Archive | September, 2013

How Being Catholic is Like Being Married

25 Sep

Holy Family icon

In many ways being Catholic is analogous to being married and from the looks of the things I see around me with my own eyes, we are terrible spouses.  Oh, I see. You think this is a terrible analogy. Right? Well then consider this – when you were confirmed you accepted a sacrament (just as matrimony is a sacrament) of your own free will that bound you to the Catholic Church.  You accepted that sacrament with full knowledge of the Catechism which outlines the beliefs of the church. You asserted that you shared and would do your best to abide by those beliefs and teachings. Just like marriage where you enter the sacrament of your own free will, and agree to abide by Church teachings on your marital responsibilities like being faithful, open to life, and committing to a single spouse for life.

Somewhere along the way so very many have wandered off the path…

In the end, if we don’t respect our own faith and beliefs, how can we expect others to respect our faith and beliefs? I cringed when Obama argued that the Catholic stance on Birth Control being part of Obamacare was irrelevant because no matter what the Church said 93% of US Catholics admitted to using it anyway. I was humiliated at the thought that just because the vast majority of US Catholics were in mortal sin but rationalized it away, and Obama was using our own sin as an argument to degrade and humiliate a core belief of our faith. It would be ok if I could see that people understood that by nonchalantly committing mortal sin openly (even proudly) they were attacking the Church, and thereby God. A good description of such people might be the “Formosan Termites” of the faith, because they rapidly eat out the foundations and load bearing members of a structure until it collapses from the inside. I keep hoping that if more of us will stand up on the Catechism publicly it will become socially unpopular to either do or profess heretical beliefs and lead to a wave of social change back to the church for those so inclined or away from the church for those who cannot or will not accept its core beliefs.

As Pope Francis said – it not just about Abortion, or homosexual copulation, or contraception. We cannot allow ourselves to be hung up on single issues. These are hot buttons for sure in America, but we must instead embrace all of the Catechism with our whole hearts and live our faith in both our public and private lives. This means teachings on fasting on Fridays or substituting an alternate penance all the way to teachings on the Death Penalty and Social Justice which must also be observed. If you own a business this means that you must run it according to the Catechism. If we can be faithful in the small things, then the large things will seem ever so much smaller because our faith will begin to lift us up and over those obstacles.

Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems to me that a large number of american Catholics are divorced, or at the very least separated and involved in external adulterous affairs in regard to their bond with the Catholic Church who is waiting with open arms for them to come back. Lets hope our brothers and sisters in Christ can be rounded up before they wander and bleat their way off a cliff.

By all means – please comment if you agree or disagree.

Colin

What will I say?

13 Sep

There is a popular song by Mercy Me called “I Can Only Imagine”. I like this particular rendition because stylistically I play it the same exact way they do, right down to many of the nuances. I also like it because the lyrics sing to me (for the record – my wife does not like the song). I have been there waiting for that moment, for Him to come – and wondering what I would say. Knowing that nothing would be sufficient.

This time it will be different, he will want to know what I have to say for the reprieve. What did I do with that extra time? Could I explain how I had not wasted his gift on me?

Would I tell him about the 4 beautiful children he blessed me with? The faith he restored? My rather miraculous recovery that I’m sure He helped with? Maybe I could tell him about my financial support for the church or the needy where I shared his bounty with others?

Well, after much introspection – I want to tell him how I did something He asked of me of my own free will, rather than trying to take credit for things he did for me. I think I will tell him that I loved my Wife with all my soul, I loved my children with all my heart, and that I tried my best to love humanity too.

Not that I have succeeded thus far, but I am a work in progress. You see, I do pretty well with individuals, but when taken as a group I start to fail at loving them all at once. So small steps are the best I can realistically do as I try to master compassion and love on a large scale.

Why that you ask? It all crystallizes to this point – Love is the one thing we do for Him. It teaches us to surrender ourselves and become a servant to Him by serving at least one other person in his example.  True Love is not forced, nor does it seek reward or recompense, it just is. We learn to experience joy in serving rather than being served. Whether or not it’s the right answer, and whether or not it’s enough to avoid disappointing Him, I will be able to look at myself without shame and regret. Hopefully, it will be enough that I dare to look up into His face when the moment comes.

