For love of the Eucharist, civilly married couple abstained from sex

We are not brute beasts.

It seems to me that much of the debate about Communion for the divorced and remarried, and about homosexuals, is founded on the false premise that people simply cannot not have sex, as much as they want, in whatever way they want. They can’t help themselves. “No”, isn’t to be imagined.

Not so. God made us in His image and likeness.

From the Catholic Sentinel in Portland:

Couple abstained for 19 months for love of Eucharist

TIGARD — Steve and Shaina Purves don’t consider themselves heroic. They say they simply lived out what the church teaches — and it was fantastic.

For 19 months after Shaina entered the Catholic Church, the civilly-wed couple refrained from sexual contact while church authorities looked over their past marriages to see if they could be declared null. According to church law, a declaration of nullity, or annulment, of those past attempted marriages would be necessary before Steve and Shaina could be considered married. Not wanting to risk serious sin, and wanting to receive the Eucharist, the couple lived a life of abstinence while awaiting word.

“God is more important than sex for us,” Shaina says.

It took longer than they hoped, but the period proved a boon to their relationship.

“It helped us realize what is truly important,” Shaina says.

“My mind went crazy sometimes,” admits Steve, who was in “total agreement” with the abstinence plan. “But you’d be amazed the strength God gives you. It was not that bad, and in a way we got to start all over again as a couple. When we came out the other end, we saw that this idea that sex is so important to relationships is a lie.”

[…]

Read the rest there.

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31 Responses to For love of the Eucharist, civilly married couple abstained from sex

  1. DisturbedMary says:

    Obedience! Aint it great!

  2. MmeScherzo says:

    I was civilly married 31 years ago. I converted to Catholicism in 2013. My husband has no interest in becoming a Catholic…he is irreligious. A good man, but not a religious man. Should I continue to receive the Eucharist?

  3. Wish this blog had a ‘thumbs up’ button.

    Is it easy? I don’t imagine that it is. Such is the consequence of Original Sin.

    As my mother would say “offer it up!”. They did. And gained untold blessings.

  4. mamajen says:

    When we came out the other end, we saw that this idea that sex is so important to relationships is a lie.

    This hits on an important point. Relationship experts are constantly harping on about how essential sex is to a successful marriage. I suspect some people are genuinely scared about what might happen to their relationship if that element is missing (particularly if they believe that was part of the problem in a previous marriage).

  5. APX says:

    DisturbedMary,

    Obedience is probably one of my most favorite virtues. I have a bit of a holy envy for Religious and their vow of obedience.

  6. Elizium23 says:

    MmeScherzo, from the information you have given us it would appear that you are validly married and have no reason to abstain from anything. The prohibition on civil marriage is only for baptized Catholics and those who have already contracted a valid marriage. Non-Catholics can marry validly in just about any legal way possible, before a JOP, before a Protestant minister, a Hindu brahmin or a rabbi, etc. If this was the first marriage for both of you, then you and your unbaptized husband have a natural marriage. There is nothing to worry about.

  7. joeclark77 says:

    My wife and I had to “live as brother and sister” for about 4 months this year after she entered the church, and before we had a convalidation ceremony. Paperwork issue. 19 months is longer, but it’s hardly newsworthy. I agree with Fr. Z that it’s only in the context of our society’s bizarre belief that one cannot not have sex, that this is a story.

  8. CradleRevert says:

    MmeScherzo,

    You may want to check with a priest. I believe the answer will depend on your circumstances.

  9. anilwang says:

    mamajen says: “. Relationship experts are constantly harping on about how essential sex is to a successful marriage. “

    Unfortunately these “relationship experts” have destroyed many marriages. There are months of time in a typical marriage where abstinence is almost a requirement, and if one of the spouses develops a condition or has an injury or is chronically fatigued for other reasons, that abstinence may need to be extended for years or even the rest of your life. If sex is thought to be essential to the marriage, then the marriage is over at the first sign of abstinence, or pressure is given to have sex when it is unwise to do so, putting a huge strain on the marriage. And if the marriage stands due to fear and inertia, the temptation to look outside the marriage to “fulfill one’s needs” becomes stronger.

