Discerning a Call

Earlier this week I got this sudden urge to answer a call. I don’t know how much to say for the sake of being prudent, but I would appreciate extra prayers as God helps me discern whether this is a step I am supposed to take. I am praying about whether I should apply to be a FOCUS missionary or not. If you could find it in your heart to offer some prayers on my behalf for this subject that would be awesome.

ALSO, sometimes I feel guilty asking for so much prayer from you, my dear readers. Please let me know how I can pray for YOU! Please, please, please, leave your prayer intentions on any of the Saint pages, which you can access by clicking on their icons on the right hand side!

 

For the Guy That Struggles

I’m not a shining beacon of holiness. Nor am I a stalwart of example of chastity. But I love Jesus, and I have hope in him, and each day I like to think that I’m growing in holiness and chastity so that I may one day arrive at the perfection of the Father. And I wanted to take this moment to just encourage any Jesus-loving guys who might be struggling with being attracted to other guys. So from one guy attracted to guys to another, this is from my heart and from the lessons Jesus has taught me:

First, you need to realize that you are not alone. You might feel alone because this secret might be something that you’ve been bearing alone for along time. Its ok if you don’t want to talk about it or don’t want to tell others. Sharing is up to you, but do realize that you aren’t alone in the feelings that you are experiencing. In fact, I’d be highly surprised if you were the only one worshiping in your church on Sunday morning who feels this way. So don’t despair, there are many others like you.

Second, don’t forget that you’re identity as a person has nothing to do with who you are sexually attracted to. Our culture is obsessed with categorizing everyone and identifying them by silly labels: conservative, liberal, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, etc. But our identity is founded in Jesus Christ, through whom we have been baptized into his very life, death, and resurrection. Being gay is not who I am. Who I am is a child of God. The same goes for you.

Third, don’t be a pawn for the culture. Our culture is fighting hard for you to believe that the only option that you have is to give into your sexual desires. It doesn’t matter what they are, but the culture believes and teaches that with very few exceptions, sexual passions must be expressed in order to be the real you. This is simply not true. Like I said, you are not defined by who you want to have sex with, but by belonging to the One who saved you.

Fourth, there is an alternative path to doing as the culture dictates. Jesus Christ offers us another way. He asks us to take up our crosses and follow him. He created a beautifully ordered universe, and ordained human sexuality beautifully as a way to take part in the ordered and the life-giving universe he has made. He has designed sex with great purpose, but it is not for all of us. Some of us are called to something else. Some of us are called to chaste celibacy, whether it is for the purpose of devoting our life to prayer (such as a nun or a monk) and for others it is simply because we do not experience a call to marriage and rearing of children due to our sexual inclinations towards the same-sex.

Fifth, celibacy does not diminish one’s ability and freedom to love. If you believed the culture, sexual expression is the only way to love someone else, and any sort of restriction, whether legal or religious, on one’s right to have sex is the cruel punishment of not allowing someone to love another. But this just shows a lack of understanding of the Gospel and of love. Jesus himself was unmarried and showed a great amount of love towards the human race. The Apostle Paul writes about the freedom that the unmarried man and woman have to serve the Lord. Would anybody claim that Mother Theresa loved less because she did not have sex, because she was not married? Those who live within in the confines of the rules that Jesus has for us are not prevented from loving, but in fact, have greater freedom to love more greatly!

Lastly, I just want to say that I know how difficult following the plan of God is. It is so easy to want to give up. It is so easy to give in. But the cost of giving in is not worth it. I know. The price for following Jesus is more than worth it though! Just take discipleship with Jesus one day at a time. And rather than mourning the shall not that we’ve received, focus on the shall. Focus on the freedom we gain to love God and neighbor more greatly when we are obedient.

Finally, it might help to confide in someone who is a shining example of Christ, maybe a pastor or a priest or a family member like a brother or sister. A real lover of Christ will understand that we are all broken and that this is just another one of the many ways our humanity has been broken since the Fall, but that it is not insurmountable. A real lover of Christ will encourage you and help you bear your cross. You don’t have bear this burden alone.

Always remember that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

P.S. Jesus doesn’t desire that you “become straight”. He only desires that you be obedient. Remembering this important truth will hopefully eliminate frustration in “not becoming straight” as well as help you focus your prayer less on changing passions and more on asking for the grace to persevere and asking for an increase in your love for your neighbor.

Abort to Save the Economy

I hope that the headline captured your attention.

