’ to man and woman,” Wojtyla writes, “It is always at the same time a ‘task’ which they are set.” Love is like a mission, “Should you choose to accept it” (Mission Impossible). Wojtyla writes that love is always “only ‘becoming’,” not complete. The couple can never brush their hands together and declare, “Okay, now we love each other perfectly! What shall we do next?”
Creators of Love:
Man and woman must continually be creators of their love. They may be given, by God, their past experience, and their natural inclinations, the raw material of attraction or infatuation, but they must make their love by choosing it, over and over. Love takes work and it is not easy. “Such a great love can only be the work of persons and… the work of Divine Grace.” Wojtyla notes that sometimes love “follows tortuous ways,” but, “Grace has the power to make straight the paths of human love.” This is the hope that couples can cling to in difficult times. God is with them.
Wojtyla concludes his “Ethical Analysis of Love” here by noting that there is, in the relationship and man and woman, “an insidious possibility of disintegration” (i.e. separation of the desires and emotions from the real choice of the person) which must be countered by developing the virtue of chastity. This is the topic of the next chapter.
 Wojtyla, Karol. Love and Responsibility (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), p. 139.
 Ibid, p. 139.
 Ibid, p. 140.
 Ibid, p. 140.
 Ibid, p. 140.
True knowledge for True Love
“Only true knowledge of a person makes it possible to commit one’s freedom to him or her,”[i] Wojtyla writes at the beginning of this section of Love and Responsibility. While giving up or limiting one’s freedom sounds unpleasant (especially to American ears), Wojtyla notes that, “Freedom exists for the sake of love.”[ii] In fact, human beings want to use their freedom to love—and not just to love for a little while but to love in a permanent, irrevocable way. “Forever” is implicit in “I love you,” not something added on. If someone said, “I love you today, but I’m not sure about tomorrow,” the other person would rightly respond, “Then you don’t love me at all.”
Wojtyla notes that the choice of loving another person—keeping in mind that love is the affirmation of the person—must be free. It cannot be made out of coercion or even passion. Wojtyla says that a person’s will “is usually the arena for a struggle between the sexual instinct and the need for freedom.”[iii] Someone may have to conciously struggle against their bodily desires and emotions in order to see the other person clearly and to treat them as a person, not an object. “Willed love expresses itself above all in the desire of what is good for the beloved person,”[iv] Wojtyla writes.
Focused on Oneself vs. Focused on the Other
While sexual desire and infatuation, even though they involve another person, are focused on oneself, the will can focus on the other. One can can desire happiness for the other in an unselfish way—and not just momentary happiness but the ultimate happiness of heaven. “[Love in the will] desires the absolute good, the unlimited good, happiness for that person, and in this way compensates and atones for the desire to have that other person, a person of the other sex, for itself.”[v] Rather than denying that the body and emotions are driving someone toward relationships with the other person, the will acknowledges it and seeks to shape and form what is happening into mature love.
Sexual desire and emotional infatuation want to take; love wants to give. This is the “divine aspect of love,”[vi] the fact that to love someone, “is really to desire God for that person.”[vii] In your relationships, can you say that you desire God for the other person? Wojtyla notes that “only people of profound faith”[viii] see this truth. Wojtyla notes that it is sometimes a great discovery when a person realizes that he can put another person first, freely and joyfully. A person who loves may sacrifice much without thinking too much about it. Think of parents who constantly put their children’s needs before their own. “Love is indeed the highest of moral values. but one must know how to transfer it to the ordinary affairs of everyday life. This is where the problem of educating love arises.”[ix] This ability to love in action shows a person’s capacity for greatness, but this greatness is often manifested in small gestures of tenderness or sacrifice: getting up before one’s spouse to start the coffee, complimenting him or her, etc. Marriage means doing “small things with great love” (as St. [Mother] Teresa of Calcutta would say).
[i] Wojtyla, Karol. Love and Responsibility (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), p. 135.
[ii] Ibid, p. 135.
