Have you ever had an argument with someone with a completely opposite view from you? Not just a little off, I mean a person who holds a position so completely opposed that you find yourself at a loss for words. In such conversations, emotions tend to rule us. We become defensive, offended and angry. We lash out against anything the other person says. On some level, we act like they aren’t even human. Certainly, I find it extremely difficult to consider the humanity of the person when responding against something that’s deeply offensive to me.
Eventually, when we cool off, we can think about it a little clearer. How can we dialogue with someone like this? Well, if we want to be reasonable, and we care about the honest truth, we need to find something to agree on.
It may take a while, we may have to boil down to the absolute basics, but eventually, there’s something to be found.
So what’s the point of all this? I think that where any political question is involved, post-moderns have lost the ability to do this. Whether consciously or not, we live in a culture where you don’t debate to find the truth, you debate to dominate your opponent. And this forces us into being ruled by a government that makes decisions based on emotion and power-mongering, rather than reason.
Not only does this happen, it happens so openly that politicians are not even ashamed by their refusal to consider rational evidence. They wear it as a badge of honour.
Nowhere has this been more on display than in the Canadian House of Commons, as MP Stephen Woodworth attempted, twice, to get politicians to review criminal laws in light of human rights. That these laws exist contrary to any reasonable account of human rights is in my opinion very clear, but I, like Mr. Woodworth, am open to discussing it.
Many of Canada’s politicians are not, and it’s pretty clear why.
There is a sacred cow to protect, and emotions are on a rampage. So, they shot down the initial proposal to examine scientific evidence of when human life begins.
With Motion 476, Mr. Woodworth proceeded the only way a reasonable person could. He attempted to find common ground for rational discussion. There was absolutely nothing controversial about the motion. Here it is:
That the House of Commons affirm that every Canadian law must be interpreted in a manner that recognizes in law the equal worth and dignity of everyone who is in fact a human being.
That’s it. From here, honest dialogue could begin.
There is no doublespeak here. There are no smoke and mirrors. There is no trickery. Mr. Woodworth asked parliament a question: do human rights exist in Canada?
Our government answered, no.
I, for one, am terrified of a government that can justify that.
If you had told me what my first few years of marriage would be like, I probably would have laughed in your face in disbelief. I knew it would be tough, but I knew it would bring me real joy and happiness if I lived my vocation as God wills me to. Christopher West says that “Marital love is a reflection of how God loves. It is free, total, faithful and fruitful.” Since it is a reflection of how God loves, it also will include suffering, and death to our will, in the service of our family. But, more importantly, just as Christ’s death resulted ultimately in the joy of the Resurrection, our sanctification through marriage will bring us great joy in this life and in the next. Realizing that my three year wedding anniversary is fast approaching in August, I was reflecting on and realizing the many things that God has taught me, so far, through marriage. Though I am far from the woman that God has created me to be, I can see that God has and is sanctifying me in so many ways. I am not where I was, but not where I want to be yet, but I am so grateful that God has brought Chris and I here to where we are today.
Here are some great lessons that I am learning, in no particular order.
1. What love really looks like – Marriages thrive and grow when we exhaust ourselves in loving our spouse and children. Mine surely has. Love one day at a time, and love as much as you can. When you are exhausted at the end of the day, and your patience is thin, give it a sprint. You won’t regret it.
2. Marriage acts like a magnifying glass on all your faults, and the only way to remedy them is through mental prayer – One of the most beautiful things about marriage is that spouses are meant to help each other get to heaven. Chris has been such a rock for me, and has humbled me when I have needed it most. He has shown me patience, when I have been impatient. He has loved me when it has been hard to love me. I have seen through the love that he shows to me, how I need to grow. That internal conversion is only possible through grace, prayer, and the Sacraments.
As said by Chris in his post from last week, “Vital Lehodey, in his book, “The Ways of Mental Prayer” says that mental prayer is the “grave of concupiscence.” It is there that vice goes to die. There is no saint who did not practice mental prayer, and it is precisely mental prayer and its fruits which make Saints.” Mary is also extremely necessary for the success of growth in the marriage. If you will belong to her, and subsequently to her Son, she will help you if you actively surrender all to Jesus through her on a daily basis.
3. Spontaneity - There really is nothing better that being spontaneous (though for me it is tough). From late night Subway 2-for-1 runs, to singing funny, made-up-on-the-spot songs to one another, to Chris grabbing my hand for a two second dance while we pass one another in the hallway, or going on spur of the moment trips or dates. It is this kind of stuff that keeps the romance between Chris and I alive. Growing in spontaneity also helps us to be ready for anything that may come our way. It is important to be able to live like this in the small things so that we are prepared to live like this when more challenging circumstances require our immediate attention, difficult or otherwise.
