I wanted to give it a subtitle of – “Michelle – Talks with her hands 99% of the time – Piccolo.” Gee, can you tell I’m half Italian!?!
On April 20, 1986, I made my first Communion as a second-grader at my home parish in Parma, Ohio at St. Anthony of Padua.
Thirty-three years later, here at my new hometown of Plymouth, Michigan, at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church I was blessed to attend our Easter Vigil and was honored to be a sponsor to an engaged couple. I also witnessed 31 other individuals (yes 33 people entered the Catholic Church at our parish; God is so good!) enter into full communion of the Catholic Church, after spending the past 8 months meeting every week for their RCIA classes.
This was only my second Easter Vigil and it was absolutely hands down, one of the most amazing experiences EVER.
The choir, the music, the decor, the baptisms, the readings, the rituals, the prayers, the homily, the candles, the fire, the crowd, the incense. As one of our teenage candidates said, “It didn’t feel like 4 hours.”
As soon as it was over I wanted to start it all over again! And as our pastor said to the newly initiated – They know more being Catholic than anyone else – because they made a point to learn, to ask questions, to seek the answers and it led them to the fullness of Truth.
33 years after making my first communion, I have a much deeper appreciation for our faith, due in large part to the friends I’ve made here who are converts, as well as taking the initiative to learn and study and ask questions. It’s been remarkable living here and attending this awesome parish for the past 21 months.
OLGC records everything so luckily, I’ve been able to re-live the entire Holy Week all over again. You can watch the Vigil in it’s entirety here, but before you click, allow me to share what I think, are some of the more moving and particularly special moments of the night:
I’m still on a high from it all. I think when you witness such a grand event, when you truly start to “get it,” and understand what Jesus did on that cross, it brings you to tears.
As it should.
Happy Easter Season everyone!
I recently gave a talk on the topic of the Church and Feminism in the Diocese of Lansing for their Theology on Tap Young Adult group. We adjusted the title to “Can You Be Pro-Woman and Catholic? Yes.”
Recall that Theology on Tap talks take place at bars, so the environment is not one where you really want to “teach” as much as just “share” some knowledge. In other words, you can only go so deep with folks. Even though I’m pretty comfortable talking to groups at bars, I much prefer a classroom setting to get into the nitty gritty. But overall, the feedback was very good and everyone really enjoyed the Q&A afterwards (not recorded).
The beauty of recording these is that I get to edit those rambling bits out. Click this link (if you’re reading this in your email) or click the link below if you’re reading this post in your web browser.
However, if you really enjoy watching me from the side, (what a screenshot, right?) and you like my ramblings, go ahead and watch some of it below here:
Happy Easter everyone!
As a follow up to my previous post of the transcript of my Women’s Lenten talk, I have uploaded the audio to my Vimeo channel. There’s nothing to watch, it’s just audio.
Still awaiting the full video of all three of the talks from that night. But in the meantime, here is the talk. Note – You’ll probably have to put the volume up as high as you can go in order to hear me.
I had the honor of being asked to give a brief talk to a group of women at a parish in Detroit called Shrine of the Little Flower. This was a women’s Lenten Retreat and I was one of three speakers invited to talk to a group of about 75 women in attendance.
What a joy it was to present to these women. The organizer of the event and I thought a good theme for me would be “Rediscovering Our Identity.”
So the good news is that I did record this talk via my phone but the bad news is that the volume ended up being really low. But the GREAT news is that thankfully, the entire evening was video recorded! As I anxiously await for a copy to upload to Vimeo, I thought I’d at least share the transcript of the talk, although I definitely did not stick to this script completely. The parts in bold are just there to make sure I mentioned them and didn’t forget. Enjoy!
Thank you! So first off I just have to mention that this reminds me of the first retreat I went on as a young adult. It 6 years ago, right around this time of the year almost exactly. Because it was two weeks after my mom passed on March 10, 2013. And on that retreat, I met other young adults, people around my age, who talked and spoke differently. Like they knew God in a different way. I wasn’t intimidated by them or anything. In fact, it’s safe to say I wanted what they had! I started to go on more retreats and I found these people to be the first ones who really taught me what a real relationship with God is like! They sparked something in me to take a second look at my relationship with God.
