“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”
Mother Teresa of Calcutta
“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 love and make it his own, he does not participate intimately in it.”
Redeemer of Man encyclical from John Paul II
My daughter told me about how one of her “friends” sent her a request the other day asking my daughter to “like” her Facebook profile picture. My daughter says this is not the first time she has received such a request. She also mentioned a trend she’s noticed of girls posting provocative pictures in the hopes of getting more “likes.”
To me such requests are just sad. Young people in our world today are crying out for acceptance and love, and most have no concept of what will satisfy their desires. Our world is very confused about the difference between our sexuality and our need for love. (Read this insightful blog by one of my favorites, Simcha Fisher.)
If you need more examples of the confusion about sex and love, read this article by Dr. John Haas, mentioned in my last blog. He was basically driven from the stage by students when speaking at a university after he mentioned the word “chastity” as the way for single people to live, whether they are heterosexual, or have “same-sex” attraction. In the article, he defines chastity as “using one's sexual powers in accord with one's state in life. If one is single or celibate, one abstains. If married, one is faithful to one's spouse and faithful to the purposes of marriage.” A vice president from the university where Dr. Haas spoke asked how he could expect “people to live without sex?”
People can easily live without sex. But they cannot live without love.
Jesus understands our human need better than anyone. He commanded us to love each other as He loves us. In Ephesians 5, St. Paul says married couples are called to “love” one another as Christ loves his Church. He gave himself totally for her. (John Paul II said in his Theology of the Body catechesis that Ephesians 5 contains a summary of the entire Gospel.)
Let’s consider more deeply what Dr. Haas meant by the “purposes of marriage.” Catholic teaching says that, to be faithful to the vows of marriage, couples must be open to the transmission of life when engaging in the marital act. But does this always mean having a huge number of children? The simple answer is no. Married couples can discern their particular family size through prayer, recourse to the sacraments and by engaging in responsible parenthood using Natural Family Planning.
Practicing NFP has many benefits. It has been shown to enhance marital relations because it improves the communication between couples. They keep true to their marital vows and they keep the conduit of God’s grace open in their marriage. This is why divorce is basically non-existent in marriages where couples practice NFP. Such couples love each other as Christ loves his Church. They make a complete and total gift of themselves to their spouses, respecting the way God created them.
Perhaps this is why Mother Teresa had such success teaching NFP to the poor couples in the slums of Calcutta, India. On December 11, 1979, when she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, she said:
“We are doing another thing which is very beautiful - we are teaching our beggars, our leprosy patients, our slum dwellers, our people of the street, natural family planning. And in Calcutta alone in six years - it is all in Calcutta - we have had 61,273 babies less from the families who would have had, but because they practice this natural way of abstaining, of self-control, out of love for each other. We teach them the temperature meter which is very beautiful, very simple, and our poor people understand. And you know what they have told me? Our family is healthy, our family is united, and we can have a baby whenever we want. … The other day one of them came to thank and said: You people who have vowed chastity you are the best people to teach us family planning. Because it is nothing more than self-control out of love for each other.”
In marriage, in family life, and all of life, the only proper response to another human being is love.
(To Be Continued…)