Catholic Exchange: The World Needs the Witness of Celibate Priests

Last week, Fr. Jonathan Morris of Fox News fame announced that he has decided to leave the priesthood and is petitioning for laicization. In response to the very public announcement of his decision, I was immediately struck by how little so many respondents understood the nature of the priesthood. I was also disheartened to see so many Catholics throwing out popular cultural maxims such as “just follow your heart”, “you do you”, and the inevitable calls for an end to the vow of celibacy. 

Our response to a priest leaving the priesthood should lie somewhere in the middle of the extremes of condemnation and “follow your heart.” Neither response does justice to such a complex issue.

Fr. Morris’ decision ultimately rests between him and God, but we also cannot pretend that the choice by a priest to leave the priesthood doesn’t have a deep impact on the faithful and on his brother priests who do stay true to their vows and who remain as the Church continues to be ravaged by scandal. 

A priest leaving the priesthood causes pain, confusion, division, and scandal. The decision may be necessary, but we cannot equate a priest leaving the priesthood to someone simply changing jobs. The priesthood is intimately connected to communion, which means any decision made by a priest impacts others, many others, for good or for ill. In relation to the priesthood, the maxim “follow your heart” is nothing short of destructive and counter to the vows he took at ordination.

Dying to Self

When we are baptized into the Church, we become a new creation. Our old life of sin and death is washed away as we die with Christ and are regenerated in the waters of Baptism. We are then called to become a living sacrifice and to become like Christ in our daily lives. We also become members of the Mystical Body, which is one body united to Christ as the Head. We no longer live for ourselves. This takes on an even deeper meaning within the priesthood as these men, called by Christ, surrender their entire person to Him and His Church at ordination.

The Latin Rite’s requirement of a vow of celibacy for priests is a further call to self-emptying love and spiritual paternity. It is a radical form of dying to self in the image of Christ. By relinquishing a family of their own, Latin Rite priests give themselves completely over to Christ and the Church so that they can become spiritual fathers to Christ’s flock through a complete abandonment of self for the needs of God’s people. They give up a wife and children of their own so that God’s people may become their spiritual children and the Church their Bride in the image of Christ the Bridegroom. The vow of celibacy leads the priest to become an even greater reflection of Christ who abandons Himself completely to the will of the Father.

The celibacy requirement is not simply a “lofty ideal” or “an outdated practice”. It is a sacrifice made by these men that infuses immense grace into the Church through their constant emptying of self in conformity to Christ in service to us. They are witnesses to the higher spiritual goods and a reminder that one day marriage will end and we will all be united as one in heaven. Marriage is a great good, but it is not the ultimate good. 

Our ultimate good is found in loving and serving God. Happiness can only be attained by living in communion with God and in accordance with His will. He is meant to be the very center of our lives. Our culture places an inordinate emphasis on romantic love and sex while largely rejecting God. In many ways, romantic love—which typically is reduced purely to sex—has become the only form of love and happiness.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Catholic Exchange: Holiness is How We Transform the Social Order

By now most of the world knows that this is an election year for the United States. It’s hard to miss the constant reporting at an international level. This piece isn’t about the election. It was inspired by the election, but it is meant to be about something deeper and more long-term than a single United States presidential election.

We all live in a home country with political, economic, social, and other systems at work. Some of them we have control over, others we are able to influence slightly, some we merely offer our duty, others we have very little control. It is our duty to participate as citizens. That participation is left to the faithful to execute through a properly formed conscience. A properly formed conscience is ordered to the moral law as it is understood by the Church in light of Sacred Tradition and Scripture. The Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching is a great place to begin to understanding this aspect of the Christian life. I highly encourage people to pick it up and have it alongside the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The call to transform the culture is much more basic and deeper than merely voting, running for office, starting a business, giving to charity etc. It begins at the level of each person. This is the essence–it is the very beginning–of Catholic Social Teaching. Each human being is made imago Dei. Every human being shares the same nature of body and soul and each person is ontologically ordered to goodness and truth. We are made to love and serve God. We constantly seek God whether we are consciously aware of it or not. When we encounter Christ, we enter into the life of faith. Our nature–through the use of faith and reason–helps us to bridge the divide between the material and the immaterial, the spiritual and matter. Through the Paschal Mystery and the direction of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, each one of us is set on the path to holiness beginning at Baptism. We are all called to holiness. Every single one of us is called to be a saint. Sainthood is not solely reserved for lofty souls.

