The inhuman relationship of Mary and Joseph

Every year at Christmas time I think of the many people who experience a more acute loneliness that the season has a way of drawing out of those who are literally alone or feel alone, even among their friends and family.  It’s an inescapable desire to have that one special person with whom you can share the joys of Christmas.

And every year I am also drawn to the mystery of Mary and Joseph; two unique individual persons called to the most unusual marriage that would bring about the Saviour of the world.

We know very little about these two individuals, but just enough to see their role in salvation history.  Details of their lives, about who they were as persons, and what went on in their marriage were not meant for us to know.

Yet, we like to speculate, don’t we?  Did they ever disagree with each other or have a marital spat?  Did they stress over their financial situation?  Did they have problems with friends or family who tried to interfere?

The beauty and grace of their story is of a woman fashioned by God to be without sin from her conception so that her womb would be the worthy dwelling place for God’s son, fulfilling prophecy of old that a virgin would bring forth the savior of the world and would come through the line of David.  It is also the story of a man chosen by God to take care of this Arc of the New Covenant and the Christ Child.  With the eyes of grace, this all makes perfect sense and is not to be questioned.

With the eyes of an onlooker and historian, we know that Mary and Joseph had an arranged marriage, that Mary was pregnant before the marriage, that Joseph was not the father and decided to divorce her, and that it took divine intervention to redirect Joseph back toward his calling to marry Mary.  We know he did so, and served Jesus and Mary all his life in a marriage that lasted until death.

It doesn’t appear to be the best way to start off a marriage. But obviously, with God’s grace and true love, it was a good marriage.

Did they have any actual problems in the marriage?  Who knows?  No one. But it is assumed they did not.  Their marriage must have been perfect, because they were saintly people.  I suppose that’s why so many single women wish to find their St. Joseph, and single men wish to find a woman like Mary.

It’s a mistake to put this kind of standard on the person you wish to find for marriage, because the relationship between Mary and Joseph was inhuman.  In other words, it just wasn’t normal.  I’m not saying they were not human beings.  They were.  And I’m not saying their marriage was not something to be emulated.  It can.  What I am saying is there are no Marys or Josephs to be found.  And there will never be a marriage like Mary and Joseph’s ever again, nor should there be.

Their love for each other and their dependence on the grace of God (which we know as Sacramental) everyone must strive for.  But the individuals and the practical life of their specific marriage?  Don’t even think about it.

The marriage of Mary and Joseph was a life of celibacy.  Mary was “ever virgin”, never to “know” a man.  Mary and Joseph never had marital relations. That can never be emulated by any Christian couple.

It borders on blasphemy to speculate on any sexual struggles Mary and Joseph might have had.  But many think it stands to reason that they must have, or at least Joseph must have.  Based on the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, Mary would have no such struggle with sexual temptations. But within marriage, it is not wrong to have a desire for sexual relations with your husband.  However, Mary’s role was to have one child, the Christ Child, and to remain a virgin.

That would mean that Joseph was also called to this life of celibacy.  This is the part that fascinates me most.  This is a man who was called by God to marry a woman and never have a sexual relationship with her.  First, there are no men a woman can find who are not interested in having sex.  That’s not a bad thing, except if they push to have it outside of marriage.  Second, no woman should ever want to be in a marriage with a man who does not want sexual intimacy with her.  This intimacy bonds the two in love and produces the children that grows their family.

Does this mean Mary and Joseph did not bond in love or have a real marriage?  Of course not.  Their love for each other was centered on God, and the family they were to establish was meant for them alone.

Did Joseph struggle with this calling to celibacy within marriage?  Who knows?  It stands to reason that as a human being with Original sin (like all men), he must have. But it makes sense that he would have been given a very unique grace from God that would keep him from this struggle.  This is why there are many scholars and authorities in the Church who believe Joseph was also conceived without Original sin, like Mary. That also makes sense.  Either way, Joseph did successfully remain a virgin throughout his marriage to Mary, and that is inhuman.

If there must be a search for a Joseph or Mary, let it be for someone who has a heart and desire for God as the authority in their lives and an ability to love another in service to one another.  Mary and Joseph we obedient lovers of God.  Despite their better judgment, they believed in what God was asking them to do.  They weren’t caught up in what they wanted for themselves, but what God wanted of them.

