Thursday, July 31, 2008

God works in such mysterious (yet wonderful) ways!

Below is a link to a great blog entry about how God is at work in every situation, even those that may seem horrible. You just never know where things are going to lead.

God, please teach and every one of us to keep open hearts and minds to wherever you are leading us.

The story of a friendship

Inventions you can't live without?

I got an email that made me laugh so I had to share. Some of these are just crazy! The "baby mop" is hilarious. That could be quite helpful, especially for busy parents of twins, triplets, etc. or childcare providers. Right, Jodi? :)






Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Meditation of the day

From The Word Among Us
July 30, 2008

Have you ever fallen in love? Do you remember when the phone rang and he or she was on the other end? Your heart fluttered with excitement. You couldn't wait to see your loved one again. However, the most romantic attraction you've ever had is nothing compared to the way Jesus loves you. You're always on his mind. To him, you are the "pearl of great price" (Matthew 13:46). He gave up everything for your salvation.

If only this would sink into our hearts! It's hard to grasp such unconditional love. But there are two things you can do to make it more real in your life. First, begin your day—every day—by dedicating yourself to Jesus. Give him your heart and ask him to lead you and direct you. If you are facing specific challenges, ask for his wisdom and peace in those circumstances. It's simply a matter of telling him you want to rely on him and asking for his Holy Spirit to guide you. Then, listen for the ways he inspires you and leads you throughout the day.

Second, before you go to sleep, look back over your day. Ask the Spirit to show you how Jesus was present with you: Did he remind you of his promises? Did he strengthen you during a difficult situation? Recall also how you might have strayed from him, whether through sin or negligence. Remember: If you confess your faults, he is faithful to forgive you (1 John 1:9). Let his grace fill you so you can rest calmly and receive joy and hope for another day.

As you start to practice anchoring your day in Jesus, don't be surprised if you notice a difference. When you wake up in the morning, you'll be able to pray as the Psalmist, "I shall sing of your strength, and extol your love at dawn." (Psalm 59:17). Things will go more smoothly as his grace begins to flow into everything you do. Others too will see the change! When you go to bed at night, you'll be able to give your troubles to Jesus and tell him, "In peace I shall both lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me secure" (Psalm 4:9).

"Jesus, I give you my heart and my life today. I want to walk every step of my journey with you. I say ‘yes' to your Holy Spirit and ask him to work in me as he desires."

Wednesday, July 30, abortions are being performed

I received the following information from a friend today. Please join us in prayer and/or fasting.



Dear Friends for Life,

We have been informed that on Wednesday, July 30, abortions are being performed at the Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo.

Won't you please join us in prayer either outside the abortion facility at 512 1st Ave. North or right where you are.

Let us remember how important these prayers are...they could possibly be the last words a child may hear before he/she is scheduled to die. Pray diligently for God's mercy to pour down upon the men and women entering the clinic as well as the employees operating inside.

And know that your prayers and your faithfulness is deeply appreciated.

The 40 Days for Life Committee
www.40daysforlifeND.com and www.40daysforlife.com.



If you'd like to be put on the list to be informed of the days that women are scheduled to have abortions so that you can pray and/or fast, e-mail loren(at)superalerts(dot)com.

Does Contraception Foster Love? — Part 2 of 6


By Christopher West
tob.catholicexchange.com

We continue a series of reflections on the issue of contraception in light of the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae.

When Pope Paul VI issued this document on July 25, 1968, it fell like a bomb. Many people wish the issue would just go away. It hasn”t. And it won”t. In fact, it can’t “go away.” This encyclical takes us to the very foundations of human life (humanae vitae).

In the last column, we looked at how contraception has played a key role in the cultural chaos in which we’re now immersed. Here we’ll look briefly at what seems to be at the heart of the matter - love. It all comes down to this: What is love? Does the mere exchange of sexual pleasure offer any surety of love? Our culture is sated with sexual indulgence but remains starved for love. Perhaps contraception has had something to do with this sad state of affairs.

It seems what we often call “love,” when submitted to honest examination, amounts to little more than mutual using for pleasure. In the language of John Paul II, the opposite of love is not hatred. The opposite of love is using another person as a means to an end. I know this is a cliche, but why do so many wives claim “headache” when their husbands want sex? Might they feel used rather than loved?

The Catholic teaching on sex is an invitation to embrace the love that really corresponds to the deepest desires of the human heart. That is a demanding love, to be sure. Should we expect it to be otherwise as followers of Christ? “Love one another,” Jesus says, “as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12). This means it’’s going to hurt. It’s going to demand sacrifice.

St. Paul says it plainly: husbands are to love their wives “as Christ loved the church” (Eph 5:25). Then he concludes this marvelous passage with the most exalted presentation of sexual love in all of human history: “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” (Eph 5:21-32).

The Church, so often accused of devaluing sex, ascribes to sexual love the highest possible value - it is meant to be a merging of the human and the divine. Anything less, the Church proposes, is a counterfeit for the love we yearn for at the deepest level of our being. Sexual love is meant to image the mysterious and eternal “exchange of love” within the Holy Trinity. In the normal course of events, the mutual exchange of husband and wife leads to a “third” - a new human life conceived through the work of the Holy Spirit, “the Lord, the Giver of life.”

Contracepted intercourse marks a determined “closing off” of the sexual act to the Holy Spirit, to the very life and love of God. In short, whether they realize this or not, contracepting couples are saying, “We prefer the momentary pleasure of sterlized sex over the opportunity of participating in the eternal love of the Trinity.” To which I respond …bad choice! But do you think if couples really knew they were saying this, that they would continue to do so? “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).

Most couples simply have no idea what they’re getting themselves into when they sterilize their sexual acts. So none of this is about assigning culpability. If I drink a cup of poison - but don”t know it’s poison - I haven’t committed suicide; I’m not culpable for my own death. But it will still kill me, because whether I think it’s poison or not has no bearing whatsoever on whether it is poison or not. Furthermore, if you know it’s poison and I don”t, what would be the loving thing to do if you saw me reaching out to drink it?

The Church is not trying to impose her morality on us. Like any loving mother, she is trying to prevent her children from unwittingly ingesting a very dangerous “poison to love.” As the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae approaches, let us thank Pope Paul VI for loving us so much.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Can chastity be realistically lived by singles?

By Anthony Buono
tob.catholicexchange.com

A single woman told me she is having trouble meeting men who believe in living chastely. She said these supposedly practicing Catholic men seem to have no respect for the sanctity of the human body. My response is that it is important to first say you are talking about “chastity” for single people, which means no premarital sex…ever (a married person leads a different kind of chastity, though it is still “chastity”). With that, there are many single Catholics who don’t understand chastity as a “virtue”, but rather see it as nice idea and a goal to somewhat strive for. The problem is that too many people, including good Catholics, have subscribed to the erroneous notion that “we’re only human.” Once a person acknowledges that we are only “human,” then chastity is something that, though nice to talk about and strive for, is impossible. Human beings are social beings and have strong sexual impulses. As human beings, we live every day with the reality of fallen human nature due to Original Sin. Therefore, anyone can understand why someone gives in to the impulse of sexual desire when they are in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex.

Catholics have fallen for this, I’m afraid. They think one way and act another. They want Christ, but they also want sex. They agree with the principles of chastity and its definition, but deep down they do not believe it can be lived practically. More importantly, they do not believe they themselves can live it at a practical, daily level. They “know” they should be chaste, but they don’t want to “live it”. Many probably don’t even pray for it. It’s not that they are not good people. They just don’t see chastity as a virtue to strive for and prioritize on a daily basis.

As Catholics, we “must” believe that we are NOT only human, but rather that we are also DIVINE. By virtue of our Baptism, we are configured into Christ; we are transformed from being merely human into sharing the divine nature of God by virtue of our actually being baptized into Christ. We have a share in the divine nature of God ONLY because Christ died for us all and Baptism makes us adopted children of God because of the actual Son of God, into whose life we were baptized. Oh, how this should make every Catholic rejoice! What a profound reality that we are actually divine as well as human. What it means to our everyday, practical existence is that we CAN be virtuous, we CAN accomplish miracles, we CAN be perfect, as Jesus told us to be perfect. Because we are human, we will always fall short. But by grace, primarily through the sacraments, and by faith (lived in a real way, not a sentimental one), we can accomplish what we are asked by the Church to accomplish.

Chastity, which means “no premarital sex”, can be lived, and must be lived. There is no excuse. Our sexual impulses are strong, yes. But we share the divine nature of God, which means we are not ONLY human, and therefore do not have that as an excuse.

I know that many good Catholics are open to premarital sex, even though they do not want to be, and even if they believe they really are not. And they REALLY might believe they are not open to it, and would be ticked off at me for even suggesting they are. But I know many are capable of giving in to it because of my long experience of working with single Catholics.