The Church just celebrated the great Solemnity of All Saints. In that great feast, we are called to celebrate and enter into friendship with all of the holy men and women who have gone before us on the path of holiness. Each of them points us towards communion with the Most Holy Trinity. They help us to see in a Fallen world of violence, chaos, corruption, illness, and brokenness that we must conform our lives to God. They also show us that if we truly want to transform the world, then we must become holy. To change a political, social, or economic system, we must be working towards holiness in our own lives and within our families.

The call to holiness is repeated most recently in Vatican II, Christifideles Laici, and the teachings of Pope Francis. It is the mission of the laity to transform the culture. We cannot do so if we are not actively pursuing holiness. We are all on the journey and we will fail at times. All of us will stumble and fall daily, but the point is to persevere.  The radiance of the saints and their successes comes from their faithfulness to the mission. That mission is holiness.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

The Lie of Cohabitation

Today I want to write about a topic that is of increasing popularity in our culture: cohabitation. I myself know this topic all too well because I lived it for 2.5 years. Before I met my husband, I lived with a man who was not my husband. In that time period I worked hard to twist and distort a lie into truth. I tried to make an untruth which I knew to be false, into a good. It was a battle I waged and thankfully lost. I lived with this man without the slightest real desire for marriage on either of our parts and when marriage did come up it was only to assuage the ever increasing guilt I felt and to try to right the error of my life. God did not leave me in my sin, thanks to His abundant mercy, and thankfully, God had better plans for both of us.

Our culture has convinced itself that living together outside of marriage is perfectly natural. In reality, it is anything but natural. It causes great separation, division, and harm to the dignity of the parties involved. While parties who cohabitate may love one another on some level, they are inherently in a disordered arrangement that denies the very dignity of the two people involved, the good of the two involved, and violates God’s designs for men and women. Cohabitation by its very nature does not resemble marriage. Cohabitation is to will sin on one another and to remain separated from one another. Here are some reasons why the marriage and cohabitation are not the same thing and why cohabitation is so destructive:

Cohabitation is not a we. It is still two individuals.

Oftentimes, as was my own case, a man and woman in a romantic relationship decide to live together to save money. Other reasons are it is socially acceptable or a trying out period. I will get to the latter in a bit. When two people decide to live together it is not a coming together into a union. Instead much of the time it looks like a roommate situation which also includes fornication and the use of contraception, both of which are gravely sinful and can kill the soul by cutting the two people off from God. Property is still his and hers, money is still divided, and mentally the two people are not one. God is often a distant idea or He is twisted into a “loving” Father who accepts all of our behavior. Cohabitation cannot bring about a union of two people because it lacks the promise and covenantal relationship of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Cohabitation also lacks the central involvement of the Most Holy Trinity within the relationship.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

Catholic Exchange: St. Benedict and the Benedict Option for Today

If it wasn’t clear before that the culture of the West is opposed to the Gospel and the teachings of the Catholic Church, the recent decision to legalize “gay marriage” in the United States made it quite apparent. The decision was decades in the making and cannot solely be blamed on the homosexual agenda. It goes back to contraception and no fault divorce, both of which have eroded marriage in profound ways over the decades. For Catholics, much of it is due to dissent from Humanae Vitae by clergy and laity, as well as an abandonment of moral teaching. The question for Catholics today is: Where do we go from here? The reason we need to ask this question is because there is little doubt that we will be pushed to the fringes in the coming decades. Our moral understanding and focus on Christ means that we are in opposition to the world. Christ told us:

“I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword…” Matthew 10:34

The world has always been in opposition to the Good News. The world crucified God. The Church has been set against the world since her founding by Our Lord, and that was no different during the life of St. Benedict whose feast day we celebrate on Saturday, June 11.

St. Benedict is most widely known for his rule and as the “Father of Western Monasticism”. He lived circa 480-560 and his influence on the world was great. Even though his rule was not the first, it was the most widely used in the west for centuries. St. Benedict’s rule was comprised of several rules which could be applied to a variety of monasteries and locations. His rule’s primary emphasis was on: moderation, the integration of prayer and work, and the socialization of the monastic life.

