Monday, March 31, 2008

Terri's Day

Remember Terry Schiavo -- the woman whose husband had her feeding tube removed, resulting in her starving to death? She died three years ago today. Her family is remembering her by commemorating "Terri's Day." You can read more about Terri's life and death on the website of the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

One man's pro-life promise in Vietnam

I cannot recommend this article enough. In Vietnam, a young father promised God he would do something to help others, if He would save his wife and son from a complicated pregnancy. What Tong Phuoc Phuc has accomplished, is nothing short of incredible.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Question box Friday -- How do I live chastity?

Our students tend to agree that there are many reasons to save sexual activity for marriage, but when it comes to practically living out the virtue of chastity in day to day life, many are at a loss for what to do. Below are several ideas, some for relationships and some for individuals. Please comment with your own ideas.

1) Write down the reasons why you are committed to chastity. Read them occasionally and add to the list. Reminding yourself of your goals and why they are worth achieving can help you to stay strong when you are being tempted.

2) Have an accountability partner -- a friend to whom you can confide your individual or relational struggles and successes with chastity and who can challenge and encourage you to stay committed.

3) Choose good friends who share your morals and values. Our friends have an influence on us, and it's important to have friends who positively impact our lives and who set a good example.

4) Dress modestly. This one is for guys and girls. The way we dress sends a message about whether or not we respect ourselves and others. If we look like we want to be respected (which is totally possible to do, while still dressing attractively), then others will be more likely to grant us the respect we deserve.

5) Go to confession regularly. The sacrament of Reconciliation isn't only an opportunity for forgiveness; it also gives us the grace and strength we need to live God's plan in the future.

6) Make wise dating choices. Choose dates who you know won't compromise your beliefs and with whom you share values. Discuss early on or even before a relationship commences, your commitment to chastity. Group dates and public places can lessen temptation.

7) Pray to God for the grace of self-control.

8) Stay away from pornography and masturbation, which train people to think that sex is a selfish act and only about pleasure. Caving in doesn't lessen sexual temptation, it increases it.

9) Put a crucifix in your room. Whenever you are tempted, remember that Christ gave His life for love for you. He is your model for how to love -- sacrificing in order to seek what's best for another person.

10) Set strict boundaries. It's more difficult to say no to sex after participating in activities that prepare someone's body for sex. Set boundaries that prevent you from getting to that point.

11) Write letters to your future husband or wife, explaining why you are waiting for him/her, and to remind yourself that your sacrifices are for a real person who you can learn how to love before you even meet.

12) Read and other blogs, books, websites, and articles that remind you of the benefits of chastity.

13) Say no to alcohol and drugs.

14) Remember the HALTS concept: Never make a big decision (example, Should I have sex?) when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired or Sad.

15) Spend time learning the true meaning of love, chastity, marriage and sex, which is often completely different from what the media portray. Theology of the Body is one way to discover the depth of these topics.

16) If your boyfriend or girlfriend is pressuring you for sex, break up! If they can't respect you and your values, then they aren't looking out for what's best for you, and consequently they don't truly love you. You deserve better than to be used by another person.

17) Share your convictions with others. Explaining your commitment to chastity can help to solidify your beliefs.

18) Don't be caught in compromising situations. Make a decision now not to lay down with someone of the opposite sex, be alone at home with them or stay up too late with them.

19) Never forget that you are worth the benefits and freedom of chastity, and that you are capable of living a lifestyle of chastity.

20) You tell me what number 20 should be ...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI on preparing for marriage

"The second area, where you are called to express your love and grow in it, is your preparation for the future that awaits you. If you are engaged to be married, God has a project of love for your future as a couple and as a family. Therefore, it is essential that you discover it with the help of the Church, free from the common prejudice that says that Christianity with its commandments and prohibitions places obstacles to the joy of love and impedes you from fully enjoying the happiness that a man and woman seek in their reciprocal love. The love of a man and woman is at the origin of the human family and the couple formed by a man and a woman has its foundation in God’s original plan (cf Gen 2:18-25).

