Sunday, August 31, 2008

Henry Poole is Here

Henry Poole is Here


By Leticia Velasquez
catholicexchange.com

All Henry Poole wants to do is to be left alone. In most neighborhoods, this would not be a problem, but, in this unpretentious LA neighborhood, for some odd reason, people care.

It begins with his perky real estate broker Meg, (Cheryl Hines) who is baffled by Henry’s insistence on buying a certain home which isn’t on the market and his refusal to bargain down the price of the drab bungalow he finally does buy from her. She even has the place re-stuccoed and painted as a surprise for him, since he insisted on paying full price, and he is rather ungrateful in his reaction to her kindness. She informs his next door neighbors of his peculiar behavior and they start to look in on him, provoking Henry’s exasperation. His middle aged next door neighbor Esperanza (outstanding performance by Adrianna Barraza) tries to establish ties by mean of a plate of tamales, but Henry rebuffs her. Just why is he so insistent on being alone when he is obviously miserable?

Henry Poole is a complex character ably played in a memorable performance by Luke Wilson whose portrayal reaches deeper into his emotions than any male character since Jose in Bella. He has the same air of tragedy without Jose’s nobility of character, in Henry Poole, it’s the women who are gallant. All of them have seen heartache: Esperanza has just lost the love of her life and Dawn was deserted to raise her daughter alone, yet their private grief has made them more sensitive to the pain which Henry is feeling, and it inspires them to reach out to their hurting neighbor.

Henry Poole is Here has an intriguing title and opens the question of why everyone around him cares for drunk, gloomy, intractable Henry. Indie films have a penchant for leaving clues which are only intelligible later in the film, keeping the viewers mentally perched in the edge of their seats. Henry Poole is Here is no exception, and the miraculous image of Christ which appears on the wall of his home does not turn this into a simplistic religious-themed film. This film is about the interior workings of a human heart which is raw with grief, and completely bereft of hope. It is rich in visual cues, such as the moonlit nights which give way to dawn, which happens to be the name of Henry’s beautiful next door neighbor (Radha Mitchell) whose oddly silent daughter (Morgan Lily) has been watching and recording him on her tape recorder.

Even the lyrics of the songs in the soundtrack provide insights into the tenor of Henry’s emotions. Patience, hope, and especially love are missing in the life of this man who has sought out his childhood home to find peace at the end of his life. The film flashes back to his childhood in unhappy scenes, parental feuds, and a lonely boy writing his name under the bridge. Henry has just been told that he is going to die young. This is why he is angry at the whole world, pushing it away, and seeking peace by reconnecting to his unhappy childhood even as the Hound of Heaven locks His sights on Henry.

Director Mark Pellington, who lost his wife to cancer, has visited that of the valley of shadows, and gives us a film which, as dark as it is in places, draws us into Henry’s agony, then suddenly bursts open with potent moments of joy in which the love of his neighbors and the quirky store clerk Patience (Rachel Seifert) are the conduit of grace into his life. They believe that the face of Christ has appeared on his wall, and won’t rest until Henry surrenders and accepts the love of his neighbors and comes to believe in the mysterious image which, like them, won’t allow Henry to give up hope. He does have a future, and somebody loves him.

This marvelous film will have you talking long after your post-film lattes are finished, examining your own reaction to the ways in which God has tried to touch your life through others, and your response. References to the Catholic Church are respectful, and George Lopez plays the priest who is organizing the investigation into the alleged miracle on the wall. His portrayal of a priest, though not a major part of the film, was warm and engaging yet displayed the mind of the Church in the face of extraordinary signs as that which appears on Henry’s wall.

Recommended for adolescents and older, due to sober content, mild language, revealing outfits and outbursts of rage.

Ron Irizarry Music Video

CROSS NOT OPTIONAL, SAYS POPE

Reflects on Peter's "Immature" Faith

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 31, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Taking up one's cross isn't an option, it's a mission all Christians are called to, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

Referring to the Gospel reading for today's Mass, the Holy Father reflected on the faith of Peter, which is shown to be "still immature and too much influenced by the 'mentality of this world.'”

He explained that when Christ spoke openly about how he was to "suffer much, be killed and rise again, Peter protests, saying: 'God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.'"

"It is evident that the Master and the disciple follow two opposed ways of thinking," continued the Pontiff. "Peter, according to a human logic, is convinced that God would never allow his Son to end his mission dying on the cross.

"Jesus, on the contrary, knows that the Father, in his great love for men, sent him to give his life for them, and if this means the passion and the cross, it is right that such should happen."

Christ also knew that "the resurrection would be the last word," Benedict XVI added.

Serious illness

The Pope continued, "If to save us the Son of God had to suffer and die crucified, it certainly was not because of a cruel design of the heavenly Father.

"The cause of it is the gravity of the sickness of which he must cure us: an evil so serious and deadly that it will require all of his blood.

"In fact, it is with his death and resurrection that Jesus defeated sin and death, reestablishing the lordship of God."

"But the battle is not over," he added, "Evil exists and resists in every generation, even in our own. What are the horrors of war, violence visited on the innocent, the misery and injustice that persecutes the weak, if not the opposition of evil to the Kingdom of God?

"And how does one respond to such evil if not with the unarmed love that defeats hatred, life that does not fear death? This is the mysterious power that Jesus used at the cost of not being understood and of being abandoned by many of his followers."

"Dear brothers and sisters," the Holy Father continued, "to complete the work of salvation, the Redeemer continues to draw to himself and his mission men and women who are ready to take up the cross and follow him.

"Just as with Christ, it is not 'optional' for Christians to take up the cross; it is rather a mission to be embraced out of love."

"In our present world," he added, "where the forces that divide and destroy seem to prevail, Christ does not cease to propose his clear invitation to all: Whosoever wants to be my disciple, he must renounce his selfishness and carry the cross with me."

THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE

Excerpt from: Gospel Commentary for 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap

ROME, AUG. 29, 2008 (zenit.org).- In this Sunday’s Gospel we hear Jesus who says: “Whoever wants to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. Because whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

“Denying ourselves,” is not a work of death, but one of life, of beauty and of joy. It is also a learning of the language of true love. Imagine, said the great Danish philosopher Kierkegaard, a purely human situation. Two young people love each other. But they belong to two different nations and speak completely different languages. If their love is to survive and grow, one of them must learn the language of the other. Otherwise, they will not be able to communicate and their love will not last.

This, Kierkegaard said, is how it is with us and God. We speak the language of the flesh, he speaks that of the spirit; we speak the language of selfishness, he that of love.

Denying yourself is learning the language of God so that we can communicate with him, but it is also learning the language that allows us to communicate with each other. We will not be able to say “yes” to the other -- beginning with our own wife or husband -- if we are not first of all able to say “no” to ourselves.

Keeping within the context of marriage, many problems and failures with the couple come from the fact that the man has never learned to express love for the woman, nor she for the man. Even when it speaks of denying ourselves, we see that the Gospel is much less distant from life than it is sometimes believed.

Modest is…hottest?

By Jenny Senour
tob.catholicexchange.com

You could have fooled me, Hollywood. Last time I checked, modesty has become “anathema” in the entertainment industry, tossed out the window in an attempt to more compellingly portray heaving, sweaty feminine… beauty?

Get the picture? Probably a little too clearly. Sorry, guys. But it is so interesting and so strange to watch the development of a female lead character in most major story lines, attempting to follow with interest and compassion her struggle with being “taken seriously” and “appreciated for the person she is inside.” I know when I go out grocery shopping topless, I also struggle valiantly (but alas, often in vain) to get people (men especially) to look into my eyes and see the depth of the person who is Jenny.

Kidding. I definitely wear at least a swim suit when grocery shopping. But my point is this: how do women expect to be freed from the slavery of objectification when we’re getting up every morning and slipping into our skin-tight shackles willingly? Sure, there’s a necessary level of responsibility to the dignity of the feminine person that rests heavily upon the conscience of every man. But there’s also a necessary responsibility to the dignity of the feminine person that requires women to clothe their gorgeous bodies out of respect and reverence for themselves and the men they encounter! It’s not repressive to cover up what is beautiful and desirable and, let’s face it, holy. On the contrary, it is out of deep respect and appreciation for the inherent value of the person that we cover the more intimate “details” of our bodies.

To put it more pragmatically, following the simple principle of supply and demand, what is readily available for little or no cost is going to see a sharp decrease in its market value. In other words, why buy the cow when the milk’s flowing from every freaking faucet in town? Sorry, but seriously ladies, what gives?

We desire love, we desire to be seen as desirable. This is good and natural and even holy. What is unnatural is the expectation that a man, or any other person, is going to be primarily concerned with the depth of your personality and the quality of your character when you are distracting him with a body poised and primed for sexual activity. That’s not fair! You’re short circuiting his brain and exploiting the nature of the masculine person, especially in our fallen state. It’s difficult enough for guys to maintain their purity as is… it’s the fallout from a very bad decision a long time ago. It’s impossible to call a man on to purity and chastity and greatness, to all that makes him a man, while simultaneously inciting him to lust.

