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By: Erin Kisley

While the cost of a wedding in the United States has reached an all-time high, the price of sex is at a record-breaking low.

Who’s to blame? Is there such a thing as the “Economics of Sex?”

Comment below and let me know what you think.

This is the eighth installment of Erin’s weekly Wednesday series on marriage preparation and its inherent struggles. An engaged woman at the humble age of 26, Erin hopes her experience will encourage and teach. Her final posts will culminate in the event that marks the purpose of it all—taking her wedding vows and tying the knot on June 27, 2014.

By: Rev. Paul Scalia

“Give me justice, O God, and plead my cause against a nation that is faithless.

From the deceitful and cunning rescue me, for you, O God, are my strength.” Psalm 43:1

This Sunday is the fifth Sunday of Lent, formerly known as Passion Sunday.  On this day, the tone of the readings and prayers for Mass becomes more intense as we enter the last two weeks of Lent.  The tradition of veiling statues and sacred images, still observed in many parishes, also conveys this change of tone.  In times past, this Sunday was also known as Iudica Sunday, after the first words of the entrance antiphon: Iudica me, Deus – literally, Judge me, O God.  In the current translation it says, Give me justice, O God (Psalm 43:1).  This title is probably not as familiar as Laetare (Rejoice) Sunday.  For some reason, Judge Me Sunday never really caught on.

But this verse is placed at the head of the Mass for a reason – and it merits our attention.

As is the case with other psalms, this one has three distinct historical “moments.”  First, the original composition by David, who appealed to the Lord to deliver him from the hostile nations in which he found himself.  Second, fulfillment in the Person and life of Jesus.  As a faithful Jew our Lord would have prayed this Psalm.  Perhaps He prayed these words in the Garden of Gethsemane: Give me justice, O God…  Whatever the case, He speaks them perfectly, as no one else can.  He alone can appeal perfectly to the Father to be delivered from a faithless nation.  He alone merits to be rescued from the deceitful and cunning.

Third, the continued fulfillment of the verse in the life of the Church.  As the Body of Christ the Church gives voice to this cry for justice and for deliverance from her enemies.  In His Body, our Lord continues to suffer persecution and cries out, Give me justice, O God, and plead my cause against a nation that is faithless.  From the deceitful and cunning rescue me, for you, O God, are my strength.

Pope Francis ConfessionThere is still another way of understanding this verse: our own personal praying of it.  Indeed, it serves as a good way to prepare for the Sacrament of Penance.  The Douay Rheims translation phrases it powerfully: Judge me, O God.  Yes, in a sense when we go to confession we invite God to judge us.  We anticipate the final judgment by accusing ourselves.  One manner of beginning confession is to say: “I accuse myself of the following sins.”  We desire His judgment because we know that it is tempered by mercy.  The current translation – Vindicate me, O God – gets at the same point.  We enter the confessional to be vindicated – not from any external persecution or enemy but from something far worse: our own sins.

Plead my cause against a nation that is faithless. In a sense, we confess our sins in order to plead our cause.  By sin we fall into the faithlessness of the world.  We depart from God’s People and take up with the faithless.  By Confession we ask that God correct this – that He Himself plead our cause as children of God to be brought back home.  We desire that He (as the DR translation says) distinguish us from the faithless, most importantly from our fallen selves.  Indeed, Penance is very much a matter of distinguishing.  We distinguish our selves from our sinful actions.  We distinguish the sinner – namely each of us – from the sin.  And knowing our own actions to be insufficient, we beg God to distinguish, to separate us from what is incompatible with being children of God.

From the deceitful and cunning rescue me.  Technically, this is a plea to be rescued from the one who is deceitful and cunning.  Each of us can probably think of some such person in our lives.  But the greatest threat to us – the most deceitful and cunning – is not outside of us, but within.  Something within us – what Saint Paul calls the “unspiritual man” (1 Cor 2:14) – leads us into sin.  Our fallen human nature, deceiving and cunning, makes us our own worst enemies.  On the path to sin we invent all kinds of justifications and rationalizations for our immorality.  We deceive ourselves; we cunningly blind ourselves to the wickedness we embrace.  Thus, we need to be delivered from ourselves: From my deceitfulness and cunning rescue me.

