I AM A FATHER TOO…And I have the links and pics to prove it:)

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This has not been the easiest Father’s Day for me, having lost my dad from this world just over 2 months ago, and having no earthly descendants to celebrate it with me. Not exactly anyway.  But far from the worst either.

In the last couple months as I have been healing from the events of this winter and spring, I wrote two articles in tribute to my father. One was in regards to my relationship with him and in particular in connection to SSA (same-sex attraction) issues, and I was privileged to have this article first posted in Public Discourse, an outreach and arm of the esteemed Witherspoon Institute, and, just today, in ChurchPOP, a Catholic collection of many different articles, news items, quizzes and other just-for-fun stuff. Read it in either place (if you haven’t already that is), but be sure to in any case peruse them both. There are tons of other articles in both sites that I am confident you will enjoy and be blessed with, and in order to be sure you do not miss out I am placing both links just below, which also list other articles I have written for each site:

ChurchPOP–http://www.churchpop.com/author/richard-gerard-evans/

The second article dealt with the death experience itself, and, while that may sound morbid to some of you, and I will never say it was not tough stuff, it was also unexpectedly beautiful. The other site I write for is Catholic Stand, and they recently published that particular tribute, as well as linking it to the Big Pulpit. Both are the brainchildren of one Tito Edwards, who does most of his great work through the National Catholic Register, the nation’s oldest Catholic news publication, and now owned by EWTN. Again the link below will come from my author page, as I had a number of other items on that page, but the one on “happy death” was my latest, and certainly a lasting tribute to the good man who was my earthly father.

Catholic Stand–http://www.catholicstand.com/author/richard-evans/

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                                      My dad and me in December, 2014

Lastly, a FB (Facebook) friend shared with me some of the most touching words possible last night when we were chatting online. I have not met this young man as of yet but hope to in the future. His name is Andres, and he lives in Mexico.  Here is what he said to me:

“Happy father’s day for you, I love you lots my brother and your baby is very proud of you… Your papa is holding him on his arms and he is very happy seeing him smile, as I smile for you.”

The backstory on that comment is this–My former wife Shirley and myself had 4 miscarriages in the early 1980s. We have therefore four “30-something” children in heaven. Andres, whose first language is Spanish, wrote this when my dad initially passed away, in fact on that very day. It is both simple and powerful:

Andres–“Now you have mama and papa praying for you in heaven.”

Me–“Yes I do. Amazing.”

Andres–“And now your papa met your son :)”

I have not met my unborn children, although I briefly held the first one for a few moments, as the amniotic sac had not broken. But this young man recalled me speaking of them and wanted me to know that they now had grandparents in heaven. Pretty amazing for a young man I have never met.

Finally last year I became a godfather for the Catholic baptism of John Paul Xavier Millegan, the youngest son of my friends Brantly and Krista Millegan. ChurchPOP, mentioned above, is Brantly’s brainchild. So, as I heard it said recently on the radio by a man in a similar situation, I have 5 children, and one I can hold. I am definitely a dad. And a proud one too. Although he is definitely  “bigger and badder” now, here is pretty much my favorite picture so far of the recent one year old:

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                                      My godson John Paul Xavier Millegan

So yes, I am a father too. The links and pics prove it I think. And a very proud one at that!!!  Happy Father’s Day to all men out there, whether you have co-created any children or not. It’s your day so enjoy it.

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WHY CORPUS CHRISTI–A personal perspective

On this Solemn Feast of Corpus Christi (the Body and Blood of Christ), may I just say this about the Holy Eucharist, particularly to my precious Protestant Christian family and friends on this FB page and blog? When I was first coming back to the Catholic Church, I went to an all night prayer vigil in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I stayed for around an hour in silence before the altar, adoring with the faithful who had gathered that night. I had not yet worked through any particular theology about the Real Presence, but I knew I felt something I had not once recalled ever feeling or sensing during my most evangelistically fervent moments, and there were many over the years.

I won’t try to explain it but I will just say it was the most powerful moment I had ever felt with God in my life. Ever. I was speechless but that was okay, because no words could suffice anyway. I only knew one thing and that only–that Jesus was present that night in a way I had never recognized before, and, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I saw and felt Him literally in the breaking of the Bread, or in this case the monstrance on the altar of that consecrated Host. I did not care if the bread-like Host was actually Jesus or if He was somehow just lurking, hidden behind or all around it. Nor did I attempt too hard to figure it out at that point. What I did know is that I was absolutely transfixed and being changed by Him. And that He was waiting for me there.

Later, going through RCIA, I worked through the Catholic understanding of the doctrine of Transubstantiation and dogma of the Real Presence,  meaning that, after the words are spoken by the priest, “This is my Body” and “This Is my Blood,” the physical elements involved would become substantially the risen Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity. And, just as we are made up of chemicals, but yet are substantially humans in the image of God, no chemical change was needed for that to occur. That had always been my hang up. I knew that, even if taken to the finest laboratories in the world, the scientists who tested it would normally find flour, water, and fermented wine. But, just like us, and like Jesus in His earthly form, the soul, that which made Him who He was and is, and ours too, do not show in such tests. Nor do they need to.

In any case at that moment a decade ago I was content with the mystery that He was there, and powerfully so, somehow in a way I had been missing during my most charismatic moments over the last 35 years.  

If you do not believe in this teaching, and I did not for a long time, here is my challenge for you today– go sit in front of a Monstrance or a Tabernacle (the box behind the altar which the remains of the Blessed Sacrament are kept) for an hour, and do it with an open heart. That is all. Whether it changes your theology or not, today or in the future, I believe you will know one thing at least–we as Catholic Christians are not “bread worshippers.” Worship the Christ in the bread, behind the bread, around the bread, whatever you must do, but worship Christ during that hour and focus on Him. I believe you will eventually find that it is simply somehow Jesus and you just may want more. And that is why we have the Feast of Corpus Christi. No other reason is needed or necessary.

