Rudeness Justified

Is there ever a time when being rude is justified?STOP

As Christian-Catholics we are taught early on that we must always be charitable, in our thoughts, words and actions. We do this by placing love in action and concretely putting the good of others ahead of ourselves.

We live in a world rampant with temptation and sin. In our effort to avoid temptation and sin it may be necessary to take on such a powerful stance against evil that we risk appearing rude. When Christ asks us to love our neighbor as ourselves, he didn’t mean we should avoid being rude to do so. In fact, it is a great act of charity to be a witness to others in this regard.

When we refuse to compromise our convictions we are showing love. Love for God and others. Our actions should be communicating this message:

      “I love you too much to allow or to accept this harmful act or invitation.”

Our motivation to avoid temptation and occasions of sin is out of love for God and out of love for the soul of the other.

Christ did not compromise nor did he think twice about calling out evil where he saw it. He called it out whether the evil manifested itself among the Pharisees, the merchants in the temple or even among his friends. When Peter denounced Christ’s foretelling of his suffering and death, Jesus didn’t soften his response because Peter was a friend.

  “Get behind me Satan…” Matthew 16:23

Jesus calls out the evil he recognizes. He knows the tempter is using Peter to inspire doubt and fear in God’s plan for Christ’s suffering and death. He risks appearing rude to call out the tempter and stop Peter from accepting this line of thinking which is contrary to God’s plan. We are called to imitate Christ. Through Christ we have this same authority to call out evil.

We have all faced moments of temptation, an offer to indulge in some pleasurable, illicit or inappropriate act or exchange. Satan puts out his net through a seemingly harmless invitation to some act of pleasure. It may be a simple comment, conversation or invitation that we derive some sort of effortless pleasure from. An act that we can easily dismiss the potential harm it will cause. Even if we acknowledge the invitation is inappropriate and may lead to sin, we may be more concerned about appearing rude for refusing the invitation than we are about the consequences of accepting such an invitation. By accepting the invitation we allow Satan to expand the net.

If we refuse the invitation or walk away from the situation, act or conversation by utilizing the courage and authority given to us through Christ, we to are saying like Christ, “Get behind me Satan…“ and instead of expanding his net, Satan`s attempt is stifled.

Perhaps our greatest challenge is what we read in the Gospel of Mark 8:11 – 26, where Jesus warns his disciples:

“…keep your eyes open and guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.“

Just as we forget that Christ can work through others for our good, we forget that Satan can work through others for our ruin. Jesus points out to the disciples that the Pharisees refusal to accept his divinity and his teachings and Herod`s pursuit of pleasure are the invitations to sin they need to be guarded against. Like the disciples we don`t understand Christ`s warning. Our understanding is very limited. Jesus says to us:

“Do you have eyes but cannot see and ears but do not hear?”

It is only in Christ that we will be able to recognize evil and perceive the potential dangers. The Holy Spirit will inspire in us the holy daring necessary to stifle Satan’s efforts to entrap us.

Christ desires to open the eyes and ears of our heart. He invites us to bring others to him who also need their spiritual eyes and ears opened. In this same Gospel of Mark we read of a blind man being led by the hand to Christ. It is an act of kindness, an act of charity to bring those who are spiritually blind or spiritually deaf to Christ. We may not be able to take them to Christ physically, though we may attempt to invite them to prayer, or to Mass, etc., However, we can bring them to Christ in our own prayer for them and we can aid in opening their eyes and ears when we refuse to give into the smallest act of temptation.

If Christ did not point out Peter’s statement was coming from Satan, would Peter have recognized it? Would the other disciples have known? Would we who read this passage thousands of years later recognized the tempter in Peter’s comments? Probably not. In this same way, we are called to stay close to Christ and to call out evil where see it, for the good of our soul and the good others.

