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!

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.

 

 

Catholic Sexual Ethics Summary

About two months ago I attended a week long course through the Theology of the Body Institute called Catholic Sexual Ethics. It was an amazing experience, similar to my first encounter with TOB 1 but a little more academic considering the subject matter.

I have sent friends who understand TOB this summary below and thought it was time to share it here because these teachings are not something many people are aware of nor have time to read all this material. I have the time and the means, so here you go!


Prior to the course we were required to read several vatican documents: Casti Cannubii, Dignitas Personae, Familiaris Consortio, Humane Vitae, Gaudium et Spes, Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, Persona Humane, and Donum Vitae.(these are all available on the vatican website for anyone to read.) www.vatican.va

The speaker/professor was Dr. John Haas. He is the President of the National Catholic Bioethics Center. (http://www.ncbcenter.org/)  This man was amazing. He was clear, concise, funny, respectful, everything you want in a professor. Here is his Bio.

The NCBC has SO much great info and for just $10 a month you can get their newsletter and a free book each year, I believe. Definitely bookmark that page!

We were also made aware of several other websites that I would like to share:

http://couragerc.org/ – Support for Catholics struggling with SSA as well as Parents/Family and Clergy. From their website: Courage serves as a spiritual support system to assist men and women with same-sex attractions in living chaste lives in fellowship, truth and love. There are more than 100 Chapters and… “In helping individuals gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the Church’s teachings, especially in the area of chastity, Courage extends the Church’s invitation to a life of peace and grace. In chaste living, one finds the peace and grace to grow in Christian maturity.”  Many people at this retreat had heard of this group so it was encouraging to see the support for it.

http://anonymousus.org/ – How often do we think about the children conceived from a donor of an egg or sperm? How often do we think about what their life is like after they find out they were conceived due to scientific means? In most cases, they have no idea and will never know who their parents are.  And what about donors who donated so much that it’s possible they have fathered several hundred children? Will these children ever meet their other siblings? What if they fall in love and want to marry someone and it turns out to be one of their siblings? While we all understand the desperation to have a child, where is the line drawn when we try to play God?  This website invites all participants to submit their story anonymously. Donors, donor-conceived, parents who are considering IVF or Artificial insemination or donation, doctors of fertility, etc all are able to submit their story. This completely opened my eyes to this issue that no one seems to talk about.

http://onemoresoul.com/ – This site is dedicated to “fostering God’s plan for love, chastity, marriage and children.” Good resources for Natural Family Planning such as NFP instructors, Sermons available to download on the church’s teaching, resources for couples, infertility links, etc.

Speaking of infertility and science, NaProTechnology was mentioned on a few occasions. Here is a link to that as well: http://www.naprotechnology.com/ I’m interested in exploring this further -According to their website – “Natural Procreative Technology is a new women’s health science that monitors and maintains a woman’s reproductive and gynecological health. It provides medical and surgical treatments that cooperate completely with the reproductive system.”  Definitely bookmark this one!

We also discussed infertility in more depth, transgenderism, sterilization, and of course, abortion and Planned Parenthood.

Here are some things I found particularly interesting/thought provoking:

—-Planned Parenthood admitted that Abortion: “kills the life of a baby after it has begun, It is dangerous to your life and health. It may make you sterile so that when you want a child you cannot have it. Birth control merely postpones the beginning of life.”
Plan You Children for Health and Happiness newsletter 1968
This was in response to the question of: “Is birth control an abortion?”

—-The Pill is categorized as a carcinogen according to the World Health Organization

—-To the people who argue “Where in the bible does it discuss contraception?” You can answer them, “It doesn’t appear in the bible. This is because to be barren was a curse and to have a child was considered a blessing.” (Some theologians quote the story of Onan as a contraception story/lesson) But it was interesting to ponder that today, we could say this thinking has reversed, hasn’t it? Children are the burden and to have no kids is a blessing to some people.

–After finding out facts about surrogate mothers, IVF, donating eggs/sperm, abortion, I came to the sad conclusion that has been echoed by many: “Children are now seen as commodities.”

With all this depressing news, what about the good fruit that came from this course?

