Sunday, December 21, 2014

Advent Reflection III: Joy in Chastity

This Advent season, as we make "room in our hearts" for the coming of the Christ Child on December 25th, we continue our discussion on the importance and blessings of practicing chastity as followers of Christ who also happen to be childlovers. (For more on what Advent is, see this post.)

Chastity is often regarded as a labor, and it really is. It's ultimately a labor of love. But just because it's a labor doesn't mean it is devoid of joy. Like all virtues when we set ourselves out to practice them, chastity actually becomes a means toward a more fulfilling joy. Remember, chastity is a school not just of knowledge of God, but also of self. Indulging in or trying to avoid sexual desire completely is an escapist fantasy from God and from the self, but as I've come to learn, you won't come to truly know yourself until you begin to manage your desires. Christ reminds us very potently that God has not come to deprive of anything but to give us everything that is good for us. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). Can you honestly say that you're currently having life to the full? Are you maximizing your potential? Are you making full use of your talents and gifts? (I don't know if I am.) If not, remember, Christ isn't the one stopping you. Chastity is the road upon which you come to become the great thing God wants you to be, not a highway where He "robs" you of something.

Praise of God and remaining faithful to His law always carried with it a dual benefit throughout scripture. When David sought to honor God and build a temple for the Lord, God reminded him that He was not a god like the other nations had, who could be confined to a temple made with hands, for He had made the universe itself ("Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?" (2nd Samuel 7:5b)). Nevertheless, even though there was nothing David could've done to add to God's honor, God was still honored by David's earnest desire to honor Him, and in return, though David was not to actually build the Temple, God honored David and established a "house" for him"The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you" (2nd Samuel 7:11b). Because David had sought to honor the Lord's name, God honored David's name: "I will make you a great name, like the names of the great men who are on the earth" (2nd Samuel 7:9b). In this story, we learn that all it takes on our part is an earnest desire to honor God and His righteousness, and that it is God who is more than capable of returning the favor a hundredfold, and not just for us, but also for others because of us. And so Solomon (who actually built the Temple of the Lord) was also blessed because of David's desire to do so, as the gentile king Hiram noted: "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who made heaven and earth! He has given King David a wise son, endowed with intelligence and discernment, who will build a temple for the Lord and a palace for himself" (2nd Chronicles 2:12). Note here how the two things go hand and hand. You can not build a "palace" for yourself without building a Temple for the Lord, but you also can't build a true Temple for the Lord without also ending up building a palace for yourself, for it's God who allows you to build both.

But what does all this really mean in light of the advent of Christ? It means that the Temple in ancient Jerusalem was only a foreshadowing for us, for it could not really contain God, as King Solomon wisely remarked: "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!" (1st Kings 8:27). And yet what we celebrate at Christmas IS God choosing by His own Goodness to "dwell among us," in taking on our flesh that we might be able to take on His, so that OUR bodies may become "temples" wherein the Holy Spirit can dwell. Now if the Holy Spirit dwells in such a temple as "you," St. Paul reminds us, how ought you conduct yourself in reverence of this fact! "Do you not know that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies" (1st Corinthians 6:20). The mystery of all of this was present when the Blessed Mother gave her fiat to God that she would bear the Christ Child within herself. God literally came to "dwell" within one of His creatures to show us how we are to give our fiat as Christians and also "bear God" within ourselves. Foreshadowed by the desire of King David, God is not requiring that we build a home for Him, but that we allow Him to come build a home within us, just as He did in the Blessed Mother. "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20). He may have been born in someone else's stable, but He makes a permanent home for Himself in our hearts when we follow His example. 

So if the Temple of God in the Old Testament was given such high esteem even though it could not truly contain God, how much more so is the temple of the human body where God literally DOES choose to come to dwell, and therefore how much more it should be held in reverence! "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!" (1st Corinthians 6:15). How often then do we treat the body of Christ even less worthily than those who unknowingly crucified Him? We knowingly crucify Him all over again by sinning against our own bodies with unchaste living! And so, as St. Paul writes: "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body" (1st Corinthians 6:18), and by that, not just one's own body, but the Body of Christ as well. But is it really enough just to "flee from sexual immorality?" Doesn't that sound like such a "sex-negative" idea? Doesn't it sound like God is trying to "break in and steal" something from us or take something away from us and leave us with nothing? Doesn't it sound like God is trying to "rob us" of something we think should be ours? Many think so, but it isn't true. As Christ and the whole of scripture tries to explain: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). But how can this be so? By expressing our sexuality in ways that allow us to have a fullfilling life, rather than waste it on our isolation. 

