Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The cycle continues

A Baby's Baby

The cycle continues

By Arwen Mosher

Camilla runs past me and I pull her in for a hug, which she loves.

She kicks her feet and giggles delightedly as I nuzzle her neck. I whisper, “I love you, baby girl.”

Suddenly she’s serious, twisting to meet my eyes with her wide ones. “No, Mom. I’m a big girl!”

(“Mom!” It just kills me.)

“Of course you are, sweetie, but you’ll always be MY baby.”

Camilla laughs as if she thinks I might be teasing her, but her tone is indignant. “I already just told you! I’m not a baby!”

It seems like minutes ago I was rolling my eyes at my own mother, who kept insisting - long after I was far too big to sit on her lap - that I would always be her baby. Now that I’ve got children of my own, I understand exactly what she meant.

My daughter’s limbs were once tiny and wrinkled, then chubby and dimpled. They are long and slender now, and will only continue to grow. She won’t go back to being a real baby, not ever.

Camilla doesn’t remember the day I first kissed the fuzz on her newborn head. She won’t. Instead, she’ll remember growing bigger, more independent, less tolerant of being called a baby by her sentimental mother.

Someday, though, she might kiss a newborn head of her own. Then she’ll understand how that moment sticks around and how, in a certain sense, a baby is always a baby to her mother.

My mom still says it sometimes, but I never roll my eyes at her now. I get it.

(Love you, Mom!)

Full Story

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mary at Pentecost

Mary at Pentecost
Finding My Vocation in Her Example

I find myself turning to Mary quite a bit in my role as mother. What I have found, when I look to her Pentecost example, is a series of lessons that inspire me to seek her Son in every moment of my day.

All women are called to motherhood.

Many aspects of this vocation didn’t feel natural to me at first. Maybe it’s that I didn’t feel that I deserved the many blessings I found coming to me as I went through my first pregnancy and labor.

Holding my first daughter, I thought of the women I knew who struggled with infertility, with a longing for more children, with miscarriages. I thought of the single women I knew who felt the pull toward marriage, but had no prospects.
I came to appreciate the different types of motherhood, and came to see that spiritual motherhood is a unique role women have been given by God.

There are women who have empty nests and wisdom to share and women with schedules crowded with sippy cups and diapers. But, perhaps unnoticed, there are also women who are single with a great passion for children and women with less children on earth than they have in heaven or in their heart.

In Pentecost, we see the Church as a family gathered together, Mom in our midst. Mary is there with the Apostles, and she encourages me to look around, at my fellow women, and be inspired by their examples of motherhood in all its forms.

We have to start with the present (and our presence).

By the time of Pentecost, the regular band of disciples must have been like a large extended family. And Mary must have been a warm, familiar sight to them. They were worried, and probably a little unsure.

In the Upper Room, Mary shows me the importance of the present, and the significance my mere presence can play. She didn’t miss any of the big events in her Son’s life, from His first step to His first miracle, from His Passion to His Resurrection.

It’s only natural that she’s in the Upper Room, and it underlines the importance of the here-and-now moment in each of our lives. God doesn’t ask us to pine for the past or live in the future; He holds the present before us as a gift given.

In the same way, I see that my presence makes such a difference in people’s lives. While I am not able to be all things to all people – or to be in all places at one time – I can focus my efforts and use Mary’s quiet example at Pentecost as a guiding light.

God is with us in our pain.

I had been dating my husband for a few years when his sister buried a baby. I had never experienced anything like what I witnessed in the months before and after the baby’s birth. We knew the baby would not be healthy, and we knew the likelihood was great that there would be a funeral following the birth. In fact, the doctors were disgusted that she did not have the abortion they scheduled.

On the day of the funeral, I saw my future husband sit tall and straight, his eyes red, even as I saw the grieving father in the front row sit with two young girls on his lap and his arm around his wife.

I had never witnessed grief of that sort, but I had also never seen the kind of hope I saw that day either. There were no recriminations. There were tears, and there was sorrow, but there was also peace.

Did my sister-in-law doubt God’s presence in the midst of her pain? Has she ever shaken her fist, sobbed her heart out, wondered at the cross she carries? When she found herself, once again, at the foot of the Cross with Mary, did she just stop and let Mary hold her?

In my sister-in-law’s example over the years, I have seen how her motherhood extended beyond her four children, two of whom were held first by the Blessed Mother. I watched her embrace other children, care for people, and give of herself unconditionally. She has been, for me, a model of trusting in God’s presence, even through pain beyond imagining.

Our Lady of the Cenacle, pray for us.

Above all, Pentecost gives me another way to invoke Mary. Here she is, patiently waiting. She knows what I’ve gone through, and she knows that there’s hardship ahead. But she smiles anyway. The greatest joy, as she knows so well, comes from always saying “Yes” to God.