To those who really live chastity as a virtue and will not compromise, by God’s grace, then I say, “God bless you and reward you.” And God will certainly reward you. But please, please do not be hard on those who are not living chastity. Take example from Jesus, and pray for them for “they know not what they do.” The duping that we are only human stretches far and wide. Prayer and fasting along with education and example from those who live chastity will turn things around. But until then, you must be charitable toward them. Do not expect most to accept anything more than the “knowledge” of what chastity means and that it is taught by the Church.

My final point to women is to continue to demand chastity from any men you come in contact with. They will respect you for it. They may pass you by because you are not open to premarital sex, but you will have been a great witness to Christ. Men and women alike have the problem I described. But unfortunately, the men are the ones who ask women on dates, who ask women to marry them. They are the ones who lead. So if they are not leading in the chastity area, then there are many really wonderful women who are leading chaste lives and don’t want to compromise, and who DO believe they are NOT only human, who may end up never finding the right person. Please God, that will not be so and a good man who reveres chastity will come along for them. And to the men who live chaste lives, I say, “Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever,” and “Please help other Catholic men realize they share the divine nature and can live chastity.” (my emphasis)

Quote of the day

“Being a Catholic isn’t for wimps!”

From Teresa Tomeo's book
Newsflash! My Surprising Journey from Secular Anchor to Media Evangelist

Meditation of the day

From Magnificat
Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Do not be surprised at your spirit's state; it is only natural that after a period of fervor you experience some disturbances, but do not pay attention to them.

Obey, close your eyes, and hold the cross tightly; the one who obeys will obtain victory. Spiritual life is made up of desolations and consolations, and Saint Ignatius says that the right thing to do during desolation is to make no changes, and in a time of consolation not to cling too steadfastly to it, but to strengthen yourself for the next period of desolation.

Do not fear; these are clouds that must cross the sky of your soul; they are hurricanes that test the roots of the trees; it is summer and summers are harsh, dry, unpleasant, and arid, but happy is the one who goes through them embracing the cross and letting Jesus ripen the fruit of the tree in his heart...

Let yourself be molded, let the tempest rage without disturbing you, let the temptation pass and it will PASS AWAY, do not doubt it, leaving merits in your soul... Close your eyes and let the Lord accomplish his will: take each day as it comes, and move ahead. Do not see enemies everywhere, so that if and when they should arrive, the Lord will have softened them up for you. Do not lose time as Satan wants, but offer everything up for the good of the works of the cross.

Challenge of the day

Click on the link below, but make sure you have taken your blood pressure medicine first if needed. : ) When you click the ball it will change color. This appears to be impossible, but it can be done when you get your strategy figured out. Have fun!

Ball

Pre-Marital Sex Harms Future Marriage

By Anthony Buono
tob.catholicexchange.com

Sexual promiscuity among single people is nothing new, nor is it considered that big of a deal these days. It should also come as no surprise that even some Catholic Christians engage in pre-marital sex, and though that is surprising, it is still not “shocking” (though it should be).

Let’s face it…the experience of sex is a “good” and pleasurable thing. God has made it so. But God designed our sexuality to be used appropriately. God absolutely does NOT want us to have sex outside of the marriage covenant.

Yet some single people still allow themselves to have sex and get into what is called “the near occasion of sin”; which means they unwisely allow themselves and another person into situations where the movements of sexual attraction and desire can be stimulated, encouraged, and built up to the point of being acted on. They choose an environment or place where it could go too far with no disruption.

For some, this desire is too strong, and the will is too weak; therefore, they make the decision to commit the sexual act. Let us thank God there are many single Catholics who truly do live a chaste single life and save themselves for marriage. All too often (especially for women) their chastity commitment ends up being the cause of a relationship ending because the other is open to “giving in” to sexual desire, or is even expecting it.

I would like to shed light on this subject with something that must be said more often if we are going to make any progress helping single people lead more chaste lives and become good marriage partners.

What is that something? It is this: Every single promiscuous sexual act (especially intercourse) does a level of damage to the individuals involved which threatens their capability of making the commitment to marriage, and therefore is harmful to the future spouse and the future marriage. In fact, if someone has been very promiscuous, it is doubtful they have the capacity to make the commitment to marriage, or keep that commitment. This does not necessarily mean it is a permanent thing. But it does mean that a person with a sexually active past MUST take time off from dating (a “fasting”, if you will) and focus on being restored in their Catholic religion; namely, their personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Human Experience

Back in May we had a screening in Bismarck of the movie The Human Experience produced by Grassroots Films. This is a great film about life and the sanctity of every single person no matter what their situation. A film well worth watching!

We got to meet one of the main characters and one of the producers of the movie at the screening. I was very impressed with these guys and their company. Grassroots Films is an up and coming group of young men from New York that are producing high quality, highly moral films. Also check out Fishers of Men by Grassroots.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Last Abortion Clinic in South Dakota Closes

Please keep up the prayers for an end to abortion, they ARE making a difference. Praise God!


SIOUX FALLS, SD, July 24, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - On Monday, July 21, eight women arrived at the Planned Parenthood office in Sioux Falls in South Dakota for abortions, but were instead met with locked doors and a hand-written note indicating the only abortion clinic in South Dakota was closed.

Planned Parenthood closed its doors after their abortionists, who are flown in from other states, refused to work under the new law that went into effect last Friday. The law orders abortionists to inform patients of the humanity of their babies and that the procedure could affect their mental health two hours before the abortion is set to be performed. The law also provides that abortionists can be sued if they do not comply.

This law was the brain-child of attorney Harold Cassidy and passed with the help of determined pro-life leaders Dr. Alan and Leslee Unruh, who pushed for the regulation in the face of opposition, even from some in the pro-life movement. The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cleared the way for the law's enactment last week.

It remains unclear if the Planned Parenthood office has permanently ceased the practice of abortion. However, several women who were scheduled for abortions this week went to a pro-life center instead, where some have reportedly changed their minds about having abortions.

"The closing of this clinic is historic in that South Dakota is, for the time being, the first abortion-free state," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. "It didn't take the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and it didn't take a new President or a new Supreme Court. It took the courageous determination of pro-life heroes like Mr. Cassidy and the Unruhs who saw an opportunity to save lives and pressed on until their dream became victory."

"We applaud their efforts and encourage other states to emulate their campaign," said Newman.

The Unruhs are currently involved in the Vote Yes For Life Campaign, which would effectively ban abortions in South Dakota, putting the finishing nail in the coffin of the abortion industry there.

Text of the new law and links to the court decision can be found at www.voteyesforlife.com

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Be Wise!

By Mark Shea
Words of Encouragement
catholicexchange.com

Ephesians 5:15-16

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.

Periodically, the editors of the New York Times or CBS or some organ for Ted Turner venture out of their fluorescent-lit offices to see if Americans still take religion seriously. Whenever they do, they return with breathless reports to announce that, yes indeed, Americans still are brimming with “spirituality.” This, in turn, excites Christians, who with equal breathlessness announce a “revival in the land” and a return to Christ. From now on (goes the recurrent hope) things are going to be great! Everybody is going to become Christian and we will all be happy and peppy and bursting with love (to quote Felix Unger from the Odd Couple). But Catholics, while welcoming the fact that Americans seem to be resistant to atheism, should bear in mind that believing in “spirituality” is not exactly the same as believing in Jesus Christ. After all, not a single atheist was involved in the trial and death of Jesus Christ. No atheist beat up St. Paul, crucified St. Peter, or tossed St. Lawrence on griddle to roast. The people who did these things were all vibrantly “spiritual” people, filled with a certain sort of piety and deeply affirming of their own sort of “religious values”. This is why St. Paul tells us to walk, not as unwise, but as wise. Wisdom, in scripture, is more than bearded guys saying “deep things”. It encompasses savvy and the quickness of wit required to size up situation quickly. One thing we need to ask in the coming years will be “Is our culture becoming more Christlike or merely becoming more spiritual?” If it’s only the latter, we’d best be on our toes. After all, the devil is a spirit too. Today, ask God for the gift of discernment to help you be wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove.

Poll: Voters Don't Know Barack Obama Pro-Abortion, John McCain Pro-Life

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor

A new poll finds half of voters don't know that presidential candidate John McCain is pro-life on abortion or that Barack Obama is pro-abortion. The survey shows that, when pro-life voters know that information, they support McCain by a three-to-one margin.

A new poll from the Pew Research Center finds voters are more interested in the 2008 election than they were the 2004 election, but they are less informed on where the candidates stand.

