Category Archives: Church Teaching

What Do You Believe About The Family?

Today’s post is taken from my booklet, A Young Catholic’s Guide To The Family (a box of which just arrived in the mail for me to hand out at The World Meeting Of Families next week!).

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What Do You Believe About The Family? 

“The Christian message always contains in itself the reality and the dynamic of mercy and truth that meet in Christ.”

(III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Relatio Synodi. sec. 11.)

The Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage and the family has maybe never been so unpopular as it is today. It is dismissed as backward, stuck in the Dark Ages, closed minded, and even outright hateful.

Even many of my Catholic friends seem to think that maybe the Church just gotten this one wrong. “Look,” they say, “I’m proud to be Catholic, but I just don’t have any problem with my gay friends getting married, or with my friends living together before marriage, or with divorce, or contraception, etc.”

Nobody likes feeling hated or judged, and most people don’t actually like hating others, either.

The good news is that the Church isn’t asking us to hate anyone—in word or in practice. But in order to truly understand what the Church is asking of us by inviting us to embrace Her radical teaching on marriage and the family, we’ve got some tough questions to answer. How does the child of divorced parents make her home in a church that she perceives has closed the door on her parents? Who wants to be a part of a church they understand as harboring hatred toward any certain group of people?

The questions may be difficult, but there are answers. Real, practical answers. Answers that come from the heart of God who is Love and Mercy.

This short booklet is my invitation to young people within the Church to discover those answers, and by doing so discover the hope of God’s plan for the family. I write to young people specifically because it is the families that we are creating— or just on the brink of creating— who will make up the future of not just the Church but of society and the world itself.

What will those families look like? When our children hear the word, “family,” will it conjure up warm feelings of togetherness? Or feelings of bitterness, hurt, and brokenness?

The answer to that will depend entirely on what we believe about the family today.

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Finding Jesus In An Ed Sheeran Song

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“We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing*
Hearts are never broken
Time’s forever frozen still”

Ed Sheeran, Photograph

[*ok, technically our eyes are closed in the picture.  But everything else applies.]

I love that picture.  It was taken while Tyler and I were still dating– long before kids, household chores, and mortgage payments.  Back when we were just a couple of college kids listening to music and taking a goofy (if somewhat mushy) selfie.  It was snapped with an iPhone and stored in a “Pictures” folder, to be looked at countless times in the days, months, and years that followed.

“So you can keep me inside the pocket of your ripped jeans, holdin’ me closer ’til our eyes meet.  You won’t ever be alone.  Wait for me to come home”

Of course, when Ed Sheeran sings that his beloved can “keep him” in the form of a photograph until they meet again, it is only an analogy; and there is a bittersweetness to it. When Tyler and I were separated by a few states after we graduated from college, I probably looked at the above picture over a hundred times.  While it made me happy to see his face in the picture, it didn’t make me miss him any less—in fact it probably made me miss him even more.

At the end of the day we all know that a picture is only a picture.  And the memories a picture brings with it can only go so far.

You Won’t Ever Be Alone

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Well last week I happened to hear Photograph on the radio after leaving the adoration chapel, only this time it wasn’t so bittersweet.

As I listened to the now familiar melody, I reflected on the lyrics and on a lifetime of visits to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel— visiting Jesus present in the Eucharist in times of joy, in times of pain, and even just out of a desire to get out of the house with the kids—and the song suddenly took on a different meaning.

“The greatest love story of all time is contained in a tiny white host.” (Fulton Sheen)

“Loving can hurt.”

All the times I visited the chapel and brought Jesus the pain my heart was feeling: through teenage heartbreaks, feelings of longing, feelings of loneliness.  “You know it can get hard sometimes.”  The Love contained in that tiny white host was there even in the midst of the hurt.

“Loving can heal.”

That tiny white host has brought my life such healing through the years.  I don’t expect to know the full extent I have been healed through Jesus’ Presence in the Eucharist until I behold Him face to face in Heaven, but on this side of things, I know that “Loving can heal,” because in my visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament I have truly seen how “loving can mend your soul.”

