Thoughts on Matrimony and Contraception 

I had a conversation with someone recently about a case on surrogacy in Singapore. I heard a co-host on EWTN’s Morning Glory radio show mention a case regarding a gay Singaporean doctor and his partner wanted to adopt a child, but were unable to in Singapore (it’s illegal). They went to the U.S. to find a surrogate and do IVF to obtain a child. This was successful for them, so they traveled back to Singapore and sought to adopt the child. Eventually the doctor applied for single-parent adoption rights, but the Singaporean government denied their application. 

The co-host said that this prevention on behalf of the Singaporean government was a sign of how some governments still abide by marital procreation and natural law. 

The person I told the story to stated how unfair it was for the state to interfere with someone’s reproductive choices and that everyone, if they can, should have a child by all means necessary (IVF, surrogacy, artificial insemination). 

In response,  I told them I wasn’t 100% familiar with the case, but I could see why Singapore would deny the doctor adoption rights. Furthermore,  I mentioned that the Catholic Church is pro-life and pro-conception within the natural act of marriage. Anything that gets in the middle of the marital act of conjugal embrace is against nature. 

The person just couldn’t understand how means besides the natural act in marriage should be thrown out as ways to achieve pregnancy. 

Which led me to compiling my thoughts on the matter. It’s also fitting because this is month so many things are happening with Pro-life such as the March for Life 2018 , and anniversary of Roe v. Wade decision.

The Sacrament of Matrimony serves two functions: Couple engaged in unitive fidelity love and openness to life. These two purposes are the bedrock of marriage. 

As it was in the beginning,  God created male and female in a complimentary fashion with the command to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1: 27-28). Very early, we can see the union of man and woman was to spring life into the world. In addition,  God created Eve from Adam’s rib to assist in prevention of lonesomeness. Therefore,  in matrimony, spouses not only share a sexual closeness, but also an emotional, physical, and psychological attachment to each other to ensure the good of another. 

Sex springs fourth out of matrimony. Sex is intended to maximize the unitive love of spouse’s in marriage. The selfless giving of each other in sexual intercourse, in addition to the spiritual,  emotional,  and physical oneness a couple experiences in marriage,  produces the authentic joy of the Sacrament of Matrimony. It’s not simply just a mean of pleasure,  but a way to experience the closeness of how God intends 2 to become one. As St. Paul said in regards to the body in sexual conduct  in 1 Cor 6:16 (NRSV) ” Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.”  

The openness of transmitting life in every sexual act must be done. Speaking on the necessity of openness to life, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says,  “Is necessary that each and every marriage act remain ordered per se to the procreation of human life. (2366)”  As a result,  means outside of the natural act of procreation are intrinsically evil and immoral. For example, IVF takes a females eggs and male’s sperm, procured from a sperm sample  (How else would someone get sperm without masturbation?) and fertilizes them in a lab. They’re later inserted into the uterus of a surrogate client aka “rental womb” or the original female of the eggs provided. 

Mainly, IVF separates the conjugal act because it places lab test and procedures over the authentic selfless giving of  spousal intimacy in marriage. Also, it forces men to commit sin against themselves through masturbation. Perhaps the centers have pornography to watch to help stimulate a male which would be an additional wrong. Moreover,  “rental wombs” subject women to doing anything for cash. Think of how adversely surrogacy could or has impact(ed) women and families in impoverished or developing nations. Just to make a quick buck, they sell themselves therefore exploiting and elevating  themselves as a product than a human with dignity and worth.

Overall, the Catholic Church is pro-life! Anything that comes in between life from conception to natural death is interrupting life. By far the Church is the only or leading proponent against contraception and artificial contraception. Thanks to works like Humane Vitae, this has helped the Church make their stance clear going into the sexual revolution of reproductive freedom of the 60s and onward.  

Many who struggle with the Church’s stance on contraception or reproductive technology, have to understand that the Church exists to be the one who regulates secular society’s moral experimentation. The Church acts as a visible God guided institution to ensure secular society doesn’t go astray on issues of morality. Just as the Church stood steadfast against communism,  Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) helped usher in a new appreciation and understanding of the 5th Commandment in contemporary world, the Church made pronouncements on reproduction. There still exists grey areas that leading Catholic bioethicist, philosophers, and ethicist have yet to solve, but new advances create newer threats to the matrimony. 

Personally in our marriage, we use Creighton model natural family planning as a God honoring and worth granting means of planning or avoiding pregnancy. We do this with no pills, no shots, no patches! And it’s so simple!  All my wife does is check her signs throughout the day and identify the most fertile  (if available) sign.  Couples can successfully identify days to avoid intercourse or plan pregnancy based on a woman’s signs. By doing this,  we not only open our marriage to life, we find an appreciation for the 5th/6th Commandment, and a deeper appreciation for how God has created us to be united in marriage in a special act.

With all that I’ve said, matrimony is a mystery. 