Pew finds that just 52 percent of voters rightly identify Obama as pro-abortion ("pro-choice" in the poll's terminology") and only 45 percent know John McCain is pro-life on abortion.

A stunning 38 percent of voters don't know where either Obama or McCain stand on the issue of abortion. Some ten percent wrongly identify Obama as pro-life and 17 percent think McCain supports abortion.

This information gap is important and a subsequent question shows whichever side of the abortion debate can frame the candidates first will likely help one of them win the election.

Among pro-life voters who know where the two candidates stand, McCain trounces Obama by a whopping 70-24 percentage point margin. Surprisingly, Obama has a one percent lead (43-42 percent) among pro-life voters who are uninformed about their abortion positions.

On the other side, pro-abortion groups will be working overtime to educate their supporters as well.

That's because Obama leads 71-24 percent among pro-abortion voters who know where the two candidates stand and he has a much smaller 48-40 percent lead among pro-abortion voters who don't.

The Pew poll also found that Democrats and Obama supporters are much more energized about Obama than Republicans and McCain backers are about McCain.

Compared with previous election cycles, voter engagement is up among all demographic groups, but has increased more among voters under age 50 than among older voters.

Uncharacteristically, the youngest voters -- those under age 30 -- are at least as knowledgeable, and in some cases more knowledgeable, about candidates' positions on abortion than are older voters.

The Pew poll found younger voters are more likely to know where the candidates stand on abortion than older voters, evangelicals were more likely than Catholics (emphasis mine), and white voters were more likely than black voters to know -- especially concerning McCain.

One pattern that differs from previous surveys of political knowledge is that younger voters are significantly more knowledgeable about the candidates’ positions than are older voters. For example, 60% of voters 18-29 correctly say that Obama is pro-abortion, compared with just 51% of those ages 50-64 and just 41% of those ages 65 and older.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Get to Have a Baby

By Elizabeth Foss
catholicexchange.com

I ran into an old acquaintance at a party last weekend. It had been about a year since I’d last seen her and I was delighted to meet her again. She’s always been a warm woman, who seemed to love to play with my babies. So, I was a bit — ahem — surprised at our exchange.

“You look tired,” she said.

“Ah, I am,” I replied with a wink. “I’m getting kind of old for this.” I rubbed my growing belly.

“How old are you?”

“Forty-two.”

“Why don’t you take the pill?”

Gulp. Um. My well-rehearsed treatise on the Culture of Life and openness to God’s gracious goodness completely evaded me there in the kitchen between the bar and the buffet.

“It’s against my religion.” That was lame, I thought, as nothing else sprung from my mouth.

“Well, then why don’t you just tell him to stay away? Tell him you’ll come find him when you want him around. Tell him to leave you alone.”

I was backing away now, physically recoiling from the disdain in her voice. Honestly, I couldn’t even speak. I went and sat as close as I could to “him” on the couch. And then I let the words come in my head — words I never shared with her, but wish I had.

“Because I get to have another baby.”

I get to feel my cheeks flush and my heart race when I see two pink lines on a positive pregnancy test.

I get to plot and plan and dream up the perfect way to tell my husband.

I get to tell my children they are expecting a sibling and watch the ensuing happy dances and hear the shouts of glee.

I get to see a brand new heart beating beneath my own. I get to hear the rhythmic swish and thump that tell us the baby is still well.

I get to feel the flutters and have the realization dawn that they are created by my baby who is moving within me.

I get to see my belly swell and not be bothered by “weight gain.” I’m gaining a baby.

I get to hear my children bless this baby every day and pray for her safe arrival.

I get to lie in a darkened room, my husband nearby, and get a glimpse of our baby on a screen. I get to watch him fall in love with the baby of the grainy image. I get to see a tenderness reserved especially for moments like these.

I get to become acquainted with the rhythms of her being — her active times, her sleepy times, her hiccups — all before I ever see her.

I get to rub my belly a million times a day, wearing out maternity shirts in an effort to caress the growing dear one.

I get to receive holy Communion, knowing that the baby inside of me is nearer ever still to the Real Presence of the Lord.

I get to look forward to the day she is born, imagining the slippery, soft cheek against my own, feeling the enormous relief and thanksgiving that come with her safe arrival.

I get to watch the cord be cut and know that I still have years ahead of me of nourishing her from my own body and a lifetime of nurturing her from my soul.

I get to fold well-worn lovely little pink clothes and eagerly anticipate dressing a new doll in them.

I get to fall asleep at night with my husband’s hand on my belly, marveling at it all and thanking God for the miracle of two made three.

I get to have a baby. Again.

Isn’t God good and aren’t I blessed to know a Church that has led me to this precious time in my life?

"Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way?"

In an address Pope Benedict XVI recently gave to a Congress taking place in the Diocese of Rome, he spoke about the danger of “putting God in parentheses” in our lives. Pope Benedict lamented how “our civilization and our culture too often tend to place God in parentheses, to organize personal and social life without him, to maintain that nothing can be known of God, even to deny his existence. But when God is laid aside, all our hopes, great and small, rest on nothing” (Address at Saint John Lateran, 10 June 2008). Similarly, at the Inauguration of his Pontificate, Pope Benedict reminded us that we should not be afraid to give God His proper place in our lives, as if He will deprive us of freedom or of joy. He said, also echoing the words of Pope John Paul II at the beginning of his own Pontificate: “Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to Him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation” (Homily, 24 April 2005).

It is curious to note that as societies and individuals exclude God from their lives and from the marketplace, statistics do not show that there is a greater joy accompanying this trend. In fact, the opposite is shown to be true. When we think that everything depends on us and we treat God as an intruder, the result is not peace and contentment but a never-ending search for an ever-elusive joy, often sought apart from God.

From the article:
"With God on Vacation"
by Cardinal Justin Rigali
catholicexchange.com

To a beautiful person...

I have read this before and it was in our church bulletin one Sunday. I like what it says so I thought I would post it. God loves ya, baby! : )

If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring. He sends you a sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, He listens. He can live anywhere in the universe, but He chose your heart. Face it friend, He is crazy about you!

God didn't promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain, but He did promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears and light for the way.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thought of the day

The truth is, no matter how successful we have been, without Jesus as our daily companion, life becomes burdensome and challenging. Even when we are able to rein in our pride and try our best to be good, life is so much richer and more productive when we invite the Lord to be involved in every aspect of our lives. He knows the challenges we face when we try to live according to his values. He cares that life is sometimes difficult too. That's why he invites us, "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened . . . and you will find rest for yourselves" (Matthew 11:28,29).

Jesus is not just a nice guy who hangs around until we need him. He is a necessity! Without him, there is no salvation. Without him, there is no justice. But when our hearts and minds are set upon him, there is true joy and peace.


Meditation of the day from
The Word Among Us

Quote of the day

Life is not random: "Your very existence has been willed by God, blessed and given a purpose!"

"Our hearts and minds are yearning for a vision of life where love endures, where gifts are shared, where unity is built, where freedom finds meaning in truth, and where identity is found in respectful communion."

Pope Benedict XVI

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Desire MORE, not less!

WOW! This is a great article.


Principle One: DESIRE MORE
By Dave Sloan
tob.catholicexchange.com

Late one Saturday night I found myself in a club in the funky, frenzied, pierced and tattooed part of town. I was with an old friend I’ll call Silly Sammy. There was a young gal bopping about the place full of vim, vigor, and vivaciousness, getting lots of attention, and, through the sparseness of her attire, making everyone keenly aware of the gifts the good Lord gave her.

Silly Sammy, knowing me from the wild old days, and knowing of my more recent fondness for espousing Christian dating principles, decided to put me to the test. He made some very crude remarks about what he would like to do to this young woman who was garnering so much attention.

I said, “Silly Sammy, you know what your problem is? Your problem is that you desire so little. You have to learn to desire more. Can I tell you how much you really should desire with a woman like her?”

“Sure,” he said, “go ahead.”

“Sammy, you were made to be capable of, and to desire, a nuptial union so potent, so absolute, that it has the power to transport you back through time to the very beginning, to the first nuptial union, in what the Douay Rheims Bible calls the ‘paradise of pleasure.’ You were made to desire a sexual union with the power to bind you two together irrevocably as one and reveal to you both the mystery of your creation in the image of God as you participate mystically in the life-giving power of all the nuptial unions from the very first one.

“And that’s not the half of it. The union you were made to long for, and for which you do long in the deepest recesses of you heart, not only has the power to take you back through time to the beginning, to that paradise of pleasure from which we all descend. The sex for which you long, for which you should long, also has the power to transport you forward in time, into eternity, to the nuptial union in Heaven, which is so often referred to in scripture as a marriage between God and his church, as a great wedding feast, as a union of bride and bridegroom. Every time you come together with your bride in sex you should participate in these greatest and most transcendent mysteries. That’s what you were made for, Silly Sammy, and nothing less can ever satisfy you.”

