Recently, I’ve found myself discouraged over the realization that many young Catholics view sex as something shameful. In fact, I have struggled with personal feelings of guilt over my longing for physical intimacy, attempting to stifle these desires despite the fact that they are natural. Of course, it is necessary to understand that pre-marital sex is always wrong, even if the consequences aren’t immediate. However, it is equally important to understand that this ache for communion is actually holy, and it wasn’t until meditating on the final Luminous Mystery of the Rosary recently—The Institution of the Eucharist—that this occurred to me.
Before Jesus entered into His Passion, He left behind a great gift: the Eucharist. While He did this to leave us with a means of remembering Him, He more importantly craved physical unity with us. In fact, He wanted our union with Him to be so perfect—so complete—that He not only gave us His body on the cross, but gives us His Body each time we receive Him in the Eucharist.
Many of us have been born and raised in our faith, and may not think twice about receiving the Eucharist. It may be something we simply do out of habit. What we’re failing to realize in this type of lifeless resignation, however, is that this attitude is comparable to receiving a lover with no passion or fervor, because the Eucharist is an expression of physical love—as is the one-flesh union of a husband and wife. Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist is the closest we can be to Him on this Earth, and it is through intimacy that we become the closest we can be to another person.
God so craved this perfect communion for us that He designed us to fit together like puzzle pieces—sex is that important, that good, and that necessary, not only for our hearts and souls but for the good of creation. There is a reason why people associate sex with love, even in disordered situations, and a reason why sex can be addictive and all-consuming: because God designed us to crave intimacy.
Because intimacy is holy, neither receiving the Eucharist, nor entering into intimacy with another person, come without conditions, as they require formal sacraments to be deemed good and appropriate. A non-Catholic cannot receive the Eucharist without being baptized, and then going on to prepare for their First Communion. He or she needs to enter into this communion with God with their whole heart, and to educate and prepare themselves properly in advance.
Likewise, we cannot enter into half-hearted unions with each other. We must give all of ourselves to another person before engaging in intimacy, and this total self-giving can only be achieved through the sacrament of marriage. Chastity does not exist to stifle love; rather, it encourages authentic love by insisting upon the correct conditions for intimacy.
Before we receive the Eucharist, it is necessary to examine our consciences and confess any mortal sins, which are detrimental to our relationship with God and inhibit us from entering into perfect communion with Him. This is why it is a sacrilege to receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin: we are attempting intimacy with God after we have mortally hurt Him, and before we have sought forgiveness.
Similarly, if we truly love someone, intimacy not only comes after marriage, but also under the appropriate circumstances within the sacrament. Sex is an expression of feelings of tenderness and romance, along with the desire or willingness to procreate. It wouldn’t make sense from the perspective of authentic love to enter into intimacy with selfish intent. Any negative feelings between spouses should be resolved beforehand, and both parties must be open to the prospect of life. If not, intimacy becomes about selfish pleasure rather than love.
Ultimately, intimacy in and of itself is always good, but as imperfect human beings, we sometimes use it in a way that is sinful and immoral. However, if we fully understand how wonderful and holy sex is, the same way we acknowledge the sacredness of the Eucharist, we are more likely to treat it as the great gift that it is: the perfect expression of our love for another person, and always worth the wait.
Lindsey Todd graduated from West Chester University in 2016 with a B.A. in English, and currently works as a technical writer for a Fortune 500 company. In her free time, she enjoys creative writing, singing, playing with her dog, reading, and exercising. She also loves art, fashion, and deep political and theological discussion. She has a special devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and a special love for St. Pope John Paul II. Lindsey is passionate about sharing the beauty of pure love with others, particularly as a Catholic writer and as a retreat leader for young women. She currently resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with her family.