And it was on yet another retreat where I was prompted to pursue and study Theology of the Body, which was the main catalyst that brought me to the point where I am today and my relationship with our awesome God.
Theology of the Body is 600 pages long so I wouldn’t expect anyone here to read it..BUT, if after my talk you are inclined to learn more, I promise there are a ton of digestable resources/videos and books that I can recommend.
For our purposes tonight, I wanted to talk about how TOB helps us rediscover our identity, as it did for me.
I don’t know if you knew this, but we are all daughters of God. I did not see myself or think of myself as a beloved child of God. And I went to Catholic school for 12 years. I did know that we are created in the image and likeness of God, but I had no idea what that really meant. I didn’t really get that…I think, perhaps like many of you, I believed the lies of the evil one and of the culture in general. “I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not good enough to be loved…etc”
Or maybe we believed the lies that exboyfriends or former friends told us about ourselves and therefore we think – this is who I am. Or “I am stuck in this way of life and that’s all there is to it and there’s no hope.” So many of us are wounded by sin, especially by men, whether that be fathers or husbands or boyfriends. And that’s really where TOB comes in to play because we can receive healing from it, once we understand why Jesus came. Because He came to heal us, to restore our identity. And that’s really good news!
And He can heal us of those distorted images of our identity.
So one way in which I was able to rediscover my identity is how JP2 unpacked God’s original plan for us.
He took us back to the beginning in the Garden of Eden to show us that look, God didn’t intend for us to have this ruptured relationship with each other and with Him and with ourselves. That’s what sin did, it ruptured these relationships. But if we go back before original sin, we see the real beauty of that original relationship between man and God in the garden. and when man and woman looked at one another for the first time, they knew the truth – that we are made for relationship. That’s what it means to be human – created in the image and likeness of God. And made for relationship. Man discovered who he was in light of woman, and woman discovered who she was in light of seeing him. That the body is sacred. That we don’t have bodies, these aren’t shells – we ARE Bodies. And our bodies speak a language. That the body matters. I wasn’t created to be used by another.
Young ladies need to hear this – We were not created to be used and objectified. We were created to LOVE. We were created for Union. For relationship. And Love is not using someone as a means to an end, as an object for pleasure and satisfaction. No, that’s another lie of the evil one. That’s what sin does, it distorts and cheapens our true identity.
There’s one particular aspect of TOB that really struck me: JP2 speaks about this “echo” in all of us. This echo of the beginning. That we know deep down that we were made for more. That there is more to life than this. That this, as great as it is, is not our final home. That I was made for more.
TOB makes it clear that we have ACCESS To that. We have access to God’s original plan for our lives! This is really good news! We can access it by grace and taking part in the Sacraments. I can pray to God to help me be healed of these distorted views and perceptions of myself and OTHERS and of my body, my body image issues that I may have, and I can live my life in such a way that I don’t have to be bogged down by sin.
Yes we are all sinners and yes we live in a fallen world, but that’s not the end of the story. Because, guess what, Jesus came! He came to restore our identities and heal us. In the beginning, it was not so…what was not so? SIN! Lust, divorce, use, mistrust, degradation of the body. We have access to that life before sin distorted everything. We won’t ever be 100% perfect – not until we’re in union with Him in heaven but in the meantime, we can strive for holiness…that universal call to holiness is no joke.
So if you have a distorted twisted or just an unclear view of who you are – if you are struggling with your identity, I would really just pray for the lord to reveal to you the lies that you have believed so you can be healed with the truth. He is the divine physician and TOB teaches us that yes, with God’s grace, we CAN change, We CAN heal we can Love because we ARE loved.
