This article shares my personal experience with navigating the highs and lows of life, love, dating, and relationships with chronic illness. Learn how I’ve changed my dating approach, and how I bargain less and embrace more while being true to who God created me and the unique manner in which God calls me to express love and be loved.
Please. check out my latest blog post published on Catholic Match Institute’s Blog. I’m hoping this article helps provide a Catholic perspective on relationships, marriage, and high risk pregnancy. Please, enter into a very personal and important topic that has touched my life and many other women. May God bless and keep you all!
Everyone is called to chastity. Not everyone is called to abstinence, but all people are called to embrace chastity. What is chastity? An orientation towards God, His divine plan, and the good of the other by practicing a chaste love in the actions of our body and a purity of the heart, mind, and soul. Chastity can include abstinence (refraining from marital sexual behavior outside of marriage.) However, chastity must be practiced within a marital relationship too.
Marriage is NOT the fulfillment of lust. Marriage is NOT the fulfillment of pornography. Marriage IS the fulfillment of love- Christ’s love for us. Marriage mirrors Christ’s relationship with us and His love for the Church. Marriage and the marital embrace between a man and woman mirrors the eternal exchange of love between the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity: God the Father. God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. A love that is self-giving and self-sacrificial. A love that lasts. A love that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful.
Hannah, I’m not married. Well, neither am I. Chastity isn’t solely a sexual ethic or a list of dos and donts. Instead, chastity is an ethos- a change of the heart which transforms and animates our very being and behaviors stemming from Our Love of God and the recognition that we ourselves and others are created in the image and likeliness of God.
This week my accountability partner and I are embracing the virtue of chastity and turning away from lust. To practice chastity involves self-discipline and self-denial. Turn towards God, Our Lady, the angels and Saints in times of weakness and temptation. Denying yourself the entertainment of lustful thoughts and temptations is the beginning. With spiritual maturity, you must pray for, intercede for, and even fast for those that awaken lustful thoughts and habits. We must first transform ourselves and move outwards. How many women or men in sexually provocative or exploitative situations are being prayed for, interceded for, and fasted for? Not enough.
Speaking from personal experience chastity has always been my goal. Not always attained but always the ideal. When I have fallen away from chastity, I experience fear, shame, hopelessness, despair, disappointment, division, pride, etc. In past relationships, I’ve felt the insidious pressure of having my morals slowly stripped away followed by a sinking feeling in my heart and rising fear of exploitation. I’ve experienced when the person who “cares” for you enters the room and internally feeling, “what part of my soul will die today?” (by the way, if you are in this position, run far far away towards God, don’t look back, and take the time to heal.) My dating and relationship legacy is minimal. But it doesn’t take long for lust and objectifying behavior to creep in.
Whenever I practice chastity whether as an individual or in a relationship, I feel free. A freedom that requires taking responsibility for my actions and the impact of my actions gave on others (including my relationship with God.) Chastity opens me to love not lust or the byproduct of lust- fear. I feel capable of expressing and receiving love instead of dishing out a hearty dosage of fear and objectification. Lust is suffocating and enslaving. The worries or anxieties fade away. The constant battle between God, myself, and the other subsides. The room clears snd makes space to learn and experience authentic love. My body, soul, and heart no longer feel divided, in constant turmoil, and filled with uncertainty. Instead of feeling divided, my heart, soul, and body unite more closely with God and His plan. A fullness and richness (a warmth and light) replaces the bleak yet fleeting pleasures that fill the void of lust.
Where do I start?
If you are Catholic, go to reconciliation. Experience authentic love within the confessional. Christ wants to share His love with you (His healing and forgiveness.)
Sin no more! Resolve to sin no more and amend your life. Surround yourself in a culture of chastity (friends, media, entertainment, dialogue, etc.)
Develop a daily prayer life. Learn to dialogue with God. Call on Our Lady’s powerful intercession. Meditate on the lives of the Saints. Read scripture.
Identify areas of temptation (near occasions of sin). Know thyself. Know your limitations and weaknesses. Don’t play with fire. Don’t even strike the match.
Fast- whether from food or other pleasures or enjoyments. Fasting develops spiritual muscles. Fasting allows you to rely on God more than yourself. Self-denial and discipline counteracts lust and pride.
Offer moments of temptation to Our Lady and/or God. Pray for yourself and the untwisting of your heart. Pray for the awareness of the gift of authentic sexuality. Praise God for this gift! Pray for the victim of your lust. Recognize their God-given dignity.
Love- practice authentic love in your thoughts, words, deeds, and actions. Let people witness Christ’s love through you. Put the good of the other before your own desires and passions.
Prayer for Chastity
Lord, help me to accept and receive my sexuality as a gift from you. Grant me the grace to resist the many lies that distort this divine gift and help me to live my sexuality according to the truth of self-giving love. Grant me purity of heart so that I might see the image of your glory in the beauty of others, and one day see you face to face. Amen.
. . . Wrapped in the warmth of his personhood, I nestled safely tucked within his side. No tinges of pain nor worries of tomorrow crept into our sanctuary. Contentment filled the void of worry. After years of familiarity, silence echoed instead of words. Calmness ensued. The art of being came easily. The art of being came naturally.
Within our sanctuary aglow crept in the worries of tomorrow and the pains of today. A tinge followed by a twinge shattered our calm moment. Within breaths all changed except the loved we shared. That instead grew more by each aching and uncertain breath. Tested yet purified by fire love emerges brighter and stronger. . .
Choice. A strong word with many connotations. But our choices and the choices of other dictate our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Many love quotes and verses mirror the sentiment of choice: “I choose you.” “I choose us.” & “Two imperfect people that choose each other.” etc. Love within intimate relationships constitutes a choice- a daily choice to choose each other and the other over selfishness and selfish desires. Narcissism is rampant in Western culture.
