Seeking the things that are above

In the world, not of the world
Seeking the things that are above
By Laurence Gonzaga

Some have asked why I have deactivated my account on facebook. There was no deliberate reason. I was just on it yesterday, and made a response-comment, and was moved to deactivate it. So, I did. Perhaps it was the Holy Spirit. Now, for those who know how facebook works, the account is never deleted, just hidden, in hopes that one day, the person misses facebook and comes back. When that happens, all is as it was: friends, groups, favorites, and all.

I think I have resolved to “fast” from facebook during weekdays, as it has easily become a distraction not only from my professional duties, but my spiritual duties. This does not mean facebook is evil. Just as a knife is not evil, but can be used for evil, the same goes for other things. Almost immediately after deactivating facebook I was able to focus on looking into doctoral programs which I have been holding off on for months. I

s there anything keeping you from fulfilling your professional and spiritual duties? If so, fix it.

Recently, I went on two retreats; very different retreats. The first was a retreat for professional or aspiring professional men in various fields. It was a Catholic retreat, but it focused on how ordinary men, in their various professions could have an impact on the world, quietly and invisibly, through the professional work that they do. There is no fanfare; there is no special apologetics or technique in this kind of apostolate. It is simply an approach of ordinary friendships as we have always done since we were all in grade school.

However, whereas the motivation before would be for social status or whatever, ours is now a motivation for apostolate in loving service to God, to bring the message of the Gospel to those who may never cross paths with a Roman Catholic priest or ever darken the doors of a Catholic Biblical Conference. They may be atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims. They may be Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, SDA’s, or Lutherans. They may even be fallen away Catholics, or traditionalist Catholics. As the priest’s mission is to bring the Gospel to the “people of God” which is His Church-the lay-faithful, our mission is to bring that same Gospel to the rest of the world, in a language which the particular individual can understand.

The second retreat was on a different level. Even though both were silent retreats, the latter was strictly enforced. We chanted entirely in Latin at least three hours of the traditional Breviarum Romanum daily as well as the Holy Mass in Latin. It also had spiritual conferences on Pentecost. It gave a different perspective, perhaps a different vision of the lay-spirituality. It had a tinge of what is a principle of religious life, a “contemptus mundi”, a contempt or aversion of the world and the things of the world.

Many lay people have adopted this idea into their everyday life. They avoid the malls, the theatres, the sports events, the beaches, etc. They have contempt for the world, because to them the world is evil. Is it the world that is evil, or is it the people who do evil things which make it evil? Is there something intrinsically evil about a market place, or a theatre?

Somehow, I think at least for me, these two ideas can be reconciled. At least at this point in my life, I live in the world. I am not a monk or a religious. So, I cannot have contempt for the world, as I work, study, and travel in the world. However, there are times, when I and I think everyone does need to retreat from the world, which was the theme of my second retreat, “Quae sursum sunt sapite non quae supra terram” (Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth, Colossians 3:2). However, in contrast, even though there was no theme to my first retreat, I think an appropriate Scripture is, “Non rogo ut tollas eos de mundo sed ut serves eos ex malo” (I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from evil, John 17:15). The latter was the prayer of our Lord to the Father regarding the mission he has given us.

It seems from the surrounding context of the passage that our mission is to be sanctified in our Lord Jesus, as we are called to bring His Gospel to the world. We cannot do it alone. We are fueled by His grace, and His grace alone. We must keep our eyes fixed on the things above, but our apostolate is in the world.

In closing, I would like to include below an ancient account of the life of the Christian. It is taken from a letter written to a man named Diognetus, who is curious about the Christian life. I hope you enjoy it and meditate upon it, that you may be edified and motivated to begin to answer the call of Vatican II’s revitalized vision of the lay-apostolate in Apostolicam Actuositatem.

Instaurare omnia in Christo.

The Christians in the world (From the “Letter to Diognetus”, emphases are mine)

Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them [Note: the Greeks used to expose unwanted infants to the elements to die]. They share their meals, but not their wives.

They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.

Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body's hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.


Top 50 Saints' Quotes

Top 50 Saints' Quotes
By Marcel of Aggie Catholics

MAY 22, 2010 ( - The top 50 Saints' quotes, in an arbitrary ranking. There are many others that I didn't put on the list that are great. Feel free to leave them in the comments.

  1. "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."
    -St. Jerome

  2. "Since Christ Himself has said, "This is My Body" who shall dare to doubt that It is His Body?"
    -St. Cyril of Jerusalem

  3. "Teach us to give and not count the cost."
    -St. Ignatius de Loyola

  4. "Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you."
    -St. Augustine

  5. "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!"
    -St. Josemaria Escriva

  6. "For me prayer is a surge of the heart, it is a simple look towards Heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy."
    -St. Therese of Lisieux

  7. "To convert somebody go and take them by the hand and guide them."
    -St. Thomas Aquinas

  8. "On the question of relating to our fellowman – our neighbor’s spiritual need transcends every commandment. Everything else we do is a means to an end. But love is an end already, since God is love."
    -St. Teresia Benedicta (Edith Stein)

  9. "If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!"
    -St. Catherine of Sienna

  10. "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy."
    -St. Francis

  11. "Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you."
    -St. Augustine of Hippo

  12. "Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity."
    -St. Vincent de Paul

  13. "Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!"
    -St. Augustine

  14. "O Master, make me chaste, but not yet!"
    -St. Augustine

  15. "’Eat my flesh,’ [Jesus] says, ‘and drink my blood.’ The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutrients, he delivers over his flesh and pours out his blood, and nothing is lacking for the growth of his children"
    -St. Clement of Alexandria

  16. "Priests have received a power which God has given neither to angels nor to archangels. It was said to them: ‘Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose, shall be loosed.’ Temporal rulers have indeed the power of binding; but they can only bind the body. Priests, in contrast, can bind with a bond which pertains to the soul itself and transcends the very heavens. Did [God] not give them all the powers of heaven?...What greater power is there than this? The Father has given all judgment to the Son. And now I see the Son placing all this power in the hands of men. They are raised to this dignity as if they were already gathered up to heaven"
    -St. John Chrysostom

  17. "The nation doesn’t simply need what we have. It needs what we are."
    -St. Teresia Benedicta (Edith Stein)

  18. "We are to love God for Himself, because of a twofold reason; nothing is more reasonable, nothing more profitable."
    -St. Bernard of Clairvaux

  19. "We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials."
    -St. Teresa of Avila

  20. "Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."
    -St. Ignatius of Antioch

  21. "If this is the way You treat Your friends, no wonder You have so few!"
    -St. Teresa of Avila

  22. "Give something, however small, to the one in need. For it is not small to one who has nothing. Neither is it small to God, if we have given what we could."
    -St. Gregory Nazianzen

  23. "Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort me and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger."
    -St. Patrick

  24. "Christ said, “I am the Truth”; he did not say “I am the custom."
    -St. Toribio

  25. "All the efforts of the human mind cannot exhaust the essence of a single fly."
    -St. Thomas Aquinas

  26. "There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers."
    -St. Teresa of Avila

  27. "I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible"
    -St. Ignatius of Antioch

  28. "You cannot be half a saint; you must be a whole saint or no saint at all."
    -St. Therese of Lisieux

  29. "You must ask God to give you power to fight against the sin of pride which is your greatest enemy – the root of all that is evil, and the failure of all that is good. For God resists the proud."
    -St. Vincent de Paul

  30. "Let us go forward in peace, our eyes upon heaven, the only one goal of our labors."
    -St. Therese of Lisieux

  31. "When you approach the tabernacle remember that he has been waiting for you for twenty centuries."
    - St. Josemaria Escriva

  32. "From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us!"
    -St. Teresa of Avila

  33. "Love God, serve God; everything is in that."
    -St. Clare of Assisi

  34. "Pray with great confidence, with confidence based upon the goodness and infinite generosity of God and upon the promises of Jesus Christ. God is a spring of living water which flows unceasingly into the hearts of those who pray."
    -St. Louis de Montfort

  35. "Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven."
    -St. Rose of Lima

  36. "The creator of the heavens obeys a carpenter; the God of eternal glory listens to a poor virgin. Has anyone ever witnessed anything comparable to this? Let the philosopher no longer disdain from listening to the common laborer; the wise, to the simple; the educated, to the illiterate; a child of a prince, to a peasant."
    -St. Anthony of Padua

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

  38. "Whether, therefore, we receive what we ask for, or do not receive it, let us still continue steadfast in prayer. For to fail in obtaining the desires of our heart, when God so wills it, is not worse than to receive it; for we know not as He does, what is profitable to us."
    -St. John Chrysostom

  39. "What does the poor man do at the rich man’s door, the sick man in the presence of his physician, the thirsty man at a limpid stream? What they do, I do before the Eucharistic God. I pray. I adore. I love." -St. Francis

  40. "Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to heaven."
    -Pope St. Pius X

  41. "We will either accuse ourselves or excuse ourselves."
    -St. John Vianney

  42. "If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark."
    -St. John of the Cross

  43. "He loves, He hopes, He waits. If He came down on our altars on certain days only, some sinner, on being moved to repentance, might have to look for Him, and not finding Him, might have to wait. Our Lord prefers to wait Himself for the sinner for years rather than keep him waiting one instant."
    -St. Julian Peter Eymard

  44. "Love is the most necessary of all virtues. Love in the person who preaches the word of God is like fire in a musket. If a person were to throw a bullet with his hands, he would hardly make a dent in anything; but if the person takes the same bullet and ignites some gunpowder behind it, it can kill. It is much the same with the word of God. If it is spoken by someone who is filled with the fire of charity- the fire of love of God and neighbor- it will work wonders."
    -St. Anthony Mary Claret

  45. "Our Lord loves you and loves you tenderly; and if He does not let you feel the sweetness of His love, it is to make you more humble and abject in your own eyes."
    -St. Pio of Pietrelcino

  46. "You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves."
    -St. Francis de Sales

  47. "Pray, Hope, and Don't Worry"
    -St. Pio of Pietrelcino

  48. "All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle."
    -St. Francis

  49. "Tribulation is a gift from God - one that he especially gives His special friends."
    -St. Thomas More

  50. "If I speak to thee in friendship's name, thou think'st I speak too coldly, if I mention love's devoted flame, thou say'st I speak too boldly"
    - St. Thomas More
From the "he never said it" file:
  • "Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." -St. Francis
From the "not quite yet canonized" file:
  • "There are not over a 100 people in the U.S. that hate the Catholic Church, there are millions however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church. Which is, of course, quite a different thing."
    -Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen
  • "Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius."
    -Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen
  • "Hearing nuns’ confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn."
    -Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen
  • "We can do no great things; only small things with great love."
    -Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
  • "Joy is a net of love by which we catch souls."
    -Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
  • "It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."
    -Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
  • "As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live."
    -Venerable John Paul II
  • "Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors to Christ."
    -Venerable John Paul II
  • "The human person is a good towards which the only proper attitude is love."
    -Venerable John Paul II
  • "Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought."
    -Venerable John Paul II
In my opinion, the most quotable Catholic of all time is G.K. Chesterton - so I have not included any of his here, there are too many.

Add your favotite to this list. Post your comment below.

Going Forth

Going Forth
Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2010
By Sarah Waninger

Sunday Readings
Lecturas y Comentarios
Sunday Readings Bible Study
Prayer of the Hours
Burning Question: What do say when asked if you are a Christian?

In today’s reading Jesus sends his disciples to continue doing the works that he has taught them. He blesses them to take the Holy Spirit with them on their travels, wherever they would be going next.

As a graduating senior, this message of peace and accompaniment means so much to me, more now than ever before in my life. I have learned so much about life, God, myself, my faith, and the world around me in my time at SLU. I am really struggling to accept the fact that this phase of my life is over. It is sad but glad.

As my friends and I scatter literally to all parts of the country: Indiana, California, Texas, Michigan, Massachusetts, etc., I am excited to see what this new phase brings for each of us. It is time to take the gifts, great blessings and life lessons given us during this university time and go forward to into the world.

I am both nervous and excited for my next step. Medical school in Indiana will be a challenging and difficult learning experience. But I am confident that the learnings and blessings I have received from SLU in the last four years will continue to provide the peace that Jesus wishes his disciples in today’s gospel.

It is a time of great transition for me and my companions. A time of new challenges and of course goodbyes. I hope the training and life I have built here and the love and guidance of the Holy Spirit will continue to work in my heart and the hearts of my classmates as we go forth. Jesus is sending us forth as his disciples today.

Sarah Waninger
Senior, Saint Louis University

How to Change the World

How to Change the World
Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 16, 2010 (AscensionC)
By Fr. Ron Rolheiser

Sunday Readings (Seventh Sunday Easter C)
Sunday Readings (Ascension Sunday)
Lecturas y Comentarios
Sunday Readings Bible Study
Prayer of the Hours
Burning Question: What are the 5 reasons we pray?

The Easter readings are full of hope for the end of the world, or at least for the end of my life. But these readings on the feast of the Ascension are the most hopeful readings for my day-to-day life that I’ve read in a long time.

In the first reading, the Apostles ask Jesus when he will restore Israel, and Jesus says “I’m not, you are. But don’t worry, you will receive the Holy Spirit, through whom you will do great things.”

In the second reading, St. Paul tells the Ephesians that God will give them wisdom and revelation to help them make a difference in the world. In the Gospel, Jesus tells the Apostles that they will transform the world through God’s power.

As a graduating senior, there is a lot of unknown in the future, and unknown always brings fear and worry. But these readings give me hope.

