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Saving An Endangered Species

November 2nd, 2012by Emily Macke

In today’s world, I am nearly a statistical non-entity. 

It’s not that I’ve done anything all that extraordinary or impossible.  I haven’t set a world record, achieved the highest SAT score, or discovered a life-changing cure.

Rather, when I married this summer, I had not cohabited with my fiancé, had enjoyed a chaste dating and engagement time, and now, in marriage, am not using contraception.

The three C’s – chastity, cohabitation, contraception.  The first we assume is a dinosaur of age’s past, and the second two we assume are the proud actions of everyone. 

I know that I’m not the only woman in the world – or even in the United States, Ohio, or Cincinnati – who has evaded the statistics of living with a boyfriend, popping the Pill, or jumpstarting a sexual relationship before vows are said.  But to hear the world tell it, we’re an extinct breed.  And to hear the political landscape today, these are the only things women want. 

Perhaps it’s true that many young people today rarely – if ever – meet a couple who isn’t “trying things out” before marriage, or engaging in the other practices I mentioned.  When we were engaged, my fiancé and I were confronted consistently with the assumption that we shared the same address.  Instead of blinking an eye at supposed cohabitation, people were taken aback when we said we had two different addresses.

Today there has been a lot of talk of contraception as what frees women to be themselves.  It makes me cringe every time – not just because it’s morally wrong – but because it squelches the gifts of women.  It reduces them and devalues the fullness of who they are.  It tells women that there is something wrong with them – their fertility; that they should be the same as men – unable to become pregnant; that physical pleasure is far more important than loving sacrifice or generously welcoming children into the world. 

And the saddest part is that women accept these lifestyle choices – pre-marital sex, cohabitation and contraception – as fulfilling and freeing and necessary.  They don’t easily second guess these practices as happiness-generators.  But, do they even know that something more exists?

Bl. John Paul II has some beautiful words in his Theology of the Body for couples who have decided that the culture is misguiding us on our quest for happiness: “If conjugal chastity (and chastity in general) manifests itself at first as an ability to resist the concupiscence of the flesh, it subsequently reveals itself as a singular ability to perceive, love, and realize those meanings of the ‘language of the body’ that remain completely unknown to concupiscence itself and progressively enrich the spousal dialogue of the couple by purifying, deepening, and at the same time simplifying it” (TOB 128:3).

The late Holy Father had such an insight into the gift of chastity – both pre-marital and marital – that after learning to resist the tendency to sin (which is a life-long battle), the chaste couple enjoy “a singular ability to perceive, love and realize” a depth of love and affection that all of the sacrifice-less sex in the world can never dream of. 

My hope for the women of the world (and the men too) is to come to enjoy the simplicity and joy of daily breakfasts together after marriage for the first time.  I hope women and men can spend their lives with someone who sees sacrifice before marriage as a training in love for a lifetime of selflessness and generosity. 

I hope women can be treasured by men who don’t think their fertility is a problem, but a beautiful gift of their femininity.  I think it would be wonderful for other couples to experience the security of knowing that one’s spouse didn’t feel it necessary to test their marriage like one tests a car.  How beautiful would it be to know the affection and tenderness of a held hand, assistance with a chore, or a surprise rose on the kitchen table?

If respect, sacrifice and generosity were at the foundation of the relationships between men and women, I cannot imagine how incredible would be the unleashing of their authentic femininity and masculinity on the world.  It’s a gift offered to each of us – through prayer, grace, and an embracing of the Church’s view of these matters as freeing and fulfilling.  It’s a gift that, through living it ourselves, we invite others to experience.    

It’s a life that may not be reflected in statistics, but it doesn’t have to be rare.

Emily Macke

Emily Macke serves as Theology of the Body Education Coordinator at Ruah Woods (www.RuahWoods.org). She received her Master's in Theology from the John Paul II Institute and enjoys speaking and writing about the gift of the faith. She blogs at Unshakeable Hope www.UnshakeableHope.blogspot.com