"Learning to love each other as a couple is a wonderful journey, yet it requires a demanding “apprenticeship”. The period of engagement, very necessary in order to form a couple, is a time of expectation and preparation that needs to be lived in purity of gesture and words. It allows you to mature in love, in concern and in attention for each other; it helps you to practise self-control and to develop your respect for each other. These are the characteristics of true love that does not place emphasis on seeking its own satisfaction or its own welfare. In your prayer together, ask the Lord to watch over and increase your love and to purify it of all selfishness.

"Do not hesitate to respond generously to the Lord’s call, for Christian matrimony is truly and wholly a vocation in the Church. Likewise, dear young men and women, be ready to say “yes” if God should call you to follow the path of ministerial priesthood or the consecrated life. Your example will be one of encouragement for many of your peers who are seeking true happiness."

--- Read his entire Message for the 22nd World Youth Day here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bella on DVD

Exciting news for "Bella" fans: The DVD will be available by April 10 from Heritage House. Pre-order price is $27.50. This sale price is valid through March 30. All of the information is available here.

The biology of theology of the body

Pretty interesting stuff from Project Rachel foundress Vicki Thorn, regarding the biology of theology of the body. You can read her article, "Why didn't somebody tell me the truth?" for some great insights. Apparently, she is working on a couple of books on this subject, and I am eager for their publishing dates.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Rock for Life training in Cincinnati

This news in from Pregnancy Center West and Cincinnati Right to Life:

Rock for Life Training Day at NKU
Get Involved & Register Now!

March 12, 2008--Students, plan to attend the 2nd annual Greater Cincinnati Rock for Life Training and Activism Weekend at Northern Kentucky University's Welcome Center, March 29, 2008, 9:30am - 4:30pm; co-host Northern Kentucky University's Northern Right to Life.

The cost is $5 for the event, which features the national Director of Rock for Life, Phil Eddy, and other local pro-life speakers. Topics include:
* Defending the Little Ones - The Attack on the Embryo
* Debating on the Streets
* Abortion and its Effects on the Black Community
* A Rwandan Genocide Survivor's Story of Forgiveness - Standing Up for the Value of All Life, Born and Unborn.

Register by going to this site.

What Theology of the Body has to say about Easter

Alleluia! It's always refreshing to be able to proclaim this word after Lent is over. I find that I catch myself for the first few days after Easter whenever I say or hear, "Alleluia," because it sounds strange after more than 40 days without it. In any event, today we are able to freely and joyfully proclaim alleluias, and for good reason.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the Paschal Mystery has two distinct aspects. By His death, Christ ransomed us from sin. By His resurrection, he gave us access to eternal life. Resurrection is the path to redemption, says Pope John Paul II. He adds that our redemption is the fulfillment of the hope of which Christ gives testimony with His death and resurrection.

This hope isn't something to be celebrated once a year on Easter, or merely to look forward to upon our death. Instead, Pope John Paul II says the resurrection gives us "the hope of everyday" -- the hope that we can accomplish victory over sin and temptation every day and to live out the vocation to which we are called. From Christ's gift of the redemption of our bodies, we must draw "the inspiration and strength" to live out God's plan for our lives.

It is interesting to note that Christ experienced the resurrection of the body. His body appeared with the wounds from His crucifixion, but He had a glorified body. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that Christ did not return to ordinary earthly life (as Lazarus did when he was raised from the dead). Instead, Christ was outside of time and space and had a glorified body. We receive a key into our own resurrection of the body from the Gospel accounts of that of Christ.

In theology of the body, Pope John Paul II spent lots of time reflecting on man before and after original sin. He points out that, "This 'heavenly man' -- the man of the resurrection, whose prototype is the risen Christ -- is not so much the antithesis and negation of the 'man of the earth' (whose prototype is the 'first Adam') but above all his fulfillment and confirmation." He continues, "The humanity of the 'first Adam,' the 'man of the earth,' carries within itself, I would say, a particular potentiality (which is capacity and readiness) for receiving all that the 'second Adam' became, the heavenly Man, namely Christ: what he became in his resurrection."

Another gift Christ has given us is the sharing in His divine nature, through grace. We have been adopted by God the Father and have been espoused to Christ forever. Because of His grace, we will be able to partake in the Beatific Vision, seeing God face to face, and participating in a reciprocal gift of self to God in heaven.

