Raising Pure Teens in a Pornographic World part 1

The “pornification” of our youth by society at large is rampant.  Everything from adolescent fashion to primetime television commercials indicates that the cultural war against innocence is raging.  And with the magical little device you hold in the palm of your hand pornography is available on demand 24 hours a day.  Our children are especially vulnerable to pressures of the “porn generation.”  Just take a look at these statistics compiled by purehope.net:

  • 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to Internet porn before the age of 18 (The Nature and Dynamic of Internet Pornography Exposure for Youth by Chiara Sabina, Janis Wolak, and David Finkelhor from Cyber Psychology and Behavior, 2008)
  • 11: the average age of first exposure to Internet pornography (Internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/internet-pornography-statistics.html)
  • 28% of teens in one study had sent a sext. (Temple J. et al “Teen Sexting and Its Association with Sexual Behaviors” archpediatrics.2012.835)
  • A majority of teens (58 percent) don’t think posting photos or other personal info on social networking sites is unsafe. (National teen Internet survey was funded by Cox Communications in partnership with NCMEC and John Walsh and was conducted in March 2007 among 1,070 teens age 13 to 17. The research was conducted online by TRU. http://www.cox.com/TakeCharge/…ocs/survey_results_2007.ppt).
  • Only 23 percent of parents have rules about what their kids can do on the computer. (The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Study, March 2005).

Those are some pretty eye opening numbers.  So what’s a parent to do?  In the midst of this war against innocence how do you guard the mental, spiritual, and physical health of your children?  In this two part series we will examine 10 strategies taken from the book Raising Pure Teens by Jason Evert and Chris Stefanick.  Here are the first five strategies you can begin to employ today.

  1. Pray!

“Purity is the fruit of prayer.”

-St Mother Teresa

If you’re like me then making time for prayer can be difficult.  Responsibilities at work, projects that need to be completed around the house, and spending time with your family take a majority of your day leaving very little for God.  But prayer should be intentional, it should be the highest priority of our day.  St. Paul asks the Ephesians to pray at all times and to offer intercession for him and each other “With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones and also for me, that speech may be given me to open my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” Eph 6:18-19.  So if St. Paul need intercession, how much more do our teens?  Therefore, pray for them daily.  Once a month fast for them.  Offer up your suffering for them.  Be a witness of prayer and most importantly pray with them.

  1. Understand their motives.

“Lust indulged became habit, and habit unresisted became necessity.”

-St Augustine

In order to combat teens living unchaste lives we need to know and understand what motivates them to do so.  Sexual desire, teen boys and girls engage in sexual activity for different reasons.  So we need to talk to them about their desires.  It is important for them to know that it is perfectly normal and healthy to experience sexual desire.  But we must also explain the difference between lust and sexual desire.  “Lust is a sinful and selfish desire to use another” while sexual desire “is a biological urge” which can take on moral value.  In order to help them deal with their desires make sure the experience love and acceptance at home.  Most teens spell love T-I-M-E, so quantity is just as important as quality.  Teens also need physical affirmation so don’t stop hugging and kissing them, even if they act like they don’t like it.

  1. Teach you teen to say “YES.”

Research shows that teenagers base their decisions upon rewards rather than consequences.  So they need to see the benefits of a chaste life.  In other words, teens need to realize that chastity isn’t about saying “no” to herpes and unwed pregnancy.  Chastity is about saying “yes” to authentic love, “yes” to God’s plan for our lives, and “yes” to reaching our full potential.

  1. Be a parent first and not a buddy.

If you’ve ever heard the words “But everyone else get to….” then rest assured you’re doing a great job as a parent.  Your teen has enough friends, what he needs from you is love in the form of discipline.  It may be easier and more fun to be their friend but what they need is your authority.  One day they’ll thank you, you may have to wait until they have their own children but it will come.  Being a parent means protecting them from themselves and their hormones.  Make sure that you remain engaged at school activities and monitor their friends.

