Four Motherly Obligations for a Happy Life

Let’s be honest, moms always tend to know what’s best for their kids. From the time we’re little to far past adulthood, mothers in our lives always have the sage advice to make our lives better.

Even if it’s frustrating, even if we don’t understand it in the moment (if ever), and even if we just don’t want to do it, following mom’s advice usually leads to this reaction:

You were right - I was less right

This is true of our human moms, grandmothers, aunts, etc. But it also applies to our OTHER mother: the Church.

Anytime Jesus speaks, things happen. His words have power. So when, in the Gospel of John, Jesus says to Peter, “Feed my sheep,” he’s instructing his Rock to build up his Bride, the Church, the one that Jesus promised would never (read again: NEVER) be prevailed against, in order that His flock would be well nourished and well instructed, as a mother instructs her children.

And so, here are four life obligations from both our earthly moms and our mother, the Church, that are sure to lead you to a better, happier life.

1. Clean your room (Go to Confession)

minion cleaning

One of the classic traits of a mom is an obsession with making sure our bedroom is clean. What is it about moms and requiring a clean room? Instead of just an insistence that we not have anything on the floor, I’m willing to bet that this command is at least rooted in an understanding that a clean living space is not only healthy, but makes life quantitatively better. The more the junk piles up, the more stressful it is to walk around it, the harder it is to find important things, and the more we’ll just want to shove it to the side.

The same goes for regular Confession. Yes, the prospect of “cleaning out our souls” before a priest can be inconvenient and a little scary. And yet, the more we avoid it, the more the junk piles up, and the harder it becomes to find our heart under it all.

Cleaning our rooms and going to Confession both take a certain amount of courage, and both require a leaning in against discomfort. But both, as anyone who’s consistently done so can attest, are worth it.

“Confession is an act of honesty and courage – an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God.” – St. John Paul II

2. Eat your dinner (Receive the Eucharist)

eating

If there’s anything like pulling teeth, it’s getting a kid to eat his dinner. And yet, moms know that without food, their child will literally die (after a while, of course). And so it’s worth it to them to continue battling, to continue persuading, to continue imploring the child in order to get that nutritious goodness into their offspring’s belly.

Likewise, the Church will always be there, waiting patiently like a mother does, but not letting us off scot-free if we shirk our duty to receive the Eucharist. It’s not because we have, as my own mother would say, the Meanest Mom in the World, but rather because our Mother Church knows that we will literally perish without it.

“If Christ did not want to dismiss the Jews without food in the desert for fear that they would collapse on the way, it was to teach us that it is dangerous to try to get to heaven without the Bread of Heaven.” – St. Jerome

3. Be nice to your siblings (Practice truth in charity)

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Of everything that can prepare you to be a saint, having siblings has to be at the top of the list. And it’s one of a mom’s great battles in life to navigate the bickering, bothering, and occasional punch in the nose. Sibling rivalries are a fact of life, and the more kids there are, the more those rivalries tend to crop up. Left unchecked by mom, there would be a full-on mutiny in the house in a matter of hours. But a good mom works on her kids, always correcting, always guiding, sometimes with futility, but with a consistent effort that usually bears good fruit.

The Church’s job is about a billion times harder (almost literally…), so that’s why She gives us the constant call — demand, even — to be charitable to our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. It’s difficult at first, because there’s about as many different personalities in our heavenly household as stars in the sky. But the Church, in her wisdom, is persistent. We have Confession for when we fail, and we have prayer to help us continue to grow. The coffee and donuts help to foster good relations, too.

“Charity is that with which no man is lost, and without which no man is saved.”  -St. Robert Bellarmine

4. Call your family (Pray)

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We’re only in the comfort of our homes for so long before we must venture out into the great unknown. In our time of growth as children, we rarely need to call our family, because our family is always there with us. But the second we leave the house, in a big way that lifeline is gone unless we pursue it for ourselves. Thankfully, mom makes it a priority to make sure you KNOW that you need to call and fill the family in on how you’re doing. Still, it’s your prerogative to call them, or to at least pick up the phone when it rings.

As a priest I know always says, “This is just like the spiritual life.” Prayer is almost identical to the concept of calling our family. When we’re little, prayer is practically done for us — we’re taken to Mass, we’re led in the saying of grace around the dinner table, someone helps us say our night prayers — so we rarely need to take our own initiative, (and when we do, it’s usually adorable).

But once we reach a certain point in life, we need to take our own initiative to “call our family” in heaven and pray. And unless we do it on a regular basis, our relationship with them – and, subsequently, our connection to what created us — will wither. But the Church, in her great love for us, gives us SO. MANY. options to choose from. We only need to pick one and start.

“Persevere in prayer. Persevere, even when your efforts seem barren. Prayer is always fruitful.” – St. Josemaria Escriva

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St. Josemaria quote

Five MORE Catechism Truth Bombs About Marriage

To read the first 5 truth bombs on marriage, click here. You won’t regret it.

Weddings are a big deal in our culture. Between the months of June & September (and all year on Pinterest…ladies) there’s hardly anything else on the minds of most 20-somethings in America. And yet, marriage, especially as a religious institution, is in a sad state these days.

It seems more and more people are understanding marriage as merely a legal contract between two people with intense romantic feelings for one another. But what’s been understood for centuries, especially in Christian cultures, is much, MUCH richer.

So we turn to the trusty Catechism of the Catholic Church, the rich volume compiled under the watch of one of the greatest writers on love and marital flourishing the Church has ever seen, St. John Paul II, for answers and a heavy dose of much-needed truth.

Below, you’ll find five “truth bombs” on marriage from the Catechism that are so awesome, by the end you’re sure to be doing this (kinda like you did the last time, and the time before that):

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1.  “Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death.” (2360; 2361b)

As Christians, we believe everything (EVERYTHING) in existence is intricately ordered by God and for a specific purpose: to praise Him and return with gratitude the gift He gave to us. That fact means that in our sexuality and in our very humanity there is, necessarily, a way to be more true to our humanity or less true to it – to be more true to our sexuality or less true to our sexuality.

But how do we know what it means to be truly human or to be authentically living our sexuality?  Words we read here – like pledge and commit – imply an act of self-gift, telling us that a contrary, self-focused existence accomplishes neither true expression of humanity nor sexuality. Those called to marriage must give of themselves, must commit to their spouses – on the first day and every day – if they wish to live out this vocation authentically.

2. “The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude.” (2362)

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what many Catholics refer to as “holy sex”. And, by the way, “holy sex” is not just allowed to be enjoyed (we aren’t Puritans, after all), but as we read here, it’s both noble and honorable. The reason it can be all of the above is because our bodies are inherently good, and, thus, so is the marital embrace. In fact, Pope Pius XII, in 1951, affirmed that it was none other than God who made it so “spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit.”

But, as mentioned in No. 1, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Garnering that enrichment, joy, and gratitude between you and your spouse requires heroic humility and radical self-gift. It requires us to think outside of ourselves – to trust God and to will the good of our spouses “as other” (without concern for our own well being). If you use your husband or wife as an instrument of your own gratification (in any way, sexual or non-sexual), on the other hand, your marriage will not be enriched, and you can kiss that joy and gratitude goodbye.

3. “The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.” (2363)

One of the cool things about Catholicism is that it’s possible to do the “both/and” thing and not have to adhere to an “either/or” mentality. So, while it’s an incorrect assumption for people to think all the Catholic Church wants couples to do is have seventeen babies, it’s equally incorrect for couples to think they’re doing marriage right by only thinking about themselves and/or being closed off to life (and that includes The Pill).

This cuts to the heart of where the Church comes from on abortion and contraception, but more importantly it provides a blueprint for (surprise, surprise) a successful marriage. Every marriage worth its salt – and every marriage that ever truly thrives spiritually, emotionally, and physically – pays attention to both the good of the spouses and the openness to life.

4. “Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment.” (2366)

One of the most poetic lines about marriage in Scripture is, “the two will become one flesh,” (Mark 10:8), emphasizing clearly that marriage requires the full giving of oneself to create something entirely new.  It speaks to the utter unity that the newly married couple, as man and woman, engage in as complementary spouses.

While we mainly think of unity in terms of the marital act, or the couple being “a good team” in the way they tackle life, it’s mind-blowing to think that the highest form of unity that a married couple can reach is in the creation of a new human being. In a child being born, the “two becoming one flesh” takes on an even more profound meaning, as both spouses literally give their whole selves to create, through God, an entirely new, unique person.

5. “Fidelity expresses constancy in keeping one’s given word. God is faithful. The Sacrament of Matrimony enables man and woman to enter into Christ’s fidelity for his Church. Through conjugal chastity, they bear witness to this mystery before the world.” (2365)

The “til death do us part” promise that’s made before God and the Church on our wedding day isn’t asked of us just on that day — we’re asked to be faithful, to be loving, that day and every day after.

As the Catechism quotes, St. John Chrysostom exhorts young husbands to say to their wives:

I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us. . . . I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you.

There’s a reason “Chrysostom” means “Golden-mouthed”… The man speaks truth! Husbands, if you don’t have this devotion to your wives (and wives for your husbands), you need to do something about that.

Sts. Joachim and Anne, Sts. Mary and Joseph, pray for us!

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I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. (1)

 

A Look (in GIFs) at What Jesus Experienced in His Human Nature

Jesus is one Person who bears two natures — human and divine. What that means is that Jesus, while still fully God, was also fully human in his earthly life, through his bodily ascension into heaven, and even now still (He’s God, he can totally do that).

Although a personal encounter with Jesus is something every Christian strives for (or ought to be striving for), I would bet that few of us fully comprehend or have ever pondered just what that human nature of Christ entailed.

Sure, Jesus never sinned, but he was tempted, and he did have to grow from infancy, through the teenage years, into adulthood before assuming His place at the right hand of the Father. So, here’s a little look into some things Jesus probably did and exhibited during his earthly life (in GIFs):

1. Jesus was an adorable little baby.

Source: Tumblr
Source: Tumblr

“Amen, Amen I say to you, googoo gaga.”

2. Jesus “fall down go boom”  cute-adorable-toddler-falls-on-ice-walking

He probably didn’t have that sweet snowsuit, though.

3. Jesus smiled at Mary with food on His face. baby smile

Was it a seamless bib? We’ll never know…

4. Jesus had to learn how to walk. baby learn walk

And THEN he had to learn to walk on water.

5. Jesus giggled at silly things. laughing

Jury’s still out on which of His friends had a lightning scar on their forehead.

6. Child Jesus needed saving from harm, and St. Joseph saved the day. 1369070969_dad_catches_kid_flying_off_swing

No wonder God put him in charge.

7. Jesus played in the yard with his family. funniest-kid-gifs-dizzy-soccer-kick

St. Joseph: Terror of Demons and Spinner of Children

8. Jesus enjoyed the company of animals. Like chickens… Kid-Hugs-Chicken And puppies… Puppy-Licking-Michael-Scotts-Nose 9. Jesus loved the beauty of nature. ron

I mean, He did create it after all…

10. Jesus loved spending time with His friends.

Cory_and_Shawn

11. Jesus laughed.

laugh michael scottjohn candy laugh

12. Jesus cried.

crying leocrying pippin

13. Jesus got angry (righteously).

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the face…

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…and the flip.

Jesus probably did it way better than Thor, though

14. Jesus got annoyed by things.

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Does this count as annoying?

15. Jesus had to deal with the deaths of people He loved.

forrest

Food for Thought: Mary & Joseph had to teach Jesus about death.

16. But in the midst of hardship, Jesus didn’t despair.

aragorn

Basically, the things we experience, as humans, on a daily basis — Jesus literally knows what that’s like. That was the whole point in His coming to earth by taking on a fully human nature — so that He could walk with us, live with us, and (eventually) redeem our fallen nature through his suffering, death, and Resurrection.

It’s likely more difficult now than it ever has been to fathom how God could possibly know what we’re going through. What’s more, we’re often driven to believe that God can’t care about us or can’t be all-loving when He seems to put us or others through bouts of incredible suffering, loss, and difficulty.

However, we can (and should) find solace and great comfort in knowing that any hardship we’re asked to weather in our lives, God has experienced Himself. Through scourging, beatings, carrying the cross, and crucifixion — the greatest of all suffering — Jesus took our suffering onto Himself and gave it redemptive power.