“Time’s forever frozen still.”

The Eucharist that I visit in the adoration chapel on a weekday with my two small children is the same Jesus who died for me on Calvary.  It is the same Jesus the Church’s greatest saints bowed before throughout history.  He is the same Jesus who was present in the tabernacles of the Churches in the Middle Ages, the same Jesus that faithful soldiers during WWII drew their strength from, and the same Jesus my great-great grandparents received throughout their lifetime.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

“You won’t ever be alone.”

Back when Tyler and I had to do the long-distance thing before we got married, the pictures we had from the times we were together were just as the song says: memories frozen in time that we could visit when we missed each other.  But a picture is just a picture.

In the Eucharist, Jesus gives us so much more.  He is able to actually deliver what the song can only dream about.  His Body, His Blood, His Soul, His Divinity–they are all actually contained in the tiny white host.  There we can keep Him closer until our eyes meet in Heaven.  And we won’t ever be alone.

“Good child: see how lovers on earth kiss the flowers, the letters, the mementos of those they love…Then you, how could you ever forget that you have him always at your side–yes, Him?”

– Saint Josemaria Escriva

“Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

-Jesus

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New Booklet on The Family Available Today!

NEW BOOKLET AVAILABLE NOW!

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Following the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family, the media has been abuzz with claims that big changes lie ahead for the Catholic Church and Her teachings regarding marriage and the family.

A Young Catholic’s Guide To The Family explores how the timeless truths of the Church’s teachings can answer the questions and the longings on the hearts of families today.  Written with loving fidelity to the Magisterium, this booklet is intended to be an accessible guide for anyone seeking to reconcile their Catholic Faith with their family life.

You can order A Young Catholic’s Guide To The Family on Amazon.com, and through its CreateSpace eStore.

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Media Resources:

 

How I Learned to Read The Bible

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The Bible can be an intimidating book!  I’m willing to bet that, at one point or another in your life, you have made a sweeping declaration to attempt to read it from cover to cover.  We are supposed to know the Bible, after all.  Why not just dive right in?

I think this graphic from The Divine Communion web series may speak to why that sweeping declaration you made in your teens perhaps didn’t pan out as you had hoped:

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“The Scriptures do not surrender their meaning by the bare text; they surrender it to a mind that is living in the conditions of the covenant.” (Yves Congar)

For me, understanding this was the key to understanding the Bible.

Like any other book, it is best to approach the Bible knowing what you’re reading.  If you read a science fiction novel as if it were a newspaper, you would be doing it wrong–plain and simple.  When approaching Scripture, it is important to understand, first and foremost, what kind of book you are reading.

Questions to know the answer to before reading anything:

  • Who wrote it?  
  • To what audience were they writing?  
  • Why were they writing?

Here is what the Church teaches the Bible is (from Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical letter, Providentissimus Deus):

The God of all Providence…has bestowed upon man a splendid gift and safeguard – making known to him, by supernatural means, the hidden mysteries of His Divinity, His wisdom and His mercy…This supernatural revelation, according to the belief of the universal Church, is contained both in unwritten Tradition, and in written Books, which are therefore called sacred and canonical because, “being written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their author and as such have been delivered to the Church.”

According to the Catholic Church, The Bible is a book written by God, for the Church, and in order to reveal God to man.

These are your starting points for reading the Bible.  If you are approaching the Bible as a book to convince skeptics of God’s existence, or as a science textbook, then you’re just not reading it the way it was intended to be read.

[This is also why people who try to use “one-liners” from the Bible usually end up looking foolish.  We see this from non-believers (“Ooh the Bible is against gay marriage, huh?  Well it’s also against wearing polyester so you’re going to hell!”), and believers, alike (“God is love, which means you can’t tell people what they are doing is wrong, ever”).  That is just not the way the Bible works.]

Furthermore, the Bible contains within itself a handful of books, written by various human authors, in various genres, for various audiences, throughout history.  So even within the Bible itself, it is helpful to know that the book of Psalms– for example– is a collection of poetic writings, as opposed to a book like Leviticus, which contains instructions for ritual worship.

