Saint Paul and Buzz Feed

Isn't it interesting how we talk a lot about love? It seems to be almost a daily discussion.  We love the newest restaurant, the grades we got on our final exams, the coffee we stopped and got after a long day at work.  

We use the word love so much, we have become desensitized to its ramifications.  What about love in a romantic relationship?  What is the response when someone asks: 

Don't you love me? 

What does true, authentic love look like in a relationship?  Can you have a loving relationship with someone and still use birth control?

About six months ago, Buzz Feed had a photographic journal piece on women who had decided to not use contraception or birth control.   How does this decision show love? And why is contraception blocking love?

Love is Patient


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Love realizes that a good thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing. It recognizes that a person is never a sum of their parts, but rather a whole child of God made in His image.  Love is giving up control of every aspect of our life and placing it all in the hands of God. 

Contraception can't wait...for some things.  It can't wait for the pleasure of sex.  The opportunity to express supposed devotion and all-in commitment.  But it can wait for other things.  It can wait for commitment.  It can wait for children.  It can wait for authentic love.

Cameron Diaz said in the movie Vanilla Sky, "Don't you know that when you sleep with someone your body makes a promise whether you do or not." 

Love is Kind


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By the definition, authentic love wills the good of the other as other.  Love is free, total, faithful and fruitful.  It gives everything at all costs, no matter what and is open to life.  

Contraception demands a high price (more on that, keep reading), is limiting, puts barriers on love and denies the gift of life to both parents.

It is not proud.  It does not dishonor others.

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Authentic love looks at how humanity is created (Male and Female) and sees that it is good.  It does not chemically alter a woman's body, a woman's thoughts, and a woman's hormones.

Studies have proven that the pill can change how a woman looks at a man.  It can change who she sees as attractive, but even greater health risks.  Women who rely on a birth control that combines estrogen and progestin have a 41% increase of having a stroke, 50% higher chance of getting blood clots, 29% increase in heart attacks, 22% increase of cardiovascular disease and a 26% increase in having breast cancer.

Lindsay Abrams from The Atlantic would have us believe this: "The rest of us can marvel at the hormonal quirks wrought by birth control and perhaps resolve that they're a small price to pay for preventing unintended pregnancy."

Really?  Because I think that being able to see a man for who he is without a pill mentally altering my thought capacity is a pretty large price to pay.  


It is not self-seeking.

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Love sees the entirety of humans as beautiful.  Including fertility.  


Contraception rejects the human being as a whole - body, mind and soul - especially fertility.  Contraception encourages use of another for self pleasure. It says "I love you so much.  I love you so much that I want to be physical with you now.  I want to sleep with you - even if that means increasing your medical risks, your future children, and your future spouse.  Can't you tell that I love you?"

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

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Love sees contraception and birth control for what it is.  It recognizes the truth that contraception harms a woman's body even while claiming to help women in general.  In exchange for 'regular' cycles and 'freedom from the risk of pregnancy,' the pill increases women's chances of breast cancer.  A study in India found that after a prolonged use of oral contraceptives, increased the users risk of breast cancer from normal level (1.2%) to 11.9%.  The reason?  Dr. Umesh Kapil told Times of India, "Breast cancer is caused by repeated exposure of cells to circulating ovarian hormones, and long term use of birth control pills, which contain estrogen and progesterone, may contribute to the elevated risk."

It always protects 


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Contraception has removed the aspect of responsibility from the act of love.

Instead of protection, the pill and other forms of contraception provide the ability for objectification.  For using someone for what they can give instead of loving them for who they are.  

And this is just the protection of the woman - what about that baby that could be conceived during sex?  The pill acts as an abortifacient - you could be killing your child without ever knowing you are pregnant.

Always perseveres 

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I know.  I know about the countless doctor appointments whose goal it seems is to convince you that the only way to cope is contraception.  

But I also know about the joy that comes from authenticity.  And the help available from incredible resources that don't have anything to do with the pill or 'safe sex.'

Is it hard? Sure.  Is it worth it? I'm convinced that true, authentic love for my future spouse (whether that's a man or Christ) is worth it all.  

Love Never Fails 


You are more than your parts

                                       Tonight at 10:00 pm, thousands will tune in to their televisions or web stream as scantily dressed women are put on display. And it's not on the porn channel. Instead it's a so-called fashion show that celebrates the objectification of women for the gratification of others. It's a reducing of daughters of God down to their bra size and the length of their legs. And it's hailed with great acclimation. What is so wrong about the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, or even their advertisement in general?

It's just lingerie.  The women choose to walk and model the seasons trends.  Everyone is paid.  No one is getting hurt. That couldn't be a bigger lie.

Despite the smiles and laughter, compliments and beauty that is shown on that screen tonight and in advertisements through the year, Victoria's Secret doesn't reveal enough. Their models are dressed in barely-there ensembles but they aren't showing the world who they really are. They are showing a body and not a soul.  A lingerie set and not the heart and mind underneath the skin of the girl.   I am in no way saying that the woman's body is ugly.  Or that it deserves more clothing because no one should have to see that.  Instead, I'm proposing that the woman's body is so beautiful that it needs veiled. What do we veil?  In the Catholic Church, there is a veil over the tabernacle.  It's not because Christ is a wretched presence no one wants to see.  When you go to a wedding, brides have the choice of wearing a veil.  Not because this is the most ugly day of her life.  Because we veil things that deserve honor and respect.  Because an aura of mystery intensifies the beauty that lies beneath the surface.

Victoria's Secret Fashion shows do not promote the beauty that is inherently placed in the souls of their models.  A beauty that comes from being a child of God, loved into existence.  Instead, it places value on the skin surface appearance.

In an interview with ABC, Kylie Bisutti, a former VS Angel, explained the reason she left her position as a model for the company.  

“I was doing my makeup in the mirror one day and she was watching me,” Bisutti said.  “She looked at me and was like, ‘You know, I think I want to stop eating so I can look like you.’”

“It just broke my heart because she looks up to me and I didn't want to be that type of person that she thought she had to do that to be beautiful,” she said.  “Thousands of girls that think that being beautiful is an outer issue and really it’s a heart issue.”
It's a heart issue. Our bodies reveal Christ to the world around us....and this is not a task accomplished by just revealing our physical body.  The revelation of the work of God in our lives is done through our actions and our very person - our whole person: Heart, Body, Mind and Soul. 
 
And you don't even have to wear a feather headdress and bedazzled bra while doing it.

 

How To See Love

                          

What is love?  What is the definition of this four letter word that we toss around so often these days?  How can we eve be sure of what love really is? 


Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God


If you take a closer look at that beatitude from Matthew 5, there is something really beautifully significant in this simple sentence.

What is love?  What is the definition of this four letter word that we toss around so often these days?  How can we eve be sure of what love really is? 


Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

In 1 John 4:8, God is defined as love.  Love is not simply an attribute to God, or one of his characteristics. He is not ever-ancient, ever-new and loving.  His very essence is LOVE. 

So what if we place the word 'love' into the above beatitude?  It would read:


Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see LOVE.

True, authentic, will-the-good-of-the-other-as-other love requires a pure heart to be visible.  Without pure intentions, love is just another four letter word ruled by emotions.  With a pure heart, loving others becomes an incredible opportunity to participate in who God is. 

So if you have to ask what's in it for you, or how you can benefit, it's not love.  That's not a pure perspective.

Granted, because of the fall, we will never be able to experience love at it's fullest form : AGAPE love.  This is one of the four Greek loves.  Agape means an unconditional love that is in a constant state of selfless giving and never is self interested.

Human beings can't give this love - only God can.  He shows examples of it throughout the history of His love story with the human race, but one of the key points is at the crucifixion.  Christ takes on a human nature and empties His life on the cross for us.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1015 says, "The flesh is the hinge of salvation.  We believe in God who is creator of flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfillment of both the creation and redemption of the flesh."  

God's Agape love poured out in a human nature...that's love.  Give up your only son for a people who don't take time to notice His presence in their daily life...that's love.  That is a love that stems from a pure and Holy heart....and that can only be seen through the lens that is not smeared with a hint of lust.  

Paul wrote to the Ephesians about this topic.  In chapter 5 verse 3, Paul said:

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.

Why is the presence of impurity so improper for a Christian?  Because it takes away the ability to recognize the presence of authentic love.  And when you cannot see authentic love, you are unable to see God's work in your life.  God is love.  

So to see love in the world around us, we must look at others with a giving heart.  In relationships with family or friends, a self-interested core will always taint the ability to see love.  If you look for what you can get out of something, you have missed the point of true love.

