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The Way You Want To Be Remembered

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

“If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire.”

~St Catherine of Sienna

Each of us leaves a legacy. For some it changes the course of world history; for others it only seems to affect the immediate surroundings. Regardless of the visible outcome though, we all have an irreplaceable role to play during our short time on earth and we would do well to reflect on what our lives say to the world.

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Categories: self-image, virtue Tags: ,

Confiteor

September 6, 2011 Leave a comment

A few years ago I had an opportunity to give a talk after a mass about purity and chastity. I’ve decided to toss it up in case any of you can benefit from it…

 

“Christian, recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the kingdom of God.” ~St, Leo the Great (also CCC #1691)

 

There’s a lot I’d like to say about purity and chastity, but before I get into any of those things I need to be clear that these are things I struggle with on daily if not hourly or minute-to-minute basis. And honestly, I’m not sorry that I struggle with them, because often the only way to avoid struggling is to give in. I have struggled with temptation, and I have not always held fast. I am extremely grateful that God has given me the grace to maintain my virginity this far in my life and with His grace I WILL do so until marriage, but to call myself chaste or pure because I haven’t had sex would be an insult to the virtue. In order to make my struggle clearer and invite you to join in that struggle I’d like to elaborate on the Confiteor that we all professed at mass earlier. This simple confession encompasses every struggle we can go through, but I will focus on how it applies to Chastity and purity.

I confess, to almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault. In my thoughts and in my words; in what I have done, and what I have failed to do. And I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord our God.

 

In that statement first and foremost I make my confession to God, because it is He alone whom I legitimately offend. All of us are sinful, so in a sense we merit the evil brought about by sin (even if not our own); but God is perfect, and yet He still bears the burden of our sin. This is why David says to God “Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight” (psalm 51:4) My sins are an offense to God because they are an insult to the love and grace which He calls us too. Especially with sins of purity I ignore the Dignity which He gave both to me, and to you. A dignity which Christ Gave his life to restore.

Although God is the immediate subject of my confession, I still make my confession to you my brothers and sisters, for two reasons. First, because my faults and failures have been an insult to your dignity and a stumbling block to your pursuit of God. My authentic purity was meant to be a sign for you of God’s love and instead I offered you a counterfeit. Even though you share in my sinfulness and your sins have done the same for me, I love you and I am sorry that I have done that to you. The second reason I make this confession to you, is because I need your help. I know intrinsically that I can’t do this on my own, but James was kind enough also to remind me “Therefore, make it your habit to confess your sins to one another and to pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

 

“That I have sinned through my own fault”

Its so easy for me to blame other people for my sinfulness, my impurity my failure at chastity. I can blame the media for all the images it shows me, blame the women for the clothes they wear or for working at the strip clubs or the porn sites or movies etc. I can blame my parents for not raising me better, a specific priest for providing a bad example or even God for allowing me to be tempted. I can always find someone to blame. Satan is more than willing to help me point fingers. But if I actually want to grow, If I actually want to overcome my sin, I need to accept and confess that my sins are MY FAULT. Certainly there were things that helped me along the way, but God gave me freedom, I used that freedom choose against God, against Love, against Truth.

Also, before I go any further into this discussion I want to make sure we all have a clear understanding of what sin is. It’s not a laundry list of things that upset God, but rather a “…failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods.” (CCC1849) any time I choose personal gain over love of God and neighbor, I sin.

 

 

“In my thoughts”

The first concrete sin I confess is that I have sinned through my thoughts. The reason I confess this first is because it through my thoughts that all the other sins are formed. But even if my lustful, or otherwise impure thoughts never make their way to words, deeds or inaction they are still sinful in so far as I willingly indulge in them. I am human, and as a human I don’t have full control over what is or isn’t on my thoughts in any given moment, so I do not sin because a lustful idea appears in my head. I do however sin if I do nothing to quell that thought or moreso if I choose to actively indulge in that thought. It’s easy for me to tell myself that as long as I don’t DO anything bad, the thoughts are harmless, but I need to remind myself that I am on this earth to prepare myself for eternity. And the sinful thoughts that I indulge in are only increasing the gap between my ways and God’s ways. Furthermore, I’ve found in my own experience that, no matter how hard I try, if I let my thoughts be consumed by selfish desires, those thoughts will have an effect on my actions.

 

“in my words”

Words are a powerful tool and they can be used for good or for evil. Certainly there’s a plethora of individual words which cheapen our dignity and our sexuality, but I think those are rather superficial compared to some of my more truly offensive words. One of the greatest sins I am guilty of in this regard is CARELESSNESS with my words. I find myself speaking for the sake of saying something. Speaking to sound good or pious, humorous or even kind. But I don’t take the second to think about whether what I’m saying is actually TRUE. There’s nothing loving about saying something that isn’t true, no matter how kind or entertaining it may be.

