Friday, September 30, 2005

Vocation and concupiscence

Dr. Donald Asci, professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville's Austria campus, wrote a great book on marriage and the conjugal act called The Conjugal Act as a Personal Act. Though I first heard about this book almost 4 years ago, I am finally beginning to read all the way through it. It contains a wealth of information from a historical point of view reflecting on a proper understanding of marriage. The front of the book calls it a "study of the Catholic concept of the conjugal act in light of Christian anthropology."

In this post, I would like to reflect briefly on the concept of concupiscence, especially in the much-disputed words of St. Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor 7:9): "But if they cannot exercise self-control they should marry, for it is better to marry than to be on fire."

At first glance, this quote seems to lower man and woman to the level of beasts who are unable to control themselves. If this selfish attitude is applied to marriage, it will not create a better situation, but it will result in the use of each other. Selfishness results in resentment, not love.

However, another idea of how concupiscence is to be tackled brings reconciliation, love and mutual help. "Concupiscence is only remedied through the lawful use of the generative faculty; that is, as ordained to procreation. Concupiscence is remedied when the sexual faculty is ordered to its proper use and purposes, primary of which is procreation. Likewise the end of mutual help is related intrinsically to procreation. Mutual help is meant to include the common life of the spouses that they share on the basis of their marital friendship. This common life is marital, or conjugal, inasmuch as it includes and is ordered to the procreation and education of children."

He goes on to quote John Gallagher in the following words, "However the common life of spouses is distinguished by its 'internal relation to the primary end, which differentiates the conjugal union from every other human association.'"

Bringing this idea back around to the title of the post, many simply choose the vocation of marriage because they feel unable to exercise a life of self-control through celibacy. It is a truly honorable vocation for a priest, brother or sister to forgo sex for the sake of the Kingdom of God, however marriage ought not be seen merely as a "license to have sex." On the other hand, it is cooperation between spouses by means of their God-given sexual urge for the sake of rearing children to know, love and serve God.

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