Once monasticism was introduced to the west by St. Athanasius, it spread quickly. By the time St. Benedict composed his rule, monasteries were in Africa, France, and even Ireland. Monasticism preserved much of Europe during the Dark Ages when there was much tumult and chaos. It was through monasticism that manuscripts were preserved, as well as art, architecture, and music were developed. It was here that culture survived and lived for many years. St. Benedict could not have known how great of an impact his rule would be on the west. Blessed John Henry Newman said of him:

“St. Benedict found the world, physical and social, in ruins, and his mission was to restore it in the way not of science, but of nature, not as if setting about to do it, not professing to do it by any set time, or by any rare specific, or by any series of strokes, but so quietly, patiently, gradually, that often till the work was done, it was not known to be doing…Silent men were observed about the country, or discovered in the forest, digging, clearing and building; and other silent men, not seen, were sitting in the cold cloister, tiring their eyes and keeping their attention on the stretch, while they painfully copied and recopied the manuscripts which they could have saved. There was no one who contended or cried out, or drew attention to what was going on, but by degrees, the woody swamp became a hermitage, a religious house, a farm, and abbey, a village, a seminary, a school of learning and a city.”

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange…

On the Woundedness of Men in Our Culture from a Female Perspective

The last few days I have watched a few different movies that have gotten me thinking about people I have known in the past, as well as the state of our culture. I am not a big TV watcher, but my body and brain have needed a break before I make the push through midterms into term papers and then onto finals. Why would I even be able to speak on the topic of the wounded men in our culture? Well, because I spent much of my Twenties engrossed in the thoroughly secular culture of men and women while I was in the Navy. For a while I was the only woman on my watch-team and almost all of my friends were men. In fact, for most of my life, until marriage, my friends were predominately male. Male friends of mine have confided in me through broken relationships, promiscuous behavior, divorces, thoughts of adultery, pain, and a lot of brokenness. I am also married and observe how my husband is different from me in many ways. This is not meant to be an exhaustive account, but it is about what I have learned through my love of the men in my life from my dad, to my husband, to friends.

I watched three different movies with the same actor in them. They were thoroughly secular, especially in discussion. There was nothing graphic per say, but the discussions were anything but pure. I watched them in order to observe our culture. It reminded me of what I was privy to and observed in the past. While these films were describing a culture that is counter to the Catholic’s knowledge of truth, a bit of truth would shine through the darkness and despair of it all. These people could not tell outright that they were in despair, but I could see it. I see it on TV and I have seen it in the faces of people I have known. It is the unquenchable thirst that cannot be satiated by this world.

There are many articles and blogs on the brokenness of women in the face of the Sexual Revolution. I myself lived that lie for 3 years when I cohabited with the man I dated before my husband. A man whom I had no intention of marrying. It is the biggest regret of my life and it opened my eyes to the lie of our culture. Cohabitation is not marriage. Men and women are different. We are unique in creation, but equal in dignity. We are complementary and meant to fit together. Men are not meant to be women and women are not meant to be men. Today I want to focus on cultural tendencies and the way we treat men, especially how women treat men.

1. Men are sexual animals who are incapable of monogamy.

I have heard this statement a lot, not just in media, but from friends. Yes, men are wired in a more sexual manner than women. They think about sex all of the time, but as I read earlier today, that does not mean that men are incapable of self-control. What kind of message do we send to men by this accusation? When we accuse men of only being capable of promiscuous sex, what are we demanding of them? For women, nothing. We discard them and either give into this tendency or treat these men with disdain. Yes, I have known some real jerks. I had conversations with a few Marines I dated that I never expected to have, but I stood my ground. But in my youth, anger, and rush to judgment, I discarded them. Now I wasn’t going to continue to date men who were only interested in using me for sex. First, I practiced abstinence the entire 6 years I served and did not make an error in judgment until I was 26. But, I should have paid more attention to what was going on. I should have seen all of the pain going on around me in both men and women. It was everywhere.

Men tend to be promiscuous for a few reasons. First, women have given in and believe that they must be promiscuous as well. Women have bought the lie that promiscuous sex is the answer to true freedom. Tell that to my female friends who slept with entire platoons of men, who came home crying and broken, only to do it again. Men actually do need guidance from women. It is not that men are incapable of self-control, but they need the help of their partner, as does the woman in the situation. The sexual passion is one of the strongest forces on earth and men and women should be helping each other practice self-control. Sometimes men need more help than women. It’s okay to admit that.

