Friday, 7 June 2013

Thought for Day

Your personal life can influence others for good and for evil.

If you live a rather obviously (to your friends) chaste life, your fellow Catholics (and other Christians) who are trying to live a chaste life will find it easier because they won't feel so alone.

But if you live an openly unchaste life, no matter how much the world just thinks that's normal, your fellow Catholics (and other Christians) who are trying to live a chaste life will find it harder because they will feel increasingly alone. Married people, too.

Even if you get married to your partner in sin, you will be telling other Catholics by your actions that you got away with something, and maybe they could get away with something, too. Or that the only way they will ever be able to hang on to a guy or a girl is to compromise their principles, which just so happen to be in line with God's will as taught by the Church and as is quite obvious in the Scriptures.

Everything we do matters. And incidentally we are at war. In war, the defeated side suffers horribly. Our Christian parents or grandparents lost during the Sexual Revolution, and now we all are paying for it. And the war continues, as faithful Christians in the wedding industry will find out, if they have not found out already.

Once upon a time, I was not so "old-school" on chastity, and I said something super "open-minded" to a woman at work who had lived with her husband a long time before they got married (if they ever did get married), and she was shocked. This woman was a cultural Catholic, rather simple in some ways--actually, she was a lot like Penny on "The Big Bang Theory"--and she apparently looked up to me . She knew she should go to Mass, and she admired me because I did.

"How can you [say that] when you go to Mass?" she demanded, and I felt so ashamed, her words helped me get off the path I was going down.

I hope I told her she was right.


Anonymous said...

I will never forget the time I was in highschool, and one of my really good guy friends brought his new girlfriend to meet us. Somehow, she and I got on the topic of having babies out of wedlock -- and I, knowing she was not Catholic, made a shockingly "open minded" remark. I did not disagree with Church teaching in my heart, but I also didn't want to make waves with this new person. So I said it.

The girl looked at me with wide eyes and said, "But I thought you were Catholic! Don't you guys believe such-and-such?" I hastily scrambled to correct myself...but how ashamed I felt!

I know for sure that my remark had consequences for her - and for my friend (her boyfriend!) Of course, I'm sure my permissive attitude was not the only influence on them, but to think that I may have been the feather that tipped the scales is awful!

This is still and area I struggle with, and perhaps you can help, Seraphic.

Though I do not say shockingly open-minded things anymore to my open-minded friends, what SHOULD I do when Catholic friends (who know full well Church teaching) take it for granted that I know they live unchaste lives?

For instance: just recently I reconnected with a friendly acquaintance and we spent time together in girl talk and wine-drinking. She took it for granted that I knew she was being unchaste with her fiance -- yet claims to also love the Catholic Church and plans to get married during a Catholic Mass. What is one to do? What do I say in such a case? Should I even say anything?

I am a subscriber to your blog but prefer to remain anonymous for this post. Thank you!

Modesty said...

Anonymous: I've run into similar things too where a friend of mine was too ashamed to tell our other friends about her "sins" but somehow felt comfortable talking (confessing more like) with me. We're all Catholic, but apparently she figured I was the least judgmental? It was VERY uncomfortable at the time. It was like she unloaded a weight onto me that I had to carry too.

My personal thoughts are to ask St. Mary Magdalene to pray for strength or for them. But other than that, it's up to her priest or parents to correct her.

Seraphic said...

I don't come from a frank-speaking culture, so I'm not sure what you can say to other people regarding their sexual choice, just as I'm not sure what you could say about their lousy nutrition or recreational drug use.

The best I could come up with is "You're my friend and I love you to bits, but I fight a daily battle to stay chaste and not to be conquered by despair, so I'd rather not hear about X, Y and Z. Hearing about X, Y and Z makes me feel sad and farther away from God."

Part of me would want to say, however, "Uh huh. And when are you getting married to this guy/girl you've been seeing for three years/sleeping with/living with?"

Seraphic said...

