Oh, sorry…I guess I need to write more. Well, I guess I can explain it a little better.
Girls can usually see this issue for what it is. We guys, on the other hand, rationalize, make excuses, or are just simply too addicted to our lust to admit what is staring at us from the computer screen.
Pornography is cheating on your family, cheating on your spouse, and ultimately cheating on yourself.
I really believe that pornography is the “silent killer” of our generation, stripping men (and a growing population of women) of their vitality and potency to become the men they’re called to be. We are all the “walking wounded,” having been exposed to pornography in one way or another. Some men and women have been mildly rocked by their encounters to porn, while other marriages and faith communities have been completely torn apart by just one individual’s addiction.
Pornography is inherently shameful because we know—deep down—that something extremely personal has become entertainment. We men don’t hide or check our surroundings when we try to sneak a peak of Home & Garden in the magazine rack at the store, or clear our online browsing history because we spent too much time looking at websites of fishing equipment. We aren’t proud of viewing pornography for a reason. The computer screen becomes a mirror that reveals to us our failure to be faithful—faithful as husbands to our wives, faithful in preparing ourselves to be a gift to our future wives, faithful to our call to be men of sacrifice as Christ was in embracing the Cross.
And we’ve all heard the excuses:
“Nobody gets hurt.” Very few men truly believe in the “nobody gets hurt” excuse of pornography. Many men want to believe this, but deep down they know otherwise. Just ask any sister/girlfriend/spouse.
“It’s healthy for me!” Pornography re-wires the pleasure sensors of your brain and has been proven to be as addictive as heroin.
“She isn’t a real person.” Yes, she is.
It’s not that pornography shows too much of a person, but that it truly shows too little, and we men, who are called to be protectors of the dignity of the women in our lives, forego our mission for fleeting moments of pleasure. Shame and self-centeredness inevitably follows the repetition of viewing pornography, and—for a rapidly growing population of youth—addiction and acting out what has been viewed on screen.
We’re living in a warped time period where viewing pornography is aggressively marketed as something “healthy” and should even be viewed with your significant other to “spice” things up, as several mens’ magazines are continually promoting (and I’m getting tired of reading). Douglas Wilson said that authentic masculinity is about “sacrificial responsibility,” but pornography robs men of both sacrifice and responsibility. How truly backwards it is that “adult” stores cater to men who refuse to grow up. It took a generation of people understanding how secondhand smoke could be just as harmful as those smoking cigarettes—I wonder at times how many lives have to be wrecked by “secondhand” porn before we wake up as a nation.
I saw my first Playboy magazine when I was about ten, playing hide-and-seek in my uncle’s closet. Waiting for my brother and cousin to find me, the magazine caught my eye. I didn’t open it (somehow I knew this wasn’t a normal periodical), but the way this cover model looked both enticed and instilled a certain fear in me. She seemed angry, and yet alluring (I do remember thinking it was strange that her clothing was falling off). It wasn’t until college, though, and all the “freedoms” that college life offers, that the bell sounded and my personal boxing match with pornography really began. Thankfully, I met some good guys through the campus ministry and we began to hold each other accountable. Deeper purification happened during my time in seminary, and I’m graced to say that I haven’t looked at the stuff in a long time and was purified in many ways before pursuing Jackie.
But the battle isn’t over.
I have to recognize my humanness and be vigilant. There’s a spiritual battlefield happening around me (and a selfishness in my own heart still) with an enemy wanting to tear me down, especially in this time of engagement and preparation for marriage. I’m thankful that the Lord rooted this out of me; I would never want to bring this evil into my marriage. But I also understand the struggle and the humility I’ve learned in passing through what will likely be the major battle of our generation, and the battle our sons and daughters will all have to face. There’s a wealth of articles and information online regarding the evils of pornography and how to overcome its snares, but I want to offer three tips that have worked for me.
1). Get over yourself. The temptation to view pornography usually finds us in moments of inactivity, boredom, or indulgence, and it breeds a cycle of self-centeredness and self-pity that just leads to further porn viewing. Breaking the cycle usually means getting over yourself and going outside of yourself. Serve the poor. Be generous towards your family or your co-workers. It’s not enough to say “no” to pornography—we have to channel that energy towards something positive, and eventually, when moments of temptation stir up again, we can recognize the destructive force that pornography is and can make a more life-giving choice.