Second, men who are aggressively promiscuous are usually wounded and hurting. They go through woman after woman in order to erase a relationship or relationships from the past. It is their way of numbing the pain or it is their revenge. I have known quite a few men like this. I have seen this depicted in multiple movies, but it is something that we don’t pay much attention to. Men are suppose to be incapable of suffering and pain, so we brush it off. They are getting their fill of sex, so why does it matter that the root of their pain is not being addressed? No one encourages the man in this situation to heal. Instead our culture applauds his conquests. We need to start acknowledging that men feel pain. It may be different from a woman’s pain, but it is no less deep.

Third, these men usually come from families that were either broken or lacked a strong mother or father. Promiscuity usually points to a lack in understanding of how men and women should interact. They either lacked a father to show them how to treat women with respect or a mother to show them how to love women. Once again this is a problem that our culture wants to ignore because the reality of fatherlessness, divorce, adultery, etc. points to the brokenness of that way of life.

2. Men are expendable.

As women have convinced themselves that their sexual freedom rests in being like a promiscuous male, a discard culture has emerged that is the opposite of what many men do to women. Women are discarding men all together. They use the men and then throw them to the curb, including many women who have become pregnant. How often do we see the go it alone mother who doesn’t need the man who impregnated her? How often do we see depictions of women in their 30s or 40s going to a sperm bank in order to have a child without a male partner? Whether we believe it or not, men absorb this sentiment. They know that they are seen as expendable by many women and so they in turn treat women in that manner. So we end up with the sexes competing and discarding one another, and then everyone wonders why marriage is falling apart?! Is it really so shocking that people in the generation behind mine are not getting married? With this lack of trust, what would make someone want to marry? The sexes are not meant to use and abuse one another, but love and serve one another as Christ loves the Church.

3. Men are stupid.

One of the reasons I loathe post-modern sitcoms is because of how men are depicted. In almost every single one of them, the father is an impotent and idiotic man who can get nothing right and the woman has to fix him. This is so offensive! Men are incapable of fathering, men are incapable of grocery shopping, men are incapable of providing for their families, and the list goes on and on and on. No matter what the man cannot get it right. ONLY a woman can do things in the proper fashion. What do we think this does to men?

It creates a generation of men who lack work ethic and direction. Men need to provide for their families. Men need purpose, as do women, but those purposes are equal but different. Men need work. But if women tell them they are useless and stupid all of the time, then they stop trying. They lose that sense of purpose that God gave them. They lose that sense of who God made them to be. When a man falls in love and desires to marry a woman, it means that he is willing to die for the person he is marrying. He will give everything to her. This is not sentiment. This is reality. This is how men are wired. There is a reason men are the ones who go to war. They instinctively grasp honor, courage, and selfless sacrifice for their loved ones and the brothers next to them. This is not something to be mocked. It is something to be admired. Men are not stupid. They just aren’t women. That is the real issue.

4. Men should be more like women.

Yes, there have been great strides made in men becoming more involved in the home life. This is a positive, but men are not women, nor should they be asked to be. I struggle in this department. I am constantly telling my husband to stop trying to fix everything and just let me vent. Well, men fix things. If someone they love is hurting, they just want to fix it. Well, women sometimes just need to talk it out. This is a balancing act that they have to work out within their marriage. That being said, we cannot expect our husbands or boyfriends to be like our best girlfriend. My husband is never going to enjoy going to the ballet, a musical, or a chick flick. I cannot expect him to love it. He goes with me, because he loves me and I go to movies or other activities with him. Marriage is about compromise, but we cannot expect or force our interests, especially more feminine interests on them. Some men love these things and that is great, but my husband is not one of them. I have to accept that about him.

Men and women think differently. In one of the movies I was watching the married couple was having a fight that sounded exactly like one I would have with my husband. Men don’t like fighting. They just want to know when it will be over and they can fix the problem. Women on the other hand may want to vent and pout. The point is that none of us are mind readers and I cannot expect a man to think as I do. So let’s stop!  Men are not women and women are not men. That’s okay!  That’s how God made us. We are still equals even if we are different.

Conclusion

The woundedness that I have seen in both men and women is heart-breaking. The real answer is in Christ and His Church, but I wanted to share some of my own experiences and observations. Sometimes we women railroad men too much, and that includes inside of the Church. I will address the latter in a post at a later date. It’s important for us to remember that men hurt and suffer, that they are not stupid, not incapable of love, and that they are meant to be men. If we want to heal the culture then we have to stop treating men poorly in the name of feminism. Men are capable of great things and they deserve our love and respect. If, like me, you struggle with some of these tendencies, make an effort to overcome the lies of our culture. God bless.

