How to Save Sex for Marriage? A Short Program Just For You (Part One)
Author: Jan Bilewicz,
"Love One Another!" 15/2010 → Questions and Answers
It is possible to be chaste. For many it is a difficult task, sometimes even very difficult. That is why you too may need a program to help you achieve this goal.
In my last three pieces I tried to show how important it was for young people to save sex for marriage. Maybe you noticed that I made my case by appealing to plain common sense rather than religious and Gospel reasons. I wanted to show the absurdity of popular culture’s case forpremature sexual activity.
The happiness we all strive for has to do with what is good. Revealing what is good and what is evil is the business of the Ten Commandments. No loving God would give us commandments that are impossible to carry out. It is possible to be chaste. For many it is a difficult task, sometimes even very difficult. That is why you too may need a program to help you achieve this goal. Part one of this article will provide a number of pointers as to how to achieve purity and grow as a person. Here are the first five points of my Short Program Just For You. Think them over and try to incorporate them into your life. This way you will develop your character, enjoy a beautiful, creative, noble, and happy life, and stay pure for marriage. A great deal will depend on achieving the latter.
Seek out an earnest relationship with Christ
The English writer G.K. Chesterton was once asked, “If Jesus were alive and present in the modern world, what would you do? What would you say?” After taking a moment to think, he replied, “But He is alive and present in the modern world.”
Christ does not exist in some distant world beyond our reach. He is near at hand. He lives among us! Nor is this some abstract theological theory, but a splendid reality, which all of us can experience for ourselves. We can meet Christ, talk with Him, and walk through life with Him. When we speak of such proximity, we must ask ourselves the question, “What is Christ like?” Is He haughty, severe, aloof? The Gospels were written precisely so that we might come to know Him. Would you like to have a real friend? A wise, considerate, and understanding person, who delights in every meeting with you; who always has time for you; to whom you can confide even your deepest secrets; who is ready to help you whenever you turn to him; who forgives you when you let him down? Everyone would wish for such a friend! This is exactly what Jesus is like — infinitely good and wise. The good we see in other people is only a pale reflection of God’s love, for God is the source of all goodness.
But maybe you have doubts? “Am I worthy of such a friendship? After all, I have so many faults. Do I know enough? Am I smart enough to talk with God?” Encountering Christ’s love is the most important thing in your life. It is not a question of knowledge and intelligence, but rather of earnestly seeking Him. Seek Jesus sincerely and earnestly, and you will surely find Him. What could be more important? He accepts you as you are. More than that: the weaker and the more lost you are, the more He loves you. He loves you despite your sins and weaknesses. He wants (with your help) to lighten your burden and transform you as a person. He is a real Friend. Only He can answer all those irksome questions that bother you deep down. Only He can satisfy your desire for the absolute, for eternity, for holiness, for meaning in life.
He is really present in every church under the appearances of the Eucharistic Bread. Go to Him and say from the bottom of your heart: “I regret what has passed. I want to be near you. Strengthen my faith. Take my hand. Let us go through this life together, for better and for worse. Wherever I go, be there with me.” Tell Him honestly about your joys and troubles. Entrust your problems and your whole self to Him. He will strengthen you, comfort you, and show you the light. In your meeting with Jesus, you will know peace, fulfillment, and satisfaction.
Speaking to the British youth in Cardiff, in 1982, Pope John Paul II said: “In prayer, united with Jesus — your brother, your friend, your Savior, your God — you begin to breathe a new air. You form new goals and new ideals….In Jesus, whom you come to know in prayer, your dreams for justice and your dreams for peace become more definite and seek practical applications….Christ offers you a friendship that does not disappoint, a fidelity beyond compare….Through prayer you will receive the strength to resist the spirit of the world….It is prayer that will bring joy into your lives and help you to overcome the obstacles to Christian living.”
Do you believe in what the Servant of God — the greatest moral authority of recent times — tells you?
Perfect purity is a gift of God. That is why St. Jerome states: “It is given to those who ask for it, who seek it, and who strive for it, for ‘those who ask, shall receive, those who seek, shall find, and to those who knock, the door shall be opened.’”
