Saturday, February 13, 2016

What About Saint Valentine and Chastity?

A third century martyr, Saint Valentine , was known for being a kind-hearted priest who helped the persecuted Christians. As the patron saint of love, young people, and marriage, the day named for him is hardly a time for lust or a selfish concept of affection. Yet, in typical secular fashion, the Catholic feast day of this saint has been hijacked by commercialization. Saint Valentine’s Day is the third most popular holiday (holy day) when it comes to sales of candies, flowers, and gifts. Instead of focusing on acts of selfless love (true love is always selfless), we are lead to believe that consumerism is that hero of the day, and the truest expression of love involves sensuality and material gifts.

Yet, if we stray away from what is righteous, we expose ourselves to an improper concept of love. The Bible tells us that, after having eaten from the forbidden tree, Adam and Eve knew they were naked and hid from God in shame (Genesis 3:7). Unfortunately, the same scenario replays itself over and over again in modern society – as it has for all ages. Love is mistaken for lust, physical interaction, or showering the object of your affection with material wealth. Genuine, selfless love languishes, ignored along with her counterpart, chastity.


Chastity is “sexual behavior of a man or woman that is acceptable to the moral standards and guidelines of their culture, civilization or religion”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “all the baptized are called to chastity…All Christ’s faithful are called to lead a chaste life in keeping with their particular states of life…” (CCC, #2348 – emphasis mine)

Unfortunately, as television, movies, and songs become more and more flagrant in their disrespect for the gift of marital sexuality, our consciousness becomes tarnished. Like our first parents, we expose ourselves to a forbidden fruit – illicit sensuality. Perversion is manifested all around us. In this age, we have greater access than ever to all sorts of distorted views. Allowed by a misconception of freedom – Freedom of Speech – this type of sullied entertainment misconstrues the reality of human freedom.

“So called moral permissiveness rests on an erroneous conception of human freedom; the necessary precondition for the development of true freedom is to let oneself be educated in the moral law. Those in charge of education can reasonably be expected to give young people instruction respectful of the truth, the qualities of the heart, and the moral and spiritual dignity of man.” (CCC #2526)

The Fruit of a Lack of Chastity

So where does this lead us, as a society? We’ve seen the results of the slippery slope of perversion – societal acceptance of sodomy – under the guise of gay ‘marriage’, rampant cohabitation, and higher numbers of children born outside marriage. Furthermore, pornography leads to ever increasing deprivation that excels the higher instances of sex trafficking seen today.

Chastity Is Love

If we live up to our God-given respect for the marriage bed, these perversions won’t find their way into our minds and souls. Chastity is the joyous affirmation of someone who knows how to live self-giving, free from any form of self-centered slavery. The chaste person is not self-centered, not involved in selfish relationships with other people. Chastity makes the personality harmonious. It matures and fills the individual with inner peace. (PCF, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education Within the Family, December 8, 1995, #17)

What Can We Do to Promote Chastity?

As the people of God, we need to do everything in our power to take action. Passivity is not an option. We have been tasked with sharing the Good News and at the Dismissal of each Mass we are told to go out, nourished and renewed, to live according to the Word – to proclaim the Gospel!

5 Ways to Promote Chastity

1. Advance the ideal of respect for women and girls. Hold up the saints who lead virtuous lives, like Saint Maria Goretti, as models after which to pattern our lives.

2. Live a holy married life to illustrate chastity within the sanctity of marriage. Be a lighted lamp atop a stand for all those around you to see. (Mark 4:21)

3. Guard your eyes and the eyes of your loved ones, lest they fall into a cesspool of deviancy. You might make a point to attend and financially support morally acceptable entertainment.

4. Pray mightily for chastity for all – this includes within marriage.

5. Share available information about the virtue of chastity with those around you. This is not a time to be faint of heart. We have an obligation to proclaim the teachings of Jesus. It’s not an option to hold this information only for ourselves. We are tasked with helping one another get to Heaven.

Read more about Saint Valentine

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Crucifix or Cross? Why the Difference Matters

Among the differences between Catholics and Protestants, is the use of the crucifix or cross. This was keenly brought to my attention when a faithful Protestant friend brought her children to the Right to Life office one day. Hanging in a prominent place above the office door, was my Saint Benedict crucifix. When her son asked, “What is that on the cross?”, my stammering response confirmed his innocent question caught me off guard.

Are We Simply Aware or Do We Fully Understand?

So it is with numerous other aspects of our Catholic lives. Cradle Catholics sometimes take outward marks of our faith for granted because they have always been a part of our lives. Although we are aware of Catholic sacramentals and symbols, can we truly say that we understand them? What reply do we offer if we are questioned about a practice, devotion, sacramental, or belief?

Do We Love Enough to Learn?