This is the lesson of what marriage truly is at this festive and holy time of year.  Two people who come together because God has brought them together and expects them to love each other in service.  That relies on God’s grace to live out what’s expected of them in marriage.

The inhuman relationship of Mary and Joseph is because they are the two most uniquely special persons created by God for a specific role in salvation history and who were not sinners like the rest of us.  But their love for each other is totally human and accessible to all with God’s grace.

No matter who that person is who will end the loneliness and share your life, they are human and a sinner, unlike Mary or Joseph.  Marriage is always a rocky road only smooth out over time by mutual love and a life of grace with God as the authority.  Mary and Joseph lived under that star.  May the star of Bethlehem be what lead all couples to the Christ Child, and the two special servants of God who put God above themselves in all things.  That is Christmas.


Natural Family Planning

Dear Anthony,

I’m getting married soon and I wanted to find out exactly how NFP works, since that’s what the Church recommends.  I have saved myself for my husband and remained pure.  I want to enjoy sex without the worries of getting pregnant right away.  I want my husband to enjoy sex too, so NFP allows him to go all the way.  If we use the method where we monitor my cycle, we can’t enjoy sex anytime we are interested, and we will both be frustrated.  From what I’ve learned so far, using NFP also means we can make love when the mood strikes but have the frustration of having to halt or forgo it since we don’t want to conceive yet. Please advise me on the different methods and how they can be used without feeling limited, restricted or guilty.  Isn’t there a method that allows us to have sex whenever we want and not worry about conceiving?

First, let me say how wonderful it is that you have successfully maintained your virginity and how admirable it is that you saved yourself for your future husband.  In this day and age, there are so many forces at work to ensure no one enters marriage as a virgin, even if they sincerely intended to.  Those like yourself who were steadfast are truly heroes of purity.

In all my years of providing advice for singles and couples, I’ve never had anyone just come out with this concern so blatantly as you have here.  It’s refreshing and I appreciate it.  As you can imagine, so many Catholics have thought this very same thing but typically will beat around the bush around the core motive.  Plus, they don’t want to admit that this is their main concern, because it sounds too worldly or impure or shallow, etc.


It’s important to first recognize that one aspect of your motive for your concerns is completely understandable and makes sense.  You are attracted to your spouse and want to have physical intimacy, but get frustrated by having to stop that natural and beautiful inspiration to consider if you might get pregnant.  You’d be surprised how many Catholic marriages have problems because of this particular frustration.  So there is nothing wrong with your concern, nor with your hope in finding a way to be intimate at will without worrying about pregnancy.

Now the bad news.  There is no way around having to deal with this concern. Like all actions, there is responsibility involved.  Anyone trying to take the responsibility out of sexual activity is deceiving themselves and playing with fire. Sexual intimacy is the most natural thing in the world, but so is having children. They really and truly are not separate things.

There is no sure fire way to have it both ways without going outside of the Church.  All the birth control methods available are contraception.  These birth control methods do not have a certainty at preventing pregnancy (many have learned that the hard way). They might have a high success rate, but not 100%. The pill has the added sinful result of actually chemically aborting a newly conceived child.

NFP (Natural Family Planning), though approved by the Church, is not meant to be a contraceptive method.  In other words, if a married couple is going to use NFP in order to share their love for each other in intercourse but prevent conception, it can be considered a form of contraception. There are many ways contraception is defined, but the most important part is “the deliberate use of artificial methods or other techniques to prevent pregnancy as a consequence of sexual intercourse.”  To deliberately prevent pregnancy is what the Church teaches to be gravely sinful.

I think you can see where I am going with all this.  No one faults you for your desire to share your love for your spouse as physically and intimately as possible. But marriage is a call to responsibility. And at the top of the priority list is the responsibility to be a family.  The main purpose of the love you have for each other that brings you together in marriage is to bring forth new life.

I have told countless couples to postpone getting married if they are not ready to have children. The strong pull toward each other in love is to foster a mutual commitment for life in marriage.  And that intimacy desired is designed to bring forth new life.

This notion of needing time as couple to get to know each other is hogwash. That is merely two people making an excuse to be selfish.  There is no room for selfishness in the commitment to marriage.  When you marry, you agree to start a family.  And you are a family.  Your new responsibilities are for your spouse, and any children that God blesses you with.  Your life is one of sacrifice, not self-indulgence.