  1. Beware of sex education.

“We live in a culture in which condoms can be handed out in schools and Bibles can’t. And I think that tells you everything you need to know about our society.”

-Janet Smith, Contraception, Why Not?

If you’re under the impression that sex education in the classroom exist to help students avoid pregnancy and STDs you would be shocked to learn the truth.  SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States), Planned Parenthood, and Advocates for Youth are the dominant forces when it comes to sex education material.  SIECUS recommends that 5- to 8-year olds should be taught about masturbation and that 9- to 12-year olds should be instructed about mutual masturbation and oral sex.  So what’s a parent to do?  Ask to review the curriculum and all material used, including books, recommended Web sites, videos, etc. to ensure they meet the values you teach at home.  If it doesn’t meet your standards then don’t hesitate to remove your child from class.

Part two in the series will be published later this week.  Like and subscribe so you won’t miss it or any other great content from Catholic Dad.

Evert, J., & Stefanick, C. (2013). Raising Pure Teens: 10 Strategies to Protect (or Restore) Your Teenagers Innocence. Totus Tuus Press

Can Suffering be Redemptive?

This past weekend my wife was left alone with our two youngest children (7 and 2) while I and two of our oldest were out of town at a youth conference.  This also happened to be the weekend which she volunteered to help at the annual church fundraiser a Jamaica or bizarre.  It’s a full day event packed with games, food vendors, live music and more.  Upon arriving to the venue she stepped out of our van onto the gravel parking area where she proceeded to slip and twist not one but both ankles (possibly tearing ligaments, test pending).  Now the fall and the popping sound was so bad that it caused bystanders to rush to her assistance with one person wanting to all 911.  Instead she remained and manned her booth for the entire event, staying on her feet for over ten hours.  That was Saturday it wasn’t until Monday afternoon when I returned that she went to the ER.  Ask her how she handled the pain and she will tell you that she “offered it up.”

What does that even mean?

Suffering Romans

Suffering is Inescapable

Suffering is part of human existence from birth until death, and every human person suffers in a variety of ways: physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. The Bible provides many examples: one’s own death, the danger of death, the death of children or friends, sterility, homesickness, persecution, mockery, scorn, loneliness, abandonment, remorse, watching the wicked prosper while the just suffer, the unfaithfulness of spouse and friends, and the misfortunes of one’s homeland (SD 6). Suffering in one form or another afflicts each of us every day.  It is a part of life that should be embraced.

Why Suffering?

Suffering naturally leads to questioning. Why do I suffer? Why do others suffer? How can suffering be overcome? Is there any meaning to suffering?

Each religion has its own answer.  In Hinduism, suffering is seen as the result of karmic debt owed from a prior incarnation. Buddhists believe they suffer in life because of their desires that can be relieved by good meditation and prayers. In Judaism, suffering is seen as everything from senseless to positively willed by God as a result of Jewish disobedience. In Islam, suffering is seen as the result of Allah’s positive will. For some brands of Protestantism, suffering is always the result of personal sin.

At times God permits us to suffer the consequences of our behavior. If we are sexually promiscuous, we might suffer disease, and broken relationships. This suffering brings about good when we change our lives and abide by God’s laws.  Other times, God permits us to lose things that we have come to worship above him. For example, someone who has made money his god may suffer the shame and hardship of bankruptcy. This suffering can bring about a total dependence on God and submission to his will.  The most difficult situations to understand are when God allows suffering that has no apparent reason–a child dies, we are injured in a car accident, or a natural disaster strikes. Though we do not see the reason for such suffering we know that there is one, even if it is not apparent from our limited perspective

Suffering

Redemptive Suffering

The Catechism of the Catholic Church encourages and reminds us of our vocation: “By His passion and death on the Cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to Him and unite us with His redemptive passion” (CCC #1505).