—Sarah Reinhard writes online at SnoringScholar.com.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Passion

The Passion
By Lenora Grimaud

Some might wonder, “Is there any real good that can come of suffering? What is the purpose of suffering?” If we are reflective we can see from our own experiences that suffering produces virtue, when accepted. We grow in patience, perseverance, fortitude, courage, strength, discernment, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, etc. But, what good could come from the passion and death of Jesus? How is suffering redemptive? How is death redemptive?

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). To many people, this is foolish, and a waste. They value their own life more than the life of their friends, even if they think their friends will make better use of their life than they would. If they think they are better than their friends, this kind of sacrifice is even more foolish.

Many people, however, are very humble and selfless. They would willingly risk their life to save others—like the helpless and innocent. Very few would risk their life to save a criminal or great sinner—perhaps, none—except for mothers for their children. Many people are also willing to risk their life for a good cause. These are magnanimous souls.

How many people could risk their life—or lay it down—if there was no honor in it; if they had to lay down their reputation and good name as well as their life? Jesus laid down his life, freely, in order to save sinners. He did it for the honor and glory of his Father, as well as to give eternal life to sinners. He also allowed himself to be taken for a criminal and a heretic—not a hero or martyr. Is there any greater act of love than this?

How did this love—this sacrifice of his life—help humanity? How has it saved anyone, let alone sinners? Jesus rose from the dead, proving that he can restore life and give eternal life; proving that he conquered sin and death; proving that he can deliver people from the slavery of sin and transform them into the image of God, by sending them the Holy Spirit. The evidence lies in the thousands of Saints and holy souls that followed after him. It has affected even non-believers. It has even brought about a new evolution of humanity, in spite of all the evil that still exists in the world. The kingdom of God is growing in the hearts of mankind.

Our understanding of what love is, is also growing and deepening. Although they prophesied about the mystery of God’s love, could the prophets have ever been able to conceive of the scope and magnitude of this love? Could they have understood a God who loved his enemies and the enemies of his people—who loved everyone; a God who loved unconditionally; a God who is so merciful, and so powerful that he can change the hearts of his enemies—of the most hardened sinner; a God who was willing to come among them and be with them—be one of them; a God who would lay down his life for them, in flesh and blood?

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross [public execution of a criminal]. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:6-11)

God is love, and the greatest suffering in life comes from the rejection of love—for both, the one who is loved and the one who loves. God has revealed to us, long ago, that even if we are unfaithful, if we abandon him and reject his love, he will always be faithful to us; he will never abandon us, reject us, or stop loving us. He accepts the pain and suffering of our rejection without retaliation—even if we refuse to repent—and continues to love us.

Unrequited love is somewhat flattering to the one who is loved, at first. But, because they do not return the love—or cannot return it—they reject it. When the one who loves, continues to love, it becomes bitter to the one who is loved. They become angry, and then want to destroy the one who loves them. The suffering that results is terrible for both, the one who loves and the one who is loved. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because they did not realize what was being offered to them, and the consequences of their rejection. (Mat. 23:37)

God loves us unconditionally, with unrequited love. Our rejection of his love brought about his crucifixion. When the first man and woman sinned, it was a rejection of God’s love, and if God had been flesh and blood, their rejection would have resulted in the passion and death of God upon the tree of life. The crucifixion of Jesus is a reenactment of the effect of sin upon God and humanity. Jesus accepted our rejection knowing what it would lead to—even before his incarnation. It was the Father’s will that his son love unconditionally, with the same unrequited love. Love does not, however, end with the cross—with crucifixion. Jesus rose from the dead, revealing the power of enduring love. The cross is not the last word. The cross is God’s act of mercy. Unrequited love will eventually conquer death and separation, and transform our relationship with God into the union of love, not because of us, but because of God’s unending mercy—his ultimate act of love.

The power of unconditional love was not immediately evident at the time of Jesus’ death. His resurrection revealed it to his disciples. It continues to be revealed throughout the ages, through subsequent disciples who love unconditionally, until the kingdom of God is fully established on earth. “The servant is not greater than the master.” (John 15:20) If they persecuted Jesus, they will also persecute his disciples. All suffering in life, even that of the totally innocent, can be traced back to sin—and to original sin—the rejection of God’s love.

When the love of God enables us to accept suffering and unite it to the suffering of Jesus, we continue to proclaim the Gospel—the Good News—and to manifest the unconditional love of God for humanity. When humans accept the mercy of God—his unconditional love for them—even though they do not deserve it, they enable the power of his resurrection—the power of unconditional love—to be made manifest in the world.

