The Challenge of Chastity in Marriage
One of the most challenging and equally liberating teachings of the Catholic Church is chastity. It is undoubtedly a virtue that is radically counter cultural and one that demands great self-mastery and sacrifice. It demands a right ordered love of God and consequently an authentic love for others.
My experience of chastity prior to and in married life has been less than glamorous. I will not claim to speak for all married couples who practice Natural Family Planning, but I will attempt to concisely share my own experience.
Chastity in my marriage has been an ongoing experience of examining the heart and mind. It has required the continual weighing of the most hidden intentions. This I find most especially true when communicating about postponing or achieving pregnancy, while at the same time attempting to reconcile understandings of true intimacy and the needs of another.
Though it is not always pleasant or easy, chastity in marriage has taught me to be accountable to the gift of sexuality by striving to live out what this gift means through marital love. Natural Family Planning (NFP) truly encourages the flourishing of chastity within marriage.
St. Augustine was definitely on to something when he said “Perfect abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.” As a newly-wed (married in 2014), I can humbly admit that I was unprepared in many ways for what chastity in marriage would be like and what Natural Family Planning in practice was all about. However, regardless of any difficulty my husband and I were both committed to seeing it through and remaining true to the teachings of the Church in this area. It has required us to stay united in moments of struggle and always communicate about any challenges that we may be having, either with the periods of abstinence, or learning to better understand each other’s expectations.
Chastity enables us to face that which is unpleasant and uncomfortable because it leads us toward an authentic experience of intimacy that does not seek to hide behind societal constructions of sexual fulfillment or the distortion of a disposable contraceptive mentality. It aids us toward achieving what is most beautiful.
Chastity in marriage has also highlighted the crucial importance of owning one’s own commitment to chastity prior to saying “I do”. This personal foundation of chastity strengthens the marriage bond. In my opinion, it is not enough to simply love a person and choose chastity; it must be rooted in a love of God, because it is only through God’s grace and providence that we can truly succeed in living out the call to be chaste in freedom. It is only when we are lovingly accountable to God and his plan for our sexuality that we can begin to love and value the other as a gift.
My husband and I both struggled with chastity prior to meeting one another and throughout the onset of our relationship; our conversion experiences strengthened us immensely and gave us a greater understanding about one another and about the freedom of chastity. It allowed us to cling to God separately so that we could fasten ourselves as husband and wife.
Natural Family Planning has helped us shed our selfish expectations and strive to grow in love within our marriage daily. Though it may not always be easy we remain open to God’s will and so far we have been graciously provided for.
Catherine Spada is a Public Middle School educator and is currently loving her new role as a full-time mom. She enjoys giving presentations on chastity and sharing the beauty of the faith through her blog entitled Sacred Sharings for The Soul. Catherine resides outside of Toronto with her husband and beautiful baby girl.