Yes, another mystery on top of the other countless mysteries of the faith! 

In matrimony,  couples get to share in God’s attribute of being a creator by bringing new life. We don’t know the ends and outs of the particulars, but God saw fit to enable us to share in His power Just a tad bit. 

What a thought to ponder on this whole life time.

We live in the aftermath of the fall, but think about what loving fidelity would’ve been like pre-fall. Sex pre-fall? If such  strong authoritative prescriptions exist now so that we may maximize our love from our spouse,  think of the complete and utter sublime reality of how they must’ve felt before the fall. We truly don’t know the mystery of what the Sacrament of Matrimony entails,  so we must cooperate with God to lead us into the paths of authentic joy and love. 

If we truly knew what it felt like to love our spouse to the standard of perfection,  you’d probably never want to let go of that sight. You’d be in complete happiness over the joy you witnessed.

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Being Filled With Righteousness 

Matthew 5:6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 




On the Sermon on the Mount, the Inspired author of Scripture expresses profound spiritual words from Jesus Christ. Similarly, Jesus words remind me of David’s when he said 

O God, you are my God, I seek you,

    my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

(Ps 63:1) NRSV 

A key belief for Kingdom of Heaven ethics that Jesus conveys between Matthew 5-7 is pursuing after Gods glory and holiness in our lives should be foundational.

Spiritual slothfulness can surely hinder our pursuit of perfection as God demands us to be (Mat 5:48; 1 Pet 1:16). As a result, instead of growing idle in our faith,  let our desire be for God. Simply doing the bare minimum should encourage us all to search and seek God wholeheartedly more.  In fact, he has promised us that when we seek after his kingdom and righteousness above all things, the desires of our hearts will be obtained (Mat 6:33).

Just as food and drink nourish our physical bodies, and if we don’t get them in our system our stomach growls, the same could be for a spiritual well-being with God. Day to day we go about life like something’s missing as if some intrinsic need isn’t met.  If we address our physical needs and neglect spiritual ones, we suffer malnutrition and feeble hope in our risen Savior.

May we strive to place Gods righteousness for our lives on a greater pedestal than our physical needs.

God help me and those who love you create a desire of spiritual dependency in you. Fulfil our hunger and satisfy us Lord.

In Jesus, Mercy is Unlocked 

In Luke 17:11-19, we read the story of Jesus passing through Samaria and Galilee and healing 10 lepers who cried out for mercy. Jesus, being the human Image of God’s mercy, was attentive to their request. He instructed them to go present themselves to the temple as a sign of being purified from suffering leprosy (Lev. 14:2-9).

One of those Samaritans praised God loudly and came back to show Jesus appreciation because he had received God’s healing. Jesus noticed that only one out of nine of the lepers came back to show their thankfulness. As a result, Jesus  tells him, “your faith has made you well.”

As I read these verses, it seemed like God opened my eyes to us realizing he is the source of mercy. God is Omnibenevolent (infinitely loving/All-good)  abounding in love, kindess, compassion, and mercy. It’s an attribute of his nature. Since this is the case , we must ask and accept the invitation to allow mercy in our lives. Just as in the parable of The Blind Man in Jericho  (Luke 11:35-43), people tried to shut the blind person up , but he cried out for God’s mercy louder. We too must not let our doubts, worries,  or close relatives/friends prevent us from reaching TO Christ as he came DOWN for us. 

The whole reason for Christmas was that Christ came into the world to make himself available as a free gift to take away the sins of the world. Therefore since he has come we must accept his gentle and easy yoke. Keep in mind the acronym ASK….Ask…Seek…Knock

Matthew 7:7-8

7 “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 

Appy this to our relationship in seeking all of God’s love and compassion he has for us. 

What’s really sad is only one leper came back to express their appreciation. Jesus says his faith made him well. Not only was he physically healed, the leper was spiritually healed. Jesus healed his inner most part beyond the physical. What man needs most; an internal cleanse.

He was never to go back into the state of being labeled “unclean” as those labeled him. Most importantly,  he had an objective sign of approval that he was spiritually clean. Someone outside of the covenant (Jesus called him a “foreigner”) was declared “well.” I could see what made the Samaritan so happy! A double miracle of spiritual and physical healing from the Healer himself. 

When we fail to show our thankfulness, we become like a child that received the best present, but failed to express appreciation to their parents. Yes the parents know their child is happy, but it makes them feel great as providers to hear appreciation verbalized. Yes God knows all-things , but it never hurts to tell God “thank you.”

Faith in Jesus ultimately made the Samaritan well. Their unceasing plea for mercy was answered! Will our faith lead us too to the healing it beckons from our Creator?

Will the Real Messiah Please Rise Up? Examining Anakin Skywalker and Jesus Christ  

Image:Lucasfilm

In the prequel trilogy of the Star Wars series,  the viewer discovers how young Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, pop culture’s most notorious villain. 