So why get married if you are not ready for the gift of children?  And they are a gift.  A precious gift – and a visible sign of your love for each other.  Children force the couple to get out of themselves and raise these new persons entrusted to them.  It’s a big responsibility.  So my advice is to not get married until you’re ready to have children.

And when you do marry, be completely open to life and start having your family. However, be responsible.  NFP can help you to conceive.  It can also help you to space children as necessary.  Work closely with a trusted priest or spiritual director to assist you with important decisions like how many children to have and when.  That is tricky as you go along in your marriage.

But at the time of getting married, there is no good reason to immediately prevent conception.  You don’t want to stunt God’s purpose in bringing you together.  And you will definitely get to know each other more as you go through having a baby.  It will bring you closer than ever.

Sex fogs the mind.

Love is in the will.

When a man and a woman get married, they pledge their love to each other with the words “I do.” That “I do” is a consent of the will. Our will is that aspect of us that decides and acts.

The will differs from feelings and emotions. Your will is controllable. Feelings and emotions are not. Therefore, what the couple is saying at the altar on their wedding day (or what they should understand that they are saying) is that they will to love that person, despite any feelings and emotions that might be in conflict.

Love is a decision. Love is also a feeling, and very emotional. The act of loving is hopefully accompanied by feelings of love, but the feelings aren’t necessary for action. Before you get married, you have to come to terms with the “I do” of the ceremony. Being in love doesn’t mean those feelings will always be there to help you with the commitment to love.

This is why having sex prior to marriage can be a very dangerous enterprise. Sex fogs the mind. The pleasure people experience when they are engaging in sexual intimacy at any level has a natural effect that turns off the ability of the will. Sex creates a fog the mind is no longer able to navigate through, nor have a clear focus for making good judgments and right decisions.

The safe place for sex is within marriage. A married couple is free to express themselves sexually within all the rights that come with marriage. For those who are not married, the sex drive is alive and well, and must be dealt with. Many have given in completely to the modern acceptance of pre-marital sex without responsibility.

However, I don’t believe people have full knowledge of all that surrounds this acceptance. I think they have natural physical attractions and a healthy, normal sex drive, and they simply want to respond to it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with what they experience inside. It’s how they act that matters.

That leads us back to the will. All feelings and emotions surrounding the sex drive have no power to act. Only the mind can do that. Emotions certainly work very hard to convince the mind, but they can’t force you to act.

When there is a general acceptance that certain physical actions are okay, the mind is sufficiently deceived into doing some things that appear to be harmless. Those things fall into the realm of petting, embracing, and kissing. Tenderness during the dating process is wonderful and important. You can touch and embrace and kiss without being excessive or prolonging. But start French kissing and you will see what can happen.

Single people have the ability to combat this. It takes strengthening the will. A strong will is not easily distracted by sexual feelings. Faith commitments lie in the will. If you profess to believe in God, to love Jesus Christ, and want to do His will, you must conform your will to His Will. We say “Thy Will be done” in the Our Father prayer, yet we fail to strengthen our own will. It takes a lot of practice, and it takes prayer to build up the will.

And the love that is true and that lasts is found in the will. Are you able to love someone with all your will? Does the person you’re dating prove his attraction to you by having control of his or her will?

Love is not just a feeling. Love lasts when it is an act of the will. The feelings that are associated with love are natural, normal, and necessary. They have their place. But they cannot be put in charge. They cannot be permitted to rule. Only your mind is capable of rational, prudent, and wise decision making.

Sex is beautiful in its proper place and time. Use your time dating and in courtship to focus on each other as a person, building friendship, preparing for the responsibilities of committed love, and enjoying each other chastely.

Can I have a Catholic marriage if I’m not a virgin?

Dear Anthony,

I’m confused, and slightly worried.  I recently read an article by a respected Catholic author talking about being married to the person you lose your virginity to, that it is a fact the Bible teaches, and that those who marry someone else are not really married in the eyes of God.  It was very confusing to me, but I’m mostly worried because I am (unfortunately) no longer a virgin, but I have changed and become convinced of chastity before marriage.  Is it too late for me?