In two weeks we unite ourselves with Christ in His Passion. To do so we must know what it means to be persecuted by sin.  And we cannot come to that realization until and unless we confess our own sinfulness and acknowledge ourselves as our own persecutors, our own worst enemies.  There are still plenty of opportunities for Confession in the remaining two weeks.  If you have not done so this Lent, make a good confession.  Beg Him to vindicate you, to plead your cause, to rescue – and thus say to Him: You, O God, are my strength.

By: Sr. Clare Hunter

With the Hobby Lobby suit going on in the Supreme Court, there is a great deal of “The Pill” in the news. It is certainly a hot topic, with statistics, medical information and lots of personal opinions coming at us left and right. Environmentalists and scientists have been warning us for years that women’s use of artificial hormonal birth control is not a private matter. In fact, it has worldwide effects. Not only are there moral implications regarding the use of artificial contraception to prevent pregnancy, but what about the moral implications of using a drug that can cause cancer in others, or change the ecosystem?

Studies show that birth control pills have a negative effect on the environment, and primarily the water system. Scientists report that “many decades of research have shown that when released into the environment, a group of hormones known as estrogens, both synthetic and naturally occurring, can have a serious influence on wildlife. This includes the development of intersex characteristics in male fish, which diminishes fertility and fecundity.”[1] Water treatment plants are not able to break down the hormones excreted by women who are using the Pill: High estrogen levels have been found in rivers in Paris, and studies seem to show that in some places the levels of estrogen found in waterways are high enough to affect human health.[2]

Prescription NeededHere’s a fascinating study that questions the link between prostate cancer in men and the Pill. David Margel and Neil Fleshner, of the University of Toronto in Ontario, looked at contraceptive pill usage and incidence of prostate cancer in 88 countries around the world. In every case, they found a significant correlation between the two.[3] Although studies continue to look at various possibilities, and findings are inconclusive, the scientists consider this a valid and strong component in the mystery of the increase in prostate cancer; the fact is that estrogen-like chemicals pass into the urine and ultimately make their way into the water supply.

There are consistent reports that show that the environment and human health are being detrimentally affected by women’s use of chemical contraceptives, which has environmentalists around the world searching for solutions. If findings continue to reveal these links, govern­ments will need to step in to enact laws and regulations to protect innocent citizens and future generations.

The Catholic Church has spoken consistently on the need to protect and care for creation, as it is God’s gift. Pope John Paul II stated: “Christians, in particular, realize that their responsibility within creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator are an essential part of their faith.”[4] There is a moral responsibility to care for God’s creation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that “man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.”[5]


[1] Susan Jobling and Richard Owen, “Ethinyl Oestradiol in the Aquatic Environment,” in Late Lessons from Early Warnings: Science, Precaution, Innovation (Copenhagen, Denmark: Europa Environment Agency, 2013), 279.

[2] Wynne Parry, “Water Pollution Caused by Birth Control Poses Dilemma,” Live Science, May 23, 2012; and “7 Surprising Facts about the Pill,” Live Science, June 21, 2011.

[3] David Margel and Neil E. Fleshner, “Oral Contraceptive Use Is Associated with Prostate Cancer: An Ecological Study,” BJM Open 1.2 (2011), http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/1/2/e000311.full.

[4] John Paul II, Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace (January 1, 1990), n. 15.

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2415.

By: Erin Kisley

The lights were dim; I could feel the all too familiar melody beating through the floor as the crowd grew around me. I tried to find a friendly face, but all eyes were fixed forward. I paused, preparing for what would surely be a battle, noticing the stature of those around me. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, bent my knees and leapt forward, hand outstretched.

bouquet

The next thing I remember was being quickly shuttled off of the floor (almost like I was FLOTUS being protected by the Secret Service), flashing a nervous smile and posing for a quick picture. Then it was over.

I, Erin, was the vanquisher of All the Single Ladies. I caught the bouquet.

