Passionate love, “embraces the good of the whole person; it can enrich the sentiments of the spirit and their physical expression with a unique dignity and ennoble manifestation of the friendship proper to marriage”. For this reason, a love lacking either pleasure or passion is insufficient to symbolize the union of the human heart with God: “All the mystics have affirmed that supernatural love and heavenly love find the symbols which they seek in marital love, rather than in friendship, filial devotion or devotion to a cause. And the reason is to be found precisely in its totality”.
Why then should we not pause to speak of feelings and sexuality in marriage? Desires, feelings, emotions, what the ancients called “the passions”, all have an important place in married life. They are awakened whenever “another” becomes present and part of a person’s life. It is characteristic of all living beings to reach out to other things, and this tendency always has basic affective signs: pleasure or pain, joy or sadness, tenderness or fear. Human beings live on this earth, and all that they do and seek is fraught with passion. As true man, Jesus showed his emotions. He was hurt by the rejection of Jerusalem and this moved him to tears. He was also deeply moved by the sufferings of others. He felt deeply their grief, and he wept at the death of a friend. These examples of his sensitivity showed how much his human heart was open to others. Experiencing an emotion is not, in itself, morally good or evil. The stirring of desire or repugnance is neither sinful nor blameworthy. What is morally good or evil is what we do on the basis of, or under the influence of, a given passion. But when passions are aroused or sought, and as a result we perform evil acts, the evil lies in the decision to fuel them and in the evil acts that result. Along the same lines, my being attracted to someone is not automatically good. If my attraction to that person makes me try to dominate him or her, then my feeling only serves my selfishness. To believe that we are good simply because “we feel good” is a tremendous illusion. There are those who feel themselves capable of great love only because they have a great need for affection, yet they prove incapable of the effort needed to bring happiness to others. They remain caught up in their own needs and desires. In such cases, emotions distract from the highest values and conceal a self-centeredness that makes it impossible to develop a healthy and happy family life. This being said, if passion accompanies a free act, it can manifest the depth of that act. Marital love strives to ensure that one’s entire emotional life benefits the family as a whole and stands at the service of its common life. A family is mature when the emotional life of its members becomes a form of sensitivity that neither stifles nor obscures great decisions and values, but rather follows each one’s freedom, springs from it, enriches, perfects and harmonizes it in the service of all.