Tag Archives: catholicism

The Teachings Our Generation Missed

Receiving the Eucharist is a big deal to us Catholics, yes?  Ok, good.  Glad we are on the same page.  However, I have this sneaking suspicion that our generation missed, or just wasn’t told often enough, some basic rules about receiving the Eucharist.  Maybe the older folks are afraid we can’t handle them, or are just worried that we’ll think they’re uncool or something.  Regardless, I’m letting the cat out of the bag.

You ready?

(1) We have an obligation to attend mass every Sunday and on every Holy Day of Obligation.  If we miss mass without a serious reason, we’re guilty of mortal sin and need to go to confession before we can receive the Eucharist again.

(2) We have an obligation to go to confession at least once a year.  If it has been over one year since the last time you went to reconciliation, you should not be receiving the Eucharist.

***Update Re the Comment Box (in other words, stealing from the comment box):

“The once a year thing is interesting… the most recent code of canon law requires that we confess our grave sins at least once a year (989). Which, legally speaking, makes the most sense, since the sacrament of confession is actually only strictly necessary for the forgiveness of mortal sins. Venial sins do not need to be brought to confession in order to be forgiven.
However, practically and spiritually speaking, it makes sense that we would need to go to confession at least once a year, no matter what. Because even if we don’t need, strictly speaking, to confess venial sins in the sacrament of confession, we should, because it makes us aware of our sins, we receive grace and strength to overcome temptation and grow in holiness, and we actually hear the words of Jesus  saying, ‘I forgive you'”

(3) We also have an obligation to receive the Eucharist at least once during the season of Easter each year.  Translation: if you’re a baptized Catholic just going to mass every Sunday but not receiving because you’re aware of a mortal sin on your conscience, you need to go to confession sometime before Easter season is over this year so that you can receive communion.

The point of all of this: We cannot receive communion in a state of mortal sin.  Just because we made our first communion when we were seven does not automatically make us forever eligible to receive.  We have to live it out, too.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

-1 Cor 11:27-30

Yes, you read that right: Sickness and even death as a result of receiving communion in the state of mortal sin.  Of course, we should be wayyy more concerned about our spiritual health than our physical health, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking the two are mutually exclusive.  There have been many miracles in which people were healed from physical ailments after going to confession.

I’m not usually about fire and brimstone, but pretending it doesn’t exist is just not at all helpful.  The fact of the matter is that sometimes the truth is scary.  That is, of course, until we decide to live in accordance with it.  🙂

Diving Into Lent

Lent is less than a week away!  Have you made your Lenten resolutions yet?

A while ago I bought into what I am now deeming not-so-good advice about Lent.  I can’t remember where it came from, all I know is that I somehow got into my head the idea that it was best to make one or two resolutions that you know you can really stick to as opposed to a bunch of life-altering changes that might result in miserable failure on day three.

Well, forget that.

This is a blog for young adults, and we’re not particularly well known for being overly cautious.  Why should that change when it comes to one of the few cases in which caution is actually NOT desirable—in growing in relationship with Jesus?

We’ve got six days, people.  Let’s ask Jesus what things in our lives are keeping us from loving Him as we ought to and—whether it’s a list of three or three hundred things—cut. them. out. 

Is sleeping-in keeping you from prayer?  Set seven alarms and sleep on the floor for Lent (it’s much harder to sleep in when what you’re sleeping on is uncomfortable).  Wasting time on Facebook?  Block it.  Deactivate.  Whatever it takes.  Also, fast.  Fast a lot.

A lot of people ask how giving up something like chocolate or soda can help your relationship with Jesus.  It’s simple, really.  We are supposed to love Jesus above all else; and as Christians, we want to love Jesus above all else.  So we practice.  We practice by refusing ourselves some lesser good—not because enjoying that lesser good is wrong, but because by refusing that lesser good, we are showing and increasing our love for He that is the greatest good.  If we don’t practice saying no to ourselves and to lesser goods, then our prayer becomes empty.  I can’t truly say that I love God more than anything if I’m unable to do something as simple as giving up dessert as an act of love for Him.

There’s a catch, though.  The thing about the advice I took a few years back was that it was safe.  If you’re just giving up chocolate for Lent, it’s not so difficult to just get into the habit of not having chocolate.  It’s a simple recipe for a “successful” Lent.