Sammy said, “I’ll admit, if a union like that were possible, it would be better than what I said I wanted to do with her.”

So, how do we make the long journey from the belittling experience of lust, and into the fullness of the desire for which we were made? We begin by recognizing that the journey, ultimately, is a journey into the heart of the God who is the creator of our desires.

“Delight in the Lord, and he will grant the desires of your heart.” –Psalm 37

“Our problem is not that we desire too much, but that we desire too little.” –GodofDesire.com

We must learn to complete our desires for one another by allowing them to draw us into an even greater desire. When we gaze in awesome wonder upon the splendid creature who is the object of our affections, we should realize that she didn’t make herself so wonderful. Her creator did that. Her creator made her so sublime and so loveable. The truth, which we are capable of recognizing and embracing, is that in desiring to love one another, we are being drawn into the heart of love himself, the God who is love.

We are being drawn right up into paradise. For not all of us will marry, but all of us are called to the great nuptial union in heaven, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Over and over again scripture describes the heavenly union of God and his people by comparing it to the union of a bride and bridegroom.

When we long for a mate, we are also longing for paradise. And so we will not repress or deny these desires, but we will untwist and redeem them. We will overcome our shame; we will be restored to wholeness; we will know what it means to have been created in sex, and to have been created, every one of us, as male or female, a sexual creature from the beginning. “Man and woman he created them. In his own image he created them.”

BE NOT AFRAID OF DESIRE.

Yes, our culture is fallen, and has largely succumbed to lust, to desire which is not more, but much less than it ought to be. But where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. Our redemption is real. God has promised to cleanse us, to restore us, to take from us our stony hearts and to give us hearts that can love. He has promised, and, if we allow him, he will do it.

We as men and women should not be afraid to get to know each other. We should not be consumed with anxiety if we begin to like each other a lot, and our desire for each other begins to grow. We should be free to discover the wonder of one another, with the confidence that in doing so we are leading each other closer to paradise.

We must untwist the lies of our twisted culture and recover what it actually means to be men and women.

Men must learn what it means to court a woman by demonstrating the virtues of honor and integrity and courage. We must show that we have the strength to be tender. We must prove that we can properly treasure the mysteries and the miracles of a woman’s body and her heart.

Women are called to recover the glory and splendor of femininity and all of the fruitful power of womanhood. Women must recognize the great gifts the Lord lift has bestowed upon them and engage in courtship only with men who will strive heroically, even sacrificially, to earn the privilege to share in those gifts.

It is on this road from dating to courtship to paradise that we learn what it is to live the roles the Lord has given us. We won’t learn it from rules, but by being set free from the lies which would blind us to the truth of who we are as men and women made in the image of the living God.

Principles 2-12 of the dating and courtship program based upon Pope John Paul II’s The Theology of the Body can be found here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Contraception and Cultural Chaos- 1st in a Series of 6


By Christopher West
tob.catholicexchange.com

This July 25th marks the 40th anniversary of one of the most controversial papal documents in history: Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae which reaffirmed the traditional Christian teaching on the immorality of contraception. If you have wrestled with this teaching, believe me, I can relate. Years ago I almost left the Church over it. Forty years of perspective provide an opportunity to take another look. That’s what I’ll be doing in several columns between now and July 25th.

You may have noticed above that I said “traditional Christian teaching” on contraception. Only in the last 50-70 years has this been viewed primarily as a “Catholic” issue. Until 1930, all Christian bodies stood together in their condemnation of any attempt to sterilize the marital act. That year, the Anglican Church broke with more than nineteen hundred years of uninterrupted Christian teaching. When the pill debuted in the early 1960’s, the Catholic Church alone was retaining what in 30 short years had come to be seen as an archaic, even absurd position.

One way to begin understanding the Church’s stance is by “judging the tree by its fruit.” This is what first made me realize that contraception is a much more important issue than I had realized.

When Margaret Sanger and her followers started pushing contraception in the early 1900’s, wise men and women - and certainly not just Catholics - predicted that severing sex from procreation would eventually lead to sexual and societal chaos. Today’s culture of adultery, divorce, premarital sex, STD’s, out-of-wedlock births, abortion, fatherless children, homosexuality, poverty, crime, drugs, and violence was all foreseen.
What’s the connection with contraception? While today’s societal chaos is certainly complex, the following demonstrates the “inner logic” of contraception’s contribution. People are often tempted to do things they shouldn’t do. Deterrents within nature itself and within society help to curb these temptations and maintain order. For example, what would happen to the crime rate in a given society if jail terms suddenly ceased?


Apply the same logic to sex. People throughout history have been tempted to commit adultery. It’s nothing new. However, one of the main deterrents from succumbing to the temptation has been the fear of pregnancy. What would happen if this natural deterrent were taken away? As history demonstrates, rates of adultery would skyrocket. What’s one of the main causes of divorce? Adultery. Apply the same logic to pre-marital sex. Such behavior has, indeed, skyrocketed. Premarital sex, as a kind of “adultery in advance,” is also a prime indicator of future marital breakdown.

It gets worse. Since no method of contraception is 100% effective, an increase in adultery and pre-marital sex will inevitably lead to an increase in “unwanted pregnancies.” What’s next? So many people think contraception is the solution to the abortion problem. Take a deeper look and you’ll see that that’s like throwing gasoline on a fire to try to put it out. In the final analysis, there is only one reason we have abortion - because men and women are having sex without being “open to life.” If this mentality is at the root of abortion, contraception does nothing but foster and afford this mentality.

Not everyone will resort to abortion of course. Some will choose adoption. Other mothers (most) will raise these children by themselves. Hence the number of children who grow up without a father (which has already been increased by the rise in divorce) will be compounded. And a culture of “fatherless” children inevitably becomes a culture of poverty, crime, drugs, and violence. All of these social ills compound exponentially from generation to generation since “fatherless” children are also much more likely to have out-of-wedlock births and, if they marry at all, divorce.

What about homosexuality? Our culture is impotent to resist the “gay agenda” because we have already accepted its basic premise with contraception - the reduction of sex to the exchange of pleasure. When openness to life is no longer an intrinsic part of the sexual equation, why does sexual behavior have to be with the opposite sex?

Forty years after the release of Humanae Vitae, many people are beginning to see that the Church might not be crazy after all.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Interior Prayer: Founded on Loving Much

Interview With Author Father Jacques Philippe
By Carrie Gress
Zenit.org

Interior prayer is not a technique, but an attitude of love that makes our sacramental life more fruitful, says author Father Jacques Philippe.

Father Philippe, of the Community of the Beatitudes, is the author of "Time for God" published by Scepter Publishing, which is also available in French and Spanish.

In this interview with ZENIT, Father Philippe discusses the simple precepts of interior prayer, common misconceptions and the fruit that can be expected when added to the sacramental life.

Q: You describe mental prayer or interior prayer as something that does not involve technique. How, then, does it work?

Father Philippe: It would be better to say interior prayer instead of mental prayer, because in our modern culture, the word "mental" is associated with thoughts -- as something cerebral -- whereas this form of prayer is more an affair of the heart, instead of reflection. St. Teresa of Avila said that it is not an act of thinking much, but of loving much.

Interior prayer is not a question of technique. It is not a process that can be controlled because it is a meeting with God, who infinitely surpasses anything we can achieve through our own efforts.

What must be essentially understood is that there is no method, but an interior attitude. For interior prayer, there are three principles: a true desire for God; the confidence that God will allow us find that which we are looking for; and finally, humility: To accept our poverty and to wait for the goodness and love of God in all things.

Q: What is the fruit of interior prayer? And why is it important? Isn't adherence to the sacraments enough?

Father Philippe: Interior prayer permits the sacramental life to be more fruitful, more alive, more intense. It is important because it is there that we see and endlessly deepen the most essential dimension of Christian life: the personal relationship of trust and love that is established between God and each of his children, the reciprocal exchange where we give ourselves to God and where God gives himself to us. According to Pope John Paul II in "Novo Millenio Ineunte," this reciprocity is "the very substance and soul of the Christian life, and the condition of all true pastoral life."

Q: How does mental prayer differ from those who would wish to compare it to yoga or Buddhist practices?

Father Philippe: The fundamental difference is that it is a question of living and deepening the relationship of one person to another with God, and it is not solely to acquire the power to practice an interior or psychic state. The possibility of this interpersonal relationship is not founded on initiative or skill, but on God's desire to reveal himself and to communicate through love. Moreover, God acts within the Holy Trinity revealed in the New Testament: Through Jesus and thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, we can enter into communion with the Father.

