Emmitsburg Council of Churches


Sexuality and Spirituality

Father John J. Lombardi

A lady recently asked what the phrase "second virginity" meant. More on that below, but also consider the question: Where are the Nativity Scenes in the public places today? Curious?...

Item: As the latest "Bible teaser," a recent book implies that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. For two-thousand years this has never been part of Church doctrine, yet still today people are making something out of nothing. Why? Sex sells. Upshot: People are adding to the Good Book for the sake of lust and bucks, and this is expressly forbidden (Rev. 21:18). Item: In a recent movie about the famous Dutch, seventeenth-century painter, Jan Vermeer, his life of simplicity (not unlike the German philosopher Immanuel Kant) is jazzed up to imply an affair with a beautiful young woman. Truth: Vermeer-whose paintings are exquisite and ethereal-was a Catholic convert, father of ten children, and little of his life is known. So, we are to suppose his life is too "boring" to let alone. One of his paintings-"Girl with the Pearl Earring" (again, exquisite)--is the subject of the movie wherein the young lady (with a pearl earring) allegedly entrances the painter. Why? As isiah the prophet says: "Now hear this, you lover of pleasures" (47:8): Sex sells. Item: An American company put out a sales-theme magazine with a 10-20 year old audience in mind-they were targeted. Problem: it was basically described as soft-core pornography. Why? Sex sells. -"There is corruption in the world because of lust" (2 Pt. 1:4). Groups like Focus on the Family and other Christians rallied and railed. The company eventually pulled the magazine.

Okay, point: Christians, our culture and chastity are under attack-in one form or another. Moviemakers, book dealers and merchandisers are out to traffic in sex and money-and we and our children are part of their plan. Why? Because both money and sex appeal to so many people, it's all in our face.

Trouble is, it's a shame. The Mary Magdalene story is great. We obviously don't know a lot about her, but we do know she was not married to the Lord (cf. Lk 8:2). Traditionally, she's been viewed as a prostitute who converted by the Lord's Mercy and became one of His finest disciples (one of the first to experience the Resurrection: St. Jn. 19:25). But, apparently, that's too traditional, biblical and "male-driven" (men making her subdue female passions, etc). Likewise, Vermeer was a beautiful, Catholic man, but, apparently, that's too mundane for a glitzy film. And, similarly ad-campaigns are now stepped up to be theme-driven and pornographic for children buying clothes. Look out--literally. St Paul says: "We are of the same nature as you, you must turn from these idols and to the living God" (Acts 14:15).

These three news and cultural items from last week struck us as an unholy trinity of worsening signs of the times: our culture is disording and diseased: the sacred is ransacked and, well, amidst all this, saints are needed--where are the disciples and the Divine responders?

Culture is Disordering. We are called as Catholics to challenge, critique the culture when Christ is denigrated as King. We are called to read the signs of the times and respond. Some don't want to, some can't. Is it possible we are too close to and immersed in our culture--without Christ? Vatican II-in Gaudium et Spes--states: "Many fail to see the dramatic nature of this state of affairs in all its clarity for their vision is in fact blurred by materialism. # 10; and the Bible says, bluntly: "darkness has blinded his eyes" (I Jn 2:10 ). What's up, then? God is giving us order thru the Commandments, Gospel and Church, while others are trying to sell soft porn to kids; our culture is dis-ordering. Some art critics have said that Picasso, even for all the brilliance he naturally had (no doubting this), not only emasculated women in real life, but also the natural form of them in his paintings, thus dis-ordering and upsetting God's intended conventions.

The natural beauty of womanhood in a Vermeer or Michelangelo painting now becomes, twentieth-century style, contorted and distorted, disordered-and accepted and hailed as "brilliant." Some of this--both the artist and art critics' praise of them--represents an overthrow of God's nature and order-and is sometimes none other than a male driven subjugation and manipulation of womanhood (but you won't hear of this in the press and academe). And when conservative Christians are attacked by the media and progressivists for responding to this by "censoring" the planned holy forms and plan, then so-called dialogue and free speech is marred. Sex sells and progressivist-liberalism promotes it wholesale and keeps the bucks rolling in-even at the cost of women, Truth and culture. When we treat women (and sometimes men) as objects of lust and cheap thrills, we are sick. When pornography and pornographers are protected and promotable- allegedly as part of a First Amendment right-while the Ten Commandments and Nativity Scenes are banned form public places, we Catholics and Christians need to S.O.S.-save our souls, save our sacredness.

