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Saint Robert Bellarmine A distinguished Jesuit theologian, writer, and cardinal, born at Montepulciano, 4 October, 1542; died 17 September, 1621. One of the books I pulled off the shelf recently (and vowed to finish), was The Art of Dying Well (or How to be a Saint, Now and Forever). The good saint endeavored to support the premise of living well in order to die well and touched on the rungs of a ladder that I personally believe will allow one to live a life devoted to God and within His gentle guardrails: dying to the world, perseverence, readiness to meet Christ, detachment, sobriety, piety, prayer, fasting, charity, faithfulness, the Sacraments, reverence for the sacred, and the guarding of the senses. And if that doesn't round all the bases, I don't know what does. It's a treatise that is written in similar fashion to "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas aKempis and is every bit as worthy.
What sinks in for me though is His treatment of the concept of marriage; and of it, he draws out the three blessings which arise from it if it is used well: children, fidelity and the grace of the sacrament. These three concepts seem to have become so lost and skewed in our brave new world that to juxtapose the writings of Bellarmine on today's post modern ways of doing things, you would have though he a madman. And here's what I mean: The three concepts cannot be taken apart from one another. Fruitfulness and faithfulness and grace all go hand in hand. If you shut your mind to any of them, you shut your mind to all of them.
"But if sometimes it happens that married people should be oppressed with the number of children, whom through poverty, they cannot easily support, there is a remedy pleasing to God. And this is for the couple, by mutual consent, to separate from the marriage bed and spend their days in prayer and fasting. For if it is agreeable to Him for married persons to grow old in virginity aftrer the example of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph...(and he names several other notable examples)...why should it be displeasing to God or men that married people should not live together as man and wife, by mutual consent, so that they may spend the rest of their days in prayer in fasting." (p. 114)I dare you to try that conversation out on date night. Grow old in virginity? Now you may accuse me of taking this completely out of context, and you might be right. After all, who is having an "oppressive" amount of children in our society these days? And if they were, would they follow this directive? But if not, why not? I think these are cogent questions to ask. Why? Because we've developed a replacement mindset that says: "who in their right mind would deny any married man or married woman the "right" to have sex with their marriage partner any time of the day or night because they felt like it?" "I am sex partner, hear me roar". But there's the entitlement lingo again. Is marriage an entitlement to sex? And what of sex for the sake of sex in the new age of erectile pharmaceuticals?
What would St. Robert Bellarmine say about Viagra? And by the way, is anyone as sick of these commercials as I am? O paleeze. 2 fogies in their outdoor bathtubs...what does this mean anyways? I suddenly feel really dirty and need to get all the cooties off of me?? I actually used to be brutally embarrassed to watch feminine hygiene commercials in the same room with any male company, circa 1975. I am now subject to erectile dysfuntion commercials around every corner in the home I share with husband and two teenage sons. And is ED not the most overperscribed condition since ADHD in the last decade? I'm not disparaging those of you whom, uh, well you know. But I just don't want to know about it every 5 minutes on TV! What might my grandchildren be exposed to another 15 years from now?
A girlfriend of mine just informed me that the latest medical craze in Scottsdale is injections of HGH or testosterone. This is popular because it allows women to minimize fat and increases their (you guessed it) sex drive. It also makes women a heck of a lot more aggressive so please, if you're considering a visit to this desert oasis, be warned. The woman you are paired with in your golf foursome might just kick your butt in more ways than one.
It was nicer when the sex act (formerly known as the marital act) was enigmatic, mysterious and between the ears. I think we've lost the whole beautiful concept of good orderly direction. We have become sex-crazed. Look at the clothes we wear. Is it ordered for me to be in a perpetual state of want for things carnal or maybe should I be concentrating on seeking the desire of my soul in God? Is the human condition only satisfied in and of itself or are we being readied for another world? Am I a mere collection of sexual impulsivity or might there be more to me than my bodily delights. Please don't misunderstand. Sex is good and the church (believe it or not) hugely promotes this -- see scripture or Catechism or Theology of the Body if you don't believe me. But sex is not ALL. In fact if sex is ALL, then you have missed the point of marriage.
What would St. Bellarmine say? Make some priorities. God first. Be open to all the gifts of marriage. Get rid of the TV (?) or whatever else is in the way. And don't believe all of that hooey about outdoor bathtubs. That's just my guess.