Q: You describe mental prayer as "just spending time" with God, like two people in love would, but this can often feel like nothing is happening. Could something be happening interiorly despite the feeling that there isn't? Or even during times when one is distracted?

Father Philippe: The life of prayer is much deeper than the intelligence or the senses can perceive. Even when prayer is poor and distracted, provided that it is made with sincerity and faith, God can communicate secretly with the soul. He puts into it the treasures of light and the power of peace that is often made manifest at other times in life instead of just during prayer itself. And if one perseveres despite times of aridity, there will always be moments when God visits and makes his presence felt.

Q: In today's world, many people just don't seem to have time to spend half an hour or an hour in silent prayer. How can it be fit in? Does it always have to be practiced in a church?

Father Philippe: When one activity is considered vital, we find time to do it. The fundamental question is "what are our priorities?" We must be convinced that God will give us a hundred-fold the time that we devote to him in prayer. If we give part of our time to God with fidelity and perseverance, even just a quarter of an hour ever day, our life will be more peaceful and more fruitful.

We can pray at a church, as there is a lot of grace when praying in the presence of the Holy Sacrament, but we can also pray in a corner of our room in front of an icon, out in nature, or even on the bus or the subway.

Q: Many people only want to pray when they have an interior prompting to do so. Why is this not helpful both in prayer and in arriving at true interior freedom?

Father Philippe: All love relationships need, in order to grow, a choice for fidelity. If a husband loves his wife only when he feels the spirit to do so, the relationship will remain superficial, on only an emotional level. Fidelity and perseverance allow love to move beyond merely the sentimental and to become something very beautiful and rich, a life shared, a mutual gift of persons, one to another.

In every love relationship there are times of crisis and difficulty, but if we persevere with fidelity, the love will become stronger and truer.

Making Peace With My Body

Here is an article that says much of what I was thinking and trying to quickly say the other day when I posted this article about respecting our bodies AND our souls.


By Kate Wicker
catholicexchange.com

Like many women, body angst has been a stubborn companion of mine. When I was younger, I suffered from both bulimia and anorexia and received counseling for over a year. Even when my clinical eating disorder was reigned in, the scale — instead of my God — was too often a barometer for my self-worth.During my first pregnancy, I found respite from my body hatred. Throughout this nine-month interlude, the way I looked was far less important than the gift of heaven growing inside of me.

Then, a few weeks after the birth of my daughter Madeline, I found myself scrutinizing my postpartum body. All the relics of my unhealthy body image suddenly came rushing, falling through me like an avalanche of hate.

But, like He does so often, God gave me a wake-up call, a moment that forced me to take a good, hard look at something other than my gelatinous, postpartum belly. I watched as Madeline started kissing her reflection in a mirror when only minutes before I was grimacing before my own. That’s when I realized that for the first time in my life this self-loathing wasn’t only hurting me, it had the potential to hurt my daughter. Each time I punished myself for not being thin enough, each time I stood in front of the mirror just to berate my body, I was transferring my hate to Madeline and failing to be a healthy role model.

I also recognized that while I’d put an end to my self-destructive behaviors and was physically “recovered,” I was still spiritually sick. It was time for a body image makeover and this time, instead of turning to counselors or even my husband or family for help, I looked to my God for inner healing.

God Formed my Inmost Being

Parents have a responsibility to be healthy role models — to eat well, exercise and take care of ourselves. But we should focus on health and happiness — not flat abs or narrow hips. After all, our children are not concerned with the amount of cellulite on our thighs. We’re beautiful in their eyes. My physical imperfections have no power over my children’s love for me. My babies love me because I feed them, cuddle with them, wipe their hinnies, read to them and tend to their every need. Kids could care less about what size jeans I wear.

God is like our children, except He doesn’t throw tantrums and He loves us with an even deeper unconditional love. Remembering God not only loves me always, but that He designed me, goes a long way in silencing my inner demons. He “formed my inmost being…knit me in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13) . “Wonderful are your works!” (Psalm 139:14) And I am amazingly one of His works. That should be enough to make me see my body in a new light.

My Body is a Temple

We all have ugly days. Days when that zit on our nose looks like Mount Kilimanjaro or days when we feel blimpish. However, I’ve learned that it’s in these moments, above all, that I must remember that my body is a “temple of the Holy Spirit who is in [me], whom [I] have received from God…Therefore, honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

My body isn’t really mine. It’s on loan from God. That’s humbling enough. What’s more, my body is only a vessel for a far more valuable good — my soul. I should be devoting more energy into making sure my soul is in good shape than worrying about whether or not I have sculpted arms.

At the evening of life, this body — love it or hate it — while deserving of respect, is ephemeral, something I’ll trade in someday, if all goes well, for a new “look” that will be like Jesus’ “glorified body.” (Philippians 3:21).

This is My Body

Every time we make love to our husbands, carry an infant in our womb, nurse a baby or hold an older child until our arms begin to ache, we’re saying, “This is my body. It has been given up for you.” This is a powerful Eucharistic analogy, but it can also be disconcerting if I think of it in terms of when I berate my body. Whether we eat too much or too little, ignore the dignity of the body by partaking in physical acts outside of marriage, or abuse drugs or alcohol, we’re saying, “This is my body. It has been given up for things other than you, my God. It’s been defiled, dishonored and disrespected.”

There are still times when I’m tempted to obsess over my body. But if I meditate on the Christ’s words, I’m reminded that weight gain and saggy breasts are sacrificial signs I’m using my body for what God intended me to - to be a mother.

Made in the Image of God

Anyone who’s ever wished they were taller, thinner, curvier, etc. (and who hasn’t?) ought to think about this: We’re made in the image of God, not the media. My body may not share the measurements of Hollywood’s ideal (and often distorted) view of beauty, but it does share in the dignity of the image of God. When I’m feeling particularly vulnerable to body angst, I’ve learned to fast on media and to reflect on this statement from the Catechism: “Being in the image of God the human indvidual possess the dignity of a person, who is not something, but someone.”(CCC 357).

He Who Comes to Me Will Never be Hungry

When I used to starve myself, I was physically hungry. But eating disorders are not just about being hungry for food or a desire to look a certain way. They’re an external, measurable scale of self-worth that offer a means of coping with fears and insecurities. For me, being a master of what I ate and the number on the scale was an easy way to feel like I was in control and was “good enough.” Looking back, I know I was trying to fill a void that couldn’t be filled by anyone or anything other than God.

The best way to fully recover from body image problems is to fill up on the on the Lord. He offers all the sustenance we’ll ever need. He truly is the Bread of Life and if we “feed” on Him instead of food or negative thoughts about our bodies, we’ll be filled with peace and never be hungry.



A husband that read this article left the follwoing comment. I felt it was powerful, it made me think. We don't only hurt ourselves and God with these harmful thoughts, it hurts so many others around us as well.

Theophilus says:
July 12th, 2008 at 6:36 am
I sympathize with this issue and wanted to share another perspective- that of the husband. My wife has never been anorexic, bullemic, etc. but is very scrupulous about her weight and body size. She’s not unhealthily obese by any means but the years have added a few pounds. Almost every time she passes in front of a mirror she stops and examines herself from every angle and makes comments like “Wow, I’m fat.” or “I hate my body.” or she’ll pinch her side and say “How gross!” It can get her in a really bad mood. Often, it seems like her body size is a constant presence in her mind and guides much of her daily actions, or at least her thoughts. Not to the degree of clinical depression or anything, but it’s frequent enough and I really wish she could be freed from being so obsessed with it all and so discouraged by it. And though the unhappiness it causes her is far bad enough, I also worry about our young daughter and how she will feel and see herself as she grows up and overhears some of my wife’s self-criticisms. (My wife even says her mom used to say the same things, but knowing that hasn’t been enough to ‘break the chain’ yet.)

As a husband, I feel great pains at seeing her so unhappy with herself and with the beautiful, healthy body God gave her. I see how it’s such a big central concern in her mind and I wish instead that she was free of this and able to put God in that central place. I feel helpless because I (as protector of the family, etc.) don’t seem to be able to do anything to help alleviate this. For a while I actively tried (always as lovingly as I could), and now I instead mainly try just loving and appreciating my wife more, but nothing seems to make much difference. It’s so frustrating also the way it can come between us- there have been happy days and intimate moments ruined because of all this. I just wish my wife could love and accept her body as the gift from God that it is and realize that she is so loved and valued and treasured by me and the kids and by God.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Priestly Celibacy: Introduction

Here you go Jason, this one's for you! :)

Jason is a seminarian hearing and answering his call to become a celibate priest. Check out his articles about discerning this call here for part 1 and here for part 2.