One last key point – Confession. I don’t think it was an accident that I came back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation after being away from it for 23 years at my first TOB course/retreat 4 years ago. Let me tell you, there’s no greater feeling than walking out of the confessional having been forgiven by God for your sins. Being lent, we’re wearing purple for a reason. Let me just gently nudge you if you have been away for awhile to come back. I love going to confession and I love having a spiritual director – that’s really key for me.
Let me close with this – Are you familiar with the scripture passage from St. Paul that says “It Is not I who lives but Christ who lives in me?” I used to read that and not think that it was possible. I thought that was just for super holy people. But you know what? That’s for all of us! And what’s awesome is now I read it and I think to myself – YES that’s me!!! I was lost but now I’m found. My life isn’t perfect by any means, but now I read that line and I get it.
Every day I need the Lord to remind me to put off the old self and put on the new self. I don’t know if anything I’ve said tonight resonates with you but at least let me close with this – We can all do this with God’s grace. We can change. We don’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) content to live in sin. So I hope I have encouraged you to put on a new life in Christ and Rediscover your Identity as a beloved daughter of God.
As you can see from the agenda I shared, it was a great little evening and all three of our talks were very well received and appreciated.
I’m scheduled to give another Theology on Tap talk in the Diocese of Lansing on “The Catholic Church and Feminism” on April 23rd which will be livestreamed via Facebook. I do hope that the video will be available to share afterwards and if so, will upload it to Vimeo as well. Read More »
The holidays are here and that means it’s time for me to write about my most favorite subject ever – My mama! 🙂
So holidays for my Mom and my family were simply the best. My Mom could be described as “Festive to the Extreme.” To give you an idea, she decorated our house for Fourth of July and Memorial Day and Labor Day with little flags everywhere. I mean, lets face it, most people will celebrate by enjoying the day off work but my Mom would get out her flags and put them in the potted plants outside and in the yard, she’d get on her Flag sweatshirt and grab her Flag Tote bag and would just LIVE for stuff like that.
Christmas was always a bit over the top, and Mom just made it really special. Her last Christmas was no exception. In fact, we considered it a miracle (and looking back, I think Mom just WILLED herself to get enough of her strength back) to be released from the hospital in time to celebrate Christmas.
One of my last memories of that final Christmas was walking down the stairs to the kitchen and stopping on the landing halfway, to just take in the smell of baked cookies and her famous sweet bread baking in the oven and thinking, “This is the last time this house will smell like this. It won’t be the same anymore. I’ll never hear her fiddling in the kitchen, I’ll never hear her playing her favorite Christmas CD’s, I’ll never see her smiling to present her bread.” And I don’t remember crying or anything, but I remember just inhaling that smell before I walked all the way downstairs into the kitchen. And just saying to myself,
“Damn. That was it. This won’t ever be this again.”
And you know what? That first Christmas was really rough. I won’t say it was awful but it was really hard. We tried to decorate the house like she would have but I had zero desire to even put up the tree or anything.
One day in the fall of the year that she passed, I think around Thanksgiving, I just decided to pick up her digital camera and see what was on it.
And the first picture I see is of the interior of our house…at Christmas…the year before. And then another. And another. And another. She took about 20 photos of the entire house with the Christmas decorations because she knew we wouldn’t know how to decorate quite like her. It was basically a Tutorial of How To Do Christmas Like Mom.
I pretty much lost it and called my sister to tell her about Mom’s picture-by-picture guide and she came over and we began to unpack the boxes and started to decorate the house.
And we found a note in one of them. I can’t recall what it said, but something like “Take care of each other.” Mom wrote it apparently when she was feeling well, in remission. We thought “How neat! Mom left us notes!”
We kinda forgot about it until Christmas time and started to unpack those decorations and found..you guessed it – more notes! (I wrote about this whole thing in greater detail in a blog post here). <—Get the Kleenex ready if you start to read that one.
My point with today’s post was to give some sort of solidarity to those who are about to experience their “first” holiday post-loss of a loved one. The first holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, Mothers Day/Fathers Day, etc are not really…enjoyable.