[iii] Ibid, p. 136.
[iv] Ibid, p. 137.
[v] Ibid, p. 137.
[vi] Ibid, p. 138.
[vii] Ibid, p. 138.
[viii] Ibid, p. 138.
[ix] Ibid, p. 139.
The Inherent Value of the Human Person
Karol Wojtyla reminds us in this section of Love and Responsibility that a person has worth beyond any other created thing or object in the world. A person has an inner life (spirit) and is capable of spiritual perfection (in heaven). The inherent value of every human person goes far beyond any quality that they may possess (such as beauty, brains, or brawn). [This is one reason that racism is clearly an evil, since it reduces the value of the person due to an accidental[i] quality.] The human person has unique dignity because he or she is made in God’s image and called to communion with him.
“That being so,” Wojtyla writes, “every person of the opposite sex possesses value in the first place as a person, and only secondarily possesses a sexual value.”[ii] Everyone is a person first, man or woman second. Experientially, when a man meets a woman, he typically sees her as a woman (and vice versa, when a woman meets a man, he registers as “male”) but the fact that the other is a person, “demands that the sensual and emotional reaction to a ‘human being of the other sex’ be somehow adjusted to the knowledge that the human being concerned is a person.”[iii] Harry isn’t just some kind of incarnation of maleness, and Sally isn’t just some beautiful piece of art to gaze at; they are persons whom God loves.
The Affirmation of the Person
Love must be an affirmation of the person, per Wojtyla; It is a declaration of the person’s worth and dignity. It says of and to the person: “It is good that you exist.” This love is a virtue, an “authentic commitment of the free will of one person… resulting from the truth about another person.”[iv] Affirmation of the person is connected with the other aspects of love (sensuality, emotion) but not reducible to them. The full truth of the person—with his or her faults and weaknesses as well as virtues and gifts—must be seen and accepted by the one who truly loves.
Learning this virtue of charity/love by focusing on affirming the person leads to two other developments in a person’s life. One is growth in the virtue of chastity, exhibiting self-control over one’s sensual and emotional reactions. Second is the discernment of one’s vocation or state in life (marriage or celibacy for the Kingdom). Both states in life are based on the call to love—to affirm every person—in a particular way.
In the next section, Wojtyla continues contemplating the necessity of marital love to be both subjective and objective, repeating much of what has been said before. He talks of what it takes for two people to belong to one another in love. A point he reiterates from earlier is the necessity of each person to know their own worth and dignity as a person before entering a relationship. “A woman is capable of truly making a gift of herself only if she fully believes in the value of her person and in the value as a person of the man to whom she gives herself.”[v] This can be assumed to be reciprocal. One of the challenges of love between a man and a woman is each internalizing that he or she is worthy of it.
[i] Please note the use of the term “accidental” in its philosophical meaning as un-essential, or not determinative of the thing’s nature. For example, for a cat, having long fur is an “accident” while being a creature with four paws and a superiority complex is essential.
[ii] Wojtyla, Karol. Love and Responsibility (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), p. 122.
[iii] Ibid, p. 123, emphasis original.
[iv] Ibid, p. 123.
[v] Ibid, p. 129.
Ethics of Experience:
Wojtyla starts with the use of experience as a guideline for ethics. Situationalism (or relativism) sees every situation as unique in such a way that there can be no objective rules about behavior. What is right or wrong in a given situation just depends on the situation and the people in it. The people themselves are the only ones who can know (or say) what is good for them. So when it comes to the relationship between a man and a woman, anything goes as long as it “works” for the couple. Hopefully, it is obvious that this kind of ethical system leads to all sorts of problems, not only for the couple themselves but potentially their children, extended families, and friends as well.
