Tag Archives: rules

The Rules

As young people, we’re generally not huge fans of rules.  We like to make up our own minds using our own reason and we hate being told what to do—especially if we are told to do something for seemingly no reason at all (like making your bed in the morning when you’re just going to sleep in it again at night).

At first, we may just put up with the nonsensical rules out of fear of getting in trouble.  When this is no longer enough, we’re faced with two options:

1)   We decide that we know better and we figure that the fun we’ll have breaking the rules is worth the consequences or punishments that will most likely befall us.

2)   We talk to the boss (usually mom and dad) and figure out what the deal is with the rules.  And even if we still don’t quite understand them, we figure that our parents have our best interest at heart, and the love and respect we have for them is enough to get us to obey the rules.

If you paid attention closely, you may have noticed that it all really comes down to some form of love.  When we obey rules out of fear of punishment, it’s because we’re smart enough to love ourselves enough to not want to get punished.  On the other hand, when we break rules, we’re declaring that we love pleasures or laziness so much that we don’t even care that we’ll eventually be hurt by the punishment our actions bring with them.

This is why our faith cannot be merely a set of rules.  Faith, in order to be fruitful, has to be based on the love of a person outside of ourselves—the person of Jesus Christ.  We need Jesus to teach us how and why to love.  We need Him to teach us why the rules are there, and if we don’t understand some of them, we need to know that, like a father, He only gives us rules for our own happiness and well-being.  We can’t know this simply by being told.  We have to know it for ourselves; we have to know Him.

Boyfriends, Babies, & Jesus

Question:

Hey Mary,
I am a Catholic dating, more like a “courting”, a non-Catholic. As a Catholic, I know that it is my duty to raise all of my children in the Catholic Church, so me and my boyfriend have had several discussions on this.

In his church, they are first baptized when they accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and he argues that that is how it was meant to be because that is as the Bible tells it. However, I believe in infant baptism as the Church does. So when we have this discussion, he says that the only reason the Church does it is so the baby’s original sin will be removed and they won’t go to Hell.

I don’t necessarily believe that an unbaptized baby will go to Hell, but I do believe that they should be baptized to remove original sin, so they can grow in the light of Christ.

How can I explain to him in a clear and concise argument the beauty and better reasons to infant baptism?

 Answer: 

Thanks for your question!  I’m reminded of (yet another) CS Lewis quote:

“You don’t have a soul.  You are a soul.  You have a body.”

As important as it is to nourish our bodies, it is even more important to feed our souls.  In a very real way, this is what baptism does.  It gives us the light of Christ (as you said, and as I’m sure your boyfriend agrees).  Now, if you two do one day get married and have kids, I’d imagine you’re not going to wait until they reach the age of reason to ask for food.  You’re going to feed your children to give them the proper nutrients so they are healthy.  How much truer should that be for the health of their souls!

Likewise, none of us chooses the family we are born into.  In fact, none of us chooses to be born in the first place.  I think it is fitting, then, that many of us do not initially choose our spiritual family in the Church.  We do not choose to born again in Christ.  But regardless of when you are baptized—if you made the decision after several years of study or if your parents decided it for you before you knew what was going on—it was still Christ who chose you first.

In addition, there is in fact Scriptural support for infant baptism (not to mention accounts from the early Christians).  In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus Himself says:

Now they were bringing even children to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:15-16)

“To such belongs the kingdom of God.”  Unless we become like children, we cannot enter Heaven.  It doesn’t really add up, then, that we have to first “be mature” to accept Christ, does it?

Also, there are accounts in the New Testament of whole families being baptized after hearing the Good News.

Act 16:15 – (speaking of Lydia) – After she and her household had been baptized

Acts 16:33 (of a Philippian Jailer) – “…then he and all his family were baptized at once.”

1 Corinthians 1:16 – I baptized the household of Stephanas also

There are no records of Christians in the early Church intentionally waiting until their children have attained the age of reason to baptize them.  It seems once the parents found Christ, the whole family received Him.  And if baptism is truly the person of the Holy Spirit coming to live within you, why wouldn’t you give that gift to your son or daughter from the first days of their lives?