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How Miley’s ‘Wrecking Ball’ Ruined Intimacy

 

Intimacy

Some songs, I have no interest in giving a second listen too. Up until a few days ago, Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” was one of those songs. I agree with whoever said it first, her video certainly did ruin a perfectly good song. However, I should mention I have not and do not ever intend to watch this video. Hearing about it from others is enough for me.

After a brief discussion with my family I decided to give this song a good listen. I have to say I was surprised by what “Wrecking Ball” can teach us about physical and emotional intimacy in relationships.

I was reminded of what Christopher West has named some popular artists “Twisted Mystics” I agree with his point, that many artists speak truth in their work. Their longing for deeper meaning, love and truth about their own human dignity and their sexuality shows in their work. They may go about it all wrong.  I dare say, Miley Cyrus is a ‘twisted mystic’.

Without breaking down the song line by line, here is my take on the lessons we can draw from this song. You can read the lyrics here.

It’s a song about a girl who fell in love hard and fast. Which implies that she gave herself physically very early in the relationship and obviously outside of marriage, as the relationship developed she desperately and forcefully sought emotional intimacy. Her force only resulted in pushing him away and she is left burned and wrecked.

It’s a natural defence mechanism to build an invisible wall around ourselves. If someone attempts to break down that wall by force, we will frantically work to reinforce it. Hence begins a war of sorts.

The only situation in which another person will let us inside the wall is when they feel safe enough. The best way for another person to feel safe, is when we open up. By letting the other inside my wall, I am saying that I trust them. This will usually be reciprocated in time.  In any relationship, where there is to be intimacy, parents and children, siblings, friends, and husbands and wives, we have to show that our heart is a safe place for theirs. If we are forcing our way in, they will feel threatened.

Is that all that went wrong for the girl in the song? This is a tragic break up song. Not only do we see how we cannot force the other into emotional intimacy. We also see the damaging effect of starting the relationship with physical intimacy. There is a reason God’s plan for marriage includes physical intimacy once the emotional barriers have been removed. The emotional intimacy provides that safe place for physical intimacy to occur. Even those who are married today, who did give themselves to each other physically before marriage, face consequences for having gone about attaining intimacy contrary to God’s plan. After years of marriage, they are still trying to attain emotional intimacy that was not established concretely from the start. When we have already invested so much of ourselves into the other person, it is difficult to accept that they are not letting us into their side of the wall.

Contrary to the message in Lady Gaga’s song, when we attempt to give our bodies, without giving our heart we will end up wrecked. We cannot separate our physical body from our spirit, our emotions or our soul. I could write a separate post on how what we do with our bodies affects every aspect of our human being.

There is a powerful lesson in Miley’s song, not only about providing a safe place for our spouse, children, parents and friends to be emotionally intimate, but also for our youth to understand the benefits of practicing chastity.

Chastity is a virtue that strengthens every vocation. Giving yourself physically to another outside of marriage does nothing to strengthen marriage. Chastity isn’t about saying “no” to sex, it’s about saying “yes” to authentic love, truth and beauty.

There are many resources for those who do want to say “Yes” to authentic love. There are apostles who have dedicated their lives to spreading the message and beauty of chastity.

Here are a few resources:

Chastity.com

If You Really Loved Me

Fill These Hearts

Theology of the Body for Teens

Real Life Catholic

Vampires, Witches and Zombies: Part 2

hos-jesus-hell

Scripture tells us that Christ became sin to free us from the bonds of sin and open the doors to heaven for us. Before Christ’s death and resurrection all those who died were not allowed into heaven. As we recite in the creed, “he descended into hell,” which means He went to hell out of love for those souls who earned a place in heaven but passed away before he opened the gates of heaven.

He loves us too much to leave us alone while we feed the demon and pet the serpent. However, since he is the perfect gentlemen he is not going to intervene unless we ask him to. We must be ready to stop feeding the demon.

When we watch horror movies, we make Jesus watch them too. Jesus who has a clear conscience, who knew no sin, chose to take on sin, not only sin itself but the consequence of sin. When we sin, we cause him to do the act with us. He chose this, because he loves us.

