Tag Archives: religion

A Chicken-Egg Situation

As sort of a newbie to this whole blogging game, I often find myself trying to network with fellow Catholic and young-adult bloggers in order to expand my readership.  I’ll write guest posts for other blogs or publications, I’ll email people who are doing it better than I am, and I will just generally spend a lot of time researching what “the other people” are doing.  For the most part, it works just fine.

But sometimes, I don’t quite do the research that I ought to…Like a few weeks ago:

In Googling other Catholic blogs for young adults, I came across one in particular that seemed fairly popular.  After spending all of 20 seconds on their site (over-eager, rookie mistake), I found the contact page and shot off an email, reading something to the effect of:

“Please please please can I write something on your blog so that mine can be noticed???”

I later got a reply making sure I really understood what I was asking.  Apparently, this particular blog was written by “progressive” young Catholics, who do not always agree with Catholic doctrine, and are hoping and working for specific teachings of the Church to be changed, so that the Church can be more “democratic”.  I guess, judging from my posts, they got the impression that maybe I wouldn’t be on board with that mission.

From their email response (which I will mention was very kind and considerate):

“I can see that your own judgment and thinking has led you to stances that are more in line with official Catholic teaching on all, or at least most, issues”

My initial reaction was, “of course it has!”  But then I had another thought.  Which brings me to my chicken-egg situation:

Which ought to take precedence—what I feel is right by my own logic, or the teaching of the Catholic faith I profess?

I think the “progressive” answer would be to say that it is my duty to skeptically question every little detail about the Catholic faith, judging it by my own reason, and then, only when I get all of my questions answered, I can decide to accept Catholicism.

But there is one rather large problem with that.  I’m not God.  My reason is often flawed, and I make many, many mistakes.  In realizing I am a flawed human, I actually try not to let my own judgment shape my beliefs, because I am just that—flawed.

I can only hope that, if and when I fail to understand a teaching of the faith, my reason will eventually come to be shaped by my faith, and not the other way around.  I know my track record of using reason and I know God’s.  It seems logical to conclude that the Church that He who is without fault set up will be right, even if my reason has trouble understanding how or why at first.

And speaking of chicken-egg situations…

True Religion (and no, I’m not talking about the jeans)

There are many religions seeking to bring comfort and happiness to humanity, just as there are many treatments for a particular disease. All religions endeavor to help living beings avoid misery and find happiness. Although we may prefer one religious perspective to another…[E]ach religion works to lessen suffering and contribute to the world

-The Dali Lama

Beautifully said—if only I could completely agree with it.  The Dali Lama often speaks of the “oneness” of all religion because, the way he sees it, all religions essentially have the same basic message: love thy neighbor, do unto others…, etc.  Insofar as religion seeks to bring humanity together, its presence is a good thing.

But what about those times when religion does not bring peace, but a sword?  What about when religion divides those whom it hopes to unite?  There is a tendency by those who subscribe to the Dali Lama’s philosophy to then condemn religion as something undesirable.  The thought goes something like this: so long as religion is uniting and benefitting us on earth we ought to allow it, but when it makes things or relationships difficult for us, it should be rejected.

Sound familiar?

So many people my age subscribe to this philosophy and end up thinking it doesn’t really matter what you believe so long as you consider yourself a “good person”.  The problem with this is that you end up believing in nothing other than yourself.  You are the authority.  You are your god.  And why should it be any other way—if religion is really just about what brings you comfort?

Personally, I think Pope Benedict’s definition of religion makes a lot more sense:

“True religion consists in love of God and of neighbor”

Love of neighbor is an important part of religion that we cannot neglect; but it must come from our love of God—a God with whom we have a relationship and a God who is not ourselves.

Love of God and love of neighbor: the two are inseparably linked.

When I get married, I want 17 kids.

Ok— maybe I’m not honestly planning on having 17 children.  Actually, I’m not thinking about having children at all right now (due, of course, to my unmarried state).

I do, however, come from a family of 5 children—which for many people is a lot of children, especially given the fact that we are all within 2 years apart from one another.  Every one of my 4 siblings is married with at least 1 child, giving me a grand total of 8 adorable nieces and nephews.  And wanna know the “crazy” thing?

None of my siblings (nor my parents) practice artificial birth control.  And if/when I get married, I won’t either.

Call it what you will.  Irresponsible.  Insane.  Outright disturbing.  I’ve heard it all before, and it only makes me more proud to be a part of a family that lives out and takes seriously this most controversial teaching of the Catholic Church.  It’s not that I enjoy controversy for controversy’s sake.  No—it’s that I wholeheartedly believe that a fuller truth, a truer happiness, and a more authentic love are on our side when it comes to the stance my family takes on using artificial contraception.

Why?  Because I believe in marriage, and I believe in love.  I believe the most perfect expression of the love between a husband and wife is the sexual union.  And I unreservedly reject anything that seeks to cheapen or distort that expression of love and turn it into something it is not.  To me (and I believe to anyone who really sits down and reflects on it with an open mind for some time), contraception is one of those things.

My family believes (as the Catholic Church teaches) that the purpose of sex within marriage is twofold: 1) for the unity of the couple, and 2) for the procreation of offspring.  Don’t misunderstand my meaning.  This DOES NOT mean that I think every time a married couple has sex that they need to be intending or trying to have a child.  It simply means that the married couple needs to be open to having children as a result of their union.