But that would be with only close friends or family whom I knew to be traditionally religious. I am never tempted to make moralistic hey-whats-up remarks to non-Catholic lefty friends, for example.

Sheila said...

Unless I'm asked, I try to say vague things, like "I am glad you are happy," or, "It looks like you have found someone who is good for you." But if they start complaining about their relationships, I might say, "You know, I find it so freeing to believe and live how I do, because even though it's difficult to follow the Church's teachings, at least I do know that I am not being used or disrespected." Or "You know, if you would get married, you wouldn't have so much drama in your relationship!" Most of the non-Catholic women I've spoken to about it say they envy me. Because the guys THEY date simply wouldn't wait till marriage, although they would have preferred it. Or the guys they date just won't stop looking at porn, and it sure would be nice to be able to use religion to convince him.

It's a reminder for me that non-Catholics aren't "getting away with" anything. Our teachings, especially the ones about sex, are incredibly freeing and respectful of what human persons need -- especially women, it seems to me.

Canadian Doc said...

I'm going to play the role of the Devil's Advocate here. I agree with Seraphic that we should be witnesses as Catholics and not gloss over or misconstrue the Church's Teaching to sound cooler to people.
I do think, however, that we obsess about sexual sin more than any other sin, and I don't think this is necessarily constructive. I have never heard people deliberating about whether they should sit down and have a chat with their friend whose gluttony is harming them by causing health and self esteem problems related to obesity. Or tell their colleagues that gossiping about others is not kind-hearted. Or whether they should tell someone how their spending habits are not prudent and potentially harmful. Yet people's sex lives are always on the table for discussion. I agree that our Culture has taken the sacredness and special aspects out of sex and that we certainly don't "have it right" as a society when it comes to this. But faith is nothing if we don't truly live with joy, love, trust in God, and peace in our hearts. I have seen people who do not exhibit the qualities I just mentioned and who seem to be obsessing about sex and where people are sinning in this area. If as a practicing, faithful Catholic I don't "get" this obsessing approach, how are non-Catholics/fallen away Catholics supposed to? Why don't we obsess as much about other sins? Food for thought.

Urszula said...

I agree that we have a responsibility to be witnesses to what we believe. However, in the case of chastity and virginity, I somehow do not feel obliged to tell anybody what I personally believe and try to practice, because that is an extremely private area for me and I don't feel I have to share my convictions other than with the men I date - and goodness knows having the Talk countless times is hard enough. I feel proclaiming too loudly your beliefs on chastity and virginity can be even dangerous if the wrong people get wind of it.

On another note, I'm not sure I agree a hundred percent with you about not discussing failures in chastity. I honestly have sometimes struggled wondering how other people manage with this aspect of Catholic teaching and if they find it hard. And if that's not something I can discuss with very close Catholic friends, who can I discuss it with? I don't mean flaunting such behavior but rather somehow commiserating about the difficulty of it all and supporting each other - as we would do in any other area of life.

I also was somewhat disheartened by the hypocrisy of a close family friend who was held up to all my family as the paragon of virtue because she managed not to sleep with her boyfriend for 8 years of dating. Only a few years after her marriage did she tell me that in fact she had been living a lie the whole time - and all this while telling her younger sisters and other that 'it was worth waiting'... Honestly, I would have been less hurt by an open admittance of rejecting/struggling with church teaching rather than that masquerade of virtue.

sciencegirl said...

" I have never heard people deliberating about whether they should sit down and have a chat with their friend whose gluttony is harming them by causing health and self esteem problems related to obesity. Or tell their colleagues that gossiping about others is not kind-hearted. Or whether they should tell someone how their spending habits are not prudent and potentially harmful. "

I haven't heard people deliberating -- I've just heard them do it, tactfully and not tactfully, for all three of these categories.

I think, rather, that sex is the area that society tells us we should not judge, so it worries us when we think we should warn a friend of sexual problems.

