The word “sexuality” means many things to many people. On this website, we want to have a conversation, hopefully with a respect for others’ positions. To do so, a ‘meaning’ of this word as we use it may be helpful. This is not our last word, but we begin with a general descriptive statement: Sexuality means “…your sexual feelings, thoughts, attractions and behaviors towards other people. You can find other people physically, sexually or emotionally attractive, and all those things are a part of your sexuality. Sexuality is diverse and personal, and it is an important part of who you are….” (Sexuality explained – Better Health Channel.)
To those who are believers in God, sexuality has a spiritual significance as well. It has something to do with our relationship with God. Thus, the creation of sexuality by God in Genesis, which reflects in some way the mystery of God’s relationship with believers. “It is not good that man (woman)–or God–is alone. In other words, sexuality is more than simply biological or physical. It includes psychological, and even spiritual desires.
To illustrate this latter point, we offer a few quotes/references from St. Augustine, who describes his own struggles with sexuality in his Confessions. He portrays in very intimate ways how his search for human relationships paralleled–or even revealed to him–his deepest desire, a desire for God. “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Conf. 1,1 By “restless,” he certainly included sexuality as his Confessions show.
As a forty-two year old bishop, Augustine was candid enough to tell us how he continued to hear the voices of his mistresses as he tried to turn his heart–and his sexuality–over to God: “Are you sending us away forever?…From this moment, shall we not be with you, now and forever?” they whispered in his ears. (Conf. 8, 11. ) Even if many people do not feel called to a completely celibate lifestyle as Augustine did, we may hear these same voices from our past–or present–as we try to live a chaste life, each of us according to our state in life.
Augustine, a passionate N. African man of the 4th Century, had no qualms about describing how he now “panted” for God, even as he once panted for his mistresses: (Conf. Ch 10, 27). Perhaps most encouraging for us, who are not perfect in our sexual behavior and thoughts, in Book Ten of his Confessions, Augustine said, “I confess in Your sight by this book, not what I once was, but what I now am.” (Conf. 10, 3) In other words, he still had to struggle with the gift of his sexuality, even as we do. (cf Peter Brown in Augustine of Hippo, p. 177-9)
To sum up, whatever your sexual journey and experience is or has been, we invite you to join this confidential* conversation to discover/rediscover your sexuality as a gift of God. Together, may we go forward with hope and joy and a sexuality that we experience as touched by God?
* A suggestion: if you decide to respond to this post below, you are welcome to use only your first or middle name–even just an initial!– and do not include any other personally identifiable information if that helps you feel safe. If you choose to enter your email below, it will be kept private from public view.
Fr. Paul Morrissey, OSA
August 3, 2021