Bringing Christ to the Walking Wounded of the West

Psychology Today
Psychology Today

Tonight I saw a comment (social media provides me with a lot of food for thought) that implied the issues of the West, transgenderism, homosexuality, divorce, adultery, etc. are not the same as the murder, rape, persecution, and poverty overseas or in Third World countries. This was, of course, in response to the Bruce Jenner situation. I do not wish to write on that topic because there are people who would do a much better job on it than me. I pray for him and discuss it with people who bring it up to me, but I do not feel called to that discussion.  This comment got me thinking. Have we forgotten about the unique dignity of every single human being? Have we forgotten that Jesus loves every single person? Yes, there are great horrors going on, but many of those are on our own street behind closed doors. The penalty for sin is death and destruction, so how can we think that our culture is somehow better off? How can we think that we don’t need to be concerned about the one lost soul we meet? What does Scripture say?

The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them he addressed this parable.  “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. Luke 15:1-7

We can easily fall into the mentality of the Pharisees. I know I do it at times. We can decide that certain evils are greater because we have a visceral reaction to them. Who among us is not appalled by the rape and murder of children overseas? Those are great evils to be sure, but they are not the only evils impacting souls. When Blessed Teresa of Calcutta would come to the U.S., she would observe a great poverty in our country and in the rest of the West. It was a poverty of loneliness, the feeling of being unloved.

The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Our country is being torn apart by broken homes, hedonism, materialism, and relativism. The by-products of these philosophies are everywhere. People are screaming out to be loved, but they don’t know where to go. They don’t know the answer. They have never been shown. Instead they have lived lives of abandonment, pain, anger, confusion, and frustration. This is exacerbated and deepened in a culture that lies to them. A culture that tells them that if they only do whatever they want, they will feel better. But, no. This is a quick fix and it leads ever deeper into the pit of destruction and despair. How many women are crying alone in their apartments tonight because they believed the lie that promiscuity would bring them love and acceptance? How many men are drowning out their desire for a deep and lasting love through sexual conquests only to return to their lonely lives afterwards? How many teenagers and adults are struggling with same sex attraction and hating themselves? How many of those live with that deep hate, not because people like me tell them that homosexual sex is a sin, but rather because they know that that sex has not filled the ache they feel within themselves? Homosexual or heterosexual, filling the void through sex doesn’t stop the deep hunger for Love. How many children sit home alone and never see their parents because they are working too many hours? How many parents are trying to buy their child’s affection to make up for their absence? How many children are crying tonight because they were told divorce was coming for their parents? How many inner city kids are craving the attention of a father they have never met or a mother they seldom get to see? How many husbands and wives are living with the pain of adultery? How many people are drowning out their sorrow in drugs and alcohol at this very minute? How many of us (me) use social media to dull the isolation they feel? THIS! This is the poverty of our country.

We tell ourselves that this poverty, pain, and immorality is nothing compared to ISIS, Boko Haram, China, or any country living in barbarism. We don’t equate the two because we don’t want to have to look in the mirror. We don’t want to have to examine our own sins. The sins of others are greater than our own. We don’t want to look at how we are preventing Christ from reaching the people near us. The shouting and yelling at others about their sins does nothing, but make people dig in their heals. Meanwhile, Christ is looking for every single lost sheep. He will leave the 99. He will leave the 6 billion for the one. Have we Christians forgotten that truth? A truth that is so profound, so big, so unbelievable, but somehow we have forgotten to share it with others? We are not Christ, so our yelling at others will accomplish nothing. Instead, we must offer an invitation in charity and truth.

