Humility Month

Three years ago, the United States Supreme Court made a ruling that forever changed the way our country looks at marriage as between one man and one woman. It was decided in the landmark case of Obergefell vs Hodges that same sex “marriage” was legal.

If you were on Facebook, you were inundated with not only photos and news of this  event, you had the chance to change your profile picture to a rainbow filter. You were also pressured to repeat the mantra “Love Wins” in several posts.

At the time, I probably had close to 800 “friends” on Facebook. Unfortunately for them, I had just returned from Pennsylvania where I had taken a class called Theology of the Body 1 – A Head to Heart Immersion Course. I was on fire for the Lord and God’s plan for sex and marriage. I was really excited to share all of this newly discovered information (for me it was new, even though it was 2000 years old) with family and friends.

I recall working my part time job at the time and walking out of the store where I had just finished my shift and went on Facebook to find out what SCOTUS had decided.

My heart dropped as I scrolled thru my feed – It was inundated with rainbows. I didn’t need to read much of anything else. One look at people, some close friends, but most people I wasn’t very close to to begin with, had all of a sudden changed their profile picture to a rainbow filter, courtesy of Facebook, of course. The hashtag, #LoveWins was trending.

I knew it was my duty as a Christian to speak up. To say that this wasn’t right, that God created marriage between one man and one woman, and this is written right into our bodies as being created in the image and likeness of God.

I had read the statement from the USCCB and decided to cut and paste it:

Supreme Court Decision on Marriage “A Tragic Error” Says President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference

June 26, 2015

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court decision, June 26, interpreting the U.S. Constitution to require all states to license and recognize same-sex “marriage” “is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The full statement follows:

Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.

The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.

Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.

I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.

Lastly, I call upon all people of good will to join us in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.

I prefaced this statement with one simple sentence: “Just because something is deemed legal, doesn’t make it right.”

Well, that was enough to emit a bunch of responses that I wasn’t really expecting.

“Wait, so, you think being gay is a sin? That’s horrible!”

“The Church needs to get with the times.”

“What makes you judge of someone’s sex life?”

“What two people do in the bedroom has no effect on you, love is love!”

“You sound like a hater. Another Christian bigot!”

and

“What would you say to one of your nephews if they came out of the closet?”

 

Others used much more colorful language. I defended my position as well as I could. I tried to do my best to talk about chastity and our universal call to holiness and promoting the short film “The Third Way.” I referenced the Catechism but mostly I mentioned how we are all sinners in need of mercy. And of course, I referenced some Theology of the Body books and resources for those that were open to learning more.

I was surprised at some of the people, many of whom were my Catholic high school classmates, who commented or sent me a private message. Some of them expressed similar feelings to me but admitted that they didn’t have the guts to post about it on social media for fear of offending someone. Others simply thought I was nuts for believing in traditional marriage.

Fast forward to this year. We are now in the month of June, typically known as Pride Month.  This is the month when, traditionally, most Gay Pride Parades take place.

For those that have never attended a pride parade, you can simply Google Image search them, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s heartbreaking and shocking. A better representation of what happens is to ask those who attend from a Catholic perspective. One of the best people to ask is a man named Joseph Sciambra. He has a great story of conversion. He wrote a book that I cannot seem to finish due to its graphic nature called “Swallowed By Satan: How Our Lord Jesus Christ Saved Me From Pornography, Homosexuality and The Occult.”

Joseph attends the pride parade in his hometown of San Francisco, the biggest pride parade in the country (maybe the world?) every year and hands out rosaries and cards with his website that simply says “Jesus loves gay men.” He has posted on Facebook some of his interactions with the (mostly men) who he speaks to. The stories he tells are both tragic and troublesome to even READ.

I refuse to even type the words of what has been reported as happening during these parades because the devil isn’t someone to play with. This isn’t me being a paranoid Christian either, this is the real deal. Some legit occult-like acts happen right there on the parade route, some of the more evil ones behind screens.

This isn’t something I say to shock anyone. I say it because not too many people even know about this. They think pride parades and promoting the gay agenda is all innocent because, “no one gets hurt,” and “love is love.”  Well, I beg to differ. Read Joseph’s story or read about those who used to consider themselves gay and who came back to the Church. They may still be attracted to members of the same sex, but they have embraced celibacy because they understand to love someone, is to will the good of the other.

