Thursday, July 31, 2014

15 Secrets To Transforming Your Prayer Life

"Until you are convinced that prayer is the best use of your time, you will not find time for prayer.” -Father Hilary Ottensmeyer, OSB


15 Secrets To Transforming Your Prayer Life
  1. The first secret is there are no secrets! Rather, it takes a lot of perseverance  humility, honesty, and grace to grow in prayer. The real secret is to do the other things below, which most Catholics who are trying to grow in prayer already know about - we just have to do them!
  2. Don't over-think prayer. It need not be complicated or burdensome. It is a relationship that God invites you ever deeper into. If we engage our intellect all the time, then we aren't focusing on the best part of prayer, which resides in the heart. Not the head.
  3. Be still and quiet yourself. The place you pray, your posture, and the time set aside are important. But, the real key is once you do these things you must rest and be still inside. Try to focus and allow yourself to tune into God's voice.
  4. Don't think of prayer as a chore. Many of us want to grow in prayer and commit ourselves to daily prayer. But, then life gets you going and you try to go "do" your prayer and get it over with to get to other stuff. But, the "other stuff" isn't nearly as important. So, our priorities and outlook on prayer might need to be adjusted periodically.
  5. Pray even when you don't want to. The real test of love is found when we overcome our feelings and thoughts that push us to stop praying. But, God is even more pleased when we choose to pray when we don't feel like it than when it is easy. Choosing to pray when it is difficult is a sure sign that you love God!
  6. Yes, the Sacraments matter! There is no better way to pray than to go to Mass. Frequent Confession is also a wonderful way to deepen your prayer life. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a great time/place to pray before our Lord. Don't discount the graces you receive from the Sacraments.
  7. You are not alone in prayer - The Holy Spirit is our help! If you know you ought to grow in prayer but lack the desire, then pray for the desire to grow. All of us should ask God to guide us through the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:26-27 – “The Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”
  8. Establish Good Habits - You should be able to rely on your habits to help you, and not hurt you, in your prayer. A good habit takes 66 days (at least) to establish. So, if you can commit to a routine of prayer for 2 months, you should start to lay the groundwork for healthy prayer habits.
  9. Accountability Counts - You need someone who is more objective than you are to look at your prayer life and see how you are doing and how the Holy Spirit is working. A spiritual director is invaluable in helping. But, if you don't think you are ready, even have a holy friend to talk to can be good.
  10. Try Different Types of Prayer - We all have different tastes in prayer, just like most other things in life. So, try out different types of prayer and see which ones work for you. One caveat - don't give up too soon on a type of prayer. It might take a good long time to discover whether it is good for you or not.
  11. Fast Regularly - There is great power in fasting. We see it in Scripture when Jesus fasts and calls his disciples to do the same. When we have better control over the desires of our bodies, we can pray better.
  12. Overcome Distractions - The simple way to overcome a distraction is to not give into it. Once you realize you are distracted turn your heart and mind back to your prayer, not to examining the distraction. This simple act is the easiest way to defeat distractions.
  13. Work on a Proper Understanding of God and Self - I can not emphasize this one enough. Many of us struggle to understand how a perfect God could love us and want a relationship with us. But, this is due, mainly, to our bad perceptions of our own dignity and the way God loves us unconditionally.
  14. Find and Use Good Resources - When you don't know what to do or how to do it, the resources can help. Resources include people, friends, books, websites, sacramentals (e.g. rosaries), Sacred Scripture, etc.
  15. Prioritize Prayer. Schedule it. Bump something else. Get up early. Do whatever you have to do, but don't let a day go by without spending time with the most important person in your life. Don't wait to start!!!
RELATED POSTS:
**100 Catholic Ways To Pray
**11 Ways To Study And Pray With The Bible
**How To Get More Out of Mass?
**The Dos and Don’ts of Reading the Bible
**How To Have a Personal Relationship With Jesus



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

10 Reasons Men Should Practice Custody of the Eyes

10 Reasons Men Should Practice Custody of the Eyes


10 - It helps teach discipline. 
Men should discipline themselves to be in control of their passions and not allow passions to control them.

9 - It avoids the near occasion of sin.
To avert your eyes when you feel tempted to use a woman lustfully is a good thing.
“But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” -Matt 5:19.

8 - Custody of the eyes builds up chastity.
Chastity means properly ordering our sexuality to our current state in life (single, married, religious, priest). If we do not have custody of the eyes, it means our sexuality is dis-ordered toward objectification - not love - and needs to be healed.

7 - It is what every gentleman should do.
No woman who respects herself wants to be lusted after or looked up and down. No real gentleman would dishonor a woman by doing so.

6 - It helps a man to see the whole woman, not just parts of her body.
When most men see an immodestly-dressed woman, their brains automatically start to objectify her. Thus, men need to be able to see the truth about who a woman is - not just to break her down into objects he can use for his selfish pleasure.

5 - It avoids scandal.
Think of King David. If he would have practiced custody of the eyes he might have been able to avoid much worse sins - adultery and murder. Now think of what happens when a man is caught in a lustful look toward a woman.

4 - It helps fight off temptation.
Men suffer from sexual temptation frequently. To have custody of the eyes helps a man to fight off an even stronger temptation of lusting after a woman after he looks at her.

3 - It helps our sisters not feel objectified.
If for no other reason, we should witness to the dignity of a woman by controlling our passions. While our sisters in Christ should also help by dressing modestly, even an immodestly dressed woman is made to be loved.

2 - It is a virtue we should chase after.
It is related to chastity, modesty, and temperance. Without self-control, we are unable to give ourselves away in love. We can't give what we don't control.