Remember, being chaste is an expression of sexuality, just not a "genital" one. There are many expressions of human sexuality and many ways this "sexual energy" we have can be used for the good of ourselves, others, and the glory of God. While the genital expression of sexuality (all forms of genital stimulation) is ordered toward procreation, other forms of it are ordered elsewhere. "Sexual immorality" then is nothing more than the disrespect showed toward that natural order of genital sexuality. All other forms of self-expression outside the genitals would not therefore be "immoral." The sexual energy within us doesn't have to be wasted (and in fact shouldn't be), but can and must be used in non-genital ways that bring glory to God and love toward one's neighbor. And that's a good thing, because it takes great energy or "grace" to do these acts of charity or creativity, and so we have a choice. We can either waste that energy on ourselves or jump into action and give it to others. Sexuality therefore becomes no longer a curse but a blessing and gift that we can give it to others. It becomes a "talent" of ours that we can go invest elsewhere to bring it back with interest to the One who gave it to us, as in the parable of the talents: "The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more" (Matthew 25:16). Then sexuality becomes something we must not try to "bury" or "hide away," or else we are in danger of the penalty imposed on the man who tried to bury his talent in the ground: "His master replied, 'You wicked and lazy servant!" (Matthew 25:26). We can use the sexual energies that we have and expend them on a healthy exercise regimen for example, or we can spend them in giving our time and resources to charity, perhaps children's charities or outreach programs in our community (for childlovers, this seems like it would be a worthy calling!). Where is the "no" from God in any of these things? Indeed, apart from what does us or others harm, God is telling us: "All things are yours..." (1st Corinthians 3:21). 
"Nathan replied to the king, "Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you" (2nd Samuel 7:3). 
If we do this, we will find that the virtue of chastity has brought into our lives a greater abundance than we would've ever had in a thousand lifetimes of merely pleasuring our bodies and indulging our instincts. In seeking to honor God and build his temple here within yourself, God also builds you a "palace." This is not a reward though, no more than the good servants were "rewarded" for their diligent handling of their master's talents: "His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'" (Matthew 25:23). If anything, it would seem like more work was required of the good servant after he had shown himself to be faithful, but being able to share in God's work is what we were made for, and why we can only share in His happiness by partaking in that work. There is no true happiness for us outside of being a co-worker with Christ for the love of neighbor and Glory of God. There's a reason why charity produces profound happiness whether we believe in God or not ("God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them" (1st John 4:16)), and it's because charity is God's work. All other work is vain and will pass away. Laboring for that which is fleeting is needless toil, as the Teacher explains: "And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person's envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind" (Ecclesiastes 4:4). On the contrary though, laboring for God is an eternity of meaningful work, as the psalmist declares: "It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep" (Psalm 127:3). In this way Isaiah prophesies what the "New Heavens and New Earth" will be like: "They will not labor in vain..." (Isaiah 65:23). 

If despair is the result of toiling in vain, then the result of toiling for God ought to be a great inner joy, even in the midst of all sorrows. It is possible to be sorrowful but still hope in the Lord, but it is impossible to truly have hope and yet toil in vain. Chastity is a labor of love, but ultimately it bears fruit in the spirit, which is the essence of the "abundant life" Christ promises to give us. "All is vanity, all is meaningless!" (Ecclesiastes 1:2), and yet "God first loved us" (1st John 4:19). Now if that is not cause for "good tidings of GREAT joy" (Luke 2:10) then literally nothing is. 
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:16-19). 
"I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand; It is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you...(Isaiah 41:13). 
What else do we do during Advent but ask for His help to renew our joy: 

"Emmanuel, Emmanuel, come and live in our midst. 
Emmanuel, Emmanuel, come make a home in our hearts."  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Advent Reflection II: Kingship and Chastity

This Advent season, as we make "room in our hearts" for the coming of the Christ Child on December 25th, we continue our discussion on the importance and blessings of practicing chastity as followers of Christ who also happen to be childlovers. (For more on what Advent is, see this post.) 