But here’s the positive side of social media and these silly #Hashtags and a perfect example of how we as Catholics (or simply those who aren’t religious but believe in traditional marriage) –  can change the conversation. And we can come up with our own hashtag. Case in point – After Obergefell, someone posted a painting of a crucified Jesus with the hashtag #LoveWon.

Simple and very effective.

This month, after seeing one particularly popular Jesuit priest tweeting all about PrideMonth, I took it upon myself to Retweet his thoughts (they were blurring the lines between affirming pride and sin) but with the link to Desire of the Everlasting Hills, my FAVORITE film about same sex attracted folks, and I used the hashtag #HumilityCuresPride.

Granted, that’s a long hashtag and I didn’t think anyone would start using it, but the point was to insert our faith into the culture in order to steer others towards the path to God, not sin.

So imagine my surprise when I saw #HumilityMonth was trending this morning on Twitter! A bunch of popular Catholic authors and speakers and others were using this opportunity to talk about how pride is still a sin, that of course we love all of our brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of who they are attracted to, and by the way, let’s stop promoting a deadly sin!

So I thought about how I can help. How can I help steer people towards the Church? How can I share the Good News and how the Church is the antidote to our hyper-sexualized culture, not just for gay people, but for all?

My idea is this: Tweet out one line from the Litany of Humility each day with that #HumilityMonth hashtag.  It’s an amazing prayer, it’s a challenging prayer and it’s a great cure for pride. How great would it be to see Humility “trending?”

For those who would like to pray it, join me:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus. (repeat after each line)
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. (repeat after each line)
That others may be esteemed more than I ,
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Happy Humility Month!

 

The Gift Of: Recovery from Addiction

So this is a first for me: A Book Review!

If you’re a crazy (good kind of crazy) Catholic you have probably heard of Matt Fradd. And if you haven’t, well, now you have. He is a very popular Catholic speaker and apologist. As a fellow student of Christopher West, I found him while studying up on Theology of the Body. He educates and informs his audience on all things Catholic (kind of an important thing for an apologist to do) and he has a personal interest in discussing how people can overcome their addictions to pornography and masturbation.

Say wha???

Quite the curveball I just threw at you, sorry about that.

It makes us a little uncomfortable right? This isn’t exactly dinner table conversation. No one wants to talk about this issue, let alone admit that they might have an addiction to it.

As any good TOB student will tell you, we have to shed a light on these issues instead of keeping them in the dark. If we don’t talk about it, how will anyone know how damaging this can be? Most importantly, how will we ever begin to be healed?

This is where the book review comes in. Matt and his wife Cameron wrote a book that I offered to review for this blog as well as We Dare To Say.  So let’s dive in!


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Restored: True Stories of Love and Trust After Porn

by Matt and Cameron Fradd

In a civilization dominated by images, as ours is today, images have become the privileged vehicle of the ideology of a world saturated with sensuality, which has made human sexuality its favorite theme, detaching it completely from the original meaning given to it by God.  (Virginity, by Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM cap)

I hope it’s not bad form to begin a book review with a quote from a totally different book.  And if it is, well, so be it. But see here what Fr. Raniero describes? Look what has happened to our world when it comes to human sexuality! It’s twisted and distorted! This is where I think we need to begin the discussion.

The secular world loves to detach God from everything. Anything that you or I or any other Christian deems sacred, chances are the world will find a way to twist it and distort it into something vulgar.  For everything that we find to be beautiful, society tells us the opposite is what we really want. Just look at fertility and contraception, chastity and lust, procreation and abortion, marriage and the breakdown of the family, sex and pornography.

So while we can tackle all of the issues mentioned above for days on end, the focus of Restored is specifically pornography and the effect it has on the wives.

Why should you or I care about those who are addicted? Because, as a community, we have a duty to offer our assistance, even if we ourselves don’t have this problem. Also, it would be a good idea to read up on this to be aware of possible warning signs that you, or someone you love, could be developing an addiction.