1 - It focuses us back on more important things.
"Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides." - Matt 6:33
Christ should be our first priority. Honoring the height of his creation (our sisters) should be the second. We should be third.

-----------------------------------

This post is a  follow-up to Top 10 Reasons Women Should Dress Modestly.
Other related links are below.

RELATED LINKS:
**The Myth That Women Are To Blame For a Man's Lust
**Killing The Red Lizard of Lust
**Reflections On The Questions Of Modesty
**Is Pre-Marital Sex Always Wrong?
**How Women Objectify Men
**Les Miserables and Women’s Fashion
**The Impact of Over-Sexualization of Girls
**Internet + Bathing Suits = Bad Idea
**Advertising, Beauty, and Self-Perception
**Top 10 Reasons Women Should Dress Modestly

Monday, July 28, 2014

Infant Baptism


Q - I was wondering if you could tell me if there is reference in Scripture to baptizing babies. Do we baptize babies because of tradition or are we following Scripture?

A - Thanks for the question. There is no contradiction between Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, thus the teaching is from both and ultimately, from Jesus. First we start with Scripture. In several places in the New Testament it speaks of baptizing families. One may assume that infants were a part of these families.
"After she and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, "If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home," and she prevailed on us." - Acts 16:15
"He took them in at that hour of the night and bathed their wounds; then he and all his family were baptized at once." - Acts 16:33

"I did baptize also the household of Stephanas" - 1 Cor 1:16
But, alone, this does not "prove" infant baptism. We also see that all are called to be baptized and there is no age restrictions. On the day of Pentecost we see the following after Peter preaches:
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, "What are we to do, my brothers?" Peter (said) to them, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call." - Acts 2: 37-39
Notice that Christians are called to baptism and that the promise of the Holy Spirit given in baptism is for "you and to your children".

We can also see a fulfillment of the Jewish practice of circumcision from the old covenant in the new covenant practice of baptism. Paul makes this comparison explicit:
"In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ. You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead." - Col 2: 11-12
So, we can see there is ample implicit Biblical evidence of infant baptism. Those that reject infant baptism are doing so on an argument from silence, that is they assume it is not valid, because it is not explicitly ordered in the Bible. Well, we also see that the early Christians practiced it and that they understood it to be perfectly consonant with Scripture. Thus, early Christians wrote:
"And when a child has been born to one of them[ie Christians], they give thanks to God[ie baptism]; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who as passed through the world without sins." - Aristides,Apology,15(A.D. 140)
"And they shall baptise the little children first. And if they can answer for themselves, let them answer. But if they cannot, let their parents answer or someone from their family." - Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Tradition,21 (A.D. 215)

"‘And [Naaman] dipped himself . . . seven times in the Jordan’ [2 Kgs. 5:14]. It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ -John 3:5" - Iranaeus, Fragment (A.D. 190).
There are many more references here. I hope this helps.

Friday, July 25, 2014

What Can Christians Do To Help Persecuted Christians In The Middle East


Q - "What we can do (beyond prayer) to help the Christians being persecuted in Iraq. Is there a reputable organization you know of that we could donate to that is currently aiding them?"

A - Thanks for the question. I believe a number of people want to know the answer, so I hope I can help.

If others don't know what is happening in Iraq (and parts of Syria), there are areas, especially in Mosul and the surrounding area, where Christians have been threatened by Muslim extremists (and some have been killed, beaten, and raped). They have been told they need to convert, move, or die. These are the only three options they have been given. Sadly, it is thought that the entire Christian population has had to flee from the persecution and the international community and the Iraqi government have done very little to support the Christians who are now refugees from persecution and threats. Many others have been killed, raped, and abducted. A new religious cleansing is now taking place. A genocide.

Of course, since we are not the decision makers in this area, we have to rely on others. The first one we always rely on is God. So, please do not stop praying. I know sometimes we Christians can sometimes downplay the power of prayer too much. God being all-powerful and loving isn't just philosophical truisms. They are facts.

With that being said, because the situation is dire for Christians in Iraq (esp. Mosul), we must not sit by and allow the persecution of innocents happen, to the extent we can do more. So, here are some things we can do.
  1. Give to organizations that are providing direct assistance to the Christians who are fleeing. They include Catholic Relief Services and Aid To The Church In Need.
  2. Write and call your U.S. Senators, Representative, and the White House. It is important the USA leads the way in helping Christians, just as they did when the Kurdish Muslims were threatened.
  3. Inform others about what is going on and ask them to join in with helping by doing all three things mentioned here. One way to raise awareness is to post the image above on Facebook and other websites. It is an image of the Arabic letter nun (the English equivalent is the letter N), which is the first letter of the word Nasara (Nazarenes), the word Muslims use to refer to Christians. Extremists have marked Christian homes with this image to intimidate them. It is also being used, in turn, by Christians as a show of support for those being persecuted. 
  4. Pray more and ask others to pray with you.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I Want To Be Happy!

All of us want the same thing.  Happiness.

