The Sacrament of Confession actually works!

ImageI must admit, I am not a regular confession goer. I honestly forget most of the time, or I make excuses. “I’m too busy” “I don’t really need to go” “I’ll go next week” are often my go to phrases. When I teach about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I talk about how beautiful God’s grace is, how sinful we are, and how much we need to receive forgiveness from our Lord in the sacrament of penance. I always talk about how confession frees us from the bondage of sin, and restores us to communion with God.

I say all these things, but I don’t know if they really sunk in.

I make sure I go to confession at least one every few months, and sometimes if I feel guilt about a particular sin I will feel like I need confession. However, I always tell people ‘if you don’t go to confession often you will start to feel far from God’. I preached this, but I did not heed my own advice. So Senior year Fall semester is going by quickly, jam-packed with school, thesis writing, social events, and job applications. I never felt I did anything bad enough to accumulate enough guilt to make me feel like I had to go to confession. As time went on, I was feeling swallowed up by my life. I was overwhelmed by all the things I needed to keep up with, homework, exams, papers, household, work, relationships, rent, car insurance, life…. My prayer life was not at it’s peak, and I very suddenly realized what the problem was. I hadn’t been to confession in over 6 months.

This is how the Devil works. The devil is sneaky, he may not always come right out and smack you in the face with temptation. Sometimes he is slow and subtle. Without even alerting us to what is happening, he turns us away from God and toward much less important things. This effected the rest of my life. Everything was great, yes, nothing awful was happening, but I was feeling a little lost and very overwhelmed. It was like I was a magnet and everything in life was attaching itself to me, making me feel heavy and weighted down. This was causing me to be tense, and stressed.

Then I went to confession. It was like a switch turned off the magnetic field and allowed me to turn back toward the face of God and receive his amazing grace. All the little sins, the ones I tend to shove under the rug and forget about or justify, had built up and swallowed me down. The grace that God constantly pours out on me, without end, was being stopped by my preoccupation with my self and my life. It was the first time in my life that I realized just how strong the Sacrament of Reconciliation is. I truly felt reconciled with God.

I hadn’t even realized I was being separated from him. I didn’t hate him, or feel angry at him, but I was slowly getting far and far away. It was like he was my best friend, and as each day went by I forgot to call him back. With every missed call my relationship with him was getting weaker, but in my head I could still remember him as my best friend so I didn’t think it was that important.

Confession is so important. Being united with the God of the universe matters. This experience really solidified my love for the sacrament, and gave me a very real taste of the efficacy of grace. The sacraments really work, God truly pours out his grace through them to us!

If you want to learn more about my take on confession read this:

Confused about Confession

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Don’t Judge Me, Man.

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Men are made to protect, to lead, and to guide. The Lord created Adam and “put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Adam was meant to keep the garden safe, and to protect the animals and himself. God gave him one commandment, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).

So God gives man the command to protect, and to follow God’s law. THEN God creates woman. “The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:17). God created woman from the side of man so that woman was under the strong arm of the man, always to be protected by him. This is what we are to look for in a husband, a man who will protect us. So why not Adam?

Adam was to keep Eve from evil, to guide her in the way of God’s commandment and to lead her on the right path. However, when Eve was tempted by the delicious fruit of the tree Adam stood by and watched.  “The serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field” and he twisted the words of God and lead Eve astray. Adam should have spoken up and made clear the command of God. Eve was guilty of original sin just as much as Adam was, but Adam was created to guide and protect her. He failed, and Eve gave into the temptations of the serpent. She “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise” and forgot the love of God. Adam did not take Eve under his arm and redirect her to the truth of God, but he instead watches her fall and takes the fruit from her “She took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:3-6).

God calls for men to be courageous and speak up in defense of women. Our culture preaches the mantra “don’t judge me” and it has had an awful impact on men and women. Jesus tells us not judge others… and most people stop right there. However, Jesus warns us against judging others hypocritically. We are meant to call others out of sin “be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4). Yes, it is difficult to call another person out of sin, when we ourselves struggle so much. But Jesus says “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Mathew 18:15-17). We are meant to judge others, not in a proud condescending way, but in a way that guides and redirects them toward the saving mercy of God.

This is especially the case for Men and their relationship with women. Adam didn’t behave the way God created him to. Many men in our culture today model themselves after Adam. They don’t want to step on any toes, or make anyone feel bad. They don’t feel like it is their business to speak up, or they don’t want the person to feel talked down to. Unfortunately, these are not good excuses and Adam is not the model.