First of all, let’s make it clear that you have nothing to worry about.  Though you are no longer a virgin, as a Catholic, you are completely qualified to have a valid, sacramental marriage one day when you find the person you choose.  The loss of virginity before marriage absolutely does not disqualify you from Catholic marriage, nor are you “too late” in God’s eyes by your conversion to a chaste life after losing your virginity.  In fact, your conversion is God’s inspiration and gift to you which you accepted, and takes great delight in those who return to Him.

I have heard this argument before and understand the basis of the argument.  I understand how it can be confusing to people.  It’s not something you hear in your upbringing, or in your religion or C.C.D. classes. At least, not explicitly.

This argument is rooted in the Biblical concept of marital union; namely, genital intercourse.  The Bible phrases this act as a “knowing” of another.  To “know” the other means that you have had genital intercourse.  In the Old Testament, you see many instances of a man taking a woman into a tent where he “knows” her.  That act is all that is necessary to be officially married.

The person in the article you read is probably stressing the point that there is something very real and objective about the act of genital intercourse and becoming married.  Some teach that there is an exchange of persons in that act, and that “becoming one flesh” (another Biblical teaching) happens when you have genital intercourse.  Therefore, the person you lose your virginity to is the person you are married to, regardless of how you feel or if it’s legal by civil standards, etc.  It’s a compelling argument because it does makes sense based on certain Biblical realities.

It’s first important to be said that loss of virginity is traditionally a very big deal, both positively and negatively.  Positively, because two people getting married was celebrated.  It was culturally as well as religiously expected that the person you marry is the first person with whom you engage in genital intercourse.  Negatively, because if you were not a virgin at the time of marriage, it was cause for divorce.  Parents would actually need to prove the virginity of their daughter to prevent divorce if a man claimed after marriage that he did not know if she was a virgin or not.  And if it were known in the community that you were not a virgin, you ruined your chances for marriage.

And, of course, at the time of the central event of history, the clarity of the Gospel writers that Mary was a virgin was of strict priority for two reasons; one, the prophecy of the miraculous conception and virgin birth, and the intention of the just man, Joseph, who, by law, had to divorce Mary when she was found with child.  He could not stay married to a woman who was not a virgin (which, as we know, the angel made sure he did not further pursue).

Contrast this with today, when the chances of finding a virgin for marriage are remote.  For better or for worse, remaining a virgin before marriage is not a priority of the culture today.  But it is reality.  And we all must live our lives in reality, not in what we want, hope, or wish.  Therefore, it would be impractical, to say the least, to insist on marrying a virgin.

But how do we reconcile this with the clear Bible teaching about virginity as a requirement for a valid marriage?

The answer is actually quite simple.  As Catholics, we do not live our lives solely on what we read in the Bible, nor on our personal interpretation of what we read in the Bible.  Jesus Christ is the authority of Truth, and He established an authoritative body, which is His own mystical body and presence, on earth for all time and ages, with a self-appointed head of that body; the person of Peter, the first pope.  The Pope and all bishops in union with him are the official representatives of Jesus Christ and all revealed Truth of the Holy Spirit.

There is nothing in official Catholic Church teaching that says you must be a virgin before you are married.  When a couple approaches the Church for Catholic marriage, there is no question asking if you are still a virgin.  The Catholic Church allows marriages between a man and a woman with whom one or both are no longer virgins, and those who have been previously married civilly with a decree of nullity.  Non-virgins are welcome to the altar of the Lord in Holy Matrimony.

I certainly understand why someone would want to marry a virgin, or someone who has never been married.  Perhaps it is a desire to avoid possible diseases.  Perhaps it is to avoid dealing with another person’s ex-spouse or their children, or they only want their own children.  Perhaps it’s just that they feel it’s too risky, or they want someone who has also exercised self-control in refraining from pre-marital sex. It’s everyone prerogative to choose married to whomever they please, and hold out for someone who personifies the priorities they seek in their marriage partner.  Who wouldn’t prefer to be with someone on their wedding night who has never been with another person?  It’s a very nice hope, indeed, to find that. Yet, it’s not very practical in today’s world.  And it severely diminishes one’s opportunities.

Don’t be worried.  You are not a virgin anymore, like most of today’s society, including many Catholics.  But you are still very much a Catholic, and absolutely a candidate for sacramental marriage when you finally find the love of your life.  Keep up the good fight for remaining chaste before marriage.