I have no idea what I will be doing in the next three years, and I don’t know how to make a difference in the world, or even if I can. But Jesus sounds like he has confidence in me.

There is always going to be unknown in my life, but God has sent the Holy Spirit to me. In reality, I don’t think that I have to change the world. If I can listen to God’s call and trust in God, the rest will be taken care of. God gives me hope that through him, I will do great things.

Clayton Chmiel
Senior, Saint Louis University

Surpasses Understanding

Surpasses Understanding
Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 9, 2010 (6EasterC)
By Colleen Corcoran

Sunday Readings
Lecturas y Comentarios
Prayer of the Hours

Discussion Questions & Online Bible Study

Burning Question: What does the Holy Spirit do in your life?

In this week’s Gospel is one of my favorite Bible verses: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). This is one of my favorite because of the comfort I feel when I read it.

I can imagine Jesus speaking it calmly to his disciples as he tries to convey the depth of his love. In my head, I see him looking at his friends and giving each person a significant glance. Maybe the reason I find it so calming is the peace that it evokes in my heart.

As an involved SLU student, I never see too much down-time in my day, and I usually run about campus in a state of perpetual activity. When I do get a moment of world-given peace, it usually involves me taking a nap to re-vamp for my coming activities.

I can feel a stark contrast between this peace and the spiritual peace that Jesus offers. Although not as tangible, God’s peace always seems more substantial to me.

Studying abroad this semester, I have often thought of the final line of the verse: “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Being placed in entirely new situations on a daily basis can take a toll on my mind and spirit. Be it by getting lost in Paris, or stuck in Germany, I find that life likes to throw me curveballs.

In these situations, I try to remember that it doesn’t signify the end of the world, and I should not let my fear get the best of me. Trying to find my inner strength, I’ll think of that scripture verse or the ones when Jesus promises to be with us always.

There, in my mental picture of Jesus before his disciples, I find the peace and confidence that I need to tackle my problems.

Colleen Corcoran, Sophomore

Saint Louis University

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“I give you a new commandment: love one another.”

“I give you a new commandment: love one another.”
By Erin Killebrew

Related Readings

Through my day to day interactions, I find myself as Christ’s disciple, when I love others and when I allow myself to be loved.

I can be Christ’s disciple in small, beautiful ways with those around me here on campus—a dinner with a friend, laughing uncontrollably, or simply hugs and smiles that fill everyday with the greatest blessings.

Christ’s love is present in those daily occurrences, but I’ve found his commandment can extend further to those I don’t even know.

Recently, I have struggled with the issue of immigration in our country and what that means as Christ calls us to love one another. Over spring break, I had the opportunity to experience a small part of life on the border of Arizona and Mexico.

It was difficult to see love through a wall separating countries, or Border Patrol setting up checkpoints and searching vehicles, or driving around the trails of the desert looking for migrants.

Or hearing the stories of deported migrants separated from their families, seeing the sole belongings of clothes, toys, and backpacks left behind on the trails, or seeing a tree on the trails filled with the underwear of women who have been raped.

Love one another.

As our country debates immigration, I remember those aspects of the border experience. But, Christ’s final commandment continually crosses my mind as hope somehow overcomes barriers.

Like the smiles and hugs received at the soup kitchen across the border in Mexico for deported migrants. Hearing how committed some are to be reunited with their families. Or how ordinary citizens are trying to raise awareness of the struggles at the border for the sake of human dignity and lives.

And simply in the word “Gracias” with a smile as migrants leave the soup kitchen not knowing where God will lead them next.

Love one another.

Christ’s call, his last commandment, allows me to hope in the power of love in the small ways of life and that those small acts of love will transcend all evil.

I find God’s love around many corners in my life daily, through my interactions on campus. That love empowers me to look beyond campus, to look further than what is right around me, and love those who are strangers, many miles away and see the dignity in all.

Erin Killebrew is a senior at Saint Louis University.

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The Morality of Tattoos and Body Piercing

Does this really glorify God?

The Morality of Tattoos and Body Piercing
By Father Peter Joseph

APR. 23, 2010 ( - Many upright people are repelled by modern fads and fashions, such as tattooing, multiple earrings and other body piercing, but feel unequipped to give a clear judgment on the morality of such practices, or to rebut the charge that they are elevating their personal preferences into a moral code. In this article, I will set out some criteria that are relevant to making a moral judgment on these things.

In the Old Testament, the Chosen People were specifically commanded: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh…or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:28). Inspired by God, St. Paul admonishes us: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?” (1 Cor 6:19). Being a temple of the Holy Spirit, we owe our body due care and protection and decorum. In some cultures, a special bodily mark or design – on the forehead, for example – signifies a certain attainment or marital status, or whatever, and is socially acceptable. Ethiopian Christians, to name one group, wear tattoo crosses on their foreheads. In Samoa, it was once a widespread custom to tattoo the eldest son or daughter of the local ruling family. In Western societies, earrings and makeup are acceptable as a part of feminine fashions and public presentability. But certain types of body piercing and decorations in our society are extreme and unjustified, and some of them are motivated by anti-Christian sentiments.

It would be impossible to give black-and-white judgments on all bodily decorations. But we can point to a few negative aspects that should be of concern to a Christian. Unless otherwise stated, this article will refer to Western societies only. I will treat the more serious concerns first and then the less serious.

1. Diabolical images. Tattoos of demons are quite common, yet no Christian should ever sport an image of a devil or a Satanic symbol.

2. Exultation in the ugly. This is a mark of the Satanic, which hates the beauty of God’s creation and tries to destroy it and to ruin others’ appreciation of it. More than just being ugly, some body piercing is the expression of delight in being ugly.

We recognize bad taste in tattoos, rings and studs, by looking at their nature, size, extent and place on the body. Ironically, even florid and colorful tattoos fade over time and end up looking dark and dreary. When one considers how, in concentration camps, prisoners were treated like animals and branded on their arm with a number, it is amazing to think that people today adopt similar markings as if they were fashionable or smart. This is truly the sign of a return to barbarity, the behavior of people who do not have any sense of the dignity of the human person.

3. Self-mutilation and self-disfigurement. This is a sin against the body and against the Fifth Commandment. Some body piercing verges on self-mutilation. At best, multiple body piercing is self-inflicted abuse. A form of self-hatred or self-rejection motivates some to pierce themselves or decorate themselves in a hideous and harmful fashion. The human body was not made by God to be a pin cushion or a mural.

4. Harm to health.
Doctors have spoken publicly on this health issue. In 2001, researchers at both the University of Texas and the Australian National University reported on harm to health caused by tattoos and body piercing. Some earrings (on the navel, tongue or upper ear) are unhealthy and cause infections or lasting harm such as deformities of the skin. They can also poison the blood for some time (septicaemia). Certain piercings (e.g., on the nose, eyebrows, lip, tongue) do not close over even when the object is removed. Such body piercing, therefore, is immoral, since we should not endanger health without a reasonable motive. When done unhygienically, tattoos and piercing cause infection. A used instrument, if not properly sterilized, can transmit hepatitis or HIV.

Some have hoped to avoid health dangers by getting “henna” tattoos, which are painted on rather than done with needles. Henna staining is an ancient Hindu wedding custom of painting floral designs on the feet and hands. A German Medical Association report this year found that tourists returning home with hennas done in Bali and Bangkok, among other places, were going to the doctor because of severe skin infections and sometimes lifelong allergies. In some cases also, the coloring agent used meant that the tattoo faded away, but after several weeks of skin irritation, the design reappeared in the form of a reddish tattoo, often very painful for the patient. Allergies developed from 12 hours to a week after the application of the henna, causing intense itching, redness, blistering and scaling.

5. A desire to shock and repel. It can be appropriate to shock people, as for example, when one recounts the plight of poor and hungry people, or protests against crimes or terrible exploitation. This can be a healthy thing, when done properly and with due care, to arouse people out of complacency, so that they realize something must be done. But to shock people for the thrill of shocking people, with no intention to promote truth and goodness, is not a virtue, but a sign of a perverted sense of values.

In evaluating tattoos under this heading of repulsiveness, we look at the nature of the images, the size and number of the tattoos, and their place on the body. In evaluating piercings, we consider similarly their extent and location on the body.

6. Indecency and irreverence. It is always immoral to get or exhibit tattoos of indecent images or phrases, or derisive figures of Our Lord or His Mother or holy things.

7. Signs of a sexual disorientation.
Pirates used to be the only males who wore earrings (for whatever reason!) while sailors and side-show freaks were just about the only people with tattoos. What was once so restricted has now spread to wider sections of the community. In the 1970s, an earring worn by a man in the left ear, or the right, or both, was a code-sign of his personal orientation and thus a form of picking up partners. As such, it was blatantly immoral, and generally an advertisement of one’s immorality. Earrings in boys and men are so common now that they have lost that significance, but they are never positively demanded by social requirements, as a suit and tie are socially required on certain formal occasions. Even admitting the lack of clear symbolism now, I would expect any seminary to tell any inquirer that he would have to remove any earring or stud before entering, and question him as to when he started wearing it and why. A seminarian or priest sporting an earring is not socially acceptable in the Catholic Church. A good number of parishioners would wonder about the deeper reasons or motivation. No one in such a public position starts to wear an earring without making a deliberate decision. As a wise old Jesuit priest said to me once, “No one changes externals without having changed internals.” It is regarded as what people call “making a statement.” The same code of expected conduct applies to men in other professions, such as policemen or teachers.

Employers and principals should make rules outlawing any such jewelry for male staff and students. Especially for the young, such rules protect them both from themselves and from peer pressure. The fact is that, still today, earrings are prevalent among females, and in minority use among males.

8. Unsuitability. Sometimes people tattoo themselves with a big image of a crucifix or other holy pictures. The human body is a most unsuitable place for such an image, even if it be a beautiful one. Whenever these people go swimming, for example, they are exhibiting this image in an inappropriate fashion. No priest would ever go down to a shopping center in Mass vestments, not because there is something wrong with vestments, but because there is a time and a place for donning special religious symbols.

9. Vanity. Some men in particular tattoo their upper and lower arms in order to be ostentatious and impressive. It is a means of drawing attention to themselves. No one who meets them can fail to notice the tattoos – to the point at which it is in fact a constant distraction. It detracts from the person, and focuses attention too much on the body’s external appearance. The same can be said for a stud on the tongue, a ring in the nose, or earrings all over one’s ears and eyebrows. These are not part of our culture; at most, they are part of a certain subculture, a minority affectation, devoid of religious or positive social significance. No one is saying it is wrong to dress up, but here it is a question of moderation and discretion. Sacred Scripture implicitly recognizes that it is good for a bride to be adorned for her husband when the heavenly Jerusalem is compared to such a woman (Apoc. 21:2). It is good for a lady to be well dressed and to use makeup when the occasion calls for it, but everyone recognizes when the embellishment has gone over the top and makes her look seductive or cheap.

10. Immaturity and imprudence. An action acceptable or indifferent in itself can become wrong if the intention or motive is wrong. Some young people adopt outrageous fashions out of an immature desire to rebel against society or against their parents. Such disobedience against parents is sinful. Some do it out of an immature desire to conform to their friends, and others out of an equally immature desire to stick out from everyone around them. Some do it out of boredom, because it is something different, because it gives them a thrill, because it is something for their friends to admire and comment on. Mindless following of fads is always the mark of immaturity. For young people who live at home under their parents’ authority, it is enough if their parents express their disapproval of such fashions to know that they should not go ahead. Some young people go to further extremes and vie with each other as to who can pierce whatever part of the body the most. Parents must forbid such behavior absolutely.

Young people can hardly justify the big expenditure (not to mention the pain) involved in getting a tattoo. It is also unjustified and just plain silly to mark your body for life with images of no great worth or with the name of one’s current lover. A recent example I heard of gives an idea of the time and expense: a young girl had one arm tattooed up and down. It required two four-hour sessions and cost $1,000 (American).

Tattoos are more serious than other adornments since they are more or less permanent marks on the body. Many a man or woman have been tattooed gladly in youth, but regretted it not so many years later when they came to regard it as an embarrassing disfigurement. Once they mature, they pay dearly for the luxury of getting rid of it. The removal of tattoos is expensive and difficult – and can leave scars. The removal of big tattoos requires surgery under a general anaesthetic, with all the potential risks, plus the significant medical and hospital costs. The removal of large tattoos can leave big segments of the skin permanently disfigured or blotched, like skin that has been burnt. Many adults find themselves ineligible for some jobs, because businesses will not employ them with their hands covered in tattoos, impossible to conceal years after their youthful folly.

Universal Criteria

In any culture, things can arise, become acceptable, and become part of the culture – but this does not necessarily make them right. Here are some examples from foreign cultures that I regard as equally wrong. In one tribe of Africa, women wear gigantic and heavy earrings that change the shape of the earlobes. In another place, women put coils around their necks and elongate them unnaturally, or put plates in their mouths to make the lips protrude some inches. In China, there was once the practice of binding girls’ feet tightly to stop them from growing, because small, dainty feet were admired. These and other drastic alterations to the natural growth of the human body must be judged immoral, as forms of abuse springing from vanity.

It is not always possible to draw an exact line and say where the bounds of moderation have been exceeded. But this does not mean that there is no line. No one can define at what exact temperature a day passes from being cool to cold, but everyone knows that when the temperature is near zero, it is cold beyond dispute. Let us never fall for the ploy that tries to argue from borderline or difficult cases that there are no guidelines or principles, and that there is no such thing as a just mean or moderation, just because they are hard to define.