Adam sinned because he refused to speak up for the woman he loved. He didn’t warn Eve that she was walking on thin ice. He didn’t pull Eve aside and say, “I don’t think this is following God’s will for your life.” He sat by and watched as Eve sinned.

After the fall, God calls out to Adam. He does not address Eve first, because it was Adam who was the ruler and protector of the garden. When Adam asks if he ate from the tree, Adam immediately blames God for giving him the woman (a temptation that led him astray). When God asks Eve, eve blames the serpent. Adam and Eve both refuse to own their sin. Eve was created from Adams side to be protected by him, and when she stood in the face of great temptation Adam did nothing to stop her.

This reveals so much about why relationships work the way they do today. People in relationships blame each other, or external sources for their problems. Often times, no one wants to own up to the fact that the problem stems from themselves. This mind set goes hand in hand with the ‘don’t judge me’ culture. We don’t want to hold each other accountable. Women were created to be Man’s helper, and Man was created to be her protector. Our roles as men and woman reveal the need to speak out when our loved one is sinning.

When I am struggling with a sin the last thing I want is for someone to point it out and make me feel bad about it. However, if the person who is calling me out does so with the intention of leading me closer to holiness, then as much as it stings the exhortation and advice eventually sets in and helps me grow.

These are the kind of people we want to choose as our friends, but more importantly this is the quality we need to look for in a future husband. Women, you do not want a guy who lets you do whatever you want, does not speak up, and has no spine. It might be nice at first, but after a while you will be dissapointed by your lack of growth in the relatiosnhip. Men are meant to encourage wonmen to grow, not to let them be complacent with their lives.

Jesus Christ, the new Adam, models for Men and Woman how we should behave in the face of temptation. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17). Jesus doesn’t make us feel awful or put us down for sinning, but he calls us out of our sin into grace. Men should be less like Adam and more liek Christ. A man shouldn’t be afraid to tell his grilfriend, wife, or sister that they are being led astray by the seprent. He should not be afraid to speak up and remind her of God’s law.

Marriage IS for me

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I did enjoy the article written by Seth Adam Smith “Marriage isn’t for you.” I enjoyed the article because the heartfelt expression of self-giving was true and beautiful. However there were two things that I felt were lacking in this post. One, happiness is not the goal of marriage, holiness is. Steven LaMotte wrote a piece addressing this issue called Marriage Isn’t For You: A Response.  Another post by a blogger named Jeremy also addressed how this article seems to leave God out. So I won’t get into that on this post. The second thing I disagree with is the theme found in this excerpt:

“You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family…Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married…No, a true marriage (and true love) is never about you. It’s about the person you love–their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. Selfishness demands, ‘What’s in it for me?’ while Love asks, ‘What can I give?’”

I think this is a description of what LOVE is, not marriage. Every time he says marriage, swap it out for Love and I think I would agree with everything he says. “You don’t love to make yourself happy, you love to make someone else happy. Love isn’t for yourself.” Love is for the beloved.

However, marriage is for me. I am going to be a part of the marriage, and though my love should be completely self-sacrificial and for the benefit of my spouse, I am still the other half of the ‘one flesh’ of marriage.

If you are dating and view your relationship as ‘if I’m not happy, but I like making my significant other happy’ this is not a healthy relationship.  If you believe that simply sucking it up and being a martyr without ever thinking of the good the relationship is doing for your own soul, the relationship will destroy you.

“Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another” ( CCC 1605). The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). A spouse is created to be a helper for you. Marriage is “a partnership of the whole of life” (CCC 1601). A partnership is “an arrangement in which parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests” (Wikipedia). There is more than just one interest in a partnership. It isn’t only about the other person. Marriage is “by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses” (CCC 1601). Not just one spouse or the other, but both. “The well-being of the individual person…is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life.” (Gaudium et Spes 47)

I understand what the article that Seth Adam Smith was trying to get across, but I think that it could be misleading. Love is meant to be selfless. However, when you are choosing a partner for life, someone who is meant to help you on your way to holiness, you must think about yourself. The two partners “are called to grow continually in their communion through day-to-day fidelity to their marriage promise of total mutual self-giving” (FC 19). So marriage is for the other, but marriage is also for me. Marriage wasn’t meant only to help one of the partners, it was designed by God to help each member reach holiness and their heavenly goal.