That would be my answer.  There are plenty of resources you can check out for this.  Catholic Answers is a good place to start.

Divine Instruction Manual, Please?

I have received several questions from readers over the past few weeks asking about the Church’s stance on a number of issues, ranging from tattoos to women in the workplace.  While I could attempt to dedicate a post to each topic, I figured it would be more efficient to wrap them up, for the most part, with this:

If you’ve been in the world for longer than about 20 minutes, you have probably noticed that not every situation has a clear black or white answer.  Sometimes it may be that we are faced with making the choice simply between good and evil.  But more often than not, we find ourselves faced with a choice of good and not-as-good—and when that happens it is not always clear which is which.

The Church knows this.  Yes, there is objective truth.  Yes, there are things that are objectively and morally wrong.  For these issues, the Church has a yes or no answer, and you can typically find it in your Catechism.   But while the Catechism is amazing for learning about faith and morality, it is not meant to be an instruction manual for every question you come to in life.  This is why it is so important 1) to really know your faith and 2) to actually have a relationship with God.

If you know the teachings of the Church, you can apply the basic principles to your situation to help you discern which is the right or wrong answer.  It will usually come down to the two greatest commandments: Love God with all your heart, soul and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.  Most importantly, if you have a relationship with God, you will be seeking to do His will, which of course cannot contradict the teachings of His Church.

So, to answer some specific questions: unless your tattoo is of an image that offends God (or if your getting a tattoo is disobeying your parents), then it is not sinful.  And yes, a woman can be a good mother and still go to work.  Nothing too counter-cultural here 🙂

Do You Like Scary Movies?

It’s that time of year again. The air is a bit more brisk, pumpkin spice lattes have been back at Starbucks for a while now, and, thanks to your friends’ most recent Halloween-Party Facebook albums, you can hardly login without lowering the security settings on your browser.

Yep, Halloween must be right around the corner.

Now, I’m no Scrooge when it comes to Halloween (or whatever the Halloween-equivalent of a Scrooge would be).  And I didn’t write this post to lecture you beautiful ladies out there about the “cute” costumes you may be choosing to wear this month (but for a quick look at why you may want to re-think those, check out this post).

I’m writing this post because this time of year always seems to inspire curiosity about the paranormal among people.  And as young Catholics, we need to realize something.  Demons are real.  Hell is real.  Dabbling into the occult (tarot cards, séances, horoscopes, spells, psychics, etc.) is not a game.  When you do things like this, you open yourself up to all sorts of evil, and often without even being fully aware of the ramifications your actions will have on your life.  As one of the better films I have seen this year (The Rite) put it, “not believing in the Devil won’t protect you from him.”

If you’re looking for a movie to watch this Halloween, I really recommend The Rite.  The critics didn’t quite get it—they thought it was supposed to be a typical horror film.  And while it definitely scared me, it was more about a man coming to believe in the reality of evil, and through that journey, ultimately coming to believe in the power of God.  Of course, it goes without saying, this is not a film you want the little kids watching with you 🙂

When it comes down to it, yes—demonic possession is real.  Exorcisms happen (and praise God for that!).  But we’re missing the point if our discussion of the Devil ends there.  As scary as demonic possession is, we shouldn’t worry about it an iota as much as we ought to worry about demonic temptation, which happens to us on a daily basis, each time we are tempted to sin.

God is infinitely more powerful than the Devil.  Demons flee at the name of Jesus.  But when we commit mortal sin, we knowingly choose to reject God.  And when we’ve done that, we’ve knowingly chosen Hell.  Thankfully, our merciful God is always ready to forgive us in the sacrament of Reconciliation (which, FYI, is more powerful than an exorcism!).

Still, be careful of the kinds of things you are inviting into your life this time of year.