The word “redeem” means to rescue, set free, ransom, and to pay the penalty incurred by another. We often lose sight of the definition to “set free,” and we miss the power of our example as Christians to do exactly that — set our neighbor free.

We must look at this aspect of Redemptive Suffering if we are to understand its role in our daily lives. St. Paul told the Corinthians that, “indeed, as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so, through Christ, does our consolation overflow. When we are made to suffer, it is for our consolation and salvation” (2 Cor. 1:5, 6).

Redemptive suffering is any trial or tribulation we offer up and UNITE to Jesus- as a “gift” to Him to express our love, in exchange for some other good.

St. Paul was so filled with the idea of the redemptive power of suffering that he exclaimed: “I find joy in the sufferings I endure for you. In my own flesh I fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church” (Col. 1:24).

The Bible and Suffering

There are several versus in the Bible with regards to redemptive suffering.  Here are some of the most quoted:

“Whoever follows me must take up his cross…” (Mt 10: 38).

“Therefore we are not discouraged, rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. (II Cor 4: 16). ”

“With Christ I am nailed to the cross. It is now no longer I that live but Christ Who lives in me” (Gal 2:19-20).

“For the Spirit Himself gives testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God. And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God and joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him. The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us.” (Rm 8:16-18)

“What we suffer at this present time cannot be compared at all with the glory that is going to be revealed in us…We know that all things work for good for those who love God…For I am convinced that neither life nor death…nor future things, nor powers nor any other creature can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Rm 8:18, 28,38).

Offer It Up

Offering it up can be done formally or informally.

Formally, many Catholics make the Morning Offering to give to Our Lord that day’s efforts, works, joys, sufferings, and intentions. At the Mass, we consciously, silently, and privately offer ourselves up, along with the Son, to the Father during the Offertory.

Informally, we “offer it up” by simply asking God in our own words to use a suffering as it occurs; we often do this for specific intentions.

It’s quite a discipline to react to suffering this way! In mental or physical pain? Drop something on your toe? Putting up with a co-worker who is making your life a living Hell? Enduring the constant ache of arthritis? Standing in line at the grocery and hating every minute of it? Spill the milk? Accept these things in peace, and ask God to use them for the good of the Church or for a more specific intention close to your heart.

Think of it. By accepting willingly and without complaint the little inconveniences, irritations, frustrations, delays, setbacks, etc. which God in His Providence allows to come our way, we can pay in part the debt that we, or others, have incurred by our sins. Because God is just, He demands that the debt of suffering be paid,, but because He is merciful, He allows one person to “fill up what is lacking” in another member of the Mystical Body which is the Church.

Christ does not answer directly and he does not answer in the abstract this human questioning about the meaning of suffering. Man hears Christ’s saving answer as he himself gradually becomes a sharer in the sufferings of Christ. The answer that comes through this sharing, by way of the interior encounter with the Master, is in itself something more than the mere abstract answer to the question about the meaning of suffering. For it is above all a call. It is a vocation. Christ does not explain in the abstract the reasons for suffering, but before all else he says: “Follow me!” Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering! Through my cross. Gradually, as the individual takes up his cross, spiritually uniting himself to the cross of Christ, the salvific meaning of suffering is revealed before him. (SD 26)

We can join our suffering with Christ’s for the sake of others. In this way suffering becomes redemptive. It is not suffering but our response to it that makes it so.

Ask yourself these questions: How can I intensely merge my sufferings with Christ? How can I more readily blend my trials with Him? How can I consistently entwine my difficulties with Him?

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Saint-John-Vianney

Catechism of the Catholic Church: Revised in accordance with the official Latin text promulgated by Pope John Paul II. (1994). Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Paul, J., II. (1984). Salvifici doloris (On the Christian meaning of human suffering). Retrieved from https://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2salvi.htm

Quid est veritas?

What is Truth?