The non-cautious route to Lent isn’t safe.  And you may not be “successful” in the same way as you used to be on the safe route.  But Lent is all about renewing your total reliance on God, and sometimes we learn that best after falling a few times trying to do it on our own.  The sooner you learn that you will fail when you try to do it alone, the better.  The battle was never yours to begin with.

“Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works”

Heb 10:24

Ask Mary: I really, really don’t want kids.

Question:

I’m an 18 year old female college student, and I have just gotten back in touch with Catholicism…

…I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting back into my faith, but there is something that REALLY continues to rub me wrong. I’ve prayed and prayed about it, but I am not getting any answer. I’ve researched it, but just hear the same things over and over and it just doesn’t sit right with me, and that is the issue of contraception. I’ve read humanae vitae, I’ve researched “natural family planning”, and it all still leaves me completely unsatisfied still. I see where the Church is coming from on this issue, however, I feel that God has called me to do something else with my future besides staying at home with my “loving” husband and having a billion children…And then I went to the church and asked my female minister about it. The gist was this: If you have the financial capability, happiness, and wealth, your job is basically to be popping out children.

This just honestly does not sit right with me…Some women love being mothers, and being a mother is certainly an honorable duty, but I don’t think I’m cut out for it. I’m very ambitious and have goals of working for the Department of Defense, not sacrificing all my happiness because the Church says I should.

I was considering getting an IUD. I am not in a relationship currently and have no plans of having sex any time soon, but just in case, I know for SURE that I don’t want children for at least 5 years. I know the Catholic church hates “the pill” because there’s this ridiculously tiny chance that sperm and egg meet, but with an IUD, that never happens. 

Is it still just so completely wrong? I’ve prayed and prayed about this issue, and have not received any answer it seems. I just get that same feeling I always have had. I don’t think birth control is such a horrible sin against God like people make it out to be. Prayer, research, and everything keep me coming to the exact same conclusions! I don’t want to say that God says it’s alright because I don’t know, but I’m not feeling a ridiculously large objection here!

What do you think? I’m just horribly frustrated. Thanks for any advice you can give.

Answer:

Thanks for this question.  I would like to begin my answer by asking you a question of my own…

You say in your last paragraph, “I don’t want to say that God says it [birth control] is alright because I don’t know.”

My question is this: Why don’t you know?

A lot of people see the “rules” of our Catholic faith as something that tie us down and keep us from being free to discover God and the truth on our own.  But this is a huge misunderstanding.  For one, God is infinite, and so far beyond our human capability to understand that, were it not for Him reaching down to us and divinely revealing Himself to us, we would never be able to ascend to Him on our own.  The truth is that, far from hampering our ability to know and understand truth for ourselves, the teachings of the Church (which come from the Holy Spirit revealed to the apostles and their successors) are precisely what enable us to understand truth in the first place.  When we live the teachings of the Church, we become more—not less— free to discover truth, beauty, and goodness (and thus, God Himself).

My point: You actually do know what God says about birth control.  He has told you in the moral teachings of the Church, that practicing artificial birth control is not, has never been, and will never be true, beautiful, or good for you.

 

Why Not?

Now, I could be totally off here.  But it seems to me that your understanding of why the Church “hates” the pill is because it can, at times, act as an abortifacient?

That may be true…but that is not the only reason.  The Church is also against condoms as a means of birth control, and they’re not aborting any babies either.  There’s something deeper to the reason for this teaching that you may be missing.

Let’s talk nature.  The natural end of sex is a baby, just like the natural end of food is nutrition.  Not every crumb of food we eat ends up being used to nourish our bodies.  And that’s ok.  Likewise, not every sexual encounter results in a baby.  And that’s ok, too.

But let’s say I decided I didn’t want to allow food to nourish my body at all—that I just wanted to enjoy the taste of it and nothing else.  I could make the decision to vomit every meal (or at least the majority of meals) I consume.  …But then you’d call me bulimic, because that behavior is disordered (hence the term “eating disorder”).

Likewise, I could decide I just want pleasure of the sexual encounter, without giving any real opportunity for the natural end (procreation) to occur.  …But the Church would call that disordered because, well—from a purely natural standpoint—it is.