In fact, most of the decisions we make are in seeking out our own happiness or the happiness of others. But, we seek it in ways that sometimes don't really help.
  • Some of us seek it out in pleasure, yet find that pleasure alone cannot equal happiness and we are then left unfulfilled. We can find examples of this in how people seek it in drugs or alcohol.
  • Some of us seek it in other people, and find they will always be unable to fulfill our deepest longings. Thus, we feel that we haven't found the right person or that we need to change them. This leads to many broken marriages and relationships.
  • Some seek it in a combination of pleasure and people.  An example is when people seek to use others sexually. Pre-marital sex, contraception, affairs, etc. This will always lead to unhappiness.
  • Some people seek it in power or glory.  They mistake human admiration for happiness, which will always be shown as a sham ultimately.
  • Some seek it in money and attaining earthly treasures. They obtain things in place of having real happiness.
So, what will bring true happiness?  Let JPII tell us about it,
"Creating man and woman in his own image and likeness, God wills for them the fullness of good, or supernatural happiness, which flows from sharing in his own life." 
Pope Francis put it this way:
"In our day we pass in front of so many doors that invite us to come in, promising a happiness which later we realize lasts only an instant, exhausts itself with no future. But I ask you: by which door do we want to enter? And who do we want to let in through the door of our life? I would like to say forcefully: let’s not be afraid to cross the threshold of faith in Jesus, to let him enter our life more and more, to step out of our selfishness, our closure, our indifference to others so that Jesus may illuminate our life with a light that never goes out. It is not a firework, not a flash of light! No, it is a peaceful light that lasts for ever and gives us peace. Consequently it is the light we encounter if we enter through Jesus’ door."
We can only be truly happy when we stop trying to create our own happiness and share in the only thing that can truly grant us the gift of happiness - God. Thus, we have to receive the gift of love that God gives us. He made us to want happiness and He will fulfill that longing in a relationship with Him!

But, it isn't merely our choosing God. He chose us first. Thus, we merely need to respond with a "yes" to his invitation.

Do you want to be happy?  Of course.
So, choose God.
Receive His grace today.
Live your life for Him.
Love Him and His children.
Be happy...

How do you do this? Start with this prayer from Pope Francis:
“Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.”
Another prayer of Francis:
"In silence, let us all look into our hearts and each one of us tell Jesus that we want to receive the seed of his Word. Say to him: Jesus, look upon the stones, the thorns, and the weeds that I have, but look also upon this small piece of ground that I offer to you so that the seed may enter my heart. In silence, let us allow the seed of Jesus to enter our hearts. Remember this moment. Everyone knows the seed that has been received. Allow it to grow, and God will nurture it."


"God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing."
- C.S. Lewis

"Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you."
-St. Augustine

Catholics Navigating Homosexuality

From the description of the movie:
Here are three intimate and candid portraits of Catholics who try to navigate the waters of self-understanding, faith, and homosexuality:

Dan, a gregarious artist who spent his life hiding a deep sense of isolation from those who loved him;

Rilene, a successful businesswoman who realized that twenty-five years with her partner did not provide the fulfillment she had hoped for;

and Paul, an international model who, after a life of self-indulgence, found grace in the last place he expected.

Desire of the Everlasting Hills from Everlasting Hills on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Is Smoking Marijuana a Victim-less Crime?

Some say that smoking marijuana or doing other drugs is a victim-less crime. Yet, there are millions of direct and indirect victims of the drug-trade. Issues include addiction, broken families, billions spent every year, slavery, abuse, sex-trade, human trafficking, environmental damage, kidnappings, thefts, etc.
  • In the Korean War the US deaths were 36,516
  • In the Vietnam War the US deaths were 58,206
  • In Iraq + Afghanistan the US deaths are 8,200+
  • Estimated deaths in Cartel violence in Mexico the last ten years = 120,000 killed by 2013, not including 27,000 missing.
To top it all off, intentionally getting high is gravely immoral, for the same reasons getting drunk is.

Mexico = 6 hours from College Station. The next time you think about smoking a bowl, think of who you are supporting when you do so.

WARNING: The video below is blunt in the data provided about violence and how the cartels work.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Fr. Barron on Intentional Discipleship


I got to spend several days with Sherry Weddell, author of Forming Intentional Disciples, this past week, at the St. John Bosco Conference. Her book has really been stoking a conversation throughout the Church in the USA, about how The Catholic Church operates. It was a great week of being able to teach some others about evangelization, discipleship, and catechetics, but even more so, I get to learn from others, including Sherry.

Only disciples make disciples and to be a disciple, one has to choose to follow Jesus intentionally. Grace isn't magic and can't save us without our saying "yes" to it.

Fr. Barron talks about Sherry's book in the video below. He gives us the bad & good news about the state of the Catholic Church and Intentional Discipleship.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

15 Phrases and Sayings NOT In The Bible

These quotes are either frequently misquoted from the Bible or not there at all. I also have some things that are frequently thought to be in the Bible, but are not. I have tried to provide a origin of each, if I could find one. I have avoided doctrinal items (both valid and invalid ones) not found in the Bible, because that list would be never-ending.

15 Phrases & Sayings Not Found in the Bible

15 - The Three Wisemen
They Bible calls them "Magi", not "Wisemen", though the two are synonymous in common parlance. The Magi are found only in Matthew 2 and no number is given to them (three comes from the number of gifts given).

14 - "Moderation in all things"
This idea behind this phrase originates from Aristotle's ethics and the direct quote comes from Rome, several hundred years before Christ. Two different Romans are generally given credit - one named Terence and the other Petronius.

13 - "The Lord (or God) works in mysterious ways"
Comes from a Hymn ("God Moves in a Mysterious Way") by William Cowper, who lived in the 18th century.

12 - "The eye is a window to the soul"
Matthew 6:22 says "The lamp of the body is the eye", but there is no reference saying it is a window to the soul. There is no consensus as to the origin of this phrase. Some attribute it to a proverb of varying origin and others to several writers including Shakespeare and Milton.