I mean, let’s just be real – they suck.
I hate that word, but it’s just so true. You’re always thinking about THEIR last holiday and how they looked, what they said, what they wore, what they made, where you went with them. And it’s just not the same. Nothing is ever the same.
And people will always try their hardest to make you feel better by saying, “Their memory lives on forever.”
That’s straight out of a Hallmark Channel Movie! So lame. Yeah yeah, their memory lives on. In our minds. Yes.
But that’s not good enough – we want our loved ones here in the flesh. I want to be able to hug my Mom right now, ya know? I can’t hug a memory. (I had the BEST dream about her the other day where I DID hug her and it was so great!)
I want to smell that bread again (IT’S THAT GOOD okay? Trust me, everyone RAVED about my Mom’s sweet bread. Thank God my sister bakes it now and it’s just as good although she’ll read this and say “No, it’s not as good as Mom’s. No one made it like Mom.”)
I want to hear her play her favorite Christmas music and hear her wrapping gifts and complaining that she had to scour the internet looking for that one obscure rare gift my brother always asked for every year, and couldn’t find (but she always found it! Sometimes at the last minute, but she did.)
I want to see her, in her recliner, reading her little devotional books, ask her how she’s feeling, and hear her voice and talk to her.
Last week we celebrated All Saints Day and All Souls Day. All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation but All Souls Day is not. I feel like they both should be obligatory. All Saints Day mass was exactly what I needed. The incense, the chanting, the lighting…it was incredible. All Souls Day had the same feel and although it’s a solemn mass and lots of tears are shed, the homily filled me with hope.
I LOVE going to the mass and feeling my Mom there with me.
After all, mass itself is heaven on earth. It’s where we encounter Jesus and it’s where we pray to the Saints and to Mary and it’s where I feel closest to my Mom and all of my relatives and friends who have passed on. They are where I want to be someday (hopefully not soon) but I know it’s where I’ll see her again and hear her laugh and see her smile and give her the biggest hug ever!
And when I’m on my knees in prayer after the Sanctus (the Holy Holy Holy…) I really try to envision all of the saints right there and my Mom too, hovered around the altar, kneeling with us before God on His throne.
I know it can be a chore and really tough to picture this when you’re at mass where there’s crying babies, fidgeting kids, people’s cell phones going off (come on people, it’s been 10 years can we please learn how to turn them off!?) or an off-key singer in the choir or just distracted by your random thoughts, but if you shut your eyes and just listen to the priest, you CAN do this.
Even if it’s just 10 seconds of being truly present at mass, it’s a game-changer. It may be the most peaceful moment you’ll have that day. And if you keep experiencing that peace, I would be willing to bet you’ll want to keep coming back to get those peaceful experiences again.
My prayers are with all of my friends and family members who are experiencing their “first” holidays without your favorite person in your life there with you this year. But you’ll see them again. And it won’t be from a memory.
It’ll be real.
Can’t wait to see you again, Mom! Save a slice of that bread for me will ya? 😉
Happy Priesthood Sunday!
I’m not sure how many people really “participate” in this occasion but I know for me, I send a quick text or email to the priests in my life who have been particularly influential in my spiritual life.
But you don’t need to be good friends or close to a priest to let them know that you care. You can simply pray for them. And I think, especially in light of this “Summer of Scandal,” our good priests could use our prayers now more than ever.
My parish is one the few that I know of that has dedicated a special page on their website to the Church abuse crisis and the McCarrick scandal. They have been updating the site with relevant articles and commentary and recently, they added this page – Rosary for Sanctification of Priests.
I think it’s just a good way to show support for all of the clergy right now.
Another idea that I had was to pray for those priests who have been laicized due to abuse allegations. I think a lot of the times, we’d rather not think about these men as being worthy of our prayers or of our time do to the heinous nature of their actions. But, we simply can’t think that way. It’s times like this I remember that there is no sin too great for God’s mercy and forgiveness. I oftentimes just pray for these men to repent. That’s all we can ask. The rest is up to God. In a lot of cases, many of these men are deceased, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray for their souls.
