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Sunday, December 1, 2013
Sex and the Mystery of Gravy
by Susan Fox and “Grace”
“The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib, which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh…” (Gen 2:23-25)
On Thanksgiving Day, I was stirring the gravy on the stove, and I realized that when I was a child how gravy was made was a big mystery to me.
I watched so many women stirring, stirring, stirring and putting in this ingredient and that, but how do you make gravy I wondered. What do you start with?
I didn’t learn until I went to France when I was 19 years old. When I arrived in France, I couldn’t boil water. My overprotective mother fed me all my life and I studied, studied, studied. That was my job.
But when I got to France, my relationship with the Americans there did not go well. So I cut those ties and hung out with Danielle, mother of two little boys and a former schoolteacher. She taught me cooking, child rearing and French for that was all she spoke. Voila! Mystery of Gravy solved.
But recently another mystery was handed to me on a platter. A man asked me, “Susan, why am I gay?”
Now that question sits on my plate like unmade gravy. I really don’t know, I thought, but a large percentage of people who self-identify according to their homosexuality have told sociologists that they were sexually abused as children. Others have said they entered the lifestyle through pornography. Ah, now I was on firmer ground. There was at least one ingredient to this recipe I understood.
I have friends, who were sexually abused as children. The abuse caused them to be sexually broken, and they have had to struggle their whole life long with various sexual addictions. The disordered effects on their adult lives are horrific.
A human being’s first sexual experience impresses itself on that person, and you don’t shake that no matter how much you pray, no matter what kind of efforts you make on your own behalf. That’s why God said, "If anyone causes one of these little ones -- those who believe in me -- to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matt 18:6)
So the Catholic Church highly recommends that we make our first sexual experience our wedding night. It is to save us untold grief and questions like, “Susan, why am I gay?” But unfortunately, sometimes as children we don’t get a choice because God gave us and all the adults around us something called “free will.”
I have a friend, and I will call her Grace, who was molested as a child repeatedly by a family member. Grace felt like a prostitute, and before she married she had illicit relationships that mimicked her molestations. She ended up in a hospital after an affair broke up.
Sex outside of a loving marriage is degradation and humiliation. Inside marriage, you bring the baggage of your past life. Lifelong joyful chastity is your best hope for a fulfilling existence on earth.
But life is never ordered perfectly. Did you know that often children who have been treated as Grace or people who have fallen into the habit of reading pornography have stronger inclinations to the sin of lust than other people who haven’t had these experiences? One case is clearly involuntary and the other is voluntary, but in both cases something evil has entered your life.
My husband and I told our son, “Sex is like Pandora’s Box. Open it up before it’s time and there is nothing you can do but deal with the consequences.”
But there is a spiritual solution to sexual addictions. We are both spiritual and corporal beings. When we have sex –even if we are not a willing participant – we bond with that person. There is a lifelong spiritual connection. And it seems like God wanted to emphasize the point on the physical side for He created the bonding hormone Oxytocin – primarily to unite mother and child during and after birth, but scientists are discovering this hormone is related to sexual climax and unitive intimacy with your partner.
In order to be healed of disordered sexual inclinations – even after we are struggling to live a chaste life -- we have to spiritually cut the ties to all our previous sexual partners. Not only that, but if we have spent time looking at pornography, we can actually have formed a spiritual bond with “Miss April” or “Mr. May.” Everything that happens in the porn star’s life bleeds into ours, unless we cut the tie. But that only applies to men, who are sight-oriented. Women’s porn is usually in written form, and those ties must be cut as well.
This is the book I found to deal with those situations: “The Healing of Families: How to Pray Effectively for Those Stubborn Personal and Familial Problems” by Fr. Yozefu-B. Ssemakula. Good things come from Uganda. He does retreats around the United States. Go to www.healingoffamilies.com to find the book and Father’s schedule.
Father Yozefu -- we call him Fr. Joe for that’s what his name means in Ugandan -- dealt with all kinds of issues but the key is that your family or you can invite a sort of twistedness into your life that can only be thrown out by an exorcism prayer you can say yourself. Someone invited the evil one into your life, and he has to be shown the door.
I tell the following story, not because I am accusing anyone of a crime, but because the following crime demonstrates that a bond is created in the sexual act – even if one partner is not willing. Shortly after I went to Father Yozefu’s retreat, I watched a program on EWTN (Catholic television). A courageous young woman told the story of how she had been drugged and raped on a cruise ship. She didn’t remember the rape, but she found herself with the strange desire to find the rapist and maybe see if they could have a relationship. She didn’t understand why she had that inclination, but I was prepared to understand and accept it because of what Fr. Joe taught us. Even a one-event drugged rape created a spiritual bond. How much more would a fully participatory sexual relationship create a bond over time?
The good side to the story, however, was that as she struggled to deal with the aftermath of that experience, she had a vision of Christ bruised and laying in a pool of urine – the way she was found. She understood when she was raped, Jesus suffered the same in His own Body. This brought her incredible healing. So should all of us rejoice to know that Christ accepts into His own Body all of our sufferings.