This is not a matter of rights or equality. Men and women are wired differently, and we do not respond similarly to external stimuli. For a man, a little cleavage isn’t just a little sexy, it’s utterly distracting and changes the entire context of his experience of the person on the other side of the pair. It’s like wearing a shirt with a picture of an elephant screened across the front and insisting that no one think about elephants. What else are we supposed to think about?! There’s a freaking elephant on your shirt!

Maniacal ranting aside, I guess my question is this: why Hollywood do you insist on heaping insult upon injury, portraying my gender as incapable of commanding respect and denying us our dignity? What’s in it for you, to make every female lead character look like the playmate of the month, writing into her storyline the inevitable struggle to be “taken seriously?” Oh, wait. I forgot. Sex sells.

Well, carry on then. We’ll just keep watching and waiting, lamenting the decline of civilization and wondering why our 9 year-olds have eating disorders, our 12 year-olds are sexually active, and our 17 year-olds are suicidal. Give that girl a Bratz doll, a subscription to Cosmo, and a 3 month supply of Ortho. She’ll be fine.


How can we expect men to not have impure thoughts when breasts, stomachs, butts, and everything else are being shoved in their face every day. Not just on TV, in movies and on billboards but in their own backyard. God created men with the strong natural desire to procreate in order to keep the human race going. Most days (from what I hear and read) are a struggle for men to stay on the straight and narrow path without all of the extra temptations to deal with. I, as a heterosexual female, even find myself looking at, and being distracted by, cleavage or other scanty clothes on women, so I can't imagine what men must think and feel.

After reading and learning more about the Theology of the Body my eyes have really been opened and I have found a great new respect for the beauty and complementarity of the male and female body and how God designed them. That beauty deserves to be treated with the dignity and respect that God originally intended. Starting with the person living in that body loving, respecting and not "cheaply selling" the treasure they have been given. Now, when I see someone looking for attention by wearing "exposing" clothes I say a prayer that they find the love of God, which is what they are really seeking after anyway.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Heaven’s Song: Sexual Love as it was Meant to Be


By Leticia Velasquez
catholicexchange.com

Prepare yourself to be profoundly moved. It’s nearly impossible to read Christopher West’s new book, Heaven’s Song without a radical regeneration of your view of marriage, and it’s relationship with the Church. It’s no accident that George Weigel called Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body a “ticking theological time bomb that, when it goes off, will ignite the New Springtime of Evangelization”. This is the book with the secret to renewing the Church by revealing the secrets of the most beautiful love poem in the world, the “Song of Songs” which tell us what Our Lord intended for marriage to be; a foretaste of ‘heaven’s song’.

Heaven’s Song is based upon recently-discovered writings on the Theology of the Body, the lectures given by the late Pope John Paul II in his Wednesday audiences. These lectures were considered ‘too sensitive’ for delivery in such a public forum, out of respect for young ears. This book is for those of us who want to understand why Christ used marital imagery in describing His relationship to the Church, and why His first public miracle was the turning of water into wine at the Wedding of Cana. Marriage is a central theme of Catholic theology, and once this is properly understood by theologians and laymen alike, a new wave of evangelization will be initiated. This most-timely explanation of the “Good News” has the irresistible attraction of the tender invitation of Jesus to the Samaritan woman at the well, to leave her life of sexual sin and drink of living water. This is the language which will be able to reach the sin-saturated, disillusioned youth who have been searching for love and are about to give up on finding it.

West asserts that society is obsessed with sex, not because they are on the wrong track but precisely because they are onto something; the marital embrace can be a taste of unearthly bliss. But they are going about it all wrong, and they need the timeless wisdom of the Catholic Church, which, now, more powerfully than ever, through the Theology of the Body can set a twisted society straight. According to West, society’s sexual obsession with sex is like a man who has the key to a door wherein lies a treasure, however he remains fascinated with the key, and never uses it to turn the lock to discover the treasure. This treasure is available in its richest form to Catholics as they unite their marriages through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with the cross of Christ. This gift of the fullness of marriage is Christ’s gift to His Bride the Church, and this new explanation of this concept may well be the greatest legacy of Pope John Paul II.

The beautiful imagery from the “Song of Songs” long used in meditation by mystics like St Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Louis de Monfort, were interpreted by Pope John Paul, and West unites these insights in comprehensible and often poetic language. Some passages of Heaven’s Song just beg to be read aloud, and prayerfully shared between spouses as a meditation. You can almost hear the heavenly music playing within the poetic language. I read parts of the book in front of the Blessed Sacrament, while preparing for Holy Mass and it re-awakened my appreciation for Christ’s self-donation in the Blessed Sacrament, as well as the gift of my marriage.

Nearly all marriages fall far short of the Lord’s plan for marriage to be the mutual sincere gift of spouses to one another, a reflection of Christ’s complete gift of Himself on the cross. The emotions I felt as I read Heaven’s Song were partly remorse at how far we fall short of this ideal, and partly joy at the splendor which a married couple can achieve, through the grace of the sacrament, to bring marital love closer to perfect, self-sacrificing love of Our Lord. Heaven’s Song brought my own nuptial Mass to mind where we read the prayer of the wedding night of Tobit and Sarah, a central piece of this book. The importance of seeing the sacrifice necessary to obtain the joys of marital bliss, offered to God in prayer, united with the Holy Sacrifice, is explained in a powerfully-convincing fashion.

Christopher West has been presenting Theology of the Body in seminars and on TV for some time now, and has “heard it all”. Each chapter begins and ends with a story of a couple whose marriage is in trouble, and he uses TOB to diagnose where they went wrong. The origins of many marital problems can be resolved by a careful reading and discussion of this book. This makes this book a natural for marriage preparation courses, and marriage renewal retreats. I hope it is also taught in universities and seminaries so that future leaders in the Church can reach the next generation of Catholics with the revolutionary message of this book: “I remember thinking, as I read [Theology of the Body] for the first time, that somehow I had chanced upon the long-lost treasure that every person longed for, the path to the banquet of love that truly satisfies the hungers of the human heart.”

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Heaven’s Song.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

An exciting life

My favorite line in this article is:

"...the worst day with God is far better than the best day without God."

I have come across trying to express that sentiment before but couldn't quite find the words. Jennifer's simple and truthful statement has now been added to my list of favorite quotes on the right hand side of the page. Thanks Jennifer! : )



By Jennifer F.
Conversion Diary blog


Originally published on August 27, 2007, the day before labor was scheduled to be induced for baby #3. I wasn't planning on doing another post in the Flashback Series this week, but given the subject matter and that it was written exactly one year ago today, I thought it was appropriate.


One thing I've always wanted is an interesting, exciting life. By "exciting" I don't mean that I need all my days to be packed with BASE jumping while handling rattlesnakes, but just that I've always craved a life where I'd be challenged and stimulated, where there'd frequently be something new and different going on, where I'd not spend much time stuck in a rut or bored.

And back in my pre-conversion life, I was pretty sure I'd hooked that up. When my husband and I were first together we traveled extensively, lived in the downtown entertainment district, went from zip-lining in the jungles of Costa Rica to underground raves in San Francisco, took big risks with our careers, threw big parties that included fascinating people from all walks of life, involved ourselves in interesting side businesses and organizations, etc. etc. I felt like I had done what I wanted to do: I felt like I lived an exciting life.

This has come to mind lately as friends who've known me for a long time have called to ask how I feel about tomorrow, when I'll have my third baby in three years. A couple of girlfriends who have known me the longest have expressed a particularly pointed curiosity about what I think of all this. "Your life now is so, umm," one friend said as she struggled for a way to phrase it, "so different now than it used to be. Do you miss it?"

When she asked that question, if I missed my old life, I realized that I really don't at all. The biggest reason is, of course, that back then I didn't know that God existed. As I've said before, the worst day with God is far better than the best day without God. But there's another reason I don't miss it, one that may surprise some people: it wasn't that exciting. Not compared to my life now, anyway.

While I probably experienced more surface-level thrills back then such as stepping off of a plane in a new country, or shaking hands with some political bigwig whose fundraising party we had managed to sneak into, it was all basically predictable. Scheduled. I was firmly under the illusion that my life was mine to control, so all excitement had its proper place on the calendar. And when events played out that I had not anticipated, that did not fit with my plans for my life, I'd go into a mode of trying to get everything back in line with an iron fist, wallowing in frustration and angst until I forced things back on track.

It was like riding a roller coaster at an amusement park: exciting, yes. But nice and safe and orderly. Plenty of surface-level thrills without much unpredictability. The car stays safely on the tracks and your route is carefully controlled.

