Our Big Day

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All Professional Photography in this post credited to Jina Williams Photography

After 10 months of discussing mason jars, hiding wedding dress pictures and picking out our favorite 1980’s dance songs, we finally tied the knot on January 21st, 2017.

We couldn’t have had such a beautiful, holy and sacramental day without the help of friends and family.  Because we can’t say it enough, a thank you to all of those who helped the day run smoothly with your physical help or your prayer.  We wanted to dedicate a post to talk about some of our favorite moments from the day.

Our morning together

We started our our morning together with some of our wedding party at morning Mass in Topeka.  Afterward, we spent time one-on-one together enjoying the last minutes of our engagement – of course by eating Taco Bell.  Even the sauce packets were celebrating with us. We then made the trip to Manhattan, going straight to the adoration chapel.  Before meeting up with our wedding party again, Chloe surprised Joseph with a Papal Blessing (a gift she put together with the generous help of our seminarian friends studying in Rome as well as fellow Catholic bloggers).

Getting Ready

We got ready at St. Isidore’s Catholic Student Center, where the wedding was held.

Three to get married

But more important than dressing up or putting on makeup was including God in the preparation for our wedding day.  Chloe and the bridesmaids spent time praying together before the ceremony in the church.  Meanwhile, Joseph and the groomsmen prayed a rosary together in the side chapel.

Friends. . .

. . . and Family

The Entrance Procession

Traditionally, the last people to process into a Catholic Mass are the officiants of the sacrament.  During a wedding, the bride and groom are the ministers of the sacrament to each other, with the priest and wedding party witnessing their vows. So we decided to adopt this less common practice for our entrance which we read about while preparing for the wedding.

The Ceremony

During our wedding ceremony, we didn’t want to have our backs facing our friends and family.  We placed our chairs to the side of the sanctuary instead of using kneelers facing the altar.

The best part of the day for us was vowing to love each other freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.  After our vows, we consecrated our marriage to Mary.  You can read more about our Marian Consecration together in our previous blog post: Why we’re consecrating ourselves to Mary at our wedding.

We were blessed to have our wedding Mass concelebrated by six of our close priest friends.  The main celebrant was Father Zarse, a priest from the parish we spent the most time at during our relationship.  Our Mass readings were from Tobit, Ephesians 5 and the Wedding at Cana.  (We had listened to Father Zarse preach on Ephesians 5 on our second date!)

Smiles and Cameras

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The Venue

The reception was held at the Big Gage Shelter House in Topeka.

The Grand Entrance

At a friend’s wedding over the summer, we were entertained the whole night by a very enthusiastic maraca player in the band. Joseph surprised Chloe with a pair of maracas on the drive to the reception location – a car dance party ensued.  Once we arrived at the reception, we introduced our wedding party to the guests.

The Toast and Toasts

Our maid of honor and best man each gave toasts which embarrassed us just a little bit. Afterward, Chloe’s dad started to give a toast to us as well, but paused to invite his wife to share the moment before welcoming Joseph into the family.

The Song

The wedding reception also included a surprise (well, to him at least) performance from Father Nick Blaha, who we lured to the reception with promises of hummus.  After our engagement on the mountain hike that he led, Father Nick sent us a song he composed in the shower, commemorating the event. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hear a live performance – it was obvious he had practiced for the event.

The Dance

Our first dance was to Ben Rector’s Forever Like That. Our reception also included a special dance for all married couples.

Then came the dollar dance. Which Joseph won. (Because he paid $100 to dance with himself. Chloe is not salty at all).

We loved getting to spend time with friends and family on the dance floor, but we also made time to walk around the shelter house and catch up with guests as well.  We wished we could have had more time to talk to everyone who came to celebrate the day with us.

Bouquet Toss

Our Last Dance
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Before we left for the night, we danced to one more song.  But the party didn’t stop when we walked out the door – we heard afterwards that people danced until the cleanup started…and then stayed around to help clean up!

We hope you had just as much fun as we did looking back on these pictures a month after the wedding!

 

Why We’re Consecrating Ourselves to Mary at Our Wedding

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Since we started dating last year, we’ve intentionally incorporated prayer and our Catholic faith into our relationship.  While planning our wedding, we decided that we wanted to include aspects of our faith life that we’ve had throughout our relationship into the wedding ceremony itself.  Two important devotions that we’ve practiced have been to Mary and Saint John Paul II.

We’ve already consecrated ourselves to Mary using 33 days to Morning Glory this past summer.  But this time, our Marian Consecration looks a little bit different, because our consecration renewal date will be our wedding day.

St. Louis de Monfort, a French saint, had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother.   He introduced the concept of consecrating oneself to Mary in the 18th century, and the practice has only bloomed from then.  Great saints such as Mother Teresa, Maximilian Kolbe and John Paul II have entrusted themselves to Jesus through Mary.

This time, the book that we using for our Marian Consecration is Totus Tuus: A Consecration to Jesus through Mary with Saint John Paul II  by Father Brian McMaster. John Paul II has played an important role in our relationship since the beginning as our patron saint. Because we already knew about Marian Consecration and its history with St. Louis de Monfort, we wanted to incorporate more of a retreat-like consecration, with a special focus on John Paul II in the final days of our engagement.

We’d like to give you an inside glance into what a consecration looks like throughout the 33 days.

Every day, we set aside ten to fifteen minutes to pray through the consecration.  We begin each day with the Angelus.  This is an act of presence to help draw our focus on God and His presence in our lives. Next, we pray for the light of the Holy Spirit to help guide our prayer.  In the first section, we have been praying Veni Creator Spiritus which we had never prayed before. Then, we form our desire.  Saint Augustine says that all prayer is desire.  Each day there is a different desire for us to make our own. For example, the desire for one of the days was: “To feel peace at the Lord’s command not to worry, and to find courage to reorient your life toward him”

Next, we incorporate a reading from Scripture that fits the theme of the day.  After the reading, which have mainly been taken from the Gospels, we read a meditation from the writings of John Paul II.  Afterward we return to the scripture with a form of Lectio Divina, picking out a word or phrase that sticks out to us and discussing with each other its significance.

Then, after reading we spend time in silent prayer – both speaking with the Lord heart-to-heart and remaining silent with the presence of God. After prayer we incorporate action through the retreat’s Resolutions for Forming a Life of Marian Consecration.  A short reading summarizes the theme of the day and contextualizes Mary’s role in our lives.  Each day ends with a list of suggested resolutions.  For example:

1. Identify areas of worry in your life. Place these anxieties into the hands of Mary. Be attentive to whether any of these areas point to unhealthy or worldly attachments.

2. Consider the hopes and plans that you have for your life. With trust in your heart, entrust them in loving submission to Mary.

Each day ends with a prayer.  Throughout these first weeks we’ve ended the time with a Magnificat and Glory Be.

It can be easy after consecrating yourself to Mary and ending a 33 day retreat to not incorporate this devotion into your daily life.  Because we struggled with this after our consecration this summer, we wanted a concrete way to remind ourselves of the significance of our consecration together to Mary.

Because our consecration day is our wedding, we’ve decided to integrate symbols of our Marian Consecration into our wedding ceremony itself.  Three components that St. Louis de Montfort suggests on the day of consecration are: the Rosary, an external sign of devotion, and a tribute to Mary on the day of consecration.

To incorporate the rosary, we’ve decided to include the lasso tradition into our wedding Mass. A wedding lasso is two large rosaries tied together that is placed around the necks of the bride and groom after the vows.  The lasso that we’re using for our wedding day belonged to Chloe’s parents, and was used in their wedding twenty-two years ago.

Our public act of consecration will be our external sign of devotion – we’ll be repeating our consecration out loud in front of all our wedding guests at the Mass.

Finally, for the tribute of love to Mary, we’ll lay a flower bouquet at the feet of a statue of Mary in the Church where we’re getting married while the Ave Maria is sung.

Please keep us in your prayers during these final weeks of preparation for our marriage!

“I am totally yours, and all that I have is yours. I take you for my all. O Mary, give me your heart.” 

 

 

 

Intentional Love: What We’ve Learned from Long Distance Relationship

The distance that separates Topeka from Manhattan is 56.7 miles…which can be covered in about 43 minutes on a clear day with no wind and little traffic on I-70. (okay, okay, and just a little speeding).  Although 43 minutes is not too far away at all, usually those miles also mean about a week between each time we see each other, maybe longer when the semesters of college life stretch on.  This summer, Joseph is interning in Kansas City and Chloe is in Topeka working, so that puts the distance at 1 hour, 10 minutes.

Long distance communication and relationships have been aspects of our relationship from the beginning.  We both initially got to know each other last summer while we were sometimes over 1,300 miles apart – with Joseph in Washington D.C. at a conference and Chloe in Stockton, Kansas with mission work.  In comparison, 43 minutes is a short drive down the street. However, we’ve found that the distance between us, while sometimes {okay, usually} inconvenient, has strengthened our relationship.


Communication

Joseph: Communication is something I’ve found to be an essential aspect of ANY relationship. Verbal and nonverbal communication are both important when getting to know another person because it is an opportunity to hear and see their thoughts and emotions. A long distance relationship limits the opportunities for face to face communication, so found other ways to communicate throughout the week. This summer we have daily phone calls. We don’t get to see the nonverbal aspects over a phone call which sometimes makes it hard to judge what the other is really meaning when they say something.

Chloe: Like when I tell Joseph that I want to own a baby sloth.  I’m joking.  Most of the time.

Joseph: I think it is important to let the other know ways that you enjoy being loved or appreciated.  Don’t be afraid to confront them when things aren’t going quite right. Without this communication, the other may be completely oblivious to a big issue. It’s also is good to share dreams, desires, and ways the other person can bring you closer to Christ.

Chloe: When we were first getting to know each other, communication was incredibly important.  We had phone calls on the weekends and learned about each other through old-fashioned conversation.  Now, communication looks different than it did in the beginning of our relationship.  We talk a lot more throughout the week, and this summer have been having a daily short phone call.  Which, let me tell you, is an art.  It’s been an interesting switch between long, less-frequent conversation to shorter, more frequent chats.  Little ways of letting the other person know you’re thinking about them is always appreciated.  For us that’s ‘Good morning’ texts and checking in on each other throughout the day.

Being Intentional

Joseph: Being intentional in a relationship is something that is becoming harder to pursue with today’s “hookup culture.” The one thing I kept thinking of early on in our relationship was that dating will either lead to marriage or to a break up. No one likes breakups so it is important to be intentional about the relationship early on by discerning marriage with them. Because if the goal of the relationship isn’t ultimately marriage, a breakup is inevitable. It only makes it harder on you to break up after dating for a long time than it would be early on. I think long distance actually helps in this regard because you want to make the time spent together really meaningful instead of just “hanging out.” Also, since there is additional time and cost (fuel) involved with seeing the other person in a long distance relationship, it naturally leads to greater intentionality.

Chloe: Most of our time together, I think we’ll have way more time than we actually do.  You would think that six hours is plenty of time, but in reality all it gives us time to do is say hello, catch up about our week, get something to eat and go for a walk.  Then it’s time to say goodbye again.  But intentionality is key to a smooth relationship – even now that we’re engaged.  Planning out what our weekends will look like, while still leaving room for spontaneous adventures and ice cream runs, helps keep both of our hearts on track.  

Especially this summer, with Joseph living 1 hour 10 minutes away instead of the usual 43 minutes, I knew that time together would be even more special.  So instead of taking a job that would have night and weekend hours, I decided to take a day job babysitting and combined that with some house sitting over the summer.  This leaves my nights open to spend with Joseph, and my weekends also open to spend time together.

The Little Things

Joseph: I learned early on in our relationship that Chloe love the little things in life. She is always paying attention to things I talk about or mention I like and bringing them up again. These little things are important to take note of because they show you listen and truly care about the other.

Chloe: I loved last week when I opened up a book that Joseph and I are reading together to find little post-it notes placed around chapters with notes on them.  Or when I found the note in my backpack from him after a long day at work and school.  There are countless times where he has made my day by driving down to see me for something small – like driving down from Manhattan to see me sing in a concert that I only had a 2 minute part in.


