There’s this older couple I often see at Mass. They have two young boys with down syndrome that I’m pretty sure are adopted. They spend the entire time trying to calm the boys down, steering them to pay attention to what’s going on during the consecration.
There’s something really beautiful about it, seeing a man and a woman doing a hard thing together.
I don’t know their story, but I do know that when I look at them and I look at the crucifix hanging above them in my peripheral view, I think to myself: this act in the pew mirrors the act of Christ on the cross. What a constant dying to self out of love.
Which reminds me of one of the best answers I heard someone give to the question of what to look for in a potential future spouse: someone with a knowledge of what it means to suffer, and suffer well.
The proven ability to endure adversity, practice selflessness, and offer up one’s sacrifices is a good testament to interior strength, mental toughness, and lasting character.
One of the best cinematic examples of this in a man is the character Jimmy Braddock, played by Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man.
Cinderella Man is based on the true story of Great Depression-era, heavyweight boxing champion, James J. Braddock. Throughout the course of the film, Braddock constantly dies to self out of love for his family – giving up his portions of food for his daughter even though he’s hungry and about to go to work in the middle of the night, fighting with a fractured wrist because he can’t afford to get it fixed, going on government assistance (which he eventually pays back) and asking friends for financial aid in order to keep a promise to his son and not send his kids off to live with other family members.
Braddock’s best quality and essential masculine feature is his ability to figure it out and do what it takes no matter the cost to get the job done – hiding his cast with shoe polish so he can still work on the docks or taking a fight for the money even though he knows he’s expected to lose and be made a fool. Braddock’s true heroism lies not in defeating his opponent in the ring, but rather his own comfort, ego, and self.
Lesser men of that time couldn’t handle the pressure of trying to provide in such dire circumstances. May (Braddock’s wife) witnessed many waste their earnings on alcohol or leave their families altogether. And when Jimmy does leave, worrying May, it’s to get his kids back after she sends them to temporarily stay with her father and sister.
In fact, it’s in these hard times that Jimmy and May’s relationship grows stronger. Watching the film, I realized that the best gift they could have given their children was a home no matter where they lived, and a witness to true and authentic love that lived out its wedding vows – “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.”
So, what does suffering have to do with chastity? Well, in a way practicing chastity is a form of suffering.
A suffering death to our immediate desires for physical union, in an effort to bring forth our truer desire, spiritual union – to know and be known deeply, see and seen truly, and love and be loved completely, forever.
Practicing chastity is evidence that you are in possession of yourself, specifically in control of your passions and desires, because in order to give yourself as a gift, you first have to own yourself. You cannot give what you do not have.
A person with a knowledge of what it means to suffer is a person who has suffered the agonizing wait, maybe even years of their youth, who didn’t settle, who is still waiting for you.
Jessica Kramer hails from Cleveland, Ohio, is a graduate of Liberty University, and currently lives in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia right outside Washington, D.C., working as a video host for Media Research Center. She recently started a YouTube channel, writes essays and opinion pieces, and is working on a project with the Institute for Human Ecology at Catholic University of America. As a former Protestant-Catholic convert, she loves political theology, philosophy, apologetics, Church history, debating everything and nothing (totally studied poly sci), good cinema, and gawking at old, ornate architecture. You can connect with her on Facebook, instagram @jessicalynnkramer, or Twitter @JessKramer1776.