I work at a college, and when the most recent issue of the student newspaper came out I noticed a piece called “Banning Abortion.” I won’t state the school or the author to protect the author’s privacy, but I was simply saddened by some of the statements within the piece.

The piece begins by admitting that the debate about abortion is often emotional no matter what side of the aisle you fall on, and that there is real wisdom to be found in the emotional and philosophical arguments. But the author seeks to revere abortion apart from these types of tactics from “a more calm, level-headed perspective.”

The article states facts obtained from Planned Parenthood about the number of women who will have had abortions (30% by the age of 45, with many having had multiple abortions). The author also states that according to Operation Rescue, 1.21 million abortions occur in the US each year (out of about 6 million pregnancies). The point of the article is to paint a bleak picture of what banning abortion would do to our economy.

The author makes the assumption that with an additional 1.21 million unwanted children each year, this would create a large surge in foster children and would drive women to seek illegal and dangerous abortions. Let’s not ignore the fact that legal abortions are not always safe (think Kermit Gosnell), and the FACT that pro-aborts constantly oppose any laws that seek to force abortion clinics to maintain minimum safety standards. The opposition by abortion groups to common-sense laws and their often successful attempts to get them overturned are one of the very reasons that Measure 1 is on the ballot in North Dakota this election. It is unbelievable how vehemently pro-aborts oppose safety regulations out of fear that the regulations will shut down abortion clinics. It is clear that they don’t care about the safety of women in abortion clinics. They don’t truly care about women who might be forced into the infamous coat hanger abortions. They only care about championing the slaughter, and silencing any kind of opposition.

The author goes on to cite the HHS statistic that says that there are around 400,000 children in the foster care system. This is probably more or less true. But then the author engages in fearmongering by immediately jumping to the worst case scenario: what if all the women who would have aborted now give up their children for adoption instead. The influx would quadruple the number of children in the foster care system. Of course, it is highly unlikely that if abortion were illegal, an additional 1.21 million children would end up in the foster care system. In a nation where life was held in high esteem and sex was properly respected, there might be a decrease in unintended pregnancies due to less careless sex. When you know there is no back up to clean up your little mess, you might be less likely to engage in careless sexual intercourse (of course the author strongly doubts it would have any effect). The author also fails to recognize that some abortions are the result of coercion, and that some women deep down really want to keep their babies, but outside influences like parents, boyfriends, or even the police encourage women to abort. Some women may also simply have abortions out of convenience, but if there weren’t that convenience, they would keep their children. Now by what percentage this would reduce the number of children who would have been aborted who will end up in foster care, I can’t say, but it certainly would not be 1.21 million.

In any case, the alarmism comes out in full swing. According to afamilyforeverychild.org, it costs $26,000 to care for one child in foster care each year. This would total an additional $31.5 billion a year to provide for these children. Of course, finding homes for all these children would be next to impossible, so this number would actually rise more due to all the unhomed children. Furthermore, it is argued that foster children don’t always get the attention that they need and as adults are more unstable, more likely to end up on welfare or turn to crime. The overflooding of the foster care system with would-be abortion victims would unfairly lower the quality of life for all.

And this is where the abortion lobby really shows its true colors. The value of life is determined by your quality of life, the potential quality of life. If it is just and good and necessary to murder an unborn child because they might have a less than luxurious life, how is it not just to murder a child or an adult who actually has a less than luxurious life? You’ve already stated that their life isn’t worth as much. You’ve already stated that the cost of caring for them is too burdensome on society. Aren’t there born people who’s costs to society are too burdensome? The elderly, the imprisoned, the unions, the politicians? Should we murder those people? And if we can’t justify spending $26,000 a year to provide for a child, how can we justify the extravagant waste of the our federal, state, and local governments? Is running a museum of African Art or even American History on the National Mall more valuable than the life of one American?

When we start turning the worth of a human person into a matter of dollars and cents, we truly diminish the dignity of every man, woman, and child that lives in this nation, especially when we say that we are willing to spend money on the extravagant, but would rather murder the unwanted and burdensome if it meant going without.

This is what the abortion lobby is really all about. Its not about women or women’s rights. It’s not about showing “mercy” through the slaughter of children who may or may not have the life that someone else deems as worth living. It is a matter of selfishness. It is an unwillingness to make sacrifice as an individual or as a group. And it is the oldest lie in the book. A lie straight from the devil himself. It is the exact opposite of the example of Jesus and anyone who tries to say that it is a showing of Christlike mercy is a terrible liar and we can only hope that they are only seriously misinformed and not maliciously evil in their falsehood.