God gives us people to love and things to use....not people to use and things to love.



Are you a Hipster Catholic?

It is pretty easy to be a hipster Catholic.  Converse are not that expensive, beanies are easy to knit and fair trade coffee is far to easy to drink. 

There are amazing Catholic blogs out there, great Catholic books, fun Catholic apps, and phenomenal Catholic conferences.

Even Jesus can wear converse
Although we frame the word 'hipster' and stick it on the wall to admire as the most coveted of 'coolness' levels, I believe it is far to easy, at least for myself, to often forget about the day to day life of Catholic living.
So while it's easy to wear Pinterest worth outfits and sip a latte while reading the newest Life Teen article, what does it look like to put that into practice?
To be honest, it's kind of scary.
It means having to put yourself out there, trust God totally, and having to realize that some people may not agree with you.  Or, perhaps even realistically in today's culture, most people won't agree with you.  It means having to be informed about not only what you as a Catholic believe, but why you even profess that to be true. 
It means having to be in love with God. 
There is a growing trend to glamourize the Catholic life by making it appealing to the masses.  Pun slightly intended.  We amp up teen ministry as to make the Catholic faith seem appealing, trendy and worthy of cutting time out of our busy schedule for.  Value is placed on emotions and charismatic feelings so that people will 'feel' right about the Church. 
Rebecca Harding Davis, an American writer from the late 1800s wrote, "We don't often look into these unpleasant details of our great struggle.  We all prefer to think that every man who wore the blue or gray was a Philip Sidney at heart."  We shy away from openly talking about our temptations, the word accountability can seem like a crazy concept to us, and we dance around solid truths so as not to offend anyone.
It's time to rub our face in the dirt of the earth and face the facts.  There is so much need for authentic faith in our world.  The reality is that over 80% of Catholics no longer identify themselves as Catholic by the time they hit their 23rd birthday.  That's huge. 
If you put statistics like that into any other situation, it's alarming.  If you're traveling and your airline has a 20% chance of landing safety, what are the chances that you aren't going to fly on that airline?  If you have a university with a 20% retention rate, things aren't going to well for them.  If you have a 20% chance of passing a class, things aren't looking up.
So why are we content and living with this statistic?  We watch each year as Catholic students walk onto a campus Catholic and four years later walk of the stage with a diploma and their faith far behind them. 
The subject of objective truth is so controversial you would have thought we were talking a crazy conspiracy - but that's how the concept of absolute truth is taught. 
Making Catholicism 'cool' isn't going to solve the problem.  We have to make Catholicism real and, even more importantly, a blatant presence in our daily lives. 
What does that look like in 2014?  First, living our faith.  And not just the parts that we're comfortable in.  It means putting yourself completely in God's hands and letting Him write your story...without you editing as you go along. 
It means lovingly guiding those who are in a state of confusion concerning the teachings of the Church.  Saint Josemaria Escriva once said "Don't you long to shout to those youths who are bustling around you: Fools! Leave those worldly things that shackle the heart - and very often degrade it - leave all that and come with us in search of Love!"
The Church has incredibly beauty to her teachings.  All of them. And most of them aren't discussed.  Why does the Church believe what She believes about contraception, homosexual marriage, social justice, morality, truth and authentic love? There is a reason for each belief, and none are culturally accepted.
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Yet Saint Toribio said, "Christ said, “I am the Truth”; he did not say “I am the custom." 
Are haters going to hate? Heck yes. 
In fact, Christ gave us ample warning about what we are going to face.  John 15:18-21 says, "If the world hates you,<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-26718A" data-link="(A)"> keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-26719B" data-link="(B)"> out of the world. That is why the world hates you.<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-26719C" data-link="(C)"> 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-26720E" data-link="(E)"> If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name,<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-26721F" data-link="(F)"> for they do not know the one who sent me."

What do we do about this all this hatred? Shake it off?

I vote rejoice in it.  With the situations in the common culture today, what an incredible opportunity in which to reach out and show the true Catholic life.  Is it always a conversation? No - your life could be the only Bible people read.  Yet that doesn't offer us an out or cop out excuse for not talking about our faith.  Is someone talking about how behind the times the Catholic Church is? Lovingly have an authentic conversation with them.  Don't shirk away from a tough conversation.  Use those conversations to fall even more in love with a God who wants to see you find the easiest way to Heaven. 

And the way that is the sturdiest bridge between here and the next world? The Catholic Church.

Before it was cool.

God bless!

Chloe M.

The Most Misinterpreted Man in the World

According to media sources, the Catholic Church is starting to support Homosexual unions and, most recently, Cohabitation

And who said so?  Pope Francis....

How do Catholics respond?  Will Pope Francis really change things?  What do you say when someone tells you that it's about time the Catholic Church got with the times?

There are wrong ways to go about responding.  It isn't advisable to go into Catholic beast mode and slam the breaks on the conversation with phrases like, "Pope Francis didn't say anything like that at all," "Is there anything that Pope Francis says that isn't misinterpreted?" or "The Catholic Church is with the times, the problem is that you aren't with the Catholic Church."

Prediction: The conversation on Pope Francis that you are having will not go so hot after that.

Yet if the media and popular belief commentary sways to the side of misinterpretation, what is a Catholic to believe?  How does one go about finding out the authentic core of the Pope's message, and perhaps even more importantly, communicating the authentic statement with Christian charity?

Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers said, "“Anyone who has kept up with what Pope Francis has said and done so far will realize that we have a much more interesting pope on our hands than the caricature given to us by CNBC and Fox News.”

And oh how true.  Let's peel apart the above-mentioned two issues and delve into the heart of Pope Francis...and what he really meant.

Gay Marriage:

The quote/action: "When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem…they’re our brothers."

The assumption:  The Catholic Church now believes and teaches that those who wish to participate

in same-sex marriages are completely fine and justified.  How can Catholic judge them for wishing to love each other?

The truth: As explained in an earlier post on this blog, the Catholic Church through her teachings on Theology of the Body states the four characteristics of love as such: Free, Total, Faithful and Fruitful.  Gay marriage cannot fulfill these obligations of true and authentic love. 

So what did Pope Francis mean?  That those who struggle with homosexual attraction are called to the Lord, and are called to chastity (Side note: People with opposite-sex attraction are also called to chastity.) All people are called to chastity, and all people who are striving for chastity deserve encouragement, since believe me, it's a tough virtue to strive for. 

What Pope Francis did not say was that those who have same sex attractions should indulge in this temptation and act promiscuously.   Being attracted to members of the same sex?  Not a sin - a temptation, yes, but not a sin.  Acting sexually on those desires? Sin. Why? Objectification of the human body, damage to the eternal human soul. 

Pope Francis is echoing what the Church has always held as her teaching regarding same-sex attraction.

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

Cohabitation

The quote/action: Actually a very recent occurrence, Pope Francis married 20 Italian couples, some of whom were cohabitating before their marriage.  One of these couples had a child before their marriage.

The  assumption: The Catholic Church believes that it is okay for couples to cohabitate before marriage. 

The truth: Were the Pope's actions radical?  Perhaps not as much as we suspect. In fact, according to the Church's teachings on marriage, the best thing for a cohabiting couple (especially a couple raising a child) is to get married.  The graces from this sacrament help tremendously with marriage, and the child benefits from having a stable household with both a mother and a father figure.

In a communication meeting with the priests of Roman Parishes, Pope Francis stated that, "Sanctity is stronger than scandal."

The Bishops of Pennsylvania back in 1991 pointed out in a letter to engaged couples that, "Countless studies have shown that couples who live together before marriage have higher rates of divorce and a poorer quality of marital relationship than those who do not."

The Church does not condone cohabitation for many reasons - but not one of them is out of hate. 

True love, authentic Christ-imitating love, does not shirk away from responsibility.  It realizes it faults, picks itself up and begins to soldier on the journey towards Heaven. 

True love doesn't mean doing everything possible to avoid hell and damnation.  On the contrary, it is wanting only Heaven for the other person.  It is an act of self giving, not a feeling.

And the decision to commit to the sacrament marriage is commendable and praiseworthy.  It may take trials and trips to come to the realization of the sheer gravity of this decision.

So ultimately: Remember charity.  Remember that people do not care about what you know until they know that you care. 

Who better to give advice on this subject than the first Pope?  I'll leave the words of Saint Peter with you:

"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30440A" data-link="(A)"> to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope<sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30440B" data-link="(B)"> that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."  ( 1 Peter 3:15 )

God bless!