This was the message of the prophet, Hosea. His own relationship with his unfaithful wife became a metaphor for the relationship that God has with his people, as well as the whole human race. It has also served to deepen our understanding of the indisolvability of “marriage,” and the kind of love a married couple should have for one another. There have been many marriages in which one spouse, at some point, stops loving the other, or rejects their love. If the other spouse continues to love, unconditionally, there will probably be much suffering and conflict, for awhile. If they persevere, however, it will eventually win the other over. There may need to be a period of separation (a time-out) to allow for a change of heart before one of them destroys the other.

If they do not get a divorce, there is always hope for a reconciliation and union of love. This is why it is necessary for those who enter into marriage, to make a commitment for life to stay in the marriage. Marriage is a covenant of love and there is no love without sacrifice or suffering. Marriage is in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, in good times and bad. The same is true with our covenant with God. We have to trust in him and in his love for us. God never gives up on us and continually pours out his love and mercy on us.

In the book of Jonah, the message was that God is the creator of everyone, and loves everyone. God has no favorites. The “chosen people” were called for the sake of all nations—to be a light to the nations and direct them to God; to be a spokesman for God to reveal his love to all peoples.
In the book of Job, the message was that suffering is not punishment from God for sin. Suffering comes to good people as well as bad. All behavior has its own consequences—we reap what we sew. Nevertheless, the innocent suffer as well as the guilty, and the evil man prospers as well as the righteous man. When we have turned away from God, suffering can be a gift to turn us back to God. When we are righteous, as Job was, and suffering comes to us, we need to trust in God, accept the suffering and continue to trust that God is with us in the suffering and will bring good from it.

God takes no pleasure in seeing his people suffer. Through one man’s (Adam) sin, all of creation was wounded. All of creation is connected. When one person suffers, the whole of creation suffers. Through one man’s perfect act of love (only God is perfect) the whole of creation is healed and renewed—transformed. God did not come to destroy the world, but to save it. Sin is like the radio-active fall-out from a hydrogen bomb. It affects everything—all life on earth—people, animals, plants, water, air, and earth. God does not send natural disasters. They come from the impurities and imbalance in nature caused by sin. If a whole city repents (Nineveh) and turns to God, the elements of nature are affected, as well. To repent is to be with God—to receive his love and protection. To be separated from God (sin) is to be subject to destruction.

God is not a destroyer. The plagues of Egypt did not come from the hand of God. They were the result of nature rebelling against sin—cause and effect. Suffering is our rebellion against sin, because we were created for union with God. God could have intervened and stopped the plagues if Egypt would have allowed him to (as Jesus calmed the storms at sea). The Hebrews were saved by God because God was with them and they were with God, through obedience. God did not destroy Egypt, he saved the Hebrews.

The human body is always trying to heal itself of its impurities and disease. Nature does the same, through what appears to be natural disasters or interventions of God.

Some holy souls absorb the impurities of others into their own body like one who sucks out the venom of a snake bite in another person. Some nations do the same. They are a sign of the “Cross” for the world. These are the poor and the innocent ones. They become a sacrifice of love, uniting their suffering with Jesus—the sacrificial lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Notes to: “The Passion”
By Lenora Grimaud

Notes: I do not mean to imply that the pain we cause God by our rejection of his love is the same as that experienced by a person who experiences “unrequited romantic love.” Unrequited romantic love is painful to the ego and is not selfless love. This pain is the self-inflicted pain of not getting our own way—getting what we want. The “unrequited love” of God causes God pain, not because our rejection of him hurts him, but because it hurts us. God pursues us with his love like “the hound of heaven,” but he never forces his love upon us. He weeps over us because our rejection leads us toward death. An example of God’s pain of “unrequited love” is the pain of the Father in the parable of “The Prodigal Son,” (Lk.15:11-32) and Jesus, “weeping over Jerusalem” (Lk.13:34-35).

The relationship between a husband and wife is an exclusive relationship. A marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman. They each jealously guard this relationship against false lovers who attempt to break their covenant with each other. Righteous jealousy should not to be confused with the jealousy that comes from our ego, or lower nature. Righteous jealousy is comparable to the zeal of the “Shepherd” who guards and protects his sheep from the thief and the wolf, who comes to steal and to destroy the sheep. (John 10:11-16)

“God is a jealous God!” There can only be one God, who is God over all peoples. The “bride” is a metaphor for the human race—the people of God. The bride is inclusive of all humans. There is only one God, however, who makes a covenant with all humans—beginning with the first man and woman, who represent all humans.

There is no place for false gods in this covenant relationship. There is only one “Shepherd.” God jealously guards his people against thieves and hirelings who try to take his place, but he will not stoop to compete with them. He jealously guards his people because of what will become of them if they become slaves of false gods, and so he will never abandon them. He goes in search of them when they become lost, and never gives up until he rescues them. Jesus came to save the whole world. Not all of the sheep know the voice of the “Shepherd,” or follow him. They are not yet part of the flock. God will not rest until he has all his sheep back.