Many years ago, my Protestant boss habitually asked questions about Catholicism. Although my answers were enough to satisfy his level of curiosity, I experienced an awakening to the fact that my base of knowledge had not continued to develop as I had matured. Yes, the basic tenets of the Catholic faith were there, a surface awareness of the how and why. However, there was a profound need to develop a deeper knowledge to care enough to hunger for details.

It has been said if one truly loves, he wants to intimately know the object of his affection. This is true of worldly interests as well as those of a spiritual nature. For example, a continued study of plants and flowers springs from a deep affinity for gardening. Sure, pretty colors and the pleasure they give can be satisfactory, but there is a yearning for more. It benefits the aspiring gardener to study cultivars, growth habits, environmental needs, and seasons. Thus sustained, the garden is well thought out and flourishes throughout multiple growing seasons, consequently extending the pleasure derived.

What are We Willing to Do?

This begs the question: What are we willing to do to nurture our faith life, allowing it to thrive? After all, we’re contemplating Eternity.

God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. What better illustration of true love is there on this earth? So it comes back down to love. An unfettered love of God is crucial if our spiritual life is to mature because the eternal well-being of our souls relies on nurture and care. Holy Mother Church has certainly provided everything needed for Catholic Christians to blossom; the Bible, Catechism of the Catholic Church, writings of the Church Fathers, and the examples of great saints are just a few of the resources at our disposal.

Just as a garden requires continual effort, so does the soul. Simply planting, watering, and then walking away results in a disorderly, abandoned garden. Relying on childhood sacraments and our mere presence at Sunday Mass has similarly dissatisfying results. To continue to grow in grace and love, our souls need careful tending. The harvest we reap will then fill us with the Presence of God.

Crucifix or Cross: What Is the Answer?

Answering the little boy who visited me with his mother that day, satisfied his curiosity. It was Our Savior Jesus Christ on the cross, Who had died for our sins. But his mother quickly changed the subject and regrettably, an opportunity for evangelization was lost.

What more could I have shared with both of them? Catholics display a crucifix which includes the body of Jesus (corpus) because it reminds us of the greatest gift of love ever given. An empty cross is a simplified, Christian symbol but doesn’t communicate the full story. Jesus died for our sins, an act to which we return each and every time we witness the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. At the moment of Consecration, we are transported, back in time, to the foot of the cross on Calvary. We partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, as He instructed us to do on Holy Thursday, when He said, “Take and eat”.

The crucifix also serves as a compelling reminder to love as He loves and to take up our own cross to follow Him. Therefore, the crucifix is a fitting symbol of His death for our salvation. He was crucified upon it, He died there, and He was taken down from it after death.

Yet it is the Risen Christ Who is with us always. Perhaps a more suitable symbol of the resurrected Christ, then, is the empty tomb – He is no longer there, He has risen. Alleluia!

And so we continue to “…preach Christ crucified.” 1 Corinthians 1:23

Crucifix or Cross? Why the Difference Matters was first published at Catholic Stand

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Spina Bifida Baby - She Didn't Ask to Be Born

Sympathy - the feeling that you care about and are sorry about someone else's trouble, grief, misfortune, etc. : a sympathetic feeling
When others experience hardships in life, an appropriate Christian response is to feel sympathy. Many causes rely on this emotional connection in their quest for assistance and donations. While it is virtuous to offer all we can to those who are less fortunate, today's culture has misdirected these natural inclinations. An example of one such instance came across my Facebook news feed today:

""Flower didn't ask for this life, it was thrust upon her by a greedy breeder who wanted to play God and make miniature bulldogs, what she created was an entire litter of bullies with spina bifida and lifelong challenges. It's NOT fair!!! Like all bullies she deserves to live and be happy and this surgery will give her that " -- THE PAY PAL IS ..."

Upside Down Values

It is true, that we have been called to care for all of God's creation. This directive includes the earth and all of the animals who inhabit it. What fails to make sense is the convoluted thinking of a society where animal rights outweigh human rights. The unborn and vulnerable lack even the basic protections demanded for their animal counterparts. There is no denying that we live in a Culture of Death when it comes to God's most cherished creation - humans. A human baby is killed by abortion every 94 seconds - some for the very condition this puppy is experiencing.

Each and every evening television viewers are inundated with sappy commercials, some set to hymns, featuring needy animals. Somehow, the values of society have been turned upside down. While animals enjoy a richer life than ever before, children and the family are suffering.The experimentation on and death of our tiny brethren is ignored by many. In our commercialized world we have reprioritized humans and animals. Uplifting animals is in, while preserving human life is out.

An Equal Look

Take a look at the above quoted appeal again and substitute baby (babies) for the subject. 
  • Babies don't ask to be born. 
  • Greedy doctors kill babies for profit. 
  • Babies with spina bifida face a lifelong challenge. 
  • Babies deserve to live and be happy. 
The injustice of this inequality can certainly not be lost on an honest heart and mind.