Discovering God and deciding to trust him with my future and to live my life according to his rules has been like getting off the roller coaster and leaving the amusement park -- not for a life of boredom, as I might have imagined it to be when I was younger, but for a life of true excitement. If all the carefully planned activities of my early 20's were like riding a roller coaster, turning my life and my future over to God is like whitewater rafting on an uncharted river. It's a life filled with plenty of slow, steady parts where I'm just floating along and taking in the scenery; and sometimes there's rough water; other times there are huge rapids and real danger; but I never really know what's around the next corner.

When I was younger I would have been shocked and a bit incredulous at hearing that living with a strict faith like orthodox Catholicism would lead to a more rich, more exciting life than anything I'd ever experienced. But, really, it makes sense. What is more intriguing than the fact that the Creator of the universe has a will for each one of us at every moment of every day, and that we are able to tap into that knowledge? What is more exciting than knowing that all we need to do is take life day by day, discern where God seems to be leading us this morning or this afternoon, and then just sit back and hold on for the ride, which may very well take us into uncharted territory that we would have never discovered by ourselves?

I've thought about this many times over the past few weeks as I've worked to get the house ready for the baby. As I was assembling the new crib yesterday I thought with a smirk, "Boy, I would have never guessed that this is what I would be doing this weekend." A year ago I would not have imagined that I'd have another baby in August 2007. That certainly wasn't my plan. But these past nine months have been a wild ride, and something tells me that after tomorrow I'll have eight squirmy pounds of living proof that God's plans are always more exciting than our own.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Nancy Pelosi is Misrepresentin'

Please take a few moments to watch the short video and read this post by Bill Donaghy about what Nancy Pelosi said last weekend. UGH! That's all I can say, so many thanks to Bill for putting together a much better response to this statement which I can share and direct you to.

Unfulfilled desire for true love

From Coherent Chastity Education
tob.catholicexchange.com

Sexual activity is fueled by an unfulfilled desire for true love. In the words of Josh Harris, “Lust would like us to believe that it can make us happy. If we just give it what it wants, it will stop pestering us and be satisfied. Lust is never satisfied, you can’t bargain with it and come out a winner. Lust hijacks sex. It wants to train your desires to delight in the thrill of the forbidden so that you lose your Godly appetite for what is good.” Close physical involvement is not equivalent to true affection.

With this is mind, how we communicate that the body in all its dimensions is a wonderful part of creation and is important for building the culture of life. In this respect chastity education is part of developing an authentic maturity that allows us to appreciate and honor the nuptial meaning of the human body. Breaking open John Paul’s theology of the body for teenagers is a very important task today. Described by George Weigel as a “theological bombshell waiting to go off,” the theology of the body helps us to see the gift and mystery of human sexuality, and to invite the author of love and life into our lives.

Through a coherent chastity education, a civilization of life and love can be built helping to reduce the number of abortions, divorce, STDs and heartache by promoting the virtues of purity, modesty and self respect. If we can pierce the lies and mistakes of the sexual revolution that has brought false freedom and misery, we can help to venerate the beauty and dignity of marriage and celebrate an authentic feminism. Chastity helps to answer the questions: Who am I? Who is God in my life? How do I find love? Chastity is a gift from God, and like lifting weights and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it gets easier to live every day. (Bonnacci)

The New Evangelization Strikes Again!

This is pretty cool! You just never know where, when and how God is at work. Since we don't always get to see or understand what God is doing here and now I am excited to see the "whole picture" when my time comes. I just hope it's a good show, not a horror flick! ; )

By Steve Pokorny
tob.catholicexchange.com

Anyone who has been bitten by the TOB bug knows just how drastically it can impact one’s life. The itching, burning, cracking….oh, wait, that’s my poison oak rash….Seriously, when one comes to know of the love of God in a such a personal way, realizing that there is an intimate plan for them, and that they are able to experience redemption from the wounds they have experienced within their sexuality, it changes everything. We come to realize that our lives are not forfeited, but the Jesus Christ is truly working within us, changing us from the inside out. I have seen it happen time and again, and it is always a remarkable site.

I would like to share the following story from a list serve that I am on with Yahoo Groups, about a woman who has discovered a unique way to evangelize with TOB. People are so very thirsty for the Truth, and in a culture that wants to suck dry our ability to love, this is such a welcome oasis.

Our friend Ellen writes:

Took my car in to the mechanics last week & wound up being there much longer than anticipated. My daughter and I decided to go for a walk while waiting. We left our pile of books on the table in the waiting room (her math workbook & Nancy Drew & my copy of TOTB).

We returned about an hour later to find a gentlemen perusing TOTB. I sat down & picked up the rest of our books without saying anything. The gentleman looked up, clearly startled.

“I’m so sorry. Is this your book? I thought it was waiting room material.” he stammered.

I’m thinking to myself “sure — it fits right in with the old copies of Newsweek, Good Housekeeping, and Entertainment Weekly that are strewn about…”

“Not a problem. You’re welcome to read it.” I respond.

He continues reading. After a few minutes, he exclaims, “It’s just that I’ve never heard anything like this. It’s amazing. It’s like God has directed me to every page that I’ve read!”

I laughed.

He continued reading, clearly not wanting a discussion.

After a few more minutes, he asked “Where can I buy this?”

So I sent him home with his very own copy of TOTB, and he was so excited! It reminded me of when I first started studying it — amazing how it brings that reaction of “Yes! This is what I have been waiting for.”

So… the moral is… start carrying TOB around with you everywhere!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

T-Shirt Evangilization


This is the size of a baby (not a blob of tissue, as you can see) in the womb at 8 weeks old.


By Emily Bissonnette
tob.catholicexchange.com

Usually one for evangelizing by wearing Catholic or pro-life T-shirts, on this particular Saturday morning I wanted nothing more than to blend into the crowd with something innocuous, so I could complete my errands without being “bothered” by questions or insults. Looking into my dresser drawers, however, I was unable to find something that did not include a religious or moral message. I was able to find a shirt from a local pro-life walk with small words in the corner that simply said, “Cross the Bridge for Life.” Confident that no one would notice or know to what the words were referring, I took off for a productive Saturday morning.

I often feel that I have developed the unique talent of finding the longest possible line in a store, even if at first glance it appears to be the shortest. Such was the case on this Saturday morning, as I waited behind one woman who had returns, exchanges and commentaries to offer the cashier. As I internally rolled my eyes, the middle-aged cashier moved on to my purchases. Within seconds, she glanced at my shirt and asked, “What’s ‘Cross the Bridge for Life?’” Rather surprised, I answered as generically as possible, “It’s a pro-life walk across the bridge from Newport to Cincinnati.”

“Pro-life? Do you mean anti-abortion?” she queried. “Just this morning God woke me up early - He really did - and I turned on the television and watched a program talking about young people today who don’t believe in evolution but that God created us and who are also pro-life. Now I see you here with that pro-life shirt. If this keeps up, I’m going to have to change who I’m voting for.” She proceeded to inform me of her current candidate, who, I can affirm, supports abortion.

It was at this point that I was reminded yet again that God really does have a sense of humor. I gladly took the opportunity to explain why it’s so important to vote pro-life. After explaining that it makes no sense to support a candidate who doesn’t support the most basic right to life, she agreed saying, “If someone can’t stand up for people who can’t fight for themselves, then what help would be given to people who can help themselves?” She muttered something about accountability, which I didn’t fully understand, but I hope that seeds were planted that morning that impact the building of a culture of life in our society.

It struck me that although I had been selfish in not wanting to be a witness to God’s love and to the beauty of life that morning, that God still gave me the opportunity. My encounter with the cashier served to reinforce in my mind the necessity of being always willing and ready to give a reason for our hope. We never know who God will place in our paths, or what He will call us to do to impact an individual’s life.

My life is a gift, as is yours and as is the cashier’s. I can’t take credit for being on the earth at this particular moment. I can live my life as a thanksgiving that God chose to place me here at this moment. And so I must eagerly follow the promptings God places on my heart to live my life as a gift in return to Him.

Perhaps this scenario is most eloquently summarized by our late Holy Father, John Paul II. In the following statement, from Go in Peace: A Gift of Enduring Love, John Paul II shared a beautiful analogy about our responsibility to touch the lives of others:

“This life is a talent entrusted to all of us so that we can transform it and increase it, making it a gift to others. No person is an iceberg drifting on the ocean of history. Each one of us belongs to a great family, in which we have our own place and our own role to play. Selfishness can make us deaf and dumb to other people’s needs; love opens our eyes and our hearts, enabling us to make the original and irreplaceable contribution that - together with the thousands of deeds of so many of our other brothers and sisters, often distant and unknown - converges to form a mosaic of compassion and charity that can change the tide of history.” (81)

In the last couple of weeks I have had a family member and a friend say (well, write in emails since nobody will actually TALK to each other anymore) some harsh and not so loving words about my faith and the way I live and talk about it all of the time now. I haven't, and I won't, apologize for the way I live my life and share my thoughts because I am only living and speaking the TRUTH as I now know it. And I know that these attacks are coming out of fear because they don't know or understand where I am at or where my thoughts and words are coming from. I was in exactly the same spot only a couple of years ago. They are living the secular life that the world tells us is right, but in reality is oh so wrong. I want to share my thoughts, feelings and outlook with them so they too can find and live a life of peace and fulfillment in the truth with God. But it's apparent that they aren't ready to hear the truth, and if someone isn't ready they certainly aren't going to listen. I know that from experience as well! So, for now I pray for my family and friends and for strength, forgiveness and patience that God's will be done. And I WILL keep living and speaking the truth as the Spirit moves me because you just never know who is listening and where those words might lead, as this article shows.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Is your marriage fireproof?

