Warning: In this article I will be talking about abortion and homosexuality. I
have tried to be as delicate with the subject as possible but there are things
that have to be addressed when speaking of such subjects. You have been warned,
some things are bordering on PG-13 material.
This month the Supreme Court ends the year with rulings on a number of cases. Of these, two are of particular interest as they will have an effect on our futures and our religious freedom.
The Defense of Marriage Act and the Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate are two cases that have been largely debated by Catholics and non-Catholics. As most of you probably know, the Defense of Marriage Act is an act that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, that is, it
defines marriage in the same way as the Catholic Church. The HHS Mandate is a part of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, that forces employers to provide contraceptive and female sterilization in their healthcare plans, both of which are condemned by the Catholic Church. Before I jump into what each of these bills do I want to start by answering a question many teenagers will probably ask themselves: “Why should we care?” Most people today don’t. They believe that politics happens in Washington
and in the end nothing will really come of it, so why bother. As teenagers we should care, as politicians in Washington are deciding what type of world WE are going to live and work in within the next 5-15 years! More important, however, as Catholics we should care because those politicians in Washington are building a future for our children that could be highly objectionable.
The HHS Mandate is a part of the Affordable Care Act that forces employers to provide contraceptive, abortion inducing drugs, and sterilization of women for all their employees despite the fact that as Christians those things go against our faith. Notice I said Christians, not Catholics. This isn’t exclusively a Catholic problem, Christians in general believe the same things we do about this subject (especially regarding abortion). The larger our ranks the more impact we will have. We must unite to make that happen.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.” (2270) According to that simple statement that begins a whole section on abortion in the CCC, we know that any type of abortion inducing drugs, Plan B, and certain other contraceptives that, as a last resort, abort the embryo, are wrong. Those are now covered in the HHS mandate. I don’t want to pay for my co-worker’s or fellow college classmates’ abortions or contraceptives so that they can have ‘fun’ on the weekend doing very immoral things and not have to
live up to the consequences.
The constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act hinges on the
Supreme Court’s decision after a strong and long effort by various groups around the country to legalize same-sex marriage. The CCC says: “This [homosexual] inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.” (2358) It also tells those who feel homosexual inclinations to lead a life of chastity, which, I will remind you, does is not limited to physical actions but also dwelling on them mentally. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
A homosexual does not commit a sin by having feelings for someone of the same gender, the sin happens when he acts upon those feelings or when he allows this mind to wonder. But that’s not exclusively a homosexual problem: heterosexuals (guy + girl) are confronted with the same problems. Chastity
(i.e., purity of body, mind, and soul) is a requirement for everyone. As I’m sure we have all been taught as good Catholic children: marriage was instituted with the intention of producing children to continue in the circle of life. It’s the ultimate sign of love between two people. It’s saying to the other ‘I trust and love you completely and I want to give you everything I can possibly give you.’ That wonderful gift is having the possibility of being open to having children. That’s one thing homosexuals will never be able to experience with someone of the same gender. Our bodies as sons and daughters of God are made to compliment each other.
Pretty much what I’m trying to say here is that marriage is an amazing gift from God to his children that gives them the ability to show a love that can’t be imitated by two people of the same gender. It’s just impossible. And it’s what the Catechism as well as a document by the United States Conference
for Catholic Bishops states. If the Supreme Court declares Section 3 (definition of marriage) of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, in the mind of many people the definition of marriage as a Catholic sacrament will be in danger. Marriage as a gift from God will be abused. Marriage is a procreative and unitive reality, a homosexual “marriage” can never be procreative; thus it can
never be a Christian marriage.
As I was looking for information about the HHS mandate I stumbled across this beautiful prayer from Priests for Life for an end to abortion. Please join me in praying it, and take action, however you can. I also ask all of you to pray for our leaders and for the men and women in charge of the decisions to be made this month.