By Fr. James Farfaglia
tob.catholicexchange.com

What does priestly celibacy have to do with the Theology of the Body? Isn’t all of this talk about John Paul II’s teaching really just for married couples? Surprisingly, this is what a lot of priests really do think.

I have been asked to write a series of articles for priests on the topic of celibacy in light of John Paul’s Theology of the Body. Wow, what a task I signed up for! I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject. I am on a journey too. But, I do know that just as the whole business about sex and marriage is confusing for most people who are called to marriage, the whole business about sex and celibacy is really confusing for many priests. Wouldn’t it be better just to let Catholic priests marry? What’s the big deal?

I am not going to try and answer every concern and every issue just in one short article. These articles will be a work in progress. I am learning a lot about John Paul’s Theology of the Body and I welcome comments and corrections. However, I can promise you that in these articles I will be who I am: up-front, direct, honest and controversial. I thrive on controversy. Controversy makes life interesting and exciting. So, if you are ready to rock and roll, let’s begin.

Theology of the Body requires study. John Paul’s teachings from his General Audiences are not easy to plow through. Begin by purchasing a copy of Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body by John Paul II and Michael Waldstein. Read this along with Christopher West’s Theology of the Body Explained. I can guarantee one thing: if you assimilate the message of these books and make it your own, you will see celibacy and the priesthood in a whole new dimension. These teachings are really awesome.

OK, so back to Theology of the Body. What does this have to do with a priest who is not married? Well, here is the first problem. We are married! Why do our people call us father? We are married to the Church. The Church is our bride. The priest is another Christ (alter Christus), who gives his life as a gift to the bride.

Celibacy is a special gift from the Holy Spirit. It is called a charism. It is a beautiful gift for the Church. The celibate priest, in and through his body; i.e., through his very physical reality, is a sign or a witness not only of his total gift of himself to his bride, the Church, but he is also physically, through his body, pointing the way to the eschatological reality of eternal life. “For when they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry; no, they are like the angels in heaven” (Mark 12: 25).

Eternity is not only perfect communion with God it is also perfect communion with all men and women in the communion of saints. The charism of celibacy is a sign or an anticipation of this eschatological reality. Through the gift of celibacy, the human person is able to immerse himself in a fulfilling communion with God and with humanity here on earth.

The priest gives his entire being to God in the covenant of spiritual marriage. In the Mass, he takes bread and wine, and pronounces the words of Jesus: This is my body and this is my blood given for you. In turn, he then gives himself totally and unconditionally to his bride: This is my body and this is my blood given for you.

Today, a lot of people are saying that celibacy should be optional. One of their arguments is that the charism of celibacy and the call to the priesthood are two separate things. They claim that some men are called to the priesthood without receiving the charism of celibacy. I have read Fr. Donald Cozzens latest book, Freeing Celibacy. The book is interesting and the author does make a lot of valid arguments. However, the Church has decided against optional celibacy for Latin Rite priests. I understand the arguments in favor of this decision made by Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Pope Benedict and I am sticking with the popes.

However, I would argue that if the Church wants to maintain mandatory celibacy for its priests in the future, many reforms are needed that will make priestly celibacy easier to live within the daily circumstances of priestly life. I plan to talk about these suggested reforms in my articles. Reforms are needed in seminaries. Reforms are needed in dioceses. For the most part, the presbyterate is broken and polarized. There is little, if any, trust among bishops and their priests. There is little, if any, trust among priests. If the Church expects any normal heterosexual man to live out, with elegance and fidelity, the charism of celibacy, these reforms are essential. It would be cruel and unrealistic, on the part of Church authorities to expect any normal man, young or old, to live a healthy celibate life in the middle of the lunacies that go on today’s American Catholic Church life.

OK, I already warned you that I will be open, sincere, frank, honest and controversial. I hope that these articles will be helpful to those priests and seminarians who really want to live out the charism of celibacy with profound joy.

I plan to be back in two weeks with my next article.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Discerning God's call


I came across the following beautiful words of wisdom on the Carmelite site mentioned in the previous article, under the "Do you have a vocation?" section. It is a nice, simple site with great quotes throughout. Go check it out!

What do you feel God calling you to do with your life?


Real Love

Love does not depend upon emotional ups and downs. True love is a complete gift of oneself to the Beloved Christ. It is a free choice to love entirely. If you honestly want to know and do God’s will in your life, if you listen to Him in the Eucharist and in His Word, the Lord Jesus will make His will known to you personally. Then if you set your heart and hand to doing it, you really are loving God. You are uniting your will with His divine will - not only in words but in deeds. This is real love, the foundation stone of every vocation.

(My own little side note: What a perfect paragraph to meditate on in prayer to determine any vocation, not just the religious life. You have to first give yourself entirely to Christ with complete trust before he can lead you. That is what he has been showing me in prayer lately.)


The “Tug of War”

Archbishop Fulton Sheen, whose cause for canonization is underway, said, “A vocation necessarily creates a tension, a crisis, a tug of war in the soul. On the one hand, there is the call of God. On the other hand, a sense of personal unworthiness, or reluctance to give oneself completely to Him.”
When anyone begins to feel this inner battle, it’s good to do as St. Teresa did - think of Christ. Remember His words: “Remain united with Me and I will remain united with you...I have chosen you. Come follow me...find peace of soul in union with Me. Have courage; I have overcome the world.”

Confidence Conquers

The first world to be conquered is the little but mighty world within YOU. Prayer and confidence in Christ are your strongest allies when discerning a vocation. Everyone who is called by God to a religious vocation is given the courage to accept His invitation, even when the sacrifice He asks seems tremendous! Saints are not born; they’re made with the combined action of God’s grace and personal cooperation. You must be honest enough to admit that you are helpless by yourself and wise enough to depend on God alone for strength to succeed. To all He calls, God says, “My grace is sufficient for you...I will be with you always.”

“If I were to advise anybody as to their vocation, I would never counsel anyone to resist good inspirations on account of fear of the difficulty of carrying them through. For I know now by experience that if I resolutely persevere in my purpose...His Majesty rewards it...”
St. Teresa of Avila

Incarcerated for Love

By Doreen Truesdell
catholicexchange.com

My sister is a Discalced Carmelite nun. For more than 30 years she has remained within the walls of a cloistered monastery living an austere and joyous life of prayer, sacrifice and community life centered on Jesus Christ and in imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Everyone asks me why. Why does she live such a life of penance, shut away from the world? There are several answers: she and her community are making reparation for sins, and they are engaged in prayer, petition and thanksgiving to make up for so many who ignore and insult God.

But my favorite answer is “She’s in love.”

She fell in love and married Christ and, like any ardent bride, she places her Beloved above all else. Some wives follow their husbands around the world. She follows her Bridegroom on a different journey, into the recesses of contemplative prayer where she finds Love.

I once heard a priest describe the nuns’ vocation as an “incarceration of love” and the phrase cut a hard groove in my mind. To incarcerate means to imprison. How does captivity jibe with intimacy? To what extent do we have to sacrifice independence to commit to love?

I have another sister, a dedicated wife and mother of three. She has a plaque in her kitchen that says, “Having children is like being pecked to death by ducks.” Okay, a little strong, but I think most mothers can relate. Most of us know that children can bring a whole new meaning to the Gospel message of dying to oneself. Both of my sisters, in very divergent ways, are acknowledging the challenges of love.

One of the hardest things in the world to do is to love. Once we love, willingly or unwillingly, we begin to give up ourselves in pieces to another. The pieces leave vulnerable spaces. The spaces grow apace, and over time we become an amalgam of our loved ones with our original selves relegated to a core. Even the core begins to shrink.

That’s a lot to sacrifice and yet human beings seek love intuitively through friendship, romantic love, motherhood and fatherhood. The desire, the emotions come easily to most of us, but the required sacrifice does not. It’s no wonder our world, our culture, our families are filled with damaged relationships brought about by unrequited love, love that falls short of what it is intended to do.

According to Christ, love requires an incarceration of our hearts and our independence. We must be willing to donate ourselves in a continuous mode of captivity if we seek to truly love because love won’t accept anything short of it. If you need proof, just look at the marital statistics, or rather the divorce statistics. Try being married and not continually giving of yourself, in larger and larger pieces, and you will fail. Try raising children and holding onto your personal agenda. Try caring for an elderly parent yet maintaining your own independence. It doesn’t work. Love requires that we transform ourselves into organs of giving.

Now try to fulfill love’s demands without prayer, without seeking grace, and again you will fail. We can not love without sacrifice and we can not sacrifice without the love of Christ. Love is a superhuman feat and it requires supernatural graces.

