Seeking God’s plan for love and life.

The main aim, purpose and meaning of our lives is to love. God calls us to this exceptional challenge to live our lives as a gift for others. Mother Teresa said, “Life is not worth living unless it is lived for others.” Pope John Paul said that “Man cannot live without love. He 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, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not intimately participate in it.” What then is an authentic vision of love? How can we know God is real, what has he done in history? God sent his only son, Jesus Christ to fully reveal man to himself. After living a public ministry of about 3 years bringing healing, miracles, hope and faith, he was captured and sentenced to death. He was crucified, died and buried, but rose from the dead, bringing victory over death. Before his death and resurrection, Jesus founded an institution, called the Church with which his work would continue throughout human history, which the powers of hell would not prevail against. He gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven to the Apostles and commanded Peter to head the Church, to go to ends of the earth to preach the good news to every creature. Thanks to the gift of the Priesthood, sins are forgiven in his name, demons are driven out and the body and blood of Christ is given to us in the Eucharist, which he commanded us to celebrate in memory of him. Jesus even gave us his own mother, so that we might never be left unaided if we implored her help or sought her intercession. God inspired the writers of Sacred Scripture to write a book about himself and his transforming grace throughout history. Henceforth, the history of salvation is clearly articulated from the beginning of time. He sent his Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of believers to build up the Kingdom of God. He sent us Saints who would inspire countless generations, bringing people closer to God. He intervened in history with miracles, defying the laws of nature. He even gave us the gift of self consciousness, reason and intellect so that we might come to know him and love him. He gave us the gift of prayer so that we might open our hearts and minds to him, communicate with him humbly looking towards heaven. He gave us each a guardian Angel to care and watch over us. There are people who are too sceptical to believe any of this. They are normally the ones who do not even have the effort to look up in their local directory where the nearest Church is to hear about the Good News that God has brought us. God then, gives an authentic vision of love because he was prepared to die rather than spend eternity without us. The Christmas present

When I was younger, I desperately yearned to know what I was getting for Christmas. I would shake, rattle, feel and hug my present in order to guess what they were. But one year, I decided to open my presents early. Under the tree, I took off the wrapping paper and found out what I was getting. Come Christmas day, the joy of receiving my gift was missing that year. I had spoiled the gift by opening it early. The novelty of receiving a present was bland and tainted that year. One author says, “Sexual intercourse is a gift that says, ‘Do not open until marriage.’ If you've already unwrapped it, wrap it up again!” Gifts are ruined when they are made to be artificial and lacking surprise. Some young couples on their honeymoon have to create extra fun like going on safari or scuba diving because the great gift of sex was already opened years ago. Our own body is designed as a gift for others. As we did not design or create our bodies, we must recognise them as a gift from God to be given to others. Dante in the inferno says that man is not meant to live like brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge (Canto 26). Insert you personal testimony here. About 3 minutes should do. Chastity: a personal testimony Whilst growing up in my teenage years, I subconsciously trained myself to look at girls at how visually enticing they were. If they weren’t beautiful, in my eyes, they weren’t as valuable. Physical beauty could be equated to worth. Having subscribed to ‘For him magazine’ – a popular lad’s magazine with sexually suggestive pictures at 14. This didn’t give me a healthy understanding of sexuality at a very early age. Most of the guys at my school had posters of nearly naked women all over their rooms by this age. This was accepted as the norm for everyone my age. At the same time, I had difficulty relating to women. I was extremely shy and had no sisters. I struggled to even start conversations with women. In the few very short relationships I have had in my life this proved to be the most pertinent problem. I had not worked out how to be a man towards women. I found women to be extremely attractive, but did not know what to do. I had very few examples or role models of how to treat women. From this foundation, I began to treat women dishonourably. Later in life, when alone I discovered internet pornography. At university, I wanted to become physical almost immediately with all the casual flings that I had. Still insistent that physical beauty was the sole criteria for beauty in a woman, I had no proper basis for a relationship. I lost my virginity at 20 with a one night stand and had a few other brief encounters at university. I did not know what I wanted in these flings. I was torn between knowing sex before marriage was wrong and an intense desire to act on sexual impulse. In the last year of university, I became a Catholic, a desire that I had had for a long time. Gradually I began to acquire a greater mastery of self. I believed all that the Church taught about sex and marriage, but struggled to put it into practice in my own life.