Christ came wearing three hats. That is, He came as "Priest, Prophet, and King." He is our High Priest in that He offers sacrifice for the people (Himself), which is the main thing a priest does. He is the Prophet in the sense that He is the "Word" of God spoken through all the prophets and yet He Himself also proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God. And He is also King for two reasons: one is in fulfillment of God's promise to King David through his "son" "your throne shall be established forever" (2nd Samuel 7:16), but also because He exemplified the "kingship" that is chastity and self-mastery over Himself. He didn't come simply to "lord it over us" all these traits of His, but to be our example, that WE also may become "priests," "prophets," and "kings" along with and through Him. 

We are priests with Him when we follow his example and offer sacrifices in our own lives for others. We are prophets with Him when we follow His example and proclaim the coming of the Kingdom. Most importantly for our discussion on chastity, we are kings with Him when we practice self-mastery and judicious kingship over all our various desires, thoughts, and deeds, following His example. None of these actions could merit any benefit for ourselves or others if He hadn't come, but since He came, He made it possible for the first time that we may also be "priests," "prophets," and "kings" with Him. Scripture paints King David as a prefiguring of the "priest-king" in 1st Chronicles 16:2-3 (as a king who offered sacrifices on the altar, blessed the people, and even gave bread to them during a sacrificial meal). This is no longer a duty reserved for men of high esteem like David though, but for every one of us in Christ. It was of the coming of the Christ Child as the most humble of kings that Isaiah prophesied: "...and a child shall lead them" (Isaiah 11:6). "Hark! the herald angel sing! Glory to the newborn King!"

King Joash
Israel actually had a number of "boy kings" throughout its history. Some were children and others were teens. Aside from David for example (who was anointed king in his youth), his son Solomon who built the Temple of the Lord (1st Kings 6:1) was probably in his adolescence when he became king, and Joash, who later repaired the Temple of the Lord, was only seven (2nd Kings 12:5)! Isn't it interesting then that Jesus, the infant Boy-King adored by the heavenly hosts, the shepherds, and the Magi, came to BE the definitive Temple of the Lord and made each of us "Temples" of the Holy Spirit along with Him? And just as we live in the Kingdom of God here on Earth among each other ("the Kingdom of God is already among you" (Luke 17:21), we ourselves are our own "kingdoms" within ourselves and we are "kings" over ourselves in Christ. This is important, because chastity ultimately is this "school of self-mastery" (as the Catechism teaches), and what is self-mastery but a form of kingship? But we can not truly be "kings" apart from Christ, who is "King" in essence, so we are more like vassal kings, but still rulers nonetheless.

A study of Israel's kings reveals that there are two basic kinds of kings. There are good kings and bad kings, and they are very easy to distinguish. The good kings are those who do what is "right in the eyes of the Lord" and the bad kings are those who "do what is evil in the eyes of the Lord." By doing what is right in the eyes of God, good kings usher in times of peace and prosperity. By doing what is evil in the eyes of God, bad kings usher in times of upheaval, war, and famine. If we are to be understood as kingdoms within ourselves, we are being asked, over ourselves, are we being good kings or bad kings? Are we doing what is right or are we doing evil in the eyes of God? Are we governing our passions and desires and mortifications in justice and moderation, or are we tyrants simply "lording" over ourselves, imposing our own will despotically? Are we at peace or are we at war with ourselves and others? Are we in abundance or are we in spiritual famine? In this, each of the kings of Israel can teach us something about ourselves as we try to live chaste and therefore "kingly" lives. Here are a few examples from scripture to orient us on how to govern ourselves justly when pursuing a life of "kingly" chastity.

