Dear Fr. Jerry, I have a question for you that revolves around sexuality, being single and chaste. I think I know what the textbook definition of chastity is: It’s being sexually appropriate for one’s state in life. I’m also aware that this doesn’t just mean singleness = no sex and marriage = sex. I mean, while it’s never good for singles to have sex (and I completely agree with this), there are times when it is unchaste for married couples to have sex. What does it mean to be chaste, in particular, when one, such as myself, is single?
Human beings are sexual beings, and it’s slightly more obvious to me how married couples live out their sexuality in appropriate ways, but how are singles to do that? We can’t just be prudes, because frankly I think that can be a way of ignoring one’s sexuality and thus not totally being the human being God has created us to be, but that’s only an extreme. And I’ve heard the question over and over again, “How far is too far?” but that question also bothers me because it assumes that sexuality can only be lived out by kissing and making love. So, I guess my question can be boiled down to this: How does a single person in today’s modern world live out their sexuality chastely?
Sexuality is a very difficult topic to discuss because it feels like such a personal topic and such a private matter. But the reality is that all people are sexual beings. God created us to be sexual. Does that mean all people should be engaging in sexual acts? No, many people are called to live a chaste life, and some are called to live a celibate life. You raise a very valid question: How does a single person live out their sexuality, especially in such a highly sexualized society?
As a single person you are called to live a chaste life and because of your current state of being a single person that also means the church asks you to be celibate, that is, not engaging in sexual relations. Most likely this is a temporary celibacy if you hope to one day be married. As a person who hopes to one day be married, the greatest gift you can give to your future spouse is the gift of yourself. If you are going to give yourself to your spouse then the hope of the church is that you give yourself completely and wholly to your spouse. Anytime you engage in sexual relations, you are giving part of yourself to the other person, so why not save yourself completely for your spouse?
So a single person lives out their sexuality through the process of dating and romance and falling in love. Sexuality is not just about the physical engagement; sexuality is also about love, attraction, desire, passion – all done so with a healthy respect for the physical act of making love within marriage.
The greater challenge is for the single person who never plans on being married. These qualities of sexuality can still be lived out in the friendships and relationships that are formed in your life. As a celibate person, I still experience love, attraction, desire, and passion in my life, I just experience it more on the emotional level rather than the physical level.
Being single is not easy, especially in a society filled with temptation and lust. But rather than satisfying our immediate sexual desires, we are called by God to look at the larger picture. There is a blessing to waiting before engaging in sex.
Hi Fr. Jerry, as a parent of a child with special needs I’m wondering what the archdiocese or individual parishes have to offer for religious education for kids with special needs. I feel that I am qualified to teach my child what he needs to know and have a better understanding of how my child learns and behaves and would like to teach him myself. Must a child be enrolled in religious education classes to receive the sacraments even when that child has special needs? Thanks, Fr. Jerry. I look forward to your answer.
Being the parent of a child with special needs can be very challenging and very rewarding, all at the same time. Having watched some friends of mine raise their son who has Down syndrome, it gives me a great appreciation for the patience, and care and love they show to their son. I am amazed at the balancing act they manage of having their son lead as normal of a life as possible, yet also caring for and meeting the special needs that do arise. My guess is that this is at the heart of your question. How do you find that balancing act of meeting the needs of your child and doing what the church requires, especially when it comes to sacramental preparation?
What is very important to remember is that when it comes to faith, parents are always the first and primary educators of their children. This is true no matter if your child has special needs or not. Parents are always the primary educators and should always take seriously this responsibility.
Now there is much to be said about learning from others, in a classroom setting, experiencing the life of the church in community. These are all important aspects of growing in our faith. But you as the parent are also the best judge of what your child is able to handle.
In my parish, we have had special needs students participate to the best of their abilities in the religious education classes. For some of these children, a parent needed to be with them to reassure them and assist them with their needs. We have also had other students who have participated in the special needs religious education classes offered on the district level.
In our district it is hosted by East Side Child and Youth Ministry. The archdiocese is blessed to have a number of programs of religious education for special needs students. Another program that has been around for many years is the ARISE program, which is a collaborative program of many parishes hosted at St. Gregory the Great Parish in Milwaukee.
There is no “right way” to educate your child in the ways of faith. For many children it requires a combination of many methods. You know your child’s needs and what will work best for your child. The important thing is to give them the opportunity to know God and grow in their faith.
(Fr. Jerry Herda, ordained in 1990, is pastor of St. Monica Parish, Whitefish Bay, and St. Eugene Parish, Fox Point. If you have a question you’ve always wanted to ask a priest, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and place “Ask Fr. Jerry” in the subject line.)