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By: Erin Kisley

Have you ever heard the words, “You May Now Kiss the Cross,” at a wedding? If you’re not living in Siroki-Brijeg, Herzegovina, there’s a decent chance that your answer is no. These words are part of a beautiful Croatian marriage tradition from this village that is slowly making its way throughout Europe and to the United States.[1]

CalcuttaHerald…A tradition that, while neither of us claims a Croatian heritage, Joe and I have decided to incorporate into our nuptials.

On our wedding day (shameless countdown update: we are 10 weeks away!), Joe and I will bring a crucifix with us to the altar. Our priest will bless it as I place my right hand on the crucifix and Joe places his hand over mine. He will cover our hands with his stole as we declare our vows to be faithful to one another. Then, together, we kiss the greatest image of love, the Cross.

While this probably makes us sound much holier than we are, the truth is, you don’t have to be up for canonization to acknowledge a reality that drives many modern couples apart: suffering. It’s no secret that we live in a culture that finds every excuse to avoid it. The wounds of financial strain, infertility, infidelity and bad days are made “better” by credit cards, in vitro fertilization, divorce and the like.

Yet, if we desire to experience the fullness of love and the true meaning of marriage, we will see our crosses as the means of getting ourselves and our families to Heaven. For it is the cross that helps us to grow in maturity, self-discipline and true charity. This powerful Croatian tradition reminds us that if the bride and groom abandon their cross, they are essentially abandoning Jesus and His plan for their lives.

After the ceremony (and the photos, reception and goodbyes), we will bring the crucifix back and give it a place of honor in our home. It will become the focal point of our family. When misfortune or conflict arise, with faith, we will seek help there, before the Cross. We’ll get on our knees and in front of Jesus will weep our tears, pour out our hearts, and seek the help of Him who died for us.

Isn’t this beautiful? Did I mention that Siroki-Brijeg has no recorded divorces? Not one.  Coincidence? I think not.

In his recently issued pastoral letter on artificial contraception, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Neb., writes: “We live in a world short on love. Today love is too often understood as romantic sentimentality rather than unbreakable commitment. But sentimentality is unsatisfying. Material things and comfort and pleasure bring only fleeting happiness. The truth is that we are all searching for real love, because we are all searching for meaning.”

I ask: In whom can we find a greater example of love and meaning than Our Jesus, crucified?


[1] Loveoffering.com, 2002.

 

This is the ninth 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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By: Deacon Marques Silva

Family gatherings are a particularly joy-filled event for me. I get to catch-up on how everyone is doing (sometimes what they are doing) as well as spending some quality time with family. Inevitably, an aunt or uncle will say, “Remember when……” and all the nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws (and out-laws) will gather around to hear the tale. We laugh, smile, sometimes even cry remembering our loved ones whom we have lost but always, in the end, embrace and give thanks for each other and for…remembering. Holy Week is like that for Christians. In fact, we have a special word for it: anamnesis.

The Greek word literally means to “call to mind’ or “recollect.” Among Catholic and Orthodox Christians, the word anamnesis is connected to the consecration of the bread and wine which then are transubstantiated into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. It is literally the prayer of remembrance in which the family of God calls to mind the Lord’s passion, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. It is the high point of the Divine Liturgy that re-collects our thoughts and focuses us on recalling that what Christ did visibly on earth, He continues to do invisibly through the Eucharist. Holy Week is an extended anamnesis.

Cross

Now, I realize that sometimes it is difficult to see the golden thread that links all the days of the Triduum together – except as a piece of ancient history. The question from my kids and the teens I work with is how do we enter into this “recollection” and apply it is us. After much thought, prayer, and exegesis (yuck!), I thought I would offer a few thoughts and meditations to assist you along the way. My hope is that they will draw you deep into the saga and the greatest love story ever known that we call Holy Week.

My Preparation for the Triduum:

Spy Wednesday

Christ Prepares for a Battle to the Death

Holy Thursday Morning: Anointed For Battle

Holy Thursday Evening: Mass of the Lord’s Supper – Sustenance for the Battle

Engaged in Mortal Combat

Good Friday

Apparent Victory actually Spells Defeat

Holy Saturday: Apparent Victory has the Smell of Defeat

Easter Vigil: The Song of victory in the Stillness of the Night

Lord is a Warrior and Warrior is His Name

The Easter Garden: Death = Victory

This post originally appeared on Deacon Silva’s personal blog, The Q Continuum

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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.

