Monday, July 22, 2013

An Open (Love) Letter

Given the ongoing political and social questions concerning human sexuality,
a recurring thought has crossed my mind:
“What would I like to say to my children, God-children, nieces and nephews
about human sexuality, love and life?"....

Dear Fab Five, Super Seven, and Elite Eighteen,

Most of you have now entered your adolescent and teenage years (though a few of you will have to read this at some point down the road, and one of you is already a noble twenty-something!).  I wanted to use the occasion of Natural Family Planning Awareness Week as a springboard to write to you about some very important matters.

As you know, God created us male and female.  It is part of his plan "from the beginning," as Jesus himself liked to say.  And yet we live in a time when there are a lot of questions about human sexuality.  Fortunately, Bl. John Paul II has left us a beautiful teaching entitled the “Theology of the Body.”  As some of you already know, the theology of the body provides a profound response to all of the deepest questions about love and human sexuality; I hope you'll have a chance to explore it in the near future.

In the meantime, I'd like to share a "super seven" list of insights on these topics.  These have been very helpful in the development of my own understanding of what it means to live the Christian life:

1.  Life is a gift.  Your life has been given to you by God himself, for this very moment in human history. You have a unique, unrepeatable mission in life.  And since your life is neither an accident nor something you chose, remember to receive the gift joyfully, and share it generously for the good of others!
2.  God invented sex.  Seriously!  You might be wondering, “What was He thinking?!”  God’s plan was for men and women to be able to share their love in a way that overflowed with new life.  His plan was for human sexuality to be both a way for a husband and wife to express their love, and a way for new human life to come into the world.  It’s not just about emotions or pleasure, and it’s not just about procreation.  It's about both bringing new babies into the world and bonding a husband and wife in love, so it's clearly a "dual-purpose" invention. 

3.  Men and women are made to complement each other.  As you’ve probably noticed, men and women are “wired” differently.  God make the human race both male and female in order to balance and complete one another.  This works out particularly well for children who are able to grow up with both their father and their mother, since moms and dads bring different talents and gifts to the family equation.  Of course, many children do not get to grow up with both of their parents, so they often find role models or extended family members who help them see more clearly what it means to be a man or a woman.  (On a related note, as you may know, there are some men who feel sexually attracted to men and some women feel sexually attracted to women.  When you have friends who feel such same-sex attractions, make sure that they know you love and respect them.  Like you, they are friends of Jesus, and God is calling them to lives of holiness.)  
4.  We all experience brokenness, temptation, and sin.  No one of us is perfect.  We all have our weaknesses and our limitations; we all have our crosses to bear in life.  But the Good News is that God gives us the grace to handle anything that comes our way.  Most importantly, Christ is already helping carry our crosses, whether we know it or not.  So when you fall, don’t ever be afraid to repent and get a “fresh start” (BTW, rediscovering the Sacrament of Reconciliation was one of the great blessings of my life).  I hope you know that there is Someone who is always ready and waiting for you, Someone who has already saved you, Someone who will pick you up anywhere and anytime, and Someone who is always ready to welcome you back.

5.  Chastity is a virtue and a calling—for everyone.  Our sexual desires are one aspect of who we are as persons; they are not meant to control us or to define us.  So chastity is the virtue that helps us view those whom we are attracted to with “pure eyes” and “clean hearts.”  As the Catechism puts it, chastity is also "an apprenticeship in self-mastery."  This great teaching flows directly from Jesus, who sets the bar high for all of us.  However, our Lord sends his Spirit to help us live the way that he knows will bring us true happiness.  I know it’s a challenge, but I also know that God will help you wait for your future spouse, if you are called to marriage.  And he will certainly enable you to live a faithful and rewarding single- or consecrated-life, if that's your calling, since this is a direct imitation of Jesus' way of life.  And even married couples need to practice chastity.  Again, if you have friends who experience same-sex attractions, practicing the virtue of chastity is a way that you can stand in solidarity with them as they follow Christ in their daily lives.  The bottom line is that, whatever your calling, you will have authentic friendships if you maintain a purity of heart, practice chastity and engage in sexual activity only if and when you marry. 

6.   Natural Family Planning is the "real deal."  If you are called to marriage, there is a way to plan your family in line with God’s will.  It is both scientifically based and spiritually rich.  It is not only holistic, and it will also help make you holy.  Research has shown that there is only a 2% divorce rate for couples who practice NFP, since it centers on deep respect and real communication between the husband and wife about intimate issues. Unfortunately, many people in my generation and in your grandparents’ generation never heard this message.  But anyone who has an open mind can always check it out (one NFP method can be found at  In addition, there are a number of heroic doctors who advocate it from a medical perspective (such as Dr. Lawler and Dr. Caruso in Downers Grove, IL), and—yes—there’s even a new NFP “App”!

7.  The Church is a loving mother sent to help all people find true happiness.  The Church is the “sacrament of salvation” Jesus established to share the fullness of life with all people.  The Church judges no one and discriminates against no one, but is often misunderstood and herself judged by the world.  The Church has no ulterior motives or agendas, but often suffers at the hands of worldly agendas.  This is OK: such was Jesus’ lot in life.  Although this might not make sense now, please remember that even if you don’t understand a particular teaching of the Church at some point in your life, just keep an open heart and mind--and keep seeking for answers.  As Jesus himself said, all who seek will find!

There is, of course, lots more to say on all of these topics.  And these issues should raise a number of related questions, so I hope you know that I’m always available for a conversation (listening more than talking, of course!).

In closing, thanks for your patience with my corny sense of humor, thanks for ignoring my occasional rants about the “powers and principalities” which I see as threatening to make your lives more difficult, and thanks for forgiving me for things I’ve said—or failed to say—in the past.  But, most of all, thanks for inspiring me to continue striving to become a better person! 

And, remember, God loves you even more than I do :)