Marriage IS for me

marriage

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

Image

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?

gay

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

The Pope Said What?

Pope FrancisThe Pope Said What?

The Church’s teachings on abortion, contraception, and homosexual marriage are among some of the hardest lessons to swallow. They are also the hot topics often discussed in today’s world. In a recent interview Pope Francis made the comment:

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

 Many people misinterpreted the Popes words and rejoiced that the Church had finally ‘gotten over’ their old fuddy duddy teachings and have accepted that the culture will behave the way it wants and the Church has no power over the moral order. However, Pope Francis did not mean that the Church along with her faithful should abandon her teachings. He does encourage the Church and Catholics everywhere to take a better approach to winning over the stubborn hearts of the people.

Common Sense

To understand the Pope’s suggestion, you must only use common sense. How do we expect to change minds and hearts by pushing a moral agenda and blasting unbelievers with the Church’s hardest teachings.  If you approach someone who has a hard time accepting the Church, why would you believe that getting on your soap box and rattling off cannon law and scriptures that support a pro-life, anti-contraception, anti-gay marriage stance would encourage them to learn more about the Church. Despite the fact that we are called to support the Church and the truths that she proclaims, we cannot use this approach at first.

If Necessary Use Words

To use an over-used saying, but with a twist, we must “preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.”  In this case I am using the ‘Gospel’ to mean the moral and ethical teachings of the church. We must not always use words when trying to prove that our moral and ethical teachings are correct and based in natural law. We must show the love and mercy and forgiveness that Christ taught. We must live our lives according to these laws. We must become true examples of how the moral teachings of the Church provide a foundation for a life well lived. We must approach our brothers and sisters as brothers and sisters in Christ. We must show them the beauty of our faith, the compassion of our love, and our inspiring hope in Jesus Christ. Through living in this way, we will win over hearts before we even open our mouths to evangelize.  Then when we do come to a point where we can express the Church’s views to open ears, (and this point must come eventually) the hearts of our listeners will be softened by their curiosity and admiration for the way we live.

“The Lord counts on you to spread the ‘Gospel of life’” – Pope Francis

Suffering as Seen by the Father

24490_Father_And_Son_Walking_cn_b_smThe Problem With the General Consensus

Our culture today has a bad habit of seeing suffering as punishment. The general consensus of suffering follows along these lines: We suffer because God is punishing us. God oppresses us because we have sinned against him. We experience suffering because God thinks we deserve it.

There is a danger in explaining suffering in this way. First of all more than just the guilty suffer. A definition of suffering as punishment does not explain why the innocent suffer. Secondly, if God punishes and causes harm to his people who he supposedly love, it tends towards a disconnect between loving Father and abusive guardian. Finally, suffering may be punishment, but it extends far beyond it. To confine suffering to punishment slights the beauty of what suffering truly means.

The Proper View of Suffering

The question of why we suffer and how we should suffer is a topic which needs more than a simple blog post to explain. Nevertheless, I will attempt to give a quick explanation of the proper view of suffering. First, lets start of with a wrong view of suffering.

Many of us who suffer feel God treats us unfairly. We believe that God betrays us and abandons us to suffer in our human weakness. We blame God for our sufferings and challenge him. We ask him why he makes us suffer. Why do I deserve this? Why are you doing this to me? This way of looking at suffering gets us nowhere. Like Job we began to get fed up with our suffering. Job wishes at one point that he were never born saying, “Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire? (Job 3:11).

Pope John Paul II comments on Job’s position saying, “Job must look upon suffering with new eyes and realize that it must be accepted as a mystery beyond human understanding.”This is the proper view of suffering: Suffering is a mystery. 

Suffering as a Mystery

A mystery draws you in and inspires you to reflect in a deeper way. Mysteries change our perspective on life. Suffering is a mystery because we in our human understanding cannot grasp it’s meaning completely. In faith we can learn more about suffering, and by asking ‘Why?’ we are led into deeper contemplation of suffering.

