Valerie Schultz

My marriage is not what saints are made of. I concluded this after reading Pope John Paul II’s homily on the occasion of the first-ever beatification of a married couple, Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi. Maria and Luigi, an Italian couple who lived in early to mid-20th century, led holy lives. They attended daily Mass, prayed a nightly rosary and raised two priests, a consecrated lay woman and a nun. They devoted their lives to various Catholic organizations. Because the cause for canonization treated the two together, a single miracle attributed to their intercession cleared the way for beatification in October 2001. The prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints considered them together because of their experience of sanctity, lived together so intimately. In other words, their marriage made it impossible to separate them.

The part that remains off the record is that, after giving birth to their children, Maria and Luigi stopped having sex.

On a typical evening at our house, one might observe a table strewn with algebra homework; a basket of unfolded laundry; a frantic search for an important permission slip that is due the next morning (or else); a very full dish rack; the sounds of a phone, a stereo, a shower, cello practice, two dogs who want to play and perhaps a sisterly squabble; and two parents who, though tired, entertain at least a random thought about having sex. Where is the holy in all of that?

May I gently suggest: everywhere?

I don’t mean to be snide about the shining example of the Blessed Beltrames. Their faith and accomplishments are surely to be emulated. As the pope noted, they kept the lamp of faith burning. The pope beatified them on the 20th anniversary of the apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, a document that highlights the centrality of marriage and the mission of the family. The Beltrames as a married couple are a milestone along the path of the communion of saints.

But if marriage is a source of sacramental grace, why are we as a church so uncomfortable about sex?

When two people who chose celibacy as a way of becoming closer to God are beatified as a married couple, the message to us married people is mixed. Because we are the ones who are supposed to be having sex! We are allowed and encouraged to have sex. We are the celebration of sex. All of those shoes and backpacks in a pile in my front hall belong to the embodiments of sex. I’m taking a Catholic stand when I say that sex is good.

Of course I am not talking about casual, sporting, movie sex. I’m talking about married sex: user-friendly, loving, unitive, procreativeand also, to be honest, hot, satisfying and the most fun of all earthly pleasures. Married sex may not always be glamorous and candle-lit. But intercourse is the closest one can be to another human being. It is a bond, a sharing, a trust, a deeply intimate human encounter. It is no wonder that the relationship of Christ to the church is modeled on that of a groom and bride: we are to be that connected.

The pope sees the Beltrames as confirmation that the path of holiness lived together as a couple is possible, beautiful, extraordinarily fruitful, and fundamental for the good of the family, the church and society. As my children say: totally. We married people are on the path of holiness as surely as anyone else who is following the call of a vocation. While I respect the choice the Beltrames made on their journey to God, I do not believe post-children celibacy is necessary for a marriage to become holier. God can also be in the tangled sheets and tangy sweat on skin.

Is this shocking? It should not be. We are designed for this perfect fit. For biblical proof, I offer the glowing embers from the Song of Songs.

Says the bride:

Awake, north wind, and come,
south wind;
blow upon my garden that its
perfumes may pour forth,
that my beloved may come to his
garden and enjoy its rare fruits. (4:16)

Says the bridegroom:
May I find your breasts like
clusters of grapes on the vine, the
scent of your breath like apricots,
and your whispers like spiced
wine flowing smoothly to we
come my caresses, gliding
down through lips and teeth. (7:8-9)

The bride and bridegroom sing a delicious, teasing ode to sex, full of juicy and physical imagery, with which any happily married couple would agree. Sex is that good, and we thank God for this gift. Too often we Catholics treat sex as an impediment to the mission of marriage rather than a glorious manifestation and integral piece of that mission. We view sex as a necessary evil, prone to abuse and scandal, rather than a transcendent joy.

The Beltrames bore a sadness of which I must make note: they were never grandparents. All four of their children chose lives of celibacy. While I encourage my four daughters in vocational discernment, I’m afraid that if they all someday choose childlessness, I will mourn my unborn grandchildren. My father often watches my children at play and then says to me, It’s what makes the world go round. I never tire of hearing him say that: the continuing generations not only spin the globe; they are a gift from heaven too. Perhaps the Beltrames’ example of celibacy contributed to their children’s choices.