Merriam-Webster defines truth as a (1) : the body of real things, events, and facts : actuality (2) : the state of being the case : fact (3) often capitalized : a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality b : a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true c : the body of true statements and propositions

Cultural Truth

I would like to propose the following question: Does truth change with the culture? For example is pornography less sinful or shameful today than it was in 1950 because of cultural differences?

If you answered yes to that question, then the opposite should also hold true. Meaning that because it was part of the culture during that time what Hitler and Nazi Germany did was okay. Now we will all agree that nothing could be further from the truth, Hitler’s actions were deplorable and evil.

What is truth?

So that begs the question what is truth? Is truth absolute? Or is truth relative to my situation?

In John 18:38 Pilate ask “Quid est veritas?” or “What is truth?”

A true statement is one that accurately describes the way the world is. Or as St. Thomas Aquinas put it in Summa Theologica “Truth consists in the equation of mind and thing.” So Hitler’s actions just because they were culturally acceptable are not an accurate representation of the way things really are. In the same way abortion and pornography just because they are socially acceptable are not an accurate representation of what they really are.

True for you

Subjective truth refers to feelings about the world, and depending on who is speaking determines the truth of those statements. For example I can say bacon is the greatest food in the world and it taste great! But to you it might taste horrible and be the worst food in the world. We are both right even though our beliefs about bacon are contrary to one another. That is because we are actually not making statements about the nature of bacon. Instead we are making subjective statements about the feelings we have about bacon.

True for everyone

On the other hand objective truth relates to the world itself rather than feelings about the world. Objective truths do not depend on who is speaking them and describe the world as it really is. For example the statement “West Texas A&M University is a university in Canyon, TX” is true no matter who says it because that is where the university is located. Or going back to our bacon example, the statement “Bacon is good for you” is either objectively true or objectively false. This fact does not change based on your feelings about bacon. In other words whether you like bacon or not does not change the fact that it is not good for you.

Universal (or Catholic) truth

Statements about the existence of God or the authority of the Catholic Church are objective truths. They describe facts about the world, and so they are true or false regardless of how we feel about those facts. We get these facts such as murder, stealing and adultery are wrong among others from the spoken word of God, the Bible. In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the whole truth.

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The Fifth Station: Pilate Condemns Jesus to the Cross

stdas0421

As soon as morning came, the chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council.  They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate…..Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them one prisoner whom they requested.  A man called Barabbas was then in prison along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.  The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed.  Pilate answered, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?”  For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over.  But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.  Pilate again said to them in reply, “Then what [do you want] me to do with [the man you call] king of the Jews?”  They shouted again, “Crucify him.”  Pilate said to them, “Why?  What evil has he done?”  They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.”  So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified. – Mark 15:1, 6-15


Pilate desperately wanted to release Jesus, he wanted absolutely nothing to do with his death.  But seeing “that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood” Matthew 27:24.  Pilate was more concerned with his own future and lacked the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing.

Have you like me, on occasion, acted just like Pilate?  Our faith should impact every aspect of our lives, do we have the courage to allow it?  If your friend is in an adulterous relationship or addicted to pornography do you challenge him on it?  Or do you “mind” your own business?  If a family member is struggling with same-sex attraction, do you sit with them and explain the Church’s teaching?  When someone challenges you on the faith can you answer them or at least know where to find answers?  Who is going to teach your children about God, you or society?

TotallyCatholic.com - The Catholic Shop!Too often we allow ourselves to be bullied by our secularized society.  We either lack the knowledge, courage, or are overly concerned with what others may think of us.  So like Pilate we release Barabbas.  We let our friend destroy his marriage through the use of pornography because “who am I to judge?”  We fail to love the same-sex attracted family member and let them put their souls in jeopardy.  We fail to defend Church teaching on life and marriage.  We allow secular society to teach our children about God.  When does it stop?  When will we have enough?