Suffering is used to discipline, to convert, to rebuild goodness, to express Divine Mercy, and to overcome evil that lies dormant in us.  I think the best way to explain this notion of suffering is through an analogy.

The Breakdown

Think of an experience as a young child when your parents refused to let you have something that you wanted. Or perhaps a time where your parents took away something you had. Maybe they took away play time in exchange for timeout, or maybe they didn’t let you have candy before dinner.  You may have cried and through a tantrum, but young children rarely hold grudges and the next second i’m sure you had forgotten all about it. In these early years children completely trust their parents and don’t question their authority. Parents set guidelines for their children to protect and instruct them in life.

Now think of an experience during your teenage years when your parents refused to let you have something that you wanted. Or perhaps a time where your parents took away something you had. Maybe they wouldn’t give you money to pay for movies, or maybe they grounded you for underage drinking. In this circumstance the majority of teenagers rebel from the authority of their parents. When a parent sets a guideline, it is now seen as a punishment. From the eyes of the son or daughter, the parents are oppressing them and causing them to suffer. In their minds they are missing out on some perceived good, so they suffer because of it. They ask, why are you punishing me? Why do I deserve this?

Even a child who hasn’t done anything wrong can still ‘suffer’ on account of their parents. It might be a difference of opinion, or a misunderstanding. In our culture today people have an awful habit of being repulsed by authority. We grew up in a wold where we can ‘do what we want’ and no one can tell us otherwise. It’s a very individualist society and we do not like to be punished. We see punishment as bad, evil, awful and suffering.

However, when a parent sets a guidelines they do not view them as punishments. Even when they do ‘punish’ it’s never because they want their children to suffer but it’s because they know what is best for their child. A child doesn’t see the big picture of life yet, and a parent tries to illuminate their path.

God As The Perfect Father

To translate this relationship of ‘Parent and Child’ to ‘God and Human’ is easy. God is Our Father. “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9). This Father knows even more than an earthy father does. His wisdom exceeds out imaginations.  God sees the entire universe and all reality in one instance, so of course he knows better than us.

He wants us to come to him when we suffer and ask ‘Why?” just as a teenager asks his mom ‘Why?’. Simply by asking ‘why am I suffering’ shows that you truly do trust God and you believe he has the answers. If your parent punished you and you turned around and walked out on them, claiming that they do not know anything and they are being unfair and you run away, your parents would be devastated. It was not their intention to punish you so you would walk away. Instead they truly care and want you to open up to them. God wants the same from us. As children of God we should be open with him about our feelings of confusion or despair.

When we ask God to answer our questions we assume that he is there, truly present to give us the answers. Suffering may seem unbearable, but like any good parent, God knows what his children can handle and would never as too much from us. We need to view suffering through the eyes of God. This is what God wants for us, to participate in his Love and see that suffering for love of him creates in us a new heart.

We must trust that God sees more than we do and that our suffering serves a greater purpose. Perhaps it is to form our wills to conform more with the will fo God. Perhaps it is so that we are made stronger for events to come. Perhaps it is God asking us to come closer to him and dwell in his own suffering.

The Stalagmite of the Heart

Image

“Stalagmites are columns of limestone the form in some very old es when drops of limestone water fall from the ceiling. The drops are chiefly composed of water, which drains off, but a small percent of limestone in each drop is deposited and beings to form a mass with the preceding one. Over the course of centuries, a limestone column is formed.”

“My sins, from  the first to the last, had fallen into the bottom of my heart like so many drops of limestone water. The majority had been drained off, thanks to confession, Eucharist and prayer. But because the repentance had not been perfect, there remained a particle of ‘limestone’ each time – a bit of compromise, of resistance to God, of sin in short. This particle amassed with the preceding ones and, day by day, ended up creating a stalagmite. In an instant i understood then what the well-known heart of stone is that the Bible speaks about: It is the heart that we ourselves make, through small infractions of compromise and hardening of the heart.”