I have to hope that when a husband and wife demonstrate physical affection, that too is a positive example of divine intimacy to their children. I must credit my wise and learned friend, Dr. Greer Gordon, with the reflection that healthy examples of sexuality in the context of marriage are essential to form sexually healthy future adults, which is a painfully lively concern for Catholics right now. Dr. Gordon, speaking at the 2002 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, challenged married theologians to write about their sacrament and vocation, about what it means to be married and to be in relationship with God. While I claim no theological credentials, I offer this beginning advice: the sublime Song of Songs needs to be lived in the rush and routine of the everyday.

In our house on a typical night, one may not find a rosary in use. But there are bedtime prayers and blessings, hugs and kisses, a spirit of love, the quiet world turning and maybe even the lovemaking of two searching, aging, journeying, married souls. In our house can be found the reach for what is holyeven though there are no resident saints.

Editor's note: This article won the Catholic Press Association second place award for best essay.

Valerie Schultz, who lives in Tehachapi, Calif., is an occasional contributor to America.

Comments

Tom Schneck | 7/27/2010 - 12:11am
Regarding "God in the Tangled Sheets" by Valerie Schultz, I am reminded of the very first act and instruction by God after the creation of all living things, including mankind, created in the image of God, as told in Genesis 1:28 "God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number...'
Accordingly, sex is a commandment and expectation of God.  Ms. Schultz shows us how that can be lived honoring an image of God.
Kay Satterfield | 7/21/2010 - 10:18pm
I really loved this article.  It affirms the holiness of intimacy between and husband and wife in the real chaos of family life.  Most books on marriage say the main indicator of the health of a marriage is how often a couple is having sex.  It brings about a softness and closeness and good spirit that carries through the day, God is in that.   As someone who is a real fan of Catholic saints but frustrated that there really aren't any for me to emulate as a married women and mother of 4 children, Thank you Valerie for this article.
Susann Jameson | 7/14/2010 - 12:30pm
Amen Sister!!  It's about time we start to celebrate strong, human, sexually active marriages. There is nothing like looking your husband in the eye and knowing that with all the bumps and bruises life gives, you still can and do trip each other's triggers!!
Gerald McGrane | 7/12/2010 - 10:40pm
Anyone that thinks JPII or the Catholic Church is somehow against sex within marriage obviously has not paid any attention to the writings of JPII, especially the Theology of the Body and Love and Responsibility (as Karol Wojtyla).  Take the following quote as an example:
"...it is necessary to insist that sexual intercourse must not serve merely as a means of allowing sexual excitement to reach its climax in one of the partners, i.e. the man alone, but that climax must be reached in harmony, not at the expense of one partner, but with both partners fully involved." (Love and Responsibility)
Does this sound like a man who was against married couples enjoying sex?  Despite the rather technical tone this quote, it is one of many that reveals that JPII knew what sex is about and that he wanted everyone to see it as it really is.
The essay makes the important point that sex within marriage is holy.  Unfortunately it does so by playing to those wishing to criticize the late pope and the Church.  If the editors of America wish to continually make this point they should do so giving full and accurate consideration to JPII's writings.
It is irresponsible for a Catholic magazine to continually misrepresent JPII and the teachings of the Church regarding sexuality.
Max Lindenman | 7/11/2010 - 7:21pm
Ms. Schulz has written a charming and courageous article, but I still wish I hadn't read it.  Bragging about your wonderful sex life is like bragging about your swelling stock portfolio - justifiable by the law of the schoolyard, by which those who can crow, may, but still, pretty tacky.  By the same token, making a high O-count into a Christian virtue or a sign of God's grace sounds as smugly un-Christian as the prosperity gospel, a slap in the face to those less elect.
Don't get me wrong, I'd never demand that anyone live life like Fred and Wilma, or whatever the heck those two celibate Italian saints are called.  I'd just beg them to save the sultry details for Cosmo, or maybe Facebook status updates.
Paul Leddy | 7/8/2010 - 6:29pm
I mean to be picky (perhaps not precise)
Re: #3 Herbert Ely's comment:
"Valerie Schultz (God in the Tangled Sheets, July 1-8) writes about the canonization of the married couple Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattorocihchi. The Vatican, she suggests gives a mixed message because the Beltrames practiced celibacy after the birth of their last child."
I don't think the Beltrames practiced celibacy. Maybe they lived a life of continency together. There's celibacy, chastity,continency ...I'm sure I'm missing a couple more.
I Just finished reading "The Primacy of Love" by August Adam; because I read recently that Pope Benedict stated that it had a great influence on him when he was young. Mr. Adam discusses sex and morality and chastity in the book. He's all for sex. He was dismayed that the world became so prudent that the word "immorality" (and maybe "chastity") refers only to sins against the 6th Commandment. Sins against any of the 10 may be immoral.