Persons are worth more than the riches of the world. Persons are worth more than the American Dream. Each person is worth the very value of the life of God. We must, as God’s people, work tirelessly in prayer and education to end the practice of abortion.

(And if you live in North Dakota you need to vote yes on Measure 1! And if you live in Tennessee you need to vote yes on Amendment 1!)

Idolizing Converts

I decided to write this post because there are certain experiences that come with being a convert to the Catholic Faith that other Catholics probably don’t understand.

While I was in the process of coming into the Church in 2009 I didn’t give much thought to the idea that there was anything particularly special about converting outside of the fact that I was submitting to the truth. In fact it wasn’t until near the end of that summer that it struck me that some people in the Church really admire and love converts. I was invited to a picnic at the Newman Center a few weeks before school started and when Tim introduced me to one of the girls (who is now a sister) as a convert, she suddenly shrieked with excitement “you’re a convert!?” with a mouth full of potato chips, which I quickly donned on the front of my shirt. In that moment I knew that there was something special about being a convert.

Over the next year or so, people loved talking to me and wanting to hear my conversion story. I felt like I was put on a pedestal. I have to imagine a lot of converts, at least college aged converts involved in a college aged parish experience that. I think that people have this perception that because we converted from something else to Catholicism that we are super holy or more abundantly graced or more theologically intelligent or more firmly grounded in the Faith because it was something that we chose.

But we aren’t. Being a convert isn’t like that at all. In fact, I would say that it is the exact opposite.

Probably the most devastating realization to a convert, or at least to me, are the moments that come after the high of conversion wears off. With all of the excitement of converting, and all of the new things that one learns and the new people that they meet and the attention that they receive and the awesome gift of receiving the Eucharist, a great amount of motivation, joy, and energy is generated. That energy can create a long-term high that sustains one’s interest and devotion for quite awhile, but it doesn’t last forever. When we fall from that high, especially if it was unexpected, the results can be devastating. It results in doubts and frustrations and if we aren’t ready to seek the Lord in a real and honest way, we suffer. We expect the energetic route in which our Faith began, but we can’t rely on that, we must learn to live with the glowing embers of the fire to heat our Faith where there were once flames reaching to the stars.

I think that there is also a certain quality in converts that propels them towards change and dissatisfaction. Becoming Catholic is a huge upheaval, a turning away from something different. For some it is a one time thing, they convert because they honestly and truly believe, but for others it is a habit, a fad. Changing beliefs and ideologies is as natural to them as changing clothes. So when their zeal dies down it causes moments of doubting whether the right decision was actually made, or it causes them to seek a new and exciting philosophy or social cause.

Whatever faithful cradle Catholics think we are, we converts are NOT invincible. Some of us stay, some of us almost get lost, and some of us actually do get themselves lost for good. I came very close this summer. I was in the almost get lost category. I came with in an inch of totally losing my Faith in Jesus Christ and exchanging it for some form paganism. Another convert I know completely reverted to atheism. We aren’t perfect. Being a convert isn’t some kind of boost of grace. In many ways it is more challenging than for a cradle Catholic for us to stay in the Church.

I write this for anyone who idolizes converts as superheroes or something, or just coos or fawns over ever convert that walks through the door so that you can maybe chill out of a bit and realize that there isn’t anything special about being a convert.

Seven Years

Today I’ve been blogging more or less fairly consistently now for 7 years. I’ve learned a lot while blogging, perhaps more than I imagined others learned from me. And I like to think that my writing and my spirituality has evolved to reflect what I’ve learned, particularly in showcasing what is truly important in following Jesus.

I mostly just wanted to take this opportunity to thank every person who does or has followed me at some point. I want to thank every person who has ever read a post here and passed it on to someone else, even if it was in order to mock me in some way. I want to thank every person who has ever commented on here, even if it was to ridicule and harass me. Every event on here has had an effect on shaping my walk with God, and I have to be thankful for that because my relationship with God is the most precious thing to me, and you have affected the most precious thing and made it into the thing I love most, and so you are a part of it, and you, too, are then precious to me.

So here’s to seven more years!

Personal Relationships With the Saints

The idea of having a personal relationship with a Saint would make the Evangelical’s head spin. And the idea would probably make the Fundamentalist’s head actually explode.

For so many non-Catholic Christians (mind you that I did not say ALL), community truly only goes so far. When it comes right down to it, salvation is always an individual thing, that relationship with God is a 1 on 1 thing. That kind of thinking truly destroys the idea of the mystical body of Christ, the idea that we are truly brothers and sisters.