Ethics of Virtue:
In contrast, according to the ethics of virtue, it is a person’s duty to choose what is good. What is good is not decided by the person himself but rather determined by some objective rule or norm. “For the freedom of the human will is most fully displayed in morality through duty,” Wojtyla writes. A duty is discovered, not created, through applying a norm. For Wojtyla, the personalistic norm (i.e. the command to love) furnishes the “should’s” and “should not’s” of the relationship between man and woman. Whatever is done should be done out of love, not lust or emotional manipulation. Wojtyla argues that without ethical completeness (respect, love for the other over oneself, etc.), there is no psychological completeness to love either. In other words, if love as a virtue is not present in the relationship between a man and a woman, it will not even be psychologically satisfying in the end because it is not authentic love.
Consider these two approaches to ethics as if they were applied to eating. Situationalism would say that whatever you eat is fine, if you think it is. Doughnuts every day? Go for it! Only you can know if that is a good breakfast for you. Virtue, on the other hand, requires you to consider the objective nutritional value of the food and act accordingly. That doesn’t mean that you always make the right decision, but that you know there is a right to strive for.
So how do a man and woman grow in the Christian virtue of love/charity? Stay tuned!
Click the link below to read ALL of MUR’s Love and Responsibility blog series: https://goo.gl/6itvJH
 Wojtyla, Karol. Love and Responsibility (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), p. 120.
In this section of Love and Responsibility, Wojtyla looks specifically at the type of love that a husband and wife share, and he calls this “betrothed love.” The phrase in English that better conveys what Wojtyla means is “marital love,” since he means the love in which a man and woman give themselves fully to one another.
Wojtyla reminds us that we must possess ourselves before we can give ourselves. Self-gift is not about passively becoming what someone else wants us to be. Have you seen the movie Runaway Bride (1999)? The main character (Maggie) always adjusted her likes and dislikes according to what her boyfriend or fiancé liked. She wanted to be loved, so she changed herself to match whatever the man she was with liked in a woman. With the hippie, she became a hippie; with the athletic guy, she became a sports fan. After this habit was pointed out to her, Maggie realized that she didn’t know herself.
Most of us can probably relate to this impulse at some level: We fudge our favorite book so that we sound smart, or nod our head when our crush talks about a band we’ve never heard of… if that kind of thing becomes a habit, we might reach a point where we don’t “possess” ourselves and cannot find real love. This is perhaps more common for women than men.
Marriage is to Give
Wojtyla points out that, psychologically speaking, it is usually the woman who feels that her role in marriage is to give. However, objectively (or ontologically) speaking, both spouses must give themselves to one another, and not just sexually. “Giving oneself only sexually, without the full gift of the person,” is just a form of use, as previously discussed. Husband and wife give themselves to one another even through the mundane activities of daily life.
At the risk of being too movie-heavy in this post, the movie Fireproof (2008), while one of the cheesiest movies ever, does a great job communicating this truth about marriage. Once the husband (Caleb) begins really giving himself to his wife by making her coffee, buying her flowers, and considering her needs before his own (possibly for the first time in their entire marriage), the relationship is transformed. Caleb comes to understand that love is a choice; He recognizes that he has been selfish and that he has not acted with goodwill and friendship.
The Person and Love:
Wojtyla concludes with the note that marital love is not some isolated kind of love, different from every other kind. “Betrothed love, though of its nature it differs from all the forms of love previously analyzed, can nevertheless not develop in isolation from them. In particular, it is essential that Husband and wife give themselves to one another even through the mundane activities of daily life..”
Thus concludes the section on “The Person and Love.” We have looked at attraction, desire, goodwill, reciprocity, friendship, and betrothed love as experiences of the person. In the next section, Wojtyla goes into a psychological analysis of love. Stay tuned!
 Ibid, p. 99.
 Ibid, p. 100.
“Love endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7).
Pope Francis: “In family life, we need to cultivate that strength of love which can help us fight every evil threatening it” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 119).
What is an evil that is threatening your family today? This may be from within (resentment, exhaustion, sin) or without (technology, entertainment, financial hardship). How are you fighting it?
“Love endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7).
Pope Francis: “I am sometimes amazed to see men or women who have had to separate from their spouse for their own protection, yet, because of their enduring conjugal love, still try to help them, even by enlisting others, in their moments of illness, suffering or trial. Here too we see a love that never gives up” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 119).