Even the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) came out with Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography Use in the fall of 2015 which stated:

While the production and use of pornography has always been a problem, in recent years its impact has grown exponentially, in large part due to the Internet and mobile technology. Some have even described it as a public health crisis. Everyone, in some way, is affected by increased pornography use in society. We all suffer negative consequences from its distorted view of the human person and sexuality.

We all suffer the consequences. Every one of us.

How does Restored help? Because when the 10 women in this book tell their story, you enter into their world. You see things through their eyes. And many times, it’s painful to even read about it.

I admit, I found myself cringing at times when I would read what these men did to feed their addiction. I also found myself on the verge of tears as I saw the pain and the hurt as the women struggled to understand this betrayal. But mostly, I found their stories to be quite beautiful. You can see them start the healing process as they sought out our Lord and went to Him at Adoration and Confession and by praying to Him. Their spiritual journeys are amazing and I found myself cheering them on at the end. I don’t even know these couples but I found myself praying for them and their relationships. I began to relate to them, albeit in a small way.

For the women, I could understand how they may feel like a failure because their partner sought out satisfaction from some thing or someone else.

From the men’s point of view, I know how it feels to be addicted to something that you don’t think is a very big deal, or even particularly sinful. “Everyone else is doing it, is it really that bad?” “I’m not hurting anyone, what’s the big deal?”

Soon, you start to lose control. You are actually hurting yourself when you give in to these disorders desires. Lust can quickly dominate your heart and your mind as I will be the first to tell you. (another blog for another day). But it’s one surefire way to start down the road to addiction.

You can quickly find yourself going further and deeper into darkness, as many of the husbands did.

Here’s part of one testimonial from one of the courageous women named Christina:

Addiction is a progressive disease. What was a fun way to

spice up our sex life turned into a nightmare. My husband’s

need for sexual stimulation grew until pornographic pictures

could no longer satisfy his lust. He sought out real-life pornography

in the form of our extra partner and his affair. I have

known other sex addicts who started out with pornography

and, as their disease progressed, began having affairs, picking

up prostitutes, and even experimenting with homosexuality.

Without help, this disease only gets worse. – Christina 

It’s probably helpful to mention here that the book is not meant to condemn or shame anyone who has this addiction. And it’s not meant to make you believe that you have a problem if you have seen porn once or twice in your life.

It’s meant to shed light on pornography addiction, address how much damage it causes, and start the conversation to heal.

Restored gives women, in particular, hope. All of the women mention their OWN recovery and healing and how incredibly helpful and necessary it has been for them. All of the women mentioned fellowship with other wives as being their life-preserver, in a way. It seemed to be the most common theme throughout all of the testimonials.

Having fellows takes me out of my own head and my own

problems and reminds me that I’m not the center of the universe.

My fellows ground me, reminding me that there are

people who are hurting just like I am and that together we

can recover from the effects of sex addiction. I don’t have to

do this alone. – Christina

One again, this just proves that we need community so desperately these days, especially as we go through a difficult time. Who else to better understand the pain and heartache than other hurting wives?

Was I willing and able to forgive my husband? With God’s grace,

absolutely. Even as Ryan confessed to me, through my hurt

and anger, the thought never crossed my mind that this was

the end for us. In my storm of emotions that night as he told

me about his pornography addiction, I never stopped loving

him or caring about him or his soul. We made a promise to

God—a promise to work unceasingly on getting each other

to heaven. We had built a family together, and this entire

problem was something that, with God’s grace, we were going

to not only survive but come out of with a stronger and

healthier marriage. – Ana 

Did you catch the keyword there? God’s grace. If heaven is our ultimate destiny, and I would hope it is, how can we get there if we don’t address the sins that are holding us back?

My absolute favorite part of Restored was that all of the women said how they absolutely needed to Jesus in their lives in order to fix their marriages. They needed prayer. They needed Adoration. They needed to put on their armor for this spiritual battle.

I started learning more about prayer, and I had a new way

to intercede. I began daily to take my fear, anger, and woundedness

to the cross in prayer. I started praying for my husband

to have a changed heart. I stopped asking how he was doing

with his struggles and instead I asked how he was feeling and

what he was thinking. I listened with a God-given detachment

to his fears about work, our marriage, and the kids. I

was able to care for his wounds, because I had given mine to

Christ. –Elisa

These are real stories of hope and redemption. I believe it’s incredibly inspiring for these women to speak up and break the silence and put their stories into a book for the world to read. As I read story after story, I truly felt like I was experiencing their heartache, their embarrassment, their anger, their hurt.

