Friday, February 18, 2011

Affection For Sin

I was listening to a talk about St Francis de Sales. He talks about the importance of losing the affection for mortal sin. That is not just avoiding the act but changing your heart so you are no longer drawn to the act. How do we do this? St Francis says the best way is to contemplate God's truth. To spend much time and energy internalizing God's way of thinking. God hates all mortal sin so if we start to think like God we will start to hate it as well.

Thinking about this it makes sense why so many Christian men have trouble with the affection for sexual sin. What is God's truth about sex? Sex is unitive and procreative.That is sex unites man and woman in total self-giving love and sex opens us up to becoming fruitful and generating new life. So how often do we prayerfully contemplate such things? I was blessed when I started watching some Theology of the Body DVD's and at the same time started to pray the rosary semi-regularly. I say blessed because I didn't plan it and I don't think it was luck. The two things St Francis talks about came into my life at the same time and the effect on my thought life was dramatic. But it is not a common thing. The Catholic teaching on procreation is rejected by most protestants and Catholics. Contemplative prayer is not that common either.

When you look at our culture. Think about all the information you get on love, sex, and marriage. Exclude the pornographic stuff you would not watch anyway. Just think about the relatively wholesome TV, music, movies, etc. How many of them connect sex with procreation? How many connect it with a deep spiritual union? By my count almost none. We are just happy they keep their clothes on. If it is within marriage we are overjoyed. But even then the focus is on the physical pleasure. Very little on the gift of self we make to our spouse. Even less on the openness to life. So even the very best of the best completely miss God's truth about sex. That is even excluding the celibate life which is also important and occasions for contemplating it are hard to even imagine in out culture.

So what happens? Avoiding mortal sin just becomes a list of  "thou shalt not" commands. Our pattern of thought remains quite worldly and the commands seem hard. Even if we obey them the resentment we feel about having to obey can dry up our spiritual life. But there are few places where you can fully immerse yourself in the Catholic truth about sex. You couple that with the omnipresent of sexual material in general. Even without doing anything bad you can end up quite disconnected from God's positive will for your sex life.

As Catholics we have a ton of advantages. We have the correct teaching on procreation. We have the witness of consecrated celibate people. We have a strong tradition affirming the value of virginity. We have a consistent and principled teaching on the sanctity of life right from conception. We have spiritual mothers in the Blessed Virgin and in the church. We have spiritual fathers in the pope and our priests. We have the writings of the mystics. St Francis de Sales is one. St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross come to mind as well but there are too many to count. Then, of course, we have John Paul's Theology of the Body.

There are so many windows into the mystery of what God intended sex for. Despite the title of a modern Christian book it was not intended for pleasure. Sure there is pleasure to be had and I am glad there is but when we, even as Christians, make pleasure the end we end up in a very bad place.


  1. "Even without doing anything bad you can end up quite disconnected from God's positive will for your sex life."

    I recently came to exactly the same conclusion, Randy. I've only started wading a little deeper into the Church's teachings on human sexuality and it's been quite the eye opener. It has become apparent to me that in the absence of 'God's positive will for your sex life' we're left with an understanding of sexuality that is quite lacking. Such a deficient view consequently places most discussion about sexuality in negative, prohibitive terms; sex is a special gift, therefore don't do this, or this or this. Or it reduces sexual intimacy between husband and wife to mere pleasure, which among other things leads to selfishness. As with all things theological, what immediately stands out to me is the beauty and depth of Catholic teaching on this subject.



  2. Good to hear from you Casey. I noticed you are a fellow convert from Calgary. That is awesome. We might even see each other in the real world.

  3. And a recent convert at that; I was received into the Church at Easter Vigil 2010 at St. Thomas More (that's my parish) after more than a decade as a Protestant. I've only recently discovered the perpetual adoration chapel at St. Anthony's which has added a whole new dimension to my faith. Take care, and hopefully I never cut you off on the Deerfoot. :)