If you want a fuller and more theologically astute explanation, and frankly I hope you do, please check out this fine link to the Catholic Encyclopedia article from New Advent. Do not just take my word or experience for it. Explore for yourself. You owe that much to the one who had given us His Body to eat and His blood to drink. (see John 6). It has never been “just a symbol.” 2014-10_scranton-christ-the-king_13Here is the link:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05573a.htm

Blessed Corpus Christi to all!

A Confession…And A Challenge

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FIRST an explanation–I am sharing this difficult post because I know I am not the only one out there who has gone where “no man should go” on the Internet. Actually that includes the women too, but it is even more a men’s problem and so I address it as such.
In the last months I have “discovered” a different kind of chat room online. In the past, when I have visited sexual sites, which I have from time to time even as a Catholic Christian, it has primarily been to view pictures or videos, or, at times, as the name indicates, just “chat,” usually through text or instant messaging. But recently I have stumbled upon sites that are actual live cameras. You can speak to the performers as well as watch them. And here is what I have discovered:
1)  Most of those who perform are from incredibly poor nations.
2)  Many of them are doing this, not because they wish to but because they have sick or needy family members or are desperate for money or work in order to support themselves.
3)  A lot of them are really nice people. A number aren’t.
4)  The site owners sponsoring such sites take generally 2/3 or more of any money the performer earns, even if it is done from their own camera and home. Many of those owners are rich and getting richer in the process. And the entertainers remain sometimes near penniless.
5)  It is far more addicting to speak to “real” humans than to look at even the most well-filmed videos who cannot interact with those of us who struggle in such areas.
Now none of that should come as a surprise to us who, from this affluent nation, think we are living in “poverty” when we do not have the money to order our favorite pizza or have our weekly steak dinner and wine on occasion. Desperate people, such as the performers above mentioned, do desperate things, and then doing those things simply makes them more desperate. One, a young man from Russia who I befriended offsite for a bit, once told me he had no reason to live. Pretty sad for a person who has enviable good looks and a boatload of charm when needed.
My latest excursions into this world have, ironically, come at a time when it seems God has been the most real to me and given me new and greater opportunities to share my conversion story. That too should not be a surprise, as satan would like nothing more than to derail us or cause our words for God to seem as lies.
And that brings me the reason for this post–there is a particular person of late who I have spoken with online, one I met in one such room, who is also a Catholic Christian from the Philippines and who I have corresponded with outside of the chat room on a friendship level. Tonight, after a very good Confession this morning, I wrote him the following (slightly edited for length and detail) just to let him know that those chats cannot continue. It was not easy for me to do. I have been celibate, at least on a face to face ‘real time” basis, for the last 16 years, and realized around a decade ago that this was God’s calling for me on a lifetime level, although I have at times and on occasion admittedly questioned that. But I remain convinced that  it is, and I am okay with that. Usually. Celibacy does not mean blindness or lack of need for companionship though. And sometimes we go for that comradeship  in the wrong places or at the wrong times, even as Christians. I will just speak for myself and say I do anyway. Now you know.
I do not yet know what his reaction will be when he reads what I wrote–I hope it will be positive and understanding. But it may not be. And, if not, I want to be sure in either case that I have done all I can for his soul and mine too. We are, after all, our brother’s keepers, and I have not done so well in this case, as well as in a few others. So once, for all, I would simply say I am very sorry–and having received God’s forgiveness, I ask for the same from any who I have hurt by my incredible weakness which I allow to rule me from time to time. Please read on, and when you are done, say a prayer for him, and one for me too. Thanks and God bless. Here is the message I sent to him:

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Well here is the reason I have been needing to talk with you. Here goes: As you pointed out, I am a “real” Catholic. When I do into rooms such as online flirting rooms, I do not act like it. You said I do not need to apologize. But I do. I was, for a very long time, 35 years in fact, away from the Church. I did many things during those years that I am ashamed of. And I will not deny I have been tempted much lately. Using our Lord’s name in vain, using his gifts to us of body and soul for our own sake and not His,  all of these things are wrong.

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This is not meant as an excuse but I tend to do these things when I am tired, angry, under much pressure, not feeling good, and the like. My dad passed away 2 months ago and it has been a very tough time for me financially too. So it is easy during such times to want to escape, to go into a world of beautiful men (or women) or lustfulness, just in order to feel better for a short time. But I find it never works. In the end I am always sorry.‏

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I went to a beautiful Confession today and a huge burden was lifted. But it left me with a problem too. I have a new friend, and that is you. I wish to talk to you, remain your friend, and get to know you as a person. But I want to do it in a pure and holy way and not in a sinful way. Can we do that? I hope so. But it will mean not talking when you are online taking off your clothes for me or for others. I will never judge you or your heart for your actions, that is not it at all. I am just trying to protect myself. So if we can limit our talks to email for now, and be good friends, but not sexual, I will gladly remain your friend and hope that you will also do so.‏

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The bottom line is this, I like you very much. But I love God even more so. Even though I have acted like I did not. For that I do owe you this one last apology, and a commitment that it will not happen again. But being a genuine friend and brother to you, that I can do! And would like to if you would also. I hope to hear from you soon. And I thank you for being a kind and good person.

There you have it. And now the challenge–do you too need to go to a potentially embarrassing Confession? If you do, I can only suggest to go for it without further delay or excuse. And, if in the process, you find there are some you need to mend fences with along the way, do that as well. Whether they respect  you or not afterwards, you will be at peace. Totally. And no one can ever “blackmail” you either, whether emotionally or otherwise. And that  too is a great feeling.