I may be putting to fine a point on it, but, "celibacy" is not a virtue. Chastity is a virtue. One tries to grow in the virtue.
Mrs. Schultz's essay makes the right point. What was it about the Beltrames' marriage that deserves sainthood? Were they just very pious as a couple?
They chose to live a continent life; they did not chose a chaste life, we're all called to live chastly; they did not promise to be celibate.
They are not a model for Catholics, married or discerning marriage.
Or, am I missing something?
JOHN DEAN | 7/6/2010 - 10:29pm
I have just read Valerie Schultz's article and the comments its readers have made over the past eight years.  Fulton J. Sheen pointed out sixty or more years ago, "it takes three to get married:" the bride, the groom, and God.  I'm not positive, but I believe it was Sheen who opined that it is during in a married couple's passionate love-making that God is especially close to the couple as He silently and mysteriously joins in the action, when He chooses, to create an immortal soul!  [Does anyone ever meditate on that?]  That says more about God's loving action in a couple's married love than all the agonizing over abstinence and voluntary celibacy that mirror the church's hang-ups about sex.
Tamzin Simmons | 6/29/2010 - 12:50pm
What a lovely article, well deserving of its prize and unsurprising that it has popped up on this site every few years for new reflection.
Michael Curren | 6/29/2010 - 7:00am
Thank you Valerie, for your honest and frank observations. Well put.
Chris Brune | 6/28/2010 - 8:44pm
Ms. Schultz has made an excellent point. In point of fact, the Church has little to say about sex that anyone take seriously because of its warped attitudes toward the subject.
If celibates are chaste, are married people then unchaste?
If celibates make a great sacrifice, do married people not make a sacrifice living day to day on the front lines of life bringing children into the world, supporting them and trying to help them to grow up to be good people?
Sex is the right and privilege of every married couple who have taken the vows and are living them out - as much as they want, whenever they want, in whatever way they want. The Church, including the beloved JPII, blunders spectacularly when it tries to paint married sexual love as something less than celibacy. No wonder no one takes the Church seriously on matters related to the issue.
Michael Barberi | 6/28/2010 - 6:03pm
Bravo to America Magizine for printing the article written by Valarire Schulz "God in the Tangled Sheets".   The entire issue of sex in marriage as pontificated by Pius IX in Humanae Vitae and John Paull II's encyclicals of Family et al, seems to be at the center of the Beltrame example.   As Deacon Don Zirkel mentioned, albeit not directly, the real truth behind many of the Church's teachings on sex and marriage is often censored from Catholic publications.  The Church does not teach the full truth on such controversial topics because their foundational rationale is deemed to be in error by many bishops, priests and theologians (as well as most Catholc parishioners).  Consider two provoking issues on sex and marriage:
1.  According to the Church, artifical birth control is morally wrong and intrinsically evil.  Every act of marital intercourse must be open to the procreation of life.   It does not matter if you have 2 children or 5, and wish not to have further children.  It is a mortal sin.  Yet an overwhelming majority of sexually active Catholic couples take the pill and receive holy communion.  A mortal sin and sacriledge?  Try getting an answer from your local priest and bishop on that question.  If you do, you will find a different answer from other priests and bishops.  Have you ever heard the subject of sin, confession and abolution regarding artifical birth control from the Pulpit?  From a Catholic Magazine or Newspaper?  Deliberate silence and the allowance of two different teachings on this subject is morally wrong and irresponsible.  Yet, no one will hold the Church accountable.  The Beltrame example seems to support the Church's teachings on this subject.  The Church tells us that the mastery and requirement of abstinence, during periods of fertility, is obviously necessary for the full expression of marital love.  Most people find this reasoning absurb as a rationale for natural versus artifical birth control, disguised as a basis for marital love and sex.  The Beltrame's went further and remained celibate.  God bless them.
2.  The Catholic Church tells us Mary was a perpetual virgin and that Jesus's brothers and sisters, as the New Testament called them, were really Joseph's children from a prior marriage.  This Beltrame example of a blessed married couple seems to follow from Mary's perpetual virginity and Joseph's celibacy after the birth of Jesus.  Abstinence seems to be the ultimate form of love of God in marriage.  Sex is God's gift to all married couples.  You don't have to deny yourself this gift to be a saint.  Bravo to Valerie Schlutz for pointing that out.
Livia Fiordelisi | 6/25/2010 - 11:30am
Pope JP II was certainly a master politician and saint maker, but knew very little about healthy (and holy) human relationships. Thanks for this lovely look into one!
Margaret C. Jones | 1/29/2007 - 10:38am
Thank you for “The Strengths of Priests Today,” by Archbishop John R. Quinn, and “God in the Tangled Sheets,” by Valerie Schultz (7/1). The topics were important, appropriate and pertinent.