You laugh, but I’ve seen a woman who desired so badly to be engaged to her boyfriend shed tears (not the happy ones) over this. Why? It was once believed that the bride was especially lucky on her wedding day, thus, her flowers were believed to be a souvenir of that luck and were highly sought after. Despite the lore of this tradition, this former staple is rapidly dying out (surprise, surprise).

Here is why I will NOT toss the bouquet on my wedding day:

As a woman who attended countless post-undergrad weddings, I always thought the tossing of the bouquet while Beyoncé’s All the Single Ladies played in the background was so…undignified. What I’m saying is: Is this the best way we can think of to celebrate the beauty and self-worth of our (single) female friends? Parading them in front of our guests and making them fight like wild beasts…for flowers? Is that behavior really consistent with our call as Catholic women? You’re probably thinking: “It’s just a tradition. Lighten up!” But hey, arranged marriages were once tradition, too. Raise your hand if you want to bring that back.

Believe it or not, I once heard of a bride sitting on the back of the Best Man (who was perched on all fours) while her groom removed the lace garter with his teeth. Am I the only one who thinks that is practically pornographic? Your nearest and dearest are watching what should be an intimate moment between you and your groom. What in world is Catholic about that? You might be thinking: “Well, what if we just toss the garter without removing it in front of everyone?” Again I ask, is this upholding the dignity of the (single) men? Requesting they vie for the bride’s undergarment like a piece of meat?

Friends, let’s esteem our friends and our nuptial vows. Let’s buck the tasteless traditions and start some new ones!

This is the seventh installment of Erin’s weekly Wednesday series on marriage preparation and its inherent struggles. An engaged woman at the humble age of 26, Erin hopes her experience will encourage and teach. Her final posts will culminate in the event that marks the purpose of it all—taking her wedding vows and tying the knot on June 27, 2014.

April Fools!

By: Deacon Marques Silva

April Fools’ Day is a favorite in my house. The kids and I have always enjoyed playing pranks and poking a little fun at each other. As they grew, the pranks became far more intricate and thus required advanced planning. Is it bad that we sometimes go shopping to prepare for this day? Anyway, a few years ago the inevitable happened. Our youngest asked: “How did April Fools’ Day get started?” I, of course, replied: “Umm, no clue son. Let me research.”

april-fools-day-1-coloring-pageEventually, I stumbled across the answer in the good ‘ole Catholic Source Book – and as always, it was enlightening. Turns out that it is Jewish tradition that we have inherited:

“Tradition has it that April 1 is April Fools’ Day because it was on this day that Noah sent doves from the ark to check for dry land before the flood had completely abated. (Actually, it was the first of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish year and roughly equivalent to our April.) This first dispatch, of course, was a wild goose chase, to use a fowl metaphor. Even though Noah might object to the implication that he was just fooling, the doves’ frustrated mission is commemorated in the April Fools’ tricks of today.”[1]

There you have it. And now, I need to go prepare for a few more pranks. Nota bene: If you are going to use glow tape to form the outline of a body on your kid’s floor in the middle of the night — and accidentally wake them up – using an LED light to charge the tape provides the best results. Enjoy yourself and have a little fun this Lent!

 


[1] Klein, Rev. Peter, The Catholic Source Book (Harcourt Religion Publishers, 2000) p. 349

By: Stephanie Pacheco, Guest Contributor

Occasionally, I find it enlightening to read the Huffington Post in order to keep abreast of the common opinions of secular, left-leaning readers and generally those citizens more disposed to oppose the teachings of the Church and their legitimate role in debates/discussions in the public square.

mom n babyLast month, I was very pleased to find an honest but playfully written essay called “Six Reasons to Have Six Children.” It was very pleasant, mentioning the economics of scale that come into play with more children, the independence of the kids, their happy inter-relationships, etc.

Then I read the comments…

About half were supportive, but the other half were filled with accusations of irresponsibility and unsustainability. Here, I would like to offer some responses to the bitterly incoherent comments:

Bad Reason #1: As both parents have to work nowadays, the responsibility falls to the older children and that’s not fair.