The human body is meant to be treated with care, not maltreated or disfigured. Its dignity and beauty must be kept and cultivated, in order that it be an expression of the deeper beauty of the soul.

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Father Peter Joseph is vice-rector and lecturer in dogma at Vianney College, the diocesan seminary of Wagga Wagga, Australia.

A Reflection on The Good Shepherd


A Reflection on The Good Shepherd
By Dan Finucane

Related Readings

APR. 25, 2010 ( - Have you ever had the sense that you “belonged to God”? That no one could remove you from the Lord’s grasp? I do hope that you have experienced this sense of belonging in your encounter with God.

I find this Sunday’s Gospel from John difficult though, not because I don’t think Jesus is being genuine by speaking so intimately about his sheep, rather, it can be hard for me to accept that “no one” can take me “out of the Father’s hand” – that I am one of the sheep for which he cares.

I think the root of this discomfort lies in the wariness to let myself be God’s; to allow myself to be vulnerable to this loving Mystery. To put it bluntly, I sometimes find being one of Christ’s sheep a difficult task!

And yet the promise of eternal life, a life colored with the love of a steady shepherd and companion does entice me in my more peaceful moments. I think that each of us has these moments where we allow ourselves to slip into solitude and embrace the God who longs to hold us in the warmth of a warm hug.

This acceptance should not be seen as a warm and fluffy type experience; in fact, I find that these experiences of belonging to God come after long bouts with spiritual turmoil or hard life decisions.

Again, being a sheep is not easy.

But the greatest insight to be gleaned from this passage is that God’s gratuitous love and forgiveness return again and again to awaken my stubborn heart to the possibility that I am God’s – I am one of Christ’s sheep.

And when I accept that belonging, peace is unavoidable not just for myself, but in my life lived with those around me. It is in my openness to God that I join the entire sheepfold of the people of God.

Dan Finucane is a senior at Saint Louis University.

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Challenges Young Adults Face: Prioritization

Challenges Young Adults Face: Prioritization

By Laurence Gonzaga, MA

One of the issues that I think young adults face is a problem with being able to prioritize certain aspects of their lives. Often times we want to be involved in so many things, which seem to only be natural, but the reality of it is we can't be a part of everything.

We are finite creatures and our time and our energy is limited. We sign up for everything that comes our way, either out of genuine enthusiasm for the activity or perhaps it is due to cultural predispositions to always be willing to say "Yes".

Remember that movie "Yes Man"? I don't recommend it, by the way. As young adults, there are probably certain things which will undoubtedly be part of your lives: faith, family, friends, education, work, organizations and affiliations, leisure, and rest. Did I get everything? I already placed them in a certain order; it is my order of importance. Your order may be different.

The question for you is, do you recognize a certain order in your priorities? If so, are you consistent? Too often, we judge the value of certain activities based on how we feel, right now, such that, even if we have made certain commitments in the past, we are quick to abandon them, simply because "I don't feel like it right now. I'd rather do this other thing."

Or worse, we never really thought the commitment to be important to begin with so we signed on, and never wrote it down or showed up.

It would be one thing if honoring our commitments only reflected our own personal integrity, but sometimes we forget that we may also be representing a larger group, depending on our associations. You pick. We may be Christians, be of a certain nationality or race, have a "different" family name, belong to a different organization, etc.

But, who cares what other people think? Right? Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter what other people think. However, what other people think can either make the effort to accomplish your tasks and goals, short-term and long-term, easier or harder. It is important to all of us to learn what is the smart thing to do. Are you learning?

In sum, put your life in order. What is important to you? Put things in their proper place. Balance the activities in your life. Don't waste time. Be a man of your word. If you say you will do something; do it. There was a time when kids were raised with a tough work ethic. They dreamed up a project, they worked hard, and they finished. Our modern culture is too soft.

Where is society going? You have some thoughts? Stop thinking! Start doing. It will change, when we change. It is possible. By God's grace, it is possible.

Now is the time to start doing something. Send us your feeling about this reflection.

Instaurare omnia in Christo.

Easter people?

Easter people?
By Jerome Placido
April 12, 2010

Since the official week long celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord is over now, what happens now? I recall listening to the pastor of my old parish always urging people to continue living as an “Easter People.” I never actually understood, nor tried to understand, what exactly what he meant. But this week I’ve come to a new and deeper love for our faith and especially the highlight of that faith, the Resurrection of Our Lord.

Think of the preparation we make for the coming of Easter and you will get a sense of its importance, which sometimes we may forget with a bad case of spiritual amnesia. We spend forty days in preparation for it. Forty days of deeper prayer, penance and mortification. In that we are to renew our sorrow for our sins and so to approach God humbled and aware of who He is and who we are.

But why go through all the trouble? We embrace our crosses and walk with Christ to Calvary so as to appreciate, understand and LOVE his Resurrection, and the hope for sharing in His Resurrection. When we’ve prepared well we then not only approach Easter with hearts ready and willing, but we carry that Easter spirit with us in our hearts.

Being Easter People means being living signs of the hope which Christ’s Resurrection brings to the world. It means that our mere presence and attitudes radiate the beauty of this new life in Christ and then everyday becomes a day we celebrate and rejoice in His Resurrection. It was as if all of mankind, even all of creation, was waiting in anticipation to see how God’s love and mercy would unravel itself after the fall of our first parents. Finally after seeing an empty tomb and our risen Lord, the whole world let out one great sigh of relief and shout of praise for it realized how good God really was.

The solemnity and glamour of Easter may be not as evident in our liturgy, our decorations maybe down and the Easter eggs may have already been emptied, but it’s a celebration we should carry daily in our hearts for the Lord is truly risen ALLELUIA.


All Should Offer Their Bodies and Blood at Mass

All Should Offer Their Bodies and Blood at Mass

Pontifical Household Preacher Explains Uniqueness of Christ's Sacrifice and Our Participation

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 12, 2010 ( What makes Christ the Priest unlike any other priest, either from the Old Testament or from any other cult, is that his priestly sacrifice is he, himself.

But that uniqueness is also the calling shared by priests and laity, to "imitate that which is celebrated" every day at Mass.

This was the reflection offered today by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, in his second Lenten sermon of the year, given in the presence of Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia. The Capuchin is focusing his homilies on the priesthood in this Year for Priests. In Advent he meditated on the priest as servant of Christ, in the power and the unction of the Holy Spirit. During Lent, he is looking at the priest as steward of the mysteries of God.

"To be a priest 'according to the order of Jesus Christ,' the presbyter must, like him, offer himself," Father Cantalamessa said. "On the altar, he does not only represent the Jesus [who is] 'high priest,' but also the Jesus [who is] 'supreme victim,' the two things being, moreover, inseparable. In other words he cannot be content to offer Christ to the Father in the sacramental signs of bread and wine, he must also offer himself with Christ to the Father."