Do you know anyone in the situation that Pope Francis mentions here? Reach out to give that family a hand. If you do not know anyone personally, consider a donation to a domestic violence ministry.
“Love never fails” (1 Cor 13:8).
This is the conclusion of the AL Challenge. Did you make it through? Share your stories via Facebook.
Intention: We pray for a deeper understanding of what it means to be created male or female.
Reflection: During a recent morning meditation, Pope Francis reflected on the Book of Genesis. “The creation of man and woman is the masterpiece of creation,” the Pope explained. God “did not want for man to be alone: he wanted him to be with his companion, his companion on the journey.”
Here the Bible shows us a very important truth; man and woman are equal, but different. This sexual difference is actually complementary. It is through the existence of woman that we are able to fully appreciate the uniqueness of man and vice versa. An example of this aspect of difference and complementarity can be seen in beautiful paintings where two complementary colors are used. When brought together, the two different colors look more vibrant and unique than they would have looked separately. The same can be said of man and woman. In the words of Blessed John Paul II, “femininity in some way finds itself before masculinity, while masculinity confirms itself through femininity.”
Did You Know? In his Theology of the Body, Blessed John Paul II explained that “man became an image of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons, which man and woman form from the very beginning.” Through marriage, a husband and wife are able to be a true communion of persons by giving themselves and receiving the other in unselfish love. In this way, a husband and wife have the unique ability to reflect Trinitarian Love.
The Bishops of Virginia, represented by the Virginia Catholic Conference, filed an amicus curiae brief today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In January, District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen struck down the provision in Virginia’s constitution that affirms marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The brief filed on behalf of the Virginia Catholic Conference explains, “Virginia’s interest in marriage is based in the Commonwealth’s foresight that changing the legal definition of marriage would unavoidably change the way Virginia’s citizens view marriage and make the Commonwealth’s marriage laws adult-focused rather than child-focused. If the message and function of marriage is changed in concept, the cultural significance attached to marriage will also change.”
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage voiced his support of the legal action. “The Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States are united in their desire to preserve the institution of marriage, and we support the Virginia bishops in their effort to defend Virginia’s recognition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. For the good of children, it is critical that society preserve the true meaning of marriage.”
With the Virginia Catholic Conference, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) also filed an amicus brief in Bostic v. Schaefer, along with four other institutions. Oral arguments in this case were heard on May 13, 2014. The audio is available at the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Updated Monday, May 19, 2014
Today, Pope Francis concluded his Wednesday catechesis on the Sacraments with a reflection on marriage. He began by explaining that marriage is “A sacrament that leads us to the heart of God’s plan, which is a plan of alliance with his People, with all of us, a plan of communion.” He then explained, “The image of God is a married couple, man and woman, not only man, not only woman, but rather both. This is the image of God: love, God’s alliance with us is represented in the alliance between man and woman.”
“We were created to love, as a reflection of God and his love. And in matrimonial union the man and woman realize this vocation, as a sign of reciprocity and the full and definitive communion of life.” When a man and a woman receive the Sacrament of marriage, “God is, so to say, ‘mirrored’ in them, he imprints in them the features and indelible nature of His love. Marriage is the icon of God’s love for us. Indeed, God too is communion: the three Persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have always lived and live forever in perfect unity. And this is the mystery of marriage: God makes married couples into one existence. The Bible uses a strong term: it says one ‘flesh’ only, so intimate is the union between man and woman in marriage.” Pope Francis then concluded his catechesis by saying, “Married life is beautiful, and must be protected.”
Let us pray together for the courage to continue to protect the truth of marriage as the union of one man and one woman!
Pope Francis recently reflected on the Gospel reading of Mark in which the Pharisees, wishing to put Jesus to the test, asked him whether it is lawful to divorce. The Pope reminded his listeners that Jesus “goes right back to the days of creation.” Jesus explains, “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female; ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one. So they are no longer two but one flesh.’”