 

“In what I have done”

Well, I’m a virgin so atleast I’ve got that one covered… right?… not even CLOSE.

Any time I fail to treat a woman as the masterpiece of God’s creation that she is, I commit a sin of sexual impurity. Every time I treat a guy with anything less than the dignity of the Creator I create a sin of sexual impurity. As a guy, I have fallen into the trap of admiring women’s bodies. Now, this isn’t actually a bad thing. In fact, it was something God intended from the very beginning. The female body is an amazing thing. The thing I fail to realize sometimes, and I know I’m not alone, is that as wonderful as the female body is, it pales in comparison to the female PERSON which it makes manifest. And I, in my sinfulness try to separate the female body from the female person. That’s what Pornography does, that’s what premarital sex does, that’s what masturbation does. That’s what talking with my friends about this model’s waist or that actress’ butt or that girl running down the boardwalk’s legs does. We guys have developed a habit of evaluating women based on their dimensions and it really is a pity. My sisters, I am sorry for what I have done.

 

“in what I have failed to do”

A lot of people see the Church’s teaching on Sexual morality, chastity, and purity as a list of “don’ts”. Don’t have sex before marriage, don’t look at pornography, don’t masturbate, don’t have oral sex, don’t use contraception, don’t don’t don’t. if that were true, this section would have little to discuss. But as it is, I think this is my greatest weakness in many ways. As I said earlier, we are called as Christians to treat others with the dignity that God gave each of us at the moment of our conception.

I have failed to treat others with that dignity. Specifically, I often find myself failing to treat people I’m not attracted to with the same dignity as those who I am. Whether its in the time I spend with them, the things I do for them or the things I say to them. Although this would obviously effect the women I’m not attracted to, I think it has had a much deeper effect on my dealings with guys.

I don’t have any romantic attraction to guys, so a lot of times, I find myself ignoring them and avoiding relationships with them. This gives me an even more shallow appreciation of my sexuality. And it makes them feel like a second class citizen in my esteem. So my brothers I am sorry for that which I have failed to do.

 

“and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin”

At the end of my confession I ask for prayers, and it’s no coincidence that my first petition is through Mary, ever virgin. She is, by the grace of God, the perfect example of sexual purity. Not simply because she was a virgin, but because she opened her life completely to the love of God. Moreover, I ask for her prayers, because she’s my mom. She was Jesus’ mom, and He gave her to us on the cross through his beloved disciple. Mom, I need your help, your example and your prayers.

 

“all the angels and saints”

I need all the help I can get in this struggle so I’m calling all hands. Those who share in glory of God understand perfectly meaning of our sexuality and many of them, such as Maria Goretti, have offered me an example on this earth of how to live that sexuality. Through their example and intercession I hope to grow closer to God through the redemption of my sexuality.

 

“and you my brothers and sisters to prayer for me to the lord our God”

My brothers and sisters, my final plea is to you because you are here with me. And to know that you are praying for me gives me strength every time I see you. To know you’re struggling with me and for me, is a great consolation as I strive to treat you and myself with the dignity we deserve. You serve as a walking reminder for me of both the effects of my failures and hope I have in Christ.

 

Now that I’ve kinda covered the bases I’d like to offer some practical advice from my admittedly limited experience on this earth.

our first concern should be sacrificial love. And when I say love, I’m not talking about a feeling, I’m talking about a CHOICE. Feelings change, and we’re called to something less fickle than that. We are called to will the wellbeing of others even to the point of self sacrifice.

When we consider how we should act towards other people we should always have their well being first. it’s not the specific action that’s necessarily sinful, but rather the motivation. Holding hands isn’t intrinsically evil, but if you do so simply for your own gratification without self sacrificial LOVE as your motivation, it’s still inappropriate. The same can be said for hugs, or massages or tickling or anything for that matter. On the same note though, if we do these things specifically with the wellbeing of the other in mind, with disregard to our own gratification, we offer a gift of love.

 

guys: be gentlemen. Show your gratefulness to God for the beauty of Creation through the way that you treat His masterpiece; women. Make your life a testament to respect for their dignity. Hold the doors, pay for meals and tickets (atleast when you have the means to), walk on the outside of the sidewalk, stand up when a woman comes to your table, get the chair, offer her yours if she doesn’t have one, offer your jacket if she’s cold. Don’t stand for the guy talk about women that degrades them to a set of dimensions and be clear that you want no part in it. And gents, I’m not talking about dates. Women have dignity all the time, these are small things we guys should do to affirm that dignity. Its not about trying to earn another date or some kind of favor. Its about showing thanks in a very small way for the blessing of their presence. That being said, the things you do should be offered as gifts, freely without expectation, and without mandate. Any gift, if it is truly a gift can be refused. A lot of women are uncomfortable with something which you may offer in genuine thanks and appreciation, do not force it upon them.

 

gals: be ladies.