2). Accountability. “As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens his fellow man” (Proverbs 27:17) and we men cannot be lone rangers on this Christian journey and expect to rise to each challenge. We need community. We need brotherhood.
The seminary really hammered this point home to me, and to this day one of my seminarian brothers monitors my online activity through an accountability website (www.covenanteyes.com ). Basically, he gets a report every week of what I look at, and it’s enough to keep me on the straight and narrow (and he calls me out, even when I’ve happened upon belly-baring pictures of Shakira). Even just having a guy you trust to whom you can say, “Hey man, it’s been a rough week,” and knowing he won’t judge but will support you, makes all the difference. We guys know that looking at porn is shameful, but by bringing it into the light we cancel so much of its power over us. And if we need some stronger remedy, we have to be humble enough to seek professional help.
3). Prayer. St. John of the Cross asserted that the desires of our fallen nature are so strong that we need a love that’s stronger still to conquer them—the love of the Bridegroom, the love of Jesus Christ. We’re called to real love, not quick fixes or counterfeits. Satan delights when we turn our gaze from God and try to quench that “ache” or “longing” without Him. Asking God for help is step #1. We can’t “muscle” through temptation with our own strength—not for long, anyway.
Pray for the healing of those involved in the porn industry, especially all the women addicted to drugs, alcohol, and whatever else may be numbing their senses or imprisoning their hearts. Nothing sobers you up like realizing that the woman in front of you is someone else’s daughter.
Doing a daily rosary really turned my prayer life around as well. If any woman could lay the smack down and rightly order our desires, and teach us how channel them into the life-giving force that it was made to be, it’s Mary. Meditating on her tender femininity is a great antidote for the poison that pornography pushes into our veins. Mary will lead you in purity and lead you to her Son, and kick your butt in the process.
I’ll also go to confession as often as I need it (which is often; my spiritual director once slyly commented as I approached, “Back so soon?”). No matter how long or how deep the snares of lust have entrapped us, Christ can and does make all things new. We just need the humility to know that, despite the mistakes we’ve made, He is still calling us to redemption.
We have been created for real love and for real greatness. We have been made for both sacrifice and responsibility.
Let’s stop cheating ourselves.
I’m 29 and a virgin.
No, I don’t have some incurable alien disease that causes people to shutter at the sight of me. No, I don’t have the sex drive of a grandma (unless it’s my grandma who had 11 kids). And, no, I’m not Tim Tebow’s girlfriend.
In my past I was a former model, volleyball player, and valedictorian who wanted to be an actress. God had better plans, though, and now I am a full-time traveling worship leader and speaker who wants to spread the message of God’s love around the world like an STD on a college campus (which means 1 in every 4 will get it). Ironic, huh?
In 8th grade I made the decision to wait ‘til marriage to have sex. Back then it used to be about saying “no” to sex. Now that I’m older and wiser (hopefully), it’s less about saying “no” to the consequences of pre-marital sex and more about saying “yes” to Heaven, my future husband, my future children, and the welfare of my body and soul.
Here are 3 big reasons I’m waiting until marriage to have sex.
1. I want to get to Heaven
Anyone who says a life of chastity is easy is either lying or has the libido of a rock. Why is it so difficult? Because our sexual desires are powerful. Without them, you and I would not be here. Our sexual desires are also good because God created them. Like any of the passions, though, they can either be used for holiness or sin, good or evil, Heaven or Hell. We can either be a master over our passions or be dominated by them. The root word of the word “disciple” is “discipline.” Someone once said, “Discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want most.”
For me, Heaven is what I want most. I would give up anything to get to Heaven. I would give up having a husband, a family, my friends, my ministry, etc. Those are all good things! But as a disciple, while I may be called to sacrifice good things to get to Heaven, I am impelled to renounce a life of slavery to sin (“For freedom Christ set us free, so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” – Galatians 5:1). Does this mean if we sin we can’t get to Heaven? Nope! The Saints weren’t perfect, but they were persistent—every time they sinned, they got up and tried again, having the mercy and grace of the Sacraments as their strength. The Saints know that the everlasting joys of Heaven far outweigh the fleeting pleasures of this world. You can’t get to the ecstasy of Heaven without the agony of the cross. That’s why chastity is difficult. The desires in our body for sex, which are good, must be purified and disciplined. And most of us hate discipline (just look at all the people who want to lose weight and choose the quick-fix of surgery or popping pills rather than the time-consuming better option of eating healthy and exercising).
