sex & sexuality: a gift

Under How Many Suns

Under how many suns have we embraced
In what long fields of flowers and streets of stone
In the strong light of summer, interlaced
And made, like God, a darkness of our own.

Oh when the bitter wind of longing blows,
And all between us seems an aching space
Think that we hold each other close, so close;
We cannot even see each other’s face.

— Gilbert Keith Chesterton

…A poem by the intelligent, witty, and… yes, romantic… G.K. Chesterton.

The first stanza mentions a “darkness of our own,” and I initially asked myself, “What ‘darkness’ does God make? That’s impossible: He’s all light!” I then realized that darkness here does not refer to evil. Rather, “darkness” here is one not only “made” (as Chesterton describes) but begotten: the MYSTERY of the most INTENSE union of three Divine persons in one God!

Yes, the Trinity is the deepest intimacy that will EVER exist: an eternal exchange of love between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And the Trinitarian mystery of God is “dark” to our unenlightened human mind on this side of Eden.

Similar to the Trinity, my dear fiancé and I have also created a “darkness of our own,” an intimate world such as that to which Chesterton alludes. We, too, are “close, so close,” that our begotten “darkness” is hidden to everyone else, just as the Trinity is to mankind.

The inside jokes. The little quirks we take joy about in one another. Our couple habits, rituals, and traditions. Our shared past-times and interests, the things that only we know about one another. The rhythm of that ebb and flow of our shared days, one after another, marked out by our prayer-life…!

And as a long-distance couple, O, have we known that “bitter wind of longing” and that “aching space” mentioned in the second stanza! Moreover, that “aching space” can also refer to our joint striving towards chastity. 

To be honest, there are indeed moments when we desire to give all of ourselves to one another, body and heart, in the so-called ‘marital embrace’ (a nice euphemism for sex). The relationship’s MYSTERY can just feel so INTENSE sometimes; the other person’s personal mystery can feel so intense, too, that you just want to be one united, body and soul. 

As Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke of in the “Theology of the Body,” God has designed the human body and the human heart in such a way that when a man and a woman are in love, they strongly desire, to the core, to gives themselves to one another in totality. Yet a ‘total’ exchange of self to the other can only happen in the context of marriage, due to the unique design of sacramental marriage!

Human sex and sexuality is indeed a gift from God. God wills our good by giving it to us, and it is our privilege and duty to offer it back to Him via living chaste lives as according to our state in life. For instance, chastity looks different if you are dating/engaged vs married.

When my fiancé and I are affronted by that “aching space” Chesterton mentions, we try our best to remember, in joy, that saying a firm “No” to pre-marital physical desires is actually exclaiming a resounding “Yes!” to one another and to God.  

By trying to live chastely, it is our prayer that we are saying “I love you” as the Italians say it: “Ti voglio bene!”—literally, “I will your good.”

basstreble

engaged

[NOTE] Anyone reading this who may think, “Well, it’s too late for me,” remember: Satan lives in the past and in the future, but JESUS lives in the Present Moment, and His love and His mercy extends to us ALL. JESUS wants you to heal, to be integrated and whole!

do you love your body?

“Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

You have great reason to love your body! It is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Do you love your body? Do you take care of it?

I find it so fascinating that God reveals to us that “the immoral man sins against his own body.” We often think that sin is what we do to hurt other people. But do we ever think about how hurting ourselves is also a sin? The immoral man forgets that his body is a temple of the Divine.

We are called to love our bodies— in a non-conceited way, of course. They were shaped by God in His image and likeness! We are called to a possess a pure self love— including a love of our own skin and bones.

We are called to take care of our bodies— to keep them healthy and fit. How else can we be “fully alive” in other realms, such as spiritually, if we are unhealthy or dying physically? There exists an intricate mind, body, and spirit connection: God made us masterfully integrated beings.

We are called to use our bodies to glorify God— to keep them pure and chaste, truly worthy vesicles of His Pure Love!

Of course, it’s always easier said than done.

But just as Jesus sacrificed His body for us, let us always try to sacrifice our bodies for Him. We were made beautifully, body as well as soul. Let’s love our bodies the best that we can, and support one another in doing so.