“And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and these I have to lead as well. They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock, and one shepherd.” (Jn. 10:16)

In a true marriage, there can only be one husband and one wife. Jesus said: “Have you not read that the creator from the beginning made them male and female and that he said: This is why a man must leave father and mother, and cling to his wife, and the two become one body? They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.” (Mat. 19:4-6) God took woman from out of man and formed her (Gen. 2:21-24).

He created man and woman for union—to be one, through marriage. This is not so of two women or two men, or of a human with an animal, or of a man and woman outside of marriage, or of an adult and a child. A husband and wife should be a matched pair, like two shoes—the same size and style, but, a left shoe and a right shoe. A marriage should be a perfect fit—a good match.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Who Told You You Weren’t Beautiful?

Who Told You You Weren’t Beautiful?
By Msgr. Charles Pope

We live today with very high expectations of many things. Culturally we have very demanding standards for beauty, especially in regard to women. We expect them to have appealing “curves” but be slender etc. Even ordinary weight is considered by many as unattractive. All this obsession with perfection leads to low self esteem among women and men too.

Further, these high expectations of zero body fat and perfect shape, hair color, skin tone etc. leads to hypercritical and hurtful remarks. There is an old saying that “expectations are premeditated resentments.” Hence this attitude also may have to do with marriage difficulties as the near perfect bodies of youth give way to the more “settled” bodies of middle age and beyond. (Gravity and age do have their effects and even if you weighed what you did in High School it doesn’t look the same!)

Plastic surgery is a miracle for those with truly catastrophic injury or deformities but today it is too often the refuge of those who have become obsessed with how they look and how they think others regard them. Oh to be free of such obsessions! The picture to the right depicts a woman but men have the problem too.

Help me Lord to be little more comfortable in my own skin. Help me to accept that you like both tall and short people because you made them both. Both the blond and the brunette are from your hand, wavy hair, straight hair wirey hair are all from you and apparently to your liking. Thin and hefty, black, white and all between are from your artistic hand. Help me to love me as you made me. If I should lose weight for health’s sake help me, but if its only about what others might think of me, free me.

Watch this video and see how a very lovely young woman is not lovely enough. She has to be altered, “perfected.” And when simple natural enhancements are not enough her image must be furthered altered on a computer. Message: the perfect beauty does not exist for the world of media. She must be invented. Then everyone can pine after and spend large amounts of money and time trying look like someone who doesn’t even exist.

Click here to view full article from Archdiocese of Washinton.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sex and the Catholic Woman

Sex and the Catholic Woman
By Cheryl Dickow

My first job after college graduation was as a “Training Specialist” at a large corporation. I taught computer software classes. It was the mid-80’s and I had all sorts of plans for life. I had just delivered my first son and my sister was his caregiver during my long days at work. I loved my job, I loved my new baby, and I loved my husband. Although the plan was to essentially have it all, I can’t say it was as much my own personal goals as simply the general goals of women my age. Many of us weren’t consciously choosing this life; rather, we were swept along in the tides of liberation. I suppose many of my generation probably felt obligated to at least make a nominal grab at the brass ring, after all, our predecessors had done an awful lot of bra-burning and picketing to make our life better. Right?

So, when a page from a 50’s woman’s magazine made its way around the office, and then was posted in the break room for all of us to see, we chuckled -- as required -- and poked fun at the list of “Wifely Duties” as laid out in the one page copy.

I can remember that day as if it were yesterday because there was something deep down inside of me that stirred in response to that 50’s woman’s magazine. And the stirring wasn’t anger or resentment but a sort of envy. “Hmmm,” I pondered, “what would that life be like?” Her obligations may have appeared a bit different than mine but had to be just as demanding and I would imagine just as fulfilling and frustrating as well. To this day I believe that most of the young women who ridiculed that picture had to have some sort of recognition that “wifely duties” weren’t all bad things. In fact, I’m sure that every woman who laughed at the idea has her own list of “husbandly duties” and wouldn’t think twice of adding to it.

No matter what age they live in, women will always have certain obligations if they have been called to the vocation of marriage. Some obligations will be embraced while others will be considered necessary but unpleasant. This attitude towards these “duties” is certainly affected by the culture, as witnessed from the magazine page all the way through today’s Hollywood messages. Cleaning bathrooms is probably at the top of the “necessary but unpleasant” list, should a woman be asked to make such an inventory. Sadly, however, what may very well compete for one of the top spots of this imaginary “necessary-but-unpleasant” list of wifely duties happens to be sexual relations with her husband.
I will admit right here and now that I’m not big on statistics. It seems that just about anyone can find at least one study done by some particular group or another that will support an argument being put forth. So, I am positive there are studies that will show that many women have stopped having sexual relations with their husband after 15 years of marriage while others will say some enjoy an active sex life well into their 50th year of marriage. But let’s face it, many of us know of someone – and that someone might be you -- for whom marital sex has become a “chore” or is no longer part of the marriage. Or, it may occur once a month or every other month. I know many such women, all with varying reasons, for whom sex is non-existent or barely existent within their marriage.