But if we want to get to Heaven, we must be pure and holy in our bodies. In fact, scripture tells us that those who are impure or immoral in their flesh will “not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21), but that “blessed are those who are pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). That doesn’t mean that we deny that we have sexual desires and repress them. Nor does it mean that we indulge in our sexual desires like animals. Rather, we must acknowledge that our sexual desires are good, they are for a purpose, and they need to be purified by God’s grace. We must frequent the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist to give us strength, and we must be firm in making a commitment to holiness out of love for God with our whole “heart, mind, soul, and strength.” St. Paul encourages us on in this kind of holiness when he says,
“I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).
2. My future spouse and I deserve the best
Stop for a moment and picture your future spouse. What do you want him or her doing with their boyfriend or girlfriend right now? You’re probably getting all the sass of Bon Qui Qui and yelling at the computer, “Breaking up! That’s what I want them to be doing!” Why do we get so annoyed at the thought of our future spouse having sex with someone other than us? Because built within our very being, we know that we deserve 100% of our spouse, not just 50%. We don’t want the “left-overs.” So my question is to you: if you don’t want your future spouse doing that with their boyfriend or girlfriend, why is it okay for you to do that with your boyfriend or girlfriend?
Every time we are sexually active with someone who is not our spouse, we give him/her a piece of our body, heart, and soul. What we do with our bodies, we do with our souls. We are not bodies without souls (animals) or souls without bodies (angels). On the contrary, we are human beings who have a body and a soul. Thus, St. Paul says to the Corinthians,
“Do you not know that anyone who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For ‘the two,’ it says, ‘will become one flesh… Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? … Therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:16-20).
It might be a shock to our culture, but God created us male and female to give ourselves in sexual union with one person freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully. In fact, these are the four vows we make when we get married. Inherently we know that we were made for a love that lasts forever, rather than a lust that lasts for a moment. That’s why it’s devastating when someone breaks up with us. And, to the extent that we gave that person our body, heart, or soul, the harder it is to get over the relationship or be healed from the wounds. Why do we feel so bonded to our ex? Because what we do with our body, we do with our soul. There is a chemical in our body called Oxytocin that is released during sexual activity. This chemical is like a glue that bonds two people for life. The more partners you have, the less “sticky” the glue. This is why the Catechism lists pornography, masturbation, adultery, and pre-marital sex as offenses against chastity (2331-2400). Pornography re-wires your brain to bond you to a computer screen, masturbation bonds you to a self-destructive behavior, and adultery and pre-marital sex bond you to someone who is not your spouse. I want to give my husband all of me. That means that I need to reclaim all the pieces of myself I have given away to others before my husband. Through frequent Confession and daily Mass, I have been allowing God to heal my body, heart, and soul so that on the day of my wedding I can say to my husband, “I give you all of me!”
3. It’s Logical
Even in 8th grade (when I heard my first chastity talk), it made perfect sense: if you’re not ready to have a baby, you’re not ready to have sex. It always boggles me when people get so mad that they’re pregnant, when they are participating in the ONE thing that makes babies. When someone gets pregnant, it’s not that something went wrong, but that something went right! God made sex for two purposes: for the procreation of children and for the bonding of spouses. If sex weren’t for procreation, then why would people use contraception? Just for funsies? Nope! In our selfishness, we want the pleasure of sex without the consequences. Besides the spiritual consequences of sex outside of marriage (it’s a grave sin) and the emotional consequences (it bonds us to someone), there are the physical consequences of a promiscuous lifestyle. Even when people promote “safe sex,” who is it safe for? Birth control pills don’t protect you from STDs. Condoms don’t fully protect you either. The fail rate for pregnancy is 12% for pills and 15% for condoms. The only “safe sex” is abstinence. People might say, “But if you don’t have sex, you’ll die!” Really? Well, I’m 29 and a virgin and I haven’t spontaneously combusted yet.
“So, that’s great Jackie that you are a virgin, but what about those of us who have already given ourselves away?” First, know that you are not “damaged goods” or “too far gone.” Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery and said, “Go and sin no more.” Thus, go to confession and be made new. We really believe as Catholic Christians that through God’s mercy and grace we are made “new creations.” Secondly, it is possible to reclaim your virginity and recommit yourself to a life of chastity. My fiancé’s life is a living testament to that. (Psssst: read his blog below).
I lost my virginity in college.