Lord God, I thank you today for the gift of my life, And for the lives of all my brothers and sisters.I know there is nothing that destroys more life than abortion,Yet I rejoice that you have conquered deathby the Resurrection of Your Son. I am ready to do my part in ending abortion.Today I commit myself Never to be silent, Never to be passive, Never to be forgetful of the unborn. I commit myself to be active in the pro-life movement, And never to stop defending life Until all my brothers and sisters are protected, And our nation once again becomes a nation with liberty and justice, Not just for some, but for all. Through Christ our Lord. Amen!
Next week is Vacation Bible School (VBS) for my church. It is offered for incoming preschoolers to incoming 6th graders. I have helped teach the music aspect of VBS since I was an incoming 6th grader (yes I was a early bloomer XD) and ever since I have participated in it! The songs are cheesy, and the stuff they learn very simple, but even then I love it. It is a great way to see God through young kids! Since I work music, I can see all of the little ones (and of course, the bigger ones). Although they don't know it, the little ones really do inspire me!
Last year when I was working I had a group of incoming preschoolers and kindergarteners. They were so cute and very focused on learning the music and hand motions unlike the fifth graders. One little girl with cute pig tails was right in the front, watching my every move along with my leader. She had the biggest smile on her face and melted my heart! After they learned a few songs, she decided to come up and teach with me. So there was this cute little kindergartener standing right up there with me, a huge smile on her face and "teaching" her peers. Soon after, a few more kids joined us. By the end of the class, the whole group of preschoolers and kindergarteners were up there teaching their crew leaders. It was the cutest thing I have ever seen. And of course, they thought it was the coolest thing that happened all day. (I thought it was too. :) )
Another thing that happens at VBS is the director offers for some of the kids to come up and say their "God moments." Most of them just want to go up and hear themselves talk so they say things like "Trees, my mom, the sun," things like that. It is true! Sometimes I do see God in the sun! :)
But then one day my leader for music comes up to me and tells me a story about a young boy whose dog of many years just died. Our theme for the camp was "Stand strong for God" that year. So this little boy goes up to his mom and says "Don't cry mommy! Stand strong for God!" Oh my heart just burst with joy. These little kids are really learning so much, and I have learned a lot from them !
The faith of a child is unshakeable. Their innocence and love for God is obvious through their actions and words. If you really take the time to talk to them, you can see that. But remember, you are the one(s) influencing them. Whether you help out with VBS, babysit, or just talk to them you are influencing them. So take that time to help them become closer to Jesus! They will grow up remembering what they have learned, and then they will share with others.
I'm a horrible person. People have no idea what I'm really like. I am praised and held in high esteem by many individuals, yet they have never seen me at my weakest point. They have never seen the darkness in my heart. It is as if they can't see behind the mask I wear, the facade I surround myself with. Many people think I'm perfect but in truth I am broken. I am not the hero I am perceived to be, because in secret I feel dark, cold, selfish, and heartless. I feel like a villain.
I think it is safe to say there is always a time in every persons life when they feel like they are at the end of their rope. A time when someone feels like they have failed God, others, and even their very selves. In this instance you feel like a villain through and through, plotting to destroy your own happiness and to destroy the world of others. It is as if all hope is lost and you suddenly come to the radical conclusion that "I might be the villain of this story”(http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/14794535-the-borrower). It can become a vicious cycle of choosing to give into the 'inner villain' inside you or fighting to be good with seemingly no avail. We must remember, however, that no one is predestined to be a villain. It is a choice that must be made. Nonetheless it is a dangerous choice, for once you embrace villainy "you feed the madness and it feeds on you" (http://villainquoteoftheday.tumblr.com/post/79822045789/you-feed-the-madness-and-it-feeds-on-you-you).