Christians aren't the ones obsessed with sexual sin; our whole culture is obsessed with sex, but happy to talk about diet, exercise, spending, and virtues in other areas. The general culture thus makes it less stressful to dissuade people from badmouthing their colleagues than it is to suggest they might stop having sex on the first date.

sciencegirl said...


We don't live in a culture where at least 1 movie a year comes out hilariously portraying a young man finally gossiping, eating too much food, or overspending for the first time. (Senior year, and he hasn't maxed his credit cards yet? WHAT?)

Seraphic said...

Yes, I have to agree that it is not that Christians are obsessed with sex but that society is obsessed with sex and that it is very difficult for Catholics and other Christians to remain chaste in such an environment.

It's actually kind of amazing that the media reported that Pope Francis said wasting food was stealing from the poor. Since when do they care when the Pope says something they can't link directly to sex?

Because sex, unlike food, is directly relational, and about human beings being drawn to other human beings, our sexual behaviour really does affect other people.

I suppose, though, there is a food analogy. It's sort of what it would be like if all your Catholic friends chowed down on barbecue on Good Friday, saying "God doesn't really care about what I eat on Good Friday! And it all smelled so good, what could I do?"

Seraphic said...

@Urszula, I think your family friend ought to have kept her mouth shut. It's too bad she did not think of how hurtful her admission would be to everyone. Revealing past sexual sins to anyone but a priest or a doctor is usually an incredibly bad idea.

Eight years of dating with no sex does strain credulity, unless chaperones are involved, or the people never even kiss, and dating involves just dinner out every Friday night. I can't even imagine dating the same guy for eight years.

Jackie said...

Seraphic, thank you for hosting this discussion. It really does a lot of good and lifts us up, to see others on the same path. Quite inspiring, really!

So much of the time I feel alone in reserving sex for marriage. Dating-wise it has resulted in tons of pressure, being dumped and cheated on. (Good riddance to guys like that, though.) And the belief that only a miracle could get me married right now while adhering to standards.

Personally I do not subscribe to war metaphors or mentalities, though. For me, I cannot participate in that mindset and follow the greatest commandment, especially in regards to loving my enemies. I have the tendency to wallow and soak in self-pity! So I try to keep gratitude to God front and center, since faith can be a real struggle for me otherwise.

Thank you again for a great discussion and commentary. Peace--

Julia said...

Urszula, I'd be a little surprised if any of the grown-ups in your family honestly believed that the woman hadn't slept with her boyfriend of eight years. They're not stupid. Little sisters and young family friends are innocent and want to believe the best about their relatives. But there must have been some serious adult eye-rolling going on in private.

If I'm correct in assuming that the adults guessed or knew the truth, I myself would have been mostly annoyed at the adults in the family for being deceitful. It would have been better for them to have simply kept their mouths shut. Eventually the sisters and family friends would have come to their own private and probably correct conclusions without having had to realise that they'd been lied to for near on a decade.

I understand the pain, Urszula. Finding out that someone is not quite who you thought s/he was is not fun.

Urszula said...

I agree with your assessment, Julia. In this case, it was not the fact that the friend had been unchaste that hurt me (I was less credulous than her sisters and thought it impossible to sustain during 8 years). It was the fact that she paraded as a paragon of virtue the whole time, and let others treat her as such. Honestly I would have been less hurt by an admission of "No, we aren't chaste but it's hard when you're dating for x amount of years" which at least would have been honest and realistic, or even 'it's none of your business what we do'. It was the lying which undermined my confidence in her.

Julia said...

Hi, Urszula. Wow. Yeah. That is pretty dishonest of her. That experience would have shaken my confidence in her, too.

This whole thing might have been especially damaging for the younger sisters (if they ever found out).

I wonder why your friend felt the need to claim to be chaste, or to even bring up the subject anyway. It seems rather odd to me. I wonder if she was trying to 'cover her tracks', especially since your family seems to be one that values chastity. Surely she might have keep quiet about it to avoid openly lying?