It’s not a part of my journey that I’m bragging about or proud of—far from it. In fact, for a long time I kept this in the dark and it was a major source of personal shame and embarrassment. But it’s an essential element of my story from which I’ve personally experienced the mercy that God offers to every person, even to the most stubborn of sinners (that’s me).
It wasn’t planned. I was never the “player” in school. I was the “nice guy,” I attended my high school youth group, and I always thought I would wait until marriage before “crossing that line.” But like a frog in a boiling pot that is oblivious to the heat being risen around it, sin got the best of me when I let down my guard (St. Paul warns us that “whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall,” or as the prophet Han Solo put it, “Don’t get cocky”). The “line” got pushed further, and further, until one night in college it went too far.
Sin, as philosopher Peter Kreeft says, “makes us phonies.” Sin steals our humanity, kills our joy, and leaves us as empty shells of true selves. The character Gollum from The Lord of the Rings embodies the deteriorating effect that sin has upon us. Gollum’s very body has become corrupted by his idolization of the Ring (his “precious”), an object that is the very impetus of his misery and despair. He is addicted. His senses are dulled and vision blackened. Sin does the same to us. Pre-marital sex, while idolized by the world and packaged as “real love,” is actually the opposite, as I found out first hand. Rather than being free to love, I became enslaved to lust. With darkened intellect and twisted desires, I rationalized. I made up excuses for my behavior. I never was further from “myself” and from God than in that period of my life. I feared bringing any details of the relationship to the light. So, like Gollum, I stayed in the darkness.
But darkness can never overcome the light.
“O happy fault!” The phrase felix culpa (Latin for “happy fall” or “blessed guilt”) that we proclaim at the Easter Vigil fleshes out this wonderful paradox—through some of the greatest evils, God can pour out a greater love and mercy upon mankind. St. Paul affirms this in his letter to the Romans: where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20). From Adam’s sin came the glory of Jesus Christ. From my own sin and selfishness, God mercifully cleansed and humbled me in the years of seminary formation to form me into the spouse I would one day become.
For a while, though, I lost hope in a happy ending to my story. I thought I was “tainted” or “damaged goods.” I didn’t know Jackie was coming (if I had, I would never have left my room!). She’s been saving herself for marriage, and I had to confess to her that I didn’t. I messed up. But the way that Jackie loves me—in such a pure, disinterested, and benevolent way—has brought so much healing. She told me one night that she doesn’t want the “Bobby of 2007” or the “Bobby of 2010;” she wants the “Bobby of now.” I’ve been to confession. I’ve been made a new creation. And it was time to start living like it.
The band Mumford & Sons has a song off their latest album called “Lover of the Light.” It illustrates well how goodness trumps selfishness and how beauty dispels the shadows that enslave our hearts (even the music video depicts a blind man who runs freely out of his darkness into the freedom of the light). No matter how long we’ve been living in the shadows, we are all called to be “lovers of the light.” A part of my story that I kept in the dark for many years has been transformed into a testimony that I’m now sharing (through Jackie’s support) with teens and young adults. One teen recently wrote us and said that our witness to her Confirmation group convicted her to keep her virginity even though her boyfriend was pressuring her to give it away to him. Praise God! Even if one young person turns back to God’s light because of our humble witnessing, this is all worth it.
I read recently that, “conversion involves the transformation of all our fragmented experiences, all our disjointed and painful memories, all our divisive and frustrating moments of unachieved hopes, yearning and dreams, failures and loss of self-esteem or sense of worth resulting from the destructive power of evil” (M. Gaudoin-Parker).
No one is ever “too far gone.” Some of the greatest sinners have become the greatest saints. God is calling all of us out of the darkness and into the light. He wants to use our faults and failings for His glory. Let’s give Him permission to do so.
“So brethren, let us long, because we are to be filled”—St. Augustine
Christopher West, renowned author and speaker of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, came and spoke to our seminary during my first year of study. He gave a several-hour presentation that renewed my interest in a teaching I had drifted out of since first being exposed to it in college. He also gave a pitch for the Theology of the Body Institute (http://www.tobinstitute.org/), which offered opportunities for greater study and immersion into John Paul II’s teaching. I had no idea that this was also setting into motion a chain of events that would lead me to meeting my future spouse.
I was 25 when I entered seminary. Several of my friends were entering into marriage at that time and a few more were getting pregnant with their first kids. For the first time in my life, I began to feel these strong “paternal” aches. I had always imagined being married and having my own kids; however, I understood the supernatural concept that in serving the Church as a priest I would still be a “father” and would be given more spiritual children than I could count.
