Catholic Exchange: How is Mourning Blessed?

This week we will examine the second Beatitude: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). This Beatitude may in fact be the hardest for Fallen human beings to understand. Suffering, pain, and affliction are aspects of the human condition. We have all experienced—or soon will—the devastation of losing someone we love. Mourning often comes with intense agony that is spiritual, psychological, and even physical. It shakes us to the core. It is in death that we come to see that this was not God’s original plan for us. He did not make us for death, but the Fall has made death a part of our existence. Even though Jesus conquered sin and death through the Paschal Mystery, we must all die and we must all bear the burden of losing people we love.

We must also keep in mind that mourning is not only related to death. It is also an essential aspect of the spiritual life. We must learn to mourn our sins. In coming closer to God, we come to see the horror of our sin and realize how weak we truly are and that we are wholly dependent on God. The Holy Spirit reveals to us the deep pain of our sins so that we may become repentant in order to turn back to God. It is this sorrow for our sins that pushes us to return to the Confessional regularly and to seek God more ardently. Why does Christ tell us that mourning is blessed?

We mourn in hope.

In looking at two types of mourning–that which arises from the death of a loved one and that which arises from sin—we can begin to understand that Christ’s message in this Beatitude is one of hope. The Paschal Mystery destroyed the despair of sin and death. We now have reason to hope. Death will not have the final say and our sins can be forgiven. We now live in the hope of Christ through the supernatural virtue of faith.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us. For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath. Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life. Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 5:1-11

Even as we continue on the arduous journey of this life, we can hope in Christ Jesus who has overcome sin and death. When we fall into sin, we are able to return to Christ through the Sacrament of Confession in order to be healed and strengthened for the road ahead. Christ turns the evil we commit into joy as we return to him with a contrite heart.  When a loved one dies, we feel the agony of the loss at the deepest level of our humanity, but in the midst of that suffering we can hope in the promise of eternal life for our loved one and for ourselves. Mourning is blessed because it is marked by hope in Christ.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

A Short Introduction to the Cardinal Virtue of Fortitude

Fortitude is the cardinal virtue which aids most in perseverance in daily living. In the Christian life, fortitude is tied to the willingness to be martyred for the Faith. It is not a desire for martyrdom, but rather, a willingness to conform one’s life so closely to goodness and truth that they are willing to die rather than go against truth. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions (CCC 1808).” Once again it is clear how the cardinal virtues build upon one another. Prudence guides the individual to a reasoned conformity to truth, justice gives others their due, and fortitude fosters the habit of confronting and persevering in the face of evil and suffering.

Fortitude plays an important role in the moral life. If a person cannot choose to defend and live truth regardless of consequences, then they will fall into error, sin, and vice. Human beings will suffer in this life and fortitude provides the needed habit in overcoming, confronting, and living through periods of trial. In the latter, it may even mean giving up one’s own life. Pieper states, “Fortitude presupposes vulnerability; without vulnerability there is no possibility of fortitude. An angel cannot be brave, because he is not vulnerable. To be brave actually means to be able to suffer injury. Because man is by nature vulnerable, he can be brave.”[1] Fortitude is to accept this vulnerability, but to summon courage despite pain and suffering. Fortitude provides strength in the face of persecution when others may steal one’s property, livelihood, freedom, and very life. It does not mean searching for martyrdom or persecution, but it means being prepared when those moments arise.

[1] Pieper, 1758.

The Need for Masculinity in the Church

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Recently I have read two excellent posts on the need for masculinity within the Church.  One was by Monsignor Pope and the other by a Dominican Friar calling men to the Priesthood.  I personally see both the Priesthood and men within the Church as an important balance to the “feminine genius” that St. John Paul II preached for women.  In a culture such as our own that demands that men conform more closely to what women demand of them, it is becoming obvious that this ideology is damaging men.  This very same idea has led to a crisis of faith for a lot of men.  In fact, men are leaving the Church at alarming numbers.

I have always related to men more than women.  I served in the military.  For a while I was the only woman on my watch team while I was in the Navy.  Men provide a different way of looking at the spiritual life.  One that is no nonsense and based on courage, spiritual warfare, and protective instinct.  My husband is always reminding me that it is in his nature to protect our daughter and me.  That is what drives him to serve and work so hard for us.  Unfortunately this type of service is derided in our feminized culture.  A culture that has been hurt by the clarion call of post-modern feminism.