Pope Francis had much to say about this event and explained quite beautifully that “the Lord is here referring to the masterpiece of creation.” For God “created the light and saw that it was good.” Then “he created the animals, the trees, and the stars: all good.” But “when he created man” he said “that he was very good.” Pope Francis continued, “the creation of man and woman is the masterpiece of creation.” Also because God “did not want for man to be alone: he wanted him to be with his companion, his companion on the journey.” Pope Francis then explained that this moment was also “the beginning of love.” However, he added that “the Lord’s masterpiece was not finished there…the Lord holds up this love contained in the masterpiece of creation in order to explain the love he has for his people. Yet there is another step: when Paul needs to explain the mystery of Christ, he also does so in relation and in reference to the bride. For Christ is wedded: he wedded the Church, his people; as the Father had wedded his people Israel, so Christ espoused his people to himself.”
All of this, the Pope concluded, brings to mind the “plan of love”, “the journey of love of Christian marriage, which God blessed in the masterpiece of his creation with a blessing that can never be taken away. Not even original sin destroyed it.” And “when one considers this,” he quite naturally sees “how beautiful love is, how beautiful marriage is, how beautiful the family is, how beautiful this journey is.”
For Pope Francis’ full reflection, click here.
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1: 38).”
Today we celebrate that great event when the Angel Gabriel visited Mary and asked her to be the Mother of God. The Annunciation is a huge solemnity in the Church because it commemorates that moment when God took on human flesh. This day exemplifies God’s love for us in so many ways. All throughout the Old Testament we read about examples when God’s love was rejected by His people. Time and time again, He offered opportunities to accept His love, all the while, allowing His people to choose Him freely (or not choose Him as was often the case). Mary’s fiat or “yes” is celebrated because unlike anyone in history before her, she was completely and unreservedly open to God’s will in her life.
The event of the Annunciation teaches us a great deal about freedom. Often times, when we think of freedom, we see it as the ability to choose between “a” or “b,” without any pressure or influence to choose either one. We often believe that such an influence would be considered an infringement on our freedom. But when we look closer, this view of freedom is devoid of all truth. It assumes there is no difference between the options “a” and “b” and that the only good is the ability to choose. It never considers what is being chosen.
Authentic freedom, on the other hand, is shaped by truth. In the words of John Paul II, “Truth enlightens man’s intelligence and shapes his freedom.” Apart from truth, freedom cannot exist. Take for example persons considered “free” to “express their sexuality” through the use of pornography, a medium that completely disregards the truth of human dignity and what human sexuality is made for. Through this addicting “expression,” a person can quickly become a slave to the sin of pornography. Contrarily, we are most free when we are living according to the truth of our existence. Because she had never been touched by the stain of sin, Mary was completely free to embrace the will of God. She was completely free to live the life she was made to live.
Another lie society tells us is that our ability to choose is simply that, our choice. No one else needs to be involved and no one else should matter. We are autonomous, self-determining individuals, so the theory goes. The Annunciation shows us this is not the case. Mary’s willingness to participate in the event of the Incarnation has affected all of history. All of creation waited in anticipation of Mary’s “Yes.” We are all sharers in the benefit of Mary’s decision to choose the will of God. No choice we make is ever merely personal because we are all connected through our common humanity.
Finally, the Annunciation shows us that we can never truly separate faith and life. This is sometimes difficult to accept, especially within a culture that emphasizes the importance and necessity of separating “Church and state.” Today, it is considered normal to be “personally opposed” to something, but okay with it happening in the public realm. Our Catholic faith is different, however. There is no distinction between the public and private realm when it comes to living out our faith. Everything we do, whether it be eating, sleeping, talking or reading, should be done with an eye to who we are as created beings and why God made us. The Incarnation shows us that the physical matters. Salvation history occurs within history, it is a physical event.