Many unfamiliar with the story of Star Wars would be surprised that Anakin Skywalker was once a force of selfless good. He was redeemed out of slavery by performing a brave act for strangers who were affiliated with the Jedi Order.  He was long talked about as the “Chosen One”  of the Jedi that would obliterate the Sith (an evil Order of practitioners that use the force)  and restore balance to the Force (Interconnected energy that unites everything in the galaxy). 

However,  through a series of unfortunate decisions (breaking the Jedi code by marrying the queen) , hunted down and destroyed the jedi knights, and became  influenced under darker forces (Senator Palpatine aka Darth Sidious),  Anakin slowly became more and more seduced to the dark side. 

Once fully coverted, Anakin is named Darth Vader by Darth Sidious and goes on a terrible chain of events that wreak havoc in the Jedi community. He slaughters younglings (toddlers training to be Jedis), kills Jedi,  and battles his former master Obi-Wan Kenobi in literally the best lightsaber duel in all the Star Wars movies!

Darth Vader and Kenobi battle in an emotional battle. Obi-Wan is devastated by the conversion of his apprentice,  but knows that the dark side is controlling Anakin.  Anakin simply wants to kill all the Jedi and extinguishing Obi-Wan would eventually lead to that.  Despite his reluctance to take heed to Obi-Wan’s cease and desist,  Anakin is severely outsmarted by his former master and is hurt but not killed. As he crawls on the ground defeated, Obi-Wan Kenobi emphasizes the trust and hope the Jedi had in Anakin and how he failed to live up to the prophesy. 

“You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them! Bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness! “- Obi-Wan Kenobi 

That’s probably one of the saddest moments in the Star Wars series. To see so much hope placed in the long awaited Messiah,  but to eventual let them down. Obi-Wan loved his apprentice and saw Anakin as a brother. To see him succumb to the darkness was a tragic blow!

Thankfully in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, after seeing his son, Luke Skywalker,  get beat up by Darth Sidious for refusing to join the dark side,  Darth Vader throws his Sith lord and kills him. By doing this, Anakin is redeemed as the Chosen One who would destroy the Sith. After he dies, Anakin is united with Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi in some kind of Jedi afterlife. 

After watching all these films, the concept of the Messiah made me think about  Jesus. He, unlike Anakin Skywalker,  had the inclination to always do good and choose good.  In Jesus Christ’s “dark side” moment described in Matthew 4, he successfully without hesitation chooses love of God instead of power and rank.

He too was the long awaited Messiah. All throughout the Old Testament, figures and prophets foretold the coming of this anointed person (Gen 12:3; Deut. 18:15-19; Ps 2:1-12, 16:8-11, 22:1-31, 118:22-24; Isa. 7:14, 9:6-7; Jer. 31:31; Mic 5:2). 

 

It was establish early in his life that Jesus was the Messiah (Luke 2:28-32, 38). During his earthly ministry,  many just didn’t understand Jesus coming. It was understood he was recognized as the Messiah, the anointed one of Israel (Mat. 16:16, 21:9; Luke 4:41) but many just didn’t see the true intention behind his coming. After he was gone, instead of rembering his promise about the resurrection,  many felt downcast. 

 In Luke 24,  when the two travelers were on the road to Emmaus, these travelers were saddened by the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (17). They placed their hope in him restoring the geographical kingdom of Israel from Roman occupation (21) rather looking toward the Kingdom of Heaven that was to come. Moreover,  after Jesus died, it was reported that the disciples all huddled together scared of the Jewish leaders (John 20:19). 

Some of the disciples felt defeated clinging on to similar hopes as the two travelers,  while others may have been doubtful. Perhaps Peter remembered the constant playback of the three time denial he’d done. Perhaps they discussed how they all scattered at the capturing of Jesus.  Overall, there was a myriad of negative reactions about the dead anointed one.

Perhaps they too shared similar sentiments as Obi-Wan Kenobi when he emphasized the anticipation of the “Chosen One” when they heard their messiah died.  Feelings of hopelessness and despair settled in during those three days between Good Friday and Easter Sunday; which begs the question, “what good is a dead messiah?”

Absolutely nothing. 

A dead messiah is one that left no impact or hope for his followers.  

Little did the disciples know Jesus would appear to them and provide them with the power of “binding and loosing” and command them to leave their tiny province of Judea to eventually go throughout the world to make his teachings known. They were to be sent out, as he came in to the world, teaching, preaching, forgiving sins and healing by his authority. 

Both of these messiahs were the long awaited figures in their respected communities. Anakin,  albeit an imperfect Christ-like figure, messianic role was plagued by heavy hopes, destruction,  and death to many. On the contrary,  we have the figure Jesus Christ who came and fulfilled hundreds of prophecies by his incarnation, ministry,  death, and resurrection by consistently choosing good. Both are figures that left followers in despair,  but only one rose above and remains the “new hope.”