Chloe M.

His Pursuit

Imagine being with the person of your dreams.  He or she is wonderful. He know how to make you think, but not feel unintelligent around them.  She is beautiful, and never forgets to tell you are attractive to her as well.  He make you laugh, but can be serious when the situations calls for a well-rounded perspective.

Not only loves you - but likes you.  Has made the active decision to be with you totally, freely, faithfully and fruitfully.  You're always on his mind.  She thinks about how every decision that is made will affect the both of you.

If relationships could be measured by the amount of time spent putting someone else before oneself, this relationship would be a ten out of ten.

Tremendous Lover

Then you ruin it.  You do something unbelievably selfish, burn bridges, and then say it wasn't your fault.  You didn't trust them.  You thought you could do better alone.  They don't know everything.  They don't know who you really are and what you really need.

Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,


But it doesn't matter.  They still love you.  They spend night and day figuring out how to love you back. How to save you from the mess you created. How to give you chance after chance after chance to come back and be who you were before you fell away.

From those strong Feet that followed, followed after. But with unhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy they beat—and a voice beat more instant than the feet— "All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."

Yet since you walked away, your vision has been clouded.  You begin to question how in the world someone could love you so much after all of the junk you have done.  You're not worth it.  So you run not only from something that could give you joy, but you shun it.  Hide from it.  Despise it.

You look for that love in things that will not satisfy. Things.  People.  You invert what love is meant to be.

"People are meant to be loved and things were made to be used.  The confusion in this world is that people are used and things are loved." This quote is accredited to many people, but it rings true regardless of the origin.

Alack, thou knowest not how little worthy of any love thou art! Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee, save me, save only me?

That doesn't hinder your lover.  Even though your lack of interest stabs them through the heart, they still want you - and want you to want them back.

Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble the, save Me, save only Me?


This is the love our God has for us.  That God has for you specifically. He has loved you with an everlasting love.  Loved you so much that He knows the count of hair on your head.  Which is a fact that is pretty impressive, given the fact that it is your head, and you don't even know the count of hair on your own head.

He loves you despite your sin - but even more importantly, He wants to love you out of your sin.  He hung on a cross for you, and felt the weight of all your sin as He struggled for breath.  For you.  While you were still a sinner.

I stand amid the dust o' the mounded years - my mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.My days have crackled and gone up in smoke, have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.

He waits for us to come back to Him after we left.  He never moves - He waits with open arms.  He sends signs of His love for us throughout our day.  Rainy nights to help us fall asleep.  Your favorite song on the radio on your way to work.  A friend stopping by for an unexpected visit.

He pursues you.

Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest, 
I am He whom thou seekest! Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest me."


Will you love Him in return?

Si vis amari ama,
Chloe
Italicized quotes from "Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson 

What does it take to know He's near?

There are things in this life that can seem like unnecessarily burdens.

Sickness.  Pain.  Loss.  Hard days at work.  Difficult conversations with those we love.  A seemingly unquenchable longing.

What if I told you that God wanted to reach you?  But the way that He wanted to reach you was through those things that you thought were horrible inconveniences in your life?

Laura Story penned this thought beautifully in her song "Blessings."  Perhaps the phrase that speaks the message the loudest is:

"All the while, You hear each spoken need.  Yet you love us too much to give us lesser things. Because what if Your blessings came through raindrops? What if Your healing came through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near?  What if trials in this life, are Your mercies in disguise?"

Yet as lyrically beautiful and poignant as this is, it does little to take away the sting of a heavy cross we can pick up and put on our shoulders in union with Christ.  It is easy to talk about burdens, and another to carry them.

It is, in fact, easier, to talk about the burdens of others and watch God work in their life than to turn our gaze inward and admit the assistance that we ourselves need.  Because to us, our life is boring.

Drudgery.  Day in and day out. Always the same.  Void of excitement.  

Steve Furtick, a pastor in North Carolina, said, "The reason that we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else's highlight reel."

Have you thought about what your life looks like to others?  Your daily grind is new to them.  Your everyday is their once-in-a-lifetime.  And maybe they are looking at your life and wishing they had what you found by doing the little things.

Of course we can't say that phrase, "little things," without connoting the beautiful St. Therese of Lisieux.  She dedicated her life to God through the form of a life in a convent.  After her final vows, she didn't see any other view than that which was within her four walls.

Look at her life. Some may say boring.  Deprived.  Worthless.  Waste

But God saw dedication.  Total surrender.  Love without thought of self.

And He turned the small action of a woman giving up her life to Him into a series of hardships that has taught the world how to love through the little things.

Your life is a series of choices.  You can choose who, what, where, why and how to love.  You can choose to pick up your cross and walk a hard-yet-worth-it journey with God.  You can choose to never pick up that cross, but rather stare and complain.

But the life rocked with burdens is a life with countless opportunities to draw nearer to the one who we desire to spend eternity with.

"What if my greatest disappointments, or the aching of this life, is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy?" (Laura Story).

We all know the story of the woman at the well in John chapter four.  After her conversation with Christ, she didn't have to stop getting water to fill her watering pitcher.  We know she had to return to get water to drink again to quench a physical thirst.  Yet the the burning desire for a Savior?  That was quenched in more ways she could imagine.  She knew what it was like to search for something to fill the aching.  She had been married many times, and the man she was with when she met The Lord wasn't even her husband.

Yet with Christ there was forgiveness and unconditional love.  She would not thirst without a source of relief any longer, because now she knew where the true source of love was.

Pick up your cross.  Come to the source of love and He will help you with your load.

God bless,

Chloe

Jesus Loves You This Much

We all have parts of our lives that we struggle with.  There are so many days when we wake up, look in the mirror and just want to go back to bed. 
I know I do.  I wake up unintentionally channeling my white-as-a-vampire anti-tan in the summer and am surprised I’m even able to see a reflection in the mirror! 
On a more serious note, though, there are days that we all have beaten ourselves black and blue and just asked one heart wrenching question.  “Who could love me?  I am so broken.  I’m damaged goods.” 
I always have imaged people walking around with back packs on our back all through life.  We stuff them full of sin and draw into ourselves the more the weight is added.  Sometimes we weigh it down with insults and weight more than others do.  We can be our worst enemy.

Guess what?  I know who could love you despite your brokenness.  God.  And we've heard this message since we could first sing along to bible songs, in the back of our mom's minivan.  “Jesus loves me this I know….” It’s still true.  That song is still as annoying as it was when we were seven, but the message itself is pretty timeless.  
God loves you.  Amazingly just not despite of your brokenness, but he wants to love you out of your brokenness?
How much does God love you?
<--- This much.  Hands splayed open, nailed through the wrists to a rough wooden beam, hoisted up so the entire world could laugh at him.  Beaten to an inch of his life and then forced to walk what should have been a quick eight minute walk down the street but turned into a heart breaking journey.  Tripping in the cracks of the road beaten until he had to get up.  So exhausted that He couldn't even carry the cross the rest of the way up to the place that He would breath his last breathe.
Do you know what he was thinking about when He was up there?  What was running through His mind when the crowd jeered at Him prove His divinity and come down from the cross?
"I can't come down from the cross. I have to stay up there for (fill-in-your-name-here).  Because sometime in their life, the journey is going to get rough and they are going to look at the journey I went through for them and they're going to have strength and consolation.  I can't get down, I just can't."
What is our excuse to not give 100% of our love back to God? Romans 5:8 says, “And this But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were still sinners.  He didn't get on the cross after we said "I'm sorry."  He died for every sin that had ever been committed and every sin that would ever be committed, knowing that people wouldn't be sorry.
It's time to love God back. 
Matt Maher wrote a beautiful song about Christ's experience on the cross and why He stayed on it....for you.  Listen to this song, the lyrics are just thought-inducingly beautiful. 
It's time to love God 100% with every aspect of our life.  Because He loved us first - and we're called to love in return.
Are you ready for that journey?
Chloe M. 

I can't wait to go to Heaven

I don't know if anyone has ever told you this, but God has incredible plans for you.

Like beyond your imagination, amazing without compare, make you shake your head in wonder at every move phenomenal plans.

This past weekend I was at a Catholic teen retreat and my eyes were just opened to the incredible love of our Lord and the beauty of His children.

Sometimes people touch your lives and you never get the chance to tell them that.  Sometimes you touch people's lives unknowingly and you never know what affect you have when Christ works through you.  This weekend I had the chance to tell people that they had changed my spiritual trajectory and people told me that I was able to help them on their journey.