With so many books, authors, and genres, spanning hundreds of years of human history— is it any surprise that trying to read the Bible as one, cohesive book can be difficult?

One major interpretive key for understanding the Bible, as Congar says, is the covenant.  

Covenants are weaved throughout Sacred Scripture. From Adam, to Abraham, to David, and culminating in the everlasting covenant Jesus established at the Last Supper—covenants are the way God relates to His people, inviting us to unite with Him in a personal way, not merely as servants but as members of His family.

If all of this sounds intimidating, it really isn’t!  I can assure you, understanding the Bible as one, cohesive book is most certainly within your reach.  For a great overview of how the covenants make sense of Scripture, I encourage you to check out Dr. Scott Hahn’s classic,  A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture.

(I grew up with this book on my family’s bookshelf.  I’m convinced that it should be on every Catholic’s bookshelf.  If you have never read it, do yourself a favor a get your hands on a copy!)

And keep an eye out for The Divine Communion web series, currently in production.  You can check out their promotional trailer here:

It is so important for us as Christians to be in the habit of regularly reading Scripture.  It is the best way to grow in personal relationship with God.  Be assured of my prayers for your study, and please pray that I will grow in my love for Scripture as well!

God Bless,

 

 

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I’m Catholic, But…

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I don’t agree with the Church’s teaching on contraception.

I think same sex marriage is fine–it’s not like it’s hurting anybody.

I don’t think I need to go to mass every Sunday.

If you have ever found yourself beginning a sentence with the words, “I’m Catholic, but…” I’ve got an idea for you.

(And to my already “all-in” readers, I want to know what you think of it)

That teaching you have beef with—whether it’s marriage, confession, divorce, etc.— Have you really given it a shot?

Here is my proposal.

Set aside a month.  One whole month where you give that teaching a fair shot.  By giving it a shot I don’t mean look up the arguments for and against it in your spare time.  I’m talking one month where you are all in, full throttle, 100%, totally Catholic.

No buts.

Here are the terms:

Your month should start with confession.

Not because you’re a horrible person but because you are a Catholic, and Catholics go to confession.  Make it a good confession, and bring up the teachings you are struggling with.  And then struggle with them.  For at least a month.

By struggle I don’t mean lie to yourself and pretend you believe them when you really don’t.  I mean humble yourself before God and say, “Look, this teaching doesn’t make sense to me.  I even am tempted to think that your Church may have gotten this one wrong.  But because I love you, and because I want to believe you were telling the truth when you established your Church, I’m going to try to do my best to live it out.  Please help me when I stumble.”

You need to go to mass every Sunday (At least).

Full throttle.  All in.  100%.  Why would you believe any of the teachings of a God you won’t even offer your worship?  Mass during the week is not required but is encouraged.

Bring your Bible, your Catechism, and every Church document you can find on the matter to adoration.

If adoration isn’t available, then the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, or just a Catholic Church will do.  Failing that, go into your room and close the door.  Invite Jesus, He will meet you there if you ask Him.  Study the teachings of Jesus while asking Him to open your heart to receive them.  Even if you have read them all before.  Read them again in His presence. Take a journal and a pen and write down your thoughts in the form of a letter to God.  Do this at least twice a week, for at least 30 minutes.

(This isn’t the time to read from “Catholics” who erroneously try to align heretical teachings with the faith.  For at least just this month, stick to official Church doctrine.)

Pray an Act of Faith every morning and every evening:

You will fail in this struggle without prayer.  Since what you are after is faith, pray the act of faith!

O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the holy catholic Church teaches, because in revealing them you can neither deceive nor be deceived.  Amen.

To My Already No-Buts Catholics: What Do You Think?

The rigorist voice in my head is saying,

“Mary, you can’t tell people they can put  time limit on living out the faith.  If they go in thinking it’s just for a month, God won’t honor the struggle because they’re not truly taking it seriously.”

On the other hand, I want to think that just cracking the door open—even if you set a stopwatch while doing so— is better than continuing life with the door shut.

So what do you think?  Is the one month struggle something worth suggesting?

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