But I still ached. It was like some kind of pit that seemed to be welling up from the depths of my being. There were times of loneliness as well, loneliness that we all experience whether we are in a relationship or not. Being formed in this time of priestly discernment—a unique time of singlehood, you could say—I was already longing to give myself to another, to get out into the world and start “doing” something, to be fruitful in some way. It was that same restless energy that I often identify with in the writings of St. Augustine. Perhaps this struggle was less about living a joyful priesthood and more because I had yet to settle in my right vocation—a square peg in a round hole, you could say.
During a question-and-answer session, I asked Christopher West how—as a seminarian—I could channel these longings for fatherhood and these desires to be fruitful. I’ll never forget his answer…mostly because I didn’t like it:
“You have to stay in that ache. You have to bring those desires to the Lord and rest in that longing.”
What the heck did that mean?
See, I love to fill up prayer with reading books, flying through a rosary, or daydreaming about Batman. The scariest prayer time is when I stop doing, when I simply sit in silence and enter into solitude before God, and allow Him to speak. If seminary taught me nothing else, I learned the profound practice of authentic prayer, prayer that simply sits before the Father and willingly opens up my fears and hurts, short-comings and imperfections, AND my deepest desires.
I longed to be a spouse and I longed to be a father. I had to enter into that “stretching” of the heart and give it to Christ, allowing Him to transform my life and trust that His plan (and His time table) would pan out for my greatest peace and joy. It was tough. It was definitely frustrating. But now, as I look forward to my wedding day, I can say with confidence that I would endure those years of purgation and trial all over again.
A dear seminarian friend told me that “loneliness is just God asking you to spend time with Him.” Pope Benedict (when he was Cardinal Ratzinger) wrote that, “The Fathers of the Church say that prayer, properly understood, is nothing other than becoming a longing for God.” St. Teresa of Avila also wrote that God hears us “not with the noise of words…but with longing.”
If you’re waiting on the Lord for your vocation to be unveiled, waiting for an answer, waiting for Godot, or waiting for your rocket to come, have patience. Enter into that solitude, that stillness, that stretch. Allow God to transform your ache. Don’t run from it—own it.
Become a longing.
Besides choosing to give Christ my entire heart and life at 18 (after falling in love with Him in the Eucharist), the best decision I ever made was to wait 28 years for the man of my dreams. There were so many times I could’ve settled for a nice Catholic guy who treated me well and bored me to tears. I knew I never wanted to tell my children, “Well, your dad loved me and seemed nice enough, so I married him.” Ugh. Gag me with a spork. Heck no. I knew I wanted to tell my children, “I waited patiently for a man I was passionately in love with, who led me to holiness, who was my best friend, and who I couldn’t wait to be married to!” Sure enough, when Bobby Angel came along, I knew I found that man.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of confused and conflicted young adults out there who seem tempted to settle for a spouse. There are a lot of people who date because it’s nice to have a warm body gazing back at you. Listen carefully to me: there are tons of holy, attractive, fun people out there. (I know, because I’m trying to play matchmaker and set them all up with each other). Seriously, though, you are only called to marry one of them. You are not called to be a polygamist (thank God!). Just because you date an attractive, holy Catholic doesn’t mean he/she is the “one.” In the past, every time I met a single Catholic guy, my head would always say, “Is this the one? Is this the one?” I was like a hamster on crack (like most single Catholic young adults who see every other single Catholic young adult as a target for romance). I kept rationalizing my good Catholic guy dates, saying, “Well, he doesn’t make me laugh, but I could deal with that,” or “I’m not really attracted to him, but I don’t want to be vain so I could deal with that” or “We really don’t have great conversations, but I could be a like a cloistered wife vowed to silence for the rest of my life, right?”
When I met Bobby, though, everything clicked. I didn’t have to rationalize anything. In fact, both of us are still in shock that two human beings could fit so perfectly (even in our faults) with each other. I’m sure God watches us stumble through relationships, laughing and thinking, “Oh you of little faith. Why do you not trust me?” Sure enough, when we settle, it’s because we don’t trust God enough. We don’t trust that God is a bigger romantic than we are, that God is the most passionate being there is (in fact, who endured the passion out of love for us), and who wants the absolute best for our lives. When we don’t trust God, we commit the original sin of Adam and Eve all over again: we grasp at the gift of “knowledge” rather than wait for God to give us the gift He’s had for us all along (see CCC 396-397). In Fill These Hearts, Christopher West writes, “That’s pride at its root: we don’t trust in God’s designs, so we choose to follow our own” (p. 112). Remember: God is the one who has amazing plans for us, “plans for our welfare not for woe, plans for a future full of hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). It’s the stupid devil who wants us to grasp at relationships and who tempts us to settle for what’s just “okay.”