From Public Discourse–“There Must be a Reason”

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/05/15022/

I was extremely privileged to have this article used in one of my favorite online journals, Public Discourse. If you are not familiar with them, they are an outreach of The Witherspoon Institute, and an outreach of my good friend Ryan T Anderson, PhD, who has been on every media venue from CNN to FOX to NBC and who has written for National Review, as well as The Heritage Foundation, plus who co-authored the book What is Marriage? Man & Woman: A Defense with Sherif Girgis and… Robert P George. And the list goes on, with yet another book coming out this summer. Why did I do this article and why now? Simply put, it is a tribute to my recently late father, Donald Leroy Evans, and a tribute to traditional marriage, quite frankly something that is becoming an endangered species in the United States as well as the world in our society today. Some of you will likely disagree with my conclusions regarding the future of marriage, but I think we all can agree that real love and acceptance is what every person, whether actively LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender), or those such as myself with SSA (same-sex attraction), but who have chosen not to act upon those desires at this time in my life, both want and need. And we desire it most from our family and particularly our parents. My dad gifted me with that. Profoundly. And, in doing so, gave me a sense of manhood that no other human, living or dead, could have done. Please read, enjoy, and know that what I share here is deeply personal and from my heart. God bless!

Same-Sex Marriage—why it is up close and personal to this celibate Catholic Christian

I am not sure it’s ever going to “get better” for me. I am going on 60 years of age this coming December, and I find myself still filled at times with rage and a deep sense of aloneness within my life as it stands currently. The reason I say so is that I seem to not quite fit the mold, either from a Church or secular standpoint, on an issue near and dear to me. That issue is homosexuality.

The short story is that I, after 35 years of being away from Rome, returned to the Catholic Church in 2005, exactly one decade ago this coming fall, and unlike what some may have believed or assumed, had previously embraced a celibate lifestyle a few years previous to that time. Since the story of my return is in print elsewhere, I will simply link to it both here and at the end of this article.

http://whyimcatholic.com/index.php/conversion-stories/catholic-reverts/60-catholic-revert-richard-evans

I do not, nor will I ever, regret my decision to come back to Catholicism. At moments, however, I have struggled with what I believe are very inconsistent attitudes towards issues on my levels, and in particular with issues that have affected me personally, such as the topic at hand and my place in the Church as an aging (not aged!) man with SSA (same-sex attractions).

Much of my blog and other writings have been devoted to this issue and its impact in my life, and as we begin what is likely the final sprint towards legalized same-sex marriages nationwide, I think it is the right and proper time for me to share my views more fully and articulate my understanding of a topic I have studied from many perspectives.

Many people think that there are only two possible answers to this ever-thornier question—one is either to be “for” or “against” gay marriage on a legal level. Those against it will not even refer to it, on a civil level, as a “marriage,” even though the Church has clearly done so with other irregular living situations such as those married outside the Church or even, in some cases, those who may be co-habitating without a legal license issued by the state. Those for it often come from the opposite extreme, stating that any full equality of SSA/LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) persons must necessarily include the legal right to marry, to adopt children, and to collect governmental benefits such as Social Security when the time comes.

I think that both sides have some merit, and that each side has some peril. I believe so because I am of the opinion, after having often gone all over the map in order to reconcile my beliefs and Church teaching, that there is another answer we may not be considering, and which I, although a non-official theologian, believe is most likely the healthiest approach, as well as the rarest.

I will state here that I support Church teaching as written in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (called going forward in the article the CCC), and do so without reserve. In case you are not aware of that teaching, which is basically 3 short articles in a book of over 2800 basic theological tenets of the Faith, I am reprinting it below for easy reference:

Chastity and homosexuality

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (2333)

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. (2347)[1]

In the above doctrinal statement, a number of points are often glossed over or simply re-interpreted, again by both opposing sides, and I wish to make mention of some of these in this article. The first is the term “intrinsically disordered,” from section 2357, referring specifically to sexual acts between those of the same gender, in the traditional sense of the word. The actively LGBT community leadership tends to hate this terminology, but what has been often overlooked by the traditional Catholic and other Christians who use it as a battering ram against SSA/gay persons is why it is so very upsetting to those of us with this characteristic, condition, orientation, or whatever term you wish to use.

I have heard said to others, and also to me at times, that I have the “SSA disorder.” To which I would blithely say bleh. Not so. I have several disorders, in the modern and non-theological sense of the term, such as poor eyesight, diabetes, and some chronic upper GI/gastric issues. However I am currently working 2 jobs, one which is in frontline customer service, something long proven to be one of the most stress-inducing careers that exist, and have done so in one capacity or another for over one quarter of a century now. I am a regular part of my church parish, and involved in community outreach such as block leader in my urban residential area, as well as assisting in some small way at least in dealing with several personal family crises such as my dad’s illness. I was married for 13 years and managed, certainly with the help of God’s grace, to re-establish a friendly relationship with my former spouse. I wear glasses and take my insulin, and have lost 15 lbs. in the last 2 years.

The implication that, because I am attracted romantically to men and have been aware of this since before puberty, which is nearly a half century ago at this writing, and have yet been celibate for the last 15 years speaks more of a strength God has given to me, not a weakness. And this is by no means meant to be bragging, since I have certainly failed God in many, many ways, including such things as thought life and custody of the eyes, but rather to point out that I am not some wild young buck looking for a quick hook-up. In short my SSA is not a disorder for me, at least not in the mental health context which is implied by misusing the term as I have unfortunately seen it used by ignorant but hopefully well-meaning believers in the same Lord Jesus Christ who I do.

So where is the “intrinsic disorder” then? I have always loved time travel stories, and for this one you will need to move backwards to the 13th century, and to one St Thomas Aquinas. Much of the writings of this “angelic Doctor” of the Church refer to disorder coming from the original fall of humanity. Since his writings predate Dr Freud by somewhere near 700 years, he was clearly not referring to psychoses. He was talking about the human weaknesses we all share through original sin, and our tendency towards making that sin personal. For some that might be lusting after the opposite sex (the popularity of the “50 Shades” series and movie would be a prime example for women, as well as the Playboy mentality for men which predated this by over 60 years), and for some of us, and as CCC article 2357 rightly explains as well, due to a “psychological genesis (which) remains largely unexplained,” a romantic desire for those of our own gender. One is not worse than the other nor better. But I think it is safe to say that, in the original Eden, there was no confusion of gender. In that sense, and in that sense only, I accept and own the feelings I have in that area as disordered. Another topic for another time is why we with SSA feel as we do, and the CCC again wisely presents it as “largely unexplained.”