Through His death and resurrection, Christ has given us, in a sense, a new body and a new dignity. We, therefore, have a new obligation to live out God's plan for us. As 1 Corinthians 6:20 states, "You were bought at a great price." May we remember these gifts this Easter season and continue to allow His grace to transform our lives every day. Alleluia!

Novena to John Paul II begins tomorrow

The third anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II is Wednesday, April 2. Tomorrow I will begin praying Cardinal Ruini's prayer asking the late Holy Father's intercession and praying for his canonization, as a novena to conclude on the 2nd. You can find the text of the prayer below or here. So start thinking of your special intentions and ask Papa to pray for you.

O Blessed Trinity we thank You for having graced the Church with Pope John Paul II and for allowing the tenderness of your Fatherly care, the glory of the cross of Christ, and the splendor of the Holy Spirit, to shine through him. Trusting fully in Your infinite mercy and in the maternal intercession of Mary, he has given us a living image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, and has shown us that holiness is the necessary measure of ordinary Christian life and is the way of achieving eternal communion with you. Grant us, by his intercession, and according to Your will, the graces we implore, hoping that he will soon be numbered among your saints. Amen.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Looking at the Triduum with Theologyof the Body

As we prepare for the sacred days leading up to Easter, it is interesting to examine what John Paul II's theology of the body can teach us regarding Christ's self-gift on the cross and in the Eucharist. Pope John Paul II says, "Through the fact that the Word of God became flesh, the body entered theology [...] through the main door." The fact that Christ chose to became man adds a new dimension to the significance of our own bodies.

Christ became man for several reasons, including to manifest God's love to us and to be our model of holiness. All that He accomplished could not have been done without a body. Because the body reveals the person, Christ chose to utilize His humanity in order to communicate with us.

All of our bodies manifest our person as well as God. John Paul says, "This is the body: a witness to creation as a fundamental gift and therefore a witness to love as the source from which this same giving springs." How much more powerful was Christ's witness -- He is love! We are all called to be a self-gift. Christ's gift of self was the most tremendous realization of this aspect of our humanity.

In His suffering, Christ was able to redeem us because He is God, but we must not forget that He experienced suffering as a man as well. His sufferings were physical and emotional. It is only because He had a body, however, that He was able to experience this pain.

John Paul said that Christ was a "witness to the irreversible love of the Creator and Father." His love on the cross was total and irrevocable. We see this reflected in His very body language. Jesus' arms were outstretched and He hung naked on the cross. We see this "language of the body" reminding us that Christ held nothing back. He gave everything. His love was freely given, faithful and fruitful (it gave us new life). This is exactly the love to which a married couple is called. Christ modeled it beautifully through his gift of self on the cross.

Steven Kellmeyer in his book, Sex and the Sacred City: Meditations on the Theology of the Body, commented that Christ could have done a "victory dance" after shedding one drop of blood -- that would have been enough to redeem humanity. However, Christ chose to give completely and totally. Mr. Kellmeyer goes on to say that because God desired to espouse Himself to us, He had to ensure that we shared in the same nature. He explains this thought from St. Thomas Aquinas: "If an iron poker is thrust into a hot fire, though it never itself becomes fire, still it begins to glow red-hot, white-hot, with the characteristics of fire. It gives off light and heat. It shares in the nature of the fire. Our God is a consuming fire. When the Son united human nature to Himself in the Incarnation, He plunged human nature into the consuming fire of God." Think about that on Good Friday.

The Crucifixion also assists us in love of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes the Roman Missal, Preface of Christmas I, "We see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see."

Finally, the Eucharist, whose institution we commemorate today, offers us an opportunity to reflect on Christ's spousal love for us. Christ, the bridegroom, is offering His body to His bride. Every time we receive the Eucharist, we are His bride and He gives His body to us. This is the "consummation" of our relationship on earth, and a reminder that we were created for union and communion with God in heaven eternally.

