Set the World on Fire

I awoke this morning to a text from my sister – “I love her dress!!!!!”  Like many women, I ran down the stairs to catch a quick glimpse of the soon-to-be princess as she stood in Westminster Abbey next to her prince.  I must say, I completely agree with my sister.  I too, love her dress!  It was quite refreshing to see feminine beauty expressed in such an eloquent and sophisticated style.  For a brief moment I thought, maybe Kate’s choice in dress will be a trend setter and bring modesty back into bridal fashion.

Then suddenly, my attention was turned to the Bishop of London.  He started his sermon with these words, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”  I couldn’t believe it!  Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Catherine of Siena and as millions watched to see the dress, the first balcony kiss, the complete “fairytale wedding” they would also have the opportunity to hear the words from one of our great saints.  In some sense, these words which are echoed through time, give meaning today to sacred nature of the marital bond.

God created us out of love as a means to reflect His love.  And marriage, as authored by God, is one of the ways we can express that love.  For it is in the sacrificial love shared between husband and wife, that man and woman become what God desired them to be – a reflection of His love!  When we allow our lives to reflect His goodness, His truth, His love, we reach one conclusion.  We set the world on fire.  Saint Catherine of Siena, pray for us!

A Bishop Speaks To Call His Flock from Sin. Let’s Join Him!

One of the things we have lamented together on this blog is the silence of too many clergy, catechists and parents on the important moral issues of our day. Too many Catholics are uninstructed in basic moral principles.

Surely one of the critical moral issues in our sex-saturated culture is premarital sex and cohabitation (aka “shacking up”). We have discussed this topic on numerous occasions here in order to reiterate the biblical and Church teaching wherein we are commanded to live chastely. For example see:

Fundamentally all the biblical quotes about premarital sex (fornication) can be summarized by this quote from Ephesians:

Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No fornicator, no impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Eph 5:3-5)

Now these are very strong and clear words. Fornication is a very serious sin which excludes one from heaven. Those who die unrepentant of it go to hell.

Yet, despite the clarity and gravity of this, I will say, that growing up in the church in the late 1960s and 70s I cannot recall ever hearing this clearly taught in a parish that I attended. I think we had some notions that adults might not approve of teenagers having sex, but we simply thought this had to do with the fact that they were old fuds who were uptight. Further, they did not listen to Rock music, so what did they know? But no one ever sat down and reasoned with me from Scripture, I never heard a sermon on it, and even my parents, good though they were, didn’t really talk about sex with us, except the “facts of life talk.”

We have to do better. I have tried as a priest to be clear from the pulpit about this. Further, I try each year to talk with 7th and 8th graders about the sinfulness of fornication. Last year I also preached to our local Catholic High School students. And I tried to give them the clear biblical teaching I never got.

More good news on this front is that Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan Archbishop of Santa Fe has recently issued a pastoral letter on the question of premarital sex and cohabitation (i.e. living together outside marriage). In it he clearly calls cohabitation a mortal sin and instructs young people not to cohabitate. He calls on pastors to ensure proper instruction and formation of young people in this regard

Here are some excerpts:

We are all painfully aware that there are many Catholics today who are living in cohabitation. The Church must make it clear to the faithful that these unions are not in accord with the Gospel, and to help Catholics who find themselves in these situations to do whatever they must do to make their lives pleasing to God.

First of all, we ourselves must be firmly rooted in the Gospel teaching that, when it comes to sexual union, there are only two lifestyles acceptable to Jesus Christ for His disciples: a single life of chastity, or the union of man and woman in the Sacrament of Matrimony. There is no third way possible for a Christian. The Bible and the Church teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman and opposes same sex unions….

[Cohabitors] should marry in the Church or separate. Often their plea is that they “cannot afford a church wedding” i.e. the external trappings, or that “what difference does a piece of paper make?” – as if a sacramental covenant is nothing more than a piece of paper! Such statements show religious ignorance, or a lack of faith  and awareness of the evil of sin.

Christ our Lord loves all these people and wishes to save them – not by ignoring their sin, or calling evil good, but by repentance and helping them to change their lives in accordance with His teaching. We, as His Church, must do the same….

Many of these sins are committed out of ignorance. I ask that our pastors preach on the gravity of sin and its evil consequences, the 6th and 9th Commandments of God, and the sacramental nature and meaning of Christian marriage. Our catechetical programs in our parishes – children, youth, and adult – must clearly and repeatedly teach these truths.

