Yes, Take Me to Church

This post by Christina Mead is reprinted from LifeTeen.com

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I can’t stop thinking about that song “Take Me To Church” that we all hear almost every time we turn on the radio. It’s fascinating that despite our culture’s obvious disregard for religion, there’s still an awareness of the need to worship something, someone… anything, anyone.

The lyrics speak of the “religion of me” and the artist’s idolization of what makes him feel good.

I’m not sure I’m so different. How often have I gone to church every Sunday, only to say the words and make the movements? How often do I miss the object of my heart’s desire in church because I’m too busy entertaining in my mind all the other gods who are asking for parts of my life?

Instead of choosing a death to the world and a life in Christ, I often walk the middle ground of mediocrity.

In the song, the artist speaks of worshipping his lover in an intimate setting. Isn’t that kind of like what God offers us at every altar in every Catholic church? He is inviting us to enter into a divine romance. He offers us communion with Himself; we can be one with Him. We can exchange our sins for His mercy.

We can worship our lover in the most intimate setting — the place where heaven meets earth.

So yes, take me to church.

Because I’ve tried everything else and I’m still empty handed, empty hearted. Read the rest of this entry

The New Year You Forgot About

This post by Leah Murphy is reprinted from LifeTeen.com

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When I was 6 years old, there was a book was on display in the family room. It had a picture of Pope John Paul II on the cover and about 1,000 pages of text about his life inside. And around 11:45 p.m. on New Year’s Eve 1998 I decided that my resolution for the year of 1999 would be to read this book, Witness to Hope by George Weigel.

And I failed. Little first-grade-me did not complete that book in 1999. Let’s be real, what 6 year-old is really going to sit down and read 1,000 pages about Karol Wojtyla’s childhood, his philosophical and theological formation, his battles with 20th century thought and communism, and his commitment to God as the Vicar of Christ?

As unattainable as that resolution was for my little self, it was still a good resolution, as are most New Year’s resolutions. January 1st is a great time in our lives to reflect on the past year and set goals to grow and become better in the next — even if some of our resolutions are a little far-reaching.

In the holiday chaos that takes place from Halloween to New Year’s Eve, it’s easy to miss the fact that our Church welcomes a new liturgical year at the beginning of every Advent season. And just because there probably won’t be a special on NBC with Ryan Seacrest in Times Square ringing in Advent, doesn’t mean you can’t take the Liturgical New Year just as seriously as a regular old New Year celebration!

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Advent is a great time to reflect on our spiritual journey of the last year and resolve to grow in the coming one… like a spiritual New Year’s resolution!

This season provides us with an opportunity to seek and commit to new ways of loving Jesus better in the coming year. It could mean committing to offering your day to Jesus with a prayer every morning, making it to at least one weekday Mass per week, or asking Mary to help you in loving her son by praying a daily or weekly Rosary. You could also commit to getting to know the lives of the saints better, so you can emulate them, as they emulated Christ. Or you can commit to studying your faith more, by reading Scripture, the Catechism, and magisterial documents, or to sharing your faith more by evangelizing and doing good works for others. The possibilities are endless!

But how do we make sure that our Liturgical New Year’s resolutions don’t just slip away from us once Advent is over and we get stuck in a Christmas-cookie-coma?
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Courage for the Fight: Is Life Worth Living?

This post by Father Mike Schmitz is reprinted from LifeTeen.com

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The only thing that makes a story worth telling is the underlying and fundamental certainty that life is worth living.

Now in its fifth season, the incredibly popular TV show The Walking Dead is the story of human life after a “zombie apocalypse.” At first, the story seems to be just a strange series about undead monsters and the humans who are fleeing from and fighting them. But as the series has progressed, the real story has much more significance. It is not just about gruesome zombies or human bandits, it is all about the question: is life worth living?

One of the show’s frustrations is also its key to greatness: every time the human protagonists catch a break, their good fortune doesn’t last long and the bottom seems to drop out from beneath them. And yet they keep struggling… they keep walking. Even when it seems like there is no obvious “destination” for them, they know that they have to keep moving forward; they have to keep living.