John Paul II, Champion of Marriage

All of Rome is sold out for the end of this April.  St. Peter’s Square, and every road around it will be jammed with people on Mercy Sunday (April 27, 2014).  On that day, Pope Francis will announce the canonization of the most beloved Pope of modern times, Pope John Paul II.

Never has there been a greater champion of love and marriage than John Paul II.  His contributions are so vast and deep that it will take generations to unpack it all.  Probably his most popular contribution is what is known as the “Theology of the Body” movement, gleaned from the Pope’s 129 lectures between September 1979 and November 1984 (the first years of his pontificate) during the Wednesday audiences in St. Peter’s Square.  

These lectures were given as a reflection on God’s creation of mankind and the role of human sexuality, with particular concern for the defense of the human body in response to the permeating and widespread modern philosophical and cultural errors and abuses.  It was attempt to counter and undo the damage of the sexual revolution.  And he masterfully and beautifully accomplished that.

Two books are essential reading for anyone who wants to experience the heart of John Paul II’s thought and teaching on this subject.  The first is Man and Woman He Created Them, which contains the lectures themselves, and the second is Love and Responsibility, written while still Karol Wojtyla (before he became Pope).  Love and Responsibility is a defense of Catholic tradition on family life and sexual morality, addressing the whole human person (biology, psychology, sociology) and the relations between the sexes.

The heart of all of his teachings related to love, marriage and family life is the importance on the person; a unique, one-of-a-kind creation of God as as man or a woman, and that person’s human dignity. He brought to light that there is no authentic love between a man and a woman where the consideration of the individual persons is disregarded or distorted.  Who we are as a person as God created us and as He expects us to live is the starting point of all love, if it is to exist authentically and have mutual benefit.

This leads to the distinction between a man and a woman, how they interact, how they communicate, how they approach life, how they share love.  He brings out the beautiful differences and similarities between men and women, and provides the guidelines for human interaction.

This human interaction is a sexual one.  John Paul II makes it clear that all interaction between men and women is an expression of sexuality.  As we all know full well, this kind of expression is crudely and ignorantly interpreted (and with great limitation) to mean sexual relations.  In truth, sexuality is the whole being. It defines the genders.  he way we think, feel and act is a product of human sexuality.  

Women are a mystery. Men are a mystery. And love is a mystery. The mystery is rooted in the creation of body and soul, and God’s participation (and centrality) in the movement between human persons (better known as “love”).  Life is a mystery. Love is a discovery. It cannot be put into words, almost impossible to explain, and comes with so much potential suffering, pain and sorrow.

This is the message to us from Pope John Paul II. We should all be grateful for the gift of Pope John Paul II. I will be praying for all those who attend this one in a lifetime event April 27, that it will be full of blessings for them and they will be safe among the unusually high number of people.  If you are going, I’m sure it will be a life-changing event and highlight of your life.  If you want to go and need help finding a way, I know that Ave Maria Trips still has spots left of the group they have put together. To view the trip details, click here.  However you can get there, I strongly encourage you to go if you can.  It’s going to be unforgettable.  

Pope John Paul II, pray for us!

I want to hold your hand

Few things are as beautiful and inspirational to me as being on the beach. There is something about watching the sea and listening to the waves crash against the shore that uplifts my spirits, clears my mind, and brings out creativity. In fact, I am at the beach right now as I write.

If there is one thing that is more beautiful and inspiring to me than the ocean, it is the sight of an older couple holding hands walking along the ocean’s edge. I have already seen two such couples today looking so adorable holding hands, their heads fully grey and their time-weathered bodies moving slowly. Two long-time lovers still obviously in love with each other. You cannot help but smile. It is so very touching to see, you cannot help but utter, “Awwwww!”

How special is that? You still want to hold each other’s hand! Who doesn’t want to have that kind of love to still exist when they have been married for so long and are that old age? It is solid proof that the feelings of love are still very much alive.

I believe if you want to know if a relationship in trouble, start by observing if they hold hands.   You can hide a lot of things from others as a couple, but you cannot hide the reality that you don’t hold hands when walking together.