No we cannot confirm people in their sins. We cannot lie to them in order to make them feel better about their choices. But we will never bring people to the pews if all they see is us screaming about their sins. Isn’t this the point Pope Francis is making? He’s not changing Church teaching. He’s pointing out that hurt, wounded, aching, unloved people, need to have a real encounter with the Risen Lord. We need to share our joy and not only reserve it for the people who we decide are worthy because it is quite clear that Christ is interested in each and every single person. We need to show them how Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church is the answer to the longing of their heart. That Christ is the answer to their loneliness, brokenness, and wounds. That the Holy Eucharist is the answer to the meaning of life. To be a saint is to be fully alive. WE need to be willing to enter into their brokenness and pain. We need to be willing to hurt with them because that is what the Mystical Body does. Can you imagine what it is like to have never known love? To only know how to use hedonism to fill up that deep void? They must ask themselves in confusion: Who is This? Love me?! It has to be blinding like it was for St. Paul. It has to be difficult to accept and completely foreign. These are the people we are called to reach out to, but we cannot do it on our own terms. I mean our own individual terms. We must use the greatness of Catholicism, but allow people to find their footing. We need to walk the journey with them in charity and truth. I have known these very people throughout my lifetime and I have failed them. I have failed them.

There are unspeakable horrors around the world. I sit back and watch the news in pain for people most days, but I have no control over what happens in Nigeria or the Middle East. I do weep with them. I do have control over my family, friends, community, parish, and social media interactions. All I can do is fast and pray for those parts of the world I cannot impact, but I do have the ability to share my faith with people who do not understand it at all. To patiently bear their burdens, questions, confusion, flight, and struggle. It is not easy to be converted. It is not easy to agree to conform one’s life to the Most Holy Trinity through Baptism. It is not easy to die to self. It is not easy to let go of greed, lust, envy, gluttony, pride, anger, avarice, and sloth. It’s a life long spiritual battle, but one that we engage in with Christ by our side. It is easier when we fall in love with Christ. Things that seemed impossible slowly get easier. We need to show people how to fall in love with Jesus Christ in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit by our own example. Christ leads us to the abandonment of sin. That is the only way they will abandon sin and begin the life long battle. They will want to die to self because they love God. Do we? Do we want to die to self because of our love of God? We have to ask ourselves that every single day too because we fall and sin and must return to Him in our weakness.

Let us remember in our daily dealings there are a lot of hurting people who need Christ. There is a lot of evil in our own neighborhoods that needs redemption. There is not a single soul who Christ does not desire. A lost soul is a horrific thing. The people in our country who are trapped in the lies of hedonism, materialism, and relativism are prisoners of the Evil One. They too need the Paschal Mystery to break loose their chains. Think about that the next time you call someone a “freak” or other ad hominem. These people are lost and we know the Way. Are we showing people the Way?

As I write this post, tears well up in my eyes for all of the times I have failed in this exact same call. In all of the ways that I fail to show love to the people around me and even the people I encounter on social media. I have a daughter who needs my complete and total love, but I get lost in selfishness some days and fail her. I do the same thing to my husband. These are the people Christ entrusted to me. How many other people have I encountered in my life and failed? Jesus wanted every single one of those people for His own and I failed to serve Him. All power rests in Him, but He uses each one of us to further the mission of bringing the world to Him. Let’s stop being afraid. Let’s stop ignoring His call. We need to trust in Him. He can bring about the conversion in even the most hardened of hearts and he can heal the sins of our age. . We have to be willing lives of courageous virtue and holiness. We cannot just use words to draw people in, our joy and way of life should point to Christ. We have to be willing to love as He loves and search for the one soul he puts in our tracks each day.

Society’s Disconnect from the Joy of Children

childrenjesus

For reasons that I am not going to discuss explicitly, I have been contemplating our culture’s hostility towards children. We live in a culture that views children largely as a nuisance or accessory. Unfortunately this view has pervaded the culture including within the Catholic Church and other Christian communities. My husband and I have been asked multiple times if we will try for a boy since we have a girl, after all, children are like salt and pepper shakers. The irony of that question is that those types of things are in no one’s control unless they use the horrific evil of sex selection abortion. In my mind, the perfect family is the one God gives us through our openness and discernment of His will.

My husband and I realized that we view the world differently and through a thoroughly faithful Catholic lens when we had our daughter. Our parish offers daycare during Mass, something which we are greatly opposed to. We used it a couple of times when my husband was recovering from a severe migraine, but our daughter does not miss Mass. She is a baptized member of the Mystical Body and she needs to learn how to sit still and pray the Liturgy. That also means she does not run around in the narthex if she starts acting up during Mass. Our daughter also accompanies us to church functions. I have had run-ins with people who didn’t like it and I made clear that our daughter comes with us unless it was a professional event that required babysitting. She’s a member of the Church and an equal member of our family. My husband and I will not relegate our child to the corner.