-I got to meet and talk to 110 other fans of TOB which is always a blessing!  But not only that, we all got to witness 23 participants graduate with the full Theology of the Body certification. This means they have taken all 8 courses and are now certified to teach TOB in whatever ministry they are a part of at their parish/in their community. This was course #2 for me so I have 6 more to go!

-For me personally, I have joined the pro-life movement 40 Days For Life. I now pray outside Planned Parenthood with others and offer up my prayers for all the babies that are being aborted there (and everywhere). If I can’t make it to the abortion clinic, I spend some time with Christ in front of the Blessed Sacrament and say a rosary for these women who are faced with this difficult decision.

-I am considering how I can volunteer/donate to my local pregnancy crisis center called Womankind. I don’t know if I’d be good at counseling pregnant women (they offer training) because I think I’d be nervous and would say the wrong thing. But I’m hoping there’s something I can do there that would be a way to help save some babies.

-I have added many books to my ever growing library so I can speak well to RC doctrine and teaching such as “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” by Austen Ivereigh, I now listen to EWTN Radio and TV to get the news that matters to me and tells the truth that you won’t get from the secular media.

There’s plenty of other things that could be shared here but this was just a quick summary. More posts to come soon focusing on just one of these subjects so be on the lookout for those.

In the meantime, I hope you visit the websites I have mentioned in order to gain some perspective. Also, take some time to read some of those vatican documents. They are relatively easy reads, you don’t need to be a theologian to understand them.

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

 

The Body is a Sign of the Divine Mystery

If you’re just joining us, be sure to read my last post to get “caught up.”

“You are made in the image and likeness of God.”

This statement was implanted firmly in my brain starting in Freshman Religion class. I remember thinking “I know this is true, but I’m still not quite sure what it means.”

I don’t think my 14 year old brain could process it. And this is probably true of a lot of teenagers.

I knew my life was a gift from God, but I also remember thinking, “But what does God have to do with my parents conceiving me?” In other words, what do Sex and God have in common? I literally had no idea the two were connected, as strange as that sounds to me 23 years later.

Now, after reading TOB, something finally clicked.

Human nature is both spiritual and physical. We aren’t spirits “trapped” in our bodies. The Church has always maintained that we are embodied spirits, or spiritualized bodies. Through the profound union of body and soul in each of us, our bodies reveal or “make visible” the invisible reality of our spirits. But it does even more. Because we are made in God’s image, our bodies also make visible something of God’s invisible mystery.  TOB For Beginners

God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange. CCC 221

And here’s where this all comes together –

God created us male and female so that we could image his love by becoming a sincere to gift to each other. This sincere giving establishes a “communion of persons” not only between the sexes but also-in the normal course of events- with a “third” who proceeds from them both. In this way, sexual love becomes an icon or earthly image in some sense of the inner life of the Trinity. TOB for Beginners

Whoa.

Have you ever heard anyone describe sex like this? Yeah. Pretty awesome right? It gets better.

As St. Paul says, quoting from Genesis, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).

This passage from Ephesians 5 is a key text- perhaps the key text- for understanding the body and sexuality “theologically.” Christ is the one who was sent by his Father in heaven. He also left the home of his mother on earth. Why? To give up his body for his Bride (the Church) so that we might become “one flesh” with him. Where do we unite sacramentally with Christ? In a most profound way in the Eucharist. TOB for Beginners

Confused? Don’t be! It’s simple really.

When all the confusions are cleared and the distortions are untwisted, the deepest meaning of human sexuality – of our creation as male and female and our call to communion – is “eucharist.” John Paul II describes the Eucharist as “the sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride.” God created us male and female right from the beginning to live in a “holy communion” that foreshadows the Holy Communion of Christ and the Church. In turn, the gift of Christ’s body to his Bride (celebrated in the Eucharist) sheds definitive light on the meaning of man and woman’s communion.

The Spousal Analogy

The Bible begins with the marriage of the first man and woman and it ends in Revelation with another “marriage” – the marriage of Christ and the Church.