11 - The Apple in the Garden of Eden.
There was fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2, 3), but we do not know what kind of fruit is was. The apple grew out of Christian tradition and may have been a result of artists trying to depict The Fall. It might also have come from the Latin word for evil ("malum" = evil / "malus" = apple). Some say it was likely a pomegranate. But, we do not know.

10 - "The lion will lay down with the lamb"
A very common misquote of Scripture. Isaiah 11:6 reads "Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them."

9 - "A fool and his money are soon parted"
Not even close to a Biblical reference - this comes from Thomas Tusser who wrote it in 1573 in in Five Hundreth Pointes of Good Husbandrie.

8 - "This too shall pass"
The origin of this phrase isn't even Christian. It comes from a Persian Sufi (Muslim) poets some time in the middle ages.

7 - The Seven Deadly Sins
The list of the 7 deadly sins = wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. The first evidence of the list is from a monk in the 4th century. The list was then altered slightly by Pope Gregory I in 590. It was then popularized by Dante in his Divine Comedy.

6 - "Money is the root of all evil"
1 Timothy 6:10 says "For the love of money is the root of all evils". It is the love of money that causes the problem, not the money itself. Money doesn't have a moral value all to itself, it is what we do with it that makes the action good, neutral, or evil.

5 - "Pride comes before the fall"
Proverbs 16:18 says "Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
The origin of the misquote is unknown, but The Beatles' song "I'm a Loser" has the line in it.

4 - "Charity begins at home"
Generally credited to Terence, the Roman comic writer. It is sometimes also attributed to Sir Thomas Browne who wrote the phrase in 1642.

3 - "To thine ownself be true"
Comes from Hamlet by Shakespeare. In a bit of context the quote reads, ”This above all: to thine ownself be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” Not bad advice, but not from the Bible.

2 - "Cleanliness is next to godliness"
While there are many references in the Mosaic law to cleanliness (esp. in Leviticus), there is none that we can ascribe to this quote. Some say it comes from a 2nd century Rabbi. We know the first English version comes from Francis Bacon. He wrote the following in Advancement of Learning, "Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God." John Wesley then changed it to the phrase we use today.

1 - "God helps those who help themselves"
This very common phrase comes from Algernon Sydney, who wrote it in an article titled Discourses Concerning Government. It was then popularized by Ben Franklin in 1757 in Poor Richard's Almanac. In many ways this phrase is wrong, because God helps (saves) those who can NOT help themselves (sinners). Though we must agree to allow Him to help us. An earlier form of the phrase may have come from "God loves to help him who strives to help himself" by Aeschylus (6th C BC).

Do you have any others?

Monday, July 14, 2014

9 Biblical Ways to Overcome Temptation

We can overcome temptation by learning what Scripture tells us about it and following the advice laid out for us.

9 Ways to Overcome Temptation:

1. Avoid and/or flee from it. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.
“She caught him by his cloak and said, "Come to bed with me!" But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.” -Gen 39:12
2. Submit your thoughts to God. He knows better than we do what is good.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” -Phil 4:8
3. Overcome your selfishness. True Love doesn’t know selfishness. Because, if you love Jesus you don’t belong to yourself
“and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.” -1 Cor 3:23
4. Expect and be ready for temptation. We need to be prepared for Spiritual battle.
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” -Eph 6:13
5. Remind yourself of the consequences of sin.
“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” -Gal5:19-21

6. Memorize God’s Word. Filling our minds with the thoughts of God and having them readily available to us is very wise.
“He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” -Luke 11:28
7. Cultivate a sense of God’s presence But don’t just listen – obey.
“Go near and listen to all that the LORD our God says. Then tell us whatever the LORD our God tells you. We will listen and obey.” -Deut 5:27
8. Frequent confession heals us and we start over spiritually healthy.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” -James 5:16
9. Accountability helps us avoid sin. When we are accountable to both man and God it helps us overcome temptation.
"Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" "I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?" The LORD said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground.” -Genesis 4:9

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Myth That Women Are To Blame For a Man's Lust


A while back, another blog posted a metaphor for how men struggle with lust - due to women who dress immodestly. I think there is some merit to it. I am paraphrasing, but the metaphor goes something like this...
Women who are concerned with good health and exercise have to really struggle not to eat the chocolate (or other tempting food they like) which is sitting out on the counter. It takes all the will power a woman has to say no, stick to healthy habits, and put the chocolate aside. Now, imagine if someone followed you around every day, with chocolate, and offered it to you. Over time, your will power might break down, unless you were constantly vigilant. This is what it is like for a man struggling with lust due to women who dress immodestly.
While there is some merit to the analogy, I want to point out that if someone is following you around and tempting you there is always the St. Paul option (see Acts 16:18).

Second, it is always a choice to say "yes" to the chocolate and allow the temptation to fester. The desire, itself, for chocolate is not the problem. It is what you choose to do with that desire that is the problem.

Finally, women aren't generally following men around and tempting them. Rather, the man's eyes are wandering and the man needs to have more custody of them.

I have heard many excuses for the men who can't control their lust:
  • "If she didn't dress that way, then she wouldn't be seen as an object."
  • "Men can't control themselves when women dress so provocatively" 
  • "Just boys being boys"
  • Etc
This mentality is a lie. It is an easy way out which we men sometimes wish we had so we didn't have to control ourselves. Yet, the fact is - LUST IS A CHOICE!

