“Sex and the Soul Week” seeks to form students in virtuous love

This past week, Campus Ministry and the Gender Relations Center sponsored a series of events entitled “Sex and the Soul Week,” meant to “reflect and engage on how sexuality and spirituality are intertwined.” These events provided a forum for students to learn more about how sex, love, and vocation are integrated in the Christian life. 

On Monday, Amanda Vernon and Father Matt Fase, C.S.C., co-authors of When God Wrecks Your Romance, told their touching story of romantic love and vocational discernment. Fr. Fase, who studied at Old College Seminary, is currently serving at Stonehill College. Amanda Vernon is a married mother of four and a Catholic recording artist. But many years ago, they were in love. 

Fase described his hope that the audience would “reflect on [their] own lives and be real with yourselves,” before handing the microphone to Vernon, who told the story of their first meeting. 

Discussing her initial understanding of vocation, Vernon said, “My parents raised me with this belief, instilled in me from a young age that God had a good plan for my life.” Vernon went on to explain their extraordinary love, which began when the two were only teenagers. Vernon and Fase first became friends at a youth retreat, when Vernon was a freshman in high school and Fase was in eighth grade. Vernon described how she developed romantic feelings for Fase, but decided not to reveal them to him until after he graduated from high school. 

However, Vernon learned that Fase had decided to enter the seminary after high school, and again chose to keep her feelings to herself. “I felt this invisible force field in my heart that said ‘do not’,” she recalled.

Eventually Vernon was able to move on. “The Lord really resurrected my joy and changed my heart, so I was eventually—after seven years of waiting for red-visor boy—open to the possibility of finding love and a future with maybe somebody else who God had sent to me.” 

When Vernon was engaged to her now-husband, David, she was still thinking about Fase. Vernon decided to meet with Fase in order to get closure. When Vernon confessed her feelings to Fase, he admitted that he had always had feelings for her, and asked, three times, “it’s not too late, is it?” 

Vernon confirmed that it was too late and that she intended to marry David. 

When discussing his discernment of the vow of celibacy and accepting his future without Vernon as his spouse, Fase said, “A life without her like that would also be really beautiful. I could sense the Lord’s presence and peace in those reflections and those prayers. A life without her would still have Christ, and that would definitely be enough.”

Fr. Fase discussed how he would pray for Vernon while in the seminary that she would find a good husband. Regarding their course of their vocational journey, Fase said, “And that’s the beautiful thing about Divine Providence, about God’s plan in our lives. That it’s really best seen in retrospect. That when we look back on our lives and really, really prayerfully reflect on what’s happened, it’s often easier to recognize God in the midst of our lives, especially in the difficult things.”

Then on Thursday, at “Conversations That Matter: Sex and Intimacy,” three couples –– Tim and Amelia Rugerberg, David and Suzie Younger, and Mike and Megan Urbaniak –– spoke to Notre Dame students about their personal experiences with married intimacy. Opening the night, Mr. Urbaniak stated, “One of the reasons why we wanted to have this conversation is we don’t often cultivate spaces for this.” Mr. Urbaniak asked each of the couples to answer the questions he had prepared in advance and then opened the floor to student questions.

One of the prepared questions posed to the couples asked what surprised them about married sex. Mrs. Younger answered, “We were very surprised early on in our marriage at how much more intimate we were, in essence, how great it was, if we had both recently been to confession. … Grace is a real thing.”

When asked by one student what the consequences were if one were to choose not to save oneself for marriage, Mrs. Rugerberg replied, “The consequences are the devaluation of [sex]. … it’s twofold. There’s the baggage of trying to distance myself from something I’m ashamed of … and there’s the healing that needs to occur in that one relationship that is going to be your lifelong intimate relationship because you do have to talk about those things.”

Later, another student wondered what was an appropriate way to cultivate intimacy within a dating relationship. Mrs. Urbaniak responded, “One thing that was most intimate for Mike and I is taking joy in each other’s passions. And that’s as simple as, Mike really likes golf. I can, like, hit a golf ball backwards.”

Even if she is, students still came away from the panel with valuable insights into the vocation to marriage. Students who attended the events throughout the week can be better prepared to move confidently forward in their vocations.

J. J. Dyke is a sophomore physics-theology double major. He enjoys modded Minecraft. Contact him at jdyke@nd.edu

Maria Keller is a sophomore double-majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies and Medieval Studies. She likes the smell of old books and the idea of living in a cottage in Ireland. Contact her at mkeller7@nd.edu