As human beings we are not born a hero or villain. I'm sure we have all seen it happen on television shows or in movies, the horrible villain commits grave atrocities, but is redeemed by the end of the dramatic climax. In the end this does make for a great story to present to an audience, but at some point we must wonder if this is relevant to the real world? Could this realistically happen to us, the normal people of everyday life? Well as Former-First-Lady Eleanor Roosevelt stated, "in the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility"(http://www.finestquotes.com/author_quotes-author-Eleanor%20Roosevelt-page-0.htm). The choice to be a villain or even a hero isn't a sudden momentary choice, like that of the angels' when choosing whether to follow God or satan at the begging of time. The choice to be a villain or a hero, to act good or evil, is one we must make with every action that we make and breath that we take. That choice is the whole point of our life; it is what makes us inherently human.
We must not allow ourselves to fall into despair simply because we 'slipped up' or because we momentarily failed and gave into selfishness or heartlessness. In truth, the the moment a person thinks they are a villain is the moment that it becomes a reality. All people will agree that humanity is equally capable of great good and great evil. All one has to do is look at the Holocaust and Auschwitz to be filled with horror for the great abominations humanity is capable of creating. At the same time, however, the ability to walk the elderly woman across the street, give food to the starving man in the park, aid the homeless, and raise a child show us some of the simplest yet greatest things humanity is capable of. For those of you that have seen ABC's Once Upon a Time you all know that Regina, or the 'Evil Queen', is one of the main characters on the show. You also would know that her back-story shows she was originally a very kind and caring person, before she was blinded by her anger and hatred, after being betrayed by those she loved. She became the evil queen by choosing to embrace the stone cold heart of a villain. As the story lines progress you come to find she is slowly redeeming herself, for love of her son, which causes you to wonder side will win, the Evil Queen, or Regina? There is the potential for a 'Regina' and an 'Evil Queen' in all of us, the question we must ask ourselves every day of our lives is which character will we choose to become today? Will we choose to be the best hero we can possibly be or the most dastardly of villains? For in all reality you make the choice of who you will become. Will you be a hero today or will you become your worst villain?
"We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same" *
* Taken from (Carlos Castenda)
There was a man, normal in all appearance to the world around him, who was by all definition a prisoner. Though there were no bars on his windows there were bars on his soul. Though none could see the police guarding him they were there nonetheless.
He lived his life as many would believe normal. He was an avid churchgoer. He would be seen at Mass every Sunday and at many Church events. He worked hard and earned a good living. By almost standards he was a good person.
But he could not escape. He was more stuck in his self-built prison then one captured and placed under guard of a hundred men. At one point he had been able to escape. He had hated the prison and realized how bad it was. He avoided it and only went there on occasion. However he enjoyed himself when he was there. It was not a terribly seeming place and it pleased him. And more and more he would return to this terrible prison. It enticed him in with feelings of fun, entertainment, lust.
And slowly he would remember less and less how bad it was. Oh, he knew it was still bad, but he ignored that fact. It was pushed to the back of his mind because all he wanted was to fulfill that need for entertainment. Eventually it had complete control over him. He had practically convinced himself that it was not bad, and indulged in it so often it was affecting the rest of his life. He would not speak to people in fear they would find him out. He would not go to mass because of the guilt he felt when he did so. And yet through this whole time silently in his heart he wished that someone would find out.
He desperately wished that someone would discover his prison and forbid him to enter it. That they would place bars over the door and watch him to see he never returned. But he could never speak out to anyone because he feared discovery as much as he wished for it.
And so he lived his life, forever stuck, in his own prison. Every time he tried to escape it came back stronger. And he grew old. he lived an average life with good friends, but never did he escape that prison.
On one fateful day he was the major sufferer of a car accident. His life was taken and he departed from this world. He awoke in a place of light, but before he could examine his surroundings he saw one thing that caught his eye. There was a man there, smiling down upon him. He was dressed all in white and light seemed to radiate from him. One hand he held out towards the prisoner, the other held a key. The prisoner took his hand, and they walked together into the light.
He was a prisoner no more.