So, today, contra a bland liberalism, it is ok to admit-our society is growing coarser. There's a freedom to this admission, wherein we don't have anything to suppress or rationalize; we realize and embrace we are in a battle-not just cultural, but also metaphsical (cf. Eph 6: ) As Christians, we are called, then, to "be in the world but not of it". Therefore: transform what you can 9bring Christ to it: in compassion or challenge) and protect yourself and your family-don't compromise with poison . Jesus came to liberate us from the tyranny of sin and, even, ignorance that we are enslaved: "I came into the world as Light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness" (Jn. 12:46). What's a disciple to do? Catholics and Christians must meditate upon "whatever is pure, lovely, noble, whatever is of excellence: think on these things" (Phil 4:8). This Advent make a new turn with Joseph and Mary toward spiritual Bethlehem so Jesus Christ may enlighten your darkness-especially within, so your heart and soul become cleansed and purified. If you are involved in any way with love of lust, you can change. Meditate (think lovingly within) upon this hope and passage: "His Divine Power has bestowed upon us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of Him Who called us by His own glory and power. Through these He has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises so that through them you may come to share in the Divine Nature after escaping from the corruption that is in the world" (II Pt 1:4).

Contrarily, decadence means, from the old French, to fall away from. Some Americans are falling-and running-- away from tradition-centered virtues, and choosing paganism, materialism and secularism as alternatives: the world is powerful and seductive. Today we need realize that some parts of the world are stronger and more "inflammable" than others--by their very nature: sexuality, drugs and alcohol, and some aspects of human relationships (excluded from Christ's grace) -these are some of the most difficult and destabilizing elemental phenomenon humans get attached to, if not addicted to-sometimes without realizing their inherent flammability . Trouble is: in the past few decades we have downgraded human culpability, the sin factor, the fallenness of the world and evil within it-and see everything as "good" or "neutral," to such an extent that nothing and no one has any negative power over innocent souls. So: we are not "on the look out" for how the world affects us and cause us to sin and "get trapped" (these words don't exist in the leftist lexicon). Therefore, with naiveté and "promoted ignorance," children can be aimed at and maimed by companies, and few people care. The Bible, however, counsels: "Be aware your adversary is on the prowl looking for some to devour (I Pt. 5:8).

Sacred is ransacked: Today, people prostrate to prurience and productions of sensuality--the Sacred and the Profane are exchanged-St Paul bluntly describes this reversal of false fortune: "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped the creature rather than the creator" (Rm 2:25). Prurience (from the Latin, prurire, meaning to itch, be lascivious), is promoted as the innocence of a Vermeer painting is "loaded" with sensual suggestions and the Magdalene story is pandered to a fallen, itching society-Sacredness is attacked by promiscuous profanity. It's no wonder that so-called sex-ed is offered in most schools today. Under the guise of "the-more-you-know- the more-you-grow" mentality, sexual education can sometimes break down Christ-centered chastity, stimulate undue sensual interest in youth that otherwise was sublimated (not repressed), and treat sexuality as something outside its God-given context (again: order). Sexuality in the Garden of Eden (delight) was so natural and even supernaturally infused "-as part of "Original Justice," that Adam and Eve had to be told they were naked (Gn 3) after Original Sin. Now, instead of a supernatural wonder and sacred spirituality, children, more or less-by classroom or internet or advertising-have to be told about sexuality (as early as possible), and how (with condoms), and where (outside marriage) to become "sexually enlightened"-as Adam and Eve were.

Parents, therefore-especially Catholic ones-should peruse any materials of so-called "sexual education" and filter it with Church approval. Look-amidst the attacks, we need not be rigid, but we can be reverent. Some sexual education programs have been changed or even dumped because of objectionable nature. The Vatican has taught that parents are the primary, first and final teachers in such matters. This is not always respected-subtle pressure is exerted upon children, families and parents. With due, reason, therefore, some educators question the very nature of "sexual education" and trace its shaky lineage to Freud and other atheistic, secularist psychologists. Agendas have not changed much.

Think about it: who is really advanced and awakened today? The Amish-Christians, some Catholics and other Christians, and the nineteenth-century Victorians are pilloried because of perceived sexual repression. And yet: they traditionally have lots of babies without so-called sexual enlightenment (seeing the mandate to "multiply" and engender marital sexual relations as a joyful command-Gn 1:28), while the secular, modernistic world can appear conservative and stuffy regarding families and babies-just look at the number and size. Think again of some of the most disparaging terms today-Victorian and Puritans. Victorians were English people with high culture, definite traditional values and good social outreach programs. Puritans were God-fearing, simple folks who trusted in and lived with God's Providence alone, versus Mammon's materialism (as so many do who attack them-including Christians). But "Victorian" or "puritanical," in leftist lexicography today, means uptight, backward or stuffy-in other words, sexually repressed. (Once again: look at the size of their large families and, oppositely, progressivist families: just who is more liberalized, free, and stuffy?).

