The apologist Frank Sheed made an analogy in his book Theology and Sanity that I think about a lot. He explains how the Church sees the universe as it is. What does the Church see? The Church sees what’s there. Insanity is to divert the mind’s eye to falsity. There’s security in trusting that you can see and know what is real. That’s how it felt learning the Church’s teaching on marriage and family; I gained confidence in my own sanity.
We know as children that in the real world mommies and daddies matter, and children need them. We know that our own bodies are not mere objects to be given away and consumed. We know that we desire to love and be loved, to know and be known, to belong. It takes mental wrangling to convince yourself that this is not really true, but people do it anyway. I say this a lot: Satan’s most effective weapon is the destruction of the family. Destroy that, and you destroy people and societies for generations. Why? Because to convince yourself that mommies and daddies don’t matter and that sex is divorced from love and commitment is literally – insanity.
What does Sheed’s memorable analogy involve? Beautiful eyes. When a man stares at the woman he loves and tells her that her eyes are beautiful, he doesn’t intend for her to literally remove them and present them to him on a plate. No, the beauty of her eyes only exists in her face and herself, in their proper position that gives them meaning and usefulness. They are only beautiful in their living context. This is true of all things. It is especially true of the intimate, consummate marital act. To remove it from its living context is to destroy its beauty, and the gift of giving the body away is no gift at all. It is only insane destruction.
Sheed also compares the mental landscape to a physical landscape. We can peer out at the physical world and see the same things a non-believer sees. We can think the same things too. However, what the Church teaches affects the things already in the mental landscape, it enlightens and illuminates their truth. It’s like looking at the horizon during a sunrise. It’s still the same land that was there six hours ago, but when you see it clarified and bathed in sunshine, you see more. Not only do you see reality, you see its glory.
Image credit: Microsoft Powerpoint clip art, Fotolia, Blue-eyed girl