Think of the greatest examples of unconditional love and you will find they are propelled by grace. Our Lady was incarcerated all of Her life for love of God. Her “Fiat,” a beautiful example of love, was made possible by the grace of Her humility or “captivity.” Christ walked the earth in a captivity of love for humankind. It was a burning sacrificial love that kept Him preaching, traveling, suffering and dying on the cross when a more “independent” type of love would have fled. He is incarcerated still, both humanly and divinely, in the tabernacles of the world.

Spending our lives loving is what we are called to do. How we love counts, but why we love is the keystone to the edifice. We love because Christ loves us, and we love others the way He loves us: in a willing incarceration of love. To lasso this high ideal and rein it into our every day existence is the greatest challenge we can face. For most of us, it’s the work of a lifetime.

For information on the Discalced Carmelites, visit www.carmelitesofrochester.org.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Body and Soul

I like this article because it is so easy to forget that our body is a GIFT from God, along with everything else. When people are suffering from the "disease of incompleteness" because they are lacking a loving relationship with God, our Divine Physician, the body is one of the first places to show it. I know this from first hand experience. I have struggled with my weight my whole life. But the last couple of years since learning about and joining God's beautiful Catholic Church, living her teachings and growing in my relationship with God, those empty and painful spaces have been filled with love and joy (even through suffering) instead of food. My weight has come down and stayed under control. I still find myself wanting to turn to fattening food for comfort in the tough times, but I now have the love of God to turn to through prayer and offering instead. Prayer has zero calories and is more filling and fulfilling than any food could ever be. Thanks be to God!


By Kevin Whelan
tob.catholicexchange.com

While I was sitting at my 10 year old son’s basketball game, a friend mentioned he’d seen some of the items I’d written about Theology of the Body. “Honestly, I really don’t know that much about this Theology of the Body,” he said. “But, the idea doesn’t make any sense to me. The body dies and the soul goes to heaven. So why worry about the body, other than keeping it from sinning? Who wants it? It’s like someone said (the philosopher Henry James) ‘We aren’t humans who have spiritual experiences. We are spirits having a Human experience’ ”

My initial reaction was like one you see in the movies: On the exterior I was calm and pleasant, while inside was a wild raving maniac screaming “You’re Wrong.”. Here it is again. The fact is my generation, that group that grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, is “The Uncatechized Generation.” It’s true we had collages and burlap wall hanging with puffy flowers and we did learn that if you love something you should let it go, but we didn’t learn our faith.

Week-after-week we proclaim, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” Yet, we fail to have a basic understanding of this essential Catholic belief. Without this, we have no chance of grasping some of the incredible places this can lead us. Even worse, we are defenseless against the way our misunderstanding ravages our culture.

In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection. (CCC 997)

God thinks this Body /Spirit combination is so incredibly awesome that he made it unique to us. Of everything God made, only humans have both a body (like animals) and an immortal spirit (like angels.) This is so crucial for us to understand that God put it in the first book of the Bible: Genesis.

Right there, after preparing a place for us, He makes us. Then He has man name all the animals just to make sure we know we are distinct from them. He shows us that unlike these other creatures inhabiting the globe; we have within us the Spirit of God.

Your Body is important! God drives the point home by loading a second creation story into Genesis wherein He makes us by breathing life into clay. Our bodies contain the Breath of God. Breath is the same word as Spirit.

God is not entrapping us is a body as a punishment or as some perverse test. We don’t become angels when we die and heaven without our bodies is not our eternal reward. He made us with bodies and that’s how he intends us to end up: glorified souls in a glorified body.

Catholics radically believe this, that’s why our worship is so physical: up, down, sit, stand, sign of the cross. This is why we are drawn to smells and bells, and gorgeous cathedrals. Even the Eucharist, proclaimed by the Church to be Christ’s body, testifies to the significance that God and the Church give to the body.

Once my friend at the basketball game realizes the huge importance of both his body and soul then he can enjoy a lifetime of contemplation as God shows him the deep meaning of this reality. This revelation changes everything.

The truth that human life is sacred becomes strikingly obvious. Of course it is, God made it. Damage to another’s body is suddenly revealed as a ghastly crime against God’s own creation. Failing to feed the hungry, while I buy another pair of sunglasses, is now sinful. A litany of concerns crops up: What I do to my body, where I take my body, how I use the bodies of others and more.

If the body has everlasting dignity along with the soul, then killing embryos is wrong. Church teaching on euthanasia, the death penalty and even pornography become more than a policy statement. This is God talking to us.

The corruption of our secular society thrives on the mythical separation of soul and body. Just witness our treatment of the ‘mass of tissue’ that the Church calls a baby, the ‘useless old man’, the ‘soulless serial-killer’ and the center-fold. Once we have removed the soul from the creation, it is open season on the body.

Heaven contains two human bodies whose reign extends even over the angels. Through the resurrection of One of them and the intercession of the other, we will be reunified body and soul in the end. This is what God intended from the beginning.

We’re not “Spirits having a human experience,” We’re human beings, made in God’s image, having a human experience (albeit an imperfect one…for now).

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Virtue of Chastity


By Robert Colquhoun
tob.catholicexchange.com

Today I would like to consider the subject of love and responsibility. The word chastity today has virtually become extinct and needs to be restored and brought back into common usage. It is a great and noble virtue, embracing purity, fidelity in heart, mind and body. As training in self mastery, it is a sure way to happiness and sets you free to love rather than use (emphasis mine). It calls us to remember friendship and forget lust. It is a stable foundation for a happy marriage. It brings integration, gratitude and joy, preparing us in faithfulness that is a reflection of God’s fidelity to his covenants. If we can’t even say no when the offer of lust is available, what will our yes be worth when the call of authentic love is at stake?

Chastity is not a no, but a yes. It is a yes to one’s future spouse. It is a yes to the call to true happiness, patience and joy and the authentic giving of oneself to the other. It is a yes to God in desiring to follow his commandments. In a lifestyle of purity, it becomes evermore easier to desire and choose what is good. Jesus tells us that “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). I have seen those yearning for meaning and direction in their lives can be enlightened to see that cherishing the gifts that God has given us, even our sexuality, leads to fulfilment. And with all great inventions and designs, the human body too has a manual in order to facilitate its best use. This is called natural law–this in part is the innate sense of good and evil that is automatically ingrained in our conscience and mind from an early age. And when we cherish the great gift of sex that God has given us, remembering the very first command to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28), we are able to live within marriage the total gift of self.

So when was the last time you heard about chastity from the media? Probably never. In our society the meaning and purpose of sex is greatly misunderstood. Love is deliberately sterilized in marriages for the sake of lust. Lust is pollution against love. It clouds the mind with filth making it incapable of thinking straight. The vision of marriage being free, total, faithful, and fruitful has been challenged and compromised by pre nuptial agreements, same sex unions, and increased co-habitation. These four pillars of marriage have been eroded away in western civilization for the sake of so-called “safe” and “safer” sex, for the convenience of quick divorces, to allegedly avoid discrimination and to emasculate men and de-feminize women by accommodating the culture of death that crushes hearts, minds, and relationships. These are all paths that very few, if any in their heart of hearts consciously desire to travel down.

If you love somebody, you will want what is truly in their best interests. If you are going to have non-marital sex, you are going to have to justify how it is in the best interests of a girl to have an increased risk, or exposure to, an unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, single parenthood, abortion, depression, divorce, sterility and poverty–and maybe a broken heart to top it all off. The heritage foundation conducted a study in 1995 of 10,000 women aged between 15 and 44, which showed how early initiation of sexual activity is clearly linked to a wide variety of negative life outcomes and decreased happiness.

A friend recently asked me after meeting his girlfriend on the Catholic Unattached Directory, “How far can you go with a girl?” How far is too far? In the end I had to tell him he was looking at the issue from the wrong perspective. He was interested in how much he could take without crossing the line. And perhaps if he crossed it a couple of times, would it really be such an issue? I told him to imagine that her previous boyfriend was with her, how far would you be willing to see her to go with him, without feeling uneasy? Or perhaps imagine that Jesus and her father are having a conference in the room when you and your girlfriend feeling frisky together. You don’t want to take your girlfriend further away from God. You don’t want to put your relationship in opposition to God’s plans and commands. Then it would be best to contemplate, “how much can I give? Can I give my whole self?” It is only in the full giving of self we truly find ourselves.

And if we know and can firmly establish that cutting out pre-marital sex cuts the odds of sexually transmitted diseases (some of which cause sterility), out of wedlock pregnancy, lowers levels of child and maternal poverty, reduces the probability of abortion and depression [1], increases the likelihood of greater marital stability and greater happiness, then why are we not promoting this message in every school in every country in the world? Why must teenagers be duped a patronizing lie? They are told they can’t really control their sexual desires so they just need to be appeased with latex. This doesn’t fully protect against pregnancy and disease- but rather is a subliminal endorsement of promiscuity. There is no condom for the heart and the soul.