At a time when the media is full of negative stories about priests, it was good to read about the truly good priests who strive to follow Christ and show him to the world, for he is our only hope.

Valerie Schultz’s article needed to be written and, I would add, needs to be heralded. The church should celebrate marriages and affirm couples living this path with Christ on the road to heaven. The church seems to take one step forward and two steps backward. It beatifies a married couple—but one that discontinued their sex lives. The world today needs family. We preach that all the time, but sometimes our words resonate as if they have been spoken in a vacuum.

(Deacon) Don Zirkel | 1/29/2007 - 10:15am
In the midst of what may be this millennium’s most underreported story—the decimation of the diocesan press—the role of Catholic magazines becomes even more important. Fortunately, they are up to the task. Sadly, many periodicals controlled by bishops are not permitted to do their share of the work.

When I was editor of The Brooklyn Tablet (1968-85), we believed that when the Catholic press doesn’t talk about what the Catholic people are talking about, it becomes irrelevant. Why contribute to a bishop’s appeal to support a journal that is presented under false pretenses as a “newspaper” in the common understanding of the word?

Readers are comfortable with a periodical that challenges them, if sometimes it also courageously speaks for them. America has powerfully articulated the concern that the bishops are not being held responsible. I am envious of the gentleness with which Camille D’Arienzo, R.S.M., (“An Echo of Bagpipes,” 7/29) and Valerie Schultz (“God in the Tangled Sheets,” 7/1) disagree with official statements.

Sister Camille’s question about zero tolerance (“100 percent intolerance”?) echoes in my soul: “Does the goodness, the generous self-sacrifice of the intervening years count for nothing?” Ms. Schultz discusses the confusing canonization of a celibate couple as a model for Christian marriage. Perhaps they were forgiven for the indiscretions that produced four children, if they and the kids promised to avoid them in the future.

The Second Vatican Council said laypeople have the right and sometimes the duty to speak up. The late Bishop Francis Mugavero of Brooklyn recommended the letters column of The Tablet as one appropriate way to do that. I am pleased to note that policy continues in Brooklyn, although not in neighboring dioceses. Amid the calls for more openness, more transparency, more trust, more listening, more dialogue and more accountability, we have more expunction and more censorship, more hugger-muggery and more Fifth Amendment silence. As the columnist Westbrook Pegler said, “No one ever proved he was innocent by changing the subject.”

Joseph and Jane Kupin | 1/29/2007 - 9:44am
We want to compliment Valerie Schultz on her excellent reflection, “God in the Tangled Sheets” (7/1). We heartily endorse her point of view, except for two small quibbles. The first concerns the parents of those called to celibacy. One of our children is currently making final plans to join an order of nuns who work in South America. No one should feel sorry for us, even though our daughter’s decision has cut in half our chances of ever holding a biological grandchild. Perhaps we hear the wise words of Ms. Shultz’s father, “It’s what makes the world go round,” slightly differently from the way she does. We believe that the “it” is not grandchildren themselves, but the love reflected in their eyes. We have been blessed to see many ripples of love spread out from the small splash of our commitment to each other. It appears that this love will soon raise a wave that will reach all the way to Bolivia and wash over 50 or more young girls who have known far too little love in their lives. We stand in humble awe of what God is doing, and feel rewarded in ways we never could have imagined when we said “I do” 25 years ago.

Our second quibble comes from the last line of the meditation, which seems to imply that the Schultz household has no resident saints. We beg to differ, and suggest she look more carefully in her photo album, where we are sure she will find saints aplenty.

Noel Krebs | 1/29/2007 - 9:35am
Thank God and America’s editors for printing “God in the Tangled Sheets” (7/1) by a lay person, first of all; second, by a woman; third, by a married woman; fourth, by a sexually active married woman; and fifth, about fun sex in married life; finally, about married sex as a good for God, the church, the world, the human race, the family, the grandparents and society.