This video Love is Not a Fight is from a new movie Fireproof that is coming out at the end of September. It looks like it could be good. I like the message of this song and what they show of the movie.

Novena for Faithful Citizenship

The USCCB is inviting Catholics to pray a novena for life, justice, and peace called the Novena for Faithful Citizenship before the November election. It is available as a podcast you can listen to or as text.

Options for praying the Novena for Faithful Citizenship:

—Start on September 2 and pray for nine consecutive Tuesdays, up until the general election.
—Start the Novena on any day of the week, whenever people gather, and pray on that day every week.
—Begin praying the Novena on October 26, nine days before the election, and continue each consecutive day.
—Create any combination that works for you and your community—and feel free to pray the Novena more than once (1 Thes 5:17).


The novena can be printed or listened to at faithfulcitizenship.org.

Humanae Vitae and True Sexual Freedom — Part 6 of 6


By Christopher West
tob.catholicexchange.com

This column concludes my series of reflections on Pope Paul VI’s document Humanae Vitae, which we have been reviewing in light of its fortieth anniversary. In the last installment we examined the difference between rendering sex sterile with contraception and choosing to abstain from intercourse during the fertile time. If one can see the difference between telling a lie and remaining silent, one can tell the difference between contraception and periodic abstinence.

One of the main objections to Humanae Vitae is that following its teaching (that is, practicing abstinence when avoiding pregnancy) impedes couples from expressing their love for one another. But of what “love” are we speaking: authentic conjugal love that images God, or its perennial counterfeit - lust?

God is the one who united marital love and procreation. Therefore, since God cannot contradict himself, as Vatican II taught, a “true contradiction cannot exist between the divine laws pertaining to the transmission of life and those pertaining to the fostering of authentic conjugal love” (Gaudium et Spes 51). It may well be difficult to follow the teaching of Humanae Vitae, but it could never be a contradiction of love.

Following the Church’s teaching is difficult because of the internal battle we all experience between love and lust. Lust impels us, and impels us very powerfully, towards sexual intercourse. But if sexual intimacy results from nothing more than lust, it’s not love. On the contrary, it’s a negation of love. Love is being ready to sacrifice oneself entirely for the good of the beloved, and for the good of the offspring that might result. Lust seeks the pleasure and sensation of the sexual act, but without the sincere gift of oneself.

If one is unprepared to receive a child, the only responsible choice is to abstain from that act that leads to a child. And as any married couple knows, abstaining from sex can be a profound act of love. In fact, there are many occasions in married life when a couple might want to engage in sexual intercourse, but have a serious reason to abstain. Maybe one of the spouses is sick. Maybe it’s after childbirth. Maybe they’re at the in-laws and there are thin walls. If a couple can’t abstain in these situations, their love is actually called into question. It’s the same thing with needing to avoid a pregnancy. If the couple cannot abstain, their love is called into question.

What purpose does contraception really serve anyway? This might sound odd at first, but let it sink in. Contraception was not invented to prevent pregnancy. We already had a 100% safe, 100% reliable way of doing that - abstinence. In the final analysis, contraception serves one purpose: to spare us the difficulty we experience when confronted with the choice of abstinence. When all the smoke is cleared, contraception was invented because of our lack of self-control; in other words, contraception was invented to serve the indulgence of lust.

Why do we spay or neuter our dogs and cats? Why don’t we just ask them to abstain? If we spay and neuter ourselves with contraception, we’re reducing the “great mystery” of the one flesh union to the level of Fido and Fidette in heat. What distinguished us from the animals in the first place? Freedom! God gave us freedom as the capacity to love. Contraception negates this freedom. It says, “I can’t abstain.” Hence, contracepted intercourse not only attacks the procreative meaning of sex, as John Paul II observed, “it also ceases to be an act of love” (TOB 123:6).

If you can’t say no to sex, what does your “yes” mean? Only the person who is free with the freedom for which Christ set us free (see Gal 5:1) is capable of authentic love. Authentic love, as the Catechism observes, requires “an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy” (CCC 2339).

This is what is at stake in the prophetic teaching of Humanae Vitae: man’s true peace and happiness. I’m convinced that the teaching of Humanae Vitae - which is still being rejected in the name of sexual “liberation” - will one day be vindicated as the only path to authentic sexual freedom: the freedom to love.

Embrace your cross

Here is a great blog from Bill Donaghy (The Heart of Things blog and podcast) about embracing the suffering that God allows in your life. I need to be reminded often to embrace my crosses with trust in God, not sorrow.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I need a home, please


How can you resist those beautiful eyes?!?! What a cutie!


My name is Buster (or whatever you would like to name me) and I need a good home. If you know anybody who would like me, please let Dawn know. I am about 8 weeks old, a boy of course, and want someone to love me. I am very curious, playful and would make a good addition to anyone's home.

Thank you!

Monday, August 18, 2008

NFP — It Ain’t Your Momma’s Rhythm


This picture is of a great Catholic family that lives here in Bismarck, the Armstrongs. They are a family of 12, and love it. Listen to this great talk from Mark and Patty (the mom and dad of the crew) about how this family came to be.


I love the way this article is written. It presents the (serious) facts with a good sense of humor. It made me start thinking... if the other denominations are worried about Catholics "taking over the world" because of our openness and willingness to have large, loving families from God, why aren't they having more babies? Hmmmmmmm...


By Mary Ellen Barrett
catholicexchange.com


“Are they all yours?”

I get asked that question at least twice a week these days. It doesn’t bother me very much since I realize that having seven children makes me a bit unique by societal norms. I can’t imagine why anyone would think I would willingly take other people’s children with me to Costco or the dentist (I wouldn’t) but it’s one of those questions that pop out of people’s mouths when they see me and my tribe out and about trying to accomplish those everyday errands that wear mothers out. The next few questions are the ones I usually find mildly annoying to downright offensive.

Do you know what causes that?

Why don’t you get that fixed?

Do you have a TV?

Are you Catholic? Irish? Uneducated?

Yes, I’ve been asked all of those questions usually in front of the children and many more questions and comments have been addressed to me that are not fit for publication here. I try to be patient, I smile and suppress my natural sarcastic tendencies and answer as honestly and cheerfully as possible.

Yes, they are all mine.

Yes, I know what causes it and we prefer it to TV.

We can’t fix what isn’t broken.

I am both Catholic and Irish as well as being really well-educated, thank you very much. I have the paid-off loan documents to prove it.

Recently, on the soccer field of all places, some one came up with a different approach.

“So you’re one of those Catholics that don’t believe in birth control.”

This was one I could sink my teeth into. Now I believe in birth control in so far as it exists. Unlike the Loch Ness monster or leprechauns which do not exist, so I do not believe in them. What I do believe about artificial birth control is that it is intrinsically evil, immoral and a mortal sin. Why do I believe this? Well, the easy answer is because the church tells me so. Now before you give me the whole story about the old men in the Vatican wanting to populate the earth in Catholics by keeping all of the women pregnant for twenty years at a time let me just say: lots of women work in the Vatican; no Catholic document says you should have as many children as humanly possible during your fertile years, and; not all the men in the Vatican are old.

That’s the easy answer. If I were the type of person to accept easy answer I would not have had to pay back all those loans for school. I like to know the reason for things. Why is it a mortal sin? What makes it intrinsically wrong to use artificial means of birth control?

The marital act has two purposes; it is both unitive and pro-creative.

The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life (CCC 2363).

Unitive means that it brings husband and wife together in a close and special way. It is for their good and for the good of their marriage. A man and wife give themselves to each other completely and exclusively. It is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves to each other for as long as they both shall live.

The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude (CCC 2362).

Procreative means that each act of marriage be open to life (CCC 2367).

The church does recognize that there are times when it is advisable to avoid pregnancy. The reasons for doing this can be highly personal and should be between the couple, their confessor and God. It is imperative to point out that the reasons should be ones that stem out of a generous and genuine desire to be a responsible parent and a desire to do God’s will.

Toward this end the church, and this diocese (Rockville Center) in particular, teach a method of spacing pregnancies called Natural Family Planning (NFP). NFP teaches a couple to recognize the signs of fertility in a woman so that each month they can prayerfully consider God’s will for their family.