I know you said you’ve read it, but I’d like to direct your attention to paragraph 17 of humanae vitae for further clarification of the Church’s teaching on contraception:

Another effect [of the use of contraception] that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Many may read this and scoff, but I think it’s pretty apparent that the widespread use of contraception has in fact led to this result.  Sex has become little more than pleasure, and no longer a total gift of self (after all, you are holding a part of yourself back from your partner when you use contraception, so you cannot truthfully say you are giving yourselves entirely to one another in that union).  As a result, those with whom we engage in the sexual act when we are using contraception become, for all practical purposes (and whether we are conscious of it or not), nothing more than objects we use to bring about our own pleasure.  We may tell ourselves it’s ok because the using is mutual.  Call the Church crazy, but it has always held, and will always hold, that the mutual using of one another for pleasure is not love.

NFP, IUDs, and The Pill

Natural Family Planning can be very effective when practiced properly.  And while you should not practice NFP with a “contraceptive mentality,” not every Catholic couple is necessarily called to have 12 children, either.  The following is an excerpt from a brief article that I think does a good job explaining the Church’s teaching with regards to the choice to have children:

There is no decision more serious to a Catholic couple than whether or not to participate with God in bringing a new human person into existence. The more serious a decision, the more it is due prayer, discussion and discernment. I teach my seminarians in Denver that God has a plan for every married couple; that the plan includes how many children they should have; and therefore if a couple is concerned about doing Jesus’ will, they should try to discover whether Jesus wishes them to have more children. They should have all the children that Jesus wants them to have, no less, and no more. Therefore, whenever they are conscious that they might become pregnant, they should discuss and pray over the question: “Does Jesus want us to have another child?” The idea that this question is intrinsically tainted with selfish motives is rigoristic and should be rejected. Every potentially fertile couple, as well as infertile couples capable of adopting, has the responsibility to ask it.

Finally: birth control pills and IUDs (in addition to the spiritual and emotional damage they can cause) are also associated with many other medical problems.  And since you’re not yet married nor planning to get married anytime soon, there should be no reason why you’d be considering getting an IUD at this time anyway.  (By the way, it is definitely not true that an IUD cannot cause an abortion).

The Church Wants You to Be Happy

If you get one thing from my reply, let it be this: God wants you to be happy even more than you want yourself to be happy.  And seeing as He created you and thus knows you better than you know yourself, He knows better than you do what will make you happy.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m NOT saying: “God knows that 12 kids is really what makes every woman happy…so just drop this whole Department of Defense dream and start popping out babies.”  (There are many examples of women in the Church whom we revere as saints that never had children!) What I am saying is this: you can’t be as happy as God wants you to be if you are disobeying the teachings of the Church that He established.  They are there for a reason—and that reason is your happiness.

I don’t know what your vocation is.  God could very well call you to marriage, religious life, or even to the consecrated single life.  I can say with 100% certainty that whatever He calls you to, it will make you happier than you ever imagined.  I can say with 100% certainty that eternal happiness is not something we have to wait until we die for.  It is something that can begin right now by clinging to God in prayer and by living in accordance with the teachings of the Church (even when we may not fully understand them yet).  I can say with 100% certainty that God will never desire for you to disobey the moral teachings of the Church, so if you think that you are hearing God tell you it’s ok, it’s probably not God’s voice you are listening to, but your own.

It’s a long answer, but it was a big question 🙂  I hope it provided some clarity for you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day” (Matthew 6:34)

A woman visited her doctor. “Doctor,” she said, “I have a perfectly functioning circulatory system.”

“That’s good,” the doctor replied.

“Well,” she said, “I was wondering if you could give me a drug to make it stop functioning the way that it is supposed to.”

“That’s crazy!” the doctor replied. “Why would I give you something to make your circulatory system stop functioning well?”

“Ok,” the woman replied, “but how about my respiratory system. It seems to be working fine. Could you give me something to mess it up?”

The doctor was shocked. “Of course not! No doctor in their right mind would intentionally give you a drug to mess up a healthy respiratory system.”

“Well, how about my reproductive system?” asked the woman. “Can you give me something to make it stop functioning the way that it is supposed to?”

“Certainly,” the doctor replied. “We have all kinds of medicines to do that.”

Logos Bible Software: AKA – Your Next Birthday Present

Quick!  What’s 2 Timothy 3:16-17??