The preacher shared his own experience of this sacrifice: "As a priest ordained by the Church, I pronounce the words of the consecration 'in persona Christi,' I believe that, thanks to the Holy Spirit, they have the power of changing the bread into the body of Christ and the wine into his blood; at the same time, as member of the body of Christ [...] I look at the brethren before me or, if I celebrate on my own, I think of them whom I must serve during the day and, turning to them, I say mentally together with Jesus: 'Brothers and sisters, take, eat, this is my body; take, drink, this is my blood.'"

Father Cantalamessa clarified that this mutual offering is necessary.

"The offering of the priest and of the whole Church, without that of Jesus, would neither be holy nor acceptable to God, because we are only sinful creatures," he said, "but Jesus' offering, without that of his body which is the Church, would also be incomplete and insufficient: not, be it understood, to procure salvation, but because we receive it and appropriate it. It is in this sense that the Church can say with St. Paul: 'in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions.'"

And the preacher offered a simple example to illustrate his point.

"Let us imagine," he said, "that in a family there is one child, the first born, most devoted to the father. He wishes to give him a present for his birthday. However, before presenting it to him he asks all his brothers and sisters secretly to add their signature on the gift. It then arrives in the hands of the father as the indistinct homage of all his children and as a sign of the esteem and love of them all but, in reality, only one has paid its price.

"And now the application. Jesus admires and loves the heavenly Father. He wishes to give him every day, until the end of the world, the most precious gift he can think of, that of his life itself. In the Mass he invites all his 'brothers,' who we are, to add their signature on the gift, so that it reaches God the Father as the indistinct gift of all his children. [...] But, in reality, we know that only one has paid the price of such a gift. And what a price!"

Laity, too

Father Cantalamessa proposed that laypeople, too, are called to offer themselves with Christ in the Mass.

"Let us try to imagine what would happen if also the laity, at the moment of the consecration, said silently: 'Take, eat, this is my body. Take, drink, this is my blood,'" he proposed. "A mother of a family thus celebrates her Mass, then she goes home and begins her day made up of a thousand little things. But what she does is not nothing: It is a eucharist together with Jesus! A [religious] sister also says in her heart at the moment of consecration: 'Take, eat ...'; then she goes to her daily work: children, the sick, the elderly. The Eucharist 'invades' her day which becomes a prolongation of the Eucharist."

The Pontifical Household preacher called for two categories of people to particularly take to heart his message: workers and young people.

"Do we teach the Christian laborer to offer in the Mass his body and his blood, that is, his time, sweat and toil," he reflected. Work in this way, he said, will not be confined to a Marxist focus on the product, but rather becomes sanctifying.

And youth, Father Cantalamessa said, have a special need to offer themselves at Mass.

He explained: "Suffice it for us to think of one thing: What does the world of boys and girls want today? The body, nothing else but the body! The body, in the mentality of the world, is essentially an instrument of pleasure and exploitation. Something to be sold, to squeeze while it is young and attractive, and then to be thrown out, together with the person, when it no longer serves these ends. Especially the woman's body has become merchandise of consumption.

"Do we teach Christian boys and girls to say, at the moment of consecration: 'Take, eat, this is my body, offered for you.' The body is thus consecrated, becomes something sacred, it can no longer be 'given to eat' to one's concupiscence and that of others, it can no longer be sold, because it has given itself. It has become Eucharist with Christ."

"The Apostle Paul," Father Cantalamessa reflected, made this exhortation to the Christians of Corinth: "The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord. ... So glorify God in your body.


Reform Of The Catholic Church In The US Will Start in Campus Ministry

Reform Of The Catholic Church In The US Will Start in Campus Ministry
From Aggie Catholics
  • Morality is relative.
  • Right and wrong depend on the situation and people. As long as they do their best, they can't do wrong.
  • What is true for you may not be true for me.
  • That might have been considered wrong in the past, but we have progressed beyond such ancient fears.
  • Dogmatically proclaiming you are right and everyone else is wrong is really the worst sin.
  • We shouldn't judge others, but should each follow our own conscience
The biggest issue in our culture today.

Relativism is the belief that truth is relative. It can change depending on people, situations, cultures, time, etc. Truth, especially moral truth, is subjective and not objective. It can change and there is no objective truth that transcends people or experience.

Why is this a problem? Because without moral absolutes, there can be no sin. No action can be wrong at all times. It leads to a society with moral license and each individual can do whatever they please - damn the consequences. It is a philosophy that will ultimately be the end of any society that owns it.

Relativism is getting worse in our society. From the Barna Research Group:
"We are witnessing the development and acceptance of a new moral code in America....The moral code began to disintegrate when the generation before them - the Baby Busters - pushed the limits that had been challenged by their parents - the Baby Boomers. The result is that without much fanfare or visible leadership, the U.S. has created a moral system based on convenience, feelings, and selfishness.
But, it isn't just outside the society as a whole - it is inside the Catholic Church. From a recent poll done about the Millenial Generation and the Catholic Church:
**82% of Catholic millenials believe morals are “relative.”

Here is how that is lived out - Catholic Millenials believed the following practices are "morally acceptable" at these percentages:
  • 61% - a Catholic to practice more than one religion
  • 33% - having a baby outside of marriage
  • 35% - same sex marriage
  • 37% - medical research using stem cells obtained from human embryos
  • 20% - euthanasia
We, the Catholic Church and our allies against relativism, have a lot of work to do. As Pope Benedict said:
To have a clear faith, according to the creed of the Church, is often labeled as fundamentalism. While relativism, that is, allowing oneself to be carried about with every wind of "doctrine," seems to be the only attitude that is fashionable. A dictatorship of relativism is being constituted that recognizes nothing as absolute and which only leaves the "I" and its whims as the ultimate measure.

We have another measure: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. "Adult" is not a faith that follows the waves in fashion and the latest novelty. Adult and mature is a faith profoundly rooted in friendship with Christ. This friendship opens us to all that is good and gives us the measure to discern between what is true and what is false, between deceit and truth.

We must mature in this adult faith; we must lead the flock of Christ to this faith.
The questions then arise:
Where is the tide against relativism being fought?
Where can the Catholic Church hope to turn the tide?

My thesis is this - I believe it MUST be done in the young adult stage of life. Previous research shows that college-age adults are more open to ideas and change than at later stages in life. If we miss this chance, we lose the culture war.

So, how can the Catholic Church best meet the challenges in this age with young adults? Many argue it must be done in Catholic universities. I agree that having a good system of Catholic colleges and universities is a great way to form Catholics. The Catholic Church started the university. But, here is the problem - Catholic universities are not doing the job.

