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Summary from the Document by the Pontifical Council for the Family: “The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education within the Family, 8th December 1995.
By J.B. Doan, OP www.vinhsonliem.net
A. Some unquestionable certainties: 1. Love is a gift from God, nourished by and expressed in the encounter of man and woman. Love is a positive force directed towards their growth in maturity as persons. Love is precious source for the self-giving which all men and women are called to make for their own self –realization and happiness. Human love embraces the body, and the body expresses spiritual love. Therefore sexuality is not something purely biological, rather it concerns the intimate nucleus of the person. The use of sexuality as physical giving has its own truth and reaches its full meaning when it expresses the personal giving of man and woman even unto death. 2. Unfortunately, love is exposed to the frailty brought about by original sin, a frailty experienced today in many socio-cultural contexts marked by strong negative influences and at times deviant and traumatic. 3. By grace, chastity is something that is really possible and a motive of joy, both for those who have the vocation to marriage as well as to the consecrated life. Chastity is not to be understood as a repressive attitude, rather the purity and temporary stewardship of a precious and rich gift of love. It is spiritual energy capable of defending love from the perils of selfishness and aggressiveness, and able to advance it toward its full realization in each person’s specific vocation. Chastity cannot exist as virtue without the capacity to renounce self, to make sacrifices. 4. The problem is that our society has broken away from the full truth about man, from the truth about what man and woman really are as persons. Thus it cannot adequately comprehend the real meaning of the gift of
persons in marriage, responsible love at the service of fatherhood and motherhood, and the true grandeur of procreation and education. B. Called to true love As the image of God, man is created for love. God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, the capacity and responsibilities of love and communion. We are not created for concupiscence which only sees objects as a means to satisfy one’s appetites. As a human person, we are capable of a higher kind of love, namely, friendship and self-giving, with the capacity to recognize and love persons for themselves. This is a love which generates communion between persons which considers the good of the other as his or her own good. Here is the truth of our existence: Humanity is loved by God. This truth is revealed by Christ. God’s love for us revealed in Christ is a love which builds up the true good of what means to be truly human person and allows it to radiate to others. Femininity and masculinity are complementary gifts through which human sexuality is an integrating part of the concrete capacity for love which God inscribed in man and woman. Sexuality is a fundamental component of personality, one of its modes of being, of manifestation, of communicating with others, of feeling, of expressing of of living human love. This capacity for love as self-giving is incarnated in the nuptial meaning of the body. The human body, with its sex, and its masculinity and femininity, seen in the very mystery of creation is not only the source of fruitfulness and procreation, as in the whole natural order, but
includes right from the beginning the nuptial attribute, that is the capacity of expressing love: that love precisely in which the man person/woman person becomes a gift and by mean of this gift fulfils the very meaning of his being and existence. Human sexuality is a good. When God created man in his image and likeness, and “male and female he created them.” Sexuality has love as its intrinsic end. The relationship between man and woman is essentially a relationship of love. Thus sexuality, oriented, elevated, and integrated by love acquires truly human quality. When such love exists in marriage, self-giving expresses, through the body, the complementarity and totality of gift. Married love becomes the power which enriches persons and makes them grow and at the same time, it contributes to building up the civilization of love. When the sense and meaning of gift is lacking in sexuality, a civilization of things and not of persons takes over, a civilization in which persons are used in the same way as things are used. In this context of a civilization of use, woman, even man can become an object for pleasure of men and woman. It is a gift of God. This truth stands at the center of the Christian conscience. Human life is a gift received in order to be given as a gift. The very essence of the person’s existence is characterized by this very fact that “it is not good that man should be alone?” This is an existential truth. Alone, man does not completely realize his existence. Rather, he realizes that it only by existing with some one, precisely, for some one he is completed. Married love is fulfilled the existence of man in openness to the other person and in self-giving. Likewise, the vocation to the consecrated life always finds its meaning in self-giving, sustained by a special
grace, the gift of oneself to God alone with an undivided heart in a remarkable manner in order to serve God more fully in the Church. Sexuality characterizes man and woman not only the physical level, but also on the psychological and spiritual, making its mark on each of their expressions. Such diversity, linked to the complementarity of the two sexes, allows thorough response to the design of God according to the vocation to which each one is called. The truth and meaning of human sexuality is fulfilled in married love. In marriage, the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion, Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament. The authenticity of married love is openness to life. Conjugal love while leading the spouses to the reciprocal knowledge of each other does not end with the couple, because it makes them capable to the greatest possible gift, the gift by which they become cooperators with God for giving life to a new human person. The married couple, while giving themselves to one another, give not just themselves but also the reality of children, who are a living reflection of their love, a permanent sign of conjugal unity and a living and inseparable synthesis of their being a father and a mother. Sexuality becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and mutual lifelong gift of a man and a woman.