Example: Despotic Kingship 

King Rehoboam, the son of King Solomon, is depicted in the book of 1st Kings as a despot and a tyrant. Taking after the bad example left by the later days of the reign of his father King Solomon, King Rehoboam says: "My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions!'" (1st Kings 12:11). Far from keeping the kingdom united by this, his ruthless and unjust style precipitated the division of the kingdom and caused the warrior Jeroboam to revolt and declare himself king in the north, a split with disastrous results. Who is King Rehoboam like? Rehoboam is not a "chaste" king. He doesn't govern his passions with justice, but seeks his own justice only to exterminate all "internal rebellion" by force, rejecting the words of the elders who tried to advise him: "If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants" (1st Kings 12:7). Rehoboam rejected this advice (1st Kings 12:8). In other words, Rehoboam is like someone who tries to violently suppress his internal passions (sexual desires for instance) with a kind of tyrannical approach, and rather than keeping the kingdom (or the self) together, ends up tearing it in two. In living a chaste life, don't be like King Rehoboam. 

Example: Indulgent Kingship

But even as harsh as King Rehoboam governed, at least he still made an attempt at preserving unity, even if it was bound to fail. Later on came the reign of King Manasseh, a king so wicked and obstinate against the Lord that he didn't just divide the land but brought about its complete destruction and exile. Manasseh waged a war against God similar to that of the Pharaoh during the Exodus. "Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. But he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel" (2nd Chronicles 33). He erected idols in the Temple, ordered that they be worshiped, and slaughtered his own people mercilessly (including the prophet Isaiah, who tradition tells us he had publicly sawed in half like many of the Jews who loved the Lord (Hebrews 11:37)).

What Manasseh was doing was waging a war against his own father, the good King Hezekiah, who had previously sought the Lord and reintroduced worship of the Lord back into Judah (2nd Kings 18). Manasseh sought to overturn and dismantle everything his father loved, in a vengeful, spiteful, retaliatory and ultimately self-indulgent way. Later, scripture tells of how Manasseh "came to his senses" and repented of the horrors his wrath had unleashed (2nd Chronicles 33:12-13), but the damage was already done to Israel. The Lord, despite hundreds of years of patience, finally forsook the Kingdom of Judah and they were captured by the Babylonians. Who is King Manasseh like? He is the one who revels in his sin, doesn't govern himself with justice, and don't even seek justice, but just total retaliatory self-abasement. In living a chaste life, don't be like King Manasseh.

Example: Chaste Kingship

How should we be though? Ultimately, we know King David and his story prefigures the Kingship of Christ. Both came up out of poverty. Both were pursued by a wicked king who sought to put them to death (for David it was King Saul and for Jesus it was King Herod). David revealed what mankind was and our need for God's mercy in his temptation and sin. Jesus revealed what mankind can be under God's direction in His temptation in the desert and how He resisted it. David was "a man after God's own heart." Christ WAS the Sacred Heart. "After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do'" (Acts 13:22).

Where King Saul was stubborn and steadfast in his way like someone who tries to decide when and how he wants to be chaste (and only when he wants to be), David (though imperfect) always sought repentance for his sins and went the Lord's way. Meanwhile Christ IS the way (John 14:6). "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). There are many other parallels that can be drawn, but ultimately David represents for us the best example of a king who governed with justice and ushered in a time of peace and the blessing of a dynasty after his name, even to the point where Christ Himself is referred to as "son of David" (Mark 10:47). In living a chaste life, be like King David, who was "like Christ" (aka. "Christian"). This is another way of saying, "be like Christ." And how does Christ say we should be as kings? Like He is, humble:
"Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted" (Matthew 23:10-12).  
Socrates once said, very wisely, "Let him who would move the world first move himself." It takes great humility to govern anything, especially ourselves! Chastity is not about suppressing desires, nor is it about merely indulging them, but is about learning how to govern them with justice and moderation. It is the "full integration of sexuality within the human person." Being a tyrant over them will only cause internal rebellion and division. Being in rebellion though will only bring about one's calamity and destruction. The chaste person governs his passions moderately and without sin, that is to say, with true justice. He keeps his "hands clean and his heart pure" (Psalm 24:4). Like David, he acknowledges his internal struggles before the Lord and draws strength from God to persevere and to guide his steps ("The Lord is my shepherd..." (Psalm 23). And then after he has done these things, he puts his energies and talents to good use for the SERVICE of others.