Aside from a very few very conservative psychologists and MDs, most would agree that the jury is out as to whether the cause is physical (which by the way is not limited to genetic issues), environmental, or a combination of both factors. What is known, however is that it is not, in and of itself, a form of mental illness, does not cause child molestation, and that there are SSA or actively LGBT persons in every walk of life, whether highly educated attorneys, those in active ministry including priests, and the whole gamut otherwise. We really are “everywhere,” and you rub shoulders with us every day, whether at the supermarket or your parish congregation. And very likely in your own family. A great video, even if you disagree with some parts of the theology regarding this, is called The Bible Tells Me So, which follows several families who have dealt heroically and lovingly with this in their own lives. And before you assume it is only some Nazi/Communist propaganda, at least one of the major families in question are clear that they do not accept their daughter’s lesbian relationship. But they accept her, as well as her partner, and that brings me to the heart of why I write this.

For a long time I vacillated on my views regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage. My next sentence may lose some of my audience but I hope not. I believe, at this time in our history, the legalization of such relationships, whether one calls them “marriage” or sin, or both perhaps, is a social risk we must face and, while not embracing it, accept as part of the social landscape we live in. Why do I think so? As stated above, I believe in Church teaching first and foremost. But part of that teaching, from CCC section 2358, states the following: “They (homosexual persons) must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” Pretty much anyone from my generation, if intellectually honest, can attest to the fact that the above attitude from the Church as well as society in general is in fact rather recent. If I had told anyone in my small rural Minnesota town that I liked men, I would have been, even as a celibate, most likely dismissed from my parish community, made fun of mercilessly, possibly beaten or even killed, and no one from the Vatican to the local police would have frankly given a damn. Most of us stayed in the closet for a long time for a reason. When we today hear of people coming out publicly, (we forget or else never knew) how completely rare that would have been in the 1950s and 60s. It started to occur in the 1970s somewhat, but before that time there was simply no one to turn to with such an announcement. No one. Not friends, not family. And certainly not one’s church for God’s sake literally.

In saying all of this I am not “supporting” gay marriage. I am not suggesting that one must accept everything in the so-called “gay agenda” proposed by some LGBT leaders. But I am saying something more nuanced. I believe that the “marriage equality” movement is filled with messy litigation and at times justified fears in greater society. I am not wishing for a return to polygamy, such as the territory of Utah once allowed before becoming part of the Union, and I do not wish to see business persons violate their consciences. But, more than that, I do not wish to go back to the time when I as a person with SSA must be silent about it, or be afraid as someone approaching my senior years to walk down the street. And, at this point, that is what is likely to happen if our nation and the world forbid such unions. Just a few weeks ago a person in the Middle East was thrown off a building for being homosexual. If that were an isolated incident it might be one thing, but this is a common occurrence in many nations still. That should matter to us as Christians. Yet I hear almost no outrage about it among the more orthodox-leaning Catholic or evangelical Christians. I wonder why? We rightly are outraged, and even in some cases ready to go to war, when we hear of such horrific events as the 21 Christians beheaded by ISIS. But I wonder who would go to war for a gay person? Not many even in our supposedly enlightened age.

I do not believe churches must administer Holy Communion or give leadership positions to openly (and actively) gay members. Nor do I think, quite frankly, that the entire marriage equality movement is without its faults. But I think it is time that the Church recognize her part in causing this entire movement to occur. Usually, and definitely in this case, when a movement based upon those who (rightly or wrongly) believe that they are disenfranchised, it is for a reason. And I do not have time in this one article to name all of those reasons but within the LGBT community there are many, some which I did briefly touch on here and a host of others.

I think it is time to stop fighting, no matter your view, and to find genuine and creative ways to work together, legally and otherwise. This does not mean to stop evangelizing or working for the good of traditional marriage. Not at all. It simply means that the future is not coming. It is here. And souls are at stake on both sides.

My story…

http://whyimcatholic.com/index.php/conversion-stories/catholic-reverts/60-catholic-revert-richard-evans

[1] Catholic Church. (2000). Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Ed., p. 566). Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference.

My Mother’s Own “Journey Home”–Mary Elizabeth Evans

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Mary Elizabeth Evans–

1922-1991

 

 

 

 

 

Today (1-9-15) would be my mother’s 93rd birthday, and after her passing in 1991, we came across some poetry she had written.  Particularly after my last posting, I wanted to share this one about her journey back to the Roman Catholic Church:

 

This morning I knelt

As my soul sought release,

I heard Jesus’ voice

In the words of the priest

 

How I longed to go back

To the Church I had known,

Within her still walls

To kneel and atone

 

I thought I could leave her

My Mother disclaim,

Forget that she loved me

And called me by name

 

Oh the scenes I remember

Within Her sweet fold,

The farewells to loved ones

The memories I hold

 

The times that I knelt

At the altar and prayed,

The joy of Communion

The vows that I made

 

I ne’er could forget her

The Church of my youth,

Too long have I loved her

Her beauty and Truth

 

Though far did I wander

From her in my pride,

In longing, my spirit

With her did abide

 

This morning I knelt

To pray and atone,

My heart filled with joy

At last I was Home!

Written By Mary Elizabeth Evans

8-20-1970

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This is the Nativity of St Mary Catholic Church, in rural Waseca, MN.  My mother was baptized and received the Sacraments of Initiation (First Communion and Confirmation)  here, and I too was baptized here on December 31, 1955 on a cold MN winter morning just over 56 years ago. The building later became a historical landmark, and then was inexplicably torn down a number of years ago.  After I returned to the Church in 2006, I visited the spot where it stood with my godmother Mary Burns and two of my sisters.  Many others in my family were baptized, married, and buried through the ministry of St Mary’s.  This picture is courtesy of the Waseca Historical Society.

Church of the Nativity of Our Lady (in front) ...

 


 

January 1st, 2015 – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (catholicjules.net)

TRIGGERS TO UNCHASTITY—10 WAYS TOWARDS SPIRITUAL “GUN CONTROL”

DESERTEAGLE

I have been celibate for many years now, even from a time before I came back to the Catholic Church, and one would think I had therefore “made it” in my battle for purity of heart and mind, which goes beyond celibacy and is, in fact, one of the definitions given by Merriam-Webster for chastity. I haven’t. This became particularly clear to me lately when I found myself ( or rather allowed myself) the “luxury” of going online and seeking out not one but a few chats that were less than edifying or helpful to my Faith or to the faith of others. Although anonymous, and technically sitting home alone, in my heart, and this is what Jesus looks at, I committed adultery before our God.

Obviously one time is too many, and I will freely admit this has happened on not one but a number of occasions. In working on breaking what has been a stronghold in my life, I have looked within myself and up to God for answers to the root causes for what is ultimately a complete waste of time and energy. Below I have listed just a few of those roots, and while there are many more I am sure, these seem to be the ones that most often trigger that type of behavior within me. My strong hunch, and statistics bear this out unfortunately, is that I am far from alone. I have read (although statistics vary somewhat) that somewhere between 30 and 50% or more of clergy have viewed pornography or been involved in cyber sexual activity at some point during their ministerial lives. That is to say nothing of course of the Christian lay person whose statistics are higher still—however our priests and ministers are the leaders we each look to for spiritual guidance and help. But I think that the first step towards breaking a habit is admitting that we have one, and I therefore wish to do so today, and humbly ask for the prayers of all reading this. I will pray for you too, because as I say I am pretty sure others among us in the Christian world carry the same burdens of guilt and pain. So if my experiences can help someone, just perhaps they will have had some small meaning, even though they are most certainly not God’s best way of teaching us! In any case here is a list of points of pain which, at least for me, tend to push me towards sexual as well as other sin, and I might suggest you write your own list if this is indeed your struggle. Write it out, pray it through, and then confess it to God—and if you are a Catholic Christian please do so through your priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Believe me he is not surprised with anything you may tell him. He may even benefit from your honesty in fighting his own battles, especially if he is one of the 50%. Here goes:

  1. ANGER—I find this to be very high on my list of battles. I am not one to express anger a lot and most people see me as a calm and collected person. But it is there. Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us “26Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.” [1]But if you do not express it, at least to the Lord in prayer, that will be exactly what you end up doing. We are not meant to stuff our anger in our back pockets or anywhere else. We need to find constructive ways to both recognize it and admit it, at least to ourselves, and then to God, who knows all about it anyway. It may be based on many things, such as disappointment in people around us, fear of pain or financial loss, or a hundred other things. But anger is very often based on fear, and fear, when given into, is in reality a lack of trust in a God who honestly knows best what we need at any given moment in life. I think this is on the top or near top of my list because it comes to us in so many ways, and even all of the rest of the triggers, at least on my list, tend to have anger mixed in somewhere.
  2. LONELINESS—I do not think of myself as a particularly lonely person, as I spend all of my days on the phone at work and evenings resting up for the next day. I also, at least in general, have a strong prayer life, both with daily Rosary as well as the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and spontaneous prayer throughout the day, plus I at least attempt to take time for the Word of God each day too, either through daily Mass or the liturgical readings from Sacred Scripture from the Mass if I miss it for whatever reason. My life should therefore be utterly full of Jesus and people—but sometimes, truth be told, it just isn’t. And if I were married with 10 children I would find that to be true too. Those of you in that situation surely know what I am talking about. We all have dry periods when we simply do not feel fulfilled in our vocations, or understood by even those closest to us. And that resulting loneliness is a very real pain.
  3. EXHAUSTION—a wise priest once told me that physical exhaustion affects everything from moods to the ability to fight temptation effectively. We cannot always get the rest we need, nor the proper diet, but both should be high on our aims. Our bodies truly are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and we owe it to God to give Him a good home. Simple and true.
  4. SEXUAL DESIRE—I am pushing 60 and I have not lost neither the ability nor the desire to procreate. What I have lost however is the proper situation in which to do so. Learning to give this over to Christ and lay it at the foot of the very Cross where a young, masculine and vital Jesus hung naked for each of us should give the needed graces to overcome. Jesus knew what sexual desire was, after all He co-created it with the Father and the Spirit. Very bluntly He felt every possible feeling, including overpowering sexual desire, while yet, as Hebrews tells us, remaining without sin. It is here that meditating on the crucified Christ and His Wounds, whether through the Stations of the Cross or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, can be of a very real help. “For the sake of His sorrowful passion…” I must be willing to lay my passions at His wounded feet. But I am the first to admit this is easier said than done. On the other hand so was Calvary.
  5. BOREDOM—why we as believers are ever bored is actually a mystery, but it does happen. Generally this occurs when we are attempting to escape responsibility. King David, the man after God’s own heart, failed Him in the most miserable way possible by staying back when he had been called to lead the armies of Israel in battle. Instead he spent the time creating his own “live porn show” by watching Bathsheba wash herself on her rooftop, and then let it lead to both adultery and murder. The consequences are always far more serious than we plan them to be. And there are no victimless crimes. Psalm 51, probably the most penitential passage in all of Sacred Scripture, was written by King David as a direct result of this dark, dark chapter from his otherwise bright and God-fearing life.
  6. “EASY WAY OUT”—Pleasure is not wrong but rather a gift from God. The path we go about to find it is more at issue here. The great Christian singing group of the 70s and 80s, the 2nd Chapter of Acts, had a line in one of their powerful songs which states “taking the easy way isn’t an easy way.” Truer words would be difficult to find. Life only becomes more burdensome when we add the weight of unconfessed sin and lack of repentance. There is nothing “easy” about it.
  7. TAKING CONTROL—to me this is one of the strangest yet most tantalizing reasons to fall—I frankly get a certain thrill, and not only sexually but in other ways too, when I sin by either the internet or other means, sexually. For one thing it is taboo—“stolen bread is sweet” as Proverbs tells us. I think it makes a person, at least this person, feel alive, vital, and powerful somehow, or perhaps an odd combination of all three. But it leaves us more powerless in the end. Remembering the end result before I begin is key here.
  8. UNBELIEF—as I mentioned earlier in the point about anger, it is very easy to somehow think that God does not know our best interests or perhaps at worst plans to withhold them from us for some sadistic reason known only to Him. The sin of Adam and Eve was exactly this, in that they had it all and did not believe that they did once Satan was able to convince them otherwise. Sacred Scripture is replete with such examples, such as Abraham being promised a son and then becoming impatient and impregnating Hagar instead of Sarah. The entire Middle East issues of today would have never occurred if only he had waited for the Lord in this one thing, thousands of years ago. God’s ways simply are not our ways. I forget this, and you as well, to our own peril and too often that of many others.
  9. PRAYERLESSNESS—essentially we all have 24 hours each day. The exact same period of time we use to tell ourselves that we do not have time to pray or get to Mass or whatever other duties God has put before us to do can easily become boredom, recklessness and finally abandon. I find that if I use my time to “do the do’s, I won’t have time to do the don’ts.” Yet that simple message seems to be a lesson I have to learn over and over, and do not always succeed at even still
  10. ANXIETY—it is not a sin to feel anxious, and sometimes we simply are seemingly mercilessly overwhelmed. That is particularly true of those of us who carry any form of generalized or other anxiety disorders. But all of us have had that feeling from time to time. However it is nonetheless a sin to use that condition, whether the temporary kind we all manifest occasionally, or if a permanent medical condition, as an excuse to relieve those feelings or numb them by false means, whether alcohol, drugs, TV, sexual escapism, or in any other way we might use to mask them. And sexual lust is very high on that list of temptations during anxious moments. Jesus gives us the answer here through St Paul in Philippians 4: 6-7 6 Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.[2]But He is merciful enough not to leave it at simply telling us not to worry. Instead He tells us to let our requests “be made known” (and for the record He knows them already!) to the Lord, and then guarantees that the peace of God will fill us up. Note He does not say how long that process may take, but He gives us the assurance that He will keep us, if we allow Him to, on the right path during the interim. We block our own chance for peace when we run from the God of peace.

Finally I think we owe it to others, if we can and if we are able to do so without becoming unduly tempted again, and at least on a few occasions I have actually been able to eventually minister to those I first met in a sexual chat room or other dubious website. I surely do not as a general rule recommend that form of evangelization, but if we are able to do so without it becoming a further occasion of sin to us, and if we can, through God’s grace, bring some small blessing to someone we have previously sinned against or led into sin, we owe them that much I think. If nothing else we absolutely owe them our prayers of reparation. And none of these points above are a “cure.” Remaining close to Christ and the Sacraments are the real and ultimate answer in controlling ourselves. But sometimes we need to take other concrete steps as well. Sexual sin, at least for me, and at least in my mind and heart, is an ongoing day by day battle. I once heard a priest share openly that he had struggled in similar ways for a full 20 years and was finally just now finding the path of victory. While admitting it to others might be embarrassing, it would be far worse to pretend we are perfect when we are so far from it. That is why I write this.

 

[1] Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Eph 4:25–28). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

[2] Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Php 4:6–7). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

KNOWING THE CONTRARY “ME”– A challenge to any and all who love the non-straight neighbor among you…

witherI was utterly privileged this last week to have an article published in the Public Discourse page of the Witherspoon Institute. I was approached regarding this by Sherif Girgis and Ryan T Anderson, who, along with Dr Robert P George, last year authored an amazing, accurate, and concise study of the marriage controversy facing our nation and beyond, its relationship to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights and needs, and if what is commonly called “marriage equality” is indeed the answer or not. A link to this book is located at the end of this page, and I would highly recommend it to any who may not have read it or wish to learn more on the topic. Having said that…

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2014/04/13097/

The timeliness of their use of this article amazed me totally, as this very same week a potent new video, while not directly dealing with the marriage issue, was released which delivers a powerful punch in regard to the ever more visible need for the Church to effectively assist those of us from SSA (same-sex attraction) backgrounds to live our Christian (in my case Catholic Christian) Faith more effectively. Among other things, this video touches on many of the ways to reach out with realistic compassion towards those of us who at times have greatly struggled in integrating the Faith with our inner scuffles and sometimes severely wounded pasts, or even presents.

To me the two are one. They each represent the puzzlement and seeming contradiction that is me. In the article I attempt to present some practical ways to connect with SSA persons, and the video does the same thing but in different but complementary ways. Together, read and watched with care, they will show you who I am. This is the “me” you could not figure out before, and who at times has frustrated or disappointed many of you with my moments of anger towards the Church I love while yet wishing to follow her now and always. And I would point out that it is some of you on each side of this timely, thorn covered issue who have felt both the disappointment and even at times a betrayal as you observed my inner and outer tussles over the past few years. These two together will clarify much of that if you allow them to. I hope that you will.

http://www.blackstonefilms.org/films/the-third-way/index.html

I do not ask you to necessarily agree with the concept of a “Third Way.” In fact we may or may not ever see eye to eye on it and that is okay. But I have found it to be based upon what I believe is objective Truth, and the one perfect balance between the late Fred Phelps’ idea of railing against both the sinner and the sin, and the opposite extreme of promoting and imposing upon society the radicalism of the very real actively LGBT agenda which does not plan to stop until same-sex marriage is not only legal but promoted in every church, classroom, and nation. I believe that both extremes are real, and that each are impoverished in that they miss the very real concerns, fears and pains of the other “side.”

So, if you have ever wished to understand your brother, your cousin, your uncle, your friend, your co-worker, and your neighbor, all of who happen to be me, this is that most excellent opportunity to do so. The video is around 30 minutes, so get a soda or cup of coffee and take your time to absorb the many pieces of a story you may have never heard before. The article may take you 15 minutes, especially if you read it without skimming and I would implore you to do so rather than grabbing a sentence here or there away from the context of the rest. Too often today we do this in our blog-infested world, and sound-byte past the most important points in a story or article. Please do not do so this time around.

