"Oh, Catholics hate sex"
"You can't really believe that?!"
"You Catholics are such prudes.
"Just look at her being forced to wear that veil"
No we don't, yes we do, we most certainly are not and nobody is forcing her to wear that veil.
I hear these things all the time. And they are so ridiculous to my Catholic convert mind. Just look at the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Look at the scenes of Judgement and biblical history. See the human body in its sublime beauty as portrayed by the Catholic genius of the Renaissance, Michelangelo.
Men and women were each made in the image and likeness of God. Our bodies are his handiwork as much as our souls were crafted by His love.
We don't hate the physical. We don't dislike nakedness or sex. We understand its most serious importance.
Let me explain. Or better yet, let us have St. Pope John Paul II explain.
He described in his Theology of the Body, the sexual love between a husband and wife within marriage as "an icon of the interior life of God himself."
Sex, as an expression of marital love, is sacramental in a way. the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, and within matrimony, sex, unite us with our fellows on earth and with God above.
We take it so seriously, with such a deep, serious joy, we are labeled prudes. That is the exact opposite of what we are.
We are a people of laughter, song and dancing. But paradoxically, we are also a people of sack clothes and ashes, of solemnity.
Which is a decent segue into the next stage: Veils and solemnity. Recently, I saw a post blaming a culture of oppression for why Melania and Ivanka Trump wore veils to meet His Holiness Pope Francis.
Disclaimer: I love veils. If called to marriage and children, my daughters are receiving veils as gifts.
Now back to it. Okay so first of all, there is no culture of oppression around Catholic veiling. It is a perfectly reasonable choice. Many women who do veil have described it to me as a tool to focus, as humility and as a reminder.
It's a reminder not of oppression or of history but of the solemn beauty that belongs solely to women alone. Men and women are both made in the image of God, which means there is something sacred there. And what have we done with things view as holy. Aka, The Jewish Temple and all of our altars at Mass...
We veil them. We cover them in silk, lace and cotton. Not in some mean and cruel way to shuffle these holy places aside but to showcase and shout to the world, "THIS IS IMPORTANT."
There is a solemness in that idea of veiled importance, but also a joy.
Our bodies, men and women, are physical signs of the invisible. Human bodies are icons, markers leading us to God. The veils draw your eye towards the sacred. But just like the veil she wears before you kiss her at your wedding Mass, beneath it we have the sacredness God designed and placed in each of us.
"The body, in fact, and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine."- St. Pope John Paul II.
So to wrap up, we're not prudes. We celebrate, within the sacrament of marriage, the utter wonder that is the human body. We are bond in the Spirit and made "one flesh."
We are a people not of sullen sorrow, but of serious joy. And every day let us imagine in our own minds, the Sistine Chapel and look out on the world the same way Michelangelo did. In that "peculiar light" of God.
“All” by Dominick Jean
I tasted the winds sweeping by
Breezes like kisses batter my skin
On the edge of the sea, where I lie
Dreaming, as I was, of all my sin
I recall not what I was after
With this foolish recollection
The crossing stars sing with laughter
And I curse my bold, too-strong affection
But now, the stars alone shall see
And find my affection a mild flame
Before the dark and deep desires which be
But these also shall I tame
My soul is blue and runs with tears
My heart is red and filled with fires
And finally, I will look into those mirrors
And will drown all those desires
For I wish to say, if only some day
That I never knew or tasted you
Whatever you wish or claim, you may say
But my tongue is sharp and screw you too
All I was is a counterpuncture
All I am is a shadow
All I will be… is me
If you read the poem, you understand at least in part. There will be people you love, people who had eyes which entranced you with their strength. People, who for a brief instant, made the sun shine at midnight.
And you will hurt them and they will hurt you. They'll swing a left hook and you'll put up a strong right cross. You'll duke it out until you feel every bruise and all that exists is the tired, filthy hatred that you curl up around at night. It keeps you warm.
It also ruins you. Utterly.
You curl up around the pain of it all and it keeps you warm but you feel ruinous. You feel like your hands have been trained for war with them and your fingers for battle. But you are so wrong.
You have been trained for mercy, forgiveness and even for love.
“It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.”
― Pope Benedict XVI, Saved in Hope: Spe Salvi
Pope Emeritus Benedict said it better than I with those words. We are trained in the same school of love which Christ brought to us on the cross. In our suffering, we find Him. And we find each other. We find love.
Our soul runs blue with tears and our hearts red with both passion and hate. And in our shattered selves something small, wiggles and needles its way into our inner self.
It's that voice you've heard before. It's forgiveness.
The most Divine all telling thing there is and it's called Mercy.
So the poem you read above...well obviously it's not very forgiving you think. And you'd be right. It was written for the singular of shoving a knife into a battered heart. But reflecting on it...the gift that mercy is, shows itself.
So I step into forgiveness, just the first step now but it is a step. Take the music, the poetry, the rage inside and listen to it, acknowledge its validity and then put it to rest. You will never have solace with it, your rage and anger can never satisfy your dark and deep desire.
Your dark and deep desire to be raw, and real and bold.
Turn to mercy and find everything you ever wanted.
"Turn to me and have mercy on me; strengthen me and save me, because I serve you just as my mother did." -Psalm 86:16