The Full Document can be read here Pastoral Care of Couples Who are Cohabitating

Bravo for Archbishop Sheehan. Premarital sex, cohabitation and other forms of unchastity are just too serious and too common fro us to remain silent or unclear.

I am personally a fan of going right to the Scriptures and reading the texts to young people right out of the Bible. The texts are beautifully clear and unambiguous. To this end, I assembled some years ago a list of New Testament Scriptures on this subject. If it can be of some help to you I have put it in PDF format here: Biblical Texts On Premarital Sex (Fornication).

Please remember not merely to leave this important text to clergy. Clergy count on the help of parents, catechists and church elders to reinforce and personally testify to young people on this matter. Encourage your priests and deacons. Indeed, I would say pressure them, if they are not already teaching clearly on this topic. We absolutely must be clear on this topic and so many others. Consider printing out the PDFs in this post and make use of them in this great task of teaching and proclaiming the Kingdom of God.

Being a Christian Man

When  I was a growing up my father would often exhort me to “be a man.” He would summon me to courage and responsibility and to discover the heroic capacity that was in me. St. Paul summoned  forth a spiritual manhood with these words: We [must] all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ. (Eph 4:13ff)

But today, too many Christian men are passive fathers and husbands. They have not matured in their faith but remain in a kind of spiritual childhood. They are not the spiritual leaders of their home that scripture summons them to be (cf Eph 5). If they go to Church at all, their wife has to drag them there. They do not teach their children to pray, read them Scripture, or insist that they practice the faith. They too often leave this only for their wife to do.

Gratefully, many men do take their proper role. They have reached spiritual manhood and understand their responsibilities in the Lord. They live courageously and are leaders. They are the first up on Sunday morning leading their family to Church and they insist on religious practice in the home. They intitate prayer and Scripture reading with their wife and children and are vigorous moral leaders and teachers in their family, parish and community. They are willing to battle for the truth and speak up for what is right.

You see the Lord is looking for a few good men. Are you a Christian Man? Have you reached spiritual manhood? This is not the kind of manhood that comes merely with age. It comes when we pray, hear and heed scripture and the teachings of the Chruch. It comes when we couargeously live the faith and summon others to follow Jesus without compromise. When we speak the truth in love and live the truth. It is when we fear God and thus fear no man, for when we are able to kneel before God we can stand before any threat.

Here are two good websites for Catholic Men. Let me know if you know of others.

Catholicmountain.com

dads.org

If you’re a Christian man or aspire to be one, I hope you’ll find this video as inspirational as I did.

Raising Boys

I recently read an article in First Things by Sally Thomas entitled: The Killer Instinct. The article ponders the modern aversion to the male psyche. Young boys are full of zealous energy, full of spit and vinegar, and have a a proclivity to rough and even violent play. Many modern parents and educators seem troubled by this and often attempt to soften boys, make them behave more like girls. Sadly there is even an attempt by some to diagnosis typically rough-house and energetic boys as having ADHD and they are put on medicines to suppress what is in the end a normal male energy. I do not deny that there can be a true ADHD diagnosis in some cases, but it may also be a symptom of an increasingly feminized culture that finds normal male behavior to be violent and a diagnosable “disorder.”  What I have said here may here may be “controversial” but in the finest male tradition, remember, we can always “spar” in the comments section!

I’d like to present excerpts of the article here and then add some of m own comments in red. You can read the whole article by clicking on the title above.

The default mode of many parents is to be as alarmed by [the] proclivity in their sons [to shoot and stab at things and be aggressive]…..An obvious fascination with shooting things might seem like one of those warning signals we all read about…It used to be that parents waited for Johnny to start torturing the cat before they worried. My generation of parents seems to worry that owning a rubber-band shooter will make Johnny want to torture the cat.  A friend of mine told me that he and his wife had decided not to give their boys guns for toys. What they discovered was that without the toy everything became a gun: sticks, brooms, scissors, their fingers. In the end, they “made peace” with the fact that boys love guns and swords and stopped worrying about latent tendencies to violence. Somehow it was in a boy’s nature and they couldn’t “nurture” it  away.