Grace, my wounded friend and a convert to Catholicism, added this to my gravy recipe:
“I think it is also important to say that Catholics believe that sex is a mystery. A mystery is not a cypher, something we know nothing about. It is something that we can know in part, using our reason and God's revelation. Some Catholics, like Pope John Paul II in his Theology of the Body, understand that sex is a Mystery with a capital “M,” like the Incarnation. In other words, sex is holy. Catholics really should capitalize the word Sex whenever they use it to mean what is properly ordered according to God's plan. But almost no one talks about that kind of sex. Although humans are obsessed with sex, we actually know very little about it, whether ordered or disordered.
But here is one thing that some people, enlightened by God, have learned about sex: since our bodies and our spirits are one, sex really does create a spiritual bond, even "bad" sex. We are linked forever, body and soul, with all sexual partners. And having multiple partners feels wrong. Sex cries out for exclusivity, because it is the Holy of Holies where God creates True Love and new Life -- where He creates the image of the Blessed Trinity on earth, the Family. But when rape or incest or fornication or homosexual acts touch the virgin body/soul, then God's Image is distorted, and the person suffers irreparable loss.
Yes, they may find healing, but they will carry the scars as long as they live. In this world, because of the twisted culture in which we live, there are very few pure, innocent, intact souls. We are all walking wounded, to some degree. It is just the degree of suffering that differentiates us.
This man wants to know why he has same-sex inclinations ... if we are honest, we must say we do not know the answer. Why does God permit His holy design to be thwarted? Why does He permit the innocent to be violated? This is the only real challenge to faith in God: the mystery of evil.
Sex remains a mystery. Why did God allow my sexuality to be warped by the world? Why is the sexual urge so overwhelming, so out of proportion? Why do I do the thing I do not want to do, to paraphrase St. Paul? God, why can't you take this cross away? The few glimpses we get of real Sex, the way it is meant to be, only torment us more with our inability to attain that vision.
Some people speak about transcendent joy in sex, but the only taste I ever got of that, (due to my sexual woundedness), was when I held my new born babies in my arms. That was holy, transcendent joy, a foretaste of Heaven.
And that joy must have been God's special grace to me, because I know that many mothers have that joy denied to them as well, because they are too wounded, or else their culture robs it from them. Why does God permit so many mothers to feel no joy at the birth of their children? Why do so many mothers destroy the life that is within them through abortion, or have to watch as others destroy them?
Remember that old bible of the Sexual Revolution, The Joy of Sex? Well, God meant to give us the True Joy of Sex, the kind of transcendent joy I experienced at the birth of my children. But instead, the world, the flesh, and the devil attack us poor humans at every turn, and sex brings us sorrow. Immeasurable sorrow. Why does God permit this? He meant to give us joy and life, but instead, with sex we find violence, lust, frustration, disease, disappointment, heartbreak, and death.
Even the best of marriages knows some of this because we are all wounded to some degree. Why, God? This is our cri de coeur.
Still, God gave me the gift of faith, and through that lens of faith I dimly saw what His plan was for me, and I struggled towards it like a half-blind person, stumbling every step of the way. And he gave me a good husband to love, and three beautiful little incarnate souls to care for. God created my family with just a little clumsy co-operation from my husband and me. Why did we receive this grace when others did not? A mystery? It was certainly nothing we deserved. Does it make me feel like I'm better than other people struggling with their sexual woundedness? I hope and pray it does no such thing. I hope it gives me humility."
Grace’s comments show us that sex belongs and finds its fulfillment in a family setting. And she is correct there is a transcendent aspect of sex. Used in the context of marriage, it creates a happy lifelong bond with your spouse, and this bond cradles the newborn lives of your children. It seems like I’ve found more ingredients to make good gravy.
But I had to laugh as I remembered when I was a young woman, my theology professor at a Jesuit University, tried to develop a theology of sex, but he didn’t do a very good job of it because he was focused on the physical aspect alone. When he described the sexual climax, he said with poetic depth, “Cosmic Awareness. Oceanic Consciousness.” I believed him then because I had never had sex! But I’ve been happily married for 30 years, and I don’t know what he was talking about.
So I asked my husband of 30 years what he thought about sex. Lawrence Fox said, “Sex (with my wife) is bone-deep consolation. “ According to him, the words of the Book of Genesis, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh,” resonates deeply with every man, who reads Adam's words when he first met Eve. The man reading this in Genesis recognizes that woman was created to complement man in order to live in the image and likeness of God and to fulfill God’s command to be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over the earth. “Man can’t do that alone. He can’t do that with another man, ” Lawrence said.
Well, Lawrence, that is not how women view sex with their husbands at all! “Nope,” I said, “We just like the attention – passionate male attention in the context of a faithful marriage.” Our conversations are great too.
Not everyone is going to be married. But joyful chastity offers men and women the opportunity for a fulfilling life. So I thought, I wish I could interview a celibate priest living a life of joyful chastity. That is not going to happen in this life, so I remembered a retreat I had attended where the priest spoke about his suffering and loneliness. His solution: The Holy Spirit. He gestured and wrapped the Holy Spirit around him like a blanket. “He is my Comforter,” the priest said simply.
Remember to put that ingredient in your gravy.
Great video resource for All: