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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Jesus’ Teachings
About Sexuality and Marriage

“In marriage there should be no question of sensual gratification, but only of penance and mortification, of constant fear, of constant warfare against sin...carried on by prayer and self-conquest....”

. . . go to the full quote

From the visions of
the Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich

UPON their arrival home [from Jerusalem, after Mary had been conceived there, Joachim and Anne spoke to everyone about] the mercy of God with feeling, joy, and devotion. From that time they lived in perfect continence and in great fear of God. I received at this time an instruction upon the great influence exerted upon children by the purity, the continence,[1] and the mortification of parents (Volume One, p. 138).


HE instructed the women on marriage inculcating modesty and continency. He pronounced the degeneracy of the people of this place, and the pitiful condition of the children, consequences of the illegitimate connections so common among them. He spoke of the parents’ share in the corruption of their children, of arresting the evil by penance and satisfaction, and of the second birth in baptism (Volume One, p. 463).


AT the close of the banquet, the bridegroom went to Jesus and spoke to Him very humbly in private. He told Him that he now felt himself dead to all carnal desires and that, if his bride would consent, he would embrace a life of continence. The bride also, having sought Jesus alone and expressed her wish to the same effect, Jesus called them both before Him. He spoke to them of marriage, of chastity so pleasing in the sight of God, and of the hundredfold fruit of the spirit. He referred to many of the Prophets and other holy persons who had lived in chastity, offering their bodies as a holocaust to the Heavenly Father. They had thus reclaimed many wandering souls, had won them to themselves as so many spiritual children, and had acquired a numerous and holy posterity. Jesus spoke all this in parables of sowing and reaping. The young couple took a vow of continence, by which they bound themselves to live as brother and sister for the space of three years. Then they knelt before Jesus, and He blessed them (Volume Two, p. 58).


JESUS went to an inn belonging to the pagans. . . . He was received with great humility and affection. He instructed them upon the call of the heathens, telling them that He was now come to gain over those who had not been conquered by the Israelites. . . . I never heard Him speaking to the heathens of circumcision, but He always insisted on continence and the obligation of having but one wife (Volume Two, p. 336).


HE taught successively several groups of men and women, making use of all kinds of similitudes. His subject was marriage, which He treated in very beautiful and deeply significant terms. He began by saying that in human nature much evil is mixed with good, but that by prayer and renunciation the two must be separated and the evil subdued. He who follows his unbridled passions works mischief. Our works follow us and they will at some future day rise up against their author. Our body is an image of the Creator, but Satan aims at destroying that image in us. All that is superfluous brings with it sin and sickness, becomes deformity and abomination. Jesus exhorted His hearers to chastity, moderation, and prayer. Continence, prayer, and discipline have produced holy men and Prophets. Jesus illustrated all this by similitudes referring to the sowing of the grain, to the clearing out of stones and weeds from the field, to its lying fallow, and to the blessing of God upon land justly acquired. In speaking of the married state, He borrowed His similitudes from the planting of the vine and the pruning of the branches. He spoke of noble offspring, of pious families, of improved vineyards, and of races exalted and ennobled. He spoke of the Patriarch Abraham, of his holiness, and the alliance concluded with God in circumcision, and said that his descendants had fallen into disorders by their indulgence of unrestrained passion and their repeated marriages with the heathens (Volume Three, p. 312).


JESUS taught of the Fall, of the perversion of Adam and Eve, of the Promise, of the degeneracy of men into the wild state, of the separation of the less corrupt, of the guard set over marriage, in order to transmit virtues and graces from father to son, and of the sanctification of marriage by the observance of the Divine Law, moderation, and continency. In this way, Jesus’ discourse turned upon the bride and bridegroom. To illustrate His meaning, He referred to a certain tree on the island which could be fertilized by trees at a distance yes, even across the sea, and He uttered the words: “In the same way may hope, confidence in God, desire of salvation, humility and chastity become in some manner the mother for the fulfillment of the Promise.” This led Jesus to touch upon the mysterious signification of marriage, in that it typifies the bond of union between the Consoler of Israel and His Church. He called marriage a great mystery (Volume Three, pp. 388–389).


NOW on this day of the marriage festivities, the whole morning was spent in adorning the public feast-house. Meanwhile Jesus and His disciples retired to the inn whither came to Him men and women, some seeking instruction, others advice and consolation, for in consequence of their connection with the heathens, these people often had scruples and anxieties. The young affianced were longer with Jesus than the others. He spoke with the maidens alone and singly. It was something like confession and instruction. He questioned them upon their motives in entering the married state, whether they had reflected upon their posterity and the salvation of the same, which was a fruit springing from the fear of God, chastity, and temperance. Jesus found the young brides not instructed on these points (Volume Three, p. 393).