There is a poem by Rev. John Duffy, C.S.s.R. which describes Mary’s first awakening after the Angel Gabriel appeared to her. In describing Mary, the poem explains “She was the Mother of the wandering Word, little and terrifying in her laboring womb. And nothing would again be casual and small, but everything with light invested (italics mine).” The Incarnation displays for us how involved God is in our daily lives. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16).” He is not some distant God who creates us and leaves us to figure things out on our own. Instead, God is invested in our lives at every moment. He holds us in being through love, in love, and for love. As John Paul II explained, “man 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 (Redemptor Hominis, no 10).” So nothing we do should be separated from this realization that God is Love and desires each of us to be united with Him in Love. When we realize this, “nothing [will] again be casual and small.”
Intention: We pray for all fathers, that through the example of St. Joseph, they may fully embrace their vocation and accept the privilege and responsibility of caring for their children as St. Joseph cared for Jesus.
Reflection: On Wednesday, we celebrated the Solemnity of Saint Joseph. In his Apostolic Exhortation, “The Guardian of the Redeemer,” John Paul II referred to St. Joseph as “the guardian and cooperator in the providential mystery of God (no 14).” He explained that together with Mary, Joseph was the first guardian of Christ: “St. Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood (no 8).”
It is interesting to note that St. Joseph’s fatherhood and specific role in the plan of salvation would not have been possible apart from his marriage to Mary: “Joseph’s fatherhood – a relationship that places him as close as possible to Christ…comes to pass through marriage to Mary, that is, through the family (no 7).” Let us pray that every husband and wife will be brought closer to Christ through their marriage to one another.
A further reflection on St. Joseph’s participation in the plan of salvation can be found here.
Did You Know? Pope Francis has a deep devotion to St. Joseph. Last year, he chose the Solemnity of St. Joseph as the date for his inaugural Mass. A sign of Pope Francis’ devotion to this Saint can be seen on his coat of arms. Next to the star representing Mary is the spikenard flower, which is often used to represent St. Joseph.
Intention: Marking the one-year anniversary of Pope Francis’ election this week, we pray that we may follow his humble example and better love “our brethren, especially the weakest and neediest” (Pope Francis, April 24, 2013).
Reflection: A year ago this week, Pope Francis captivated the world almost immediately with his humble simplicity, charisma and warmth. Throughout the past year, he has continued to teach us both by his example and his words, inspiring us to look beyond ourselves and encouraging us to “go in search of the people who are the very flesh of Christ” (Vigil of Pentecost, 2013).
In the message from Pope Francis for last year’s Day of Life, we are reminded that “even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live for ever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”
Let us ask the Lord how He is calling us to love all of our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and neediest, and follow where He leads.
Did You Know? The Vatican website features an online book of images and quotes from Pope Francis over the last year.
In honor of Pope Francis’ one-year anniversary as pontiff, we put together a compilation
of some of his memorable quotes on marriage. Let us take this opportunity to thank the
Holy Spirit for the election of this holy man. Viva el Papa!
“Marriage is between a man and a woman.” Interview with Corriere della Sera (March 5, 2014)
“From the beginning the Creator blessed man and woman so that they might be fruitful and multiply, and so the family then is an image of the Triune God in the world.” Address to the Extraordinary Consistory (February 20, 2014)
“The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children. Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will.” Evangelii Gaudium, no 66 (Nov 24, 2013)
“The second point: the family is founded on marriage. Through their free and faithful act of love, Christian spouses testify to the fact that marriage, insofar as it is a sacrament, is the foundation of the family and strengthens spousal union and the couple’s mutual gift of self.” Address to the Pontifical Council for the Family (Oct 25, 2013)
“What is marriage? It is a true and authentic vocation, as are the priesthood and the religious life. Two Christians who marry have recognized the call of the Lord in their own love story, the vocation to form one flesh and one life from two, male and female.” Meeting with the Young People of Umbria (October 4, 2013)
“Today, there are those who say that marriage is out of fashion…They say that it is not worth making a lifelong commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘forever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries.” Address to World Youth Day Volunteers, Brazil (July 28, 2013)
“There is neither real promotion of the common good nor real human development when there is ignorance of the fundamental pillars that govern a nation, its non-material goods…[such as] the family, the foundation of coexistence and a remedy against social fragmentation.” Address to the Community of Varginha, Brazil (July 25, 2013)
“The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family. I think first and foremost of the stable union of man and woman in marriage. This union is born of their love, as a sign and presence of God’s own love, and of the acknowledgment and acceptance of the goodness of sexual differentiation, whereby spouses can become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24) and are enabled to give birth to a new life, a manifestation of the Creator’s goodness, wisdom and loving plan.” Lumen Fidei, no 52 (June 29, 2013)
Posted: March 13, 2014
February 23, 2014
Before creating 19 new Cardinals yesterday, Pope Francis addressed the College of Cardinals on Thursday morning and introduced their topic of discussion during the Extraordinary Consistory.