But your salvation is just as much a part of my salvation as MY salvation is and that is because there is only one God who loves us with one Love, and that the one Love makes us one in the body of Christ. A personal relationship with Christ means a personal relationship with every single person who has been baptized into his one body! And that includes those on both sides of death, which has lost its sting.

Yes, we should not be afraid to enter into personal relationship with the Saints! We should not be afraid to come close to them. If we are the hands and feet of Christ, they are too! How can one not see Christ in them? If we see Christ in the poor and the needy, in the orphan and the widow, and we serve Him when we serve them, how can we not look at those who have been perfected in Him and not be perfected in Him, through them?

Unfortunately I have no advice on how to start a relationship with a particular Saint. It is a shame that so much of our dulia is formulaic, and that for many Saints, the only invocation we offer to them is a St. N, pray for us. Even with Our Lady we don’t often speak from the heart to her. Now, I’m not bashing formulaic prayer. I think it is necessary, I think it is helpful, I think it is beautiful, and if it expresses the groanings of our hearts and expresses our needs, then it is honest, true, and reverent. But prayer, relationships, must go beyond that. And so if I had to take a guess that to start a personal relationship with a patron Saint or guardian angel, or any other fantastic spiritual creature that God has made, we must begin by asking them to reveal themselves, to reveal Christ, to us, and to then work with them to become more like Jesus.

Hopefully we will all be inspired to grow deeper into the body of Christ.

Mormons and the Angel of Light

I’m not one to defend the beliefs of Mormonism or the Church of the Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The religion is absolutely false, is not compatible with Christianity and does not have a single shred of historical evidence to support even the secular details of its historical assertions.

However, I must defend them against the erroneous claim that the Angel of Light (the angel Moroni) is Satan based upon a dubious claim that Satan is called the Angel of Light in Scripture, and that therefore, the reference in the Book of Mormon is a clear reference to the person of Satan.

I strongly believe that this is simply one of those cases where long ago secular culture hi-jacked or twisted, unintentionally, a Scriptural truth, and that it has permeated full circle back into the Church, kind of like how many people believe that the concept of cleanliness is next to Godliness is in the Bible (its not).

There are two primary places where Satan is discussed in the context of being a being of Light. The first is from Isaiah 14:

How you have fallen from the heavens, O Morning Star, son of the dawn! How you have been cut down to the earth, you who conquered nations!

Isaiah 14:12

The verse in context is speaking about the downfall of the King of Babylon, but it could be speaking also of the plight of Satan before the beginning of time, which is also described in Revelation 12. Now, in the Latin Vulgate, O Morning Star, is translated from the Hebrew הֵילֵל as Lucifer. Most modern English translations outside of the King James Version (which retains the Latin word) render the interpretation as morning star  or sometimes day star.

Now the other place that speaks about Satan being of Light is in the New Testament:

And no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light.

2 Corinthians 11:14

I hopefully don’t have to state the obvious, but I will here. If and when we use this verse to give Satan the name of Angel of Light or Lucifer in order to say that anything that references the angel of light as a reference to Satan we are being dishonest. If we read the sentence it clearly says that Satan masquerades, he pretends to be an angel of light. The implication here is that angels of light are good! And that is why Satan is so dangerous because he pretends to be an angel of light. Like all angels, Satan was created good and beautiful and wise. He was an angel of light. But he no longer is. He is now the prince of darkness and the father of lies. Satan is not an angel of light any longer.

I also want to point out the fact that the Latin Vulgate, in which the term Lucifer made its appearance, does not restrict the usage of the term as a reference to Satan but uses the term in multiple places to describe other things: 2 Peter 1:19, Job 11:17, Job 38:32, and Psalm 110:3, all in reference to the morning star, or the light of the morning. There are other places where morning star is translated as stella matutina (which is a more literal translation), including Sirach 50:6, Revelation 2:28 and Revelation 22:16 in reference to Jesus.

Historically the Church has used the word Lucifer to refer to other things, showing that the Latin term, unlike the English term, was never meant to refer only to a fallen angel. At least two bishops have born the name Lucifer: St. Lucifer of Cagliari and Lucifer of Siena. The term has even been applied to St. John the Baptist and Jesus himself in early Christian hymns. Does this mean that St. John the Baptist and Jesus are really Satan?

In fact, the term is still used to refer to Jesus at the Easter Vigil Mass during the singing of the Exultet when praying about the Paschal candle.