If we were catering to Catholic stereotypes on this blog (which, of course, we’re not), then we’d conclude that most of you probably couldn’t answer that question because, as everyone knows, us Catholics don’t know our Bibles.  But I don’t like stereotypes.  And, as a student of Biblical Theology (who happens to be Catholic), I particularly do not like this stereotype.

Which is why today’s post is dedicated to Sacred Scripture, to encourage you to dive into the Word, and to tell you about an amazing software program to help you do just that: Logos Bible Software.

Logos Bible Software is a powerful tool available for anyone interested in studying the Bible.  Think Google, only exclusively for Bible Study.  Say you went to mass today, and you wanted to go deeper behind the text of the Gospel (Mark 7:1-13).  All you would need to do is open up Logos, type in the chapter and verse, and within seconds you’d be able to read what Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote about the passage, you’d be able to do a side-by-side comparison of this passage across different translations, as well as see the parallel verses throughout Scripture—and much more.

 

Why is it important to study the Bible in this way?  Besides the fact of it just being flat-out incredible to have all of these resources at your fingertips, this is actually how the Church encourages us to approach Sacred Scripture.  Catholic Bible Study 101: the Church lays out three guides, as it were, for reading the Bible.  They are:

  1. Pay attention to the Content and Unity of the whole Scripture
    (The Bible, though a collection of many books, is also one story–the story of Salvation History.  It’s meant to be read as such.)
  2. Read Scripture in light of the Living Tradition of the whole Church
    (Scripture itself is a result of Tradition.  We don’t understand it fully until we read it as being apart of that Tradition)
  3. Be attentive to the Analogy of Faith 
    (Scripture cannot, and does not, contradict the doctrines of our Catholic Faith)

Logos makes it easier for the faithful Catholic to read Scripture the way it is meant to be read, with these three guidelines in mind.  Not that this software is strictly a Catholic program—it’s not.  But it makes available many of the vast resources of the Tradition so that Catholics can read them side-by-side the verse or passage in question with just the click of a button (minimal digging required).  You have at your fingertips commentaries from the Early Christians on the Scriptures, as well as Church documents.  At the same time, if you want to go back to the basics and study the Bible in its original languages and compare different translations (as the Church has also encouraged the faithful to do), Logos allows you to do that, too.  You don’t even have to know the original languages, because Logos does all of the legwork for you.

And of course, as the generation whose iPhones and iPads are constantly glued to our hands, the software perfectly syncs across your laptop, iPad, and iPhone apps, so whatever you do in Logos on your computer, you open it up to the same place on your iPhone (and vise-versa).

As a student of Biblical Theology, Logos is incredibly helpful to me.  If I’m researching for a paper, I can type the passage, or a keyword or phrase, into the search bar and, in seconds, I am knee-deep in relevant sources that will help in writing my paper (my very own digital research assistant!).  It is also incredibly helpful that I can copy and paste into a Word document and Logos will automatically add the footnote citation for me (doing the citations/bibliography of a paper used to take me an extra hour or two because I’d put off actually typing out the longhand of the footnotes until the end).

There are a number of packages available, and you can find the one that is right for you at Logos.com.  I would particularly recommend this software to any of my readers who attend Catholic universities, or to homeschooling families.  It’s an investment that you won’t regret because it saves time, shelf-space, and money in the long run.  However no matter your background, profession, or field of study, I would recommend Logos because as Catholics, we are all called to study the Bible.  As Saint Jerome has said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”.

16 All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

-2 Timothy 3:16-17
(for those of you dying to know the answer to my pop-quiz)

 

Because Religious Freedom Is Cool

There are 195 bishops in the United States.  At the time of writing this, 101 of them have spoken out against the new HHS mandate, which requires that sterilization and contraception, including controversial abortifacients, be among the “preventive services” coverage in almost every healthcare plan available to Americans, including health plans offered by religious organizations.

In short: this requires Catholic organizations to violate basic tenets of their faith or shut down.

Rather than writing a post about this, I thought I’d link to one that sums it up quite nicely.  Please—Catholic or not— spread the word and sign the petition.

This injustice is not something that need solely concern the Catholic Church — if the federal government can force Catholics to act against their consciences, they can force anyone to act against their conscience, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Atheist, and by the same pitiful reasoning.