“During these days, we will reflect in particular on the family, which is the fundamental cell of society. From the beginning the Creator blessed man and woman so that they might be fruitful and multiply, and so the family then is an image of the Triune God in the world.”
Pope Francis continued, “Our reflections must keep before us the beauty of the family and marriage, the greatness of this human reality which is so simple and yet so rich, consisting of joys and hopes, of struggles and sufferings, as is the whole of life. We will seek to deepen the theology of the family and discern the pastoral practices which our present situation requires. May we do so thoughtfully and without falling into ‘casuistry’, because this would inevitably diminish the quality of our work. Today, the family is looked down upon and mistreated. We are called to acknowledge how beautiful, true and good it is to start a family, to be a family today; and how indispensable the family is for the life of the world and for the future of humanity.”
–Address of Pope Francis to the Extraordinary Consistory, February 20, 2014 (bold added)
Reflection: Marriage, the union of one man and one woman, is a unique kind of relationship because in marriage, a husband and wife give themselves to one another completely. Before he became Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla explained in his book Love and Responsibility, “The essence of [married] love is self-giving, the surrender of one’s ‘I.’” This means that married love is unselfish. A husband and wife are called to treat each day as a new opportunity to think of the other’s needs above their own. If this gift of self is lacking, he explained further, there is a danger that they may treat one another as objects to be used. With authentic love within the marriage of one man and one woman, however, giving oneself is never simply a total self-emptying. Through this giving, there is also a simultaneous receiving of one’s spouse’s gift of self in return. This reciprocal giving and receiving of love within marriage allows for a true and unique “communion of persons.”*
*For a deeper understanding of the meaning of “communion of persons,” visit the USCCB 2009 pastoral letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan, pages 10-11.
Did You Know? Pope Francis will be meeting with engaged couples for the Feast of Saint Valentine! Under the title “The Joy of Yes Forever!,” the event is expected to have several thousand participants. These couples from all around the world are looking forward to receiving advice and the blessing from the Holy Father as they embark on their high calling to image Christ’s love for His Church. More information on this event can be found here.
Marriage: Unique for a Reason is kicking off the first day of National Marriage Week with the release of its newest catechetical film, “El Matrimonio: Hecho para el amor y la vida.” “This is a one-of-a kind resource, and it is my hope that “El Matrimonio” will be a fruitful tool for advancing the conversation in both Spanish- and English-speaking communities on the true meaning of marriage,” said Archbishop Cordileone of the film. The 30 minute Spanish telenovela-style video and bilingual study guide is perfect for clergy, catechists, teachers, other leaders and viewers, as it explores five main themes: sexual difference and complementarity, children, the common good, religious freedom, and persons who experience same-sex attraction.
“The film’s story conveys real difficulties that numerous families encounter, but with compassion and without compromising the truth about God’s loving plan for marriage and family. In this way, the film portrays what we are all called to do: to love without compromising the truth, and to be witnesses to God’s plan with love and mercy. Love and truth go together. I pray that this film will provide opportunities for a deeper and more thoughtful study of, and increased reflection on the gift of marriage.”
For the full press release, click here.