With this in mind it just makes sense that to put something between these two reasons for marital intimacy would thwart the sacramental aspect of the marriage and deny God’s will. Hence the mortal sin part of the problem. It is God’s great joy to have baptized people joined in the bonds of marriage and sanctified by the sacrament. It is His great joy to have us be blessed by the fruits of this sacrament: a close and loving relationship and children. Children are a gift, a blessing and means to our salvation.

Let’s get back to that soccer field conversation.

The woman with whom I was speaking asked if I did the Rhythm thing. I have no rhythm and I told her so. Rhythm is an outdated method of calculating ovulation by using a calendar and predicting fourteen days into a woman’s cycle she would conceive. Since not everyone has that kind of cycle it was not a very successful method. I explained that NFP was scientifically based and used by many people of all faiths since it was the healthiest method available.

The lady then pointed out that since I had seven children I was not such a great poster child for this method.

Sigh.

It is exactly because I have seven children that I am a great poster child, even though I really don’t want to be on any posters. Had NFP not been part of our marriage I would likely have a much larger family by now. When there is no good reason not to conceive we simply don’t watch the fertility signs and let God plot the course. This is not always easy and we come in for a good bit of criticism for our beliefs but the fact is we have a good marriage. We have beautiful children and we have faith — faith that God will provide us what we need both materially and emotionally to care for these precious beings He has entrusted to our care. It is because NFP works that I have great confidence that what God plans for our family will ultimately end with us united in heaven. It is because NFP works that I can joyfully tell you that our eighth baby will, with the help of God, join us here in January.

Deo Gratias. (Thanks be to God.)

Other information about life issues can be found at onemoresoul.com.

Heart Reasons!

By Mark Shea
Words of Encouragement
catholicexchange.com

Hebrews 11:1-2

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old received divine approval.

We live in a skeptical age. We also live in an incredibly credulous age. That’s not surprising, for people tend to see-saw between extremes. Those who refuse to believe in God don’t believe in nothing; they believe in anything. And so the same people who laugh at faith in God are often the ones who believe in crystals, past life regression, or spoon bending. And the hard-boiled skeptics who laugh at this and urge us to put our faith in Science are often the ones who find preposterous the idea that God made loaves and fishes from nothing 2000 years ago, yet have no difficulty believing Nothing made the entire universe 12 billion years ago. They insist that the Faith is irrational and Reason is superior yet indulge their own irrationalities in the next breath. In contrast, Catholic faith teaches us that Faith is superior to mere knowledge because Faith is the way we know persons and knowledge is merely the way we know things. I can weigh, measure, and take the temperature of my wife all day long without getting to know her. To know her, I must love her and to love her I must trust her and have faith in her. It’s the same with God. We love God, not because we are too childish to think, but because the best human thought by the greatest minds in the world is not sufficient to grasp him. Only faith can do that. The heart has reasons that reason knows nothing of.

“Why I Love the Baby of the Man Who Raped Me”


Here is a great article about a topic that I questioned during my conversion as I was learning the truth taught by the Catholic Church. Back then I agreed that if there was one time that I thought an abortion was acceptable it was in the case of a rape. Now, however, this story reiterates what I feel to be the right choice. Life! Life is always the right choice because God created that baby for a reason with a purpose. And look at the love that is growing in this family.

God has a plan for every situation. As hard as it may be sometimes, we have to keep our faith and trust where God is leading us.

Please, God, give us the strength to always follow you!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Contraception v. Natural Family Planning — Part 5 of 6


By Christopher West
tob.catholicexchange.com

For several columns now we’ve been reflecting on the Church’s teaching on contraception in commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s letter Humanae Vitae. We’ve observed that sexual intercourse is meant to incarnate the marriage commitment itself, and that an integral part of that commitment is openness to children.

So, does fidelity to the wedding vows imply that couples are to leave the number of children they have entirely to “chance”? No. In calling couples to a responsible love, the Church calls them also to a responsible parenthood.

Pope Paul VI stated clearly that those are considered “to exercise responsible parenthood who prudently and generously decide to have a large family, or who, for serious reasons and with due respect to the moral law, choose to have no more children for the time being or even for an indeterminate period” (HV 10). Notice that large families should result from prudent reflection, not “chance.” Notice too that couples must have “serious reasons” to avoid pregnancy and must respect the moral law.

Assuming a couple have a serious reason to avoid a child (this could be financial, physical, psychological, etc.), what could they do that would not violate the consummate expression of their sacrament? In other words, what could they do to avoid conceiving a child that would not render them unfaithful to their wedding vows? You’re doing it right now (I presume). They could abstain from sex. There is nothing wrong with abstaining from sex when there’s a good reason to do so. The Church has always recognized that the only method of “birth control” that respects the language of divine love is “self-control.”

A further question arises: Would a couple be doing anything to falsify their sexual union if they embraced during a time of natural infertility? Take, for example, a couple past childbearing years. They know their union will not result in a child. Are they violating their vows if they engage in intercourse with this knowledge? Are they contracepting? No. Contraception, by definition, is the choice to engage in an act of intercourse, but then do something else to render it sterile. This can be done by using various devices, hormones, surgical procedures, and the age-old method of withdrawal.

Couples who use natural family planning (NFP) when they have a just reason to avoid pregnancy never render their sexual acts sterile; they never contracept. They track their fertility, abstain when they are fertile and, if they so desire, embrace when they are naturally infertile. Readers unfamiliar with modern NFP methods should note that they are 98-99% effective at avoiding pregnancy when used properly. Furthermore, any woman, regardless of the regularity of her cycles, can use NFP successfully. This is not your grandmother’s “rhythm method.”

To some people this seems like splitting hairs. “What’s the big difference,” they ask, “between rendering the union sterile yourself and just waiting until it’s naturally infertile? The end result is the same: both couples avoid children.” To which I respond, what’s the big difference between killing Grandma and just waiting until she dies naturally? End result’s the same thing: dead Grandma. Yes, but one is a serious sin called murder, and the other is an act of God.

If a person can tell the difference between euthanasia and natural death, he can tell the difference between contraception and NFP. It’s the same difference. I’m not equating contraception and murder. That’s not the analogy. Rather, Grandma’s natural death and a woman’s natural period of infertility are both acts of God. But in killing Grandma or in rendering sex sterile, we take the powers of life into our own hands - just like the deceiver originally tempted us to do - and make ourselves like God (see Gn 3:5).

This is why Pope John Paul II concludes that contraception “is to be judged so profoundly unlawful as never to be, for any reason, justified. To think or to say the contrary is equal to maintaining that in human life, situations may arise in which it is lawful not to recognize God as God” (address Oct. 10, 1983).

If you have resisted the Church’s teaching on contraception, maybe it’s time to give it some more thought.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Quote of the day

From "Start by carrying the crosses you already have"
Conversion Diary blog


I began to see the drastic difference between thinking approving thoughts about suffering inconveniences gracefully and actually suffering inconveniences gracefully: I saw that it was the difference between seeking God with your head and seeking God with your heart. It was the difference between having an idea of God and having a relationship with God.

Anything is easier than carrying the cross that's in front of you right here, right now.

And yet, as difficult as it is, I'm starting to think that it is when we start doing this, when we begin to calmly accept whatever cross stares us in the face at this moment, we will find ourselves on a fast track to true, deep conversion.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Marital intimacy with Jesus

From: Why Ever Virgin?
by Kevin Whelan
tob.catholicexchange.com

In his teaching, John Paul II sheds additional light specifically with respect to the virginal marriage lived by Mary and Joseph. Marriage, we have to remember, is given to us as a sign that points the way to our ultimate goal: union with the Blessed Trinity. In fact, the ecstasy of a sexual union is a tiny taste of what we will experience in union with the Trinity forever.

The problem with most of us is that we look at marriage as an end in itself. In fact, it is sometimes difficult for men; we often see marriage as little more than ‘legal sex.’ Seen in this way, the concept of Mary and Joseph refraining from the sexual union of marriage seems unnatural. Right here is where the light shines on the truth revealed by the sign.

Mary and Joseph were in unity with the Trinity right here on earth. They were living in the destination. The second person of the Trinity lived in their house and slobbered on them. The ecstasy they experienced from this unity far exceeded that of the unity they could have enjoyed in the sign (their marriage).

Like Joseph and Mary, husbands and wives should include Jesus in their sexual union. They should invoke the holy name of Jesus in prayer just before they give themselves to each other in the sexual union. Admittedly, this may feel a little strange when it is first started, but this is where Jesus belongs. Men should take the lead in this prayer; your wives will love it! (Wow! I never thought of that before. I believe it would be a little awkward at first but I can imagine the result of increased intimacy it would create. That's some good stuff!)

The other thing Mary and Joseph teach me is that I should always look beyond the sign that I am living in my marriage and look to the real union to which I am called: the Trinity. If I’m able to do that, I stand a better chance of not abusing the sign (extra-marital sex is a serious sin) and thereby loosing the everlasting ecstasy that Jesus offers me.