What disturbs me about this trend is there is a great desire to push children to the fringes. It is to view the outbursts or cries of a child with disdain, rather than as a reality that comes with the growing of a human being. It is to separate our children from our family unit within the Church. The Church should be the celebrator of life and support the Culture of Life. That means children whether a family has one or 12 is a great gift. It is more souls for Christ and we should be joyful to see children present. It is a sign of a living parish, not a dying one, and it is our sign to the world that human beings are a great gift who have been given a unique dignity by God.

I think the throw away culture is greatly hurting our children. They sense that we are pushing them to the side, using them as an accessory, or blaming them for some perceived loss of independence. They know when they are not welcome, trust me, they know. It is no wonder that children are lonely, depressed, hurting, and at times, violent. Our culture has taught them that they are a bother, not a great gift. They are repeatedly told, especially through the evil of abortion, that their lives were merely a matter of their mother’s choice, not out of love. Whether explicit or implicit, the children of our culture know that they missed death narrowly as 1/6th of their generation has been murdered. They also know when their parents spend little time with them due to their other engagements or they allow their children to be too busy for family time, or to be glued to their cell phones. They also know it when people complain about them.

Our culture is becoming disconnected from its children. Pope Francis has warned about the attacks on the young and the old alike. I see what it is doing and I have been the recipient of such ideals, whether intentional or not. It is deeply hurtful to watch and it is painful to experience in my own child. We are drifting more and more away from the real meaning of marriage and family. Marriage is no longer grounded in an understanding of children and sanctification of spouses. It is now about a disordered notion of love and often children are absent from the realm of possibility. It is about me and not living out God’s great call for marriage and family.

This view of the world is greatly anti-Catholic. Children and families are a great sign to the world of the love and beauty of the Blessed Trinity. As Catholics we cannot get sucked into this type of thinking and try to charitably (tough I know, but necessary), but with conviction, live out the Catholic worldview of the family. There are times when it will be counter-cultural and other people will not understand, but we view children as a treasure of the Church and there may be times that we have to remind others in the pews of that fact when our child talks a bit too much at Mass. We should also be encouraging others to bring their children to Mass instead of daycare. Daycare is actually a rarity in the Catholic Church for that very reason. Children are baptized members of the Church and they belong at Mass offering the Holy Sacrifice with Christ the High Priest. They are united with us in the one body that is in Christ by power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s encourage one another to be courageous even if people grumble about our children. Children are a joyful noise in the Church and it was Christ Himself who said for the little children to come to Him. Who are we to stop our children from being in His Presence? Who are we to separate them from our family unit when it truly matters?

Focus on Christ

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Being a Catholic in our present age is deeply difficult. The fact of the matter is that being Catholic in any age has been difficult. Our time seems worse because the world is capable of more widespread evil thanks to advances in technology. Don’t get me wrong, technology is a great blessing, however, sinful human beings do not know how to use it well.

Anyone who has their attention tuned into world events both within and outside of the Church can see that the world is completely and totally upside down. We do not know which way is up or down. We call what is evil good and what is good evil. Very aggressive forces are knocking at the doors of the Church demanding that we change or face the consequences. This, of course, is nothing new, and after much pain, the Church will be here while the forces of evil of our day will have died off. Things are going to get hard, and much of it will be self inflicted, but the Church will emerge stronger.

For the faithful, it can be difficult to follow our leaders. Some Bishops and priests boldly proclaim the counter-culture Gospel of Jesus Christ, while others seem to enable our secular society. It confuses many, while the faithful shake their heads in frustration. I myself have moments of asking God where the St. Padre Pios and St. Pauls of our day are in this time of distress. I see a very deep hatred, yes hatred, of the Church emerging in the West. Largely because of lies and ignorance perpetuated by academics and politicians, but being believed by scores of people. These same lies have been ingested by vast numbers of Catholics who choose to ignore Church teaching and who in turn will persecute their own Church. It is not just something in headlines, it is in our own parishes.

So what can we do? I know that when I start focusing too much on the storm Christ tells me to focus on Him. Stop watching the disaster unfold and focus on Him. We must pray and pray hard. We need to attend Eucharistic Adoration and Mass as much as our vocations allow. Pray Rosaries and Divine Mercy. Serve others and be an example of what Christ calls each one of us to. Continue teaching our families the Faith, authentic Faith. Keep following Christ. That is what we must do. I am telling myself this as much as I write to you. We must pray that we will pass the test.