All of the characters have had their normal lives completely disrupted. Most of the people they loved have died. Every single one of them suffers on a daily basis in a world they have not created and in which they have not chosen to live. And yet, they choose to fight. They choose to engage with the life they have.

They do this because of the fundamental principle that is the basis every human story: life is worth living.

Think of any great story. Every one of them is built upon this premise. If they weren’t, there is no real conflict; instead of fighting courageously when one encounters overwhelming odds or faces an impossible situation, the characters would simply die. The reasonable thing would be to take matters into one’s own hands and end one’s life. If they’re going to die eventually, why not simply face death on one’s own terms?

Because life is worth living.

ENDING IT

At this moment, a 29 year-old woman named Brittany Maynard is preparing to die on November 1, 2014. She is planning to end her own life by self-administering a lethal dose of medication. Brittany has terminal cancer, and experiences pain and suffering on a moment to moment basis. Because of this, she has moved from her home state of California to Oregon so that she will be legally allowed to kill herself.

Since she made known her decision to end her life, it has sparked many people into thinking about this issue.

Actually, on second thought… I don’t believe that too many people are actually thinking about this issue. I think that many of them are “feeling” about this issue.

We see this beautiful young woman and hear about her wedding and learn of her pain…and we feel compassion. We feel so sorry for this woman whose life has been entirely disrupted. In doing this, we are being human. It is human for us to feel such compassion for Brittany (and anyone else in pain). And it is natural that we don’t want her to suffer any more. If there is a way that her pain can be taken away, wouldn’t that be better than for her to needlessly endure?

WE ARE NOT ANIMALS

But to agree that ending her life is the solution is decidedly “un-human.” That is what we do with animals when they are in pain. If you’ve ever had to “put down” a beloved pet you know how heartbreaking it is.

There is a real difference between a human being and any other kind of animal. Because we are human, we don’t merely experience pain… we can also “suffer.” Suffering is only possible when you are aware that you are suffering. People are aware when they are suffering; animals do not have the same self-awareness. A human being can look up from their battle and ask “Why?” An animal doesn’t ask this question. This makes human suffering exponentially worse than animal suffering… but also exponentially more meaningful.

There is something in us that recognizes that human suffering, while evil, is worth it. We intrinsically know that life is worth living. When we see someone endure suffering heroically, even if it costs them everything, we see human dignity in action. It is the reason why we cheer for those who are willing to face unstoppable odds. It is the reason we love heroes…they remind us that life is worth fighting for. They remind us that there is more to this life.

As Christians, we know that suffering is not worst thing. Yes, if all there is in this universe is the material world (no soul, no spirit, no God), then the worst possible evil is suffering. But we know that there is more to this life than what we can immediately see.

Dignity is not found in taking one’s own life, but in facing the challenge well. Compassion is not helping another person to end their own life, but in caring for them in their weakness and pain.
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More Friends than you can Count: Why Catholics Pray with the Saints

This post by Mark Hart is reprinted from LifeTeen.com

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When I ask you, “How many friends do you have?” what pops into your mind?

Is it…

How many “true” friends?

How many Facebook friends?

How many friends in my whole lifetime?

Actually, it’s far more than any of those numbers. In truth you have more friends than you can count. The saints in heaven are the best friends you could ask for… and they’re pulling for you.

WHAT WE BELIEVE

Just to make it very clear up front, Catholics and Protestants believe firmly in the command that we are to pray to God constantly, and without reservation. We agree on that.

The Catholic Church does not and has never encouraged folks to take their attention or prayer off of or away from Jesus.

When I, Mark, pray to Christ for you, as your friend, it’s called secondary mediation. I am doing the same thing that the saints do for me when I ask them to pray with me to Jesus… to join their prayers to mine, en route to Christ. Since they’re closer to Him than I am, it actually makes even more sense for them to pray for me, than for my earthly friends to pray for me.

Let me explain more…

DIFFERENT TYPES OF PRAYER

It’s important to explain that there are different types of prayer. Prayer to God includes worship. Prayer with Mary and the saints includes honor, but not worship.