These brave women speak to you, the reader, as if they are right next to you and they say, “Sit down and let me tell you my story of how the devil tried to destroy my husband and our marriage…and how God and I worked to save it.”


 

All married couples should give Restored a read. We all admit, at least I do, that pornography is not the easiest subject to casually slip into a conversation. How about mentioning the book to your spouse to get the conversation going? Especially consider this if it’s something that’s been weighing on your mind and you don’t quite know how to bring it up.

If you’re just dating someone, you should also read it. Why? Because if you’re a couple trying to be chaste before marriage, chances are you are struggling with it. This book can serve as almost like a “marriage prep” lesson for you to understand how our disordered desires won’t do us any good, especially trying to get our future spouse to heaven.

And to my fellow single friends – you should read it to. If you hope to be married someday, you will definitely want to do your part and research this topic.

But even if marriage is not your calling, I would consider reading Restored and then sending it to someone you know who could use a little help in this area. Perhaps a married couple close to you is struggling with this problem but is too embarrassed to admit it. Let them know that they don’t have to bear this cross alone!

This book can be the gift that they need right now!

Lastly, for those who are looking for hope and healing due to their own personal struggle with pornography, consider buying Matt’s other excellent book entitled Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women Who Turned from Porn to Purity.

And please, always remember: There’s no sin too great for God’s mercy.

 

 

Too Scared to Speak

In the past 6 months I have shared many articles on social media about pro-life and bioethical issues that are most controversial in our world, especially concerning those about abortion and birth control with the occasional post about homosexuality, gender identity, and so-called “same sex marriage.”

It never seems to fail that each time I post, one of my Christian friends privately messages me and thanks me for speaking up and not being afraid for saying what they wish they could say. At first it was random, but lately it’s been a more frequent occurrence. And the verbiage is usually similar – A common theme of fear.

“I’m not brave enough like you to say anything. ”

“It’s so great that you have so much courage to speak up on such controversial issues.”

“I can’t speak up like you do, I’m a wimp.”

Courageous? Brave? It’s strange that people use these words to describe a simple keystroke. I mean, really, how difficult is it to click the word “share?”  But what is even more strange is the “fear” that people have in their own hearts.

What are we afraid of? If we know this is truth, what is there to fear?

I suppose the biggest fear is fear of losing an argument. Fear of losing friendships maybe. Fear of looking foolish. Fear of what others think of us.

But something I think we need to be more fearful of is Ignorance. If we don’t stay informed of these pressing issues, then this allows misinformation to spread. And let’s keep in mind one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is to “Instruct the Ignorant.” So that means, in this Jubilee Year of Mercy issued by Pope Francis, that we not only have a duty to seek the truth ourselves, it means we need to share the truth. (The “ignorant” isn’t meant to be an insulting term here; it simply means the “uninformed.”)

For example, the controversial undercover Planned Parenthood videos:

I have met with and conversed with a few people who have never even seen a minute of any of the undercover video footage from the Center of Medical Progress and journalist David Daleiden. Not surprising when you read that none of the major media outlets gave it more than 39 seconds of coverage.

But just today, a grand jury in Houston has found Planned Parenthood not guilty of any wrongdoing and decided to bring charges up against Daleiden himself. Oh and one of the DA’s is on the board of Planned Parenthood. Sigh…

To those of us in the pro-life movement, this would seem like a huge step backwards, especially considering the March for Life in D.C. and the Walk for Life in San Francisco were so successful.

But see, I think of this as a misstep by Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry. I think, rather, I pray, that this will be their undoing. How?

Because now they will be forced to take the stand. Of course, nothing is going to stop liars from lying, even under oath. But I predict one of these doctors will have a major conversion.

If “Jane Roe” could have a conversion, would it not also be possible that one of these abortion doctors could have one as well?

Today in the Catholic Church we recognize the Conversion of St. Paul. St. Paul had the biggest conversion ever. Like, if there was an award for conversions, this dude would receive the award, hands down. The  guy was pretty awful when he was Saul, persecuting followers of Jesus left and right.