“To recoil before an enemy, or to keep silence when from all sides such clamors are raised against truth… such mode of behaving is base and is insulting to God…This kind of conduct is profitable only to the enemies of the faith, for nothing emboldens the wicked so greatly as the lack of courage on the part of the good… Christians are, moreover, born for combat.”  – Pope Leo XIII

Now more than ever we need courageous Catholic men to take a stand in the public square.  Lukewarm Catholicism is no longer an option.  We must refuse to be like Pilate, we must release Jesus.  Do the right thing always no matter the consequence.

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The Fourth Station: Peter Denies Jesus

peter-denies-jesus

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the high priest’s maids came along.  Seeing Peter warming himself, she looked intently at him and said, “You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus.”  But he denied it saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.”  So he went out into the outer court.  [Then the cock crowed.]  The maid saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.”  Once again he denied it.  A little later the bystanders said to Peter once more, “Surely you are one of them; for you too are a Galilean.”  He began to curse and to swear, “I do not know this man about whom you are talking.”  And immediately a cock crowed a second time.  Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.”  He broke down and wept. – Mark 14:66-72

How can this be, Peter, “The Rock” denies Jesus?  Yet if we look at our lives we have occasions when we are like Peter.  Peter seeing what was happening to Jesus was probably terrified and while he loved Jesus and wanted to stand up for him he also wanted to distance himself from him.  Ultimately Peter’s fear won.

How often do we let our fears overcome us?  Do we always stand up for Jesus?  When we see social media ablaze with attacks against the Pope and Church teaching, what do we do?  Do we speak out against abortion and euthanasia?  Do we tolerate dirty jokes, gossip, or other language that takes away the dignity of others?  Are we courageous enough to correct others when they are in danger of committing sin, even if it means losing a friendship?

There are times when we are all like Peter, our faith is weak and we are afraid.  Christian persecution in the United States is rampant and it’s worse if you’re Catholic.  When you stand up for Church teaching on marriage and family you’re called a bigot.  If you’re against abortion and contraception your anti-woman.  The list goes on and on.  The culture tells us “we don’t want your religion” then see fit to shove their non-beliefs down our throats.

As Catholic’s, especially men, what are we to do?  Should we continue to allow our friends, coworkers and the culture influence us?  Or should we be the influence on them?  Bishop Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix issued and Apostolic Exhortation where he challenged the men of his diocese to enter “Into the Breach” to fill the void left by society.  If you haven’t seen it I encourage you to do so, you can find it here: http://www.intothebreach.net/.

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Peter later redeemed himself and spread the Good News about Jesus far and wide.  Ultimately dying a martyr’s death, being hung upside down on a cross.  So the question is, will we be like Peter in the courtyard and deny Jesus?  Or like Peter filled with the Holy Spirit and by our words and actions spread the Good News willing to die for Jesus?

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The Third Station: The Sanhedrin Condemns Jesus

 

Alessandro_Mantovani_Jesus_before_the_High_Priest_700

The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they found none…..The high priest rose before the assembly and questioned Jesus, saying, “Have you no answer?  What are these men testifying against you?”  But he was silent and answered nothing.  Again the high priest asked him and said to him, “Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?”  Then Jesus answered, “I am; and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”  At that the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further need have we of witnesses?” – Mark 14:55, 60-63

Why did the Sanhedrin condemn Jesus, why did they want him dead?  One word JEALOUSY.  Jesus had grown a great following among the people, performed miracles and had called the Sanhedrin “fools” and “hypocrites” because of their pious holier than thou attitudes.  In short they were threatened by him and felt their power of the people slipping away.

Jealousy and envy have a way of destroying us from the inside.  Like a fierce cancer spreading through our bodies we become uncharitable and engage in destructive behavior.  The Letter of James tells us,”For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice” (James 3:16).  Is it no wonder than that jealousy destroys friendships and causes strife amongst family members?