Do you know that Christ can reach down and help people using your hands? That He can hug people using your arms, talk to people using your voice and love people using your heart?  He can, and He will if you just let Him in.

Do you know even the littlest things you do can affect people?  The way you sing, the way you carry yourself, the way you talk to people or interact with them non verbally?  That those little things can make a difference you'll never see?

A dear friend of mine said something this weekend that has stuck with me. "I haven't changed the world.  I haven't cured cancer or won a Nobel prize.  But I have thrown a pebble into the ocean and I've made ripples."

I cannot wait to get to Heaven and get a God's eye view of how far those ripples went and who they touched.

There was a point in my life not too long ago when I was scared to die.  Deathly afraid, pun intended, to leave behind everyone I knew and go to a place that I knew so little about.

The more I build these incredible friendships and communities, the more I can't wait to get to Heaven. Friends who I haven't seen forever? Going to see them for eternity.  People who I run into while I'm rushing around my busy schedule and can't sit down with them to have a heart-to-heart? Going to be there forever.

The saints who I have prayed to since I could pray?  Going to meet them face to face.  It's like a pen-pal who you know through their writings but don't know them face to face and suddenly you get to meet them.  Saint Maria Goretti?  Be right back, fangirling.  Getting to hug Saint Cecilia? Induce heart melting.

Guys, it's going to be beautiful.

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1.
Mystery of the Universe #1: Why is it that guys' cologne can smell good for hours on end, but I put on perfume and literally it's gone after three seconds.
2.
This article about what things to consider before marriage is phenomenal - I love the references back to the Hebrew words concerning love.
 
3.
My baptism anniversary was Tuesday and Mom and Dad gave me a great book.  "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp.  Her writing is so beautiful, it's like reading a poem.  The message of the books is just as beautiful.  So far I'm on chapter three and I've already cried and laughed.  Very much worth the read.
 
4. 
Summer is winding down, just in time for school to start.
The countdown begins today - I have 18 days before I start the
last semester of sophomore year. 
Guys, I'm almost halfway done with my undergrad.
Cue the confetti drop and wheel out the eighteen foot banana split.
 
5.
Next week I'm headed out of town to help on a
Teens Encounter Christ weekend.  It's my fourth
time with this retreat, and I actually have been asked
to give a talk on the Trinity.  I'll post the talk after
that weekend.  Prayers that I don't fall all
over myself and completely mess up :)
 
6. 
I've also been reading Dannah Gresh's book
Get Lost. Wow, this is a book that has every message
that I've needed to hear.  Favorite quote so far:
"I'm certain that a part of you desperately wants to get lost in God's love. 
At least some small piece of us always seems to be aware that we are wired
to seek God's heart and let Him touch our own.  But it's so difficult. 
After all, the love of a guy is so stinkin' tangible.  You can see a guy.
Smell a guy.  Touch a guy.  Text a guy. Get gifts from a guy.
And they are everywhere! There are more than 139 million men
in the Untied States alone.  No wonder we get distracted from seeking God's love!"
Needless to say, this book gets my recommendation.
 
7.
If you have extra time this weekend,
this website has podcasts from Father Mike Schmitz.
He works at the Newman Center for University of Minnesota Duluth.
You may have heard him on one of the Lighthouse CDs
in the kiosks in the back of your church. 
Phenomenal, solid Catholic talks - check them out.
 
God bless and have a great weekend!
Chloe M.

 

The case against the bikini

bikini.jpg

I am one of those girls who generally does not like to swim.  It’s not that don’t know how to swim, but I just haven’t ever enjoyed it that much.  My innate fear of fish probably does not help the case, either. (Guys, fish breathe out of the side of their face. Lakes literally are giant fish toilets. Need I say more?) However, with summer right around the corner, I have noticed that there is an issue with pools that reaffirms my hesitancy to venture out to the pool with my stack of summer reading list books. 

The bikini.

Please keep reading, despite your feelings on the subject.  Maybe you agree.  Maybe you disagree.  Maybe you are reading this post by the pool, wearing a bikini.  Read on, dear readers, read on.

My inner history major is coming out, so I’d like to start off with a brief history of the bikini.  Louis Reard was a French man who worked in his mother’s lingerie shop.  He went to work every day and looked at women in their underwear.  I’m sure his complaint list was pretty low in relation to his work environment.

One day he had the idea that women should wear these kinds of style in public, and the place that made sense to introduce the fashion trend was the beach.  So he made a swimsuit that was, essentially, water proof lingerie.  If you look at the style through the lenses of the modern era, this swimsuit is now considered “conservative” in comparison.  However, back in the year 1946, it was scandalous. 

Time came for the fashion show to introduce the debut of the new swimwear, and Louis began to recruit his runway models.  It was harder than he thought – no model would have anything to do with waterproof lingerie, poolside wear or not.  So who did he have model this fashion?

A Paris stripper named Micheline Bernardini.

So we have water proof lingerie, and today it seems that most swimsuits actually cover less than what is worn under our clothing.  Even if modern opinion of the appropriateness of a swimsuit has changed, the brain has not. 

Let’s try this in a different situation with a different vantage point – this first scenario is from Jason Evert. 

As a young woman, you are at your house getting dressed and, for some unknown reason, your bedroom wall fell down.  If a group of people were running by, would you stand there in your underwear and wave hello?  Basically the same coverage as a bikini, right? NO! In this case, you would dash for cover as soon as possible.

Then why is it socially acceptable to wear this kind of coverage, if not much less, if there is a body of water around?

Some will say “Well, a guy’s brain is his own responsibility and if he can’t control himself, it’s his fault.”  Others say, “If a woman wants to dress in a way that will objectify her, it is her fault.”

Grow. Up.

Bikinis and modesty are not a 'guys issue' or a 'woman's issue.' Modesty is a human issue.  And the problem concerning the blatant objectification of women in the fashion industry and the world in general was never solved by point fingers and blaming people.  We should be viewing our interactions with others as a way to help each other to Heaven.  It needs to be a mutual endeavor, and finding ways to place blame will not help the situation improve.

It is not that a bikini shows too much of a woman - it reveals too little.  Saint Pope John Paul II wrote extensively on the subject of modesty in his Theology of the Body discussions.  A bikini does not reveal a woman's worth as a daughter of God.  It does not reveal her brilliant mind, beautiful heart and eternal soul.  It reveals only her body - and that is not nearly close enough to describing who she is as a child of God.

How 'hot,' 'fit', or 'attractive' a woman looks in a bikini does not define who she is as a human being with an eternal soul.  Her figure is not her greatest accomplishment.  How sun-kissed (or, in my case, sun burned) one looks at the end of the summer and where one's tan lines are is not the sum of a person's being.  We are more than just bodies and we are more than the tone of our skin...regardless and despite what society screams from advertisements, billboards and get-fit-quick ten day programs on Facebook. On top of this, women reduce themselves to the level of objects when they wear bikinis.  That statement is not a stab-in-the-dark guess or a matter of opinion.  There have been multiple studies done, but one of the most convincing is the scans of a male brain while looking at pictures of women in bikinis.  The study was conducted by National Geographic (Fiske and associates, 2009). Men look at pictures for a portion of a second, while their brain was being scanned in a laboratory situation.  In the rotation of pictures was nature, cities, random events, and, of course, pictures of women in bikinis.

Without the men consciously willing their brains to do so, the scans revealed that when showed pictures of women in modest attire, the part of the brain that uses the terms “She walks, she talks,” and other third person verbs was activated in a guy.  Yet when shown pictures of women in bikinis, the brain automatically switches to the part that is used when using tools, objects and first person verbs (“I move, I walk”)

What does this mean? Why is it significant? Because bikinis are not helping any of us (regardless of gender) get closer to God or Heaven.  

Ladies, I'm not asking you ditch your bikini because you are ugly.  In fact, you are a beautiful daughter of God.  So if you are beautiful, why cover your body?  Not because it is horrible.  Not because we don’t want to see you.

I'm asking you to not reach for a two-piece this summer because we veil things that are beautiful.  Why are veils encouraged at first communions? Because those girls are beautiful, and going up to receive the very body and blood of Christ for the first time. Why does a bride wear a veil on her wedding day? Because she is a beautiful treasure.  Why do we have a curtain in front of the tabernacle?  Because it is beautiful. 

No one looks at the first communicant, the bride, or the tabernacle and says “Oh, how ugly.  Glad we got that covered up.”   The mystery surrounding the girl, the woman, or the Eucharist is amplified because something is left to the imagination.