As Monsignor Pope wrote in his post on masculinity, the Church needs mercy and love, but she also needs justice, to forgive quickly, and courage.  Men do not typically hold onto anger for as long as women and know how to forgive and let things go.  The path to holiness is a battle.  It is a battle that we wage every single day whether it is fighting temptation or defending the Faith, it is a part of our journey.  I think that in our over dependence on Feminism, we have forgotten that while women can teach compassion, mercy, and love, it is essential that men teach us courage and justice.  Men have a keen sense of these virtues.  I saw it when I was in the military and I see it in my male friends now.  Many of these men have been worn down by women and they are afraid to serve in the role that God has called them to.

Men and women are equal in dignity.  Both were created in the “image and likeness of God” with unique gifts.  Men and women are complimentary and neither is superior to the other.  It is time for members of the Mystical Body to embrace all of the virtues, not just the feminized or more palatable (to some) virtues.  We can learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ and as sisters we need to learn to allow our brothers to freely exercise their own gifts.  I get the male call more because I have a warrior’s heart and because I see the great gifts that men bring to the Church that women cannot possibly bring.  God made it that way.

We also need to regain this masculinity so that young men understand the call to the Priesthood.  To become a priest is to take on the role of Shepherd and in various moments it is to act “in the person of Christ”.  There is no higher form of masculinity than to be like Christ.  There is a yearning in the hearts of all men to serve and protect the Church.  There is a desire to serve Christ with their unique dignity.  So let’s help our husbands, brothers, friends, sons, etc. recapture that authentic masculinity.  Let’s help show men that becoming a priest is to embrace their truest masculinity.

Here are the two posts I referenced from Monsignor Pope and the Dominican Friars.  They are much more eloquent than I.  God bless.

Authentic Friendship

 

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Lately I have been contemplating the nature of friendship: authentic friendship. I have lived all over. Being a Veteran, I have meet a lot of different people from all over, including from my time in England. I have discovered over the years that the majority of friendships are tied to circumstances. Those friendships seem to be a necessity. It is a, “We are all in this together”, type of situation. That is very true in the military.

I can honestly say that I have only had a handful of real and long lasting friendships. As I thought about this topic, one thing struck me about those friendships: They all encompassed the Cross. Those friendships that have had the greatest depth were when the two of us went head long into the depths of pain and suffering. There was no fear, worry, or pride. We may not have even been able to understand fully the other person’s pain, but we walked together no matter what.

I think the first time I realized this was about 9 years ago when I was living in England. I had been diagnosed with delayed-onset PTSD from my 9-11 relief work and ended up checking myself into a hospital for inpatient treatment. My friend, Nicky (who I hope reads this. Your birthday pressie is in the mail!!!), took over my affairs and she would drive down to London, nearly a 6 hour drive once or twice a week to visit me. She came after work, she came on weekends, it did not matter. In the month that I was there, she was always there for me. She is a British civilian. She did not know exactly what I was going through. That scared a lot of people, but not her. She loved me and stayed with me through the whole thing.

Real friendship requires vulnerability. A willingness to let go of the masks we wear out of pride, and let others see us as we are: works in progress by the grace of Christ. Friendship, just like any other loving relationship, requires great courage. Pain causes fear. In our sin, our natural inclination is to run from pain, but friendship means running head long into it. It means spending the day with someone whose anxiety is off the charts after successive miscarriages. Or hugging someone who is crying in agony. It means listening to another person’s heart as they bear all that they carry. It means forgiving and moving forward, when disagreements occur.

Friendship is a great gift that God gives us along the journey. How wonderful it is to meet someone and say, “Me too!”. It is a chance to move past the mundane and superficiality of our daily lives. There is a deep longing in our hearts to know people as they are, but sin cuts us off from each other. Friendship is a foretaste of Heaven, where superficiality is left behind and we see people transfigured in the brilliance of Christ, where we are made whole.

With all of this in mind, I would challenge all of us, to go deeper into friendship. To conquer fear and misunderstanding. Friendship does not always require empathy; sympathy is enough. It does require summoning our courage as we go deeper into Love. It means serving, even when we are busy with everything else. Just like family, friendship means prioritizing. Are there friendships in your life that may have grown stagnant? Do you keep people at arms length at times, like I do? How can we better serve the people in our lives, as Christ calls us? Do you desire deeper friendships? Friendship is a great blessing. Let’s let those people bless our lives fully. God bless.