Purposely omitted above is the accompanying photo of the dog, dressed in a layered tutu and pink headband, begging for your sympathy and money. That will be left to your imagination. Instead, what should be encouraged is for us all to envision the needy children out there who are either abandoned or aborted because someone chooses not to deal with their struggles. 

Realign Values

Before we seek the Nirvana of a world with no suffering pets, let us work toward a world that values human life. All human life is precious. No child is unplanned, unloved, or unwanted by God. Can we do any less than He, Himself, demands?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ground Hog Day, Every Day

It’s Groundhog Day!
That’s my thought most every morning as I reluctantly roll out of bed. The cozy, warm bed where I can fly by simply bouncing, visit with dearly departed loved ones, and solve any crisis with the greatest of ease. But my feet hitting the floor brings back reality and sometimes there doesn’t appear to be much to smile or to feel some semblance of accomplishment about. So it begins...

Whisper a morning prayer, make the bed, brush my teeth, shrug at the mirror (not going to worry about that bed head), put on my stay-at-home-Nana 'uniform' of choice (a long knit dress), and pad downstairs.
Then, by rote, the daily routine beckon - AGAIN!
  • Switch out the two-way light switches (Being OCD make this of utmost importance) and the little levers have to be in the correct position – up=on and down=off) – check.
  • Straighten all five bar stools at the counter (didn’t I do this right before bed last night?) – check.
  • Cold coffee in coffee pot (yuck) – check. Wash, rinse and fill with hot water (for my hot tea) – check.
  • Wash the tiny ‘Whiskies’ (child-speak for whiskers)  left behind by Papa off the bathroom sink – check.
  • Fold Papa’s blanket and put away with his pillow (he ‘naps’ before going to bed) – check.
  • Fix breakfast for whichever kids are here today – check.
  • While they’re eating, load the dishwasher and clean out the sink (BTW, why am I the only one capable of rinsing a sink?) – check.
And this is just the first 20 minutes…you get the idea…right?
Sometimes this routine is almost comical – or is that a hysterical laugh escaping from my clenched lips? It never changes – EVER. But other times, when moved to the pity party compartment of the train of life, I mentally shake myself (maybe even plant a well placed mental slap) and realize that all this exactly what it should be. 

My vocation, after all, is important – even as it appears mundane. Keeping the home fires burning, so to speak, makes for a stable family life. The kiddies depend on me and so does my loving husband who works unbelievably long hours and sacrifices home time to travel for work. It’s the least I can do. It's also the most important – if done with the proper mindset.
As an old-fashioned kind of gal, my perfect family scenario is husband/father working and wife/mother staying at home with kids – cooking, cleaning, teaching, sewing and nurturing. That’s how my childhood was. It's also how we raised our own family –  the first time around. This second time is simply icing on the cake. The blessing of doing it all again is not lost on me - because now my grandchildren are in my care. The life of a stay-at-home-Nana is not so different from the life of a stay-at-home Mama.
As such,  the BROTHER LAWRENCE book my own mother gave to each of us siblings comes to mind. The inscription read.
‘Read at least once a year!
Love, Mama’.
“THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD” instructs readers that, no matter what your lot in life, no matter how mundane the task place yourself in the Presence of Christ. Do this each and every day – all day! Much like St. Therese’ ‘little way’, this wise monk writes of offering up our daily life to God – all of it. Peeling potatoes? Do it for God as a prayer. Washing the spills off the kitchen floor for the umpteenth time? Do it for God as a prayer. 
When you begin to realize that there are two ways to do the same job, you are on your way to utilizing Br. Lawrence’s great advice. The task, after all, must be done. Do it with a frown and your day will be dark…plus, the merit of a job cheerfully done his lost. Do the same task as a gift to Him…reap the reward of a pleasant day AND just perhaps some tangible good that our human brain can comprehend will come of it. If not there are eternal implications. There’s also ‘extra credit’ if you do this without whining about it to anyone later!
It would be disingenuous to say that this goal is accomplished every day. However, it is the ultimate goal. And the benefits are many because, not only is there a sense of having accomplished something great by doing something small, it is an accomplishment to have taught by example instead of by word. As Saint Matthew exhorts, don’t live life like the Pharisees.
“So practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.”  Matthew 23:3
So who’s with me? Let’s resolve to do our best, no matter what the task, and reap the benefit of not only getting the ordinary done, but also of having ‘prayed by action’. Next time you feel like you’re reliving ‘Groundhog Day’ – smile in the mirror and laugh at the absurdity of cleaning scary-looking, unidentified child messes off the floor and having it count as a prayer!