Worse still these images do not bring us closer to him. Most movies will easily show the supernatural evil but will leave out the supernatural good. The evil will be overcome by mere human effort, or by someone who has a similar power as the evil entity but use it for good. They deliberately leave out that only with God can we face and overcome evil. God doesn’t want us to choose to face the evil. Like the words of Mufasa, in the movie, “Lion King,”

“Being brave doesn’t mean you go looking for trouble.”

To add insult to injury we are making Christ accompany us as we watch a story that deliberately omits him, even though he is the one true victor over evil.

When we are dealing with zombies and vampires we are watching images that mock the Eucharist. In fact it is anti-Eucharist. Christ gave up his life, and allows his body to become our supernatural food which gives us eternal life. We have him accompany us as we watch media that says, ‘give me your body as food, and I will give you a decayed, dead, demonically possessed body.’

PassionSatanWhen we watch images that are meant to be fearful and disgusting, we ignore what is happening spiritually. We allow ourselves to become desensitized to the fearful and disgusting images. We think its safe to laugh in the face of evil. Unfortunately, I think Satan is the one having a laugh at our naïvety.

We ask our Guardian Angel to stop guarding, guiding and ruling, we ask Mother Mary to look away and we mock Jesus for the time it takes to watch a horror movie and allow ourselves to be spiritually slimed. That demon we fed during the movie in now ruling our conscience. When we go out into the world, what was once black and white is now grey. We have numbed our conscience, our perception of good and evil is skewed. Accepting immorality will come easier. In this way we endanger our faith, giving way to self-sufficiency, complacency and pride.

Death is not pretty and the images of skeletons and decaying flesh should serve to remind us that our physical bodies are temporary and will decay one day. This should motivate us to nurture our faith, to actively nourish our relationship with our Guardian Angel, with Mary and especially with Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. We can’t avoid the fact that our physical body will decay, but the good news is we can choose to nurture our spirit, instead of causing its decay.

The Good News is that God’s mercy is endless. All we have to do is ask for it and he readily gives it to us. We must work on journeying towards God, and turn away from anything that hinders that journey. In the words of Matthew Kelly, “Every journey towards something, is a journey away from something.” We can’t be afraid to take the steps necessary to cut off our attraction to images that draw us away from God. He will give us the grace we need to turn away and continue the journey to our eternal home with him.

I leave you with this quote from Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdelen, O.C.D. from Divine Intimacy, ” We want to become saints, but in the easiest way possible, without effort, without fatigue…we should like to practice virtue, but only to a certain point, only when it does not ask for great sacrifice, or go too much against the grain…Our progress in holiness depends precisely upon these acts which we hesitate to make, without them we shall lead a mediocre life, we shall always remain on the same level, if indeed we do not lose ground. Let us beg the saints whom we honor today to help us overcome our laziness, lassitude, our cowardice”

Read the first part here.

Vampires, Witches and Zombies….Oh My!

watching horror movie

This time of year it seems we can’t get enough of disgusting and fearful images. One only has to flip channels on your TV to be bombarded with images that play on our fears of the unknown supernatural realm.  However, more and more it seems that media involving the supernatural is no longer reserved for the occasional movie, now we have year round TV series as well.

Believing that we are both physical and spiritual beings, makes me wonder what happens to us physically and spiritually as we watch fearful, disgusting and horrific images.

I believe that our initial instinct to find certain images ‘scary’ or ‘gross’ is a warning sign for us to avoid these images. Many of us ignore that warning. What happens then?  The rush caused by the chemical release in our brain becomes the reason we stay and laugh at the images or at our startled reaction. Psychologists say there is a release of adrenaline when we watch fearful images. This adrenaline is to give us the energy to fight or flight. Instead we sit and continue watching.

