A song from the new Mumford & Sons album Wilder Mind got me thinking about chastity. The song Ditmas is about a relationship in crisis. The chorus goes like this:
This is all I ever was
This is all you came across those years ago
Now you go too far
Don’t tell me that I’ve changed because that’s not the truth
And now I’m losing you
After I got the lyrics down, I thought to myself «this could be an anthem for a lot of guys out there.» It happens so easily. Guy meets girl, they get along pretty well, they start having sex, everything is going fine, maybe they even get married. But, one day the girl realizes she’s unhappy because this guy she thought she knew really isn’t the person she thought he was.
I’m not trying to pick on the ladies (I’m sure it goes both ways), but it’s not uncommon for a woman to misjudge that her guy has the qualities she’s looking for. What many don’t recognize, however, is how often this happens because they’re having sex before marriage. Having sex releases oxytocin, the love hormone, which promotes bonding between two people. It’s hard to think objectively about the other person and the relationship once sex enters the picture.
So time wears on and the flame of new love begins to dim. A faculty that’s been asleep begins to awake. Reason returns. This isn’t the person I was looking for. Only now it’s too late. Months, maybe years have been invested. What now? Heartbreak? Divorce? What once seemed so beautiful now brings pain. Toward the end of the song Marcus Mumford sings:
Your words are empty as the bed we made
Is there another way?
Oh love, is there another way?
Absolutely. There is another way! There is hope for the wounded heart, and that hope is found in the last place many people would expect — the Catholic Church’s teachings on chastity.
Chastity, when properly understood, is something to get excited about because it is the means of attaining the kind of love we all long for: deep, meaningful, lifelong love. Chastity is not a rejection of our passion and zest for life. Chastity doesn’t merely say «no» to sex. It fuels us to love another person the right way. Yes, I said the right way. There is a right way to go about loving another person. Remember math class and the order of operations? PEMDAS — Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. Parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction. You can’t add before you multiply. You can’t subtract before you divide. You’ll get the wrong answer. In other words, to arrive at truth you must do things in a certain order. If not, all you get is confused.
Enter chastity, enter hope. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2347) says, «The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship[…] It leads to spiritual communion.» Spiritual communion! Yes, please! That’s the kind of love I want. That’s the kind of love everyone is looking for (whether they realize it or not). But, notice where one finds it — in friendship. It all goes back to the correct order of operations. Guy and girl meet, they take time to really get to know one another, they engage one another in the context of friendship, they discern what it would be like to spend the rest of their lives together, they ask for God’s help in making this decision, they get engaged, they get married, and then they consummate their wedding vows.
The Church gives us some great advice on how to avoid heartache. Spiritual communion ought to precede bodily communion. Friendship allows a man and woman to discover who the other truly is. It allows them to discover the other person’s dreams and goals for their life. It allows the man and woman to will the good of the other person, which is what true love is all about. Perhaps most importantly, friendship allows a couple to think clearly about whether or not they are suited for one another and a life together. If I may impart a relationship axiom: Romantic love does not trump friendship. Friendship is the foundation for romantic love. Lord, help us to not build our houses on sand.
— Sarah Drew