Ultimately, time is the best gift.  Each day that we have cannot be repeated, and there isn’t a guarantee of another day after that.  So spending time together (whether that be in person or over the phone) is one of the best ways to show your care to your long distance lover.

We’re not going to sugar coat it – long distance relationships are full of their own unique challenges.  Some days will stretch on and on (and on and on).  On the flip side though, long distance relationships are also chock full of unique blessings and surprises that you may never have experienced if dating someone in the same zip code as you.

 

 

 

Prayer and Relationships

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Praying together is one of the most intimate things that a couple can do together.  You are allowing another human being into your relationship with God in a unique way when you pray with your boyfriend, girlfriend, fiance or spouse.  But how do you begin to incorporate prayer? Or what are different options when it comes to praying as a couple?  Here are some tips and hints that we’ve found throughout our relationship, and advice that others have given us.

Receive the Sacraments Together

The Mass is the greatest prayer in the Catholic Church.  Because Christ becomes really, truly present in the sacrament of the altar, the Mass offers a beautiful opportunity to become united with Christ and His calling for His people.  The the first Mass that we attended together, the second reading was Ephesians 5 which set the tone for our relationship beautifully.

Ephesians 5:21-32
Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.
For the husband is head of his wife
just as Christ is head of the church,
he himself the savior of the body.
As the church is subordinate to Christ,
so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives,
even as Christ loved the church
and handed himself over for her to sanctify her,
cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,
that he might present to himself the church in splendor,
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,
that she might be holy and without blemish.
So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.
For no one hates his own flesh
but rather nourishes and cherishes it,
even as Christ does the church,
because we are members of his body.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
This is a great mystery,
but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.

Chloe: Over winter break this year, Joseph spent half of his break in the same town as I live.  What I loved was that we would meet each other almost every morning at morning mass.  I loved getting to start everyday for two weeks with Joseph by my side at Mass.  What better way to celebrate your relationship with each other than joining your voices with those of the angels and saints as they sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” before the throne of the maker of your soul and lover of your heart?

Joseph: Chloe suggested going to Mass and a walk together for our second date. I’m really glad she made this suggestion. Incorporating the Mass into our relationship from the beginning has made it very natural to keep God at the center of our relationship.

Eucharistic Adoration

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the Eucharist is the Source and Summit of the Christian Life (1324). During Eucharistic Adoration, we “watch and wait”, we remain “silent” in His Presence and open ourselves to His Graces which flow from the Eucharist … By worshiping the Eucharistic Jesus, we become what God wants us to be! Like a magnet, The Lord draws us to Himself and gently transforms us.

Chloe: Personally, Eucharistic adoration has been a life-saving remedy for so many of life’s trials.  There is no peace found like that of laying your struggles literally before the feet of Christ in the Tabernacle. Joseph and I have gone to adoration together, which I feel embodies this quote: “Run as fast as you can towards God, and if someone runs alongside you, introduce yourself.”  When Joseph and I first met, I was running towards God in adoration – and now Joseph has joined me in that dead sprint towards His heart.

Every time I stop into the adoration chapel by my house on the way home from work or after a long day, I always remember to talk to God about Joseph.  And then listen to what He has to say about things in our relationship.  He gives pretty good advice, and knows my heart a lot better than I give Him credit for.

Joseph: I have really liked going to adoration with Chloe. Even though we don’t say anything to each other it is a bonding experience because we are both spending time with God together. 

Structured Prayer

Catholicism offers a huge array of structured prayer that you can incorporate into your prayer life with your partner.  The rosary is a great way to start praying together if you’ve never introduced prayer into your relationship.

Chloe: When I first started officially dating Joseph back in September, the first thing I asked my spiritual director was how to incorporate prayer and spirituality in our relationship.  He gave great advice, including finishing every time that we left for the night with a prayer and dedicating our time together with Christ.  When I told Joseph about the idea, he found the prayer that we pray together regularly.  I loved how he shows spiritual leadership in our relationship.  