To do all this, I pray to St. Joseph for help. He had the extraordinary grace to treat his wife with supernatural respect. I think he is willing to pray that I receive the grace to treat my wife with the respect she deserves: patience, gentleness and being hers alone.

Sex Speaks: True and False Prophets — Part 4 of 6


By Christopher West
tob.catholicexchange.com

July 25th marks the fortieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s famous re-affirmation of the Church’s constant teaching on contraception. In commemoration, we continue our reflections on this critical issue.

I ended my last column by asking: How healthy would a marriage be if spouses were regularly unfaithful to their wedding vows? On the other hand, how healthy would a marriage be if spouses regularly renewed their vows with an ever increasing commitment to them? Then I stated, if you’d prefer the latter type of marriage, you have just accepted the teaching of Humanae Vitae.

This is what is at stake: fidelity to the wedding vows; fidelity to love. At the altar, the priest or deacon asks the couple: “Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage? Do you promise to be faithful until death? Do you promise to receive children lovingly from God?” The bride and groom each say “yes.”

In turn, spouses are meant to express this same “yes” with the “language of their bodies” whenever they become one flesh. Sexual intercourse, then, is where the words of the wedding vows become flesh. Or, at least, it’s meant to be.

Everything the Church teaches about sex begins to make sense when viewed through this lens. The Church’s teaching is not a prudish list of prohibitions. It’s a call to embrace our own “greatness,” our own God-given dignity. It’s a call to live the love we so ardently desire. It’s a call to embrace divine love and share it with one’s spouse bodily.

John Paul II goes so far as to describe the body and sexual union as “prophetic.” A prophet is someone who speaks for God, who proclaims his mystery of love. This is what the marital embrace is meant to proclaim. But, as the Pope adds, we must be careful to distinguish true and false prophets (see TOB 106:4). If we can speak the truth with our bodies, we can also speak lies.

As a sacrament, marriage not only signifies God’s life and love, it really participates in God’s life and love. However, for sacraments to convey God’s life and love, the physical sign must accurately signify the spiritual reality. For example, through the physical sign of cleansing with water, baptism truly brings about a spiritual cleansing from sin. But if you were to baptize someone with mud or tar, no spiritual cleansing would take place because the physical sign is now one of making dirty. This would actually be a counter-sign or an “anti-sacrament.”

All of married life is meant to be a sign of God’s life and love. But nowhere do spouses signify this more profoundly than when they become “one flesh.” Here, like no other moment in married life, spouses are called to participate in God’s life and love. But this will only happen if their sexual union accurately signifies God’s love. Therefore, as John Paul II concludes, we can speak of moral good and evil in the sexual relationship based on whether the couple gives to their union “the character of a truthful sign” (TOB 37:6).

Insert contraception into the language of the body and (knowingly or unknowingly) the couple engages in a counter-sign of God’s mystery, a kind of “anti-sacrament.” Rather than proclaiming, “God is life-giving love,” the language of contracepted intercourse says, “God is not life-giving love.” In this way spouses (knowingly or unknowingly) become “false prophets.” They blaspheme. Their bodies still proclaim theology, but not Christian theology; not a theology of the God who reveals himself as Father, as Son, and as Holy Spirit. Contracepted sex, whether we realize this or not, attacks our creation in the image of the Trinity at its roots. From this perspective we can see that contraception is actually a sly betrayal of the deepest truth of our humanity.

The language of the body has “clear-cut meanings” all of which are “programmed,” John Paul II observes, in the vows. For example, to “the question: ‘Are you ready to accept children lovingly from God …?’ the man and the woman answer, ‘Yes’” (TOB 105:6, 106:3). If spouses say “yes” at the altar, but then render their union sterile, wouldn’t they be lying with their bodies? Wouldn’t they be speaking against their vows?

Why, then, does the Church accept the practice of natural family planning? We’ll see in the next column.

The Fallacy of So Called ‘Safe’ Sex

Another long but good and informative article.

If it is God's will for me to ever be married, it's NFP for me, baby!



By Robert Colquhoun
tob.catholicexchange.com

It has been said that societies that do not direct their sexual energies toward the good of marriage and family begin to crumble.(Donald Demarco) In Britain, our government has wholeheartedly put its weight behind a drive to promote sex education offering free condoms, morning after pills while being taught safe sex. Without a shred of conceivable doubt, this project has been an utter disaster. From 1999-2004 sexually transmitted diseases had increased 62 percent, while teenage pregnancies were also up, in some areas leaping 34 percent. Most notably the areas with the greatest increases were in areas where the government had implemented its program. (Robert Reid, MD) Our government is so engorged in the contraceptive ideology that it has even allowed tax breaks for some contraceptives for the rest of society.

Ultimately the message of safe sex is hugely oxymoronic. No form of contraception is 100% effective, and our bodies are stubbornly protective of fertility, because the propagation of the species is too important. The notion that you can ‘protect’ yourself against somebody you want to be closest to leads to the conclusion that pregnancy is a disease to be avoided. When a young unmarried woman becomes sexually active, she is more exposed to becoming depressed, suicidal, have more break ups and later in life become divorced. ‘Safe’ sex is not safe for the soul. It’s deceiving to pretend that condoms are safe when they provide so little protection against so many STDs. Condoms offer little or no protection against the deadly Human papillomavirus. (K.L Noller) Given oral sex can transmit virtually every STD (Medical Institute on Sexual Health) is it ideological that governments continue to promote this farcical message?

First, let’s consider how safe the birth control pill is. The pill affects the blood clotting ability of the body, leading to a significant increase in risk of heart disease and stroke. (Bruce Stadel) Women on the pill are up to five times more likely to have a stroke than non pill users and three times more likely to have a heart attack.(Maureen Gardner) The birth control pill increases a woman’s chance of having breast cancer, cervical cancer and liver cancer. Twenty one of twenty three studies of women who took the pill before their first child showed increased risk of breast cancer. Birth control pills meddle with a woman’s immune system, making her more likely to contract certain STDs. And of course, contrary to popular belief, the birth control pill can also be an abortifacient. As the pill has the same side effects as pregnancy, this means weight gain, moodiness, skin change and nausea. Even Alfred Kinsey, a lynchpin of the sexual revolution, realised that “At the risk of sounding repitious, I would remind the group that we have found the highest frequency of induced abortion in the group which, in general, most frequently used contraceptives.”(Mary S. Calderone)

The pill can cause more than 150 biological changes in a woman according to the textbook of contraceptive practice. This can include gallbladder disease, headache, bleeding irregularities, ectopic pregnancy, yeast infection, changes to the curvature of the eye, excessive hair growth in unusual places, acne, and partial or complete loss of vision. There are many effects of the pill that are yet to be fully understood in the way they damage and upset the delicate yet beautiful aspects of womanhood. The pill was supposed to bring great liberation to women, but in the words of Christopher West, “Contraception is a sure way to keep women in chains.”(Good News About Sex and Marriage)

There’s one group of people who definitely do not want women to find out about the extent of damage that the pill does to a woman’s body and fertility. Given one pill called Ortho Tri-Cyclen recorded $715 million in sales in 2003, it is patently obvious that the pharmaceutical industry does not want the public to know how dangerous the pill is. After all, it would dent their profits!

But surely condoms are ‘safe’ then? Increased condom use by teens is associated with increased out-of-wedlock birth rates” (The Consortium of State Physicians Resource Councils). Not one country that has primarily used condoms as a primary means to prevent AIDS has had any success. (N. Hearst and S. Chen) So called ‘protection’ decreases with every repeated exposure. Other reports show that there have been higher unwed birthrates among sexually experienced teens despite increased condom use. (Physicians Resource Councils) It is quite patronising to teenagers to assume that they cannot control their behaviour, and then to call a small piece of latex ‘safe,’ when in reality its primary aim is the subliminal endorsement of promiscuity. Every teenager is capable of making responsible decisions and controlling their behaviour.

Some people argue that teenagers are simply going to do it anyway, and therefore we should endorse a policy of appeasement. It’s impossible to deliver a convincing abstinence message whilst at the same time handing out condoms- for a start people might think you were schizophrenic. If you want those you love to hear the truth in charity, we should want the best with every person. We are all able to make rational choices. With the issue between life and death at stake with unwanted teenage pregnancies and a plethora of nasty sexually transmitted diseases that condoms don’t really protect against anyway- it is more than treacherously negligent to pretend condoms are safe.