In order to be clear, let us define lust. Some think it is any sexual thought about someone else. It is not. Rather, lust is the entertainment of sexual desires for a selfish satisfaction.  Here is how JPII put it:
"Reducing the riches of the perennial call to communion of persons...to mere satisfaction of the sexual 'need' of the body."
In other words, lust is using another person sexually (whether they know it or not).
The Catechism says:
"2351 Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes."
So, lust isn't just a thought that pops into your brain without you choosing it. Rather, you take that thought, entertain it, and use it as your own. This makes the thought an act of your will - you choose it. If you don't take ownership of it, then you can't be forgiven nor can you start to work on real chastity.

So, regardless of a woman's ignorance, imprudence, lack of modesty, and bad choices - it is NEVER A WOMAN'S FAULT YOU CHOSE TO LUST AFTER HER!

Let me say it again - despite a woman's reckless behavior, lack of concern for your chastity, failure to show charity to her brother - the man who lusts is the one who is to blame for the lust.

This is not to say that women should wear immodest clothes (see this post for the argument against immodesty). In fact, immodesty can be sinful, just as lust is.

Rather, it is an argument that shifting the blame of a man's lust to women who dress in a certain manner is a lie. The truth is if we love our sisters, we men will step up and take responsibility for our choices and our need to work on self-control.

RELATED POSTS:
**Internet + Bathing Suits = Bad Idea
**Top 10 Reasons Men Should Practice Custody of the Eyes
**Top 10 Reasons Women Should Dress Modestly
**The Impact of Porn Through Stats
**Reflections on the Question of Modesty

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Jesus Uses Sarcasm? Yes He Does.


It might come as a surprise that Jesus was very sarcastic, but he was. First, let us look at what sarcasm is:
1. harsh or bitter derision or irony.
2. a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark
The origin of the word gives us a better understanding - it comes from the Greek "sarkasmos" and that comes from another word which means "to tear flesh, bite the lip in rage".

Sometimes sarcasm can be used to make a joke (but be careful of your audience). Sometimes it can be used to make a strong and biting point. This is how Jesus uses it more often than not.

So, was Jesus harsh, bitter, sharp, sneering, cutting, and ironic? Yes.

But, first I will give you my favorite Old Testament usage of sarcasm (there are a lot) - it comes out of 1 Kings 18. Here the prophet Elijah puts the priests of Baal that they should accept a challenge from him to see which God is best - Baal or Yahweh. So, they have a challenge to see which God would show up to burn up the sacrifice made by Elijah vs the priests of Baal.
Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.
What you don't see in the majority of most English translations is how much Elijah was really taunting them. Here is a better translation:
"About noontime, Elijah began mocking them. ‘You’ll have to shout louder than that,’ he scoffed, ‘to catch the attention of your god! Perhaps he is talking to someone, or is out sitting on the toilet, or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened.’"
Baal might be asleep? Might be on the toilet? HA HA! I love it!!!

5 Times Jesus is Sarcastic

So what about Jesus?
  • Matthew 15:21-28 - Calls the Canaanite woman a "dog", which was a terribly insulting and would prick the Canaanite woman directly - she was not a Jew, the first group Jesus is sent to.
  • Matthew 23 (the entire chapter) - first he says the Jewish leaders are hypocrites and the Jesus should do what they say, but not what they do. Then Jesus gives the 7 woes (full of sarcasm), then he calls the leaders "snakes, you brood of vipers"
  • Mark 12:24 - Jesus asks the Sadducees "are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures of the power of God?" These were leaders who prided themselves on knowing Scriptures, so this was a terribly sarcastic and insulting statement.
  • John 9 - the story of the blind man is FULL of sarcasm, but most from the blind man (and his family). Jesus last statement to the Pharisees is very sarcastic too - calling them blind.
  • Luke 13:31 - Jesus calls Herod a fox, but he uses the feminine of the Greek word, which means he is calling him a vixen. Now that is an insult!
Now, with that all being said, we are not Jesus! We have to be VERY careful with sarcasm. As anyone who knows me knows - I can be way too harsh with my sarcasm. Jesus was the only one who could always use sarcasm without sinning.

You and I are not Jesus. So, if you use sarcasm, be careful. Of course, this is coming from a sarcastic hypocrite...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Underage Drinking

Q - What does the church say about underage drinking--not necessarily in regards to drunkenness?


A - Thanks for the question.  I would like to point other readers to my answer to a previous question on whether getting drunk is a mortal sin.  While you ask a question that takes that out of the picture, it is all too common a question and very relevant to most college students.

Now, as to your specific question.  It depends (don't you love that answer).

Alcohol is not, in and of itself, an evil thing.  So, having a beer is not, by itself, wrong.  That being said, there are other circumstances that can make a neutral thing (alcohol) be used for an immoral purpose.

It is not a sin, if you are not breaking the law and drink moderately.  Now, the Texas state law allows a minor to under the supervision of their parents or guardian.  So, this would not be a sin, if you drink a beer or a glass of wine with your parents.

But, I am guessing you mean drinking as a minor without your parents or guardian around.  If this is the case, then you are breaking the law. While some believe drinking-age laws are arbitrary, we must still follow them, because they are not unjust laws. Breaking the law is a sin, if it is a just law, therefore underage drinking without your parents around is a sin.  What level of sin (mortal or venial) depends on other circumstances.  Here are some examples.

Example #1 - Your know that your parents do not approve of underage drinking, but you drink anyway.  Therefore you are also breaking commandment #4 - to honor your father and mother.  By the way, even if your parents encouraged you to drink before you turn 21, you are still bound to follow the law.

Example #2 - Others you are drinking with are drinking too much or participate in unhealthy or immoral behaviors because of drinking.  This is scandalous, because you are giving tacit approval to their actions (even if you don't approve or or participate in their actions) by your presence.