Navigating Through a Mixed Denominational  Marriage 

In the winter of 2016,  I told my wife I wanted to become Catholic. She didn’t understand my motivation,  and she was somewhat uneasy about it for a small period of time. As like most people in similar situations, feelings of betrayal developed within her. 

We were both Baptist and that’s pretty much all we’d known since being a Christian. My wife had seen small interests and the questions I asked over time about my dissatisfaction with Protestantism,  but it never really registered to her why I did those things.

So hearing the news about Catholicism was a gap in our understanding that we eventually had to overcome. It was causing us to tip toe around spiritual discussions while we were going about our regular marital life.  

Then there was a breaking point! 
 
We had to have those hard band-aid peeling off conversations.  By a series of honest vulnerable conversations and laying all our opinions and hang ups totally open to each other, we were able to establish a better mutual understanding of why I wanted to become Catholic and what it meant for our marriage as we were officially to become a mixed denominational marriage.

Fast forward a year and things have been much better! From attending Mass together, to subtly asking more questions,  my wife has taken a more investigative view of the Church. Is she at the point of conversion? At least what I can tell, no. But that’s not a cause for disappointment at all. So does this mean there’s no more uneasiness? Our marriage isn’t perfect by no means, so occasionally old honest  conversations are revisited. The thing that has changed is our response to them. We’ve matured. I like to think that we’re no longer those people who came to the table with such strong views,  but have managed to be more reconciling and understanding. 

This post will outline the 4 top things you can do if you’re embracing a mixed denomination marriage or in a similar situation as I was.

1. Continue to worship together in the faith tradition the non-converting spouse is committed to



Although you may not be a part of the tradition, take time to attend with your spouse the faith community they belong to. This shows that you’re still committed to maintaining your sense of “we” in the marriage even though the non-converting spouse may not be fully committed to embracing your new found faith tradition. That’s totally fine. Remember you placed upon them something totally foreign and they need time to adjust.

I started attending Mass in mid April of 2017, and my wife didn’t attend officially attend till sometime in May. Nowadays, depending on the time, I will attend the 9 a.m. mass and make it in time to catch my wife getting dressed for the 11:30 a.m. service at her preferred faith community. Other times, I will attend a 5:30 p.m. or  6 p.m. service and my wife will always accompany. 

Overall,  just be willing to put in the effort  to show that your spouse’s spiritual needs that they feel are best met at their preferred faith community are still a priority for you. 

Last thing you want to do is create a denominational wedge in marriage over my church vs. your church. Or even worse, stop finding moments of spiritual closeness at all.

2. Be ready to address any questions they may have about the “why’s ” of your faith tradition

Pur yourself in their perspective. You walk into a place where you’ve never been and literally everything seems so strange to them. From the music,  prayers, order of service,  it seems like a totally different environment from the perspective of the non-converting spouse.

Your spouse may have tons of questions about why certain traditions and practices are starkly different.  Therefore,  you need to be somewhat knowledgeable about those things if the questions ever arise.

I can remember one time my wife accompanied me to Adoration. I had to explain to her briefly on the way home the doctrine of Transubstantion so she could better understand why I visited often.  

On a another occasion, my wife asked me  “why do Catholics worship Mary?” Which lead to an explanation on her title and why Catholics properly venerate her. 

If you don’t have an answer, it’s ok to follow-up when you do. Just remember to be attentive to their mindfulness. 

 
3.  Don’t force your spouse to convert,  but instead live your life by being an example of this new found faith you have


If you’re converting for your spouse,  make the faith your own not what your spouse wants it to be for you. Love of Jesus Christ can’t be robotic, but it’s from the heart.

As I mentioned earlier about my marriage, my wife isn’t at the point for conversion to Catholicism and that’s fine with me. God has his own timing and working. What am I to do? Let my actions speak for me. Let my actions speaks for the new found love and appreciation of God I have in the Church.

Actions speak louder than words. You’re supposed to be a light and example of your faith in the world anyways, so why not be the best example to your spouse. They may not understand every belief or dogma, but the way you live your life demonstrates the effectiveness of the changed life you claim to embrace. 

I try to live out my new found conversion in such a way that shows my wife why I think Catholicism is truthful and thereby deserves my faith.  From my reading, to the books I buy, or podcast I listen to I try to show why it’s so important that Catholicism gets my attention.

Some weeks ago, my wife purchased a book called Waking Up Catholic: A Guide to Catholic Beliefs for Converts, Reverts, and Anyone Becoming Catholic. Since I had so many books on Catholicism,  she thought it would be a wasteful Christmas gift so she gave it to me earlier. I am very happy to receive the book. I thinks its actions like this that demonstrate something in my example I’m doing ok that prompted her to buy it. She thought of my faith formation when buying this book. 