My Archdiocese lists the name of every priest who has been removed from ministry or laicized. I made it a point to write down their names and pray for them by name. Maybe a good idea would be to find out if your diocese lists yours and do the same.
On this Priesthood Sunday, give thanks for the good priests (the majority of them are!) that you’ve encountered, and pray that more good young men will remain docile to the movements of the Holy Spirit and heed the call to the priesthood, if that be God’s will for them.
A week ago today I set off for the Malvern Retreat House in Pennsylvania to take my 6th course with the Theology of the Body Institute called Theology of the Body and the Interior Life with Fr. Timothy Gallagher.
I had asked Christopher West in a Facebook Chat what to expect from this course, since I felt like I was one of the few Catholics in the world who had not heard of Fr. Tim before. His response was:
“Fr. Tim Gallagher is one of the foremost experts in the country on Ignatian spirituality, particularly what Ignatius called “the discernment of spirits.” It’s going to be a crash course on how to discern the interior movements of our lives — how to recognize the voice of the Lord and any contrary voices in our lives. This is essential for the journey of the interior life, which is essential for living TOB. I’ll be making those connections for the class in particular.”
I’m here to say, Fr. Tim exceeded my expectations and, together with Christopher teaching the TOB specific portion as well as another priest who spoke on the Examen Prayer, this was probably one of the most fruitful and enjoyable courses I’ve taken yet.
For those unfamiliar with the TOB Institute and the courses that it offers, a little background:
All of the courses take place at retreat centers in Pennsylvania. They run from a Sunday evening until Friday afternoon. They consist of 30 hours of teaching and the rest of the time is filled with meals, mass, prayer and adoration.
That’s the *structure* of it but that’s nothing compared to what happens in your mind and your heart as digest all of this. Because it’s not data or information that you’re learning – it’s so much more deep than that. This is literally life-changing. And it’s because it speaks directly to our heart.
This one was specifically on Discernment of Spirits and the Spiritual Exercises from St. Ignatius of Loyola. For more information on it, I’d recommend Fr. Timothy’s website as well as the *main* website called Discerning Hearts. For those who are more auditory learners, you’ll appreciate this site since all you’ll have to do is click on one of the many podcasts that Fr. Tim has done to really help you understand the exercises.
While attempting to summarize all that we learned in one blog post would be futile, (I wouldn’t even know where to begin!) I would instead like to share the BEST news about this retreat/course based on my last post from just a month ago: My GoFundMe Campaign funded this whole course entirely!
For those that don’t know, I was having some anxiety about paying for this course. I only had 3 courses left to obtain the full TOB certification and after a ton of prayer, I decided to start a Go Fund Me, simply reaching out just once to friends/family via email and posting to social media two or three times. I felt VERY uneasy about this because it’s not in my nature to ask for help, especially financial.
Much to my surprise, within 10 days, most of the course was paid for. Within three days of starting the campaign, the Institute granted me a small scholarship to the class as well. I was shocked and humbled and I’m incredibly grateful! I couldn’t get over how good God was to me with this journey.
I realized on the morning I was due to leave for the course (getting a ride with friends so I didn’t even have to put those miles on my leased car!) I was finishing up the 54 Day Novena for Our Nation. The novena consists of a rosary each day for twenty-seven days in petition; then immediately a rosary each day for an additional twenty-seven days in thanksgiving, regardless of whether or not the request has been granted yet.
Well, my petition was for funding for my TOB class. And on the final day of the novena, I was thanking Mary for interceding for me and granting this request. I don’t think this is any sort of coincidence – it’s clearly an answered prayer.
While it remains to be seen how the rest of the funding will pan out for my final two courses, I remain hopeful that God will provide.
For those wanting more information on Theology of the Body, I have updated my “Resources” page with books on TOB and others.