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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.

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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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By: Erin Kisley

“For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Mt. 19:5).

erin and joe 5Whenever I heard this verse at weddings, I assumed Jesus was speaking solely to the groom. I figured this was Jesus’s way of instructing all of the “momma’s boys” out there to, ever politely, ‘cut the cord.’ Ladies, so I thought, were naturally inclined to leave all behind to follow their man – no reminder needed.

Personally speaking, I didn’t expect to struggle with this aspect of preparing for marriage. My family lives 1,300 miles away, and while we speak once per week, I see them only a few times per year, usually for holidays and weddings. For that reason, I was completely speechless one time when driving home after a party. Joe, commenting on my behavior, blurted out: “I know you love your friends, but you’re not a single girl anymore!”

Were some of my habits unbecoming of an engaged woman? I know it sounds odd, but in all of the planning for the transition to married life, I never stopped to consider how my female friendships would change as a result of my vocation to marriage. I made a habit (before dating Joe) of filling my social calendar with coffee dates with the girls, movie nights and the occasional road trip to Disney World or New York City. And, while my road trips became less frequent after Joe entered the picture, my habit of making plans with the girls (and filling Joe in after-the-fact) was common. It wasn’t until that moment when Joe called me out that I realized: Perhaps it was time to make some changes.

As I begin to transition into my new vocation, I know that Joe will make a lousy shopping buddy, will never agree to watch A Walk to Remember and just doesn’t understand the spiritual and emotional struggles of womanhood. (This is why maintaining good female friendships is essential!)

That said, I feel blessed by God to have found a man who beholds more virtues than I ever thought possible in one human being. …A man, who (in just three months, one week and two days!) will be joined to me as one flesh, my best friend.

This is the fifth 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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By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde

Each year on March 19, Catholics throughout the world interrupt the austerities of Lent to celebrate the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, patron of fathers and of the universal Church. Coming as I do from a Sicilian family, this feast has always carried a special significance. My father was not unlike St. Joseph insofar as he sacrificed mightily for his family. A man of deep and quiet faith, he showed me what it means to be a man.

My father could not have imagined the challenges involved in protecting a family from today’s relentless assault of pornographic material. It has truly become mainstream, nearly impossible to avoid even by the most cautious. This pornographic culture stems from, and feeds back into, an extremely distorted view of human sexuality. We are deeply confused about things my father’s generation would have taken entirely for granted, and the results of that confusion are everywhere evident.

When I was ordained a priest in 1965, two in ten marriages ended in divorce; that rate has more than doubled. Abortion then was illegal; today over a million babies are aborted annually in this country alone. Back then fewer than 300,000 Americans were incarcerated; now one in thirty-one adult Americans is in prison or on probation.

As a young priest in the 1970s, I served for a decade in campus ministry settings. In those years, the first fruits of the sexual revolution were already apparent. Pope Francis’s image of the Church as a “field hospital” in the midst of such wreckage would describe it well.

Today’s “field hospital” must aggressively treat the vicious cancer of pornography, which lies at the heart of our societal ills. “Unchastity,” wrote Joseph Pieper in The Four Cardinal Virtues, “begets a blindness of spirit which practically excludes all understanding of the goods of the spirit; unchastity splits the power of decision.” Over the years I have witnessed the nature and effects of pornography’s splitting powers in our families and communities.

Nearly eight years ago I wrote a pastoral letter on the subject, Bought with a Price, a new edition of which is being released today. The pornography epidemic is something to which all people of good will must devote more attention and talk about more openly, but first we need to understand something of the scope and character of the problem.

Those who deny that the act of viewing pornography has any negative consequences must understand just how toxic the situation has become. It may be that a man now in his forties, say, remembers being a curious adolescent, stealing glances at a magazine in a neighbor’s home or in the aisle of a convenience store. As morally problematic and harmful as that act surely is, such behavior was arguably slow to become habitual and the physiological and psychological consequences were infrequently severe. That experience is far removed from what young people face today.