I sometimes joke and tell her , “The book is really for you not for me that’s why you bought it. ”  

4. Have difficult conversations to understand each other

To the converting spouse

-You just can’t go in marriage doing things on your own. You have someone else’s well-being, and thoughts to take into consideration. Therefore,  if you are to make any sudden faith tradition changes, address the concerns or doubts you’re having earlier rather than later. Your spouse can have a better understanding of where you’re coming from to better support you.

To the non-converting spouse

Be open minded to truly hearing everything your spouse has to say. Initially,  it will sound like an atomic bomb dropped on your lap, but with empathy comes a greater understanding of the questions in your spouse’s head. 

Take time to hear everything that is said. This doesn’t mean the end of the world for your marriage. 

Overall, in the Sacrament of Marriage, a couple should strive to maintain marital unity and fidelity at all costs.  Therefore,  if you are to embrace a mixed denominational marriage, do everything in as much charity and clarity as possible. For the good of each other and for the oneness that needs to be maintained.

“It’s ok to Look” the Excuse Men Give to Look at Women  

Being a married man, the topic of marriage is one that is very important to me. I strive to be the best person for my wife and I like to believe for 2.5 years my wife has been very happy with our overall development and growth. 

With that said, marriage is hard work! Perhaps the hardest role I’ve ever had to embrace. Warding off the temptations and lust of the world isn’t an easy thing to do considering men’s psychology and the world we live in. 

Men are visibly stimulated, and can be aroused  psychologically and physically quite quickly. On top of that, when we live in a world where sex and pornography is literally an epidemic, there could potentially be hundreds of cues stimulating a male. 

Think about that.

Literally,  men have things vying for their attention. Computer ads that feature models, movies with attractive female leads or sex scenes, or the random attractive person they may see daily. Men are getting it somewhere.  In fact, eight out of 10 men between 18-30 view porn at least once a month. That’s a lot of men settling for second-rate instant gratification of the flesh.

Because men are visual,  it doesnt mean ALL men lust. Our development is not an excuse for poor behavior, decision making or an exuse to give into our fanciful whims. What it does mean is that men need to take seriously the situations and responses that shape their attitudes.

I’ve noticed that in order to ease the clear signs of temptation or lust, some men have resorted to “it’s ok to look” as seeming less dangerous and threatening than actually having an affair or cheating.

When men, especially a married man,  says “it’s ok to look”  they’re basically window shopping. Just as one would go window shop to fantasize over materials they don’t have, the same concept applies. You’re saying in so many words that the other person looks better than your spouse. So much so that you can’t keep your eyes off that person. 

Concepts like “it’s ok to look” are a huge threat to marriage. As if marriage didn’t have many already! If men allow their imaginations to roam with sexual scenarios and ideas, then adultery is committed and the Sixth Commandment has been violated. This is evident when Jesus commanded that whoever looks at a woman with lust has committed adultery in their heart (Mat 5:28).

The practice of self-mastery or being chaste in our mind is one men (guilty or not) all need to embrace. We could all benefit from being chaste. Self-mastery, although seems hard to practice, is a daily and “long and exacting work  (CCC 2342)” This commitment one makes to put away the flesh and embrace the Spirit working in their lives to break the stronghold of the flesh, our sinful inclinations and passions. Basically it’s self-discipline.  Instead of the flesh steering our body, we need the Spirit of God in us to renew our minds to eventually lead us into internal freedom. Think about the instruction Jesus gave us to grow in self-discipline when he commanded us to cast out an eye if it causes one to sin (Mat 5: 29). What a radical departure from our self-serving world that would tell us to keep our eye in.

Regardless of whether you’re religious or not, having fidelity to the one you’re joined with is important. Your sexual thoughts and glances should all be dedicated to that person. When we look at the news of Hollywood, entertainment, or the main stream media and see so much sexual harassment and allegations, seems like men have underestimated the power of lust/temptation. Some would even probably scoff at the mention of chasity.

“It’s too restrictive”
“I want to do my own thing”

How little do they know of it’s potential benefits.

Overall, you’re bound to see someone attractive,  but it’s what you do that matters most. If you act on them by entertaining lustful thoughts then you consent to impurity which means you’re not honoring your vows in action and thought. 

Men, let’s live out the vocation of marriage to it’s fullest and turn away from things that destroy marital fidelity. 
Source:

https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/new-survey-of-porn-use-shows-startling-stats-for-men-and-women

Thoughts on Bl. Stanley Rother 

Some days ago I watched a short documentary about the life of Blessed Stanley Rother. His life is is one of those from the saints you read about and think “what great love he had!”

Bl. Stanley Rother was born in 1935 in a small town of Oklahoma. Raised on a farm, his family was very much committed on instilling in their children the importance of faith. Very much a skilled farmer, everyone thought after he graduated high school he would become a farmer.  However,  Stanley amazed his town by declaring he wanted to be a priest.