St. Augustine of Hippo wrote: “I used to think that man could achieve self-control by his own efforts. Fool that I was! For, it is written, no one can master himself if You do not enable him to do so. You would surely enable me, if, from the bottom of my heart, I called out to You; if I had a faith strong enough to entrust my cares to You.”
No help is more necessary for overcoming temptation against purity than daily, earnest prayer. Especially efficacious — as the experience of the ages attests — is a fervent devotion to the Virgin Mother of God, Mary. Confide to her the following prayer:
“Immaculate Mother of Jesus and my own mother, Mary, Refuge of Sinners! Following the example of Servant of God John Paul II, I say to you this day, Totus Tuus — I am all yours. To your Immaculate Heart I entrust all of myself, all that I am: my mind, my heart, my will, my body, my senses, my feelings, my memory, my wounds, my weaknesses, my past from the moment of conception, my present, my future to the moment of my death, every step I take, along with my every deed, word, and thought. To your Immaculate Heart, I entrust my works, prayers, and sufferings. O Best of Mothers, protect my loved ones and myself from the Evil One. Secure for us the graces we need to be healed and transformed. Guide us along the paths of life and make use of us to build up the Kingdom of your Son, Jesus Christ, the One Redeemer of the world, from whom all good, truth, and life come. Amen”
Repeat this prayer every Saturday and Marian feast — even every day.
Strive to know Christ and live His Gospel
For the saints, knowing the Gospel meant living it. They carried out God’s word to the letter. The words of Christ, which they came to know by reading and hearing the Gospel daily, became the rule informing their entire life. They lived the Gospel with simple and heroic resolve. This was not always easy. It was not for nothing that St. Paul called on every Christian to be “like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 2: 3).
Living chastely will not be easy either. The greater the value, the greater the effort required in achieving it. “My young friends,” observed the Holy Father, John Paul II, to the Polish youth at Danzig, in 1987, “every one of you finds his own “Westerplatte” [the site of a heroic last stand by Polish troops in the early days of WWII — ed.]. A great task, which needs to be carried out. A noble cause, which has to be fought for. A responsibility or duty, from which desertion is unthinkable. Finally, a system of truths and values, which must be ‘held’ and ‘defended’ — as was Westerplatte; only here you must hold and defend something within and around you. You must defend it for yourself and others.”
Defending your purity often requires an intense inner struggle. You are beset by a propaganda campaign pushing sexual freedom and its unbridled use. You live in a world where just about everyone tells you, “This is the 21st Century!” “Everybody’s doing it!” A world wallowing in sensual fashions, nudity, pornography — and all this raising only the feeblest protest from the older generations! You may well find yourself walking in total darkness. You may find yourself reeling under the scorn and ridicule of your peers. You may know uncertainty, discouragement, and isolation. Maybe doubts will arise. “Am I really right?” Once you believed Christ when He asked you to remain chaste. You felt the beauty and value of a pure heart. Now you feel your resolve buckling under the pressure of your milieu or someone you care about. This is your Westerplatte! Your Alamo! If you can hold out despite everything — even yourself! — you have won. The Way of the Cross ended with the Resurrection. You can also experience the joy of spiritual resurrection.
Strengthen yourself with the Sacraments
The Church has always urged the faithful to avail themselves frequently of the Sacrament of Reconciliation — even when no serious sin burdens their conscience. Frequent confession has always been the most efficacious means of correcting bad tendencies. Besides obtaining absolution for his sins, the penitent receives both sacramental and graces; that is, divine helps in overcoming his weaknesses, temptations, and every obstacle to the practice of virtue.
Yet despite our best intentions, we can fall into sin. What then? Above all, we must not lower the bar for ourselves. If we fall into sin and confess it to the priest, that fall may even strengthen us in living out our ideal. Every admission of sin is also an admission of faith. To say, “I did this and that wrong” is also to say, “I believe it is right to act differently.” Awareness of sin does not mean the person committing it is evil. He has committed a sin, but he picks himself up again. Note that only forgiveness frees us from sin, not our rationalizations and self-justifications.