Pope John Paul II had a political agenda. When he canonized the married Quattrocchis, he wanted the world to know that no longer having sex in marriage is saintly, and here is the proof: all four of their children chose chastity for their vocation. God so loved... those who did not have sex. That is not Jn.3:16; that is the pope’s agenda.

Therefore John W. Donohue, S.J., (Of Many Things, 7/1) should understand something and write about it. When he says that “not many married men have been canonized, partly because there have been no lobbyists to promote their causes,” he really means that nobody has put up the money to get them canonized. Of course, if the pope wanted to canonize a married, sexually active couple he would find the money. It is simply not his political agenda. He emphasizes transcendental values to the harm of incarnational ones. (And almost all his money comes from married people! I smell disrespect.)

There was another item in the same issue about vocations by James VanOosting. His thinking is schizophrenic—not the paranoid kind, but simply romantic. One example: Mary had a vocation as mother of God; but professional thinking is needed for economic success, while vocational thinking brings personal fulfillment—so VanOosting distinguishes. He is blind to the fact that mother Mary received economic success first of all by marrying; second, by marrying a carpenter. She was fulfilled by being a mother and a wife.

Our church is clerical and patriarchal. Clericalism is imbedded in America. Thank God the editors printed one article with a normal attitude toward sex.

Geraldine Howley | 1/29/2007 - 9:33am
Hurrah for Valerie Shultz’s right-on description of Christian marriage (“God in the Tangled Sheets,” 7/1)! I have experienced and seen among many friends the truth she tells. Her courage and openness and joy in her vocation kept me saying yes as I read. Her honesty and sanity were refreshing.

Herbert P. Ely | 1/29/2007 - 9:32am
Valerie Schultz (“God in the Tangled Sheets,” 7/1) writes about the canonization of the married couple Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi. The Vatican, she suggests, gives a mixed message because the couple practiced celibacy after the birth of their last child. She asks, “But if marriage is a source of sacramental grace, why are we as a church so uncomfortable about sex?” She quotes the Song of Songs (4:16; 7:8-9) as biblical support for the sacredness of married love expressed in sexuality.

Here is further evidence of the mixed message: The Liturgy of the Hours for Friday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time quotes Ezekiel 16, which provides vivid, even graphic, sexual imagery to demonstrate God’s love for Jerusalem. The text, however, omits the second half of verse seven (in italics): “Then I passed by and saw you weltering in your blood. I said to you: Live in your blood and grow like a plant in the field. You grew and developed and came to the age of puberty; your breasts had formed, your hair had grown, but you were still stark naked. Again I passed by and saw that you were now old enough for love. So I spread the corner of by cloak over you to cover your nakedness; I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you: you became mine, says the Lord God” (Ez. 16:5-9).

This omission provides a clue to clerical culture. The answer to Valerie Schultz’s question, “Why are we as a church so uncomfortable about sex?” lies in this culture. Those who prepared the Liturgy of the Hours, part of this culture, deliberately misquote Scripture, obscuring its message about the sacredness of sexuality in marriage. The current scandal of priestly pedophilia and its coverup by the hierarchy is a visible symptom of that culture, which needs to be prophetically challenged and healed. As a remedy, Mrs. Schultz calls for married theologians to write about marriage and its relationship to God. Her article is a good start.

Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B. | 1/29/2007 - 9:31am
Valerie Schultz, I pray the “church” will listen to your lived reflections on the holiness of an ordinary marriage.

Thanks for writing, and thanks to America for publishing what you wrote.

Sherman H. Otto | 1/29/2007 - 9:20am
The article by Valerie Schultz, “God in the Tangled Sheets” (7/1), is right on target. From Adam and Eve to the present, marriage is fully intended by God. More married theologians need to write from their experiences of grace in all areas of their marriages.