As a toddler, one of my sons liked to stand behind his baby sister’s chair and pull her head back as far as it would go, to watch it spring up again like a punching bag on its stem….and then she screamed….From my son’s point of view, it was altogether a gratifying exercise. My intervention was always swift and decisive…I implored my son, “Don’t be rough. Be gentle.” …I am struck, now, by the strangeness of what I said to him. We don’t tell someone struggling with lust simply not to want sex; we don’t tell a glutton that his problem will be solved if he stops being hungry. Yet, I might as well have said, “Stop being a boy.”…. What I think I have come to understand about boys is that a desire to commit violence is not the same thing as a desire to commit evil. It’s a mistake for parents to presume that a fascination with the idea of blowing something away is, in itself, a disgusting habit, like nose-picking, that can and should be eradicated. The problem is not that the boy’s hand itches for a sword. The problem lies in not telling him what [the sword and itch] are for, that they are for something. If I had told my aggressive little son not, “Be gentle,” but, rather, “Protect your sister,” I might, I think, have had the right end of the stick.(This is a very brilliant insight. It is essential that we not try to destroy the innate gifts that God gives us in order to “control” them. We must learn to harness them and sublimate them so that they achieve the end to which they are intended).

Anne Roche Muggeridge, who reared four boys in the 1970s and 1980s, observes that 

 prevailing society now thoroughly regards young men as social invalids. . . . The fashion in education for the past three decades has been to try to make boys more like girls: to forbid them their toy guns and rough play, to engage them in exercises of “cooperation and sharing,” …to denounce any boyish roughness as “aggressive” and “sexist.” 

Muggeridge writes of a visit to a doctor who urged on her a prescription for Ritalin, saying that a child as constantly active as her two-year-old son must be disturbed. “He’s not disturbed,” she responded. “He’s disturbing.” It is to realize, as Anne Roche Muggeridge did while watching her sons take turns throwing each other into a brick wall, that what you have in your house is not a human like you but a human unlike you. In short, as Muggeridge puts it, you are bringing up an “alien.”  Yes, it has been very frustrating to be a man in the modern age let alone have to grow up under the tutelage of social scientists and education bureaucrats who scorn and suspect your very nature. Boys are aggressive. That is natural and good. They must be taught to master it and focus the energy of their aggression on the right object, but they should not be scorned for who and what they are. Such scorning has become for too many a sense that they are socially “enlightened.” It is time to see this attitude as a the type of bigotry and sexism that it too often is. To many women (and some feminized men)  a boy in his raw state may in fact seem like an alien, but even aliens deserve respect  🙂

[There is an] initiation rite, devised and performed by our parish’s young priest twice a year in the church. This rite involves a series of solemn vows to be “a man of the Church,” “a man of prayer,” and so forth. It includes induction into the Order of the Brown Scapular, the bestowing of a decidedly manly red-and-black knot rosary, and the awarding of a red sash. What the boys look forward to, though, with much teasing of soon-to-be inductees about sharpened blades and close shaves…is the moment when a new boy kneels before Father and is whacked smartly on each shoulder with a large, impressive, and thoroughly real sword.  Great idea. I’m going to work in my parish about initiating something like this.

These Holy Crusaders are, after all, ordinary boys—sweaty and goofy and physical. For them to take the Cross seriously requires something like a sword. For them to take the sword, knowing what it’s for, requires the Cross. …A boy’s natural drive to stab and shoot and smash can be shaped, in his imagination, to the image of sacrifice, of laying down his life for his friends. In the meantime, this is the key to what brings these boys to church. It’s not their mothers’ church or their sisters’ church; it is theirs, to serve and defend. Yes, yes! Amen. Greater love hath no man that to lay down his life for his friends. Christian manhood needs to be rediscovered in some segments of the Church. Too many men stay away from Church because it seems feminine to them. Sermons about duty, courage and fighting the good fight have given way to a steady diet of compassion, kindness, being nice, getting along, self actualizing and,  did I mention being nice? These are not wrong virtues but they must be balanced by virtues that call us to stand up and speak out with courage, accepting our duties and fighting the good fight of faith, if necessary unto death. Men respond to the call when it is given in a way that respects their manhood. Balance is needed in the preaching and teaching of the Church and it seems that in recent decades we may have lost this in many settings, IMHO. If you think I’m crazy, remember this is a conversation. Hit the comment button and have it.

Sally Thomas, a contributing writer for FIRST THINGS, is a poet and homeschooling mother in North Carolina.