 

While in seminary,  Rother struggled with understanding Latin. After being in school for many years, the administrators requested that he withdraw due to struggling to keep up with the subject. But Stanley was persistent in being a priest, so he stayed. He later transferred to an coast seminary,  got a tutor, and began to excel in his coursework. Finally, in 1963 he was ordained a priest. After serving as a priest in several parishes throughout the 60s, he finally recieved the start of his calling by which he is known. In 1968, Stanley had heard of Oklahoma’s Guatemala mission. He felt this may be a good position for him, so he was approved to go.

When he arrived in Santiago Atitlan, the situation was dire. There was low mortality rates and abject poverty.  So what was Fr. Rother’s first priority?  Because he had no knowledge of Spanish or Tzutuhil language, he took time to learn both language. This helped him as a Guatemalan pastor by eventually translating the mass into the people’s language and translating the New Testament into their language as well. 
Some very extraordinary things Fr. Rother was able to accomplish in his mission was creating a hospital, increased literacy to the native people, developed an educational radio station, and showed the natives farming techniques. Fr. Rother met the people where they were. He was a frequent visitor of his parishioners and cared about them by his willingness to eat with them or help in their homes. Dr. Rother became highly well know and popular amongst the area.

As the years went by, Guatemala became increasingly more hostile.  Soon a civil war would be developing and the Church was at the center in a military state. The current government viewed those that cared for the poor as a threat or “communist”, so naturally the Church was a target. Fr. Rother began to hear rumors that his name was on a murder list. When officials in the diocese of Oklahoma heard about this, they requested that he come back. Out of concern for his safety,  Fr. Rother returned back to Oklahoma. 

While he was safely in Oklahoma, Fr. Rother continually regretted leaving his flock abandoned. He felt it was a pastor’s duty to protect those entrusted to him, which made him eventually go back to Guatemala to his parishioners. Some time after he arrived back in Guatemala,  a few armed individuals shot and murdered him in July 1981.

Fr. Rother is the first American born martyr. He is often viewed as a symbol for standing firm against danger. As I mentioned at the top of this article,  his life demonstrated powerful love. So much in fact that he was willing to embrace the potential of death instead of living safely in the diocese of Oklahoma. Because of his death and extraordinary witness of faith,  his martyrdom has inspired many to become priest since 1981. The parish which was once lifeless in Guatemala for 400 years, over the last 3 decades has gained and is currently training priests.

Fr. Stanley Rother reminds me of the verse Jesus said in John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Fr. Rother saw those entrusted to him as his own. As a shepherd leaves to go find the 1 sheep from the 99 that has gone astray, so did He too model the same concern for his church. 

If anything is to be learned from this very recent saintly model, it is only love. Love requires Christ to live in our lives and abandon our “me” mentality. Fr. Rother’s temporary move back to Oklahoma, although necessary, demonstrated the difficulty of balancing our “me” mentality with the love of neighbor. 

Blessed Stanley Rother pray for our heart so that we too may have the same love for our neighbor.

Sources
An Ordinary Martyr  The Life and Death of Blessed Stanley Rother-://youtu.be/55y77RA3_eA

http://www.archokc.org/rothercause/prayers-for-fr-rother

Thoughts on the Bible and Slavery

By far, the most heinous abuse to happen in the last half century was the slave trade. Normally, the blame usually gets placed on European nations and their quest for colonialism and imperialism. However, if we’re honestly taking a sober look many more non-European countries and African tribes themselves played a role in the slave trade as well.

In more recent decades, when talking about the institution of slavery, one can’t help but bring up the laity or clergy’s mixed bag of roles of either supporting, abolishing, or standing neutral on the practice. In fact, some would go as far as saying slavery is Christianity’s “skeleton in the closet.”

The more modern objection is phrased, “the Bible supports slavery so therefore Christianity can’t be trusted as legitimate religion.”

The topic of slavery and Christianity is a hot button subject that is also an emotional one for many. When we think of the negative results such as racism, it conjures up to consequences of racial subjugation in the form of “separate but equal.”

When discussing the world in which the Bible was written, we can’t help but project our modern-day point of view. Practices that seem foreign to us were quite natural then. With that said, we must keep in mind something regarding the topic of slavery in antiquity.

1) There was no social safety net. Unlike today, most advanced economies have huge welfare states that provide a source of relief and assistance to those in poverty. The idea of a government taking care of the poor was unheard of at that time.

2) Unlike today, there weren’t credit relief agencies that help people minimize their debt. The ancient world had zero viable options for those who struggled paying back debts or defaulted on loans.

What is slavery? According to Merriam-Webster’s slavery is defined as “the state of a person who is chattel of another.” Chattel  is a word used to describe movable personal property that’s living (livestock) or not living (shovels, machines). Simply put, slavery is the owning of one person by another. The Old Testament talks about indentured servitude which also is often labeled as “slavery.” Indentured servitude is the practice of voluntarily giving oneself to another for a period of time.