The most graphic forms of pornography are now easily and anonymously accessible on the internet and on any smartphone. Many among us are now caught in patterns of addiction that rival those of drugs and alcohol in their grip on the individual, if not in the disruption that results in their lives. Depression, anxiety, isolation, marital strife, and job loss can all be intensified for those caught in the web of this addiction.

More subtly, though, current research underscores what we are hearing in the classrooms, counseling sessions, and in the confessional: This addiction is not merely behavioral, a bad habit that can be broken like any other. Chronic viewing of pornographic material impacts one’s brain chemistry in a manner that can “hook” a person and lead to a quest for increasingly lurid forms of pornography. Over time, more and more is needed to produce the same effect. The brains of habitual users of pornography are strikingly similar to those of alcoholics, and the part of the brain involved in moral and ethical decision-making is weakened by viewing pornography. Once brain chemistry is remapped, it becomes very difficult for one to “reset” to a sense of normality in the future. Any man can tell you that these images are often very hard to forget.

While the suffering experienced by the addict cannot be overstated, we must recognize that there is also social harm. As a pastor, I have seen how damaging this shift continues to be in family life, courtship, and marriage preparation. One of my great concerns is the impact this plague is having on children. What is their future if their parents’ marriage is destroyed by this type of infidelity, or if they themselves are exposed to such toxic material long before they are able to experience the joy of true love and romance? Even the smallest child today often has easy access to a parent’s or sibling’s smartphone and is surrounded by screens.

When my pastoral letter on pornography was first issued, a high school student in my diocese wrote that “if a person knew that after viewing pornography he would be a bad example for his kids, would objectify his spouse and friends, and lastly destroy his relationship and vision of God, he would not do it.”

Just as some drugs are described as “gateways” to more serious substance abuse, a young person who experiences lust disconnected from an actual human person is at tremendous risk for failing ever to understand the beauty of God’s gift of human sexuality. Is not the so-called “hook-up” culture evidence of this? In addition, while it is certainly not the outcome for all who become involved with pornography, might it not be reasonable to posit that the dramatic rise in human sex trafficking is partly fueled by a pornographic culture?

And yet, despite all this, there is hope. Both scientists and believers are sounding the alarm. We know much more about the physiological aspects of this addiction and how best to reverse them. Behavioral change is possible, though this is not simply a question of behavior.

This is not a problem a person can solve on their own. Alongside the central commitment to prayer, the communal element of the recovery process needs to be given special emphasis. Very often, a key factor in one’s descent into pornography addiction is a lack of affirmation, acceptance, and trust in one’s relationships. An important part of the ascent, then, can also be the sharing of this struggle with others, allowing their love and concern to aid in the healing. As Pope Francis has said, “No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in the human community.”

Pornography thrives in the shadowy silence of isolation, but the warm light of love and friendship can do much to help cast it out. Women certainly have a critical role in this fight and should take a stance of absolute intolerance toward pornography, but in a particular way men need to be recalled to their God-given role as protectors of their families and of society if we are to overcome it.

A man in one of my parishes told me that Bought with a Price woke him up to the many ways in which his pornography use affected him as a father and husband. “I now understand,” he wrote, “that the true character of a man is shown in how he acts when nobody is watching.”

That is a lesson that St. Joseph, whom we honor today, knew well. Let the battle for purity begin.

Paul S. Loverde is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A new edition of his pastoral letter on pornography, Bought with a Price, is available at Amazon for Kindle and at www.arlingtondiocese.org/purity.

This article first appeared in First Things. View it here.

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By: Deacon Marques Silva

“Some have suggested that the word tempura comes from the Latin Quatuor Tempora (“four times”), a name for the Ember Days, penitential days marking the changing of the seasons. The tradition of abstaining from meat on those days each quarter was brought to Japan by Spanish and Portuguese missionaries. When this European Christian tradition met a Japanese culinary tradition, a deep-fried seafood and vegetable dish was born: tempura!”[1]

tempura

 

So, this Lent, eat some Tempura…a food born out of our Catholic Christian tradition!