Here’s a video summoning boys unto manhood:

 

Reaching Young Adults – Some Recent and Fascinating Findings

It is usually thought by most Catholics that the Evangelical “mega Churches” have lots of young adults and that many of our Catholic young adults have gone there. There is, no doubt, a great absence of young adults in most Catholic Parishes. There seems to be a quite literal and physical generation gap, the “gap” being the empty spaces in the Church that young adults would occupy. However, Eric Sammons at his blog The Divine Life  (excellent Blog – Check it out!) has called attention to a very interesting article that reveals that absent young adults is a very common problem in Evangelical Churches too. The article appears in the Broken Arrow Ledger entitled “Where have the Young People Gone?” The article also reveals some Churches where young adults are increasing in number and you may be surprised where. Here are some excerpts along with my comments in RED

 Two-thirds of young adults who have grown up in evangelical churches are leaving, according to Ham and Beemer. [Authors of a forthcoming book “Already Gone,” by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, with Todd Hillard]…Information in the book is based on data collected from 20,000 phone calls and detailed surveys of 1,000 20-to-29-year-olds who used to attend evangelical churches on a regular basis but have since left them behind…..This is no small survey. Most major surveys feature much smaller sampling groups

“They (young people) have written church off as a moralistic bad guy that wants to keep them from enjoying their life…. I had this attitude when I was young too. My “lack of belief” was not a “studied atheism” but rather a more angry agnosticism. I didn’t like being told what to do. And I allowed what I wanted to do to be the basis of what I would accept. I don’t suppose that every yound adult goes through this phase but many do. In the Archdiocese we have certain forums like Theology on Tap where we try to engage young adults on important moral issues and demonstrate the credibility and sensibility of Catholic teaching. But, it is a long discussion to be had over many years. But if only we can keep them in the discussion, we may win some of them back.

Young people no longer believe in Genesis, which is the basis for Christianity, Garland said. They question everything from creation to the divinity of Christ, and for that he credits laws that require the evolution theory be taught in public school classrooms and ban instruction on Biblical creation. As I pointed out yesterday in my Blog Post I don’t think it is necessarily that they don’t believe but rather that we have failedto set the Biblical narrative forth in a compelling way because, in many cases we have stripped the plot of it’s central conflict which is the terrible reality of sin and the consequent need to be saved. I don’t think it is difficult to demonstrate to young adults that sin is a very serious matter. They have seen friends die from drug overdoes and drunk driving accidents. They know of the reality of STDs and the shallowness of most modern “substitutes” for marriage. They have experienced hurts and betrayals.  They are aware of violence, poverty and injustice. I think we just have to get in the game and show them how the Scriptures and the doctrine of Original Sin go a long way toward explaining the broken down nature of the this fallen world. Our teaching is sensible if we focus in on the main problem of sin and disorder, the “problem of evil.”  Without this Genesis and the whole Biblical narrative seems but a quaint and fanciful story that does not connect. And with no concept of the problem of sin and the great drama of their lives, young adults see no relevance to salvation, the necessity of prayer and sacraments. They just disconnect.

There is an exception, however. Traditional churches that are liturgical churches and smaller evangelical churches seem to be retaining their twenty-something members in greater numbers than larger and mega-churches…..Now you’d think the Catholic Church would fall into this category. But to some extent we are not reaping this harvest because most of our liturgies lack the flavor of tradition. More on this in a moment. [Rev John] Wilke said the only church he knows of that is experiencing growth in the 20-to-29-year old age group is the Greek Orthodox Church.“The Greek Orthodox Church is a liturgical church. Kids want to return to something different from what they get from the world. If we want to reach these kids again, we are going to have to return to what the early church was doing. We need to raise the bar,” he said…..There is sort of a strange rebound in some of the ancient liturgies, such as Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Episcopalian. What we would call the emerging church is something that is very appealing to that age group. Places that have a sense of order, mystery and transcendence are very appealing….I have experienced a lot of this in my discussion with some young adults who do not find the current liturgical experience of most Catholic Parishes satisfying. Many of them are turning up at the Traditional Latin Mass at I St Mary’s and other locations. I say Mass the Traditional Latin Mass once a month at St. Mary’s and find a growing and  vigorous group of young adults there. For the last several years, more than half my weddings come from the Latin Mass group. Most of these young adults were dissatisfied with liturgies in their local parish which they found trendy and ephemeral. Remember, the 1960s folk music is a long time ago to them! Folk singing seems dated to many (not all) young adults. Many are discovering the riches of traditional worship that were dropped in the 1970s. Now I want to say that I do not think that the majority of young adults are asking for the Latin Mass. But what IS observable is that one area of the Church that is attracting and retaining young adults is the Traditional Latin Mass. Also, at a neighboring Parish, St. Peters on Capitol Hill,  there are many young adults that turn out for Eucharistic adoration. My data is anecdotal only, but there seems to be a consistent message that many young adults are looking for more traditional forms, they are increasingly attracted by a presentation of the faith that is substantial and serious. This is also evident in the recent trend in vocations to the priesthood and religious life wherein most of the young adults who answer the call are far more traditional than they were 20 to 30 years ago. They prefer traditional forms and insist on orthodoxy. [W]here entertainment is the approach to worship. It doesn’t really satisfy. I think there is a richness in the ancient traditions that speaks at levels where contemporary music fails….[Rev. Shelby Scott agrees]: traditional liturgies and such things as incense and mystery – has become something of a strength and intrigue for the younger generation,” he said.

The Rev. John Wilke, senior pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church,…cited one of Luther’s writings as something for church leaders to consider: “A faith that costs nothing and demands nothing is worth nothing.” “I think that is where the church is today. I get too many things in the mail from churches that say, ‘Come just the way you are, you don’t have to change,’” Wilke said. “While God loves you where you are, he expects you to change. We don’t put the fear of God in our churches, we don’t have that respect. We’ve made Jesus our homeboy. He’s not our homeboy, he’s our Saviour.”…Rev Scott agrees….that Christian worship is going through a significant change. He believes young people are looking for a doctrine that requires more of them than just showing up at church. Here too my own experience bears this out. While it is true that many young adults may still be in the “I don’t want to be told what to do” mode. I think it is also true that many young adults also move to a stage when that begins to abate and they are looking for meaning and answers. Further, I am convinced that most of the rebellious,  deep down inside,  are glad that some one is challenging them. Somewhere under all the layers they want to know the truth even if they are not ready to fully embrace it. When I was a teenager I was well aware when I was being patronized and I usually respected adults less who humored me and tried to “relate” to me. Frankly they looked silly try to be like a teenager. Young adults too, I suspect, know when we are watering things down in an attempt to be popular. A faith that is integral and properly demanding command more resepct in the end. We will not be taken seriously by young adults unless we ARE serious. Trendy and cheesy gimmicks will backfire in the end unless there is a serious and reasonably demanding faith that is expressed.

******

The following video was an PBS special I taped on the Latin Mass. Among the topics discussed is the appeal that many young adults find with it.

 

Catholic Young Adults favor Tradition in Religious Vocations

The following article appeared in the New York Times earlier this week. Written by Laurie Goodstein, it reports on a CARA study showing a strong preference for and return to tradition among young adults who enter priesthood and religious life. I have known this anecdotally for years but now we have some hard data to chew on. Here I publish excerpts of the NY Times article and put my own commentary in red. Note: you can click on the graph to the lower left to see a clearer image of the graph.

 A new study of Roman Catholic nuns and priests in the United States shows that an aging, predominantly white generation is being succeeded by a smaller group of more racially and ethnically diverse recruits who are attracted to the religious orders that practice traditional prayer rituals and wear habits. [In recent years I have personally experienced a lot of ethnic diversity in vocations gatherings. Through a movement known as the Neocatechumenal Way we have we havemen from all over the world studying for the priesthood here in DC. At my own parish there are over 25 Religious sisters in our Convent from the Servant Sisters of the Lord (see photo above right of Sisters, novices and postulants) and they too include some Americans but when I am with them I feel like I’m at the U.N. The Church really is “catholic”  (universal) after all].

0811-nat-SUBwebNUNSThe study found that the graying of American nuns and priests was even more pronounced than many Catholics had realized. Ninety-one percent of nuns and 75 percent of priests are 60 or older, and most of the rest are at least 50. They are the generation defined by the Second Vatican Council, of the 1960s, which modernized the church and many of its religious orders. Many nuns gave up their habits, moved out of convents, earned higher educational degrees and went to work in the professions and in community service. [Well, the article simplifies things a bit. Just because you are old and white doesn’t necessarily mean that you are one of the “modernizers.” To be sure that generation collectively did the things described here but not every member of that generation went as far as moving out of convents, gave up habits etc. It’s about more than age and race].
 The study confirms what has long been suspected: that these more modernized religious orders are attracting the fewest new members….The new study, being released on Tuesday, was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University,  for the National Religious Vocation Conference, which is looking for ways for the Church to attract and retain new nuns and priests. It was financed by an anonymous donor.