  10. Sonshine135 says:

    Father Z hit it dead on the mark:

    “It seems to me that much of the debate about Communion for the divorced and remarried, and about homosexuals, is founded on the false premise that people simply cannot not have sex, as much as they want, in whatever way they want.”

    Exactly, exactly, exactly! Thank you for saying it. Were we unable to control our need for sex, then we would be no different than the animals, and all forms of sexual depravity should be legalized. This applies to all people, which is why I am appalled that the we continue to call people by their disordered sexual preferences.

  11. BenYachov says:

    If memory serves Norma McCorvey was still living with her lesbian lover when she came to Christ & was baptized by a Protestant minister in a swimming pool. Her girlfriend also came to Christ and they both said they would continue to live together but abstain from relations. I believe shortly after Norma became Catholic her girlfriend moved out and they remained friends.

    Grace is amazing.

  12. Marissa says:

    When we came out the other end, we saw that this idea that sex is so important to relationships is a lie.

    It is important–the marriage debt is nothing to scoff at–but yes, it’s rather overblown by modern psychologist types.

  13. Fudge says:

    I thought you have to remain in celibacy [celibate = not married – chaste or continent – refraining from sex] in your second marriage. Didn’t Christ say, we commit adultery when we lay with another other after our first marriage. What is the truth?

  14. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    In the east, there is the expectation that, during the fasting cycles and after midnight the day one expects to receive, a married couple will refrain from conjugal relations. Granted, that is the ideal, and like most fasting, difficult to keep, but that doesn’t lower the bar or tarnish the ideal.
    Was such a practice ever common in the west?

  15. KateD says:

    Amen!

  16. chantgirl says:

    Actually, the marital act is extremely important. It is a sign in the flesh of the love of the trinity and the love of Christ for His Church. If it were trivial, it would not be a big deal to sacrifice it to become a priest or religious. Catholics believe that the body, and what we do with it, matters a great deal.

    Granted, people’s desires can be greater or lesser depending on their personality, stage of life (try telling a teenager or ovulating wife that sex is not so important!), and hormonal makeup, but a couple in their childbearing years who has already been intimate and is abstaining for good for good reason is making a great sacrifice. Abstinence is much more difficult when a couple is in close proximity; more difficult than a celibate might imagine. Loving someone and wanting to be united with them increases the desire in a way that might be difficult for someone who is not in love to understand. Anyway, kudos to this couple for choosing Christ and picking up their cross to follow Him! I’m sure that the youth group kids were given a little hope and encouragement that chastity is possible.

    When we hear people say that a sacrifice is just too hard, we should remind them that Jesus was God and man and that His sacrifice was beyond difficult for His humanity to bear. If we follow Christ, we follow in His carrying of the cross.

  17. iteadthomam says:

    Between the eucharist and the marital act I’d gladly give up the marital act. It is quite offensive some don’t see receiving our Lord as more important than the marital act.

  18. tcreek says:

    “Relationship experts are constantly harping on about how essential sex is to a successful marriage.”
    Of course Joseph and Mary were unaware of that.

  19. jacobi says:

    The present Secular world glorifies sex, just as the pagan pre-Christian world did, and this attitude has seeped into the Catholic Church.

    The insistence on the right to contraception by married Catholics, and the phenomena of the “homosexual lobby” with some clergy shows how Catholics have become Secularised in the past fifty years.

    The “right” to Holy Communion, has nothing to do with mercy but is simply a devious downplaying of the concept of sin by the Relativist reformers in the Church and as the recent Synod has shown, they are numerous within the hierarchy. The weapon is a rejection of abstinence.

    But abstinence is a part of Catholicism. It is required of those who are not in a valid marriage. That’s a lot of people. The unmarried, the divorced or separated, the clergy, all of homosexual orientation. It is required often for long period of those who are temporarily separated, the military, immigrant workers, business people, of widows and widowers, many who are ill.

    What is utterly wrong is for those who do not accept this to try, usually deviously and in an underhand way, as the recent Synod has clearly illustrated, to change the Millennia-old and unalterable teaching of the Church on this matter, to suit their own convenience.

    After all no one is forcing them to be Catholics. There are plenty of other ecclesial groups they could join and would no doubt be welcomed in.