Perhaps God is calling you to be a good king over yourself that you may be a servant for others, perhaps for children this holiday season. Here's a practical suggestion for how to do it: Instead of spending time within the various message boards and internet communities for Childlovers prattling on as you know they always do, set time apart to donate to some cause for needy children instead, even if it's just some food for the local church or community collection. Or go buy a toy, a blanket, or something comfortable for a child in need and donate it to the local church or community collection, or make it an anonymous gift to a family and just leave it at their doorstep! 
"Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all." He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."(Mark 9:35). 
Remember, Christ's "hat" (His crown) was not made of gold, but of thorns. What is yours made of? "Poor men want to be rich, rich men want to be kings, but a king ain't satisfied 'till he rules everything." -Bruce Springsteen ("Badlands")

What rules you? 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Advent Reflection I: Chastity for Childlovers

What chastity should feel like.
It's the beginning of Advent, a season we as Christians should be preparing a "room in our hearts" for the coming of the Christ Child on December 25th. This Advent, we're going to be doing this by exploring how the blessings of practicing chastity can bring glory to God, serve our neighbor (especially God's precious ones), and enrich our own lives. (For more on what Advent is, see this post.)

Chastity gets a bad rap. Our culture (and the majority of Childlovers) try to convince us it's impossible, that it's self deprivation, that it's confining, and that there's no good that can come of it. It's often depicted in terms of having to wear "certain devices" or long lists of "Thou Shalt Nots" that seem arbitrary, but most of these misconceptions are fed by very incorrect ideas of what chastity is. If you're pedophile, you probably know how flimsy and false "popular misconceptions" are when it comes to the complexities of human sexuality. On the contrary to these, chastity is a virtue, one cultivated under perseverance. Far from being self-deprivation, chastity is a school for how to live an abundant life. You will not succeed or receive the graces needed to persevere in chastity without leading an abundant life, nor will you truly live an abundant life without persevering in chastity. Where do you get in on that circle? Christ is the way in. God gives the grace to be chaste. Without it, we can not be chaste, nor can we have the fullness of life. 

Chastity does not mean simply "repressing" one's sexual desire or pretending it isn't there. Attempting to do such is not only contrary to God's design, it is also spiritually and psychologically damaging and doomed to failure (as the history of such false "puritanical" ideology attests!). According to the Catechism, chastity is "the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being." (Catechism par. 2337)  
"Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy." Man's dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end." (Catechism par. 2339) 
If that sounds too heady, we can always go back to the scriptural source of it: the words of Christ Himself, who taught on the necessity of practicing chastity: "You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery." But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). Once again, Christ didn't annul the Law, He came to fulfill the Law, and He teaches here that the meaning of the Commandment against "Adultery" actually has more to do with the lust of the heart, learning self-mastery, and ultimately, respecting the dignity of other human beings and the fact that they are created in the image and likeness of GOD. Lust takes apart what God has joined together, and that is why lust is a sin, and why Christ exhorts us all (if we are to be His followers) to abandon the lust of the eyes before it turns into a corruption of the heart.  

Not a "List of Nos"... One Big Yes!

But for a pedophile, simply "giving up" one's sexuality is not so much a virtue as a necessity. It's not so hard to imagine that "giving in" for us would entail very real consequences (a literal "hell" on earth), but far more, it would constitute spiritual death, and very serious evil. Most pedophiles practice a degree of chastity if they want to stay out of jail, but simply "giving it up" (and that includes lust and masturbation!) does not confer any virtue. In fact, abstaining from one's sexuality is not at all what chastity is. Chastity is not mere abstinence or even self-denial. Chastity is a means of sexual expression. But how can that be?