“We’ve heard anecdotally that the youngest people coming to religious life are distinctive, and they really are,” said Sister Mary Bendyna, [I have met with a worked with Sr. Bendyna. She is very thorough and very honest in interpreting data. I have a great deal of respect for her work and her insistence on acknowledging what the data says, distinct from what ideologies might wish the data says.]executive director of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. “They’re more attracted to a traditional style of religious life, where there is community living, common prayer, having Mass together, praying the Liturgy of the Hours together. They are much more likely to say fidelity to the Church is important to them. And they really are looking for communities where members wear habits.” [I have often wondered by many more “modernized” orders that resist accepting this fact continue down the road which does not have many of these features described Sister. They observe the orders with more traditional features getting numerous vocations while their own orders do not. There is a very strange resistance at work here. Ultimately it seems non-existence is in the future of some of the orders that refuse to adapt. But that doesn’t seem to phase them. I remember talking to several Benedictine Sisters at a recent workshop. Their branch of the Benedictines has become very modernized and hasn’t had a vocation in years. When I asked them why they hadn’t consider changing their approach, they gave me a rather surprising answer. They indicated that maybe it was time for Religious Life to largely go away and to hand the Church back to it’s “rightful owners,” the laity. Wow! They seemed to have lost any notion of the Charism of Religious Life. Great to know the laity are more involved today but religious life is surely still and important gift of the Lord to the Church, seems to me!. Now this was just one group of sisters. I haveno idea how representative  their answer is of other communities that seem to be unable or unwilling to adapt]. Of the new priests and nuns who recently joined religious orders, two-thirds chose orders that wear a habit all the time or regularly during prayer or ministry, the study found.

The study also showed that whites account for 94 percent of current nuns and priests but only 58 percent of those in the process of joining orders. Asians and Pacific Islanders are disproportionately represented among the newcomers, accounting for 14 percent, far above their 3 percent share of the Catholic population in the United States, Sister Bendyna said. Hispanics are 21 percent of the newcomers, compared with only 3 percent of the current priests and nuns.

Of women who recently entered religious orders, the average age is 32; for men, it is 30. But retaining new recruits is a challenge. About half of those who have entered religious orders since 1990 have not stayed, and almost all who left did so before making their final vows. [This doesn’t really mean that they “left.” It is like a seminarian going off to seminary. One of the purposes of that time is further discernment, “Is this what God is calling me to do?” A seminarian who chooses to leave the seminary  is not said to have “left the priesthood.” So also those who leave before final vows are not said to have left religious life]. “People come to religious life because they feel they’re being called,” said Brother Paul Bednarczyk, executive director of the National Religious Vocation Conference, adding that the purpose of the Church’s training process “is to discern that call before a commitment is made.” So “it’s not surprising,” he said, “that you would have people that would leave.”

My favorite vocations video:

What Happens After the First Date?

Wow! In case you haven’t been keeping up, the “Marriage Can Wait???” post has 35 responses! I think Msgr. Pope hit a chord.

To continue the conversation, let’s just imagine that Boy X and Girl Y meet at a party. They get into a great conversation (she’s flirting and making it obvious that she’s interested) and he asks for her number. They go on a date, it’s a great time, and they are both excited about going on a second date. Now what?

Well, let’s talk about friendship! Certainly, taking initiative and asking a person out is a big deal. But the process of becoming friends is where the relationship really starts to take shape and where a deeper discernment begins.

Does she have strong relationships with the women in her life? Does he have strong relationships with the men in his life? Do they know how to begin a friendship with someone of the opposite sex? Will this person be a faithful husband or wife? Will this person be a loving father or mother? Do I see virtues in this person that I admire? Will this person help or hinder our journey toward Christ?

All of our friendships, whether romantic or non-romantic, have as their goal God who is Love. What does this mean to you? Leave your comments and attend our next Relationship Speaker and Discussion Series! Working with insights from Pope Benedict’s Deus Caritas Est as well as Scripture, Dr. Yohe will speak on how to be a good friend,  the importance of same-sex friendships, and the importance of opposite-sex friendships as a groundwork for dating and marriage.