4. Never let the sun go down on your anger. - In his wisdom, Pope Francis recently gave the following advice to married couples:
“It’s true that in married life there are many difficulties; with work, with not having enough money, problems with the children. Many difficulties, and often the husband and wife get irritated and they fight with each other; they argue. There are always fights in a marriage, right?
Sometimes even plates fly; you’re laughing, but it’s the truth. We shouldn’t be sad about this; this is human nature.
The secret is that love is stronger than an argument. And therefore, I always advise married couples: don’t end your day without making peace. Always (make peace). It’s not necessary to call the United Nations and have them come to your house to broke the peace. A little gesture will do, a caress, “good night, see you tomorrow”. And tomorrow you start over. This is life, carry on! Go forward with the courage to want to live together. This is great, it’s beautiful.”
5. The importance of picking somewhere to eat – I cannot count the number of times Chris and I have gone back and forth on this question. I have come to realize, however, the importance of being decisive and intentional. Decisiveness and intentionality is important for the sake of your spouse and children. The Blessed Mother was extremely decisive and intentional. When asked to be the Mother of God, her response was a wholehearted yes! Let us be like her, decisive in our decisions and not double minded. Where are you going for supper tonight?
6. Don’t ever stop romancing one another – Don’t stop the woo after the “I do”. I still love being pursued by Chris, and and Chris still loves me pursuing him. Whenever he does things to romance me, it makes me know that he still chooses me. This is so valuable and vital in a marriage. Make date nights a staple in your marriage.
7. Wives, be obedient! Husbands, serve! St. Paul encourages the Ephesians to do this, and it rings true especially today. This seriously does create a perfect harmony in marriage and when not followed, it really does create discord. Archbishop Fulton J Sheen says that “Love is a mutual self-giving which ends in self-recovery.” In obedience and in service, we are self-giving, and we are thereby tending to each other’s souls.
8. Advice from other solid, Catholic married couples is priceless – All of these lessons are things I have heard here and there from others, and I have tried my best to implement in my life. We should look to other great examples of married Catholics to model our own after. It is such a great gift, and it inspires me to live my marriage more and more like God intended it.
9. Take a step back – regularly. It is important to examine where you have been and where you are going. Hindsight is 20/20, or close to it, at least. Self examination is key in order to be able to love your spouse wholeheartedly, and the same goes for loving God.
10. The Importance of time together, and time alone. – We are joined at the heart, but not at the hip. I can give my best to Chris when I know who I am, but it takes time alone to do this, in reflection, but also pursuing personal hobbies or other interests. This is something I am working on daily, but many people can attest that Chris and I just like to hang out together. Sometimes we just have to say, “lets do other things”. Balance in marriage is key.
11. God will grow you and your family in His time. Though it can be hard to let our wills go in favor of God’s divine will for us, we must do everything we can to focus on our growth and our spouses growth in holiness – marriage was created for this purpose. I have found that the more I have done this, with God’s help, the happier I have become. We are ultimately the happiest when we are seeking and doing God’s will, even when it entails suffering to get there sometimes.
12. Marriage is to reflect Christ and His Church. Everything should be done for God’s glory, and to reflect Him and His love in the unity of the Holy Trinity. I highly admire seeing a mother, father, and child interact with one another in the way that really shows love. There is an indescribable beauty when marriage is lived out as God intended it. I have seen my marriage become more like this as time has passed, and I cannot wait to see how God will continue to transform it. I pray that my marriage is a small reflection to others of Christ and His Church.
13. Marriage is a life-long time of re-discovering each other. Re-discover your spouse and what they like, as much as you can. Heck, sit back to back and do one of those online surveys. You might be surprise at what you might learn, or what may have changed about one another.
I know that God has much in store for Chris and I in this life. I know that with seeking and cooperating with God’s will, we will also become the people we were meant to become. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said once said that “It takes three to make love, not two: you, your spouse, and God. Without God people only succeed in bringing out the worst in one another. Lovers who have nothing else to do but love each other soon find there is nothing else. Without a central loyalty life is unfinished.” Chris and I got married on August 6, 2011, and the Feast of the Transfiguration falls on that same day, every year. I hope that we and all married couples would continually be transfigured by Christ throughout our lives together, leading us ultimately to the Marriage Feast of Heaven.