A woman’s body is the apex of creation and of outstanding natural beauty. When we artificially tamper with God’s great gift of fertility, in reality we create more problems than we solve. That’s why natural family planning is in accord with God’s great design of the body, as is as effective as any contraceptive measure. In the words of Clement of Alexandria, “To have coitus other than to procreate children is to do injury to nature.”(The Instructor of Children)

There is one method that is 100% effective against STDs, unwanted pregnancies and the physical, emotional and spiritual problems connected with pre-marital sex. The virtue of chastity protects the relationship we are in and helps us to be captivated by the beauty and pleasure of God’s way. True love waits and plans. It is capable of differentiating between physical involvement and true affection. Rather than being prudish, chastity helps us to avoid the heartache of quick emotional entanglements and leaves us well prepared for marriage and spotless before God. Chastity is a crown of triumph for those who achieve it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Meditation of the day

Magnificat
August 12, 2008

Another picture that our Lord loves to use is that of the shepherd who goes out to look for the sheep that is lost (Mt 18: 12ff). So long as we imagine that it is we who have to look for God, then we must often lose heart. But it is the other way about: he is looking for us. And so we can afford to recognize that very often we are not looking for God; far from it, we are in full flight from him, in high rebellion against him. And he knows that and has taken it into account. He has followed us into our own darkness; there where we thought finally to escape him, we run straight into his arms.

So we do not have to erect a false piety for ourselves, to give us hope of salvation. Our hope is in his determination to save us. And he will not give in! This should free us from that crippling anxiety which prevents any real growth, giving us room to do whatever we can do, to accept the small but genuine responsibilities that we do have. Our part is not to shoulder the whole burden of our salvation, the initiative and the program are not in our hands: our part is to consent, to learn how to love him in return whose love came to us so freely while we were quite uninterested in him.

Leaving babies to die

This video speaks for itself.

Please, pay attention, collect information and prayerfully consider who you are going to vote for this presidential election.

God Bless!

Priesthood and Marriage

Excerpt from: SPECIAL EDITION: Women’s Ordination, a TOB examination
by Kevin Whelan


Every priest is espoused to the church. Additionally, the essence of the priesthood is sacrificial love; this is especially true in the Roman Rite where it includes celibacy. The male priesthood provides for me an incredible source of contemplation from which I begin to learn how to close the gap between how I am loving and how I should be loving. The male priest stands before me at mass in persona Christi Capitas (in the Person of Christ the Head). If I contemplate what this means and how I might love as He loved, there is a chance, I might increase my understanding and even a chance that I might live this out.

Christ’s ‘headship’ is not like corporate or military headship; He is the servant. He washed the Apostle’s feet. He suffered and died for us. My contemplation, motivated by the physical presence of the male priest, is how I too am called to that form of ‘headship’ in relationship to my wife and family.

Can you imagine the result if the world saw in the sign of my marriage the perfect love of God? What would result if they saw me perfectly pour out my love for my wife as Christ poured out His love for the Church? Even people who are unaware that they seek Christ, could not help but read this sign and find their way to Him.

Is Strong Physical Attraction Necessary?

This is a long one, but it's good. My feelings are, in order to really get to know someone, which will lead to the physical attraction if it's the right relationship, you have to spend a lot of time together in person... chastely, of course. God will fill in the rest of the story in His time.


By Anthony Buono
tob.catholicexchange.com

Recently a young man asked me if having a strong physical attraction to the person you’re dating is necessary for knowing if it is the right person for marriage. I told him that it’s possible to be attracted to a person of great qualities but whom you are not physically attracted to.

Everyone wants to marry a person who has it all: great personality, good character, wonderful qualities, and (of course) great-looking! It is the “great-looking” part that has so many Catholics in trouble.

On one hand, they want to believe that they are not so shallow as to need a great-looking person when it should be what is inside a person that matters most. On the other hand, there is something unexplainable but very real that is inside them that will resist moving toward intimacy if they just don’t feel a strong attraction to them physically.

Ultimately, you do have to be physically attracted to the person you marry. But physical attraction does not always happen immediately. Attraction toward marriage is when you find a person so unique and special that you cannot see living your life without that person. This includes, but is not exclusively, the physical. If it is only physical, then it is shallow movement toward marriage. But desire to be sexually intimate with the person you are dating is a good indicator that things are on the right track. It is not the sole motivator, obviously, but it is an indicator. If a man and woman become very close friends during dating, but one or both do not have movements of desire to be sexually intimate with the other, then that is a problem.

However, it should not be judged too hastily that because that desire is not there initially or soon after dating that it means this is not a suitable partner for marriage. I would not disagree that most couples who marry have a strong sexual desire for each other, but of those, it is not always the case that the strong physical desire was there immediately or early on. Then there are those couples who marry and do NOT have a “strong” physical desire. But their love for each other is so strong at the friendship level and longing to spend a life together that they allow the physical attraction level they do have to be enough. And let us never forget that feelings can be an act of the will. Anyone who has been married for some time can vouch for that.

There are those who want to believe that Catholics should be concerned only about what is inside, not the physical. That would be to go in the opposite direction on this issue. Our sexuality is very much connected to our whole person, not just the inside. In fact, it is a very “sacramental principle” to be attracted to another person sexually. Just because a person is a strong practicing Catholic does not mean you could marry them. There is more to it than religious conviction. Just as the sacraments and sacramentals use externals to draw us toward an inner and hidden mystery, so it is with how two people come together toward the intimacy of close friendship, and ultimately in marriage.

The person you marry will be one person who has come along in your life that becomes someone you desire to know better and have a deeper relationship with. It is a person about whom you one day say, “I cannot imagine living my life without that person in it.” Physical attraction plays a major role in that mystery of how two people come together in marriage, because there is a desire to want to be physically close to that person (i.e., sexual desire). That movement is what should make two people contact the local pastor of their church and make wedding plans.

Attraction comes down to time. Time reveals all things. Attraction can very often come in time. Physical desire for another can come as the time to develop other aspects of the relationship are permitted. Spending time with a person is how deeper attraction grows, and that deeper attraction of the person’s qualities that are within and displayed in personality and character can spark (because of the mystery of love that comes from God) a physical attraction that was not there before.

Call it an “unveiling”. Everyone in a relationship (especially the woman) wants to feel like they are unique, special, one-of-a-kind. And when intimacy takes place (close friendship), this is in fact what happens. And for a man and a woman, becoming close friends naturally leads to a desire for more. But again, that desire for more oftentimes is an awakening; a realization of something you did not know before; recognition of something you did not see before. The heart moves and speaks, and the eyes open to mystery that goes beyond mere material physical attributes. The physical attraction is now there. And it is unique to the two individuals. Or perhaps, for those who did have physical attraction early on, this is now a time of confirmation that their attraction is not just about the physical.

That is what is so hard about objective physical beauty. How do they know when someone is “really and truly” interested in who they are, not just what they look like? It can be a real curse to be objectively beautiful. I have had solid Catholic women who are very gorgeous tell me heartbreaking stories of their difficulties finding true love. And it makes sense. A gorgeous woman is attractive to “every” guy. So what? What does that tell her? What does that tell the guys? Only that nature is working. But it tells nothing of the mystery of love, and its uniqueness for two people.

Attraction toward marriage is about a unique experience of two people for each other that does not desire an ending, but rather longs for what is next. Time tests this, and a mind open to people who come into our life that God sends is imperative. In addition, the prayerful work of dismantling any distorted approach we have to physical attraction is needed for many. Too many single people, especially men, have too dangerous of a tendency to make physical objective beauty the benchmark of their determination of another. This is a mistake!

So many have been surprised by love in their life with a person they came to discover they long to be with, and that the mystery of love’s movements stirring in the heart over time caused them to have physical attraction that perhaps was not there, or was not as strong as they would have liked.

Time is the answer. Give people “time” before you make a final conclusion about attraction. You might be surprised at whom you discover is really in your midst. Your vocation to marriage may very well depend on this cautious approach to love.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Meditation of the day

From The Word Among Us
Aug. 11, 2008

God does indeed have a perfect plan for your life, a plan that he formed before you were born (Psalm 139). Discovering that plan isn’t about figuring things out on your own—it’s about finding him! If you persist in asking Jesus to show himself to you, you will find him. And finding him, you will find your calling. As you draw closer to Jesus in prayer, you will want to do his will—and you will be more able to discern it. So take the first step by surrendering your life to him today, and know that he will guide you!

“Speak, Lord, your servant is listening! Draw me close to you, and reveal your will to me. Remove any confusion from my heart, and show me the path you have chosen for me. Jesus, I will follow wherever you lead.”

Thought of the day

...women and men are uniquely and perfectly designed to function in communion and cooperation, not competition. We have different roles, different strengths… and there is such beauty there. As a man is designed to initiate, so a woman is designed to receive. It is written into our very bodies to give as men and to receive as women.

Fear is the absence of love

By Jennifer F.
from her Conversion Diary blog

After a year of prayer, I finally found a fantastic spiritual director with whom I really click (just in time for this spiritual dry spell...coincidence?). When we met a couple weeks ago I was telling her about the "dark night of the soul" I was experiencing, and that a theme of this time period has been fear -- not fear like terror, or even fear of anything big like health or safety -- just the little fears that used to be part of daily life for me without God, but that I hadn't experienced since my conversion. I found myself fearful and worried about a writing project, a relatively small financial matter, some technical issue with my computer, all sorts of aspects of the future, etc. When I asked her what I should do, she thought about it for a moment, then her answer caught me off guard:

"Fear is the absence of love," she said.