[1] http://www.heritage.org/Research/Family/upload/44695_2.pdf

Friday, July 04, 2008

Oh, I like this!

This is a "bumper sticker" I came across on facebook.


A woman's heart should be so lost in God that
a man needs to seek Him in order to find her.



Whoa, that's some powerful stuff. Words to live by!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Answering my call...

From Fr. Ryan's blog

Calling all Catholic Bloggers to Re-Post this!

Here is the single clearest and simplest explanation of the relationship of Clergy to Laity that I have seen. It’s excellent!

Lotsa thanks to Fr. Z.

“The role of lay people in the world is to shape the world around them, each in their own sphere, according to their own vocation, according to their influence and means, etc., and to be sanctified in doing so, to seek the kingdom of God beyond this world by doing so. The role of priests is the teach, govern and sanctify the laity for their task, and thus seek for themselves entrance to the kingdom of heaven together with the laity to whom they bring order and the ordinary means of salvation.

“The role of liturgy in this is absolutely central. There is a reciprocal relationship between what we believe, and therefore how we pray and how we act in the macro and the micro dimensions of our lives. Since the Eucharist, both the Sacrament and Its celebration, are the “source and summit” of Christian life, how we celebrate the Eucharist affects our ability to keep hold of the kingom of God opened for us by the Logos who took up our humanity. Our celebration of the Eucharist forms us into a people of the Gospel, which in its essence concerns the proclamation of the kingdom of God.

“Formed in this way, lay people then form the world. If we pray a certain way, that will affect what we do in and to the world around us. This is one way to understand what Pope Benedict is saying when he raises up the ideal of being Christ’s liturgists in the world.

“Moreover, liturgy ought to be an encounter with mystery, and an anticipation of what we will gain in full in the kingdom of God to come. Our daily acts, informed by our lifelong participation in the Church’s liturgy, open outward to the ultimate mystery, past our own fear of death, through the doorway which is our own share in Christ’s Cross. When we are doing the work of our vocation, in prayer which is both individual the collective prayer of the Church, each of our acts opens out beyond the immediate here and now to their ultimate fulfillment in the celestial eternal liturgy before the throne of God, when Christ will have taken all things (which we also shaped) to Himself and then presents them to God, in the cosmic liturgy, so that God may be all in all.”

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

True Beauty



Here is a great post and video from Bill Donaghy on The Heart of Things blog. All women (and men) need to watch, read and retain this great information.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Deepest Hurt

By Jenny Senour
Theology of the Body on catholicexchange.com
tob.catholicexchange.com

A few weeks ago I had an amazing discussion with a dear friend, and we got to talking about the differences between men and women and their needs and desires. I mean the real differences, deep down and underneath all the posturing and the pseudo-equality psychobabble that we’ve all been carefully indoctrinated with over years of schooling… the real meat and potatoes of what makes men and women so very different, and why there are times when we’re simply drawn to our knees in frustration and confusion by the gulf that separates the masculine from the feminine.

But what we found as we dug deeper and wondered aloud over our beers, what we realized after an hour or so of conversation and anecdotal analogizing and a little laughter and even a few tears, what we found was a beautiful complementarity to the fundamental desires of the sexes, differing though those desires may be. The desires are different, but the means of fulfillment identical: union. We are made for deep communion, with God foremost, but for many of us this relationship will be typologically shadowed on earth in the spousal union. And the longing for that union, that communion of persons…therein lies the fundamental similarity of the sexes.

Think about it. Pornography, strip clubs, M-for mature video games… it all points to the deep masculine desire to behold and posses feminine beauty… the motivation is God-given, though the means have become distorted by sin and lies. A man desires to look upon a woman’s naked body and to see her, to really behold her and to be possessed by her beauty and in turn to posses it. The desire a man feels for a woman is designed to, quite literally, empty him of himself, demanding a complete self-offering, a sincere and sacrificial gift.

By the same token, a woman’s desire to be beheld as beautiful and her desire to captivate a man’s attention… could anything be more clearly advertised on magazine covers and TV shows? Every line on the cover of Cosmo cries out for masculine attention: Rock His World: 8 Ways to Satisfy Your Man; Hot Moves That Leave Him Wanting More, etc. Women are engaged in a frenetic race to capture the attention of men, exposing their beauty in a bold vulnerability that plainly asks: “do you want me?” The feminine desire for attention and affirmation is God-given; He too exposes Himself in utter vulnerability, hanging naked and bleeding upon the Cross and asking with His very body, “do you want Me?”

Our culture has confused the desire for the end, and vice versa. The real drive for communion and intimate union is ultimately intended to turn our attention to Him, but in our starved search for satiation, we’ve sacrificed the feast for the famine, choosing temporary satisfaction over ultimate bliss.

In a world broken by sin, where men and women see each other not as other persons worthy of reverence and dignity, but as objects of desire to pursue and possess, when men and women see themselves as objects… there is little room for ideas like self-sacrifice and fidelity. If love is a commodity (and love confused with lust is just that), then there’s a discrepancy between the supply and the demand, and one must stop at nothing to get one’s fair share. Even if it means a never ending search for the perfect lover, the perfect body, the perfect relationship.

In losing sight of eternity we’ve lost sight of ourselves and of each other; no longer is it a matter of two people sharing a deep longing and intimacy which affords them a foretaste of Heaven, however bittersweet. Instead, most relationships today are temporary answers the the ultimately selfish search for satisfaction and happiness. Our desires as men and women will never be ultimately fulfilled by the opposite sex: they cannot be, and they were never designed to be. Our capacity for life-giving love makes us like God, and God is nothing if not a selfless giver. To separate the desire for love and union from a sincere and total self-offering is not only wrong, it’s impossible.

Think about it. Whatever temporary satisfaction our current culture promises, it is nonetheless contrary to the nature of love, and therefore can be nothing but a cheap imitation. Love cannot be separated from sacrifice, because at the moment of division it ceases to be love. The offering of the gift and the reception of the gift are inseparably intertwined, and try though we may, we cannot separate the two. We do try though, because just maybe this time, with this person, we’ll find the happiness and the fulfillment we long for.

Unlikely, but we continue to try, and the magazines continue to sell. How does the saying go? Men give love to get sex, women give sex to get love, and both end up more empty than before.

True Love Waits… And Waits, And Waits…

By Jenny Senour
Theology of the Body on catholicexchange.com
(tob.catholicexchange.com)

“Heroic patience.” I first heard the term uttered by a friend who was struggling through a breakup. We’ve all been there, but her take on the situation was unique in that her sorrow was overlaid with a deep, deep peace and resignation.She was sad, but she wasn’t desolate. As we sat sipping wine and hashing out the details, it was clear that while her trust in the relationship was shaken, her faith in God was holding steady.

I remember being intrigued by her response, by the fact that in the face of disappointment and sadness, she remained hopeful in a manner that didn’t detract in any way from her grief.

This, I thought, this must be how a Christian suffers. Not by rejecting the pain, but by embracing it while allowing oneself to be embraced by the One who can handle something as large as disappointment, as heavy as heartache, as overwhelming as anguish.

I had recently been released back into the wild myself, and my response had been one of starts and fits of prayerful surrender interspersed with moments of real anger and frustration with God. Why? Because He wasn’t playing by my rules.

In my frustration, I forfeited what might have been some of the sweetest moments of consolation by turning my back on the only One who could possibly have comforted me. I learned a lot - but not by choice - and certainly not in the same gracious manner that I was witnessing in my beautiful, heartbroken friend.

That’s when she shared with us this concept of heroic patience. The kind of patience St. Monica must have possessed, sanctified by (and in turn, sanctifying) her decades of intercession for her wayward son. St. Augustine’s conversion was that much sweeter for the years of waiting, and how much grace was won by his mother’s prayers!

So we find that sometimes - oftentimes - in the darkest hours, during the most painful episodes, that God is most available, because we are most available. It’s no accident that pain brings us to our knees, what you do once you get there is the real question.

My friend chose to wait, patiently and prayerfully, and to trust the One who could see the bigger picture, confident that her prayers were heard and would be answered at the perfect time. This weekend, when she walks down the aisle to meet her future spouse, the very man who broke her heart all those months ago, she’ll do so in confidence and with a joy perfected in suffering. The road hasn’t been easy, but then, in the words of a very wise man, the road to Calvary wasn’t paved.

“The essential goal of the love of Christ [and of husband for wife] for the Church is her sanctification.” ~ Theology of the Body, 91:5-5

“Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her, in order to make her holy.” ~ Eph. 5:25-26