Do you want people at the pool looking at you and appreciating you as a child of God, or do you want them looking at you and appreciating what you would look like without any clothing on?

Sisters in Christ...you are loved.  You are cherished.  You are desired by a God who would rather die than risk spend eternity without you.  You deserve more than water proof lingerie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fields for Planting

A farmer went out to sow in the field...

This weekend's Gospel reading is taken from the book of Matthew.  It speaks of a sower who went out to sow.  Although he spreads the same seed around, it falls on different kinds of ground and sprouts in different manners.  Some seeds fall on ground that will never support it, and it perishes in the rocks.  Others fall on thorns, which choke the seed as it comes up through the dirt.  Still others fall on good ground, take root and are able to grow to their full potential.

We've all heard this parable many, if not what feels like hundreds, of times.  "The sower went out to sow..." and then we tune out.  Yada, yada, some will grow some will not.  Some of us may wonder if this parable is even relevant to us, because most of us aren't living in an agricultural-based economy, and even if we are, we don't sow seeds by hand.

Yet this parable applies to our lives today just as much as it applied to the lives of those hearing it originally from Christ Himself.

The significance could vary from person to person, but what really hit me today at Mass while I was listening was the issue of vocational discernment.

Vocational discernment.  Maybe the term makes you shudder.  Maybe the term doesn't really have any connotations to you.  Despite feelings on the topic, though, it is something that you need to think about.

Every child of God is called to serve Him in a way particular to them.  Not only do we all have a universal vocation and calling to holiness, but we also all have a primary vocation as well as a secondary vocation.

Prayer is a necessity for any level of discernment. 

The Catholic Church has different paths of primary vocations.  One can be called to marriage, consecrated single, the priesthood, or a religious community.  After that selection, the secondary vocation is what the day-to-day life looks like.  It could be what career path you choose, what your specific religious order is devoted to, or daily life with your family.

But let's focus on primary vocations today.  For many, me included, the process of vocational discernment can seem daunting.  It could be a long journey from "This is what I'm going to do with my life" to being at a point where you can say "God's got this, and not my will but His."

To apply this weekend's Gospel, vocational discernment can take different paths.  Maybe you went to a phenomenal retreat this summer.  Maybe you're going to - Steubenville retreats are a popular destination for many Catholic youth.  At many of these retreats, they'll ask those who are thinking about religious vocations to come down and pray as a group.  The turnout of hundreds of Catholic teens thinking about a religious vocations always puts me in awe.  #Catholicandproud.

This is a seed being sown.  Christ may be knocking gently on the door of your heart.  There are a couple of options at this point.

Option one: "Lalalala.  I can't hear you."  This is typically my default, so do not beat yourself up if you can relate to this stage.  It consists of avoiding any situation that would spark any talk about vocations.  The words "vocations" and "discernment" make your hands sweaty and mind race to escape routes.  If anyone brings up the topic, you smile and say "Ummm....it's an option...I guess."  Don't be rocky ground.  If God is sowing seeds in your life, let them take root.

I'm not saying that you are called to a religious vocation.  But everyone should take the steps to discern a call to the priesthood/religious sister/religious brother.  You don't have to discern marriage.  Not only is marriage man's natural vocation, it's also an aspect of whatever vocation you decide to follow.  Either you will be married to another human being of the opposite gender, as a guy you'll be married to the Church spiritually, or as a gal you'll pledge yourself as the bride of Christ.  Don't be the heart as hard as rock that never lets even the slightest idea of religious vocations take root.

Life will require weed pulling

Option two: Weedville  Let's go back to the same seed being sown for vocational discernment.  You feel a tug from God to look into a certain order, you follow the path out.  Then you get home and your friends say that you think you are "holier than them" and you must be crazy.

Or maybe you sit around after a weekend and the more you think about it, the crazier it seems.  You, a religious vocation? Really?  You have a boyfriend!  You love wearing clothes that aren't all one color!  You don't think nuns can even have a Facebook page!  That solved that, you "discerned" long enough and it's just not for you.

Hold on now.  While you're on the right path with an open heart, don't let the day-to-day weeds pull you down.  I'm not saying your friends are horrible people, that your boyfriend isn't a good guy, that you can't like fashion or that social media is the son of the devil.  What I am saying is that everyone/everything isn't always going to work in your favor.  We're called to be different.  To stick out in the world.  G. K. Chesterton once said "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it."

Be like the lilies of the field in
Matthew 6:28. 

Option Three: Open Heart Open Arms Obviously, the only option left for the seed is flourishing in fertile soil.  While this is the optimal option, all of us know that this is the hardest.  It's hard to put God in the center of your life, especially when other things that you really like feel like they should be number one.  It also takes time and effort, and that can be a challenge too.  There is a lot of effort that goes into making a commitment to daily scripture reading, finding a spiritual director, visiting orders and talking to others who are actively discerning.  It can be a lot easier to do nothing and tell yourself that it's okay, and if God wants you somewhere,  He'll open the doors.  He can't open doors if you don't leave your house.

Don't be afraid to bloom to your highest potential.  Make your heart a good field for Christ to plant in.

Si vis amari ama,

Chloe M. 

Why homosexual unions aren't marriage

There is a move in the current culture to redefine marriage to include the supposed healthy union between two members of the same sex.

As a Catholics, respecting and obeying all that the Catholic Church stands for, there is no way that we can accept this radical cultural shift.  There are many reason why, but today's post will focus on why a same-sex marriage, whether defined legally as such or not, does not line up with what the Catholic Church defines as marriage.

What is marriage then?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1601) says, "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament."

Essentially translated, this paragraph means that marriage is a covenant (a promise between God and man) between two people of the opposite sex.  It is a permanent institution, as pointed out by the wedding vows themselves (what God has joined let no man tear asunder).  What really is emphasized here, though, is the two characteristics of marriage: unitive and procreative.  Drawing the spouses together, while simultaneously closer to Heaven, and a blatant openness to life.   This union ultimately becomes part of the Church that is regarded as an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace - a sacrament.

What, then, are the characteristics of marriage that homosexual unions can be compared to in order to understand the difference between homosexual and heterosexual couples?

Characteristic One: Free 

Definition: This love is not free in the sense that it does not have to be paid for.  Rather, free love is not controlled or manipulated by another person or by a disordered desire, according to Christopher West in his commentary on the Theology of the Body.  Not forced upon one of the parties (such as in the act of rape), but rather chosen out of free will.

Free from shame.  Free for God.  

In traditional marriage: In the context of sexuality in a traditional marriage, this characteristic of freedom is fulfilled when a married man and woman are able to give themselves freely to each other.  This includes the elimination of lustful desires, disorders such as contraception or pornography, and not being a slave to sexual passions.  In this type of love, we see a man and a woman seeing each other in the image of God and willing the good of the other as other.

Personified by Christ: Christ loves us enough that he would rather die than risk spending eternity without us.  Despite the sins and transgressions that we laid upon his back on the way to Calvary, He loves us unconditionally.  

Not seen in homosexual unions:  The inability to fulfill the characteristic of freedom in pertinence to homosexual unions is as follows: Freedom to love is defined as freedom from disordered desires.  Yet desiring sexual pleasure from a member of the opposite sex is a disordered form of love.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 2358) reads, "This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.  They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity....these persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition."

Characteristic Two: Total

Definition: Once again from Christopher West, total love is defined as "love without the strings attached, love that holds nothing back.  In it you make gift of yourself to another -  a total self donation."  Complete.  Absolute.  Your whole self.

Even when it hurts.  Even when it's hard
Even when it's all just falling apart.  

In Traditional Marriage:  This instance is where the notion of Natural Family Planning and the absence of any form of artificial contraception is key.  When in a marriage between a  man and a woman, the presence of a contraceptive essentially says this: "I love you darling.  I love all of you.  Except your fertility.  Because nothing would be worse to me than having another one of you running around."  Instead, by removing contraception and being open to both the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage, the husband and wife say "Take all of me.  Here is everything, including my fertility.  Here are my future children.  The grey hairs they will cause you when they run a muck in the church pew.  The cost of their school.  Our shared tears and laughter.  My hip replacement.  Our retirement plans.   Because you are more than just a body for my pleasure - you are a soul and body which I love totally."  

Personified by Christ:  This is where Christ shows us true and total love.  When in the garden, he sweats drops of blood because of the agony anticipated in the slow death and torture on the cross.  Yet he says, "Not my will but thy will be done."  This is total giving.  Giving one's all for the benefit of the other and holding nothing back.  Blessed Charles de Foucland (1858-1916) penned the prayer, "I love you Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.  Amen."