So you're a pedophile who wants to follow Christ and practice chastity. That's good. The first thing you need to understand is that we will never eliminate our sexuality (unless God wills), nor will repressing our sexuality ever yield spiritual fruit. Christianity is sex-positive, but it's also sin-negative. Sin has destroyed the beauty and healthy thing that sexuality is. Much like St. Paul writes "Be angry, but don't sin"  (Ephesians 4:26), God essentially is telling us the same thing in the school of chastity: "BE sexual, but don't sin!" There's a difference between attraction (appreciating the beauty of a child) and lust (desiring to use the child sexually for one's own pleasure). There are many ways of expressing one's sexuality, and only one of them involves using the genitals. Sexuality is what gives us our energy and passion. We have only spend it for the benefit of those we love rather than waste it on ourselves, and we will be following the Lord's design. It's hard, yes, but so was CALVARY. Commit to never giving up! 
"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope" (Romans 5:4). 
But that is not the end of the struggle, that's the beginning. Remember, chastity is a "school" where you never stop learning things. After you commit to never giving up, you have to come to understand yourself and what God wants from you and for you through this perpetual struggle. You have to realize that what the Church calls "objective evil" and "mortal sin" are really also psychological problems as much as moral ones. In other words, there are psychological reasons that are keeping you in the masturbation/porn/impurity lifestyle. They are numerous and perhaps multifaceted within you, and most likely their genesis wasn't your fault (perhaps they are leftover issues from childhood that need addressing). The point is, it doesn't matter where they came from, because with God's grace, you can change them. 

They can range from a kind of self-loathing/depression, loneliness/shyness, anxiety/fears, anger issues (and pedophiles have plenty to be upset about), and even an inflated super-ego that seeks to repress and eliminate one's sexuality (which is also tied to self-loathing)... all for which masturbation and impurity in general has most likely become a self-abusive coping mechanism for you in some way. It's important to recognize that while the world (and the CL communities) may want to confirm you in this self-abuse by saying "it's all good," Christ and His Church wants to heal you of these maladies (which are side effects of the fallen world) inside and out. Continuing in sin without repentance is the true path of avoiding these issues and continuing to be marred with them (resulting in spiritual death). Practicing chastity is the path of opening up and resolving the issues (resulting in the fullness of life). Don't believe the naysayers. It is not "impossible," and many Saints throughout the history of the Church can testify to this

In order to be one of them, one has to realize that the biggest enemy against chastity is a failure to accept the reality of our situation. This can take two forms. One form is a kind of sexual "libertinism" (an "inflated id" or "anything goes" hedonism) that ignores the reality of the need for moderation in all desire, and particularly in those desires that are most essential to our nature. This form is often the result of a kind of self-loathing that seeks to destroy the dignity of oneself and others by turning children (the objects of our desire) into objects. The other form is the reverse, a kind of sexual "puritanism" (an "inflated super-ego" or sexual repression) that ignores the reality our sexual nature and tries to either impose a non-human "purity" upon it, ignore it completely, or extinguish it. This form is also a kind of self-loathing that seeks to destroy what is actually vital in our God-given nature (our sexuality). It's no wonder that Christ and His Church teach a much more middle-of-the-road understanding where we both ACCEPT that we are sexual creatures (as God made us!) and DO need to express ourselves sexually, but ALSO recognize that we need to do so with modesty and charity, respecting the dignity of ourselves and others, and within the boundaries of the natural law.

Once we grapple with these concepts there's a few things we can do to try to practice chastity. 

"Clean hands and a pure heart."
--Psalm 24:4
1. Do express your sexual nature... just don't sin. Like the saying in scripture: "Be angry but don't sin," expressing our sexual nature is very similar. Namely, there's a difference between sin and sexuality. Chastity does not mean the absence of something... it is not merely "abstinence." Chastity is an expression of sexuality. There is such a thing as a "chaste sexuality." Sexuality does not need to be genitally expressed in order for it to be "expressed." Everything we do as sexual creatures expresses a sexual character, from the clothes we wear to the way we walk and talk and think. When this expression is modest and controlled (not "repressed", but managed) within the boundaries of the natural law and morality, then it is chaste. Our first inclination is always to think we have to "ban" our sexuality, but that is often the result of the very self-loathing that causes us to fall into sin to begin with. Express your sexuality in how you carry yourself as a dignified man (or woman), and be a role model for children, and you'll be expressing a sexual nature that is chaste. 