As Catholics, we must also trust in Christ’s promise to St. Peter that the powers of Hell will never prevail over the Church. That means taking secular reporting on the Church with a grain of salt. Our Holy Father has not changed Church teaching. All social teaching is the same: abortion and homosexual acts are still gravely sinful. All our Holy Father is trying to teach is that in following Christ we will want to abandon our sinful ways and that includes the hard stuff, which for our culture are the sexual sins.

So let’s pray hard and trust in Christ. I know it is hard. My husband has to take my hand sometimes and tell me to trust. I can get righteously angry easily. I love Christ and His Church and my fighting personality stands at the ready to take up in battle. But, right now, Christ wants me to trust and pray. To give all to Him, so that when the time comes I am ready, and so are you.

Our Improper Use of the Word Love

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There is a phenomenon that is largely prevalent in my generation and the generations younger than me.  It is the overuse and incorrect use of the word love.  I think that mass advertising has had a huge impact on this trend.  Have you ever stopped to really listen to the garbage coming out of your speakers?  Have you ever been appalled by an ad on the radio or TV?  You’re not alone.  Last Christmas, the ads were so bad that I finally started shutting off the radio.  We are constantly told that we will “love” products and services.  Think about it.  McDonald’s has a slogan that says “I’m Lovin’ It”.

 
The problem is that this has slipped into my consciousness and vocabulary.  I will tell people that I “love” pumpkin spice lattes, or a particular show, or song.  But do I really “love” these things?  Am I professing my deep devotion to inanimate objects.  Do I will their good?  Do I want what is best for that pumpkin cake donut from Dunkin’ Donuts?  No.  I want to enjoy that donut.  It’s light fluffy pumpkin infused with spices sweetness makes my taste buds do a happy dance, but I am not going to give my life for that donut.
 
The issue is that words matter.  How we express ourselves comes from what we believe about the world around us.  It also shows us how much the world has been absorbed by our psyches.  In telling someone that I “love” some food or product, I am saying that I have in fact taken in our materialist culture.  I do equate love to food.  I have crossed into the land of gluttony and idolatry.
 
The overuse of the word “love” also points to a culture that has truly lost the definition of that word.  In saying that I love some inanimate object, I am saying that “love” is purely how something makes me feel.  Pumpkin spice lattes make me feel warm, happy, and snuggly.  That’s similar to how I feel about my husband, right?  Wrong!  It also shows why people are discarded as easily as things.  They are objects for my mere enjoyment and amusement; that is the new definition of love.
 
The first time I realized the error I was making in my speech as a couple winters ago.  Our parish priest had come over for dinner for the first time.  He was there to bless our rental home.  I had made cous cous and proceeded to tell him that I “loved” it.  He said that he “liked” it to.  That really struck me.  Not just as a generational difference, he is 12 years older than me.  It stuck out to me because it revealed an error that I had stated.  I enjoy cous cous.  It is mighty tasty, but I am not in love with cous cous.
 
I have had to catch myself numerous times since then.  There is a reason that languages all have different verbs for “to love”, “to enjoy”, and “to like”.  They are different in profound ways.  I can enjoy a walk in the woods, but I don’t love it.  I can like a chocolate cake, but once again I do not love it.  I am not going to give up my life for that cake if need be. 
 
Our society has lost a true grasp on what love truly means.  The Cross is what love means.  A total self-emptying for the good of another.  St. Thomas Aquinas defined love, “as willing the good of the other, as other”.  It means wanting another’s good even if that means we ourselves must give something up.  It means wanting what is best for a person, even if it is unpopular.
 
As the Christmas season rolls out here in the next few weeks, pay attention to the ads you hear on the radio or see on TV.  You will begin to see a trend where jewelry, electronics, clothes, food, etc. are all portrayed as things to love, things to fulfill you.  Thankfully, I am fully in the season of Advent and do not begin celebrating Christmas until Gaudete Sunday, the 3rd Sunday of Advent. My family and I then celebrate Christmas throughout January, as it is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church.  That means that I am largely ignoring ads and superficial Christmas songs about “Santa Baby”.
 
Do you struggle with the improper use of “love” like I do.  I would hazard a guess that if you are under 35, you have used the verb in the wrong manner at least once or twice.  Think about it the next time it comes out of your mouth.  Do you really love what is front of you, or is just a gift to enjoy for a moment?