When we are done with that movie or show we want to watch another because we want that rush again and again. We will want to re-visit the scene that elicited the ‘rush’. We will recall the scene in our minds or talk about it to others. When we think about it or talk about the scene we feel the same chemical release. We enjoy the rush again.

I am more concerned with what happens to us spiritually when we watch horror movies. In this two-part post I will share with you four things I propose happens spiritually.

Angel and demon on shoulderMost of us can remember the cartoon image of a person who has an angel on one shoulder and demon on the other. The demon is trying to tempt the person to make an immoral choice. The angel reminds us of the consequences and persuades us to choose the good. This image is closer to reality than we may realize. Our Guardian Angel has been given to us by God, to help us battle evil and protect us from harm. When we make the free will choice to watch horror movies, in a sense, we tie our Guardian Angels hands. We force our Guardian Angel to step back while we feed the demon. When we pray to our Guardian Angel we ask him to ‘rule and guard, light and guide.”  In that moment that we choose to feed the demon we are welcoming darkness, stopping our Guardian Angel from ruling and guarding and allowing the demon to be our guide instead.

Secondly, I propose we are ruining our relationship with our Blessed Mother. Jesus gave us his mother as a gift. She helps us come to know her son, and she wants to be close to us. Through her purity, beauty and love she has the power to “crush the head of the serpent.” Yet, when we choose to watch horrific images we are saying, “Mother Mary, don’t crush the serpent’s head just yet, I want to feed him for a bit, let him be my pet.”head of serpent

What is the danger in that? We all know the longer we own a pet the more affection we have for the animal. The more difficult it is for us to detach from it.  In this case, the serpent becomes stronger and hungrier. Soon it becomes the master and we it’s slave. We naïvely think we will be strong enough to put it down before that time comes. The serpent is cunning. He knows we need Mother Mary, our Guardian Angel and especially Christ to put him down for us.

Tomorrow I will share how we damage our relationship with Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

Have a safe and happy “All Hallows Eve” and remember to pray to your Guardian Angel today.

 

Read Part 2 here.

Marriage Is Not For Me

marriage

I believed this. Want to be miserable? Get married. In my teen years I decided I didn’t want anything to do with marriage. No one I knew was living the happy ever after I had read about or watched in movies as a little girl. In life it seemed that Cinderella either never found her prince charming, so she settled for less. Or Cinderella and the prince were doomed to become cold, dissatisfied, grouchy complainers trying to bang out a life together until one of them decided they were better off alone or with someone else.

Recently, I read “Time Warp Wife’s” blog post, “An Open Letter to Young Girl’s Everywhere” where Lisa Jacobson writes about this very same belief among many young girls today. I don’t intend to repeat what Lisa has already beautifully written. Below is my advice to those young women who are feeling like marriage isn’t the road to “happy ever after.”

I have been thinking about that young seventeen year old girl who was swept away by the man who would be her husband. What changed my mind? What was my heart set on?

1.      Take the time to discern if marriage is your vocation. Marriage is a vocation, a divine call to God’s service, a function or station in life to which one is called by God.

Truthfully, my heart didn’t really change. My mind had decided that marriage didn’t seem worth it. However, in my heart I knew that I would one day be a wife and mom.  I was raised in a Catholic family, however I had never been encouraged to do a proper discernment as to what God was calling me to. I trust if God wanted to call me to religious life, he would have placed this option in my path somehow. My opinion is that every young person should take time to discern God’s call. Cultivating and nurturing a friendship with Christ is necessary even if you are called to marriage. Allowing time in your life to explore what God is calling you to, whether it is marriage, consecrated life, or a nun, will provide the ground that Christ needs to bear good fruit in your life.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to witness how beautiful the consecrated life is,  while attending a convention for Catholic women at Mater Ecclesiae College for the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi, in Rhode Island.  It was there I understood why someone would choose to give their life to Christ. I also sensed a great peace in knowing that I had been called to give my life for Christ through my vocation as a wife and mom.