Joseph: One of the things we did to incorporate structured prayer into our relationship was to find a relationship prayer online and adapt it to better fit us.  We usually pray this prayer together after phone conversations or after spending the day together. View our relationship prayer

Spontaneous Prayer 

Catholics get a bad rap for “memorized prayers” – and if all that a Hail Mary is for you is going through the motions and saying memorized words, then yes, that’s a problem.  But structured prayer is beautiful when you are able to pray it with your heart instead of just saying it with you words.  Look at the Psalms – essentially the Psalms are praising God in the way He loves best, with the words that He inspired David to write. But praying with your own words is an incredible way to pray as well.

Chloe: After a stressful day of wedding planning and feeling things fall away from my perfectionist plan, Joseph suggested we take a quick week’s break from scheduling and planning and just enjoy the time we had as an engaged couple.  That night, after the conversation, he asked God to bless our time together and give us peace about the upcoming months.  Talking with God alongside the man who I get to call my husband soon was a huge part  of finally having a sense of peace about the wedding plans.  

Joseph: We haven’t incorporated very much spontaneous prayer into our relationship yet. However, I use spontaneous prayer to talk to God about our relationship on a regular basis.

Praying with the Saints

When we first started dating, we picked a patron saint for our relationship.  For multiple reasons, we chose Saint Pope John Paul II.  The way we incorporated him into our relationship was to include intercession to him in our prayers.  We also took a class on Love and Responsibility together – which was a book written by John Paul II after talking with college students about marriage.

Chloe: I love incorporating the saints into our relationship.  When I first started dating  Joseph, I started praying to Saint Joseph and Saint Michael for him everyday.  As our relationship continued, I also added Saints Louis and Zelie Martin into my daily litany for us as a couple.  As our relationship grew, I continued to add saints to my litany.  I love how each saint is interceding for us as a couple, and how when we reach Heaven, I’ll get to chat with them about how they helped us during our time on earth.  Praying to the saints is a constant reminder that Joseph and I’s relationship is bigger than ourselves.

Joseph: Chloe has a much closer relationship with the saints than I do. I enjoy learning about the lives of the saints and asking for their intercession in prayer. The saints are very inspirational because they are normal people, sinners just like you me, who decided to answer God’s call in their lives.  The ultimate goal of our relationship is to help each other get to heaven and the saints demonstrate that this goal is achievable. 

Sacrifice for Each Other 

A strong relationship comes from two people who are willing to sacrifice for each other.  In practical purposes, this could look like offering up little things for the one you love. G. K. Chesterton once wrote, “I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.”

Chloe: The week of our engagement, on our hiking trip in Texas, was one instance of sacrifice in my relationship with Joseph.  There were so many times where the tough inclines felt like they would never end.  The only thoughts that got me through were the words of the “Hail Mary” and a conscious offering up of my struggles for Joseph.  

Joseph: Love is willing the other’s good before your own. Without sacrifice, I don’t think any relationship can thrive. It’s really just about making those small sacrifices throughout the day. 

For Long Distance Couples 

Long distance can be challenging, believe me, we’re right with you.  But it also offers incredible opportunities to grow closer to your partner spiritually.  For instance, it could be easy to turn to frustration with a situation when you want your partner to be close to you geographically.  But instead of becoming bitter at your situation, long distance relationships offer a unique way of sacrificing for the other.  Channel your feelings towards Mama Mary and she’ll take your desires to her son.

Chloe: There are times when the distance between Joseph and I feels like thousands of miles instead of the reality of 53.4 miles.  Offering up that desire for Joseph to be close has helped me realize the beauty of sacrifice and prayer.  Another idea that helps me during that time apart is turning my desires into a prayer.  Instead of thinking, “I wish Joseph was here,” I’ll add the word ‘Lord’ in front of my heart’s wishes.  “Lord, I wish Joseph was here, but he isn’t.   Guide him today and help us both draw closer to you until we see each other again. ”  Our spiritual life is not bound by being close geographically to each other.

Joseph: Being about an hour drive apart, it has been hard not being able to see each other on a daily basis. However, I appreciate it so much more when we do get to spend time together. It also makes it easier to be intentional about our relationship because we don’t want to waste the time we spend together.