[1] Klein, Rev. Peter, The Catholic Source Book (Harcourt Religion Publishers, 2000) p. 92

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By: Rev. Paul Scalia

Sin divides.  The first sin divided us from God, from one another, and from our very selves.  In a world wounded by sin we encounter division at every turn.  The harmony intended  by our Creator is lost in this fallen world.  But most painful is the contradiction and division of sin we experience within ourselves.

reni

Perhaps Saint Paul put it best: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom 7:15). We live at cross purposes with ourselves.  Our bodies and souls — intended for harmony — war against each other for supremacy.  Our passions rise up and overrun the intellect and will, dragging the rational soul along in their petulant pursuits.  Left unchecked, the wound of sin leads us to ever greater dissolution.  We become increasingly at war with ourselves, prey to whatever passion rules us.  We have no center, no unifying principle, no unity.

This dark picture of sinfulness helps us appreciate a second dimension of holiness: wholeness.  Grace, the means of all holiness, brings unity.  By His grace we are reconciled — re-united — yes, with God and others, but also with ourselves.  Our divided selves become whole again.  God is simple. Holiness brings us a share in His simplicity.  Simplex fac cor meum, prays the psalmist (cf. Ps 86:11).  Unite my heart, as one translation has it.  Literally, make my heart simple.  A divided, conflicted heart is the legacy of sin.  A heart whole and entire is the patrimony of the saints.

We grasp and desire this aspect of holiness more than otherness.  We may not want to be other, but we do instinctively (and at times painfully) desire to be whole.  This is the lesson of our Lord’s miracles, and why so many went out to Him.  The physical healings of some — of the blind, the deaf, the lame, etc. — manifest the spiritual wholeness He has come to bring all.  More astounding than a paralytic  walking is a sinner being sanctified.  As much as we might long for physical health, we desire spiritual wholeness much more profoundly.

Our divided selves become whole again.

The life of grace — the life lived according to God’s will and Sacraments — accomplishes this wholeness within us. “The Christian soul who is seriously following the grace of his prayer should find himself increasingly at one within himself” (Dom Hubert Van Zeller, OSB).  This requires our cooperation with grace.  And more than cooperation, because the human will and God’s grace are not equal partners.  Grace is paramount.  To receive this new integrity of soul, this re-integration, we must yield to God’s grace, truth, and way of life. 

altsfNow this is where it becomes difficult and we draw back.  We would perhaps tolerate some division in our souls rather than respond to the demands of wholeness.  To be whole we must surrender all.  We must bring all aspects of our lives — prayer, work, play, family, friends, and even our failings — to the Lord.  To the degree that we bring only parts, bits and pieces to Him, we will be divided.  He alone brings about the unity we desire, but only when we make Him the center of everything.  If we place Him off-center, then our lives will proceed oddly, like a bike with a wobbly tire or a car with bad alignment.

Unity in Christ brings peace. Saint Augustine famously spoke of peace as tranquillitas ordinisthe tranquillity of order.  So also the soul, when well ordered towards Christ in every regard, has tranquillity, peace.  The saint is a peacemaker because he is whole and entire, at peace with himself.  Indeed, such interior peace is one of the most attractive things about the saint.  We desire and long to have that for ourselves, so we are drawn to one who already possesses it.

Any eccentricities we may encounter in the saints come not from not from a lack of interior unity but from their contrast to the world.  Saint Francis’s poverty strikes us as extreme not because he was out of whack, but because of the world’s wacky addiction to possessions.  Saint Philip Neri’s antics appear absurd not because we was out of line but because our vanity is.  So even the saints, the peacemakers, those men and women whole and entire, encounter some opposition.   Because as peaceful and whole as we may become, the world is still fallen and divided.

To the degree that we bring only parts, bits and pieces to Him, we will be divided.

We lack peace because we fragment our loyalties and thus divide ourselves.  “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand” (Mt 12:25).  We pledge loyalty to Jesus Christ, but then chase after a million and one offerings from the world.  We desire peace, but then shunt to the side the only One Who can establish it. 

We find holy wholeness only when we sacrifice all other loyalties and make Him the center of all.  This summarizes both the gift and the task of holiness.  The gift is that tranquillity of order, that interior peace we desire.  The task is to yield to grace — taking every aspect of our lives and submitting them to Christ, where alone they find unity and we find peace.

