To promote real change, we must start with ourselves. Cultivating a culture, especially one contrary to what’s popular, requires education and conversion, beginning with those who cultivate. If we are to teach others, we must first put our best efforts into rooting ourselves in these truths. For me, it’s about a God-centric, and love-centric lifestyle. Cliché as it may be, above all things I believe in love. For many, including myself, this is a mission, an answer to a calling; a passion, a core-belief and a lifestyle.
This week, Yale University is holding a series of events organized under the title “Sex Week.” This has been taking place since 2002; however the University banned it last year stating that had created a “hostile sexual environment for women.” Some may think given this assessment that the door had closed for good, but a few weeks later the decision was reversed. The goal of Sex Week is supposed to be sexual education, and an opportunity to “discuss sex openly.” Another group on campus decided to provide an alternative to Sex Week, sponsoring talks and activities of their own because they believe Sex Week inappropriately emphasizes “sheer, gratuitous and physical pleasure.”
I know this may sound like a sharp critique of a program that sponsors the event “Work It: Founder of Babeland Sex Toys talks about Queer-Friendly Business and Pleasing Women”, but hear me out. One area that I have devoted much of my time and study to is John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and overall call to chastity and sexual dignity. A topic many young adults avoid, I see it as absolutely vital not only for my character, but also for my faith journey and ultimately my vocation. The idea that our bodies can have a specific purpose in and of themselves is not a widely accepted idea in current society, never mind on a college campus. Although many dating couples claim to be unconcerned about the permanence of their relationship and immune to the adverse consequences of their actions, sex for such couples introduces an exclusively physical bond that is illusory, disordered and devaluing of the gift of total intimacy.
It is possible for a wide variety of people to agree that it is easy for us to mistake physical intimacy for love. This is a logical idea because physical intimacy has a unifying power, which is one of the attributes of love. The problem lies in the fact that lust also has a tendency to draw two people together, and this counterfeit intimacy can be difficult to distinguish from the real thing. This is not to say that the lack of chastity as a core value causes all relationships to deteriorate into lustful encounters, but rather that the likelihood of a couple being able to accurately assess the worth and sincerity of a relationship is less. When a couple is dating, it is love that they seek. As stated in the Catechism, Catholics believe that “either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.” It is often the case that a person’s intentions become masked by desire, usually of a sexual nature, and that is where chastity comes into play.
Supporters of Sex Week have criticized the founders of True Love Week for having a “narrow minded view of sex” and “encouraging marriage” rather than providing ‘sexual education.’ While sex is pleasurable, it maintains greater importance than pleasure. Most couples do not deliberately use each other, but sometimes the objectification that ensues is unconscious. Though this is not a constant with every couple, pop culture and magazines, like Cosmopolitan, “urge people to take the sexual pleasure that’s due them” creating an environment that praises such activity. This might be why Sex Week never assumes any of its participants are in any sort of committed relationship. However, the fact remains that the act of sex between two people creates a bond dissimilar to that of any other. When two people choose to promote and express their romantic affection or “love” through fornication, the trivialization of human sexuality and its virtue is present. Christopher West, who has written several books on theology of the body, describes this as “telling lies with the body”. In sex, the body is saying, “I give myself to you freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully”… Sound familiar? If you’ve ever been to a wedding, you’ll recognize those lines from traditional wedding vows. In marriage, God enables humans to use their bodies to create a love that is more than just the sum of their parts. By enjoying the expression of full love without giving full love, and accepting the commitment and sacrifice, the couple wounds the relationship and one another.