So I am not completely bashing Seth Adam Smith’s article, but I am trying to say that what he is talking about is love. If you haven’t realized love is not for you yet, you haven’t been to enough weddings where they read “love is not self-seeking” (1 Corinthians 13:5). Marriage must be about both individuals, or it is not a partnership. If both members take Mr. Smith’s approach to love it is indeed a true marriage, but if only one person holds this view and they are not receiving the mutual help from their significant other that is not marriage.

If my boyfriend isn’t going to help me get to heaven, then I will not choose him as my husband and father of my children. If my boyfriend isn’t going to make me happy, then It would not be a prudent decision to marry him. This does NOT mean that I will be focused on myself in a marriage, and ask ‘what’s in it for me?’ I do desire to serve my future husband and lay down my life for him. However, marriage cannot be decided upon simply by your desire to serve the person you love, you must take your own soul into consideration.

Comfortable with Community: Our Tower of Babel

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The Original Call

God is very clear with his commands in the Old Testament. He told Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Replenish could be translated as ‘fill’. God wanted man to fill the entire earth. His command called for man to spread out over the face of the planet and fill every place with his creatures. This is a scary concept, one must leave family and friends and a familiar place to go to an unknown land. God wants his people to trust him and rely on his providence, not on their own understanding. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)

Didn’t you hear me the first time?

Unfortunately, as clear as God was, humanity didn’t quite get it. God however, the always patient father, reminds his children again of his command. After the flood, God again tells his people to spread out. “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 9:1). Again, God is very clear. He wants his people to leave their comfort zones and rely on communion with God over communion with each other.

Let’s do it Our Way

So, like any rebellious teenager, humanity decided that they knew best. Instead of obeying God’s command and spreading out to fill the earth, they decided on a better plan. “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth”(Genesis 11). Heaven forbid they be scatter abroad over the face of the whole earth! Who would even suggest such a terrifying concept??

Don’t Make Me Come Down There

So God watches as his foolish people build this centralized tower. He laughs, as God often does at our attempts to outsmart him. And he takes charge Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11). God needed to show his children that obeying his command was the only thing that would give them what they needed. The people wanted communion with one another. They were terrified at the thought of having to leave what they knew and loved to go somewhere unknown. However, God knew something that they didn’t. If they did not first have communion with him, they could never enjoy true communion with each other.

Do We Trust God Enough to Move?

Often times in our own lives, we are the people who build the tower of Babel. We like to be comfortable, and surrounded by familiar faces and places. However, God has not called us to be comfortable. God has not commanded us to build a tower for our human relationships. God has called us to not dwell in earthly homes, but to keep our eyes fixed on him. Scripture tells us “Do not love the world nor the things in the world” (1 John 2:15). God wants us to fill the earth, and to depend on him not on other people or things. Nothing is sure, everything is temporal, everything but God. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). Do we dare build our tower in earthly desires? Or do we obey God’s command to trust him as our source of communion, our source of happiness?

Are You Born Gay or do You Choose to be Gay?

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The Inspiration

I have been wanting to write on the topic of same-sex attraction for a while, but have been unable to find a way to do so. I was timid because I did not want to spark an internet debate, I only wanted to present my opinions and those of others. Then I attended a talk on Same-Sex Attraction given by David Prosen, a therapist who used to have same-sex attraction. That sparked my attention, and I now present to you my summary of his talk.

Identity Crisis

A person is not gay. A person is not a homosexual.  You cannot define a person by their sexuality, they are a human person created in the image an likeness of God. A person is a person. A person experiences same sex attraction, but same-sex attraction is not an identity.  However, this idea of homosexuality being an identity and a label is extremely prevalent in our culture.  This stems from the belief that people are born gay.

Are people born gay or do they choose to be gay?

The problem with this question is that it is most often asked as an either or. Either you are born gay, or you choose it. However, this questions needs to be separated into two distinct questions. Is a person born gay?  The answer is no. However, does a person choose to be gay? The answer, a lot of the time is also no.

Are people born gay?

So to tackle the first question, people are not born with same sex attraction. Boys are born boys and girls are born girls, and they are created for one another (boy for girl and girl for boy). There is no gay gene. Same-sex attraction is not inherited, it is not genetic. Just like there is no gene for a basketball player. However, there are genes that make a person more likely to choose to be a basketball player. Just as there are some genes which predispose a person to be tempted toward same-sex attraction. If you are a Christian, Scripture tells us it was man was not created for man, and woman was not created for woman. And if you are not a Christian, Science tells us that a man biologically isn’t created to fit with another man. There is absolutely no scientific proof that there is a gay gene.