AFTER hearing and exhorting these sinners individually, Jesus bade them send their wives to Him. When they came, He related to each one separately the repentance of her husband, exhorted her to heartfelt forgiveness and entire forgetfulness of the past, and urged her to recall the malediction she had pronounced. If, He told them, they did not act sincerely in this circumstance, the guilt of their husband’s relapse would fall upon them. The women wept and thanked and promised everything. Jesus reconciled several of these couples right away that same day. He made them come before Him, interrogated them anew, as is customary at the marriage ceremony, joined their hands together, covered them with a scarf, and blessed them. The wife of one of the faithless husbands solemnly revoked the malediction that she had pronounced upon the illegitimate children. The mother of the poor little ones, who were being raised in the Jewish asylum for children, was a pagan. Standing before Jesus, the injured but now forgiving wife placed her hand crosswise with that of her husband over the children’s heads, revoked the malediction, and blessed the children. Jesus imposed upon those guilty of adultery, as penance, alms, fasts, continence, and prayer. He who had sinned with the pagan was completely transformed (Volume Three, p. 406).


JESUS warned them likewise against such marriages with the heathens as those in which both parties, indifferent to religion, enter into wedlock merely for the sake of property and money, greater freedom, and the gratification of passion. (Volume Three, p. 408).


JESUS instructed them in parables, but I remember only these words of His discourse: “They who say that they are chaste, but who eat and drink only what pleases their appetite, are like those that try to extinguish a fire with dry wood” (Volume Three, p. 470).


JESUS gave another instruction upon marriage. . . . In marriage there should be no question of sensual gratification, but only of penance and mortification, of constant fear, of constant warfare against sin and sinful desires, and this warfare is best carried on by prayer and self-conquest. Such struggles against self, such victories over self on the mother’s part, secure similar victories to her children (Volume Three, p. 504).


THEN He again taught on marriage, upon which He dwelt for a long time. If married people, He said, would live together modestly and chastely, if they would recognize their state as one of penance, then they would lead their children in the way of salvation, then would their state become not a means of diverting souls from their end, but one that would reap a harvest for those mansions in His Father’s house (Volume Three, p. 506).


THE instruction turned again upon marriage, which, Jesus said, could produce pure, sweet fruit only when it was guarded by self-command, mortification, and moderation united to pain and labor (Volume Three, p. 509).


THEY must, He said, be willing to sacrifice for God and the neighbor. The communication between Jesus and these people became more and more intimate and, in order to rescue them from the ignorance into which they had fallen, He taught under manifold similitudes upon the chastity, modesty, and self-conquest that should grace the married state. The similitudes referred to the sowing and the harvest. He went also to visit two parties who were about to marry notwithstanding their relationship to each other in prohibited degrees. One couple were blood relatives. Jesus summoned them into His presence and told them that their design sprang from the desire of temporal goods, and that it was not lawful. They were terrified on finding that He knew their thoughts, for no one had said anything to Him about it; so they relinquished their intention. Here they washed one another’s feet, and the bride wiped Jesus’ feet with the end of her veil, or the upper part of her mantle. Both the man and the woman recognized Jesus by His teaching as more than a Prophet. They were converted and followed Him. Jesus next went out to a house in the country, in which lived a stepmother who wanted to marry her stepson, though the latter as yet did not clearly comprehend her design. Jesus made known to the son the danger in which he was, and bade him flee from the place and go labor at Salathiel’s, which he obediently did. The Lord washed his feet also. The stepmother, whom Jesus gravely rebuked for her guilt, was greatly exasperated. She did no penance and went to perdition (Volume Three, p. 511).


HE said, “Thou hast allowed thy heart to be moved by the beauty of thy wife! But think how great the beauty of the soul must be, since God sends His Son upon earth to save souls by the sacrifice of His Body! Whoever serves the body, serves not the soul. Beauty inflames concupiscence, and concupiscence corrupts the soul. Incontinence is like a creeping plant that chokes and destroys the wheat and the vines” (Volume Three, pp. 514–515).


JESUS once more spoke to them of the duties of the married state. . . . He inculcated the observance of modesty and purity, bade them in all their actions to aim at purity of intention, exhorted them to prayer and renunciation, and rigorously commanded perfect continence after the period of conception (Volume Three, pp. 515–516).


JESUS then explained to them that they who enjoy [themselves] on earth have to render an account hereafter, and that this life is one of penance (Volume Three, p. 540).


Read an opinion of dissent . . .



The Life of Jesus Christ

The Life of Jesus Christ
and Biblical Revelations of
the Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich

Text in public domain

Page citations from the edition by
TAN Books and Publishers, Inc.


The Litany of Chastity 


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1. In all these excerpts continence as well as continency means abstinence from all sexual activity.


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