These past Christian movements and today's Catholics who conserve Bible mandates (to "multiply and be fruitful" ) promote genuine culture, and also Christ and freeing chastity-in reverence but not rigidity. The Puritans remind us God does provide (and we must radically abandon to His Providence), while Victorians show us we can sublimate (re-direct) our sexuality within culture and Christianize it, so it is neither repressed nor wrongly expressed. These two movements are attacked-and the Amish and other elegantly-dressed Catholics--- and ridiculed, precisely because they re-present the opposites of progresivism's promiscuousness. This Advent, make a decision: do you stand and dress and act with the Culture or with Christ. He will change not only the outward history of life, but also, more importantly, the inward heart-history of heroic followers: "Without Christ I was like a fish out of water. With Christ I am in the ocean of love" (Watchman Nee).

Saints needed: Today we need a heroism of chastity Definitions of chastity may include: "integration of sexuality within the human person; it includes an apprenticeship in self mastery" (Catechism: # 2395); internal harmonization of passions with reason and objective norms; a sensual-spiritual balance and harmony of body and soul. Bottom line: we not blind animals defined only by lust. Sexuality is good, especially, as Pope John Paul suggests in his philosophy, when it "speaks the language of the body" as intended by God. The physical body "speaks and shows" what the spiritual person should do and intend; there is an "end' or goal of each part of body and soul-reverently used, not rigidly refused. I.e., procreation and uniting persons are main parts of the marital action. But what is intended by God and what is dis-tended by a fallen culture are two different things-at cross purposes. "Beloved, do not trust every spirit, but test the sprits" (I Jn 4:1). Are you trusting the "spirit of the world" too much?

Despite all the sensualism offered to people today, young people can be virgins before marriage. But, like a lot of good, holy things, they'll have to work at it, defend it and love it. For help they may pray to, and think of, St. Maria Goretti. She was a young Italian girl, attractive, who chose death (in 1902) rather than give up her body to a lustful attacker. She defended reverent chastity and so gives all of us courage in the face of immodest attacks-both inner ones (unconverted heart) and outer (the world). Full disclosure: the attacking-guy later repented after St Maria appeared to him in a dream with seventeen roses (number of times she was stabbed). He then became a practicing Catholic, was released from jail and joined a Franciscan monastery. When he appeared at Maria Goretti's mother's home to ask forgiveness, mom replied: "Maria forgave you and so do I." Minor miracle: one Christmas Eve they received Holy Communion together). Spiritually think and within let the Truth sink: No matter how far off field of purity (versus sexual impurity) you or anyone may be, all can be forgiven and healed- as the killer of Maria Goretti shows-with God's grace. The world and promiscuous progressivism does not want you to believe this, as evidenced by a constancy of sexual innuendo and casual licentiousness-prepare to beware: Super Bowl commercials treat men and boys as if they are sick, sexual victims and perpetrators. "Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him" (I Jn. 2:15).

Alternatively, "second virginity" is when a person has had illicit sexual relations, but then repents, converts and commits him/herself to the Lord Jesus (and Blessed Mother), in a newfound way until and if called to, marriage; otherwise the person will remain chaste because Christ is their Spouse. More and more Catholics and Christians are embracing heroic chastity by making reverent commitments thru chastity and second virginity.

The world, advertising and movies promote self-expression, which turns into expressionism and sexual pessimism (abuse and anarchy). Catholics are not against self-expression, but they are against it without Christ and virtue involved; once again, we are called to reverence not rigidity. "The highest forms of self-expression are to be found not in the lotus gardens of self-gratification but in the gymnasium of self-renunciation." (Paul Rees). Remember: renunciation is for the sake of liberation.

Look: the Blessed Virgin Mary was both a Virgin and Mother-chaste and free and fruitful. Every Catholic and Christian can be the same, no matter if married, widowed or single, or previously unfaithful and now converted--with a "Yes-Fiat" of freeing and heroic abandonment to God-"let it be done unto me according to Thy Word" (Lk. 1: 38). We can become holy! This Advent-Christmas keep saying "Yes" to the holiness of beauty and beauty of holiness.

In preparation for the celebration of Christ's Birth, remember: the world offers money, power and sex, while the Bible and Church offer chastity, poverty, obedience. Which values will you pick, teach your children, stick to and defend? Be prophetic by embracing the Proverb: "The Lord loves the pure of heart" (Pr 22:11).

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi