Dear Parents: It’s Not About You

There are no shortage of opinions on family issues lighting up the Internet on any day, but with the Supreme Court announcing recently the hearing of cases on whether gay “marriage” is constitutional, and in the wake of no press coverage for hundreds of thousands marching for life last week, that’s been especially true lately.

One article in particular that’s been getting some good air time, but is receiving just as many scoffs from the gay lobby, appeared on LifeSiteNews.com the other day about four individuals who testified in front of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals opposing the legalization of same-sex “marriage”. The “quartet of truth,” as they were dubbed, were all raised by homosexual parents, and also advocate for allowing children to only be raised in an environment where a mother and a father both have the chance of being present.

Reading the article will fill in all the details, but the four individuals bring up a startlingly obvious point that, if heeded, would solve many, if not all, family issues.

It’s not about the parents. It’s about the children.

SONY DSC

It’s impossible to count the number of times people wishing to adopt children with a partner of the same sex talk about their “right to adopt”, or how many times pro-abortion advocates say women have a “right to their bodies”. Granted, the people in these positions mean incredibly well, and their hearts may well be in the right place, but whenever these points are made, they miss that crucial point — what’s best for the child?

Studies have repeatedly shown overwhelmingly that children thrive most when they’re in a home with two parents of the opposite sex. Many other studies have been telling of the adverse effects of choosing abortion over bringing the pregnancy to term. Women choosing abortion–perhaps claiming to get it out of “love for the child” or something similar–have, as a result of discarding their child, been at a substantially higher risk of developing physical and emotional problems.

These studies and testimonies clearly point out that the best course of action in family life is putting the interests of the children first, and it’s far from being confined to just matters of same-sex unions and abortion.

When it comes to parenting, it shouldn’t matter what the adults think if the child’s well-being isn’t put first. This is true for abortion. This is true for same-sex parenting. This is true for divorce of heterosexual couples. And this is even true of single parent adoptions, in my opinion.

Single moms and dads are not to blame, I want to add. Sometimes, situations that create single-parent homes are the best thing under the circumstances. However, those situations should be considered an exception instead of being touted as the norm.

On top of a child’s fundamental right to life, a child also has a fundamental right to be raised by their mother and father, whether that’s their biological parents, adoptive parents, or a step-parent.

That’s what this conversation should be about. There would be far fewer arguments about who has what “rights” if we considered children first.

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5 Uncommon Reasons to Keep Your Unborn Child

When St. John Paul II walked out onto the balcony after being elected pope in 1978, the first words out of his mouth were, “Be not afraid!!”

Those were strong words back then, when many Christians across the world, including in his home nation of Poland, were being severely oppressed under Communist rule. Under those conditions, operating without fear was a tall order, and likely felt impossible for many. However, St. John Paul instilled in people a knowledge that there were greater powers at work, and that “the power of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection is greater than any evil which man could or should fear” (Threshold of Hope, 1994).

With John Paul II’s encouragement, the faith of a fearless Polish nation sparked the end of Communism in that nation–no small feat.

I can’t help but think this is still appropriate today, albeit for entirely different reasons. When a woman finds out she’s carrying a child, perhaps one that was far from planned, I imagine that a crippling fear is the first thing to surface. The same goes for a young father–the thought of life being forever changed is often the scariest thing that person has ever encountered. I can speak from experience, having nearly had to deal with it myself at 18.

The natural instinct anymore is, “How can I get rid of this?” and sadly, with abortion being as readily available–even encouraged–as it ever has been, the short-term solution is the one that’s picked nearly 1,000 times a day.

Though it’s substantially more difficult to endure, there is another, better way to wrestle with the fear that accompanies an unintended pregnancy:

Let your baby be born, then love the child fiercely.

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Like John Paul II’s exhortation to Christians to “Be not afraid!”, this too is a tall order. When making your decision, don’t forget to consider these reasons too:

1. You CAN do it.

In a lot of ways, the deck is stacked against you. It’s increasingly the case that you’ll be encouraged to abort your child so “the problem” won’t exist any longer far more than you’ll be encouraged to keep it. Pregnancy itself will incredibly difficult. And after you carry the baby to term, it’ll be hard as hell a lot of times, and you might not know what you’re doing at first, but you can do it, and there are lots of people out there willing to help you care for that little life inside of you.

2. Living people are a gift to those around them.

Everyone (literally EVERYONE) walking around today has one thing in common: they were all carried in their mother’s womb and delivered into this world. Many, if not most, were surely conceived and born in good circumstances, but the sad reality is that many others weren’t. Some people have been conceived out of wedlock, others carried by a teenage mother, and still others have been conceived in horrific circumstances like rape or incest…but they’ve been given the gift of life, and we can be sure that person has had a positive impact and brought joy to at least one person. That alone should be good enough.

3. You were there once.

Referring to No. 2 above, the “one person” is nearly always the child’s mother (or father). I have a favor to ask: Next time you see a baby, ask the mom or dad if you can hold him/her for just a second. Then, being completely silent, reflect for a second on the child you’re holding in your arms. Think to yourself that you were once that small, that the smile you feel forming on your lips was once shared by the person holding you, and that you relied 100% on someone else for a good chunk of your life to allow you to be where you are now.

4. You’ll never know how much joy your child will bring you.

There’s a reason videos of babies laughing are the best. As Larry the Cable says, “I don’t care who ya are…” when a baby smiles at you, there’s a darn good chance you’ll want to smile back. Why is it that even the most hardened, grizzled, tough guys are melted by a little baby? The joy you’ll find from even the smallest things–their first words, playing peek-a-boo, them getting birthday cake all over their face, when they start to walk, that dandelion “flower” they picked you from the yard, the masterpiece they painted in kindergarten art class–an abortion takes away the chance that any of those things will ever happen.

5. Your child could change the world.

I recently read a story about a young man whose birth mother canceled her abortion appointment and decided to give her son up for adoption instead. Now? That young man became a priest for the Diocese of Lincoln (Nebraska).

In 1936, a 17-year-old girl found herself suddenly pregnant. Instead of finding a way to abort her child, the girl’s mother and father offered to raise the child, and the little boy grew up thinking his birth mother, June, was his sister. The child? Jack Nicholson.

The most striking story, in my estimation, is of an Eastern European woman named Emilia Kaczorowska. When she and her husband became pregnant in 1919, Emilia was suffering from the after-effects of rheumatic fever. Due to her illness, her doctor worried about the strain to her heart valves and advised she abort the son growing in her womb. Emilia said no to the advice and gave birth to a son, Karol, on May 18, 1920. Karol became a priest, then a bishop, and in 1978 became Pope John Paul II.

There are lots of other stories of famous people who were nearly aborted, and I realize that few children will grow up to be rich and famous. But the reason I share these stories, and the rest of the reasons above, is that giving a child the opportunity to live gives them the opportunity to make the world better, an opportunity they wouldn’t get otherwise.

The first letter of St. John reads, “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). With the 2015 March for Life in Washington D.C. happening this week, and during a time when so many around the country are joining 650,000 pro-life attendees in prayer and solidarity, John Paul II’s message is alive and well, the perfect remedy for one of life’s most difficult situations.

Be not afraid.

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What Cardinal Burke Really Said About Men and the “Feminization” of the Church

Cardinal Burke is at it again. Or is he?

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Source: CourageousPriest.com

To quote a friend of mine, “Trying to understand Church issues through mainstream secular media is like trying to understand global economics through a 13-year-old girl’s Instagram account.”

In short, it just won’t happen. The personnel aren’t equipped, and likely don’t want to take the time to become equipped, to speak well and foster understanding about nuanced issues in the Church. They’re only after eyes, likes, and shares, (and I don’t know that they deny it) so why, OH WHY do we fall for this every. single. time?

A bit of background: Cardinal Raymond Burke, former bishop of the Dioceses of La Crosse, Wisconsin and St. Louis, respectively, and recognized defender of more traditional practices within the Church, gave an exclusive interview recently to a website dedicated to fostering the growth and strength of Catholic men–the New Emangelization. Find the full text of that interview here.

What happened next, to quote my wife: “Catholic figurehead says something. Media misinterprets. Internet explodes.”

What people who haven’t read the full text of his interview have heard from the secular media, basically, is this:

  • Girls being allowed to serve at Mass have caused the priest shortage
  • Gay priests are the reason for the sex abuse crisis
  • The Church is too feminine/feminized

Here’s the thing, if that’s what he said, and it was in the proper context, and there’s no way that what he said was misunderstood, there would be a lot of cause for concern about Cardinal Burke being a public figure.