First of all, I am not saying to toss the baby out with the bathwater. Catholic colleges and universities play an indispensable roll in our Church and country. We cannot give away higher education to secularism. Nor can theology or Catholic philosophy be maintained in non-Catholic schools. But, the tide isn't turning in the Church's favor quick enough at Catholic institutions.

Studies show that female students are MORE promiscuous at Catholic universities and Catholic colleges and universities not forming students any better than secular universities in the Catholic faith.

This is shameful. Especially when we stop to consider the state of campus ministries in the USA and the way resources are distributed. A few numbers:
  • On average, the largest campus ministry professional/ministerial staff sizes are on Catholic campuses (almost nine staff members)
  • 12 percent of campus minsitry sites report no Masses anytime during the week or weekend.
Some others in campus ministry label the average campus ministry as "pizza and Mass". I don't even know if it is this good. Many schools have zero, zilch, nada. Others have what I call "pizza and Communion service". Yes, we have to start somewhere, but this is shameful. Generations of Catholics are being lost.

80% of Catholic university and college students go to non-Catholic schools.
If we are to reform the Church, then we need reform to start where young Catholic students are going to school - at non-Catholic institutions.

Even if we start to turn the tide in some of the Catholic universities that are losing (or have already lost) their Catholic identity, it will take generations to turn them around. On the other hand, a campus ministry at a non-Catholic school can be ratcheted up quickly, within a few years - if it has the right leadership (starting with the Bishop) and enough monetary support (built by a good development office).

We need a paradigm shift.
  • We need to re-focus our priorities of ministering to the millenial generation toward the non-Catholic campus ministry centers.
  • We can no longer be satisfied with pizza parties and Communion services.
  • We need dynamic and orthodox leaders to start programs that challenge and form Catholics to go out into the world and change it - not be changed by it.
Pray for Catholic higher education and campus ministry.

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Video - Jesus on the Cross

Jesus on the Cross

A music video for Lenten reflection by Larry Manda of Jescom Philippines.


What Sin is About? (Mooo!)

What Sin is About? (Mooo!)

Check out this great video excerpt from Fr. Larry Richards' talk. And get a handle on what it really means to sin.


"What I never imagined before I was chaste..."

Aiding Rudderless Women
Chastity Speaker Reaches Out to Coeds: "What I never imagined before I was chaste..."

Dawn Eden, a Jewish convert to Catholicism, lived the ubiquitous "Sex in the City" lifestyle for years, but then found her way out of it and into the role of chastity speaker.

Eden is a chastity speaker for the Cardinal Newman Society. Her qualification? She understands the pressure to live the "hook-up" lifestyle that is so rampant on college campuses, having battled it herself for years.

She will be speaking to college students around the country to help young people avoid the pitfalls of casual sexual relationships, and to teach them how to prepare for authentic love.

In Eden's book "The Thrill of the Chaste," she tells her personal experience: "I felt trapped in a lifestyle that gave me none of the things that the media and popular wisdom promised it would." Those interested in reading her book should be aware that it describes in detail her secular lifestyle prior to living a chaste life.

At some point in her own journey, Eden wrote that she realized "that all the sex I had ever had -- in and out of relationships -- never brought me any closer to marriage or even being able to sustain a committed relationship."

The chastity speaker says that a big part of that had to do with the role her father had played in her life: "I felt that I had to earn my father's affection. It was a limited and precious commodity, but I knew it was there. I strained for it, but all too often it was just out of reach."


The result was that she believed the man worth getting was the one hard to get, the one hard to please, the one whose emotions and attention span were fleeting -- just the same as the man she tried to please all those years growing up.

"However much I wanted a man to stay, I felt deep down that he was certain to leave," Eden recalled.

Her book chronicles what happened when she picked up the habits of a chaste life. She was slowly transformed from a "leather and stilettos" kind of girl to a national chastity speaker.

Over time, Eden said she was able to see how her father's spotty love contributed to her own struggles, but rather than stewing on this, she found both the source of her struggle and the subsequent forgiveness to be a further step toward happiness.

The book explains that after she decided to be chaste, a new type of rapport with men developed, and she found she had new respect for the opposite sex, and for herself.

"What I never imagined before I was chaste," Eden confessed, "was that I could hope to find someone to love the me I don't love. My weaknesses, my insecurities, my shortcomings, all the time I miss the mark."

Through chastity, Eden was able to find what her heart truly desired, something totally unfathomable when she was wrapped in a lifestyle that led to the exact opposite of what she intended.

Regarding her new job, Eden says: "It feels like a vocation, as it encompasses everything I have done up to this point in writing about chastity and speaking about it to young adults."


Dressing for Eternal Success

Dressing for Eternal Success
By Cheryl Dickow

When I was a young adult there was a wildly popular book about dressing for career success. It spawned many copycat books, all proclaiming the benefits of proper attire for everything from boardrooms to schoolrooms. The premise was that your clothes were the first impression others had of you, and consequently had a great impact on your successes or failures in life. There is no doubt that this, and all the other books like it, helped many people achieve their goals in the secular world.

As a mother of three teenage boys, the oldest who is now in college, both my husband and myself have always stressed the importance of that first impression and have given great credence to the fact that clothes actually do matter. But lately I have been thinking outside of this box. As much as I want my children to dress for great successes in their lives and in their careers, I’ve been wondering how to encourage them to also dress for eternal success. And for that I have turned to Ephesians 6:11-18.

Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit.

What does Ephesians tell us? Notice that the first line doesn’t say put on the armor of God just in case there will be tactics from satan. Right away we are told to put on God’s armor so that we will be able to stand firm against the schemes of satan. We are told, quite clearly, what our struggles will be; they will be against a presence that we cannot see, not flesh and blood, but of a nature that grips our minds, hearts, and souls. Struggles that gain a stronghold and are often more relentless than we are able to handle: anger, envy, greed, addictions, self-doubt, and self-loathing. Without God’s armor we will be as helpless as a newborn babe in the woods against these powers. But what is this armor?

This is where the imagery used in Ephesians is priceless. Our loins are to be girded in Truth. What Truth? The Truth of the Gospel. How do we gain that Truth? Through bible study and time set aside to meditate upon Scripture and allow it to permeate every cell of our being. We gain the Truth by reading Scripture and asking the Spirit to imbue our hearts and souls with discernment. Notice that it is our loins that are to be girded in the Truth. This is because we all have that “gut” reaction to life’s events and circumstances. That feeling way deep down in the pit of our stomach that signals to us that things are “right” and “true.” We have an internal compass that will always point north, if we understand that “north” is the Truth of His word.

The breastplate we are told to put on covers our heart. It is a breastplate of righteousness. Noah was considered a righteous man. St. Peter calls Noah a “herald of righteousness.” What characteristics did he possess? While there are many adjectives that can help us understand righteousness (just, true, sincere), at the core of it would have been Noah’s relationship with God and with man. It can be said that Noah was in “right relationship” with God. When the world was filled with evil actions that grieved our Creator, Noah was found to be different, he was deemed “righteous.” This begs us to ask ourselves is we are, in fact, in right relationship with our Creator and with one another.

