Updated on May 28, 2016
A pervasive and expanding trend among Christians, is the practice of stating that whatever it is you want to do, God is calling you to do that. Perhaps in some cases, God is calling that person to do what they are doing, but in many of these cases, it is clear that is not what is happening. I’m certain many of these people are well-meaning and even believe they are being called by God.
We are certainly able to discern, pray, and use our well-formed conscience, but the conscience must be well-formed. To be well-formed, is to know that we can be deceived. We can be misled, just as Adam and Eve were misled. They didn’t want to do evil; however, that was still the end result.
We should and are able to discern God’s will in our lives, but there is a great detail that many Christians are forgetting:
God’s will for you is not going to contradict Himself. God will not ask you to do evil so that good may come of it. God will not ask you to act against what is good so that you might be “happy”. God doesn’t talk like that. You know who does? The Kardashians.
A woman told me God was calling her away from her marriage because she wasn’t happy anymore. Really? Are you sure it’s God calling you away? You might not be talking to God, but to yourself.
I have no doubt that she believes God is the one who is calling her, but self-deception is the strongest form of deception and the first consequence of sin. Read the Bible (my least favorite retort on the face of God’s green earth!). Did Jesus tell the woman at the well to just go be with whichever husband made her happy? No, He didn’t, and He was clear.
People like to pretend that Jesus was ambiguous and unclear because he spoke in parables. They like to pretend Jesus came to make everyone happy.
Jesus was very clear. There are clear rights and wrongs, and happiness is not guaranteed. If everyone is only concerned with his or her own happiness as the guage for goodness, then all of society falls apart.
No longer does the man consider the harm he brings to his wife, his children, society, friends and family, if he divorces and leaves his family. He only has to consider his “happiness”. He could also conveniently claim that God was calling him to leave his wife…then, who would dare argue with him? Well, I’m daring!
Jesus was so clear that there was little dissension among what He meant and said for nearly 1500 years after His death. The dissension and the problems in faith, almost always begin with us deceiving ourselves, that we know better because we have a special, direct-line to God.
Of course we all can pray and receive guidance from the Lord, but faith doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We are a Christian family, with structure and shared faith and life in Christ. We have priests who can give spiritual direction and stand in persona Christi. Go to them! They sit in the empty confessional every Saturday, for hours.
If you want to know if your desire is God’s will or your will, you need only compare it to what we know of the faith. Ask yourself: Am I making an exception? Is this contradicting the words of Christ? The ten commandments? The wisdom of the magisterium of the Church? Would this normally be considered wrong? Am I a “special” case? Do I mean to imply that what I’m doing is acceptable because I have a relationship with God unlike others?
If you are answering yes to any of these, you aren’t hearing a call from God. You are hearing the shouts in an echo chamber. Get out of that echo chamber! It is a chamber of spiritual death!
We all want our desires to align with God’s and when they don’t, we must change our will or be against God. For those who cannot stomach “thy will be done”, they create a third and devious option: claim God wants what we want.
If you need to claim that you have a “special” relationship with God wherein He communicates views that contradict the deposit of faith, you aren’t talking to God. You are probably talking to yourself, and at worst, the devil.
Updated on May 23, 2016
This Catholic Life Podcast Episode #8
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Updated on May 17, 2016
Modesty. What is it? What isn’t it?
Guest post by four-year seminarian student turned holy husband and lay theologian, AloysiusG,
The conversation of modesty in our culture is a really mixed-up conversation. Oftentimes, it is reduced to two things a) the kind of clothes you should be wearing and b) its measurement based on the way others feel toward you and are affected by you.
In this way, modesty is oftentimes seen as a social virtue; it is often taught and enforced by sayings such as, “You are immodest because you are causing me to have feelings of arousal or lust.” Modesty, however, is not the virtue by which you maintain someone’s chastity; rather, it is the virtue by which you maintain the dignity of your personhood.
The Catechism is very clear when it states that modesty is a requisite for purity; but it’s important to note that my modesty helps me to maintain my own purity. If my acts of modesty are not able to maintain your virtues of purity, that doesn’t mean I’m suddenly immodest. It simply means that you are so vicious (Aristotelian definition used here meaning vice-ridden) that the amount of virtue in which I live, is not relevant.
The Catechism notes that modesty is at the service to “protecting the intimate center of the person.” It “refuses to unveil what should be hidden.”
