Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"No Strings Attached" vs. Love and Responsibility

This week I watched the trailer for "No Strings Attached," which hits theaters on January 21st. The tag line pretty much describes the whole movie: "Can best friends be sex friends?" From what I could see from the trailer, it seems to be a perfect example of the "casual sex" and "friends with benefits" attitude that is so prevalent in our culture right now.

"Do you want to use each other at all hours of the day and night?"

"I'm okay with that."


How did sex divorce itself from love and become nothing more than just an "activity" that you do, and how has friendship become nothing more than two separate individuals in it simply for what they can get out of it?

A few years back, my senior year in college, I signed up for a one-credit, weekend-long class over Valentine's Day. The topic was "Love and Responsibility," a book by Karol Wojtyla, the future John Paul II. Since then, I don't think that anything else has impacted my life as much as the ideas that are contained in this book, nor I have I found a better way to fight back against the culture of "meaningless sex."

First is an understanding of friendship. A "friends with benefits" culture holds that friendship is nothing more than getting enjoyment for yourself from someone, whether that be sex, money, a date to hang out with on a Friday night, or just the feeling of knowing someone is there for you. The focus is on yourself. John Paul II, on the other hand, says that friendship occurs when two people "recognize a good and adopt it...when this happens, a special bond is established between me and this other person: the bond of a common good and a common aim," and from this "We begin to discern love, to catch a preliminary glimpse of is unthinkable between two people without some common good to bind them together." (LR p. 28) Friendship is the beginning of love, a love that does not seek to use each other for enjoyment, but a love that looks outward to something that is true, good, and beautiful to discover together.

The second is the idea of what authentic love really is. And although I doubt I have even begun to honestly understand John Paul II's thoughts on this subject, the little that I do amazes me. The first thing that strikes me is that love, while it involves feelings or emotions, is primarily in the will. Love is a decision, a commitment, and a choice - a choice to love someone because of who they are and the value that they have as a human person. Sex is an expression and outflow of that commitment and decision. Ultimately, love results in a giving of oneself, a receiving of the other, and finding one's existence in another person. And because love is a decision and a choice,
"Love in human relationships is not something ready-made" (LR. p. 29) or, as Alice von Hildebrand also writes, "Although love is a gift, it must also be learned."

Ultimately, "friends with benefits" or "casual sex" bring no satisfaction. We were made from Love for real love and won't be fulfilled until we live it:

"Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it. " - Redemptor Hominis

"Gestational Carriers"?

This week Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban announced the December 28th birth of Faith Margaret, born by a paid surrogate mother - the "gestational carrier." This is becoming a fairly popular option, particiarly for those who either can't have children, or perhaps simply don't want to go through a pregnancy themselves. This area can often be difficult to understand, so check out a few quick Catechism references to see the problem with "gestational carriers":

"Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child's right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage. They betray the spouses' "right to become a father and a mother only through each other." (CCC 2376)

"They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that "entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children." (CCC 2377)

"A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The "supreme gift of marriage" is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged "right to a child" would lead." (CCC 2378)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Physical Urges

As humans, we have a lot of "urges", especially physically. We deny physical urges all the time, when we see that "Big Mac" poster and say "no!" or the skyline 3-way stacked with cheese so high and say "not today!", when you are taking a test and know the smart kid next to you has the answer and as much as you want to peek over, you don't. These little things you do every day are actually practicing the awesome virtue of SELF MASTERY! When someone says something to you or does something to you that makes you want to rip their head off, but you just smile and walk away... self mastery... when your parent asks you to set the dinner table when you are on an important phone call or about to beat "black-ops" and instead of yelling at your parent, you say "yes mom"... self mastery...

Self mastery is amazing, it not only makes you feel very proud of yourself afterwords, but it almost seems to defy physical nature itself. Let me explain, in the animal kingdom there is a chain of animals, and if a wolf walks in to a lion den, the wolf won't come out, or if a tuna swims through shark territory, it will become a sandwich (sorry to be so graphic!)

My point is that when we practice the virtue of self mastery we are amazed at ourselves because we are doing something that no other creature in the world can do, we are pushing aside our personal urges, our physical urges, for the greater glory of GOD! Brothers and sisters, we are using our God given ability to REASON! using our reason to better our friends, family and our self is part of the whole point of why God gave this gift to us!

So why am i bringing this up on a chastity blog instead of some philosophical "Socrates anonymous" site? because our body has physical and sexual desires and very often we argue in our brains that "i just cant control my urges", "well, if my body wants to do it, it can't be wrong" "It just seems like the right thing to do"... You know what, honking at the slow poke in front of me while i drive seems like the right thing to do (but practicing patience and self control is better)... Telling my baby to change her own diaper sounds good (but it teaches me to be loving, self sacrificing and to be a loving father)... When I am taking a math test and my brain feels like its turning to mush and i want to go take a jog around the classroom to refresh my mind, I don't do it! (...mostly cause i don't want to be made fun of and get sent to the principals office for... whatever it is!) <--- Joke, haha, laugh!
The point i want to make is simply this, that even though our body has urges that sometimes we question if we can even control, I want you to remember that God has given us the amazing ability to reason and practice self mastery and in practicing these great virtues daily and recognizing that you are doing it, will make you a stronger man/woman of God and be able to say "no" to the bigger urges, the anger explosions and more relevantly in the sexual situations.