Two people in love are going to hold hands. Not all the time, but definitely often. And that is because when you are in love, you cannot help but want to touch the other person. God designed it that way, and our sexuality is naturally inclined to it. The most fundamental aspect of sexual attraction is the desire to be close, the desire to touch the other. Chastity demands that you not get too close, and that you do not do certain things before marriage. But there still must be some kind of touch.

This can be done by reaching out and holding hands, and with great satisfaction. Sitting close by each other or walking together, holding hands provides a wonderful fulfillment of that desire to be close. In fact, it is actually very healthy and important for developing the relationship.

That is not to say that couples who are dating and hold hands are definitely in love and will marry.  No.  Obviously couples break up who held hands a lot.  The focus here is when a couple no longer holds hands.   It is a sure sign that things are not going well if you think you love each other but have stopped holding hands (or never have).  Couples with a troubled relationship can pretend everything is okay by still holding hands.  They might be trying to make the feeling present, or one might be trying to keep the other fooled into thinking all is well. 

But a normal reaction to a troubled relationship of two sincere people is to not hold hands so often, and ultimately stop all together.  It happens unnoticed and without thinking.  Why?  Because holding hands comes naturally and it is a deep form of intimacy.  

It is also totally possible to be in a marriage that is very sexually active in the bedroom, but the couple does not hold hands anymore. In other words, there is sex but no affection. That is further proof, by the way, that sex activities do not prove true love exists. Our ability to show affections such as hand holding, hugs, loving looks and smiles, and light kisses throughout the day go a longer way in fostering the feeling of love.

Couples in love hold hands. Couples with problems don’t.

Now, at this point, it’s worth specifying that I am speaking of the affectionate side of love, the pleasurable feeling that exists within the reality of love. There is no doubt that committed love, marital love, does not require pleasing feelings to be present in order to be lived. Marriages can have love without affection. Feelings of love diminish or die, while the commitment of love remains. That is everyone’s worst nightmare, I know, but it does happen, and is more common than we care to admit Living the covenant of marriage even without feeling love is the higher good and still very much the highest calling of love.

Having said that, my point here has to do with the wonderful, incomparable feeling of being in love. There is nothing like it, and it is what everyone wants who desires to marry and have a family. They want to feel they are in love, and they never want that feeling to die.

That is completely understandable, and I pray that it happens for everyone. This kind of love is a gift from God, and a testimonial of the two persons capable of such love, that they chose wisely, and they did what is necessary to safeguard and foster their love. And let’s face it, there is some luck involved since you never know if the other person is going to drastically change on you or become something you did not foresee that naturally causes problems that affect the feelings of love.

As much as we want committed love, we do also want to feel it. We want romance just as much as we want service, duty and sacrifice. We want to feel happy, not just taken care of.

When the Beatles sang “I want to hold your hand” (great song!), they were talking about the desire for affection. It is the way the other makes you feel that draws you closer. Hand holding is a unique gesture of romantic love. It is a sign of great affection. I don’t care how close you are with a friend, one thing you never do with someone who is “just a friend” is hold hands.

Therefore, I say again that holding hands is proof that romantic love exists. So if you notice that you are not holding hands anymore, you need to consider that you might have problems you are not aware of that have affected your relationship. Things could get worse. Consider not holding hands as a sign, a red flag, that should make an alarm go off in your head and cause you to take the time to evaluate your relationship.

That is, of course, if you don’t want the romance, the feelings of love, to diminish or disappear completely. And who wants that? No one, I venture to guess. However, relationship and marital problems are very sneaky. We are inclined to be in denial about problems, and allow ourselves to be distracted so we do not have to confront them. If we don’t nip them in the bud, they slowly get worse and happen without really knowing it.

To couples who do not hold hands anymore, I challenge you to ask yourselves why you don’t.  If you can honestly say it is because you don’t have that feeling of love any longer and you want it back, then you have to work together to figure out what has gone wrong and communicate exceptionally well about it.  God willing, you will soon be holding hands again.

To the couples who hold hands, God bless you, and please keep up the good work. Your public hand holding is a very powerful witness. And the older you are, the more you inspire us and make us say “Awwwwww!” You give us faith and hope that the feelings of love are possible to last a lifetime.

Average is the new hot.

“Hot” seems to have become the most common adjective men and women use to describe the visual pleasure factor of each other.