Reading about him was one of the catalysts for me when I myself “came back” to the Church after a short departure.

Reflecting on him tonight I can’t help but think, “Wouldn’t it be great if one of these PP docs or workers had a conversion? Wouldn’t it be awesome if they decided to find a way to give life instead of taking it away?”

Do you know what’s stopping them?

Probably the same thing that stops you from sharing or speaking up on controversial topics like abortion: Fear.

They probably have no idea how to leave the industry. Think about it – What would they do if they left? How would they make a living? What would their co-workers think?

Enter the awesome website run by Abby Johnson called And Then There Were None. She seeks to help former abortion workers (yes, even doctors themselves) to leave the industry for good. To date, they have helped approximately 200 workers out of this darkness and on to the path to healing and recovery.

She helps them speak up when they are too afraid.

So let’s set the example and show people we aren’t afraid of a little debate, of a little controversy, of a little action.

We have truth on our side.

  • Looking for ways to help the unborn from the inside out? Consider writing a “Love Letter” to abortion clinic workers in your city/state. Before someone can be converted, they need to know they’ll have support when/if they leave. This means we don’t shout obscenities and awful things to them when we stand outside abortion clinics. This means we love them and pray for them. We hate what they do for a living. But we always love them because they are humans and worthy of respect and dignity.
  • If you’re looking for simple ways you can help the unborn and promote the pro-life message, here’s a short article from Word on Fire.
  • For other helpful websites that speak the truth when it comes to bioethics and the Catholic Church teachings, especially the unborn and human dignity, I recommend the following:

National Catholic Bioethics Center

Life Site News

Live Action

LifeTeen

EWTN

 

 

 

Remaining Silent…When You Really Want to Scream

No one is so good and devout as not to encounter some worries and troubles in life. When you face tribulation and are sorrowful in heart, you are with Jesus on the Cross. And again, when through the grace of the Holy Spirit you enjoy consolation in prayer, you rise, as it were, with Christ from the dead and the tomb, and with a jubilant heart you celebrate Easter with Jesus in the newness of life.

 

When someone directs harsh and unkind words against you, you are given to drink of the chalice of the Lord as medicine for your soul. Remain silent and drink of the cup of salvation without complaint, for the Lord will be your protection in nothing more admirable than to remain silent and patient, for in this way you curb the mouth of him who utters evil against you, and at the same time, you follow the example of Christ, who remained silent before Pilate, though much false testimony had been brought against Him. You are no better than God, who, for your sake, endured scourging, ridicule, and death at the hands of the wicked.

Thomas à Kempis, Bountiful Goodness, pp 36-37

God’s timing is always perfect, isn’t it?  I read this passage a couple days ago, just when I was seeking some answers about a recent encounter with someone who had some harsh words for me. This person said some pretty nasty things to me that aren’t worth repeating, but it was made clear to me, they had no idea just how rude they were being.

My initial response was silence, mainly due to shock that someone would disrespect me so much, but also because I have never felt it beneficial to respond to hate with hate (or in this case, disrespect with disrespect, as her comments weren’t really hateful as much as they were just downright rude and nasty).

Only one thought went thru my mind as she lashed out at me, and that was “Hurt people hurt people.” So I stayed silent, said little, and finished up my work with her. She is no longer in my life (she was a client) and this was her final session with me. My mind was racing after she walked out thinking, “Why would she say such awful things to someone she barely knows? What did I do to deserve such a beating? Where was this anger coming from?”

I even went so far as to reverse the situation and ask myself, “When was I this nasty to someone? When have I lashed out at someone trying to help me?” I was seeking the lesson here, and I admit, I struggled to find it. I am by no means perfect but I don’t recall in recent memory reacting in a similar way this woman did with me.  I got an answer though, and that was: “This isn’t about you. She’s struggling with someone/something that has nothing to do with you.”

Still, I was feeling conflicted and completely out of sorts.

These questions were still on my mind as I went on a retreat for the entire weekend. I felt bad because this woman was still on my mind as I was trying to enjoy myself and get into the “spirit” of the weekend. It’s a retreat, for crying out loud! You’d think of all places this was my best medicine.