And so my challenge to live a chaste life continues. I am still acquiring self control and virtue in this area, with some slip backs every now and then. Now, however I am more aware than ever of how to treat women honourably and with dignity. Reality of sexual expression today Many thousands of teenage girls become pregnant every year; about half of whom choose to end their pregnancy. Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are in epidemic proportions. Estimates show that one in four sexually active under 25 year olds has an STI. 70% of 15-17 year olds have viewed pornography online. This has damaging effects for personal and mental health, as well as future marriages. The sexual revolution has brought us harassment, date rape, stalking, eating disorders, promiscuity and the great ‘gain’ of divorce. Today we are seeking to provide a positive and uplifting alternative. Passion without regret Recently a friend asked me, ‘How far is too far?’ He wanted to know what exactly he could do with his girlfriend without exceeding any boundaries. He was keen to display his love for the girl, but not in a way that would damage her or their relationship. The book of Song of Songs says, “Do not awaken love before its own time.” (3:5) The book of Proverbs says “Guard your heart” (4:23). We should keep watch over our heart because it is where the wellsprings of life come from. St Paul told husbands that they should “Love your wives as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her and made her holy.” (Ephesians 5:25-6). But how much did Christ love the Church? He was willing to be scourged, whipped, beaten, derided, harassed, humiliated, abandoned, rejected and finally Crucified to empty himself for the sake of his beloved. This is the model we have for how we are to love our spouses. By emptying ourselves we learn how to sacrifice and fully give ourselves to others. When we get married we take a number of vows and promises to our spouse. These wedding vows we swear to a marriage that is free (through our own personal consent), faithful (a promise of exclusivity), total (holding nothing back) and fruitful (open to the gift of new life). Who here has thought of their future spouse? Maybe they are nearby somewhere. Maybe they are in school right now. Maybe they are in this room! Women are the most beautiful gift of God in all the world. Above all they wanted to be loved, nurtured, affirmed and treated with dignity, honour and respect. They are princesses of the king of heaven – priceless and created in the image of God. They have the capacity to hold more than 2 or more souls in their body at the same time. This is incredible! Women are the greatest creation even - Adam rejoiced when he saw “the flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone” (Genesis 2:23 - when he first saw Eve and rejoiced). Our aim as Catholics is to reach heaven. In accomplishing this aim, should you choose to

accept it, we also have the task of trying to get as many other people there too. Sin gets in the way of our relationship with God and isolates us from who we really are. Our identity is sons and daughters of God before any other identity. But we can go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation in order to receive healing and forgiveness for the sins we have committed. If we are truly sorry we know that God forgives us and we start afresh and anew with him, with nothing separating us from him, for nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35). God created our bodies and he saw that they are good. He also created sexual desire God invented sex. He desires that we use this faculty in the correct context – that is within marriage. To answer the question, “How far is too far” I would have to answer the question with my sister or mother in mind. So it is best to save sex until marriage and to wait the time to give yourself away completely. God made it possible to work with him to bring new people into the world. This was a natural process that he made. This process of being co-creators with God requires that we have reverence with our desires and sexuality. Outside of marriage, sex can distort and damage love. Chastity keeps a heart pure and free. Chastity can only be thought of in association with love. The decision to save sex for marriage is actually something that brings inner peace. To wait faithfully and patiently with our bodies for a future spouse is more likely to lead to marital happiness because it prevents our bodies being worn out and our souls dissatisfied before commitment. If you cannot say no to another person, what is your yes really worth? Why live a pure life? As training in self mastery, living a pure life is a sure way to happiness as it sets you free to love rather than use. It calls us to remember friendship and forget lust. It is a stable foundation for a happy marriage. It brings integration, gratitude and joy, preparing us in faithfulness that is a reflection of God’s fidelity to his covenants. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati said, “True happiness, dear friends, does not consist in the pleasures of the world or in earthly things, but in peace of conscience, which we have only if we are pure in heart and mind." The gift of one’s virginity is the most perfect present that you can give your spouse on your wedding day. On the day of your marriage, the most beautiful present you can give to your husband or wife is the fact that you have waited for them and kept your heart pure from sexual impurity. Brides wear white to signify their purity. Living a truly chaste life brings freedom, respect, friendship, security and romance. There are considerable dangers in engaging in pre marital sex. Condoms do not make you emotionally safe. Pre-marital sex can bring worry (about pregnancy or disease), regret, guilt, loss of self esteem/self respect, shaken trust, depression, corruption of character, damaged or ruined relationships, stunted personal development and negative consequences for marriages.