Envy is perverted because it “loves” what other people possess, rather than what is Good, Beautiful and True.  It is characterized by a need to have better or be better than others or wanting what others have for yourself.  The Sanhedrin wanted what Jesus had, chiefly his ability to teach, heal and the influence he had over the people.  This led them to make all manner of false accusations against Jesus in an attempt to discredit him.

Are there areas in our lives where we are jealous of what others have?  Maybe it’s that shiny new car in the neighbors drive, or the bigger house.  We could even be envious of relationships others have that we wish we had.  These feelings of jealousy detract from the many blessings God has bestowed upon us.  Most of us living in the United States are exceedingly blessed yet we are always looking for bigger and better.

I am not saying it’s bad to want nice things, it’s perfectly normal to want a nice home, car, clothes, good education for your children, etc.  Where we need to be careful is becoming overly obsessed with what others have.  Here is the challenge, next time you find yourself feeling jealous of something your friend or neighbor has pause and count your blessings.  Do not be so tempted to store up riches for yourself on earth instead store your riches in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).  For as Saint Matthew reminds us “where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Matthew 6:21) and shouldn’t our heart be with Jesus?

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The Second Station: The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

judas-betrays-jesus

Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders.  His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely.”  He came and immediately went over to him and said, “Rabbi.”  And he kissed him.  At this they laid hands on him and arrested him.  – Mark 14:43-46

The scene in the garden continues to unfold, as hundreds of armed men come to arrest Jesus.  Jesus has been with them daily in the public square and synagogue, they could have taken him at any time.  Yet, here they come in the cover of darkness to conceal their shame and guilt.  Judas, one of the twelve, who has been with Jesus every day for the past three years now betrays him.  Judas one of the trusted few and member of the inner circle with a single kiss sets into action the events that would ultimately lead to Jesus’ death on the cross.

We have all, to some degree, experienced betrayal in our lives.  When we are betrayed or feel betrayed by someone we love (spouse, loved ones, close friends) it is gut wrenching.  This can lead to animosity, broken relationships, and estrangement.  It causes brothers and sisters to not speak, spouses to separate or divorce, and the best of friends to become the worst of enemies.  We become so overcome by what has been done to us that our hearts become like stone and hatred fills us.

But what is Jesus example?  In Luke’s gospel we read that one of his disciples “struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear.  But Jesus said in reply, “Stop, no more of this!” Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him.” (Luke 22:50-51)  Jesus does not resist, he does not condemn rather he continued to display great love even for those who mean to do him harm.

There will be many times in our lives when we will be rejected or betrayed.  This is especially true if you try to live a Christian life, embracing the teachings of Christ and his Church.  How will you respond?  Will you be like the disciple and draw your sword?  Causing further hurt in an already hurtful situation.  Or will you take Jesus’ example and “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you?” (Matthew 5:44)

Is there someone you need to forgive for a past betrayal?  Is there someone you have betrayed that you need to seek forgiveness from?  Reach out to these people today, don’t wait it’s been long enough.  With a sincere heart grant mercy and forgiveness to whom it is required.  With humility and a contrite heart ask for forgiveness from those you have hurt.

The First Station: The Agony of Jesus in the Garden of Olives

Jesus prays in the garden Matthew 26:39-40
Jesus prays in the garden Mark 14:32-36

We are called to walk closer with Christ during the Lenten season and what better way than by walking with Christ during His passion and death?  Over the next few weeks leading up to Holy Week we will make this walk together.  I will offer reflections on each station for us to contemplate where we are on our walk with Jesus.  I have chosen to use the Stations of the Cross used by Pope John Paul II on Good Friday 1991.  They are scripturally based and may not be completely familiar to those more accustomed to the traditional form.  I wanted, however, to have these reflections rooted in scripture so that we may reflect on the timelessness of God’s Word and how it applies to us today.  Here then is the First Station.

Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”  He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed.  Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death.  Remain here and keep watch.”  He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.  Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.”  – Mark 14:32-36

               How often have we faced difficult, seemingly insurmountable situations?  Tasks or challenges that we had no desire to go through?  Have you lost a job?  Suffered a miscarriage?  Lost a parent or other relative?  Imagine the distress and sorrow Jesus felt, knowing fully what was about to transpire.  Jesus fully human did like any one of us would have and prayed to the Father to “take this cup away” but unlike us Jesus submitted completely to the Fathers will.

How are we at submitting to Gods will?  If you’re like me than often times you take your problems to God and instead of accepting His will we attempt to give Him the answer we want.  We should “Let go and let God” but instead we “Hold on and tell God.”  God’s love for us is immeasurable and like any good father He wants only the best for us.  While we see the present moment and think we know what is best, God see’s the whole picture and really does know.

Jesus example to us in the garden is one of perfect submission to the Father.  You see like us Jesus had free will and could have easily called on a legion of angles to come to his aid.  But Jesus chose to accept God’s will, the first step in his defeating death.  So what is troubling you today?  What sin do you need to overcome?  What relationship needs healing?  Where is God leading you in your life?  Go into your “garden” and ask God to show you his will, then with complete trust follow His direction.  Every day present yourself to Him for as we say at every Mass we should live our lives “through Him, with Him and in Him.”

Finish the Race

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As we approach the half way point of our Lenten season, it’s time for a checkup.  How are your Lent resolutions going?  If you’re like me, you’ve stumbled once or twice over the past 20 days.  Maybe life has gotten in the way work, family, school, fish fries, etc.  Or maybe you’re like me despite my past experiences and failing to follow my own advice took on a little more than I could handle. Or maybe, just maybe you can do more.

Whatever the reason, it’s not too late to make this a great Lent.  Like every good sports team it’s time to head into the locker room regroup and reevaluate.  Sunday, mini Easter, what better day to huddle up with our Coach, Jesus and find out what we’ve been doing well and where we can improve.  Take a few minutes today and go to Jesus in prayer, ask Him to come to you and assist you in making the remainder of this Lent the best you have ever had.  Ask Him where you have succeeded and where you have failed.  Then quietly listen and prayerfully await His answer.

Like a good coach Jesus will guide you, all you have to do is surrender to Him.  You see it doesn’t matter how we’ve started or what we’ve done till now.  To win a championship you persist until the final whistle and isn’t our salvation worth so much more?  Saint Paul tells us “Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one” (1 Corinthians 9:25).  The same discipline we use to accomplish any goal in life is the same discipline we should use to win heaven.

The second half of our Lenten journey is about to begin.  We can take the rest of these 40 days and make them great.  Review your plans make adjustments as necessary and always remember Lent is about drawing us to a closer relationship with Jesus.  Surrender to Him and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you.  My prayer for you, and myself, is that when Holy Week arrives and we are at the Easter Vigil our relationship with Jesus is stronger than it has been before.  And we can say with confidence “I have finished the race; I have kept the faith” 2 Timothy 4:7
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Ooh-rah Send Me

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Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”  – Isaiah 6:8

“We need someone to charge that hill and secure a defensive position against the enemy, establishing fields of fire and maintaining fire suppression to allow our platoon to maneuver to the left flank” ordered the Gunnery Sergeant.  One brave Corporal rose and shouted “Ooh-rah (send me) Gunny,” and was off like a shot ready to perform his mission.

“Ooh-rah” – A motivational cry that signifies Marines are ready and eager to accomplish the mission before them.

Catholic men, today I address you.  We are in the midst of a crisis in our church and our mission is clear.  How many of us like Isaiah are ready to cry out Ooh-rah when the Lord comes calling?  Men the crisis is real and the numbers don’t lie.  Since 2000 14 million Catholics have left the faith and there has been a 17% decrease in the number of priest.  Many of those that remain only practice their faith with mediocrity and will make sure their children receive the sacraments but little else.  As Catholic men are failing to keep the promises we made at our children’s baptisms – promises to bring them to Christ and to raise them in the faith of the Church.

