Monday, April 23, 2007

Our Great Desire

Discussing sexuality, as I did on Friday, inevitably and naturally leads to a discussion of desire, of yearning. What is it that will satisfy our longing, our deepest desire? Suffice it to say that a one-night stand, or a shallow relationship based on sex will not. Building on St. Augustine's great observation, encapsulated pithily in the well-known and often used axiom: "Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in you" (Confessions, Book I.1), we seek an answer. In another passage from his Confessions, this great saint, heeding the voice urging him "to take up and read," quickly returns "to the bench where Alypius was sitting, for there I had put down the apostle's book (i.e., St. Paul's letter to the Romans) when I had left there. I snatched it up, opened it, and in silence read the paragraph on which my eyes first fell: 'let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh (Rom 13,13-14). I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away" (Confessions, Book IX.29).

Our Holy Father, an Augustinian if ever one sat upon the cathedra of St. Peter, seeks to answer our question in his address to the young people of Poland last May:

"My friends, in the heart of every [person] there is the desire for a house. Even more so in the young person’s heart there is a great longing for a proper house, a stable house, one to which [s/]he can not only return with joy, but where every guest who arrives can be joyfully welcomed. There is a yearning for a house where the daily bread is love, pardon and understanding. It is a place where the truth is the source out of which flows peace of heart. There is a longing for a house you can be proud of, where you need not be ashamed and where you never fear its loss. These longings are simply the desire for a full, happy and successful life. Do not be afraid of this desire! Do not run away from this desire! Do not be discouraged at the sight of crumbling houses, frustrated desires and faded longings. God the Creator, who inspires in young hearts an immense yearning for happiness, will not abandon you in the difficult construction of the house called life" (Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with Young People, Kraków-Błonie, 27 May 2006).

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