In the end, I eventually got the bad taste of this client out of my mouth and my mind. I was inspired by the young ones I spoke to and their fire for the Lord. The answer to my questions maybe didn’t come directly to me that weekend but I did find comfort and a welcome distraction in the many people I encountered. Many of them had some amazing witness stories which definitely put my problems into perspective.

I came home Sunday evening to find this book, Bountiful Goodness, at my doorstep, almost forgetting that I had ordered it.

And this reflection on “Divine Consolation and Tribulations” was one of the first ones I read.

Remain silent and drink of the cup of salvation without complaint…

So for those who have been hurt by the unkind and harsh words of another person, I’m right there with you. As much as we want to react and fight back, sometimes it’s best to just remain silent and let that person go. I think that’s showing mercy, isn’t it? Pope Francis would probably agree in this Jubilee Year of Mercy that this is the right thing to do.

A prayer for them will probably serve them better than our own spiteful remarks and reactions.

And wouldn’t you know it, there’s a prayer for EVERYTHING out there! I found one specifically for our “Enemies” although I don’t consider her a true enemy. She’s probably not a friend though…maybe one day though!

Almighty God, have mercy on N. and on all that bear me evil will and would do me harm, and on their faults and mine together, by such easy, tender, merciful means, as Thine infinite wisdom best can devise; vouchsafe to amend and redress and make us saved souls in heaven together, where we may ever live and love together with thee and they blessed saints. O glorious Trinity, for the bitter passion of our sweet Savior, Christ. Amen.

– St. Thomas More

 

 

Year In Review – A Yearly Examen

Catholic blogger Philip Kosloski wrote a cool little article about making a Yearly Examen. Most people are familiar with the Daily Examen which is a part of Ignatian Spirituality.  I try to make an effort to do a nightly examen but I admit, I fail a lot at this.

But a Yearly Examen – Brilliant and doable. As much as we are inclined to make New Years Resolutions, how often do we actually review the year that was in order to learn how we can improve ourselves for the coming year?

Here’s Kosloski’s adaptation for his Yearly Examen:

  1. First, give thanks to God for all the many blessings received over the past year. Go through each month, dwelling upon the good and thanking God for it.
  2. Second, ask for the grace to know your sins and failings and renounce them. Go through each month and do this. 
  3. Third, review your year again, month-by-month, and recognize your feelings, thoughts and movements of the heart. There will be certain people and events that strike a chord (for good or for ill). Bring those people or events to God and ask Him why they stand out. Ask God for the grace to see His providence in all things. Nothing happens by chance.
  4. Fourth, ask pardon of God for any sins. Also, do not only ask God for forgiveness, but also ask God for the grace to forgive yourself.
  5. Fifth, look forward to the next year and ask God for the grace to amend your life.

While 2015 is still fresh in your mind, you should make a point to do your own yearly examen. It looks a little daunting but it shouldn’t take you too long.  In the meantime, here are my own little thoughts on this exercise:

As for me, personally, Step number 1 is the easiest part. I made a point this past year to try and remain positive and always be grateful for the littlest things. Someone got me a “Grateful Journal”  where you write something every day that you’re thankful for/something good that happened to you. or an answered prayer for someone else. When you read that every day, it’s hard to remain bitter and depressed.

The second step – A little difficult, I mean who wants to face their sins and failings head on like that? But, I understand why it’s a necessary step. We aren’t perfect, as much as we try to be.

The third step – By far my favorite step. Certain events that “struck a chord” for good were plentiful this year. Pretty sure TOB is at the top of the list. But there were a few that still make me feel sick to my stomach every time I think about them (friendships ending, death of loved ones, betrayal of people I trusted).

The most difficult step though, for me, has to be the 4th. The grace to forgive yourself is far more difficult, I think, than asking God for forgiveness.  Pretty sure this has a lot to do with my self-deprecating humor I adopted a few years ago. It’s easier to make fun of yourself and downplay your successes than to actually believe you’re good at something or are a good person. And when that happens you tend to dwell on your faults a lot more than give yourself some credit for your improvements. Sigh…

The fifth step – Hallelujah!  I AM looking forward to a new year, especially since I have thing for even numbers. 2015 always sounded strange to me. Twenty-sixeteen has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? 😉

For Your Own Good

“God is offended by us only when we act against our own good.” – St. Thomas Aquinas

 

“I was a master deceiver. I became very good at avoiding the truth. I didn’t necessarily lie, I just avoided conversations about the truth.”