He tells us not to be afraid, and, as the John Michael Talbot song goes, “I go before you always. Come, follow me, and I will give you rest.” We can trust Jesus, because, in His humanity, He suffered first, going before us in the way of the Cross to show us that suffering can be redeemed.

This Holy Week, we ought to contemplate the profoundly human qualities of Our Lord, and through them strive to become more like Jesus in every part of our lives.

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Rabbits & Selfishness: Why Pope Francis is Being Perfectly Consistent

It’s been the epitome of “lather, rinse, repeat” over the last (almost) two years. Pope Francis gives an interview somewhere, somebody reports what they think they hear, then the Catholics are all like…

zomg

And all the people hoping the Church is changing something are all:

yaay

And THEN, somebody finally reads what he actually said, and in the proper context, and they make this face:

pls

It’s happened again recently, and the reality is no different. What’s the big deal this time?  

The Backstory

Just a few weeks ago, Pope Francis gave an interview to reporters aboard the papal plane on his way back from a trip to the Philippines. The particular line that got Catholics all aflutter was this:

Some think that — excuse the language — that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood.

Boy, did that cause a stir.

“Another off the cuff remark gone wrong!” people exclaimed.

“What was the pope thinking?!” more chimed in.

Families of every size, but particularly large Catholic ones, were all in a dither once the media got hold of that line. That a pope would seem to deride parents with lots of kids, if it was true, was truly offensive.

The pope clarified, but many thought the damage was done. The dust eventually settled, and the media moved on.

Then, in his most recent Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope said something that appeared to be just the opposite:

The choice to not have children is selfish.

This time, it was everyone else who got upset. A gander at the comment section at the National Catholic Reporter’s story would show the “liberal Catholics'” perspective, for one.

But seriously, the Pope gets on us about too many kids, then turns around and says that not having them is selfish? What gives?!

pope-francis-funny

The Real Story

A lot gives, really. Let’s look at the rest of those quotes in context.

On the plane to Rome from Manila, before and after the dreaded “rabbits” comment, the pope said this in addressing the issues of too many vs. too few children:

The key word … is responsible parenthood. How do we do this? With dialogue. Each person with his pastor seeks how to do carry out a responsible parenthood. That example I mentioned shortly before about that woman who was expecting her eighth child and already had seven who were born with caesareans. That is a an irresponsibility. That woman might say ‘no, I trust in God.’ But, look, God gives you means to be responsible. Some think that — excuse the language — that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear and that is why in the Church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors … that are licit and that have helped this.

Now on to last week’s General Audience, here’s the full context of Pope Francis’ remarks on that day:

A society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society … If a generous family of children is viewed as if it were a burden, there is something wrong! As the Encyclical Humanae Vitae of Blessed Pope Paul VI teaches, having more children cannot be automatically viewed as an irresponsible choice. The choice to not have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished!

Pope Francis is trying to make essentially the same point in both instances, and it boils down to two themes:

  1. Children are just plain good. Married couples should have children (note the plural).
  2. God gave us brains for a reason, so being responsible in childbearing is on us.

The whole of the Christian life is about giving to others in love, just as Christ gave his life for us on the Cross. Couples do this by giving themselves fully to their spouses in marriage, then later by giving their unified parenthood wholly to each one of their children. And in all of this, if the married life should be our vocation, we glorify God just as He called us to do.

But, though that formula is simple, our pope points out something that can slip by us if we’re not careful — there’s not a number of children that will complete your married vocation by default. Some may be called to have 9, others may be called to have 2, while still others might never be able to conceive, and are called instead to adopt. Pope Francis is keen in advising us to seek the counsel of our spiritual leaders, then to pray with and for each other in order to determine what that answer is for us. He is also keen to imply that the answers to that discernment might just be in front of our faces.

There is such a thing as irresponsibility in parenthood, but, as the pope notes, having more children is not necessarily an irresponsible action. The irresponsible thing, therefore, may be not having children. There’s a balance to be had and a nuance to be considered, but it can all be settled and discerned through one thing: a robust prayer life.

As the late Fr. Benedict Groeschel once wrote, “Don’t blame God if you walk off the end of the dock.”

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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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