And here is what we learn from the Pope’s Theology of the Body: God wanted this eternal “marital plan” to be so plain to us – so obvious to us – that he impressed an image of it in our very being by creating us male and female and calling us to become “one flesh.” TOB For Beginners

So two things to take away from this:

1. God is a communion of love

2. We are destined to share in that exchange (God wants to “marry” us – Hosea 2:19)

There is so much more to be discussed here but it is my hope, my dear readers, that you now have an idea of what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God. I understand it’s a difficult idea to wrap your head around, and one that is never going to be understood completely due to our limited brain power, but that’s why it’s called the “mystery.”

Fitting in My Faith: I look at Eucharist differently now that I have read TOB. Now I understand why it’s a sacrament. Now I understand why marriage is a sacrament. Now I know why the Church takes it seriously, and now I appreciate it even more when I hear the words, “This is my body, given up for you.”

I also appreciate life, my own life and the lives of others, much more greatly. I don’t think of how we are created as just “sex between two people who love each other.” And 9 months later, life. It’s much more than that. It’s a sacred union. It’s not gross or disgusting or bad. It’s awesome and it’s miraculous and it’s a small, tiny, itty bitty taste of what heaven is going to be like. No, we won’t be having sex in heaven, 🙂 We’ll BE in heaven, we’ll be in UNION with God! We’ll be married to Him!

This is the purpose of sexual union in the divine plan: to prefigure in some way the glory, ecstasy, and bliss that awaits us in heaven TOB For Beginners

I don’t know about you, but understanding why we were created, makes me have greater faith of the heaven that awaits us all.

to be continued….

-Michelle

“In the beginning, it was not so.”

The body expresses the person. We have to go back to the beginning, before sin distorted things. That is the standard. That is the norm. The Pope proposes an “echo” of the beginning exists within each of us. TOB for Beginners

John Paul maintains that, despite sin, an “echo” of God’s original plan remains deep within every human heart. In his TOB, the Pope aims to help people peel away the layers of debris that cover the true desires of their hearts so that this “echo” can resound. The more it does, the more our subjective experience harmonizes with objective reality. The more that echo resounds, the more we can read the “language of the body” and the desires of our hearts “in truth.” People who come to understand the Pope’s TOB cannot help but recognize the inner movements of their own hearts being laid bare. It rings true. “I can identify with this,” they respond. “I experience life this way. This is what I desire. TOB Explained


For as long as I can remember, I have always felt like I was trying to play catch-up.

What do I mean by that? I mean that feeling you get when someone tells a joke and everyone laughs but you don’t get it but you’re too shy to say anything. That feeling of everyone raising their hand in class because the answer is easy and simple but you don’t raise your hand because you have no clue what’s being taught. That feeling of seeing your friends and people your age getting married and having kids and you haven’t even had a serious boyfriend yet.

Part of this, looking back, was due to my age. Maybe I should have been held back in school by a year. I was one of the “young ones.” Do you remember the kids in your class that were JUST celebrating their birthdays when you started a new grade? I was one of those, being a September baby.

This feeling never really left me. Up until recently, I still felt like I was behind the times. Slow to catch on. Not getting the joke. Appearing perplexed and confused when everyone else has taken the test and handed it in and I’m still stuck on question number 3.

Finally, after almost 37 years, I feel like I know something no one else does and I feel like I just skipped to the head of the class. I feel like I just solved every single question to every problem I have ever had in my entire life and I can’t tell anyone.  Not because I don’t want to share this news, but because I have no earthly idea HOW.  But over the next few week, months, years(!?!)  I will attempt to uncover this through this blog.

“Echo! Echo! Echo!”

What were the events leading up to this “discovery?” I would say the retreat at TOB Institute was the Main Event. But reading Theology of the Body for Beginners was the dress rehearsal. It was in this book that I finally was able to answer questions I have had in my mind since I was young, especially concerning sexuality, marriage, love, the existence of God, pretty much every question every person has but might be too fearful to vocalize it.

I just took two quotes from TOB and put them up there at the top of this page to help explain a little bit of this “discovery” and perhaps you, reader, have felt this too.