What would you say?

Colin

Distributism – Catholic Economics and Social Justice

13 Sep

Three_acres_and_a_cow

Today I’m going to talk about the many US Catholic’s anger and revulsion that Pope Francis “dared” to call a spade a spade and pointed out that both Socialism and Capitalism as economic systems are equally flawed and exploitive. Many poorly catechized Catholics are unaware that there is an alternative system based on private property and private ownership of production which is based on, and follows exactly Catholic Social Teaching. It is called Distributism and you can read about it on Wikipedia HERE.

Given the name Distributism, it probably evokes a really negative reaction – but I encourage people to read first and judge only after reading. I know a large number of “Catholics” who seem to find the Social Justice teachings just as impossible to follow as those on Birth Control or Divorce. They’re not guidelines or recommendations. – they’re rules of the faith laid down in the Catechism. They are not optional beliefs. We seem to have tried both of the other systems (Capitalism and Socialism) and they have failed. We have tried mixing the two together in various combinations, and still they fail.

Catholics are the single largest religious group in the USA comprising over 25% of the total population. We have an opportunity to lead here by not only learning our faith, but by putting the tenants of Social Justice based economics onto the table and hopefully into practice for the benefit of all. If all of them were better educated on the requirements of their faith in economic matters and made an effort to implement those principles in their lives and businesses. Better still if an effort was made to educate others who may not be Catholic about this economic alternative. It may be an uphill battle at first, but I like to think that people don’t know truth when they hear it, or even see it, they only recognize it when they truth when they directly experience it.

The challenge is to start taking the Social Justice teachings of the Church seriously and put them to work in our own lives, families, and businesses. In doing so we can spread the teachings by example – and allowing those around us to experience it for themselves.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments, especially how aware you were of distributism before reading this article! This is a good follow-up for those looking for some additional reading:

http://distributistreview.com/mag/2011/08/g-k-chestertons-distributism/

Yours in Christ,

Colin

Sex Every Day for a Year!

11 Sep

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WARNING: This post contains subject matter suited only to married couples. I’m interested in my readers thoughts on this one (especially those of the Catholic clergy, or those that have tried and succeeded or failed trying this). For me this is a thought experiment only, where I’m working through all the pros and cons and researching aspects of it in the Cathechism (as the author is a Baptist apparently). Confidential submissions/reports will be kept so and can be sent to cc70458@gmail.com

I had heard of this a while back, http://www.amazon.com/365-Nights-Intimacy-Charla-Muller/dp/0425222578, when the book was being promoted. It’s hit the news again recently on CNN too.  Seems a couple made a splash announcing their success at completing the program and decided to interview on national television. Warning book spoiler – A wife makes “sex every day for an entire year” a gift to her husband for his 40th birthday, then writes a bestseller from the diary she kept on her effort. She also keeps an ongoing Blog here on WordPress (http://charlamuller.wordpress.com/) that details what follows that rather large experiment.

Some of my initial thoughts on this are:

  • A year is a very long time. I would think making it a whole month might be a reasonable while very challenging goal
  • The author of the book gave this to her husband as a GIFT, as all sexual relations in a marriage should be given in that spirit. I suspect that to make it through any period of time each would be in a position of truly making a gift to the other of themselves, possibly for the first time in their marriage as physical gratification gives way to emotional gratification as the primary driver
  • The author made a big deal of effective birth control. As a Catholic, pregnancy is pretty darned likely under these circumstances. Birth Control is RIGHT OUT – So this is a great challenge if you are hoping to have children, but not so practical for those who are not open to life.
  • Performing on command can be equally difficult for both spouses, men too after the first week or two (just being honest here). This will probably mean that both spouses will have to find ways to build the desire in each other up each day through looks, touches, calls, notes, etc…
  • I cannot argue with the underlying premise, that an accelerated level of sexual coupling will have rather dramatic effects on the sacrament of marriage if the marriage is stable, but if it is unstable it could also be the catalyst for the demise of the sacramental bond
  • It can take lust out of the equation over time – letting people explore love and intimacy without raging hormones dictating words or actions
  • It can be a huge learning experience for both parties about themselves and each other as pretenses are dropped and honesty is injected into the lovemaking process about our likes, dislikes, and feelings about sex
  • It does force a habit of making time to be intimate with each other, and keeps people thinking about how to fulfill the commitment each day
  • It poses a risk of resentment when either party learns enough about the other that they no longer see submission and participation as the same thing. If either party realizes that the other is regularly just submitting it can be either very educational or very damaging to the marriage depending on the real reason
  • It can have positive effects of encouraging spontaneity and enable people to learn to enjoy their spouses pleasure and excitement as much or more than your own, learning to sacrifice yourself joyfully is key to marriage in general for both spouses. Its not that you have to necessarily want the sex itself, so much as you necessarily have to want to be emotionally close and bring joy to another (husband or wife). If you just want to get it over with before your gum looses flavor it’s going to have a detrimental effect