I find the term “hot” to be degrading and inappropriate. Even more disturbing than the word itself is the tone and look of people as they say the word. If not lustful in motive, definitely leaning toward it. What else could it be but a form of lust to use this term? The term has to do with describing the body of a person and how much it pleases you to look at it. That’s pretty much in the “lust” department. It’s certainly not in the “love” department.

In fact, the dictionary would agree with me about the modern definition of hot:

a. sexually aroused; lustful.
b. sexy; attractive.

I say let’s stop doing this. It’s very unbecoming, if not degrading. And especially for Christians, more is expected of us. Did you not think I was talking about Christians as well? Unfortunately, I am. It is amazing to me the amount of professed Catholics who use this term quite freely and comfortably. It goes to show just how easy it is to be lured into the trends of secular society.

But we should be leaders and examples. There is nothing “Catholic” about describing a woman or a man as “hot.” What’s more, this kind of talk contributes to idealization and objectification. You condition yourself to want the ideal looking body that will be the object of your pleasure.

Now counter this approach with a desire to get to know the unique person of an individual who maybe has a great smile, a nice laugh, a pretty or cute face, enjoyable to be around, and is very healthy looking in body. The person has a deep love of the faith as you do, is very interesting and easy to talk to, and an overall delightful person.

However, this person is not what you could call “hot.” Why? Because “hot” has only to do with the body and the looks. This person described above is average looking.

Average. The use of this term to describe the looks of a person has, unfortunately, a negative connotation. But it should not. Most people in the world are average looking. Did you know that? Most people are not “hot.” That’s why there is so much excitement for the “hot” people. They are “hot” because they have above-average looks as defined by society and as we have been conditioned by the media such as films, television, magazines, advertising, etc.

So we look for the “hot” among us. And to what end? Is this really the main criteria for love? For what will make a person a good mother/father or spouse; in finding a suitable partner for marriage? Is this what we are looking for? A photograph? An image? A dream?

In the meantime, the average looking among us who are the bulk of the opportunities for love and marriage are scrutinized, second-guessed, even passed over. They are nice, and they are great people, but they do not satisfy.

And there is the lie. That a hotter looking person will satisfy, rather than “settling” for an attractive person. Perhaps if your goal is sexual pleasure, then a “hot” person is the home run. That’s another deception, because at the heart of wanting a “hot” person is the pleasure of the sense of sight. Non-”hot” people are just as capable of satisfying sexually as anyone else.

Pleasure of the eyes has been made the highest priority. And this is excused as being “chemistry,” as if visual pleasure is the submit of attraction.

Does this mean “average” means unattractive? Not at all, as I have already pointed out. Average means that they are pretty or handsome, and typically their looks vary in all kinds of unique and interesting ways. They are not the cookie-cutter looks that make for the society-defined “hot” looking woman or man.

Have you noticed how many average looking guys want “hot” girls? The average girls (again, these are girls who are pretty, attractive women who are NOT magazine images) are frustrated because no matter how beautiful they are, they cannot control that they are not “hot.” Thus, they are not the ideal, nor can they satisfy as the object of visual pleasure.

This, of course, is absolutely ridiculous. Men and women who live in this world of searching for the “hot” among us have to snap out of it and get out of the fog. You are missing the whole point of love and marriage. Average is good, not bad. Average is normal, every day life.

Average is what is around you. And average is beautiful, enjoyable, satisfying, and fulfilling. People of good character, strong faith, great sense of humor, and pleasing demeanor are all around you and make for the stuff of true love and marriage. Someone who will be a close friend, a good companion, and who loves you and is easy to love makes for what is real and lasting when it comes to chemistry and attraction.

So I say that average is the new hot! Keep reminding yourself of this. Average is the new hot. Pursue the person. Seek first the person you connect with, and allow all else to fall into place. Looks don’t last. But the love of the person does.

If you find a person that has all the important qualities AND ends up being above average looking as well, then that’s just icing on the cake. But please, never refer to them as “hot.” It’s degrading. Show more respect. Be classy. Just tell her she is beautiful, ravishing, gorgeous, lovely, and many other adjectives of respect and admiration.

“Hot” implies you want that body. Is that really who you are? We should never desire the pleasure of a body without full inclusion of the person.