Suffering. Another strong word with many connotations. But how we suffer and how we suffer with dictates our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Compatibility derives from the Latin phrase “to suffer with.” Compatible means to “Suffer with.” If we are unable to suffer with another, we aren’t compatible. Love within intimate relationships requires compatibility- a daily choice to suffer well and suffer with another.
Beauty. Another strong word with many connotations. But what we recognize as beauty dictates our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Do we value earthly beauty or heavenly beauty? The beauty of spirit or of the body? Beauty resides within each person regardless of form or function. Beauty within an intimate relationship requires constant pursuit of virtue and maturation of ideals which must uphold each person’s intrinsic dignity.
Choice. Suffering. Beauty. . . The story above recalls an incident when we chose each other, suffered with each other, and recognized the beauty within each other. Our peaceful movie night turned into mind-blowing pain and frightful concern. I now know the endometriosis plus other factors caused the incident. This wasn’t the first time an incident like this occurred but the severity was unparalleled. Would I have preferred a calm, unhindered movie night that didn’t end with keeling over in pain while he opened windows, brought water and pain meds, and prayed while holding my hand? Yes. But instead we experienced an opportunity for growth.
In my moment of weakness and vulnerability as a human and as a woman, I asked three question.
Did he choose me in that moment? Yes.
Did he suffer with me in that moment? Yes.
Did he reaffirm my beauty as a woman, God’s creation? Yes.
This exerpt comes from Much Ado About Nothing, Act VI, Scene II which means more than a witty Shakespearean comedy but a former dramatic production I participated in as a high school sophomore. The dialogue is an exerpt from the humorous and witty banter between eventual lovers Senor Benedict and Lady Beatrice. Unlikely yet likely lovers engaged in a battle of wit and avoidance of each other until both fall hopeflessfly in love.
But an exploration into the merits of Shakespearean comedy and the two protagonists aren’t my goal. I’m focusing on the actual line, ” And, I pray thee now, tell me, for which of my bad parts did thou first fall in love with me?” This line transported me to other scenes within my own life. We all have our good qualities and less than admirable qualities all of which enter into a dating relationship. I’m not advocating for tolerance of bad behavior nor avoidance of growth and maturation beyond bad behavior and poor character. Virtue should be pursued both individuals.
Most romantic comedies don’t highlight the nitty, gritty less than cinematically pleasing moments of an ordinary yet extraordinary love story that makes a lifetime not a fleeting screen moment. When I recollected Shakespeare’s line about loving all your bad parts, I didn’t mean you or I are bad, but those aspects of ourselves that illuminate our weakness, fragility, and mortality. The aspects of ourselves we keep private and hidden either to protect ourselves from harm or out of embarrassment. But when you enter into an intimate relationship, at some point in time, the cat is out of the bag. Then both individuals are faced with a choice to flee or not. To choose each other or not.
Obviously, the title of my blog is Chronically Catholic for various reasons one highlighting young adult life with chronic illness. To the outside world, I’m a vivacious, healthy, accomplished, and somewhat fearsome sight to behold and interact with. Yes, I am all that, but the wold rarely witnesses the me behind closed doors. When a man witnesses the me behind closed doors, he must choose to stay or flee. Most have fled for various reasons, and it’s just as well for their sake and mine.
Yes, he must chose me not only at the height of my glory and prestige but at the height of my suffering and weakness. He must chose me in my moments of intellectual greatness and my moments of intellectual demise. Either we both choose to fall to our knees together in moments of struggle or we chose to turn inward and cower. You can’t peiecemeal a person. You can try certainly but the end result is less than helpful or lasting. Relationships challenge and define aspects of a person. Do you fight or flee? Choose or abuse? Suffer with or suffer without? Love all or love some? Take the narrow road or not? Am I a tool or a person?
Twas the Night of New Years and all through the house three creatures were stirring including the cat. The tree gleamed bright and cast whimsical colors and shapes on the walls and the windows. With my family snug in their beds an earshot away, only he and I remained in the soft Christmas tree glow while the cat never ceased staring in her watchful vigilance. All prepared and excited my festive wrapped gift lay upon the coffee table alone. No gift joined it’s side. I stared in astonishment and wonder. My mind buzzed and blew with more thoughts than Christmas ornaments. With each moment my brow furrowed and lines etched my face like stringed lights on the tree or lines on a stocking. My thoughts mirrored twinkling light colors all fuzzy and bright. Still no gift appeared and my heart lept in fright. Despite being seated by my side, I strained as his words floated in and out one-side. I heard. I processed. But it all seemed too bizarre. The words seemed too light and the meaning too dense like snow in a blizzard one moment fluffy and the next moment sleet. Bracing for a gift packed like a wet snowball, I quietly closed my eyes. The Christmas light glow matched my thoughts. Breathless I awaited.
Some rustle and bustle. A pause. A disclaimer. My breathe became frosty and slow. As I opened both palms to receive the gift, my brain turned to meringue while my hands trembled like tinsel. The cat kept her perpetual gaze while I stood frozen awaiting. A coolness brushed my palm and settled for landing. Daring to open my eyes, I peeped down. My thoughts exploded into fireworks while my vision turned into sparkling cider. Little bubbles floated up and up and up. Everything suddenly stopped. All fireworks and cider bubbles screeched to a halt. Numbness settled in and the void of pure silence settled. He waited for a response. A noise. A sign. A reaction. Anything.
A warm glow washed over me like candlelight Christmas Mass. The lights refocused as I peered below and sighed.
A ring box peered upwards while my gaze focused ever more sharply as the ivory coating glinted in the low light. Opening the box, my muscles eased. A warm, serene calmness flushed over me replacing the frigid tinged of panic.