Scripture also tells us that the Lord knows our heart and this is why the breastplate covers that area. It is in our hearts in which God looks at us in the most intimate of ways. And so a sturdy, impenetrable breastplate covers our heart. This is because our hearts are so very vulnerable and we do well to protect them against the slings and arrows of life. They are meant to be filled with love, kindness, and compassion. A breastplate will help protect them so that they do not succumb to the things that may otherwise be their undoing, their hardening.

While our loins are girded in Truth and our hearts are protected by righteousness, our feet are shod in peace. We are all called to walk our earthly journey in tranquility. Christ gave us His peace because He knew its immense value. From calm and acceptance come joy, strength, and an ability to persevere. How fitting that while we walk in peace our minds are helmeted with the knowledge of our salvation in Christ? It is no surprise that we must continually remind ourselves that His ways are not our ways or the ways in which the world operates. We are able to do this with our mind covered in the awareness of our salvation. From this knowledge we can continually bring ourselves back to Him when our inclinations pull us elsewhere.

Finally, we walk into the world with a shield of faith, while in constant prayer and supplication. That shield is our first line of defense and the calling card that identifies us as followers of Christ. As Catholic Christians we understand faith to be one of the three, God-given theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity). We profess our faith in numerous ways; baptism, Apostle’s Creed, evangelization and so on. Complimenting the shield of faith are the words of our mind and our lips that call out to our eternal Father. As St. Augustine said, “Prayer is communication with God.” So we pray, constantly and without ceasing. In all things we move with God and He moves with us. We are dressed for eternal success.

We ought to declare ourselves for him in the presence of others

We ought to declare ourselves for him in the presence of others
By Father Alex McAllister SDS

"If anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men,
I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven."

What a wonderful promise! Jesus gives his instructions to the Twelve and gives them, and us through them, this wonderful promise that is at the very heart of the Christian faith. That really is all we have to do, just declare ourselves to be openly in favour of Christ and his Gospel of love.

It doesn't seem much, does it? And yet if we look at it in another way it is everything. We declare ourselves openly for Christ and of course we then have to start living accordingly. If we do not, but go back to our old ways we are giving counter-witness and will have disowned him; this will mean that he will disown us, as he says in the second part of his saying.

The plain truth is that if countless numbers of people down the generations had not openly declared themselves for Christ and suffered the consequences of doing so, and quite often this meant torture and death; then we would not be here today. There would be no Church building; there would be no community of Christians. The Church of today is built on the foundations of those who openly declared themselves for Christ in the past.

A famous man of the world was asked if he was a Christian. His answer was, "Yes, but not offensively so." He meant that he did not allow his Christianity to interfere with the company he kept or the life of pleasure.

It is a bit like the Spaniard who when asked by a Priest if he was a Catholic was quite indignant and said of course he was. The Priest then asked him if he went to Sunday Mass. He said, "I'm a Catholic, not a fanatic."

There are three principal ways we can deny Christ. We can deny him by our words, by our silence and by our actions.

Each of us has had moments like Peter when the cock crows; moments when we are deeply shamed by our open denial of Christ. We are put on the spot and we brazenly deny him. This is denial by words.

There are other times when we deny him by silence, by our failure to speak up. We see we are out-numbered and so we say nothing, but that means that a grave injustice is done, the name of Christ is mocked or an opportunity missed.

We also deny him by our actions by living the sort of life that is unworthy of a Christian; by basing our life on lies; by manipulating others; by cruelty; by a life of ease; by pressing down the poor and so on.

We have all heard of the famous book Tom Brown's Schooldays. Tom Brown was very popular at his Public School; he lived with about a dozen other boys in one of the school's dormitories. He was very influential and was the undisputed leader of his gang of friends. One day a new boy came to the school. When it came to bedtime the new boy innocently knelt down by his bed to say his prayers.

Some of the other boys began to snigger, a few others began to laugh and joke, one even threw a shoe at the kneeling boy. That night Tom didn't go to sleep straight away. He lay awake thinking about what had happened to the new boy. He also began to think about his mother and the prayers she had taught him to say each night before going to bed, prayers he had not said since he came to school.

The next night several of the boys were looking forward to poking fun at the new boy. But that night something totally unexpected happened. When the new boy knelt down to say his prayers, Tom knelt down also. The whole atmosphere of the dormitory changed.

Jesus tells us that he will declare himself for those who declare themselves for him. One of the reasons Jesus made this statement is because bearing witness to him or not bearing witness to him can have a profound effect on those around us.

Perhaps the most important area in which this happens is in the home. The deciding factor for Tom Brown was the influence of his mother's example. Because he was so impressed with her faith he in turn gave witness to others and influenced them profoundly.

It has been said that every Christian occupies some kind of pulpit and preaches some kind of sermon every day. This is never more true than of parents in the home. A priest I know has a banner in his room which says: You are the only Gospel some people will ever read. That could be a motto for us all.

In the course of the last twenty-four years since I was ordained I have talked to thousands of young people. Whenever I’ve had the opportunity I’ve asked them about prayer.

I have been very impressed with the answers and even more so by the depth of their prayer-lives. Mostly they pray because they were taught to do so as young children. But I have been equally saddened by the fact the most of them have told me that prayer is practically a taboo subject in the home.

I am talking here about practising Catholic families, families at Church every Sunday and yet to say that you prayed for something, or that during prayer something had occurred to you, would be greeted with waves of embarrassment.

It is easy and it is truly wonderful to talk to young children about prayer. It is more difficult, but much more rewarding, to talk to teenagers and young adults about prayer.

What many Catholics are lacking is the vocabulary to deal with these things and I think that this is one of the reasons why we shy away from talking about anything to do with religion.

But like everything else, the more you do it the easier it gets and the vocabulary comes. This is one reason why we introduced the Question of the Week; it is also why we are now holding discussion groups called Growing Faith.

An important aim of our pastoral strategy is to get people talking about their faith and to feel comfortable doing so. The Growing Faith discussion groups have come to a conclusion for the summer but we will begin again in the autumn; they may be something you might consider joining.

One of the most important things that ought to be discussed by the members of every family in which there are teenagers is how to make that transition from childhood forms of prayer to ones that are more suitable for adult life.

The most helpful thing for our young people would be to hear how their own parents struggled with this transition. They want to know what prayer is, and how you do it, and how it can give meaning and purpose to their lives.

This is something that really needs to be talked about, this is a duty that no true Christian should neglect, this is precisely the sort of thing that Jesus is referring to when he tells us that we ought to declare ourselves for him in the presence of others.

Sunday Homily for June 22, 2008
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)