She went on to gently suggest that when I find myself feeling fearful about a certain situation, I should ask: How can I pour love into this situation? And if I don't see an immediate way to do that, I should do some act of love, even if it's unrelated to the situation.

This advice was so unexpected. I never thought of fear and love as being particularly related. Though it sounded right, I couldn't quite figure out why it was right. I looked up one of the passages from the Bible she'd quoted, in Chapter 4 of John's first letter, and found that this chapter where John says "there is no fear in love" is also the chapter where he establishes that "God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him."

Then it all made sense. God is love, so to say that fear is a lack of love is to say that fear is a lack of God (not that he's not there, but that we are not keeping our eyes on him). This explained why this spiritual dry spell led me to be so fearful in the first place, and why the recommended remedy was to pour love into all situations that caused me fear. In the times when I felt God's presence so clearly, I feared almost nothing. It was relatively easy to turn all matters over to God and trust that he would work it out for the best, since I was so aware of his omnipotent presence all around me. But once I didn't feel his presence so strongly anymore, I felt like I was all by myself, having to control all the events of my life (and deal with their outcomes) completely on my own, trusting only in myself. It's a nerve-racking place to be. But to add love to a situation is, in a sense, to add God to a situation. And with God there is no fear.

This advice has worked amazingly well. At first it seemed like it wouldn't apply to some of the more mundane matters I had myself worked up about -- after all, how do you pour love into an insurance company dispute? -- but I've found that every single time, when I've taken a moment to think about it, I've been presented with a clear way that I can change my course to proceed in love. And, though I frequently fall back into a bad state of mind and have to go through this about five times a day, it has indeed been very effective in alleviating my fears.



It goes back to what Jesus and the bible remind us of over and over; "do not be afraid!" So easy to say but, most of the time, so difficult to do!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Contraception and the Language of the Body — Part 3 of 6


By Christopher West
tob.catholicexchange.com

We continue our series commemorating the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae.

Pope Paul VI released this oh-so-controversial encyclical on July 25, 1968, re-affirming the constant teaching of the Church on the immorality of contraception. To this day it remains a “thorn in the side” of many. It was once a thorn in my side as well. John Paul II’s “theology of the body” helped remove that thorn and show me the glorious fragrance of the rose.

Last time we observed that contracepted intercourse marks a determined “closing off” of the sexual act to the Holy Spirit, to the “Lord and Giver of Life.” In this way, as John Paul II expressed it, contraception falsifies “the language of the body.”

We all know that the body has a “language.” A wave of the hand says “hello” or “goodbye.” A shrug of the shoulders says, “I don”t know.” A raised fist expresses anger. What is sexual intercourse meant to express? What is it’’s true language, its true meaning?

According to Scripture, the sexual embrace is meant to express divine love. Precisely here, in the consummation of their sacrament, spouses are meant to participate in the “great mystery” of divine love. Whether spouses realize this or not, this is the sacramental power of their love. It’s meant to be an image and a real participation in Christ’’s love for the Church (see Eph 5:31-32).

As John Paul II candidly expressed, “Through gestures and reactions, through the whole …dynamism of tension and enjoyment - whose direct source is the body in its masculinity and femininity, the body in its action and interaction - through all this man, the person, ’speaks.’ …Precisely on the level of this “language of the body” …man and woman reciprocally express themselves in the fullest and most profound way made possible for them by… their masculinity and femininity” (TOB 123:4).

But if sexual love is meant to express Christ’’s love, we must properly understand the “language” of this love. Christ gives his body freely (”No one takes my life from me, I lay it down of my own accord,” Jn 10:18). He gives his body totally-without reservation, condition, or selfish calculation (”He loved them to the last,” Jn 13:1). He gives his body faithfully (”I am with you always,” Mt 28:20). And he gives his body fruitfully (”I came that they may have life,” Jn 10:10).

If men and women are to avoid the pitfalls of counterfeit love, their union must express the same free, total, faithful, fruitful love that Christ expresses. Of course, as fallen human beings, we”ll never express Christ’’s love perfectly. Even so, we must commit ourselves to the life-long journey of learning how to express this love and, at a minimum, never willfully act against this love. The name for this commitment is marriage.

This is precisely what a bride and groom consent to at the altar. The priest or deacon asks them: “Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage? Do you promise to be faithful until death? Do you promise to receive children lovingly from God?” The bride and groom each say “yes.”

In turn, spouses are meant to express this same “yes” with the “language of their bodies” whenever they become one flesh. “In fact, the words themselves, “I take you as my wife/as my husband,’” John Paul II says, “can only be fulfilled by conjugal intercourse.” With conjugal intercourse “we pass to the reality that corresponds to these words” (TOB 103:3).

Intercourse, then, is where the words of the wedding vows become flesh. It’s where men and women are meant to incarnate divine love. It’’s a fine thing when a couple returns to the church to renew their vows on a special anniversary, but this shouldn”t undermine the fact that every time a husband and wife have intercourse they”re meant to renew their wedding vows with the “language of their bodies.”

How healthy would a marriage be if spouses were regularly unfaithful to their vows? On the other hand, how healthy would a marriage be if spouses regularly renewed their vows with an ever increasing commitment to them? If you”d prefer the latter type of marriage, you have just accepted the teaching of Humanae Vitae. In the next column, I”ll unfold why.

Excerpt from Male Priesthood: The Theology Part 1 of 2

By Fr. Thomas Loya
tob.catholicexchange.com

Our gendered bodies “speak a language.” They speak about God and the entire create order. Our bodies have a “theology.” It is the language of our bodies that tells us why women cannot be priests.

In every way a woman’s body is designed around the “genius” of receptivity. In this way John Paul II said woman is the “archetype” of the human race. The human race was designed by God to stand in a posture of receptivity to God’s love-to be the bride of the Bridegroom Christ. A woman’s body is designed to accommodate the environment, to bring the world to her center. The language of her feminine body therefore speaks the language of immanence and connectedness and therefore tells us that God is near, tender, loving, proximate and intimate. The body of a man, on the other hand, speaks the language of externality, of “out there-ness” of what is beyond, powerful, mysterious and awesome. The fundamental phallic thrust of the design of the male body speaks the language of initiative, of moving outward from itself to act upon the environment. It speaks the language of the initiating love of God the Father who made the ‘first move’ outward from Himself toward His beloved. If the female body speaks the language of the immanence of God, His closeness, the language of the male body therefore speaks of the other aspect of God-His total transcendence. God is “out there”, beyond us, totally transcendent, a powerful, awesome mystery. God is both transcendent and immanent all at the same time. He is not either/or and to reveal this God created us male and female. Indeed the Spousal Mystery is the DNA of the entire created order.

Liturgy which has the Eucharist as its source and summit is the place where the Spousal Mystery is experienced in its fullness on this earth. The Eucharist is not about who is performing what function. Rather Liturgy is about the sign value that is revealing the Spousal Mystery. The Eucharist is the “Wedding Feast of the Lamb.” It is the Bridegroom coming to consummate a mystical marriage with His bride. Are not the quintessential words of the Eucharistic celebration “This is My Body given up for you?” (or as in some Eastern Rite liturgies: “broken” for you.) This is the precise language spoken in the language of the body of a husband for his wife in the one flesh union. In fact, the one flesh union finds its very meaning in the Eucharist which in turn finds its meaning in the sacrifice of the Bridegroom Christ on the Cross which finds it ultimate fulfillment in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in Heaven. On the Cross Christ, becomes the New Adam and his Mother becomes the New Eve. Christ the bridegroom looks at His bride and does not refer to her as “Mother” but as “Woman.” The only other time that Christ refers to His Mother as “Woman” was at the Wedding at Cana.

On the Cross the human race is mystically reconceived as Christ says, “Woman, behold your son.” When Christ finally gives up His spirit on the Cross he says, “Consummatum est”-not it is “finished,” rather it is “consummated.” This is why in some of the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church at the Paschal services they sing the following ancient verse written by saints: “Christ emerges from the tomb like a bridegroom from a bridal chamber and fills the women with great joy!”

The entire action of the Liturgy is Spousal. In his theology of the body John Paul II said that the “language of liturgy becomes in a sense conjugal and conjugal relations become in a sense liturgical.” Therefore the specific and consistent place of gender in Liturgy plays a vital role in our participation and experience of the Spousal Mystery.



I just started listening to a podcast by Fr. Loya a couple of weeks ago called "A Body of Truth." It is an open, honest and interesting look at the language of the body as a male or female, how God made us to interact as male and female, our sexual desires, chastity, marriage, celibacy, etc., all based on Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Go check it out! (Parental discretion is advised, however, this is not something for the kids to listen to.)