By George Velez
In the proper order of things, dating precedes marriage and marriage precedes sex. In addressing these, I would like to briefly start with marriage, and then quickly, touch on the topic of sex. I hope that in showing the importance of both marriage and sex, as belonging to and in marriage, a true awareness of their sacredness would lead to a true understanding of the sacredness to be found in dating. So, let me start by mentioning a few things about marriage that are, and should be, known.
First, marriage is a serious and life-long commitment, ordained by God, between a man and a woman. Second, marriage was raised by Jesus to be a Sacrament in which God gives graces to the husband and wife, helping them exercise their duties towards each other, and towards their children. Third, marriage makes it possible for one to co-operate with God in creating life.
Now, the primary purpose of marriage is the mutual help of husband and wife to each other. Its secondary purpose (though not separated from the first) is the bringing of children into the world, by way of the union made by both the husband and the wife, and God, and for the care and education of that family.
With this in mind, it is privilege for a father and mother to be instruments, used by God, to bring into the world children. Children made in His (God's) image and likeness. Children made with immortal souls. Children whose destiny (like yours and mine) it is to be God's children in both this world and in the next. And though marriage has both difficulties and responsibilities, it also has tremendous God-given rewards: love for, and all that love would mean to, human life; children, who bless and cement the union of the spouses’ hearts.
My questions to you, then, are: 1) If a primary purpose of marriage is to bring children into the world, how is this done? 2) If a primary purpose of marriage is to bring children into the world, and it is only by way of sex, what is the purpose and place of sex?
To answer the first questions: the marital act of sex.
To answer the second question: its place is only within marriage, because of its purpose.
In the marital act (sex) two things must be present:
(1) And the full giving-of-self to the other, which is FIRST done, and seen, in the exchanging of vows. (eg. "..take you to be my ..husband/wife….) [Unitative].
(2) Openness to life. [Procreative].
If just one, or both, of these two is not present, sex has become desecrated (unholy), and defiled (dirty). It has become not an expression of love, but has become an expression of something else that is NOT love (perhaps lust).
Dr. Scott Hahn puts it this way, by asking these questions.
First, he asks, "Is sex good?"
To which many answer, 'Yes, sex is good.'
He then responds, "NO! Sex is not good! Campbell’s Soup is mmm... good!”
Then he asks, "is sex great?,"
To which many answer, 'Yes, sex is great.'
He then responds, "NO! Sex is not great! Frosted Flakes, they're GGGGREAT!!!"
He concludes by saying that, "Sex is Holy. And to treat as though it was something that was just ‘good,’ or just ‘great,’ would be to desecrate it, to defile it, and thus make it unholy." This is a great evil.
So, sex is holy and is only to be found within marriage, which is also holy. And since marriage and every thing that belongs to and in marriage, is holy (sacred), so should everything that precedes it!
Dating, by its very nature, presupposes marriage. People date, or should date, to see if they "match", or are "compatible", so as to form a life-long relationship (commitment) with each other through marriage. So, dating, too, must be holy. And for it to be holy, both the man and woman have to exercise, and maintain, the virtues of chastity and purity.
Chastity refers to the self-control over your passions and sexual desires, and purity refers to cleanliness and goodness in your thoughts, words, and actions, which come from your heart. Jesus says that, "out of the heart come every evil thought, murder, adultery, fornication,.." But, he also says, during his Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
So, I say to you, if both these virtues are not constantly exercised, maintained, and respected, happiness is far off, joy will not be present, and pain is inevitable. Please do not equate pleasure (which if found in the senses of man) with happiness (which is only to be found in God.) We ask God, when making a good Act of Contrition, to help us not to sin again, and to help us avoid the near occasions of sin. Brothers and sisters, be careful in your relationships. Remember always that you and every other human being, is created in the image and likeness of God. Remember that in treating yourself, and others, in an inappropriate manner, is to neglect the holiness conferred upon you when you were baptized, becoming a child of God. Love between a man and woman should only be expressed, in all physical forms of course, after a public commitment (marriage) is made by both, to be forever-given to the other fully.
In closing, only when sexual passion is under control is one fit to make a mature decision about either marriage or celibacy. Listen to the words of the late John Paul II, 'First comes self-control. Then, self-mastering and finally, self-donation.” With this attitude, there will be many more vocations to the priesthood and religious life, many more marriages with more stability and happiness, and many more pre-married couples with much happier courtships.