Final Thoughts 

The prayer life that you have with your partner will evolve and change as you get to know each other deeper.  The prayers that you pray together during your time as boyfriend and girlfriend will look different from the prayers you pray together as a married couple.  As you get to know one another at a soul level, the interaction in your prayer life reflects that deeper connection.

Don’t spend so much time wrapped up in the logistics of praying together.  Yes, be prudent with how quickly you let someone into the most intimate part of your relationship with God.  But don’t become scrupulous in the wondering of when is the right time to pray, and if you’re doing it right.  The most simplistic answer that I have found is that the only way to grow in your prayer life is practice.  Don’t be afraid to ask your partner to pray, and in all circumstances.  Pray together in times of joy, stress, anger, and sorrow. If your life is structured in prayer, things tend to flow smoothly because of your contentment in Christ.

Chastity in Marriage

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As we start planning for a wedding and investing for a marriage, the beauty of virtues take on a new meaning. Each person is called to live virtues in their state of life.

“The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church 2338)

Chastity as a virtue allows for no second life.  The chaste person lives a gleaming life, juxtaposed against the dim mist of the current culture.

In the annual Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman Lecture at the Institute for Psychological Sciences on November 18, 2011, Father James Dominic Brent delivered a lecture titled To Be Someone Radiant. Father Brent’s words encompass what it means to be a chaste person, especially in the context of a marriage.

“Chaste is the person who enjoys sexual intercourse but is peacefully at ease without restraint.  Chaste is the person who knows how to propose sex to the other without the least sense of entitlement – feeling honored with a ‘yes,’ perhaps almost a surprised at a ‘yes,’ and always grateful for it.  Chaste is the person who is spontaneous without valuing spontaneity as the highest good, free from disturbance if for any reason now is not the time.

Chaste is the person who intuits how the heart of the spouse expects so very much from sex – expects much more than what he or she can fathom and put into words.  Chaste is the person who is careful never to deny the deepest expectations of the heart even when sex becomes routine.

Chaste is the person  who, through thoughtful reflection ahead of time, uses sex to tell the spouse how known and loved, welcomed and received, he or she really is.  Chaste is the person for whom sex with anyone other than the spouse is simply unthinkable.

Chaste is the person for whom suppressing fertility is an unthinkable insult – a form of ‘no’ to the other as a complete personal organism.  Chaste is the person who never so much as wishes sex to be anything less than giving or receiving his or her whole human nature – fertility and all.

Chaste is the person who intuits sensitively how every touch of the body is a touch of the heart – reverberating through the other person’s world of thought and feeling.  Chaste is the person who knows how a deliberately suppressive touch upon the body’s fertility is a deliberate denial of the heart’s expectation for being wholly welcomed into sex.

Chaste is the person who feels so honored to be able to have sexual intercourse with the other that any thought of refashioning the sexuality, and so fertility, of the other is loathsome and revolting.  Chaste is a person who is happy to wait until the the other is ready to give, and happy to give when the other is ready to receive.

Chaste is the person who is open to life coming from love.  Chaste is the person who is so open and unopposed to new life that he or she freely allows nature to run its course – knowing that in this case nature is not some impersonal thing but is also the being of the beloved.

Chaste is the person not for having qualities but for being them  – being them all together in a wonder of interior harmony.  Chastity, together with the other virtues, is what makes a person a trustworthy lover.  When lived deeply by both husband and wife, chastity creates a space between them where all defenses should come down, where insecurities absurd, where vulnerability is a virtue, where surrender is wholly right, and where the joy of sex is heightened over delight in its innocence.”

Chastity is not a virtue that ends with “I do” at the altar.  Chastity, in its simplest form is not using another person for one’s own benefit.  This means a true willing-the-good-of-the-other love.  This means a full acceptance of the person totally, faithfully, fruitfully and freely – including their fertility.

Chastity is not an oldy-moldy virtue that is best left to hormonal teenagers.  Instead, it takes on a new form in a marriage.  Just as in a dating relationship, or an engagement, the statement that we have always found to be true applies in a marriage:

There is nothing more attractive than someone who can look you in the eye and tell you with confidence that they are not using you.

The confidence concerning the complete absence of use is the signal to the lover of an environment of trust and admiration for who they are as a child of God.  And that is chastity.