Example #3 - You have a history of not being able to control yourself around alcohol and thus you are putting yourself in a near occasion of sin.

Example #4 - You drink and drive.  Not only is this very stupid / sinful, but it is also breaking another TX law, because a minor cannot drive with ANY trace of alcohol in their system.

There are other examples, but this will do for our purposes here.  Is underage drinking a sin?  The simple answer is yes, it is (most likely) a venial sin when you break the law but do not drink to excess.  But, other issues can increase the gravity of the sin to make it a mortal one.

But, we shouldn't always see such situations from the negative side. There is a positive side as well. Every time you choose to follow the law you say yes to justice and the wise course of action. When you choose to drink legally and responsibly, you choose sobriety, temperance, prudence, and wisdom as well. The right choice is the one you will never regret, the one that follows your conscience, and the one that is in accord with God's will. Choose that and you won't miss out on anything anyway.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) & The Better Option


The Millenial generation is REALLY good at keeping their options open and waiting for the better option, but it is spilling into other generations as well, and I don't think it is good for any of us.

Think about theses scenes you see frequently (maybe do yourself):
  1. A young couple on a date at a restaurant, who don't engage each other much in conversation, who rarely make eye contact, and stare at their phones for most of the dinner.
  2. You ask someone if they want to watch a movie or go play pool on Friday night and they get wishy-washy about giving you an answer. They might say something akin to, "text me before you go and I will see if I can go later."
  3. A relative who has been dating their significant other for 10 years and has no plans to get married, because they want to "keep their options open."
All of these situations, and many more like them, repeat themselves daily in our culture. Some believe it is the FOMO mentality - the "Fear Of Missing Out". In other words, there might be a better option out there, so I shouldn't commit myself to anything right away. 

Those that are culture-watchers know this is happening and they play on our vulnerability. Examples:
  • 168,894 different drink combos at Sonic
  • Dating sites that offer hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of different "options" to date others.
  • How many different options are there on a phone now? Not to mention the kinds of phones one might choose.
  • etc.
We have even brought this attitude into faith issues - church shopping, being spiritual but not religious, and wanting to choose our own way over God's way (the universal FOMO).

The problems that come from this attitude are legion and I believe the Devil is highly entertained by this culture of the better option. If we don't commit to something and stick to it, we don't commit to anything. If we don't commit to anything, we live our lives without meaning.

Too often today, we stand paralyzed in making a choice, because there are too many options. We leave our options open, waiting for the better one, but we end up not committing to anything and then the moment passes us by and we seem unsatisfied - afraid we "missed out" on something better. Sometimes it is a consequence of being afraid to make the wrong choice, in the face of so many options being presented. So, the only decision made is to not make a decision, and therefore not have to live with the consequences of missing out or making the wrong choice.

This is not a good way to live a good life!

Life is meant for us to make a choice, stick with it, and the result is living a better life because of it.

The vows of matrimony include choosing one spouse and only one spouse, until death do us part:
I, ____, take you, ____, to be my (husband/wife). I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.
Notice there is no backdoor to find a better option down the line. Whatever may happen, this is the choice I make and I stick to it. If we don't, we are treating others as an thing which we can use as we wish to make us happy = utilitarianism. This mentality is dangerous and unchristian!

Utilitarianism is the philosophy that the best way to live my life is to maximize my happiness and minimize my suffering and this is primarily done by using other people and things to attain my happiness. In other words, it makes people into objects. By constantly keeping your options open with others, by waiting for a better option, by having the fear of missing out - we treat others as objects, not people!

Think about how God chooses to love us. He chooses you and sticks to His choice! It is how He wants us to live our lives too! Make a choice for God and stick to it!

There are a multitude of gods out there we can worship - money, sex, power, fame, etc. One that too many are worshiping today is the god of better options. It promises you won't miss out. But, it lies.

Choose God. Choose others. Stick to your choice. This is the way of the one true God who chooses you. Faithfulness is never without sacrifice, but it does not leave us unsatisfied.

Even psychology backs this up - Psychologist Barry Schwartz teaches this (WARNING - there are some parts of this video that are somewhat crass, but are used to make a good point):




"Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."-Joshua 24:15

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Kale?

Jim Gaffigan lets us know about Kale.
Have fun and happy 4th of July (don't forget to pray for our country).

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Polygamy: Why Not?

Q - I am studying polygamy in one of my classes, and I have surprisingly learned that those marriages are highly successful with high reports of happiness. So it got me to wondering, why is it considered to be wrong by the church? God is in love with everyone at once, and in heaven we will all be unified to each other equally; so why would God create humans to be monogamous?

A - Thanks for the question. In our modern culture, marriage is constantly being  redefined. Not long ago, marriage between one man and one woman (until death do they part) was the cultural norm. Now, marriage is defined by whatever makes someone happy or whomever someone is attracted to. This is how we get the high acceptance of same-sex marriage, not to mention growing acceptance of polyamory, polygamy, etc.

So, before we dive into a direct answer, we must first understand what the Church teaches about marriage itself.

WHAT MARRIAGE IS
Marriage is the basic cultural building block of society. One man, one woman, and their children unite as a family - every bit of evidence shows that families thrive in monogamous and stable homes with two biological parents of opposite sexes who remain married.

This means that there is less poverty, crime, strife, etc. in homes where marriages do well. This is because the mother and father of children cannot be replaced. Two fathers or two mothers (or any other combination of differing numbers) cannot provide what one mother and one father can. The role of the father can't be replaced by a woman and the role of the mother can't be replaced by a man. Neither can multiple mothers or fathers help a confused child understand stability and love in a family.