Disclaimer: In case it’s not obvious, I am no theologian. I am no best selling author. So this explanation will pale in comparison to the real deal, the actual Theology of the Body written by Pope John Paul II. If you want to “skip ahead” yourself, I encourage you to read one of Christopher West’s books. They will change your life.

Pope JP2 refers to an “echo” that we all have in our hearts. I think of this as a feeling of wanting to do the right thing, a feeling of love, a feeling of enormous longing. A feeling of “there has to be more than this.” And “I know that this is NOT what my life is supposed to look like. I know there is something more. I can feel it.”

This line that I underlined describes perfectly the feelings I had while reading TOB and continue to have now: People who come to understand the Pope’s TOB cannot help but recognize the inner movements of their own hearts being laid bare. It rings true. “I can identify with this,” they respond. “I experience life this way. This is what I desire.

In short, one can observe that the TOB seeks to answer two of the most fundamental human questions: What does it mean to be human? and How do I live in a way that will bring true happiness? TOB Explained page 74

I know what you’re thinking – Geez, this is some pretty serious stuff you’re saying here. I’m not sure I can handle all this theology! And you’re right, it is serious. But, I believe in my heart, that this teaching, this catechesis on the body by JP2, is what will save lives. It certainly saved mine.

To be continued….

-Michelle

What I’m Currently Reading:

Losing my religion for equality

From Rene Descartes to Caitlyn Jenner

The Body God Gave Us Doesn’t Lie

Chivalry Is Making a Comeback

Love, Tolerance, and the Making of Distinctions

 

Theology of the Body

Christopher West is one of the most recognized teacher of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.

What is the Theology of the Body? Check out this explanation here.

In the meantime, here are some of what I refer to as “nuggets of wisdom” from his book “Theology of the Body for Beginners.”

(If you are interested in learning more about the Catholic teaching of marriage, the human body, sexuality, and love, I highly recommend picking up one of West’s books. They are life-changing.)

  • God gave us sexual desire as the fuel of a rocket that is meant to launch us into the stars & beyond. But what would happen if the engines became inverted, pointing us back only upon ourselves & no longer toward the stars? It would be a massive blast of self destruction.
  • This is the purpose of sexual union in the divine plan: To prefigure in some way the glory, ecstasy, and bliss that awaits us in heaven.
  • When our desire to understand the body and sexuality is not met with the truth, we inevitably fall for the lies.
  • The difference between marriage and celibacy must NEVER be understood as the difference between having a “legitimate” outlet for sexual lust on one hand and repression on the other. No, Christ calls Everyone, no matter his or her particular vocation, to experience redemption from the domination of lust. Both vocations, celibacy and marriage, flow from the same experience of the redemption of sexual desire.
  • Celibacy and Marriage complement each other. Celibacy helps married couples realize that their love also is oriented toward “the kingdom.” Furthermore, by abstaining, celibates demonstrate the GREAT VALUE of sexual union.
  • Celibacy for the kingdom is meant to be a fruitful, living out of the redemption of sexual desire, understood as the desire to make oneself a “sincere gift” for others.
  • Purity does not reject the body, It is the glory of the human body before God. It lets us perceive the human body – ours and our neighbors – as a temple of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of divine beauty.
  • Spousal love is the love of total self-donation. The power to express love, preciselyt that love in which the human person becomes a gift, fulfills the very meaning of his being and existence. If you’re looking for the meaning of life, it is impressed right in your body, in human sexuality.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Take just one of these statements and reflect on it. (It helps to have the context surrounding it from the book itself, which is why it’s highly recommended you purchase one of his books.) But in the meantime, ask yourself some of these thought provoking questions:

Do you think of your body as a gift from God, as a holy temple? Do you treat it as such?

Do you think of yourself as holy?

What is your definition of holiness?

Do you believe that God calls us all to a vocation of holiness? (He does, by the way.) 😉

Do you look at marriage as a sacrament? Do you regard marriage as a holy union?

What do you think of people who are celibate?

What words come to mind when you hear that word?

If you have any confusion or questions about what the Catholic faith says about sexuality, purpose of marriage and life, lust, love, union, relationships, etc., I can guarantee this book explains A LOT. You cannot possibly NOT grow in your faith after researching and reading Theology of the Body.