Rod Dreher, in his book The Benedict Option – A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, writes a short section on “Love and Support Unmarried People in the Community.”
Dreher correctly writes that the church can me a lonely place for singles.
While it’s correct and right for the Church to affirm marriage and family as the ideal forms of the Christian life, we singles sometimes get overlooked.
What about our witness? What about our lives? And what about those of us who haven’t discerned a call to marriage? It’s not wonder that our nickname is “the leftovers.”
Their status as singles that leaves clergy and parish staff scratching their heads a lot. Where can they “place” us besides babysitters and clean-up crew?
It’s normal to be confused by us because really, we confuse ourselves! We’re in our 20’s, 30’s and some of us are nearing our (gasp!) 40’s. More and more people are delaying marriage, more and more of our friends are co-habitating, and more and more of us are getting sucked into the online dating scene or possibly something worse out of desperation to be in a relationship.
We may be succumbing to the hook=-up culture. If you haven’t dated anyone in the past 5-10 years, the dating marketplace has dramatically changed. And if you haven’t dated in more than 20 years, I doubt you’ll recognize single-dom today. It’s messy. It’s strange. It’s sad. And it’s lonely.
Of course, it’s not all bad news. There are still good men and women out there. I picture them all wandering…aimlessly searching for their equivalent. They want someone just to have a conversation with. It’s been a while since they’ve sat down and had an actual conversation face to face. They’re used to 1 dimensional screens. Some of them don’t know life without a smartphone, without the internet.
Most would love to meet someone organically. But lately, that seems to be harder and harder.
As more and more people become secularized, and more and more people leave the Church, that whole, “Maybe you’ll meet someone at Church” seems to be falling away.
Where are the solid young people, the orthodox Christians and Catholics?
Besides the pews, because I promise you there are some of them there, many of them are hanging out at the Latin Masses, which is growing in popularity, at least in my diocese. A lot of the TLM’s take place in parishes that aren’t your typical Catholic parishes with Bingo and Daycare. It’s usually the larger cathedrals/older churches that still have a Low and a High mass and that’s attractive because it’s different. And for those young adults who desire authenticity, the traditional Latin mass is home to many young adults these days.
There’s also groups like your local Young Catholic Professionals chapter or simply those that attend a Theology on Tap event or Young Adult event. And they may not go just to meet a potential date; they go so they can meet other people, period. It’s an added bonus if they end up dating.
While it’s good to meet like-minded singles, it doesn’t always end up being the case. And it’s hard to meet people at mass when you’re in the pews trying to worship.
So gatherings of young adult singles doesn’t always have to revolve around religion, per se. Recreational/intramural sports leagues and going to the bars for trivia nights and just hanging out in casual social situations is usually enough to meet someone to engage in a conversation with.
But in the meantime, I appreciated Dreher’s advice for the parish community with regards to guiding and mentoring young singles:
All unmarried Christians are call to live celibately. And that can be incredibly difficult in today’s culture. So it wouldn’t be a bad idea, besides a Young Adult Ministry, to “consider establishing single-sex group houses for unmarried members to live in prayerful fellowship.” He goes on to point out that it’s difficult to live chastely in a culture “as eroticized as ours, especially when there is so little respect for chastity. One expects this from the world, but the church must be different.”
While setting up housing may not be an option for your local parish at the moment, there is something you can do, no matter what your state in life, to help with the “leftovers” – encouragement and mentorship.
I’m attempting to do something like this with a 4-week series with the Young Adult ministry at my parish called Dating and Discerning Marriage As A Catholic. We’ll be hearing testimonies from young married couples (some with kids, some without) about their dating experience, their marriage, how they pray as a couple, how they pray as a family, practicing chastity as they dated and now that they are married, the ups and downs of NFP, etc.
It’s going to be a very engaging series touching on subjects like interfaith dating, setting boundaries within friendships, how the heck to practice chastity in today’s world and how singleness bears fruit, despite it’s difficulties.
