In this blog, Dr Drasko Dizdar ponders the gift of the Holy Spirit in human sexuality...
I was recently asked by a young friend what I meant by saying that it was important to neither fear nor be run by sex, but to learn how to integrate sexuality.
We were also talking about the sacrament of confirmation; and it struck me that the two are connected. Let me explain.
Let’s begin with the word ‘integrate’. What does it mean to integrate something into one’s life and being?
Basically I think it means making it a part of oneself and one’s life and connecting it to everything else in a way that is creative, life-giving and (at least ideally) ‘seamless’. Integration, then, is the opposite of whatever scatters, destroys or disconnects the various elements of life and being.
There are two destructive extremes that integration overcomes: aversion and addiction.
While they may be unequivocal opposites in so far as they pull in the exactly opposite directions, both are disintegrating, destructive forces; and as such both are opposites to integrity.
Revulsion or aversion to sex is certain to lead to all kinds of sexual pathologies; and the same is, of course, true for sexual addiction or obsession.
In order to achieve any kind of healthy sexuality we have to find a way to integrate sex into our lives and recognize its integral part in our very being as humans.
How do we do that? This – odd as it may seem – is where the sacrament of confirmation comes in.
Another word for the same basic reality that ‘integration’ points to is the word ‘wisdom’; and wisdom has a very clear path: it is the culminating gift in the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
A sense of awe, or wonder, is the beginning of the journey of wisdom; and it is the first step in the process of integration. With regard to sex, we begin integrating our sexuality by recognizing just how wonderful it is, how truly ‘awesome’ a mystery it is: how it points to God and our own deepest human nature as God’s image and likeness.
We have to allow ourselves to experience sex and ourselves as sexual beings in a way that inspires a profound sense of its beauty, mystery and delight.
The natural – and indeed necessarily reasonable – response to the awe-inspiring wonder of sexuality is a deep sense of respect for sex, for ourselves and for each other as sexual beings.
When we allow ourselves to savor the wonder, goodness and beauty of sex and ourselves as sexual, we come to take sex and ourselves with a ‘seriousness’ that is joyful, never somber; and with a ‘lightness’ that is wholehearted and heartfelt, rather than frivolous or fickle.
In other words we come to a deep sense of reverence for the wonder of human sexuality.
As this reverence takes root in our hearts we find our hearts grow stronger, taking on dimensions of possibility to act with courage as the sexual beings we are. A capacity for ‘fortitude’, for the ability and willingness to live in accord with our nature as sexual beings, becomes a reality.
And with this growing capacity to act with integrity, a desire to know all we can about sex, ourselves and each other as sexual beings is the natural and normal correlative.
This desire and capacity to acquire knowledge is not just of an intellectual nature – or even principally so.
It includes a variety of ways of knowing: physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc. As our knowledge grows and begins to coalesce, understanding begins to dawn: we start to make meaningful connections and gain insights into sexuality and, more importantly, into ourselves, each other, and our nature as human beings who are therefore sexual beings.
As our understanding and appreciation of human sexuality deepens, so does our capacity to make sound decisions about our lives, behaviors, attitudes and relationships: we learn the art of discernment. And with that final gift we gain wisdom/integrity: we become the kind of human beings whose sexuality is an integrated and integral part of their life and self.
Of course, this is an ongoing, lifelong process; which few, if any of us, complete in this mortal phase of our eternal journey into God.
- Dr Drasko Dizdar is a member of the Emmaus monastic community, and a theologian with the Tasmanian Catholic Education Office.