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Me with headphones! Lots of media today tells me that I shouldn’t think of my body as a temple of the Spirit. I choose not to listen.

no sins to be sorry for?: the great deception

There’s a girl in the corner
With tear stains in her eyes
From the places she’s wandered
And the shame she can’t hide

She says, “How did I get here?”
I’m not who I once was
And I’m crippled by the fear
That I’ve fallen too far to love”

But don’t you know who you are,
What has been done for you?
Don’t you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade

Well, she tries to believe it
That she’s been given new life
Oh, but she can’t shake the feeling
That it’s not true tonight

She knows all the answers
And she’s rehearsed all the lines
And so she’ll try to do better
But then she’s too weak to try, oh

But don’t you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade

You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade

‘Cause this is not about what you’ve done
But what’s been done for you

This is not about where you’ve been
But where your brokenness brings you to
This is not about what you feel
But what He felt to forgive you
And what He felt to make you loved

You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade

You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade

You’ve been remade
You’ve been remade
You’ve been remade
You’ve been remade

–“You are More,” Tenth Avenue North

What I love the most about Christianity, besides Christ Himself, is the freedom and the joy that Christ bestows on His disciples.

Christ gives us freedom and joy with His endless mercy.

What scares me about humanity (myself included) is our pride and our thinking that there is “nothing wrong” with us and that we do not need mercy from God!

We think: “Well, there’s nothing wrong with me. Why do I need God’s mercy? What am I even sorry about? Nothing. To each his own. I’m going to do what I want. I’ve been doing it all along. I know what’s best for me.”

How can people feel guilty about their mistakes, when they don’t even think they’ve made any mistakes?

And who are we really kidding? Only ourselves.

We are being greatly deceived. Myself included. It is with this prideful attitude that darkness and lies will slowly become our gods. Only with a humble attitude can we be set free, in joy, when we find out “who we are” (as Tenth Avenue North asks: “don’t you know who you are?”): people made for Light and Truth!

In her “Diary,” Saint Faustina wrote about the Infinite, Endless Mercy of Christ! This young woman saint was nearly swept away by Christ’s unbelievable statements regarding His immense ocean of mercy, forgiveness, and love!

We can only receive mercy, forgiveness, and love, however, after we say sorry. We shouldn’t find things to unnecessarily feel guilty about, but we should ask: How can I improve in loving God, myself, and others? In a healthy way, do I feel sorry about the ways I could have or can do better?

This Lent, I want to really purify my heart, and discover in what areas I am filled with pride. I am in denial of many of my sins. How can I empty these areas out, and fill them with grace, the very “life of Christ within me” (the Catechism’s definition of “grace”)?

Here are a couple of excerpts I stumbled across in Saint Faustina’s Diary and immediately loved. They are from the end of “Notebook V” (there are six altogether):

1749

+ God’s Infinite Goodness in Adorning the Whole World with Beauty
in Order to Make Man’s Stay on Earth Pleasant.

O God, how generously Your mercy is spread everywhere, and You have done all this for
man. Oh, how much You must love him, since Your love is so active on his behalf. O my
Creator and Lord, I see on all sides the trace of Your hand and the seal of Your mercy,
which embraces all created things. O my most compassionate Creator, I want to give You
worship on behalf of all creatures and all inanimate creation; I call on the whole universe to
glorify Your mercy. Oh, how great is Your goodness, O God!

1750

Be adored, O our Creator and Lord.
O universe, humbly glorify your God;
Thank your Creator to the best of your powers
And praise God’s incomprehensible mercy.

Come, O earth, in all your fine greenery;
Come, you too, O fathomless sea.
Let your gratitude become a loving song ,
And sing the greatness of God’s mercy.

Come, beautiful, radiant sun.
Come, bright dawn which precedes it.
Join in one hymn, and let your clear voices
Sing in one accord God’s great mercy.

Come, hills and valleys, sighing woods and thickets,
Come, lovely flowers of morningtide;
Let your unique scent
Adore and glorify God’s mercy.

Come, all you lovely things of earth,
Which man does not cease to wonder at.
Come, adore God in your harmony,
Glorifying God’s inconceivable mercy.

Come, indelible beauty of all the earth,
And, with great humility, adore your Creator,
For all things are locked in His mercy,
With one mighty voice all things cry out; how great is the mercy of God.