To me, some of the most courageous men and women are those who break off their relationships out of love for the other. They realize that the other person deserves someone better than them, that they are wasting the other’s time from finding their true vocation (whether be it to another person in marriage or maybe even a vocation to celibacy as a priest, nun, sister, brother, consecrated, or single person), or that they would be settling for a life of eye-rolling and frustration. This is extremely difficult. Bobby and I can speak from experience—he broke off an engagement and I broke up with a man who was a month from proposing. In the end, we were both extremely glad that the Holy Spirit convicted us and helped us have courage (a word that literally means, “to act from the heart”) to do what was best for all.
When I was single, I told myself, “I would rather be joyful and single than miserable with someone.” Why? Because I know that God wants us to be radiant witnesses of his love to the world. When I was single, I was totally free to do this because I had peace and joy founded in Christ who completely satisfied me. When I was in previous relationships, however, I was filled with anxiety, wondering if the guy didn’t get my sense of humor, didn’t like my craziness, didn’t like my love for Daily Mass, the Rosary or Adoration. I changed myself for the guys and didn’t like who I was with them. I knew that the man I was called to marry would not make me feel imprisoned or trapped, but would give me freedom to be my authentic self, freedom to be a radiant witness for the Lord together, and freedom to love God, my neighbor, and myself more authentically.
Freedom is huge in a relationship. No, not the philosophy of freedom given by Wiz Kalifa and Snoop Dogg; their “freedom” allows them to get drunk, smoke weed, and be a player for them hoes. No. Authentic freedom enables us to do what is right. Freedom in a relationship has the signs of peace and joy. A lack of freedom in a relationship gives you that anxiety in your belly, that “icky” feeling, that unrest.
So, my question to you (if you are in a relationship with someone to whom you are not married) is this: Does your relationship help you to be freer or less free? Is your relationship life-giving or life-sucking?
Here are some questions that you should ask yourself.
Some questions are bigger “no-brainers” than others. We’ll start with the “no-brainer” red flags at the top and go to more subtle signs you aren’t free in a relationship to be the man or woman of God you were created to be.
If you say “yes” to any of these questions, you should get out of that relationship:
Does your significant other abuse you physically, emotionally, verbally, or sexually?
Do they pressure you to sin or make fun of you for not sinning? (Calling you a “prude” because you won’t do sexual things with them, making you feel guilty for not getting drinking/getting drunk, pressuring you to see a smutty movie or watch pornography, or pressuring you to live with them, etc.)
Do you feel like you are being used as an object for their pleasure?
Are you afraid of bringing up tough issues, annoyances, or frustrations, for fear they might get defensive, lash out at you, or shut down?
Do you feel like you’re walking on eggshells with what you say or do for fear they might break up with you (again)?
Are you afraid to show your weaknesses, because they expect you to be perfect?
Do you have that constant pit of anxiety in your belly either when you are with them or apart from them? Do you feel that anxiety when you think of marrying them?
Are you staying with them out of lust, out of fear of being alone, out of security, or out of fear of never finding anyone else who will be with you?
Are you confused about the relationship constantly? Do you go back and forth about whether or not this is “the one?”
Do you feel relieved when they are gone?
If you say “no” to any of these questions, you should re-think your relationship:
Are you free to be your true self (who you are with your best girl friends or guy friends)?
Do you feel loved in who you are, even in your weaknesses?
Do you feel challenged to be a better, holier person?
Are you free to be child-like, to laugh, to have joy with your significant other?
Do you feel challenged spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically?
Is your relationship healing? Is their love helping you to deal with issues of the past without them being a “savior” to you (rather, they point you to “the Savior” for healing)?
Would you want to spend 24 hours 7 days a week with them for the rest of your life?
Are they your best friend with whom you have romance?
