“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.

Full Story

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.

View this article in

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.

View this article in


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.