BY KATHY SCHMUGGE
COLUMBIA — It was standing room only at the St. Thomas More Center Oct. 18 when the University of South Carolina’s Newman Club invited Family Honor presenters Thomas and Karen Provost to speak on “Dating, Marriage, and Chastity.”
“I think that college students are very aware that a relationship they might have right now could lead to marriage and the rest of their lives, so we are concerned about how our actions now could affect that part of our future,” said Rebecca Wilson, Newman Club president.
Wilson, a junior, and the other Newman Club officers knew that an honest talk about dating issues was in order, so Gaurav Shroff, director of Christian Formation and pastoral associate for St. Thomas More Center, suggested Family Honor.
“Chastity is something that we deal with on a daily basis on the campus,” said Peter Henry, a sophomore who came to the presentation.
“[The Provosts] covered a wide spectrum of topics relating to sex and chastity, ranging from dating and contraception to married relationships,” Henry said. “It was very well put together in a perspective for college students.”
Thomas Provost told the young adults that they are called to love as God loves. Thomas used the “four F’s” to describe the love demonstrated by Christ: forever — Jesus’ gift is before the Father for eternity; fruitful — his love brings forth life; free — Jesus freely made a gift of himself; and full — Jesus gave his life.
“I think that it is really important to understand love the way God wants us to love, and Thomas and Karen did a really good job explaining that to us,” Wilson said.
Karen asked the students to define chastity and, with a little guidance, they said it was a spiritual power that frees one from sexual selfishness and aggression.
“When you are chaste, you take an approach to loving someone without an ulterior motive, but this virtue takes self-discipline and love,” she said.
The Provosts also asked the students to list topics they would like to address. They asked that premarital sex, cohabitation, contraception, and masturbation be addressed.
Using Jesus’ love as the standard of measure, the Provosts gave a clear explanation of what was lacking in these issues. Premarital sex and cohabitation were shown to be a dishonest expression because they lack the “forever” component of love, according to the couple. When individuals live together, they often hold back their true feelings because of the fear of losing their partner. Although some may argue that they need to do a test-drive before buying the car, the statistics are not favorable for this arrangement, the Provosts said.
“Eighty percent of couples who cohabitate never make it to the altar,” said Thomas. “Out of those who do marry, only 20 percent remain married.”
Contraception interferes with the full expression of love by separating the unitive and life-giving components of love that draw a couple together, Thomas continued.
“Contracepting couples say to one another, ‘I love you but I wouldn’t want to make another one of you,’ whereas non-contracepting couples say, ‘I love you no matter what,’ ” Thomas told the students.
Karen, who is also a fertility care practitioner for the Diocese of Charleston, pointed out that oral contraception also has the risk of terminating life by making implantation impossible. “New life begins but has nowhere to live,” she said.
Thomas addressed the concern that masturbation is often proclaimed to be normal and healthy. When weighted against God-like love, he made it clear that masturbation was not a loving act because it was only looking out for the needs of oneself.
“It is a very selfish act and you can not afford it in a marriage,” he said. “It is a habit that is difficult to turn around without God’s grace.”
The students wanted to know “how far was too far” during dating, and Thomas recommended being aware of the signals from the body and not engaging in activities that prepare the body for the marital act.
“When you are on a date always have a plan in place because the desires will be there,” Thomas said.
“As a group, I think that our discussion on sex and chastity was redefined a little by what we heard at that meeting,” Wilson said.
“The media’s fascination about sex is the only thing they have right. We should be preoccupied with it because with the body we hold the key to being a truly loving person, free from selfishness, free to love as Christ loves us,” Thomas concluded.