"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)