Chapter Three: The Meaning of Human Sexuality
by Sara Perla
As we continue to prepare for the World Meeting of Families, this month we reflect on the meaning of human sexuality, covered in chapter three of the catechesis. This chapter focuses on the meaning of the physical world for spiritual persons. Our bodies, in particular, speak of the human being’s call to love. As noted in paragraph 43, referencing the Letter on the Collaboration of Men and Woman, sexual difference reveals the spousal call of the human person and is not merely functional for the continuation the species. The catechesis goes on to remind us that “man and woman are willed for each other” (no. 44) and that “we are never self-sufficient” (no. 45). There are two concrete ways of living out the call to love as a vocation: marriage and celibacy for the Kingdom of God.
At the end of college, I was privileged to see the complementarity of these two states in a visible way. My friend Erika got engaged her junior year. For most of us, it was the first engagement of a friend, and at the bridal shower we giggled as we played shower games for the first time and ate finger food. A few of the women at the shower were among a (strikingly high) number from that graduating class who entered religious life. Natalie and Terri, two of that number, told us about the different parts of religious habits that they would embrace while we were discussing Erika’s wedding dress and their hopes for children.
I wondered if the wedding would make Natalie or Terri sad, since they would never have one, and all little girls dream about their weddings. While there may have been pangs that were hidden from view, they both seemed to enjoy every minute of the wedding weekend. They sang and danced, gathered flowers, prayed with Erika, and were generally just “normal” bridesmaids. After celebrating Erika and Todd and watching the happy couple drive away, the rest of the crowd gathered for a final party.
When I look around at that scene in my memory, I am overwhelmed by God’s goodness. Natalie and Terri have become vowed religious in two different communities, and two of the young men became priests. Three other women at that party entered religious life, but discerned they were not called to it after a few years. Many of the group married and have children. It has been over ten years now since that party, and there are no divorces, no broken vows. In an unusual way, my friends that summer gave me concrete examples of being willing to give your life completely back to Christ in marriage or in celibacy for the Kingdom, for life.
About the author
Sara Perla is the Program Specialist for the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. She attended the Catholic University of America and received her Master’s degree in Theological Studies at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Washington, D.C. She is also a baker, a ballet dancer, and an avid listener of NPR podcasts.
To see the rest of the monthly articles click here.