I wrote the above statement in my journal less than two weeks ago while I was on a retreat for a Catholic Sexual Ethics course.  I have been reflecting on that quote lately and I see my entire young adult and early 30’s life summarized perfectly in those 3 sentences.

Avoiding the truth is extremely easy to do when you’ve been this way most of your life. Especially when the truth is unpleasant to admit to.

I can look at what I believed in as being my own personal religion.  I made up my own rules as I went along, thinking the rules of the church were archaic and silly and didn’t apply to me. So I avoided any discussion of those “rules” and pretended like I knew better. After all, who knows what’s best for me better than me?

But we all do this…don’t we? We avoid the truth. Deep down we KNOW we have to acknowledge the GOOD. Sometimes the GOOD can be skewed and twisted to suit our own desires. Sometimes we go along with what we THINK is GOOD and TRUE but it ends up being the complete opposite.

When that happens, that’s when we know we have been deceived.

One particular issue that I avoided conversations about for decades was abortion. I was heavily deceived on that issue. How? I always thought and assumed that it wasn’t a problem that affected me. And since, I was all about ME, I avoided any discussion or debate about anything that didn’t concern me.

I grew up Catholic but I went to a public university. There, the topic of abortion or religion or anything “controversial” wasn’t really discussed among my friends and I. I wasn’t a party girl but let’s just say I didn’t feel very passionate about any particular hot topic. I never joined any protests or marches, I never signed any petitions, I never got involved. Getting involved was something for “other people,” not me.

The ignorance and avoidance continued.

If abortion was being protested on campus, I avoided looking at the pictures of the aborted fetuses held up on signs from those who were protesting. I remember  literally shielding my eyes as I tried to walk as quickly as possible to the student hall for lunch. I should have looked. But I didn’t. I completely avoided the entire discussion around this topic saying, “This doesn’t concern me. This is not my problem. This is someone else’s problem.”

Ignorance. Avoidance. Silence.

Now, with the recent videos put out by the Center for Medical Progress on Planned Parenthood, the abortion debate and discussion cannot be avoided.

It’s easy to despair and blind ourselves to the truth. It’s easier to avoid the unpleasantness of dead fetuses and babies ripped apart and just think, “This is not my problem.” But in light of my recent discovery of TOB and having just taken a course on Catholic Sexual Ethics, I am feeling called to speak up about this hot topic. Whereas before I happily stayed in the shadows, I cannot do that anymore.

The Ethic of the Good

So how does good prevail over the evil in the case of abortion?

Besides prayer, I find it very helpful and encouraging to hear from those who have had a change of heart.

Former abortion workers and women who regret their abortions through campaigns like Silent No More and And Then There Were None. This is the spirit of God at work. I truly believe that.

We can’t ignore all these stories of regret. We need to learn from these women and men! They are here to teach us that what they did, although ruled LEGAL, was not MORAL. They were not desiring that which is good. They were not pursuing happiness, they admitted they were pursuing selfishness. And thank God they are speaking up now so we have a chance to make this wrong right.

Anyone can look at Roe vs Wade and think, “This is a legal activity, therefore I don’t have any right to challenge it or protest it. I must agree with it.”  Or “Even if I don’t think it’s right, I am just one person and I can’t change anyone’s minds.”  I would answer that with a hearty NO. The Supreme Court does not reign supreme in our hearts. In our hearts we know that this is not a good. This is not moral. Destroying a human life is immoral and more people who feel this way need to speak up about it. We can respectfully admit that the Supreme Court made the wrong decision. Even Jane Roe herself has had a change of heart.

Even if there is no sympathy in your heart for those who regret having abortions or working at a clinic, how can any human being see the number 55,000,000 lives lost and not think “There’s something wrong here.”

