Betty Duffy

(Amateur)

Monday, March 21, 2011

"I have set before you, the blessing and the curse"

(Deuteronomy 30)

This post is rated M for mucous, among other things. I hope you're not letting your kids read it.




A friend of mine has a bunch of kids. She's pregnant with another, and she's worn out. Each year we're a little older, and she gets nervous thinking about the possibility of continuing to have more kids. "I'm at the point where I would travel all over the city," she said, "and talk to different priests until I could find one who said, 'You've done your part. Go ahead and have your tubes tied. I'll absolve you.'"

I can follow the line of thinking.

Still, neither one of us takes our Church's teachings lightly, so I asked her, "Would you ever consider just not having sex for the remainder of your fertile years?"

She looked me square in the eye and said, "I would rather live the rest of my life without the Eucharist than without sex."

It was a bold statement, an exaggeration even, still, she caught me off guard. Not because of what she would choose (though I was impressed that sex was more than an afterthought), but because she recognized with such clarity that there was a choice to be made between contraceptive sex and Eucharist. She didn't want to remain open to life, but she would not receive the Eucharist unworthily.

If I had to wager a guess, though, sexual issues would be the most likely stumbling block between a Catholic and the Eucharist, especially when you consider that unmarried sex, gay sex, masturbatory sex, adulterous sex, and contraceptive sex--roughly 90 percent of the sex that takes place in the world, and possibly even the Church--is incompatible with receiving the Eucharist. Really, the "kinds" of sex that are compatible with Eucharist are pretty slim: You're married, procreative and unitive or you're abstinent. There can be no groovy fertile (M) sex without openness to life.

I asked my husband what he would choose if he had to make a choice between sex and the Eucharist. "Both," he said, which was exactly the kind of hypothetical compromise I was trying to work out was well. And fine, we stay open to life, we can have our cake and eat it too. But if we're not open to life, God is merciful, right? God understands how difficult abstinence is. Maybe I could wriggle into some mode of feeling peaceful with a contradiction, or at least moderately at ease with it, and keep taking the Eucharist with everyone else in the line on Sunday mornings. There is no one to stop me. And after all, it's highly unlikely that everyone else has such a hunky-dory Catholic sex life.

But if we refuse to make a choice between sin and receiving the Eucharist, it can only mean that we drastically underestimate what we expect to receive from the Eucharist. Receiving the Eucharist worthily means eternal life, fellowship with Christ, grace in hardship. Receiving it unworthily means a curse. Nobody likes to think about that.

In order to favor Eucharist over sin, one has to succumb to a seduction by Christ that is far more powerful than any earthly seductions. To be won and conquered by Christ, wed to him in the Church, receive his body in the Eucharist, would be pleasant satisfaction over the fallen human dealings most of us prefer. But relationship with Christ comes with risk, a Cross, surrender of body and soul--just as married, procreative sex comes with risk and surrender.

We tend to be adept at anticipating impending crosses. It's the resurrection that we're so bad at predicting--the blessing of relationships--with Christ, with our spouse, with a yet unknown child, the blessing of a peaceful interior relationship with ourselves--the gifts of doing God's will.

My friend continues to work out this issue in prayer, and Christ continues to reveal himself to her. "I had this image in my mind while I was praying recently," she said, "that I could see a little white cross way off in the distance, and I knew it was in the future, but I couldn't take my eyes off of it, and Jesus was standing in front of it walking towards me, but I didn't realize it was him. I could only see the cross, and I missed out on Jesus."

15 comments:

Misha Leigh. said...

First of all that last line will haunt me until I can work it through - but mostly this paragraph. Really, lady, this paragraph is profound.

"In order to favor Eucharist over sin, one has to succumb to a seduction by Christ that is far more powerful than any earthly seductions. To be won and conquered by Christ, wed to him in the Church, receive his body in the Eucharist, would be pleasant satisfaction over the fallen human dealings most of us prefer. But relationship with Christ comes with risk, a Cross, surrender of body and soul--just as married, procreative sex comes with risk and surrender."

I am always grateful for your writing, but then sometimes left aching, too.

This is one time I wish I knew you in person and could follow up with a lot of questions and discussion over tea...

The Cottage Child said...

"It's the resurrection that we're so bad at predicting--the blessing of relationships--with Christ, with our spouse, with a yet unknown child"

The forfeiture of relationship is a compound injury. You explain it so beautifully.

Lynn said...

"But if we refuse to make a choice between sin and receiving the Eucharist, it can only mean that we drastically underestimate what we expect to receive from the Eucharist"

I think I'm going to write this line on my wall somewhere. This is amazing and such a good reminder in times of temptation.

mrsdarwin said...

Love this, Betty. I've been trying to formulate a comment that toes that nice line between insightful and TMI, and just not coming down on the right side.

Talk about dumb fears -- every month I worry that I'll be off on my calculations and get pregnant, and that I will have missed all the fun of the fertile period FOR NOTHING.

BettyDuffy said...

"I will have missed all the fun of the fertile period FOR NOTHING."--he he--I can relate.

entropy said...

Your friend you were talking to could've been me because I'm in her same position and have exactly the same inclinations.

I haven't received the Eucharist in months. The longer I go without it the harder it is remember I'm welcome back in the fold and the easier it is to get comfortable in my position as an outsider. It also makes me more judgmental--watching others receive and wondering about their worthiness. I'm horrible.

Beautiful post.

Erin said...

Ohh, I struggle with this issue so much, especially being married to a non-catholic. But then I think God must be trying to teach me something -- and maybe my husband too?? I'm sure he has a much greater plan than I can even imagine, but the frustrations of human life seems sometimes even bigger than the "big picture."

Dobrovits Family said...

Wow!

I will ponder this one at Adoration today!

Maria said...

"It's the resurrection that we're so bad at predicting--the blessing of relationships--with Christ, with our spouse, with a yet unknown child."

What a good meditation for Lent. It's true for so many ways in which we're called to die to ourselves for something greater. I always forget how much greater the great is.

Sarah said...

"It's the resurrection that we're so bad at predicting--the blessing of relationships--with Christ, with our spouse, with a yet unknown child."

As a 6 week pregnant lady working full time and extra time right now (and an unemployed husband) I TOTALLY needed that today. Thank you.

Will focus on the Ressurection.

catholicofthule said...

Excellent post!

Leila @ Little Catholic Bubble said...

Excellent post!

I admit that this line stopped me in my tracks and I had to read it a few times to make sure I understood it correctly:

She looked me square in the eye and said, "I would rather live the rest of my life without the Eucharist than without sex."

Sex is great, but greater than Jesus? I pray that she (and all of us) see Jesus and not just the cross.

Anonymous said...

As the mother of nine children, I know exactly what you're talking about. Yes, I adore all of my children, but it's tough, isn't it? When I miscarried my tenth, and then my eleventh, and twelfth... Well, then I realized how truly blessed I've been, and AM. I can't tell you that I don't wonder if I cussed myself with all of my whining about my fertility, but I know that God is good, and His will be done. How I still grieve and ache for those babies! Ladies, this time is short, and the blessings, those we see and cannot see, are miraculously abundant! One cross will be replaced by another. The cross of fertility is sweet and short-lived. I pray for all mothers, because those children, they help us get to heaven! God bless you all!

My Feminine Mind said...

Okay, I can't help it. I HAVE to ask. Does your friend know NFP, that is does she know she can plan her family size? Hope that doesn't sound snarky. It really is an honest question.

BettyDuffy said...

MFM, Yes, she does. It is an honest question. She does not have faith in it's effectiveness however. There are so many opportunities for user error--maybe it would be better to say that she doesn't have faith in herself.