However, that wasn’t the case in the least. What the media wrote, because of their apparent ill feelings towards anyone seen as conservative or traditional in the Catholic sense, was not fully what he said, was taken tremendously out of context, and there’s a huge possibility for what he said to be misunderstood by people who don’t think critically about his words.

For starters, Cardinal Burke was answering questions and talking specifically about the plight of Catholic laymen in today’s society to a guy who runs a Catholic men’s website. He addressed many things that have caused the epidemic of lay men (i.e. not priests, bishops, deacons, etc.) exiting the Catholic Church in the last few generations, and many other things that have contributed to a general underdevelopment of Catholic lay men over the past several decades.

The common theme throughout Cardinal Burke’s entire interview was nuance. It’s complicated. Every issue he addresses can’t be reduced to a sound byte or a sentence, but when that happens, people misunderstand the context and meaning, then are outraged over something that he never said.

I’m suggesting that there’s no cause for concern about Cardinal Burke, because he’s making perfect sense. Maybe the media doesn’t want you to know that.

Here’s what Cardinal Burke actually said, and actually meant, with regard to those three points:

1. Girls being allowed to serve at Mass has caused the priest shortage.

Here’s the full excerpt:

The introduction of girl servers also led many boys to abandon altar service. Young boys don’t want to do things with girls. It’s just natural. The girls were also very good at altar service. So many boys drifted away over time. I want to emphasize that the practice of having exclusively boys as altar servers has nothing to do with inequality of women in the Church.

I think that this has contributed to a loss of priestly vocations. It requires a certain manly discipline to serve as an altar boy in service at the side of priest, and most priests have their first deep experiences of the liturgy as altar boys. If we are not training young men as altar boys, giving them an experience of serving God in the liturgy, we should not be surprised that vocations have fallen dramatically.

The first sentence in each of those paragraphs were the money-makers for the media, but they failed to include an explanation for the oh-so-telling qualifying words in his quotes.

If Cardinal Burke had said literally, “Girls being servers has led boys to abandon altar service,” or “Girls being servers is the sole reason for the loss in priestly vocations,” there would be a lot more to talk about. But there were other words included for a purpose–to put conditions on his statement and to indicate a different, and intentional meaning.

The operative words in question in these two sentences are “contributed”,”also”, and “many”. Those three words show the following things: First, the introduction of girl servers is only a part of the problem of fewer vocations. Second, there was something else he had spoken about previously in the interview that was perhaps a greater cause of boys abandoning altar service, namely the experimentation with liturgy and the loss of a robust family life, thus perhaps bringing a demand for girl servers. Third: Many boys didn’t abandon altar service, and are possibly still choosing to become priests based on that experience!

2. Gay priests are the reason for the sex abuse crisis.

Here’s the actual quote:

We can also see that our seminaries are beginning to attract many strong young men who desire to serve God as priests. The new crop of young men are manly and confident about their identity. This is a welcome development, for there was a period of time when men who were feminized and confused about their own sexual identity had entered the priesthood; sadly some of these disordered men sexually abused minors; a terrible tragedy for which the Church mourns.

It should be obvious, but nowhere does Cardinal Burke use the word “homosexual” to describe clergy who abused children. Granted, the cardinal was vague in his quote, but to suggest that he was implying that it was gay clergy’s fault for the crisis is a big stretch.

What I think he was pointing out instead is the clear indication that a normal, well-adjusted man doesn’t molest children, and that the men who committed those crimes had a disorder indeed. The point of mentioning this, I think, was to lament the sad reality that the Church failed both the abusers and the victims in part by not ensuring better formation for Catholic men.

Unfortunately, “Church remorseful over ill-formed men responsible for sex abuse crisis” doesn’t seem to garner as many clicks as “Cardinal blames gay clergy.”

3. The Church is too feminine/feminized.

Before Cardinal Burke said, “the Church becomes very feminized,” he had just finished outlining in 20 paragraphs (TWENTY!) the state of men in the Catholic Church, so to take this line on its own as some sort of woman-bashing, “antiquated,” chauvinistic point of view is something fit for an entitled college classroom, not an intelligent discussion of reality.

First, to explain a bit what Cardinal Burke spoke about in those 20 paragraphs, he began like this:

Unfortunately, the radical feminist movement strongly influenced the Church, leading the Church to constantly address women’s issues at the expense of addressing critical issues important to men; the importance of the father, whether in the union of marriage or not; the importance of a father to children; the importance of fatherhood for priests; the critical impact of a manly character; the emphasis on the particular gifts that God gives to men for the good of the whole society.