But is this good for the woman? The marriage? What does this say to the husband? The Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2332 states:

Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.

In regards to the sexual nature of the married man and woman there is a bond that forms, and continues to develop, that will be unlike any other bond that this same man and woman would be able to form with any other person. To deny the development of this bond is to deny a unique communion of these two people who will otherwise never be able to know such a bond on earth. In other words, the physical intimacy of their union is such that nothing else will ever be like it or will ever produce the same results – whether this means children or an intimacy experienced that is holy and from God.

JPII taught very clearly on the “gift of self” and when a woman understands that gift of self has many dimensions, she will also see that one of those dimensions is the physical way in which she can give herself to her husband. A husband, then, also has obligations as the “receiver” of this gift. Jewish law teaches that a man who pleases his wife is doing a mitzvah – a good deed. This teaching is many thousands of years old and clearly based upon the understanding that God created the martial union for the pleasure of both husband and wife but also in the ways in which it elevates them as pro-creators with God. The rules and regulations of sexual intimacy between a Jewish husband and wife are many and are meant for their mutual benefit. Of those laws there are specific ones in regards to what is not acceptable. This includes exploitation, rape, incest, coercion, or subjugation of another person.

Sex within a marriage is considered sacred. Jewish teaching says that it is a sin not to enjoy sexual intimacy within marriage.

If we can collectively agree that the need to practice self-control is a given part of man’s nature – and we are specifically speaking about “man,” then wives should feel an obligation to at least consider ways in which their denial of sex puts undue strain upon the expectation of a husband’s fidelity. While this does not give a man freedom to place blame on a woman for his infidelity, it does make it necessary for a woman to take responsibility for her decisions regarding withholding sex in a marriage.

The sexual revolution screamed for women to take control of their bodies, to no longer be tied to one man, to have control over their sexual reproduction. When a woman responded to the sexual revolution with an attitude that her body was specifically hers to give or keep, all else became secondary. Most specifically, this attitude ended up in the marriage bed where a woman was now “expected” to withhold herself even if it was just to make a statement. It was all about “her” and not about “them.” Women were now “in charge” of everything and men were on their way to paying the price for whatever role they may or may not have had in the repression of women. Emasculation began in full.

Let’s say this same woman, who no longer gave freely of herself in bed, was married to a man who woke up one Saturday and said, “Honey, I need a break today. Is it okay with you if I don’t cut the lawn?”

All other things being equal – meaning we assume this husband is responsible and a good husband and father – this wife’s response will be something like this, “Sure! There won’t be any problem if it waits till next week.”

The week then passes and Saturday morning the wife fully expects that the lawn will be cut because now it is getting a bit long and the neighbors are eyeing it. The husband wakes up and stretches his arms out and says a bit sheepishly, “Gee, it was good to take a break from cutting the lawn last week. What could another week hurt?” To which the wife’s dismay may be seen on her face but she is willing to let it slide.

By the third week the husband no longer cares about the lawn. The wife could hire someone to cut it but the husband would be furious and she is left seeing her husband in a less than stellar light. This continues and then begins to affect additional aspects of how each views the other. This was a conscious choice of the husband’s, not to cut the lawn. It wasn’t something that was out of his control. This isn’t to say that he was always in the mood to cut the lawn but that, regardless of the mood, it was something that he should be doing.

Is it ridiculous to expect the husband to cut the lawn? I think not.

Is it unreasonable for a wife to give herself to her husband even is she is not “in the mood?” I think not.

But this brings us back to the point where there has to be a common understanding that the union of a husband and a wife is a gift from God. Both ought to come to a place in their marriage where they see this union as a way for them to grow and develop together. Whether they are in the middle of child-bearing years or at a time when the union itself offers an intimacy that can only be had within that union, a married couple should see their sexual relationship as holy and sacred. A husband should learn ways in which he can romance his wife and put her in the mood while a wife should learn ways in which she can still give of herself when the mood doesn’t manifest.

It is not right for a woman to expect faithfulness from her husband and yet stack everything against his being able to be faithful. It also is not right for a husband to always expect his wife to be intimate as her emotional and physical make-up is different than his and requires different stimulus, so to speak. However, and most importantly, it is not right for either a husband and a wife to believe that “duties” are not part of the marriage.