On the other hand, waiting until marriage to have sex brings happier marriages later in life, a source of self respect, clear conscience, less pressure, greater respect from others, the wisdom of how to respect others, better sex in marriage, help in finding the right mate, the development of virtues, the ability to find a mate of good character.1 The sacrifice of resisting temptations is a gift and brings peace. God calls us to be “blameless and innocent, Children of God without blemish.” (Phil 2:15). If we hope in God, we make ourselves pure because God is pure (cf. 1 Jn 3:1-3). One young writer wrote, “the commandment to wait… promoted the greatest fulfilment in sex by paving the way for trust, emotional satisfaction, joy and passion unthreatened by mental battles. How good and intelligent the Creator is.”2 There is a way to protect yourself 100% physically, emotionally and spiritually. This is called chastity. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Many STDs have no symptoms. That means, if you catch one, you have no idea that you have it. Not only that, you’ll have no idea that others have it either. When you sleep with somebody, you risk an infection from all the people that your partner has slept with. Very few people know that condoms do not prevent most STDs. The US National Institutes of Health reported in July 2001 that of eight major STDs, condoms were not found to provide universal protection against any of them. According to the authoritative publication Contraceptive Technology, after use of just 10 condoms, the probability of at least one failure is 57%. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STD. HPV is responsible for 99.7% of Cervical Cancer. According to the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 46 percent of teenage girls acquire HPV from their first sexual relationship.3 The majority of sexually active women have been infected with one or more types of HPV. The message of so called ‘safe’ sex and ‘safer’ sex is devastating and dangerous. It is medically inaccurate and insulting to women. It generates a false sense of security encouraging risky behaviour and reduces the understanding of sex to purely genital. Sex has more consequences than a condom could ever protect against. The message of ‘safe’ sex is an absolute joke. Sex is not safe, but involves the complete gift of self to another person. ‘Safe’ sex misleads people about the biological, spiritual and emotional effects of sex. Such a message is patronising and insulting to teenagers. Effectively, it communicates, “I have no confidence in you.” When we set the standards high and if fact say: save sex until marriage, we give a new generation the confidence to believe in themselves and to live for something greater.

The Fourth and Fifth Rs: Respect and Responsibility, Volume 13, Issue 2, Fall 2007, Centre for the 4th and 5 Rs. Dr. Thomas Lickona. 2 Josh Mcdowell, Why Wait: What you need to know about the teen sexuality crisis (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1987), p244. 3 Collins, et al., "High incidence of cervical human papillomavirus infection in women during their first sexual relationship," BJOG : an international journal of obstetrics and gynaecology 109:1 (January, 2002): 96-98.

(but some people say…) But what if you really love her? As long as you love the other person, sex is ok. Love is not just a feeling, but a choice. A relationship is healthiest when it is founded on friendship. If you love another person, you are willing to do what is in their best interests and lay your life down for that person. Real men empty themselves of love for the sake of their princesses. Real men are even able to reserve respect for their brides before they have even met them. Real men are willing to treat women like ladies, with dignity and honour. A man and a woman, having demonstrated their love for each other by promising fidelity until death during a wedding, are then ready for sexual intercourse. A final exhortation Nobody has ever died from virginity. Nobody wants to enter a marriage with a worn out body and a disillusioned soul. The saints guide us towards holiness and the ordering of our passions. The Blessed Virgin Mary is a role model of the exquisite beauty and sanctity of virginity. Her receptivity and faithfulness are such that she in her womb she held the Son of God for nine months. A female womb was able to hold the king of glory, who the whole universe cannot contain. Let us pray to her that, with strong wills, we may be able to live out the beauty and splendour of a chaste life giving glory to God.