The slave laws of the Old Testament at primarily located in Exod.21-11; Lev 23:39-55; and Deut. 15:12-18 but there are tons passages that discuss the practice elsewhere in the Pentateuch. Far from ideas we would think of modern slavery, these verses prescribe very dignifying treatment toward those captive.
Indentured servants had to be released after six years of service and were rewarded adequate supplies on their seventh year of release (Deut. 15:13-14). The slave had the option to leave or stay therefore honoring free will (Exod 21:5-6). A slave could leave with his wife if he came in with one (Exod 21:3). Slaves who fled from their master were not to be delivered back and no harm was to be inflicted upon them (Deut. 23:16). A slave crippled or disabled due to their owner was to be free (Exod. 21:26-27). Killing a slave to death meant the owner would die (Exod 21:20-21).

A key thing I like to remember regarding slavery and the Old Testament is that Israel was in slavery in Egypt. Why would God allow his nation to purposely afflict inhumane treatment and abuse to others if they were once on the receiving end? This fact is something God reminds a lot (Deut. 5:15, 15:5, 24:18, 22). Moses even killed an Egyptian because of the very harsh unjust treatment he saw his people receive from an Egyptian (Exod. 2:11-12). I find it hard to believe that God would allow his nation to be ruthless slave traders.

In the New Testament world like the OT world, slavery remained a dominant way of life for the Roman economy. The Roman occupation in Israel was something many Jews hated. To the Jews, the long-awaited messiah coming would mean a renewal of power to a powerless country, so when Jesus came people thought he would be the one to usher in freedom from Roman oppression. Even his disciples had this misconception before his Ascension (Acts 1:6).

Both Paul and Peter had much to say regarding slaves remaining obedient to their master (1 Pet. 2:18-21; Eph. 6:5-8, Col. 3:22-25). Kidnapping others is viewed as a sin (1 Tim. 1:9-10). Most importantly, Paul boldly declares in Christ all are equal and earthly positions are insignificant (Gal 3:28).

Overall, none of the New Testament figures (including Jesus) definitively spoke on abolishing slavery. Was this because they were weak?

No, it’s because they were smart.

Think back to Matthew 22 and the whole Cesar coin debate. The Pharisees laid out a plan to intentionally trap Jesus in his words, so they asked him is it lawful to pay the tax to Cesar (17). Again, the Jews hated Cesar and Roman occupation. If Jesus would’ve answered “yes” that would’ve paved the way for insurrection against Cesar. The Jews would’ve felt empowered to revolt with this new form of authority. Jesus would’ve caused tons of more problems and diminished his whole point to arrive on earth.

The same principle would apply for the writers of the New Testament. Them speaking forcefully for an abolition of a long-standing practice would’ve caused unparalleled problems. Perhaps slaves would’ve felt entitled to freedom then killed their owners, or even a massive slave rebellion.

In addition, Christianity was a small growing religion. They had tons of scrutiny and opposition from Jewish leadership, faced the challenge of growing the Church away from Judea and going into the known world, and defeating the Gnosticism. Simply put, the apostles had too much to handle in the first century. That’s not to diminish the importance of the horrific institution, but the apostles simply couldn’t call out every major grievance they saw against those in power.

Instead, the apostles gave principles that esteemed the intrinsic worth of slaves such as referring back to all men are created in God’s likeness, equality in Christ and loving your neighbor as yourself. A change of heart by hearing the Gospel would eventually eradicate the institution.

The Bible, being rich in human dignity and worth, makes no clear abolition for slavery. When it does advocate for the practice, there are numerous prescriptions regulating the institution. Despite the many critical perspectives being advanced by opponents of Christianity, a Christian can positively conclude the Bible never advocates or supports deliberate race-based slavery, unlawfully taking of persons, or torture to captives. On the contrary, the Bible is a source of affirmation on human dignity

Source

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary

Thoughts on the Confiteor in the Mass 

Depending on what time I wake up to go to work, I catch the beginning of the EWTN Daily Mass on the radio. A key part that I always attempt to hear is the Confiteror. 

The confiteor,  Latin for “I confess” is a public acknowledgement of the faithful’s sin, venial or mortal,  in some degree they’ve committed. For those unfamiliar with the Penitential Rite of the mass, the Confiteor is said by everyone and sounds like this:

I confess to almighty God

and to you, my brothers and sisters,

that I have greatly sinned,

in my thoughts and in my words,

in what I have done and in what I have failed to do,
 (strike breats three times during the following two lines)
through my fault, through my fault,

through my most grievous fault;
therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,

all the Angels and Saints,

and you, my brothers and sisters,

to pray for me to the Lord our God.

I honestly miss this part of the Penitential  Rite. Sometimes the priest will say a different recitation to all acknowledge our sin and ask for mercy, but something about the confiteor makes me long to hear it more and more.

