Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Hole and the Whole

So, I'm not a mother of girls.  Or a teacher of older girls.  Or a great theist.
BUT, I am a girl product of the Catholic schools in a wonderful diocese and I want to address a hole in Catholic School System here to date.

Catholic schools teach purity.  Oh boy do they!  Abstain until marriage.  Keep legs and cleavage covered.  Treat your boyfriends/girlfriends with chastity.  Don't use contraception.  Avoid pornography.

To be fair, I agree with all of the above.  And it all starts with the young grades teaching Adam and Eve and the beauty of the human person.  I fully agree with this, too.

But somewhere down the line, the beauty of the human person in all their glorious sexuality as a whole gets left behind and the message to remain modest resonates louder and more clearly.  We find ourselves constantly aware of what we shouldn't be doing in high school because it is 'impure' and depending on the person, some find themselves dropping the message altogether for different paths and easier options.

When a girl gets to be a certain age, our school put us through a class that outlined what changes we might expect as we mature, how to handle hygiene, and what acts were and were not moral.  Boys did a very similar class, separate from the girls, to spare all the awkward embarrassment.  And I'm not sure I disagree with this at the fragile age of ten or so.

Then, we move onto high school, where every class hammers us with how girls should cover up because we want boys to see our inner person, not our bodies.  We learn how we need to be guarded on dates and with boys.  We're told that contraception fails and abortion is painful.  And again, this is all true.  But this message is the one that resonates with all the boys and girls that leave those schools.

SO, we leave the school and IF we choose to follow these rules that we follow in freedom, we cover ourselves, wrestle down our passions, and seek a truly great spouse.  We look awkwardly at artistic portrayals of love, nudity, and passion.  We stumble through NFP charting waters and our future spouses bristle at the graphic pictures we view there.  We get frustrated when we realize our bodies are real, flawed, stressed and confusing non 28 day cycles with potential medical issues.  We have children feeling awkward in the delivery room as we spread out for the 8 people that magically appear just before we push.  We blush when it is time to nurse a little one and others are around - especially non-family boys.  Our spouses, Catholic educated male peers, and male dads and siblings often blush, too.  We slip into rooms at work hoping no one will wonder what we are doing there as we pump.  We cover up our nursing selves like we were on a racy display and we want no one to see.  We are ashamed of our fat pregnant faces and postpartum lumps, our sagging bodies, our tired eye circles.

And these are those of us who really embraced our Catholic education.

No one person is to blame here and the intentions are golden.  Aren't these educators bringing us up to avoid sin and find heaven?  Of course.

But like a child told 'no' and not 'why', so many of them veer far away from what they may well have once believed in.  And the compliant ones are less informed and confused because the 'no' didn't remind us 'why'.

WHY do we cover our cleavage?  Why do we avoid sex before marriage?  Any Catholic high schooler can rattle off that otherwise would be a sin, modesty, not being objectified. . .  And this leads men and women to look at our fertility and feminine sexuality a little negatively, like something impure.

Not being viewed as an sex object is key, but it is because we are a sexual PERSON.  A living, breathing, cycling, bleeding, fertile, sexual PERSON.  All modesty comes from viewing ourselves as a PERSON.  All chastity comes from dignity that we are a PERSON to be loved, not an object to be used.  Part of that PERSON, is our sexuality.

That, my friends, is the hole.  It is time we hear this message on repeat in Catholic High Schools as often as we hear the message of chastity.  We are beautifully made.  We were made for sex(though some may not be called to it).  We were made to enjoy it.  That confusing cycle is God's print on our bodies that he wanted US to help foster the next generation of humanity.  Those beautiful chests, (which are not for lust), ARE for sharing in love and in nursing our children.  We are lovely when we are not dressed.  Artists everywhere depict women in gorgeous works of the beautiful nude PERSON!    Right now, women are naked in all kinds of pure ways -some are bathing, or living in different cultures, some are feeding their children, giving birth, and doing things that PEOPLE of God do!  Because we are a PERSON and nothing on us is a mistake.  Our bodies will cycle, change, gain/lose weight, have sex, give birth, and make milk and in God's time, all these things are PERFECTLY BEAUTIFUL.  Mary nursed Baby Jesus, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton had sex, and these Biblical women cycled too.
"Virgin of the Green Cushion" by Andrea Solario
I recently sat with a group of peers with many girls from Catholic high school, and said, "I would teach my (hypothetical) daughter to chart as soon as she became fertile."  I then had to defend the idea to some who wondered if that wouldn't invite the girl to engage in impure acts.  Knowing our cycle does not invite impurity.  Knowing our cycle invites an understanding of the PERSON that God made us to be and the fertility he gave us.  Lust invites impurity, and knowing our beautiful God given fertility might actually make us feel more dignity for our person as a whole.  And at the very least, isn't it also dignifying to be trusted with our fertility awareness since God felt us dignified enough to be entrusted with our fertility?  Additionally, how many girls might catch medical cycle concerns early?  How many girls might never be misled into believing NFP is for perfect cycles?

Why is modesty and breastfeeding EVER in the same sentence?  We are not being objectified when we nurture our children!  Is there nothing more in tune with our PERSON than feeding our child?  How much more self-giving can we be?  If anyone is misguided into believing breastfeeding in public is immodest, it is because the lust in our culture is trying to warp the purest of gifts and it is confusing even those of us brought up to know them.  The Vatican under Pope John Paul II asked for artists to portray the Mary nursing Jesus.  Breastfeeding is the opposite of impurity, the anti-porn.  It is embracing our purpose as a PERSON.

Why can't Catholic school boys and girls be taught the chillingly accurate definition of love in "giving of yourself"when a girl loses her figure, her youthfulness, and her sleep for another human person that grew inside her?  (Ever pondered that Christ gave his Body up for us and we just get the smallest glimpse as we view our sagging chest, extra stomach, or crows feet of what that really means?)    Those lumps and sags and circles are battle scars and beautiful marks of the PERSON that we were meant to be.

That whole PERSON is what we need to be celebrating and teaching our girls and boys to be celebrating, because those sexual parts are just one part of us, but they are an extremely important part of us.  If we forget to remind them HOW important, they might just get abused, or worse, cause us shame at the height of their beauty.

"Man is, in fact, soul that expresses itself in the body and [the] body that is vivified by an immortal spirit. Also, the body of man and of woman has, therefore, so to speak, a theological character, it is not simply body, and what is biological in man is not only biological, but an expression and fulfillment of our humanity. In this way, human sexuality is not next to our being person, but belongs to it. Only when sexuality is integrated in the person does it succeed in giving itself meaning." - Pope Benedict XVI

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