In a big family, it is extremely uncommon for both parents to work outside the home. Big families tend to view the household as a unit with the mother and father contributing in different but equally necessary roles. The mother and father need not perform the same role (work at a job) in order to be of equal value.

Additionally, if any parent slacks off and saddles older children with too much care of younger ones, that is the fault of the parent, not a function of the number of children. This can easily happen in families with just two children as well.

Bad Reason #2: There really isn’t enough money. It’s more expensive and the older siblings come to resent the spoiling of younger ones. Other comments were that it is unfair not to put all the children through college.

It’s all about how you spend it. And as far as younger children being spoiled, this again is hardly exclusive to big families. Families with two or three children have this occur as well. My own little sister got sent on way grander vacations and school trips and got the latest electronics sooner.

It’s very normal for families to have more money in later years, and naturally some of that makes its way into treats for the kids. As an oldest child, it can be tempting to see that as cause for resentment, but it really isn’t. No child, oldest or youngest, is entitled to European vacations or a debt-free pass through college. Everything we receive from our parents is a gift, just like in the parable of the workers. The ones who worked all day received the same wages as those who joined later. Jesus explains that all agreed to their wages and receive them through the generosity of the Father, so no one is getting a raw deal (Matthew 20:1-16).

Money can be a real issue if the basics of life and debt management come into play, but potential spoiling of younger children and requiring young people to work if they choose to attend college are not real problems created by larger than average numbers of children.

Bad Reason#3: It’s unsustainable for the environment because of overpopulation and just think of all those dirty diapers in landfills. (The follow up to this was: well, overpopulation is a problem in the third world, so the Catholic Church needs to advocate abortion and contraception over there to prevent this).

This I think packs the most punch, in a way, because of how commonly accepted the bogey-man myth of overpopulation is. Refuting the pseudo-science of overpopulation requires more space than I have here, but here are a few reasons “overpopulation” is yet another bad reason to avoid having children.

First, the unsustainable for the environment argument is a red herring. Would all the people who mentioned diapers in a landfill suddenly change their mind about children if we all promised to use cloth diapers instead?

The more insidious aspect of this comment is the fear of overpopulation, that somehow the planet will not be able to shelter and feed a growing population.

Yes, there are parts of the world that are very crowded. There are also huge, huge swathes of land that are practically empty and completely habitable. Most of America is open farm land. There is so much land in the world that is sparsely populated, if indeed anyone lives there at all. If we are concerned about overcrowding in some places, we should seek out these places and help make them more accessible. We should not tell people not to have children or to kill their children (as in abortion) because there is no place for them. There was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inns, but the stable was open.

Then there are the fears that the earth lacks sufficient food and energy for a growing population. This fear is also misplaced because it fails to account for human invention and ingenuity. If all humans today lived as hunter gatherers, it is quite true that such a lifestyle would be unsustainable. But we developed and improved through the use of reason. Humans became farmers and learned to live in one place by utilizing, but not over-using, its resources. Economists recognize that time and time again, we humans invent new things that support our growing numbers and encourage us to flourish. Yes, there are places where food is scarce. But this calls those of us with more to charity and aid of our fellows precisely because we do have enough for everyone, not because we don’t.

Humans are meant to flourish on earth and then return to their Heavenly Father. Even Peter Singer, the infamous utilitarian philosopher at Princeton, thinks that it is good for humanity to exist. Man is good. Children are good. The earth is good, too, and it is more than possible to promote both human good and the good of the earth, which supports us.

Bad Reason#4: It’s selfish to have children (at all) because of the sacrifices that one’s colleagues will have to make for moms (and sometimes dads) when they don’t hold their own in the office if a child’s needs come up or when one is born.

Now this one is really odd. Most progressive circles nowadays are more than happy to call for increased maternity leave, paternity leave and flexible scheduling in general to help accommodate families so that women will enter and remain in the workplace.

Additionally, employers and colleagues are generally very understanding of extenuating personal circumstances ranging from sickness, serious sickness, childbirth, death of a loved one, etc.

Saddest of all, this comment belies a real lack of thought about the end or purpose of work as such. As Catholic Social Teaching instructs us, the end of business and economics is to serve the flourishing of man, not the other way around.