I know a woman who, for physical reasons, began abstaining from relations with her husband. The reasons were legitimate, her ailments real. But as time wore on, and the reasons for abstaining from a sexual relationship began to wane, the physical intimacy did not get re-established. In the interim, her expectations of her husband’s patience for the situation continued to mount. “If he loves me,” she would say, “he will know that I just can’t.” And, of course, he did love her. He loved her tremendously, but his physical needs were just as real as her ailments and as time went on, and he could see that she was not going to make an effort towards the intimacy they once had – even if it would be different because of time and circumstances – and he began to question her love for him. His final, painful conclusion was that she no longer loved him and their marriage ultimately ended.

Surely blame can be laid at the feet of both husband and wife and yet there can be no argument that the husband’s need for physical love from his wife was as real as his wife’s need for abstinence at the outset of her medical condition. But once things began to change, there needed to be a renewed interest in their physical love for one another. Two very real Catholic teachings on marriage are important to understand when discussing a sexual relationship for husband and wife.

The first is to recognize that a married couple’s combined goal is to help one another get to heaven. This involves the day-to-day responsibilities that require patience, perseverance, and commitment to the union and the family unit. In addition, to achieve this goal, both husband and wife must be interested in the faith development of the other and not only support and encourage it but never become a hindrance to it.

The second is to recognize what we read in Matthew 5:27-28:

You have heard that it is said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

In other words, a wife should be cautious and not put her husband in a position where he will surely have committed adultery in his heart, break the sixth commandment, and then fall into mortal sin. The husband still has his own responsibilities and obligations to keep himself from mortal sin but the wife should not become “Eve” in her marriage.

The great Jewish sage, Maimonides wrote:

No prohibition in all the Torah is as difficult to keep as that of forbidden unions and illicit sexual relations.

The knowledge that the physical intimacy that can exist between a husband and a wife is also something that can exist as an urge outside of that union has always been recognized. But just as it is recognized, it is expected to be controlled. Catholicism has long taught the virtue of self-control and it is completely reasonable for a wife to expect that virtue to be practiced by her husband. However, she should not put him in a position that the virtue becomes impossible to attain.

In the end, both a husband and a wife have duties or obligations to one another. The good Lord has made one of those obligations physical and sacred. It is meant for their mutual pleasure and continued growth as man and wife. It can be used as one part of an earthly journey where the ultimate destination is heaven or it can be misused and become a instrument of control or sorrow. For each to fully embrace the gift of physical love, both husband and wife are obligated to fulfill their duties with love, honor, and respect.

Cheryl Dickow is the Associate Editor of www.Woman.CatholicExchange.com an online magazine for Catholic women.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What Sin is About? (Mooo!)

What Sin is About? (Mooo!)

Check out this great video excerpt from Fr. Larry Richards' talk. And get a handle on what it really means to sin.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Feminism: The "Apple" of Our Generation?

Feminism: The "Apple" of Our Generation?
By Cheryl Dickow

“It is evident that women are meant to form part of the living and working structure of Christianity in so prominent a manner that perhaps not all their potentialities have yet been made clear.” When John Paul II wrote Mulieris Dignitatem, his 1988 Apostolic Letter on the Dignity and Vocation of Women, he freely referred to the discourses of Paul VI, Pius XII, and John XXIII to shore up his own firm belief that women, when imbued with the Gospel, are bearers of gifts, charisms, and power (yes, he uses the word power) intended to “aid humanity in not falling.”

Imagine, “aid humanity in not falling.” That’s a powerful statement of a woman’s effectiveness and ability. So, a full twenty years after feminists took center stage and burned bras, declared their equality, and mandated a way of thinking that threw families into turmoil, John Paul II earnestly tried to set the record straight. In his document, Mulieris Dignitatem, JPII begins by exhorting what he calls “the greatness of the dignity and vocation of women.” It can be no surprise that our beloved Pope, himself in a Mary honoring relationship, would proclaim such great news within the Church and to Catholic women everywhere. One cannot be in right relationship with Christ, and His mother, and not know that Christ’s entire Messianic time on earth was exemplary in the way in which He broke with the traditional ways in which women had been mistreated to make a point. The point, as John Paul II lovingly describes, is that women understood Christ’s messages of God in a special and thoroughly unique way, indeed, a necessary way.

JPII brings into our consciousness an awareness of the women Jesus encountered and why it could be said that “Jesus’ attitude to the women whom he meets in the course of his Messianic service reflects the eternal plan of God, who, in creating each one of them, chooses her and loves her in Christ:” Simon’s mother-in-law, the woman who had the flow of blood, the widow of Nain, and the Canaanite woman, to name a few. Throughout the document on the dignity and vocation of women, JPII continually draws us back to the eternal truth of a woman’s worth due to her creation by God and boldly states that woman’s creation was for its own sake, just as was man’s, and it is an error to view God’s punishment as a result of the first sin (“he shall rule over you”) to be anything other than an evil inheritance for BOTH man and woman.

