Listening to Mama Church

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In granting married persons the privilege and great responsibility of becoming parents, God gives them the grace to carry out their mission adequately. As spouses, parents and ministers of the sacramental grace of marriage, they are sustained from day to day by special spiritual energies, received from Jesus Christ who loves and nurtures his Bride, the Church.  —The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, Guidelines for Education Within The Family

Most people that know me are aware I have a lot of time on my hands.(Not too surprising considering that I’m single and childless). But what many are NOT aware of is in the past year and a half, I’ve basically gone “all in” with my Catholic faith; reading and researching and attending webinars and seminars and conferences and retreats. And among the many things I have uncovered, is that there’s more that the Church has gotten RIGHT than most people realize. And one of those is Her teaching on sexuality. 

Since most people are totally unaware of this (The Church and SEX don’t exactly appear in the same sentence very often), I figured I’d give out some resources that parents can use to not only educate themselves, but their kids as well.

Mama Church Knows Best

“No good parent accepts and endorses everything their child chooses.”

We view the Church as our Mother. And like any good Mom, she wants what is best for us.

If you’re scratching your head in disbelief, allow me to explain.

Let’s take the example of a child running into the street without looking. If you see your child starting to run into oncoming traffic, are you going to say “Well, I can’t judge them for doing that. If they feel like running into the street, that’s their right. I can’t stop them.”  Of course not!! You’ll run to save them. You’ll tell them to stop running so they don’t hurt themselves! Because you love them.

If you see your child start to take drugs, will you just sit by and say, “Well, that’s their choice. I mean, they might end up hurting themselves in the long run but I can’t stop them. If they feel it’s right for them…” Clearly you wouldn’t. You would try to stop them and tell them that there are consequences for their actions and that doing drugs is wrong and unhealthy and harmful. And since you love them, you get them help so they can thrive and stay alive.

This is how the Catholic Church sees us – as children in need of guidance. One of the best examples of this is seen in the document entitled Humanae Vitae. This document (HV for short) explains the Church’s stance on contraception (a big no-no). But WHY was Pope Paul VI (the Pope at the time this was written) so down on the pill? Well, just read it to find out.  It’s easy to understand, I promise!

For one thing, the Pope predicted that the legalization and widespread access of contraception in partnership with the sexual revolution would lead to: single parent families, fatherless children, increased divorce, unplanned pregnancies, and increased abortions. In other words, a culture of death.

Gee…you think he may have been right on that?

What makes this document so controversial for some of us in the Catholic world is that the teachings are difficult to implement. Because, as we know, it’s not easy to be a Christian, especially today.

So maybe before you start to talk to your kids about sex and God’s design for our bodies and marriage, perhaps you need a re-fresher? Reading HV is a great start. But wait, there’s more!

Educate yourself:

  • One good first step is to get yourself a copy of the Catechism. It’s easy to read, although it’s very thick. But it’s divided up into sections so you can jump around. One of the best tips I received recently was from Dr. Bob Rice at Franciscan University at Steubenville. He says to start reading the In Brief sections and praying with those before actually reading it from cover to cover. I am finding that to be really helpful.
  • If you’ve followed my blog you know I’m a Theology of the Body enthusiast/addict/obsessed person. Besides listing everything in my Recommended Reading tab, I would say the best book for married couples and parents is The Good News about Sex and Marriage by Christopher West. It’s format is Q&A so you can jump around to the sections you want to read. It addresses infertility, contraception, celibacy, natural family planning and much more. Best of all, it addresses the beauty and truth about what marriage means between a man and a woman.
  • Hate reading?  If you prefer videos, you’re going to want to subscribe to both Fr. Mike Schmitz and Bishop Robert Barron. Bishop Barron is especially popular for his YouTube videos explaining everything from Advent to War. You can find his homilies, videos, and blog posts at Word on Fire. Here’s what you get when you search “Sexuality.”
  • As for Fr. Mike Schmitz, he’s considered more “real-world” and is a big hit with the teens and young adults. His videos can be found on Ascension Presents YouTube channel. Here is his video on the Transgender question which was probably one of the most popular.

Educate Your Kids:

I’m sure there’s plenty of parenting styles that someone is going to use to discuss the uncomfortable topics (pornography, masturbation, premarital sex, cohabitation, etc) and maybe you have already covered all of these topics with your kid. But I would definitely suggest none of these are “One and Done” subjects. I think it needs to be an ongoing dialogue as they grow up.

One great resource I found recently is this document from the Pontifical Council for the Family from entitled “The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality written in 1995.

This won’t tell you exactly what to say and how to say it, but hey, it’s a start! I would especially encourage parents to keep these things in mind:

  1. The information you present should be appropriate to the child’s developmental phases.

  2. The media violates these stages of development. Don’t allow the media to tell your child what is moral/immoral.

  3. Present chastity and virginity in a positive light (because it is!) and that’s contrary to what kids, especially teens, hear from their peers/media.

  4. It doesn’t matter what *you* did in the past. You can be vulnerable in front of your children but don’t think just because perhaps you fell into temptation, that you have “no right” to tell your kids how to be chaste. Don’t fall into the moral relativism trap.

  5. Everyone can be chaste, because we are all called to holiness.

  6. Not everyone is called to marriage. Be supportive in the discernment process for your children, especially if they seem drawn to the celibate/religious life as they become teenagers and young adults.

Another great (and shorter) resource comes from Focus on the Family. This PDF is free and downloadable after you enter in some basic information. This is probably most helpful for parents who have children who go to a public school but children who are at private schools can benefit as well: Empowering Parents Amidst Confusion on Sexuality

Lastly, the best one-stop-shop for teens and parents is the Chastity Project. You can search their resources for all kinds of answers to your questions regarding sexuality and what is in line with Catholic doctrine. Many of their blog posts are from teens and young adults struggling with everything from peer pressure to same-sex attraction to discerning consecrated life. Visit it often for all your questions and concerns about the confusing culture we are living in today.


There are countless other resources, books, talks, commentaries, etc. on how to raise your kids and discuss sexuality in a positive way that I cannot possibly list them all. My main point here was to emphasize that we can’t rely solely on the schools, teachers, catechists, priests, or youth ministers to “take care of it” for you. Parents NEED to be open about these things, especially with the conflicting and confusing messages kids see in the news, on social media, on the cover of magazines, from pop culture, and from their peers. Remember to teach the truth in love and to make sure your child knows they can come to you if they have questions. Be not afraid!

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