Do people choose to be gay?

Does a person choose to be made fun of, to stick out, to be shunned? No. Some people may choose to be gay, but many people (I dare say most) could never recall a time when they actively chose to be attracted to the same sex. They have always felt this way, and they believe they have felt this way since birth. Despite the fact that their is no scientific evidence for a gay gene, there are many studies that prove that same-sex attraction can stem from many different events or occurrences in the way you grew up.

  • A weak masculine identity from lack of male acceptance.
  • A mother who is overly dependent, or is perceived as overly dependent.
  • A mother who is absent
  • A mother who is hurtful, or is perceived as hurtful
  • Sexual abuse.
  • Trouble making friends.
  • Poor body image
  • Unmet same-sex love need
  • Culture

Same-Sex Attraction is Normal

I want to address the last two items on the list above. Our culture is highly pro-choice. I am not talking in the realms of abortion alone, but what I mean is the idea that a human person can choose to do, act, and feel however he or she wants. Because of this our culture has become more and more tolerant and accepting of things that once were seen as sinful or shameful. Same-sex attraction is a normal healthy part of every person’s social experience. A man admires another man for his strength and his charm with women, and strives to be like him. A woman admires her friend because she is beautiful and talented. This admiration is a beautiful expression of appreciation for human relationships. However, when mixed with one of the above mentioned situations, a person may feel shame or self pity when admiring someone of the same sex. Sometimes this can lead from healthy admiration, to a sexualized feeling, especially during puberty when hormones are raging wild.  Here is where our culture comes into play. Instead of redirecting the misled feelings of sexual attraction to healthy admiration of member of the same sex. Our culture says, it’s okay to have same-sex attraction. Someone who is struggling with same-sex attraction is immediately reinforced by media, magazines, television shows, and especially psychologists that being ‘gay is okay’ and normal. When someone with unwanted same-sex attraction goes to a counselor, more often than not the therapist will tell them that they are coming out, and they need to accept it. The counselor will change the person’s values and beliefs in order to match the feelings of same-sex attraction. This is called gay-affirmative therapy and it is the norm for psychologists and therapists these days.  Well is there another option?

Gender-Affirmative Therapy

Unlike gay-affirmative therapy, gender-affirmative therapy doesn’t assume the person is coming out. They work with the person struggling with same sex attraction and guide them to explain their feelings in line with their values and beliefs. Gender affirmative therapy helps the person to develop nonerotic same-sex relationships, become more secure in their gender-identity, and enjoy heterosexual relationships. This may confuse people because due to our cultures misconception that you are born gay or you choose it, therefore there is no ‘cure’ for same-sex attraction.  However, this is wrong.

Is there a Cure?

Cure is a strong word, and I wouldn’t use it in this case. There is not a 100% sure fire way to ‘cure’ same-sex attraction. I don’t like that language, and instead I will use ‘redirect and heal’. There is healing to be found in therapy for same-sex attraction.  David Prosen struggled with poor body image his whole life, he had an absent father and he was constantly trying to get approval from other men. During puberty, this escalated and it turned into sexual feelings. David Prosen became a ‘homosexual’ and participated in same-sex relationships and behaviors. He didn’t want to be like this, and he didn’t choose it. But after a deep conversion in his life, he realized he wasn’t born this way either and he could change how he viewed men.  David Prosen has not completely eliminated his feelings of same-sex attraction, however they have greatly diminished. Not only that, but he now is attracted to women. In many studies done on gender-affirmative therapy, 30% of the people in therapy had completely eliminated same-sex attraction. Another 30% noticed a major reduction in the feelings of same-sex attraction.  (Bieber 1962; Clippinger 1974; Fine 1987; Kaye 1967; MacIntosh 1994; Marmor 1965; Nicolosi 1998; Rogers 1976; Satinover 1996). There IS proof that you can triumph over some same-sex attraction. Just like anything that anyone else struggles with, it does not define you as a person, it only hinders your ability to be the person you were created to be.

What about the 40% that can’t change? What about those who don’t want to change? Well this topic is large, and it is a very sensitive issue. I could write several more posts on the subject, and maybe someday I will. For now I will just simply keep it about the hope in the changes that people can make in their lives. I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, I am simply summarizing a talk given by David Prosen. For more information:

http://www.catholictherapists.com/davidprosen/

http://theaquilareport.com/identical-twins-studies-prove-homosexuality-is-not-genetic/

http://www.islamawareness.net/Homosexuality/bornorbred.pdf