Our All-knowing God could not have thought up a better gift for us than Holy Communion; nor could He give us anything greater — though He is all-powerful. For, in the Eucharist, He gives us not something, but Himself, the source of all goodness, wisdom, and strength. “This is my Body” (Lk 22: 19) — said Jesus when He instituted the Eucharist in the Upper Room. His earlier words about the bread coming down from heaven (Jn 6: 50) had met with stiff resistance. “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (Jn 6: 60) — they said. But Jesus retracted nothing, even though some disciples left Him as a result.
In the Eucharist is truly present that same Jesus, whom Mary brought into the world in Bethlehem; who lived in Nazareth for thirty years before beginning His public ministry; who announced the good news, healed the sick, raised the dead, drove out demons; who died on the cross, and then rose again on the third day. “Those who receive Holy Communion,” said John Paul II, “receive the spiritual strength needed to face all the trials and hardships of life, while remaining faithful to the duties of the Christian. In addition, they draw from this Sacrament, as from a superabundant spring, a constant stream of graces necessary to develop all their resources and virtues.”
You must see prayer, confession, and Holy Communion as absolutely necessary sources of strength. They are not supplementary things you can pick and choose, but rather essential for your spiritual life, just as food and drink are for the life of your body. If you do not pray every day, or go regularly to confession, or receive Holy Communion at least every Sunday during Holy Mass (perhaps you should do it more often), then you will not succeed in remaining pure.
Strengthen your will and avoid all occasions of sin
Saying “no” to something pleasant requires willpower. It is wise to train the will. You need willpower if you are to gain mastery over your body, control your reactions, make demands on yourself, and follow through on your decisions. Sexual reactions can be controlled to the extent that we practice self-restraint. It is worse when we do not try to bridle our reactions, and still worse when we actually inflame those reactions. The opposite of self-control is helplessness before one’s bodily reactions. We hear people complain, “I have no willpower.” Strength of will is not given to us; we must train it. Denying ourselves various pleasures (even modest ones) is a way of strengthening the will. Yielding to our every whim and caprice, on the other hand, produces the opposite effect.
Even if you have a strong will, you need to avoid any situation that can lead you to commit a sin of impurity. Prudence is a great virtue! It is better to mark out your boundaries and thus keep a safe distance from anything that might cause you to fall. Temptations against purity are very strong. They can be certainly be overcome when they first appear. Fires are most easily extinguished when they first break out. Later it is more difficult, or even impossible.
Do not try to fight impure thoughts head on. When they appear, simply turn your mind to some safe subject.
Pick your friends carefully
If you keep bad company, you will eventually succumb to bad influences. One of my correspondents writes: “On hearing my peers boast of their acts of wickedness, I would be ashamed of being less shameless than they. I took pleasure not only in the act itself, but also in boasting about it. I made myself worse than I really was, so as not to be sneered at.” And what about you! Do you have the guts to be good? Are you brave enough to swim against the current?
Throughout the entire history of the Church, Christ has always been a “sign of contradiction.” And so He is today. There have always been those who see God’s wisdom as foolishness. They mock and sneer at what He commands. They praise and promote what He forbids. When through the Pope, the bishops, and the priests, He says, “Love God above all things and seek first what is pleasing to Him, so that you may be happy,” they shout, “Seek pleasure without regard to the commandments. Pleasure is happiness.” When God tells us, “Deny yourselves and strive against your passions,” the “world” replies, “Hang loose!” “Do what you feel like, “ etc.
Always there have those who consider Christianity a benighted foolishness; prayer — a waste of time; the Ten Commandments — a limitation of freedom; self-seeking — prudence; pride — a sense of one’s dignity. And now sexual promiscuity is called freedom and love; child-killing — a terminated pregnancy and a woman’s right; indifference to evil — tolerance; the psychological abuse of schoolchildren — sex education, etc.
It is good to take a sober look at the diametrically opposed value-systems facing us today. They amount to two completely different ways of life. Always you must choose between the two, for, as Scripture states, “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live” (Deut 30: 19). Life lived by the commandments given to us by a loving God leads to beatitude, happiness, and fulfillment. Sin leads to slavery and death.
As I mentioned earlier, the pointers presented here will serve you well not only in achieving purity, but also in growing spiritually as a well-balanced person. In part two of this article, I will limit myself more to the practical question of how to remain pure for marriage.