Sunday July 19 – 6:30pm (after the 5:30 Mass)
Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle – North Conference Room
The Essential Groundwork of Friendship

Dr. Katherine Yohe received her Ph.D. in Historical Theology with a focus on spirituality from Catholic University of America.  Her dissertation was on human friendship as a means to grow in union with God, and most of her publications and lectures have centered on the lay vocation and friendship. She has taught at Catholic University and LaSalle University and is presently teaching Scripture and Catholic Doctrine at Trinity School at Meadow View. She has been married for fifteen years and has a thirteen year-old son.

Marriage Survey Finds Significant Generational Differences – But Wait There’s Hope!

I was alerted to the following CNS Article on a recent CARA survey of Catholic Attitudes on Marriage. I post excerpts of it here below with some comments in red by yours truly.

Catholic attitudes about marriage differ by generation, says survey

By Maria Wiering, Catholic News Service

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) — Catholic attitudes on marriage in the church are different among generational groups, according to results of a 2007 survey of U.S. Catholics by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington.

Social scientist Barbara Dafoe Whitehead talked about the survey results in a keynote address June 25 in St. Paul at the annual conference of the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers.

The survey showed that older Catholics — those who were adults before the Second Vatican Council — are more likely to look to the Church as the source for meaning and expectations for marriage than are baby boomers or members of Generation X or the millennial generation. Older Catholics also are more likely to be familiar with the Church’s teaching on marriage, to believe in marriage as a lifelong commitment between a man and woman, and to think of marriage as a sacrament that extends beyond the wedding day, it said. Whitehead attributed this attitude to being raised in a time of a distinct Catholic identity that included an emphasis on the church’s teachings on sex, procreation and marriage. (I have commented before on this blog that, beginning in the 1960s many began to reinterpret the basic meaning of marriage. No longer were children and raising a family the central focus. The focus came to center on the happiness of the spouses. Hence easier divorce came to be seen as “essential” since without it happiness might be hindered. Prior to that time, when children were the essential focus, divorce was seen as highly problematic since it so negatively impacted children. Likewise in the 1960s sex became no longer associated with the procreation of children but, again, only associated with the happiness of the spouses. If children were a part of that happiness fine, if not, fine too. With children out  of the picture as the central purpose of marriage many distortions follow such as easy divorce and now even “gay” marriage. If marriage is just about the happiness of the couple and children are merely a possible “accessory”, not an essential component, then who is to say two gay people can’t be happy together – or so the argument goes)

Generation Xers — ages 25 to 35 — … are confused about marriage, and their attitudes are closer to those of the general population, Whitehead said. “[Generation  Xer] Catholics want to marry a soul mate, and they’re much less likely to see marriage in these broader, institutional [family] terms,” she said. Sixty-nine percent of Catholics [from this generation] believe that marriage is whatever two people want it to be, and the sacramental understanding does not figure as prominently into their understanding, she said. (So there it is. Depart from the Biblical and Church teaching on marriage and we are left with a designer marriage. Such widely variable definitions of marriage cannot be the basis for a strong or united civilization, country or Church. The privatization of marriage and the anything goes notion are not a stable basis on which to build. Hence we are left with the modern experience of a balkanized (divided) vision for marriage, family, basic values and moral teaching. Unity decays and the basis for country Church and even civilzation is lost).

….However…the youngest generation — the millennial generation (ages 18 to 24)  — is showing a swing toward traditional ideas.  “The youngest Catholics … look a lot more like the pre-Vatican II, Vatican II or post-Vatican II cohorts,” she said. “Huge majorities — 80 percent or more — of these youngest Catholics believe that marriage is a lifelong commitment and that people don’t take marriage seriously enough when divorce is readily available.” Many children of this generation have experienced divorce in their own families, and they are determined not to divorce themselves, Whitehead said. “This is a hopeful change,” she said. (Indeed it is a hopeful change! I too have encountered children  and young adults in their 20s who are saddened, even disgusted with the broken down situation they have had to endure from their parents and grandparents. They know first hand the bankrupcy of the “designer marriage” easy divorce and confused atmosphere of the current climate. There is a knod of backlash setting in wherein the youngest couples I prepare for marriage are eager to be taught the Scriptural and Church teaching on Marriage. Thus THERE IS HOPE!)

Whitehead urged family ministers to share the social science evidence to dispel misconceptions, she said….”In these times when we have a culture that is so really difficult for people to remain faithful in their marriages, there must be a polar recognition of the circumstances of life and the need of support to help people live out the teachings of their faith,” she said.