C. True love and chastity: Chastity: spiritual power which frees love from selfishness and aggression, from self-indulgence of sexual pleasure. Chastity is self-giving: the chaste person is not selfcentered, not involved in selfish relationship with other people. Chastity makes the person pure in mind and body, helps true self-respect and at the same times makes one capable of respecting others. Chastity helps us to reverence the dignity of the persons insofar as they are created by God in his own image and saved by Christ. Chastity is self-mastery, to govern one’s passions and to find peace. Such self-mastery involves both avoiding occasions which might provoke or encourage sin as well as knowing how to overcome one’s own natural instinctive impulses. The very fact that all are called to holiness makes us courageously to do heroic acts of virtue. Therefore, chastity should be a joyous and demanding path to holiness for everyone. Married couples are called to live conjugal chastity, to be faithful to one’s spouse in heart and in body, to honor and be generous towards one’s spouse and towards the life which can arise from their act of love; others practice chastity in continence. In order to live chastely, man and woman need the continuous illumination of the Holy Spirit. At the center of the spirituality of marriage lies chastity, not only as a moral virtue (formed by love) but likewise as a virtue connected with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. PRAYER is the key and TRUST in
Holy Spirit’s power of sanctification is indispensable. Education for chastity strives to achieve three objectives: to maintain in the family a positive atmosphere of love, virtue and respect for the gifts of God; to help children to understand the value of sexuality and chastity in stages, sustaining their growth through enlightening word, example, and prayer; to help them to understand and discover their own vocation to marriage or to consecrated virginity for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.
D. In the light of Vocation, special to marriage Vocation to holiness to universal call which manifest in one’s personal vocation to marriage or to the consecrated life of virginity or celibacy. Vocation to Marriage: Married love has four characteristics: it is human love (physical and spiritual), it is total, faithful and fruitful love. The family is in fact a community of persons whose proper way of existing and living together is communion of persons. Christian marriage is a sacrament whereby sexuality is integrated into a path to holiness, through a bond reinforced by the indissoluble unity of the sacrament. The gift of the sacrament is at the same time a vocation and commandment for the Christian spouses, that they may remain faithful to each other forever, beyond every trial and difficulty, in generous obedience to the holy will of the Lord.
What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.
Prayer for chastity:
Dearest Jesus! I know well that every perfect gift, and above all others that of chastity, depends upon the most powerful assistance of your providence, and that without you a creature can do nothing. Therefore, I pray that you defend, with your grace, the gift of chastity and purity in my soul as well as my body. And if I have ever received through my senses any impression that could stain my chastity and purity, I ask you, who are the supreme Lord of all my powers, to take it from me, so that I may with a clean heart advance in your love and service, offering myself chaste all the days of my life on the most pure altar of your divinity. Most Holy Virgin Mary! You are the Mother of fair love and the guardian of virginity and purity. I pray that you intercede for us and assist us to be courageously to imitate Christ, your Son and our Lord, to be pure and holy in our vocation to marriage or to consecrated life for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Amen.
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