“Keep the Faith” was a saying that drove me absolutely nuts as a teenager. I can recall how my faithless or borderline faithless classmates used to mockingly say that to me if I was doing something to defend the faith. “Alright there buddy, keep the faith”. I don’t know if the saying had been popularized by a movie of the similar title, which came out during that time, the Bon Jovi album (for our more mature viewer), or if it was just something they had picked up. Although I absolutely despised those words as a disgruntled loner catholic teen, they were three of the most important words I have ever heard.
As a 13 year old, I experienced my reversion to the Catholic Church and began to thirst for the Truth. As I began to dive deeper into what it really meant to be Catholic, I watched as my fellow ‘Catholic’ schoolmates stopped attending Mass and got into all sorts of darkness. Since then, I have also watched as parents, teachers, youth leaders, and even priests abandoned the Christian life and the Church. In my teens, I found myself feeling very alone at times saying, “Where the heck did that Catholic go?” I recall hearing very early on in my teens a song by a Christian band, which gave a strong warning to Christians. They warned that those who are serious about the faith will watch many ‘believers’ fall away from the faith. The bottom line was to be prepared for it. I remember as a teen thinking, “how can someone just pick up and leave the faith?”. I was very naive. Yet, as the years went on, my naivete disappeared. My high school classmates have all but left the Faith. Out of my youth group, only a handful of people remain actually Catholic, and most of those members are in Team Orthodoxy. Even some people who were on NET (National Evangelization Teams of Canada) with me, who had given a year of their lives (if not two), to serve Christ and evangelize, have abandoned the Catholic faith. Why?
As I look back over my 15 years of serious faith, I have noted trends, both in other people, but also in myself. I have seen the ebbs and flows in my life of faith, but also in others, and have seen where certain decisions can lead. This is not a holier than thou kind of thing. I have seen myself almost fall away from the Faith. Therefore, I have created a list, a step by step guide to apostasy (abandonment of the Faith), to help you see the warning signs. Not everyone falls into all of these categories but, you may see trends. The journey to heaven or hell is not a simple journey, but a journey of steps and choices. I will here provide my satirical list of some general warning signs with some brief commentary, and then share how to change it around.
Here is a step by step guide to abandoning the faith:
1. Making excuses for sins.
You’ve made the first step of abandoning the Faith. You sinned. You did what you said you wouldn’t do, and you’re okay with it. You neglect to repent immediately and do not resolve to go to confession. It’s only a little sin, right? God won’t mind. You might say, “Well, we all do it sometimes” or “I’m not perfect, so why pretend?” You go girl.
2. Placing your faith in Christians instead of Christ.
This is sort of a step outside of the steps, because it is pretty much a one stop shop. You’ve pretty much made your choice. “How could I ever be a Catholic when some priests have done _____?” God forbid it be someone you know. “What a bunch of hypocrites! I would never want to be associated with them!” Another version of this is, “The former priest spoke well and relevantly, but the new guy is old and boring. I’m not going back to that church.” You haven’t been back to Mass since the new guy showed up. He just bothers you. You piggyback your faith off of the trendiest priest around. You’re all about the “cool” factor. Welp, see ya.
3. Lack of a personal, mental prayer life.
Mass is your only prayer time. You’re too busy doing things. You’ve got commitments, man. School or work, kids and chores. God also wouldn’t dare interfere with your 8-10 hour of sleep per night. You are the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse when you don’t get your sleep and morning coffee, and that is more important than wasting time praying.
4. Failure to study the Faith.
You do not have time to pray and you certainly don’t have time to read. You have to catch up on your emails and Facebook. Don’t neglect to send those important texts and don’t forget to take a selfie. You already know the faith inside and out, I mean, you did go to Catholic school, right?
5. Weakened devotion to the Blessed Mother.
Of course you love Mary. Her rosary is dangling from your rearview mirror as we speak, so that all the people in the Wal-Mart parking lot can see it. That’s really enough for you. You opt for quicker devotions and ejaculatory prayers like “Oh my God – I’m late for work” and “Hail Mary! That’ll be the pass that wins the game!”
6. Catholic friendships do not take a pre-eminent place in your life.
You have some catholic friends from school that you meet up with at the bar on Friday night. That’s about it, really. They’re really nice though.
7. Romantic involvements become the focus of your hopes.
You have learned to pray with great earnestness the prayer passed down to us from the loneliest of the early Church fathers, “St. Ann, St. Ann – Send me a Man, Send Me a Man as Fast As You Can”. It’s not easy being alone and the biological clock sure is ticking loudly. It is actually ticking so loud that everyone hears it, or at least about it. El Catholica Desperada. Why else do you go to the bar on Friday night? You’re looking for a really good Catholic Gino, I mean man.