2.       Pray for your future husband and don’t be afraid to be specific about the characteristics you would like him to have.

My mom encouraged me to pray for a good husband. My prayer was not very specific. I wanted a man who was respectful, would treat me good and shared my faith. Today my husband is all those things, and so much more.  A dear friend of mine cultivated a much deeper friendship with Christ in her youth, and prayed for her husband. She wasn’t afraid to be specific. She created a list that she presented to God in prayer of all the physical and spiritual characteristics she would like her future husband to have. When she met the man who was to be her husband she was able to check off all the items she had listed. She knew God had sent her the man she prayed for.

3.       Be prepared for the cross. Jesus said, “Pick up your cross and follow me.” Find someone who is committed to facing life’s crosses with you. Someone who will always choose you, his wife.

Even though I didn’t know my faith very well, I had some idea that if God called me to something there was bound to be some suffering involved in that calling. After all there is no Easter Sunday without Good Friday. The marriages around me seemed to be failing because there was too much suffering, or nobody wanted to suffer.

Now every situation is different, I know. There are some difficulties that married couples face that cannot be undone. Situations where one or the other did put in the effort, prayer and sacrifice necessary, but the other spouse was not willing to match the effort.  I have dear friends who are divorcee’s that still live a life of faith and I am certain there has been much pain and hopefully much healing in their circumstance. I am not speaking of those situations. All too often we don’t even put in the effort to work through struggles in our relationships, we just give up.

I knew that for marriage to last, both spouse’s had to be committed to sticking it out no matter what came their way. At the age of sixteen I attended a parish youth group retreat. During the retreat we were all asked to choose a scripture verse that spoke to us and share why we chose that one. A certain young man chose a passage from Matthew 19:3-9. It’s a passage where Jesus answers a question concerning divorce. Then he explained why he chose this passage.

Many couples give up on their marriage at the first sight of problems. They forget what brought them together in the first place. I think married couples need to come together and commit to working through the problems. Divorce should not be an option. They should remember the love and attraction that was there from the start instead of pulling away from each other.”

My mind was changed, in that moment I thought, “If I ever get married, it must be to someone who thinks like him.” Little did I know God was showing me the young man that would steal my heart for life.

4.       Choose him. Only Christ was a perfect man, don’t expect to find a perfect husband. Be prepared to accept and respect him. He may very well change over the years, but it is best to leave any changing that needs to be done in God’s hands.

There are certain weaknesses or flaws that we cannot accept or deal with for life. Abuse, addiction, infidelity are among the greatest deal breakers for marriage. That doesn’t mean marriage cannot survive these issues. However, if these issues are apparent before marriage that is the time to consider if this is truly the man God wants you to commit your life to. God brings a man and a woman together to help them get to heaven. Marriage is a doorway to the sacred.  God loves all of us unconditionally and sees beyond our faults and weaknesses. He calls married couples to love each other this same way. My husband cannot change me, anymore than I can change him. I pray that God will change me into the wife my husband needs, while hoping and praying that my husband is open to the changes God wills for him.

5.       Listen and seek advice, support and prayers from older women who are living their vocation as a wife and mother, lovingly and faithfully.

We all need a support system. A few years ago, I prayed that God would send me a living example of a Proverbs 31 woman.  God is generous. He didn’t send me one woman, he sent me a few. Many of which I have met in my parish community, through various ministries I have been involved in. Being surrounded by women who value marriage, encourage me in my role as wife and pray for me and my marriage has been a tremendous support and a grace of God. One woman was in my life all along. My own mom is the best mentor and example of a Proverbs 31 woman. She and my dad were married for over 50 years, she withstood all the issues many of us would consider deal breakers. After he passed away, we asked her if she had any regrets.

“I have no regrets, I gave all of myself to him and if God allowed him to live longer I was prepared to give more. “

There are many other lessons I have learned in my seventeen years of marriage. These five points are not exhaustive. However, it has the five points that would have been helpful to know as a young woman. Therefore, my hope is that this will be helpful to some young woman, who is thinking, as I once did, “Marriage is the road for the miserable?” 