In the words of Pope John Paul II, “Only the chaste man and the chaste woman are capable of true love.” By keeping the focus and order of dating relationships on happiness, couples come to discover that sacrificial love brings true joy. Where there is selfishness, there is no love. Taking into account the intrinsic truths of sexual bonding, properly tempered desires, and a proper understanding of the value of a full gift of self is necessary even for couples neglecting to acknowledge their damaging present actions in order to prepare for a potentially permanent and unitive future. To reiterate, I understand these are not popular views, and the ideas and facts I have presented may provoke less excitement than a sex toy exhibition. However, nothing short of “til death do us part” would be making any of Sex Week’s agenda relevant to this university student. In fact, some of it will never apply to me, and that’s okay with me. I know what God’s love looks like and it’s because of this that I know my own worth and dignity as a woman. This is the love that’s worth defending, and certainly worth waiting for.
Angela Chiappetta is the Program Development Associate for the Catholic Apostolate Center.
 Evert, Jason. If You Really Loved Me. Ann Arbor, MI: Charis /Servant Pub., 2003., 62
 Catechism of the Catholic Church. Liguori: Liguori Publications, 1994. §2339
 Eden, Dawn. The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006. 2
“The saddest thing in life is wasted talent,
and the choices that you make will shape your life forever.”
-A Bronx Tale
I cannot count the times in my life where I have felt lesser in the spiritual sphere because someone “outshined” me. I often thought the Church was so boring, homogenous. I felt suppressed, and like I was being asked to be someone I just was not. Recently, I had a shaky experience with a church-affiliated organization, where I felt completely displaced, unheard and unappreciated. I even contemplated my course of study. Having just returned from 3 months abroad, away from everything familiar and with an abundance of solitude, this situation struck a raw nerve. Where am I going? What is God calling me to? And how much of what is being said and done is a reflection of my identity and place in the Church and how much is pure politics or misunderstanding?
Theology is my passion, and the Church is something I believe in firmly. I hope to one day build a career around bringing my skills and ideas to this institution. But I was doubting myself. I knew that all of this could not be a matter of my inadequacy in the eyes of God. So why did I feel like someone took a garden hose to the fire burning inside me? Luckily, it only took a sit-down with one of my most respected professors to kick-start me again. He reminded me of my skills, talents, and charisms, and that they differ from person to person; and mine are certainly no mistake.
These every day scenarios can chase some of the most passionate youth away from the areas they may be called to enhance or reform. The New Evangelization calls us to recognize the need for every type of person. It’s what makes us communal. How is evangelization, family life, or any other cosmopolitan activity possible with only one personality type allowed? It isn’t. Christifideles Laici speaks powerfully to this, clarifying that each and every forte and ability is valued:
“They are not called to abandon the position that they have in the world. Baptism does not take them from the world at all…He entrusts a vocation to them that properly concerns their situation in the world.”
For some reason, so many of us are scared that what God calls us to must be the most gruesome and displeasing situation. I find myself constantly asking God “PLEASE DO NOT CALL ME TO A, B, OR C!” the kicker; of course, being that God isn’t out to make my life miserable… I’m called to act in accordance with the talents and abilities I have.
So, if God calls us to use our skills and capacities to better and bring to order the world, what happens when institutions or governments begin to inhibit this? Pope Benedict stood before Parliament and defended our right as people of faith to keep our faith alive in our careers and all decisions following. As head of the Roman Catholic Church, one would assume that perhaps he wants to make sure "his own" are being heard, but it seems he contends that anyone with a well-formed conscience is inherently free and bound to follow it. We expect that our leaders will lead us toward good will and prosperity. Working toward any noble cause is not easy. However, if we allow God into our lives solely for our personal missions and hardships, why are we not surprised that we do not receive the same guidance and grace outside? We must seek it. And to seek it, there must be freedom, and even encouragement, to do so. What better time to let God back in? We may be pleasantly surprised by the Spirit’s ability to emerge through the cracks of brokenness, and allow us a deeper-rooted ethical cause.
 Himes, Michael J. Doing the Truth in Love: Conversations about God, Relationships, and Service. New York: Paulist, 1995. p. 47
Angela Chiappetta is the Program Development Associate for the Catholic Apostolate Center.