As you pray during the next few days, observe the ways our bodies communicate through the various Catholic liturgies (washing of the feet, venerating the cross, the crucified Christ, etc.). Without the gift of our bodies, we would be unable to communicate our love for God and we would not have a visible manifestation of His tremendous love for us.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Married for 83 years

This is an incredible story of a couple who is celebrating their 83rd wedding anniversary. They credit their faith to helping them stay faithful and committed for nearly a century. Read the story and watch a video here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI on life

Two years ago I attended the International Pro-Life Conference in Dublin, Ireland (appropriate to mention the day after St. Patrick's Day, I suppose). Since then I have been included on an Irish pro-life group's e-mail list. Today they sent this story about Pope Benedict XVI's recent message regarding the defense of life:

Source:Irish Family PressDate:18/03/08

Pope Benedict: Everyone's duty to defend life

Pope Benedict has told that it is ‘everyone’s duty’ to protect human life. His message was warmly welcomed by pro-life groups who said that the Pope’s words underlined the need to work daily for the Culture of Life. The Holy Father addressed thousands of pilgrims on the ‘Day of Life’ being celebrated in Italy, on the theme ’Serving Life’. The leader of the world’s one billion Catholics said that it is up to “each according to his or her possibilities, profession and responsibilities, to feel in themselves an obligation to love and serve life, from its beginning to its natural end.”Javier Silvestre of Youth Defence International said that ‘The Pope’s words gave encouragement and hope to all those working for Life around the world.’‘It is, in fact,’ he continued, ‘everyone’s duty to welcome human life as a gift to be respected, protected and promoted, even more so when it is fragile and in need of attention and care, either before birth or when it is in its final stages’.

The Holy Father thanked all those in attendance who defend and promote the right to life. He also reiterated a statement of the Italian Bishops Conference from their message for the Day of Life: ‘A civilisation is measured by its ability to be at the service of life.’


Monday, March 17, 2008

Lets start a Love Revolution...

In contrast to the last post where we discussed the media's perception that, "Those who practice chastity are a little odd, out of touch with reality and simply not popular..." lets look at Lenny Kravitz, one of the cool kids himself, and see what he has to say in his interview with Spin...

Jonathan: I read a transcript of your interview with Charlie Rose in 2004, and you said you were celibate. Are you still?
Lenny: Yeah, three years.
Jonathan: [Incredulous] Really?
Lenny: Really.
Jonathan: Are you doing some kind of meditation to help you with this?
Lenny: No, just a promise I made until I get married.
Jonathan: But it must be hard. From what I saw last night, women make themselves available to you --
Lenny: Where I'm at in life, the women have got to come with something else, not just the body, but mind and spirit.
Jonathan: Have you come close with someone?
Lenny: Yeah, but it's difficult the way I move around. You can't blame your life, but all the work I do, it's difficult.
Jonathan: When you date women and you tell them you're celibate, does that makes them even more ardent?
Lenny: Usually trips them out, but that's the way it's going to be; I'm looking at the big picture.

But if Hollywood miraculously brings forth a good influence from now and then, they seem to just as soon bring them back down. At the end of the interview, instead of being left with a new understanding of the beauty of a chaste lifestyle, appreciation for the sanctity of sex, or at least mere respect for those who do, the left saying...

"Walking through SoHo, I think about how he has been keeping it in his pants and putting it all into his music. The love revolution hasn't yet found its way into his own bedroom, but I imagine that someday, he will let down his guard and the world will be restored to balance. I mean, if Lenny Kravitz isn't getting laid, even if it's his own choice, then something is terribly wrong."

What love revolution are we talking about here... isn't the beauty of today's new-fangled view of sex the ability to (supposedly) separate sex from love? Wouldn't the love revolution instead be exactly what Lenny is striving to live out; a self-sacrificial love, willing to lay one's own self and desires down for the good of the beloved?

I think Lenny is on the right track, going against the grain of society and striving to overcome the sexual revolution of the past with a true love revolution for the future.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

American Idol and a new view on sex

In school today we were discussing the negative stereotype perpetuated by the media of those who practice chastity. One of the seventh graders innocently said, "There are some good influences out there, like this one song on American Idol." So we agreed to search for the song on YouTube.

