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Self-Giving, Self-Mastery

St John Paul II on Men, Women and Conjugal Chastity

Alan O'Sullivan OP

The dignity of the person has always been a key theme of Pope John Paul II. Perhaps less well known is his emphasis on self-mastery as intrinsic to such dignity. In the love of man and woman, such mastery paves the way to self-giving and provides a richer, deeper experience of the union of persons. It also gives a new sensitivity to the beauty of masculinity and femininity as sexuality is seen in its original holiness: that is, by sharing in the Creator’s vision of the body. In this book, the author traces this daring portrait of human love back to the early writings of Karol Wojtyła.

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Introduction

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Personal Subjectivity: Self-Mastery and Self-Giving

Self-mastery belongs to the “truth about man”.1 It is simply a matter of human dignity – even in sexual matters, if rightly understood. The French philosopher Jacques Maritain seemed to have lighted upon this in his writings. He saw self-mastery as inextricably linked to human self-giving: one joined to the other in a uniquely existential dynamism. He writes,

Thus it is that when a man has been really awakened to the sense of being or existence, and grasps intuitively the obscure, living depths of the Self and subjectivity, he discovers by the same token the basic generosity of existence and realizes, by virtue of the inner dynamism of this intuition, that love is not a passing pleasure or emotion, but the very meaning of his being alive.

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