We spent a lot of time this year talking about love, what it is, how to recognize it, how to live it. As always, students were required to look in Scripture and the Catechism to aid in understanding. The secular messages that they are inundated with are sung to a very different tune, and I happen to know they are confused.
"Love is a decision." One day I put this on the board as bellwork. I had planned on discussing the textbook concept of love as being more than a feeling (our textbook defines it as the "conscious decision to will the good of another.") Love is an act of the will, doing what is best for the other.
After recieving a rather hostile response it took me a few minutes to realize that some students thought I was talking about homosexual relationships. Love (aka: sex) is a choice, and homosexuals can't choose who they love (have sex with?). It was not the class discussion I had planned for the day!
Then we talked about and researched marriage. This gets even trickier. The Church defines it as an indissoluble covenant between a man and a woman, with God as the author; it reflects God's covenant covenant with humanity (hence the "indissoluble" part). And Jesus is brutally clear. I usually hold my breath for a few days, waiting for an angry email or phone call. How do you teach this stuff without offending half of the population. VERY carefully. Prayerfully.
But I believe in the goal. The bar is set painfully high, but it doesn't mean we should stop aiming for it. And I pray for God's perfect plan for each one of them.
"I've never told this to anyone but my wife," a friend said over lunch, "I don't know why I'm telling you..." He continued to explain how he had made a list of the qualities he was looking for in a spouse. He didn't find the list again until after he was married. When he read it he was amazed at how perfectly it described his wife. "There's something to it," he said about putting the request "out there." Just ASK, God tells us in His Word.
My friend may have not have understood his compulsion to share this story with me, but I think I figured it out: how perfectly it fit into what I was teaching! What a beautiful way to bridge between the curriculum of marriage, and sexuality.
So I got some nice sheets of paper and asked the students to describe their ideal spouse. I collected it and put it in an envelope until we were done discussing marriage. Then, after we researched chastity and vocations, I held their envelopes in front of the room. "I've got your ideal spouses here," I said, waving the envelopes back and forth, "Do you believe they exist? Do you wonder what they are doing right now? Where they are? Maybe they're even dating someone! Do you want them to wait for you? Are you willing to wait for them?"
Then I handed the envelopes back to them and asked them to write a letter to him/her, to tell them how much they've loved them since before they even met, how they are so excited to love and be loved with that kind of commitment. After they've finished writing their letters I instruct them to put them back in the envelopes and seal them.
"The trick is, you can't open it until you're married; or ordained; or taken religious vows; and God's plan for some of you may even be to wait for Him.Our memory verse for this particular month just happens to be: "For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans not to harm you, to give you a future with hope." Jer 29:11. Do you believe? Do you trust God?
Before they file the list and the letter away in some forgotten drawer, I offer them a commitment card to carry in their wallet to remind them, "Please, only take one if you're committed to keeping the pledge," I ask.
The last part of the assignment isn't due for years: "Send me an invitation to the wedding/ordination/ceremony."