What we can know for sure is when families suffer the rest of our culture suffers.

NOT ABOUT "LOVE"
True love is to choose what is best for the other regardless of the cost to myself. This means polygamous relationships can never have loving sexual relationships. This is because the true act of sex is about giving yourself away completely, but if a man has multiple wives (or a woman has multiple husbands) he or she can't do this fully, because the body isn't made to be given to multiple partners and it certainly doesn't proclaim faithfulness to one other person.

A married couple can say, with their bodies, I want to create life and bond with you only - until one of us dies. I want to be one with you. This is impossible with polygamous "marriages", because while the body might still be saying this, the act itself is ordered toward selfish pleasure. True unity can never be created when we give ourselves to multiple partners.

NOT ABOUT SAMENESS. 
Throughout history, pro-marriage laws are by definition discriminatory. They discriminate FOR traditional families (not against others) in order to build up what is good for society. Where do children thrive? In the traditional family. If we tear the family down, society suffers. One of the purposes of the government is to help support this building up of what is good for society. Therefore, marriage is about more than people who have good feelings for one another. It is about the common good of society - which is why the government got involved in it in the first place.

Just because people can live together, have sex together, and have strong emotions (and possibly a strong bond of intimacy and friendship) does not mean they need to have that relationship endorsed by our government by granting them a marriage license and the rights of married couples. Similar situations does not equate to equal situations, when the good of children and society comes into play.

I am not a woman. Because I can't bear a child in a womb, am I being discriminated against when a woman gets pregnant and is granted maternity leave I can never take advantage of? No. Equality isn't sameness.

Another thought brought to the absurd logical end. I love my sister. Should I be able to marry her? Who are you to say I can't marry someone I love?

The point being - not all relationships are the same and shouldn't be treated as such.

WHAT ABOUT OLD TESTAMENT POLYGAMY?
In the times of the Old Testament, the people were being led by God toward the truth, but He didn't give them the fullness of the truth, because they were not ready for it. If the Father had sent the Son during the times of Noah, the people would not have been prepared to accept Him. Therefore, we ought to view the Old Testament as a school for humanity. It is training and education in the basics so that we would be ready to accept the advance education and training of Christ. When Jesus came, He revealed the fullness of the law of God. So, the moral law - the 10 commandments - was never taken away. Rather, our understanding of it was deepened (see Matthew 5-7).

What was changed were those things that were not part of the moral law. For instance - Christ says this about divorce and why God allowed it in the Old Covenants:
"Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?" He said in reply, "Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate." They said to him, "Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss (her)?" He said to them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery." [His] disciples said to him, "If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry." He answered, "Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it." - Matt 19:4-12 
His answer to the question of why divorce is allowed gives us insight into the training that God was giving His people. But, God wants more of us. He wants us to live life out fully and with all truth, therefore He gave us the grace to be able to do so through Christ - both in His teachings and in each of our souls. The same kind of situation happened when the law allowed for multiple wives.

The Bible doesn't answer the question of polygamy directly, but we can infer much from this situation. This was because the tribes and kingdoms which surrounded Israel allowed for the same, and the Israelites were not ready to accept the fullness of the law. Therefore men were allowed, for a time, to have multiple wives. Why?

Well, maybe because there are more women than men (due to war, lifestyles, etc. of ancient times). Also, an ancient near middle-eastern woman would not be able to provide for herself and would need the support of a relative or husband. In the new covenant of love that Christ reveals to us, we see that marriage is to be between only one man and one woman - who are equal in dignity, because this relationship mirrors the relationship between Jesus and the Church (Ephesians 5) and that the two become one. The new law is one of love and faith, not just rules.
"I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." -John 13:34-35 
Finally, the Catechism says the following:
2387 The predicament of a man who, desiring to convert to the Gospel, is obliged to repudiate one or more wives with whom he has shared years of conjugal life, is understandable. However polygamy is not in accord with the moral law." [Conjugal] communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive." The Christian who has previously lived in polygamy has a grave duty in justice to honor the obligations contracted in regard to his former wives and his children.
Ultimately, the answer lies in this fact - we were made for one other person. That relationship will ultimately be with God in heaven, but in this present life, we are made to be a sign (Sacrament) of that relationship with God in our marriages between one man and one woman, until death.

But, putting faith aside for a moment, the state has a legitimate role in giving incentives to marriage between one man and one woman - it is good for all of us.

Finally - there are other studies that show polygamy is bad for many.  Studies have shown that it discriminates against woman, by some being treated as less equal to men, and it discriminates against poor men who cannot afford multiple wives.

Polygamy is the next frontier in the battle for marriage, so get ready, you will be given much evidence it is a good thing. This is why polygamy studies showing everyone is hunky-dory is merely an effort to normalize such relationships.

I hope this helps.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fr. Barron on Bill Maher & Biblical Interpretation

Is religion anti-intellectual? Does The Bible present us with a God who is mean, superstitious, or without logic?

No. But, Bill Maher really isn't interested in learning about Christian faith. Rather, he just wants to make Christians look like fools. Fr. Barron examines this kind of thinking.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Catholic Tribalism and Civil War


When I was a child I had some neighbors who fought constantly. The mom, dad, and even the kid would get into fights and then become unreasonable, yell, stomp out, and close themselves off from each other. After a while, I started avoiding their house, knowing that I wouldn't enjoy being in the middle of another argument.