In other words, where our world has interpreted that Scripture verse salaciously, JPII eloquently reminds us that God’s original intention was for a more perfect union between man and woman. Equality was originally intended to be a measure of sameness as created beings in the likeness of God. Equal but different. Indeed, when JPII writes that “In the “unity of the two,” man and woman are called from the beginning not only to exist “side by side” or “together,” but they are also called to exist mutually “one for the other,” there is no mistaking that in subjugating either of God’s highest creations, both creatures suffer and this was never God’s plan for humankind.

Whether in regards to the societal misinterpretation of such verses as Genesis 3:16 or due to women’s general misunderstanding of their own inherent worth, the “feminist” has long ago gained momentum at the expense of what JPII refers to as her own “feminine genius” when she has chosen to pursue, at great danger, her own “masculinization.” In many ways it would seem that feminism, as a means to masculinize the female species, is incompatible with the Church but most certainly incompatible with what JPII exhorts in Mulieris Dignitatem. This is to say that a Christian woman who lives and understands her call, as a disciple of Christ, cannot also find herself on the “feminist” path where her own gifts are seen as anything less than monumental; gifts to be employed for God and for His kingdom. When a feminist claims that a woman is only fulfilled when she occupies a “man’s” role in life she is simultaneously saying to a Christian woman, “The plan God has for you is less than what you should want for yourself.” Sound serpent-like?

Additionally, it should be abundantly clear that a Christian man diminishes his own dignity and vocation when he suppresses a woman’s worth and calling. As said earlier, man is also a created being made in the image and likeness of God. As such, he cannot be called by his Creator to be anything less than loving, compassionate, wise, and forgiving in how he attempts to live out his life on earth. A Christian man understands how he is called to love his wife just as Christ loves the Church. As JPII states, “The bridegroom is the one who loves. The bride is loved.” What a beautiful illustration of God’s intention when Christ made Himself the bridegroom! A Christian man, then, conforms his own will to the will of God and in doing so, frees his wife to be all that God has called her to be and to fulfill her vocation in the midst of love.

But how are Christian women called? Once we get back to the basics, sans feminist messages to masculinize ourselves, and embrace our own inherent worth, we are able to find anointed role models in Scripture regardless of the different times in our lives. Has God called you to a position of great territorial authority like Queen Esther? Has He blessed you with a family in which you affect the world by the way in which you love and nurture your spouse and children? Or has HaShem called you to remain anonymous while you diligently work for Him just as Noah’s wife did? If Adonai has done the bidding, how can you refuse?

I would suggest that God counted on the women in Noah’s life, Moses’ life, Abraham’s life, and Isaac’s life just as he counted on the men. Imagine if these women had mistakenly bought into a message that their worth wasn’t in fulfilling God’s role but in pursuing roles designated by their pagan neighbors or their jealous adversaries. This isn’t to say that each of these women, and others like them, were without faults but that in their faults, and in their stumbling, they provide more of an example on how to live as a Christian woman today than any television personality or best selling self help book. They were the perfect women John Paul II wrote of when he said, “The perfect woman becomes an irreplaceable support and source of spiritual strength for other people, who perceive the great energies of her spirit. These “perfect women” are owed much by their families, and sometimes by whole nations.”

If you are ready to leave all the secular messages behind and would like to spend time discovering the richness of such women as Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, Zipporah, Ruth, The Blessed Mother, and others, please join me as I moderate a unique, online ten week woman’s study that has been approved by The National Association for Catholic Chaplains. If you are looking for confirmation that your life has God’s hand upon it, this study will nourish you and make you embrace the richness of your Catholic faith! Please visit my website www.BezalelBooks.com for more information as registration is currently underway.

From ParishWorld.net

Thursday, February 25, 2010

You are a Daughter of the King!

You are a Daughter of the King!
By Cheryl Dickow

“As the daughter of the King, you are a princess!”

These are the most powerful words a Catholic girl can hear, know, understand, and believe. Fortunately, many young girls come from homes where this particular dialogue in a common occurrence. Others come from homes where this message is said, from time to time, but not often enough. For still others, this is a message that isn’t said at all, under any circumstances. Regardless of whichever situation a young Catholic girl experiences, however, the words are no less true, needed, and valuable.

For me, these were words I neither heard nor knew as I grew up as a child of divorce where Catholicism was left behind like a shredded tire on the side of the highway. Parents who belonged to strong Catholic families with strong Catholic ties were too wounded themselves to worry about the wounds that had been inflicted upon their child. Sadly, instead of turning to their faith, they turned from it. Instead of seeing the healing balm found in their faith, they believed healing to be outside of it, separate from it. Of course the ramifications of those decisions were to impart neither the faith nor its Truths to me, their only child.