Immediately, in our materialistic culture, we’ll give this a materialistic interpretation: what should not be unveiled? Well, one’s body should not be unveiled; so, modesty is always keeping your body covered up. The problem with that, however, is multifaceted. On the one hand, a person can be very covered up and still be very immodest.
Taylor Swift is a great example: she prides herself in her modesty; she notes that she’s modest because she never wears clothes that reveal her belly button — that is, she never wears clothes so low-cut. However, she will look at the camera in such a way that her personhood is no longer maintained. She is now presenting herself as a creature of sexual arousal.
Clothes maketh not the modesty.
Still, I don’t think Michelangelo ever drew a clothed person in his whole life; yet, when one looks at his painting of Eve, one does not see a creature of sexual arousal. She’s completely naked, and she’s magnificently beautiful!
But in her beauty, one isn’t led to lust; one, rather, is led to admiration of the human person. In her nudity, Eve is modest. Eve is one with her personhood. This is important, because there will be those unhealthy in their sexuality who will be sexually aroused by both instances.
I remember the disaster that was once taking my little brother to the Chicago Art Museum; I thought he was going to lose it right there in the gallery! He had received a contemporary education regarding sex, wherein flesh = meat and meat = sex. He was also the kind of person incapable of breathing correctly around a breast feeding mother. Which brings me to the next example.
Whereas John Paul II, in his Theology of the Body, ordered the removal of the clothes that had been added to the painted figures of the Sistine Chapel in the 1800s, so too did Pope Francis in his Catechesis on the Family note that covering up to feed a baby in the Sistine Chapel was ludicrous. “If your baby is hungry, feed your baby! Do you see the Blessed Virgin Mary covering herself when She feeds Christ? When She feeds Saint Bernard? You do not. So, too, you should not feel embarrassed about your vocation to motherhood!”
Then again, Edith Stein noted a tradition in her native Germany whilst she was teaching at University. Women anxious to live a life of heroic modesty wore clothes akin to potato bags and hideous window curtains. She noted that dressing in an ugly fashion, dressing in a way that completely hid one’s body, that removed all beauty from one’s body, was not modesty.
Dressing in a way that proclaimed the evil of the body is not “protecting the intimate center of the person.” It completely unveils what should remain hidden, and that is man’s capacity for disorder. “Modesty is discreet”, the Catechism notes; it is discreet about the exclusivity of marriage; it is discreet about the proclivities of which man is capable.
Edith Stein noted that dress should dignify the person; not exploit it, and not hide it. Because of that, modesty is more than physical presentation. Modesty is simply living so as to exemplify the splendor of the human person. It is the proper mode by which one actuates, rather than simply some Emily Post notations on fashion.
I knew a monk who said that it was immodest to whine a lot, for you were detracting from the glory of which the person is capable. In the same way, it would be immodest to boast of one’s achievements.
The Catechism notes that modesty is a way of life that “guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.” If you are training others to see you as a sex object, you are immodest; but that kind of training is far more holistic than simply wearing a bikini!
I’ve been around women in bikinis with whom I’ve felt perfectly comfortable, whose bearing and demeanor was training me to behave toward them as persons, as equals with dignity. I’ve been around women in sweaters and jeans who I knew were curving and blinking a little too salaciously whenever they spoke to me. I’ve received communiques from PEN-PALS — a mode of communication that makes the kind of shirt your wearing completely moot — that were the definition of immodest.
That’s really the point. “Modesty” is derived from the Latin “modus”; “modesty” is the “mode” by which you live your life. It’s not a style, though style is implied. I’m sure some women can wear bikinis quite modestly, while others — not so much.
At the same time, dressing in a repulsive way is not modest either! For it trains others to think that the body is evil, that you have no dignity and want nothing to do with solidarity, and want everyone to just stay away. The Catechism notes that modesty “encourages patience and moderation”; throwing yourself at someone — bikini or not — encourages no kind of patience or moderation; but neither does salting your face!
The Catechism notes that immodesty can be in the emotions; it notes that advertisements are a certain mode of immodesty — a woman arching a hip and rolling a shoulder for a photo shoot is one thing, and we can discuss what that thing is; a woman arching a hip and rolling a shoulder so you’ll buy a stinking bag of chips is immodesty at its finest.
The Catechism also notes that immodesty is in peer pressure; the one who feels pressured to dress in the latest fashions is immodest; they don’t understand the dignity of their person; they are of the belief that they are only dignified insofar as they have conformed to everyone else. At the same time, the Catechism notes that this conformity has to do with more than just spaghetti straps; it notes that modesty “makes it possible to resist allurements of…and the pressures of [accepting] prevailing ideologies.”
If you are of the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, and then all of your friends start to hate you, so then you change your mind and say marriage is between an anything and an anything — and you’re open to the idea of a third anything just to keep getting invited to dinner — then you are living of an immodesty.
There is, then, intellectual modesty. Modesty is actuating according to the dignity of your own person. You don’t dress to repulse or to attract; you simply dress in a dignified and beautiful way. You don’t flatter others or push them away; you simply love. You don’t accept ideas or reject them based on popular opinion; you just search the truth. And that’s modesty — a topic much, much bigger than the current, Protestant-influenced notion of “my woman must wear a dress! With sleeves down to her thumbs! And a bonnet! Even when she’s mowing the lawn!”
Which, again, is not modesty. So, that’s that. As with all things in theology, it’s not an easy answer. “Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
Posted on May 16, 2016
This Catholic Life #7
Media and Marriage: Should you be watching that?
My husband, Mariano Contrite, and I discuss media intake and whether or not we should be watching everything we want to, in life. We process it candidly without having hard formed opinions in the beginning. I think we came out on the other end, better for it!
Updated on May 5, 2016
Note: This is intended to be comedic and light-hearted. I love being a mother so very much. Best gift ever!
Before: Change bedding once a week. Always smells fresh and clean.
After: It’s not that wet in here. I sniffed it. It will dry. It’s fine. Really.
Before: My shoes, purse and nails all are coordinated. I look hott!
After: Is there a hole in the crotch of my pants? No? Okay, good. I still have my house slippers on outside of the house? Shush. Mommy is having a hard day…
Before: Plenty of reflective quiet reading. It’s a little too quiet sometimes.
After: There is a permanent chorus inquiring “why”, and an awkward silence sounds like a vacation.
Before: I get a little tired if I don’t get a tight 7 hours.
After: What is sleep? Do you see the bugs crawling on my skin?! THE GOVERNMENT IS WATCHING!!!
Before: I work out and keep my body fit!
After: I think I look like the Kool-aid man. My workouts consist of carrying the baby and squatting to pick up toys. If I had TIME to work out, I would sleep.
Before: I do thoughtful things to keep the love alive in my relationship.
After: I went on a date recently! Oh, wait….that was a year ago….Well, sometimes he farts in my general direction. That’s love!
Before: I go to daily mass, and love my time with the Lord.
After: I haven’t heard a homily in 5 years.
Before: I love to volunteer to help the needy and troubled.
After: I AM the needy and the troubled! 😉
Before: I have a beautiful collection of glass perfume bottles filled with my favorite fragrances.
After: Sometimes, I spray my armpits with Febreeze.
Before: I have a strict facial care regimen.
After: I use the wipes for my kid’s bottoms, on my face. Not the same wipe.
Before: I love music and try to keep up with the top 40, as well.
After: Old McDonald had a farm…
Before: I use a curse word here and there to be expressive and funny.
After: I said ONE curse word after stepping on a Lego, and the kids will NOT ever let me forget it. They inform all guests about my potty mouth.
Before: My stomach is the envy of all of my friends.
After: My stomach looks a bit like deflated dough balloon with a pastel road atlas imposed onto it. Honestly, they should have just installed a zipper to make things easier next time.
Before: Boobs are sexy.
After: Boobs are food. Everyone and their grandmother has seen them, now. Sleep is sexy.
Before: Cook food to specific intended temperatures to lock in flavor. After: Everything I eat is lukewarm and old.
Before: Obsessed with collecting designer bags.
After: Obsessed with collecting cloth diapers.
Before: Love to have intelligent conversations about current events and politics.
After: Cannot have a conversation that does not include one of the following words: breastfeeding, poop, sleep, timeout.
Before: Netflix suggests helpful and interesting movies.
After: Recommendations: Octonauts.
Before: Keep floors tidy and free of debris. Don’t want any mice! After: Ah, yes, I like to keep a nice sampler of cereals and half eaten bananas on my floor at all times. It’s helpful in case someone gets hungry.
Before: Bathe in the morning and after workouts.
After: Forced to take my weekly bath, in the middle of the night, since the dry shampoo has begun to flake out of my hair.
Before: Thought I knew what it was to love, and the fabric of my character.
After: I did not know love until, now. Everything that seemed important is superfluous, now. I understand real purpose and unconditional love. I am the best person I have ever been and will continue to be better for my children. 🙂