My short answer to that is, “It may be the road God has chosen for you to get to heaven. Heaven is the only place we will experience the ‘happy ever after’ we desire. Are you ready to turn your back on it?”

 

Too Busy for God

Interior of Catholic Church

No matter how you fill your days, I think most of us will agree that we are busy, right? What are we busy doing?  I have pondered this in a previous post. Today I ask, what are we too busy for? What is it that keeps us busy and distracted? Are we occupying our time with activities that draw us closer to God? Or do they draw us away from God?

I believe that Satan wants us to be busy and distracted. If your activities don’t draw you closer to God, well then, they draw you closer to Satan.

Some may dislike the above statement. It’s to bold and too absolute. I propose you read on, to understand my take on this.

While working on my novel I found myself explaining how the futuristic world I have created came to be. It’s a world where all that is noble, virtuous and beautiful has been drowned out and replaced with selfishness, oppression and indifference. I had to ask myself, how did this come to be? In doing so, I realized a truth about the world as it is today.

Many of us live our lives in a conundrum of busyness. We are busy working, studying, updating our status on Facebook or Twitter, and sharing pictures on Instagram. We are keeping up to date on the latest television shows, or catching up with old shows on Netflix, We are watching movies, old and new or even YouTube videos or playing games on our Ipod or phones.

Certainly some of these activities could be intellectually and spiritually informative. Even the activities that are meant to entertain us or provide some relaxing time and are not necessarily bad. However, when they keep us too busy for crucial activities, we have a problem.

Which brings me to the next question, what are we too busy for?  In my novel, the people were so busy being entertained they failed to notice that their fundamental freedoms were being taken away.

In embracing the Catholic faith we come to love spending time with God, our Creator, and loving Father. We acknowledge that if this is the most important relationship in our life, then we must keep him as the primary focus and eternal goal.

However, we readily claim to be too busy to pray, too busy to attend retreat or Bible study, or weekly Mass. Too busy to make time for those in need of our care and attention. At times we even claim to be too busy to give personal attention to our spouse and children.

Certainly, it is a challenge to make good use of time. Satan is persistent in his attempts to distract us. Balancing prayer, work, rest and play time is difficult, but it is worth the struggle.

If we truly believe and accept that God created the world and everything in it, we know he meant everything to be for our good and to be enjoyed by us, in moderation. However, the devil takes God’s creation and distorts beauty. Satan tempts us to seek complete fulfillment in the ‘things’ of this world, drawing our attention away from all things eternal, especially the condition of our souls. If we are too busy and distracted then we won’t take time to contemplate truth and beauty.

What happens while we are busy and distracted? Corrupt governments are voted in, babies are killed in the womb, teenagers commit suicide, spouses are unfaithful, families fall apart, and children go hungry…just to name a few.  While we sit idly by, giving these atrocities barely a passing glance only to blame someone else for all that is wrong with the world. Worse still we even blame God.

A line from yesterday’s Gospel (John 8:31 – 42) tells what we are actually doing when we are too busy for God. Jesus says, “…you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you.”

When we don’t allow the word of God to take root in our hearts and transform us we sentence Jesus to death again. Christ dies to free us from the bondage of sin and give us the chance to get to heaven. By choosing to soak in worldly activities and forsaking truth and beauty, we are refusing to be freed. In a certain sense, we keep Jesus on the cross, claiming we didn’t need him to overcome sin and death through his resurrection.

A prayer that has proven most powerful and fruitful for me is to think about St. Paul and ask the Lord to remove the scales from my eyes and allow me to see what I am not seeing. Be forewarned, in my experience God is as generous in responding to this prayer according to your readiness and humility to accept the truth.

As we prepare to start Holy Week, be assured of my prayers for each of my readers that you may be brought deeper into the divine life.