“How could i get free? I was immediately aware that I could not destroy the stalagmite by my will because it was precisely there – in my will. A new love was born in me for the blood of Christ then, because I understood that it is the only solvent that can remove the incrustation.”

Verses to Meditate On:

 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Matthew 16:28

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Hebrews 9:14

This excerpt is from Sober Intoxication of the Spirit by Raniero Catalamessa, O.F.M. Cap.

Grow Up

Image

Pigeon Holeing

There is a common tendency of our culture to pigeon hole ourselves, label ourselves, put our selves in a box and stay there. Complacency is embraced, over-tolerance is praised, and growth is unnecessary or in some cases impossible.

I find this is especially the case with college students. I’ve heard so many times from a wide variety or people, ‘I can’t do that because I’m like this‘ or ‘well that’s just who I am’ or ‘I’ve always been this way’. Unfortunately no one objects to that excuse. However, it is just that. An excuse.

So many people, including myself, exclude themselves from the growing, maturing aspect of life because we are complacent and comfortable with where we are. Or, on the other hand, we are complacent even though we are not happy with our state of life. We lead a life based on how we ‘label’ ourselves.

This is a naive and immature way to view life. For Christians, faith is meant to catalyze a profound transformation. Many of us claim to keep the faith, to be Christians, to love the lord. We went to all the religious education classes, the retreats, and received the Sacraments. We are Christian in our heads, but the faith hasn’t moved its way into our hearts. And that is what moves us to get out of our box and grow up.

Our culture is in an interesting predicament. Everyone wants to be the best version of themselves and to flourish as a human being, to be happy and comfortable. However, our worldly desires lead us to a life of complacency. We do not like change, we do not like challenge. So we’re stuck not being happy, trapped by our own oppression.

What do you need to grow out of to become more Christ-like?

As Mother Teresa once said, “We are all called to be Saints.” Some people see that goal as a lofty impossible dream. One that cannot even be fathomed in the extreme state of sin we live in. However people aren’t born saints, they become saints due to their choices.

As I said earlier, the faith is meant to start a profound transformation in your life. However, this transformation is not an instantaneous conversion of heart such as St. Paul experiences.

As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” (Acts 9:3-5)

We cannot all be as fortunate as Paul. All of the saints and even the apostles though they all had profound transformations, the transformations were gradual. The apostles after following Christ for two years and watching him die on the cross went back to fishing after his death! People have fluctuation in transformations and it will not always be an on-fire unstoppable growth toward holiness. It requires conscious effort and work.

That is why I posed the question What do you need to grow out of to become more Christ-like? Nothing is permanent in you. You cannot make the excuse, ‘this is the way I am’ ‘I can’t change’. People do change, it just takes great effort and zeal. It also takes a reason.

The Reason

If you say you believe in the good news of Jesus Christ, ask yourself what difference does it make in your life? If nothing changes, what’s the point of believing in so great a mystery as the Resurrection of Our Lord.  How does your faith in Christ change your life.

What must you grow out of, what habit must you work on, in order to grow into Christ? Do not put yourself in a box and limit your God-given ability for greatness by your own human despair.

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

(2 Corinthians 5:17)

Let your faith in Christ move you to profound transformation. There is no need to be complacent, there is no need to believe you cannot change.

Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)

Stand firm and give yourself fully to the transformative power of Christ. Look to all the saints as an example of true change: St. Paul persecuted Christians, St, Augustine was promiscuous, St. Teresa of Jesus was a major flirt. Even the biblical characters serve as a great source of hope: Peter denied Christ, Rahab was a prostitute, David was a adulterer and a murderer. What is common between all of these people is not only that they were sinner, but they turned their lives around and grew out of their sin and into Christ.

Do not believe the people who say people don’t change. People do change and it is through the power of God.

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)