MEDIATION

Many people are confused about what “mediation” really is and quote something like 1 Timothy 2:5 – speaking about how Christ is the only Mediator between man and God (which the Catholic Church agrees with, by the way).

But mediation in a more general sense is any one of us praying for or with each other. This is what St. Paul encourages in the four verses immediately preceding that verse about Christ as the one mediator (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Prayers on our behalf to Christ by either saints living in Heaven, or friends living on earth would be called a secondary mediation.

St. Paul talks about this throughout his epistles, like in Romans 15:30-32,Colossians 1:4, 9-10 and 2 Corinthians 1:10… (want a couple more? Try Romans 10:1, and 2 Timothy 1:3).

SAINTS ALIVE!

The saints in Heaven are alive and are perpetually in prayer. They are absolutely living in Heaven, just as you and I live, but to an even fuller extent, because they are back home with God. He is ‘the God of the living, not of the dead’ (Mark 12:26-27).

Since they are far closer to God than we are (2 Corinthians 3:18), as sinful humans walking the earth, their prayers are more powerful.

The saints in heaven are free of all sin, which is what hinders our prayers (Matthew 17:20, 1 John 3:22, Psalms 66:18) and they are in total, perfect union with God.

We are still united with our saintly brothers and sisters (1 Corinthians 12:21-27,Romans 12:5, Ephesians 4:4, Colossians 3:15), as “death cannot separate us from Christ” (Romans 8:35-39).
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He Doesn’t Need Your Sext: A Response to Jennifer Lawrence

This post by Matt Fradd is reprinted from LifeTeen.com

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Much can be said (and has been said) about the incident last month in which explicit pictures of multiple celebrities were hacked and leaked online.

I don’t want to spend time talking about what a stupid idea it is to take and upload explicit photos of yourself (a.k.a. porn), nor do I want to talk about what an even stupider thing it is to hack into people’s private accounts, steal their photos, and spread them online. Those who committed this crime are guilty of both theft and sexual exploitation, and I’ve been glad to see those crimes condemned. Actor Lucas Neff, for example, tweeted “Stealing someone’s naked photos is the same as tearing someone’s clothes off in public. It’s sexual assault.” Quite right!

This week, Jennifer Lawrence — one of the victims of this crime — made her first official response to the incident in an interview for Vanity Fair. An article onMTV News, relates Jennifer as saying:

“I started to write an apology, but I don’t have anything to say I’m sorry for,” she said. “I was in a loving, healthy, great relationship for four years. It was long distance, and either your boyfriend is going to look at porn or he’s going to look at you.”

It’s that last line that I want to talk about. I find it, with all due respect to Lawrence, sexist, false, and sad.

It is sexist because it portrays men as only being interested in one thing and incapable of self-control. These may be the sorts of “men” Lawrence runs circles with, but it doesn’t describe many of the men I know — men who are virtuous despite the temptations the world throws at them, who fight valiantly against selfishness, and desire to love the women they’re with as Christ loved the Church. That is, they’re willing to sacrifice things (including their immature desires) for the good of their beloved.

Secondly, it’s false. She says men have two options: 1) look at porn, or 2) look at you.

And by “look at you,” I assume she doesn’t mean, “look at you while you’re praying the rosary on your evening walk together.”

No, she means either a guy will lust over you or someone else. It’s like saying, “either your boyfriend will be obese or he’ll be anorexic.” Isn’t there a third option? Like, maybe he’ll be healthy? And there is such a thing as sexual health — we call it chastity. Though chastity may conjure up images of either uncomfortable belts or the notion of repressing sexuality in the name of “abstinence”… chastity is neither of these things but so much more.

Chastity is a virtue, like courage. Just as courage enables a man to be brave in the face of fear, so chastity enables a men and women to love in accord with their inestimable dignity and worth. A person who cultivates the virtue of chastity is one who is in control of their sexual desire, rather than their sexual desire being in control of him or her. To be chaste is to be free. Read the rest of this entry

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