But above all these beauties,
A more pleasing praise to God
Is a soul innocent and filled with childlike trust,
Which, through grace, is closely bound to Him.

If you want to download and read Saint Faustina’s entire “Diary” for free, click here: Pray Divine Mercy.

Freedom, joy, and rest?: LORD Jesus Christ, You are who my heart has been looking for all this time! What goodness you offer to me, o LORD! You ARE Mercy. You ARE Love. And I am Yours. I know who I am.

saint one day: how? martyr of the heart TODAY.

Tertullian said: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” However, Saint Therese of Lisieux stated: “Martyrdom of the heart is no less fruitful than the pouring out of one’s blood.”

What are my passions? What are my pursuits? Is my heart totally pure in its focus on Christ? Man, it better be. If Saint Therese is right, I can be saving souls right now.

How I am a martyr for Christ in what I orient my life towards? I really need to assess this question with an open heart, because I can actually be as fruitful in the salvation of souls as a “real” blood martyr– that’s what Saint Therese says!

After reading this inspiring quote, what comes to mind is the story of a young teenage martyr named Saint Maria Goretti. Yes, she was a “blood” martyr in every sense of the word; she was murdered and died proclaiming the name of Christ. But what I realize now is that she was a martyr first of the heart. And aren’t all true martyrs first… martyrs of the heart?

It’s not necessarily that martyrs shed blood at their death. The precursor to that is they shed their heart for Christ, first of all, every single day and moment of their life.

Saint Maria Goretti  was 12 years old when an 18-year-old young man, Alessandro, tried to rape her, then stabbed her 14 times when he was unsuccessful. Even as she lay dying, Maria told Alessandro that she would be praying for him, and begged him to repent.

Three years into his 30 year prison sentence, this murderer Alessandro converted to Christ and to the Catholic faith! Alessandro had a dream in which Maria came to him and gave him 14 lilies– perhaps to symbolize her forgiving him for the 14 times in which he had stabbed her. The lilies burned in his hand. He awoke and was never the same.

Alessandro awoke, repented, and gave his life to Christ. Once murderer, he eventually became a monk, and sat side by side with Maria’s mother at her canonization in 1950! He called Saint Maria “my little saint.”

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St. Maria Goretti, patron of purity, pray for us young adults!

Clearly, Saint Maria was first a martyr for Christ in her heart before she could be a martyr with her blood.

She was a martyr for purity and chastity.

She was a martyr for virtue.

She was a martyr for unselfish love— even the love of one who was trying to rape her, and who eventually murdered her.

If “martyrdom of the heart” is “just as fruitful” as dying like a real blood martyr… I’d like to really re-evaluate how I am shedding my heart for Christ right now in my life.

There is always room for improvement. There is always more of my heart to give. That may sound like an impossibility, but it is truly possible if my heart’s source is in the Eternal and Infinite Sacred Heart of Christ.

I want to be a saint one day by being a martyr of the heart today!

no greater love than this

Family life, and all of its struggles, has taught me about Christ’s sacrifice for me, His love for me, all of these years. In a family, sacrifice, patience, and humility are key to surviving.

During various times of my life, I have grown used to living in a single household of 8 to 10 people. Things are just bound to go wrong with numbers so high (and even with two people, you have two very unique individuals who are bound to disagree about something). But we never gave up, and we continue to never give up.

Not only that, I come from a large Filipino clan on my mom’s side– and we have certainly weathered it all. My extended family has also taught me what a true “all for one and one for all” spirit looks like.

When I used to think of romantic love, I would very much idealize it. I would fail to take into account all of the sacrifice, patience, and humility that would be necessary in a future relationship– the same kind of virtues that I was learning about growing up in my family.

Now that I am in a courtship with a wonderful young man, I am constantly reminded, from my own past experiences with my family, how I cannot run away from Cross of Christ, even in this most exhilarating experience. (Yes, he is my first boyfriend. Shocking!)

In dating, there will be crosses to bear, most especially if we are to marry and start our own family too, one day! Namely, our own two crosses, which we are discerning uniting under the one Cross of Christ for life.