I’d love to report back on it after it’s over here so look for that in the fall.
In the meantime, pray for the young people who come to this series to have receptive hearts and minds as they hear from the couples as well as myself; that they learn something new and especially for those who have been single for a long time, who desire nothing more than to do God’s will and feel a painful ache to be married, but for whatever reason, haven’t met their future spouse.
Spend some time with your single friends when you get a chance. Ask them how life is going. Don’t pry into their dating life unless they begin that conversation. And don’t pity them. Pray for them and offer any insight you have with them on relationships and marriage. Don’t try to tell them that you know what it’s like, but DO try to share your own stories of struggle and success. Give them hope.
They are not leftovers. They are the future of the Church. And they need our support and our love.
It’s been 50 years this July 25th since Pope Paul VI released the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae (On Human Life).
There’s even a documentary about it that is being screened across the country.
There’s so much to be said about this prophetic letter, negative and positive. Most people talk today about the negative effects – how it caused such a rift between the Church, between priests and bishops who didn’t agree with the Pope’s message, between Catholic couples who ignored it altogether, between secularists who thought the Church was being old-fashioned and “should just get with the times.”
No matter what your feelings are on the Church, one cannot help but read the letter (it’s only 6 pages) and come to understand that, tragically, what Pope Paul VI predicted has come to fruition.
Section 17 of the document is the most “famous” for what the Pope saw as the notable and disastrous effects on society if birth control were to be embraced, namely – increased marital infidelity, a general lowering of moral standards, reducing women to mere objects, as well as the government and public authorities imposing their use on everyone.
As for me and this post, I just thought I’d offer some common sense logic as far as this document goes and express my thoughts on what I came to understand after reading it for the first time a few years ago.
First, a fun fact: Did you know that long before Pope Paul VI wrote HV, there already was a 100% guaranteed effective method of preventing pregnancies? It’s called abstinence.
Not the most glamorous word. Not a word that gets us very excited. It’s pretty blah, I admit. But maybe that’s because it’s not a virtue. It doesn’t take PRACTICE to be abstinent.
It DOES take practice to be chaste, though. And that challenge of practicing chastity, especially with someone we love and are deeply and completely devoted to, is difficult for people to adhere to. And I think, at least in my opinion, this is a key reason why so many folks became bitter and dissident from HV. They don’t like being told what to do.
And all they saw/heard when this document was released was “No.” But they never heard the WHY. They just heard a Rule and didn’t hear the love behind it. It’s really a pity because Pope Paul VI was just trying to do what the Church does – Mother us. Guide us. And protect us from going down a destructive and sinful path.
So let’s look at each of the main predictions and see how they match up to today’s reality:
Last I checked, despite the controversy over the ACTUAL percentage, it looks like around 42-46% of marriages end in permanent separation or divorce.
Among some studies I found, many of them ask participants open ended question of why they got a divorce and infidelity was in many of the top 5 most common answers.
So what’s the link between infidelity and contraception? Well, I had never thought of it this way, but think about it – Men who cheat/women who cheat won’t do it if there’s a possibility of their spouse finding out, right? But how would they know? If the woman gets pregnant.
So where does the Pill come in to play here? Well, if a woman is taking a contraceptive that prevents her from becoming pregnant, you can clearly have an affair much more easily. And if she does become pregnant, she can always get an abortion and the “problem” goes away. And no one is the wiser.
What is argued from the pro-life Catholic perspective is that the Pill tells the man and the woman that sex is all about pleasure. We’ve eliminated the possible outcome of a pregnancy so we can just “have fun” with no consequences.
But that’s not pleasure – that’s USE. The man uses the woman for her body only. And the saddest part is hearing other women argue against this and say that this is crazy talk. But it’s not. It’s the truth. Maybe that’s not the INTENTION of the woman. Because of course, who the heck wants to be used and then discarded once the man gets tired of her? But this is exactly what the pill/contraceptives do.