Robert F. Patterson | 7/28/2002 - 6:24pm
Not too long ago Jesuit Novices were encouragaed to read the life of Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J., the Irish priest who would offer over four thousand ejaculations a day and eschewed most forms of enjoyment. St. Simon Stilites lived for many years on top of a pillar. St. Benedict-Joseph Labre wandered around Europe as a beggar, infested with lice. The Cure D'Ars was ordained and later canonized though he had less than normal intelligence and couldn't pass his exams. St. THeresa of Avila used to levitate a foot or so off the floor when she meditated on the part of the Creed, "Of His Kingdon there shall be no end." In all of these and many other actions of Saints, it was understood that their unusual pracatices were more for admiration than emulation. Pope John Paul has been criticised for Beatifying a married couple who lived holy lives but who also stopped having sex after giving birth to their children. None of the letters commenting on this criticism has defended the Pope's action. Nowhere is it affirmed that they were Beatified because of the post-partum celibacy, but somehow the Pope did wrong, they say, even though, to my recollection, they were following the path take by Mary and Joseph two thousand years ago. When I last heard, men and women and sometimes children were declared Saints "because they practised heroic virtue," not because they were doing what comes naturally. Saints are not canonized because they avoided sin--all of us are bound to do that-- but because they gave up even those things good in themselves: to lead normal lives, to enjoy pleasures, to have families, to avoid exposing themselves to communicable diseases, among them,in order to increase their Faith and to imitate Christ. If the Quattroccchis did not enjoy sexual relations, then they made no sacrifice at all by giving them up. The new vogue of condemning celibacy since the recent priestly scandals, has swung the pendulum to the opposite extreme. No priest has caused scandal because he practised celibacy, but rather because he did not practice celibacy when he should have and though he had promised to do so. Maybe one day--if things continue the way they are going, though I hope I do not live to see it--a couple will be canonized for showing "extraordinary passion in the tangled sheets."

Sherman H. Otto | 6/22/2002 - 1:31pm
The article by Valerie Schultz, "God in the Tangled Sheets" is right on target. From Adam and Eve to the present marriage is fully intended by God. More married theologians need to write from their experiences of grace in all areas of their marriages. Centuries of celibacy have, perhaps unwittingly, robbed marriage of its sacramental dignity.

Herbert Ely | 7/7/2002 - 5:46am
Valerie Schultz (God in the Tangled Sheets, July 1-8) writes about the canonization of the married couple Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattorocihchi. The Vatican, she suggests gives a mixed message because the Beltrames practiced celibacy after the birth of their last child. She asks, "But if marriage is a source of sacramental grace, why are we as a church so uncomfortable about sex?" She quotes the Song of Songs (4:16 & 7:8-9) as biblical support for the sacredness of married love expressed in sexuality.

Here is further evidence of the mixed message: The Liturgy of the Hours for Friday of the twenty-fourth week in ordinary time quotes Ezekiel 16. Quoted in full, this passage provides vivid, even graphic, sexual imagery to demonstrate God's love for Jerusalem. The text, however, omits the second half of verse 7 (shown in parenthesis). "Then I passed by and saw you weltering in your blood. I said to you: Live in your blood and grow like a plant in the field. You grew and developed and came to the age of puberty; (your breasts had formed, your hair had grown, but you were still stark naked). Again I passed by and saw that you were now old enough for love. So I spread the corner of by cloak over you to cover your nakedness; I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you: you became mine, says the Lord God." (Ezekiel 16:5-9).

This omission provides a clue to the clerical culture. The answer to Valerie Schultz?s question of "why are we as a church so uncomfortable about sex?" lies in this culture. The publishers of liturgy of the hours, part of this culture, deliberately misquote scripture, obscureing its message about the sacredness of sexuality in marriage. The current scandal of priestly pedophilia and its cover-up by the hierarchy is a visible symptom of that culture. This culture needs to be prophetically challenged and healed. As a remedy, Mrs. Schultz quotes a call for married theologians to write about marriage and its relationship to God. Her article is a good start.

dick surrusco | 7/2/2002 - 8:52am
There is nothing sexier than being in bed with your lover, naked except for your wedding bands. The fact that it is also holy and a gift from God is an affirmation of His boundless love. Valerie Schultz is correct--in the rush and routine of the everyday, the psalmist's "grapes, apricots, and spiced wine" enhance the journey to intimacy with the Divine. Alleluia!

Fr. Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B. | 6/28/2002 - 9:37am
Touche', Valerie!

I pray the "church" will listen to your lived reflections on the holiness of an ordinary marriage.

Thanks for writing, and thanks to AMERICA for publishing what you wrote.