…And don’t forget to go to mass on Tuesday!  All Saints Day is a holy day of obligation 🙂

“Be vigilant and watchful.  Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for one to devour.  Resist him, steadfast in faith”

-1 Peter 5:8-9

A Case for Public School (…kind of)

Question:

I’m a mom and cradle catholic who is wondering about how to school my kids. I see from your info on this blog that you attended public schools through high school. To what do you attribute your strong faith now? What people, practices of faith, challenges, shaped you into the person you are today? What would you do differently?  You also seem to have a good balance with popular culture, not shunning it altogether yet being discerning in your choices. This is an important skill to learn, because we’re social by nature and it is hard to share Christ if you’re too sheltered. Any thoughts on this aspect of being a good Catholic?

Answer:

Good question.  I will warn you…the short version of my answer to the homeschool vs. public school vs. private school question is simply: “I don’t know.”  It is something I go back-and-forth on all of the time, to be honest.  I will try to answer your questions about my specific background and we will see if that is helpful to either of us 🙂

Hands down, I attribute my faith to my family more than any other influence, and specifically to my parents (and of course it goes without saying that I was given such an amazing and faithful family by the grace of God).  Yes, I went to public school and no, we didn’t always get a family rosary in or memorize the Baltimore Catechism, but I never once questioned my parents’ love for Christ and His Church.  Religion wasn’t a game; and God was real.  Conviction like that demands your attention no matter how it is expressed.

For my family, it was expressed by living out the faith no matter what situation we were in.  If my sister and I had a cheerleading competition that happened to fall on Sunday, we may have had to skip out a little early and miss the awards ceremony because mass came first.  One year, we hosted an “All Hallows’ Eve” party at our house, which included listening to a portion of the Screwtape Letters on tape.  If we happened to have school on Good Friday, we would be taken out a little before noon to spend the afternoon either at service or in silence.

It wasn’t always easy; but I don’t think any path ever is.  Homeschoolers sometimes talk about feeling like they were missing out in high school when I often found myself feeling like I didn’t fit in entirely (there aren’t a whole lot of teenagers who are serious about taking their faith seriously).  Fortunately for me, that classic “rebellion against authority” phase that teenagers are often prone to often found its expression in taking pride in the fact that being a devout Catholic isn’t exactly “mainstream”.

And my parish youth group helped.  Actually, my youth group helped a lot.  And so did the fact that my parish had a blessed sacrament chapel open 24/7 to those who knew the door code…not that my parents ever let me go by myself past 6pm, but that chapel meant everything to me in high school.

Bottom line: I don’t think my parents laid out a battle plan the day my oldest brother was born and had it all figured out.  I think they followed God’s will to the best of their abilities and, for us, that ended up meaning living very much in the world, but always doing our best not to be of it.

All of that being said— I spent the past three years of my life in college getting to know some of the best people I have ever met.  Being at a small Catholic university, a good amount of them had been homeschooled.  And I’m not afraid to admit: there is a lot to love about homeschooling.

First of all: these people knew more about the faith when they were twelve than I knew going into my freshman year of college (and I was no dummy!).   Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean they loved God more than I did—but they knew a lot more about Him and therefore were able to love more about Him than I could.  Maybe I wouldn’t have appreciated it as much when I was nine…but who knows?

Secondly: as a public schooler, talking to a homeschooler about the books I have read (or, um, haven’t read) can just be embarrassing (a lot of smiling and nodding along happens).  Of course, there are exceptions: homeschoolers who hate reading and public schoolers who read everything.  But by and large, homeschoolers have read the classics by age 10 and public schoolers can graduate high school with an eighth grade reading level.

When it comes down to it, there are pros and cons to everything.  If you choose to homeschool, your kids will miss out on certain things, but the same will be true if you choose to put them in public school.  There is no objectively right or wrong way here; it is just what works best for you and your family (and ultimately, what will help get your children to Heaven…because, as far as I can tell, that is why God gives people children in the first place).

So, that’s my take.  Any homeschoolers out there want to share their perspective?