I, of all people, understand the hesitation to speak up about this.  As little as 5 years ago, if I would have gotten pregnant, I cannot honestly tell you that I would have kept it. I have been pro-choice most of my life and for what reasons I cannot even tell you. I must have thought, “My body, my choice,” made sense to me.

But now, I know that I don’t HAVE a body.

I AM a body.

And that means I don’t destroy who I am. I don’t mutilate who I am. I don’t kill who I am.

There’s my little pro-life argument in a few sentences. No mention of conception timing, no mention of rights or choices. No mention of God. Not even a mention of a heartbeat. No, my pro-life stance is quite simple. I AM a body.

I began this blog post with a quote from St. Thomas Aquinas that I heard on the course for the Catholic Sexual Ethics class last week. Here it is again:

“God is offended by us only when we act against our own good.”

Most people think God would be offended by us when we act against HIM. But no…St. Thomas tells us God is offended when we do something that contradicts the good. Our own good.

So I’m going to try to live my life by not offending God. And I try to help people understand that their actions and their decisions should always be geared toward that which is good.

If we all steer our hearts towards that which is good, how can that which is evil hold us back?

There is hope that good will overcome. But it starts with you.

Thanks for reading!

-michelle

 

Bound by Lust, Liberated by the Ethos of Redemption

I just found this passage recently from  Theology of the Body Explained – A Commentary on John Paul II’s Man and Woman He Created Them by Christopher West

The subject matter is Celibacy and Solitude:

Christopher West and Pope John Paull II talk about remaining in the “ache” of man’s original solitudethe “ache” to which the Lord himself refers when he said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). The conscious choice to refrain from marriage “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” becomes a powerful testimony to the fact that God and God alone can ultimately fulfill that “ache” of solitude. Men and women who vow to a life of celibacy devote their yearning for communion directly toward God.

I look at the “ache” and I am deeply attracted to it. And I recently figured out why I am so attracted to it:

“For those whose hearts are bound by lust, the idea of choosing a life of total continence is absurd. But for those who are being liberated from lust by the ethos of redemption, the idea of sacrificing the genital expression of their sexuality “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” not only becomes a real possibility – it also becomes quite attractive, even desirable.

This was me – I was the one who was bound by lust. But I experienced that liberation from lust by the ethos of redemption and let me tell you, it was an amazing experience that I wish EVERYONE could encounter. Because I now recognize that my life has been dominated by lust, I am now extremely excited about living the rest of my life as a celibate. I am welcoming the “ache” with open arms.

I don’t expect anyone to really understand this except maybe for fellow…celibates? 🙂 But for those who are single by choice, those who know that being married and having children is not the path you have been put on, I would propose to you, fellow singles, this life of celibacy for the kingdom. This is NOT a person’s way of saying that “marriage is too hard” or “dating is so tiresome” so therefore, “I’m just going to be single and celibate forever.” No, this is not that at all. This is choosing to live for something greater. For me, I am choosing to go down this path because I feel God calling me to it. For others, they might feel God guiding them to marriage and children. For others they might feel the pull to religious life. I have never felt a desire or yearning to have a family of my own. This feeling has never faded over time and I have never changed my mind even as I enter my late 30’s. This is how I have always felt and now I can finally put a name to it. Now I finally know WHY I never felt the pull to the other vocations – My singleness IS my vocation.

There’s another nugget of wisdom from TOB:

“Celibacy is not only a matter of formation but of transformation.

The Holy Father recognizes that a proper examination of the way in which the celibate vocation is formed, or rather “transformed” in a person would require an extensive study beyond the scope of his analysis (see TOB 81:5)”

And this is why I cannot explain my feelings adequately. How someone becomes or chooses celibacy is so transformative, that a deeper explanation is needed.

I’m actually excited and thrilled to live out the rest of my life as a celibate. And I couldn’t possibly feel this way and this wouldn’t be happening at all if it weren’t for the grace I received after finally attending confession at the TOB retreat last month. After 15 years of living a lust-driven life, I finally have that weight lifted off my shoulders and now I can focus on living an authentic life. The life I was called to live, to be the person I was called to be.

Ahhh, the joy of freedom!

Bonus material: I came across this video from Jackie Francois about the Ache of Singlehood – Worth watching for those who are single AND married. Pretty sure she and I share the same brain. 🙂