Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Beautiful Women

Fr Thomas Loya talks about looking without lusting in an article on Catholic Exchange. The link comes from Fr. Angelo Geiger's post here.
The second place we go is, of course, to the art of seeing. I believe that what is actually an appreciation for the overwhelming beauty of womanhood is often assumed by many men to be lusting. We tend to equate looking at woman’s beauty and lusting as one in the same. Yes, perceiving the beauty of femininity can lead to lust but only if we choose. And lust really does come down to a choice even though it is a split second choice.
I like to recommend a three part technique I call, “see, pray, and pass on.” See what is beautiful. It is alright. In fact we SHOULD perceive this beauty but only so as to move us to prayer: We use a line either in our own words, or, as I prefer, a line from the Psalms that acknowledges the beauty but which at the same time glorifies God for it.
We sanctify our perception of this beauty. Then we ‘pass on’—we turn our gaze and especially our thoughts to something else. This is a matter of training ourselves and for this we need what I call the voice of “Da coach:” This is the nickname ascribed to Coach Mike Ditka of the Chicago Bears who was a total no nonsense guy.
This is that voice in our head that simply kicks us in the butt, like a good, tough coach or a chiding, but encouraging father: “Alright Look at her!! That’s right, look at her!! Look at her butt, her breasts, but don’t stop there. Look at every aspect of her magnificent femininity! Take her in completely and say, “How many are your works, O Lord, in wisdom you have made them all!” (Psalm 103). Say it immediately. Now get your mind on something else, sailor, NOW!” Then try this same technique on something else you find beautiful—a sunset, music, a car, whatever. Launch into the three part technique. Learn to develop an entire ethos of perceiving beauty and responding to it with prayer which means responding to it sacramentally or through the priestly vocation that all baptized Christians are called to.
I actually can see both points here. What Fr Thomas neglects to mention here is the first option should be to avoid. Yes you can look and not lust. But it is a split second choice. Why force yourself to make these split second choices over and over? That is just asking for trouble. You even need to know what temptations you find hard to resist. There may be times when you should avoid the beach or avoid magazine racks. Be honest with yourself. Prudence is a virtue.

Having said that I think the "see, pray, pass on" has something to it. The concept is to accept what it is but not accept the invitation towards sexual fantasy. Take the new Teenage Dream album cover with Katy Perry's posing nude. I won't link it but I am sure everyone has seen it. I walk into Starbucks and see this. I'd rather avoid seeing it but it happens. On seeing this I can pray for her. This takes all the eroticism out of it. I know she has parents who are evangelical Christians. I know she has plans to marry or maybe she already married. So I can pray for her husband/fiancee and mother and father while I am at it. I am no longer in fantasy mode. Pornography hurts people. I don't doubt posing for such pictures has hurt Katy Perry and those around her. If I remember that then the picture is not nearly as sexy.

But the "pass on" part is important as well. Even thinking pure thoughts about Katy Perry does not mean I should keep thinking about her. The quality of my thoughts about her should be appropriate but the quantity needs to be as well. Make a choice. As you pray about her then pray about something else. Often invoking Our Lady is helpful. Then refocus on what you were thinking before. The entire process might take less than 10 seconds.


  1. As someone with a history of complete absorption and slavery to lust, as I've dipped into the Theology of the Body I've become desperate for this "sacramental gaze" toward women.

    Meditating on the Beatitudes, I constantly yearn to be "pure of heart". Yet I've had difficulty. In my experience, my ability to look on women with love, gratefulness, and prayer instead of lust seems to vary with the wind. Praying the rosary at the beginning of the day seems to help, considering the woman as a deeper subject (as a daughter, a wife, a human) rather than an object helps, and "bouncing" my eyes helps occasionally, yet still the urge to lust remains.

    Fr. Loya's advice still doesn't feel right with me. "Taking her in completely...butt, breasts, all of her" seems to be consuming her, not honoring her." I can't picture Jesus suggesting this advice to the disciples.

    So I'm still left searching for a solid way to develop a non-lustful glare toward women. Advice?

  2. Fr Loya's advise is not without problems. Like I said. The best is to avoid seeing someone immodestly dressed but sadly that is very hard to avoid completely in our society. But I do find that a quick flash is often harder to get out of your mind than if you have more fully contemplated the person. I would not phrase it the way Fr. Loya does.

    I don't think there is a solid way. If there was then we would not need to wear clothes. The reality is that immodest dress is a problem. It is a spiritual attack. We are seeing what we should not see.