Many times we hear the Church talk about forgiving others, “Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:22). But oftentimes we forget that this includes forgiving ourselves too. If you’re like me you usually don’t have a hard time forgiving others. I’m that bubbly sort of person that just loves everyone. But when it comes to forgiving myself...well, lets just say I still haven’t mastered that yet. Why is it so hard to forgive ourselves? I’m still trying to figure that out.
I’ll be honest, like many others, there’s a lot I don’t really like about myself, and I’m constantly hearing people say to “love yourself”. But whenever I hear that, a little voice in my head is screaming, “I KNOW THAT! BUT HOW DO I LOVE ME?” That is my constant struggle; how do I love and forgive ME?
But why does it matter? We aren’t supposed to think highly of ourselves right? I mean you wouldn’t want to be arrogant would you? *gasp* And the bible says to be humble, right? But here’s the thing, self-deprecation IS NOT humility! To be humble, means that you think of others more than yourself. But when you hate yourself, and can’t forgive yourself, you are thinking about yourself. It is a deadly, sneaky form of pride, trying to poison your life. As Renee Catherine from New Catholic Generation said once, “We ought to think of ourselves less, not less of ourselves”. Self-deprecation is a lie, humility is knowing the truth about ourselves, loving ourselves (the good and the bad) and seeking to become a better person so we can help others.
So now we know that we need to forgive ourselves and why…. but that still leaves the question, How? Well that is the real question isn’t it… I will be completely honest and say I don’t have any magic solution. Forgiving myself is still an on-going struggle for me. It is not something that you can just wake up one morning and say, “I forgive myself” and *poof* a rainbow appears over your head and you’re suddenly happy (I really wish it happened like that, haha!). But rather, forgiveness is more of the long hard journey that leads you to happiness.
My life’s goal is to be a missionary, evangelizing to youth. But lately, I’ve seen many of my friends falling away from the church. Occasionally I will try to talk to them about what they’re doing, but everytime I get mocked, laughed at, and then ignored. And because I’m afraid of being left alone, deserted by these friends, or worse, have them hate me, I begin to do nothing. I sit by and watch my friends attempt to find happiness through worldly things, but they become more and more miserable as they dive deeper and deeper into the world around them. I do nothing because I am too scared! Sometimes I’m tempted to follow them, because it would be easier than trying to resist. I’m no better than them, allowing myself to make excuses to allow the inappropriate jokes, and even laughing at them! And I hate myself for it!
How do you forgive yourself for so big a failure? I’ve realized a couple things, 1. I need to help myself, before I can help anyone else. I have to stop going along with the inappropriate jokes and laughing before I can convince anyone that it is wrong to say those things. I need to trust God, learn to not be afraid, before I can help anyone else trust God. I must convince myself, before I can convince anyone else. 2. If I want to forgive myself, I can’t just sit back and do nothing anymore. I have to speak up, even if people hate me for it. I have to do what I know is the right thing to do, and then I will be able to forgive myself.
- Kadie Desireé
Nowadays everyone has some sort of ejaculation. Sometimes is so ingrained that they might not even realize what they are saying at that moment. Unfortunately, today, many invoke some sort of curse spontaneously. This cursing is natural for some in the society we live in. As Catholics, and other fellow Christians, we are called to be the light to this world. A very helpful way to keep our focus on Christ is to constantly say ejaculations. Here is a list of some. You can pick which ones apply or appeal to you, you don’t have to do all of them. Most likely it will take some self-discipline, but once you get into the habit it will be very beneficial.
Now there are many more, this is a poor list. If you did not find the right one, look on the web, or go to this site http://www.ourcatholicprayers.com/aspirations.html God bless!
So I have played indoor soccer every Friday for a while. And there are two things that annoy me that the other players do. One is when they kick it away without looking and send it right to the other team. The second is when they play goalie, most of them will turn away from the ball in order to minimize the pain of being hit . Well I was sitting here at my computer and realized that both of these could be used as great examples of how to evangelize and how not to.