This isn’t to say that God didn’t provide me with graces, though. Indeed, it was during these years in my life that I spent countless time in the Jewish homes of my friends and neighbors. I learned of Jesus as a Jew before I learned of Jesus as a Savior. My debt to these families will never be known but I have always been able to see how God’s hand has guided my life.

And so, as a grown woman, my own personal journey continues. It is one in which the Catholic roots planted by grandparents created a foundation that I would eventually embrace with passion. And while I can’t imagine how my journey could have otherwise unfolded, I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. I understand how our personal experiences are necessary for our spiritual growth and yet I have a deep aching to know that this message of Christ’s love is imparted to every young Catholic girl today.

So, as I continue to edit the “All Things Girl” series I find myself being buoyed by the knowledge that any and every girl who reads these words will have her heart touched in a way that may be both valuable and necessary but also in a way that creates a foundation from which a love and relationship with Christ will flourish. I see these books as having an impact regardless of which home situation the young Catholic girl lives in, whether she is constantly reminded of Christ’s love or has never heard of such a thing. I am reminded of what we are told in Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” The foundation and relationship of faith must be formed during this time of youth to prepare a child for the days ahead.

Yes, they are words I wish someone had said to me but now I am able to marvel at how loving God is that He would allow me to help those words be said to others! In my own quest to know, love, and serve Him, He has allowed me to passionately contribute to that same quest of others. He’s allowing me to help make sure that every girl knows that she is His daughter and, thus, a princess. The authors of the series have shared their amazement at the way in which I can “jump into their skin and complete a thought or emphasize a point.” It is because I want every young girl to rejoice in what is being said within the pages of this series. I want every young girl to know her value in the eyes of Jesus and how loving Him and serving Him will always be like a gift she continues to enjoy. In passionately telling each young reader how much she is loved by Jesus, I am telling myself, as well.

I’ve just completed editing the third book in this ground-breaking series. The first title being “Friends, Boys, and Getting Along” and the second title is “Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall…What is Beauty, After All?” The title just completed is called “Girls Rock!” and I am so thankful to have been part of this work.

“Girls Rock!” is filled with stories about women of faith. Whether looking at the story of Ruth or reading about Mother Anjelica and Dorothy Day, Catholic girls are inspired to respond to God in a very real, very personal way. Each and every reader is asked to say “yes” to God in her daily walk.

This book, like all the others in the series, weaves the Truths of Catholicism throughout and uses the teachings of JPII’s Theology of the Body and Mulieris Dignitatem in such a way so that every girl rejoices in her role as princess. Real issues are faced in real ways and girls are encouraged to “have a plan” in which their personal relationship with Jesus is developed through prayer and everyday behaviors.

When I was a young mother and had my three baby boys I used to remark that God knew I wasn’t equipped to raise daughters and so did not give me girls. In many ways I was too wounded to tend to the special needs of a girl and He knew that. And I was grateful! Raising boys had its own challenges but I knew they were quite different than the challenges faced with raising girls. Then, having taught many years in a parochial school environment, I began seeing the needs of young girls from a perspective and position in which I could respond. Not being the mother and yet being the teacher (religion and English) allowed me to emphatically tell my young charges about Jesus and His love for each and every one of them. There was a perfect balance between closeness and distance from which I could “preach.” Yes, there were rolled eyes but they didn’t hurt me, the teacher, as much as they often hurt a mother. I worked past all that and kept delivering my message of what it means to be a daughter of the King.

Indeed, as I worked through my own understanding of Christ’s love for me, I was able to share my enthusiasm with my middle school students, but especially with those girls in my classroom. Every message I had never heard as a young girl now became a lesson. Every Truth that had been hidden from me, I now revealed in my classes. I spoke to each girl as if she were my long lost daughter or maybe my future daughter-in-law. Every girl needed to know who she was in Jesus and make that relationship her top priority. As a consequence, boys couldn’t help but take away the knowledge that they had better be treating these girls with honor and respect as daughters of the King.

The boys were easily able to see that that, they, too, were His children. They were His sons, they were princes! I admit that sometimes I was practically jumping around the classroom.

I share all this to say, imagine my feelings in being asked to edit this book series! After speaking at a woman’s conference a couple of years ago, a woman came up to me and breathlessly asked, “Wow. What has happened to you that you could be so inspirational?” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry but now I finally do. I cry tears of joy at the idea that God uses each of us, if we allow it, for His purpose and for His glory. And that He has so honored me to work on this book series is testament to the graces He has in store for each and every princess, regardless of her age.

Note: To contact the authors of this series for a presentation, conference, or mother-daughter event for your parish or diocese, visit their websites at http://www.teresatomeo.com/ or http://www.runwaytoreality.org/.