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My dashing boyfriend and I in front of the Memorial Church at Stanford University. I am learning all about how to give pure, brave, Christ-like love with this young man. 🙂

Christ Himself told us: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

Well, I consider my boyfriend my best friend. No wonder love can get hard sometimes. There’s no greater love than to lay your life down for a friend– let alone the person who is nearest and dearest to you.

I can confidently and conclusively say…

It’s a challenging task, to love.

And yet, every day, in little and big ways, I discover that LOVE is truly that “thing” for which God has designed me! After all, He is Love (1 John 4:8).

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Perpetual Adoration of Our LORD Jesus Christ– He who models Perfect Love for us–  in the middle of hippie town. Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco. My boyfriend and  — and my best friend, our tour guide– took a visit!

no radio for Lent?: PURITY is God’s work, not mine!

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Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was a young adult with a pure heart on fire for the LORD. He was truly a living tabernacle of JESUS in the middle of the world!

“Purify my heart
Let me be as gold
And precious silver

Purify my heart
Let me be as gold
Pure gold

Refiner’s Fire,
My heart’s one desire
Is to be holy
Set apart for You, Lord

I choose to be
Holy
Set apart for You, my Master,
Ready to do Your Will

Purify my heart
Cleanse me from within,
And make me holy

Purify my heart,
Cleanse me from my sin
Deep within”

–“Purify My Heart,” Brian Doerksen

Do I love others with a pure heart? How do my selfish intentions and how does my pride get in the way? Who cares about how others see me… when what really matters most is how God sees me?

Do I love God with a pure heart? Do I love myself with a pure heart… or do I simply want to make a god of myself and think highly of myself?

As I journey through Lent, the idea of purity of mind, heart, and body… has been on my, well, mind, heart, and body! (God designed us as truly integrated beings.)

This particular Lent, one of my sacrifices is not to listen to secular music or the radio. Instead, I am listening to either Christian/Catholic music or audiobooks.

Most of the songs on the radio are about romantic love, Eros (sexual desire), lust (disordered Eros), and incredible lows/highs. After just over a week of not listening to secular radio for a couple hours a day, I feel my mind focusing on higher ends, such as God’s love  and IDEAS that I have always wanted to ponder more deeply over!

I once heard a priest say that listening to a song on the radio is, in a sense, agreeing to let your emotions be influenced or controlled by whatever lyrics or melody you happen to hear. This priest’s “anti 24/7 entertainment” stance moved me.

I don’t want to simply experience life as a reaction to entertainment. I want to LIVE life as a journey that I venture! I do not want to be a product of society; I want to help shape society.

This Lent, I hope that my thoughts will gradually become more oriented towards the Divine. I hope that I will be more focused on living out my vocation as a disciple of Our Lord. I want to be centered on what is holy, noble, and pure… and most importantly, on Our Lord Who is Love.

Moreover, I increasingly realize that it is GOD who cleanses me from my worldly detachments and purifies me.

PURITY: not my work or power that is effecting the change within, but GOD’S work and power that cleanses me and makes me holy!

A living tabernacle, holding Jesus, in the middle of the world: now that’s what I want to be!

I pray that Our Lord keep the faith in me forever young.

Prayer After Vegas

I found this little prayer that I wrote after going to Vegas during the summer a couple of years ago. I had a great time with family and friends, but the culture there — a culture of death — left me confused and disheartened.

The world expects me to flaunt my body, but I know God calls me to take pride in my dignity.

Thought I’d like to share just in case any other young women felt the same way as me. Following are a few snippets.

Monday, August 31, 2009

O Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar,

I come to You today empty and confused. I went to Las Vegas this weekend and I felt so much cognitive dissonance. The world wants me to be beautiful, sexy, young, wild. I know you want me to be beautiful in my purity, sexy in my virginity, young in my faith, hope, & love, and wild with the passion of the Holy Spirit that has so touched my life! Drinking and dancing aren’t sinful to You; they are both gifts from You that can be properly used. Getting drunk and dancing provocatively would be abuses of those gifts. I think perhaps You are revealing Your Holy Will to me now.

I love Your, Lord, and I want to serve You. I pray for the grace to see as You see, to hear Your voice, to speak Your words, to serve and glorify You, and to love as You love.

Give me the grace that my heart might ache daily for You, for Your love, for You in the Eucharist!

love,

Rosanna Noelle

Lord Jesus Christ, as I reflect on this prayer that I wrote 2 years back, help me truly and genuinely to live a culture of life!