A great thing about this public acknowledgement of sin is it makes our sin very personal. Uttering the “my” stresses the significance of the personal relationship between God and man.  When we all strike our breast those three times, it emphasizes the shame and disobedience we give in to by failing to be obedient to God.  As Jesus asked Peter three times “do you love me?” Something troubled Peter the third time he asked. It’s clear that it was his rejection of Jesus three times that he remembered. When we express the nature of our sin, the third time inserts an adjective grievous to highlight the severity of pain and grave nature of our sin against God.

God won’t take excuses. He holds us individually accountable for the acts of disobedience and unloving attitudes we embrace. Think of Jesus in Matthew 25. When the individuals ask “when did we see you” in response to the king separating the sheep from the goats and them receiving judgment or reward. Also,  look at Adam and Eve. Adam blamed his wife about their disobedience, but ultimately they both received consequences for their sin. As John said in his first epistle , “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).” As a result, us facing the truth of where we missed the mark in our quest to be more holy is fitting.

Something else that’s really important about this collective acknowledgement is that we all hold each other accountable in the Body of Christ. The confiteor is a huge rallying cry that says “hey if you sin then you jeopardize sickening the entire system.” St. Paul makes this point when he says that we’re all many members but one body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Therefore by coming together at the mass, we’re all united in one accord to maintain unity in our standing with God.

Lasly, the appeal to the saints is always great!  These are those believers that demonstrated love by their lives and are true friends of God in heaven.  Because they managed the embrace the fullness of purity in heart, we can appeal to these believers for their intercession just as we would earthly people. We can have assurance in their power because they conveyed righteousness and James has told us that prayers from the righteous are efficacious  (James 5:18). By invoking Mary, the angels, and the hosts of Saints, we’re asking them to grant a prayer request on our behalf. 

In this case, It’s not what you know,  but who you know that matters. The faithful are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses in the new covenant of faith hall of fame. Just as the Old Testament hall of fame (Hebrews 11:12) gave us many examples of Old Testament saints to look to as guides for faith,  the saints give us a guide of how to have our lives radically transformed by Christ to utter what St. Paul said “the life I now live in the flesh, I live for the Son of Man (Gal 2:20).” 

By rejecting sin and continually embracing the goal for holiness,  the confiteor reorients our desire to love God. Next time at mass, think of the importance of these words in a not so careless robotic fashion but what they actually steer our hearts to.

God Can Accomplish Much Through the Lowly 

Is it too much to think that God uses regular people for extraordinary purposes? Purposes that we may not see the immediate fruit,  but with patience,  faith and love eventually our labor won’t be in vain?

Think of Moses.  Here he was going about his normal routine then out of nowhere a burning bush that wasn’t consumed caught his attention. We know the rest. Moses is chosen to lead Israel out of Egyptian slavery.

Think about St.Peter and his calling by Jesus. Peter spent his whole life as a fisherman. He knew that profession well. Jesus calls him, leaves his profession behind, and immediately follows him. We know the rest. He eventually becomes the first Pope and leader of the apostles. 

Considering that tomorrow is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe,  here we see God using the simple to achieve an extraordinary end. The story behind the account is a remarkable story about Mary,  a humble man , and the change of an entire country to Christianity. 

St. Juan Diego was an Indian native heading to mass when a voice called to him. He went to check it out and saw a Lady whose garments were radiant standing on a hill. She told him she’d like a church built there and to speak with the bishop about this request. Juan Diego went to the the bishop, but he was some what skeptical of the request. The next day, the lady was waiting for Juan. He told her the story,  but she requested that he go back to the bishop. This time the bishop said he would need evidence to support his statements. On the third time he encountered the lady, she told him to  gather flowers in his cloak from the hill top and present them to the bishop. He did just that too. When Juan arrived at the bishop’s office, he opened his cloak, the flowers fell out ,  and everyone paid honor to the image of Mary shown as she was on the hill.

The rest is history. Christianity had shortly been introduced into the region, but because of Juan Diego’s humble and inviting heart to every desire of Mary this religion ended up becoming a thriving force. Because he didn’t hesitate to listen, the country was converted rapidly after the apparition. It is estimated that millions of people became Christians following this miraculous story. 

Today in Mexico City, you can still find the church built and view the exact cloak from Juan Diego! Truly a living miracle in our world. 

God used this native to help transform his country into a lover of God. His witness to the apparitions helped put away idolatry and paganism,  and replace it with communion with the eternal loving God.

What God calls you and I to do may not be this grandiose. Using the gifts he has given us, we can make an impact in some of the smallest ways.  Our impact doesn’t always produce rapid results or obvious fruit,  but with patience and time small seeds eventually flourish. 

Don’t ever think you can’t be used for God. God,  no matter how much comfort the obscurity of a low profile feels we have, can surely elevate the lowly to make them the greatest in the kingdom.