Not Seen in Homosexual Unions:  The totality required of a marriage is lost when applied to homosexual unions.  There are two good analogies that I have heard this explained in layman's term.  The first is that one cannot appreciate a gift they already have.  If I own my favorite movie of all time already, when someone gives me that favorite movie as a gift for my birthday, I will not appreciate that gift.  After all, I already own that movie.  A second ownership of the same object is pointless.  Similarly, in the natural world, the two ends of a magnet only connect if they have something that the other does not.  The polar opposite ends connect because they offset each other.  The two southern poles never connect - they each possess what the other has.  Thus, in a homosexual union, one cannot give the totality of oneself to another - because that man already has masculinity as part of his genetic makeup, or that woman already possess femininity both physically and mentally by her very nature as a woman.

Characteristic Number Three: Faithful 

Definition: Once again said more eloquently than I could ever hope for, Christopher West says, "Faithful love is love that is committed.  That commitment guides all other actions.  You keep your promises once you have made them, no matter how your feelings may change."

Perseverance even in
the face of adversity

In Traditional Marriage:  True marriage is living one's wedding vows every day.  I cannot speak from experience here, but I know from observation alone that this is not the easiest thing to do.  There are (or may be in the future, depending on your state of life) days when the feeling of infatuation simply isn't there anymore.  You realize that the honey moon is over and there the supposed love of your life is, lying in bed snoring while dirty socks decorate your room like stinky, old confetti.  It is in these times that you have to put your nose to the grindstone and decide that love, despite what Hollywood will so convincingly try to portray, is not an emotion but an action and devoted decision.

Personified by Christ:  Once again to the crucifix, we see Christ's faithful love.  Despite the ease of simply saying, "Well guys, I think I've proved my point here" and walking off the cross, Christ hung on the cross until the last breath of air fell from His lips.  He can sympathize with our pain, but also with our struggle to endure in faithful love, even when the going gets tough.

Not Seen in Homosexual Unions: The Catholic Church is not being a prude by saying that homosexuality does not line up with God's plan for the human heart, soul and body.  Instead, it calls all people (regardless of sexual tendencies) to a life of purity.  It is calling you to live as you were created - to be God's.  Any marriage would not be functioning properly if one spouse was continually cheating on the other.  Similarly, the marriage cannot work if the union itself constantly cheats the other out of who they are able to be in the light of Christ's redemptive love. Homosexuality never allows both parties to daily renew the wedding vows because the very act of homosexual physical relations are not marital.  This is not to say that those who struggle with homosexual tendencies are evil people who deserve final damnation.  They simply are looking in the wrong places for authentic and faithful love.

Characteristic Number Four: Fruitful

Definition: This characteristic is self explanatory.  Love that is truly fruitful is constantly open to life.  It is open to both the sides of physical fertility, procreation, and the raising of children, but also open to the life of Christ in the spiritual life of the couple.

In Traditional Marriage:  The Catholic Church never defines how many children a couple must have for a "authentic Catholic" marriage.  However, the Catholic Church does establish the fact that the couple needs to be open to children from the moment "I do" is said.  This means an absence of contraceptives of any sort, despite any perceived exception.  Responsible spacing of children is advised with the help of Natural Family Planning, the method that uses the woman's cycle to track fertile and infertile times.  If the presence of contraceptives is in the marriage, both the nature of the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage is destroyed.  This only applies to marriages that deliberately block the procreative side of life and fertility.  The naturally infertile couple is not willing infertility.  Yet any marriage that reduces one or both of the parties down to an object for the other's sexual pleasure is violating the fruitful characteristic

Be open to Christ's life in your marriage and family.  

Personified in Christ: Christ's love for His Church is always open to life.  Pope Francis spoke on this subject a homily on June 2, 2014.  The love of Christ, he said, "makes the Church fruitful" by her children through the sacraments of Baptism.  "This culture of well-being from ten years ago has convinced us: 'it's better not to have children!  It's better!  you can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be care-free...it might be better, more comfortable to have a dog, two cats and love that goes to the cats and dogs.  Is this true or is it not?  have you seen it?  Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age and solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness.  It is not fruitful  It does not do what Jesus does with his Church.  He makes his Church fruitful."

Not Seen in Homosexual Unions: Not matter how much perceived emotional love that occurs between two members of the same sex, life can never be produced.  Two men, no matter how they try, will never be able to produce a child without the assistance of a woman, and the help of modern medicine.  Biologically, the fruitful aspect of the homosexual union can easily be pointed out as non-existent.

To read more on the free, total, faithful and fruitful love as taught by the incredible Saint Pope John Paul II, read the Theology of the Body online here.  For more Christopher West, go here.  For discussion on the topic of TOB, you don't have to go anywhere though, the comment box is right below.

Si vis amari ama,

Chloe M. 

Which politician should I support as a Catholic?


The election season is looming upon us.  TV ads urge us to vote for their candidate.  We come home from work and find our voice mail box blinking with messages of why so-and-so politician is the answer to the nations problems.

In no way is the election on November 4, 2014 a small deal.  This midterm election year has all of the seats in the United House of Representatives open for election, as well as 1/3 of the United State Senate seats open.  In terms of governor positions, 36 of the 50 states will be voting on who will lead them at the state level.  

Despite the fact that the presidential ticket will not be on the poll, these house and senate elections play a large roll in the legislature that will be passed in the coming years.  

So, this begs the question : How do we vote as Catholics?

This is an age old question.  In fact, a question that even Catholics themselves do not know.  In the 2012 election year, Barack Obama and Joe Biden gathered 47% of the Caucasian Catholic votes, and ultimately won the presidential election.   However, to put this percentage in context, the Obama/Biden ticket only won 34% of the Caucasian Protestant vote.  

Can Catholics vote Democrat?  Should Catholics always vote Republican?  Can someone be a fully faithful, practicing member of the Catholic Church and still with good conscience vote for the lesser of two evils in a political election race?

It is at this time that another question should be answered.  Are we aligned to our political party first, Catholic second?  Or Catholic first, political affiliation second? 

Saint Thomas More, patron saint of Lawyers and Politicians, was born in London in the year 1478.  He focused his primary studies on religion and the study of classic literature.  He then attended Oxford, where he underwent legal studies.  Upon the completion of these studies, his intelligence and quick wit landed him a job in Parliament.  Before he was 40 years old, he had already written the famous book "Utopia."  Eventually, King Henry VIII gave him the position of Lord Chancellor in the year 1529.  

Thomas only held the job for three years before he resigned from the position because of a heated debate rising over the issues of King Henry's marriage and the Pope's position as head of the Church.  Only two years later, Thomas refused to swear allegiance to King Henry, who now claimed possession to the title of "Head of the Church of England."

He was convicted of treason.  He was told by the court that he would be put to death.  These were no easy times, easy choices or a situation of comfort.  But invasive Catholicism does not shirk from responsibility when the going gets tough.  As Thomas stood and faced the people of England on July 6, 1535, he told those present that he was being killed as "the King's good servant but God's first." 

"The King's good servant......but God' first."

Can this be applied to today's situation that voting Catholics find themselves in?  I would have to say yes.

Is there a blanket answer to the political parties that are in power today?  No.  There are, however, major marking points to which candidates can be held up to for comparison purposes.  The first of these is the undeniable right to life that should be respected in each person - from womb to tomb.  

The first issue that comes to mind with the term "respect life" is that of abortion.  Concerning the party of the Democrats, this issue is an interesting one, to say the least. 

Michael Sean Winters is the author of Left at the Altar: How the Democrats Lost the Catholics.  In an article entitled "Dear Democratic Catholics," Winter pointed out the irony of the support of abortion coming from the Democratic party.  

"Even though I know the history, it remains a mystery to me that a party committed to the downtrodden, to those who are voiceless, to protecting the weak, could have failed to recognize that their concern should be extended to the unborn. I can understand, and sympathize with, a woman who feels an abortion is a remedy to an unwanted pregnancy. I cannot understand, and have no sympathy, with the idea that this decision is right. Here we see again the evil consequences of replacing a substantive ethic of the good with a formal ethics of rights. The issue is, for me, and for all Catholics, first and foremost an issue of justice. This failure to protect the weak does not only run contrary to Catholic teaching, it runs counter to the entire humane impulses of the Democratic Party. And, the moral imperative to confront this failure finds ample warrant in our Scriptures. This past Sunday, we heard in the Letter of St. James that we Christians are called to special concern for the widow and the orphan. Who is more a widow than an unwed mother, abandoned by the man who got her pregnant? Who is more an orphan than the child who is unwelcomed even before her birth?"

