We’ve covered The Idling Man and The Passion Bridge. The last critical lesson I believe every Catholic girl must be taught before she is allowed to go out on a date with a boy is: The Two Greatest Desires.
You may have heard of Fr. Clair Bourdereaux. He was a Franciscan priest who was assigned to Sacred Heart Church in downtown Peoria in 1976. He remained there for 19 years (until his death in January of 1995).
Fr. Clair had all of the qualities of a great counselor. He was holy, smart, wise, gentle, diplomatic, and understanding. He had the unique ability to connect with people on their level and set them on a path toward happiness and holiness.
There was a period of time in the 1980’s when Georgette and I were really struggling and we sought out Fr. Clair’s advice and counsel.
On March 27, 1984, about 5 hours after our third child, Maria, was born, Georgette started having seizures. There was a nurse in her hospital room who immediately pushed the “code blue” button which alerted the whole floor of the hospital that there was an emergency. Within minutes there were two doctors and several nurses in the room.
Georgette told me later that there was massive confusion and she heard one of the doctors yelling, “Get me some mag-sulfate, stat! See if Dr. Couri is still in the hospital! What’s taking so long with that mag-sulfate? I need it stat!” While all of this was going on, Georgette stopped breathing. She then had an out-of-body experience. She said that she felt as though she was floating above the bed because she saw the doctors and nurses standing around her bed frantically working to bring her dead body back to life.
She then had the same experience a lot of people have had when they’ve died (and later come back to life). She was at the end of a long tunnel with a light at the other end and she started moving toward the light. As soon as she saw the light she begged God to allow her to live so she could raise her children. A split second later she felt a burning sensation spreading throughout her body. She opened her eyes and saw one of the doctors giving her an injection of magnesium sulfate.
It turned out that Georgette suffered from a condition called pre-eclampsia, which caused her body to completely shut down. Later, during some of her follow-up appointments, we were told by a couple of different doctors that it would be too risky for her to have any more children. We were told that she should avoid pregnancy in the future.
Eight months after Maria was born, Georgette ended up in the hospital again after her appendix ruptured. When surgery was performed (three days later), the surgeon found a massive infection (peritonitis) that had spread throughout her entire abdominal cavity. He repaired the damage caused by the ruptured appendix and did his best to wash out the infection.
Two months later, Georgette had to be admitted again for severe abdominal pain. It turned out that the doctor who performed the surgery did not follow the appropriate medical procedures by inserting a tube to allow the infection to drain, so the infection spread again throughout her abdominal cavity. When her surgeon told me that he thought she needed another surgery, I checked her out of the hospital and drove her straight to the emergency room at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota (6 ½ hours from Peoria). I knew that if she was in St. Mary’s in Rochester, the doctors at the Mayo Clinic would take care of her.
My biggest fear was that I was going to lose my wife and the mother of my 3 small children. After extensive testing, the doctors at the Mayo Clinic determined that another surgery was not necessary and treated the infection with medication. We were told that Georgette could have more children, but we needed to delay any future pregnancies for at least a year.
Although one of Georgette’s (Catholic) doctors was pushing for her to go on the pill, she refused. (We had both decided prior to getting married that we were going to abide by the teachings of the Church, regardless of the sacrifices that would be required of us.) We went ahead and signed up for and attended evening classes to learn Natural Family Planning.
Unfortunately, because of the infection and subsequent problems after her surgery, there was a large amount of scar tissue (adhesions) that hindered Georgette’s ability to ovulate on a regular basis, which in turn required extended periods of abstinence for both of us. In addition, I was working evenings trying to build my law practice, so I wasn’t around to help Georgette take care of our three children, all of whom were under the age of four.
It was at that time that we agreed that we needed to talk to someone who could give us some guidance. We had heard of Fr. Clair Bourdereaux, so Georgette called and made an appointment for us to meet with him.
When we met with Fr. Clair, I pushed him on the issue of birth control. I was fairly certain of what his answer was going to be, but I still pressed him for an answer. I wanted to know if there were any exceptions to the prohibition against the use of contraceptives. Of course, his answer was no.
We ended up meeting with Fr. Clair on three separate occasions over the next few months. He knew the difficulties we were having and I think he felt that if he helped us gain a greater understanding of each other, we would be better able to work through our problems and, at the same time, grow closer together.
At one of our meetings he told us about what he called “the two greatest desires.” He said that every man has one desire that stands far ahead all other desires – the desire to be respected. He said that every woman has one desire that stands far ahead all other desires – the desire to love and to be loved.
He then went on to explain that regardless of the struggles we were facing (and the struggles we would face in the future), we always had to stay focused on satisfying those desires. So for instance, because I wasn’t home in the evenings, Georgette could interpret my absence as a sign that I didn’t love her. If she complained about my absence, I could interpret her complaints as a failure to show respect for me and my efforts to live up to my responsibility to support my family.
Fr. Clair emphasized that I still had an obligation make an effort to show Georgette, through my words and actions, that I loved her, and she had an obligation to make an effort to show me, through her words and actions, that she respected me.
Another significant lesson that Fr. Clair taught us had to do with our understanding of the gift of marital intimacy. He emphasized that a man’s interpretation of sex is the complete opposite of a woman’s interpretation. From a man’s perspective, the marital act (sexual intercourse) is an outward expression. From a woman’s perspective, the marital act is an inward expression. During the marital act, the woman not only takes a man in physically, but for reasons unknown to us, the woman also takes him in psychologically. As a result (for the woman) a deep emotional and psychological bond is created between the woman and the man. Fr. Clair explained that the same psychological bond does not exist for the man, so generally it is easier for a man to step away from and/or end a pre-marital relationship than it is for a woman.
Fr. Clair then commented that he believed it was common for a young woman to end up married to the wrong man because, prior to marriage, she misinterpreted the man’s physical attraction and desire for her as an act of love (which fulfilled her desire to be loved). If premarital sex occurred, the woman’s ability to make rational decisions was severely compromised (because of the emotional and psychological bond that was created). The end result was that the woman’s decision to get married was based upon the bond she developed, rather than upon a balanced and objective assessment of whether the man would be a good (lifetime) husband and father.
Our daughters need to be taught that if a man really does love them, he will be willing to wait until after marriage to engage in what has been reserved by God to be within the exclusive domain of married couples. They also have to be taught that they are the true gatekeepers to the passion bridge. They are the guardians of the keys to the gate, and according to Divine Providence, those keys are not to be turned over to anyone until after marriage.
What I’m asking parents and their daughters to do is to go against the “values” and norms of our culture. This requires the heroic practice of the virtues of purity, chastity, and courage. In order for us to benefit from those virtues, we must actively pray for the grace and strength to always practice those virtues.
There are great rewards waiting for those of us who live up to God’s laws concerning relationships and marriage. Let’s make sure our daughters have the opportunity to benefit from the rewards that God has prepared for them.