“We do not tolerate you, you are not accepted. You belong. This is just the truth. It’s not anything dramatic.”

That’s how Fr. Mike Schmitz began the workshop with a title he wouldn’t have chosen. It’s a difficult topic, and tolerance simply doesn’t have anything to do with it.

There were three main principles in play: it’s not about ‘us’ and ‘them,’ there is only us; life is not easy, it’s difficult; and since to be human is to be both a body and a soul, what we do with our bodies matters.
Fr. Mike then moved into some Philosophy 101: everything that exists has a nature and a purpose. The nature (or ‘what-it-is-ness’) and purpose (the ‘what-it-is-for-ness’) have to work together. Chairs are for sitting, tables are for setting upon, axes are for chopping. Sometimes we can use things for other purposes and do no harm (i.e. sitting on a table), and sometimes we can use them for other purposes and do great harm (i.e. using an axe to chop a human).

And since everything has a nature and a purpose, we can look at the nature and purpose of sex and see that it has a dual meaning: it’s for babies and bonding. Sex must be open to life and a unifying thing for a couple. If we use it for anything else, we violate its nature.

And since sex is a human act, if we violate its nature (adultery, premarital sex, pornography, contraception), we violate ourselves.

Now, that may seem like it’s limiting, right? You mean, we can’t use sex in any way we desire? We can’t contracept it, or have it whenever we want, or with whomever we want? But this call from our Church to respect the nature of sex isn’t limiting at all. It’s empowering. The Church is saying that She trusts us to exercise self-control.

We all have struggles with our sexuality. It’s part of being human in a fallen, broken world. If it weren’t same-sex attraction, it would be something else. There are a million ways we all can be tempted to violate our natures.

St. Pope John Paul II said that we are not the sum of our wounds, our weaknesses, or our failures. We are the sum of the Father’s love for us, and our capacity to look like His Son. Our wounds are not our identities. We are much, much more than that.

Persons are called to chastity, and chastity does not mean you have to be alone for the rest of your life. St. John Paul II also said that man cannot live without love – and a life of chastity is not a call to a life without love. We are ALL called to chastity, whether we live as married, religious, or single people.

If this is something that you struggle with, please know that your experiences do not define you. You’re more than that. You’re one of us. You are loved. And you belong.

Quotables

We believe in the Resurrection of the Body. You will always be a man or a woman, whatever you are, for all eternity. A human being is a soul and body together.

Everything has a nature, has an end, has a purpose. Sometimes we can use it for our own purposes and it doesn’t violate it. Sometimes we can use it for our own purposes and it can damage it.

If we want to maintain the integrity of human beings, we need to maintain the integrity of human acts.

Written by Rachel Leininger
Rachel Leininger is the full-time chastity educator for the Archdiocese of Saint Louis' REAP Team retreat ministry. She's married to the excessively creative and unfairly gorgeous David. Her favorite things include decorating their home, everything Cardinals baseball, and coffee.