When God created Adam and Eve, he created them for one another. Men and women are made to physically and spiritually complement one another. When Adam saw Eve for the first time, he exclaimed in utter joy, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” And the author of Genesis continues, “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:23–24). Though Adam enjoyed the intimate company of God his Creator, he still longed for and was not satisfied until he could physically and spiritually join himself to one like himself—a woman. Thus God established marriage as a communion of life and love by which a man and a woman share with one another a sincere gift of self.
Together in marriage, most especially in the loving act where the two become one flesh, men and women reflect the very image of God and his love for all of humanity. Yes, you read that correctly. Our Catholic faith teaches us that sex is good—in fact, sex is holy—and that it allows men and women to come together in a union that draws them into the loving union of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the Blessed Trinity. God created our bodies with a spousal meaning, to be given in a free and total gift of self. While this certainly finds a high point in sexual union, it involves a whole communion of life and love as couples live out each day of their married lives together. A husband makes of himself a gift to his wife every day, as does a wife for her husband. Christ elevated the covenant of marriage to the level of a sacrament, by which the spouses’ gift of self draws each person into a deeper relationship with God. In this way the sacrament of marriage becomes a vehicle for God to plant his love more deeply in our souls and sanctify us.
God gave us the gift of our sexuality to draw us closer to him through one another. The act of giving and receiving love during intercourse mirrors God’s giving of himself completely over to us, his creatures, in the person of Jesus Christ. “Marriage has God for its Author, and was from the very beginning a kind of foreshadowing of the Incarnation of his Son.” This sincere gift of self imbedded in the sexual intimacy of married love reflects Christ’s union with the Church as he gave the supreme gift of self when he died on the cross. His death, the gift of his very life for humankind, is the act that brought about our salvation and unites us with him. Because Christ’s union with the Church is reflected in the sacrament of marriage, Catholics often refer to Christ as the Bridegroom, to the Church as the Bride of Christ, and to the Mass as the wedding feast of the Lamb.
Sex, then, is of primary importance as far as our Catholic faith is concerned. It is a foretaste of the intimate union with one another and with God that we will enjoy in heaven. Sex makes visible the invisible mystery of God’s love, when lived out in the manner God intends. In fact, sex is the act through which the sacrament of Marriage is renewed and strengthened. Coming together as husband and wife, we renew with our bodies the promises we made on our wedding day. With our bodies, we say to each other, “I have come here freely to give myself to you. I will accept children lovingly from God. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”
Every time we come together with our spouse in the loving embrace of intercourse, we make a sincere gift of self to our spouse and commit ourselves to our wedding vows all over again. Each time we give ourselves physically to our spouse, we are freely and permanently promising ourselves to one another in an intimate communion of life and love that is open to the possibility of new life. These promises are not the Church’s creation. They are inscribed on the very act of sex itself, created and designed by God in precisely this way. “God, who is life and love, has inscribed in man and woman the vocation to share in a special way in his mystery of personal communion and in his work as Creator and Father.” Our faith merely articulates this truth for us, but it is God’s own spectacular invention.
Our sexuality is a gift from God, meant to be enjoyed by husband and wife to renew their love for one another and to work with God to create new life from that love. Our bodies and souls are intimately connected, so much so that what we do with one affects the other. This is why our sexual lives and our faith lives are so closely connected. This is why we should fully understand our faith’s teachings about marriage and sexuality before we make any medical decisions to resolve any possible infertility.
Unfortunately, most adult Catholics were never taught any of this—what Christopher West refers to as the Good News about Sex and Marriage in his book by that title. It is completely new information for most Catholics, but information that is vital to our decision-making process regarding infertility. In a nutshell, our Catholic faith teaches us that sex is designed for us by God for two main purposes that must never be separated: to bring husband and wife together in an intimate union of persons that seals and strengthens their mutual love for one another (the unitive purpose), and to cooperate with God in bringing forth new life through the procreation of children (the procreative purpose).
These two fruits of marriage, the unitive and the procreative, were inscribed on our human sexuality by God himself from the beginning of human existence. By its very nature, sex communicates a permanent union of life and love through the language of our bodies. It is an outward reflection of this inner reality. In order to come together in the way that God designed, every act of intercourse must be open to both unitive love and procreation. That’s simply the way God designed us. When spouses willfully separate these two elements, they are saying something with their bodies that isn’t true in their own hearts.
by Jean Dimech-Juchniewicz in Facing Infertility: A Catholic Approach
Facing Infertility: A Catholic Approach. By Jean Dimech-Juchniewicz. Are you seeking a path to healing that is gentle, gradual and sensitive? Couples who suffer infertility endure waiting, heartbreak, and false promises. This book explains the very successful approach that blends Catholic teachings with the best that medial science has to offer.
Theology of the Body Made Simple. By Anthony Percy. Looking for a book with language that will enable you to speak to friends about life issues? Theology of the Body Made Simple expresses the Church’s teachings in just that way.
The Genius of Womanhood. By Karen Doyle. In this book, author Karen Doyle, drawing on the thought of Pope John Paul II, reflects on the role of women in building a culture of life and love in our modern world. These thoughts and reflections highlight the qualities of the Catholic feminine identity and explore why it is crucial that women embrace these qualities. The beautiful presentation includes striking black and white photography, making The Genius of Womanhood a lovely gift option.
Discovering the Feminine Genius. By Katrina J. Zeno. Discovering the Feminine Genius presents a framework in which women can discover and understand their human and spiritual journey as a daughter of God, a woman, a unique individual, and spouse of the Spirit. Katrina Zeno, renowned speaker on the theology of the body, explores the role of women in our complex world. Based on an immensely successful women's retreat that Katrina Zeno has been offering for the past decade, Discovering the Feminine Genius
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