I've been asked to give at talk about vocations to Single and Married life at the University of Saint Andrews in February. (Details to follow when I get them.) I am very excited because St Andrews is the oldest university in Scotland and is famously beautiful. And as one of my readers opined that all the Single men in the Saint Andrews CathSoc want to priests, now I have the chance to find out for myself if this is true. Ha ha ha ha ha ha!
My specialty, though, is neither the vocation to the Single nor to the Married life but the vocation to wait and see. It just occured to me that in the Scriptures, prophets never say, when they get the chance, "Lord, am I supposed to be married, Single or ordained?" No. They tend to say things like, "Oh, do I have to?" and "Gosh, that's a really big whale" and "Marrying your half-brother's widow is a big sin." Just throwing that out there, folks.
What I won't talk about too much in my lecture is chastity. Since I'll be talking to CathSoc, I'll assume they all know the score. Sex before marriage = ontologically bad. Sex after marriage = (usually) ontologically good. Besides, chastity lectures give young people a thrilling excuse to listen to people talk about sex in mixed company, and do I want to be party to that?
Let the truth be told! Let it resound from the mountain tops, and let us all giggle. When I went to pro-life confences as a youth, my friends and I always opted to go to the chastity lectures. Woe to that speaker who had a lecture on at the same time, for his or her room would be empty of youth. Youth would be sitting expectantly elsewhere, waiting for the heavily-made up lady, usually of Evangelical persuasion, to tell us about the badness and goodness of sex. Sex talk! Yay!
This lady always had a comforting narrative that jived with our worldview. It had easily predictable arcs and outcomes. She (or other protagonists) had been sexually unchaste and terrible things had happened. Unplanned pregnancies. Broken hearts. Disease. Abortion. Depression. But once this lady (or other protagonists) had seen the light, accepted Jesus as her own personal Saviour, and gotten married to a Christian gentleman, life was fantastic. The sex was fantastic. Sex was the best thing ever. And sex would be the best thing ever for you, kids, if you held on to your virginity until marriage. The end. Standing ovation for Chastity Lady.
Now, I understand that chastity speakers have gotten a bit more savvy in the past twenty years. And this is great because when Catholic kids go to university they notice that a lot of their friends are having sex and yet manage to avoid unplanned pregnancies, broken hearts, disease, abortion and depression. Some even manage to get married to a supposed-to-be one-night-stand and live happily ever after.* What the hell--? And some poor Christian virgins get married to other Christian virgins and are divorced within two years. Wha---? Life is not always as simple as Chastity Lady's narrative, which is why Christian kids need something better than Chastity Lectures.
First, Christian kids need to learn the difference between servile fear and filial fear. Servile fear is when you don't do something wrong because you're afraid of punishment. Filial fear is when you don't do something wrong because you love God and don't want to hurt your relationship with Him. So the unmarried Catholic should strive to avoid sexual sin not because he or she is afraid of pregnancy or disease but because he or she loves God. Incidentally, Thomas Aquinas found the whole idea of great sex as a divine reward utterly repulsive.
Second of all, Christian kids can learn more from good old-fashioned common sense than from lurid stories. Good old-fashioned common sense can feel like a bucket of water over your head: unpleasant but strangely refreshing. Here's some: "Why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free?" Argh! Blah! Yuck! But a lot of men still think that way, and some women now think that way, too. And these are not necessarily wicked people. They're often just people so afraid of marriage that they need some serious incentive. Society use to provide incentive (e.g. "When are you going to make an honest woman out of that poor girl?") but now society is more tolerant, i.e. apathetic.
Here's another, "If he loves you, he'll respect you for wanting to wait." That one is also tried, tested and true. If he (or she) doesn't love you, he (or she) will bitch, complain and leave because you don't put out. And although painful, it's like lending 20 pounds or dollars to someone who avoids you ever after: it's painful to lose 20 quid or dollars, but it's a relatively cheap way to get rid of a false friend. Meanwhile, a man who loves you will put up with practically anything. You could dye your hair pink or quit your job to go to clown school or chain yourself to a historical building slated for demolition. He'll still love you.
You don't want to sleep with someone who doesn't love you, do you? Well, maybe you think your love is enough for you both. You're wrong, though. God made you: have some respect for God and His works, tadpole. Oh, tip: men don't fall in love with women because these women sleep with them, but women sometimes do get addicted to the men they sleep with because the men slept with them. It is very unfair, but biochemistry is unfair. Nature red in tooth and claw.
What's your favourite time-tested and generally true sex-and-marriage cliché? I wish there was one about chastity and really short engagements because so many devout Catholics I know move heaven and earth to get married a few months after contacting the parish office, screaming with horror at the "one year's notice" rule. My engagement was officially five months long. FIVE. Nobody say "Married in haste, repentant at leisure" because it certainly didn't feel like haste, believe me.
*Others, of course, may have gone through private hells, and also laid the foundation for some bad habits.