Appendix (not part of talk but further resources) I am a responsible young man The parents of my girlfriend, place their trust in me. I will not violate it. I will respect my girlfriend as I expect other men to respect my sister. I will respect womanhood because my mother is a woman: I will not ask my girlfriend to do anything that I would be ashamed of if my mother or father found out. My girlfriend has given me honour and pleasure of her company. It is wrong for me to expect more in payment for this date. My girlfriend will be a wife and mother some day She must be an example to her children and the pride of her husband. I will help her to be pure and decent as I want my own wife to be. Manhood means strength of character as well as body. Lack of self control is a sign of weakness. I want my girlfriend to know I am manly. God is everywhere. He sees everything. He knows everything. Darkness may hide me from people, But cannot hide me from God. If through my lack of self control,

I should get a girl friend pregnant, I will not put pressure on her to kill our unborn child. I am a responsible young woman My kisses are worth more than a party or a movie. My body is the temple of God… not a play thing. The first “NO” may be difficult. After that, it’s easy. Virginity is still a virtue, lust a capital sin. The way I dress, act and speak may be a temptation to my boyfriend. I will observe modesty for his and my own protection. My parents have done so much for me. I wish always to be a credit to them. My boyfriend will be a husband and father some day. He must be hero in the eyes of his wife and children. I will do nothing to prevent that on my dates with him. I want to be a wife and mother. I will reserve my purity and affections for my husband and children. If through my weakness, I should get pregnant, I will not take “the easy way out” by killing my unborn child. What is chastity? Chastity is…………. A special help from God that enables me to: Recognize my sexuality as beautiful and good respect my sexuality and my fertility control my sexual thoughts and desires live my gift of sexuality the way God intended save the gift of my sexual love for marriage love and respect my spouse. Chastity is... a gift from God for every person in every state of life a powerful virtue a foundation for real intimacy purity of mind and body protection of my dignity as a human person freedom to love. Chastity is... sexual goodness sexual self-control never using another person good for me good for my soul good for the people I love

pleasing to God. Chastity is... not always easy, but it is always possible with God's help. Chastity is... worth it because I'm worth it... and so is my spouse. What does the Bible say about Chastity? Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Mt 5:8). He also reminds us, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). How pure should we be? Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:3-4). What has God called us to do? This is the will of God, your holiness: that you refrain from immorality, that each of you know how to acquire a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion as do the Gentiles who do not know God; not to take advantage of or exploit a brother in this matter, for the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you before and solemnly affirmed. For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness. (1 Thess 4:3-7). The Lord loves the pure of heart; the man of winning speech has the king for his friend. (Prov 22:11). How valuable is a good wife? When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. (Proverbs 31:10). It is better to dwell in a wilderness than with a quarrelsome and vexatious wife. (Proverbs 21:19). What is our body a temple for? Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body. (1 Cor 6:18-20, see 10:31). What must our attitude be towards marriage? Let marriage be honoured among all and the marriage bed be kept undefiled, for God will judge the immoral and adulterers. (Hebrews 13:4). What God has joined together, no human being must separate. (Mk 10:9). How should be behave as good examples?

Older women should be reverent in their behaviour, not slanderers, not addicted to drink, teaching what is good, so that they may train younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good homemakers, under the control of their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited. Urge the younger men, similarly, to control themselves, showing yourself as a model of good deeds in every respect, with integrity in your teaching, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be criticized, so that the opponent will be put to shame without anything bad to say about us. (Titus 2:3-8). How must we treat men and women? Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters with complete purity. (1 Timothy 5:1-2). How should wives behave? Likewise, you wives should be subordinate to your husbands so that, even if some disobey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives' conduct when they observe your reverent and chaste behaviour. Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewellery, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God. (1 Peter 3:1-4). Can you look at a woman lustfully? Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Mt 5:28).

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