Thus I am asking for 45 minutes of your time. It is the only time I will ever do so, but I pray that every person I know and who claims to care about me will decide to do so. Your understanding of me would mean the world to me, even if we never agree on the topic. And your dialogue would be so very, very welcome. Please then grant me 45 minutes of your life—you may be surprised at what you learn, not just about me but about yourself, if you do. Thanks so much and God bless.

http://www.amazon.com/What-Is-Marriage-Woman-Defense/dp/1594036225

what-is-marriage-man-woman-defense-sherif-girgis-paperback-cover-art

“CONTRACEPTING” THE GOSPEL?

I have never been particularly fond of contraception. Even when I was an Assemblies of God minister and newly married in 1979, primarily for health reasons (as my then-wife had epilepsy), we decided to investigate NFP (Natural Family Planning), ironically at a time in history when not only were pretty much all of my charismatic/Pentecostal friends and colleagues using the ever-tasty birth control Pill to prevent those “little surprises” until they felt ready, but just a dozen or so short years after Roman Catholics en masse (and sometimes in Mass!) had rejected the teachings of Humane Vitae and were busily contracepting like never before.

But even then, 35 years ago now, we never regretted the choice of NFP and realized that, unlike its earlier primitive “cousin” often referred to as the rhythm method, it was exactly as effective statistically  as the Pill and just as easy to use. The couple simply was to keep a chart of daily temperature readings, (even easier and quicker now with the advent of the electronic thermometer), and you virtually knew both the least and most fertile times each month, which was information that artificial birth control could never give to you, and we used it not only to prevent but to virtually ensure the timing of our 4 pregnancies when we did start trying to begin a family. It worked in both directions.

What NFP is to birth control is, in a very real way, what baptism into the Lord Jesus Christ is, or at least should be, to salvation. One of the biggest objections, and one I highly agree with, to using artificial birth control, is that it separates the sexual or marital act from a committed and hopefully permanent marital union. Bluntly put, due to the amazing advances in medical science, you no longer need to worry or fear about a pregnancy and thus have no particular need to wait until marriage to enjoy the pleasures of whatever form of sexuality you might desire. You can truly, as Stephen Stills and the late Luther Vandross sang so powerfully, “love the one you’re with.” What is sad and even tragic about this philosophy is that it does more than encourage early and varied sexual experimentation, but then proceeds to take away the very joy of that same sexual expression when one finally does finish sowing their wild oats, so to speak.

Simply put, if you have had a diet of chocolate sundaes all of your life, it is (and I can attest to this as a person with diabetes) suddenly a large letdown to begin eating a diet consisting purely of fruits, raw veggies, lean meat and to count carbohydrates daily. And most of us even with this condition do not follow the dietary and health recommendations fully and hence suffer with health issues which could be prevented or cured much more easily if we did so. The same is true with artificial birth control—and if you do not believe me, then simply look at the statistics, both within Christianity and other religious expressions. Since the advent of artificial contraception and easy abortion should it fail, 50% of today’s marriages end in divorce, and, if you count couples who live together and cohabitate, even long-term, as a form of “marriage,” then that statistic skyrockets even higher. Add to that the numerous improprieties that occur within modern marriages that do last and it becomes nearly impossible not to connect the dots here. Nor does the Pill or Depo shot particularly prevent abortions, because many abortions occur precisely due to the failure or misuse of contraception. Artificial birth control plainly does not work—not really.

However this article is not primarily about the topic of birth control!!! I have some great friends and associates (Brantly and Krista Millegan come to mind, as do many others) who have written extensively on this topic, and I would defer to them for further information if it is a topic you wish to study further.

http://youngevangelicalandcatholic.blogspot.com/p/why-were-contraception-free.html

This post is, in reality, about the many aborted or illegitimate spiritual births which have occurred since the Church, particularly post-Reformation. This newer and in many ways truncated form of Christian expression has found it expedient to, in a similar way as artificial birth control does to traditional marriage, separate the salvation experience somehow from the very method God has instituted to initiate it and infuse it into our Christian lives. And that method of spiritual transmission of the Gospel is the Sacrament of water baptism in the name of the Triune Godhead, whether infant or later in life. That is God’s intended mode of causing us to become “born again Christians.”

I know that this sounds as though I doubt the salvation experiences of my non-Catholic or non-baptized evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ. Or that I do not believe in the saving power of a living Faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.  On both counts I will just say I don’t. Not in and of themselves. But I do realize that there is a great deal of confusion of what the Christian life even is, much less in how it is lived out, and just like the contraceptive mentality, the “saved by faith alone” mentality, the idea of accepting Christ by a simple prayer and then going on our merry way does essentially the same thing spiritually in far too many cases. And, irony of ironies, during my 35 years away from the Church I heard, over and over, that Catholics, Orthodox, and certain other Protestants too, depended on baptism, not Jesus, for their salvation, and therefore were not “real” Christians.  Yet those same folks very often depended on a specific moment of time too when Christ came into their lives too—for some it was an evangelistic Crusade such as Billy Graham, others a tearful night at the altar of their local church, or any number of similar occasions when Jesus indeed became more real to them and they went forth considering themselves “saved.” And no matter how they lived afterwards, many then and now have held tenaciously to that childhood or teenage experience of “asking Jesus into their hearts” as a guarantee of their place in the afterlife. In short they were doing with the “sinner’s prayer” what many Roman Catholics had done with baptism—they depended on that one moment in time to have saved them, once for all, and had long since quit worrying about how they lived their lives as believers in Jesus Christ.

I would be very clear at this point that there are those, including myself, who found new and deeper walks with Christ in His reality outside of the established Church. The real question is not whether God can do this, or does. He can and does. But amazingly, in the zeal many of us had as evangelicals to “get others saved,” as well as staying saved ourselves, that very zealotry has led to level upon level of confusion of what salvation even is meant to be, or how we are intended to enter into it. It is similar to living together outside of marriage while yet genuinely loving the other person and calling it a marriage when it is not. The love can be just as real, or perhaps in many cases more so, but just as easily can lead to the hook up mentality which is so prevalent today. It can very much seem like a marriage until you for whatever reason are no longer together, and then when it ends you may say “well we were not really married anyway.”