It’s pretty clear why the unitive aspect of sex is so important to a married couple; but to our modern society, it’s far less clear why it matters that a couple be open to having children every time they engage in sex.  Simply put, the reason is: love.

Life-giving Love: Sex is supposed to be a total gift of yourself to your spouse.  The act of sex renews the wedding vows, to hold nothing back from your partner.  Using contraception, we close off a part of ourselves from our spouse, cheapening the authentic expression of total, life giving love that sex is meant to be.

Respect: Because contraception rejects the life-giving aspect of the sexual union, I believe that it is a form of disrespect to the body—making the body little more than a mere instrument used for sexual pleasure.  Of course, it is not at all that I think that most couples that use birth control are doing so with the intent of using one another, but I do think that, over time, it can be an unintended, and undesired effect (even if the couple cannot specifically point to birth control as the reason for their eventual emotional distance).

Come on, Get Real

I do realize (as does the Catholic Church) that often times there are legitimate reasons to space out or delay pregnancy within a family.  In those cases, it is still not ever a good idea to contracept, because all of the negative effects that come with it still apply.  However science has made great strides in a natural way for couples who need to either delay or achieve pregnancy.  It’s called Natural Family Planning, and it has a near 99% success rate.

Rather than unnaturally altering or inhibiting the proper functions of the body, NFP requires the couple work with the woman’s body to achieve the desired result (it involves charts and temperature taking and all that jazz.  Of course I’ve never done it, so I can’t really tell ya from experience).  I can tell you that couples who practice NFP have a divorce rate less than 1% (fact).  Though it’s important to realize that it’s not necessary for every couple—I believe that if you have the means to support a family and don’t have a good, non-selfish, reason for delaying children, there is no need to practice NFP in order to delay pregnancy.  Love can’t be selfish, so neither can sex, right?

A Final Word on Children

People are uncomfortable with large families and lots of kids.  I’ve never understood why.  Though children are often messy and difficult to control, any mentally stable person who has children will tell you without hesitation about the joy that children bring to a life and to a marriage.  Is raising a family easy?  Hardly.  Does the love they bring to a family make up a hundred fold for all of the struggle?  Drawing from my own experience growing up in a larger family and from literally anyone I have talked to about their children, you better believe it does.

A Word About Prayer…

Even though it was a three-day-weekend, this past weekend was one of those that seemed to end too soon.  I was about halfway through my burger yesterday afternoon, after spending most of the day in the pool/ out in the sun, when I realized, oh hey…I have to be at class at 8am tomorrow morning.  Just like that, the summer vacation bubble I had been floating in all weekend was burst, and gravity pulled me back down to reality.

It’s not so bad though.  Thankfully my 8am class today is one I enjoy, and even though the seemingly endless routine of school and/or work can often feel mundane or meaningless, the discipline of routine is something I am thankful for; and many times it is something I actually long for in those “vacation” times of my life.

Still, there are some things in life that we are never supposed to take a vacation from.  I believe the most important is prayer.

My university requires us students to spend a minimum of one hour a week in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in prayer (Some students grumble against this, but I love it).  Because the chapel is just right there on campus, I find myself in there at least for a short while every day I am at the school.  Visiting Jesus in the chapel has just become part of my weekday routine.

It saddens me how easy it is then, while on vacation and away from my typical routine, for me to get hours into my day and realize, I haven’t really prayed yet today! Sure I have usually prayed before every meal and maybe said a few things on my way to the shower, but I haven’t really spent time with God in prayer as if He were someone I was trying to grow in a relationship with.  If the realization of an 8am class in the morning could stop me mid-chew at the Memorial Day BBQ, how much more should this realization hit me?  We live in a culture so wrapped up in material things that we literally do not even realize when we neglect the most important thing we can do with our day—conversing with the one who created us, and the only one who will truly bring us lasting fulfillment.

We need to pray.  It is the simplest lesson to learn and the easiest one to forget.  Prayer needs to be a part of our routine, even on the weekends or when we are on vacation.  Without it, we are surely lost.

One Last Thing-

I know that a lot of my readers may not classify themselves as “Christian” or “Religious” in any way, so you may not think I’m talking to you.  My intention isn’t to preach at you, but to invite you to respond to a conversation that God has already started inside your heart.  Just try it.  What have you got to lose?

What a Coincidence…

“People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.”

Saint Augustine

Did You Know…

  • “If [the Earth] was 1 degree closer to the sun we would fry, all of earth’s water would boil away, and life would be impossible. If Earth was 1 degree farther away from the sun, all its water would freeze, and the terrestrial landscape would be nothing but barren deserts.”
  • “Everything in the universe is made of atoms, from the stars in the farthest heavens to the cells in the human body. The atom itself is a bundle of “lucky coincidences.” Within the atom, the neutron is just slightly more massive than the proton, which means that free neutrons can decay and turn into protons. If the proton that was larger and had a tendency to decay, the very structure of the universe would be impossible.”
  • At the moment of conception, you spent about half an hour as a single cell.
  • The average adult human body is made up of about 50 to 75 trillion cells.
  • The human brain cell can hold 5 times as much information as the Encyclopedia Britannica.
  • An amount of blood equal to the whole quantity in the body passes through the heart once every minute
  • The weight of the heart is from eight to twelve ounces. It beats one hundred thousand times in twenty-four hours.
  • Freeman J. Dyson, an English-born American physicist and mathematician, famous for his work in quantum mechanics and many other fields, says, ‘As we look out into the universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked to our benefit, it almost seems as if the universe must in some sense have known that we were coming.’”

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