  20. Grumpy Beggar says:

    From: Modern Catholic Dictionary, Father John Hardon, S.J.

    CONSUMMATED MARRIAGE.
    A marriage in which after the matrimonial contract is made husband and wife have marital intercourse. Contraceptive intercourse does not consummate Christian marriage. (Etym. Latin consummare, to bring into one sum, to perfect.)

    http://www.therealpresence.org/dictionary/adict.htm

  21. stephen c says:

    Chantgirl, I have no doubt your heart is in the right place, but I think it would be condescending and unfair to assume about other people – unless you know them very, very well – that they do not or cannot understand the sacrifices of others. I believe that very few people reading this blog are not fully aware of how seemingly difficult it might be to give certain things up for the Lord; but I hope, and I am certain that I correctly hope, that when we give things up for the Lord with a true heart, we know that what we gave up was trivial. Contrary to what you seem to have said, I would be amazed to learn that good continent Christians are not fully capable of understanding why other Christians might want to be incontinent. Also , I would be amazed to learn that there is any barrier of any importance worth mentioning between the celibate and the non-celibate on the issues of what is important in this life. For the non-celibate, it matters little whether or not we have had the unusual good luck (all things considered) to have an attractive and likeable spouse, or whether or not any other random differences regarding ovulation and desire have a place in our life – if God asks us for some small gift, it is a blessing, not some heroic agony, to be able to reciprocate.

  22. frjim4321 says:

    I think what’s being missed here – and it’s important – is that people vary greatly with respect to their sex drive. I think it’s relatively easy for some people to avoid intimacy because they are not wired for it. On the other hand, I think some people are driven pretty hard and one way or the other they are going to get their needs met every so often. I think this is just a fact of life. People are different in their sexual appetites. We see this all the time in marital counseling. There are spouses that are content with rare or even worse, but there are some with more healthy appetites. I don’t think it’s right to paint everyone with the same brush.

  23. THREEHEARTS says:

    My wife and I decided years ago to rejoin the Church and under the guidance of a great priest Fr Don Newman we started back. It took three years for our annulment. We took no vows of temporary celibacy. We said the rosary morning noon and night and slept in the same bed and never once were tempted or fell down. The Good and Loving priest that helped us demanded only two things I would go to confession weekly to him and would not go to Holy Communion if I missed a confession with him, that is both of us would not receive. I could describe the wonders we went through but must include seeing the Woman Clothed in the Sun at Guadeloupe in 1994 or 5. but greater still was the very joyful and happy love and life we have lived since including some dreadful croosses we have had to carry since. I truly wish that those who have the same problem my wife and I had, will find a decent priest to carry you thorough this dreadful
    time of one’s life. I would reccomend any one with a serious and grave sin of any kind for example Homosexuallty find a priest and work out a way as we did with him to receive the Most Holy Euchaist with the same conditions. Hold in your minds you can be forgiven at least 70 times to until you succeed

  24. THREEHEARTS says:

    MmeScherzo,
    One thing I learned from the experience with Fr Newman, from a very old and holy widow who could be considered as a Russian Sfaret or an early Irish I believe is called and amchara??? that when truly married that which is joined truly joines are our souls, I factthis wouls mean that wd can confess sins we have mutually agreed upon and committed can be confessed by one partner. AS a weak defence I would say this deep interior joining of my wife and my souls is responsible why I know so often as she does what we are both thinking or want o do, I find that this truly doubly or tripally enhanced by weekly confessions. It gives unbeliveable joy to our marriage and nothing seems to mar our happiness. I also find as does my wife I feel so stongly when I in any way offend her and I am driven to apologize so very deeply. Truly pray and ask in the name of Jesus that your example will convert him. Pray from the very center of your heart, the inner chamber of your soul that this will come to pass. Count on Christ’s promise what so ever you ask in My Name and you will be so very happy.

  25. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Also , I would be amazed to learn that there is any barrier of any importance worth mentioning between the celibate and the non-celibate on the issues of what is important in this life.”

    Actually, there is. A proper marriage gives real graces specifically for raising children. Also, celibates do not image the relationship between Christ and His Church in the same way as married people.