While I can see the potential good, I fear the potential emotional and spiritual damage many could be exposed to as the barriers so carefully erected to preserve their true feelings about the marital embrace and their spouse will be eroded away not like a sand castle washed away by an incoming tide, but instead destroyed by a tidal wave. While washing away those barriers is not necessarily bad, if we are not willing to accept what we learn in a loving and constructive manner and do something to fix it then disaster looms. This can be much harder when it happens very quickly. Our emotions often run very high and close to the surface when it comes to sex, and when humans get emotional they often say exactly what they mean in the worst possible and least constructive manner. Here thar be Dragons…

The honest truth is that I want my wife to be with me intimately not because she is obligated to by a promise or a vow, but because she wants to and can think of nowhere in the world she would rather be physically or emotionally. After almost 22 years of marriage this conviction has only gotten stronger over time. Anything forced from within or without, I fear would do more harm than good – no matter who does the forcing.

Food for thought,

Colin

I’m Sorry is Never Enough

3 Sep

Especially in marriage, people often think an apology is enough. Our society has grown more fascinated with forcing apologies from people than a North Vietnamese Prison warden. Most of the time these are mechanically given, or forced from people by direct threat or coercion. They are not sincere and generally carry little weight. Even when the apology is sincere, it alone carries little weight. In fact, thanks to the institution of forced apologies in society – insincerity has become the hallmark of the ubiquitous “I’m sorry” – we say it from wrote because we fear retaliation or severe repercussions if we do not.

As with James 2:20 in the bible, which speaks of faith not being present without works – what of repentance. True repentance, like true faith, is evident in works. When the heart is changed the actions follow. True repentance, it comes in two distinct stages. The first stage is when we are truly sorry for our actions primarily because we fear just punishments or reactions, and the second is when we are truly repentant for our actions because we have separated ourselves from our God and those offended through them.

The next time you apologize to your spouse, think about whether you are really sorry and why. I do not mean give it a glancing thought, but rather dwell on it for a bit and chew it over. Especially be mindful of anger if you feel coerced into the apology, as it can cause you to separate further from your spouse – and from God. Now the part you really don’t want to hear, but need to. The problem is yours. There is a difference between ownership and culpability, make that distinction accurately. Though the issue may not be your fault, as the husband you must make it your responsibility and lead by example and resolve it.

Realize that you can only change yourself, not your spouse. Both of you are obligated to do everything possible to serve the needs of the other. For many of us, that means effecting major changes in our thoughts, words, and actions – especially when we have done something to make our spouses feel an apology is necessary. It is the changes we make to correct the separation both from our spouses and God that are the true fruits of repentance and only they can provide the comfort of true reconciliation.

Oftentimes I use such situations to remind myself that I am a bound servant of God and my wife, and I work very hard to not let my mind attempt to rationalize that she is my servant too. You cannot expect to control someone and bond closely with them in true love. True love is joyful service and willing submission – not arrogance, exertion of power, control, and/or feelings worn on sleeves. Realize that the next time an apology comes up and understand that “I’m sorry” is the beginning of the process, not the end. Evaluate why offense was taken and how you can avoid such conflict in the future. Make sure that your words are backed up by thought, word, and deed. If you feel the need to rationalize, then remember that your wife cannot be expected to follow where you do not lead.

Your thoughts?
Colin

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