In part of his book, The Lessons of St. Francis: How to Bring Simplicity and Spirituality into Your Daily Life, John Michael Talbot reflects on what we can learn about human sexuality from St. Francis of Assisi.
An avowed celibate, Francis, writes Talbot, nevertheless “displayed an amazing balance when it came to sexuality. On the one hand, he respected its beauty and power. On the other hand, he wasn’t naive about his own - or anybody else’s - ability to let his spiritual values guide sexual behavior.”
Following are some of the insights on sexuality that Talbot discerns from the life and spirituality of St. Francis. Note how these “lessons,” as understood and expressed by Talbot, are readily applicable to both straight and gay people.
– Cherish your sexuality, and be aware of how important it is in your personality and your life.
– Receive your sexuality as a God-given gift. Don’t overvalue or undervalue it. Don’t be afraid of it or addicted to it.
– Allow sex to help you in your relationship with God and others, building love and intimacy rather than causing tension and jealousy.
– Use sex in an appropriate way, in a holy way, and in a way that respects God and others.
– Don’t be too conceited about your ability to resist whatever temptations come your way. Set sane limits for yourself and live within them. And define limits for you and your partner that you can both agree on and that increase your level of trust and intimacy with each other.
– Finally, think of sex as a means of communication, not primarily as a means of pleasure. Look at it as a way of giving pleasure to your partner instead of taking pleasure for yourself. This is how sex begins to be more like divine love. As we grow in sexual wholeness, our sexuality can be united with our spirituality, giving us a hint of what ultimate spiritual union is like.
See also the related Wild Reed posts:
St. Francis of Assisi: Dancer, Rebel, Archetype
The Non-negotiables of Human Sex
The Sexuality of Jesus
Joan Timmerman on the “Wisdom of the Body”
Thoughts on Celibacy (Part I)
Thoughts on Celibacy (Part II)
Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Gay Catholic Men - A Discussion Guide
The Many Forms of Courage
Image: “Surrender” by Kevin Raye Larson (St. Francis of Assisi surrendering the material world, from Larson's “Saint” Series).