Here is an example. The other day on TV I heard a woman, on a secular program, talking about a particular minister she was angry with for one reason or another, but, despite her wrath and disillusionment, was not particularly worried about going to hell for her attitude towards him because she believed in “once saved always saved.” Even to those who believe in salvation strictly by faith in Christ, the thinking of such a person is ludicrous and dangerous to say the least. The reason I say this is that the fruit of such an attitude is a complete separation from a one-time childhood prayer from the way we then choose to later live as a result.

But God never intended such a separation. Never. Looking in Sacred Scripture to the book of Acts, St Peter led 3000 people to Christ on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:37-41). And how did he do so? He told the crowd to “repent and be baptized,” offering them the promised gift of the Holy Spirit as a direct result. He, like Jesus before him just 10 days earlier (see St Matthew 28: 19-20), connected two things to that saving faith in order to activate it in one’s life—foremost was repentance, or a turning away of sin and towards God, and the other—water baptism. And, of particular interest to those who believe that infant baptism is incorrect, Jesus actually reverses the order here, mentioning baptism first! And, throughout the New Testament, you do not find one instance of unbaptized Christians. No one was considered Christian, at least not fully so, without this Sacrament of initiation. And yet somehow we have nearly completely lost this in our day and age. We have separated Jesus from His very path to us. And while it is true, as stated already, that He is not limited to the Sacrament of baptism, and further that many who are indeed baptized depend upon it in a very similar way that the woman above seemingly depended on her childhood sinner’s prayer experience but divorced it from her daily life in many aspects, there is nevertheless a clear foundation, given by Jesus and understood by the early Church, of what makes a person fully a Christian, and it always, always, always starts with baptism. From St John the Baptist to Jesus. From St Peter to St Paul. And when we “contracept” our salvation experience, it should not then surprise us when we find ourselves eventually divorced from Christ by either a rejection of our baptismal initiation into Him, or by similarly tossing aside a zeal to find a personal conversion experience. The problem is we need both. We are called in the New Testament to be baptized into Him, and then by that same New Testament to live for Him until death. And those two things were both the expectation of Jesus Himself and the Church right from the beginning. The New Testament does not acknowledge as Christian those who have been baptized but later reject the Lord and His Teachings in their daily lives. In short there is no such thing as a “backslidden Christian,” or someone who (and this expression is even more peculiar to me and always has been) someone who has “accepted Christ as Savior but not as Lord.” We cannot disconnect our salvation experiences or walks with Christ into such word slicing and dicing. We love Him or we don’t.

When I first attended RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults—which is a series of classes offered in most Catholic parishes for those wishing to become Catholic or to renew their commitment to the Church), I was admittedly astounded that the first introductory session did not in any way emphasize that personal aspect of a Christ who was waiting to burst into our lives. Instead they session opened with a “centering prayer,” which is a whole other topic by the way, and the rest of the informational meeting told what to expect in the coming months if we continued. They spoke of such topics as the 7 Sacraments, the yearly Liturgical Calendar, and what kind of expectations Rome had for us as Catholic Christians, such as attending Mass every Sunday, or accepting Mary or Papal authority. I do not recall every detail but that was essentially it. The sad truth was, I was then a very recent returnee to the Church, and although well-catechized in my formative years, was admittedly pretty rusty and most of those themes meant very little to me or to my daily life at that time. It was not only “Christianese” but “Catholic Christianese.” And totally overwhelming. But that missing aspect was one I noticed, because as I listened I waited in vain for someone to even offer an opportunity for us to repent of our sins and make a fresh commitment to Christ.

Jeff Cavins writes about this in his tremendous book “My Life on the Rock.” He points out the need to, first and foremost, give that simple message to those who have not yet accepted Christianity and/or who need a fresh and vital commitment to our Lord. Otherwise becoming Catholic alone will not be effective in bringing that person to salvation. Neither, he goes on to say, is it enough to point someone to personal repentance of sin and faith in Christ without then giving them the tools to live the Christian life, and those tools and graces are indeed to be found in the Sacramental life and the Liturgy. But particularly with adults the first order of business is to bring that person to the understanding that they need Christ, and this is something Pope Francis, as well as Benedict and Blessed John Paul II, have often emphasized in their teachings and writings.

So which comes first, conversion or baptism? Theologians have been grappling with this for hundreds of years, and again I would defer to my many brother and sister Catholic apologists and to official Church teaching to answer that one. And I would once more point out that God, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Sacred Scripture, uses the Sacraments to bring us grace but is “not bound by the Sacraments” (see CCC #1257).  We all know of exceptions such as the good thief who, literally in His last moments of life and breath, fully repented and was then guaranteed salvation by Christ Jesus Himself. But that was never God’s best for him. Nor for us. My real point here is that neither are to be neglected, nor do either guarantee heaven to us. But let us not separate that which God has joined together, as the Sacred Scripture speaks of in regard to human marriage but which also, as the bride of Christ, applies fully and totally to each and every believer in Him. Baptism is the normative, not the exception. And it is appropriate to speak of our salvation experience as beginning there. Just do not think it ends there, nor that praying some obscure prayer when you were 3 or 4 years of age guarantees somehow that you are “forever saved.” One view contracepts the Gospel—the other aborts it totally. Neither are an especially good choice to make if you wish to meet and live with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords one day. True salvation is indeed by faith—and that faith is first and foremost expressed and in fact imparted to us in the holy waters of baptism. But true salvation never ends there, and is a lifelong process of remaining in a state of sanctifying grace. Jesus said it best when He solemnly told His followers, “he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13, RSV, CE). Let us therefore quit contracepting—whether in the physical or spiritual realms. Neither are God’s intent for us.  And both matter.