When judging a candidate, one has to realize that no matter how much he/she supports job growth, clean streets, responsibly funded schools or a good environment, if they support abortion one cannot in good conscience vote for them.  Who will good job positions be filled with if the future job earners are murdered in their mother's womb?  Who will walk down clean streets in the future?  Will the desks at these well funded schools be empty?  A clean earth and no children's laughter?

Beautifully,though, unlike many unified groups, the Catholic Church is not founded on the terms and definitions of a political party, the color of one's skin, or heritage.  What we do draw our sense of community from is the fact that each and every one of us, despite what party affiliation we favor, are formed, created and living as images of God, the creator and lover of our souls.  We thus should be Catholics first, politically involved second.  We are called to demand honesty, transparency and responsibility from all candidates.  We are called to actively research and discern the weight of each vote in any type of election.

Because any election, rather at state level or national level, is ultimately selecting a person who represents you and what your values are.  Our vote should support  people who represent us and the values of Catholicism.  

The answer then is to learn the sides and full stories of both candidates and then to compare them to the Catholic conscience.  Parties aside, we must vote in order to protect the inherent rights to life,liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Rights given not by any legislature, presidential candidate or party.  But rights given by a God who we are called to know, love and serve.

Vote.  But vote wisely.  

Si vis amari ama,

Chloe M. 




A List about Lists

Almost all of us girls have done it.  Perhaps it was after a hard break up, a long time spent daydreaming or a genuine hope to prepare for the future, but we've written down the infamous list.


Perhaps your list changed as you grew older and your priorities changed.  But the future spouse list was something we could jot down and edit as life changed. 


There is nothing wrong with knowing what is important to you in a spouse. There is a problem, however, when your list begins to look more and more like a catalog order form with specifics planned out to the most minute detail for husband characteristics.

God has a heart that will love you at you worst,
and arms that will hold you at your weakest.  

Your list, if you decided to write one, should not be centered around physical characteristics.  So, for instance, it should not read as such:

1) He should have blonde hair.
2) He should have green eyes.
3) Must be minimally 6'3"

What will happen when you meet a great, Catholic guy who has dark hair, blue eyes and is pushing 6'1"?  There is nothing wrong with desiring a physical attraction.  In fact, that is important for marriage! Yet if physical characteristics are the deciding factor, and the final factor for yes-or-no, you may find yourself disappointed. 


So if that isn't the list you should write, what would a list for a future husband look like?  A good Bible verse to apply to this situation is 1 Samuel 16:7, which says, "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'"

There is even a Proverb for that: Proverbs 31:30, "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting."

But why is it important to have a list, or even an idea of what we would like in a future spouse?  Simply put, females are emotional.  We can think we have it all down, but let's be honest, it can be incredibly easy to let a red flag fall by the wayside of our consciousness simply because a guy acts like a gentleman, or tell us that we look pretty when we think we resemble what Jonah looked like after three days in the stomach of a fish.

Having a concept of what a Godly future husband looks like makes it very easy to quickly differentiate between whether or not a guy is going to be an acquaintance, friend or, if God wills it, more than a friend.


Your list should be based off of desirable, sustaining characteristics.  Despite the desire to stay young forever, we will grow older.  And when you are with your husband after twenty years of marriage, the color of his hair is going to have a lot less impact on your marriage than the contents of his heart.

Some ideas for your future spouse list?  Here is mine for comparison:

1) He is a strong man whose Catholicism is invasive: A blatant and passionate faith that infects every aspect of his life.

2)  He is someone who I would want our future children to mimic and look to as an example for what someone striving for holiness looks like.  He is an image for how our children will view God as a father.

3)  He is a man can laugh with me and not at me.  He can balance out my serious side, and has advice for even the most self-assumed dismal situations.

4)  He makes me a better person - and can say I do the same for him.  


Be prepared.  Having standards that you wish to see in your future spouse will not always make you the most popular person at the worldly-self-gratification-modern-culture party.  You will be picked out and told that 'You think you are all that', and 'I don't know why any guy would want to deal with you,' and 'Don't you just think you are a little princess who gets to demand those things.'  Believe me, I've heard those...and worse.

The thing is, you don't need scores of guys.  Primarily, you need one - and He's loved you enough to die for you.  Once your heart is full of Christ, He'll lead the right man of God into your life in His right timing.  

Words that should be said
first to Christ.

And each of the characteristics that you pray for in your future spouse do not exists as a one way street.  If you pray that your future husband is patient, also realize that you are praying for opportunities for you to practice your own patience.

An additional question to put this process in perspective: If the man who you prayed for showed up in your life today, would he be interested in you as a Catholic woman by the way you live your day-to-day life?  Be prepared to hold yourself to the same standards you pray he is living by.

The most important thing to remember is that God's timing is always the best.  He knows you better than anyone ever will...and even better than you know yourself.  Wait on Him, wait patiently for the Lord.  Don't lose heart, be strong of heart and wait on the Lord (Psalm 27:14).



Si vis amari ama,

Chloe M. 

The Long Way Home

We know that we were made for so much than ordinary lives, it's time for us to more than just survive.  We were made to thrive."
- Casting Crowns, Thrive

This is not our home.  As much as we are aware of this fact, sometimes its reality can press upon us.  A sudden death, incurable illness, or natural disasters can certainly remind us of our own mortality.  So, what are we to do?

Saint Augustine contemplated the phenomena extensively on his writings concerning what he labeled as the "two cities."

In the work "City of God," Augustine says, "The earthly city glories in itself, the Heavenly City glories in the Lord.” Later, he continues on the subject: 
"“The earthly [city] has made for herself, according to her heart's desire, false gods out of any sources at all, even out of human beings, that she might adore them with sacrifices. The heavenly one, on the other hand, living like a wayfarer in this world, makes no false gods for herself. On the contrary, she herself is made by the true God that she may be herself a true sacrifice to Him.” 

Predominately, because man himself is a physical being dwelling on a physical earth, his natural inclination is to focus on his immediate surrounding.  Yet, even Christ himself told us in Matthew 6:25-27 to not make this our primary focus, when He says, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"

Yet we do worry.  We worry about what we should order for dinner, or what way we should drive home on the way to work.  We can also worry about larger things that pertain to our future here on earth.  Where we will live, or where our career emphasis will be placed.

Contrastingly, we live with the knowledge of a second city - one that is off in the distance.  Perhaps a final destination that we tend to dismiss because of the seeming magnitude of distance between our current state of life and that supposed end of the road.  Yet it exists indeed, despite our acknowledgement, or lack thereof.

By no means is this saying that our current material situation is dismissive or unworthy.  After all, the world in which we reside was created by a Divine maker. Yet even that which is created for good can become corruptible.   

Augustine: The original tale of two cities


The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 385 says, "God is infinitely good  and all His works are good.  Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering or the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitation proper to creatures: and above all, the question of moral evil."  
 

The teaching of the Catholic Church is that, because of original sin, man cannot do anything out of supernatural love unless God gives him special grace to do so.  Thomas Aquinas wrote that special grace is necessary for man to do any supernaturally good act, to love God, to fulfill God's commandments, to gain eternal life, to prepare for salvation, to rise from sin, to avoid sin, and to persevere.  (These issues and more are expertly analyzed by James Akin in his article "A tiptoe through TULIP" in which he looks at the five main points of Calvinism emphasis in the Protestant religions.)

Perhaps the best way to compare these two cities is to analyze concept of a journey.  This analogy is most widely recognized in the allegory of Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan.  We do not exist in this earth to wallow in self pity for our misfortune.  Instead, this life is to be spent improving the lives (both physically and spiritually) of our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as drawing closer to God Himself.

Just as if you were on a road trip, the day-to-day traveling is incredibly significant.  You cannot get from point A to point C without passing through point B.  However, if you forget you are headed to point C, you can spend too much emphasis on your time in point B.  All of life must be focused with the end in mind.

What graces for the journey come from the Catholic Church!

Life is a journey.  Thankfully, praise God, we are on the path with the best traveling companion, our Lord Jesus Christ, present physically here on earth in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

 Drawing close to Him most definitely makes the road easier and the burden lighter here on earth, and what beautiful relationship with Him that will come to total fruition upon the entrance into the everlasting city.