I still instinctively cringe a little whenever someone speaks ill of the radical feminist movement, because I’ve grown up in an American society and sat in college classes that see it as some sort of New Covenant, where women finally took control of the world from the hands of the greasy slimy men that had been holding them back forever and ever.

To be sure, in the United States a lot of what that movement created was a very good thing. With women being in the workplace holding jobs as more than secretaries and nurses, it was indeed an unjust reality that they were discriminated against simply for being women. To that point, believe it or not, Cardinal Burke commented:

Everyone understands that women have and can be abused by men. Men who abuse women are not true men, but false men who have violated their own manly character by being abusive to women.

Interesting that the media refrained from mentioning that quote.

Cardinal Burke is pointing to a crucial problem that occurred with the onset of radical feminism in the 1960s: that the Church addresses women’s issues at the expense of critical issues still facing men. There’s more than two answers to this problem, unlike our dichotomous, you’re-either-Conservative-or-Liberal American society tells us.

See, the Church being too “feminized” is just as big of a problem as if the Church were too “masculinized”. Women make up the majority service roles in the Catholic Church anymore, and the problem Cardinal Burke is pointing out is not that women shouldn’t be doing those jobs. It’s that men aren’t stepping up to the plate to serve their Church!

What the Church needs is to not be “anything-ized”. It just needs to be the Church.

If we all answered the call to serve how God has created us and wants us to serve, this problem wouldn’t exist, and in this case, men would be stepping up despite the societal pressures facing them.

What we have in Cardinal Burke is a man who speaks intelligently and complicatedly about issues that are crucial to understanding the heart of Catholic spirituality, but that in other ways also have a tendency to be hot-button when it comes to the media.

We must be willing to do our homework every time the media comes out swinging at something an unpopular churchman says. Cardinal Burke isn’t stupid, but one can only see that when reading the actual text of his interviews. Otherwise, the potential to mislead others by posting secular reports without prior research is too great.

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5 Ways to Keep the Christmas Spirit Year-Round (and Forever)

The best day of the year is behind us once more. December 25 has come and gone, the presents are all unwrapped, Christmas Mass is over, and soon the 12 Days of Christmas will be behind us too. As if that isn’t enough, Walmart and the gang are already moving on to Valentine’s Day.

BUT, no one is saying we have to ditch the Christmas Spirit.

In fact, it’s a pretty darn good idea to keep that spirit alive long after the tree is down and the lights are put away. Those Christmas songs talking about the baby Jesus and the newborn Savior of the world? They’re more than just sentimental tunes we turn on once a year. There’s power in those words, and there’s something greater–Someone greater–that we can attach ourselves to permanently, should we be up to the challenge.

Living out the Christmas spirit — literally the spirit of the Mass of Christ (from the Old English) — means simply to place Jesus at the center of our life, as St. John wrote in his First Letter, “to live just as [Christ] lived.” (1 Jn 2:6)  It’s something we’re all called to do, but more importantly it’s something we’re all capable of doing.

St. Josemaria Escriva, in illustrating that saints are made, not born, wrote this:

Certainly our goal is both lofty and difficult to attain. But please do not forget that people are not born holy. Holiness is forged through a constant interplay of God’s grace and the correspondence of man. As one of the early Christian writers says, referring to union with God, “Everything that grows begins small. It is by constant and progressive feeding that it gradually grows big.” (Friends of God, 7)

Christmas, with the giving of gifts, the time spent with those closest to us or those most in need, is a time of growing in holiness, of growing closer to God, whether we see it or not.

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To help keep the Christmas spirit alive in 2015, and to keep growing in personal holiness, here’s five ways to get started:

1. Come back to church this week.

And next week, and the week after that, and the week after that. This might already be the habit for many people, but there are also many whose last appearance at Mass was Easter, or even last Christmas!

Understandably, there are a lot of valid reasons why people have stopped going, but that’s no reason not to give it another shot. Believe me, I hear you if you can’t stand a poor preacher, bad music, an irreverent congregation, judgey stares from the pew across the aisle, or any other potential distractions or discouragements that keep you from coming back, and those difficulties are all too real.

However, Christ’s presence trumps all, and He desperately wants you back.

St. Thomas Aquinas once said, “The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross.” This coming from a man who, after writing perhaps the greatest philosophical and theological works the world has ever known, had a vision of Christ and promptly declared all his earthly works as “straw” compared to the greatness and glory of God.

