By: Christopher West
It’s rare for me to find a book that I want to buy multiple copies of to give away to friends and family. I’ve found one, and I think every engaged and married couple on the planet should have a copy: Holy Sex by Dr. Gregory Popcak. Catholic journalist John Allen sums it up quite well: “Think of this book as Thomas Aquinas meets Dr. Ruth and enjoy.” In other words, this is a theologically orthodox book on marital sexuality (that’s the Thomas Aquinas part) that dares to go where, to my knowledge, no orthodox book on marital sexuality has gone before (that’s the Dr. Ruth part). The subtitle — A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-blowing, Infallible Loving — gives you a sense of where the pages take you. Popcak goes right between the sheets, shall we say, providing a very frank, honest, and practical discussion of the sexual joys and challenges of the marriage bed.
A Bold Look at the Mystery of Catholic Loving
Now I make my living speaking, writing, and teaching about God’s plan for sexual love. There’s hardly an issue that I haven’t had to discuss or address at some point over the years. And yet, I must admit, even I, on occasion, found myself taken aback by Popcak’s forthrightness. (‘Did he just say that? Yep, he sure did.’) Even if his boldness is occasionally jarring, that’s precisely what’s so refreshing about this book. It tells it like it is and, by doing so, gives couples permission to face and discuss delicate issues. More importantly, Holy Sex gives couples tools to overcome the many difficulties they inevitably face on the road to a truly holy sex life.
Popcak’s book brings to bare all that sound biology, physiology, sexology, psychology, and theology have to offer us in a practical, educational guide for couples. As such, it is very much in keeping with what John Paul II called for in his pre-papal book Love and Responsibility. In a chapter entitled “Sexology and Ethics” the young Bishop Wojtyla wrote that a proper sexual education can be the decisive factor in preventing the collapse of a marriage (see p. 274). But sexual education, in this sense, is not merely about physical “technique” (as is the case with, say, Dr. Ruth). Rather, an integral sexual education — while making use of all that is good in what the science of “sexology” has to offer — must take account of the inner mystery and dignity of the persons involved, creating a proper “culture of marital relations” (see pp. 265-266, 274-275).
Holy Sex Trumps Eroticism
This is precisely what Popcak’s book provides. And he’s just the man to provide it. His wit will have you tossing the book in the air with laughter and his wisdom — gained from much study and nearly two decades of counseling couples — will have you laying the book in your lap to pause and ponder. Popcak begins his guide to “infallible loving” by definitively blowing out of the water all heresies that tempt us to devalue our bodies and our sexuality or view them with suspicion. We’re more affected by these heresies (Jansenism, gnosticism, Manichaeism) than we may think and Popcak’s insights provide a great examination of conscience in this regard.
Then Popcak introduces us to the concept of “holy sex” as distinct from its counterfeit — what he calls “eroticism.” Eroticism involves a very shallow life of lustful indulgence. It “lures people in with promises of fun and fulfillment,” Popcak tells us, “and dumps them out the back door dazed, depressed, and considerably worse off than when they started” (p. 18). “Holy sex,” on the other hand, involves the renunciation of mere eroticism for something far grander — the journey of learning to love divinely. This journey enables sexual union to “become an authentically transformative, spiritual encounter” infusing marital love “with a passion that reaches biblical proportions. Literally” (p. 1).
The journey to “infallible loving” can be a long and difficult one, especially if we’ve been deceived by the “eroticism” that engulfs us in our pornified culture. But Dr. Popcak is confident, as am I, that the tools he provides in Holy Sex can help couples overcome virtually any obstacle. Give Holy Sex a prayerful read and you will be on your way, as the good doctor puts it in classic Popcak-style, to “a toe-curling, eye-popping, mind blowing, deeply spiritual, and profoundly sacramental sexuality” (p. 1).
To see first-hand how your marriage can be skyrocketed to the Heavens by an authentic look at sexual love, pick up your copy of Holy Sex: A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving by Dr. Gregory Popcak here.