Bobby and I will be praying for all those who read this blog, that you may truly do God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2)
I have several friends who are cohabitating with their significant others. I’m reading article after article lately about how “courtship is dead,” commitments are obsolete, and young people are simply not getting married anymore. In reflecting on all this, I asked myself the question, “Why am I saying ‘yes’ to marriage? Am I missing something?”
Because it’s what we’re made for.
Now I know that the above sentence wasn’t even a sentence, but a fragment (and one that ends with a preposition), but bear with me.
We weren’t meant for heartache or half-hearted commitments; we’ve been made to go “all in.” But many of us grew up dating as if we were training for divorce—dating serially just to have something to do, someone to keep us company for a limited time. This is essentially the “language” contraception speaks: “you can only have 90% of my being. I’m going to be holding something back. You can have my body for now, but not all my heart.”
But that’s not love. And we know it.
Love doesn’t say, “I’ll love you for two years,” or “I’ll love you until we disagree to the point where one of us has to move out.” There is a dimension of true, authentic love that demands we commit to “forever” (thank you, Chris Brown); anything else is a counterfeit love, perhaps even a lust that has been revealed to be the self-seeking force that it is. We are all fickle men and women, and the Lord knows that I’ve fallen short of the ideal of disinterested love many times. But that doesn’t mean that the ideal doesn’t exist.
Economics, lack of formation, the loss of a sense of virtue and vice, human sin, and the culture itself are all playing a role in this generation’s explosion of cohabitation rates, fear of commitment, and the decline of marriage. Yes, it’s safer to never commit and to always keep your options open. But cohabitating, as attractive and ’rational’ as it may be to “try out” living with a partner, is a great way to train your heart for divorce. There’s no sacrifice. You can always have one foot out the door, ready to go if “things don’t work out” or someone else comes along. Our bodies “speak” a language. In authentic love, our whole body, mind, heart, and soul speaks a love that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful. Cohabitating, on the other hand, is our body speaking the language of “forever” while our hearts are saying, “just for now…something may change.”
We’re fascinated by weddings for a reason. There is something embedded within the fabric of our being that longs to give ourselves away totally and without reservation (either within a commitment to another in marriage or a total self-emptying through celibacy). There is a sacramental grace when our love is free, total, faithful, and fruitful because we love as we were fully designed to love. Countless songs and musical artists (I’m looking at you, U2) reflect upon how giving yourself away is both life-sacrificing and life-giving. It’s the paradox of human love: we have to lose ourselves to find ourselves. It is the love that Jesus Christ “spoke” through His body on the cross; His arms were wide open, holding nothing back. His love—the model for our love—was free, total, faithful, and fruitful. We ache for that kind of love.
I’ve experienced life without my fiancée Jackie and I want no more of it. After years of discernment and three years in seminary formation, I’ve been graced with clarity and peace over this decision. I want to soak up as much Jackie Francois as I can in the time I have been given in this life. Her love has already broken me free of so many stubborn memories and unnecessary fear, giving me courage to become the man God needs me to be, a man that will do his best to lead her to Heaven.
I want to give Jackie all of me, not 80, or 90, or even 99% of me. We’re made as men and women to go all in.
That’s why I’m getting married.
A few months ago, a lady came up to me after I sang at Mass and said to me, “You sing like an angel!” It then dawned on me: my last name is going to be “Angel.” “This is going to be ridiculous,” I thought. Not only does “Jackie Angel” sound like a made-up stage name, but for the rest of my life people are going say, “Now we have our chastity speakers, Mr. And Mrs. Angel,” and “Jackie prayed for her future husband and got an Angel.” My mom even said to me, “I always knew you were going to be a saint, but I never imagined you would be an angel!” Commence eye rolling now.
But you know what? I am so excited to be an “Angel.” Not because of the cool, fake-rock-star name appeal, but because my future husband, Bobby Angel, is a freaking rockstar himself. No, not because he’s the bass player for U2 (that’s not true; although he does play bass and wishes he was in U2), but because with him I am the woman I’ve always wanted to be.
In fact, EVERY girl deserves a Bobby Angel. Although you may not have the cool last name (it might be “Floofenhafen”), you deserve a guy who helps you become the woman of God YOU were meant to be.
When I was 18, I fell in love with THE Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Jesus became the one who satisfied every longing of my heart. I always knew for my vocation, I was looking not for the perfect man—that’s Jesus alone—but the “Best Man,” the second to Jesus, and the one who would help me run the race towards the goal of Heaven. This “Best Man” would be the best man for me, the man with whom I could be my goofy, crazy, intellectual, sometimes loud, sometimes contemplative, adventurous, Catholic self. As Mark Hart once said about my future husband, “He’s going to be a man to be reckoned with.”