    “I believe that very few people reading this blog are not fully aware of how seemingly difficult it might be to give certain things up for the Lord; but I hope, and I am certain that I correctly hope, that when we give things up for the Lord with a true heart, we know that what we gave up was trivial.”

    If it were trivial, it would not be difficult to give up. I think you mean to be referring to St. Paul’s point (Philipians 3: 7 – 9):

    “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith;”

    St. Paul was unmarried, but I cannot see him calling a proper marriage, which is a sacrament and sexual intercourse in the same marriage, which is a sacramental, trivial, much less refuse. In this passage, he is referring to things which do not lead to God. Sacraments, by their nature, can.

    The Chicken

  26. Rachel K says:

    Elizium23 says:

    “MmeScherzo, from the information you have given us it would appear that you are validly married and have no reason to abstain from anything. The prohibition on civil marriage is only for baptized Catholics and those who have already contracted a valid marriage. ”

    MmeScherzo is now a baptised Catholic. Dear MmeScherzo, perhaps you should consult a priest, it may be that you need convalidation for your marriage, which joeclark77 mentions above. It all depends on your particular circumstances which you should discuss with a priest. Welcome to the Body of Christ! You are sancctifying your husband by your faith in Jesus through the Catholic Church. Who knows, he may yet enter the Church too, but as you say he is a good man and that is the most important thing.

    Fudge says:

    “I thought you have to remain in celibacy in your second marriage. Didn’t Christ say, we commit adultery when we lay with another other after our first marriage. What is the truth?”

    A completely “celibate” marriage would not be valid. Consummation is required for a legitimate marriage to be valid. When you say above “after our first marriage”, that is the point, there cannot be an “after” unless the marriage has ended due to the death of one or other spouse. A marriage either exists or doesn’t. If both parties are still alive and the marriage has not been proven to have been invalid in the first place (proof of nullity) then the marriage is still alive and valid! So you can’t have a second “marriage” in that circumstance, that would be adultery, bigamy etc.

  27. chantgirl says:

    Stephen c- I do not mean to denigrate anyone. I do think it is difficult to fully empathize with certain experiences- loss of a child, the horror of war, betrayal by a spouse, death of a spouse, pains of death, sexual abuse, falling in love, mystical experiences of God- without having some experience with the situation.

    Even those who have sexual experiences outside of marriage don’t really know what marital intimacy is like, and I say this as one who is happily married but came to appreciate the Church’s teaching on sexuality the hard way. I merely mean to congratulate the couple for following Christ when it was difficult, and to value sex in its’ proper place. If anything, our society doesn’t glorify sex; it cheapens it. People think that the body is just a tool to be manipulated to get what they want. So, it doesn’t matter if they take contraceptive pills, unite a sperm and ovum in a dish, experiment on embryos, look at porn, masturbate, fornicate, have sex change operations, commit sodomy, etc. Sex is more of a fix than an act of love, unity, and prayer in modern society. As Catholics, we need to stress that the body and what we do with it is important.

    Yes, any sacrifice for God is a joy, but also a suffering. Created goods all pale next to the Creator, but that doesn’t mean it’s not difficult for us to let go of them. I just want to properly value what this couple did for God. Living God’s plan for sexuality in a joyful manner can bring others to conversion.

  28. Volanges says:

    Rachel K says: A completely “celibate” marriage would not be valid. Consummation is required for a legitimate marriage to be valid.

    That is not so. Consummation makes a marriage indissoluble, it doesn’t make it valid. Otherwise you are saying that Mary and Joseph’s marriage wasn’t valid and the Church certainly doesn’t teach that.

    A consummated sacramental marriage (one between two baptized persons) cannot be dissolved.
    A non-consummated sacramental marriage can be dissolved.

    A consummated natural marriage can be dissolved by either Petrine or Pauline privilege depending on the circumstances.

  29. stephen c says:

    A very thoughtful and nice clarification, thank you Chantgirl.

  30. chantgirl says:

    Stephen c- Thanks, and I guess I should work on my internet “tone” :)

  31. eamonob says:

    Proud to say that Fr. Ysrael Bien is my pastor. A very holy priest!