Happy travels!

Si vis amari ama,


Chloe M. 

Without Shame

"Then the man said, 'This at last is <sup class="crossreference" value="(B)">bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was <sup class="crossreference" value="(C)">taken out of Man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed."
- Genesis 2:23-25


Despite what the world portrays, the act of sex isn't the definition of intimacy.  Induced by the culture and popular opinion, many have come to think of the terms 'sex' and 'love' as synonymous.  This concept is found in all debates about relationships.  It is assumed by the world that if you love someone, then the next logical step is to give yourself to them physically.

It doesn't have to be this way.

True intimacy is in-to-me-see.  Looking at the other person with the eyes of Christ and wanting their good above your desire for pleasure.  It is a combining of the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of a human being.  Intimacy that wills the good of the other before the good of oneself sounds really good in words....but it isn't so easy in actions.

Authentic intimacy outlasts the
worlds definition of beauty

When did intimacy become such a fragile concept?  Because, back in the beginning, sin won out in the human decision between the true love of God and the illusion of grandeur offered by a certain conniving snake.  Before the fall, man and woman were naked without shame - both with each other and with their openness to God's plan for their lives.  Yet after the fall, the first action of the man and woman was to sew fig leaves and hide from God.

Physical intimacy, in the true and only sanctioned, holy place of marriage, is the ability for a husband and wife to be knit together at the level of heart, mind, body and soul.  Without shame, because there is a commitment to each other for life.  Anything outside of this context is a cheap fake of the reality.

For instance, contracepted sex in marriage is a fallacy.  With the very intimate act of sex in marriage, you give yourself freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.  It is not only bonding with another person physically, but on a heart level.  Contraception halts that bonding.  With their bodies, the couple is naked, but they are not without shame, even if they claim to be.  Because they feel the need to use contraception to prevent a pregnancy, they act ashamed of their fertility. 

As if children are shameful and fertility is disease worth avoiding.
In his book, Soul Cravings, Erwin Raphael McManus writes, "Sex can be the most intimate and beautiful expression of love, but we are only lying to ourselves when we act as if sex is proof of love. Too many men demand sex as proof of love; too many women have given sex in hopes of love. We live in a world of users where we abuse each other to dull the pain of aloneness. We all long for intimacy, and physical contact can appear as intimacy, at least for a moment."

True, authentic love isn't easy. 

So true intimacy between a man and a woman in a marriage covenant is a very beautiful gift from God.  It is being without shame in every aspect of life - spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally.  It is not only sex - although sex is a vehicle for intimacy to develop in - but so much more.

It means looking at another person - looking at their hopes, dreams, loves, wishes, struggles, and flaws - and loving them because of and in spite of these.  It also involves opening up to your spouse

in such a way that they see into you as well.  It is putting their human hearts into the hands of a divine lover, and walking side by side towards the plan He has for them.

Love is not an emotion - it is a decision.  It doesn't always 'feel good.'  The ultimate example of love is Christ, laying down his life for those who crucified him.  It didn't 'feel good' to die from suffocation, weighed down by your own body, struggling to breathe.  Love, sacrificial love, is a decision made when the going gets hard. 

Do not reduce intimacy to sex.  See it as the whole gift as it is - an expression of authentic love according to God's design. 

Si vis amari ama,

Chloe M.

Cheating on your (future) spoue and family: The Effects of Pornography

I wish I could say that you could go through life and not have to deal with the issue of pornography.  Sadly, the culture that we live daily is saturated with sex, and not in the way God fearing way. 

The more we see it in our daily lives, the more we become accustomed to it.  Grocery store checkout lines, bill boards, online ads, and Facebook run rampant with pornography.  And the more the issue is prevalent in our culture, the more we become desensitized to it.

Excuses such as “It’s not like I’m actually physically hurting anybody” or “it’s completely mutual” or “it’s really no big deal” are buzz words around the issue.  It is not helpful when the world in which we live and breathe simply reinforces the supposed normality.

Take for instance the move that recently came out staring Leonardo DiCaprio.  “The Wolf of Wall Street” was hailed as an ingenious film.  The levels of nudity and crass were through the roof.  It also grossed over $389 million worldwide against a $100 million budget.  Additionally, it was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Scorsese, Best Adapted Screenplay for Terrence Winter, and Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for DiCaprio.  And it was pornography for the masses.


What a narrow box pornography is.  Instead of opening your eyes to the beauty of God’s creation, you narrow yourself into a thought process where people are objects to be captured in a screen shot for viewing pleasure. 

However, pornography is not a moral issue because sex is bad.  On the contrary, sex is a beautiful creation from God.  Sex was created BY God.  So if you think He just sits up in the sky and says “Don’t do this,” “Ohh, wrong move,” thing again.  He invented sex.  And all things that God creates?  Good. 

Pornography is not even bad because it shows too much.  Instead, as so flawlessly pointed out by John Paul II (are we surprised?), “Pornographic images reduce the person being lusted over to body parts only. There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.”

It takes the beautiful creation of a human being, made in the image and likeness of God, and reduces him or her to parts to be admired. 

You are more than parts.  God’s creation of your fellow human beings are good.  Sex is great.  Pornography?  Doesn’t even fit in the picture. 
Si vis amari ama, 

 Chloe M
 

The culture of violence

Elliot Rodger.  A twenty-two year old man who took the lives of six victims and himself, while wounding thirteen others.

What is the right response to this incredible act of violence?  Dissecting the issue piece by piece and realizing the violent culture in which we live today.

Elliot Rodgers was a mentally ill young man.  He suffered from a highly functional case of Asperger Syndrome.  This Syndrome is a form of autism, in which those who have an affected view of the their social interactions. However, Elliot's mental health was not unchecked.  According to CNN news, he had been seeing a therapist since the age of eight, even up to a daily appointment during the years he spent in high school.  Both of his parents were aware of his condition, and monitored his social media postings and general well being.

When posts about suicide consideration and general violence appeared on his social media profiles, his own family contacted the police and asked them to make sure Elliot was okay.  In April, six policemen visited Elliot at his home, but found nothing suspicious, and advised Elliot to contact his family and assure them of his mental stability.

The mental health system of the state of California is not broken.  In all reality, it worked exactly as it was supposed to.  Elliot met with a therapist, his family was aware of the issues he suffered from, and the police even visited his home.  The reality is that Elliot Rodgers was a mentally ill person who was bent on the destruction of human life.

The issue is not that gun violence is rampant and all guns need to be banned.  In fact, a new study in the United States found that in 2010, the violence rate was 49% lower than in the 1990s, and firearm-related violence -- assaults, robberies, sex crimes -- was 75% lower in 2011 than in 1993.

Elliot was also detrimentally affected by the sex saturated culture in which we live.  His most obvious failure in his own life was the fact that, at twenty-two years old, he was still a virgin.  When speaking to Dale Launer, who directed movies about love and relationships, Elliot wrote, "He wanted to help me overcome my troubles because he is a so-called expert with women.  He even showed me pictures of all the gorgeous women he had dated in his life, and there was a lot of them.  This man truly lived" (CNN News).

What has happened to our culture when the definition of true living is how many women you can seduce?  When the bane of your existence is the fact that you have not "lost" your virginity?  Oh, for the world to realize that your virginity is not something you should just want to discard for a pleasure high and bragging rights.  That it is a beautiful gift given by God to be given in return to your spouse on your wedding night?

We also are encouraged by a narcissistic culture, where everything is about the self.  Instead of a love defined by the Catechism as the act of "willing the good of another," the culture encourages  selfish mindset in which it is all about "me."

"My orchestration of the Day of Retribution [Elliot's label for the massacre] is my attempt to do everything in my power to destroy everything I cannot have."  This is the sentence that was found in Elliot's manifesto of over one hundred pages.  Instead of willing others' good and rejoicing at the success of others,  he was determined to live through the age-old mentality of "if I cannot be happy, then no one can be happy."

With a pursuit of his desire to have others join in his self-perceived misery, he took with him the lives of the innocent as retribution for the supposed rejection he had experienced. The NRA is not to be blamed.  His parents are not to be blamed.  The therapist(s) are not to be blamed.  The police are not at fault.  When someone orchestrates a massacre and is cowardly enough to take their own life so as to avoid punishment and consequence for their actions, they are the ones to be held responsible.

 As we grieve for the unnecessary loss of the lives of those in Santa Barbara, may we pray for all the souls of those who are no longer on this earth.
May the souls of the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


Si vis amari ama, 

Chloe M.