Come back to Mass, then make your time there a conversation between you and Christ alone, and your life will surely change.

2. Set aside 10 minutes of silence each day for prayer.

We live in trying times, these days. Sure, we live in the most medically-advanced and technologically-savvy society the world has ever known, but the temptation and availability that exists to constantly occupy ourselves with noise is spiritually killing us.

Pope Benedict XVI said this in a 2006 homily in Munich, Germany:

We are no longer able to hear God – there are too many different frequencies filling our ears. What is said about God strikes us as pre-scientific, no longer suited to our age. Along with this hardness of hearing or outright deafness where God is concerned, we naturally lose our ability to speak with him and to him. And so we end up losing a decisive capacity for perception. We risk losing our inner senses. This weakening of our capacity for perception drastically and dangerously curtails the range of our relationship with reality in general. The horizon of our life is disturbingly foreshortened. (3)

I’m among the guiltiest of parties. Let me tell you, the LAST thing I want to do is recharge my spiritual batteries in silence when I’d rather find something else to watch on Netflix. And yet, the thing that works the best is precisely that: silence and a conversation with the Creator.

Ten minutes is a good starting point, and it’s supremely doable for the most discouraged or disinterested of people. All it takes is getting up 10 minutes earlier in the morning, sitting in a quiet spot, and saying, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”

3. Intentionally thank someone daily.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” -G.K. Chesterton, A Short History of England

The moment the wrapping paper is torn off on Christmas morning, and the euphoria of what’s inside the present passes, the next thing that usually comes out of our mouths is “Thank you!” to whoever graciously gave us the gift. Why not extend that process to the whole year?

Sure, we don’t open a physical present every day, but we don’t make it in this world by ourselves on any day, plain and simple. We get to where we are, from the smallest to the largest ways, through some assistance from another person, and giving an eye-to-eye “Thank You” to a person you might not otherwise think to thank can equal goodness for our souls.

Maybe it’s the barista at your favorite coffee shop who always has a smile on their face, the bag boy at the grocery store who brings your groceries, or the secretary at your office who works tirelessly without much recognition. Seeking out those opportunities each day, and doing it for that person, will keep you in the Christmas spirit, making your soul sing and bringing you that much closer to God each time.

4. Engage in your community.

Connection with something outside ourselves, particularly connection with fellow human beings, is something we cannot live without. Adam wasn’t complete when it was just he and the animals hanging out in the Garden of Eden–he needed Eve, an equal, a person, like himself, made in the image and likeness of God in order to find his full potential.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about man’s calling to be in community with others:

The human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature. Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential … The human person needs life in society in order to develop in accordance with his nature. Certain societies, such as the family and the state, correspond more directly to the nature of man. (1879; 1891)

We’re called by God to be active people, called to pick the more difficult road of engaging with the people around us instead of the easy road of focusing on ourselves. This goes for the largest organizations we belong to–the nation we live in and the church we belong to–all the way down to the smallest ones–like the Catechism said, family counts as a community!

People are filled with treasure, and treasures are only found by those who are searching. Let God adorn your life with the ornaments of the people you’re surrounded by. Search faithfully for the treasures around you, and you’ll never be disappointed.

5. Keep reading (and sharing) stories.

We grow by learning, and, at least as far as God’s concerned, we never should stop growing. Constantly reading the stories and learning the truth about the things around us–traditions, rituals, saints, and what they mean for us–will help us to continually stay connected with the past and pass it on to the generations to come.

Reading the lives of the saints, in particular, can help us to keep our lives in proper perspective as well. Knowing that those the Church reveres as Her greatest examples of faith “have a past,” as Oscar Wilde once said, can help us to remember that we all “have a future” waiting for us in Heaven, should we choose to accept the challenge.

St. Augustine, for example, lived unmarried with a woman for 15 years and sought worldly fame, money, and honor, before his conversion at the age of 32. Finding himself supremely unhappy and unfulfilled while mired in the bondage of habitual sin, Augustine instead began to seek out ultimate happiness in Christ, and through a total surrender to the Father eventually became one of the greatest saints the Church has ever known.

A couple of great starting points for reading lives of the saints are the Laudate app and AmericanCatholic.org‘s Saint of the Day page, both of which provide a short recounting of a different saint’s life every day. In addition, the Catholic Encyclopedia at NewAdvent.org provides a much more in-depth look at the same content.

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