2. Accept that thoughts will happen, they aren't sinful, but don't sin by entertaining them. Don't fall into unrealistic expectations. You will have sexual thoughts and desires. Don't consent to them for the purpose of gaining pleasure for yourself, but don't stress out if they happen or even happen frequently. Thoughts in and of themselves are NOT sinful... but they can be made sinful when they are purposely sought out (because doing such perpetuates psychological damage). On the other hand, don't simply try to put them out of your mind constantly or you're just going to think about them more and still end up avoiding the deeper issue. Instead, try to figure out why you're having them and ask the Lord for help in doing that. That may be why you're having them to begin with. Better you just let them come and let them go... like the waves at the beach. It's only when you dwell on them for the purpose of dosing yourself with pleasure that you're falling into lust, which is sin. 

3. Remember, attraction is not the same as lust. As far as I've read, it's perfectly natural and not even sinful to be attracted to beauty in others. It is only a sin when it is sought for its own sake. When you find yourself attracted to someone, offer it to God in thanksgiving and praise that He has made such beauty in the world. If you try to repress your natural human desire for beauty, you'll be missing out on opportunities to praise God, who is the author of all beauty. Just don't make "beauty" itself a god (which is what lust does). 

4. Be honest with yourself and with God. Once again, don't harbor unrealistic ideals. If God didn't want you to have any sexual desire whatsoever, ever, then He would've made you an angel. You're a human, so your sexuality is part of who and what you are and can't be merely avoided or merely indulged in without restraint. When you pray, ask God to give you the strength to endure temptation... don't ask to merely stop being tempted. Nobody can stop being tempted. Even Christ Himself in His human nature was tempted. You're not an angel. Just be honest with God and say "You have made me a sexual creature God, and I find beauty in the things that your hand has made. Praise be to God. Let me appreciate what you have made without falling into sin." 

5. Don't repress desires, 'sublimate' desires! Repression inhumanly buries desires that then come bouncing forth in "binges" of sin at unexpected moments, especially during times of boredom, loneliness, emotional upset or anxiety. It is not healthy because it's not what we're designed for. Our sexual desires DO need an outlet, and God in His wisdom has given us more than one outlet for these desires. Sublimation is a psychological process by which the energy of a desire is used towards another end. If we are restless bundles of sexual energy, that energy can be put to use in non-sinful ways, perhaps creatively or by doing some kind of charity, or perhaps just by having some good clean fun, and just as masturbation spends that energy toward our demise, creative projects or charity spends that energy toward our good and the good of others. Hobbies are essential. 

6. Intimate friends are still needed, don't sell yourself short! Once again, don't be unrealistic. Remember, Christ was celibate, but even He held the Beloved Disciple John to his breast on the night He was to be killed (John 13:23). He did this as an example for us. All human beings need intimacy of some kind (even those with autism need it!). Once again I think a basic rule applies. It's okay to be intimate or "close" with someone, just don't sin. There's certain acts that can only morally be done within marriage, but that doesn't mean that one has to be a hermit if one isn't married (this kind of self-loathing induces rather than eliminates the masturbation/porn habit). It's very important to have close personal friends that one can be intimate in the sense of having a genuinely fruitful friendship, for support and guidance and help in the path of life. These can be of either sex or any age group. If however the "friendship" is exceeding its boundaries, you have to know when to moderate it, or else discern whether or not it's a call to Matrimony (in the case of it being someone of the opposite sex). Don't assume it is. Don't assume it isn't. 

There's more that can be said about the virtue of chastity, whole books. But there's a few insights I've picked up over the past year. Remember, sexuality is powerful simply because through it God has allowed us mere creatures to share in His divine creative ability. This is something even the angels will never be able to do! Sexuality is not a shameful thing. Just don't use it purposefully as an occasion to sin, and praise God that you have this grace. Never give up. Keep confession. Keep at the Sacraments. Eventually God will bring you out of the habit. 

Next week, I'll continue this little series on chastity and try to come up with some practical steps pedophiles can take to live chastely and with the "abundance of life" that Christ promises He will lead us into if we follow Him. For now, meditate on the words of our Blessed Lord. He is no thief. He robs us of nothing. He gives us everything we really need.
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full(John 10:10).

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Open the Eyes of My Heart

A ten-year-old autistic blind boy sings "Open the Eyes of My Heart."

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You

To see You high and lifted up
Shinin' in the light of Your glory!
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy! holy! holy!
holy! holy! holy!

Horizons for Homeless Children:

Horizons for Homeless Children:
Please consider helping homeless children.