1.Dress and act modestly. Our struggle is hard enough

2. Don’t settle for less!

– realize your own dignity and don’t tolerate guys who treat you like an object.

-if you’re dating a guy who doesn’t treat you with respect, tell him. If he doesn’t shape up, he doesn’t really love you.

3. Give us the benefit of the doubt:

-if a guy is acting like a gentleman, don’t automatically assume he is hitting on you. If he is really a gentleman, you’ve just made a solid new friend. If he’s not, it will become painfully clear very quickly.

4. If any of your guy friends are gentlemen, thank them. It can get really discouraging sometimes. A little bit of appreciation helps a lot.

5. If any of your guy friends claim to be gentlemen. Call them out if they aren’t treating you with the respect you deserve. If they’re real gentlemen, they’ll appreciate the correction. Sometimes we just don’t realize what we’re doing.

 

Also, I talked in the Confiteor about our thoughts, I’d like to offer you some advice on how to deal with those thoughts. Christopher West brings up that we should take those thoughts and offer them up to God asking Him to untwist the Lies that we are falling for in those thoughts to uncover the greater truth of the beautiful sexuality He has planned for us. I think it’s a good suggestion. In addition to that though. I would recommend that you offer up a prayer for whomever it is that you are thinking about. For that model or actor/actress or person running down the street or significant other (whom you are making less significant with these thoughts) even if it’s a complete figment of your imagination, pray for people who are being objectified in that way. Use the devil’s tricks to advance the Kingdom of God.

 

Finally, I’d like to invite you all to sacrifice. I mentioned earlier that love is a choice. It’s a will for the better of the other even at your own expense. A good way to remind yourself of that call to love is to choose to make a sacrifice. Do something that you wouldn’t otherwise do for the sake of love, for the sake of purity. If you are married, do it for your spouse, if your celibate, offer it up for the church. If you’re single, offer it up for your future vocation. It doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. Its just something to remind you that you are willing to sacrifice for what is important, and your vocation is important. It can be something as simple as flossing if you don’t already do it, not picking your nails, doing some pushups every day. Its not the action that matters. It’s the commitment.

 

As a parting note, I’ve written two letters and made copies for you all. One titled Beautiful  for the women. And one titled Hero  for the guys. Please take a copy that applies to you before you leave.

 

Thank you all for your time. Please pray for me and know that I am praying for you.

Man in the Arena

September 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Back in my college days, if you could call it college, we had to memorize more than a few quotes (along with many other pieces of trivia). I always liked quotes, so I didn’t mind too much, but I also don’t remember too many of them. That is with one exception. One of the longer quotes that we had to memorize (or some of us did) was a speech by Teddy Roosevelt called “The Man in the Arena.” At the time, I liked it because I felt like the trials of my summer training and the upperclassmen who criticized me fit perfectly into the late president’s speech. As time went on though, I found the wisdom of his words in many aspects of life. I was also a bit more introspective in realizing that I was often the critic as well. It doesn’t matter if it’s at school, at work, at home or with relationships. It seems that in all the crossroad moments of my life I have a decision to make between blaming my problems on other people or stepping up to face them myself. Between sitting on the side-lines or stepping into the arena. Between being a bystander or being an actor on stage of life.

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Modern Genocide

September 1, 2011 Leave a comment

I remember learning about the holocaust in middle school and thinking, “How could everyone let that happen? There should have been a revolt.” I was confident that if anything like that started to happen today, it would be quickly put down. As I went through high school and college, my view of reality and confidence in society dimmed considerably. Learning about genocide in third world countries was really disconcerting and our relative inaction on multiple occasions, did not leave much for me to hope in. Admittedly, it is difficult to do everything that should be done, and I’m not confident I’d do a better job if I had the power, but that doesn’t change the fact that its disappointing. Looking deeper into the issue though, I found that the closest replica of the Holocaust (and in reality one that dwarfs said event in comparison) isn’t in far off places on the other side of the globe. Its right here in America (and just about everywhere else). Read more…

Categories: politics Tags: , ,

Missionary Dating

September 1, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve heard in many Christian circles that “missionary dating” is always a bad idea. I get their point, and I agree with their intent, but I disagree entirely with their choice of words. I will be the first to admit that it’s slightly pedantic as far as arguments go, but I think it’s worth some reflection.

When discussing missionary dating, most people refer to a relationship in which (at least) one person is in the relationship with the expectation of changing the other person. Whether it is that person’s faith, habits, or sensibilities, the bottom line is that one (or both) people in the relationship are perpetuating it with a desire for who the person could become instead of an admiration for the person who is currently with them. They would not be willing to spend the rest of their lives with the person as they are, but they are confident that they can mold them into an acceptable partner. I could not agree more that this is a HORRIBLE way to go about courting someone, but that is neither being a missionary nor truly dating. That is what I would call guerrilla catechesis. And it’s an insult to the dignity of both parties and the institution of dating. Read more…