Another way women are treated as objects is through exploitation in prostitution and human trafficking. According to Mary Leary of the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America, sex trafficking and prostitution is a $40 million industry in D.C. alone. “Women are seen as one-dimensional objects – commodities – to be bought and sold in this “modern-day slavery.”
And then you have women being used for their eggs through surrogacy, egg donation and in vitro fertilization.
Seriously though, what happened to our moral compass? I try to think, for me, personally, how was I influenced as a youth/young adult? Who did I look to and who was I influenced by when it came to what was immoral vs moral? Of course, the Church. And the 10 commandments. But, I was also easily influenced by the culture. And when I think of the culture I think of tv and what was popular in those years. For me, when in high school and college, the biggest hit tv show that I think *most* of my generation watched was “Friends.”
Watching some of the repeats now on syndication, I am shocked at how much every single episode is literally about sex. Apparently someone with a lot of time on their hands counted 2,000 references in all of the episodes. And this was on NBC, this wasn’t HBO’s Sex and the City. This was one of the most popular sitcoms on TV in the 90’s-early 00’s.
And I would argue the quality of the tv shows on today haven’t gotten much better as far as morals. And let’s not get started on movies. Fifty Shades of Grey ring a bell?
I’m not about to blame the decline of morality on one tv show or one movie. It’s just that we have to admit at some point that things started to take a turn for the worse.
Abortion stats are widely known.For those that aren’t aware, we’re at just over 60 million unborn babies killed in the womb in the United States since Roe v Wade.
I found the reason for this increase from an article particularly fascinating:
“The increased availability of contraception and abortion made shotgun weddings a thing of the past. Women who were willing to get an abortion or who reliably used contraception no longer found it necessary to condition sexual relations on a promise of marriage in the event of pregnancy. But women who wanted children, who did not want an abortion for moral or religious reasons, or who were unreliable in their use of contraception found themselves pressured to participate in premarital sexual relations without being able to exact a promise of marriage in case of pregnancy. These women feared, correctly, that if they refused sexual relations, they would risk losing their partners. Sexual activity without commitment was increasingly expected in premarital relationships.“
That last sentence is particularly of interest. That’s the definition of the hook-up culture. Sex without commitment. It’s happening right now. It’s happening on college campuses at this very moment. And with the internet and online “dating” sites like Tinder and goodness knows what else (do we really want to know? I sure don’t) the hook up culture shows no signs of slowing down or stopping.
Keep in mind that quote above is from an article in 1996. I would argue things have only gotten worse in the past 20 years.
I’ve already covered this with the hook up culture and sex outside marriage (sex without commitment) but I would throw in the rampant use of online pornography and the now infamous #MeToo movement.
In other words, if two people can control their own family population, what’s to stop the government from enforcing their own population control onto their countries?
The most glaring example of this was the Obama Administration and the HHS Mandate; forcing pro-life/religious organizations to provide their employees with contraceptives and abortifacients.
So what’s the Good News?
I think there’s a lot of hope for the future. I think many women, especially young women, are waking up to the fact that the sexual revolution sold them a bunch of lies. Freedom does not equal happiness and empowerment. There’s nothing empowering about raising a child alone because the father left and wasn’t ready to commit. There’s nothing empowering about taking a level 1 carcinogen that could possibly cause you to have a stroke. There’s nothing empowering about getting a ride to an abortion clinic to kill your unborn child. And there’s nothing empowering about waking up next to a man in bed after a one night stand. There’s nothing empowering about your spouse leaving you for someone else. There’s nothing empowering about finding out your infertile because you were on birth control for decades because your doctor told you as a teen that it would clear up your acne. And there’s nothing empowering about selling your body for money or drugs.
This is empowering? No, this is degrading. And women, and men, and children, all deserve better.
The answer to how the Church can fix this mess is still the one it’s always been and continues to be – Prayer. And speaking the truth in love. Women are speaking up. Mothers are speaking up. Priests and Bishops are speaking up.
Keep the conversation going.
Let’s not wait another 50 years before we speak up again.