8. Theology becomes something to be manipulated instead of something that inspires and motivates.
“I have a degree in theology”, “I went to Catholic School”, “I work for the Diocese”. You have the books and the time to work God into your own image. Jesus, so meek and mild goes and sits in a corner for you and waits until you need something. No condemnation of your bad works would ever flow from His lips, granted, they are covered in your theological duct tape and you’re too busy justifying your actions to allow Him a moment to speak anyway.
9. Stop going to Confession.
Why go to Confession if you have convinced yourself that God doesn’t care and will forgive you anyway? Sin? What’s that? You have convinced yourself that sin is relative, and that even if there were something as bad as mortal sin, it would be truly impossible to fully fulfil the criteria. Plus, look at all the good works you do, and your diet is absolutely outstanding. Wouldn’t want to harm that perfect body with some foreign chemicals, now.
10. Start making excuses to miss Mass.
Now that you no longer believe in sin, you now can make excuses to skirt around your “Sunday obligation”. You begin to treat it like it is no big deal. You can even go to a protestant church if you want on Sunday. Who cares? Nobody misses you there anyways. Plus the communion hosts aren’t all organic and gluten free. You can just eat some Ezekiel 4:9 bread and have a glass of “Girls Night Out” at home, and think some happy thoughts while listening to Casting Crowns or Matt Maher. Joel Olsteen might even have something on the old tellie. You were born to live your best life today, err, maybe tomorrow.
11. Instead of giving assent to the Teaching of Christ and the Church, you begin to publicly support worldly points of view instead.
Living the Catholic life no longer matters to you. You are finally free. All that matters is that you are respected and able to do what you want to do without anyone telling you otherwise. You now begin to attack the Church’s teachings because you wish to support the lifestyle you have created for yourself and the Church now stands in opposition of the things which you have chosen to love. Yet you still call yourself a “Catholic” because you’ve got roots. We got it. Welcome to the land of heresy. You have officially changed your Facebook religious status from “Catholic” to “Catholic But…”. You will find many so-called ‘Catholics’ hanging out in this mental toilet bowl. Many people choose to live out their days, here, floating on the logs of the culture of death until it comes time for the ultimate flush. Some however, choose to flush themselves. Weeeeee (no pun intended)?
12. You repeat the prior eleven steps ad nauseum, in no particular order, until you completely and formally abandon the Catholic Faith.
Well, you’ve flushed yourself. You have finally realized that you are no longer Catholic and renounce the Faith completely. Remove that Facebook status. Hide your Jesus junk. Make sure there is no sign of your former catholicity. Remove that feeling inside every time you see a crucifix. Call it “Catholic Guilt” and throw it away. To thine own self be true, and you friend are a go-getter without some misogynistic, antiquated moralism to hold you back. God? That guy you left in the corner? Yeah, He’s still around somewhere but He’s kind of like the downstairs neighbour that you see in passing but don’t really pay attention to.
1. Pray, examine your conscience daily, and go to confession often to keep yourself in spiritual check. Each time we fall into sin, we move further away from God and His Church. St. Alphonsus Liguori states:
The Devil does not bring sinners to Hell with their eyes open; he first blinds them with the malice of their own sins. “For their own malice blinded them” – Wisdom 2:21. He thus leads them to eternal perdition. Before we fall into sin, the enemy labors to blind us, that we may not see the evil we do, and the ruin we bring upon ourselves by offending God. After we commit sin, he seeks to make us dumb, that through shame, we may conceal our guilt in confession. Thus he leads us to Hell by a double chain, inducing us, after our transgression, to consent-to a still greater sin – the sin of sacrilege.
2. Many people fall away from the Faith simply because they place their faith in Christians, whether it be laity, priests, bishops, popes, etc. How do you stop this? Put your faith in Christ and the Blessed Mother. Neither of them will ever fail. Besides these two people, no one is impeccable, and all are sinners. Stay united to Christ through prayer, and if you get the urge to condemn another Christian’s failure, make sure you are pounding your chest 100 times harder for all of your sins.
3. Vital Lehodey, in his book, “The Ways of Mental Prayer” says that mental prayer is the “grave of concupiscence.” It is there that vice goes to die. There is no saint who did not practice mental prayer, and it is precisely mental prayer and its fruits which make saints. In order for the world, the flesh, and the devil to speak the loudest, the intellect must be removed from the silence of prayer. If you want to see your faith take a downward spiral, stop praying. If you want it to be reinvigorated, begin the practice of daily mental prayer.
4. Once the intellect gives up on prayer, it will no longer be motivated to study the Truths of the Catholic Faith. Once you give up the study of the faith, you begin to study the world. A mind that is not bridled by faith and reason can be led into all sorts of darkness. You can fix this by simply studying the faith, perhaps just read a little bit each day. Listen to a talk on Youtube or EWTN. Just take some time to raise your mind to things of eternity. It is important to learn not simply what the Church teaches, but to find out why she does.