Robert F. Patterson | 7/28/2002 - 6:24pm
Not too long ago Jesuit Novices were encouragaed to read the life of Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J., the Irish priest who would offer over four thousand ejaculations a day and eschewed most forms of enjoyment. St. Simon Stilites lived for many years on top of a pillar. St. Benedict-Joseph Labre wandered around Europe as a beggar, infested with lice. The Cure D'Ars was ordained and later canonized though he had less than normal intelligence and couldn't pass his exams. St. THeresa of Avila used to levitate a foot or so off the floor when she meditated on the part of the Creed, "Of His Kingdon there shall be no end." In all of these and many other actions of Saints, it was understood that their unusual pracatices were more for admiration than emulation. Pope John Paul has been criticised for Beatifying a married couple who lived holy lives but who also stopped having sex after giving birth to their children. None of the letters commenting on this criticism has defended the Pope's action. Nowhere is it affirmed that they were Beatified because of the post-partum celibacy, but somehow the Pope did wrong, they say, even though, to my recollection, they were following the path take by Mary and Joseph two thousand years ago. When I last heard, men and women and sometimes children were declared Saints "because they practised heroic virtue," not because they were doing what comes naturally. Saints are not canonized because they avoided sin--all of us are bound to do that-- but because they gave up even those things good in themselves: to lead normal lives, to enjoy pleasures, to have families, to avoid exposing themselves to communicable diseases, among them,in order to increase their Faith and to imitate Christ. If the Quattroccchis did not enjoy sexual relations, then they made no sacrifice at all by giving them up. The new vogue of condemning celibacy since the recent priestly scandals, has swung the pendulum to the opposite extreme. No priest has caused scandal because he practised celibacy, but rather because he did not practice celibacy when he should have and though he had promised to do so. Maybe one day--if things continue the way they are going, though I hope I do not live to see it--a couple will be canonized for showing "extraordinary passion in the tangled sheets."

Sherman H. Otto | 6/22/2002 - 1:31pm
The article by Valerie Schultz, "God in the Tangled Sheets" is right on target. From Adam and Eve to the present marriage is fully intended by God. More married theologians need to write from their experiences of grace in all areas of their marriages. Centuries of celibacy have, perhaps unwittingly, robbed marriage of its sacramental dignity.

Herbert Ely | 7/7/2002 - 5:46am
Valerie Schultz (God in the Tangled Sheets, July 1-8) writes about the canonization of the married couple Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattorocihchi. The Vatican, she suggests gives a mixed message because the Beltrames practiced celibacy after the birth of their last child. She asks, "But if marriage is a source of sacramental grace, why are we as a church so uncomfortable about sex?" She quotes the Song of Songs (4:16 & 7:8-9) as biblical support for the sacredness of married love expressed in sexuality.

Here is further evidence of the mixed message: The Liturgy of the Hours for Friday of the twenty-fourth week in ordinary time quotes Ezekiel 16. Quoted in full, this passage provides vivid, even graphic, sexual imagery to demonstrate God's love for Jerusalem. The text, however, omits the second half of verse 7 (shown in parenthesis). "Then I passed by and saw you weltering in your blood. I said to you: Live in your blood and grow like a plant in the field. You grew and developed and came to the age of puberty; (your breasts had formed, your hair had grown, but you were still stark naked). Again I passed by and saw that you were now old enough for love. So I spread the corner of by cloak over you to cover your nakedness; I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you: you became mine, says the Lord God." (Ezekiel 16:5-9).

This omission provides a clue to the clerical culture. The answer to Valerie Schultz?s question of "why are we as a church so uncomfortable about sex?" lies in this culture. The publishers of liturgy of the hours, part of this culture, deliberately misquote scripture, obscureing its message about the sacredness of sexuality in marriage. The current scandal of priestly pedophilia and its cover-up by the hierarchy is a visible symptom of that culture. This culture needs to be prophetically challenged and healed. As a remedy, Mrs. Schultz quotes a call for married theologians to write about marriage and its relationship to God. Her article is a good start.

dick surrusco | 7/2/2002 - 8:52am
There is nothing sexier than being in bed with your lover, naked except for your wedding bands. The fact that it is also holy and a gift from God is an affirmation of His boundless love. Valerie Schultz is correct--in the rush and routine of the everyday, the psalmist's "grapes, apricots, and spiced wine" enhance the journey to intimacy with the Divine. Alleluia!

Fr. Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B. | 6/28/2002 - 9:37am
Touche', Valerie!

I pray the "church" will listen to your lived reflections on the holiness of an ordinary marriage.

Thanks for writing, and thanks to AMERICA for publishing what you wrote.

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