Catholic Exchange: The Irish Referendum is a Wake Up Call to Catholics

When I woke up Saturday morning to discover that Ireland legalized abortion I was heart-broken. The bloody nihilistic tide had finally extended its reach over the whole of Western Europe, Portugal remains with the most conservative abortion laws, but it is not completely illegal there either. The loss has historical and spiritual significance.

The conversion of Ireland changed the world — thanks to St. Patrick and others — and led Ireland to help save Western civilization in the wake of the collapse of the Roman Empire. They preserved much of that civilization in their monasteries while also living the missionary spirit and evangelizing various areas of Western Europe.

The impact that Ireland had on what would become Christendom cannot be overstated. This is one of the reasons why it is so tragic that such a vibrant Catholic nation should succumb to the culture of death.

It is true that secularism is largely to blame, but we cannot overlook the deep pain the clerical sex abuse scandal caused the Irish people. There is a reason why it has become a cudgel people use to bludgeon us to death. Yes, this is unjust on their part because the vast majority of our priests and bishops were not involved and they have each worked diligently to live as another Christ to the world; however, we cannot pretend that it did not have a serious impact.

There is something that utterly devastates the world when a Catholic priest or bishop falls into grave sin, evil, and scandal. The world may not understand as we do the significance of the priesthood, but they know deep down that there is something different and other worldly about our priests. Our own culture is obsessed with Catholic priests, even as it attacks them in the nastiest of ways. Even as the world hates and reviles us, they deep down hope we are different and that our priests are different. They may want to see them fall, but when it happens it robs them of some kind of hope that they longed for in the deepest parts of their being. We cannot pretend that the sins of a small minority of our priests and bishops have not had a huge impact on the nations ravaged by the sex abuse scandal, a scandal that is still going on in various parts of the world.

If we also take an honest look at history, we can see where the modern Church has failed in her evangelical mission. She largely stepped out of intellectual discourse after the Enlightenment and left the West to move towards secularism until Blessed John Henry Newman wanted more for Catholic universities. While the West transformed, we largely disengaged until a revival of Thomism over a hundred years ago.

We cannot have a sentimental view of the Church or our faith. Anyone who has studied Church history will take their rose-tinted glasses and throw them in the trash where they belong. To love is to love the beloved with all of their flaws and we love the Church with all of the stains and failures caused by our brothers and sisters in Christ both in the laity and the clergy down through the ages. We are able to do so because in the end we know it is Christ who is the Head.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.


Catholic Exchange: Accepting Our Own Gifts in Order to Serve God

Part of maturing spiritually is coming to a greater understanding of our own strengths and weaknesses. We begin to see the areas that allow us to love and serve God — as well as others — while also seeing where we may need work and also coming to accept that we may lack certain gifts that others possess. We are each unique individuals, even though we are united to one another in communion within the Mystical Body.

One of the mistakes we often make is in comparing ourselves to other people. We can focus too much on the gifts that other people possess rather than accepting our own. It is a mark of the maturing soul to be able to admit that we lack an ability or gift in a certain area. This does not mean we are less of a person, rather, it means that God has a different path He wants us to walk that differs from our neighbor’s.

We are not asked to walk someone else’s path. We are asked to walk the one God has placed before us. He created each one of us and He knows exactly how we will grow in holiness. If we ask Him to and we allow Him to, He will make each one of us into a saint. This means that comparing ourselves to others, being jealous, or even envious of another person is a waste of time. God wants each of us to use the gifts He has given to us for His purposes rather than our own. Venerable Fulton Sheen explains:

God has given different gifts to different people. There is no basis for feeling inferior to another who has a different gift. Once it is realized that we shall be judged by the gift we have received, rather than the gift we have not, one is completely delivered from a sense of false inferiority.

Fulton Sheen, Simple Truths page 40

Understanding that God does not expect us to be who we are not or to walk the exact same path as our neighbor should give us a sense of freedom. Once we stop comparing ourselves to others or expecting things of ourselves that are unrealistic, we will be able to live in conformity to God’s will and plan for our lives. He wants each one of us to become the individual saint He intends us to be with our individual personality, interests, talents, strengths, weaknesses, and character flaws. Of course we are meant to continue to work towards overcoming the latter two.

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Catholic Exchange: Being Honest About When NFP is a Cross

In our attempts to convince the world of the rightness and goodness of our message, we often forget to be completely honest about the difficulties on the path to holiness. We forget saints had very dark nights and arduous climbs while at times tangibly experiencing the immense joy of God. We often focus too much on the abstract and the realm of ideas without focusing on the complexities and practicalities of being Fallen human beings. The path of redemption is one of hope and joy, but it also comes with great challenges.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his encyclical Spes Salvi states:

“Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey.”

Natural Family Planning (NFP) can be one of those challenges for some couples.

We want to draw people away from contraception and a contraceptive mentality, which is a great good. Our hope is for people to begin to see the true plan for marriage that God has in mind for each couple. In a world of promiscuity, hook ups, divorce, adultery, and abortion our desire is to share with the world another way. It is a way of joy and it is found in an encounter with Jesus Christ through His Church.

This encounter which leads us ever deeper into the great mystery and love of Our Triune God makes tremendous demands of us. We work to meet those demands in love, but we are weak, fallen, sinful, tempted, and wage intense spiritual battles where demons await our fall. This isn’t an ordinary journey. The path to sainthood is the hardest thing we will ever do. It comes with sacrifice, losses, pain, illness, weakness, and eventually death. We experience all of these things while keeping our eyes fixed on Christ in constant hope. We have to keep getting back up over and over and over again. We fall for the same reasons time and time again. God asks us to get back up, to cling to the Sacraments, and to pray always. We are to stay close to Him, even in our failings. We are to cling to Him when what He asks of us is a great struggle and sacrifice.

We will have periods of great joy and peace, but it comes at a price. The Divine Gardener has His pruning shears at the ready always to cut away any part of us that is not producing brilliant roses. He cuts deep. In fact, He will cut us all of the way back to the ground, so that we can become the brilliant, beautiful, holy person He created us to be. It is this pruning that we live each and every day as we continue to progress spiritually. For many people, NFP is a part of the pruning process and at times it is a great sacrifice.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.