5. If Jesus chooses to need Mary, so do you. A lack of Marian devotion is a sign of spiritual paralysis. Make sure that daily Marian devotion is part of your routine. Marian devotion also helps to keep you in check, because it recognizes that we need a mediatrix with the mediator. We recognize, through authentic Marian devotion, that we cannot control Jesus. It acknowledges that we are not even worthy to be before Him and that Mary is the only one who can purify our prayers and present them perfectly to the Lord.
6. Bad company produces bad morals. If you surround yourself only with people who do not believe in Christ and His Church, you’re going to end up like them. The analogy of the coals comes to mind. A hot coal placed among hot coals remains warm. A coal placed among cold stones may warm the stones for a short while, but will soon become as cold as they are.
7. Loneliness can be very subtle but can overtake a person very easily. The passions are a tough thing to master. All of us are wired for relationship, however, I have seen how some people put their faith in God, in hopes that He’ll bring prince or princess charming to them on a white horse and in their own time. When their longed-for spouse doesn’t show up, the person loses faith in God, and most especially in His personal love for them. God is not a matchmaker or a vending machine. It is of vital importance that especially if you are dealing with loneliness and seeking a partner, that God remains the number one focus, and that you pray to be in union with God’s will, not the other way around.
8. Spiritual pride=spiritual death. Friend, it matters not what you think you know or what the paper on the wall says. If you are not faithful to Christ and His Church, and working earnestly to grow in virtue, you got nothin’, capish? Once we presume we have God wrapped around our little finger, we fall into the sin of presumption. I have quoted Peter Kreeft in the past before regarding this, however, it is just too good not to mention again. Kreeft states that, “you can’t repent if you don’t believe in sin to repent of, and you can’t believe in sin if you don’t believe in a real moral law, because sin means disobeying that. Moral relativism eliminates that law, thus sin, thus repentance, thus salvation.”
9. Never stop going to confession. We need the graces given to us through the Sacraments to fully live the Christian Life. The Pope recently went to confession publicly and he goes every two weeks. You should totally go and be set free by the Lord. I promise you, it is worth it.
10. The Catechism of the Catholic Church echoes the Second Vatican Council when it declares that, “the Eucharist is the Source and Summit of the Christian Life”. If you cut yourself off from Mass, you cut yourself off from the source of the Christian Life, and it’s apex, which is true union with God. Mass is Heaven on Earth. How can you expect to go to Heaven when you die if you ignore the heavenly banquet on earth?
The bottom line of changing your whole spiritual outlook is to be faithful to Christ by being faithful to His Church. The Holy Spirit has prevented the Church’s teaching from falling into error for almost 2,000 years and will never stop protecting the Spouse of Christ. It may be harder for some to give assent to this, however, to the level that we pray, enter into the Sacramental Life of the Church, study the Church’s Teaching, seek to grow in virtue, and seek out Catholic Community, the more graces we will receive and the more truly joyful we will be.
One scene that we meditate on during Lent is the abandonment of Christ during His Sacred Passion. From the Garden of Gethsemane, the Apostles dispersed, yet only one disciple remained faithful during the whole entirety of the Passion, St. John. Why did Jesus deign to grant St. John custody of His own Mother from the Cross? It was because St. John remained faithful, even during the toughest moments. St. John was committed to Christ and to His Mother. Some think that while the rest of the Apostles ran away from the Garden, John went to get the Blessed Mother. St. John, less than 24 hours before the crucifixion of the Lord was found in the upper room, at the Last Supper, reclining against Jesus’ chest. St. John remained close to the Sacred Heart, to Christ’s Mother, and he remained faithful to Peter (the First Pope), and gave assent to him, even at the tomb of the Lord on Easter Morning. He was also the only Apostle who received a martyr’s crown without dying, and was given great revelations through prayer, which are now in every single Bible across the world. Jesus gave huge graces to St. John the Apostle. What the Lord desired to give to St. John, He desires to give to us who remain faithful to the end. This does not mean we won’t fall, but, we get up and keep running the race. The question for us is will we choose to be faithful like St. John or are we choosing to settle for less?
Today, Team Orthodoxy will be having an official day of prayer. We will be offering prayers for the conversion of sinners, the success of our ministry, and the intentions of our readers over the entire day.
If you have an intention you’d like us to pray for:
You can leave us a comment here, or on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Or, if you’d prefer not to make your intention public, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to pray with us:
We are looking forward to praying for you!