Mark sure was right. I found that man in Bobby Angel. It took 28 years of a lot of heartbreak, a lot of purification of my heart, and a TON of prayer for God to finally bring him in my life. But Bobby Angel IS a man to be reckoned with. Why? Because He’s passionately in love with Christ, the Church, and the Eucharist. He is consecrated to Our Lady and is a man who prays the Rosary and attends daily Mass. Not only is he humble and pure of heart and body, but he is real man—a man who defends the dignity of women, life, and marriage. He is no wimp or “nice” church guy. He is a stinking warrior and will wrestle any bear or heretic to defend his faith, his woman, or his family.
This is not just my story, though. Every Catholic married woman I admire has a “Bobby Angel”-like guy for a husband: a man who loves her in her faults and craziness, a man who respects her body, mind and soul, a man who is on the same page with her spiritually/intellectually/emotionally/physically, a man who she can laugh with and be child-like with, a man cares deeply about her well-being and holiness, and a man who loves with God’s love.
I know tons of amazing men of God. Clearly I’m only called to marry one of them. You, ladies, are called to marry one of them, too (if you’re called to marriage, that is). Don’t settle because you are afraid of being alone, or because you don’t believe you’re worth being loved like this. EVERY girl deserves a “Bobby Angel.” Start praying for him now. Start falling in love with the True Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, and someday Jesus will give you His best man—the best man for you.
I will pray for you, my sisters, to know how good and beautiful you are, and to know that God has an amazing plan for you. You are not forgotten or alone. You deserve the best. With the help of the lady saints (who knew well God’s love for them), let us pray to know this.
Mother Mary, St. Philomena, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Maria Goretti, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Agatha, St. Cecilia, St. Lucy, St. Clare of Assisi, St. Gianna Boretta Molla, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, And all holy men and women, pray for us.
I remember reading a book by Jason Evert while I was in seminary. I think it was If You Really Loved Me. One sentence in particular struck me and really changed my outlook concerning my vocation: The best thing you can do for your future spouse is to become a saint.
We believe that all men and women are called to a spousal relationship via their vocation—to become either biological or spiritual mothers and fathers, to espouse either one person in chaste marriage or the entirety of the Church through a vow of chaste celibacy for the Kingdom. But, like many young people of our generation, it took me awhile to figure out to whom I would be espoused.
It’s hard to wait on the will of God. It’s easy to manipulate the details of an attraction or encounter to see what we want to see: “He paid for my coffee…I think he may be the one;” “I know I love her. I got goosebumps when she looked at me, plus she liked my picture on Facebook.” (By the way, I’ve heard both of these. I work in a high school). It’s easy to rationalize our deep feelings for a person and allow our bodies to react to every emotion that stirs within. Even when you find an amazing man or woman who shares the faith, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are your future spouse. I’ve certainly struggled through that temptation when I’ve met holy, awesome, beautiful women (heads up, guys: the holiest women are the most beautiful women).
Thankfully, I realized early in seminary that whoever my future spouse was—either a tangible woman who I would commit to in the role of a loyal husband, or the entire Church through the priesthood—I would only be ready for the task if I began training for sainthood now. You can’t start training for a marathon the week before the race, nor can you assume you’ll be holy and chaste with your future spouse if you’re not training for holiness now. This paradigm shift turned my prayer life around. I really committed myself to a daily rosary and confession at least once a month (it was usually more; one time my spiritual director smiled as he saw me approach and said humorously, “Back so soon?”).
Whoever my future spouse would be, I committed myself to being ready for her and would wait on God’s time, not my own. I could probably write a whole blog series on Batman and theological references, but I’ll end here with one of my favorite lines from The Dark Knight trilogy:
Alfred: “Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
Holiness is not an option. Don’t settle. Be a saint.
Welcome to our website!
Jackie and I are excited to share this journey of Christian engagement with you. Like any relationship, this site will be a work in progress. We’ll be updating the different sections as we advance closer to our wedding date. We’ll write some blog posts, share more of “our story,” quote Dwight Schrute, and hopefully get holier in the process.
In the meantime, please pray for our engagement and our respective ministries. God has already done great things with we unworthy servants in a very short time, and we’re praying for a lifetime of love and service with the time we’ve been given together.