We just need to look at the world around us to see the effect this is having on our “throw away” society.  Almost 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in abortion, with an estimated 977,000 abortions took place in 2014.  50% of all marriages in the US end in divorce leaving children, especially young boys, without positive male role models.  The very definition of “family” is being attacked by the legalization of same-sex marriage.  Pornography use and abuse is on the rise and becoming more and more acceptable.  Nearly three-quarters of young adults (71%) and half of teens (50%) come across what they consider to be porn at least once a month.  While teens and young adults view “not recycling” as more immoral than viewing porn.

I believe these horrifying numbers can be reversed but it will take heroic men of great conviction to make it happen.  We must begin in our own homes.  What are we modeling for our children?  Are we men of faith hungry to learn more?  Or do we simply go to mass on Sunday to check the box?  Are we showing our sons how to respect the dignity of women by the way we treat our spouse?    By our example we should be challenging our sons to greatness.  As future husbands and fathers our sons should be well formed in the faith, men of prayer with strong convictions.  This must be instilled in them by us every day.

And what about our daughters?  Pope Saint John Paul II said “The dignity of every women is the responsibility of every man.”  This begins with our wives and daughters.  Are we teaching our daughters to value themselves by modesty in their dress?  Does the love and respect we show our spouse show our daughters how they should expect to be treated?  We should be teaching our daughters that they are they are daughters of a King and to accept nothing less than to be treated like a princess.  Men we should treat all women with the utmost of respect.  Treat your wife in the way you want your future son-in-law to treat your daughter and she will be blessed all the days of her life.

Men the danger is real and the enemy is deceitful and cunning, our country and our families are under attack every day.  The enemy will do everything he can to gain an advantage over you.  He will infiltrate your camp through friends, coworkers and even family.  Be on your guard and be prepared at all times.  Fortunately for us the church has given us many weapons to combat our enemy and to win salvation for ourselves and our families.  The greatest weapons in our arsenal are the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation (Confession) and the Holy Rosary.  The Eucharist is our fuel for the battle, frequent reception of our Lord gives us the strength to march on.  For Jesus said: “‘I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51).  I encourage you to make every attempt to attend mass as frequently as possible.

Sin separates us from God giving the enemy the opening he is seeking.  The way back into communion with God is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way:

1469    This sacrament reconciles us with the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it. In this sense it does not simply heal the one restored to ecclesial communion, but has also a revitalizing effect on the life of the Church which suffered from the sin of one of her members. Re-established or strengthened in the communion of saints, the sinner is made stronger by the exchange of spiritual goods among all the living members of the Body of Christ, whether still on pilgrimage or already in the heavenly homeland.

Confession strengths us, fortifies us and gives us a battalion of saints and other members of the Church on which we can lean on to win the battle.  I challenge you to make a good confession at least once a month you will be amazed at the impact it has on your life.

Finally the Rosary, trust me men it’s not just for little old ladies.  The Rosary is the MOST powerful weapon in our daily arsenal as the saints have shown us:

“The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.” –St. Josemaria Escriva

“Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world.” –Saint Pope Pius IX

“The Rosary is the ‘weapon’ for these times.” –Saint Padre Pio

So daily pick up your rosary ask our Blessed Mother to be with you and guide you to Her son Jesus.  The strength you will gain from this devotion is unparalleled, by meditating on the mysteries daily you will be drawing closer to Mary and Jesus.

NOW is the time for ACTION, NOW is the time for men of COURAGE to RISE UP.  Will you continue to sit on the sidelines and watch helplessly as our families are destroyed and the enemy gains more ground?  Or will you shout OHH-RAH, SEND ME!  We can no longer leave the battle to someone else, it’s time to get in the fight.  Who will join me?  Ohh-rah!