The Catholic Church is like that family sometimes. We talk about being children of God, His sons and daughters, but we act in a completely dysfunctional way. It starts with the labels we give ourselves or others as being one kind of Catholic or another. These modern labels include:
  • liberal Catholic
  • conservative Catholic
  • moderate Catholic
  • progressive Catholic
  • neo-conservative Catholic
  • modernist Catholic
  • traditional Catholic
The first problem with every one of these labels is The Church is not a political entity and to use such politically-loaded phrases such as "conservative" or "liberal" is the wrong way in which to describe any person's relationship to the Catholic Church. Every one of these labels come from the political spectrum and have a lot of baggage associated with them, not to mention that the terms are quite nebulous and their meanings have changed radically through the years. Still, none of these labels encompasses what it means to be Catholic.

The Church is too big to be caught up into such tribalism. We lose the mystery and make it a purely human enterprise. It also makes it easy to disregard others and keep them at arms' length, never truly trying to understand their perspective or loving them as brothers and sisters.

Now, that being said, I am not advocating for the doctrinal teachings of the Church to be up for grabs. If I do that, I make myself into a kind of uber-pope who gets to be the final say on doctrine. On the other hand - I also can't judge others when they struggle with a Church teaching, because I then make myself into another kind of uber-pope who gets to determine who is a "good" Catholic and who isn't.

We are free to disagree with another Catholic on how to fix immigration, how to best fight poverty, etc. But, we can't deny the right of every human being to live, the teaching that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, marriage can only be between one woman and one man, the preferential option for the poor, etc.

Yet, if someone else is struggling with one of these teachings of the Church, we also can't judge the state of their souls or their relationship with the Church.

Another caveat - that isn't to say we should be silent about what the doctrines of the Church are and are not. Choosing to love another person does not mean we necessarily accept what they believe. Still, in our disagreement we need to love others in order to bring them into a closer relationship with Jesus. Rarely is someone in an argument or fight willing to accept they are wrong. Love is the key.

If someone asks me if I am conservative or liberal (or any other label you want to use), I answer, "I am Catholic."

Furthermore, the problem with bickering and arguing among Catholics is the kind of witness it gives to those on the fringes of The Church or outside The Church. It speaks loudly to the rest of the world and it says - we are in a civil war! I stopped going to my friends' house because his family argued all the time. Why would someone want to go to a church where everyone was at each others' throats constantly?

Jesus wanted us to be one. He prayed for Unity in the Church. One in faith, hope, worship, love, Sacraments, service, etc. While we can't ever bring about unity by our own power or will, we can start where we have control, over our own thoughts and actions. We need to start truly loving others, not for the opinions they hold (right or wrong) or the affinity we have toward a group they identify with, but rather because we must do so if we are to truly be followers of Jesus.

How exactly are we to bring Good News to the world if we can't get away from a civil war?

Pray for unity. Start loving others. No matter what.
Time to start practicing what I preach...

Of course, Jesus says it even better:
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." -John 17:20-23

Monday, June 16, 2014

Get More Out Of Going To Mass


Many people go to Mass with the expectation that they are supposed to "get" a lot out of it. But, what you get out of Mass is dependent on what kind of changes you are willing to make in your efforts before, during and after Mass, because what you put into Mass determines what you get out of it.

Let me give you eight pointers that have helped me in the past:

1 - Properly prepare for Mass.
  • Read and study the readings before you go to Mass, and then listen to them intently while The Word is proclaimed. You can find the Sunday readings here.
  • Study the Church's teachings. The more you know about Christ and His Church, the more there is to love. - You can't love what you don't know.
  • Go to Confession regularly. This will help prepare you spiritually.
  • Pray daily. Without prayer you have no spiritual power!
  • Dress appropriately. You are going to meet the King of Kings. Don't dress the same as you would for a lunch date, a party, or class. Make it special.
  • Get there early and sit up front. Less distractions and more time for prayer before Mass.
  • Once inside, don't talk or people-watch...pray.
2 - Make sure your attitude is adjusted properly
  • Don't expect to be entertained. It isn't as much about what God is doing for you, but what you are doing to worship God.
  • Look for God in every part of the Mass.
  • Don't let outside distractions disturb your internal peace.
  • Find one nugget in the preaching to take home with you.
3 - Participate
  • Sing, even if your voice is bad.
  • Respond and pray with gusto. Give it all to God and don't worry about others.
  • Remember that during Mass isn't socializing time.
  • Offer your pain, sufferings, joys and prayers to God.
4 -Listen to the Word and be open to it changing you
  • Are you open to letting God change you? If not, then you won’t be changed.
  • Listen to the Word proclaimed and let it challenge you.
  • Find something in the Homily and apply it for the week.
5 - Know, understand, and proclaim your Faith
  • Don’t just recite the Creed - proclaim it like you mean it and understand what you are proclaiming.
6 - Tithe
  • If every Catholic tithed...think what we could accomplish in spreading the Gospel.
  • Yes, it is our duty to support the Church. But, it does more for our own faith than it does for the Church.
  • Most people "tip" not "tithe" - so be a tither, not a tipper.
7 - When you receive Jesus in the Eucharist - understand what it is you are doing
  • You are taking the Body, blood, soul, and divinity of GOD into you
  • You are joining in heaven on earth
  • You are becoming one with The Body of Christ
  • Be reverent
  • Realize that He is in everyone else that received Him as well.
8 - Tell other people about Him
  • You are now empowered to evangelize (share the Good News of Christ) - which is what the Church exists for.
"If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy." - Saint Jean Vianney