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By: Rev. Paul Scalia

One fundamental dimension of holiness is otherness.  We find it perfectly in the transcendent God, Who does not lose His otherness even in drawing close. We who are called to be holy because He is holy (cf. 1 Pt 1:15-16) must approximate this otherness in our lives. Which is precisely where we draw back and hesitate about holiness. No, we do not want to be at odds with God…but neither do we want to be other. We do not want to be odd or weird or apart from the crowd.  We desire togetherness, not otherness.

00-james-jacques-joseph-tissot-the-pharisee-and-the-publican-1894But all this is to misunderstand otherness, as so many have done throughout history. The Pharisees — whose very name means “the separated ones” — founded their holiness on not being like other men (cf. Lk 18:12). As we heard last Sunday, our holiness must surpass theirs (cf. Mt 5:20) — that is, be of a different, nobler kind. If we take seriously the Gospel imperative to holiness (admittedly, a big “if”), we must understand this dimension of otherness.

To be other means to be rooted in and to draw life from the One Who is Other. God alone is the Holy One. We, in drawing every bit of our life from Him (or, rather, being aware that we already do), attach ourselves to His holiness. We become other because who we are and what we do does not come from this world. It comes from the Other and is going to Him. Thus Saint Paul exhorts the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom 12:2). This is not a hatred of the world so much as a recognition that the Christian draws his life breath from beyond this world — that he allows all his thoughts, desires, words, and actions to be determined not by any worldly standard but by Him Who is Other.

Only with this in mind can we then grasp the negative component: that we must separate ourselves from what keeps us from God.  And that means, first and foremost, ourselves.

Only with this in mind can we then grasp the negative component: that we must separate ourselves from what keeps us from God. And that means, first and foremost, ourselves. We must sever ourselves from the worldly, rebellious part of us — the “old man” (cf. Rm 6:6). “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26). What keeps us from God most of all is our own self-centeredness. To be other we need to reject our own way of thinking, speaking, and acting — and adopt His. 

Only after self-denial do we look to separating ourselves from the world.  To be other means that we do not shape our lives according to the world’s lust, vanity and pride (cf. 1 Jn 2:16). We will not be holy if we allow the world to shape how we think, speak and act. Nor will we be any good for the world. Which brings us to another point… 

398px-Transfiguration_Raphael“Other” does not mean aloof. One of the greatest mistakes is to think that the more we are distant and disconnected from things, the holier we are.  …As if sanctity can be defined simply by what it is not. Certainly the world proffers many evil things that infect our souls. Too many Catholics have neglected that truth. Thus Mother Church speaks of a “withdrawal” from the world. But the Catholic instinct has never been to barricade ourselves from the world. Our Lord is clear that we are to engage and evangelize the world, which we cannot do from a bunker. Even the most remote hermit withdraws from the world not to escape but to be with Being Himself and from that vantage point to pray for the world. As Jesus prayed for all His followers at the Last Supper: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one” (Jn 17:14-15). Or, in a rephrasing of the old saw, We are not to be of the world, but in it.

We are not to be of the world, but in it.

Indeed, the otherness of a Christian — because it roots him more deeply in God Himself — enables him to draw close to each person. Because who is closer to all than God Himself? Mother Teresa’s mysticism did not make her less concerned for others. Padre Pio, while occupying the heights of holiness, was amazingly attentive to those he encountered. More to the point, it was because of their otherness, not despite it, that such saints loved their neighbors so concretely. It is a mark of the saints that in becoming other they were able to be more attentive to others.

It is a mark of the saints that in becoming other they were able to be more attentive to others.

“Other” does not mean odd. Certainly, the Communion of Saints has some eccentric members. But whatever quirkiness some may have possessed was not essential to their holiness.  We worry perhaps that the more we give to the Lord, the odder we will become. Of course, the world may indeed consider us “odd.” But that should disturb us only if the world as it is constitutes what is normal. Nevertheless, otherness does not require oddness. From the first Christians sought to live holiness — as our Lord did — in the midst of the world, as men and women who live, work, play, laugh and cry in the midst of everyone else…but with hearts set on heaven.

Ultimately, it is the otherness of Jesus Christ Who, in becoming one of us, did not lose what makes Him distinct from us. Indeed, He became one with us precisely so that He could communicate and bestow upon us what makes Him other. If He were not one of us, He could not enrich us. If He were not other, He would have nothing with which to enrich us.  So we Christians ought to enrich others with our presence…but always bringing that Otherness that truly enriches.

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