Well, it certainly isn't the typical media perception of sex, but it's definitely confirming the stereotype that those who practice chastity are a little odd, out of touch with reality and simply not popular. You can watch it here.

Hopefully someday we will see chastity portrayed by the media as a positive virtue, instead of the choice of a few confused individuals. Please name me a media source that confirms the idea that chastity is a decision worthy of respect.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Quote book

"Real love is demanding. I would fail in my mission if I did not tell you so. Love demands a personal commitment to the will of God."- Pope John Paul II

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Is sex without emotions possible?

In our media-driven culture we see people talk about the grandeur of sex without emotions. When the topic came up in a recent classroom discussion, one student raised her hand and said, "I have an answer for that. When two people have sex a hormone, oxytocin, is released in the brain. It's purpose is to emotionally bond them together." It's a great point -- oxytocin doesn't discriminate between a married couple and "friends with benefits." It's true that oxytocin levels can diminish after multiple relationships, but does that mean that sex without emotions is possible after becoming deeply desensitized?

I have heard many people share their painful experiences of memories of past sexual (or "make out") partners, even long after breaking up. Sexual experiences are designed to be powerful and to make a lifelong impact. Just because people laud the concept of "sex without emotions," doesn't mean it actually exists. Many people are only trying to convince themselves that sex means nothing. If someone feels that sex did affect their emotions, our society makes them feel abnormal.

Even if there is a doubt in someone's mind about this topic, why take the risk? If I want to cross a busy street, I could saunter across four lanes of heavy traffic, as they heed their green light and take the chance that I could get hit by a car. Or I could patiently wait for the "Walk" light to illuminate my path. If there is any doubt, why take a chance when there is a better, more sure way of enjoying sex the way it's supposed to be -- in marriage, where the associated emotions are beneficial not harmful.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Shut up and drive?

One of my favorite topics to discuss with students during Chastity presentations is the media and the influence it has in today's society. We wear Nike shoes because our favorite basketball player does, and use a certain body wash because we will instantly become popular and get hundreds of boyfriends/girlfriends (p.s.... why exactly is 2 better than one?), and how did leggings come back in fashion? Thanks Ms. Lohan. The topic can go in a variety of directions, but no matter age or background, no matter how many examples a person looks at to examine the messages that bombard our everyday lives, the concept is still hard to fully grasp... the media has an influence on us... and we have no idea how much.
Music is greatly influential and has become increasingly sexualized in recent years. It pains me to say it, as there are very few minutes in my day where I don't have a cd playing in the background, but music's messages are clear and persistent... and will be repeated in our heads for hours even after the radio is turned off. As one study states, "Boys learn they should be relentless in pursuit of women and girls learn to view themselves as sex objects." It went on to say, "Teens who said they listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse or other sexual activities within the following two years as were teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music."
In high school we look at music to examine the messages the media is sending us about our sexuality. One song we use is Rihanna's "Shut Up and Drive". It does not take much to see the objectification of women when she, herself, is the one saying she is merely an object, a car in particular. She similarly relays the message that a man is merely a driver, with no worth beyond his sexual prowess, easily replaceable.

In one line she states, "I've got class like a '57 Cadillac.." But oh how our society progresses everyday. In the new Cadillac commercial we do not even need to compare an actual person to a car to make the advertisement sexual. The question the commercial poses is: "When you turn your car on... does it return the favor?" Wait... now I have to fight the media influence even before my radio starts blaring after turning the ignition? Please.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Concerts anyone?

So, I just found out about this place called The Underground; a Cincinnati concert venue that hosts Christian artists. Artists that have appeared there in the past include Relient K, Cross Movement, Skillet, Pillar, Superchick, Five Iron Frenzy, and the OC Supertones. An alternative to the club and bar scene, The Underground is for those 16 and over and is open Fridays and Saturdays from 8pm-1am. They have a few shows scheduled for March including the "For the Love of the Game" tour which includes artists Pillar, Building 429, Wavorly, and Brook Barrettsmith. I have yet to check the place out, but it sounds pretty good from the buzz I have heard. I'm always up for a concert, so once I go I'll be sure to give you my 2 cents.