Purity & the Purifying POWER of Confession: Living a Revolution Against Sin

When following Christ, is there no hope for someone who has fallen in their pursuit for purity, or who has given away his or her “V-Card” — virginity — sleeps with their boyfriend/girlfriend, or lived life promiscuously?

Is there no hope for someone who continuously falls to the sins of the flesh, such as willfully entertaining impure thoughts, masturbating, looking at pornography, etc.?

No. Absolutely not!

There is enduring hope found in genuine repentance, the willingness to change… and the Confessional.

Matthew 5:8 reads: “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.”

Obviously, if God never thought we could be clean, He wouldn’t torture us so with the thought that we could never see Him. But as baptized children of God, we are called to imitate Christ’s holy purity and given the power to do so: Christ’s very grace within us!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph #2345 states: “Chastity is a moral virtue. It is also a gift from God, a grace, a fruit of spiritual effort. The Holy Spirit enables one whom the water of Baptism has regenerated to imitate the purity of Christ.”

We will never be able to escape our fallen will or our concupiscence, including our inclination to lust. However, we CAN grow in our virtues and in our holy purity; we CAN grow more inclined to fight off these temptations! Better yet, Christ instituted the Sacrament of Confession to freely return to sinners the gift of sanctifying grace that they reject when they sin.

When we commit mortal sin, we willingly reject the life of God within our soul (the very definition of “grace”). A mortal sin is only considered “mortal” when we know it is a grave sin and can cut us off from God and we fully decide to commit the sin anyway.

Yet during Confession, Christ Himself– via the priest who acts “in persona Christi”– infuses His grace, His very LIFE– back into the penitent!

Jesus Himself exhorts us: “Be you therefore perfect, as also your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Striving to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect is only possible when we have the sanctifying grace of Christ within us as our strength to choose what is right and to reject what is evil!

After we sin, we may think: “Well, I still believed– I just went the wrong way, and sin/darkness overcame me, and now I’m sorry and I’m coming back to You, LORD.” Yet such a prayer to reconcile with Him is not enough if a sin is mortal; we must Confess in a sacramental prayer, to a priest, a representative of God.

This is pointed out in the Bible. St. John says: “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray” (1 John 5:16-17).

It is for these “deadly” sins– these mortal sins, including most sins of impurity– that we must go to Confession.

Again, we must not worry, just be aware, and take ardent hope!

As we repeatedly commit sin, including sins of impurity; Christ Himself longs to unite us to His Cross and repeatedly purify us via Confession, that we may be always be ready again to give ourselves as pure offerings to one another and to Our Father.

Just as the “once and for all” sacrifice at Calvary can mysteriously permeate all time and space in the perpetuation of the Sacrament of the Eucharist (the timeless Body & Blood, Soul & Divinity of Christ), so too can this “once and for all” sacrifice at Calvary mysteriously permeate all time and all space in the timeless perpetuation of the Sacrament of Confession (the timeless Mercy & Justice of Christ!).

Hebrews 13:8 says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” So, too is the Power of His Cross: in the Eucharist, when the Sacrifice of Calvary is re-presented perpetually till the end of the age, and in Confession, when the cleansing of sins and re-infusion of grace is re-presented perpetually till the end of the age.

Our Savior Jesus Christ died 2000 years ago on the Cross, and His sacrifice was a “once and for all” redemption, but Christ’s saving graces permeate all time and all space and save us in mysterious ways.

Yet Jesus Himself warns of our ability for sin to separate us from Him when he heals the paralytic on the exterior (his illness) and the interior (his sin), but still warns the paralytic: “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:16).

Jesus posits that sin can indeed make something worse happen to us after He heals us: we can willingly separate ourselves from Him if we sin again; we sin again over and over.

Yet Jesus is more than willing to purify us again and again in Confession, that we may truly be clean of heart, and so blessed as to be able to see Him (Matthew 5:8)!

LORD Jesus, blessed be the Sacrament of Confession, which allows the redemptive power of Your Cross to work mysteriously, outside of time, to perpetually save us from ourselves, when we willingly separate ourselves from Your saving Cross. You alone can save us, o LORD!