“Businesses should be characterized by their capacity to serve the common good of society [which is the development of individuals to attain their highest end, holiness] through the production of goods and services” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, para. 338).

This is hardly a controversial statement. The idea of business for business’ sake or for profit alone is clearly an abuse. Work, the production of goods and services and the like are simply another part of life, all of which is supposed to be ordered to the good of society. A workplace that fails to recognize the human character of its workers and the human end of its work is a place that has fallen short.

Still, Big Families are Not Required

By all means, the Catholic Church does not teach that all married couples must have high numbers of children. Having children depends on God, prayer, natural fertility and abstinence. There are many legitimate reasons for couples to practice Natural Family Planning in order to avoid pregnancy. The Church simply teaches that children are gifts (not burdens), and that children are the natural fruit of the marital act. If a couple prayerfully decides to avoid more children for the time being (or sometimes indefinitely), they are to abstain from the marital act during times of fertility.

So though there are good reasons that a couple may want or need to keep their family smaller, the ones listed above are myths and stereotypes that are not good reasons.

Stephanie Pacheco has a B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia and an M.A. in Theology from Christendom College. She is a stay-at-home mom who writes for online media, blogs at theoress.wordpress.com, and lives with her husband, toddler and baby on-the-way.

By: Erin Kisley

I’m better than I used to be, but I’m still really bad about making appointments to get my hair cut. Don’t get me wrong, like many women, I will admit to being overly concerned with my personal appearance. But with work, relationships and traffic, it tends to fall to the bottom of my list. That said, my visit to the salon is infrequent, at best.

erin and joe

So, imagine my surprise when my hair dresser, whose hair is green and is way trendier than I could ever dream to be, actually remembers who I am. Not just my name, but me. Now, you’re probably thinking it has something to do with my split ends, and how they are the kind of thing people in beauty school tell horror stories about. While that may or may not be true, I would’ve fallen out of my chair (if it weren’t for her firm hold on my head) when she began our conversation last week:

Me: “So, I got engaged!”

Her: “I remember you saying you thought it might happen soon – Congratulations! When is it?”

Me: “June 27th in Alexandria”

Her: “Oh that’s great!”

[a lengthy silence]

Her: “You’re not living together, before you get married though, right?”

Me: “That’s right!”

Now, I’ll admit that I totally missed the Evangelization moment here. But, frankly, I was in shock. Was our decision to remain chaste and living separate before marriage that memorable?

Rewind back to my previous appointment in November. (Yes, I waited way too long in between hair appointments, I know.) We were talking about Thanksgiving plans and I mentioned that we would be visiting Joe’s parents in Ohio for Thanksgiving. This wouldn’t have been my next question, but she asked whether they were cool with us staying in the same room or whether they forced us to sleep separately.

I let her know (with a smile) that we would be sleeping separately, but that that was nothing new because we’ve never shared a bed and didn’t plan to until our wedding night.

She responded like I had just told her that I had terminal cancer. “Oh wow,” she said in slow motion. (Good thing she didn’t have the scissors in her hand because I could already see the bad ending to that movie.) I went on to explain a little more about being Catholic, and what the Church teaches, but diverted the conversation as to not overwhelm her…

Here’s how I wish I would’ve responded last week: We’ve chosen to live separately before marriage for our marriage. Are there nights where I send him home reluctantly? Of course.  But we want marriage to be a radical transformation of our lives. Not a gradual slide. We want our wedding night to be sacred, not cheapened by our selfish desires. At the end of the day, this is how we can lay the foundation for sacrifice in our marriage.

Ladies, if you’re living with a man who’s not your husband, I want to invite you into consider making alternate arrangements. I’m not just saying this because the Church condemns it. Truly, your marriage will be healthier and happier for it.

This is the sixth installment of Erin’s weekly Wednesday series on marriage preparation and its inherent struggles. An engaged woman at the humble age of 26, Erin hopes her experience will encourage and teach. Her final posts will culminate in the event that marks the purpose of it all—taking her wedding vows and tying the knot on June 27, 2014.

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