The first example is perfect. Look before you pass. Don’t just go around proclaiming the word of God to everyone straight from the Bible. This is a great thing to do but you really won’t get many converts this way. In fact it will probably make people not want to convert because you look annoying. Instead get to know whoever you're trying to convert. Don’t talk to them about Catholicism at first just get to know them and be friends with them. Then you know what will be more likely to get them hooked as it were. You’ve looked and now you can pass. Say you found out this guy likes hanging out with other youth. Well, you can invite him to your youth group or a youth conference before you ask him to go to Mass. Or say they really like music, you can invite them to come to choir practice and then sing at Mass with them or something. So that’s my first word of advice: Look before you pass.
The second example is also great. Don’t be afraid of the ball. People are going to ask you questions. This is a fact. They are going to want to know why you do things certain ways. “Why don’t you eat meat on Fridays? Why do you always go to Church on Sundays? What are Heaven and Hell? How is Jesus the same Person as this Holy Spirit Dude?” They are going to ask you questions and lots of them. So know your stuff and don’t be afraid of them. Don’t say, “Oh, I don’t know” and change the subject. If you don’t know grab a Catechism or Bible or computer if you can and look it up. If you can’t do that ask someone else. But don’t be afraid of the questions. And really if you show that you know your faith well he/she will then have a much more positive view of your church and faith. So remember: Don’t be afraid of the ball.
So these are my two Soccer/Evangelization tips. Know your friends and know your stuff. Now go out there and score some goals!
Please join the Fire of the Spirit staff in praying for the following intention- Theresa Herring from my church. She fell 10 ft backwards off a porch when the railing gave out. She broke her spine, and is in a hospital in Oregon.
O Lord my God and Savior, You rule over all things; You are our physician and comfort in sickness; You deliver us from pain. You stretched forth your hand to save your apostle Peter as he was sinking in water. Grant now your merciful aid to me and heal Theresa Herring's injuries. And as I trustingly call on You, restore her to health in your loving kindness. O long-suffering Lord, show Theresa your compassion and mercy that she may glorify your divine power and bless your holy Name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever. Amen.
I am sure that everyone has heard of the dangers of a low self esteem. In fact, it seems to be considered one of the greatest challenges teenagers face today. Self esteem is greatly valued by many both inside and outside of the Catholic Church; it is smiled upon by laity, religious, priests, bishops, and cardinals, employees, employers, students, and teachers. This "value" of self-esteem is quite universal and therefore a significant obstacle to the college-bound generation.
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, self esteem is, "a feeling of having respect for yourself and your abilities: (1) a confidence and self-satisfaction in oneself; (2) self-conceit." The synonyms are listed as, "ego, pridefulness, self-regard, self-respect," and the antonyms are, "humbleness, humility, modesty" (Merriam-Webster, “Self-Esteem”). When someone is overly confident in himself, he is in danger of seeing himself as all powerful, all knowing, and all good. This is the original sin: trying to set oneself above God. Self-esteem is the sin of pride in disguise as humility. According to Fr. Tanquerey's The Spiritual Life:
"Pride is a deviation of that legitimate sentiment which prompts us to prize what is good in us, and to seek the esteem of others in the measure in which this is useful. ... We can, then, define pride as an inordinate love of self, which causes us to consider ourselves, explicitly or implicitly, as our first beginning and last end. It is a species of idolatry, for we make gods of ourselves..." (Tanquerey, 393).
Pride skews our vision so that we believe a warped truth about ourselves: that we are good through our own work and by our own merit. But we cannot attain beauty and goodness on our own; we must receive it from the Maker of beauty and goodness. We cannot rely upon ourselves because we cannot even take our next breath without the help of God. Furthermore, it is by the capital sin of pride, says Fr. Tanquerey, that, "...we exaggerate our personal qualities" (Tanquerey, 394). G. K. Chesterton stated in his work, Orthodoxy, that:
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