So what exactly is my point? Why am I writing this? Do I not believe Mormonism to be a false religion? Do I believe in the Angel Moroni?

No. Absolutely not. My point is that reference to Moroni is not some kind of nail in the coffin against Mormonism. There are far greater issues with Mormonism as a religion than the reference of the Angel of Moroni being the Angel of Light. In the first place, neither the Bible nor Tradition give Satan the official title of Angel of Light. It simply says that he was at one point of light and can continue to masquerade as an angel of light. And in the second place, if this is enough to discard Mormonism, it is enough to discard Christianity because the last and greatest prophet, John the Baptist, and our Savior himself, have been referred to in the same fashion.

If you were to use this argument against a Mormon, you might be successful due to the fact that Mormons don’t actually know much about Scripture or history, but it would be a false and dishonest victory. It is exactly the same argument that Fundamentalist Christians use against Catholics when claiming that our version of Mary is really the Babylonian pagan goddess that was referred to as the Queen of Heaven (probably Ishtar). It is an intellectually ignorant or dishonest argument and is unfair to Catholics, just as this is unfair to Mormons.

There are real issues with Mormonism, but this is not one of them. I would suggest using others when discrediting this cult.

Preparing for Martyrdom

I’m a melancholic. And each day I seem to become more so. So maybe that explains my outlook. I believe it is time for Catholic Americans to begin preparing ourselves for martyrdom, especially our children.

I don’t pretend to know the mind of God or to understand his plan, but I think it is pretty obvious that whatever delusions we might hold, our culture isn’t going to shift away from the moral cliff we have been running straight towards anytime soon. The distance we have left before we go over isn’t great, so if we don’t brake now (and we won’t), we are going to go over (we will). Whatever hopes and prayers we have placed in God for this or that are not being answered the way we had hoped. It doesn’t matter how many abortion clinics close, this country is not going to overturn Roe v. Wade any time soon. Even if we did, there is no way all 50 states would outlaw the murder of children. Even if we attempted to amend our Constitution to protect children, 37 states would never ratify. Even if by a miracle, either thing could be accomplished, the lunatics who hate children and those who protect them are so ravenous and drunk on violence and disregard for human dignity, that they will never let up until every last drop of blood is spilled.

The same goes for every moral issue of prominence today. But I don’t mean for this to become a political post. This is to be a spiritual post.

Disciples of Christ are the only ones who remain to stand in opposition of the selfish destruction of the moral order. And the enemy hates that. He has always hated that, and he incites his colleagues to hate that too. Therefore, they have no choice but to destroy us in order to appease their guilty consciences because they believe that the voice that opposes them comes from without, from us. Of course the small still voice that speaks the truth in the silence of every heart cannot be snuffed out.

Our destruction is approaching. Our persecution will reach similar levels to those our brothers and sisters face in the Middle East today. A violent, Christ-hating regime is a violent Christ-hating regime. A regime that seeks to legally snuff out the rights of Christians is the same whether it is American liberalism or ISIS or Communism or whatever it is called in your society. We must ready ourselves. How?

  1. We must pray for strength. We must pray more diligently now than ever because it is our prayer, the intimate communion of our souls with God that will allow us to endure whatever it is we are to endure. If we don’t know our lover, how will we be willing to endure suffering to be true to our lover?
  2. We must pray for our enemies. It might be easy to see other humans as our enemies, but they are only misguided souls, being manipulated by a far greater power of hate. We must pray as Jesus did: forgive them for they know not what they do.
  3. We must know of the martyrs who went before us. We should take the time to read the stories of the Christian martyrs over the last 1,981 years. Their lives will inspire us and their prayers will strengthen us.
  4. We must see the value in our martyrdom. Martyrdom serves a purpose for the Lord. Not only is it an opportunity to show our faith in him, but it allows him to make his sacrifice visible and present to the world today. It is not we who die in martyrdom, but it is Christ, again. We must be as faithful as Christ was in his death.
  5. We must understand what the fruit of martyrdom is: renewal in the Church. Martyrdom is a powerful witness of discipleship. As it is said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

I don’t believe this martyrdom will happen tomorrow or even next year. But I do believe that it will happen before the end of my lifetime (I’m 27, so you do the math). If it doesn’t I will praise God for answering our prayers in shifting our culture, because that is the only way this martyrdom will be avoided.

In the meantime, I will probably start writing more about the stories of the martyrs for our own edification and to prepare ourselves to give up our lives for the Gospel.