God Bless you all and stay strong and remember that the difference between a Saint and a sinner is that the Saint got up one more time!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Santo Subito!

John Paul II will be beatified on May 1st, the feast of Divine Mercy! Pope Benedict will celebrate the ceremony, which will take place in Rome and will most likely draw hundreds of thousands of people. The normal five-year waiting period was waived by the Pope and his beatification is the fastest on record, coming just over six years after his death.

I saw John Paul II for the first (and only) time when I was 15 years old at the 2002 World Youth Day in Canada, three years before he died. It was such a joy and privilege to see his interior strength and love, even though it was getting very difficult for him even to speak or hold his head up. It really made a deep impression on me, and he is a Pope that will forever be very close to my heart.

"It is the nature of human beings, and especially youth, to seek the Absolute, the meaning and fullness of life. Dear young people, do not be content with anything less than the highest ideals! Do not let yourselves be dispirited by those who are disillusioned with life and have grown deaf to the deepest and most authentic desires of their heart..." - Pope John Paul II

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Respect Life Week in Yonkers, NY

Awesome news! This is Respect Life Week for the city of Yonkers, NY. It's the fourth year that Mayor Amicone has set aside a week especially dedicated to building the culture of life in a state that desperately needs it. Archbishop Dolan was the keynote speaker for the opening Respect Life event, saying, “This state, and our local communities…unfortunately are less than receptive to our pro-life message...Your presence is downright inspirational."

In 2009, 41% of all viable pregnancies ended in abortion in NYC, 39% in Queens, and 38% in Manhatten. These numbers are almost twice the national average. Queens, NY is home to "Abortion Row," a 1.5 mile stretch in the city that has thirteen abortion clinics.

Please remember to pray for the state of New York this week!

Also, check out the amazing story of Claire Culwell, an abortion survivor. Her mother became pregnant at the age of thirteen, decided to abort, and went to a clinic for the abortion procedure...only to come home and discover a short month later that she had been pregnant with twins and that one of them was still alive. Claire was placed for adoption, and now, years later, tells her story of what a gift life truly is:

“Abortion doesn’t just affect one person. It’s a domino effect. And even though that happened it has turned into something so beautiful. . . Even though life looks like a given, because we all have it, it is a gift."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Be a MAN!

I think when i hear the phrase "be a man" I think if something different than what the guys around me hear. When I hear "be a man" a hear "stand up", "be strong", "defend", "protect", "SACRIFICE", I feel called out and called on to be a better brother of Christ. When i walk down the halls of high schools and hear guys at the mall saying "you're the man", it does not mean these things at all. When a guy compliments another guy on his "manli-ness" it means something totally different. Let me translate what i hear them saying because i remember what it meant when guys used to tell me. "you're the man" "you got with that girl? she's hot!", "You totally picked up that girl! nice job" "I wish i could of got that girl, im jealous, you're the man!"

I very seldom hear "you're the man" in good context, and it usually has to do with picking up a girl or "getting some" from a girl (a.k.a robbing your sister in Christ of her innocence) and not actually caring about them. Very rarely do you hear "you're the man" after dating the same girl for a year in a chaste relationship, or being married for 50 years, or telling guys to stop talking smack about that girl that has no dignity left. You just don't hear that phrase in the right context, almost EVER!

Why am i sharing this, you ask? Because i want to rebel, I am starting now, we are going to change that phrase. It is time for real men to be called out and called on again. I want to start pointing out guys that are being men and tell them "you're the man" when they are being chivalrous, when they are calling their brothers on to holiness. There are too many men out there that don't get the compliment they deserve because the phrase has become "watered down" and "used up" on the opposite.

If you want to join me, all you have to do is MAN UP, "BE A MAN" and tell the guys you admire and see being real men "DUDE, YOU'RE THE MAN". Tell your friend that tells you not to swear or use girls or go to the party or do drugs, tell your married 50 years and going strong grandpa, tell your dad that works and sacrifices day in and day out without complaint for his family, tell your teacher, youth minister, coach that you admire for their strength and sacrifice that "you're the MAN!" Make it the ultimate compliment that it is supposed to be!

What Makes Love "Real"?

FYI, the Ruth Institute (a marriage and family organization) has announced its first annual "Reel Love Challenge" video contest. This contest is for young adults (either single or married) to make 30-second clips on "what sustains love over a lifetime." They have some video entries posted online, and you check them out on the Ruth Institute's website.

Here's one of the entries....fair warning: these might be cheesy :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pope John Paul II to be Beatified in 2011?

".. It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness, he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fulness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal." - Pope John Paul II